Author: J. T. Filipek (aka Livasnaps)
Category: Mulder/Scully Relationship
Spoilers: Two Fathers/One Son
Keywords: MSR, conspiracy
Summary: "To err is human, to forgive divine." Alexander Pope ( "An Essay on Criticism")
DISCLAIMER: Okay, they're not mine. If they had been, they wouldn't be where they are right now. I would have taken better care of them. But anyway, the characters of Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Walter Skinner, C.G.B. Spender, Jeffrey Spender-although I wish they were mine-are the sole property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox Television. Diana Fowley can be the property of whoever wants her. No copyright infringement is intended. No financial gain is expected. Just putterin' around with their lives here.
Author's Note: Criticism, comments, flames-I can take them all. Please let me know what you think, if you are so inclined.
By J. T. Filipek
RECONCILIATION: (1) the act of restoring relationship or harmony; (2) the Roman Catholic sacrament of confession and forgiveness of sin
How strange to be walking these dark, narrow hallways again, knowing that she could be here, was fully authorized to be here, and had every right to be here. No breathless running, no midnight forays. Just walking down the middle of the hallway toward the office. <Their office.> "No," she whispered to herself. There was no *our* anymore because there was no *we.*
The door, painted a bright white after the fire, was closed as she approached it. Three signs graced the door--one which said X-Files Division and beneath it two name plates, Dr. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. "Gee, I got top billing," she said bitterly. "Not enough, Mulder. Not nearly enough." She fought back the shudder that had been threatening to overcome her since she stepped off the elevator. <I can do this.>
Light from a green-shaded desk lamp greeted her as she pushed open the door. He was already there, as she knew he would be. Question number one answered. The desk Jeffrey Spender had occupied was empty, apparently waiting for her, and almost ridiculously clean and impersonal. He was sitting at the desk that used to be Diana's. She didn't know which was worse--the idea of seeing him there or the fact that the alternative was occupying it herself. He looked up at her, his face set in a careful neutral expression that was almost causing him to sweat to maintain. If he were one who prayed, he would pray that her anger was fast and intense. He craved her anger. Waiting for it had to be worse than actually experiencing it.
"Good morning, Mulder," she said quietly as she moved to her *assigned* position without looking in his direction.
*There is no God,* Mulder affirmed. *Not this. Not acting like nothing happened.* But what other reaction could there be? This was the one she knew how to do best.
"Mulder, colleagues usually greet one another first thing in the morning," she said curtly, setting her briefcase on the desk before her.
*Oh, change that. Acting like nothing happened with <attitude.>* For some reason, that made him feel somewhat better."Is that what we are, Scully? Colleagues?"
"Yes, Mulder, colleagues. People in the same field who work together. I'm sure you're familiar with the word."
"Yeah," he said with a resigned sigh. "Good morning."
She looked around the office and it felt like she'd never been there before, although she and Mulder had worked <just worked?> in it for more than five years. The walls were stark white and bare and no trace of their former occupancy remained in evidence. It both heartened and saddened her. "So, we've got to get this moving again. Where do you want to start?" Her tone was crisp and businesslike.
He knew there was absolutely no choice but to play it her way. "We're starting from scratch here, Scully. We can start anywhere you want. Is the furniture okay where it is?"
"It's fine." She hated that he knew that she desperately wanted to move the desks in an arrangement other than the one Spender and Fowley had agreed upon. "We probably should start going through the files. There's bound to be a fairly big backlog."
"Yeah," he replied. "Pretty much nothing has been done on them since we left." He fought to keep the disappointment from his face. He had been hoping she'd agree to move the furniture.
"Better start there then," she said, heading for the file cabinet.
On the cabinet were what seemed like several dozen red and white striped file folders. She took several of them over to the desk. It was difficult for her to think of it as *her* desk yet. She booted up the computer and entered her password, relieved to find that it had been restored after her suspension. She opened a new file in her notebook program and began typing in notes as she browsed through the first folder.
Mulder did the same, preferring to use both computer and written notes. He glanced up occasionally to look at Scully, who seemingly never looked up. But he knew her well, knew that her ramrod straight posture showed that everything she had was being thrown into the veneer she'd decided to adopt. He ached for her need to do that and that ache joined the pain already in his heart because he knew he was the reason for it. The morning went painstakingly slowly and by shortly after noon, Mulder couldn't stand to watch her anymore.
"Listen, I'm going to get some lunch. Can I get you anything?"
Scully shook her head. "No, I'm okay. I might go up to the cafeteria and get something to bring back here."
