Part II – Scully
She wakes up with a jolt. It is a moment before the room swims into focus. She's in Mulder's living room, snug and warm beneath his afghan which she doesn't remember tucking so neatly underneath her chin. Her lips curl in a sleepy smile at his thoughtfulness. Yet another sign that there's finally light at the end of the long tunnel they seem to be treading for months now. The silence is piercing except for the constant gurgling sound from the fish tank in the corner. It is also the only source of light in the room. She shifts a little, looking around her. The digital display on the VCR reads way past midnight. Their tea mugs are gone. Mulder is nowhere to be seen.
She shivers a little as she removes the afghan, then wraps it around her shoulders instead. She just sits there a moment, focuses on the rhythm of her breathing. She does that now, or at least makes an effort to do so, ever since Colleen Azar has advised her to slow things down. She envies the serenity that has wrapped around Colleen like a mist, longs for it. She's determined to get there at some point, but at the moment, it is still work in progress.
She tries to remember at which point in their discussion she's blacked out. Honestly, she isn't sure, but it doesn't really matter either. The one thing she knows for certain is that for the first time in weeks, they've been able to have a conversation without getting at each other's throats. There have been undertones of affection in the exchange, rather than animosity. There's some relief in that. She begins to feel like her old self again. And finally, finally, he seems willing to listen.
She's made the right choice. Whereas she's been sure before, now she knows it now with absolute certainty. This is where she belongs. She's needed a good slap from the past in order to be reassured of the present. Hopefully of the future as well. As befitting her line of work, she has made an educated decision based on evidence, hard proof. She's made up her mind, and she has no regrets.
"Are you happy, Dana?" Maggie Waterston asked her that afternoon, once they had resolved their issues surrounding her father. They had agreed she would be the one to speak to Daniel; she was shamelessly stalling, dreading the task at hand.
"As happy as I can be, I guess," she replied after some deliberation. Maggie didn't seem convinced, but didn't offer any further comment. "This is the life I've chosen," she added, as if that was enough of a justification. But she honestly couldn't say she was happy that very moment, not with her and Mulder's relationship in tattered, mostly her own doing.
It was a while before the failure of the IVF and its consequences had really hit home for her; not for three weeks or so after the fact, what with the shift in her and Mulder's partnership in such close proximity to it to take her mind off things. Everything about their newly-discovered intimacy was new, fragile, and so utterly incredible she sometimes had to pinch herself to make sure it wasn't all in her head. Among its other side effects, it had eclipsed anything cruel and awful about the world. And so when the failed procedure returned to haunt her, it did so in the most unexpected way – namely, her period was late. One day her gaze fell absentmindedly on the calendar on her desk, and after doing a double take at the date, she mentally began to count backwards, do the math, almost despite herself.
She had always considered herself a rational person, her logic always functioning on a higher plane than her emotions. She had taken pride in it; it allowed her to remain level-headed. Plus, she was a doctor. She knew that being late couldn't mean what she hoped it did, but her heart was racing nonetheless. For the first time in her adult life, heart overshadowed reason, and for a split second, she let herself believe she might actually be pregnant. There had been an opportunity; numerous opportunities, as a matter of fact, she thought, blushing. Besides, he told her, didn't he? He told her not to give up on a miracle, and she didn't, and now this.
The rude awakening arrived several days later, obviously, with menstrual cramps that weren't half as painful as the feeling of her heart shattering all over again. This time was worse because she knew it wasn't possible, but still allowed herself to yearn. For once not caring if she would be late for work, she curled on her bathroom floor and sobbed, wishing she could disappear inside the cool tiles. She felt numb with loss and hopelessness. With her own stupidity. All she could think of were his words, spoken with soft conviction under cover of darkness. Our baby would have been perfect. Yes, it would have been. If only.
It was a long, grueling day, and she was more than happy to be putting it behind her as they returned to her apartment that evening. Mulder could obviously tell something was troubling her, but he was keeping his distance and she loved him for it. This was why she hadn't cancelled their plans to spend the night at her place. As much as she wanted to be left alone, she figured she was better off with his company, mostly to save her from herself.
Little did she know how much she would regret it before the day was done.
They spent the evening in weary yet comfortable silence; cooked dinner together, read for a while, got ready for bed. She sank into the sheets gratefully, breathing in her new favorite scent – the intoxicating blend of Mulder and laundry softener. She closed her eyes and exhaled in relief. And then, just as she felt herself being pulled into blessed oblivion, she felt his chin nuzzle the side of her neck.
"Have you got that toxicology report back, by the way?"
"What?" she blinked into the darkness, sleep slipping away from her by the second.
"For the Tanner autopsy. The double murder."
"Why do you always do that?" she groaned, more frustrated by feeling wide awake again, than by his complete obliviousness.
"What did I say?" he sounded puzzled.
