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"Tell me about William."
The change in Scully is perceptible. She's sitting at the window, watching the rain fall outside. She's been holding a pen in her hand for at least thirty minutes now; I don't ask her who she means to write to because I know this routine now. She'll eventually rip the blank sheet of paper off the tablet, ball it up and toss it. Then she'll tell me that she's fine, that she didn't have anything to say.
And I'm tired of Scully not having anything to say.
"What do you want to know?" Scully turns to look at me. Her hair has grown out longer, falling past her shoulders now. She looks tired, which is strange, because she sleeps all the time. In the car, in the hotel, anytime we're still, she sleeps.
I wonder if it's because she doesn't want to have to deal with me.
"Everything," I say easily. I'm on the bed, lying there, watching her. Before, I was watching ESPN wondering about the baseball strike, whether it was going to happen or not, and I'd have to spend a season in purgatory, a season without baseball. So far, no news, but the negotiators think they can pull something together. Sports pundits. We have people who can tell us to a square centimeter where to find an arsenal of nuclear weapons, we have people who make deals with aliens to protect themselves, but we listen more closely to what Sports Center has to say about whether we're going to get baseball this year or not.
I prefer baseball.
Even though I'm supposed to think about other things.
Baseball is easier. Much easier to comprehend, much easier to absorb. The rules don't change when the players do.
"Why?" Scully asks. She puts her pen down, her lips pressing down into a thin line.
"Because I want to know about our son."
"You didn't ask before. Why now?"
"Because-" and I stop. Good question. Scully and her questions, always asking. I could make up a story that we didn't get a chance to talk before. After all, we've been on the run for a few days now, and getting away - if that's even a possibility - has been our top priority. But then that sounds shallow, superficial, as if my son was never my priority.
With Scully, I'm probably better off with the truth. That it hurt too much to ask before, to admit how much I missed - missed everything that I could have had, that could have been. All of those possibilities and nothing. Absolutely nothing.
"Because I'm ready," I tell her. "Because I heard it from Skinner and now I want to hear it from you. And because I should have been there with you and I wasn't and that's nothing something I can forgive myself for."
Scully looks out the window. It's dark out and the rain is coming down hard. I never thought it rained in the desert, but the clerk in the hotel lobby said that this weather was unusual for this time of year. He then muttered something about the Greenhouse effect and governmental conspiracies; I took the room keys and left the kid to his own delusions.
"I was afraid you'd never forgive me," Scully says.
"You made a decision that was in the best interests of our son," I tell her gently. I wonder what I'm supposed to do here. Do I get up and put my arms around her? Do I stay here on the bed? Do I go and sit opposite her and watch her staring out the window? "How can I fault you for that?"
"I felt so... helpless."
This time, I do get up to stand behind Scully. Her shoulder muscles are tight beneath my hands.
"Without you," she says, "I don't know how that could have happened."
She tips her head slightly to the side, twisting to look at me. "Without you. I thought I could do it, raise William alone. But it was different. Not knowing. Not being able to know what had happened to you. And wondering what I would tell William."
"He had your eyes, Mulder," she says it softly. She reaches up to put lay her hand on top of mine. "And your smile. He- smiled a lot."
"I missed you both."
"You should have come back." She withdraws her hand and gets up from her chair. Now she's facing me and I'm absolutely petrified. "You say you missed us, but you never came home."
"I came once," I tell her. "Remember? You asked me to come and I did. But then-" I stop. A dim memory of hours on the train, of anticipation and then actually arriving at the train station. I'd felt the danger almost immediately, and I jumped. And ran. Ran when Scully needed me the most. I never turned back because I thought I was protecting her. Protecting William.
"All I ever wanted," she says, "was for all of the pieces of my life to come together. You. Me. William. That's all. Was it too much to ask?"
I swallow. Hard.
"I let you go, Mulder," Scully says. She's standing now, her back to me, hands clasped behind her. "We had three days and then you said you had to go. You didn't give me a reason then and you still haven't given me a reason. You said you had to find the truth and I said fine. It was too dangerous to stay and I agreed. I helped you pack." She turns to face me. "I didn't think you'd leave me like that." And then she smiles. "And I didn't think I'd fall apart. I told everyone that you needed to go and that the truth was greater than all of us and that you needed to do what you've always needed to do. And that was to find and expose the men behind the conspiracy that threatened us all. In the end, I think I ended up believing that the conspiracy meant more to you than your son did."
"That's not true." I grip the back of the chair, my fingers aching with the strain. "That's never been true."
Scully turns to face me now. "I needed you, Mulder, and I hated you because I needed you so much. I don't know what happened to me. How I could dissolve so completely without you." She takes a step towards me, but I stay frozen in place.
Of course Scully is different. The nine months we've been apart, it's evident how much she's changed. This Scully is fragile, emotional, a far cry from the scientist I met nine years ago. But she's still Scully, and I still love her.
