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She did not know how long she had been standing in front of the mirror.
She was only aware of feelings, of a painful gnawing in her stomach.
She did not know if she had spoken out-loud or if the whispered name was merely the echo of a endless nightmare shown.
While in the hospital, Scully's mood had fluctuated between a euphoric high and a mind-numbing desperation.
The doctor had delivered the news of her pregnancy in crisp tones, his eyes focused on his chart, never quite looking at Scully.
The words, "you're pregnant," were distant, hollow, and for a long time, she simply sat in bed, hands folded on lap, staring out the window. She could make out the fuzzy haze of the DC skyline in the distance. The sharp angles of buildings and monuments were blurry, but she attributed that to haze, and not necessarily to her own teary vision.
When Skinner had arrived, she had already known.
Mulder was gone.
She didn't know how she knew because no one had come to tell her; after all, she was simply Mulder's partner, the one who was supposed to discredit his work.
Dana Scully was not supposed to care.
Emotional detachment; that was the hallmark of a scientist and Scully wore it well, her critical, analytical eye finding fault with nearly theory Mulder came up with.
But this pregnancy...
Logic, for once, did not prevail; coolness of thought and philosophy did not supercede the emotional. She allowed herself to enjoy, just for a second, the thought of being pregnant, and then she remembered what had happened.
The doctor, once again not making eye contact, had discharged her shortly before dinner with the admonishment to take it easy.
"I will," Scully said, knowing that she wouldn't.
Skinner drove her home. She sat in the passenger side seat, leaning her cheek against the window, watching the trees and buildings go by. At a traffic light, she saw a family - mom and dad, swinging a red-shirted toddler in between them.
Scully turned her attention to the other side of the road and focused on the bicyclist who was waiting for the light to turn green. He was tall, brown-haired, skinny but muscular legs, and dressed in a white shirt and black spandex biking shorts. The light changed and the cyclist pedaled away.
"Are you feeling all right?" Skinner asked as he drove through the intersection.
"Relatively," Scully said.
"I wasn't just saying the words, Scully," Skinner said. "I did mean it. I will find him for you."
The apartment was exactly how she had left it. Her jacket still lay on the back of the sofa, her black shoes tossed carelessly in a corner behind the door. The coffee mug and breakfast dishes from the day before still sat in the sink and the CDs lying next to the stereo were the same CDs she had played the last day Mulder had visited here.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Skinner asked again as he put her overnight bag next to the dining room table. Scully took a few steps, noted the light layer of dust on the hall table, and then turned around to face the Assistant Director.
"Fine," she said evenly. She didn't have the strength to inject the frustration, the anger into her voice.
"If you don't want to be alone-"
"No," Scully held up a hand. "It's kind of you, sir, to offer, but no. I'll be fine."
Skinner had made a motion, almost as if he wanted to hug Scully, but then stepped back. He looked awkward for a moment, and his jaw quivered with an emotion that Scully had yet to acknowledge for herself.
"Take time for yourself," Skinner said quietly. "I understand."
"I'll see you at work," Scully answered. "Tomorrow."
Skinner did not press the subject and for that, Scully was grateful.
"Good night then," Skinner said.
She hadn't noticed the darkness, hadn't noticed that shadows were casting across the length of the room. Mechanically, she turned on the halogen lamp, the soft golden glow adding warmth to a room already chilled by loneliness.
She passed by the answering machine on her way to the bedroom and noted that she had no messages. She didn't bother to check the cell phone either, knowing instinctively that its ring would be less demanding, less obtrusive from now on.
The bedroom window was open, two inches from the bottom. Scully crossed the room, closed it, stifling the breath of fresh air. The closet, the door ajar from yesterday's frantic morning routine, revealed rows of neatly pressed, freshly dry-cleaned suits all tailored in that no-nonsense style Scully preferred. And beneath the clothes, the shoes pointed inward, some of their soles scuffed from chases through fields, forests, city roads - wherever a particular X-File had sent them.
Scully sat on the edge of the bed, leaned forward, trying to ignore that sense of vertigo and nausea that was sure to plague her for the next few months.
Oh God, Mulder.
Despite the closed windows, she could still hear distant voices on the street outside, could hear the cars go by. She got up from the bed and looked out the window. The street cafes were open and she could see groups of people gathering for dinner, some of them laughing.
Scully's stomach growled; she hadn't eaten since the lukewarm bland lunch the hospital had served up. She tried to remember exactly what she had consumed - turkey sandwich maybe? Some jello?
She kicked off her shoes and changed into jeans and a flannel shirt that she left untucked. Her bare feet were cold against the hardwood floors, but she did not bother to dig out a pair of socks from the top drawer of her dresser.
In the bathroom, Scully splashed water on her face and then stared at her reflection. Eyes, nose, hair, chin - everything was as it should be, but still, she felt curiously disassociated from the face in the mirror. It was almost as if she was looking at what Dana Scully was, not who she was.
In the kitchen, she started the kettle. Chamomile tea. In truth, Scully was not fond of chamomile. Tasteless but with a clear golden-rod yellow color. She added a spoon of sugar and then covered the steaming mug with a plate while letting the tea bag seep.
