Fade In by Erin

Fade In cover

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Fade In cover

 FADE IN by Erin

()

Time Line: 6th Season… after One Son, before being reinstated back to the X-files

The characters belong to Fox, Chris Carter, etc….. not me.

Classification: M/S, UST , RST, Angst, Humor

Spoilers: Up to Season 6 / One Son

Rated: PG -13

Summary: Giving in to a night of temptation was the easy part… but what happens when the sun comes back up.

ϿϾ

Fade In

With his tall frame leaning against the wall of his apartment Fox Mulder took a long drink from the bottle of beer he held and continued to watch the rain falling outside his window. It was an anniversary of sorts, a milestone in his so called life. And he was celebrating the momentous occasion by drinking until he couldn’t remember why there was any significance to the date. Or at the very least until he could only remember the parts that didn’t hurt quite as much. It wasn’t working on either count. For every step further away from sobriety he took, his thoughts ultimately lead back to the same place. The last place he wanted them to go and the only place they ever seem to take him. Drunk or sober… happy or sad… awake or asleep, he thought of her and felt himself break a little bit more.

Finishing off his beer he watched the trails of cold rain running down his windowpane. Mulder pressed his hand firmly against the cold glass and closed his eyes, seeing her face. Two months had passed since a rainstorm like this one had brought them to a choice… an inevitable choice perhaps, but still… a choice was made…a chance was taken and two lives were changed. Simultaneously beginning and ending the life that he knew, leading him here. His hand pressed harder onto the window, trying to feel the rain against his palm. As if it could bring him back to that night. As if feeling the rain against his skin would give him closure… or peace… give him anything… anything but this. Letting the bottle fall from his hand onto the floor, he slowly staggered to the kitchen, grabbing a fresh beer before heading outside to feel the rain.

The view though the window that once had held an empty, darkened street below, now showed a lone man. He stood motionless… eyes closed, lips slightly parted, looking up into the moonless night as the rain poured down on him. His clothes darkened as the cold winter rain soaked through them. Mulder shivered slightly as a gust of wind blew the rain harder against him, causing the wet clothes he wore to fully connect with his bare skin below. He thought feeling the rain, being out in it, would help make some sort of tangible connection to his memories, but the truth was the rain had just been the catalyst. His memories of that rainy night were just the beginning… the beginning of what ultimately became the end… of them… of him… of everything. Mulder’s head dropped as his thoughts drifted not to the beginning, but to the end.

ϿϾ

He woke abruptly, not knowing why. His body felt like he had been hit by a truck, which really wasn’t that far off from what had really happened. Sitting up slowly, Mulder looked at the empty space beside him in the bed and for a moment thought it had been a dream. But he knew better, he could still see the slight indentation from her body, he could smell her on his skin… she had been there. For whatever her reasons she had come to him in the night. She hadn’t explained and he didn’t ask, mostly out of fear of the answer she might give him.

But as he lay alone, he had a new set of questions and turning on the lamp, he saw that this time she may have an explanation to give him. There on the small bedside table was an envelope, ‘Mulder’ written across the front, written in her handwriting. He reached for the envelope quickly, envisioning that she had gone to the store or perhaps was picking up breakfast for them. His mind not allowing, even for a moment, the possibility that she could have any other reason for quietly leaving his bed before the sun had even risen in the sky.

As he opened the letter a necklace slid down the white paper, falling onto his sheet covered lap. Staring at the small gold cross contrasting with the white fabric it lay across, all Mulder could think was, ‘ This can’t mean what it seems to… She wouldn’t….She couldn’t….’ but even if his mind could deny what her absence meant… his heart could not, the ache began to build in him and even before he read the words she had wrote, tears had found their way into his eyes.

 

Mulder,

It’s raining as I write this. I can’t help but think that seems appropriate somehow.

I know I should be saying this to your face… I know this, yet I still can’t bring myself to look into your eyes and say what we both knew was inevitable. I’d like to think that I am a confident woman and in most cases it is true, but I know one word from you… one tear, one touch… it would shatter the little bit of resolve I am still clinging to and I can’t risk that, not this time. Funny how I was always more than willing to risk my life for you, but not my heart. What does that say about me?

You once told me to get as far away from you as I could, that you wouldn’t watch me die. I didn’t stay to be noble, I stayed because I really thought my place was beside you. That I could be what you needed. I wanted to think it would be enough to be your partner. It wasn’t. I thought nothing could be worse than wanting you and not being able to have you. I was wrong. I can’t be what you need me to be…. I suppose I never really could be. I fought so hard to stay, I really did. But I too can’t watch you kill yourself to find your truth and I won’t let you be ripped apart trying to choose between me and finding your answers. So I am making the choice for you…. I’m giving you what you need, I’m giving you a believer and I’m giving you a chance. So go fight your fight Mulder.

And maybe on nights like this one, when the rain is falling outside your window, you can think of me and remember that for what it’s worth you have my heart…. you always have.

Scully

Mulder was on his feet before he even realized he had moved, rushing through the adjoining door of the motel room, through her empty room and out into the all but empty parking lot. A sheet around his waist, a gold cross dangling from the thin chain he clutched in his hand like a lifeline… screaming her name into the pre-dawn rain… but she was gone.

ϿϾ

A distant car horn brought him back to the present. With a sad realization he considered the irony that his life had become. Past or present, it didn’t matter… he was still in that same place…the location had changed, the date was different, but he was still standing under a rain filled sky, wondering how she could just walk away… and how he was supposed to just go on alone. Feeling a flash of anger rush though him, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“You’re one sorry son of a bitch, Mulder.” He told himself softly. Then looking down at the bottle in his hand he continued, yelling into the night, “But no more! Do you here me? I’m done! No more of this..” He felt the beer bottle slide from his grip as he hurled it at a nearby brick wall, giving a small, self-satisfied smile as the beer bottle exploded. Half sitting, half falling, he landed hard on the curb, hanging his head and letting the rain run down his face.

As if on it’s own volition, his hand reached up, resting on the open edge of his collar, his finger absently tracing the line of the small gold cross that he wore. In no more than a whisper he repeated his words ” I’m done…. no more wanting… no more tears for what I will never have… I need to be free… God, please just let me be free of this…”

ϿϾ

As he stopped at the red light on his way in to work, Mulder fumbled with an aspirin bottle, trying to remove a lid that didn’t want to budge. As the battle between Mulder and the lid was intensifying, so was the pounding in his head. With a sigh of relief the lid finally gave in and Mulder popped it the rest of the way off, not noticing the light he sat at had now changed to green. The man sitting in the car behind, oblivious to Mulder’s pain, blared his horn, causing Mulder to jerk both his hands towards his ears, flinging the contents of the aspirin bottle into the backseat as he did so.

As far as he could see Mulder now had one of three choices. One, he could crawl back and retrieve his much needed aspirin, which would mean the man behind him would undoubtedly honk again, worsening what was already a phenomenally bad hangover. Two, he could take out his gun and go shoot the man behind him before he had the chance to touch that horn again. Realizing that both these options would involve really loud noises he opted for the third choice and stepped on the gas, just hoping he could make it to work before his head exploded.

Navigating the streets, Mulder quietly cursed himself for doing this. Dwelling on the past, torturing himself with alcohol. She had been gone so long… long enough that he should have made some peace with it. She had made her choice and he had let her make it. When it came down to it, he could deny her nothing…. even if it was her freedom, even if it was bound to destroy him. But he had lost before, he was good at it and he knew how to do it… Bury yourself in work, don’t stop moving, and for God’s sake don’t give yourself time to think about the pain. But whether it was the significant date of the night before, or perhaps something else, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his thoughts. His past with her… his future without her, it had been too much to deal with alone and he turned to the first thing available. His head pounded, as if driving the point home and he silently cursed himself some more.

ϿϾ

“Rough night Fox?” Diana asked, looking up from her desk as Mulder entered.

He flinched slightly, at the sound of her voice and at the intimacy of her use of his first name. He tried to hide his reaction, not that it mattered, she didn’t see it… she never saw it.

“I thought we were past this.” She continued.

“We?” He asked sarcastically. “I didn’t realize you were having so much trouble adapting.”

“Why are you doing this to yourself?” She asked.

“You don’t understand…”

“Why? Because I’m not her?” This time she did see him flinch at her words, “Because I’m not her, I don’t know you, is that it? Funny how you conveniently forget I came first. I’m the one that is still here Fox. She’s the one that left.”

“Dammit, I do not want to have this discussion again. It’s my life! I can piss it away any way I see fit!”

“And our work?”

“Don’t even question me about my dedication to my work. I have given up everything for this damn quest… the work is the only thing in my life that hasn’t suffered.”

She opened her mouth to argue, but he was right. She couldn’t deny that his quest was all he had… it was all he let himself have.

“Listen Fox, Agent Scully is…” she began.

“Agent Scully, is not a subject that I am willing to discuss.” He cut her off angrily, “Who she was or what she is to me is none of your business. Just leave it alone.”

Any response she was about to give was cut off by a knock on the office door, immediately followed by AD Skinner moving slowly into the office. There was no mistaking the expression on his face. Something had happened… something bad.

“Can I talk to Agent Mulder privately?” Skinner asked Diana. It had been phrased as a question, but it was unmistakably an order. With a somewhat dejected look, she nodded her consent and left the two men alone.

Skinner turned to Mulder, seeing the terror in the younger man’s eyes. Mulder knew. Without even being told he knew. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t make it past his lips.

“She’s alive…” Skinner told him, answering the question he knew Mulder was too afraid to ask. He saw several small convulsions rip through Mulder as he tried to release the breath that had caught in his chest.

“How bad?” Mulder asked in a small voice.

“I’m not sure… I’m sorry. I just got word that there were several agents down… and that she was one of them.”

Mulder was torn, wanting so badly to rush to her side, but he was unable to get his feet to move. She had chosen a life without him and he had tried so desperately to respect her wishes.

“Go Mulder.”

“She doesn’t want to see me.”

“You need to know the truth. It is what you’ve always sought, isn’t it?” Skinner asked, knowing the answer.

“She made her choice.”

“Listen, whatever happened… whatever her real reason for leaving… she is in pain, and so are you. Go to her Mulder. I’ll make it an order if I have to.”

ϿϾ

She was lying so peacefully in the hospital bed he was afraid to step into the room for fear he might wake her. He just stood motionless in the doorway, feeling every emotion he had spent the last two months trying to escape, catch up to him in a heartbeat and then break his heart all over again. He would never be free.

In the hall a tall young man in an FBI jacket stepped up beside Mulder, looking past him at the sleeping woman.

“She’s okay.” Mulder asked, the question coming out as a statement, leaving no room for any response he didn’t want to hear.

“She will be. They just want to keep her overnight for observation. She’s a tough one. I was damn lucky to get her as a partner.”

“Partner?” Mulder asked with obvious surprise, taking a moment to size up what he realized had become his replacement. The man was quite a bit younger than Mulder and slightly taller. Mulder stood a little straighter, doing his best to at least even up the height difference before asking again, “Did you say partner?”

“Yeah, we’ve been partnered for a couple months.” The agent offered his hand to Mulder as he continued, “Agent King… Jack King. I’m sorry I didn’t get your name.”

Mulder hesitated, not wanting to open this particular door. He wasn’t sure how much Scully would have told her new partner about her old one. But knowing that he was going to appear to be some crazed stalker if he refused to tell the man his name he figured he had better just tell him who he was, and hope that Scully had been kind.

“It’s Mulder.” He told him, taking his hand and waiting for the inevitable reaction, a reaction to the name of her former partner… the man she had run from. But there was no reaction to be given. “Agent Mulder. Fox Mulder?” The man beside him just stared at him blankly, he had obviously never heard the name Mulder, in any form, before.

“Well Agent Fox Mulder, the nurse has informed me that visiting hours are over for the night. Would you like me to tell Dana you stopped by when she wakes?”

“Look… Agent King… I’ve come a long way, I’d like to have a few minutes with her.” Mulder saw the younger man hesitate and continued, “I have to see her.”

“Yeah, sure… I’ll smooth it over with the nurse. Just not too long, okay?” He told Mulder, giving him a small smile before heading down the hallway and leaving Mulder to his reason for coming this far.

Taking a deep breath Mulder finally passed through the doorway, moving to Scully’s side and taking a seat in the chair next to her. Making sure to avoid the bruising along her cheek, he ran his fingertips gently along her face. She stirred slightly, but didn’t wake. Mulder felt his heart clench, being this close to her again… touching her again. There was so much to say… so much that he never told her, so many things he should have said… and so many questions he needed answered before he could let go of his anger and his grief.

“And I thought I was having a bad day.” He told her, trying in vain to lighten the moment. Moving his hand away from her cheek, he shook his head and whispered, “I probably shouldn’t have even come. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure if you would want me here… after all these years I still don’t know what you want, Scully. How can that be? I thought for a time that you wanted to be a part of the X-files, that you wanted to be beside me… as my partner, as my friend. I even deluded myself into believing you wanted more, but I guess we answered that question, didn’t we?” The edge of anger in his voice died away, replaced only by the hurt he felt as his gaze fell onto her peaceful face, “I really thought that you needed me as much as I… ” Closing his eyes, he fought the heartache that threatened to overtake him completely. Lifting his hands to his face, his words tumbled out, raw and unchecked. “Oh God… Scully… I miss you…”

Standing abruptly, he turned from her, hiding the tears that she wouldn’t have been able to see anyway, but still finding some strength in facing away from her as he cautiously continued, “Dammit, I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to tell you that I… that I’m still…. because I’m still mad, so… so don’t think that just seeing you can make it all right. I’m just saying I miss you, alright? Nothing more.”

Composing himself, he returned to his seat, lightly touching her hand and wondering how many times he had been in this spot. A quiet hospital room, her sleeping and him wondering where he went wrong. “This wasn’t supposed to happen, you know? The one thing I could find solace in with you out of my life, was that you would be safe… safe from getting caught in the cross fire of all the crap that follows me every day. You were supposed to be safe, that was the deal. That’s what kept me from chasing you down… from trying to convince you that your life should be with me.

“Where was your new partner in all of this anyway?” He almost smiled, visualizing the response she would have given, if she had been awake to answer. “Yeah I know, this is where you tell me I shouldn’t blame such a fine upstanding young agent. But if I could blame myself every time you got so much as a hangnail…. I can sure as hell blame him for this. I can even rationalize blaming myself for not being there to protect you. How’s that for irony? I blame myself for not being by your side, when you were the one who ran away.”

Leaning in, Mulder whispered to her, “He doesn’t even know who I am, Scully.” As if it was some kind of a secret that only she knew. A secret he needed to understand. “All the cases we had. I mean if nothing else, working with me at least gave you some pretty amazing stories to tell. Ghosts, aliens, possessions, flukemen. Come on… inbreeding mutants for God sake. Who else could claim stories of inbreeding mutants? Five years together… two months apart, how can this guy not even know my name?”

As if on cue, her new partner stepped into the door frame, silently waiting for Mulder to notice his presence.

