Mulder woke slowly and stretched sore muscles. Then he smiled. It had been real, it had happened. Scully had come to his bed, she had allowed him to love her. He pulled her pillow toward him and breathed in her scent again. He almost laughed at himself, he felt like a kid at Christmas.
He hurried through his shower and dressing. Part of him wanted to call her, just to hear her voice again, but he held off. They'd be together shortly. Another smile took over his face, 'together'.
He stopped for coffee and bought her one of those sinful cinnamon buns she craved but refused to indulge in. They'd worked off enough calories last night to justify it. The woman behind the counter returned his smile and after he turned away nodded to herself. Well, he was in a good mood this morning and she had a pretty good idea why.
Scully wasn't there when he arrived, so he placed his morning offering on the small table she used. He would get her that desk. Battleship wasn't all they could play on a larger surface.
He booted up his computer and started reading his email. His glances at his watch became more frequent. Scully was never late, that was his thing. But where was she? He finally gave in and dialed her apartment. Her machine picked up, and while the sound of her voice soothed him a little as always, he needed more. When he got voice mail on her cell, he felt the first frisson of unease. She didn't turn off her cell.
He forced himself to wait another fifteen minutes, then called up to Skinner's office. "Kim? Mulder. Is Scully up there?" He hoped he sounded casual.
"I haven't seen her, Agent Mulder. She didn't have an appointment."
"Yeah, thought she might have called or . . . "
"AD Skinner is in his regular staff meeting. He hasn't gotten any calls."
"Okay. I'll talk to you later."
"Is everything all right?" Kim's voice now held a note of concern. Shit, he hadn't meant to set off any alarms.
"Yeah, everything's fine. Thanks." He hung up, now having to face the truth. Something wasn't 'fine' and he needed to know what. Was she avoiding him? She hadn't seemed upset when she left; kissing him and saying she'd see him at work. Had she changed her mind? Had something caused her to rethink what had happened? To hell with this. He slipped on his suit coat and after glancing at the cooling coffee and bun, retraced his steps to the garage.
He'd taken her regular route home, but hadn't spotted her. Her car was gone. Still he hurried to her apartment, letting himself in with little effort.
He stopped just inside the door, something was . . . wrong. He sniffed the air and stiffened. Smoke, cigarette smoke. No! That SOB hadn't talked her into leaving with him again. No! They'd talked about that, she knew better. "Scully?"
She didn't answer, the place was empty. He spotted her cell phone in the charger by her desktop computer. That frightened him on a level he couldn't define. She never forgot things like that, not when she left on her own. Had he, had Spender taken her? He entered her bedroom, way past uneasy now. The bed was made, but indented. He opened the closet. Her large suitcase was missing as well as her overnight bag. He ducked into the bathroom. When they traveled she always carried those small sample size bottles of shampoo and stuff. Now as he looked around, he saw that her full size bottles were gone. He hurried back to the bedroom and jerked open some drawers. They were nearly empty. She had packed as though . . . as though she was going to be gone for a long time.
He sank onto the foot of her bed, unable to formulate a coherent thought. This room had always soothed him; he'd snuck in here often when she wasn't paying attention. Now he felt cold. He glanced back at her dresser and caught the small gleam of the chain. He rose again and stood over it. Her cross. She had removed it, left it. For him? Or because the sin she had committed was too large.
He found it in his hand, unable to resist. Where was she? And why had she left?
She had enjoyed last night. Had it been so long that he couldn’t tell if a woman was faking it? No, not Scully. She wouldn’t do that. So where the fuck was she?
He jerked violently when his cell phone rang in his pocket. He yanked it out, “Scully?”
“No. What’s going on?” Skinner’s voice boomed through the phone.
“Is Agent Scully in trouble?”
“I, uh, she
didn’t come to work this morning. I decided to check on her.”
“Where are you now?”
“She’s not here. Her luggage is missing, all of it.”
There was silence for a moment. “She packed. Do you think she left on her own?”
“I don’t know. I think . . . I think Spender was here.”
“Spender?” Skinner muttered an oath. “What do you want to do?”
Mulder’s eyes closed for an instant in relief. “Her car’s missing. We need to track it, put a trace on her credit cards.”
“We’ll have to list her as missing. It’s not been twenty-four hours.”
“If you’re planning to go by the book with Spender involved - “
“No, you’re right. Get back down here. I’ll have everything in place.” Skinner broke the connection.
“Mulder, get up here.” Skinner’s voice sounded in his ear. He dropped the receiver back in the cradle and took off up the stairs. Word? Finally? God, it had to be. None of his leads had panned out. This had been the longest three weeks of his life.
Spender was no where to be found. He's checked every rat hole personally. He'd called in favors, smoozed with air line reservationists, and managed not to slug any of his fellow employees who watched him every time he stuck his head out of his basement. That last was getting harder to do.
There was no evidence that she was injured. She had made her own way to Richmond.
That had taken time to discover, but she had been alone as far as anyone knew. Her car had yielded no evidence that anyone had been with her.
