Return to main “Worth It” page
Worth It by Anne Haynes
by Anne Haynes
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully, the X-Files, etc. all belong to CC, 10-13 Productions, and Fox. I mean no infringement.
March 6, 1996 marks 4 years from the dateline on the X-Files pilot. While in real time, we’ve only seen 3 years, I’m a stickler for timelines, so I’m sticking with the four year number for this story. And since as I’m writing this, “Teso Dos Bichos” has yet to air (and burst our post-“Pusher” bubble of relationshipper joy), I’m going with my own personal theory about the evolution of Mulder and Scully’s relationship—which is that they’re in love, they KNOW they’re in love, but they can’t do anything about it…yet. So in a way this is a Mulder and Scully romance, even though most of the bonding is spiritual rather than physical.
by Anne Haynes
* * *
March 6, 1996
J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building
Agent Alan Pendrell paused outside the door to the basement office, trying to swallow his apprehension. It wasn’t like he was a total newbie—he’d been with SciCrime for almost three years now. But he’d heard all the stories about “Spooky” Mulder—and he’d met Mulder’s partner, Dana Scully, of course. He knew the strange things she’d seen as Spooky’s partner. Unexplainable things.
He wondered if she would be here. The thought of Dana Scully’s pretty blue eyes and firelight hair gave him the courage to lift his hand and tap lightly on the door
“Come in.” The voice was low and a little tense. Pendrell pushed the door open and stepped inside. He tried not to be obvious as he darted a look around the place, taking in the cluttered room, the slide projector on a small rolling stand in the middle of the room, the file cabinets to his right, all marked with “X,” the small neat desk in the corner, empty now. To his left, in an area that could only be described as controlled chaos, Special Agent Fox Mulder sat with his feet propped up on his desk, tapping a pencil against his chin. Behind his wire-rimmed glasses, his hazel-gray eyes were focused on the computer on his desk.
“Agent Mulder, you asked to see me?” Pendrell’s voice cracked a bit, and he wished the earth would open and swallow him whole.
“Scully said you were a big help to her when she was looking into the make-up of that chip in her neck.” Mulder swung his feet back to the floor and leaned forward, motioning for Pendrell to approach the desk.
Pendrell obeyed, stifling a little smile of pleasure. Agent Scully had said he was a big help to her? A warm feeling stole across him.
“I found this in my e-mail this morning, Pendrell. There’s no return e-mail address—do you think there’s any way to track down where it came from?”
Pendrell walked around the desk and bent forward, over Mulder’s shoulder, to take a look at what was on the screen. A scanned photo, he saw immediately. Then he took a closer look.
And took a stumbling step back. “Oh, my God.”
Mulder’s head jerked toward Pendrell, his eyes sharp. Pendrell struggled to control the shudder of revulsion and anger that still rippled through him, but he could tell by the odd, appraising look on Agent Mulder’s face that he had failed.
“You can see why I want to know where this came from,” Mulder said softly.
Pendrell met the older agent’s eyes, surprised to find not only understanding but compassion there. He knows, Pendrell thought. He knows the effect Dana Scully has on me. He understands.
He knows what it feels like.
He swallowed a lump that hovered in his throat and bent back over the desk. He glanced at Mulder. “Mind if I take the seat and try a few things?”
Mulder stood and waved toward the chair. “Go ahead.”
Pendrell tried to ignore the image and concentrate on the technical aspect of tracking down the anonymous sender. But he had to keep the image on-screen to try his best tracking tricks—and his eyes kept straying back to the stark image on the picture file. A steel tray, like an autopsy table, occupied by a woman draped with a white sheet. Her shoulders were bare, hinting that her body was also naked beneath the sheets. The woman had what looked like a feeding tube up her nose, and her purple-shadowed eyes were squeezed tightly shut. Her bloodless lips were parted and twisted in what could be nothing but a cry of pain. She was so pale that her copper-fire hair was almost painfully bright.
After several unsuccessful attempts to track down the sender’s address, Pendrell had all he could take. He jabbed at the mouse, minimizing the photo scan so he didn’t have to look at it anymore. He swiveled the chair and looked at Agent Mulder.
“Damn it, Mulder, who would do something like this?”