Mulder did notice but made no sign that he had, his eyes focused on Scully. Giving her a sad smile, he leaned in, whispering into her hair, “Maybe it was just easier for you to let go.”

Without another word he sat back up, unclasping the necklace that he wore from around his neck, holding the shiny gold in his palm for a moment before gently sliding his hand under her neck, fastening the delicate chain and letting the small cross lay against the hollow of her throat. Leaning down, he kissed her gently. His eyes shut tight, forcing the tears that he had been holding back to break free as he let his lips brush lightly against hers. Absently swiping his fingers across his wet cheek, he stood, turning away from her as he quickly made his way to the door to leave… knowing if he stayed another moment he may never be able to go.

“Can I ask who you are to her?” Agent King asked as Mulder brushed passed him.

“I’m….” He began, his voice breaking slightly as he searched for the right words. “I’m just someone she used to know.” Without another word and unable to look back at her, he walked out …. leaving her to live her new life. Her life without him.

ϿϾ

Dana Scully stood in the darkness of the small motel room watching him sleep, peaceful… unaware. She had been here a thousand times, once in real life, the rest in her mind. It was a dream… it was a memory, a decision she has made and a choice her lonely heart wouldn’t let her forget… or make peace with.

She clutched an envelope tightly in her small hand, willing herself to lay the letter down beside him, to do what she kept telling herself she had to do…

He won’t understand.

God… He wouldn’t ever be able to understand… He would never forgive her.

He could have seen it coming, that is if he had really been looking, but she knew he hadn’t. They both where exceptionally good at seeing only what they wanted to sometimes.

She looked at the letter in her hand. The coward’s way out, but she knew if she tried to explain… to look in his eyes and try to say the words…. They had been there before and he had stopped her with a touch.

He won’t understand.

The ironic part was, she didn’t really understand either…. This isn’t how life is supposed to work, it isn’t how it is supposed to go. She didn’t want to hurt him and the truth was she didn’t know what she was going to do without him, but the decision had been made. She had made the choice that she felt she had to, for him… for both of them. Laying the envelope down on the bedside table beside him she touched his cheek lightly and whispered, “I’m sorry… please try to understand.”

The dream ended as it always did… Dana Scully walked out of the small motel room, the predawn rain helping to disguise her tears, as she got into the waiting cab, disappearing into the darkness and knowing it was just a matter of time before the man she needed most in this life would wake to find her gone.

ϿϾ

Scully’s mind slowly pushed towards consciousness, trying to focus on what was going on… a dull pain in her side, a bed that wasn’t her own and him. The latter, she assumed to be a dream. Opening her eyes to the harsh glare of the overhead flourescents, she looked around the sterile hospital room and then down to the IV sticking out of her arm.

Sitting next to the bed was an empty chair and for just a moment she pictured Mulder there, as always, that look of relief in his eyes as she opened her eyes to look at him from a hospital bed like this one. And the look of terror he tried so hard to hide when he knew that he was helpless to do anything but hold her hand and wait for her to recover.

She felt her chest tighten at the thought of him and she tried to push it away, only to have the emotion come back even stronger, nearly overwhelming her. It was as if he really had been there… his presence … his touch… even the smell of him against her skin. As she shifted slightly in bed, she found her proof in the small gold cross that slid lightly across the base of her throat.

Reaching up quickly, her hand found the necklace, holding the cross tightly between her fingers, her eyes shutting tight. Absently wiping a stray tear, she reopened her eyes, letting her gaze fall to the window and out into the rainy night, as she whispered the name she hadn’t spoken aloud in so long, “Mulder….”

ϿϾ

a little over 2 months earlier…

Scully watched the rain beat against her window… wondering if it would ever let up so they could get out of this town. But at the very least they were stuck for one more night.

They had been on yet another mindless case, punishment is how Mulder had referred to it and she couldn’t disagree with him on that point.

Mulder’s reflection suddenly appeared beside her own in the window, causing her to break from her thoughts.

“If I have to write the word ‘manure’ in one more case report… well let’s just say, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.” He told her dramatically, catching the slight smile in her reflection. She didn’t turn to face him. “What’s on your mind Agent Scully?” he asked in a light tone.

“Just wondering when we’ll be able to get going.”

“I thought you would be happy for the break. A rare night off from our tireless search… the search for the proof that’s kept us in the car for more nights than I care to remember….”

“Mulder..” She began, trying to cut him off.

“Driving hundreds if not thousands of miles through neighborhoods, cities and towns…” He was becoming more dramatic with every word.

“Mulder…”

“…where people are raising families, buying homes…. playing with their kids and their dogs, and… in short, living their lives. While we ….. we just keep driving.”

She gave in and smiled at his words, “I didn’t think you were listening.”

He laughed lightly, sitting on the edge of the bed and bouncing a few times to test the springs, “I’m always listening Agent Scully. I figure I’d better, because one of these days you’re going to agree with me and if I’m not paying attention I just might miss it.”

His words caused her smile to widen as she moved to sit next to him on the bed. They sat in silence for a moment, examining the small motel room.

“So why the rush home?” He asked her, breaking the silence. “You have another date with Dick?”

“Richard.” She corrected.

“Close enough… so am I right? Are you missing out on an evening with him?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but no, we didn’t have a date tonight.”

“Oh, he didn’t call again after your first date?” Mulder asked, attempting to cover his relief with sympathy for her bad luck. “That’s too bad… well better luck nex…”

“We are going out again tomorrow.” She cut him off, catching the look of disappointment before he had the chance to look away. “You seem surprised, Mulder.”

“Well, you can’t blame me. I mean when’s the last time you went out on a second date?”

“When’s the last time you went on a first?” She asked him, knowing he probably couldn’t even remember that far back.

“I date.” He replied defensively.

“I meant in this decade, Mulder.”

“I guess you’re just all the woman I can handle, Scully.” He told her with a sly grin.

“Oh, please….” She groaned, rolling her eyes.

“Ok, if my social life is so lacking, then maybe we should do something about it. Let’s go out.”

“Excuse me?”

“Out, Scully… as in let’s get out of this dreary little room and have some fun.”

“Mulder….”

“It was your idea.” He told her, innocently.

“No.. No, it wasn’t…” She argued, replaying the conversation in her mind. “Besides, Mulder, it’s raining.”

“Well, I was thinking we would go somewhere indoors.” He dead panned, as he took in her sceptical expression. “Come on Scully… get out of the damned car. Live a little.”

ϿϾ

The bar was just a short walk from the motel, but due to the rain, they made it a quick run. As they entered, shaking off their wet coats, Mulder looked around the place.

“My God, it’s Urban Cowboy.” Mulder joked.

“This isn’t even Suburban Cowboy, Mulder.” Scully corrected, “Matter of fact I think this is the real thing.”

As if to confirm her statement, several men tipped their cowboy hats to Scully as Mulder guided her to an empty table.

After ordering a couple of beers Mulder leaned in to Scully, trying to talk over the music, “So you think they have a mechanical bull in this place?” He asked, clinking his beer bottle against hers.

“Why do ask Mulder? You thinking about giving it a shot?”

“Sure, why not? After all the monsters and mutants I’ve chased down, I think I could take a little bull.”

Putting a hand on his shoulder Scully leaned in, telling him, “As someone who has spent a lot of time with you, Mulder, and quite frankly taken more bull than my share, I think you should probably stick with just giving it out.”

He laughed good naturedly, “Was that a joke Scully? Half a beer and you’re smiling and telling jokes. I wish I had known that’s all it takes.”

“It’s not my fault you took this long to ask me out Mulder.” She told him with a small smile.

“So this is what Dick will get when you go out tomorrow?”

“It’s none of your business, remember? And it’s Richard.”

“Dick… Richard… they are both his name, does he really have that big of a hang-up over which version people use?”

“Some people are kinda anal about that kind of thing Mulder… or maybe I should call you Fo….”

“Okay.. Okay.” He cut her off, putting his hand up in a show of surrender. “You made your point. Let’s just change the subject, okay?”

She eyed him for a moment, then let it drop as he had asked, “All right Mulder, new topic… how about a dance?”

“Oh no.” He told her, shaking his head. “I.. I don’t dance.”

“I’ve seen you dance.” She protested, “Besides, what happened to going out for some fun?”

“Look Scully, I’ll buy you a beer, maybe shoot a game of pool, but I don’t Boot Scoot, or what ever the hell it is that they are doing out there.”

“Actually that is a two-step.” A deep voice, with a bit of a southern drawl, told Mulder as he moved up beside him. He was talking to Mulder, but his eyes were on his partner. His partner, in turn, had a smile he hadn’t seen her wear since a certain vampire sheriff had caught her eye.

The stranger finally took his eyes off Scully long enough to look over at the confused expression on Mulder’s face. “The dance.” He continued, “That’d be called a two-step.”

“Yeah, I got that.” Mulder told the man, his voice not exactly welcoming. “Is there something we can do for you?”

“I couldn’t help but over hear you turn down the lady for a dance.” He turned his attention back to Scully. “But personally, I would be honored, ma’am, if you’d dance with me.”

Scully gave a quick, but rather smug smile to Mulder, mouthing the word ‘honored’, before turning to the handsome cowboy and telling him, “I’d love to.”

Mulder took a long drink from his beer bottle, watching the tall young man leading Scully around the floor. She seemed to pick up the steps quickly, but that didn’t keep her dance partner from holding her tightly … a little too tightly, guiding her. Mulder assumed it was jealousy he was feeling, seeing another man hold her, but he realized it was more complicated than that… It was never simple when it came to his feelings towards his partner. She was smiling and laughing… a side of her he so rarely saw. Tonight she had shown it, to him… for him, and for whatever reason he had let her get away… even for a moment. He hated the idea of sharing her, with anyone…. but the caveman in him weakened as he watched her. She looked so relaxed… so happy, that he couldn’t help but smile with her. But he felt his smile widen and his pride surge a little as the music ended and he saw Scully say good-bye to her young cowboy, before catching Mulder’s eye from across the dance floor, giving him a little smile and returning to his side.

Sitting down at the table, Scully picked up her beer and took a drink. Mulder sat watching her, two pool cues at his side.

“Having fun?” He asked, his tone holding more sarcasm than he meant it to.

“You had your chance, Mulder. But you always assume there’ll be another don’t you?”

“And will there be?” He asked.

“Depends on what you have in mind.” She countered.

“You think you can pull yourself away from Tex there long enough to lose at a game of pool?” He challenged.

“What are we wagering?” She asked, as she took another drink.

“What is it that you want?” He asked, raising his eyebrows.

She felt herself smile at the playfulness in his voice, “I suppose shattering your fragile ego will have to do.” She said confidently, taking the pool cue that Mulder was offering her. “Let’s go.”

It took all of about a minute for Mulder to see how wrong he was to have challenged her.

“Good lord, where did you learn to shoot pool like that?”

“Misspent youth.” She told him, looking up as she sank the fifth ball in a row and not offering anymore explanation, even though his expression clearly showed he was looking for more. She could see he wasn’t going to just let it drop, so she asked, “You really think you’re the first man I’ve rebelled from Mulder?”

“You can’t blame a guy for holding out hope that he was your first.” He replied, not missing a beat even though her question had surprised him.

“Well, if it makes you feel better Mulder, you may not have been the first man I rebelled from, but you do hold the dubious distinction of being the first man I’ve both rebelled from and with.”

“And which are you doing tonight?” He asked in a breathy low voice, leaning in to her, but not quite making contact… daring her to answer. She gave no verbal response, but for the first time since they started this game, she missed.

After two games and four beers, Mulder’s game seemed to be getting worse, even as Scully’s improved.

“You really need a softer touch, Mulder.” She told him with a small laugh.

“Oh… and how would you know how soft my touch is?” He asked, with a little raise of his eyebrows.

“The pool ball, Mulder. You are hitting it too hard.” She replied, trying not to consider how soft his touch was as she lightly knocked in another ball. “See? You don’t need to kill it. Can I show you?” She offered.

Mulder gave a little gesture for her to come on over as he turned back to the table. Feeling her hand gently glide under his elbow as her body formed into his back he couldn’t help but wonder how this was supposed to help his concentration. She was giving him advice on his shot, not that he heard one word she said. Shutting his eyes tightly he tried to ignore the buzz of alcohol in his head coupled with the heat of her body blazing against his skin. Regaining some composure, he began to attempt his shot. As she spoke her final word of advice, her mouth was so close that her lower lip grazed his ear, whispering in a low tone, “Lightly Mulder… just a light kiss…”

The advice, although sound, had not resulted in a ‘light kiss’ … more like ripping noise as his arm jerked forward, his pool cue moving with it, hitting more table than ball and going right through the green felt while simultaneously sending the cue ball into a gentle arch right off the table and across the room. The white ball landed with a loud thump on the wooden bar, before bouncing three times and coming to rest inside the beer mug of an extremely large man who happened to have the misfortune of choosing that spot to sit.

Watching the giant of a man slowly turn toward him, Mulder let out a rather nervous laugh and told him, “Two points.”

Whether the man didn’t get it or just didn’t find it amusing, Mulder decided not to stick around long enough to see what happened next. Grabbing Scully’s hand, he threw enough money down to cover the cost of repairing the pool table as well as to buy the large man, who was now snarling, several more beers and, finding the closest exit, they disappeared out into the rainy night.

ϿϾ

“Mulder hurry up, I’m freezing.” Scully told him as she moved in even closer to his side, trying to seek some shelter from the cold, blowing rain.

“I can’t get the key to fit. The locks are about a hundred years old, I’m doing the best I can.” Seeing her discomfort, he pulled her in between him and the door he was working on, using his body to block the rain and trying to give her some relief from the relentless weather, as he continued to work at the lock.

“We could have stayed at the bar ’till the rain let up.” She told him, her voice slightly muffled by his shoulder being so close to her face.

“Yeah, right. Did you see the size of that guy? He could have snapped me in half.” He replied, glancing down and feeling her body snuggle even further into his. He knew she was just trying to keep warm… at least his brain knew this, his body was another story. Trying to concentrate on something other than the feel of her body against his, he asked her, “I suppose you weren’t afraid of him?”

“Why should I have been? He was after you, Mulder, not me.”

She had lifted her head from the shelter of his shoulder long enough to look into his eyes. Giving her a lopsided grin, he asked, “Doesn’t anything scare you, Agent Scully?”

Her answer was a quick flush across her cheeks, before she turned away from him.

“Just open the door, Mulder.” She finally managed to say, dodging his question and returning her face to the warmth of his shoulder.

Mulder just smiled, happy in the knowledge that he wasn’t the only one that was feeling a little distracted by their proximity to one another as he went back to his task of getting the lock to open.

“I think I almost got it..” Mulder told her, their bodies fully connecting with each other at an awkward angle as he pushed at what should have now been an unlocked door.

“I hope you are right Mulder, because your gun is jabbing me…”

“I’m not wearin….” He began before he could bite his lower lip to stop himself. Completely embarrassed that his body had betrayed him in this way, he tried in vain to keep from looking at her. But as he felt her body shake against his, he looked down to see if she was okay.

