text file (90k)
After a personal tragedy has torn them apart,
Mulder and Scully wonder if their relationship
is broken beyond repair.
CLASSIFICATION: S, A
SPOILERS: diverges from canon during season 7
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: A special thanks to my beta X-PhileChick#35 (a.k.a. UnderMySkinner) for catching all those pesky typos and letting me bounce ideas off of her, and for her all around support.
New Saigon Restaurant
While the waiter set down their plates, Dana Scully took advantage of the opportunity to examine, unnoticed, the man seated across the table from her. He was graying at the sideburns, which was not so unusual for a man in his 40s, but otherwise he seemed to wear his age well. The eyes hidden behind his glasses were an interesting shade of blue, although it was hard to get a good look at them in this dim lighting. His build was average, but he seemed short to her at only 5'8" since she was so accustomed to having a man tower over her petite frame.
As her eyes moved to his mouth, Dana saw the edges curve up in a grin and realized she had been caught staring. A quick glance at his eyes confirmed this before she fixed her gaze on her own plate and tried to hide her blush behind a curtain of hair.
But Roger Loomis seemed to take it all in stride. After all, he had been stealing glances of his own earlier while she perused her menu. Such were the dynamics of any first date. He decided to show a little mercy by not pointing out the obvious but moving on to safer conversation.
"So, Dana, do you have any good med school stories to share? You must have had a psych rotation. I'm sure that experience alone could fill volumes."
Dana smiled up at her dinner companion as she considered the question. Roger was a psychiatrist, and their similar background in medicine was one of the things that had sparked their interest in each other. Just as she was about to respond with a particularly amusing anecdote, she heard the muffled sound of a phone ringing in her purse.
"Excuse me, but I need to get this. I'm waiting for some important lab results to come through." With a rueful look to punctuate her apology, she turned away slightly to answer her phone. "Scully."
"Agent Scully? This is Walter Skinner."
Both of Scully's eyebrows shot up in surprise, and even Roger could see that this was not the call she was expecting.
"Hello, sir. What can I do for you?"
"I'm sorry to bother you like this, Scully, but I wasn't sure who else to call."
It was obvious that he was hesitant to tell her something, and although he had not yet spoken the name, she knew whom this was about--and that it was not something good. A feeling of panic began to churn in her stomach.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
"It's Mulder. He's in the hospital. They're not sure if he's going to regain consciousness. He--"
"Just tell me what hospital, and I'm on my way."
En route to San Francisco International Airport
April 21, 2006
"Thanks again, Roger. You really didn't have to drive me to the airport. I could've taken a cab."
"Nonsense. It's not like I had any other plans this evening." The gentle rebuke was given good-naturedly, and he waved off her protest before she started apologizing again. "Just explain to me why you're dropping everything to run off to your ex-husband."
Scully turned her gaze to the passenger-side window, although her focus was fixed inward rather than outside the car. "It's complicated."
"Most relationships are. Look, we've still got another twenty minutes to kill before we get there." At her silence, he pressed on. "I'm not asking this as your date, or even as a psychologist. Just consider me a friend. You look like you could use someone to talk to."
Scully sighed and shifted in her seat. She did want to tell someone, because there was so much of this she had kept to herself, especially since she moved. She had been looking for a fresh start, but now she realized how impossible it was to escape her past.
Just when Roger had given up hope for the conversation, a small voice emerged from the quiet.
"Mulder was my partner, back when I lived in DC. We worked together for almost seven years before the relationship turned into something more personal. And then, I got pregnant. It was quite unexpected. You see, we thought I couldn't have children, and so we never expected.... We were both so happy about the baby, but we knew it would change our relationship at work, and so we decided to get married. It just seemed the right thing to do at the time."
Scully paused and tried to keep her emotions under control before she continued. She told herself that she was only recounting history and could do this objectively, without breaking down.
"We had a son, William. One day when he was four years old, I took him to the local playground. I was watching him play in the sandbox when I heard a scream. This little girl had fallen off the slide and injured her arm, so I ran over to help. But when I looked back to check on William, he was gone. We put all our resources into searching for him, but it wasn't until two weeks later that we caught our first lead on the case. Soon after that, the whole story came out."
Dana took a deep breath to steady herself and continued. "Our son was taken by a serial killer who had been preying on young boys in the area. The heightened publicity from our case helped the FBI to catch him, but not until it was too late. The killer knew we were coming and torched his house before the agents got there. Our son's remains were found among the shallow graves in his basement.
"It was the loss of our son that tore us apart. We had been through so much together over the years, but this was more than either of us could bear. We chose to grieve in our own ways. I found solace in the work, as I always had. I needed to keep going so that I wouldn't have time to fall apart. I didn't cry, because I knew if I started that I would never be able to stop. But Mulder cried all the time. He couldn't let go. He showed up for work late, or not at all, and he started drinking. Nothing I said could get him to snap out of it. One day it just became too much for me. The whole atmosphere in our home was oppressive. I needed to get away for awhile, to clear the air. I took two weeks of vacation and went to stay with my mother. I thought maybe the time away from each other would do us both some good. Apparently, he wanted more that just two weeks. The day after I left, Mulder filed for divorce. I haven't seen him since. That was nearly a year ago."
The signs to the airport indicated to both Roger and his passenger that the conversation would soon end. They both knew that certain parting words were in order before they went their separate ways.
"You still love him." It was not a question, really, but a confirmation of what she already knew, what she had perhaps tried to hide from herself.
The reply was quiet, but intelligible. "I've loved him for as long as I can remember."
As they pulled up to the departure area, Roger parked and stepped around to the trunk to retrieve Dana's bag. Both had wondered earlier if the evening would end with a kiss, but it was clear now that the ending would be much different than they had first anticipated.
Dana was hasty to speak so that she could get out what she needed to say. "Look, Roger, I'm sorry for how the evening turned out, but I think it's for the best. I thought I was ready to move on with my life, but I'm not. I really appreciate the ride, and the dinner, but I don't think...."
Roger spared her having to find the right words to turn him down. He stretched out his hand for a shake as he offered her a smile of reassurance. "I hope you'll still consider me a friend."
Dana reached out her hand to his and smiled in response. After they warmly clasped each other's hands, Roger leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on her cheek before she picked up her bag and turned to go.
As Scully entered the revolving door to the terminal, she could not help but think that Roger really was a very sweet man and that maybe, if things had been different, they would have gone out on a second date. But that was the last thought she gave him as her focus now turned to the man waiting for her in a hospital bed back in Washington.
DC General Hospital
April 23, 2006
It was not until Scully had arrived at the hospital later that night that she heard the full story from her former boss. Fox Mulder had been brought in with alcohol poisoning. Having drank his limit at two different bars, he passed out after stumbling into a third, and the bartender called the paramedics when she couldn't wake him. The doctors said he was lucky to be alive, and to still have his liver intact, but after his vitals stabilized he did not wake up. The only contact they could find for him was Skinner, but he was not family. If any decisions had to be made concerning Mulder's long term care, they had to be made by someone else. The only someone Skinner knew to contact was Mulder's ex-wife.
And so, in a routine that was all too familiar, Scully had taken up her bedside vigil, watching over her partner once again.
It was on the third day that Mulder finally showed some interest in emerging from his long sleep. The slight movement of his head drew Scully's attention away from the magazine in her lap, which she quickly set aside. Standing up to lean over him, she gently stroked the hair away from his temple, a gesture of tenderness and habit rather than necessity.
Gently, she encouraged him to open his eyes. "Time to wake up, sleeping beauty."
"Isn't the princess supposed to kiss me first?" His eyes were still closed, but the groggy response was what she had been hoping for and brought a smile to her lips.
"No, that was the prince, and I'm afraid that Skinner has stepped out for the moment."
A grin broke across Mulder's face as he finally started to blink his eyes open, adjusting to the intrusive light. Once his focus began to clear, his senses took in the vision hovering above him and the feeling of the soft hand continuing to stroke his brow. Mulder closed his eyes again and sighed. "I must be dreaming."
Scully pulled her hand away and withdrew a little. "If you were dreaming, I would hope that you'd find a better place for us to meet than in a hospital."
This time his sigh was not of comfort but of regret as he again opened his eyes. Scully was no longer hovering over him but was now standing next to the bed with her arms crossed in front of her--a standard defensive posture. Her tenderness and concern had passed with his return to consciousness, and now the past year stood between them like an elephant in the room.
