a/n: I'm really pleased with the response this story has gotten. because of that, I popped out this shortie in record time. I hope you like it and keep reading!


Crack.

Crack.

Crack.

Mulder chewed on his sunflower seeds, but the sounds they made as they popped open may as well have been his heart breaking. He'd been tailing her all day, staking out her home and job until she jumped in her car and headed over to the ABC Child Development Center. Not unusually, he'd had a one-track mind since Maggie had spilled the beans about Scully's child. It hadn't been hard to find her, but that was as far as Mulder's search went, and he left the very next morning for Utah. He had not only respected her wishes for five years, Mulder knew that in this situation, the more information he had, the worse off he was. For example, what if he found she'd gotten married? It wasn't an extreme possibility, after all, she did have a child. If he knew she had a husband, it might interfere with his natural instinct to follow her and make sure she was okay. And that was something he simply could not afford to have weighing him down.

From his investigation that morning, it didn't seem like she had a husband. In fact, she'd made some major changes since she'd left, but it was quite obvious that hadn't been one of them. For one thing, she didn't live in Salt Lake City anymore, if she ever had. Her two story brick home was located in an upscale suburb. She left at 7 in the morning for Saint Francis Hospital, where parked in doctors' parking. At 3 p.m., she left there for the preschool they were both sitting at now. He'd only gotten brief glimpses of her throughout the day. Her hair was longer. Much longer, past her shoulders, and that sent an overpowering urge between his legs. During their years as partners, he'd witnessed her soft baby face turn hard and contoured, and it seemed to him that the process had continued despite his absence from her life. She'd lost weight.

But she was still stunningly, obviously, breathtakingly beautiful.

Why was he there? She'd asked him specifically not to interfere with her new life, yet here he was, following her and observing her like she was some type of suspect. If she knew what he'd been doing, she'd mutilate him so thoroughly that he'd probably need to enter the witness protection program. For all this was doing to him, getting the chance to see her again definitely wasn't worth it.

Until he saw a dark-haired little girl emerge from the building and run up to Scully's sleek black SUV. That was when he knew it was worth it. That was when he knew he had to confront her—had to talk to her and be close to her after five years, three months, and three days.

She glowed as he exited his rental car and ran across the parking lot. She and her child were the only ones in his entire world as he came closer and closer to them, the finish line at the end of his gloom. He walked faster and faster until he could almost taste them, almost feel them—

Thud.

His head bounced off the asphalt like a rubber ball after the car that hit him screeched to a halt. He didn't even get to see his long-haired, sharp-nosed, thin partner running toward him before the world faded to black.

XXX

"Easy Mulder," her gentle words eased to him as he frantically tried to escape his drug-induced haze a few hours later. At first, he couldn't even tell that it had been five years, three months, and three days since the woman next to his bed had been his partner. They had been in this situation before. His passion undoubtedly getting him into peril. Her grace saving him and her diligence in sitting beside him until she was absolutely sure he was alright. Was he waking up from a bad dream, or a nightmare, rather? Had he sustained an injury while on the job that had forced him to look upon this world where she was no longer a constant in his life? It wouldn't be the strangest thing to ever happen to him.

But as he opened his eyes and saw her long hair, her sharp nose, and her thin body, he knew it wasn't. And reality came rushing back to him painfully.

"Scu—Scull—" he struggled, but the word would not come. Not that it hadn't been on his mind and on his lips every moment since she'd left.

"Didn't your mother ever tell you to look both ways before you cross the street?"

She was too at ease. She was too comfortable. 'Oh my God,' his drug and trauma-riddled brain thought, 'she saw me.'

He should have considered their paranormal attraction to each other.

"Didn't I ever manage to tell you that?" Scully asked, running her heavenly fingers close to his temple, looking at him but not looking at him. Reflecting.

"Scuh—lee," Mulder tried again, but to no avail.

"Shhh, I'm here. You know you really might want to consider a different model stake-out car. I knew it was you at 7:30 when I saw the Ford Taurus."

There were so many things they weren't saying. There were so many things that after five years, three months, and three days, needed to be said. But neither party could bring themselves to utter the words. I'm sorry. I love you. I need you. Mulder struggled for them, and Scully struggled to keep them at bay.

"Try to rest," she ordered after his failed attempt to sit up, "You're very lucky, Mulder, that you didn't suffer any more than a concussion. I talked with the driver of the vehicle, but it looks like you're on your own with this one. I'll be back in the morning to see how you're doing."

And of course, because she was Scully, she added before she reached the door, "And be good."

Not the way Mulder envisioned this day occurring, but effective nonetheless. Life has a funny way of working things out in the best possible way sometimes. And for Mulder, that meant ending up in the hospital.

With Scully there to kiss his boo-boos.