She was laughing. Hard.

“Sorry…” She began, seeing the stricken look on his face and trying desperately to stop laughing at what was obviously a delicate subject. “No really… I’m…I’m sorry…” She continued, even as she fought the smile that was pushing at the corners of her lips.

“You think this is funny?” He asked, surprised by her reaction.

“No… not at all.” She shook her head, trying to sound serious. It wasn’t working and as if the absurdity of the whole night had finally hit her all at once, she just gave in to it… dropping her head onto Mulder’s chest and laughing harder than she had in years.

Giving into the smile that was forcing itself on him, Mulder wrapped his arms around her tightly and looked up into the rainy night sky, finding himself pondering the fact that here he was shivering in the middle of a rainstorm, probably catching pneumonia, as he listened to his slightly inebriated partner laughing so hard into his chest that she shook both of them… and he was happy… happier that he could ever remember being. And for all his life ambitions, his obsession and his drive, at that moment in time he couldn’t think of anything else on this earth that he could ever possibly need… at least not until she raised her face from his chest, her cheeks dotted with rain, her laughing eyes meeting his and he realized that he did need one more thing. He needed to kiss her.

She could see it.

His eyes darkened… his desire unmistakable. His hands found her cheeks as his eyes fell to her mouth. He could feel her pulse quicken under his fingertips, her heart beating almost as hard as his. Feeling her hand slowly slide to his chest, he mimicked her slow movements as his head dipped down towards her mouth. He was close… close enough to feel the heat of her skin, but he abruptly stopped his decent, before his mouth found hers. Perhaps it was conscious… more likely fear, but the result was the same and he began to pull back from her.

His retreat from her was met with surprising resistance, feeling her hand slide up from his chest until it was resting along his jaw line. He froze at her touch, searching her eyes for answers to his unspoken question.

With a small smile she whispered, “Get out of the damn car, Mulder….”

He needed no more incentive… His hesitation left him as his mouth fell hard against hers, his need for her driving him.

The cold night, the rain… their struggles, their failures… their fights, they all disappeared in an instant. Nothing existed for the two of them but the heat of their bodies, their mouths, their touch and their need to give themselves over to the inevitability of destiny… A destiny they had both fought for so long.

The door gave way under the weight of there bodies, swinging open and causing them both to stumble into the darkened room. Their momentum caused Scully to break from him and she found herself standing a few feet inside the motel room, breathless, her face flushed and looking at her partner framed in the doorway.

There was a long moment between them… a moment of decision… a last desperate attempt at clarity, knowing what they both wanted… but also knowing that just wanting it wouldn’t be enough to change the ramifications of what they were about to do. There would be no turning back… not this time.

With a look, they silently asked each other if this is what they really wanted…. no words were spoken… no words were necessary, they found the answers they sought mirrored in each other’s eyes.

Permission had been granted and Mulder moved further into the room, rushing to her, his mouth finding hers as his hand moved into her hair, pulling her even closer and deepening the kiss. Not willing to break from her, he gave a blind kick backwards, catching the edge of the motel room door, swinging it closed and shutting out the world… at least for one night.

Fade Out

ϿϾ

Dawn finally arrived, slowly flooding light through the window, the small motel room fading into view, and out of the darkness.

Dana Scully sat, fully dressed, silently watching him from across the room, the blankets twisted loosely around his waist as he lay naked across the bed. Part of her wanted nothing more than to return to his side. To lie down beside him and hold him, shutting out reality for as long as she could. If she were anyone else she supposed she would do just that, but she wasn’t. Last night she had been that woman… impulsive, even reckless, with their careers, with their friendship. But in the light of day all she could see was what they both would have to face. Their relationship had never been easy to define. Two complete opposites, to say the least, but they had found a way somehow to be partners, even best friends… but lovers?

God, what had they done?

She couldn’t help but consider how in movies the couple fights against all odds, in the end, finding their destiny in each other… falling into each other’s arms as the scene fades out, leaving you to imagine that they lived happily ever after. They never show you what happens when the scene fades back in.

Mulder groaned quietly as he rolled onto his back and Scully felt her heart leap. He didn’t wake and she calmed a bit, but she knew he would wake soon enough and she still had no idea what to say. Turning, she looked out the window and waited.

Mulder shifted again, his mind replaying the night… every kiss… every touch. But he knew an empty bed well enough to know that the images where just memories and that he lay there alone. Slowly opening his eyes, he realized how right he was, seeing her across the room, dressed and looking out the window into the rainy morning light.

“Not big on cuddling, eh?” He got her attention, but she didn’t laugh. “How long have you been up?” He asked softly.

“I’m not sure.” She began, matching his hushed tone as she turned to face him. “A while, I guess.”

Pulling his legs around he sat on the edge of the bed. Feeling a little insecure that she was fully dressed and he was far from it, he made sure the sheet came with him. They both sat facing each other from across the small room for a long moment, neither knowing quite what to say, but both thinking the same thing: ‘This should be easy. We’ve known each other so long, been through so much together… why isn’t this easier?’

“So, what now?” He finally asked, breaking the silence.

For a moment she thought he was being flippant, but as her eyes met his, she saw he was serious and perhaps even as confused as she was. She had no answer to give him.

Mulder had known her long enough and knew how to read her pretty well. But what he saw in her eyes as she sat there, struggling for something to say, was something he rarely had ever seen. He saw what looked far too much like regret to be denied and suddenly his insecurity went well beyond his lack of clothes.

“Scully…” He paused, searching for some words to reassure her. “Look Scully, I didn’t plan what happened last night… don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets that it happened…. Hell, as long as we have been together I suppose it was inevitable really…. but it was a moment, one night of our lives… it’s not like it really changes anything.”

“For who?” She asked, confused. It was the last thing she expected to hear him say.

“What I mean to say is, what happened last night… what we did, it doesn’t mean we suddenly have some sort of commitment that we…” He caught the look in her eyes, his words had come out wrong and they had hurt her. “No Scully… that didn’t come out right,” He began, running his hand though his hair. ” What I’m trying to say is…”

“No, please…enough.” She interrupted him, “I got it.”

Mulder opened his mouth to protest, but he stopped himself for fear he would say something else really stupid, and tried to find the right words to make her understand how he felt. The sound of the phone breaking the silence of the room stopped him before he got the chance.

“What!” Mulder practically yelled into the receiver. There was a long moment as Mulder visibly tensed saying, “Yes sir” more times than Scully could count before hanging up and returning his attention to her.

“What was that?” She asked, not giving him a chance to go back to the earlier conversation.

“Kersh… ” Mulder began, “I don’t know…something about a case… alien abduction… secret medical testing…” His mind had been so focused on dealing with the two of them he had barely even registered what Kersh had been saying to him.

“Mulder?” She asked, startled by his indifference.

“Whaa…” Kersh’s words finally sunk in, as Mulder slowly turned back, staring at the phone blankly. He had put them on an X-file.

“I’ll wait for you in the car.” Scully told him, grabbing her bag, her expression unreadable.

“Scully, wait…” He reached out for her, but she was too quick and his fingers barely managed to graze her forearm as she stepped back from him. Making no further attempt to touch her, he pleaded, “Scully, you can’t just walk out, we need to talk about this…”

“About what, Mulder?” She asked, trying, with difficulty, to keep hold of the emotional wall she had put up between them.

“What do you mean, what? We need to talk abou… about this….” He waved a hand, motioning to the tangled sheet and blankets that lay strewn across the bed. “About the fact that I’m standing here wearing only a sheet.”

“You said it yourself Mulder… it’s not like it really changes anything.”

“Scully… That isn’t what I… ” He was cut off as she slammed the door behind her and continued talking to an empty room. “This isn’t how it was supposed to go.”

ϿϾ

Scully paced back and forth across her living room, hoping for some divine inspiration. She had a funny feeling she would find the meaning of life before she found any answers about how to deal with what had happened the night before .

They had a long plane ride home, returning in silence. Followed by a quick briefing by Kersh, who made no mention of why all of a sudden he would put them on what was so obviously an X-file. And then to top off the day, they headed their separate ways… without a word.

Tomorrow they would begin their case and they would have to deal with this… this, what ever it was, between them. But tonight, she just paced.

A knock on her door startled her and caused her to freeze in her tracks. It was him. It had to be him. She couldn’t face him yet and for a moment thought about pretending she wasn’t home. But she knew Mulder, knew he would start to worry…. knew he would use his key or just bust down the door if it came down to it. Taking a deep breath she moved to her front door, opening it quickly and finding a tall, blond and very attractive man standing before her, his smile almost as big as the bouquet of roses he held.

“Oh my God!” She exclaimed before she could stop herself.

“You don’t like roses?” He asked, confused.

“No. I mean… Yes, of course, I love roses. I just… I..”

“Forgot we had a date.” He finished.

“I’m so sorry. We started a new case and I…. I’m so sorry.”

“Well, we could still go out.” He told her, hopefully.

Scully’s eyes fell to the roses, trying to find an easy explanation on why they couldn’t go out. Her mind flashed to the night before… Mulder… the rain… skin… heat. She closed her eyes quickly, trying to push the image away. He said it didn’t change anything, but how could it not… it changed everything. At least for her it changed everything. Raising her eyes from the roses, she looked at the man in her doorway. He was still smiling, despite everything.

“I don’t think I’m quite up for dinner out…” She began as his smile faded. “But, if you want to come in for coffee. At least ’till the rain stops.”

“Yeah,” he began, his smile returning, ” I’d like that.”

ϿϾ

The rain still poured as Scully brought her guest a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch. An awkward silence hung between them, broken occasionally by quick questions, only to be followed with one word answers. She had warned him she wouldn’t be very good company tonight and he was learning fast that he should have taken her at her word. He didn’t know where her thoughts were, but they certainly were not on him.

They both looked up as the doorbell sounded behind them. Scully’s eyes widened as she realized this time it had to be Mulder. Giving Richard a small forced laugh, she stood, turning towards the door and whispering under her breath, “Oh, shit.”

Opening her door halfway, she took a good look at the man before her. His clothes, soaked from the rainstorm dripped onto the hallway floor as he nervously rocked from one foot to the other.

“Mulder,”

“I couldn’t sleep Scully, we have to talk about this.” He took a step forward, expecting her to open the door further, to let him in. She didn’t move. “Scully?”

“Mulder, I really think we should do this in the morning.”

“No. Dammit we can’t just let this hang between us. We have to deal with this now.” As he spoke he began to push past her. He got halfway into her apartment when he saw that she wasn’t alone. Richard gave Mulder a good-natured smile, seeming to not notice Mulder’s jaw line tightening. Mulder’s eyes moved from the man in her apartment and fell to Scully’s face, “What the hell….”

Reacting quickly, Scully pushed Mulder backwards into the hall. Attempting to hold Mulder with one firm hand against his wet chest as she turned back, gesturing to Richard that she’d be a minute and started to close the door behind her.

“You…” He pointed through the door as she closed it. “You can’t.”

“Can’t what, Mulder? I can’t have coffee with another man, because we got drunk and did something stupid last night? At least he was invited.” She spat out the words, hoping they would sting. They did.

“Scully, what happened last night…” He began softy, trying to find the right words this time.

“Was a huge mistake.” She finished for him.

“How can you say that?”

“Excuse me, Mulder, but if memory serves, it was you this morning I heard say that it didn’t change anything.”

“Well I can see you took it to heart.” He snapped. “But to be honest Scully, I think you just heard what you wanted to hear.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” She asked him, matching his angry tone.

“It means that if you don’t know my heart by now then maybe you never really did.” He replied, stepping closer towards her to make sure she could see his anger blazing in his eyes. But his anger changed in an instant as he looked at her…. his eyes softening… his voice a mixture of sadness and frustration. “But you know what? I think you do know exactly how I feel about what happened last night and how I feel about you… how I have always felt about you. But it’s easier to blame me for not having the right words, to hear what you wanted to hear. That’s the easy way out, isn’t it? A hell of a lot easier than admitting you might actually feel the same way I do.” With his last word, he turned moving away from her.

“Mulder….”

“Your coffee’s getting cold.” He said over his shoulder, not bothering to turn as he disappeared from her sight.

ϿϾ

“It’s getting cold, Agent Scully.”

Scully snapped out of her memory looking up at the nurse that had been trying to get her attention. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Your lunch..” The nurse began, pointing at the bowl of soup that had been brought in. “It’s getting cold.”

Scully nodded and the nurse turned to leave, not noticing that her patient had immediately pushed aside her meal, before tightly grasping the cross that hung around her neck and letting her sad eyes fall back to the rain streaked window.

ϿϾ

Present

Plugging one ear, Scully tried in vain to talk into the receiver of the pay phone as the airport loud speaker announced to some already angry passengers that their plane had been delayed again. Speaking louder into the receiver, she reassured her mother that she would be there soon, her flight to DC was still showing no delays and she should be there in time for the family dinner that her mother had planned.

Her mother had insisted on Scully coming home to recuperate after being injured. Scully had argued to no avail and had finally given in, packing her bags and booking a flight.

As she headed for the departing gate Scully got somewhat disoriented in the packed terminal. She stopped to look at her ticket number, then around at all the departing gates. Catching the eye of a ticket agent, Scully walked over to her, asking if she was even close to the gate she was looking for. The agent pointed Scully back towards the hallway she had just come from, telling her “You must have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line.”

Scully just gave her a small, wistful smile and told her. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

ϿϾ

2 months earlier

Scully stared nervously at her hands, hoping the woman sitting across from her would say something, anything… but she just sat there.

“I feel kind of odd coming here.” Scully began, hoping to get some response.

“You’ve come to see me before.” The counsellor noted, “So why is this time different?”

“The other times were about work. This time isn’t… well not directly anyway.” The older woman nodded, urging Scully to go on. “You see, the night before last I did something. I… we…did something, we didn’t plan it… it just happened and now I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it. I’ve always been the type to think before acting… to look before I leapt. But the night before last… I leapt, knowing what we would have to face, knowing it wasn’t the smart thing to do… knowing it could cost me everything and doing it anyway. ” Scully looked up, really not wanting to say it aloud but quietly saying it anyway, “We slept together.”

“And you regret it?”

“I regret acting so impulsively, yes. I regret the ramifications that this could and most likely will bring about, but do I regret being with him?” She thought about it for a moment, ” No, I can’t regret that. I mean it’s not like I’d never thought about it, maybe even fantasized about it, but to just give in to my own weakness like that. It would be easier to explain away if it had been some one night stand or some romantic locale, with palm trees, tropical breezes and moonlight. I could say it was just a case of two lonely souls, or maybe just hormones… we got swept up in the moment, these things happen. It doesn’t have to affect the rest of our lives.”

“But it was about more than hormones?”

“If that’s all it was then I would be in a confessional right now, not here.”

“So you wanted to be with him?”

“There are issues here that go far beyond whether I just wanted it to happen.”

“Such as?”