Mulder turned his face away and closed his eyes again. Being confronted with reality reminded him painfully of why he was so reluctant to rejoin the land of the living. "What are you doing here?"
There was a moment of silence that he could not read before Scully responded. "Skinner called me. The doctors were concerned that you might not wake up again, and they needed someone here who could make decisions for you."
He did not hide the bitterness in his voice. "You should've told them to pull the plug. There was no point in wasting good bed space by keeping me alive."
Mulder's eyes were open now but he was not looking at her, so Scully moved around the bed to intercept his line of sight. She leaned over the rail and tilted her head to look him square in the eyes. "There was no plug to be pulled. You only managed to drink yourself into a coma, not into the next life. If you were looking to kill yourself, there are much better ways."
He flinched at her harsh words. With contrition in his eyes, he replied barely above a whisper: "What are you doing here, Scully?"
They both knew that the answer he sought was much different than the explanation she had just given him. Scully backed down from her assertive pose and walked back around the bed to resume her seat before responding. Mulder's eyes followed her motion so that his head was once more turned in her direction as she sat down.
Her eyes were focused on the hands in her lap when she finally spoke, her light tone failing to mask her emotions. "I was on a date when he called me. The first date I've been on in a year. I thought I was ready for it, but apparently I wasn't." Her eyes were blazing when her gaze met his again. "You don't just walk away from twelve years of partnership. You can't get rid of me that easily."
When the divorce happened, neither of them had contested it, nor had they ever talked about it. They were long overdue for this conversation.
Mulder looked away again. "I wasn't trying to get rid of you. It was obvious that you needed to move on with your life, and you couldn't do that with me as your baggage. I was just trying to do what was best for you."
"Best for me?!?" Scully stood and loomed over him again as she raised her voice. "Since when do you decide what's best for me? That's for me to decide, Mulder. It always has been. I remember making a commitment for better or for worse, and I meant it. Obviously it didn't mean the same thing to you."
"You never contested it. I knew you'd never ask for the divorce, so I spared you the guilt and did it for you."
"Don't try putting this on me, Mulder. You're the one who wanted the divorce, not me. And I wasn't about to go crawling back to a husband who didn't want me."
"You're the one who left."
"For a vacation! Not for good! But you couldn't file the papers fast enough once I was out the door. You must've gone to the lawyer's office the day I left. Was it really so easy to just end it after twelve years?"
Scully did not realize she had been leaning over him and yelling until the tears trickling down his face brought her out of her rage and back to the moment.
His quiet reply was the perfect antithesis to her raised voice. "Of course not. I just...." But he couldn't find the words to express what he really needed to say.
Scully brushed away the tears that had escaped from her own eyes and sighed as she moved away. "God, Mulder. How did things get so messed up between us? After everything we've been through, I never thought that another tragedy would pull us apart. We always relied on each other's strength to get us through whatever came our way. But somehow, we let this divide us, when we should've been holding each other together."
His whispered reply was barely loud enough for her to hear, but it caused her to raise her head and once again return to his side. "I never stopped loving you."
Scully took his hand in her own and kissed it before pressing it to her cheek that was now wet with tears. "Neither did I, Mulder. Neither did I."
DC General Hospital
April 25, 2006
Mulder's recovery came more swiftly after he regained consciousness, and conversation between the former partners came more easily after that initial exchange had helped to clear the air. They both knew that so much more needed to be said, especially as the time of Mulder's release drew near. But the fact was that they missed each other and were taking the time to simply enjoy one another's company again.
Having no other reason to be in the city, and not willing to leave until Mulder received a clean bill of health, Scully dutifully returned to the hospital every day. It was here, by his bedside, that Skinner found her one afternoon while the patient was napping.
When Skinner poked his head inquisitively through the doorway, Scully stepped out into the hall with him so that they could talk without disturbing Mulder. Skinner was also grateful for the privacy since there were things they needed to discuss that he was not eager for Mulder to overhear.
"How is he?"
"Resting comfortably, for now. His body has rid itself of the toxins and his liver seems to be functioning normally, so the doctor will probably release him tomorrow."
Skinner took a moment to regard her tired appearance. "I wasn't sure that you'd still be here. I thought maybe you'd go home after he was out of the woods."
"I didn't fly all the way out here just to run away again once he was conscious. You called me out here for a reason, and I'm not leaving until I'm sure that he'll be okay."
The now Deputy Director suppressed a wistful smile as he recognized the agent's determined pose. It had been too many years since these partners last faced him together on the opposite side of his desk.
"That's actually what I want to talk to you about. He hasn't been okay for a long time. I knew about the drinking, but I've managed to keep it under wraps at the Bureau. I thought I was doing him a favor after all he's been through, but I guess now that I was just enabling him. This time, I can't just sweep it under the rug. Officially, he's on medical leave, but OPR won't let him return to his job until he's proven that he's clean. The drinking's got to stop. I'm hoping that maybe you can talk him into going to rehab or something. If he doesn't, he'll be out of a job."
Moving back over to the door, Scully watched the man in question through the window as he slept. "I might be able to talk him into joining AA or some outpatient program, but I don't know that he'll stick to it without some accountability. If he's determined, he'll see it through. But I'm not convinced he'll be committed to it. He'll probably just agree to it so we'll let him leave the hospital, but as soon as I leave town, it's just a matter of time before he's back at the bar."
Scully turned back to face Skinner, who still looked beyond her to the man that she was just watching, as she continued. "We both have open wounds that have never healed. I think he needs to get into counseling. That may be even harder to talk him into than AA, but without it, he'll never find the willpower to quit drinking."
Skinner's gaze now returned to the woman in front of him. "What about you?"
She wasn't sure if he was asking about her own wounds or her role in Mulder's recovery, but she turned away again to face the door. Seeing Mulder stirring in his bed offered her a reprieve as she pushed the door open and avoided both questions.
* * *
After exchanging pleasantries with Mulder, Skinner took his leave. He had inquired with a glance whether Scully thought he should bring up with the agent what they had discussed in the hallway, but she silently communicated with him that it would be better if he left that conversation to her.
Perceptive as always, Mulder took note of the look that passed between the two and saved Scully the difficulty of finding a way to breach the subject.
"I don't imagine Skinner was here merely for a social call. What were you two talking about in the hallway?"
Debating for a moment how straightforward she should be, Scully decided that avoiding direct confrontation of the problem had enabled the situation for far too long. The echo of a line about being a friend who always told him the truth floated through Scully's head as she turned to look her ex-husband square in the eye.
"No, it wasn't just a social call. He wanted to talk to me about your future with the Bureau. Officially, you're on medical leave, but if you don't sober up, you won't have a job to go back to."
Mulder sighed in resignation and turned his head away. "I don't imagine they'll consider that much of a loss, and I'm not sure that I will either."
"You're a good agent, Mulder. Don't give up now. You're stronger than this. You can beat this."
At the conviction in her voice, Mulder turned back toward her with the first glimmer of hope that she had seen in his eyes in a long time. "You always believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself. I don't care about the job, Scully, but I do care about you. You're the only thing that has really mattered in my life for a long time. I won't do this for me, but I'll do it for you. If you ask me to, I'll do it for you."
With a sigh, Scully reached over to take his hand. "You have to want this for yourself. And it will take more than just a promise to stop drinking. You need help, Mulder. Professional help. That means accountability and counseling. And you have to commit to it. I know you, and I know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, but you have to want it to stick with it."
Mulder looked down at their joined hands and then replied to her quietly, "Do you think there's a chance for us?"
Her response matched his quiet tone. "What are you asking me, Mulder?"
"Will you take me back? Will you give me a chance to make things right between us?"
"It isn't that simple. We can't just pick up where we left off. You have to get clean first. And even then, it will take work, on both our parts. There are a lot of wounds that need to be healed, and a lot of old habits that we need to break. It's a long, difficult road."
"But, do you want to go down that road? That's what I'm asking. Do you want to give us another try?"
His eyes were pleading with her, but she knew that it was not a simple decision to make. Being married to an alcoholic, even a recovered one, was not a cakewalk. There were many ghosts that haunted them both, and every day together was a reminder of the son that was no longer with them. But there were so many good memories, too. Including that day at the altar when they committed to stay with each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. It was a commitment that she had made in her own heart long before that day. And, if she was honest with herself, it was a commitment that she still strongly felt. In the end, there was no choice, really. There was only the continuation of the path that she had started on long ago.
