The scene at my apartment was eerily reminiscent of one
played out over a year ago in the Lone Gunmen's
headquarters. A tableau with the same players, the same
dependency on high technology to disclose revelations.
Except, I wasn't listening last year. I wasn't trusting
my best friend, the most important person in my life then
and now. I rejected her findings last year, effectively
driving a wedge between us for a long time afterward.
I pursued the truth by breaking into Diana's apartment,
confronting the smoking man, by trying to prevent
Cassandra's death. It wasn't enough to prevent the bastard
from picking up the pieces of the Consortium and kidnapping
me last fall.
And I never really believed Diana would try to harm
until I read her thoughts after my collapse at American
University and knew their plan. She knew the brain surgery
was a risk. She was willing to sacrifice me for the sake
of a few survivors of a global holocaust.
Fortunately, I'm not dead. But as I told Scully earlier
at the emptied out offices of CGB Spender, I don't
understand why she's not. She made a dangerous gamble
she'd survive her outing with that conniving son of a
bitch, running off without leaving me a decent bread crumb
trail to follow.
She may have ditched me physically this time, putting
herself in great peril, worrying me half to death the last
few days. But I would be a first-class hypocrite if I
didn't admit to myself that turnabout is fair play.
I almost abandoned her last year, I almost listened to
Cancer Man's pretty lies myself. If she hadn't called me
at the last minute, if we hadn't pursued that railway car,
I'd have either ended up dead or in the company of enemies.
That double-crossing asshole is still my enemy, still
playing dirty tricks on me any which way he can. He
appealed to Scully's altruism, to her need to know, for
herself, for the rest of the world, the way to end all
suffering in the world.
She ran off without me. She hurt my pride, she angered
me, jeopardizing her own life for the sake of others.
As foolish as she was, I've been more foolish in the
In ditching her, I've always tried to protect her, tried to
keep her out of the action. Yet she never really was out
of the loop. She always found a way to follow me, a way to
wrest me out of the most difficult and life-threatening
That may be what bothers me the most, she's always come
after me, she's always saved my ass. And this time, this
time, I didn't come through for her. I didn't find out
where she was. I didn't arrive on the scene in the nick of
time and play the hero.
I wasn't able to face Scully earlier at my place. I was
angry at her; I was angry at myself. And I needed time to
process all that had happened in such a short span of time.
By the time we'd driven over to the office building, by
the time she'd rushed through the carpeted hallways leading
to Cancer Man's phony digs, I'd thought more of this out.
I wasn't ready to concede to her she'd done the right
thing. But I was prepared to restrain my ire, to offer her
support as a friend, as the only person on earth who could
possibly understand how duped she feels right now.
I told her she'd been conned; it was all a trick to
out the scientist, to destroy his life's work, to destroy
him. Coward that I am, I still didn't bring up all the
times I'd concealed my whereabouts from her, all the times
I'd forced her to take extraordinary measures to find me
and save my soul.
I didn't have to. I know I don't need to. She doesn't
expect apologies from me and I haven't heard one from her
yet. That's not the way we are, nor the way we'll ever
I believe we still trust one another. I believe we
love one another. I don't think this will create a rift
between us. I think we're too connected, too willing to
accept the other's idiosyncrasies, too afraid to start over
with someone else, too afraid to go it alone.
The drive back from the government building has been
quiet, but not uncomfortable. There were no histrionics
back there, no unleashed tempers. She was relieved I spoke
to her directly, that I didn't avert my eyes from her.
She's exhausted. Whatever sleep she's gotten in the
forty-eight hours could never be enough to compensate for
the kind of stress she's been under. I glance over at her
and see her eyelids flutter closed.
She can't possibly be alert enough to drive herself home
so I double park my car behind hers and say, "Scully... let
me have your car keys."
Her eyes open, but it's obvious how out of focus and
she is from the weariness there. For a moment, I think
she's about to protest, but then she pulls her keys out of
her pocket and hands them over, her fingers brushing
lightly against mine.
I unlock her trunk and get her overnight bag, throwing
into the back seat of my car. Without further ado, I pull
out into traffic and head for her apartment. She closes
her eyes again, certain I will get her home in one piece.
This display of trust heartens me, proves to me, that
smoking man's plan to dissassociate us, to break us in two
has failed. It wasn't a matter of trust to me. I trusted
her, I trust her; she is the only one I can completely
I just hope this never happens again. I just hope we
communicate well enough with one another that it won't be
necessary for her to hide anything from me, at least not
things like this.