“Our past, our future, our friendship… our working relationship…”

“Your fear?”

“It’s not about fear.”

“Are you sure?”

“What is it you think I’m afraid of?”

“Maybe letting him get too close?”

“I may be somewhat closed off to people, but he… he’s closer to me than anyone else, he knows me better than anyone could… you can’t get any closer to someone without…”

“Becoming physically involved?” The older woman asked, not really expecting an answer. “So now that you have taken that step what is it that you are afraid will happen next?”

Scully hesitated, wanting to hold on to her claims that this wasn’t about fear, but knowing that’s exactly what brought her here, whether she wanted to face it or not. Softly she voiced those fears, “I could lose what we have, I could lose him… I could lose myself in him. We are so different, in so many ways, but we somehow found this balance. But now after what happened…. the truth is, I don’t know how to do this… I don’t know how to be anything else to him.”

“How long have the two of you been working together?”

Scully flinched as if the woman had read her thoughts, but then realized, of course the counsellor knew this was about Mulder. What other man had ever been the topic of discussion in these sessions? “Over five years.” She finally answered.

” Dana, does this one night really change that much between the two of you?”

“How could it not?”

“You are talking about one night of your lives. What about the five years that led up to that night? Can you honestly say that you care more or less for him now than you did three days ago? Do you suddenly have a commitment to him now that you didn’t have prior to this physical encounter?”

Scully felt here chest tighten as the counsellor’s words hit her. She felt like she had jumped back in time, the counsellor voicing the words that Mulder had tried and failed to say to her that morning and again that same night. He said she had heard what she wanted to, that she should have known his heart by now and she couldn’t help but see that maybe he was right.

The woman took in Scully’s conflicted expression. “Dana, I’m not saying this won’t change things… of course it will, life is about change. But this isn’t about suddenly being something other than just his partner or his friend. This is about facing the fact that you already are. You need to see that the two of you already are far more than that to each other, far more than either of you were ever willing to admit. What your heads wouldn’t let you act on all this time, your hearts finally did. Fate finds a way… in time it always does.” The counsellor paused. Sitting forward in her chair and giving a reassuring smile to Scully. “To love someone is easy enough… but being in love with someone, well, that comes with a whole new set of rules. Rules that this one night the two of you shared will force you to address.”

“So what do I do now?”

“You talk to him, because either you have to find a way to get past your fear… or you have to find a way to say good bye.”

ϿϾ

Scully was so wrapped up in her own thoughts she didn’t even notice that the elevator that was supposed to be going up to the floor with her work area, was actually going down. She did realize her mistake though, when the elevator doors slid open, exposing an impatient looking Agent Diana Fowley standing before her.

“God…” Scully whispered under her breath, wondering if this day could possibly get worse.

“Nice to see you too Agent Scully.” Diana said flatly, reading Scully’s obvious disdain at their chance meeting.

Still standing outside the elevator Diana put one hand against the elevator door, holding it open as she told Scully, “Actually I’ve been wanting to talk with you Agent Scully. Could you come to my office?”

“This really isn’t a good time.” Scully told her, wanting nothing more than to get as far away from this woman as she could.

“I’ll be brief.” She saw Scully still hesitating. “It’s about Agent Mulder and his role in the X-files.”

Diana had the trump card and Scully knew it. Unfortunately so did Diana.

“You know that Agent Spender wanted Mulder reinstated. “Diana began, as she stepped into the basement office behind Scully.

“Yes, I know. I also know that we are still doing background checks and scut work.” Scully almost smiled, “but ‘We’ wasn’t where you were going with this, were you?”

“This is his life’s work, he should be here.” Diana continued, ignoring Scully’s remark.

“Than why isn’t he?” Scully countered.

“That’s easy, he’s not here because he would never walk away from you.” Diana answered honestly, catching the surprise in Scully’s expression. “What, that surprises you? Or are you just surprised that you aren’t the only one who sees the control you hold over him.”

“Mulder is his own man.” Scully replied, her defences quickly going up.

“He was, Agent Scully. What he has become over the years is something I barely recognize. The man I knew lived and breathed these cases, now he seems to spend more time trying to convince you of what he believes, than he does pursuing those beliefs.”

“Is there a point to all this?” Scully asked sarcastically.

“The point is as I said before, he should be here investigating the X-files. I can give him that.”

“Let me guess, he can return if I step aside?”

“You can’t give him what he needs, you never could. All those years he spent with you, chasing his own tail. What did he get, besides being second guessed at every turn? He will never find the answers he seeks with you by his side…”

“He’s been given his answers…”

“He has been given what they wanted to give him, nothing more. He hasn’t succeeded in his quest… he hasn’t found what he has worked so hard for all these years…”

“His sister.” Scully finished.

“Yes… His sister.”

“Are you saying you know how to find her?”

“No, but he’ll have a real chance of finding her with a believer at his side. It really is as simple as that. I believe… you don’t. I can give him peace Agent Scully. Can you say the same?”

“I’m really not in the mood for this.” Scully began, trying to cover the effect Diana’s words were having on her and hoping to get out of there before she lost her temper completely.

“I don’t claim to understand what exactly it is between you.” Diana let out a humorless laugh, “I would be willing to guess that even pressed you couldn’t explain what it is between the two of you. But seriously, without his answers… without finding that peace, what possible future do you see yourself having with him? I really am curious Agent Scully, what is it you see happening? A big wedding, a house, white picket fence… children?” She purposefully left her last word hanging there. “You have seen what being away from here has already done to him, you can’t honestly think he would be happy in some domestic life you have conjured up?”

“I don’t have to listen to this.” Scully told her, barely keeping control of her temper. Turning to leave she added, “You want Mulder back here, then take it up with Mulder.”

“He won’t do it… no matter how much he wants it.”

Scully stopped, turning back to face the other woman, “Then that is his choice…”

“No… no it’s not, it’s yours. Can’t you see he’d give his life to you, whether that life is taken by a bullet or lost to a lifetime of dead ends. He’s so willing to sacrifice his happiness for you… I’m amazed that you could be so selfish as to just let him do it.”

The conversation was interrupted as Mulder entered the basement office, his head down as he looked through the files he held.. Scully watched him, as he moved into the office, completely oblivious to anything but the case in his hand.

“Diana, I need some files for a case I’m on… ” His words died on his lips, as did his focus on the files, when he saw Diana and Scully both looking back at him. “Scully… What… What are you doing down here?”

She gave him a sad smile, “It seems somewhere along the line I took a wrong turn.” Without another word, she walked out of the office leaving him to wonder what she meant.

ϿϾ

Present

Mulder walked slowly out of the convenience store, blood streaming from his temple, a baby wailing in his arms. As he walked out, several police officers swarmed in to assess the scene. One wounded cashier and one dead gunman were all that was left of the hostage stand off, all except for the man carrying a crying infant and fighting to get though the bright lights of the local news crews that had been reporting on the two hour stand off.

As he made it past the cameras a woman rushed to him and he set the small bundle he held into her waiting arms, watching her cling to the crying infant… he wasn’t sure who was crying harder, mother or child. He gave her no words… he didn’t need to, she had everything she could ever need held tightly against her chest.

Mulder sat on the curb allowing a paramedic to finish cleaning his wounded forehead as Skinner approached and sat down next to him. The older man took in Mulder’s battered appearance and then followed his gaze, seeing that he was fixated on the mother and child being cared for by another paramedic.

“You could have been killed, you know. I thought that maybe you’d gotten past this self-destructive behavior, guess I was mistaken.”

Mulder didn’t even bother to look over at Skinner, just replying quietly, “I had to save her.”

Skinner watched as the paramedic handed the infant back to her mother, “Looks like you saved both of them.” He noted, glancing back at Mulder.

“She shouldn’t have had to live with the loss.” For the first time Mulder turned to his boss, “I know I wasn’t supposed to be here… I know I didn’t follow procedure or protocol, it was reckless and maybe even stupid, but don’t ask me to apologize for it.” He turned back to the mother and child, “I can’t regret it.”

ϿϾ

3 months earlier

A small moment of turbulence, caused Mulder to look up from the papers on his lap. He had completely lost track of time and until he looked beside him, hadn’t even realized his partner had fallen asleep. The plane shook again, but Scully barely stirred. She looked so peaceful there, curled up beside him. Mulder’s mind involuntarily drifted back to the night they had shared. Sometime just before dawn, the only sounds filling the small room were their mingled breathing and the rain softly hitting the nearby windowpane. As they lay in the darkness, her body curled up very much like she was now, but draped across his chest. He had been so afraid to close his eyes, maybe instinctively knowing that if she had a chance to think about her actions she would have regrets. It was a chance to hold her and he took it gratefully. Looking at her in the plane seat next to him he couldn’t help but wonder if he would ever get that chance again.

Scully woke just in time to see a tall blond woman hovering over her partner, dropping off peanuts and a coke and lingering far longer than necessary, Mulder barely even looked up from his file, much to the stewardess’s disappointment.

Scully hid a small smile as the stewardess stormed off, “Well at least it’s good to know I’m not the only one who has to take a back seat to this stuff.” She noted quietly.

“Come on Scully, you know I’d rather have you in the backseat than some pushy stewardess.” He told her, giving her a sideways glance and a little smile.

“Yeah right, if she had given you a bag of sunflower seeds instead of peanuts, you would be gone.”

He let out a light laugh, “Yeah, well a man has needs.”

She returned his smile and looked down at the papers he held. “You really miss it don’t you?”

“Sunflower seeds?” He asked, in mock seriousness.

“This.” She lightly, flipped up the corner of the file on his lap.

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s what I do Scully… or what I should be doing anyway.”

“It’s your life.”

“Such as it is.” He added

“What would you give to get it back?” Her eyes couldn’t quite meet his.

“You mean like, would I sell my soul? Probably, but I doubt there would be any takers.”

“I’m serious.”

“You know me Scully… you know me better than anyone could. You know how much I would be willing to sacrifice and you also know the things I couldn’t sacrifice… at any cost.”

Scully looked out of the small window leaving the conversation hanging for a long moment before asking in a low tone, “And how long will you stay?”

Her question startled him, “What… what do you mean?”

“Without it….” She turned from the window towards him, but was still unable to meet his eyes. “Without the X-files, how long could you be happy here… how long will you stay?”

His eyes searched her face. She looked a little frightened by the answer he might give and as he thought about her question, he was a little frightened as well.

He had no answer to give her.

As they manoeuvred through the lobby of the office building, Mulder’s hand unconsciously touched her, guiding her toward the elevators. As they waited for the elevator to come, he saw her quick backward glance at the hand that still lingered at the small of her back. Self-consciously he pulled his hand back, breaking contact and telling her awkwardly, ” Sorry… force of habit.”

“Mulder…”

“It wasn’t about… I mean, I wasn’t trying to…”

“I know.” She touched his hand lightly. “I know.”

The elevator’s sudden arrival brought them both back to their reason for being there and they moved to enter it.

“Are you sure this is the right address?” Scully asked her partner as they stepped into the elevator, happy to be able to change the subject.

According to the report this is the place.” He looked at her , “not what you were expecting?”

“An office building full of lawyers that bill out more per hour than it takes me to make in a month? No, this is not exactly what I was expecting.”

“Not all the people that claim to have been abducted by little green men are UFO freaks or rejects from The Jerry Springer Show.”

“Yeah, but they do all have one thing in common.” she gave him a sideways glance. ” They all seem to have your phone number.”

Stepping out of the elevator, they walked side by side up to a small desk and a secretary that didn’t even bother to ask their names, before telling them, “Mr. Simms is expecting you.” Stepping away from her desk she lead them into a huge office, then promptly disappeared back through the doors, closing them behind her.

Mr. Simms wasted no time in telling them his story… a story, Scully noted silently, that they had heard a hundred times before with a few variations here and there. Bright light… feeling of floating…. tests. But it was his reason for asking for Mulder specifically that changed an average case into something far more personal.

“I was in that facility for a day or two.” The older man told the two agents. “I’m not really sure, I’d lost track of time by then. Then they gave me something that knocked me out. I woke up in my own bed. Until I saw the marks on my body I thought maybe it had been a nightmare. But it wasn’t, I know it wasn’t. Not only by the scars that they left behind, but because of this.” He held out a folded piece of paper. “Before they gave me the drug that knocked me out, they had left me for a moment, also leaving behind a clipboard that they had been taking notes on. I thought maybe it was my chart so I grabbed the top sheet. When they abruptly returned, I panicked and hid the paper in my pajamas. I still had it when I woke at home.”

Mr Simms stood, walking over and handing the paper to Mulder, “I don’t know what it means… Hell, the truth is I don’t want to know what it means. As far as I’m concerned this never happened. I’ve done my part and now I just want to forget.”

“Mr Simms?” Scully began, her skeptical look firmly in place. “When you reported this, you asked for Agent Mulder by name. Why?”

“I didn’t want to report it at all, but I promised her.”

“Promised who?” Mulder asked, looking up from the paper.

“It was before I arrived at the facility, when I was still… with Them. I don’t know who she was or how she got to me. She just kept begging me to, ‘Tell Fox she was there… tell him that she missed him’. She repeated the name over and over so I would remember ‘Fox Mulder… Fox Mulder…” When I woke in that medical complex with no recollection of what happened to me, at first the only thing I could remember, that I couldn’t get out of my head, was that name. ” He looked back at Mulder, “Your name.”

“I tried just to forget, but I would wake in a cold sweat every night, her pleading eyes haunting me… I had to give you the message so I could be free of this.” A startled expression came across the man’s face, as if he was reliving a moment from his past, as he stepped closer to Mulder. There was a tremor in his voice as he said, “Her eyes, Agent Mulder… Her eyes were the same eyes as yours.”

ϿϾ

In his small motel room, Mulder was completely engrossed in reading and re-reading the paper that Mr. Simms had given him. He was so engrossed he didn’t even notice as Scully walked in with some printouts until she had said his name three times.

“Scully, did you figure out what the injections were that they gave Mr. Simms?” He asked, without any comment on how long she had been standing there.

“What they are? No. Where they got them? Yes.” She handed Mulder computer printouts.

“Is this the location of the medical facility that he told us about?”

“I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s a lab within the facility.”

“Can you get in? Can you get this… this, whatever it is they were injecting into Mr. Simms?” He asked, not even looking up from the paper.

She knew it was coming, but was still surprised at how quickly he could jump from a computer printout to breaking and entering. “Mulder….”

“You don’t believe his story.” He finished.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You heard him Scully, he’s not some guy out for 15 minutes of fame… he didn’t even want to come forward.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time someone has told you exactly what you wanted to hear to advance their own agenda.”

He didn’t argue, knowing she was right.

“It’s just all a little too easy Mulder. An ultra secret medical facility, testing on humans.”

“We have seen these places, Scully.”

“Yes and what kind of proof were we ever allowed to leave with?” She picked up Mr. Simms’ chart paper, “Yet this guy is able to smuggle out crucial information in his pajamas… information that leads us right back to this ultra secret medical facility.”