Mulder was leaning against the desk, his back to the screen. His arms were crossed over his chest, his jaw was set like stone, and his gaze was so intense it could’ve bored a hole in the opposite wall. At the sound of Pendrell’s voice, he turned his head slowly. The look of rage Pendrell saw in the agent’s eyes chilled him to the bone. “If I ever find out, Pendrell—”
A soft knock on the door stopped him in mid-sentence. Pendrell watched with awe as Mulder visibly sought and gained control of the blazing anger that had consumed him just a second ago. “Yeah?” Mulder called.
“Mulder, the door’s locked.” Dana Scully’s voice was soft and just a bit tense.
Pendrell immediately turned to the computer, his hand on the mouse to store the picture, but Mulder grabbed his arm.
“She shouldn’t see this,” Pendrell hissed.
Mulder shook his head, his eyes sad and haunted. “She has to see it, Pendrell. She has a right.”
He was right, Pendrell realized, his stomach sinking. As much as he wanted to protect her from this, she had a right to know what had happened to her. He’d made it a point to learn everything he could about Agent Scully, so he knew about her disappearance. He knew the mystery that still surrounded her missing months. He knew how much she wanted to know what happened to her, even if she was equally afraid of the knowledge.
He moved his hand away from the mouse and nodded to Mulder. With a deep bracing breath, he waited as Mulder went to unlock the door.
* * *
Dana Scully fingered the floppy disk in her jacket pocket as she waited for Mulder to open the door. She probably should have called him first—although she’d thought they were past that now. During the recent rough patch in their partnership, she hadn’t always felt welcome, but after the Pusher case, she’d thought she and Mulder had come to an understanding of how much they meant to each other.
She was certain he loved her—and that he knew she loved him as well. The fact that they dare not act on those feelings wasn’t nearly as important as the fact that those feelings irrevocably bound them together.
So there must be another reason for the locked door—
The door swung open, and Mulder filled the doorway, an odd expression on his lean, handsome face. She recognized the same stunned look she knew had been on her own face when she turned on her computer up in her office on the fourth floor. “You got something by e-mail, too.”
He curved his arm around her shoulders and drew her inside, locking the door behind them. He kept his hand against her back, his palm pressed warmly between her shoulder blades, guiding her toward his desk. She barely had a moment to enjoy the feel of his touch before she realized that Agent Pendrell from SciCrime was sitting at Mulder’s desk.
The young agent nodded toward her, his usually open, earnest face shadowed with apprehension and something that looked very much like anger. Scully stifled her surprise at such an expression on the friendly agent’s face and glanced up at Mulder. “What’s going on?”
“You got something by e-mail, Scully?”
She nodded and pulled the floppy disk from her pocket. “It was the first message I pulled up this morning. There were two sentences and an image file.”
“What was the image?” Mulder asked softly, taking the disk from her.
She clenched her jaws as tears pricked her eyes. “It was a photo of Melissa. Taken in the hospital morgue after she died.”
“Damn it!” Mulder’s curse squeezed through his gritted teeth. “What was the message?”
She looked down, wishing she didn’t have to tell him. He already blamed himself for so many things that weren’t his fault.
He didn’t wait for her answer. “Let me guess. It said, ‘March 6, 1992 through March 6, 1996. Happy Anniversary, Agent Scully—was it worth it?’”
She looked up sharply. “Yours said the same thing?”
He nodded. “Except, of course, it was addressed to me.”
“And the picture was the same?”
He glanced at Agent Pendrell but said nothing.
Scully followed his eyes, noting that the young techie wouldn’t meet her gaze. “It wasn’t the same picture, was it?” She put her hand on Mulder’s arm, surprised when he trembled at the touch. “What is it, Mulder?”
He took a deep breath, his chest heaving with the effort. “Pendrell, let Scully see for herself.”
Pendrell stood as she crossed to the desk. To her surprise, he squeezed her arm before he moved away and let her sit down at Mulder’s desk.
Apprehension knotted her stomach as she took the mouse and clicked on the minimized image. The image file popped up, filling the screen. For a moment, she didn’t know what she was looking at. But when realization hit, it hit like a freight train.
Air whooshed from her lungs and her head spun. Light filled her vision, bright and white and harsh. She felt like the whole world had just spun off its axis and sent her flying into space.
Even though Agent Pendrell was closer, it was Mulder who raced to her side and put steadying hands on her shoulders.