But she hadn't contacted him.
That scared him the most. No contact. If she were able . . . No, he couldn't go there. That fear was coming very close to shutting him down and he couldn't afford not to be on top of his form. No investigation was more important.
The door was open and Kim waved him on inside. She looked at him closely as he hurried past. The man looked like hell. He hadn’t shaved again this morning and she thought maybe he had slept in his suit, if he had slept. He pushed the door closed behind him. “Sir?”
“I just received an email from Scully.”
Mulder moved around the desk. Skinner kept quiet, allowing him to read the message over his shoulder.
“Assistant Director Skinner - I apologize for the delay in sending this email, but I am tendering my resignation, for personal reasons, from the Bureau. My resignation is effective immediately. A hard copy, with my signature, is being sent overnight to you. I have given my decision a great deal of thought and it is final.
Please tell Agent Mulder that we both made mistakes and I do not blame him for anything in our partnership.
Also in the envelope is a money order. Please give it to my mother when she returns and ask her to have my furniture and personal items placed in storage.
I thank you for your leadership and support during my tenure at the FBI.
Sincerely - Dana Scully”
Mulder swallowed hard, his breathing seemed harsh suddenly. “Did you,” he swallowed again; “Did you reply?”
Skinner nodded. “It bounced back. I'm forwarding it you. Do you think it’s really her?” But Mulder had turned and was leaving his office. “Mulder?” There was no response.
Mulder headed for the basement. He stopped just inside the door and looked around. He wasn’t seeing the office; he was seeing her, remembering her as she moved around their space. This was where they argued over cases, over theories - his wild ones, her scientific ones. Where he’d fallen in love with her.
The email, it had sounded like her. Was he missing a clue? It didn’t feel like it. It felt like the ultimate rejection. ‘I do not blame him for anything in our partnership’. Partnership, not relationship. Wasn’t that magnanimous of her.
What a fool. What a god-damn fool he was. He’d kept after her until he’d gotten her. He laughed out loud. Even to his ears he sounded insane. He forced his mouth closed, then shut and locked the door.
He looked like shit when he got to the Gunmen’s door. “Mulder? What? Did you hear from her?” Byers opened the door wider, drawing him inside.
“Skinner got an email from her today, resigning. I forwarded it to your computer. The address is gone now. I need you to trace it.”
Byers nodded and led him to the computer when Langly sat. “Show me what you got, Mulder.” Langly cracked his knuckles.
Mulder handed him the printout of the email Skinner had received as well. He had it memorized anyway.
A little while later, Langly leaned back, obviously frustrated.
“Well?” Mulder demanded.
“We taught her well. It’s amateurish, but it’s been bounced around a lot.”
“Amateurish? Not Spender?”
Langly looked over at Byers, then back at Mulder. “Uh, I don’t think so. He wouldn’t need to do this with what he has at his disposal.”
Mulder looked around, searching for something to hold on to. He had hoped that they would find something to cause him to rethink his intuition. He hadn’t gotten it. She had left him, she had thought about what had happened between them and decided to get away from him. That didn’t explain the cigarette smoke in her apartment. He’d automatically assumed it was Spender, but could she have smoked as she contemplated her decision? God, what had she been thinking?
He turned then and left their apartment without another word. It was over; she was gone, apparently of her own free will. He should be surprised it had taken her this long to leave him.
Mulder threw himself into his new assignments. His theories were as out there as before, but no one dared refer to him as ‘Spooky’ any more. He was too willing to dive into the filth of the cases he had tried so hard to avoid before.
His instincts were honed; he asked questions he never had before. She had taught him well and he used that to keep others away. No one had to question his 'science' any longer because he played on their field now. The more depraved the mind, the quicker he dug in.
The problem was the chances he was willing to take. There was talk about a death wish. No one heard a word out of his mouth that didn’t concern the case he was working. Only once had Scully been mentioned. The mistake had not been repeated.
“You listen to me and you listen good.” Skinner growled at him. “I don’t know what happened between you and Scully.” The look Mulder shot him felt like an ice spear, but he continued. He couldn’t let this go on; not this time, it had been too close. “But you report to me, that makes you my responsibility. I’m not going to let you commit suicide on my watch. If you stay on this path, when you’re released, I will nail you to a desk so hard that you’ll need to be catheterized. Don’t test me. I’ll do it. You came too close this time.” Skinner set the IV bag connected to Mulder's arm swinging.
Mulder only looked up at the ceiling.
Byers and Langly entered the room, followed by Frohike. They had heard Skinner, but he wasn’t through. “You’ve been reckless; you’ve put yourself in danger and because of that, other agents as well. I should have you committed to a psych ward, but for now I’m going to put you on administrative leave.” He turned to Mulder’s friends, “You keep an eye on him.”
Skinner left the room, shaking his head.
“Mulder, what was that about?” Byers moved closer to the hospital bed.
“Nothing.” Mulder moved to sit up and Byers’ hand reached out to stop him. “I’m leaving.”