"And you're here," she says softly. She's bridged the gap between us now. I pull her close, resting my chin on top of her head. "You're finally here and I can only remember those three days we had when the conspiracy didn't exist, when there was nothing but the three of us. And maybe you think what you found out there isn't important enough to tell me, but it's another piece, Mulder, and I'm asking you now to tell me. Tell me what I've given up our son for."
"I can't, Scully." My voice shakes. Of all the times, of all the times to fail her. I cup my hand against her jaw. "You know I can't."
"You say that, but it means absolutely nothing to me."
"You taught me to trust no one."
Touché. Scully's got me on that one.
"I'm sorry," I tell her. "I don't know how many times I can say that to make it right. I don't know that I ever can. But I just felt that there answers out there I needed to find and I didn't want to involve you and William because it was too dangerous. Maybe I needed to take a risk but I didn't want to lose you, Scully. I thought staying with you was -" I brush a strand of hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ears - "the worst thing I could do to you. I didn't realize that leaving you would be even worse." I take a deep breath. For weeks, I huddled out in a trailer with Gibson, thinking about Scully. Thinking about William. And then, to be so close to them and losing my nerve at the last minute; the scrapes and bruises from my jump off the train faded after a couple weeks, but my longing for Scully and William never did.
"I think about him," Scully says softly. She tips her head to the side and looks at me. "I have a fantasy that you and I will go and get him. That we will just walk up to the house and take him. We'll drive away, Mulder, and we'll find a house somewhere and live a life close to normal. A life without black oil or men who cannot be killed. There is no cancer in my fantasy and no abductions. None of it ever happened. Just you, me, William, and white picket fence."
I stroke her cheek lightly with my fingers; she inhales deeply. "It sounds pretty good to me, Scully." It's all I can say because I know that 'fantasy' is the right word - getting William back is nothing but a fantasy. A way of weakening us more than we have already been weakened and could we really subject our son to a life on the lam? Scully didn't give William up because it was too hard to care for him, but because she feared for his life; going to get him would only jeopardize him more.
"But that won't happen, will it?" Scully asks. My G-woman can sense what I'm unable to say. She pulls away from me and stands in front of the window, staring out at the parking lot. A car pulls in, its headlights momentarily blinding us. The garish light of the hotel sign blurs in the rain. "No matter how much I want it, no matter how much I fight, that's one truth that won't change."
I swallow. "It won't always be like this, I promise."
"You have to believe I did it because I was afraid of what would happen to him if he stayed. Mulder, he'd been through so much," Scully said. She was running her fingers down the brown and orange polyester curtains. "I wanted to spare him that."
"I believe that. I do."
"And I would have asked you, Mulder, but I couldn't find you. You didn't answer your emails and I was so afraid that something had happened to you. When I saw Spender, saw what they had done to him, I could only think of you. Mulder, I thought Spender was you." She bites her lip. "I thought it was you and I couldn't even think straight. I didn't know what to do and I couldn't find you."
"I understand." I catch her around the waist, pulling her close to me. Her hair is still damp from her shower earlier. I kiss her on the wrist and then hold her hand to my heart. She turns to me, pressing her face against my chest.
"Two pieces of my puzzle irretrievable," she whispers. "That's what I believed, that's what I thought. Until I saw you again, in that prison cell and even then, you frightened me with that ridiculous Hannibal Lecter act of yours."
"I'm sorry. I didn't want them to know-" I pause. What did I mean here? That I didn't want the prison guards, those men involved in the conspiracy, to know that Scully was the way to get to me? Of course, they already knew that; hadn't they used her so many times? But that one time, when I lay bruised and beaten on the cold cement floor of the jail cell, I was determined that they wouldn't sense my weakness. I was determined that they could kill me, that I would die, but they wouldn't get Scully.
In a way, the extinguishing of my own life would have been a merciful release compared to what they could have - what they wanted to do - to Scully.
"I'm sorry you had to go through that alone," I tell her gently. I pull her to the bed. She curls up in a ball next to me, her head resting on her hands. "I can never make it up to you. And now, you've given up everything for me." I put a finger to her lips. "Scully, I don't know how to make it right again, to make this feel right again. I can only tell you that I regret, that I miss, and I hurt."
"I know," she says. She inches closer to me and I wrap my arm against her. Outside, the rain is pounding mercilessly at the windows and thunder rumbles in the distance. "Tell me," she says softly. "Tell me what we're running from and tell me where we're going."
I hesitate, but Scully slips her hand into mine; her skin is warm, comforting.
"I don't know," I whisper.
"Make it up," she says. "Tell me a story. I want to feel safe again."
And so I tell her a story of a house, with a white picket fence, a golden retriever and a little boy with blue eyes and brown hair.
~ the end ~
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