He nodded. Grabbing his trench coat from the coat tree in the corner, he left the office. After the door clicked shut, Scully finally allowed herself one shaky sigh.
For three days it went on like that. They were colleagues. They read files, they compared notes, they discussed cases. They said hello in the morning and good night in the evening. The work was getting done, the files organized and prioritized. Six years together had given them a certain work rhythm that even their current situation couldn't disrupt.
Scully sometimes found herself about to make a comment to him as she would have made in the past--something funny, interesting, strange--but was successful in suppressing her urge to do it. What had happened between them must never happen again, and the best way for it not to happen was to avoid actions she'd done in the past. She knew Mulder was aware of when the comments were almost made. From the corner of her eye, she would see him look up. Sometimes his face reflected hopefulness, sometimes dread. She ignored the part of her mind that could identify his facial expressions.
Mulder longed to hear her say something, anything. He couldn't start this; he didn't have the right. And besides, where would he start? Apologies, explanations, excuses--they all seemed so small next to what he had done to her. To them. But he feared greatly that she would never start it, would never discuss it again, and that one day, one day soon, they would actually be colleagues. But even being colleagues was better than the idea that if things blew up between them, she would request reassignment or might resign.
*Is that better, really?* he asked himself. *Sitting here acting courteous with her, acting like strangers. Is that better than just having her gone?*
By the afternoon of the third day, he knew the answer to that question. This had to stop, one way or another. He spent the better part of the early afternoon looking at her, making no attempt to stop when he sensed her discomfort. He knew how diligently she was working at ignoring him and he could almost admire her resolve. Finally, he spoke. "This is bullshit, Scully."
She almost asked him if he had found something in the file before him, but she found she couldn't. She knew what he was talking about.
"Mulder, I don't think..."
"Not the time, not the place? Yeah, well that's bullshit, too."
She looked up at him, her eyes cold as flint. "Stop it."
The emptiness in her eyes startled him and cut him to his core, but somehow he couldn't stop. "When is the right time? Can we get out your date book and make an appointment? Can I count on any time before the millennium? I know the place! How about a hospital? That seems to be the only place you and I ever get close to saying things that need to be said." There was desperation in his voice, but not anger.
"I'm not getting into this with you now." Her tone was tight and controlled. An almost blinding rage seethed just below the surface, and she ground her nails into her palms to keep it where it belonged. He would not have her anger, he didn't deserve it.
"The standard Special Agent Doctor Dana Scully response," he said quietly.
She sighed impatiently. "I'm outta here, Mulder. I'll take these files with me and let you know tomorrow what I think."
She headed for the door but Mulder beat her to it, blocking her way. "Let me out."
He stood before her immobile, not even bothering to shake his head. She tried to push him aside, her hands pressed firmly against his upper arms. He could feel the icy chill of her fingertips through the linen of his shirt, but he did not move.
"Let me through the damned door. Do I have to call security?"
"If you want them to hear what we have to say, call them. At this point, I don't much care who listens. But there are things we have to say." Mulder watched her eyes flash briefly, then resume their stony stare. Not acceptable. She needed her anger, he needed it--they did.
"There's nothing to talk about," she said wearily.
"We have to talk about us," he replied.
"*Us,*" she said bitterly. "We work together. We go through files. We do investigations. We either solve cases or we don't. We write reports. Don't try to make this more important that it really is." He winced at her words and a part of her exalted to see his pain.
He swallowed hard. "Is that the lie you tell yourself when you're alone, too? Do you ever even tell yourself the truth?"
"Listen to me," she said with exaggerated patience. "I am not going to do this with you, Mulder, and you can't goad me into it."
Oh, but he could and he knew it. And he hated himself just a little more that he was about to do it. But this was desperation time--down low, fighting dirty time. This was them.
He stepped away from the door and she immediately reached for the knob. He spoke so quietly she had to strain to hear him. "The truth will save you, Scully. I think it will save both of us." The words felt dead in his mouth, for he knew they would have the desired effect.
Even all her steely resolve couldn't mask Scully's sob as the air rushed out of her lungs in a gasp. She leaned her head against the door, inhaling a long shaky breath. "You bastard," she whispered through clenched teeth. "You manipulative bastard."
She cut him off abruptly. "The *truth.* Mulder, if we had a dollar for every time either of us said the words *truth* and *trust* to one another, neither of us would have to work for a living. But when it came right down to it, they were just meaningless platitudes. We've got the truth, for all the good it does us now. And the trust? Well, we both know where that lies." Rage was seeping through the dam she had so carefully constructed, and she found she couldn't muster the strength to hold it back.