“The hell you are.” Frohike spoke up then, moving to the other side of the bed. “You were shot, twice. You’ll be here for a couple more days anyway.”
Mulder looked over at him impassively, “Why?”
“Hey man,” Langly spoke up, “was Skinner kidding? Are you trying to commit suicide by cop?”
“I just want to go home.” He wouldn’t meet the blonde’s eyes.
“You can’t.” Byers said firmly. “You’re not well enough to leave. Mulder, give it a little longer. You don’t want to hurt yourself permanently.”
Mulder looked at him for a long moment and finally shrugged slightly. His three friends exchanged looks then.
“Do you want to hurt yourself?” Frohike asked the question out loud finally.
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, Mulder. It does to us.” Byers responded immediately.
“Thanks. Listen, don’t worry about me. I appreciate you stopping by. I’m doing fine.”
“Are you planning to leave?” Frohike wouldn’t back down.
“No, not right now. I guess I’ll get a little rest.” He reclined the bed back to flat.
“We can stay - “ Byers started, but Mulder shook his head.
“We want you to call us when they release you. We’ll give you a ride home; make sure you have whatever supplies you need.”
Mulder opened his mouth, but then just nodded looking only at the ceiling. After exchanging yet another look, the three men moved toward the door. Frohike touched Mulder’s arm, then followed Byers out of the room.
They waited at the elevator. “I didn’t realize he was that bad.” Byers spoke to no one in particular.
“That’s because we never see him. He’s been avoiding us for weeks.” Frohike shook his head.
“He’s rudderless since Scully left. I’ve never understood what happened.” Langly glanced back toward Mulder’s room.
Byers nodded, “Something happened between those two. Maybe if he’d talk about it . . . “
“I don’t think he can.” Frohike stepped onto the elevator.
It was late, nearly midnight when he heard the knock on the door. “I don’t want any.”
“Good, cause I’m not selling any.” Frohike responded.
Mulder sighed, but knew the little man wouldn’t leave. He levered himself up from the couch painfully and, using the cane, made his slow way to the door. He opened it and let Frohike inside.
“I’m not able to get around too quickly.” Mulder offered.
“Yeah, that’s why we suggested that you stay in the damn hospital. How long after we left did you bolt?”
Mulder shrugged, then winced. Frohike took his arm and helped him back to the couch.
“Why are you out here on the couch? You’ve got that bed now.”
Mulder shook his head, “I don’t sleep in there anymore.”
“What do you mean?” Mulder turned his attention back to the television.
“What happened between you and Sc - “
Mulder’s eyes were hard when he immediately turned back to Frohike. “Don’t.”
“She called me.”
Mulder went rigid, then grimaced, hissing at the pain. “When?” His voice was harsh, painful.
“That morning. The morning she left.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed and Frohike fought the urge to back away from him. He knew he needed to keep talking or the man would rip his heart out, injuries or not.
“I met her. She wanted to talk to me.”
Mulder didn’t speak, but Frohike felt sweat bead on his forehead. He knew his life was in the balance here. “She was scared. I’d never seen her like that. She . . . she needed my help.”
Frohike swallowed and wished he were seated, but didn’t want to move that close to the man. “I gave her a present last Christmas. It was kind of a joke.” He sighed, “I gave her a set of fake ID.”
Mulder gaped at him.
“It was for fun, but she took them, gave me a little bit of a hard time.” Frohike shrugged.
Mulder’s eyes widened.
Frohike nodded, “To go with George. She wanted to plead with me not to trace her. She knew once I found out she was gone, I’d remember.”
“And she didn’t want me to find her.” Mulder spoke flatly.
“Mulder, it wasn’t like that. I don’t remember her exact words, something about ‘he wouldn’t be safe’. She was talking about you, man. I don’t know what happened, but something freaked her out. She was completely terrified. I’d never seen her like that. I gotta tell you, she scared me too.”
“’He wouldn’t be safe’. Are you sure that’s what she said?”
“Yeah, I asked her about it.”
Mulder searched the older man’s face for a long moment. “Where did she go?” He was already struggling up from the couch.
Frohike moved closer then, his hand on Mulder’s shoulder forestalling the injured man’s movements. “I don’t know.”
“Frohike.” Mulder's eyes were narrowed, hard.
“I swear. I was able to track her to Chicago, but she slipped off my radar there. I sent her some things she requested - “
“What things.” He broke in harshly.
“Faked references, work papers. After that everything I sent bounced back. There’s been nothing - no credit applied for, no travel . . . “ He ran down, watching the pain his new information was causing his friend.
“Mulder, listen to me, she was trying to protect you. She . . . “ The look on Mulder’s face stopped him. “Let me try some more places. You need some time to heal. I won’t keep anything else from you, but you can’t go off looking for her. Not now.”
“What kind of job?” Mulder ignored the rest.
Frohike sighed, “Physician’s assistant. Not a full doctor.” He did take the seat beside Mulder finally. How was he going to be able to keep the man here now?
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.