I still don't know what to expect from our personal
relationship, but I'm quite sure she'll never hide from me
again. She's learned a harsh lesson and so have I.
She's sound asleep when we pull up at her place. I
want to embarrass her by carrying her around like a
sleeping child, but she barely stirs when I unbuckle her
belt and slide her into my arms. I'll come back for her
bag. She won't need it till later.
Somehow I manipulate her key ring, finding the right
getting us inside with only one spectator along the way.
Probably that old lady's only entertainment today. I take
her into her bedroom and lay her on top of her quilt, then
position a pillow beneath her head.
I'm lucky it was warm in the car. She'd already shed
jacket and all I have to do is pull her mother's afghan
from the foot of the bed, covering her completely. I
ponder whether I should remove her shoes... would she kick
my ass for that? I slip them off anyway, I'll bear the
consequences of my indiscretion tomorrow.
Confident she's still asleep and completely comfortable,
go back to my car and get our bags. I'm not leaving her
tonight, I don't care what shit she gives me for it. It's
not the first time I've done sentry duty on her couch and
after losing her these last few days there's no way I'm
leaving her till she regains consciousness and throws me
I fully expect that will happen when she arises and
brushing my teeth and making sure all the doors are locked,
I recline on the couch, remote in hand, falling asleep to
the ethereal glow.
Sometime before dawn I wake for mere seconds, long
to feel Scully pulling a blanket over my shoulders, then
caressing my cheek with one hand. So she's not perturbed I
made myself at home on her couch... and then I fall back to
The smell of coffee rouses me for good as sunlight
through her partially drawn blinds. I untangle myself from
my bedcovers and sit up, listening for her footsteps. What
I hear instead is Scully humming to the radio in the
kitchen, out of my line of sight.
Scully doesn't think much of her voice, but it sounds
a chorus of angels to me. I didn't expect to find her so
cheerful this morning. I really didn't expect to be here
this late. It's past time she threw me out so she can get
back to whatever she does in her mysterious free time.
I don't bother to tell her I'm using the john, she'll
soon enough. When I re-enter the living room, she calls me
out to the kitchen and I shuffle out there, hastily
correcting a bad case of bedhead I'd only noticed in
I make sure our eyes meet this time. I don't want her
think I slept on the matter at hand and that I'm furious
with her. I'm not, and I smile and sniff the air, hinting
that I'd like a cup too.
"Help yourself, Mulder. There's a mug in front of
machine," she says, looking back down at her paper.
There's a trace of a smile on her lips. Not a full-
Scully smile, those are incredibly rare. This one remains,
despite her best efforts to erase it. I thank some
heavenly power for whatever I've done right to deserve
this, pour my coffee, and sit down at the table across from
"Thanks for making sure I got home all right last
she says after I've had a chance to sip a few gulps.
"No problem, Scully. You were really out of it by
time I got to my place," I say, watching as she becomes
fascinated with her teaspoon, avoiding my eyes.
Momentarily, she lifts her head, meeting my gaze. Her
eyes don't look quite as bright as they do when she's well-
rested, but it's an improvement over yesterday.
"You really didn't have to stay. I was all right
myself..." she says in an apologetic tone.
I shrug my shoulders minimally and shake my head while I
say, "I was tired too. I only meant to stay a few hours,
but it's a comfortable couch."
"Well, you're welcome to it. I mean... I'm glad
stayed," she says. Her smile has disappeared; she just
seems nervous now.
I continue to drink my coffee and Scully hands me the
paper before saying, "Want some toast, or bagels, or
"Only if you're having them," I say. I don't
want to wear
out my welcome. I probably should get going so she can go
back to sleep if she wants to.
She pushes back her chair and grabs her mug, passing by
on her way to the small kitchen area. Her arm brushes by
my shoulder, too close to be unintentional. I don't dare
turn my head. I don't dare breathe. She's keeping me
I develop an interest in the sports page, distracting
myself from hopeful thoughts that don't deserve to be
shattered. God knows I wish things were different, I wish
I could just take her in my arms and tell her how happy
she's still alive.
She's still wound tight, either from her experience with
Spender, or her close call on the boat. I shake off any
illusions she was flirting with me. She bumped into me,
simple and plain as that.
A platter of bagels and cream cheese appear from
along with plates and butter knives and a pitcher of milk.
Orange juice soon follows and Scully sits down to join me.
