By Christine Leigh
Summary: Mulder and Scully make a decision that could possibly separate them from their loved ones and friends for a very long time. This story is the eighth in what I call the Party of Three Universe, which is a series of stories and vignettes that are set post-Requiem.
Category: MSR, some angst
Spoilers: References to episodes through season eight.
November 2, 2001
One morning, earlier than she wanted to be awake, Scully found herself staring at the head that occupied the pillow next to her. She did this often, and wondered if he knew. Whether in the comfort of her apartment or the ugliest of motel rooms, she couldn't imagine waking and not seeing him next to her. She spent a few minutes musing and staring at him, and then she rose and went to the kitchen to put on some water for tea.
Mornings like this when there was no hope for any more sleep, Scully would just start her day. William wasn't usually up until six, so she would spend the time until then doing small chores around the apartment or writing in her journal. This morning she would write. She'd been settled at the kitchen table for all of twenty minutes when she heard a light knocking on the front door. She went to get her weapon and then looked through the peephole. No one was there. She waited five minutes and heard another knocking, and checked again. There was still no one. She opened the door and checked under the mat where she found a letter-sized envelope. Her heart was beating fast now. She picked it up and opened it, knowing what its contents would say. It was one page, handwritten. Byers. She read it and then set it down on the table. They would be leaving soon. She returned to her writing.
October 19, 2001
"Mulder, I'm so sorry about this." Skinner wasn't feeling at all good about anything at the present.
He was wondering if perhaps it wasn't time to quit. If it were only that easy. There was nothing easy about this. He looked at the pieces of paper Mulder held that he had just finished reading. There were two pages, handwritten by Skinner. Mulder hadn't said a word. He just sat there, across from the desk, as he had so many times before, only now he was silent. That, and the absence of Scully, who'd always been by his side on these occasions for so many years, were the distinguishing differences between then and now. And a line or two in his face. Most days Mulder didn't feel much different from how he had felt ten years ago. He was still working on regaining his physical strength, but he was in near perfect health. And then there were days like today, when he felt every one of his years bearing down on him.
"Sir, I have to get going. Scully has an afternoon class today." Mulder wondered if she would be able to get a substitute on such short notice.
Mulder got up and headed for the door, and then paused. He turned to face his former boss.
"Thank you for sharing this."
Skinner looked at him without speaking. What could he say? What do you say to a man whose life, and that of his wife's, was once again, being threatened? Even if he'd been able to talk, which he wouldn't risk doing here in his office, he didn't know what to say.
October 28, 2001
"Mulder, I know you don't want me to say this again, but I think that we're taking too long to finalize things." They were lying in bed, neither of them able to sleep. Scully was staring at a spider's thread hanging from the ceiling. It was a single gossamer strand, about three feet long, just hanging there above the bed. She couldn't remember the last time she'd swept for cobwebs.
"Scully, I'm still not sure that this is the right decision. Do you really think we'll be any safer away from here?"
"They know where we live. They know our patterns. Away is better Mulder, by default, if by nothing else."
"They'll learn the new patterns. At least there are people we trust, helping us here."
"Unless they all move in with us, I don't see what difference they'll make in an unforeseen situation." There wasn't anything more to be said on the subject as far as she was concerned.
Mulder knew that leaving made some sense, but he still wasn't convinced that it made enough. There was a missing piece that he hadn't yet been able to fathom. It wasn't anything tangible, but it was coloring his perspective. Scully, however, seemed so sure of what they should do, and he hadn't been able to come up with an argument that would convince her otherwise.
"We should know something soon, Scully. What about your mother? Have you talked to her at all yet?"
The last time Mrs. Scully had been by, she had told them that she wasn't going to San Diego this year for Thanksgiving, and that she would love to cook for, and spend the holiday with her new grandson and his parents, if they found it agreeable. This was before Mulder had been informed by Skinner that his life, and Scully's were considered expendable by certain parties who wanted William, but not his parents.
"I'm going to tell her that we can't make it this year, and that if it's not too late to get a flight, that she should reconsider San Diego." Scully let out a deep breath. She didn't want to upset her mother any more than she had to, but she knew that Maggie would understand the situation as best as she could once she'd heard these words from her daughter. Scully knew she'd be distressed, but also that she wouldn't let say anything. The events surrounding William's birth had forced Maggie to accept the reality of the situation, which was that Mulder and Scully's way of life would never be what she wanted and hoped for them. At least not in the near future.