Sniffing back her tears before they escaped, Scully put on her most determined look to make sure that Mulder knew she meant business. "Only if you meet my conditions."
The hope in his eyes returned, matched with a burgeoning smile. "Name them."
"You have to get sober first. And you have to go to counseling. Once Skinner determines that you're ready to go back to work, then we can talk about us."
"Done. What else?"
Scully couldn't help but smile at his eagerness. "I think that's enough for now. But I reserve the right to establish more conditions later, if I deem them necessary."
"Anything, Scully. Anything." His eyes communicated what his words really meant--more than just meeting her conditions, he would do anything for her. He had always felt this way about her, and that had never changed.
A stillness descended as they both focused on their joined hands, each lost in their own thoughts about what they had just committed to. It was Mulder who finally broke the silence.
"Uh, Scully, what does this mean for us in the meantime? I mean, are we...?" He was struggling to find the words to get across what he wanted to say. "What are we, to each other, for now?" At her hesitation to answer, he finally got up the courage to ask what he really wanted to. "I mean, what about that guy you're seeing?"
"I'm not exactly 'seeing' him. It was only one date, and not even a complete one. Somehow I don't think I made a very good impression by ending the date early to run back to my husband."
"Your husband? Or your ex-husband?" He was still trying to get the answer to his earlier question.
Looking into his eyes, and still reading the glimmer of hope there, she found her answer. "My husband. My exasperating, impulsive, crazy, messed up, brilliant, passionate husband."
Lifting her hand to his lips, his gaze never wavered from hers as he gently kissed each of her knuckles. Letting their joined hands fall back down to the bed, he responded on a contented sigh, "My wife."
DC General Hospital
April 26, 2006
The next morning, Scully arrived at the hospital to find Mulder dressed and ready to go. His doctor had pronounced him healthy enough to leave, so Scully volunteered to give him a ride home. Anticipating his release, she had already booked a flight for that afternoon so she could get home and back to work before having to ask for more time off.
After the divorce, Mulder had kept the house, so Scully found the drive eerily familiar, although the circumstances that now brought her there had much altered with time. As she pulled up in front of the house, mentally noting that the lawn needed to be mowed and the flower beds weeded, she parked but left the engine running. There was an awkward silence in the car as neither of them was quite sure how to say goodbye.
Mulder decided to start by delaying the inevitable. "Would you like to come in for a minute?"
After a brief deliberation, Scully turned off the engine. "Alright, but I can't stay very long. I need to leave for the airport soon."
Getting out of the car, Mulder waited for Scully to join him before they walked toward the house together. A familiar hand settled on her lower back as they approached the building, withdrawing only as they arrived at the door so that he could dig out his keys.
For Scully, walking into the house was like stepping back in time. The furniture was the same (she had left most of it behind instead of paying to move it across the country), as were most of the pictures on the walls. The fish tank gurgled in the living room, and the mantle was still covered with family pictures. The photos of the Scully clan had traveled to San Francisco, but here there remained several snapshots of William, the one professional portrait of the three of them that was taken on their first Christmas together--and the wedding picture that she had intentionally left behind. But this place was no longer her home. It felt more like a museum of her past, curated by a man who still hadn't found a way to move on.
Completing her perusal of the photo gallery, Scully turned back to find Mulder in the doorway, watching her. There were so many emotions etched on his face, but he remained silent, waiting for her to speak first.
The silence stretched on, once again becoming uncomfortable. It was time for her to make her escape, except that Mulder was blocking the way. "I really should get going. I don't want to miss my flight."
"Of course." He moved slightly to the side, letting her pass by him to the entryway, but still blocking the space enough that she had to squeeze past him, brushing him as she went by.
As she stepped away from him toward the door, Mulder reached out and gently but firmly grabbed her arm. Scully stopped and slowly turned to face him. With a slight tug, he pulled her toward him, and she fell naturally into his embrace. Besides holding hands in the hospital, it was the first time they had really touched each other in over a year. Not a word was spoken for several minutes, but both held on tight, not wanting to let go again.
Finally, Scully released her grasp and started to pull away. She only moved back a step as Mulder still held her loosely in his arms, and they studied each other's faces. "I should go." She knew she sounded redundant, but at the moment she found herself too tongue-tied to say anything more original.
As Mulder let go, his right hand came up to her face to brush back an imaginary errant strand of hair. It was a gesture so familiar to both of them, and so habitual for Mulder that he didn't even realize he was doing it until he registered the sensation of his thumb brushing against her soft skin. Scully involuntarily closed her eyes and sighed at the gesture, flooded with memories of happier times.
"Can I call you?"
As she opened her eyes at his quiet request, a gentle smile graced her lips. "Yeah, I'd like that."
With that, Scully turned and left. Mulder remained in the doorway until her car rounded the corner and was out of sight before he finally turned and went back into the house.
Office of Dr. Bryan Murphy
May 18, 2006
Shifting around in the plush waiting room chair, Mulder tried to force away his nervousness. This was his third visit with Dr. Murphy in as many weeks, and so far the first two sessions had gone well. He was grateful for this fact since his options were limited--not many psychiatrists would be able to openly listen to stories about alien abduction without diagnosing the patient as schizophrenic, or worse, having him fitted for a straitjacket. This doctor had been recommended by Dr. Heitz-Werber, and so far the pairing had proved to be a successful one.
"Mr. Mulder? Dr. Murphy will see you now."
At the receptionist's invitation, Mulder stood and made his way through the open door across the room. The decor of the office managed to be soothing but not tacky, something which he found in good taste. As a psychology grad himself, he found it difficult not to constantly analyze every tactic or question to discern what game the shrink was playing now, but he and Bryan had discussed this during the first session, so both were equally aware of the tendency and how it could interfere with their progress.
Thankfully, the doctor had introduced himself by his first name and seemed comfortable being addressed in this manner by his patient. Mulder found this incredibly helpful since the psychiatrist was at least ten years his junior, another potential obstacle to their relationship. However, Mulder was a willing patient and highly motivated: he wanted to get his job and his wife back, and slaying his demons was the key to both.
The doctor's office was empty when Mulder entered, but he heard the door softly close behind him, indicating the doctor's arrival, as he was settling into his chair.
"So, Mulder, how's life back on the wagon this week?"
Much to his relief, the first name basis only extended in one direction; he had explained the preference for his surname, and Bryan had respected that.
"Oh, you know, boring as usual. I have nothing to keep me occupied all day besides talk shows. I tell you, watching those things makes me feel healthy. At least I'm not concerned that I might be the father of my twelve-year-old sister's baby. Now, those people have problems."
Three weeks after his release from the hospital, Mulder was still on medical leave. It would be at least another week before he could meet with Skinner to discuss the possibility of his reinstatement. In the meantime, inactivity was driving the lifelong workaholic nuts, despite the distractions that the Gunmen tried to throw his way every now and then.
Bryan smiled in sympathy with his quip as he settled into the chair opposite Mulder and opened his file.
"Any cravings this week?"
"I already learned from my sponsor that answering 'no' to that question is only a sign of denial and will get me nowhere, so the answer is 'yes.' There are always cravings, but none so serious to cause me a relapse yet."
"And how are the AA meetings going?"
"I think I've settled into them a bit better. I don't feel like as much of an outsider as I did at first. Now, mind you, I still keep my mouth shut about my tendency to chase after little green men, but otherwise, I feel a little more comfortable in sharing my problems."
"I imagine they've asked you to do a lot of soul searching about the source of your alcoholism. What would you consider to be the main cause?"
Mulder shifted around in his seat before answering the question. "Well, I don't think there's much mystery in that one--it was my son's murder." The previous week's session had included a lengthy discussion of this topic, and he wasn't sure how ready he was to launch into it again.
"Yes, but why alcohol? You could have responded to this tragedy in any number of ways. Why did you choose drinking?"
"Well, I suppose it had something to do with my father. It was his favorite means of coping, especially after my sister's abduction. Before, when Samantha and I were younger, Dad would always retreat to his study and have a drink after dinner. But after, he had a glass in his hand almost all the time. He wasn't a violent drunk, but more of a sullen one. He would drink to withdraw. That was the model I grew up with. I guess maybe I chose to deal with my problems in the same way."
"Tell me more about your father. What was your relationship with him like?"