A quick survey of the refrigerator revealed ingredients that would take more time and creativity to prepare than she had time for. She noted the long-necked beer bottles, the brand that Mulder preferred, and the Chinese leftovers from a late night work session.
She threw the Chinese food out, knowing that her stomach would not be able to tolerate moo shu pork or anything else prepared with soy sauce and MSG.
In the end, she settled for a cup of Dannon yogurt, peach flavored, and then she settled on the sofa, tucking her feet beneath her.
Scully sipped the tea slowly, careful not to swallow to quickly lest the liquid burn her throat.
It had been a long time since she had had an evening like this to herself, quiet and utterly peaceful. Most nights, she was out, mostly with Mulder, knee-deep in a swamp or digging through abandoned houses. Sometimes, they would be in some seedy motel where the rooms smelled like mildew and orange shag carpet was haute couture.
And other times, she would lie down on the sofa, listen to Mulder drone on for hours over the phone as he suffered yet another bout of insomnia and she, well, she lost another night of sleep as a consequence. And while she pretended to be irritated with his lack of consideration for her own rest, Scully never cut him off. She couldn't because much as she would complain, she enjoyed every word.
Scully set the empty mug on the coffee table, looked towards the stereo and contemplated adding the cool sounds of Miles Davis or the smooth vocal renderings of Sarah Vaughn; she decided against music, feeling like noise, no matter how lovely or perfect, would spoil the stillness that memorialized Mulder's absence.
She did not check the clock, only knew that it was time to sleep because her muscles were aching and a dull ache began to form in her temples. Somehow, she dragged herself to the bathroom, brushed her teeth, and for the first time in years, skipped the nightly ritual of the mud mask.
Blue cotton pajamas and three steps later, she was in bed, asleep within seconds.
The dream started serenely enough. A vision of cells joining, then dividing, and slowly growing, developing limbs, blood vessels, heart, and then face, its features morphing into an eerie afterimage of someone who was...
She sat up, gasping.
Sleep was impossible now.
Scully lay on her side, clutching the quilt to her chest.
"I have seen things I cannot explain," she had said to the FBI investigators, the ones that had dodged her and Mulder, nearly making their trip to the Pacific Northwest an impossibility. And it seemed disloyal to say so now, but Scully hadn't wanted to go, hadn't wanted to return to the scene of the very first X-
file she had worked with Mulder.
She wished she had prevailed, wished she had argued more.
Would it have helped?
Maybe, maybe not.
Mulder could be equally stubborn when he wanted to be and chances were, he would have gone anyway.
She lay staring up at the ceiling, trying not to imagine Mulder's face or his laugh or the way he would look at her. She would try to forget the way his lips brushed against her cheek or the way he would fold her into his embrace, her head resting against his broad chest. She would try to forget the way he would say "Scully" and try to forget that for every emotion, every feeling, he had a different way of saying her name. A way of caressing and imbuing a single word with so much more.
And somehow, she slept again, this time sinking into a dreamless, dark sleep - one infinitely more welcome.
Morning light pressed against her eyelids and she woke, stretching. It was only after she slipped her feet into blue slippers that Scully remembered that today would be her first day without Mulder.
She walked into the kitchen, put on the coffee pot, and then went back into the bathroom. Somehow, the morning routine progressed, even though Mulder was not going through his morning routine across town.
She took a shower, the warm water beating down on her. She stood there until her fingers wrinkled and the water started to cool.
Scully pulled out a shirt - pea-green silk blend - to go with her typical severe suit. She stood in front of the mirror, shirt unbuttoned and untucked over her black skirt and stared.
She didn't see anything different in those familiar features, nothing that said "Mulder is gone." No one would be able to look at her and know that Mulder had vanished in a burst of light, abducted by aliens that everyone insisted did not exist.
Slowly, she began to button her shirt.
The coffee was finished when she walked into the kitchen; she turned off the pot and left, without pouring herself a cup.
Somehow, she didn't think that coffee would help her. Not today.
The drive to the FBI passed in a fog of trees and buildings, all of them blurring. She parked in her usual spot, trying not to look at the spot where Mulder's car would have been.
Five minutes passed before she got out of the car and even then, she felt weak in the leg, wobbly on her three-inch heels.
As she entered the building, she saw the familiar faces, and from the sympathetic looks she received, she knew that they knew.
Of course they wouldn't understand, wouldn't care the way she did; to them, Mulder was "Spooky," the man who tilted at windmills and raved about government conspiracies.
Scully set her jaw; let them think what they wanted to, she thought. It doesn't matter.
Each step she took towards the basement office was one more painful reminder of what had been.
And she ignored the sympathy, ignored the "Good morning, Agent Scully" greetings. And for the first time in seven years, she understood. Understood Mulder's quest to find Samantha, understood what it meant to be so driven, so certain, so determined.
She stepped into the elevator and as she pressed the button for the basement, she knew that she could walk into the office she had shared - and would share - with Mulder.
He was coming back.
She would make sure of it.
~ the end ~
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