Mulder was staring at the spider's thread now. Funny, how that gave him comfort. Scully's apartment had always been so orderly compared to his, not to mention generally cleaner. Little things like seeing that strand hanging there touched him. They'd both changed so much. He turned onto his side and spooned her to him. How lovely it would be to never leave this room or bed.
Scully felt his lips against her temple. Tonight was a luxury of sorts for them. Funny how a little thing like going back to Standard Time could suddenly matter so much. One more hour together here, though, was now a very big thing. Soon they'd be gone from here, not knowing if or when they would ever return. One more hour. She gave a silent prayer of thanks for that.
"Mulder, I'm sorry I even mentioned it tonight. I know that things are happening as fast as they can. And when it does happen, it'll be too fast; I know that, too. I just want time to stop."
Mulder smiled and moved to whisper in her ear, "but Agent Scully, that's impossible. Time can't just stop. It's a universal invariant."
Scully closed her eyes and pictured them standing there in the driving rain. She'd thought he was a total lunatic that night. She remembered thinking that the rumors were a little off. It wasn't so much that Fox Mulder was spooky, but that he was just a plain nut. She smiled a tiny smile. She loved that nut so much.
"Well, there is the matter of an extra hour, and seeing as we're where we are, do you have any preferences as to how to spend it Agent Mulder?"
There was no denying that her nut-come-partner-come-best friend-come-lover-come-husband had the most beautiful, most talented mouth in the world.
October 31, 2001
"Mulder, that was fun."
Mulder looked at the beautiful, nearly asleep woman in his arms, her head against his shoulder. Her voice was sleepy, making her sound like a little girl.
"It was." He spoke softly.
"You were funny."
"Thanks." His smile betrayed his heart. Only Scully could say that and get away with it.
"Amusing, you know what I mean."
"I know." He had already turned the bed down, and now he deposited her on it. He then removed her shoes and socks. She sat there looking at him like she wasn't sure why he was doing this, but happy that he was.
"Ooh, it's cold." Scully shivered. "Is the heat turned on?"
They had returned home about half an hour ago from the Gunmen's, and Mulder was the only one of the three of them completely awake. They'd made it as far as the living room where Scully had a hard time moving once she'd sat down. Mulder had gone to put William down, and after he'd finished doing that, had returned to a heap of sleeping Scully splayed across the pillows on the couch. He'd scooped her up and carried her to the bedroom.
"Mulder, did you help carve those pumpkins?" She was listing now. She was so tired.
"Just one. Scully, can you raise your arms?" She complied. He pulled her sweater over her head, and then sat down next to her on the bed and wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm. Her eyes were closed, but she kept at her conversation.
"You couldn't tell?"
She thought for a moment and then got it. Of course, it was the littlest one. There had been several, but only one that was small. She opened her eyes now.
"The cute little one."
Mulder smiled, and his cheeks were a little flushed, she noticed. He was so adorable when in full-fatherhood mode. He'd carved the littlest one for their little one. William certainly had no idea that this had been his first Halloween, and had actually slept through most of it, but his father had carved him a William-sized jack-o-lantern.
"We should have brought it home with us, Mulder."
"We did, Scully. It's sitting on the kitchen table. We can light it again tomorrow night."
"Oh, good." She yawned.
It had been a fun night, given the circumstances under which it occurred. Their plans were just about firmed up now, and it was only a matter of a few weeks before they would be leaving.
"We've improved some on the holiday scale, huh, Scully? I didn't have to steal your keys this time to get you to stay." It wasn't Christmas, but Maurice and Lyda would be proud of them, he thought.
"You did steal my keys. I thought so." Scully had been up since 5:30 this morning, and now she was ready to collapse.
"Mulder, I don't know if I can finish getting undressed."
Mulder got up from the bed and retrieved her pajamas from the dresser.
"Arms up, once more Scully." She complied again. There was something so sexy, yet comforting about his undressing her and helping her into her pajamas. He was so gentle. When he was finished she laid down and he lifted her legs up to the bed. He pulled the covers up over her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. She was out. Mulder quickly undressed, checked on William once more, and then went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. He looked at his handiwork on the table. It wasn't a bad job for someone who'd carved a jack-o-lantern exactly two times before, twenty-five years ago or so.
The guys had bought a small pumpkin expressly for him to do for William, and they'd been highly entertained watching him go at it. Scully hadn't arrived yet at that point, so he hadn't even had the option of turning the job over to the person who knew how to wield a knife. It had been an atmospheric planning session, that's for certain.