"We're home, Mulder, it's late. Give it a rest."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
She shut her eyes against the obvious hurt in his voice; realized how harsh she'd sounded. It didn't stop her from complaining even further. "It means I don't particularly enjoy discussing work with you 24/7. Isn't it enough we have to handle the lowlifes of the universe while on the clock, now we have to bring them home with us? I had a long day, I'm exhausted, I couldn't care less about that autopsy right now. I just want to go to sleep."
"Are you serious?"
The shock in his question infuriated her even more. She sighed with exasperation. "Do I sound like I'm kidding?"
"No," he said slowly, as though realizing it for the first time. He cleared his throat, as if unsure what to do with himself. "Fine, sorry I asked," he said eventually, then wrapped an arm around her in what was probably meant as a conciliatory motion, had he not placed his hand on her stomach, just above her barren, empty, useless womb. Her chest constricted; her eyes immediately filled with tears. As if he heard the gasp she'd struggled to hold back, he tensed, then asked hesitantly, "Scully, is everything alright?"
"Fine," she managed, then murmured some excuse before slipping out of bed, ignoring him as he called after her with concern.
She knew it was wrong of her to take her frustration out on him, but she didn't seem able to help it, all the same. She was furious with the world, and Mulder was an unsuspecting victim, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the days that followed the incident she didn't apologize, nor did she provide any sort of explanation, and he didn't push her. He seemed to be going to extreme lengths to keep work at work. Honestly, it didn't bother her that much when he talked about work off hours – mentioning an interesting case he had heard about while they were having dinner, cracking one of their own cases while watching a movie all curled up on his couch or working the crossword puzzle on hers. Sometimes she even found it endearing, how their work was such an integral part of him. But the damage had already been done. As if they needed any more trouble.
She didn't tell Mulder what had triggered her outburst, not even weeks afterwards. He was undergoing a dark time of his own, following his mother's death, and she didn't want this to be another burden, but she knew he could sense the change in her. She had become withdrawn and contemplative, hardly said two words while in the office, took her lunch by herself. She was overcome by indifference. Nothing seemed to hold her interest anymore. She was wallowing in her own grief and missed opportunities, her failure as a woman, as a mother. Her nights became sleepless, and she arrived at work groggy each morning, ignoring the worried glances he cast at her from across the office when he thought she wasn't looking. She knew he was probably finding ways to blame himself in whatever she was going through, but couldn't bring herself to get out of the funk.
Her vulnerable state was also fertile ground for doubts, and those hit her so frequently and ferociously she could hardly breathe. Perhaps taking the next step forward wasn't such a brilliant idea after all. Not to mention asking Mulder to be the father of her child. It turned out he was right – it had come between them, in the worst way imaginable. Why did she have to invite him over that night? What was she trying to prove? Was this truly what she'd wanted, or was she acting on some desperate need to love and be loved, turning to him by default? The thoughts tormented her nightly, which in turn soon became a daily torture as well, as making eye contact at work had become unbearable. How could this possibly be a mistake when he was looking at her so tenderly? His eyes were beseeching, wordlessly pleading with her to tell him what was wrong. Still, she kept silent, her mind in turmoil. The more she avoided him, the worse it got. She didn't even know why she was acting this way, why she was singlehandedly destroying this so soon after it began.
Then there was the incident with Spender that really sent him over the edge. She thought their argument over the phone upon his return from Vermont was the worst of it, but then he randomly decided to go off to England chasing crop circles, and she simply had it with his whims, and exploded. All that was left in the wake of that confrontation was his wounded expression, seared into her brain, making her feel impossibly worse about herself.
But in his absence, she had never expected to be facing her past in such a way that would put everything else into perspective. Because had she chosen to stay with Daniel and consummate their relationship, she would never have met this man who both incensed and aroused her, this man she had trusted so implicitly, but whose beliefs made her cringe and roll her eyes more often than not. She would never know a love like this, so deep and so consuming it often left her breathless. She would never realize she must hold on to it with all her might, and never let go.
She couldn't tell Maggie all that though, still fearing the volatile young woman would change her mind yet again. Her presence in the life of the Waterstons had left behind a deep scar – the scars she'd been carrying all of these years didn't feel so severe anymore, in comparison. It had been a struggle, but she was finally able to put this behind her, whereas it had been their grim reality from the moment she left. She couldn't imagine what it was like, living like this, carrying this baggage for an entire decade. She had always prided herself on leaving on time, believing that the fact she hadn't slept with him prevented the wreckage of his marriage. How wrong she had been; how naive.
But she isn't naive anymore. And despite what she's told Daniel a few days ago, she knows exactly what she has. She doesn't want the life she hasn't chosen. What she wants is right here in the next room.
