“Kat, I’m going home now. Do you want me to lock up?”
“Thanks Greg, yes please. I’ll be here for a little while.”
“You should go on home yourself.” The nurse scolded her mildly. “You’ve already put in more than a full day, again.”
She flushed, but didn’t try to deny it. “I won’t be long. If I don’t finish this tonight, I’ll just have to face it in the morning.”
He couldn’t dispute that. “Okay, I’m locking you in. Not late, promise me. If you don’t look after yourself, I’ll have to.”
“I promise. Tell Pilar good night for me.”
The young man gave her a nod though he did shake his finger at her, then left her office. She heard the dead bolt turn on the back door, then returned to her paperwork.
A few minutes later her eyes wandered back to the door. She could see him, framed in the door, so tall and strong and beloved. If only.
Then he moved. “Scully?”
She jerked, eyes wide in disbelief. For an instant he had the impression of someone waking.
“Mulder, Mulder, no. You can’t - “
“I thought we needed to talk.” He interrupted her, his voice hard, harsh.
“You can’t be here, Mulder. Please, go home. We can’t . . . “
“Can’t what, Scully? Be together? You’ve made that abundantly clear. I just want to know one thing.” He finally moved into the room. It barely registered to her that he was limping. “What did I do wrong?”
Tears blurred her vision, but she dashed them away when he more collapsed than sat in the chair across from her desk. His face was tight with pain.
“Mulder!” She was on her feet then, rounding the desk to get to him. She was seeing him for the first time now - not her fantasy of the man she loved, but him, now. He was gaunt, his face had deep lines in it and there was more than a sprinkle of gray at his temples. She remembered the limp then and knelt beside him. “He said you’d be safe.”
His hand grasped her wrist in a painful grip. “Who? Who said I’d be safe?”
She looked at his hand around her arm. She couldn’t face him. “Spender.” It was less than a whisper.
His grip tightened. “And you believed him? Again?”
“You’re hurting me.”
He released her instantly and turned away, looking down at his hands. He went silent.
“I’m sorry. I thought . . . “ She closed her mouth when he shook his head, not looking up from his hands.
After a long moment, she helped herself up, holding onto her desk. She was staggered by this, by his pain.
She didn’t realize he had looked up and was watching her. He had focused on her body. She watched a shaking hand come out as though to touch the soft swell of her abdomen. He would see her breasts were bigger. She closed her eyes for an instant. Of course he would notice, but would he ask?
“We need to talk. Come on; I live near here.”
He seemed to nod and after a moment started struggling to his feet. She reached to help him and he pulled away. It felt like a slap. He didn’t notice, just turned toward the door.
She watched as he retrieved a cane from down the hall but didn’t comment. It would have to wait. When they arrived at the door she found that it was still dead bolted.
“How did you get in?”
“I was here earlier. I waited until everyone left.” He said simply.
She merely opened the door. “Where’s your car?”
“A couple of blocks down.” His voice was flat. “Yours?”
“I’ve been walking to work. It’s close.” She turned toward her home and started walking. For a change his steps didn’t outpace hers but she could see that he wasn’t prepared for the drop in temperature in the desert. He was beginning to shiver. The problem was she couldn’t tell if it was the coolness of the night or the strain of the walk.
He didn’t have his hand on her back.
Half way down the second block, she turned into a driveway.
“Here? You live here?” He stopped despite his growing discomfort.
He gestured toward the car parked in front of her house. “That’s mine.”
She looked up at him. Coincidence? No, not with them. She moved on to the door and pulled out her keys. He followed more slowly. When he entered the house she knew he was on the verge of collapse.
“Here. Sit here.” She motioned toward the couch. When he swayed, she moved to his side and though he protested, helped him to the couch. She pulled the afghan down and placed it around his shoulders. He looked like he wanted to argue, but didn’t have the energy.
“I’m going to make some dinner. Why don’t you rest for a few minutes? You can use my room.”
“No thanks. I know I’m not welcome in your bed.” He closed his eyes then, letting his head fall back to rest on the couch. He couldn’t look at her, couldn’t face the look in her eyes.
She heated up some of the soup that she had made over the weekend. When she looked back into the room, she realized he had drifted off, at the end of his rope. The lines in his face had not eased out.
She picked up the phone and moved to the bedroom in order not to disturb him. Frohike’s card was where she had hidden it. She dialed quickly. “It’s late.” The voice snapped, not happy to be awakened.
“Scu - “ There was a long pause. “Katherine?”
“Yes.” She was surprised at the tears that formed in her eyes.
“Are you okay?”
“How did he know where to find me?”
“He’s there? How the hell - “
“What did you tell him?”
Another long pause, then “Not where you were. Just the name. I had to tell him something.”
The heavy sigh disturbed her. “To save his life.”
“What happened?” They both heard the quaver in her voice.