She looked at Mulder standing just a foot or so away from her, his arms dangling at his side, his head bowed. And his lack of response enraged her. "You know, there is one more truth I want to know. Just one. Look at me, dammit!"
He raised his head slowly and looked into her eyes, resignation on his face.
"Who the hell is she, Mulder, and why does she get to do this to us?"
And suddenly he was very afraid--afraid that he had, once again, made the wrong decision in pursuing this with her. Because maybe being her colleague was enough. Because maybe just the chance to be with her was enough. Because the idea of her just being gone was unbearable. But committed to the course, he knew there was no going back. He had shattered her trust in him and the only chance he had to get it back--astronomically remote though it be--was to tell her the truth. It would either, indeed, save them or it would destroy them. "Diana is my ex-wife, Scully," he said quietly, fighting the urge to look away in remorse.
All Scully could hear were her sharp intake of breath and the sound of the blood pounding in her head, a harsh hiss in her ears. She felt a strange trembling in her knees that threatened to take over the rest of her body. "I can't listen to this, Mulder." She reached for the doorknob again, and it slipped somewhat in the sweat gathered in her palm.
"Scully, wait." He moved to try and block the door but the expression on her face stopped him cold, an uncontrollable shudder rushing through him.
The pain in the pit of her stomach was quickly turning to nausea, and she felt like the air in the office was closing in on her, pressing against her, trapping her. "I have to get out of here. Don't follow me, Mulder."
Then she was gone, the door slamming shut in her wake.
Scully was vaguely aware that morning had come as she sat on the sofa in her living room, where she had been all night. Dressed in sweats and heavy socks, she was wrapped in an afghan and her fingers clutched a mug of tea that had long since gone tepid. She was so cold, colder by far than she had been in that ice field in Antarctica, clinging to Mulder's unconscious body. Part of her wished they had died in that clean, cold climate. She could have died happy then, with him in her arms--the way it should be--secure in the knowledge that he had come for her because he loved her. She could have died happy, never knowing about Mulder's wife.
Mulder's wife. It explained so much about him she wondered why she hadn't guessed before. It explained why he had never even tried to follow up on the countless innuendoes he had tossed at her over the years, although he must have known there were times that he could have. <How could he have known?> It explained why, although women found him extremely attractive, he never dated. It explained why he slept on the sofa instead of in the bed he had shared with Diana.
She'd seen Mulder's bedroom, and knew that the bed simply served as another flat surface upon which he could store some of the many odd things he seemed to collect. Now, unfortunately, she could conjure up the image of them together in it, wrapped in each other's arms and that image caused more tears to course down her cheeks. She hadn't known she had so many tears to shed, and her head and body ached with the force of them.
She decided she needed more tea, anything to take away the icy emptiness and faint queasiness inside her. Walking to the kitchen, she glanced at the answering machine and saw she had six messages. Although she'd heard the phone ring throughout the night, she'd known it was Mulder and she couldn't talk to him. Turning the burner on under the teakettle, she absently looked through the kitchen for something she might be able to keep down. Finding nothing she could stand to eat, she waited until the kettle whistled and poured the steaming water over the teabag waiting in the mug. She went back to her place on the sofa.
Taking slow sips of the tea, she was startled, but not surprised, to hear the knock on her door. "Scully," Mulder's voice called to her, muffled by the barrier between them.
"Go away, Mulder," she replied, hoping he hadn't heard the hitch in her voice.
"No, we have to talk."
"Not now." *Later,* she thought, *when my heart isn't broken anymore. Forty or fifty years might do it.*
When she heard the sound of his key in the lock, she was glad she had thought to engage the safety chain. Maybe he'd get the message that she really didn't want to see him. She realized that he didn't get it when she heard him kick the door, effectively popping the chain from it mooring. He came in and closed the door behind him, trying in vain to read her expression.
"Once again testosterone triumphs over hardware," she said bitterly, breaking the silence between them.
He attempted a smile that came out as a grimace. "After all the shit we've been through, you think some cheap dime-store security chain is going to keep me away from you?"
He looked down at her--wrapped up in a blanket and still shaking, her hair tousled, her cheeks stained with tear tracks, her eyes bleary with sleeplessness--and felt a lump form in this throat. "Oh, Scully," he whispered, sitting down beside her. He was dismayed to see her edge away from him, moving to the farthest corner of the couch.
"Get out," she whispered. "Leave the key on the table and get out."
He shook his head, unable to find his voice to speak. He sought out her eyes, seeking something of the connection they had shared for so long. He found nothing there but emptiness and pain.