Mulder stood, absently running a hand through his hair, “Why do you have to fight me on everything? You heard him… you heard what he said, why can’t you just…”

“Believe?” She finished his question for him, a hint of sadness in her voice.

“What if it’s true?” He asked, his eyes pleading with her.

She just sighed deeply, putting the paper back down.

“Scully, if I could do this alone…”

“You would have already left.” She finished, knowing he’d ditched her far too many times to argue with that point. She looked at his expression, he had been given his X-file and it could lead to finding his proof… maybe even finding his sister. How could she not give him what he needed… how could she not try? “Ok Mulder.” She relented, ” But you had better be right.”

ϿϾ

Mulder sat waiting for his partner. Out of necessity she had gone in alone, in search of his answers. Across the street from his car was a nondescript office building, from the outside it could have been anything. He could only imagine what the inside looked like and if she was able to get past security using the IDs he had managed to acquire, with a little help from the lone gunmen. Mulder had hoped to get a pass for himself as well as Scully, but in the end they were lucky to get one ID and with Scully’s medical background, she was the only one that had a chance of getting in… and out again.

Dusk soon turned to darkness and he waited. For the last couple of days he had kept himself occupied with the case, between leads and research he had been able to separate himself from his personal issues, even if his foremost personal issue had been at his side most of the time. But in the darkness of his car he was helpless to do anything but worry about her. Worry that she was ok… worry that they would be ok. She hadn’t spoken of the night they had shared, she hadn’t really even looked at him since. He understood her confusion, he felt it too, but it seemed deeper in her. She was afraid… of him, of the uncertainty of what one night could mean to their future together. He shared that fear. The thought of not having her in his life, in any capacity, terrified him.

The car door suddenly opened and Mulder jumped, turning to see that Scully had returned.

“Did you get them?” He asked as she sat down in the passenger seat.

“Yeah, I got them.” She pulled three vials out of her pocket, one bright green, the other two much darker liquid.

“What do you think they are?” He asked, taking them from her.

“I don’t know, but considering the security in that place I have a feeling we don’t want to be around when they realize these are missing.”

“I think you’re right.” He agreed, starting the car and pulling out onto the street.

They had only managed to get a block from the facility when a sedan pulled in front of the car cutting then off. In an instant a van pulled up next to them. Three men jumped out of the vehicle, guns in hand and pointed them at Mulder and Scully, motioning for them to get out of the car. Doing as they were told , they both stepped slowly out of the car, hands held out from their sides. Immediately they were turned, pushed onto either side of the hood of the car and stripped of their weapons. Mulder looked up trying to see Scully. Feeling his eyes on her she began to look up as well, but before she managed to look into his eyes everything went black as a cloth hood was placed over her head and she was pushed into the van. Falling to her side, she tried to get up only to feel another body fall hard beside her and the van door close. In another moment the van was moving, taking them further away from the safety of their own car.

With his head, covered like Scully’s, Mulder couldn’t see where they were going. The only thing he knew for sure was that Scully was beside him. He had tried to talk to her, only to be hit hard against the head. But in the dark and silence he felt her small hand slide into his and he wrapped his fingers around it tightly, trying to reassure her… as well as himself.

As the van came to a halt they were unceremoniously dragged out and heard footsteps approaching.

” I believe you two have something I want.” The voice was familiar… too familiar.

Mulder blinked against the light as his hood was taken off and he could see his kidnapper, “Krycek… I thought I smelled a rat.”

“Always a pleasure, Mulder.”

“I thought maybe you got toasted with the rest of your buddies… guess it was just wishful thinking.” Krycek motioned with his head to the men standing behind him, one of them immediately moved to take Scully’s hood off…it was obvious who was calling the shots. “God, don’t tell me you got put in charge.”

“Downsizing.” Krycek told Mulder, with a humorless laugh, “It’s a bitch… but what are you going to do?”

“So if you are suddenly so far up the conspiracy ladder, than why bother with us? Why not do your own dirty work?”

“Why should I take the risk getting in and out of that facility? Especial when with the right incentive you are more than willing to put your ass on the line.” Krycek’s eyes fell to Scully, “Or should I say you are more than willing to put her ass on the line.”

Mulder took a quick step toward Krycek, his fist clenched, but as he moved so did the men standing behind Krycek and Mulder felt Scully’s hand on his forearm, stopping him.

“Give me the vials Mulder.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Mulder told him evenly.

Without hesitation Krycek raised his gun, firing at Mulder, hitting his leg and watching him drop to the ground.

“Mulder!” Scully cried out, dropping to his side.

“I don’t have time to screw around Mulder, so let’s try this again. Give me the vials.”

Mulder gripped his leg tightly, looking back up at the other man, “You can kiss my…” Krycek quickly raised his gun again and just as quickly Scully jumped up, stepping in between the gun and her partner.

“Don’t.” She warned. Glancing over her shoulder at Mulder struggling to return to his feet, she told him. “Give them to him Mulder.”

Krycek smiled as he lowered his gun .”Always the rational one… I like that about you Scully.”

Mulder again hesitated handing over the vials, prompting Krycek to raise his gun back up, only this time Scully was his target. Mulder’s hesitation ended in an instant and he pulled out the vials from his coat pocket, limping as he stepped in front of Scully and handing them to Krycek.

“You have what you want Krycek, now if you could point us in the right direction we’ll be on our way.”

“Not quite yet Mulder.” Krycek told him as one of the other men came up beside him taking one of the vials and pulling out a large syringe. Mulder’s eyes widened as he realized what Krycek had in mind, but he didn’t realize who he had in mind until he heard Scully yell from behind him as two men grabbed her.

Mulder rushed Krycek, ignoring the pain in his leg and the fact that he was unarmed, causing both men to slam hard into a nearby wall. Mulder got in a few solid punches before feeling the cold steel of Krycek’s gun press into the underside of his chin.

Mulder could hear Scully pleading with him to stop and knew that she was still being restrained or she would be beside him, stopping him herself, before he got himself killed.

“Tell them to let her go Krycek.” Mulder rasped, trying to catch his breath.

Krycek let his gun fall to Mulder’s chest. “You are hardly in a position to tell me what to do, Mulder.”

“This is between you and I… Leave her out of it. Let her go. You can have me instead.”

“And why would I want you?”

“You remember what the last guy did to the one armed man that took away a woman he cared about? Except it won’t take me nearly as long to hunt you down…. and I don’t care how many lives you have. I will kill you”

“Watch it Mulder, I’m still the one with the gun remember?” Krycek asked, pressing the barrel harder into Mulder’s chest to make his point. “Why shouldn’t I just kill you and then just take what I want?”

“Because you’ve already taken too much from her.” His statement was simple. He could only hope that Krycek saw the truth in it.

“Hope she’s worth it Mulder.” Krycek told him with a small smile, dropping his gun and motioning for the men to bring the vials over.

Mulder could clearly see Scully now, fighting for all she was worth against the two men, each more than twice her size. She understood all too well what he had just done… he’d sold his soul. She could hear his words in her head,

‘you know me better than anyone could. You know how much I would be willing to sacrifice and the things I couldn’t sacrifice… at any cost.’

She fought harder to get to him before it was too late.

Mulder was fighting too, it was a losing battle, but still he fought as one of the men drew some green liquid out of a vial into a long syringe. Mulder tried to jerk his arm away but the man held it tightly as he plunged the needle into Mulder’s vein. Then they just let him go. Mulder stumbled back, trying to grab something to hold onto, but only found air and fell hard against the concrete floor. His vision blurred and although he could hear Scully crying out his name he couldn’t see her… somehow that hurt more than the burning sensation moving from his arm into his chest.

Mulder struggle to stand, only to fall again.

Looking at his watch, Krycek told the man beside him, “If he rejects it, he’ll be dead in about a minute and a half.”

Scully heard Krycek’s words and broke free from the men that held her, rushing to Mulder’s side, needing to be with him. She held his face in her hands trying to get a response from him, but he was only semi-conscious and couldn’t speak. He shook slightly in her arms, his face reddened as a thin layer of sweat appeared across his features. The two men that had been restraining her moved to pull her back from Mulder, but Krycek waved them back. “Leave her.” he told them, never taking his eyes off his watch.

As the allotted time passed, Krycek dropped to one knee beside Mulder, reaching out a hand to test his pulse, only to have Scully slap his hand back protectively.

“He’s alive.” She told Krycek. “Your sick little test is over Krycek… leave him alone.”

“Not quite yet.” He told Scully, then motioned for the men to take her. As they pulled her roughly away from Mulder’s body, Krycek uncapped one of the vials with the darker liquid in it and leaned over Mulder. Scully alternated between begging for Mulder’s safety and calling Krycek every expletive she could think of, as Krycek slowly poured the black oily substance out of the vial and onto Mulder’s forehead. Immediately the oil formed into separate droplets, taking on a life of its own as it began moving towards Mulder’s eyes and ears, but just before it reached its objective the dark oil became translucent, losing its shape and mobility. Within seconds there was no way to differentiate between what had been poured onto him and the thin layer of sweat that covered Mulder’s face.

Krycek let out a surprised laugh, “Well I’ll be damned.” He turned to the men holding Scully, “You can let her go.”

They did as told and Scully rushed back to Mulder, dropping down beside him once again and checking his eyes for signs of the oil, but there were no signs that he had been infected. Confused she looked up towards Krycek, “What just happened?”

“What happened?” He looked at the vial that held the green fluid, “This stuff actually works… that’s what just happened.” Krycek gave her a wide grin before standing and looking down as Mulder started to come to, “Guess I’m not the only one with nine lives.” With his last word he threw the cell phone that they had taken earlier from her, down beside Scully, telling her. “You’ll probably want to get him to a hospital.” Then without any explanation, he and the other men climbed into there vehicles, leaving them there alone.

ϿϾ

Mulder was rambling on about black oil and the green fluid that had been tested on him, considering the ramifications of what it could mean to the X-files. Realizing that Scully was not listening to him, he glanced over to her as they walked into his motel room. “You know you haven’t said a word since we left the hospital?”

She looked at him, finding it hard to believe that a few hours ago they had been sitting in a deserted warehouse as she had cradled him in her arms, helpless to do anything but call for help without even knowing how to give directions to where they were. As she held him, smoothing back his hair and whispering softly that she would get them out of there, they waited for what seemed like an eternity for help to come. Looking at his pale face all Scully could think of were Diana’s earlier words, ‘Can’t you see he’d give his life to you, whether that life is taken by a bullet or lost to a lifetime of dead ends. … I believe… you don’t. I can give him peace Agent Scully. Can you say the same?’ As Scully looked at Mulder now, even after the doctor reassured her that he was fine, she still felt that helplessness.

“Scully?” Mulder touched her arm lightly trying to get some response from her, but she just looked away.

“Why?” Her question came out of nowhere and if he hadn’t been the only other person in the room, Mulder wouldn’t have even known it had been directed at him.

“Why what?” He asked, not understanding.

“Why would you act so recklessly with your own life?”

“Wha…”

“What exactly were you doing tonight Mulder?” All the bottled emotions in her had built up into anger. “Of all the stupid things I’ve seen you do.. And believe me I have a long list….”

“What?” He finally managed to find his voice. “You’re angry? You’re angry at me?”

“How could you act so irresponsibly? What did you think you where trying to accomplish?”

“I was trying to keep you alive.” His anger quickly rose to meet hers.

“And who the hell asked you to throw your life away for me?” She was practically yelling at him.

“What? You… you ungrateful little bit…” he had to bite his lower lip to stop himself from finishing.

Scully raised her eyebrows, silently challenging him to finish his thought. Not willing to continue this fight he moved away from her, wincing slightly as he sat on a nearby bed.

After a long moment of silence she asked him, ” Mulder, do you even realize how close you came to getting killed tonight?”

“Well, the plan didn’t involve getting killed if that makes you feel better.” He told her sarcastically.

“What exactly was your plan … Get shot, get drugged, lose your evidence and then let Krycek escape?

“Pretty clever, huh?” He deadpanned.

Scully just looked at him.

“My plan, Scully, was to walk away,… well limp away, finding my partner, safe, sound and eternally grateful that I cared enough to put myself on the line for her.” He sighed, dropping his head, muttering. “Perhaps I should have let you in on that last part.”

“Mulder…” She began.

Mulder slowly lifted his head, expecting to see anger in her eyes. Instead he found tears. He felt his heart break as he looked into those sad eyes. “Scully, how could I have not done everything I could to protect you? I couldn’t let him….” His words faded as he saw a tear roll down her cheek. Standing, Mulder moved to her, gently taking her hand in his, “Scully, I’m ok.” He tried to reassure her. ” You heard the doctor, no toxins in my system and thanks to the fact that Krycek’s such a lousy shot… he just grazed me with that bullet. I’m alright….. we are alright. We lived to fight another day.”

“And next time?” She asked, knowing the answer.

“It was worth the risk Scully… It was worth any risk. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I couldn’t let him hurt you… and I would do it again without a second thought.”

“I know, Mulder. ” She began, her voice breaking slightly as she took his hand in hers, “And that’s what scares me.” Letting her hand drop away, she turned heading for her own room and leaving him there.

ϿϾ

Mulder couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning in the unfamiliar motel bed. The clouds outside had broken, letting moonlight stream through his window and giving everything a bluish tint, somehow making the room seem simultaneously beautiful and lonely at the same time. In the distance he saw the adjoining door slowly open and Scully step into the room. For a long time she just stood there bathed in the moonlight. Mulder didn’t dare to speak for fear it was just a dream and she might disappear.

He watched her silently leave the doorframe, moving across his room until she stood beside his bed, her eyes searching out his in the dimly lit room. It was the first time she had really looked into his eyes since the night they had made love. From the morning after, waking to find she had left his bed, until this moment, she had hidden herself from him, afraid that her eyes would say too much. He supposed she was right, because looking into those eyes now he could see her fear and how vulnerable she was to it… and to him.

Sitting up in bed he let the blankets slide down his bare torso, pooling around his waist. He remained silent, taking his cues from her and knowing she could see his fear as easily as he could see hers.

Taking a step closer she let her knees press into the side of the bed and tentatively reached out a hand, her fingertips lightly grazing his cheek. There were tears in her eyes as she finally spoke, in no more than a whisper, “I don’t regret it Mulder.” she paused, as a stray tear broke free, sliding down her pale cheek, “I need for you to know that I don’t regret it… not one day.”

He didn’t fully understand what she was telling him and something in him told him he didn’t want to understand.

Without another word she slowly pulled her hand back, untying her robe, letting it drop to the floor around her feet, and raised her eyes slowly back up to meet his. Mulder reached out a shaky hand, the back of his fingertips lightly connecting with the smooth skin of her abdomen, brushing one way and then the next, as his palm connected fully with her warm skin, sliding around to find the small of her back and gently pulling her to him. One of her knees pushed onto the bed to hold her weight as Mulder’s hand lightly glided up her spine, his fingers moving into her hair. She closed her eyes, arching her neck as he leaned into her, his mouth finding the hollow of her throat. His other hand, leaving its resting place on her hip, cautiously moved behind her, feeling the warmth of her skin combined with his as his arms enveloped her completely, his upper body melting into hers. Letting his head fall back, for a long moment he just looked into her eyes, holding her as tightly with his gaze as he held her with the arms that he had wrapped around her body. In a whisper he repeated her words, “No regrets.” Her hand came up to rest along his jaw line, quietly echoing him, “No regrets.” Mulder nodded silently, dipping his head down and brushing his lips softly against hers, before gently guiding her down onto the cool cotton sheets beneath him.

