“I’m fine Mulder.”
“I didn’t say anything.” He held the door open for her and after short hesitation she entered.
“Why are we here?”
That caught him off guard. “You need a place to stay. I’ve got the room.”
“I should . . . I should probably go to Mom’s.” She glanced around his apartment as though she had never been there before.
“Didn’t you tell me she was going out of town?”
Why was he watching her so closely? It was unnerving her. She was fine and she certainly didn’t need him hovering. “I . . . I could still stay there.”
“I don’t think you should be alone Scully.”
“I’m perfectly capable - “
“Yes, you are. But I’d like for you to stay here tonight. Please, as a favor to me.” She wouldn’t look at him, watching instead as he placed her overnight bag on the floor beside his couch.
After a minute he continued, “You want to clean up? Take a shower or something?” She nodded, still not speaking; “There’s clean towels in the bathroom.”
“Thanks.” She still wouldn’t look at him. She just picked up her bag and took it with her toward the bathroom.
“Scully, what do you feel like eating?”
“Nothing Mulder. I’m not hungry.” She didn’t even slow down, entering the bathroom. He didn’t protest, but she needed to eat. He placed a quick call for delivery and changed the sheets on his bed.
When she emerged, she was dressed in pajamas and completely swathed in her robe. Her hair was slicked back and she was pale. Maybe some of the paleness came from having on no makeup, but not entirely.
Without comment she made herself comfortable on the couch, feet tucked up under her. He started toward her, but the knock interrupted him. Oh yeah, the food.
He took it quickly and brought it to the coffee table. “Maybe you can eat a little now.”
She glanced up as though she had forgotten he was there. “What?”
“The food’s here Scully. Try a little.”
“Mulder, I don’t - “
“It’s Thai, your favorite.”
“Mulder I can’t. Not right now.” He nodded and left the food covered. His appetite wasn’t really good right now as well. They sat in silence, though he kept glancing over at her wanting to do more, to offer comfort, something.
Finally she leaned over and picked up the remote, quickly surfing through the channels, avoiding the news until she hit on an old movie. It took her a minute to recognize it, “Is that -?“
“The Day the Earth Stood Still. A classic.” She nodded and leaned back on the couch, seeming to concentrate on the film. He tried to relax himself, putting his feet up on the table and doing his best to extend the time between glances.
The movie was about half over when she leaned forward during a commercial and hit the mute button. “I murdered him.” She didn’t look at Mulder, but his head twisted rapidly toward her.
“Scully it was self defense.”
She glanced up then, into his eyes. “No, it wasn’t. You were there; you had your gun on him. I wasn’t in danger, not any more.”
was - ‘
”It was cold blooded murder. I need to talk to Skinner.”
“Skinner, why?” He leaned toward her, desperate to touch her but afraid she would pull away from him.
“How can I work for the Justice Department when I’m capable of murdering another human being?”
His internal temperature dropped twenty degrees. “Scully, he wasn’t human.” She shook her head, but didn’t speak. “Scully, look at me. It was justified. You didn’t know what he was going to do. He was charging me, if I had gone down, he would have been free again. It was our job to stop him.”
“He wasn’t charging you Mulder. He was stopped. I could have done it differently. He didn’t have to die.”
“Yes Scully, he did. For what he’d done to those women, for what he nearly did to you. He had to die and if you hadn’t pulled the trigger, I would have.” She looked away again and seemed to grow smaller as he watched. “Tonight isn’t a good time to make any decisions Scully. You need to take some time, get some perspective.”
She nodded rather than argue the point, then rose from the couch. “I think I’ll turn in Mulder. Do you want me to use the bed or the couch?”
“The bed. Clean sheets.” He smiled up at her. She tried to reciprocate, but it didn’t work.
“Night Scully. If you need anything . . . “ She waved, dismissing the rest of his statement and headed for the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
He collapsed back into the couch. Call Skinner? Leave the Bureau? Oh god, that couldn’t happen. Okay it was selfish, but he couldn’t handle it. He couldn’t even visualize the X-Files without her now, he didn’t want to.
Oh hell, quit kidding yourself, you can’t visualize anything without her. It’s okay living here alone, eating alone, sitting alone just because in the mornings you can go in and see her.