"Don't do this to me, Scully. Don't shut me out. Not now." The voice he finally found sounded foreign, even to his own ears.
Scully shook her head, dazed wonder and something akin to disgust on her face. "Don't do this to *you*? Don't shut *you* out? I can't believe you have the nerve to say that to me, you son of a bitch."
"Shut up," she hissed through clenched teeth. "Just shut-- the fuck-- up. For six years--a big chunk of my life, Mulder--I've listened to you tell me how I'm the only one you trust. I've followed you places no sane person would ever go, listened to you and given credence to things that went against everything I've ever believed. Time and again I put everything on the line, all because I was your so-called *one in five billion.* Except where it counts, huh? Except for the part where you can't trust me enough to tell me about your *wife.* Well, no more, Mulder."
Mulder felt as if he had taken a swift kick to the solar plexus as all the air left his lungs in a gasp. "What... "
She spoke in a measured monotone, looking past him rather than at him. "I'm going to see Skinner on Monday."
*don'taskdon'taskdon'task,* his brain screamed at him, but his mouth overrode. "Are you going to request a transfer?"
"Maybe." She hesitated a moment, and he saw her eyes narrow in determination. "No. Damn it, we've got the X-Files back and I'm not giving them up and I don't think I should have to. They're as much mine as yours. I've lost a sister, three months of my life, and the ability to have children over them. But I need some time to figure out how I can work with you, who we are to each other now."
"Who do you think we are?" he asked quietly.
"I don't know," she said with a weary sigh. "I don't have the energy or desire to think about it now and I'm not in the mood for your psychoanalytical mind games." She saw the pain that remark caused him, but felt strangely numb to it--to everything. "You better go. You kicked my door in. One of my neighbors is probably calling the police right now."
Mulder shook his head. "They won't. They know me," he said simply.
"My neighbors know you," she repeated, skepticism in her voice.
He nodded. "When you were gone, while you were... missing..." His voice was quiet and Scully could see that it was still difficult for him to talk about the months after she had been abducted by Duane Barry.
"At first, I came here to clean up and fix things so you wouldn't be reminded when you got back. Then as it got longer, I paid the rent so you wouldn't lose the place."
She was moved, as she always was, when she learned of things he had done while she was gone. Her mother had told her how Mulder had spent time with her and been there for her, how he'd never given up believing she was alive.
"I met your neighbors during that time. I wanted to know people who knew you. And I didn't want them to be concerned about the nights I spent here."
"You spent nights here?" she asked.
"Sometimes. It was the only place I could sleep, the only place I felt like my belief that you were still alive was the truth."
Scully felt some of the ice encasing her heart melt until, like a silent thief, the thought of Diana Fowley stole into her head again. "I'll pay you back for the rent," she said coldly.
To her surprise, tears came to her partner's eyes and he made no attempt to hide them from her. "Good one, Scully. Right in the heart. But then, you always were a wicked shot." His voice was low and raspy.
"There really isn't much point to my being here, is there? I can't even find a way--there is no way--to apologize to you for how I treated you. For being so monumentally wrong about everything." He bent down to place her key on the coffee table and a tear fell beside it with an audible plop. "I'm sorry."
Scully raised her eyes, really looking at Mulder for the first time since he'd entered her apartment. Before her she saw a man who would do anything for her, would kill or die for her, who had literally gone--without question or hesitation--to the end of the earth to save her life. And would do so again and again if necessary.
As she watched him walk to the door, she saw six years of her life--of their lives--literally flash before her eyes. Fear and laughter, heartache and comfort, anger and love, and so much more. Who she was now, the person she had become, was due in great measure to this man and suddenly she couldn't imagine who she would be without him. And she realized that she didn't want to know. "Mulder, wait."
He stood with his hand on the knob, not daring to hope that there was a chance she might talk to him. Unaware he was doing it, he held his breath and waited through endless seconds for her to speak again. He wished desperately for the ability to look up, to look at her, to see what she might mean. And suddenly he could. The early morning light shining through the window gave her tear-filled eyes a shimmery, other-earthly glow that tore at his heart.
"Mulder," she said softly. "How the hell did we get here? Can you make me understand any of this?"
He watched her face for a brief moment, saw her eyes pleading with him for some kind of explanation as to why he'd done what he did. And he found he had none to give her. Except that what he had done was the end product of his entire pathetic existence--and even that didn't come close to excusing how badly he'd hurt her. "You know, I want to make you understand more than anything in the world. But I don't... I don't know how to do it. Because what I did was inexcusable, Scully, and I'll regret it for the rest of my life. I'm sorry." He shuffled his feet, looking down at the floor. "Look, I'm gonna go. Talk to me Monday before you talk to Skinner, 'kay?" He turned the doorknob and began to open the door.