“He was shot.” He heard her gasp, but she didn’t interrupt. “Baldy put him on leave. He said he wasn’t going to let him commit suicide on the job.”
“S-suicide?” She felt cold.
“That’s the word Baldy used. We were there, in the hospital. Baldy was shaken. Our boy has not been . . . okay. Apparently he started taking some real chances at work. Dumb ones. He doesn’t seem to care if he lives or dies. This was just the latest and most boneheaded. We didn’t know how bad he was. He’s been avoiding us lately, hell, he’s been avoiding everyone.”
“Sc- You know why.”
“Because I left.” She said flatly.
Frohike was silent then. There was nothing he could say anyway.
“I need to get back to him.”
“Is there anything you need?”
“I . . . I’ll be in touch.” She broke the connection and just stood looking out into the night.
Finally she gathered her courage around her, touching the stone that hung around her neck, a gift from Albert. Scully sat gently beside him on the couch. He looked . . . defeated and lost. He was supposed to be safe with her gone. What the hell had happened?
Gently she touched his arm. “Mulder, dinner is ready.”
“Wha - Scully?” His memory returned instantly and he pulled away from her. “I don’t need - “
“Please, eat with me, Mulder. I need to eat and I’d like the company.” He didn’t respond, but she watched him glance back down at her waist and quickly away. Still there were no questions.
His eyes narrowed, but she was already on her feet. She brought the bowls into the living room. He hated it, but he wasn’t sure he could make it to the table anyway.
After the first spoonful, he realized how hungry he was and finished the bowl in silence.
He shook his head and set the bowl back on the tray. He lifted the glass of ice tea to his lips then. When he returned it to the tray, he sat back and looked at nothing in particular until she set her own bowl down.
She hesitated a moment, then asked quietly, “How are you feeling?”
“What do you care?” He couldn't keep his anger from his voice.
“Mulder, I never meant - “
His look stopped her. But after a moment, he looked away, “I was shot.”
“The one in my hip went through cleanly. The one in my side was worse. They had to go in to get the bullet.”
Twice? Frohike hadn’t said that. “Mulder, when?”
“Last week, Thursday.”
“Last . . . “ She seemed to lose her voice at that, she swallowed hard. “What are you doing out of the hospital?”
He shrugged and winced. Her hands twitched to touch him. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Doesn’t matter! You could get an infection, or - “
“I don’t really care.”
He looked away then. “You never answered me.”
“What I did wrong. I never claimed to be some great lover, but that was a new low, even for me - driving you out of town.” He forced himself to look at her again, and saw the stricken look on her face. “That was it, wasn’t it? You couldn’t even bear to face me.”
“No.” It was only a breath. She seemed to shrink in on herself. All of her plans to send him away, angry if necessary, blown away by his words.
He ached to reach for her even as he wanted to shake her and scream obscenities in her face.
She rose without another word and moved toward the back of the house. He didn’t attempt to follow her. In a minute or two he heard the toilet flush and the water run. When she returned, her eyes were red but she’d obviously washed her face and to some extent centered herself.
Scully stood in front of him. “It’s not a short story and I'm exhausted. Could we please get into this tomorrow?" She was telling the truth about herself, but she could see he was barely able to function.
He nodded after a moment and levered himself off the couch, ignoring her offer of help.
When he reentered the living room, the tray and dishes were gone and she was seated at one end of the small sofa with her legs tucked under her. She was obviously lost in thought.
Again he fought the wave of desire to hold her against him, but he forced himself to the other end of the sofa and eased himself back down. He’d deliberately left enough room so that they wouldn’t brush against one another.
He glanced at her, then away. “May I borrow a blanket?”
“You’re not sleeping out here, Mulder. Come on, you can have the bed.”
He glanced down at her body again, “You need your rest too.”
“I’ll be fine. Go on and get ready.” She rose and moved out of his way. “Where are your keys?”
“Keys. To the car. I’ll get your things.”
“You can’t - “
“I can. Go on.” He remembered that expression, besides it was going to be a struggle to get to the next room. He nodded finally and fished the keys from the front pocket of his jeans.
He was in the bathroom when she returned with his bag. It was light; apparently he only brought a couple of changes of clothes. He had known where to look for her. He’d used Frohike’s information well, and of course there was that intuition of his.
She put his bag on a chair in her bedroom. She dug out his medicine and checked the dosage, then shook the pills into her hand and left them on the bedside table. She brought a glass of water in. He wasn’t out of the bathroom yet, so she left him alone. She cleaned the kitchen, washing the dishes and putting away the rest of the soup. When she finally checked, he was in her bed and seemed to be asleep already. She didn’t test it, just pulled the door nearly closed and retreated to the living room. He hadn’t bothered to tell her good night.