"Bill Mulder was a hard man to get to know. He was gone a lot because of his job with the State Department, but when I was young, Mom always ingrained in us that Dad had an important job, so I was really proud of him. I guess I kind of idolized him like most kids do at that age. We tried to do some father-son bonding sometimes, like when we joined the Indian Guides one summer. But, we never really established a rapport with one another. After Samantha was gone, we only grew further apart. Every time he would look at me, I always felt like there was this accusation behind his eyes, like he blamed me that she was gone, because I didn't protect her. Knowing what I know now, that he knew more about her disappearance than I realized at the time, I think maybe he expected me to live up to higher expectations because I was the one that was chosen to stay behind. I'm not sure I ever really became the man that he wanted me to be."
Mulder paused for a moment and then huffed out a bitter laugh. "You know, when I first found out that Scully was pregnant, I dreaded that I would turn out to be the kind of father that my own dad was, too absorbed in his work to really be there for his kids. She always told me that I wasn't like him, that I wouldn't turn out to be like him. But in the end, I became my father after all--I became the kind of husband that he was."
"What do you mean by that? What kind of husband was he?"
"A failure. He turned to alcohol and withdrew from the family when his wife needed his support the most. In the end, she had no choice but to leave him."
"Is that what you feel happened with your own marriage? That you pulled away and left your wife with no choice but to leave?"
Mulder stared at his hands for a moment, nervously picking at a hangnail, before answering. "I know that I was a failure, that I failed her by turning to the alcohol instead of being there for her when she needed me. She left because she couldn't stand living with me anymore. The thing is, I guess I couldn't really stand to live with myself either."
"Why not? What was it about yourself that you didn't like?"
"That I couldn't protect my family. I'm supposed to be a federal officer, someone that lives to protect and to serve the public, but I couldn't even protect my own family. How can I guarantee other parents that their children will come home safely when I couldn't bring home my own son? Or my sister. Or Scully. They were all taken from me, and I couldn't do a damn thing to protect any of them. All I could do was sit by and watch while they were abducted, and I couldn't bring any of them home."
"Do you think you are experiencing survivor's guilt?"
"What?" Mulder genuinely hadn't thought of himself this way before and was surprised by the question.
"I mean, you were always the one who was left behind. Am I right in thinking that you willingly would've taken any of their places?"
"Of course. I would've given myself up in a heartbeat--I would've done anything if it meant that they wouldn't have to be taken."
"And yet, you were never given that option. So, you survived while they suffered. And there was nothing you could do about it. Do you think the drinking was a way of punishing yourself for that?"
"I suppose. But I think it was more a way of just numbing the pain."
"So, you said that you felt like a failure for not being able to protect your loved ones, and that's the person you were running away from. What about your wife? Do you think she felt the same way about you?"
"Scully? No. She was always my biggest supporter. She was always trying to tell me that it wasn't my fault, that none of it was my fault. I wanted to believe her, but I just didn't feel it was true. I don't think she left because she thought I was a failure; I think she just got tired of me seeing myself that way. You know, they say love is blind, and I think that was part of the problem. I think she loved me too much to see me for who I really was."
May 19, 2006
It was Friday, and Mulder had spent another restless day at home. But, this evening was different than the rest of the week. He had been looking forward to it for the last seven days. Tonight, he was going to call Scully.
Two weeks ago, he had finally gotten up the nerve to phone her. He was rather nervous about it and had picked up the receiver several times before committing himself to dialing her number. Even though she had agreed that he could call her, he wasn't really sure if she wanted to hear from him and was afraid of her rejection. But, the call had gone well, very well in fact, and so he decided to try it again the next week. Now, after two successful phone conversations, he had started to think of Friday nights as their "phone date" and was practically counting down the days and minutes until he could call her again.
At 9:02, he pounced. Taking into account the time difference, and knowing how Scully liked to leave work promptly by 5:00 to start off her weekends, he figured that he had allowed enough time for her to get home and maybe even eat something before her phone rang. He supposed that he should wait a little longer to give her adequate time for dinner first, but he just couldn't wait anymore.
On the fourth ring, the phone picked up and he heard her voice on the other end--but his initial enthusiasm quickly became disappointment as he recognized the voice as the recording on her answering machine.
"Hello, this is Dana Scully. I'm not home right now, but if you leave a message, I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
"Uh, hi Scully. It's me. Mulder. Um, I guess you're not home right now. I just wanted to say hi, see how your week went, that kind of thing. I'll be up for a while, so call me when you get home, if you want. So, I guess maybe I'll talk to you later. Bye."
Mulder hung up the phone. He sincerely hoped that he didn't sound as stupid as he thought he did in that message. Despite the number of years they had known each other, it was like they were starting things over at the beginning, and he felt just as nervous as a teenager trying to ask out the girl he had a crush on. And it made him feel just as giddy when he heard her voice on the other end of the phone suggesting that the girl liked him right back.
* * *
Flipping through the rotation of channels for the third time in five minutes, Mulder glanced at the clock again. Scully hadn't called back yet. Maybe she left work a little late and got stuck in traffic, he thought. Maybe she walked in the door just after he called and was waiting until after she ate her dinner to call him back. He could wait that long.
Or, maybe he couldn't. Tossing aside the remote, he swiftly walked across the room and hit redial.
Four rings. Answering machine. Apparently, she still wasn't home.
* * *
By now it was after 7:00 in California, which would have left ample time to get home from work. Mulder decided it was worth trying again.
He could always wait and call her tomorrow, but he really wanted to talk to her tonight, and now that he had the idea stuck in his head, he just couldn't let go of it.
Where could she be? Should he be worried? Surely not. He thought briefly about trying to get a hold of someone at her office to track her down but then thought better of it. Scully was no longer a field agent but a pathologist who worked regular hours, so she wouldn't be out interviewing a suspect or checking out a dangerous location.
Where would she be at 7:00 on a Friday night?
Mulder felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. She wouldn't be on a date, would she? Maybe that guy she had gone out with had called her back and asked for a second chance. He was probably a nice guy with a good job and bright smile. He could probably give her a good home; maybe he even had kids that she could love and nurture. Scully was a great mother. She deserved to be a mother. She deserved all the happiness she could find.
She deserved better than himself. If he really loved her, he shouldn't stand in her way to be with someone else who could give her the home life that he never could. It had been selfish of him to ask her to take him back. Maybe she was just appeasing him until he got his job back, and then she would try to let him down easy and explain to him that they could never be together again.
God, he could really use a drink right now.
And what would it hurt? If she wasn't going to take him back, then he couldn't think of a good enough reason to stay sober. If she rejected him, it would be too painful. A good, stiff drink could really take the edge off of that pain.
* * *
Stumbling his way through the front door, Mulder nearly collapsed on the other side as it latched behind him. He could still feel the sweat running down his back, and his body ached. The dryness in his throat reminded him that he was dehydrated, so he slowly made his way toward the kitchen.
He knew that by now he should have recognized his limits and stopped before he did his body any serious damage, but he had always been one to throw himself into what he did 110 percent. Tomorrow morning would serve as a painful reminder of why he shouldn't do this to himself anymore.
Mulder dropped the basketball on the floor as he reached into the cupboard for a glass. A pain in his knee brought the embarrassing recollection that he was by far the oldest person on the court that night. He had held his own and made some nice blocks for his team, but he wasn't as young as he used to be, nor was he in his best shape. The alcoholism had taken its toll on his body in more ways than one. It would take him a while to get back into top condition.
After guzzling the glass of water, Mulder refilled it before walking back toward the hallway. He was almost afraid to look at the answering machine in case there was no message. His disappointment earlier in the evening had almost led to disaster--in fact, it was the worst temptation he had felt since leaving the hospital--but he had been quite proud of himself for deciding to head for the Y instead of the bar and punishing his body in an entirely different way. If he didn't hear back from Scully tonight, or if he got bad news from her, he was afraid that it might undo all of his efforts.
The answering machine was indeed blinking. There was one message. Bracing himself for the worst, he hit the play button.
"Hi, Mulder, it's me. I'm sorry I missed your call earlier. I had to stay at work late to do an autopsy. It looks like we might have a serial killer on our hands, and we're working against the clock before he finds his next victim." There was a pause on the tape, and he thought that her message was finished or she had been cut off, until he heard her continue, although her voice sounded more strained. "They're young boys, the victims. And he's not just assaulting them, he's.... My God, Mulder, it's awful." There was a distinctive sniffle. "Anyway, um, just call me when you get in tonight. I'd really like to hear from you."