There were no more words spoken, no explanations and no admissions. No words of doubt, or fear… or even love. The only words came in the form of a letter found in the small hours of the next morning, leaving him with only a gold cross, unanswered questions and a broken heart that two months later still would not be healed.

ϿϾ

Present

Mulder looked at his watch, as the waiter hovered beside him. Giving the man a forced smile Mulder told him, “I’m sure she’ll be here any minute…”

Giving him a doubtful look, the waiter asked, “Would you care for another drink while you wait sir?”

“Yes… yes, I would ” Mulder began, not quite making eye contact, “and let’s make this one a double.”

He was reading the menu for the fifth time, really starting to think he had been stood up when he looked up and felt his heart jump… Dana Scully had just walked in the door.

The last time he had seen her she had been in a hospital, but here tonight she looked healthy, happy even. Maybe that’s what life away from him did for her. He was transfixed as she was led through the crowded restaurant to her table and for a moment he felt jealousy surge though him, wondering who she was meeting… wondering who the new man was that she was allowing to share her life. But he soon realized it wasn’t a date she was meeting, seeing her brother stand to greet her with a hug, before taking his seat again and having her join him.

His date long since forgotten, Mulder couldn’t keep his eyes off his former partner, watching her intently, even as he tried to hide behind his menu. He wanted to be happy seeing her again, but as he watched her, laughing and smiling, he wasn’t happy… he was angry. Angry that she could just move on, while he was still in pain.

She looked at her watch, saying something to her brother and then abruptly stood, heading towards the lounge.

Mulder ducked further behind his menu so that she wouldn’t spot him as she passed by. He knew the rational thing would be to stay put, but never one for being rational, he stood and followed her. She headed towards the back of the restaurant, turning down a long hallway and he cautiously continued his pursuit. Hearing her voice, he froze in place at the edge of the hallway entrance, peeking around the corner to see that she was on the phone. From where she stood, her back towards the entrance, she couldn’t see him watching her.

Mulder’s heart was racing… desire, anger and pretty much every other emotion that he could possibly feel drove him as he watched her in the soft light of an otherwise empty hallway. He knew this could only go badly and told himself to walk away, to let her go… but he couldn’t. God, he had missed her so badly. Part of him needed to tell her how much… even as the rest of him just wanted her to know how deeply she had hurt him and to understand how she could just walk away from their life together. As if of their own volition, his legs began to move and before he could stop himself he was behind her. He was so close he could smell the faint traces of her perfume, but he didn’t touch her.

Scully froze as she felt his presence behind her. She didn’t turn… she didn’t have to. She knew it was him.

Realizing that she had suddenly stopped talking into the phone receiver, she stammered, “Yes… yes, I’m here… I’m sorry…”

Mulder moved closer to her, his head dipping down, his warm breath on the back of her neck. He couldn’t see her eyes which had closed at the sensation.

“God.” She whispered, prompting even more concern from the recipient of the phone call. “Yes… Mom, I’m… uh… fine….I just…” Her breathing become even more erratic as Mulder’s hands finally found her. She felt the heat of his palms, cupping the rounded curve of her hips. His fingers purposefully gliding along the fabric of her dress, slowly gathering the silky material within his grasp, before guiding her body back until it fit tightly against his. “I have to… I have to go now…” She stammered, as the phone receiver slipped out of her hand and she lost herself in the sensation of his body pressed against hers.

Her pulse quickened even further, feeling one of his hands slide around her to rest across her abdomen. Without hesitation her hand went up to join his as his mouth lazily moved to her ear, his full lower lip sliding across her earlobe as he whispered, “Scuuuulllly.”

Her fingers involuntary tightened over Mulder’s hand as she felt his mouth slide down the smooth skin along her neck, breathlessly whispering, “Have you missed me, Scully?”

Her mind was telling her this was crazy, but her body didn’t care and as her eyes closed again all she could do was softly murmur, “Yes.”

Then as suddenly as he appeared, he let her go, breaking contact with her. She turned on shaky legs to face him, confused at his sudden departure. She expected the traces of desire she saw in him, but there was also something else… anger. He looked as if he were conducting a test, a test that she had just failed.

“Good.” He told her harshly, smugly grinning at her flushed appearance.

“Wha… what is this?” Scully pushed hard against his chest, causing him to step away from her. “Were you testing me, Mulder? Is that it?” Embarrassed by her reaction and angry at the game he was obviously playing with her, she quickly turned, moving away from him. Before she could run away again, he grabbed her arm, turning her back to face him. He had a million things to say to her, but as he stood there looking into her eyes and knowing this might be his last chance for answers, for the life of him he couldn’t think of anything she could say to him that would make this hurt less.

“You’ve made your point, Mulder.” She told him sadly, as she pulled out of his grip. “What more do you want?” With her last word she turned, heading back to her dinner companion.

Mulder stood there for a second, trying to convince himself not to follow her, that she was the one who had left him… she was the one who slipped out in the middle of the night, leaving nothing more than a ‘Dear Mulder’ note. But the fact that he could still feel her against his skin was waging a convincing debate, and within minutes it had won. Running towards the dining room, he almost ran over his date, who had finally arrived.

“Fox” Diana said, not seeming to notice how distracted he was. “Sorry I’m late. I thought maybe you’d given up on me.”

“Can we do this another night?” He asked her, not taking his eyes off Scully who was now leaving with her confused brother in tow. “I think I’ve lost my appetite.”

“But you said you love it here.”

“I did…” He began, glancing at Diana briefly then back through the glass door, watching a cab drive off into the rainy night with Scully in it, “but they no longer have what I want.”

ϿϾ

“Dana, he’s been out there for half an hour.” Margaret Scully told her daughter as she looked out of the window at the man standing in her yard as the rain poured down on him. “You can’t just leave him out there, he’ll catch pneumonia.”

Scully was feeling pangs of guilt as it was, but her mother’s worrying about Mulder’s health made it even worse. She was still angry at him for his earlier actions that night and even more so at herself for allowing herself to be so easily led. She looked out of the window at her ex-partner. He had come all this way, but wouldn’t… or couldn’t, make himself ring the bell.

Bill Scully stepped up behind his sister peering out of the window at Mulder. “Don’t worry sis, I’ll take care of him.” He told her, obviously happy for the opportunity.

Scully managed to block the front door before Bill got there, “No, you won’t take care of him,” she began, opening the door, “I will.”

Stepping out onto the porch, she looked at Mulder for a long awkward moment before telling him. “You know, you’ve got a debate raging in there?”

He tentatively stepped onto the porch and out of the rain as he replied, “Yeah? What kind of debate?”

“Well, you’ve got my mother on one side. She’d like nothing better than to have you come inside and feed you chicken soup, so you don’t get sick. Then you’ve got my brother, who would rather just come out here and kick your ass.”

“Well since you’re not holding any chicken soup, I guess I don’t need to ask whose side you’re on.”

Ignoring his accusation, but not denying it either, she noticed for the first time the row of stitches running along his forehead. Instinctively, she began to reach out to touch him, but with some effort she managed to stop and keep her hands at her sides. She couldn’t hide her concern though as she said, “You’ve been hurt.”

He let out a small laugh that didn’t quite make it to his eyes, “Is that your medical opinion, Dr. Scully?” Seeing her flinch slightly at the obvious sarcasm in his tone, he took it down a notch, adding, “You know me Scully, always willing to risk life and limb over a pretty face. As I recall a news reporter called it brave… Skinner, on the other hand, called it self-destructive.”

“I guess some things never change”, she noted.

“Yeah, well… It seems my ‘Voice of Reason’ has been conspicuously absent for about two months or so.” There was an edge of bitterness in his voice.

She took a deep breath, looking at him. He was thinner than she remembered, especially now with his wet clothes clinging to his frame. He had been standing out there so long. Long enough to get drenched by the rain, with no explanation as to what it was that he wanted. Even now when she had taken the first step and ventured outside, he still made no attempt to tell her why he had come. Frustrated, she asked, “Mulder, are you planning on telling me what in the hell you’re doing here?”

He just looked down at his feet, knowing he was going to have to answer that question sooner or later, “I… I’m not really sure to tell you the truth. I told myself to go home, I really did. I told myself to just let you walk away, but somehow I still found myself here.”

” If you have some other test you plan on…”

“Look, Scully” He cut her off. “I’m not here to pick a fight… and I’m not here to try and ruin the life you’ve made for yourself….. I just need to…. I….”

“Mulder, please… don’t do this.” She stopped him, the look in his eyes breaking what was left of her heart.

“No…. Dammit Scully….” Behind her he saw a shadow move across the window, not close enough to intrude, but close enough to defend her if need be. As if she needed defending. As if she couldn’t break him with a word. “Maybe it was easy for you… but I can’t just…” Mulder paused, knowing what he felt, but not knowing how to make her understand. Taking an awkward step backwards off the porch he felt the driving rain against his skin and with his eyes cast downwards, he said the only thing he could, “You left me….”

Her silence made him think that perhaps she hadn’t heard him, but as he lifted his head he saw her eyes reflecting the pain he felt. She moved her mouth to speak but suddenly she couldn’t find the words.

“You left me Scully… You left me with a note.” He sounded so lost.

“Mulder… I…”

“How could you do that to me? ” His voice caught in his throat but he continued, needing to say the words. “I know in this life I may not deserve much, but dammit Scully, I deserved more than that.”

She didn’t know what to say to him. She new leaving wouldn’t be easy … on either of them, but to see him there, standing in the rain, his anger gone… leaving him lost, broken and alone. “Tell me what I can give you Mulder. ” She whispered.

“I just need… ” His words died on his lips, afraid to ask…. afraid she might actually answer.

“Tell me.” She pleaded softly, before moving quickly away from the shelter of the house and stepping out into the cold rain to stand before him, hesitating before resting her hands on his abdomen.

She felt a shudder run through him at her touch, but he didn’t move away from it, as he quietly opened his heart to her, “I need to know I wasn’t alone.” He told her simply, looking up to see her staring at him. The rain dotted her face, but not enough to disguise the stray tears that ran down her cheeks. Resisting the urge to wipe them away he continued, ” I need to know that the life we had, that we made together…. I just have to know that I’m not crazy…” He almost laughed. Almost. He wasn’t making sense, to her or even to himself, “I’ve spent my life believing in things that I have no real proof of. For once I just have to know that it wasn’t just my imagination or a delusion that I had convinced myself of because I wanted it so badly.” He could see by the look in her eyes that she understood what he was asking. He could also see the flash of fear that told him it was the one question she hoped he wouldn’t ask. Giving in to the urge, he rested his hand along her wet cheek as he continued, ” For once in my life I need to know that the truth I believed in, really ‘was’ the truth…. with no second- guessing and no doubt. I need for you to give me that proof Scully…. Proof that I wasn’t the only one in love.”

The pull was too strong to fight and he lowered his mouth to hers. Her response was immediate, her need for the connection as great as his. It gave him hope… a hope he hadn’t felt since the day she walked away. Pulling back, his eyes searched hers as his hands dropped from her face to her hands, holding them tightly in his and saying the words he swore to himself he wouldn’t say, “Tell me you’ll come home… please Scully, just say you will stay with me.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but said nothing. Her silence cutting him deeper than any knife could.

His hands slipped away from her, falling to his sides. Trying to keep what little dignity he still had, he turned his face away from her sad eyes… she had already seen too many of his tears.

In his peripheral vision he saw her reach out a hand to him and moved back quickly before she could make contact. “I can’t… I can’t go through this again Scully… I just… I can’t…”

“Mulder… I do lov…”

“No!” His head snapped up, his eyes blazing with anguish. “Don’t… don’t you say it… you are the one that will only see this in black and white Scully. You can’t tell me that you… that you…” He choked on the words he wanted to say, unable to get them to pass his lips. “You just can’t say those words and walk away. “

“You said you wanted to know the truth….”

“What I wanted was for you to come home… to tell me that you’ve missed me… that despite the obstacles, you needed to be with me as badly as I’ve needed you. But you won’t give me that… don’t you see, the words you are now willing to give would have meant everything. My God Scully, you can’t know what they would have meant to me, but if you say them now and then disappear again…. I just don’t have the strength to do this anymore. If you can’t tell me that you’re willing to see past your fear and try to give this a chance, then the only words I want you to say are ‘Good Bye'”

“Mulder…”

“I told you once you owed me nothing… well, I was wrong… you owe me this.”

Mulder ran a hand absently though his wet hair. “You left me with nothing, Scully… my life has been on hold since that morning when I woke to find you gone. So if you’re going to stand there and tell me I have to live with this loss, then fine, I will… but dammit you have to at least give me this.”

Her breath caught in her chest. This was the reason she had left like she did. To face him, to look into those eyes, seeing the pain she was causing him, was too much to bear. She tried to step back, to distance herself from the overwhelming heartache they both felt. She only got about a step before feeling his strong fingers wrap tightly around her wrist, pulling her back to face him. His grip loosened, but still held her tight enough to keep her close, close enough so that their bodies were almost touching, but not quite. “Look me in the eyes Scully, say the words. If I have to live my life without you then at least let me hear you say the words to my face, so I can start living that life again… so I can figure out how in God’s name I’m supposed to do this without you.”

She was sobbing openly now, her heart was breaking at seeing his pain, and knowing that she must give him what he asked for. This was killing both of them. His head hung down as his fingers slid away from her wrist, releasing her. Tentatively, Scully reached her hands out to cup his face, he flinched at her touch but he let her hold him. As she leaned in, his eyes closed at the sensation of her warm lips connecting with the cool skin of his cheek.

With her own tears blinding her vision, she gave him the only thing she could, feeling herself die inside as she whispered into his ear, “Good Bye, Mulder.”

His eyes still shut, he felt a shudder as the warmth of her touch left him. Struggling, he found the strength to raise his head and slowly opened his eyes, only to see that she was gone and once again he was alone.

ϿϾ

One month later…

The lights flickered, threatening to go out completely as another round of lightning filled the night sky outside the hotel ballroom. Waiting to see if they would all be cast into darkness or be spared this time, the partygoers instinctively looked up, watching the ceiling lights…. All of the crowd except one. Fox Mulder never took his eyes off his watered down cocktail, absently running his finger around the edge of the glass as the woman next to him droned on incessantly about the storm. She had spent the better part of an hour telling him her life story in an attempt to get his attention, somehow never noticing he couldn’t give a damn one way or the other.