She tried to stay away, but she couldn't settle down. Frohike's words kept coming back to her. Suicide. A sound made her turn toward her room.
She stood in the doorway, watching him sleep. He was in a fetal position as though cold, or scared, occasionally he trembled. He shifted slightly and she saw that he had tears running down his face.
Her heart broke at the sight. She had abandoned him. It was his worst fear and she had made it real. She’d made it real after they had finally loved each other. It was the thought she hadn’t allowed herself to contemplate. She had left him so abruptly with no thought except to keep him safe. Keep all of them safe.
Finally she turned away and got ready for bed herself. She had planned to sleep on the sofa, but she couldn’t now. She wouldn’t put more distance between them. She pulled on a nightgown and carefully slipped into the bed beside him.
He didn’t wake, but moved closer to her, absorbing her warmth. She knew his reserves were completely depleted. He’d lost over 20 pounds, and he had no business being out of the hospital, much less traveling across country.
She watched him sleep until her eyes closed.
She woke alone in the bed sometime later and sat up. She spotted him seated in the chair by the window. The anger on his face was obvious, even in this poor light, but there was also something else . . . fear?
His eyes narrowed. "Why?" When she only looked confused, he managed to grind out, "Why are you in here?"
"You seemed cold."
His lips parted, but he changed his mind, rising slowly and making his way out of the room. She heard the bathroom door close. A few minutes later she heard him move toward the living room. She rose from the bed and hurried out there.
“Come back to the bed, Mulder.”
He shook his head.
I’d sleep out here. I will. I won’t bother you, but please take the bed. You
need some recovery time. Do this for me, please.” She could see him fighting
her plea and she kept her distance, not sure what would anger him more.
Finally his shoulders slumped and he nodded. He turned away from her and returned to her bedroom without looking at her.
She did stretch out on the couch and napped some, but didn’t really sleep until dawn.
The knock woke her and she hurried to answer it.
"Are you okay? When you weren't at the clinic - " Greg stepped inside, taking her arm.
"Oh Greg, I'm sorry. I overslept, it's - "
"Let go of her."
They both turned to see Mulder in the doorway of her bedroom. His arms were extended, holding his gun steady on Greg.
"What the hell - " Greg let go of her instantly as she stepped in front of him, shielding him with her body.
"Mulder, give me the gun." She held out her hand and moved slowly toward him. "Please, Greg wasn't hurting me."
Mulder's eyes darted to her, then back to Greg.
"Mulder, please." She was in front of him now, close enough to touch him. She placed her hand over the gun and he let her take it from him, then he sagged against the door frame. "Greg, help me."
She pulled Mulder's arm around her shoulder. Greg moved then and half lifted Mulder, supporting him to the bed. Mulder's eyes closed after giving Greg the once over and lay still on the bed. Before Scully could stop him, Greg removed the bandage covering his hip. It was the first time she’d seen the angry, red wound. His eyes widened and he straightened up. "This is a gunshot wound. What the hell is going on here?"
"It's, it’s okay, Greg. I can handle - "
"Handle? This needs treatment and you know the rules. We have to report this. It’s the law."
She straightened up and tightened the sash of her robe. "Greg, I can't get into this right now, but you need to know it's already been reported. And he was already treated, when he was injured in the line of duty."
"Line of . . . he's a cop?"
"He's in law enforcement. There’s no need to report it again. Please, Greg, go on to work. Cover for me."
"You expect me to leave you alone with him? He pulled a gun on us."
"He would never hurt me."
"That's not what I saw. It seemed to be a damn difficult decision. Come on, Kat. You - "
"She'll be all right." Mulder spoke then, from behind closed eyelids. Greg's eyes narrowed.
"He won't hurt me. Please." Scully's hand on Greg's arm drew him toward the door. Mulder's eyes opened then, searching for her. She met his eyes, then tugged Greg out of the room. He allowed her to lead him to the front door, but stopped.
"He's the father." It wasn't really a question. Scully didn't respond, looking at the floor beside him. Greg sighed. "I don’t like this. I'm gonna check on you at lunch."
She nodded. “I promise to explain this when I can.” She opened the door and waited.
After a long moment, he spoke, “I’m going to hold you to that.” He took a deep breath, looking back at the bedroom door before he left. She turned immediately back to her bedroom. She had the impression Mulder had just reclined, but he was watching the door.
"Is that who you're seeing?" He asked in a dull voice.
"No. Greg is a nurse at the clinic. He's happily married with three kids. He's just sometimes overprotective of me."
Mulder's eyes flicked down to her waist, then quickly away. She made no comment on it. "I'm going to make you some breakfast."
"You said we would talk." His hand shot out grabbing her wrist.
"And we will, after you eat. Do not get out of this bed again."
His eyes narrowed, but she merely looked down at his hand, gripping her. His face flushed and he let go of her, looking away.