"No!" She screamed the word. Startled, Mulder shut the door and turned to her and saw her look of absolute fury. "Get in here and sit your ass down. You started this and, by God, you're going to finish it. Was I so wrong about us, Mulder, about what we were?"
Sitting down on the far end of the couch, he sighed and shook his head. "You weren't wrong."
"Then talk to me. I don't know what we have now, but I know that what we had is worth fighting for. Help me understand what happened." Scully leaned forward, wanting to touch his arm, his hand, him--but she couldn't bring herself to do it.
He stared down at his hands clasped between his knees. How could he explain twenty-five years of lies, deceit, and manipulation? How could he explain his blind stupidity and all that it had cost him and, more importantly, had cost her? How could he explain actions that stemmed from a complete and utter lack of hope?
"There's too much, Scully. I don't even know how to start."
"Tell me about Diana," she said, striving for a neutral tone.
"What I thought happened or the real story?" he said with a caustic chuckle.
"I think I know the real story," she replied quietly.
"Yeah," he said. "And it didn't take you ten years to figure out.
But then, you always did know why they put the *I* in FBI."
"Mulder, the only way I'm going to be able to understand this is to know what you were feeling."
"Feelings. Not exactly our strong suit." Mulder saw her look away suddenly. Automatically, he reached out to touch her forearm, pulling away after a brief touch. "Cheap shot. Sorry. Trying to deflect, I guess."
"No, I'm sorry," she said softly. "Maybe this is none of my business. I don't have the right to ask you questions like this."
He looked up at her, meeting her eyes for the first time since he'd come away from the door. "Scully," he said. "Nobody has more right to hear this than you do. It's just that, in retrospect..." He shook his head sadly.
He inhaled sharply, blowing out between pursed lips. "I met Diana when I was just about done at Quantico, late '88. There was this coffee shop near the Academy run by a Syrian guy. Bad tempered and made the nastiest coffee you ever tasted, but it kept you awake for days."
"I remember that place," Scully injected. "Toxic coffee."
"Yeah," he said, almost smiling. "Anyway, I was sitting there one morning reading the paper and this woman asks me if she can sit at my table because all the other places are taken. I didn't pay too much attention, must've muttered something that sounded like okay. I don't even think I looked up until the waitress came to the table and asked if we wanted refills. There was Diana. She smiled, I smiled. Textbook *chance* meeting.
"So we started seeing one another, talking, getting to know each other. She was just starting at Quantico, a psychologist, too, with a specialty in parapsychology. Eventually, I told her about Samantha, that she disappeared and I didn't remember what happened. She told me that if I really wanted to remember, she knew someone who might be able to help me. Heitz Werber."
Scully nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"She was with me during the sessions. She so supportive and you can't imagine what it was like to finally remember, to at least know what happened to Samantha. Scully, it felt like she had given me back a piece of my life." His voice dropped somewhat. "And it was so good not to be alone anymore. I had someone to love, someone who loved me back. In my whole life, since Samantha was taken, Diana is the only person who's ever said she loved me. I think my mother did, as much as she could, but she never said it. And my father..."
Tears came to Scully's eyes as, finally, she understood and her heart ached for him. For the first time, she considered--really considered--what his life must have been like. In her own family, *I love you*s had been distributed liberally along with hugs and kisses. She'd never once doubted that she was loved. Mulder had never once believed it. What a feeling it must have been for him to finally have it!
<She told him what you never could.>
"Mulder..." Scully began, but he interrupted her.
"Wait, let me finish. I don't want this between us anymore," he said. "We got married in Boston, civil ceremony. My parents weren't there, she didn't have any family. And it was real good for a while." His voice was quiet and far away.
"I was working in Behavioral Sciences then, she was still at the Academy. We decided not to mention it to the Bureau. I was hoping that maybe someday we could work together and that would have been impossible if they knew we were married. Anyway, one day there's a file on my desk--I don't know where it came from--about this weird case in Wisconsin where some guy had died saying my name. I poked around a bit and found that there was a file on this guy from the fifties. I requested it and they sent me this old red and white striped folder."
"An X-File," Scully said.
"Yeah," he replied. "The first one I ever saw. I told you about that case."
Scully nodded. <Except the wife part.> She pushed the thought from her head.
"I talked to Diana about it and we got to wondering if there were other cases like that. She said I should try to requisition other files designated X from records and see what happened. I did and pretty soon they just started coming in. That should have made me suspicious, I guess. You know we can't just get records on any case, and all of a sudden they're sending me all of these files that nobody was supposed to see.
"But any suspicions I might have had went out the window when I saw what was in the files. Strange stuff, UFO sightings, abductees--like Samantha. I'd bring them home and talk to Diana about them. She was interested and knew more about the paranormal than I did, so she helped a lot. Pretty soon, the Files were all we ever talked about and she started to resent taking a backseat to them. After she got out of the Academy, she was offered the position in the Anti-Terrorism Unit in Berlin. It was a great posting for someone just graduating. She sat me down one day and told me she was going to take it. It wasn't that she didn't love me, but it was a great opportunity and maybe being apart would give me more time to find what I was looking for. I thought I had." His voice was thick and strained.
"A few months later, I get annulment papers in the mail. Not divorce, annulment. She wanted our marriage erased, purged. I don't know why that seemed worse to me than a divorce but, God, it hurt. I signed the papers and sent them back to her. Then all I had were the X-Files and the only choice I had was to make them all I needed. And after a while, they were all I needed." He fell silent, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.
Finally, he spoke again. "Real story. She came in on cue, stuck to the script, hit all her marks, exited on cue. If I'd have been listening at the door when she left, I probably would have heard her sigh of relief."
Scully had been with Mulder for six years, had seen him angry, had seen him disappointed, had seen him in despair. But never in all those times had she heard this tone of voice. It was beyond description, and it tore at some essential level of her being, that part of her that she'd never allowed herself to understand, that place he'd always occupied in her soul. She shivered at this new and blinding pain, and pulled the afghan more tightly around her.
He looked over at her and wondered if she were even aware that tears were streaming down her face. She made no effort to wipe them away, huddled there in her blanket and still shaking. He saw the anguish in her eyes. *Oh, God, not that.* Her rage he could take. Her hatred would be almost unbearable, but he thought he could survive it. But not pain, that one he just couldn't take. He couldn't stand for her to look at him like that.
"Scully, you're freezing." He saw the empty mug on the coffee table. "Let me make you some more tea." *Anything to make you stop looking at me that way.*
Grateful beyond words for the excuse, he went to the kitchen and refilled the teakettle. He replaced it on the stove and turned the burner on. Automatically, he went to her room and got another afghan from a rack in the corner. He brought it back and handed it to her, resisting an almost overwhelming urge to tuck it around her himself. He returned to the kitchen, leaning against the counter for support as he waited for the water to boil. He knew they weren't done--not by a long shot--but he wasn't sure how much more he could take. Then he thought of her sitting out there on the sofa, and he knew he could take whatever he had to if it would make it better between them. If it would make it right.
Scully spread the afghan around her. She knew he'd wanted to do it and a part of her had desperately wanted him to. She could hear him in the kitchen and that same part of her wanted him back on the sofa with her. She thought about what he had told her and was stunned by it. Not the facts so much, but what he'd told her about himself. Had she ever been so open with him?
But another part of her still ached at how he'd acted toward her at the Lone Gunmen's. She'd hoped that understanding why he'd done it might make it hurt less. But the pain was still there, raw and throbbing, an almost physical sensation. It was beyond her ability to rationally process it and she didn't know what to do with it. She only knew it frightened and disturbed her to carry it around wrapped like a dark gift in her heart. But in another way it was comforting to have it, too, because if she let go of the pain, she might have nothing else. Was what they had worth giving up that pain? Mulder was telling her that, to him, it was.
He came back a few minutes later with two steaming mugs. She accepted the one he handed her with a murmured thanks, noting that he was hesitant to sit down again. She glanced from his eyes to the place he'd occupied before. He sat and looked at her and she noted that look she'd seen in the office the past couple of days--that mixture of hope and dread. And she knew in that moment that with just a touch of her hand she could make it better. If she would just touch his arm, they could be functional again. But did she want *better* or *functional*? Was that enough to give up the anger?
<That wouldn't be giving up the anger. That would be suppressing it. If you're going to give it up, give it to him. It belongs to him.>
She spoke softly, her brow furrowing somewhat as she tried to form words on her lips that had only previously existed in her mind. "When we were at the Lone Gunmen's... and I told you what we'd found out about Diana..." The words felt leaden in her mouth, heavy and difficult to dislodge. "Do you have any idea how I felt? Do you want to know how I felt?"
"I've always wanted to know how you felt."
It was such a simple statement, spoken without irony or sarcasm or rancor. And the truth of it cut like a dagger to her heart, piercing the dark gift she had wrapped there. And on the heels of that truth another came quickly behind it, a truth she'd never consciously allowed herself--she was as much to blame for where they were as he was. He *had* always wanted to know how she felt--had tried to get her to express it countless times--and she'd never been able to tell him. Would he ever have doubted her if just one time she'd told him how she felt instead of what she thought?
And suddenly she was just so tired and sad. Sad for the wasted time, sad for the fact that they'd had to get to this point. "God, Mulder, what have we done to each other?" Her hands shook, spilling tea on the afghan, and Mulder took the mug from her and set it on the table.
He turned to face her, his elbow resting on the back of the sofa. "Tell me what you felt, Scully." There was a gentle urgency to his voice that made her breath catch in her throat.
Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest as she forced herself to look into his eyes. And remarkably, miraculously, she saw what she had always seen there, but had never quite allowed herself to believe. This was Mulder--Mulder--and she was safe.
"I felt... I felt..." She fumbled for the words to say things to him she'd never said before. "Hurt, angry, betrayed." Hot tears stung her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "Mulder, it was like... It felt like I was suddenly speaking a language you didn't understand. I couldn't comprehend that you didn't get it after years and years of driving miles and miles based on far less than I'd given you. I felt like, like you'd negated everything that we ever experienced, everything we've gone through." She paused to breathe, to try and calm herself. "Mulder, I understand why you did it, as much as I can understand it, I think. But it tore my heart out that, after everything, you didn't believe me."
"I did believe you." He saw her questioning look. "Scully, after Cassandra came back, after we started finding out about the Smoking Man, the pieces started falling into place. But they... they were starting to form a picture I didn't want to see. After years of digging and struggling and begging for the truth, I found that maybe I'd asked a question I couldn't stand the answer to. You gave me the truth about Diana and, God help me, it was easier to shove it back in your face than to accept what it really meant. It meant... If Diana had betrayed me that meant she never loved me, and if she never loved me that meant..." He hesitated, wondering if he could say what came next.
"That meant nobody did," she completed his thought, and he nodded gratefully. She hadn't made him say it.
He swallowed hard and continued. "Even though I couldn't say it out loud, I believed you. Scully, I knew you wouldn't lie to me, but I couldn't say it. I'm so sorry." He paused and looked at her, wishing there was some way she could forgive him, wondering if there were any way he could forgive himself.
She nodded and looked down at her shoulder. Mulder's hand was mere inches from it. If she would only turn, just so, and face him, she could reach up touch it. She wanted to, wanted it badly. But there were things she still did not understand about that night, and those doubts gave her pause. "Mulder, what happened after I left you at the Lone Gunmen's?" She spoke so quietly that if he hadn't been expecting the question, he might have had to ask her to repeat it.
He took a deep breath. "Bad stuff, Scully, really bad stuff." He shuddered and a small sob escaped him...
...And stilled the part of her heart that still raged, that still hurt. She turned and pushed the blanket aside and brought her hand over his. He grabbed onto it like a drowning man, tears spilling through eyes closed in gratitude, his fingers intertwining with hers. She waited for him to continue, acutely aware of the sensation of rubbing her thumb across the fine hairs on the back of his hand.
Finally, he was able to speak. "I broke into Diana's apartment. I went there, she wasn't home and I broke in." Her brow knitted in surprise and confusion. "I was looking for evidence, anything that would tell me something about what she'd been doing during all those years. I hadn't gotten very far before Diana had another visitor. And who should show up but old Smokey. Said he was there looking for Spender and proceeded to tell me the story of my life. Or at least enough of it that I was *cleverly* able to fill in the holes. He told me everything. Everything. The deal with the aliens, the project, the plans for colonization. And how nothing I did could stop it and nothing I had ever done could have stopped it. Everything that had happened to me--to you, for God's sake--had been an effort to get me on board with the plan. But in the end, it had never made a difference because I'd always been part of the deal my father and C.G.B. had made. Smokey gave up Cassandra to save Jeff, my father gave up Samantha to save me." He lowered his head. "And if I gave up, I could save the one I loved. I could save you. He handed me a piece of paper that said El Rico Air Base and left.
"I sat just sat there in the dark, Scully, trying to soak it all in. Didn't take me long to put the whole thing together. Why would he be looking for Spender in Diana's apartment in the middle of the night? No, he'd come to give the piece of paper he gave to me to her. She'd been a good little soldier, she earned her place among the *saved.* Then I got to thinking about the plan and, you know, I almost had to admire how perfect it was. Everything they did fell right into place. Except you, Scully. You didn't fit into the plan. They couldn't conceive of someone with integrity and honor because they lacked those qualities themselves. So they made you pay, over and over, and you still came back and you still believed in me. Until I took care of that." He pulled his hand away, knowing he didn't deserve the comfort of her touch. But she grabbed it back and took it in both of hers to rest in her lap. "What happened then?" she asked gently, although she was certain she knew.