"Thanks, this is just great, Scully," I rave.
She says nothing, but her lips purse fractionally,
acknowledging the compliment. We dig in, spreading it on
thick. I'm glad she has an appetite to match mine; it's a
sure sign she's more relaxed now.
A quarter of an hour elapses before I speak. We've
devoured the bagels and emptied all our glasses. I'm ready
for another cup of coffee.
"Can I get you more coffee?" I ask.
She looks up from the paper and smiles, genuinely smiles
"I'll get it. Sit tight."
I'd roll over and play dead for you Scully, if you smile
at me like that. I try to affect an air of nonchalance
when she returns with the refilled mugs. Funny how I
thought Scully was jittery today, I'm about to jump out of
A few more swallows of java and I'm distracted from my
part of the newspaper by her small hand on mine. She's
reached across the table and taken my free hand in hers.
My heart is in my throat all of a sudden and I can sense
the difficulty she's having with her own. She squeezes my
hand once, but doesn't remove hers from its resting place.
"I'm not proud of what happened... but I hope you
understand why I went. I should have told you more. I
should have risked calling you. But I felt in control. I
was free to leave at any time."
"You don't have to..." I interrupt.
"Yes, I do. I need to tell you. I shouldn't have
the situation with the boats. Now I'm sure he had a hand
in assassinating Cobra. But Mulder... for some reason he
didn't wish me dead. And I do and don't understand that.
He is a lonely, defeated man. He's probably dying from the
look of him. But I don't think he meant me any harm. The
harm he meant to do was to you, to us. He wanted you to
mistrust me, to know I could be lured away from your side
with the right enticement. That's what I'm most ashamed of
Mulder, that I could lose your faith in me..."
Her hand tightens around mine and there are unshed tears
in her eyes. Scully prides herself on self-control, but I
see no reason why she has to bear this burden alone. I've
done plenty of stupid things that would certainly have
tried the best of partners. And she's stayed and stayed
with me. She doesn't deserve to beat herself up over this.
Releasing her hand, I rise from my seat, circle the
and kneel beside her. I take her hands into my own and
say, "I won't lose faith in you, Scully. You've stood by
me through much worse. I'm the king of misconduct, you
Scully smiles and begins to speak, but I stop her with a
shake of my head.
"You can't possibly disappoint me or hurt me any more
I have you in the past. I... I just don't want to see you
get backed into a corner by that sonofabitch. You're less
trusting than I am and it still happened. Let's... just
make sure it doesn't happen again. I don't see him handing
us any more lucky breaks."
"It won't happen again, Mulder. I promise you. I
think... I think I have a lot of questions to pursue... but
Spender is the last man on earth I'd turn to now."
I look up into her eyes and see the absolute certainty
that statement. She had felt foolish yesterday; she feels
justified today. It had happened, it was over with, we
were going to be okay.
Without thinking, I bring her hand to my lips and kiss
palm of her hand. When I realize what the hell I'm doing,
I glance at her, trying to discern whether this is welcome
affection, within our unspoken boundaries.
She smiles, a beautiful half-smile, then raises my other
hand to her own lips, kissing my palm in identical fashion.
I am made of stone, I cannot move, I cannot pry my mouth
from the soft center of her hand.
And I would have sat like that all day, my lips against
her palm, my hands in her lap... but I didn't have to, not
at all. Scully makes sure of that... she slips off her
chair and into my arms, her head against my chest.
"I need you," she says, so softly I just catch
it. I hold
her close and stroke her back gently, keeping her body
Her hands float through my hair and I feel her kisses
against my chest. I lean down and kiss her forehead, then
her brow. As if by pre-determined signal, we lean apart,
just enough to smile at one another, just enough to make it
all the more easier for our lips to meet in the middle.
It's nothing like our first kiss; it's everything I've
wanted to give her for so long. When our lips finally
part, I see her retreating, see a shyness enveloping her.
I back off. We're still embracing, still in each
arms, but I give her the time and breathing space we both
My hand caresses her cheek, then travels downward,
outlining her full lips with my thumb. I say quietly, "I
need you too, Scully. That's why I worried about you.
That's why I couldn't face you yesterday. I can't lose
She takes my face into her hands and responds, "You
We kiss, and all hesitancy is gone. Her hands clutch at
my shoulders, roam down the vertebrae of my spine, smooth
over my hipbones. I find it useless to think of
boundaries, I touch her wherever I can, wherever my hands
My fingers brush over her breasts and she gasps at the
contact, so much so that I tear myself from her lips and
look down at her, searching her eyes, making sure this is
"I'm fine," she says, then smiles at the oft-
"I really am."