Without another thought, he reached for the phone and dialed her number. As he listened to the phone ring three times before she answered, he couldn't help but feel bad about the way he had acted earlier. Here she had been working late, on a difficult case, and all he could think was that she was out enjoying herself with someone else. God, he could be a selfish bastard sometimes. And then he had left and wasn't there when she called him back.... But he was here now, and she needed him.
"Hey, Scully, it's me."
Her response was a contented sigh: "Mulder."
Office of Walter Skinner
May 29, 2006
Mulder sat fidgeting on the sofa in Skinner's waiting room. His fingers absently toyed with the badge hanging from his lapel. Much to his embarrassment (and he couldn't help but think, to everyone else's amusement), he had been forced to wear a visitor's badge since his badge and weapon, including his Hoover ID, had been reclaimed by OPR until he was officially reinstated. If this morning's meeting with Skinner went well, hopefully that would happen soon.
Full of nervous energy, Mulder almost leapt out of his seat when the door to the inner office suddenly opened and the Deputy Director himself appeared in the doorway, gesturing for his suspended agent to come in. The latter quickly arose and followed him in. Both remained silent until they were seated.
"You look well, Mulder. How are you feeling these days?"
Mulder smiled slightly at his boss's euphemistic way of asking him if he was still on the wagon. "Some days are better than others, but I'm clean. I've been dutifully attending both AA and counseling sessions for the past month, as required. Frankly, sir, there isn't much else for me to do right now, and I'm starting to go a little stir crazy without the work. I don't think I'll truly start to feel healthy again until I can get back into a regular schedule."
The D.D. leaned back in his chair to consider Mulder's response. "So, do you think that you're cured?"
Mulder took a moment to answer, wondering if this was a trick question, of a sort. However, he had been to enough AA meetings to know that there was no simple yes or no response to this question. "Alcoholics are never really cured. We either have a handle on the drinking, or we don't. But we'll always be alcoholics."
Apparently pleased that he didn't hear a ready "yes," Skinner leaned forward again onto his desk. "So do you?" He quickly clarified his inquiry. "Feel like you have a handle on it?"
"I haven't touched a drink since I left the hospital. I don't know what better proof to offer than that. I won't deny that there have been cravings, but I feel like I've found ways to deal with them, and I have accountability now. It would be ridiculous to promise that I'll never relapse, but I certainly don't see that happening anytime soon. So, yes, I do feel like I have a handle on it."
"Good. I'm glad to hear that." Removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes, Skinner stood up and moved around the desk to perch on the corner, moving from his official stance to a more friendly one. "Mulder, I believe that you do have a grip on the drinking, but I want you to understand that it will be much more difficult to convince OPR. They'll want sworn affidavits from the AA leader and your sponsor that you've been attending the meetings, and they'll ask your psychiatrist for a recommendation on your progress and your fitness for duty. I wouldn't be surprised if they'd also require you to pass a psych evaluation by an FBI psychologist. Even if they do reinstate you, it may only be probationary for a while, leading to immediate dismissal if you mess up again. Chances are that they'll grill you in the meeting, try to bait you and get you to lose your temper or slip up somehow, but if you keep a cool head and tell them what you've just told me, everything should go fine. I'll pass along my recommendation for reinstatement to the committee, and hopefully by the beginning of next week we'll have you back at work."
"Thank you, sir." Mulder looked down at the hands in his lap while his superior returned to his chair. "There's one more thing I'm wondering about."
Looking up again, Mulder made eye contact with Skinner. "What job will I be returning to?"
Skinner sighed and shifted. He had anticipated this issue but wasn't yet sure how to answer it. The X-Files had been closed down about 5 years ago, shortly after William was born. Scully had returned to teaching at Quantico after her pregnancy leave, and the Bureau had refused to assign Mulder another partner because of budget cuts (and, of course, their disdain for the
X-Files division). After an incident on a case in Milwaukee, where Mulder was kidnapped by a suspect and missing for almost two days, both Mulder and his new wife had decided that he needed a position that would keep him closer to home, and out of trouble, now that he had no one to watch his back.
With Skinner's help, the former profiler had earned a desk job in the BSU. Since "Spooky" was still a living legend in that office for his unrivaled talent, and the FBI seemed happy to offer him almost any position if it meant pulling him from the X-Files, the new position was essentially a promotion and placed several young profilers under his guidance. By all appearances, he had flourished in his new role--that is, until his son's death. After this, he had retained his position in title only while most of his responsibilities were reassigned until he could again prove himself capable of his job.
Shortly after the divorce, he had come to Skinner, who had in the meantime earned a promotion himself, with a request to reopen the X-Files. Hoping that restoring Mulder to his earlier passion would reinvigorate him, Skinner had pulled some strings and agreed to take personal responsibility for Mulder in order to have his request granted. For the first month or two, it seemed like this move had indeed done the man some good, but it soon became apparent that his downward spiral was continuing, until he finally hit rock bottom.
But, if Mulder was now given back his job, would OPR truly be willing to send him back to the X-Files? If not, where would they assign him--and how long or well would he be able to tolerate another position?
At Skinner's protracted silence to his inquiry, the agent continued. "Actually, sir, I wasn't so concerned about my return to the X-Files." This earned him Skinner's full attention. "I was hoping that whatever my assignment, it might hold the possibility of a transfer to San Francisco in the near future."
Not wanting to trespass into personal territory, Skinner hesitantly responded. "I didn't realize the two of you had worked things out."
"Well, we haven't exactly. But Scully told me that if I got sober, then maybe we could give it another shot." Mulder paused for a moment and averted his gaze before quietly resuming. "I think you know how much I love her. She's the only reason I was willing to commit myself to getting clean instead of going home from the hospital and ending my sorry life." He looked back up at Skinner. "I guess I have you to thank for that. If you hadn't called her, I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now."
The melancholy turn to the conversation made Skinner somewhat uncomfortable, and uncertain whether he had actually put Scully in a difficult situation that she didn't want. "Have you talked to her about moving out there?"
"No, not yet. I'm not asking for the transfer right now. I just want to know that it's a possibility, in case things work out."
Not wanting to ask the next question, Skinner knew that responsibly, he must, especially since it was an issue that could come up in the psych evaluation. "And what happens if things don't work out?"
"Then I guess that I find another reason to carry on."
Dana Scully’s Residence
June 9, 2006
Scully had begun to look forward to the weekly calls from her...well, from Mulder. She had missed his company in the past year even more than she had realized, and hearing his voice again on a regular basis brought back memories of happier times.
Hurrying to finish putting away dinner by 7, she sat down on the couch just as the phone rang. She smiled to herself; just like clockwork. Apparently Mulder looked forward to their weekly calls just as much as she did.
"Hey, Scully, you'll never guess what I did today."
The childlike excitement in his voice was obvious, and she guessed that it had taken him a great deal of restraint to wait until their regularly scheduled time to call her and tell her about this.
"You spotted Elvis on the White House lawn?"
He responded with mock exasperation. "No, Scully, I already explained to you that Elvis is vacationing in Bermuda. There's no way he would be caught dead in the U.S. this time of year."
Choosing to ignore his pun, she turned the conversation back to the topic that apparently had him so excited. "Okay, I give. What did you do today?"
"I went to work."
There was a pause on Scully's end. "'Work' work? You mean, like 'FBI' work?"
"Yeah, Scully, they even gave me a badge and everything."
She chuckled at his intentionally childish intonation before turning serious again. "So, they reinstated you. I'm proud of you, Mulder. Really. You worked hard to get here, and it's finally paying off."
"Well, maybe you should withhold your praise until you hear what they have me doing."
"Oh no, Mulder, tell me you're not a janitor."
He laughed at her jibe. "No, but close. I'm back on anti-terrorism. Thankfully they haven't sent me after any manure yet, but it's basically the same thing. I had the distinct privilege of spending my day sifting through people's trash."
"You're not serious."
"Yeah, actually, I am. The only thing distinguishing me from the three young lads who couldn't possibly be old enough to have graduated from high school, let alone the Academy, was that I was technically designated as their supervisor. But that only meant I had to do all the real work as I trained them in the fine art of sifting refuse."
"Mulder, I'm so sorry. Oh, God--you're not working for Kersh again, are you?"
"No, I still report to Skinner as my official babysitter. Apparently no one else wants me. But, it doesn't matter, really. There are more important things in my life right now than the job."
There was an awkward silence as Scully mulled over these words. Apprehension battled with anticipation as she began to consider what this could mean for the two of them.