The guys had already carved several other jack-o-lanterns which were placed all around the room wherever there was a bit of surface available. There were bowls of popcorn and candy, and some mystery punch, which he and Scully had both passed on. After some serious decisions had been made, they had spent the rest of the evening talking and reminiscing, while consuming their pizza. William had awakened long enough for a bottle, but otherwise was oblivious to it all. Frohike, Byers, and Langly loved having him there, though, and Mulder was quite moved by it all. He and Scully would be in touch with the guys after they left, but it wouldn't be like this, again, possibly ever. He drank his water and went to bed.
November 10, 2001
Maggie adjusted the chrysanthemums that were the centerpiece of her dinner table and then stepped back to assess her work. In her life, she'd set tables for countless dinner parties, but she had never set one with the care that she had this one. The best of everything was out tonight. The doorbell rang. They were here. Maggie said a quiet prayer to herself. Tonight could be the last time she would see them for an indeterminate period, and she wanted to savor every moment. She went to answer the door.
"Mom, hi. Scully hugged Maggie, a little more tightly than usual. Mulder had William and his stuff in tow, and the three of them were looking so well, that Maggie couldn't take her eyes off of them.
"Hi, Mrs. Scully."
"Fox, hello. And William, oh my darling, don't you look precious." Mulder handed William and his carrier seat to Maggie.
"Why don't you put your things in the den? William and I will meet you in the living room with some wine." Maggie and her little helper went off to the kitchen.
Mulder followed Scully into the den where among other things, Maggie had the crib set up. He knew that tonight was going to be very difficult for Scully. If he was feeling the way he felt, he could only imagine how it must be affecting her. He set William's stuff down on the couch and took his coat off, and then helped Scully off with hers. She walked over to look at something on the shelf by the desk, while he put their coats in the closet.
"Mom's been digging through her old photographs."
Mulder joined her. She was staring at a picture on the shelf. It was of the four Scully children and a young Asian woman standing outdoors on a lawn. The children were in swimming suits, each and every one of them grinning with joy, as only young children can. Even Charlie, who must have been barely three, Mulder guessed, had a mile-wide smile.
"How old are you there, Scully?"
"Five. This was in Japan, not too long before we came back to the States. I know I started kindergarten that September, and we were back home by then."
Mulder looked a little closer. The young woman was very pretty, with a shy smile. There was an inscription on the photo that read "My hooligans, I will miss you. Love, Miri."
"Miri is the woman with you in the picture, I take it?"
"Yes. She was Mom's helper, or nanny if you prefer, while we were there. She couldn't have been more than twenty, but she commanded us with almost as much authority as Dad. Her English was very good, and she was always fascinated by a new word, and she was particularly taken with 'hooligan' after hearing Dad refer to us that way. From then on whenever any of us were stirring up just enough trouble to keep things interesting, she would call us hooligans. In the end it was a term of endearment more than anything else."
"Scully, I think I like it. By that definition, hooligan suits you."
She looked at him, and spoke, rather wistfully. "Well, I wasn't the leader of the pack, that's for certain. It was usually Melissa who earned us the title. And now, well, Mulder, if there's anyone in this room who keeps things interesting, I'd say that it would be you."
"Oh, I think you both have the art of hooliganism down just fine. Are you going to join William and me in the living room?" Maggie had just come through the door.
"Yes, I'm definitely ready for a glass of wine, Mom." Scully smiled. "It's good to see that picture again. I know you used to keep in touch with Miri. How long has it been?"
"Oh, probably ten years at least. Her twins must be about the same age she was in that picture by now. I hope she and her family are happy and doing well."
Scully sighed. Time went by so fast. How long would they be gone? Would William ever know this house or his grandmother, aside from looking at photographs? Scully couldn't think about that now. She'd go crazy if she did.
Dinner had been delicious. Scully had guessed that her mother would prepare them Thanksgiving dinner anyway, and she'd been right. Her mother's table was so beautiful. The sterling silver candle holders that had been Scully's great-grandmother's combined with Maggie's own china and crystal, and the flowers made for a setting that was pure elegance, and pure Maggie. She loved to set a beautiful table, and nothing made her happier than when she did it for her family.
"Would you like to have dessert here or in the living room?" Maggie asked.
"Mom, I think I need a break before dessert."
"Mrs. Scully, that was wonderful. You surpassed yourself."
"Thank you, Fox. Are you sure you don't want anything more?"
"No, but I'll abstain. I want to enjoy dessert."
Maggie smiled at him. He was looking so healthy. She would never comprehend fully what had happened to Fox, but the fact that he'd been left for dead, and had been buried eight months ago, but was now sitting here eating her food, and enjoying it heartily, had reconfirmed her faith in ways she had never before conceived. If he was here, then certainly other good things might be possible in this world.