He had only come because he had been ordered to. Punishment, he supposed, for whatever he did wrong this week. As the woman laughed loudly at her own joke he couldn’t help wondering if the punishment wasn’t rather extreme.

ϿϾ

Dana Scully entered the far end of the crowded room dressed in a long silky dress. She had been in town on business when the invitation came. A Retirement Party… Formal. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a chance to dress up and go out, so she decided to take an extra day in town and bought a new dress. She stepped further into the hotel ballroom, smiling and nodding at the people she passed as she searched the large room. The odds were against him being there, she knew that, but she still held out a small amount of hope that he might have come… and an even smaller amount of hope that he would actually want to see her as well.

ϿϾ

“So, I heard through the grapevine that Agent Scully was back in DC. But then I guess you would already know that.”

Mulder choked slightly on his drink, the woman’s statement had taken him off guard. His mind involuntarily flashed to the last time he had seen Scully… pleading with her to come home… her telling him goodbye. Not bothering with even an attempt at politeness, Mulder picked up his drink and walked away from the bar and the subject he had no intention of discussing with anyone…leaving the female Agent standing alone and looking rather confused.

Deciding even a quite corner was too much to deal with, Mulder headed outside where all but the soft music was drowned out by the rain falling just beyond the shelter of the semi-enclosed balcony. The balcony was several stories up and the rain cast an eerie glow across the scattered lights that illuminated the skyline. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the cool, moist night air, listening to the falling rain and to the slow song that had begun to play quietly in the background. He didn’t recognized the tune, but the words wrapped around his heart like a fist.

First time I saw you….. I knew I could love you…..

His mind flashed to Scully… her walking into his office for the first time. Never suspecting the change her life was about to take.

Breaking from his memory, Mulder sensed he was being watched and instinctively knew it was her. He gave a quick look over his shoulder to confirm his intuitions, before turning to face her completely. Taking in her formal attire, he lost himself momentarily as he watched the way the light breeze caused the silky material of her long dress to dance across her body.

The moment stretched between them as they stared at each other from across the sheltered balcony, both afraid to break the silence that hung between them.

Mulder looked down at his hands, then back up to her, wanting nothing more than to forget the past and to take her in his arms, but he had tried too many times and couldn’t find the strength to take the risk again. Sensing his fear she gave him what he silently asked for, making the first move as she closed the gap between them, holding out her hand and quietly asking, “A dance?”

He looked at the hand she extended, not making a move to receive it as he lifted his gaze, holding her instead with his eyes. She could see the anger still in him… and the anguish.

“We were friends once.” She told him, still getting no response. With a small forced smile she whispered “Okay…” and began to turn from him. But before she started to walk away, she stopped, still feeling his eyes embracing her. Looking back to face him, she spoke in a low, unsteady voice, “I know you think you need to punish me. I know how much you like playing the martyr, but you… you don’t have exclusive rights to this Mulder…. Not to this.” Her voice broke as she continued, her eyes searching his face “I live with the loss too……everyday of my life”, she finished, in no more than a whisper. With her last words she once again turned to leave.

Scully’s back was to Mulder and she could not see his hands ball into fists… fighting the silent war that waged within him. The war he once again lost as he rushed after her.

She hadn’t even managed to get halfway across the balcony when she felt his hand reach out for her, grasping her wrist and silently stopping her retreat. She slowly turned back to face him, neither of them knowing quite what to say as they stood facing each other, sheltered from the rain quietly falling in the distance. Soft strains of music, originating from the ballroom, carried along the night air, speaking the words they couldn’t voice.

How was I to know… that everything would change… except the way I miss you…. come some rainy day.

His hand was still wrapped around her wrist as he silently moved in, closing the gap between them. Raising his free hand to the soft curve of her hip, he felt the delicate material of her dress and the heat of her skin under his fingertips, letting himself linger for a long moment, before sliding his hand around her waist. His fingers, finding their destination at the small of her back, pulled her closer, molding her body tightly into his own. The hand that still gently held her wrist traveled downwards until his fingers laced between hers.

Letting go of the breath she had been restraining inside, she sighed deeply and let her body melt into his. She felt something she hadn’t felt in months… at peace… safe… whole.

They clung to each other, swaying gently in silence for what seamed like an eternity. Their only time-frame coming from the soft music changing from one song into another in the distance.

Mulder felt Scully stir against his chest and looked down, searching her eyes as she lifted her head to him. “Are you cold?” He asked, gently pushing a stray lock of hair from her forehead.

She just smiled slightly, shaking her head no. She had a million things she wanted to tell him and no idea where to start. “We should talk Mulder…. shouldn’t we?”

“No.” He whispered, as his mouth dropped purposefully to her ear. “I don’t want to analyze this Scully…. not this time. I can feel your heartbeat against mine… and right now I don’t want to think about anything beyond that.”

“You know we… we might be breaking some kind of protocol.” She stammered at the sensation of his lower lip grazing her earlobe.

“We’re just dancing, Scully…. aren’t we?” He asked her softly. She could feel the hint of a smile that crossed his lips. “Besides, we aren’t partners anymore,” He raised his head to face her, his smile becoming devilish, “we’re allowed to.. ‘Dance’.”

“We just ignore the past?” She asked in a small, unsteady voice.

“Yes.” He whispered.

“We ignore everything that’s brought us to this… this night?”

“Yes.” he repeated softly, his face only inches away from hers.

“What about…” Whatever she began to ask him was lost to the moment as his mouth found hers. His soft kiss deepened almost immediately, as need and longing consumed them both.

“We could take this dance upstairs….” He murmured, as his mouth left hers, sliding down her neck, finding the hollow of her throat. “Be alone… just the two of us.”

“Mulder…” She whispered breathlessly, mostly at the sensation of his touch… but a small part of her was trying to be rational and not get swept away again. “I don’t know if we…”

“One night…” He whispered, his breath blazing against her skin.

“Muld….”

“This time I could be the one to slip away before dawn.” He felt her body tense at his words…but didn’t see the tears that filled her eyes.

She stepped back away from him, unable to meet his gaze.

“That is the way we play this game isn’t it? No commitment… No strings…that is what you want isn’t it?” He asked her, getting no response. “You are the one that made up the rules, Scully.”

Still looking down she shook her head, ” This isn’t what I wanted.”

“Funny…. It sure feels like it’s what you wanted.” He shot back at her.

“That’s not what I meant.” She told him, her frustration giving her the courage to look into his eyes, “I came here to….” Her voice trailed away.

“To what Scully?” He asked, his eyes not quite meeting hers, as he softly continued. “Why did you come?”

“Because I hoped you would be here.” She confessed.

“Why?” He asked hesitantly, still not looking at her… afraid his eyes would give away too much.

“Because….” She paused, exhaling with a slight, almost sad, smile. “Because I miss you.”

“As simple as that?” He asked, finally finding the resolve to look up at her.

She laughed sadly, “It’s anything but simple Mulder.”

He saw a stray tear slide down her cheek, and gently brushed it away, telling her, “Seems all we have to give each other lately is heartache.” He smiled slightly, “Well that and a healthy mix of hormones.”

Scully reluctantly returned his smile. Then, resting her hand over his, she mumbled, “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have come. I’ve only complicated things even more, if that was possible.”

“Is this the part where you leave me again?” He said it to be flip, but couldn’t manage to keep the sadness out of his voice.

“Is that what you want Mulder?”

Mulder opened his mouth, but was unable to give her an answer, flippant or otherwise, as another round of lightning illuminated the night sky once again… this time hitting its mark, knocking out the power and casting them into dankness.

Neither of them moved, connected in the dark shadows of the quiet balcony only by the hand Mulder still rested along the side of her face and their fear of being the first one to let go. A gust of wind, blew through the balcony just as a crash of thunder, caused Scully to impulsively grip Mulder’s coat tightly. In turn he wrapped his arms tightly around her. In the distance they could see several lights flicker out in the buildings that made up the skyline as yet another round of lightning split though the ominous night sky.

“You know Mulder, I think maybe fate is working against us here.” She said, looking up from the shelter of his embrace.

“That’s funny.” He began, enjoying the feeling of her warm body nestled against his. “I was thinking fate was finally on my side for a change.”

Just as quickly as the storm started up again it died away, the moon breaking from behind a cloud, leaving an eerie calm as the two agents reluctantly broke from each other, silently waiting to see what fate had in store for them next.

“Agent Mulder?” A deep voice from across the darkened balcony broke the silence between them, causing them both to jump. “Agent Mulder, are you out here?”

Before Mulder had a chance to respond, the lights were restored, flashing back on.

Blinking against the light, Mulder looked over at the man calling his name, vaguely recognizing him, “Yes, Agent…..” he started, grasping to remember the man’s name.

“Blakely.” Scully murmured under her breath.

“Blakely.” Mulder finished as if he’d known it all along. “What can I do for you?”

“Someone dropped this off for you… said it was important.” The agent told Mulder as he handed him a small box.

Mulder took the box as the other Agent’s attention shifted to Scully, giving her an admiring smile and telling her, “Good to see you again Agent Scully. We’ve missed having you around the office.”

Scully smiled, somewhat embarrassed at Agent Blakely’s lingering stare. But Agent Blakely’s attention quickly shifted, sensing Mulder’s eyes on him. He gave a sideways glance to see Mulder’s eyes narrow and took that as his cue to leave.

“What is it?” Scully asked, once they were alone again.

Mulder finished opening the small box to find a VCR tape labeled ‘The Fugitive’. Holding the movie up, he eyed it suspiciously, “It’s a message from the one armed man.” He told her evenly. There was a small note taped to the back of the box, a hand written address scrawled across the paper. “It’s an invitation.”

“Krycek?” She asked, knowing the answer, but wishing she was wrong.

Mulder just gave her a half smile, “It’s not your problem anymore.” He leaned over giving her a soft kiss on the cheek before continuing quietly. “It’s my fight Scully, remember?”

“You aren’t actually going to go.” She didn’t get any response, “Mulder? Tell me you aren’t going… he almost killed you, or have you forgotten that?”

“He has the answers I need Scully.”

“Your answers.” She repeated, unable to keep the edge of anger out of her voice. “It always comes back to that doesn’t it? Your answers… your elusive quest.”

“It’s what I have Scully… It’s all I have left.” Mulder’s voice raised louder than he meant it to, “Would you deny me this as well?”

“If it’ll keep you alive, you’re damn right I will.”

“Well it isn’t really your call. As I said before, it’s not your problem anymore. You wanted out… well you’re out.” Mulder didn’t wait for an answer and couldn’t face another long goodbye, so he quickly turned, making his way back to the party, down to the elevator, then out of the large hotel front doors and into the rainy night. He made it as far as the cab and opened the door, but before he could get in Scully slipped past him and into the back seat.

Mulder stood on the curb staring at his former partner, “What are you doing?”

She looked up at him, “If you are going, then so am I.. Somebody’s going to have to save your sorry butt. Now are you getting in? The meter’s running and I still have to get back to my hotel to change.”

ϿϾ

2 hours later…

“Well thank God you were here to save me.” Mulder declared sarcastically as he yanked at the cuff around his wrist that bound his hand to the wall.

“Don’t start with me, I was the one who told you not to go. But oh no, you had to find your ‘answers'”. She snapped back at him, emphasizing her last word by using her one free hand to make quote motions with her fingers.

Before Mulder could come up with a snappy comeback, the door to the small room they were being held in opened, revealing three men. Krycek, along with two burly henchmen.

“I see you got my message Mulder. Although, I figured you would come alone. Guess I should have known better. ” Krycek said with a smug grin as he motioned to one of the men behind him to release Mulder.

As soon as Mulder’s hands were free he immediately rushed Krycek, managing to get in one solid punch before one of the large gunmen slammed the butt of his weapon against Mulder’s temple. Mulder fell hard onto the concrete floor, blinking against the pain. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Scully struggling against her restraints, powerless to help him.

Attempting to return to his feet Mulder asked, “Do you want to let us in on what we are doing here?”

“All in due time Mulder.” Krycek told him. “But first I need for you to be a good little guinea pig and give us a blood sample.”

Mulder let out a humorless laugh, “And why in the hell would I give you anything.”

His answer came in the form of Krycek’s cocky grin as he raised his gun, the barrel pointed straight at Scully’s head.

Mulder didn’t even take a moment to weigh his options. His jaw clenched as he held out his arm and rolled up his sleeve.

Krycek laughed, “You are so easy.”

ϿϾ

“How’s your arm?” Scully asked, as she checked the lock on the door for the fifth time since they had been unshackled and left alone.

“Fine… although Krycek’s goons really could use a lighter touch.” Mulder replied, rubbing his arm as he searched the other side of the small, windowless room. Despite his efforts he found nothing except for a few shelves lined with old cans.

“Anything of use over there?” Scully asked, giving up on the door and sitting on a crate.

“Sure there are plenty of useful things over here… if I was remodeling my apartment I’d be all set.”

“And for getting us out of this mess?”

He looked at the labels on the cans, “No, not much that could be used for that.”

Setting down the can, he walked over to Scully, pulling up a crate and sitting next to her. “Kinda seems like old times, doesn’t it?”

She gave him a little grin, “Yeah, just throw in an alien or two and it would seem as if we had never been apart. I guess some things never really change.”

“And some do.” Mulder added quietly.

An awkward silence fell between them. Deciding now was as good a time as any to get a few answers from her, Mulder stood up, stretching his legs as he paced in front of her. Casually he asked, “You know Scully, There is something I’ve been meaning to ask you about. I couldn’t help noticing what a coincidence it was that I was reinstated to the X-files practically within 24 hours of your abrupt departure. Any particular reason for that?”

“Guess someone was just really eager for the opportunity to get you alone down in that basement office.”

“Scully…” He began.

“Mulder, do we really have to do this now.” She interrupted, not wanting to get into a deep discussion over the deal she had made, but knowing there wasn’t much point in denying it either.

“What, you have something better to do?” He asked her, looking around the small room. “Just answer the question. Why was I returned to the X-files?

“Maybe you weren’t the only one willing to sell your soul, Mulder?” She told him honestly. Then trying to change the subject, she continued, “…and speaking of the devil, how is your new partner?”

“I work alone these days.” He told her simply.

She flashed him a quizzical look, urging him to continue.

“I’m assuming your devil reference was directed towards Diana.” He stated. Her slightly embarrassed smile, told him he was correct. “She is not my partner.”

“Why?” Scully asked, confused.

“Let’s just say she never was partner material. She wanted far more than I could give.”

“You know they have pills for that now.” Scully replied with an amused smile.

“You of all people Scully, should know that is not where the problem lies.” Mulder smiled back, catching the slight blush that brightened Scully’s cheeks.

“And you are ok with her leaving?”

“She called me Fox…” He told her with a look of distaste. “And even worse she agreed with everything I said…. no matter what it was. Do you know how annoying that is?”

“Can’t say I have much experience with that, no.”

“You seem surprised, Scully?”

” I guess I am. You had a past with her and I know she wanted more than a partnership from you, but I thought….”

“You thought what? That I would be happy to oblige?”

