Before You Go
By Christine Leigh

Summary: Season four. Alternate ending for Paper Hearts.
Rating: G
Category: V
Spoilers: Paper Hearts, Lazarus.

"Scully . . ."

She smoothed his hair some more. What a stupid thing she'd just said. As desperately as he needed it, sleep held no refuge for Mulder -- something of that she was all too aware. She did know him, better than anyone living, and yet she'd uttered what amounted to a banality. He'd laughed in a goofy sort of semi-hysterical way, but then had stopped abruptly and started to say something to her, and then -- nothing. They remained in their places, he in his chair and her standing and holding his head in her arms. In the space of a few seconds the little cloth heart inside the drawer of the desk was relegated to supporting status, having been supplanted by another that mattered so much more.

The majority of her adult life, nine out of ten times she'd been the surest person in any given room. Rational and calm, steady and cool. Dana Scully was all those things. She'd known exactly what she'd wanted in life and had worked hard and persevered to get to the point where she had been on the receiving end of a request to join the Bureau. She'd felt giddy that night when she'd gone home, and had actually poured herself a glass of wine in celebration, and relaxed, despite the fact that she was sure that her father wouldn't agree with her decision. But she would deal with that. It had felt so right, and she had been happy. The year that followed was one of her best, despite the broken relationship with Jack. She'd never doubted that her heart would find another when the time was right. She wasn't an unromantic person, most appearances to the contrary. Well, one out of two wasn't bad. She didn't know if there would ever be a right time, but since her abduction she'd had moments of clarity such as the one she was in now, where she knew she'd found the man. So why was she having such a tough time reading him?

Every nerve in her body was screaming, which probably didn't help. She wanted so to comfort him -- to hold him. Here, or back in her apartment, or his -- anywhere. She also wanted to leave -- to walk away. She knew he would not rebuff her, but maybe, just maybe he didn't want her to stay, and if that's what he wanted, then so be it. He couldn't want that, though, could he? For the hundredth time, since they'd left Skinner's office, she played it all back in her head and thanked God that Caitlin Ross was alive.

"Mulder, I . . ."

"Scully . . ."

Now they both laughed, a little. Definitely semi-hysterical. Then something gave way, and she knew she would not leave him tonight. She embraced his head, still.

"Scully, before you go, I'd . . ."

"Mulder, I'd like to stay." She focused her gaze on the poster on the wall that she had looked down her nose upon that first day here, but that she'd grown quite fond of, since. Of course, she'd never told him that. What a snob she'd been. She felt him breathe in sharply, and then looked down as he turned his face and buried it in her jacket. His arms were strong around her waist. When he came up for air, she bent so that their faces were level with each other. The haunted look, always there beneath his facade, and that had surfaced with a fury during this case was still there, but she thought she saw a glimmer of something else in his eyes. For a moment they just looked at one another.

"I'd like that, Scully."

She took his hands in hers.

"Before we go . . ."

~ End ~

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This story is (c) Copyright 2005 by Christine Leigh. "The X-Files" and its characters are the property of the Fox Network and Ten-Thirteen Productions and are borrowed here without profit or intent for profit.