Title: Aftermath for shippers
Summary: Mulder returns to his apartment.
Written: October 1999
Archive: Yes, but keep my name and email on it, please
Disclaimer: Of course Chris Carter has plans for Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and the X-Files. They are, I admit, his property, and that of 1013 Productions, and Fox. But six months is too long. Herewith my version. Many hours poured into this; not a cent earned.
This is an optional extension of Aftermath 4.
Aftermath for shippers
Scully backed into a space just vacated by an old Civic with a bad muffler and straightened her car. Shifting into park, she turned to her partner with a small frown, "I really think you should have checked yourself into the hospital for a couple days."
"They couldn't find any reason to keep me."
"It just seems that it would be better medically for you to be under observation right now."
"I think it will be better *medically to stay away from hospitals for a while." He looked up and down Dante Place, the maple trees in full leaf, the ground smelling damp from a recent rain. Out in front of his building, the caretaker watered the pink and red impatiens that blazed in the shade of the evergreens. Mulder stared up at the windows to his fourth-floor apartment.
"Somehow, Scully, it seems as though none of this should be here any more. Or I shouldn't."
"It's over, at least for now. I think it's safe to believe in this world again. And your place in it." She removed her keys from the ignition, then pushed her hair back behind her ears. "Let me come up and collect a few things at your place." She got out the driver's side and locked the door.
"You were at my apartment?" He waited for her to walk around to the sidewalk and put his hand at the small of her back. He leaned close to her ear. "Not that I mind."
"I, uh, I needed to do some work there."
"Sure. Sure, come on up." He smiled at the back of her head as she unlocked the door of his building and led the way in.
" By the way," she continued as the elevator doors closed, "I had the lock to your apartment changed. With all the comings and goings…. Here, I've got your new key." She wrestled with her key chain and handed it to him.
"Thanks for looking out for me."
She lagged a few steps behind as he walked down the hall to number 42. He glanced at her as he turned the key in the new lock, but she was staring so hard out the hall window that he thought some apparition had caught her attention. The door swung open and he walked into his space, now subtly altered. Her suit jacket hung on the back of his desk chair, a pair of low-heeled shoes lay beside the couch. A coffee cup with lipstick prints held down several folders on the coffee table. There was a bed pillow on the couch along with a neatly folded blanket. On top lay pale blue pyjamas.
He looked back at her, still standing in the hallway. She took a deep breath and walked through the room past him and reached down to pick up her night clothes.
He put his hand on her wrist. "You stayed here, Scully?"
"I… Yes, I did. I was working late and…"
"And you happened to have your pyjamas with you…"
"And… OK, I just found it easier to concentrate here. I intended to have it cleaned up before you came back, but then everything happened in such a rush. I'll just gather up my things quickly…"
He didn't let go. "No, wait. Leave them for a minute." He slid his hand down to hers and laced their fingers. "I want to see." He led her first to the kitchen, scrubbed and tidied. A box of green tea stood open on the counter next to a stainless saucepan half full of water. Inside the refrigerator, four cups of organic yogurt with bee-pollen lined up on the top shelf next to the remains of a salad in a clear plastic carry-out container. Where he usually kept the beer, she had substituted a bottle of skim milk.
"Mulder? I got hungry, that's all." She sounded defensive.
She protested a little as he tugged her into the bedroom where she had vacuumed, dusted, and remade the bed. Her hairbrush lay on the dresser alongside a small bottle of Chanel 19. Inside his closet were a black suit and two blouses; her jeans hung on a hook and a navy blue sweatshirt had fallen to the floor. He picked it up and pressed it to his nose. Smiling, he released her hand and opened the door to the bathroom.
"Mulder, it will take me five minutes to pack everything up and get it out of your way."
Her pots of face cream stood on the sink and her toothbrush hung next to his. He picked up the tube of Tom's cinnamon toothpaste, rolled from the bottom. "Organic toothpaste, Scully? You are a revelation." In the medicine chest his shaving things had been rearranged to make room for 2 lipsticks, some eyeliner, nail polish, mascara, and a bottle of generic ibuprofen. He closed the mirrored door and caught her look of consternation.
He put a finger to his lips and pulled back the shower curtain, sending plastic bottles of shampoo and rinse tumbling into the tub. A pair of panty hose hung over the towel bar.