"You're sure?" I ask, pushing the hair out of her eyes.
"Yes. But, well... maybe... I'd like to get
knees, and I'm sure you would too..."
I hear her loud and clear; this is going a little fast
her. It's been a long time for both of us and I can
understand her hesitation. Particularly since this
outpouring of affection seems so spontaneous, so unlike her.
I know she's not unhappy, but she may be scared, scared
that she's broken, not built something here. I rein in my
hormones and struggle from my knees to a standing position,
then help her to her feet.
"Better?" I whisper, leaning over to kiss her
with one gentle peck.
"Yes... why don't we sit on the couch? I'd like to
She pulls me along and we sit down, facing each other in
the middle of the sofa, hands interlocked, eyes fixed on
"Mulder," she says, her eyes falling to our
us. "I'm all right with this. I don't want you to think
I'm not. I can't say I haven't thought of it. I can't say
I haven't wanted it before. But I'm a little nervous. I
don't want this used against us. And when I tell you what
he said, you'll be upset and you'll want to kill him, and I
don't want that. He's going to die soon. There's no sense
in cutting short his suffering..."
Her eyes come up to meet mine and I notice what it cost
her doctor psyche to wish someone a slow and painful death.
I shake my head and wonder, "What did he say?"
She sighs and takes a deep breath into her lungs, then
"He thinks he knows how I feel about you. He said
drawn to you because you're a powerful man."
"Ha!" I can't help but react to *that* comment.
"I know, I know... but I think he doesn't mean in
money or power in the government. He means you have the
knowledge to defeat him, the power to take him down."
"I'd argue with that also," I say, shaking my head.
"I know. It's not logical, but it's also not all he
He said I will die for you, but I won't let myself love
I take this notion in, thinking about its implications,
about its impact on Scully. I don't want her to feel she's
kissed me, made any romantic move toward me, because of
what this monster said. I know she'd deny it if I asked
her but she must be questioning her own motives,
questioning why she let down her shield now, why she let me
in so easily the day after this fiasco.
I look into her eyes and bring one hand to her cheek,
"Don't let that bastard defile this. Don't let him
influence you in any way. I love you, Scully. And I think
you return those feelings. He may have made you think
about us, but he sure as hell didn't make you kiss me. I
wouldn't let you near me if I thought you didn't
reciprocate the way I feel about you. I'd ask Skinner to
transfer you in a second if I thought any emotional harm
would come to you."
Tears are welling in my eyes. This is too much. I want
to kill that bastard, just as Scully said. He's poisoning
our relationship any way he can. Not only did he use her
to kill a man, he tried to derail our partnership with this
She pulls my hand from her cheek, placing it above her
heart. I can feel its strong, steady beat and feel her
warm skin beneath my fingers.
"I told him it was 'pop psychology,' Mulder. I told
in so many words he couldn't psychoanalyze me, or you, for
that matter. But I wanted to let you know. I had to let
you know. He will try any tactic to cause dissension
between us, to separate us."
"I won't let that happen," I say firmly.
"I know. You won't," she says, with equal conviction.
After a silence of several minutes, I say, "Scully,
don't want you to feel pressured here. If this is too much,
if it's ever too much, I want to know. It's been a long
time for me too. But I'll wait for you, however long it
She smiles and lowers her eyes demurely toward our
"You won't have to wait long, Mulder... But I do need some
time to get used to being alone with you in a way I'm not
accustomed. If we could just spend some time together...
not work time, just like this. Take a walk, read on the
couch. And you don't have to stop touching me..."
She looks back up into my eyes and I smile at what I see
there. She made up her mind about this a long time ago.
It has nothing to do with Spender and everything to do with
the years we've spent together as partners and as friends.
Maybe the past few days provided the emotional catalyst for
a kiss, for a declaration of love. But it was all there
before, under the surface, waiting to break out.
I move over and take her into my arms, scattering kisses
throughout her hair, travelling downward toward her
earlobe. I kiss her there and say, "Good. Because I like
to touch you. And kiss you, Scully. You just set the
rules for now and we'll go from there..."
"Rule number one, Mulder... I don't get to make all
rules of engagement. Let's make them up as we go along...
And I agree to that most sensible notion with a most
sensible kiss, needing no 'pop psychology' to analyze
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