He sank down, reclining on the couch. He turned back to the movie but the flickering images didn’t penetrate his brain.
He jerked awake, disoriented. Why wasn’t he in his bed, he hadn’t slept on the couch since . . . Scully. She turned to him then, from her seat by the computer.
“Are you okay?” They spoke together and he tried to grin.
“I couldn’t sleep. Did I wake you?” She looked tired. He didn’t think she’d slept at all.
“No, Scully. You didn’t wake me. Can I get you anything?”
“I know where everything is Mulder. Except, maybe me.” She let her head fall back, looking at the ceiling and fell silent.
He rose then and took her hand, tugging her to her feet. “Mulder - “
“Shh.” He just held her, letting her rest her head against his shoulder. “I’ve got an idea.” She didn’t respond, but she didn’t pull away, giving him control of the conversation. “You’re going to be on administrative leave for at least a week. I can’t really accomplish anything without you. Why don’t we go somewhere?”
“Go somewhere?” She heard him, but didn’t bother to move away from his embrace. She sounded so weary, as though the question itself was enough to exhaust her.
“Yeah. We could go to Atlantic City and gamble.”
“You don’t gamble.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” His arms tightened slightly around her. “I’m feeling incredibly lucky tonight.”
“Not raining sleeping bags lucky.” He grinned as she looked up startled, blushing. “Lucky that you’re alive and well and here with me.” She looked down then and pressed her cheek into his chest. “Okay, no gambling. How about New York? Maybe see a show?”
She gave a little laugh at that. “You know where I’d like to go?”
“Your lake house.”
“You want to go to Quonochontaug?”
“Yes. Just sit in front of a fire, do nothing but relax, no phones, no computers.”
“But I could come?”
She did chuckle then. “Yeah, you could come.”
“Okay, let’s do it.”
“What?” She pulled away slightly to look up at him.
“Let’s go up to the cabin and relax for a few days.”
“I thought we were kidding around. You don’t have to take me anywhere. Besides, I need to clean up my apartment.”
“I know I don’t have to. I want to. It’ll be good for both of us. They’re not going to release your apartment for days. This would be more fun than desk duty and we both have the time coming.” She just looked at him. “Is getting away with me that bad an idea?”
“No.” He could see her thinking, weighing the possibilities, “No, I think it’s a good idea actually. We’d have to clear it.”
“I’ll call Skinner when it gets light.”
“Okay.” She straightened up, moving away from him.
“Think you can sleep now?” She shrugged lightly and moved toward his bedroom. He sank back down onto the couch and watched her disappear into his room. He breathed a sigh of relief that she was going to let him call Skinner rather than her. Her comment about leaving had torn open a wound he thought was long healed.
She jerked awake gasping, where was she? She was moving, a car? Then she felt his hand on her cheek. “It’s okay Scully. It was just a dream.” She took a shaky breath and allowed him to take her hand. “I wish I’d killed that SOB the first time we met him. Before he had the chance to hurt you again. I wouldn’t feel any guilt.”
“That’s not . . . that’s not what I was dreaming.”
“Can you tell me?” He squeezed her hand lightly.
“I don’t want to talk about it Mulder. Not now. How long have I been asleep? It is much further?”
“Not that long. We’ll be there in half an hour or so. We need to stop and get some groceries first.” She nodded and looked back out the window. He ached to help her. She shouldn’t feel guilty and if something else were bothering her, why wouldn’t she open up to him?
He pulled into the grocery shortly and she let herself out of the car before he could approach her side. They were silent entering. He took command of the cart, and steered immediately for the junk food section. She gave him an indulgent look, then turned the cart toward the fresh vegetables.
He willingly took on the role of devil’s advocate about her choices of food and between them the cart began to fill up. He watched her brighten up and try to hide it as he tossed the ice cream in. Yes, he’d do anything to bring a smile to her face.
There was some conflict over who was to pay, but he ended it by handing the cashier the money and putting the lightest bag in her arms.
Once everything was stowed in the trunk of the car she faced him, hands on hips. “I’m paying my share of the groceries.”
certainly are Agent Scully. You’re cooking them.”
”What?” But he saw the smile playing around her lips.
“I don’t even know what some of that stuff is, I’m not about to cook it. That’s the payment I want.”