Mulder cleared his throat and then continued, in a feeble attempt to sound nonchalant. "So, Scully, I was thinking that maybe I'd take a trip out to California next weekend. I could fly out after work on Friday afternoon and stick around until Sunday morning. I haven't been to San Francisco in years. You could show me around a bit."
"Well, it was a just a thought. I haven't actually bought the tickets yet, so I wouldn't have to--"
"No, Mulder, I'd like that."
"Are you sure? It doesn't have to be next weekend. I could wait for a couple more weeks, if that would be better."
"No, next week is fine. I don't have any other plans."
"Okay, then...I guess I'll get the tickets."
"Are you sure you're okay with this?"
"Of course I am, it's just that.... I know I shouldn't be, but I guess I'm just nervous. I mean, I know it sounds silly, but I feel like I just agreed to go to the prom with you. This is what I wanted, but I'm not sure how it's going to turn out. And there's so much at stake."
"I know. I'm nervous, too. But this is important to me. I want to give our relationship another try, and we can't do that from 3000 miles away. I want to see the life you've built for yourself there, so I can get to know you all over again."
"That means a lot to me, that you want to do that."
"Well, you mean a lot to me. Besides, the Giants are playing the Orioles, and this may be my last chance to catch that series this year."
Scully smiled. That was Mulder, always turning a tender moment into a joke. But it was part of who he was, and she loved him for it.
SBC Park, San Francisco
June 17, 2006
"You know, Mulder, I thought you were only joking about the baseball game."
Mulder peeled his eyes away from the players warming up on the field below them and turned to Scully with a smile. "I was, but it gave me an idea. Do you realize we've never been to a ball game together?"
He regretted the words as soon as they were out his mouth. She turned away and his smile faded. He knew she was reliving the same memory that he was. Only a couple of months before William had disappeared, Mulder had taken his son to an Orioles game. Scully was occupied with a case that weekend and couldn't join them, and she insisted that the boy was too young for such a trip. It was true that he couldn't fully understand the rules of the game and spent more time watching the people around him than the field, but he had been caught up in the excitement of it all and had had a wonderful time, right up until the eighth inning when he climbed into his father's lap and promptly fell asleep. But Mulder hadn't minded that a bit.
This melancholy moment was the first time all weekend that the reconciling spouses had allowed the ghosts of the past to catch up with them. Mulder had gotten off of work early on Friday to fly into San Francisco in time for dinner. Scully picked him up at the airport and drove him to a favorite restaurant of hers. They spent the evening in pleasant conversation, catching up on each other's week, and even stayed at the eatery long enough for him to convince her to order dessert and coffee. Afterward, he insisted on taking a cab to the hotel where he had made reservations for himself rather than letting her drive him. She was grateful that he had spared her the awkwardness of whether or not to invite him back to her place, which she communicated with a smile rather than words. He made plans to meet her for lunch the next day and then kissed the back of her hand as his taxi arrived. With a contented smile, she stood there and watched it depart before returning to her own car and driving home.
Now, they both watched the field as the players stopped warming up and prepared for the first inning, but neither was really paying attention to the activity below.
If Mulder had learned anything over the previous month, it was that he could no longer run away from the past. He had to face it head on if he was ever to move on with his life.
"Scully, we shouldn't be afraid to remember the good times, even if it hurts a little. It's the only way to keep him alive."
She had put on her sunglasses and was looking away from him, so he couldn't read her expression. After a moment she replied softly, "Tell me."
Although she didn't elaborate, he knew what she was asking. Stretching out his arm across the back of her seat, he looked out across the stadium and let his mind wander back to that day in Baltimore.
"I think his favorite part was the peanuts. He was fascinated as he watched me crack open the shells. He didn't actually want to eat them--I gave him one and he just made this face and spit it out." He chuckled as his mind replayed the image. "He just wanted to be able to do it himself. He kept trying to pop one open, but his fingers just weren't strong enough. Then he ingeniously discovered that it was much more effective to stomp on them. When he finally got the first one open, he was so excited that he started jumping up and down. Right at the same time, the batter hit a double and everyone around us stood up and started cheering. I think Will thought they were all cheering for him. I know I was."
As Mulder pulled out of the memory and came back to himself, he noticed for the first time the tears streaking down his face, in spite of his smile. When he finished the story, Scully silently leaned against him, and he moved the arm draped behind her to wrap around her shoulder and pull her closer. While the crowd around them started cheering at the play on the field, the two parents sat there quietly weeping for a little boy who would never get to dream about growing up to be a baseball player.
* * *
They stayed for the entire game, although neither of them could recount much of it. Instead, they had spent the majority of the afternoon sharing happy memories, both of their son and of days long before. It had been a catharsis and a breakthrough for them; although neither spoke it, both realized that this was the first time since their son's death that they had spent time together retelling the good times instead of dwelling on the tragedy. For the first time, they were beginning to heal--together.
After the game, they spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring the city. They climbed up Telegraph Hill to walk off their hot dogs and take in the view. They wandered along the wharf and watched sea lions sunbathing in the waning afternoon light before looking for a good seafood restaurant for dinner. Having spent the day on public transportation to avoid the parking headaches, after the meal they hailed a cab, and Scully offered her address to the driver without hesitation. Mulder didn't say anything, but she looked over and could see the question in his eyes.
"Well, you can't come all the way across the country and not even see where I live, can you?"
He smiled warmly at her in response and reached for her hand as he looked out the window and watched the city around them transition from day to night.
Scully was renting a cozy townhouse in a decent neighborhood. Being in one of the priciest cities in the country, she couldn't afford much square footage, although it was more than she could have afforded before the divorce. She had relinquished possession of the house and the furniture, wanting to make a clean break, and Mulder had offered more than enough money to compensate for what she had given up. Her lawyer had even noted that it was one of the most amicable divorce settlements he had ever seen, despite the fact that the two parties refused to speak to one another directly.
The cab pulled to a stop in front of the door and she leaned up to pay the fare as Mulder disembarked and looked around the neighborhood. It was relatively quiet, with the ambient sounds of kids playing down the street and the smell of a nearby barbecue wafting through the air. As the cab pulled away and Scully walked toward the front door, he turned to follow her inside.
The furniture was new to him, but there were plenty of familiar sights and smells. He recognized immediately the lingering scent of apples and cinnamon from one of her favorite candles, and family pictures dotted the walls on all sides. There were relatively few pictures of William, and none of herself, outside of one Scully family portrait from her teenage years. He also noted there were no pictures of him, and he tried to hide his disappointment at this--until he spotted a familiar picture on the corner of her desk that sat in front of the bay window. It was a snapshot of a brown-haired boy leaning against a tree, and a brown-haired girl with braids standing next to him, nearly a head shorter. It was a picture of him and Samantha.
Scully emerged from the kitchen with two mugs of coffee in hand to see him regarding the framed portrait. As he heard her enter, he turned and reached for the mug that she offered him.
"I didn't realize you had a copy of that picture."
Scully moved to sit on the couch and he joined her. "I didn't either until a couple of months ago when I was going through a box I hadn't unpacked yet. Somehow it just didn't seem right to keep it packed away." She said no more on the subject but turned to sip from her coffee.
"So, um, I had a good time this weekend."
She turned to look at him and gave him a coy smile. "So did I. I'm glad you came."
"Then you wouldn't mind if we did this again sometime?"
"Not at all. I'd look forward to it."
They realized they were now grinning inanely at each other until the moment was broken as they both returned to their coffee.
"Uh, Scully, there's one thing we haven't talked about yet, and I'm not really sure how to say this." She turned to him with a furrowed brow, not quite sure where he was headed. "I know that we're not exactly picking up where we left off--which is a good thing, considering where we left off--but what I want to know is...how far back are we going, exactly?"
Scully continued to regard him with a puzzled look until he clarified. "I mean, are we a married couple, trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild, or are we starting all over from scratch?"
Fighting the smile that was playing at her lips as she caught his gist, she replied, "Are you asking me if this was a first date?"
He looked at her sheepishly, with a boyish charm that she could never resist. "Yeah, I guess you could put it that way."
She smiled back at him and then looked contemplatively into her mug. "I honestly don't know, Mulder. I don't know how far back we should go. I know we can't just ignore the problems that we had before. We can't just start over with a clean slate. But maybe it wouldn't hurt if we got to know each other again. Not as partners or as parents, but just as two people in love."