She crosses the small living room barefoot, her stockinged feet barely making a sound against the hardwood floor, and stands at the entrance of his bedroom to watch him for a moment. He's sprawled on his back, fast asleep, a fact which surprises her given his constant battle with insomnia. She guesses even he has his limits. A round trip to England would do that to a person. Still, she moves stealthily, staying as quiet as possible as she sheds her clothes and slips into one of his tee shirts, uses the bathroom and brushes her teeth. Somehow he sleeps through all of that. He doesn't even stir as she crawls into bed beside him. She hates waking him, but feels compelled to do it now or she'll lose her nerve. It is time to put an end to this. She scoots closer, and begins to spread butterfly kisses across his naked chest.
His eyes snap open as he wakes up with a start. "Shhh," she whispers soothingly; "It's me."
"Scully?" he rasps, and her name turns into a groan as she maintains her ministrations. From the corner of her eye she notices him grab the sheets. She lightly sucks on his skin once to watch him squirm; he doesn't disappoint. "What are you doing?"
She pauses only to look up and smile angelically at him. "Do you want me to stop?"
"No. I mean yes. I mean you..."
"I fell asleep earlier," she states the obvious, then feels silly for doing so.
"I'll try not to take offense."
His crooked grin is disarming; she wills her weary mind into focus. "But I need to tell you something."
She's reluctant to pull away from him, but feels it needs to be said first. She moves to lie beside him, and taking the hint, he shifts until they're facing one another, like that first morning in her bed. He seems apprehensive as for what she's about to tell him, but doesn't say anything, just watches her attentively, waiting.
"I didn't mean to push you away. I was going through something and I needed time on my own to get myself together." She doesn't elaborate, determined not to tell him about her meltdown over the pregnancy that never was. She won't do this to him, break his heart again. She hopes he doesn't insist.
His eyes seem distant and contemplative for a moment before he meets her gaze. His bottom lip trembles ever so slightly, as if he's about to cry. "I thought it was me. I thought it was something I did that made you shut out."
"Mulder, no," she says fiercely, reaching out to touch his cheek. Of course, she knew he would think that, find a way to take the blame. She hates herself now for hurting him, desperate to reassure him. "Don't think I haven't noticed how hard you tried. Don't think I don't appreciate all of it. You were... are... the sweetest, most attentive lover I've ever had. You haven't done anything wrong. It was all me. I don't know what came over me. I just couldn't shake out of it."
"Were you having second thoughts?" He seems frightened by the possibility.
"Not second thoughts exactly. I guess that as soon as the enormity of it all came crushing down on me, I was beginning to question my motives about all this." She dares meeting his gaze, and recognizes the agony in his expression. She knows it well. She remembers that dark sensation, that excruciating pain.
"And then that bastard..." She sees rather than feels him tense, but doesn't let it deter her. She has to let it out. "He said I would never allow myself to love you and that made things even worse because it was as if he could read me like a goddamned book. And these past few days with Daniel..." She's getting emotional; she inhales deeply in an attempt to restrain herself, then looks at him earnestly. "Of course I love you, Mulder. I've loved you for so long and so intensely that it scares the hell out of me sometimes."
"It scares the hell out of me too," he says. "This is why I freaked out when I realized you ran off with him. I guess I thought he somehow found out about us and was going to use it against us in the worst way imaginable."
She ponders this for a second, then shakes her head in dismay. "That's paranoid even for you," she chides him gently. He shrugs, as if saying guilty as charged. "Regardless of all that. I messed up and I want to make things right again." She looks at him imploringly. His gaze is wide-awake now, boring into hers. "Please let me make things right again," she whispers, blinking away tears. She isn't used to making such confessions face to face. But his room is dark, and it fills her with courage. She rests her palm against his cheek again, and smiles through her tears. "Kiss and make up?"
She barely manages another breath before his lips lock with hers with fierceness she's almost forgotten, and then he's everywhere at once as his hands begin to wander, as do hers. She lavishes attention on that bottom lip which has made him appear so forlorn before, biting it slightly, making him hiss her name into her mouth and buck his hips against her. She threads her fingers in his hair to hold him closer, his own name escaping her in a murmur as his lips trail along her jaw.
"Can I confess something too?" he breathes into the hollow of her neck, biting the collar of her shirt – his shirt. She hums an affirmation but doesn't let go. She hitches her leg around his waist to keep him in place. Surprisingly enough, it doesn't distract him. "The Gunmen know... about us."
She tenses, then pulls away just enough to give him a look that is half incredulous, half amused. "How?"
"They sort of figured it out... Long story." He sums up, then grins apologetically. "I'm sorry – "
She places a finger on his lips; his voice trails off at once. "I don't care," she declares, then adds softly but seriously, "I don't want to fight," and he smiles when he realizes those are his words. He nods, and they kiss again, and he begins to peel the shirt off her body just as she tries to get rid of his pajama bottoms, pulling them down with her feet.
As they become one, their souls once again conjoined, their bodies slowly readjusting to one other's rhythms, all she can think about is how perfect this feels, how right. And she really doesn't want to fight anymore. Not ever. Never again.