text file (13k)

Mulder thinks that Scully would be better off if she had never met him,
and he is shown the truth of the matter.

SPOILERS: through Kitsunegari
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.

* * * * *

*Then how come I feel like I lost?*

These closing words from his meeting with Skinner regarding the Modell/Bowman case had been echoing through Mulder's head all day. When quitting time came, somehow he couldn't bring himself to go home. Instead, after an hour of aimless driving, he found himself sitting in a seedy bar in an unfamiliar part of town looking to drown his misery.

No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't get the image out of his head: Scully raising a gun to her temple and crumpling to the floor in a pool of her own blood. In his blind rage, he had almost killed her, letting himself be pushed by Linda Bowman. He of all people should have known better. That was why Skinner had pulled him from the case, and why Scully had gone looking for evidence alone. Modell warned him not to play her game, but he did it anyway. And his partner almost died for his foolishness.

The pain of it all was still too vivid, so Mulder drained another glass and signaled the bartender for more. The benefit of being seated directly at the bar was the ready access to more liquor. Unfortunately, the drawback was that it also seemed to be the location where people advertised for company or conversation. He had already warded off two different women who had approached him for dates, which reminded him why he had given up the bar scene years ago. The fact was, for all the beautiful women who were looking for a good time, none of them were Scully. None of them were feisty, enigmatic redheads who could stand eye to eye with him at only 5 foot 3.

None of them were the partner that he was constantly putting in jeopardy for the sake of his endless crusade.

As if the abduction or the cancer hadn't been enough, she had just found and lost the only child she may ever have. To cap it all off, he almost shot her on the job. What would be next?

He couldn't find the bottom of the glass fast enough as he gestured for another before he had even finished his current drink.

"Getting drunk won't heal the pain, Mr. Mulder. Your problems will still be there in the morning, along with a hell of a headache." The unfamiliar voice penetrated his growing haze and beckoned a reply.

"No, but it'll help me forget for a few hours." A little slow on the uptake because of alcohol swimming in his bloodstream, he just then realized that the stranger seated next to him had addressed him by name. "Hey, how did you know my--." Turning to look at his interlocutor, he stopped short as he recognized the face.

Jeremiah Smith. Or, at least someone who looked like him. He was only one of a series of clones that had been a part of the grand conspiracy of lies used to manipulate Mulder over the years.

This reminder caused the agent to turn away in disgust and return to his drink. After another swig, while his eyes were fixed on the bar in front of him, he growled out, "What are you doing here?"

"I think the more important question is, what are *you* doing here?"

Mulder snorted in derision. "Everybody's an amateur philosopher." At the lack of response, he turned his head to look straight into the man's eyes. "You're the great healer. Did you come here to heal my pain?"

"My hands can heal physical pain, but it's clear that yours goes much deeper." He paused before continuing. "What would it take? What would it take to heal your pain?"

Mulder's reply came out as little more than a whisper. "To take away hers." He took another gulp of his drink to fortify himself and find his voice again. "I wish Scully had never met me. She'd be so much better off right now. She'd be a successful doctor, with a husband, and a couple of kids, maybe even a dog and a house in the suburbs. She'd be happy." His voice failed him again and he lifted his glass once more.

"Is that what you want, Mr. Mulder, that Agent Scully had never met you?"

Mulder looked at him quite earnestly. "That's what I want. I'd give anything to make it happen."

Jeremiah slapped his hand against the bar with a note of finality. "Then pay your tab and come with me."

Scoffing at him, Mulder made no move to get up. "What, are you a genie now? Are you gonna grant me my wish?"

"It's already done. Dana Scully has never met you."

This was delivered with such seriousness and conviction that Mulder began to sober immediately. Whatever this man had done, he had to find out for himself.

* * *

"Where are we going?"

The two men had exited the bar together, and Mulder followed Jeremiah Smith in silence as the latter walked with purpose toward his car and opened the passenger side door. They had driven for several minutes before Mulder finally felt compelled to inquire of their destination.

"To see Ms. Scully," Jeremiah answered. "You say that the life she could live apart from you would bring her happiness, and that would assuage your pain. I want you to see what her future is without you."

A melancholy settled over Mulder for the rest of the drive. As much as he wanted to see Scully content and at peace, he also knew it would break his heart to see her finding that happiness with someone else. But he would suck up his pain and let her go because he knew that she deserved someone better than him, a man who could make her smile every day instead of constantly causing her pain because of an empty obsession that destroyed everyone in its path.

Finally the car slowed to a stop, and he brought his attention back to his surroundings to see where Jeremiah had brought him. He was surprised to realize it was a cemetery. Jeremiah quietly exited the car and Mulder followed suit.

"What are we doing here?" Jeremiah didn't answer but only raised his arm to point at a row of headstones across the way. Mulder followed his gaze and squinted into the waning winter sun. In the direction that Jeremiah had indicated, he saw a woman kneeling in front of a grave. The sun glinted off of her hair, showing its red highlights. He took a step to the left to look at the stone in front of her and saw in large letters the name "SCULLY." He had been to this grave before.

"I donít understand. Melissa should still be alive. If Scully never met me, then Krycek never came to kill her, and Melissa didn't get caught in the crossfire."

"That isn't Melissa's grave."