As she finished talking, she turned her head sideways to look at him. He tilted his head to the same angle and lifted a hand to sweep back the hair that was falling forward over her face. "I do, you know. Love you. Never doubt that."
Placing her hand over his own that was now resting against her cheek, Scully closed her eyes and thought to herself, *I just hope that's enough.*
Dana Scully's Office
July 16, 2006
Scully fingered the business card on the desk in front of her as she listened to the phone ring. On the third ring, a receptionist answered, and after a long wait on hold, her call was finally put through.
"Dana, this is a pleasant surprise. I wasn't sure if I would hear from you again."
"Hi, Roger. I'm afraid this is more of a business than a social call, although it is a personal matter."
"Sure thing. What can I do for you?"
She hesitated for a moment. She had been debating all day whether this was the right person to call, but the bottom line was that he was the only psychologist she knew in San Francisco.
"I was wondering if you could recommend a good marriage counselor."
"Ahh. Am I to take it then that you and the ex-husband decided to work things out?"
Not quite sure how to respond to that, she just squeaked out a "Yeah."
He sensed her discomfort and realized she felt awkward about making this call. "Dana, I can't say I'm not disappointed about not being able to ask you out again, but I'm genuinely happy that you two are trying to work things out. I see far too many broken relationships in this line of work. I'm kind of a romantic at heart, so I'm always rooting for a happy ending."
"Roger, I really am sorry about how that evening turned out. I had no idea that--"
"Quit apologizing. Are you sorry about getting back together with him?"
"No, I'm not."
"Then there's nothing left to apologize for. All is forgiven. Now, can we still be friends?"
Scully smiled and realized again why this man made such a good child psychologist with his easy manner and sharp wit. "I don't know. I think I'm all booked up with friends right now, so I'll have to wait and see if someone cancels and then I can fit you into an open spot."
Roger mock groaned. "Oh, God, not doctor humor. On second thought, I don't think I want you to fit me in considering what it takes to end up on your table." They both chuckled for a moment before the conversation turned serious again. "Just promise me one thing, Dana."
"What?" she replied hesitantly.
"That you'll let me meet him someday."
She smiled in relief at his request. "I think I can arrange that."
"So, I take it you're looking for someone local?"
"Yeah. Mulder's been coming out here on weekends every couple of weeks, and he's even brought up the possibility of transferring here, although we haven't really made plans yet. I was hoping we might be able to find a counselor that could meet with us on weekends or late on a Friday to accommodate our schedule. But it also needs to be someone we're both at ease with. Mulder has a degree in psychology, so it's not always easy for him to establish a good rapport with a counselor who doesn't respect him as an equal in the field."
"I see. Well, I have a couple of recommendations for you. I'll transfer you back to my receptionist so she can give you the phone numbers."
"Thanks, Roger. I really appreciate it."
"No problem, Dana. I hope things work out for you. And don't be a stranger."
Office of Janice Walters
July 27, 2006
Glancing at her watch again, Scully was beginning to get nervous. The receptionist was already gone for the evening, and Dr. Walters' door was open in invitation for them when they were ready, but Scully chose to wait in the outer office so that she and Mulder could enter the room together. If he showed up, that was.
This was their first joint appointment with the marriage counselor, who had graciously agreed to stay late on Friday afternoon to meet with them. Because they had to schedule such a late hour, they had compromised on a half hour session rather than a full hour. But the clock was ticking, and Mulder was yet to appear. His flight was supposed to arrive at 5, and the two of them had agreed to meet at the therapist's office so Scully wouldn't have to leave work early to pick him up.
After talking on the phone with and dismissing another psychologist, Scully had made an appointment to meet briefly with Dr. Walters the previous week and had immediately felt quite comfortable with her. The woman was in her mid to late fifties and had a very laid back persona, although her clothing and decor were utterly professional. Having listened to Scully's short overview of the history of their relationship, the therapist explained that she had dealt both with couples in law enforcement and with parents who had lost their children, and the two women had ended the meeting agreeing to set up a time when Mulder could join them while he was next in town.
Which should be right now, Scully thought uneasily. Just as she was reaching for her cell phone to try calling him again, the front door swept open.
"Sorry I'm late. The flight was delayed, and I never thought we were going to make it through traffic. I would've called you, but some idiot forgot to recharge his phone last night." To punctuate his rushed greeting, Mulder leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and then reached for her hand. "You ready?"
With a tight smile and a nod of agreement, she turned and led him through the open door.
"Dr. Walters? I'd like you to meet my husband, Fox Mulder."
As he extended his hand toward the woman who rose from her chair behind the desk, Mulder internally sighed in relief at Scully's introduction. She had answered one crucial question for him--they were going into this as husband and wife, rather than as some kind of pre-marital counseling.
"Mr. Mulder. Nice to meet you. I've been told not to call you Fox. I guess we can deal with your identity crisis later."
Mulder acknowledged her joke with a return smile, and she moved around her desk to a plush armchair while motioning the partners toward the loveseat opposite her. He couldn't help but note the size of it and the tactic of such an arrangement--it left just enough space that two people could sit on it without touching, but the single seat required the pair to remain in close quarters with no physical barriers between them. He wasn't quite sure what pose would be best, but as he watched Scully primly perch on the edge of the seat with perfect posture, he intentionally settled back into the cushions and extended his arm behind her. With a gentle touch to her back, he saw her visibly relax and lean back into the cushions. He also noted out of the corner of his eye that this display did not go unnoticed by the therapist.
"So, Mulder, Dana has already told me a bit about the background of your relationship and your reasons for seeking counseling, but I'd like to hear you tell it from your own perspective. Why are you here today?"
At this, he leaned forward in his seat and propped his elbows on his knees, his hands folded before him. "I'm sure she told you about what happened to our son, and maybe a little about how we both reacted to it. I decided to deal with it by drowning my sorrows in alcohol, and as a result I destroyed what was left of my family. I've given up the drinking now, and I'm seeing a counselor of my own to deal with the things that brought me to that point, but I'm here today because I want to heal my marriage." He sat up and looked at Scully directly as he continued to address the doctor. "I love my wife and I'd do anything to get her back."
"Dana, how do you feel about this?"
Although she chose to look at the doctor as she spoke, Scully reached over to Mulder's hand that was now resting on his knee and placed her own hand on top of it.
"I think he's already come a long way, and I'm proud of him for that. I appreciate how committed he is to this and how much he's gone out of his way to spend time on our relationship. But I also think we have a difficult road ahead of us. It's been easy enough over the last few months to gloss over the real problems and just have a good time together, but there were some things that went seriously wrong between us to bring us to the point where we could no longer live with each other. And I don't think we should try living together again until we've addressed those problems."
Upon this pronouncement, Scully risked a glance at Mulder. Although his face held disappointment, he squeezed her hand in acknowledgment. She squeezed his hand in return before releasing it and clasping her hands in front of her, ready to get down to business.
"Well, Dana, you obviously have thought about what some of these problems are. Where do you think we should start today?"
With her eyes riveted on her hands, she said quietly, "I need to know if he blames me for what happened to Will."
"What?" Mulder's voice was both wounded and incredulous. "How could you even think that?"
"Because I was the one watching him. If I had been paying more attention, he never would have been taken."
Her voice was stronger now, in competition with his. "And because you never accepted the fact that I grieved differently than you. Every time you accused me of not feeling his loss as deeply as you, I felt like you were telling me that I didn't love him as much as you did. That maybe somehow I didn't really want him and I let him be taken."
He sighed in exasperation and disbelief. "I wasn't accusing you of not mourning him, just of not being willing to share that with me. I never saw you cry. Not once. Even though you let me cry myself to sleep on your shoulder every night, I always cried alone." He dropped the edge from his voice and turned toward her to speak more gently. "I know how important it is for you to feel in control and not let other people see you as weak, but I thought things were different between us. Why couldn't you let me see how much you were hurting? Why did you feel you had to hide that from me?"
"Because I was afraid," she said in a small voice, not willing to look directly at him. Taking a deep breath to regain her strength, she continued. "I was afraid that if I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop. The pain was too close to the surface, and if I let it out, it would consume me. And I needed to be strong for you."
"Maybe I needed you to be weak for me," he said softly, which caused her to raise her eyes to his in question. "As chauvinistic as it sounds, sometimes I need you to be weak and vulnerable to make me feel like a real man. If I'd felt like you really needed me, then I would have pulled myself together and been strong for you, and maybe I wouldn't have been such a blubbering idiot all the time. In the end, I guess I thought that's why you left, because you didn't need me anymore. I thought that...." He brought himself up short and turned away.