She fought her sense of vertigo, struggling to do simple things like take one breath after another. Finally, with Mulder’s hands burning her suddenly cold skin, she found the strength to look back at the scene.
Break it down into components, Dana. Look at the elements, not the whole. You can do this.
She started with the tray. Stainless steel—a standard autopsy table. Right size, right shape. Next she took a closer look at the tube up her—no, up the PATIENT’S—nose. She clenched her jaws, bending forward until she could make out some sort of liquid in the tube. Nothing recognizable, but she assumed it was some sort of nutrient source.
She let her glance skitter across the pain-contorted features and tried to make out details from the background. Trying to remember.
I was there. I was on that table. I had that tube up my nose. I had that sheet draped over my body.
Slowly, she shook her head. “I don’t remember.”
Mulder’s hands moved gently, tenderly across her shoulders. “Nothing at all?”
She looked away from the screen, turning her eyes to his. “No. I mean—I know in my gut that I was there—that it’s me. But I don’t….”
Mulder gently touched the back of his hand to her cheek. Scully closed her eyes and concentrated on the warmth of the gentle caress, the sense of security that enveloped her whenever he was near.
Then she remembered Pendrell.
She drew away from Mulder and opened her eyes, glancing at the young agent. His large blue eyes met hers with earnest solemnity, and she realized that their secret was safe with this man. She gave him a little smile, and his lips curved slightly in response.
“Pendrell, do you think you could take another stab at tracking down the sender?” Mulder asked.
Scully noted with a little surprise that Pendrell’s gaze lingered on her face a few seconds longer before he approached the desk. Scully stood, relinquishing the chair to the techie. Her legs wobbled when she tried to take a step, and Pendrell put out a hand to steady her. She felt his fingers tremble where they rested on her arm.
She looked up at him, realization blooming. Pendrell’s face reddened and he looked away, releasing her. A funny feeling rippled through her stomach—a hint of feminine pleasure at being found attractive, marred by regret that she couldn’t return the affection. Pendrell was a nice guy.
He just wasn’t Mulder.
Mulder reached for her, drawing her close, his hand gentle on the nape of her neck. Bending close, his voice lowered intimately, he murmured. “You okay?”
“I’m fine, Mulder.”
His answering smile was tinged with sadness. “You always are, Scully.”
“Mulder—we can’t let whoever sent these files get to us.”
But she could see in his haunted eyes just how much seeing that photo had affected him. As horrifying as it had been for her, she knew without a doubt it had been even worse for Mulder. Because he still blamed himself for what had happened to her. Maybe he always would, no matter how many times she tried to tell him otherwise. “Look, why don’t we get out of here for a while? Grab some lunch and eat it on the mall like real people?”
“I’d like to stay here a few minutes longer, see if Pendrell comes up with anything. Why don’t you go ahead, though?” He reached in his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and handed her a twenty. “Get me a Reuben and an iced tea, and I’ll meet you at the reflecting pool, okay?” His thumb lightly caressed the tendon at the side of her neck, sending little prickles of sensation down her spine.
She took the twenty and nodded. “Don’t be long.”
He bent slightly closer, his breath moving over her lips in a silent, invisible kiss. Her heart rate doubled and it was all she could do to keep breathing. “I won’t be,” he murmured.
Reluctantly, she moved away from him, headed for the door. She paused in the doorway, glancing back at Mulder and Pendrell. Both men were looking at her, their gazes intense. Equal parts admiration and concern.
She smiled at Pendrell, then turned her gaze to Mulder, her eyes telling him everything her lips dared not. The answer she sought blazed back at her from his hazel eyes, and despite the nightmare morning she’d had, her heart soared. She stepped through the door, closing it behind her.
* * *
Mulder slumped against the desk after she’d left, feeling as if he’d run a marathon. He’d wanted to be strong for her but the effort had been taxing, for inside he was screaming and raging against the bastards who’d dared to touch her, to strip of her of her dignity and ultimately her memory, to play games with her body and her mind and her soul like she was nothing but a piece of merchandise to be manipulated and measured and finally tagged with that tiny implant she’d only recently found in the back of her neck.
He wanted to break something. Preferably Cancerman’s neck.
The sick old son of a bitch was behind this. The stunt had his heavy-handed imprint all over it. Mind games—targeting their weak spots—Scully’s guilt over her sister’s death and his own remorse about Scully’s abduction.
“Agent Mulder, something’s happening. I need a blank disk, fast!” Pendrell started searching through the stacks of papers on Mulder’s desk.
Mulder opened the drawer on the left hand side of the desk and pulled out a blank disk. Pendrell grabbed it and stuck it in the floppy drive. His fingers flew across the keyboard, even as the image on-screen began to disintegrate.
Mulder cursed himself for not having made a back-up before he called Pendrell down to the office. He’d debated doing so but decided that trying to save the file might mess up Pendrell’s attempt to identify its source. “Did you get it?”
Pendrell tapped the keyboard a few more times, then banged his hand against the desk. “No, damn it.”
Mulder sighed, closing his eyes in weariness and frustration. “Did you try saving it to the hard drive?”
“Yeah, but it wouldn’t let me. That’s why I tried the floppy.”
“What about Scully’s disk?” He handed Pendrell the disk Scully had given him a few minutes earlier.
Pendrell slipped it into the floppy drive and pecked at the keyboard. Nothing happened. He tapped in another command. Still nothing.
A few minutes later, he shook his head. “The floppy’s irrevocably corrupted. I’ll bet that file on her hard drive has self destructed by now, too.”
Mulder slumped onto the edge of his desk, rubbing his temples with both hands. “They’re always two steps ahead.”
“Who ARE they?” Pendrell asked, his voice soft and serious.
Mulder looked down at the Pendrell, wishing he could remember a time when he was as young as the techie looked right now. “If we knew that, Pendrell, we’d be a lot closer to stopping them.”
“You don’t trust me, do you, Agent Mulder?”
Mulder chuckled, although he didn’t feel very humorous right then. “No. But don’t feel bad, Pendrell. I trust nobody but myself. And Scully.”
Pendrell’s expression softened at the mention of Scully’s name. Mulder stifled another chuckle. Poor techie really had it bad for Scully. Not that Mulder could blame him. He had it pretty bad for Scully himself.
“She’s going to be okay, isn’t she?” Pendrell asked.
Mulder nodded. “She’s got strength you and I can only wish for, Pendrell. Scully’s made of steel.”
Pendrell shook his head. “She’s made of flesh and bone, Agent Mulder. She bleeds and she cries. Don’t ever forget that.”
Mulder cocked his head, staring at the younger agent, a lump forming in his throat. He knew Pendrell’s soft statement hadn’t been meant as a warning—but he took it that way, anyway. A warning to appreciate the treasure he held in his hands and his heart. “Thanks, Pendrell. I appreciate everything.”
Pendrell smiled slightly, as if he recognized that Mulder’s gratitude was for far more than his unsuccessful attempts to track the sender of the file. “Any time, Agent Mulder.” He stood and headed for the door. He paused with his hand on the doorknob and looked back at Mulder. “You’ve got a good partner, Agent Mulder. Those are hard to come by. You make sure to take care of her.”
Mulder nodded, silently assuring the young agent that he would, indeed, take good care of his partner. Pendrell nodded back, then left, closing the door behind him.
Mulder took a minute to shut down his computer, then grabbed his suit jacket and headed out the door as well.
* * *
Scully tried to relax on the bench by the reflecting pool, letting the soft hum of traffic and pedestrian noise wash over her, blotting out the whirlwind of fears and pains that trembled just beneath the surface, threatening to overcome her without warning. She’d bought herself a turkey sandwich so Mulder wouldn’t have to eat alone, but the thought of food made her feel queasy.
Maybe when Mulder got there, she’d feel better. These days, Mulder always made her feel better.
Just thinking about him eased some of her lingering anxiety, and she found her mind lingering on the memory of the past couple of weeks. After the Robert Patrick Modell case, she and Mulder were as close as they’d ever been. Closer. The lingering tensions between them were gone as if they’d never been there, replaced by a sense of union more powerful than Scully had ever known. Sometimes, she almost felt as if they breathed in unison, their hearts pulsing in matching cadence, their minds joined with an invisible link that defied explanation. She smiled at the thought, recognizing that such a fancy had no basis in the laws of science.
But when it came to what existed between her and Mulder, the laws of science rarely applied.
