Part II – Mulder, post episode for My Struggle IV
It is a night of revelations.
Exhaustion fills him to his very core, but he drives on. Grasping at the steering wheel helps him feel balanced, gives him something to hold on to, literally. His head is still reeling from everything that has come to pass tonight, the days leading to this very moment. Every possible emotion sears through him –love and hate, certainty and confusion, hope and despair. He can only hope he's able to stir them off to safety before it all comes crushing down on him, as is bound to happen. He can feel the breaking point within reach, but turns his back on it stubbornly. There will be a time for it. He cannot fall apart just yet.
He drops one hand off the steering wheel. Their hands find each other almost instantly, an instinct formed over two decades. It takes him by surprise; he thought she was asleep. He laces their fingers together and gently squeezes their joined hands. She squeezes back without opening her eyes. For just a moment, love and hope triumph over hate and despair. Certainty conquers confusion. This is all he'll ever need, right there beside him.
He tries to make sense of everything that's happened in the last few hours. His father is dead – for good, it seems, this time. Agent Reyes, unbelievably, his father's accomplice, has also been found dead at the scene. Skinner is critically injured, hailed off to a hospital some time ago; fighting for his life, no doubt. William, Jackson, has sacrificed his life for him, a man who isn't even his father, as it turns out.
And the biggest revelation of all.
He glances at Scully, shaking his head in disbelief. Could this be real? All his life people have mocked him for believing whatever comes his way without question. For the first time ever it's so hard for him to do so. It isn't her he doubts, never that, just... this. He is reminded of that conversation they had not too long ago, which must have been the same night it happened, he now realizes. I'm at the end of that journey, she told him, mourning her missed chance at motherhood. This was then... and now this.
He wants to kick himself for his cluelessness. For one so observant, he's been doing a lousy job when it comes to his personal life. Surely he should have seen it coming. He isn't entirely to blame, though; he has never been around a pregnant woman before to actually recognize the signs even as they accumulated. The only time something seemed genuinely wrong with her was the day following their unfortunate date at that goddamned robot restaurant.
He drives them to his place. He knows he should probably drop her off at hers, but he doesn't want to be alone right now. Doesn't want to think about the son he thought he had, the boy they have lost before getting a chance to truly know. She doesn't even stir as he kills off the engine and just sits there for a moment, across from the house they have shared for a while, the house which is no longer her home, but that she finds her way towards every single time.
He touches her shoulder gently and watches her sigh deeply before opening her eyes. They're red and a little puffy – partly from exhaustion, mostly from tears, possibly a perfect reflection of his own. She manages a tiny smile at him. "Are we home?" she asks him, her voice thick with sleep. The words fill him with such happiness he feels selfish for his vanity, given everything they've lost that day.
"Yeah. We're home."
They walk inside the dark house, ignoring the mess of the ground floor. Their motions are perfunctory as they get ready for bed; get changed, brush their teeth, snuggle against one another without a word. He doesn't know how long they lay there in the dark, breathing in perfect sync. As tired as he is, sleep suddenly eludes him, his mind far too alert to properly shut down. He pulls away from her slowly, gently, and tucks the covers more tightly around her before leaving the room and treading downstairs.
He paces the living room for a while in a hopeless attempt to put the place in order, then settles on the shabby sofa and looks around him as if for the first time. He tries to see the room the way she sees it. In her absence it has become an extension of their basement office, files and photos and newspaper articles strewn everywhere in perfect disarray. It is no longer confined to the small study, where she could just shut the door and pretend this strange haven of his has ever existed. He's reminded of her immaculate apartment in Georgetown, can even remember the way it smelt. He thinks of the house she currently lives in. If he wants her back home, he will have to make certain changes. He has proven himself worthy of her, he thinks (he hopes) – now it is time to make this place her home again.
There's a rustle behind him. He looks over his shoulder just in time to see her descend down the stairs, blinking in the dim light. He'll never get tired of seeing her wearing his clothes. She even has a pair of his socks on. It's chilly down there; she wraps her arms around her as she arrives at the landing.
"I can't sleep," she murmurs as their eyes meet.
"Want me to make you some tea?"
"I'd love some, thank you." She crosses the room, sitting down just as he rises and walks towards the kitchen. "Let's sit outside."
"It's freezing cold, Scully."
She grabs the afghan that's folded against the back of the sofa and lifts it up as if that's a valid argument against his claim. As he puts the kettle on, he hears the front door open and close, then the creaking of the swing on the porch. He shrugs and grabs a coat as he waits for the water to boil. He makes himself tea as well – black, not that vile herbal stuff she's so fond of. Then, balancing the two mugs in his hands, he goes outside to join her.