"It was all sort of anti-climactic from there. Diana came home and as soon as she walked in the door, I knew. And she knew I knew, although she did make a half-assed effort to cover herself. She could hardly look at me and when she finally did, there was no love there. Only something that looked a lot like pity and resignation. And, you know, I couldn't fault her for the choices she'd made because I'd just decided to make the same choice. She took the paper from my hand, and I let her have it. What the hell, it was supposed to have gone to her anyway. She'd been in the loop long enough to know what the message meant, and I told her we'd better go. And, and she kissed me, Scully. I think she was trying, in whatever way she could, to comfort me." His voice dropped to a ragged whisper. "But in that moment, I think I knew a little of what Judas must have felt. Betrayal with a kiss. But it was okay, though. I got more than thirty pieces of silver for my soul. I got you. I got to know that you would be safe."
"What made you think I'd go? Abandon my family, everyone I knew, the entire world..."
"Oh, Scully, I was so far beyond thought, beyond caring, hell, beyond hope. I didn't think about your family. I'm sorry. I thought about you. I didn't think about the world. Just you. You were the only thing that mattered, the only thing that had mattered for a long, long time." He looked up at her with tears streaming down his face. "Don't you see, Scully? It was never your rationalism and science that saved me. It was always you, just you. You saved me a thousand times. You saved me from loneliness and despair and them and myself. You snatched my soul back over and over again and they made you pay and pay. This was my one chance to know you were safe, for good and for all and, to me, it was worth whatever it cost. I walked out of there determined that you were going with me, no matter what. I was going to save you, dammit."
"Mulder..." she interrupted.
He placed his forefinger gently against her lips. "Sshh, wait. I'm almost finished. This is the good part." He removed his finger from her lips and moved his hand to cup her cheek. "I was going to save you but, in the end, you saved me again. I don't know how you did it. I certainly don't know *why* you did it. But you gave me one more chance to be the kind of man I always hoped I could be. The kind of man my father hoped I could be when he gave up Samantha instead of me. You gave me one more chance to try and stop it--to fight the future, with you beside me, right where you've always been."
"But we failed, Mulder," she said sadly.
He shook his head. "No. We're alive. If you hadn't taken me with you... If I had taken you instead, we'd have been there when the rebels attacked. You saved me, saved us."
His voice dropped as he took both of her hands in his. "Scully, I'm asking you... no, I'm begging you. Can you do it one more time? Can you save me just one more time, for good and for all? Because we're not done. The rebel action postponed the plan, but unless we stop it, it's still going to happen."
"What hope is there that we can stop it?" she asked quietly. "It's too big, Mulder."
He smiled for what felt like the first time in a lifetime. "Ah, Scully. You're never without hope. That's your gift."
She stared down at their clasped hands. "I've been without hope, Mulder."
He shook his head. "Nope, not you. I've seen you close. When you were in the hospital dying. But even then, you had hope. You had hope in me, Scully. So much hope that you were willing to go to your grave accused of a murder I'd committed, just so I could continue to fight. I need that hope again, Scully. I need you or I can't do this. Not as a colleague, but as a partner--*my* partner. If we don't do this, who will? I need you to forgive me, Scully, for not always being strong enough, for every stupid, thoughtless thing I've ever said or done, for knowing--and not ever saying--how important you are to me, how much I love you."
She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, but without hesitation. "Of course I forgive you."
"How can you?" he asked, awe and wonder in his voice.
"Because when you love someone, you forgive them," she said with a soft smile. "People you love are the only ones who can hurt you enough to need forgiveness." She moved closer and drew him to her, enfolding him into the blankets with her. She felt his arms wrap around her waist, and for the first time in hours <days, weeks, months> she felt like she might actually be warm again sometime. And the warmth was good. There was power in it, and joy.
They held one another for a long time--in comfort, in relief, in affirmation. Finally Scully pulled away somewhat and looked into his eyes. "I need you to forgive me, too," she said softly.
He looked at her, confused. "There's nothing..."
This time it was she who placed a finger on his lips. "I told you once that believing was the easy part. I was wrong, Mulder. Believing is scary and lonely and the hardest thing in the world. Forgive me for leaving you out there to believe alone for so long."
He smiled. "You may not always have believed, Scully, but you never left me alone." And he knew in his heart she never would.