“Is this seat taken?” The warm, slightly dry voice was right behind her. She turned and found him bending over the back of the bench, his face so close that his breath stirred her hair.
“No,” she murmured, “but I should warn you, I’m experiencing dangerous impulses.”
“Oooo, Agent Scully, anything you want to tell me about?” He walked around the bench and sat next to her, his body lightly pressing against hers.
“Someday,” she promised. “Pendrell have any luck?”
He shook his head, frowning. “No. The file self-destructed, and your floppy was corrupted beyond repair.”
“Damn it!” She rubbed her forehead with her fingertips, feeling a headache coming on.
He stretched his arm out across the back of the bench—not really around her, but the movement brought their bodies into even closer proximity. It took great inner strength to keep from leaning into the hard heat of his side. He lowered his head toward hers, invading her personal space as if it belonged to him. “We both know who sent it.”
“That black-lunged bastard,” she muttered.
“Did he think it would work?”
She shrugged. “He was just a month too late.”
Her soft answer hung between them for a moment, thick with uncomfortable significance. They both knew that only a month earlier, their partnership was on shaky ground. Both of them going their own ways, leaving the other behind. Keeping secrets and keeping their own counsels. If Cancerman had made his move a month ago, what would she have done?
“You know how much I wish I could go back to that night Duane Barry took you—that I had been there to help you. You know that, Scully.”
“I know. I wish I could go back to the night Melissa was shot—I wish I could have done something different—”
“But we can’t do that.”
She shook her head. “No.”
“I’d always hoped that when my time came to leave this earth, I’d have no regrets, but right now I’m sure I could live to be a hundred and fifty and still not have time to rid myself of all the ‘should have beens’ I’ve racked up along the way.” He shifted on the bench, turning his body toward her.
Instinctively she turned toward him as well. Their knees touched, and heat radiated through her limbs. She met his gaze, drinking in the intoxicating intensity of his regard.
“But I don’t regret knowing you, Scully. Maybe that’s selfish of me, considering the pain and trouble I’ve brought into your life, but God help me, I can’t regret it. The past four years have given my life back to me, Scully. For the first time I can remember, I know what’s important to me. I know what I want and I know what it takes to get it. And that’s your doing.”
Knowing she was taking a terrible risk, considering they were in public, Scully reached out and closed her hands over his. “When I walked into that basement office four years ago, I had no idea how much my life was going to change. If I had, I’m afraid I might have turned down the assignment.”
His fingers moved restlessly beneath hers, and she saw a flicker of pain cross his angular features. Gently she squeezed his hands. “So I’m glad I didn’t know back then what I know now. Because now, I’m older and wiser—wise enough to know that whatever we’ve been through, whatever still lies ahead of it, being with you is worth it. We have things to accomplish, Mulder—things we’re meant to accomplish together. I know that. I’m glad of that.”
He turned his hands, his palms meeting hers. His fingers played lightly against the tender skin of her inner wrists. “That sounds sort of…spooky, Agent Scully.”
She tried to hold back a soft chuckle but failed. She traced the tendons and veins of his wrists, secret pleasure shooting through her as she saw his lower lip tremble slightly in response to her gentle caress. “Happy anniversary, Mulder.”
He nodded. “Happy anniversary, Scully.”
For a long moment they sat still, hands still lightly intertwined, eyes and hearts speaking words their lips dared not utter. Then, reluctantly, they released each other and turned their attention to lunch.
* * *
Across the mall, a man leaned against an ornamental cherry tree, the soft breeze catching the smoke of his Morley and wafting it upwards. He gazed at the couple on the bench across the park, noting the instant that they unclasped hands and started to eat their meal.
Not quite what he’d had planned, he thought, taking another deep drag on his cigarette. But he wasn’t a stupid man. He knew the importance of preparing for contingencies.
There was always Plan B.
* * *
This file has been downloaded from x-libris.xf-redux.com. It contains work/s of X-Files FAN FICTION and FAN ART which are not affiliated with Ten-Thirteen or The Fox Network. No income is generated from these works. They are created with love and shared purely for the enjoyment of fans and are not to be sold in any format. The X-Files remain the property of Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen and Fox, unfortunately.
Individual stories and art remain the property of their talented creators. No copyright infringement is intended. Any copyright concerns can be addressed to .