“I thought she was what you needed.” Scully replied softly. “She believed.”

“I didn’t need a believer. Hell, I believe enough for ten people.” He told her, moving closer to her as he spoke. “What I needed was a partner… I needed you. How could you not see that?”

“Mulder…” Scully began, her voice catching slightly.

Before she could finish her thought, the door swung open, revealing Krycek and the other two armed men.

“Are we finished here?” Mulder asked defiantly, stepping up to face xdesign

“Almost.” Krycek answered simply. “The only thing left to do now is to tie up a few loose ends.” Turning his head, he told one of the heavyset henchmen, “Go pull the van around and make sure to leave enough space for one more, we are going to have some company.”

Scully felt an almost primal sense of fear come over her. Without considering the consequences, she charged towards Krycek, warning him. “You have what you wanted, leave him alone.”

Krycek almost laughed as he walked a slow circle around the two agents. “Don’t worry Scully, your precious partner isn’t in any danger. I took a lot of heat for using him to experiment on.” He turned to Mulder, ” For whatever reason, you seem to be their golden boy, Mulder. So, I guess, unfortunately for me, you are off limits.” Krycek purposefully moved closer to Scully before continuing, “Now you, Agent Scully, on the other hand, you are not.”

“Agent Scully most definitely ‘is’ off limits.” Mulder told him, pushing Scully behind him, blocking her with his body.

“Not really your call Mulder.” Krycek said, turning his head and motioning to the remaining gunmen to retrieve Scully.

Out of options, Mulder spun, quickly grabbing a bulky can off the shelf, causing confusion from both Krycek and Scully.

“What are you going to do… shellac me?” Krycek asked, looking at the can Mulder held.

Mulder’s expression was unreadable as he pulled the lid aside and plunged his hand into the thick liquid, only to pull it back out and then firmly clasp Scully’s hand.

Scully, startled by Mulder’s actions, as well as the cold sticky liquid he had just covered her hand in, just looked at him murmuring, “Mulder…. what are you doing?”

“Improvising.” He replied, as the sticky adhesive that coated both their hands began to dry and harden. Returning his attention to Krycek, Mulder threw the can to him, “I won’t lose her again.”

Krycek, quickly scanned the can’s label for clues as to what he was up against. Frustrated, he threw the can back at Mulder, telling him, “I guess you get a few more minutes to say your goodbyes… I hope it was worth it.

“Watch them” Krycek told the gunman, as he headed for the door. “I’m going to go find a hack saw… I’ll decide which one of them I am going to use it on when I get back.”

The door closed with a bang, leaving the agents standing facing each other as the remaining guard blocked the door.

Scully lifted her hand, which was now firmly plastered to Mulder’s, and stared at it. Then, with an expression of total bewilderment, she looked up at Mulder, asking, “What the hell?”

Mulder just shrugged, “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“What ever made you think of it?” She asked, shaking her and Mulder’s hands, in a vain attempt to separate them.

“I saw it in a movie.” He told her.

“You just can’t seem to grasp the whole separation of fact from fantasy thing, can you?”

“It bought us some time, didn’t it?” He answered, defensively.

“To do what?” She asked, giving a sideways glance at the nearby guard.

Mulder looked at her for a second before admitting, “Ok, I don’t actually know. I’m making this up as I go along. I don’t suppose you have any ideas?”

After shaking her head in frustration, Scully took the can out of Mulder’s hand, holding it by the handle and silently testing its weight. Then, without any warning, she swung the can backwards as hard as she could, catching the unsuspecting guard square in the face, and knocking him out cold. Mulder watched the burly man hit the ground with a loud thud, commenting, “That’ll work.”

Scully threw the can onto the cement floor, telling Mulder, “Now can we get out of here?”

ϿϾ

“Ok, Mulder, tell me again… Why are we staying at the most expensive hotel you could find?” Scully quietly asked, as she searched awkwardly with her one free hand, through her wallet for her credit card.

“They would expect us to be holed up in some cheap Motel 6, Scully… but a nice hotel? That’s the last place they’d look.”

“You have a point.” She agreed. “But why is it that I am the one paying for the nice hotel?”

“Because they would find us at Motel 6…. I thought we just went through this.” He told her, giving her his best boyish grin. She, in return, continued to give him one of her patented Scully stares and for a moment he realized how much he missed ‘That Look’. “Alright, the truth is, I’ve had some issues with travel expenditures lately. They just never seemed to get over that little trip I took to Antarctica.”

“Do you really think Krycek is searching for us?”

“I don’t know, but truthfully, I’d almost rather face Krycek than have to explain to Kersh about our current predicament.” He replied, giving her bound hand a little squeeze.

“You did say adjoining rooms, right?” The desk clerk asked, interrupting them from across the vast hotel registration desk. The young man was having trouble hiding his confusion, discreetly eyeing the couple before him…. the couple holding tightly onto each other’s hands, their only luggage, as far as he could see, coming in the form of a paper bag from the drugstore down the street.

Noting the confused look on the young man’s face, Mulder leaned in whispering, “The truth is… she’s a snorer..” The clerk nodded sympathetically, neither of the men noticing Scully’s eyes roll, as Mulder went on, “…a really loud snorer. It’s like sleeping with a chain saw… you wouldn’t beeeee…..” Mulder’s sentence was abruptly cut off as Scully gave him a swift kick to the ankle.

Biting his lower lip he looked over to his former partner, reading the annoyed expression on her face, then looking back to the clerk he told him flatly. “Yeah… two rooms.”

ϿϾ

Scully sat on the edge of the bed, adjusting her and Mulder’s hands, trying in vain to find a more comfortable position for them as they soaked their joined hands in an ice bucket that was currently being used as a makeshift chemical bath. Giving up on comfort she looked over at Mulder, who was sitting on the floor with his legs sprawled out in front of him as he fumbled through the mini fridge with his free hand. With a smile he pulled out a long neck bottle of beer. “God bless the mini bar.”

“Oh yeah, drinking…. that will help.” She said sarcastically.

“Pardon me if I could use something to dull the pain of all that crap you’ve got my hand soaking in.”

“Our hands…. and you were the one that came up with the fabulous idea to glue yourself to me.” She shot back, grabbing the drink out of his hand and taking a swig.

“Hey.” Mulder protested at the loss of his drink.

“I’m paying for it, remember?” She countered. “Besides, maybe I could use something to dull the pain as well.”

“In you hand?” He asked.

“Actually, I was thinking more of the pain in my ass.” She replied, looking him right in the eyes.

He just looked at her for a second, before letting out a loud laugh and taking back his drink. She was taken off guard by his sudden laughter and had to fight not to smile.

“Stop it.” She told him with some effort to keep a straight face. “I’m mad at you.”

“For what?” He asked.

She lifted their still joined hands from the bucket to make her point “What do you think?”

“I think I saved your life. I know how that sort of thing pisses you off, but I’m not going to apologize for it.” He took another drink. “You know, some people actually appreciate it when you save them?”

“This is not how I expected this night to go. “She mumbled, mostly to herself.

“What did you expect?” He asked, his tone suddenly becoming very serious. “You said you had hoped to see me again.”

“To see you, yes, to talk… maybe get some closure on how it ended between us.” Her voice trailed off. Then shaking her head, she softly added, “I really thought I had left all this behind.”

“This… as in me?” He asked, afraid of her answer.

“No Mulder, this as in ‘This'” She told him, lifting their joined hands, then roughly splashing them back down into the bucket. “And this…” she continued, her voice dropping back down to a whisper as she gently touched the purple bruise that had steadily been intensifying along his temple.

“It’s the nature of the business Scully. ” He told her, trying in vain to sound light-hearted.

“No, Mulder, it’s the nature of your quest.”

“The quest you didn’t want to have to deal with any more.” He added.

“It wasn’t the quest… it was all the crap that came with it. I wanted to be the one to be there, to help you find your answers … to find some peace. But, as always, those answers came at a price.”

“The price of you walking away from it. A price you accepted all too easily.”

“Now who’s being ungrateful? You got your precious X-files back.”

“And you gained your freedom.”

“You think I wanted to go?” She asked.

“I think you were terrified to stay.”

“Don’t psychoanalyze me, Mulder.” She angrily replied, looking away from him, so he couldn’t see how close to the mark he had been.

“I think I have known you long enough to know how you feel about a few things. You were never one to embrace the unknown. I guess it was just easier for you to run away form it.”

“You didn’t try and stop me.” She whispered.

“I was being noble.” He answered, matching her tone. She looked back at him and he could see the tears behind her eyes. “Maybe I was scared of what was ahead for us as well. Just because I am drawn to the unknown, doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare the hell out of me.”

The tears she had been holding back, broke from her eyes, trailing down her cheeks.

“You told me I didn’t have sole rights to the pain of living apart.” He began as he softly wiped away her tears. “That may be true, but Scully, you don’t have exclusive rights to the fear of this connection between us.”

“So what do we do?” She asked, seriously. “We can’t go back to what we were.”

“You mean sexually frustrated?” He asked with a grin.

“Mulder, I’m serious.”

“So am I. I don’t want to go back… pretending that all we are to each other is just friends… or partners. We were, and are, far more than either of us can seem to accept… or escape.”

“But look where crossing that line led us.”

“After all we have been through, you can’t think I would have risked what we had for a moment of raging hormones. Yes, it changed everything, but at the same time it changed nothing. I loved you long before that night Scully and even if your fear won’t let you admit it, I know you feel exactly the same way.”

“Mulder…”

“Change isn’t the end, Scully… it’s complicated and scary, but it’s just life. I wanted that life to be with you.” Just as the words left his mouth, the last of the glue that bound them together gave way. Mulder looked to the bucket, as his hand slid away from hers. Lifting his face back up and looking deeply into her sad eyes, he continued, “I guess fate had other plans.”

Removing his hand from the water, he stood and without another word he headed into the adjoining room, closing the door behind him.

ϿϾ

Scully padded softly into Mulder’s room, stopping at the foot of his bed and watching him sleep. He was curled on his side, the bed sheets loosely tangled around his waist as his outstretched arm dangled slightly over the edge of the bed.

She moved to the side of the bed, sitting down as gently as she could, so as not to wake him. As she sat with her back to him, his body shifted slightly, his bare torso lightly touching her back, before settling back into its original position. With her back still to him, she gently laid her hand across his open palm, making the connection she had been missing since the moment they had been freed from each other.

“I know you think this is about fear”, She whispered softly into the darkness, her only answer came in the form of his steady breathing as he continued to peacefully sleep next to her. “I wish I could tell you that you were wrong. The simple truth is that I am afraid… afraid of this, of us…. of the loss of control. No matter how far I run I can’t escape it…. I need you. I need you on so many levels it scares the hell out of me and I don’t know what to do with that fear.” She brought her hand up to her mouth, stifling the emotion welling up inside her. “Someone told me a while back that I would either have to find a way to get past my fear… or I would have to find a way to say goodbye. I guess at the time goodbye seemed like the easiest way… for both of us. But I was wrong.” Even as she sniffed back the tears, she couldn’t help but let out a small laugh. “Here I am Mulder, finally telling you you’re right…” She lowered her head, “and you aren’t listening.”

Without warning she felt his soft fingertips run down the base of her spine, finding the small gap of exposed skin, between the edge of her shirt and pants. Her head came up with a jolt, even as she tried in vain to hide the sharp intake of breath his touch caused in her.

“I told you Scully…” He began tenderly, ” I’m always listening.”

She closed her eyes, feeling the tears she had been holding back, once again break free. Embarrassed, she began to move her hand from his, only to have him quickly stop her by lacing his fingers though hers.

Neither of them spoke for a long moment, their only connection coming in the form of the two hands clasped together tightly in the darkness.

Scully felt the mattress as it shifted beneath her and she looked over her shoulder, watching Mulder push himself up to a sitting position. Sitting sideways, to face her, he tucked one of his legs underneath him and let the other hang over the edge of the bed. Still holding her hand tightly in his own, he looked down at their entwined fingers.

“It will be morning soon.” Scully told him softly.

Mulder looked up to face her, then turned, following her gaze to the curtains that were beginning to glow faintly with the approaching dawn. “And what will the day bring, Scully? Facing the fear? Or are we in for another tearful goodbye?” He asked her tentatively.

She closed her eyes briefly, before asking, “What do you want me to say, Mulder?”

Mulder stood, his hand slipping out of hers as he moved slowly to the window, opening the curtains. The first signs of dawn were beginning to break through the gray haze that had blanketed the city. Even though the light was barely recognizable, it was just enough to silhouette Mulder’s body, as he continued to stare out of the window. Without turning he softly told her. “What little pride I have left won’t let me ask again, Scully. Please don’t make me ask again.”

“And what if I asked?” She offered.

“Scully…”

“I want to come home, Mulder.”

“To the X-files?” He asked, his back still to her.

“Yes, to the X-files… to our work…” She told him as she slowly moved in behind him and let her hand gently glide across the bare skin of his back. “…to you.”

She felt him release the breath he had been holding, and she moved to stand beside him, following his gaze out of the large window, into the gradually lightening dawn.

He turned his head, waiting for her to look back up at him. As her eyes met his he asked, “And what about the rest of it?”

“I want to face the unknown with you, Mulder… whatever it might bring.”

He didn’t respond, he didn’t have to, his expression told her how much he needed to hear her say those words. She saw a light in his eyes she hadn’t seen in him in a long time and couldn’t help but wonder if he was seeing the same thing in her.

Turning back to the view outside, they watched the changing shades of the city in silence for what seemed like an eternity, before she felt his questioning gaze return to her.

Giving him a sideways glance, she asked. “What?”

“What makes you think I will take you back so easily?” He asked her, with a playful tone.

“Well I took the fact that you glued yourself to me so I couldn’t get away, as a sign of your interest.”

“And what is the fact that you were about ready to gnaw off your own wrist to get away from me a sign of.”

She held up her hand to show him, “It’s still attached. Doesn’t that show proof of loyalty?”

He took her hand in his, examining it as he lightly ran his thumb across the edge of her wrist.

“Well, as luck would have it, there does happen to be an opening in my department, but I’m afraid you will have to answer a couple of questions first.”

“You are going to make me interview for the job?”

“If you aren’t interested…” He told her, in mock seriousness.

“Okay… Okay…what do you want to know?”

“First, will you at any time call me Fox?” He asked her.

She stifled a smile. “No, I promise I will not call you Fox.”

“That’s good, one for one. This is key though, do you plan on agreeing with everything I say, no matter how outrageous the theory?”

“Not a chance.” She laughed. “I promise to tell you that you are full of crap any and every time I feel it is justified in doing so.”

He gave her a big smile, wrapping his arm around her shoulder as he looked back out of the window. “Welcome home, Scully.”

Her response was to lay her head against his bare shoulder as they watched the sun slowly begin to rise.

“This won’t be easy.” She told him simply.

“Was it ever?” He asked, pulling her in a little tighter, as the darkness of the pre-dawn sky gradually faded into morning.

A new day was beginning and the rain had finally stopped.

The End

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