They all rose from the table. Maggie, of course, wouldn't let them clear their own dishes, and sent them off to check on William, while she removed the dishes from the table to the kitchen, and put the coffee on. They regrouped in the living room half an hour later. Scully had William and was giving him his bottle, and Maggie and Mulder were enjoying their coffee and pie; pecan for her and pumpkin for him.
"William's being so good, Dana. Were the mashed potatoes okay?" He'd consumed two spoonfuls earlier. "I think he liked them. So far, it's just peas that he hasn't cared too much for."
"I guess he takes after his aunt and uncles in that respect, since you were the only one who ever liked peas as a child. The others all hated them."
"I was the only one who ever liked any vegetables while we were growing up. Although I did take a break from peas for quite awhile after seeing 'The Exorcist.'"
Maggie smiled at the memory that this remark brought on. It had been a true battle of the wills between Maggie and her daughters over letting them see the movie "The Exorcist." In the end she had consented, but against her better judgement. Now she couldn't even believe that it had ever been an issue.
William seemed to be finished with his bottle. Mulder set down his plate on the coffee table.
"Scully, I'll finish up."
"Thanks, Mulder." Scully got up and handed William over to his father.
"Mrs. Scully, this pie is fantastic."
"I'll send some home with you, Fox."
"Deal." He carried William into the den, leaving Scully and her mother in the living room.
"Mom, tonight means so much to us. Thanks."
"I wouldn't have it any other way. You know that."
"Yes, I do."
"Do you know anything yet, about when it will happen?"
Scully swallowed, trying to keep down the lump that was making its way to her throat. This was harder than she'd ever thought it could be. Which didn't make any sense, since telling your mother the date that you'd be leaving and possibly not seeing her again for a very long time, possibly even years, should be very hard. Scully's sense of logic and order had failed her completely.
"It could be, no, will be in the next few days, unless something unforeseen happens."
Maggie looked down at her hands in her lap and couldn't say anything. She'd promised herself that she wouldn't cry, but that had been a foolish promise to make. Now her hands were wet. Scully moved over and wrapped her mother in her arms. They were both crying now. There wasn't anything else left to do.
Several minutes later, Maggie was the first to speak. "Dana, there are some things you need to know." Scully sat up, ready to listen, a small look of apprehension on her face.
"No, no sweetheart. Nothing bad, I promise." Maggie took a few seconds to compose herself.
"I love you Dana, I hope you know that. And your father loved you, too. I know there were some rough spots when you decided to not practice medicine, but there was never a time that he didn't love you and want the best for you."
Scully took her mother's hand in her own. Maggie continued.
"Honey, I've never talked much about Fox, because I didn't know how to start. He's not like anyone I've ever known, except for in one respect, which is his integrity. His integrity is the same as your Dad's was, and I really do believe that if they'd ever had the chance to meet, that your father would have admired him. I don't know that he would have understood him, but I believe that he would have seen in Fox what I see. A man who I'd trust my life with, and with whom I trust yours, and now William's."
Maggie felt Scully's hand tighten around her own.
"Whatever happens, I know that you'll be where you should be, which is with the man you love. That I do understand, fully. I only wish that your father and I hadn't spent so much time apart during our marriage."
Now Maggie took her daughter in her arms. She rocked her gently for a moment and then let her go.
"Fox is probably wondering by now if he's given us enough time. Why don't you go see how he's doing?"
Scully nodded, got up and left.
She found Mulder perusing a photo album. He was sitting at the desk, looking very intent on what he was viewing. She stood there for a minute watching him, before he looked up and saw her.
"Hi. How did it go?" He'd asked that too quickly. Now, he could see she'd been crying. He got up and went to her and took her in his arms. She burrowed her head into his chest. If they stayed this way forever, it would be okay with her. She remembered the occasion when she had first allowed him to hold her like this, and she shivered. Her life could have ended that night, but when it hadn't, he'd held her until she could stop shaking. She hadn't known it at the time, but that had been an important stop on the way to where they were now. It was useless, but he asked anyway. "Are you all right, Scully?"
He held her tighter.
"But, I will be."
"Right." He wasn't convinced, though.
"Mulder, we should go. It will only be more difficult if we stay longer."
He nodded in agreement.
There wasn't much to do, but put a few things back into the bag of assorted items that accompanied William everywhere. Mulder did this, and then retrieved their coats from the closet. In minutes they were bundled and ready to go. Scully picked up William, Mulder picked up his seat, and they were done. They went to find Maggie.
She met them in the dining room with a bag full of containers filled with leftovers, which she handed to Mulder. The four of them walked to the front door, and then paused. Scully handed the sleeping William to her mother, who after a short spell, broke the silence.
"I love you, my darling. I'll see you again, but I don't know when. Your parents love you, and will take good care of you, but I'll be waiting." She kissed him twice, once on his cheek and once on his forehead, and then she handed him back to Scully.
Scully wasn't able to speak, and Mulder had watched this in an almost trance-like state. He was just starting to come out of it when Maggie reached up and put her hand on his cheek, and then leaned up to give him a brief kiss. She then did the same to her daughter.
"I love you both."
Maggie stood on the porch and watched them load into the car, and then she stood listening as the sound of the car leaving her street faded away.
They drove home in complete silence. Mulder had never seen Scully like this before. Through everything they had experienced together, he had never seen her in what appeared to be a total funk. It wasn't just sadness over leaving; it went beyond that.
It was a little before ten by the time they got themselves into the apartment and unpacked. William was still asleep, so it didn't take Mulder long to put him down for the night. He could hear that Scully was running a bath, so he sat down and tried to watch some TV. He was having a hard time finding anything good, and was about to give it up, when Scully, looking a little better for having had a soak in the tub, came out and sat down next to him. She leaned her head on his shoulder. She was wrapped in a bathrobe that nearly doubled her size when she wore it, but it was so comfortable. Tonight she needed that. Mulder stroked her hair, and they just sat there, quietly, for several minutes. Then Scully spoke.
"Mulder, how are you?"
"How am I? Ah, fine Scully." He looked down at her face. Her expression was neutral.
"Don't worry, Mulder. I'm not crazy."
"Okay, but that's my line." Now she smiled. It was faint, but it was a smile.
"What are you watching?"
"Nothing. There's nothing good on."
She got up and went over to the stack of videos by the television, and pulled the copy of "Caddyshack" out that had somehow become part of her collection over the last year, and put it into the VCR. Then she returned to the couch and her position next to Mulder, and picked up the remote. She pushed play, but then turned the sound down all the way. Mulder watched all this, not knowing what to make of it. Mr. Profiler was at sea here.
"Scully, it's no fun watching the gopher without the music."
"We can rewind it and watch it with the sound later."
"Mulder, I sorted a few things out while I was in the bathtub. Do you feel like hearing me out, or are you tired? I can save this until morning."
"I'm listening. Go ahead."
"I know that you weren't sure about the decision to leave, and I know you think I was a little bull-headed about the whole thing, which is only partly true. Mulder, what I was the most, is scared. On our way home tonight, I felt the way I felt during the first weeks you were gone. I saw how you looked at me when we were walking back into the building tonight. Well, what you were seeing is the me that barely crawled out of bed each day for months back then. That was a low point that I never expected I could experience again, but tonight I came close."
Mulder was listening, but he was also experiencing an epiphany. He'd found his missing piece. And there was nothing intangible about her. Scully took a deep breath, and continued.
"Mulder, the truth is, that I made that decision based on fear, something I've never done before in my life, and something I know you never have. I can't live like that. I don't know what happened, but I hope it's not too late to change the plan." She paused again, and then said the words that had been locked up deep inside her until tonight.
"Mulder, I think we should stay."
He pulled her into his arms and held her tight, so glad to have her back.
"Scully, if you're comfortable with that, then so am I."
"Mulder, thank you. I am. I'm sorry that the guys went to all that trouble and work, though. I don't know how I'll ever make it up to them."
"I think they'll forgive us. And, Scully, it is the both of us. I never said a word to them about not being completely satisfied with the plan."
"Mulder, I don't want them to think that you were responsible for this. I'm the troublemaker on this one."
He grinned at her.
"You're not a troublemaker, Scully. You just keep things interesting." She smiled at his reference. Maybe he was right. Maybe she was right. Maybe they'd make it work, right here. The danger wasn't going away anytime soon regardless of their location, and it wouldn't hurt to have people around who knew and loved them to help in their fight. Her poor mother. What she'd put her through tonight. Maggie would understand; she'd be so happy that she'd forget to be mad; Scully knew this. But still, she would have liked to have spared her tonight. She would have to go over there first thing in the morning.
"Scully, are you ready for bed?"
"No." She picked up the remote and pushed rewind and turned up the volume just enough so that they could hear it, but without disturbing William. Then she snuggled into Mulder's arms. She wasn't going to let anything or anyone get in the way of this life that they'd somehow managed to establish. Ever.
"You're right, Mulder. The gopher works better with the music."
~ End ~
Next in series: Fait Accompli
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This story is (c) Copyright 2001 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.