She has the afghan wrapped around her shoulders. She accepts her mug with a murmured thank you, then lays her knees against his thigh and her head on his shoulder. It's not as cold as he's thought; it's actually quite nice with the tea warming his hands and her body pressed beside him. He looks straight ahead. The darkness is absolute and all-consuming; it seems to stretch on forever. The porch is a tiny pool of light in its midst.
"What a night, huh?" she whispers huskily.
"We seem to have plenty of those recently," he agrees. They haven't spoken properly since she's told him she's pregnant; hinted at it, really. There have been too many distractions, too many things to attend to. There are a million questions whirling inside his head, but at the same time he's speechless, unsure where to begin.
"I don't think he's dead, Mulder."
"What are you talking about?" he asks even though he knows; her eyes are burning with it as she looks up at him.
"William. I can't explain it, but I can still feel him." He isn't used to such conviction from her, still has to pinch himself whenever she speaks of visions and spiritual connection. He thinks how far she's come. She misinterprets his silence, shakes her head sorrowfully. "I know I should let it go. Not only because he asked, but because it's time. We can't build a future without letting go of the past." She looks up at him intently. "I'll always think of him as our son, as I'll always think of Emily as my daughter. No matter the circumstances through which they have come to this world."
"That chain-smoking bastard," he murmurs. He can't help himself. He doesn't care he's been used and manipulated, and he can live with the gaping wound left by the discovery that William has never been his to keep, to yearn for. He only cares about what's been done to Scully. That, in his eyes, is the man's worst sin. "I hope he rots in hell. Even hell is too good a place for him."
"Mulder, don't. It's not worth it. I don't care what he told Skinner. As far as I'm concerned, you are William's father. As far as he's concerned too, I think. Or he wouldn't have done what he did tonight."
"Do you think we'll ever see him again?"
"I don't know. I want to believe he'll come to us... when the time is right." He smiles a little at her choice of words. "Besides... before you know it, we'll have our hands full."
His heart skips a beat at the implication of her words. There's so much he wants to know, but still words fail him. He decides to go with the simplest question. "How long have you known?"
Something like guilt flashes in her eyes. Her cheeks are flushed; it's visible even in the dim light. "A while. I should have said something sooner, I know, I just... couldn't find the words."
"I'm having the same problem right now," he chuckles, pressing his lips to the top of her head. Then something occurs to him, and he pulls away so he could look at her. "You shouldn't be running around like you did tonight. And a few weeks ago, when you fell down that elevator shaft..."
She nods somberly. "I know. But I had it checked and it's fine. I'm fine."
"You know I hate it when you say that," he frowns at her.
"I know. But I mean it. I have every intention to bring this pregnancy to term. Hopefully in a suitable facility with no one on our tail."
He shudders at the memory of how William was born, the race against time to allow his safe arrival into the world, then to get them both to a hospital. "Is it high risk? Can you still..."
"I can still work, for the time being. It's probably best if I don't go in the field as often, but I know a few people who'll be happy to step in for me. Those young agents who consulted us a while ago, I like them. Maybe we can convince Doggett to relocate back from the West Coast."
"He may make the effort for you, but I doubt he'll do it for me," he grins at her. The matter has been a long-time joke between them. Back in the day he used to tease her about Doggett being in love with her (and he was; he didn't need to be a brilliant profile to figure out as much), and she fervently denied it over and over again. "Besides, no one in the entire Bureau will ever be able to step in for you, Scully." He doesn't even know if the X Files have a future now, with Skinner's own future so unknown. Maybe they should both move on. Maybe he'll write that book she has once beseeched him to write, instead of chasing monsters in the dark. He can probably pull it off.
"I expect we'll see so much of each other you'll probably get sick of me sooner rather than later, so maybe we shouldn't be working together at all."
He's so wrapped in his own little fantasy about his new life as a celebrated author, that the meaning of her words barely registers at first. "Oh?"
"That's the other thing I wanted to say," she says a little hesitantly, peeking at him through her lashes. "I was thinking about how much you've missed out on the first time around. I don't think I can do this alone this time. I don't want to do this alone." There's a beat; she seems to be bracing herself. Then she locks her gaze with his, doesn't speak again before she knows she has his full attention. "I want to move back in. I think it's time. I'm ready. We're ready."
For a second, he's speechless. For all the times he has longed to hear her say those exact words, now it feels wrong. He thinks back of the mess that dominates the main floor, and upstairs doesn't fare any better, if he's honest. This is no place to bring a newborn to, let alone raise a kid in. The house had served its purpose well when they needed to live in total isolation. But their circumstances have changed since then. This is something he has battled with ever since coming back to work. He knows it's time for that to change as well.
