Original Post date: March 12, 2006
Title: In This World
Email: tlynnfic [at] gmail.com
Feedback: Always welcome, always appreciated
Distribution: Also welcomed — just let me know so I can come visit
Classification: S, A, MSR
Spoilers: Post-‘The Truth’, so best if you’ve seen the whole series
Summary: Another chance is lost, but a hope is renewed Disclaimer: They belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox, not me
Thanks: To my incredibly speedy and ever-supportive beta, Robin. And to Circe Invidiosa for housing all my fic at her beautiful site: http://www.tlynn.invidiosa.com
Author’s notes: I love these characters!! That is all.
x x x
Seconds passed like minutes, minutes like hours, and hours like days. Three days’ time was slowly coming to a close and uncertainty and tension still lingered heavily in the air, made even more apparent by a complete silence that shook him to the core. He had been incapable of grasping onto even one coherent thought, unable to form the words of comfort he desperately wanted to give voice to. Even still, his mind was a whirlwind of anguish and guilt.
He could still hear her words in his head, their biting tone, each syllable punctuated by a pain she tried desperately to mask, even to herself. He had been sitting in the waiting room of the free clinic.
“I did have a miscarriage,” she had said. “You don’t have to worry anymore.”
He had silently cursed himself for the brief moment of relief he knew played out across his face. No one else would have caught it, but she recognized it immediately despite his valiant attempt to hide it. He caught it right in the gut and held it steadily in her heart. Words failed him, making it even worse, and as her eyes narrowed and her body stiffened, all he could do was shake his head ‘no’.
She stormed out and left him behind, the slam of the door a prelude to the stagnation of time that he now found himself in. He wondered if she felt it, too, if each tick of the clock resounded in her head.
He wasn’t a drinking man, so the four drinks he sucked down at the local bar after work were enough to render him incapable of operating his car, or so the bartender surmised, and he didn’t have it in him to argue, so it was a cab that now brought him home. He didn’t want to face her, embarrassed about his current condition, but the night air quickly chilled him to the bone so he fumbled with his keys and made his way inside.
He glanced at his watch. 9:47pm. She had adopted his late nights in the past few years, and more often than not was puttering around until the early morning hours, so even in an alcohol-induced fog, he immediately found it odd that all the lights were off. He wasn’t so drunk that he couldn’t notice the apparent emptiness of the house.
He walked through to the back of the house, turning on lights as he passed them. He ducked his head into the bathroom, then spare bedroom, finding no sign of her. All that was left was their bedroom, but something inside him knew she wouldn’t be in there, either. He imagined the worse, each possible scenario he had meticulously simulated in an attempt to stay one step, two steps, three steps ahead of pursuers, bombarded his imagination, and his head began to pound.
Did They only come for her or were They in that last room, waiting for him, too? What had They done to her? Was she still alive? Were his last words to her, early this morning as he rolled out of bed and scrubbed his face with his hands, “I think I’m gonna have bruises on my legs from all your kicking during the night.” He hadn’t even looked at her when he said it, hadn’t even asked if her fitfulness was because of a nightmare. He felt a slight buckle in his knees at the memory.
He pulled out the gun that was nestled in his jeans at the small of his back and slowly passed through the threshold. The room was as dark at the others. He flipped the light switch into the ‘on’ position and surveyed the space, gun poised and ready. No one was there. He lowered the weapon and swept over the space, his mind cataloguing each detail and storing it for later use if need be. Everything seemed as untouched as he left it with no signs of a struggle and he felt a slight sense of relief. Maybe, he reasoned, she had gone out as he did, and was drowning her sorrows in a
glass of Dewar’s. Of course, he knew she wasn’t; she drank even less than he did and certainly wouldn’t have used it to numb anything she felt. ‘No,’ he thought. ‘Only someone with a guilty conscious tries to hide that way.’
His buzz was still too strong to void out by the adrenaline rush of moments ago, so he slumped down to sit on the edge of the unmade bed. It was when he craned his neck to look at the spot where he last saw her that he saw the note. He reclined his body and reached across the tangle of blankets to grab the piece of paper. Even through largely unfocused eyes he recognized her handwriting and his stomach lurched.
‘I need some time. Please don’t follow me and please don’t worry. I won’t be gone long and I’ll be back, I promise.’