She kind of grunted at him, but didn’t argue anymore, just let herself back into the car.
They carried the supplies and suitcases in; Mulder carried hers on into the bedroom. She trailed behind him. “Mulder, where did you guys sleep as kids?”
“In the loft.” He pointed to the stairs.
She looked in that direction. “I’ve never been up there.”
“Not a lot to see, come on.” He led the way up the stairs. The dust was pretty thick up there and the bunk beds tucked under the eaves looked very small.
“You can’t sleep up here, you’d never fit on that.”
“Wasn’t planning to. I’ll take the couch, like I do at home.” He sounded distracted, looking over the railing at the floor below.
“Mulder, that’s hardly fair. I’ll take the couch.”
He shook himself, coming back to the present. “Nope, I take the couch. If it gets too uncomfortable, I’ll come climb in the bed with you.” He winked at her and started back downstairs.
“Mulder, I’m sorry. Here I’ve forced you to bring me up here and now you can’t even sleep comfortably.”
He stopped on the stairs and turned to her. She was at eye level for a change. “First, you did not force me to bring you up here, I wanted to. Second, I’ll be very comfortable on the couch. And third, thanks for coming with me. I’d like to have good memories of this place again.”
Her eyes widened as he turned away from her and continued on down the stairs. Good memories?
She moved into the bedroom and uncovered the bed, putting on the clean sheets they had brought. She cleaned a little, dusting the room and airing it out. She glanced out into the main room but didn’t see him. He’d been putting away the groceries, where was he? She felt a chill even knowing that he couldn’t be far.
Hell, he was probably in the bathroom. She wandered out into the main room. The bathroom door was open and the light out. Without warning she panicked, she was alone here.
She ran to the door, jerking it open, and was outside. The car . . . the car was there. He hadn’t left her. But where was he! Tears were actually blurring her vision when she heard the thonk of an axe striking wood.
She turned toward the sound. He was splitting wood over to the side of the house. He looked up as the wood fell from the chopping block and spotted her. He dropped the axe immediately and moved to her side. “Scully? What? What’s wrong?”
She shook her head, dashing the tears from her eyes.
“What happened Scully?’ He took her arms in his hands.
“Nothing. I . . . it’s stupid, I thought . . . I didn’t know where you were.”
That admission rendered him speechless. He pulled her to him and she resisted less than he had thought she would. When she tried to pull away he forced himself to release her.
“Have a seat Scully. Let me impress you with my masculine prowess.”
“Ah come on. This is cool, my muscles ripple.”
“Oh god.” She rolled her eyes, but seated herself to be near him. Rather than comment, he picked the axe back up.
“You said you wanted to sit in front of a fire, so we’re gonna need lots of wood.” He didn’t look at her, giving her time to compose herself.
He kept his back to her for a while, as much to keep her from reading his expression as to give her time. He didn’t remember anything affecting her like this. What had happened before he got there? She hadn’t wanted to talk about it and he hadn’t pushed, but he might have to now.
When a respectable pile of wood was accumulated, he turned to her. She looked more herself than the woman that had burst from the cabin. He tugged her to her feet and positioned her arms in front of her. “Here, let’s lay a fire then start something for dinner. Okay?”
She nodded and took the wood he piled into her arms, noting that the pieces he took were more than twice as heavy. She would normally call him on something like that, but this time she just let it go.
He laid the fire while she looked over the kitchen. With him right there where she could hear him she could feel herself growing steadier, more grounded.
She pulled a pot from the cabinet and washed it, then began fixing chili. She wasn’t sure how much she could eat but the warmth and the comfort food aspect drew her to it.
She turned when the room got quiet, and found him near her, leaning against the bar and watching her prepare the meal. He smiled at her when she caught him. “I don’t often get to see you domestic.”
She shrugged lightly, “I don’t often get to be domestic. Maybe that’s the appeal.” He nodded his eyes taking in all of her. She felt her face growing warm with his regard and turned back to her preparations. She heard him shift and straighten up and felt a pang of regret that the moment was gone.
Once everything was simmering, he returned to the kitchen and turned the fire down to its lowest setting. “Let’s take a walk Scully. You haven’t seen that much of the place. The lake is beautiful.”
At her shy smile, he draped her jacket over her shoulders and they headed out the back door. They walked for quite a while, with him pointing out places that had meant something to him in the distant past, with Samantha.
He caught the shiver from the corner of his eye. “Scully? You getting chilly?” Before she could answer he took her hands in his. “Damn, you’re frozen. Why didn’t you say something?”
“I really didn’t notice; I was enjoying the walk.”
He cupped her hands into his and brought them to his lips, blowing warm air on them, then to her shock, turned her hands over and placed a gentle kiss in each of her palms. He looked down at her and smiled when he saw no outrage in her face, only surprise. “Let’s get you inside.” He swung his arm around her shoulders and turned her back toward the house, keeping her close against him.
The smell of the chili wafted to them as they entered the house and she could hear it bubbling merrily. He, however, turned her toward the couch and seated her, pulling the afghan around her shoulders. “Mulder, I can dish up dinner.”
“You cooked, I’ll serve. Let me get the fire started first.” He knelt in front of the fireplace, his back to her. She watched him smiling slightly at the thought of his ‘rippling muscles’ and secretly enjoying the care he was taking of her.
He stood then, brushing off his knees and bringing her back to the present. He winked at her and moved toward the kitchen. She knew her cheeks grew pink and hoped he would assume it was the fire.
He returned with a bowl of chili and a basket of crackers. “This should warm you up nicely.” He handed her the bowl and placed the basket on the table then returned with their ice tea and his own bowl. He sat on the floor in front of her, leaning on the couch. She had the craziest desire to run her fingers through his hair. She shook that idea off and he caught her. “Are you still cold?”
“No, I was thinking.”
“Dangerous habit Scully. Haven’t I taught you anything over the years?”
She did smile then and relaxed, letting the warmth and peacefulness of the place wash over her.
Very shortly she was yawning and he rescued the bowl from her hand as it tilted. “Why don’t you go get ready for bed Scully?”
“It’s too early.”
“Obviously not. Go on, you didn’t sleep last night. It’s catching up with you.”
“After I clean up, okay?” She started to rise.
“Not okay. You cooked; I clean. Go on.” She hesitated another moment, but he wasn’t giving in. She turned, a slight smile on her face and moved toward the bedroom.
When she emerged in a few minutes, wearing her pj’s and the inevitable robe, he was washing dishes, his hands wet and soapy. She stopped for a second, just to watch him then moved over to the counter and leaned against it. That was when he noticed her and looked up.
“Wish I had a camera.”
“Scully, you into blackmail?”
“Maybe. It is quite a sight. I’m more used to paper plates at your place.”
He harrumphed at her and continued with the dishes. She stepped closer and rose onto tiptoes to brush a kiss across his cheek by way of thanks. He turned at the last second and her kiss brushed his lips instead. For an instant the planet stood still.
“Mulder, I . . . I . . . “
He nodded. “Sleep well Scully.” He saw her shoulders relax and knew he’d been right not to comment. He could just enjoy the memory of the sensation after she went on to bed.
“Good night Mulder.” She retreated to the bedroom without another word.
He decided to get ready for bed himself. He wouldn’t be leaving the cabin. Her reaction to not knowing where he was this afternoon was still fresh in his mind. Settling in front of the fire in t-shirt and pajama bottoms, he picked up a book he’d brought - the TV reception was lousy up here - and started reading. In a few minutes the heat of the fire, even though it was dying down now, caused him to remove the t-shirt. He’d slip it back on before he dozed.
She was screaming, he couldn’t tell from pain or horror, and it didn’t matter. It was Scully. He sat up abruptly, the book falling to the floor from his chest. He snatched his gun from the coffee table and burst into her room.
Scully was sitting up in the bed, her cries incoherent. There was nothing in the room, this was in her mind. He placed the gun on the dresser and joined her on the bed. “Scully. Scully, it’s a dream. Wake up, please Scully.” His voice was soft, but she was too deep within herself. Finally he put his arms around her and she seemed to notice him.
“Mulder? Mulder!” And she was clinging to him, clutching him but still caught in whatever nightmare had gripped her.
He couldn’t break through, so finally he lifted her into his arms and carried her back to the fire. Her body needed the warmth. “Scully. Sit here; let me build the fire back up. Scully? Can you hear me?”