"I like it. I don't want you to take anything away."
"Don't be silly."
"I'm completely serious. I like it much better with your things here. It makes this place a home." He nodded his head and looked around the bathroom.
"I can't just leave my stuff here. I have to take it with me."
"Who said you should go? I like the idea of your stuff staying…and you with it."
She breathed out heavily and closed her eyes.
"Come on, Scully. Didn't you feel the same thing? Why were you more comfortable here? Tell me."
"I just was."
"That's not very scientific."
"It wasn't a scientific feeling."
"Then what was it?"
"I don't know. I couldn't concentrate at my apartment. There were spies at the office…"
"So you came here. Why? You had a reason."
"It's so hard to explain what I was feeling. I guess, don't laugh at me, I needed a little inspiration when I worked."
"Inspiration? Mulder's holy grotto?"
He put his hands on her shoulders and felt her warmth through the cotton shirt. She glanced at his eyes, then looked down. "At my place I kept waking up wanting you to appear in another dream. That's a foolish thing to say, isn't it? I woke up wanting you to appear in a dream."
"Not the least bit foolish." He dipped his head to try to look into her eyes.
"So that's it. I couldn't sleep there."
"So you came over here."
She nodded. "But now you're back so I don't have to imagine any…"
"Please stay. Permanently. I mean it. We can flip for the couch, Scully."
She finally smiled. "You're tired, Mulder. Help me pack."
After gathering her clothes and toiletries into her case, she agreed to celebrate his "second chance" with a glass of warm white wine on ice in mismatched wine glasses. Actually, he had said "our second chance," and kissed her on the temple, but she had simply looked down at the ice as she swirled her glass. They sat on the couch, leg to leg, mute, her shoulder resting lightly against his arm. Finally, she sighed and put her half-drunk wine on the table. "I have to go now. You need to rest."
"I'll call you later."
"Ok." She bent to slip the strap of her bag over her shoulder, lifted it, and let herself out of his apartment, closing the door softly. Her footsteps faded down the hall and a moment later the elevator door whirred open and shut. He walked over to the window and raised the blinds. The glass pane was warm against his forehead. He thought about what she had admitted under his questions and wondered, as he often did about her rare, guarded confessions, why she found some things so hard to say. Below, she emerged from the building, walked slowly to the bottom step, put her bag down, and lifted it to her other shoulder. The blue Taurus was halfway down the block. When she reached it, she opened the trunk, threw the case in, then let herself into the driver's seat. Watching, he said aloud, "Please, Scully, logic should have sent you fleeing the first day, not now."
A red Jeep slowed and pulled up beside her then drove on. Mulder started counting his breaths. When he reached twenty, he ran out of his apartment, took the stairs two at a time, and jogged the last fifty meters to her car. He tapped on the window. She leaned over and released the lock so he could slide in beside her. She had been crying.
Scully looked out the windshield and Mulder leaned back against the headrest, waiting for her to speak. She picked up her key ring from the dashboard and fingered the keys one at a time: car, office, her apartment, his. Her movements registered at the corner of his vision. "You know," she finally said, "sometimes it would be a lot easier if you could simply read my mind."
"I don't think I want to try that again. Anyway, it doesn't count unless you choose to say it." Only the jingling of her keys broke the renewed silence. Then he continued, "We've faced a lot of scary things together. Scarier than this." He took her hand and squeezed it. "I meant what I said up there. Now tell me what you want."
"That was the first time I've ever heard you describe something like a normal life, Mulder." Her voice was soft, wistful.
"First time it dawned on me what it would look like."
"Pantyhose in the bathroom and yogurt in the fridge?"
"Your life mingled with mine."
She closed her eyes briefly and sighed, smiling. "What about sleeping on the couch?"
"Well, I'd be willing to compromise on that." He slid his left hand behind her head and rubbed his thumb against her neck. She shivered slightly under his touch.
A black Saab pulled up beside the Taurus. The silver-haired driver flashed Scully a smile and mouthed, "Are you leaving?" She picked the keys up out of her lap and sorted through them. Mulder's hand was still. Finally finding the one she sought, she looked back at the hopeful face in the other car and shook her head. She handed her partner the Taurus key.
"Want to get my bag, Mulder?"
The End. On to season 7!
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