She moves an inch back, to better search his eyes, it seems. He still hasn't replied, and he can tell it bothers her. She looks at him expectantly. It takes him another moment to form the thought as it takes shape in his mind, but then he shakes his head.
About a dozen different emotions flash in her eyes as she stares at him in disbelief. He even thinks he detects a tear or two, gleaming in the corners of her eyes. "No?" she whispers dejectedly, her voice breaking ever so slightly. He knows how it sounds, and feels like a jerk for making her react this way. It reminds him of another time he has played a similar trick on her, upon regaining consciousness after returning from the dead. Who are you? Seeing her so wounded tears at his heart; he cuts off the charade at once.
"No. I mean yes. I agree that we're ready. But not here."
The tears she has struggled to hold back now spill uncontrollably down her cheeks. Her lips tremble. She looks genuinely confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that this time, we're doing this right." He feels more confident as he says it, as if he's finally taking control of their lives. For so long he's been so unsure of their next step; now he knows with absolute certainty. "Clean slate. We'll get a new place. Your mother has left us enough money to have a solid start." Margaret Scully has been more than generous, astounding everyone as she included him in her will, not as her daughter's significant other, but as though he was one of her sons. None of them has expected it, let alone Bill Jr., who was seething upon finding out. "A new house, closer to the city, in a nice neighborhood. Maybe that same neighborhood where your parents lived." He doesn't realize he's crying until she reaches out to wipe a tear from his cheek. He blinks a few more tears only to realize there are tears streaming down her own face.
"I thought you were going to reject me," she says, her voice a cross between a laugh and a sob, as she smacks him gently.
"I never wanted you to leave, Scully," he counters softly. "I get why you did, and I promise I will never give you another reason to want to, ever again." They're both a mess, but he doesn't care. "You won't have to do this alone. I'm not going anywhere." He places a finger under her chin, lifting her face to his. "I love you more than you'll ever know."
She smiles through tears. He's acutely aware of the fact this is the first time he has ever uttered those words. She's obviously aware of it too. "An extreme possibility, if I've ever seen one," she whispers, then sniggers to herself as if this is some sort of a private joke. She leans closer, and their lips meet in a lingering kiss, their first in many months.
It is a night of revelations, indeed, he muses, as they sit there in comfortable silence. The tea is long finished, the mugs on the floor underneath the swing. Slowly but assuredly, the darkness around them alleviates as night shifts into dawn. In the nearby forest, birds begin to twitter. The misty sky becomes gradually brighter. As the first rays of sun caress the edge of the porch, he feels her head slump against his shoulder. He glances at her; her eyes are close, her lips parted slightly. It reminds him of a stormy night in his apartment. What if there was only one choice, and all the other ones were wrong? He can't help but smile. It feels as if it happened a lifetime ago, and in many ways, it did. Gently, he scoops her in his arms and slowly stands up, carrying her upstairs.
As he lies beside her, sweet thoughts lull him into sleep. They're different than the nightmares he used to have about William, dark and horrible with no happy ending in sight. There's no darkness this time, none at all. In his mind's eye, he sees a little redheaded girl lying on her stomach in front of a Stratigo board, determined to learn the game even though she's way too young to really get it. She is in a basement that is bright and airy, a stark contrast to the dingy basement where it all started all those years ago. The only trace of his life's work is the I Want to Believe poster on the wall, which has really become quite the family heirloom by now.
They often tell her how they also met in a basement, once upon a time, although their story is far from being a fairytale. He's not a man of faith, but he prays she will never know darkness, not as intimately as they have done. He tries to let go of the past, not to linger on the aunts and grandparents she will never know, the older brother who will never be there for her. He thinks instead of the good the past has done them. If anything, they have bedtime stories to last her a lifetime, tales about beast women and moth men, about a lake monster and a weremonster, about a guy with never-ending luck, and one who turns invisible by a simple wish. Some stories she is fascinated by; others make her raise an eyebrow dubiously at him, so achingly like her mother. "Da-ddy," she whines, sighing with exasperation, making Scully giggle in delight.
She's rather studious, their little girl; an avid reader from a very tender age. Well, how can she not be? She likes sitting with him as he's working on his manuscript, reading over drafts she's too young to actually understand. He likes sharing it with her anyway, likes that they can bond over those experiences which are really her legacy as well. He imagines them sit in his study as he asks her, Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials? And she thinks hard, because this is what she does whenever he asks her serious questions like that. Then, with the tiniest frown upon her freckled face, she looks straight at him and says,
"Logically I would have to say no."
In his sleep, he smiles.
An extreme possibility, if he's ever seen one.