She finally seemed to focus on him then and managed to nod. He pulled the blanket he’d been using around her shoulders and after another look deep into her eyes, backed to the fireplace and finally turned to add wood to the fire.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him, then she rose shakily from the couch and approached him. “Oh my god.” He turned then, startled. She’d been so quiet approaching him.
Her finger gently touched his back. “Did I do this?”
“These scratches. Oh Mulder, I . . . “ He turned trying to get a look at his back. Now that she mentioned it, yeah there was stinging. She’d clawed at him when he took her into his arms, trying to get even closer.
“It’s nothing Scully. I didn’t even feel it.” She was the important thing now.
“I broke the skin, you’re bleeding.”
“Scully, forget it. Come on back to the couch. Let me get you warm.” She allowed him to lead her back and seat her, but she looked defeated, hopeless. It wasn’t a look he remembered seeing before and it frightened him.
“I can’t believe I did that.”
He shook his head, “How are you feeling? Don’t say ‘fine’ Scully.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m not fine. Mulder, what am I going to do? How can I . . . Why he is getting to me like this? I’m a professional, I’ve done this job for years.”
“He’s been your worst Scully. He got to you like I’d never seen the first time. And this time - “
“But you don’t let these people get to you. You don’t fall apart.”
“I beg your pardon, Scully. Maybe I’ve hidden it from you but - “
“No Mulder. Not like this. No one has ever put you out like this bastard has me.”
“Scully, one word - Modell.” He lifted her chin to where she was facing him. “I have my monster too.”
“Modell? I didn’t . . . I didn’t realize.”
“Really? He definitely haunts me. The first time he nearly had me murder you. The second time - watching you put that gun to your head and pull the trigger . . . You don’t want to know how many times I’ve woken up to that.”
“You and I need to meet a better class of people Scully.”
She allowed him to pull her back against him then, his arms going around her, below her breasts. He noted that she wasn’t wearing her robe. Then he realized he’d never put back on the t-shirt. He pulled her even closer involuntarily, and she accepted the comfort. They sat quietly for a while.
“Scully . . . “
She turned slightly, wasn’t he going to finish? She could feel his hesitation and felt some apprehension as he swallowed before he could continue.
He took a breath, “Scully, let me sleep with you tonight.” He felt her tense in his arms. “I’m not talking about sex Scully. I just think we’d both . . . I want you in my arms tonight. I think you’d feel safer, I know I would.” He stopped then, frightened that he’d already said too much.
“You . . . you’re probably right Mulder. I think, I think it would be okay.”
He closed his eyes in relief, wondering where he’d gotten the courage to even make the suggestion. After a moment he lifted her to her feet and moved her toward the bedroom. She didn’t resist, but he could feel her uneasiness.
“I would never hurt you Scully.”
“I know.” She said it faintly, but squeezed his hand to reassure him. He settled her in the bed, then climbed in himself. He turned her onto her side and curled around her. His warmth permeated her body, relaxing her more than she thought possible under the circumstances. She didn’t dare contemplate the feel of his hard body surrounding her.
He woke to the feel of her breasts, sans bra, pressing into his chest. She'd turned during the night and gotten even more comfortable. The feel of her breasts against him was wreaking havoc with his libido and part of his own anatomy was now pressing quite firmly against her abdomen. His mind shrieked danger, but he couldn't force his body to listen. He might have to live with this as his only memory and he was going to savor it.
She took a deep breath and snuggled closer. He had a brief frightening flashback to high school that he managed to curb.
She was waking. It took about one heartbeat for her to realize their situation. Her mind flashed back to the time when she'd cared for him when he had been drugged. He'd been unconscious, and yes she'd checked out his equipment. They'd never talked about it; he probably thought she would never do such a thing. He exceeded her imagination. He had to know she was awake, but he wasn't pulling away. Come to think of it, neither was she.
She took a breath and looked up at him. "Happy to see me?"
He laughed, breaking the tension. "Yeah, you could say that. This is how I fantasized getting those scratches on my back."
Color flooded her face. He pressed his lips against her forehead. "I think I better . . . uh . . . "
"Yeah, I guess you should."