Disbelief flooded all train of thought. Mouth agape, he looked up and around the room, almost expecting to find her lurking in the corner, laughing when she realized she’d been found out, saying she couldn’t believe he fell for it. But the room was as unoccupied as he found it and he felt the disbelief transition into fear and anger. How dare she.
He stood quickly, his plan of attack, so to speak, already forming in his head. But a wave of dizziness, and the recollection that his car was still parked at a bar five miles away, flattened him down again and he succumbed to a fitful sleep of his own. It was easier than accepting that she had really left him.
* * *
He deduced the memory was a dream because of each magnified sense. The sunlight was brighter than it should have been, causing his unshaded eyes to squint; the smell of his coffee in a Styrofoam cup she help for him assaulted nostrils; the salty taste of the sunflower seeds in his mouth was almost overbearing; the wind noise resulting from her half-opened window was deafening. Their playful interaction was amplified as well and it warmed him even in sleep. The scene drifted through his subconscious, a momentary reprieve from the restless night.
He turned to look at her, a smirk planted squarely on his face, and saw the corners of her mouth turn up in a smile.
“What?” she laughed.
“I’m just in shock still, that’s all.”
“I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard on you,” she said in mock sympathy.
“How did you know you could trust her?” he asked, only half-joking. “For all you know, she could have been like that Lizzie wom–”
“Stop!” she shouted, clearly incredulous. “Maria was from El Salvador. I seriously doubt she had anything to do with…any of it!”
“You never know.”
“Paranoid much?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “Oh, wait…”
“I just can’t believe you had a maid,” he said after several minutes of silence.
“I’m no superwoman,” she said. “I couldn’t be in the hospital sixty-four times a month AND keep my apartment clean.”
“Exaggerate much?” he asked.
“Okay, maybe fifty-four times a month.”
He laughed again. It felt good. It all felt good right then, despite the uncharted road ahead. “It’s just that it ruins the whole illusion I had,” he continued, teasing her. “I thought Special Age–”
“Uh-uh, no names,” she reminded, shaking her finger at him.
“Right. Anyway, I thought you -were- Superwoman. Not every woman can run in high heels -and- shoot a gun. I thought for sure cleaning would be a breeze, too.”
“Well, as flattering as that is, no, after meeting you, a neat and tidy living space was out of the question. Besides, she only came once every month or two, if that. Only when the apartment started looking like…well, yours. Some people prefer not to live like a slob.” The word ‘slob’ in her sentence was punctuated with a nod in his direction. He opened his mouth in pseudo-offense.
“I’m -not- a slob,” he said. “I’m…”
“Give it up,” she remarked. “I live with you now, remember?”
He nodded, turning his head to look at her. His eyes traced her profile and stopped on her mouth as her teeth absently worried the plump of her bottom lip. God, how he loved that mouth. He could think of a million things he wanted to do with it at the moment.
“Eyes on the road,” she scolded.
He smiled, not sorry he got caught, and swung his head back to focus on the asphalt in front of him. They wanted to be checked in somewhere by dark, after all.
* * *
The pounding in his head was fierce as he woke, his eyes meeting the sunlight that streamed through the bedroom window. The bright early-morning rays sent a violent throb through his skull and he quickly turned over to face the opposite wall, eyes squeezing shut. He felt something against his cheek and lifted one heavy hand to investigate. He freed a small piece of paper glued to his skin by his own saliva and forced his eyes open again.
‘I need some time. Please don’t follow me–‘
He crumpled the note and tossed it to the floor, refusing to read it again any further, the events of the previous night flooding back to him. He got up quickly, ignoring any bodily protests, and went out to the kitchen. He jerked a drawer open and what he saw confirmed his suspicion: she had apparently taken one of the phones. He grabbed the other and pulled it out, his fingers flying over the keypad — he knew the numbers by heart even though he’d never had to dial them before.
It rang and rang and rang. With no voicemail option, he hung up and dialed again. Still no answer. He threw the phone to the floor.
“FUCK!” he shouted, beyond frustration.
A thought, a hope, then occurred to him. He bent down to retrieve the discarded cell. He dialed another number, one he was more familiar with, but not by much. It barely rang once.
“What’s happened? Are you safe?” Skinner answered.
“Where is she?” he growled.
“What happened?” Skinner asked again, his voice dripping with tension. “You need to tell me–”
“WHERE IS SHE?” he shouted now.
“You need to calm down. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on. Has it happened?”
“Then this is highly irresponsible,” Skinner said, voice booming, but audibly relieved. “I know you’re fully aware of the protocol we agreed upon for usage of this line and I know you’re more than fully aware of the proper channels for contacting me otherwise. Under no circumstances are either of you to call this number unless–”
“Has she gotten in touch with you?” he interrupted.
“No, she hasn’t. Listen, you need–”
He hung up the phone, seething with anger. He was in no mood to be berated or ordered around by his former superior. He was in no mood for any of this. Yes, there were rules they all agreed upon, one of which was no phone calls unless They had found them. But all bets were off as far as he considered. She vehemently disregarded them, so why shouldn’t he?
He pocketed the mobile and set about his plan. It didn’t matter that up to this point all it included was packing a bag, taking an aspirin, and calling a cab to take him to his car; the rest he’d figure out along the way. Hell, he was an expert at that.
x x x
She dropped her small suitcase at her feet as soon the door closed and she quickly advanced across the room to the air conditioner, turning it on to ‘high’. She hadn’t traveled so far as to escape the heat and the last five hours spent on a cramped bus did little to help her comfort level. She stood, eyes lidded, in front of the unit until her cheeks were cold. The window in front of her revealed a small but sparkling pool in the foreground and setting sun over the dry but magnificent southwestern landscape in the background. She hummed in satisfaction.
She turned to survey her surroundings and felt a sudden sense of familiarity at what she saw. The furniture was sparse and she could tell just by looking that the bed would hurt her back during the night. A bureau, next to a narrow doorway leading to a small bathroom, and a matching nightstand were situated to her left, signs of age and overuse apparent with dings and missing handles. To her
right, pushed into the corner, was a small table and single chair, the faux wood scratched and upholstery worn, with a coffee maker that could have easily been twenty years old atop the tabletop next to a small hand-written card that read “Enjoy Your Stay”. The wallpaper was faded and peeling, the carpet thin and threadbare.
If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought it was ten years ago, her partner next door in his equally austere accommodations. If she tried really hard, she could almost hear his knock on her door and see the enthusiastic look on his face as he led her out to investigate some apocryphal claim based on a late-night sighting by a local that, based on statements from the local law enforcement, was drunk. She would, of course, had been exasperated by his blind certainty that there was something to find, and would have expressed her thoughts outright. She’d likely wind up
buying him dinner, just as they had agreed upon, when he turned out to be right after all.
She pushed the idea from her mind. There would be plenty of time for such useless recollections during the quickly approaching night; her subconscious would make sure of it.
She picked up her bag and flinched slightly as the rigid case brushed against her chest. Sore breasts were all that remained, the only sign that just three days prior, a small being was growing inside her. She dropped her belongings on the bed and lifted her hand to her belly, but no sooner had she made contact than she jerked her hand away again. She shook her head and began to unpack the few things she had brought.
She gathered her toiletries and made her way into the bathroom. The pull of a string lit up the small space and she caught a glimpse of herself in the old, spotted mirror. She still hadn’t gotten used to the dirty blonde hair. He hadn’t cared for her light tresses, either, and she was not fond of the ever-growing facial hair he’s been sporting. She once threatened to go platinum if he grew a full beard. It was a necessary precaution, especially in the beginning, but he had begun shaving again as of late, wondering aloud how urgent the need was for a disguise.
She glanced at her watch. 7:17pm. In all likelihood, he didn’t even know she was gone yet.
She stripped of her clothing and stepped into a cool shower in hopes of washing away some of the anger and guilt that drove her to run from him. Guilt because she knew he would worry, knew he would have bent over backwards to help her through this and anger at herself because she wouldn’t let him. Guilt because she, too, had known the implications and likelihood of failure of another pregnancy, knew how irresponsible it would be to bring an innocent child into the life they now led. Guilt because she let him think he was alone in those beliefs.
And anger, at herself, at him, at the world, because even with all the certainty of what had happened in the past and all the uncertainty of what laid before them, she had she wanted the child anyway.
* * *
Sleep came easily, her body still healing itself and her mind still avoiding a truth it needed to accept. She welcomed her exhaustion and the escape it provided.
She dreampt of him again, of them, the lives they used to lead mingling with the worries of a new world. Past and present leaked into one another and became a strange existence she alone lived in, her psyche housing recent memories in shells of years ago. She hadn’t realized how much she missed that past until it crept into her dreams at night.
Tonight it was a baseball field. Even the cold air was distinct in her unconsciousness. She heard his voice first, soft and deep in her ear. Then she felt him, wrapped around her from behind as he guided her body.
The bat they held together made contact with the ball. “Ooh! That’s good,” he said. “All right, what you may find as you concentrate on hitting that little ball…”
“The rest of the world just fades away – all your everyday, nagging concerns. The ticking of your biological clock.”
“How you probably couldn’t afford that nice, new suede coat on a G-Woman’s salary. How you threw away a promising career in medicine…”
“To hunt aliens with a crackpot, albeit brilliant, partner. Getting into the heart of a global conspiracy.”
“We’re going to have to make some changes, disguise ourselves better,” she heard her voice say. They were still hitting baseballs.
“Short of getting plastic surgery, there’s not much more we can do,” he responded. “Hair, clothes, location…we’ve done what we can to keep a low profile so far.”
“Did you see the way that convenience store clerk looked at us when I said your name?” she asked. “Did you hear what he
“He said it was a weird name or something?”
“Don’t you see? Weird sticks out. He’ll remember it. If anyone comes around asking questions…”
He signaled for a cease-fire of balls and took his arms from around her. She shivered at the loss of his body heat.
“What are you suggesting?” he asked.
“We have pseudonyms when we need them, but still call each other by our given names. I’m wondering if we…shouldn’t.”
“That guy was being nosy,” he said. “Eavesdropping, that’s all. We’ll just be more careful from now on.”
He walked over and rested the bat against the fence, signaling their pitcher over for payment. He handed the small boy a few bills from his pocket and they watched as the child ran off into the horizon. She joined him on the sidelines and caught his eye.
“You know as well as I do we can’t be too careful right now,” she said. “At this early stage, even the most insignificant details can make all the difference between remaining unseen and setting off a beacon. If anything ever–”
“Alright,” he conceded. “I see your point. No names. For now, anyway. So what should I call you?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Whatever you want.”
“You better retract that statement while you can,” he chuckled. “C’mon,” he said, offering her his hand. “Let’s blow this pop stand.”
She took his hand and he pulled her against him, his arm moving up and around her shoulders as they walked through the grass. She lifted her arm and wrapped it around his waist and drew him even closer so that the fractions of space that still separated their bodies disappeared. The horizon beckoned and they had no choice but to fade into it as well.
Lines continued to blur throughout the night. She reached out once, her hand searching for him in the night. When all she felt was the cold cotton of an empty pillow, she remembered where she was, then forced herself to forget again in order to drift back to sleep. She hadn’t even heard the cell phone the next morning, its unfamiliar ring unable to penetrate through her deep slumber.
x x x
He blamed the dull ache still lingering in his skull for not thinking of the obvious. Luckily, the chatty and opinionated taxi driver commanding the vehicle they both now sat in was able to stifle any blame he might has bestowed upon himself with seven words.
“You goin’ to the bus depot, too?”
“Bus station? If so, you two shoulda just shared a cab and gotten a hotel room or somethin’. Woulda been cheaper than paying for two cab rides all the way there, ‘specially from all the way out here.”
“What…who are you talking about?” he asked, scooting forward on the seat to get closer to the man.
“The woman I came out an’ picked up yesterday, of course,” the man answered as if it were common knowledge. “She was in a real hurry, said she was gonna be late or somethin’. I jus’ figured you was on your way to wherever she was.”
“Did she saw where she was going? Anything at all?” he questioned, rapidly becoming anxious with excitement. “Please, any little thing could be important.”
“Nah, she was real quiet the whole way there. Just kept starin’ out the window.”
“Did she have anything with her? Did she use her phone at all? Did you see where she went after you dropped her off?” His heart was racing.
“No, it was like I said, mister. She stayed quiet. She had a little suitcase or somethin’ with her, but that’s it. An’ I didn’t look to see where she was headed at the depot, that ain’t in my job description.”
He flung himself back onto the seat and felt a stab of pain shoot through his head at the abrupt movement. He winced and lifted a hand to his forehead. The driver studied him in the rearview mirror.
“You okay back there?”
“Just dandy,” he muttered, turning his head to watch the flat land speed by. It had dawned on him that it was the same view she saw, that he possibly sat in the same seat in the same car she did. It calmed him for reasons he didn’t quite understand.
“Bus depot?” the man asked again.
He nodded, the plan to retrieve his own car tossed aside.
“Is she your wife?”
“No, she’s not my wife,” he answered after some time. “She’s something more than that.”
The driver’s eyes stared back at him through the mirror again, waiting for an elaboration. Not receiving one, he shrugged and remained quiet the rest of the ride.
The secluded area that had been their home for nearly the past year was secluded enough to need an extra half a hour travel time just to get to the grocery store. The bus station demanded an hour our more and without realizing it, he was gently lulled into a half-sleep. He could still hear the movement of the car, the driver’s cough, even the ‘click’ of the radio being turned on and the gentle rhythm of the country music that followed. His mind had delved deeper, however, and beneath closed eyelids, he could see her face as she came out of the bathroom.
* * *
She looked confused.
“What’s wrong?” he asked from his seat on the couch in front of the television.
She stepped over and sat down on the end opposite of him and placed her hands on her thighs as she focused on an invisible point in front of her, eyes repeatedly blinking as if in disbelief.
“I don’t understand,” was all she said.
He could see her thinking, her mouth opening slightly and then closing again, trying to find the words. She didn’t exude any sense of panic or alarm, so he figured there weren’t any impending dangers afoot, but something was definitely…up.
“Are you going to make me guess?”
Her head slowly turned to him and he saw, written on her face, all that must have been going through her head: wonder and excitement, confusion and apprehension, but most of all, complete joy; the tears in her eyes and the smile on her lips were like no other he’d seen before. And he thought he’d seen everything in this woman.
“I never would have thought it possible, not again,” she said. “I’m…I’m in shock.”
“Are you sure? I mean, that you…that you’re…you know?” he asked, his ability to form a complete sentence suddenly dulled.
“What are we going to do?” he asked, mostly talking to himself.
“I don’t quite know,” she answered anyway. “It’s going to make things a little more complicated in terms of moving around like we have, but if we plan–”
“So you want to keep it?”
He heard the words come out of his mouth before he had a chance to fully anticipate their effect and regretted the question even before finishing it. He sucked in a breath, to try to retract the words midair or to prepare for her reaction, he didn’t know.
“Of course I want to keep it,” she spat out, brow furrowed in greater bewilderment. “Don’t you?”
He couldn’t say the words. He could only look away. His peripheral vision registered her focus on him, though, her eyes boring into him for several long minutes.
“I just don’t think it’s a good time,” he tried to explain. “It wouldn’t be fair. We don’t know for sure where we’ll be in nine days, let alone nine months. You have to understand, it’s not that–”
“Please,” she said softly. “Just stop.”
She stood up, visibly shaken. She looked pained, like he had physically knocked the wind out of her. He resisted the urge to ask her if she was okay. She wasn’t, of course, and he had only himself to blame.
“I’m keeping this baby,” she declared, her voice hitching. “Whether you think it’s a good time or not.”
He saw a tear fall down her cheek and his chest ached. He moved to stand, but she quickly stepped away and turned her back to him. She hesitated momentarily before going into the bedroom and quietly closing the door behind her. Elbows on knees, he held his head in his hands.
His head snapped up at the intrusive voice. He looked around to reaffirm he was alone in the room.
“Hey, mister,” the voice said.
The room around him dissolved slowly.
* * *
He opened his eyes.
“Hey, mister, we’re here,” the cab driver announced again.
He thanked him and paid his fare. The hustle and bustle of people outside and then inside the station closed around him as slung his bag over his shoulder and became one of a crowd looking for passage to another place.
He just wished he knew where that place was.
x x x
Her body was covered in a layer of perspiration, her feet tangled in the sheets as her body thrashed, and quiet whimpers escalated to terrified screams. She startled awake, her chest heaving with each deep gulp of air. She could still hear her own voice ringing in her head.
‘This is not happening!’
The visuals of the nightmare withdrew themselves from memory as soon as her eyes opened, but the residual terror of that moment from years ago flowed through her as though it had become a part of her physical being. She wrapped her arms around herself and waited for the shaking to stop.
She dreamt of his abduction, but more often of his death. She was usually able to control the effects enough not to alert him awake when her cognizance resurfaced. Even as he slept, entirely unaware, his presence comforted her after the episodes and she was always able to return to sleep after pressing up against him one way or another, his warm body next to her an instant reassurance that she had nothing to fear. She felt lost without it now.
She rubbed her eyes and forced herself out of bed, checking the time as she stood. 11:13am. She had been sleeping for nearly twelve hours.
Heading to the bathroom, faint sounds of splashing and squeals drew her to the window instead. She pulled back the curtain and saw three children playing in the pool. Ever-watchful parents sat in plastic chairs nearby, the summer sun already beating down upon their hatted heads. She studied them and their interaction, observed the older boy splash his younger sisters and then their retaliation, noted the smiles on the adults, the way their hands clasped together as they watched their children.
There was time when she would have envied them. Part of her had always longed for that “normal” life. Her career, first medicine, then the FBI, was her first priority, and she always figured the rest would work itself out when the time was right. But before she knew it, her plans not only faltered, but were ripped right out from beneath her. It was as she willingly followed her handsome and brilliant, not to mention overly-obsessive, partner down a path that uncovered the deep, dark secrets of their government that any chance at a life of convention vanished.
Oddly enough, that long-ago want had been realized in some manner in recent times. Though exhausted and always on alert, despite the constant relocating and the outright uncertainty, the bond she had with him was absolute and complete and had only strengthened on their journey. If she tried really hard, if she blocked out everything but the love she felt for him, she could almost imagine when a normal life would be like with him. Even in the midst of all the chaos, it was the glimpses she treasured most: making dinner together at their home, him rubbing her feet after a particularly busy, even her irritation at finding his dirty socks under the coffee table. Whatever awaited them in the future, she was thankful for those moments.
Once, what seemed like long ago, the almost found herself believing they had found some semblance of happiness, even if it was in a roundabout fashion. She’d never forget the sense of perfect happiness she felt as he held their son in his arms and pressed his warm lips to hers. It was only for a moment, but even now, it could warm her. Her skepticism was a force unto itself at times, however, and she knew they had the starring roles in an extraordinarily convoluted plot with adversaries that were too many and too great. She sensed she knew their happiness would be shattered even before he did.
She still dreamt of their child often. They were good dreams, joyous memories of his smile, of how soft his skin was. They never spoke of what had happened, not since that day in his cell. She wondered what he remembered of their son, but never asked him.
He always blamed himself for all that she had lost. ‘There’s so much more you need to do with your life’ he once said to her before he even knew she was carrying his first child. ‘There’s so much more than this’. She was too exhausted at the time, physically and emotionally, to tell him how wrong he was, that in spite of it all, she was thankful for the veil that had been lifted, proud to be fighting the good fight right alongside him, and most of all, grateful for his presence in her life and her heart. She still was, perhaps even more so. To be aware, even painfully, rather than like the family at the pool: painfully -unaware-, blissfully ignorant, to the uncertain future than loomed in the distance, empowered her on their quest. However, it was his resolve, she realized suddenly, that seemed to be slipping.
She exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.
It was time to go. They had elevated miscommunication to an art form for years and she could only imagine what he must be thinking, or doing, now.
She’d make him understand. She had to.
x x x
He had a headache.
Four hours had gone by and he was nowhere closer to finding her. There was no sign of her, no clue as to where she’d gone and he couldn’t bring himself to board a bus that might be taking him in the wrong direction. He’d chastised himself for the time he’d wasted with the habit of looking for and asking if anyone had seen a petite redhead, but no one had seen a blonde woman matching her description either.
He called a cab to take him to his car, still parked behind the bar he’d abandoned it at the night before. It was nearly noon when he finally slid into the driver’s seat of the SUV and heard the phone ring. He quickly withdrew it from his pocket and tossed it onto the passenger seat. He watched it until the ringing stopped.
He turned the key in the ignition and started to drive, to where exactly he didn’t know.
Minutes later, the phone chimed again. He sighed and put it to his ear.
“Unless you have some information for me, Walter, I suggest you–”
“It’s me,” her voice said. He nearly swerved off the road. “I’m on my way home.”
“How long?” he asked only, trying to keep the strain out of his voice.
“I’ll be there before sunset.”
x x x
He sat at the small kitchen table waiting for her. He watched the shadows sweep across the room as the sun moved further west, bathing the room in a soft orange glow and true to her word, before the sun set behind the mountains, he watched as she came in through the back door.
She saw him immediately, sitting quietly with palms flat on the table, eyes fixed on her intently. She stepped inside and set her bag down next to the table before taking a seat across from him.
“Hi,” she said.
His jaw clenched and all he could do was nod. He was surprised at the anger he felt flowing through him, how it was the first reaction he felt upon seeing her.
“Look,” she began. “I’m sorr–”
“Don’t be,” he stopped her. “I should have expected it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“If I had asked you yesterday how you were doing, what would you have said?” he asked.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“‘Fine’ is what you would have said,” he answered, his tone bitter. ‘I’m fine’. It’s what you do. It’s what you’ve always done. I just wish I could figure out why your first instinct is to shut me out when you’re obviously not ‘fine’.”
“You didn’t ask me how I was doing, though, did you?”
He shook his head, dismissing her question, and stood to lean against the counter, distancing himself from her by a few more feet.
“How could you do that?” he asked quietly. “How could you just leave like that? It’s just you and I now. YOU and I. There’s no network, no safety net, not within immediate reach, anyway. If something had happened…”
“I’m fine,” she said automatically.
He breathed a laugh and shook his head again. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“I had some things I needed to work out,” she said, and then paused. “I needed to get past what happened without…” She trailed off, looking down, her words not coming out like she wanted them to.
“Without what?” he demanded. “Without me? You don’t think I was grieving, too?”
Her head snapped up. “You didn’t want it!” she accused. “And all you could do for three days was hover over me with a guilty look on your face because of that!”
His mouth dropped open and she struggled to keep her tears back.
“Is that what you really believe?” he asked in disbelief.
“I don’t know,” she finally said after several beats. “I suppose it’s easier to believe that than the truth I suspect.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, echoing her earlier question.
“You’re giving up,” she stated. “I see it. You didn’t want the baby not because of an uncertain future, but because the horrific one you’re resigning to. Information, leads, evidence, all of it. It’s drying up and that date is only getting closer.”
He digested her words and returned to his chair across from her, body slumped.
“Where’s that hope you once spoke of?” she asked softly. She reached and took his hand in her own.
“You have to know,” he said, almost pleading. “You have to understand I never didn’t want that child for you, for us. If things were different, if I could make things better for you in this world… but I can’t.”
“I know,” she nodded, gripping him tighter. “But I also know that if there’s anyone can figure out how to overcome the obstacles thrown at us, it’s you.”
“I’m sorry you had to lose another child,” he said. “And I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you this time, either.”
She felt her tears spill out and she gulped back a sob. He propelled himself up and over to her and wrapped around her body. She shook against him as she wept.
“When you want something,” she finally said against his chest. “And have wanted something for so long, you can’t help but want to grasp onto it with both hands when it’s suddenly realized, especially for a third time. You can’t help yourself. You can’t see beyond it, can’t even see that it might no longer be a viable course. I couldn’t, not even after everything we’ve been through and had to get away from it to see clearly again. I’m sorry…”
“No more apologies,” he said, chin resting atop her head. “All that’s important is that you’re okay. That’s all that’s ever been important, Scully.”
She jerked back at the utterance of her name. It had been so long since he’s said it, it almost sounded foreign on his lips. She searched his face, almost looking for permission to return the gesture.
But first, “Say it again.”
Her smile was all teeth and he couldn’t help the grin from forming on his own face. He used his thumbs to wipe away the moisture of residual tears form her cheeks.
“Hi, Mulder,” she said.
She cupped his face and pulled his head down to press her lips against his, yielding to his mouth in a deep kiss. It reconnected them, reaffirmed their pursuit. He felt her faith, in him and in them, pour out of her and reignite something within him.
“With Mulder and Scully back on the case, maybe there’s still some hope left after all,” he proposed.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” she agreed.
“Skinner’s pretty pissed at me,” he confessed. “I should get to a payphone and let him know everything’s okay.”
“Upsetting the boss. I see Mulder really -is- back.”
“With a vengeance,” he smiled.
x x x