He realized then that Scully's father would still have died of a heart attack and she was probably here to visit him. Since Jeremiah said no more to elaborate, Mulder quietly began to walk closer to the woman kneeling in prayer. He was careful to stay out of her line of sight as he tried to get close enough to read the first name at the top of the headstone.

He halted his approach as the woman stood up. Noting with relief that she was still turned away and could not see him standing there, he released the breath he had been holding. But as she shifted position and began to leave, he also caught his first full glimpse of her and gasped at the recognition. The reddish crown he had seen from a distance was only a trick of the sun, as the head before him was graced with flowing strawberry blonde curls. This wasn't Dana--it was Melissa.

Then who was lying in the grave?

Mulder now all but ran toward the headstone, no longer concerned about stealth, but Melissa apparently still did not hear him since she never turned back around. As he came closer, the horror he dreaded became reality, and he read the full inscription on the stone: "Dana Scully, beloved daughter and sister, 1964-1997."

Falling to his knees over the grave, his body was racked with sobs. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Scully was supposed to be happy and successful. She was supposed to have a family and a home. A normal, peaceful life. Not this. Never this.

Through his tears, he eventually became aware that Jeremiah was standing next to him. He squeaked out the one question that plagued him. "Why?"

"Because you weren't there to save her."

Mulder looked up in surprise and confusion. He couldn't form the words, but it was clear enough what he wanted to ask.

"You assumed all these years that she was taken because of you, that everything they did to her was somehow because of her allegiance to you. But you never stopped to ask, Why her in the first place? She was selected because of her genetic make-up, just like those women in Allentown and hundreds of other abductees around the country. But Agent Scully survived while the other women died of cancer. The only difference between her and them was that she had you. She had you to fight for her cause and to find the cure. You see, in this life, Dana Scully never met you, and so she died of the cancer just like all the other women who had been taken and experimented on."

Mulder felt physically ill at these words. The emotions and the alcohol had gotten to him, and he felt dazed and confused, no longer sure what was real. He needed to sleep this off, whatever it was. Somehow things would be right again in the morning. Staggering to his feet, he turned to Jeremiah. "Can you take me home now?"

Instead of turning to the car, Jeremiah looked beyond him and lifted his hand to point across the yard, just as he did before. At first Mulder didn't understand this reaction, but then his eyes followed the finger and he tried to focus on the headstone in question. Taking a step closer, his eyes finally made out the name: Fox Mulder.

There next to Dana's grave, he fell back to his knees as Jeremiah explained. "Because Dana Scully never met you, she wasn't there to save your life. You died in Alaska, when you were exposed to the alien blood. No one there knew how to treat you, so you died in the emergency room. You needed her as much as she needed you. I can't take you home, Mr. Mulder, because you no longer exist."

Leaning over Dana Scully's headstone, Mulder wept out his grief and regrets, for both of them. He was no longer aware of Jeremiah Smith's presence, and no longer concerned whether he was still there or not. Curling himself into a fetal position on top of her grave, he continued to cry until his world finally went black.

* * *

The first thing Mulder was aware of was a gurgling noise. Water was running somewhere. At first he thought it was a toilet. It would only make sense for him to be passed out in a bathroom considering how much he'd had to drink.

Cracking one eye open, he didn't see porcelain but a greenish glow. Making the connection, he sat up abruptly, immediately regretting the sudden movement as his head started pounding, but not enough to temper his relief.

He was at home, in his own apartment, on his own couch, illuminated by the glow of his fish tank.

If he was at home, then he must be alive.

And so was Scully!

Without giving it another thought, he reached for his phone and hit the speed dial. After three rings, the phone was picked up, and a very groggy voice answered.


Mulder thought it was the sweetest sound he had ever heard. "Scully." Her name came out more as a sigh than a statement.

"Mulder? What time is it?"

This thought hadn't even occurred to him. It was late and he had obviously woken her up. "Uh, I don't know."

Now more alert, Scully looked over at the clock and answered the question for him. "It's three o'clock in the morning. Mulder, what's wrong?"

He couldn't help but smile. That was his Scully, always ready to help him. He did need her, alright. "Nothing's wrong, Scully. Everything's just fine." And everything *was* fine--she was alive and well and snug in her bed. But she was no longer sleeping soundly, and he needed to correct that. "I'm sorry I woke you. Go back to sleep. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Mulder--." She started to protest. He had obviously called her for a reason.

"G'night, Scully." And then he hung up.

Trying to ignore the throbbing in his head, Mulder flopped back down on the couch and summoned sleep to return to him as well. He wasn't entirely sure what he had experienced tonight, whether it was real or just a figment of his overactive imagination, but either way, he had learned a lesson. He was simply grateful to be alive, and grateful to have a woman like Dana Scully by his side. She deserved better than him, of that he was sure, but he vowed that one of these days he would finally express to her just how important she was to him. She was as necessary to him as his next breath.

* * * * *
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Author's Notes: While this could be considered a post-ep for Kitsunegari, I don't really think of it that way; it was just a story I wanted to write, and this seemed like a good place in the canon to locate it. I've always thought that Mulder was the perfect candidate to have an "It's a Wonderful Life" kind of epiphany, and I find it intriguing to consider the possibility that Scully was destined to be a part of the whole conspiracy conundrum, regardless of her association with Mulder.

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