"What?" Her tone encouraged him to continue.
"I thought that maybe you only married me because of the baby, and once he was gone, you didn't need me around anymore."
She paused for a moment before replying. "I guess I thought the same thing." At his puzzled look, she elaborated. "When you filed for divorce so quickly, I thought that you had only married me out of some act of chivalry because you'd gotten me knocked up and without that reason to stay together, you were eager to escape being tied down."
His voice conveyed his pain. "How can you not know after all this time that for years I had dreamed of spending my life with you?"
"Then how could you give up that dream so easily?" Her wrinkled brow expressed to him that she truly didn't understand his actions.
"Because I was falling into a black hole and I didn't want to drag you down with me."
Scully turned her body toward his to make her point more emphatically. "But that's what I signed on for. That's what marriage is all about. That's what our partnership had always been about. We don't run away from the hard times, but we stick together and support each other through it."
"Then why did you leave?" It could have been taken as an accusation, but she knew that he didn't mean it that way.
"Because I needed a chance to regroup. I needed to catch my second wind so that I could take another run at it. There were too many memories in that house, and I couldn't live with them anymore."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Turning away from him again, she carefully intoned her voice so that he wouldn't take offense at her words as she approached a sensitive subject. "You weren't exactly lucid most of the time. I felt like you were trying to carry the burden of grief for both of us, and maybe if I gave you some space, the burden wouldn't be so heavy. I thought we needed some time apart." She turned toward him again, her eyes and voice now pleading with him to understand. "Nothing else was working."
"It sounds like the obstacle here is a lack of communication." Both partners were surprised by the voice from across the room as they had been so absorbed in their own conversation. They shared a sheepish look as they both realized that it took a stranger to point out something that should have been so obvious to them.
Scully surreptitiously swiped at the tears that were threatening to run down her face, and Mulder drew in a deep breath to regain his own composure. He turned to her and said in a very somber tone, "I think I know what the real problem is."
His seriousness scared her, which she couldn't hide from her voice. "What?"
"That team building seminar we blew off in Florida. If only we'd built a tower of furniture, we never would've had these problems."
In spite of herself, a genuine laugh escaped through Scully's lips, and with its release a couple of wayward tears ran down her face. As Mulder's face broke out into a grin, she good-naturedly bumped her shoulder against his in reprimand, and he extended his arm around her to draw her closer. He was grateful to have broken the tension that had mounted, and it always melted his heart to hear her laugh.
Smiling herself at the interaction between these two, Dr. Walters took advantage of the interlude to bring things to a close. "Well, I think this has given you plenty to think about before next time: where the communication broke down between you and what changes you can make to avoid the same mistakes in the future."
As she rose from her seat, her patients followed suit. She took the moment to regard them carefully. She really had done very little for this pair today. They were much more open and more obviously in love than many of the couples she dealt with. All they really needed was a conducive environment to talk and a few nudges in the right direction.
Extending her hand to each of them in turn, the doctor said in a conspiratorial voice, "You two may not need as much counseling as you think." They all shared a smile at this, Mulder's more knowing and Scully's more shy and uncertain. Returning to her desk, Dr. Walters brought the conversation back to more comfortable ground. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get hungry. I think it's time we all headed home for some supper."
St. Mary's Catholic Church, Washington D.C.
November 11, 2006
Standing in front of the full length mirror, Scully once again ran her hands down her sides to smooth out the wrinkles that weren't really there. It was more of a nervous habit than anything, which she immediately recognized and picked up the bouquet from the table next to her to give her hands something to do.
She couldn't help but reflect back on how many changes the last several months had brought. A year ago, if anyone had told her where she'd be standing today, she never would have believed it. Back then, she was still growing accustomed to a new city and a new job, and trying desperately to bury the old wounds of the past. But the past wouldn't remain buried, and she was forever grateful for that.
Now, she looked forward to a fresh start with the only man she had ever really loved. After today's ceremony to renew their vows and a brief weekend away, they would be returning together to her townhouse in San Francisco, where Mulder had been transferred to work anti-terrorism in the local field office. Beyond that, time could only tell what life would bring them.
The squeak of a door brought her out of her thoughts, and she turned to see her mother poking her head through the opening. As their eyes met, Maggie Scully entered the room and closed the door behind her.
"Dana, honey, you look lovely."
Scully was grateful that her mom no longer felt the need to rehash their earlier debate. She had chosen to wear a cream-colored suit for this ceremony, which her mother felt was much too business-like for such an occasion. But to Scully, it seemed only appropriate since the earliest days of their relationship had been spent as federal agents in matching suits. Besides that, it was impossible for her to wear her original wedding dress since that had been a maternity dress, and she wanted to wear something entirely different today that would mark the difference in the occasion.
"Thanks, Mom." They hugged, both careful not to muss or smudge the other's outfit.
As they stepped back, Maggie took hold of her daughter's hand and looked lovingly into her eyes. "I don't know if I've told you yet how proud I am of you." Scully only waited to let her continue with what she needed to say, refusing to let the tears welling in her mother's eyes produce matching drops in her own. "I'm so proud of you for trying so hard to make this marriage work. I know how much Fox loves you. I saw it in his eyes the very first time I met him, and I think he's only grown to love you more every day. It tore me up inside when you two split up. I know you've had some rough times together, but I also know that you're both happier together than you are apart. You'll be so much more blessed for choosing to continue on this path together."
Scully hugged her mother again and accepted her words for what they were. The elder woman's Catholic heritage had prevented her from seeing the separation of the couple as a valid divorce, and, like now, she had always studiously avoided using that term to refer to their status. But Dana genuinely appreciated her mother's approval and blessing over their union. She had always wondered how her father would have reacted to Mulder, and her brothers had only offered their grudging acceptance of him at her mother's insistence. But to know that her mother recognized the love between them meant the world to her.
Glancing over her daughter's hair and brushing back an errant strand, Maggie stood back and smiled at her. "We're ready for you, dear."
"Okay, I'll be out in a minute."
Maggie slipped out quietly as Dana turned back to the mirror one last time. The butterflies in her stomach were making her uneasy because she wasn't sure why she should be nervous about this. The step they were taking today was more life-affirming than life-changing. She already considered herself married to the man, and this ceremony was simply making that official in the eyes of the law. But she couldn't help having her doubts. Had they really worked through all of their problems? Was she just fooling herself and taking a step backward when she really should be moving forward alone?
A small voice inside (that sounded a lot like Melissa) reprimanded, "You think too much, Dana." She knew that to be true. Mulder was always trying to teach her to trust her feelings. Right now, her feelings told her that she was deeply in love with the man waiting for her by the altar.
With a deep breath, she turned away from the mirror and opened the door. A short walk down the hallway brought her to the foyer of the small church, and another step brought her into view of the double doors that led to the sanctuary. They had foregone the music this time around, so there was no fanfare as she moved into the doorway and prepared to make her final journey down the aisle.
The group assembled there today was small, by their choice. In a pew to the left sat Maggie Scully and next to her Walter Skinner, two of their biggest supporters over the years. In front of them stood her groom, chatting quietly with Father McCue, the same priest who had first wed them and now agreed to assist them in renewing their commitment to one another. Scully waited silently in the doorway for her cue. This time, there would be no one escorting her down the aisle. She had already been given away; this time, she was offering herself freely to him again.
As her presence was noted, each of the party fell silent and turned their eyes to her. Skinner and her mother rose from their seats, and Dana began her approach. She smiled at each of them in turn, but when her eyes fell on Fox Mulder, her consciousness of everyone else in the room melted away. There in his loving gaze she found all the assurance she had lacked just a few moments ago.
Looking at him now, she saw not the graying temples or the signs of age, but a boyish face with a charming curl that insisted on falling across his forehead.
*Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted.*
Unwanted, he was anything but. He was wanted, desired, longed for, by this woman that had fallen under his spell so long ago.
*Actually, I'm looking forward to working with you.*
She meant it then, and she meant it still now. She looked forward to their continued journey together. After all, life with Fox Mulder had never been boring.
As she reached the altar and turned to face her beloved, one last doubt ran through her mind: Can I really live with this man again? But she knew immediately that it didn't matter. The bottom line was that she couldn't live without him.
Want to know if they live happily ever after? Curious about what really happened to William? Check out the sequel: