Title: Patience and Grace
Rating: This prologue is PG-13; might get more mature later on
Summary: I've been working on this series off and on for a long time, and am finally getting myself organized to post. A year or so after getting together romantically in the wake of her remission from Cancer, Mulder and Scully face a new challenge, brought on by Mulder's torn
Spoilers: Pilot, One Breath, Colony/Endgame, Memento Mori, Christmas Carol
Disclaimer: Characters, with the exception of Kyle, are all the property Chris Carter.
No matter what she did, she couldn't sleep. She was sick of even attempting to try. For the past two nights, the bed had been too lonely, even when she propped up a ridiculous amount of pillows along her back to trick her body into thinking he was there. She dragged herself to the couch, but it smelled too much like the last time they had made love for her to slumber. She couldn't concentrate on reading, and watching television would only make her even more hyper. She glanced at the clock. 7:30 PM.
This was ridiculous, she thought. She was going Philadelphia.
Two Days Earlier
After a marathon performance of autopsies, all Scully could think about was home, Mulder, and a glass of red wine. By the time she dragged herself to her apartment, it was nearly eight o'clock. As soon as she walked in the door, she tripped over an unzipped carryon and a dry cleaning bag.
"Where have you been?" Mulder asked as he kicked his bag to the hallway and picked up the dry cleaning. "I thought I would see you before my flight."
Scully looked at him open-mouthed. She had completely forgot. "You're leaving tonight?"
Mulder had been invited to deliver a paper at a conference on a profile that had developed during a highly publicized case . Unfortunately, his success in profiling and arresting the perp before he had killed his sixth victim had led to more consults at his old division, which meant that Scully had been seeing more and more time in forensics. If he hadn't practically been living at her apartment, she would have never seen him over the past two months.
"My cab's outside. I'll be back Sunday afternoon," he said, bending down for a kiss. "I'll call you later."
And call he did. Their recent work separations had resulted in them practicing the art of phone sex. However, Scully craved the real deal. It was frustrating for her—they had been separated so much over the past several weeks that the last thing she wanted was another weekend apart. She was in the position to remedy the situation so she was going to seize the moment.
It was after midnight by the time she reached the hotel.
"Can I help you?"
Scully hadn't realized that she must of appeared as dazed and confused as she felt. She looked around nervously, making sure there was no one she knew hanging around the lobby, even though only a handful of FBI personnel were attending. She made her way to the lobby desk, hoping that she wasn't blushing. She hadn't actually thought of what would happen once she reached the hotel. In formulating her great plan, she had gone so far as getting to Philadelphia, and then did not pick up again until she and Mulder were in bed.
Her fears were somewhat allayed when she realized that the clerk was a friendly senior citizen bearing a name tag which read Doris. "Are you meeting someone here, dear?" Scully was surprised. "I am, actually. My, um, flight got in late."
"I'll just need the party's last name," she smiled.
Now she was the one definitely blushing. "Mulder," she said. "He checked in last night."
"Ah, here is his record. I see that he's a longtime Starwood customer. He has a very low rewards member number," chatted Doris in a kindly manner.
"Since our company bought over all those motel chains, we can see exactly when and where people stay," Doris continued. "It's quite interesting to see the exciting lives our guests are living," she said with a wink.
Scully smiled, hoping that her impatience wasn't showing. "He travels a lot for work," Scully agreed, forcing a small smile. Maybe Doris was onto something—perhaps the reason Mulder had dragged her to so many horrible motels was he could hit the rewards points jackpot. She considered asking Doris how many points Mulder had, when the older woman sighed. "This is very sweet, dear."
"What?" Scully asked.
"I'm just looking at Mr. Mulder's record. It's quite romantic, really."
"What?" persisted Scully.
Doris looked up from her computer screen. "Someone made a note saying that Mr. Mulder's wife often surprises him when he travels."
"We aren't married," Scully responded, confused and agitated. Why couldn't Doris have been a no-nonsense college student who would just wordlessly hand her a keycard or had offered called up to Mulder's room?
"I didn't mean to come across so curt," Scully apologized, seeing that Doris looked taken aback. "I just had a long day, and I shouldn't have been so gruff. Could you just let me know when that note was made in his account? It's just that no one has mentioned it to me in the past."
"Our computer system only goes as far back as 1992, and I see that this particular note is one of the earliest entries. So it could be older," Doris said, somewhat suspiciously.
A wave of nausea overcame Scully. She knew that there were a dozen reasonable explanations for the note—it could have been something from an undercover case, a prank from one of the Gunmen, a one night stand. This didn't mean that Mulder was hiding a secret marriage from her.
The clattering of heels jerked Scully away from her thoughts. Someone had jointed Doris at the counter with two cups of steaming coffee. "Thought you could use the caffeine," the younger woman said to Doris. "Are you looking at Room 502's record? Isn't that sweet? I checked in the wife and son earlier today. Did they call for room service? I know they were having trouble getting dinner reservations."
Scully felt Doris glaring at her. Great, Scully thought. Now she thinks that I'm a homewrecker.
Not that she really cared.
She had much bigger problems on her hand.
She wandered to a nearby plush armchair, hoping to catch her breath. She knew that the conference existed, and that Mulder was presenting. She had bumped into Skinner at the Hoover earlier in the week, and he had mentioned that if Mulder continued to play nice with the other departments, their next budget meeting might not be as painful as usual. That was her starting point. She needed to focus on what she did know rather than what two hotel clerks who were battling through a long graveyard shift told her.
Scully looked up, and noticed a tall boy, holding a Gameboy, approach the front desk. "I was wondering if you had any Double A batteries."
"Do your parents know you are down here?" asked Doris.
"They are 'talking' right now," the boy wryly responded, emphasizing talking. "In any case, I need the batteries. I have cash, or you can charge it to my Dad's room. 502."
"I'll be right back," the younger clerk said to the child.
Scully tried her hardest to not look in the boy's direction. She was tempted, and wasn't sure what would be worse—knowing or not knowing.
"Ma'am?" Doris called out to her. "Will you be checking in?"
Now Scully was really embarrassed. "No," she said softly. "Thank you for your help."
As she found her bag and turned around, making eye contact with the boy was unavoidable. She managed a nod and a small smile—a run of the mill, everyday greeting that you would give a stranger who happened to be an elementary school student or a senior citizen.
The boy had hazel eyes.
By the time she got back home to her apartment, it was nearly six am. Her mind was racing, the nausea hadn't left, and physically, she was exhausted. Somehow, she remembered the sleeping pills her oncologist had prescribed. She had refilled the last prescription, but had never opened the bottle. She took two with a swig of water, and crawled into the empty bed, praying she would fall into a dreamless sleep.
"Frohike, it's me. Turn off the tape," Mulder barked. He had been trying to reach Scully all day. He had successfully filled both her cellphone voice mail and landline answering machine with messages. If their phone sex encounter two nights earlier was any indication, she would be expecting a call. Something was wrong.
"How are you, professor?" Frohike joked. "How were your students? I'm sure you had half the female attendees show up."
"I can't get a hold of Scully. I spoke with her Thursday night, got an email on Friday afternoon, but nothing since then. I'm getting worried," Mulder said. "I don't want to have to call her mother. Trace her phone, credit cards, the works."
"We know the drill, Muldy," Frohike said. "Call me back in half an hour."
Logically, there were thousands of explanations for not hearing from Scully—she was out, her cell died, her power at home was out, she was at the movies, she was at work. But he had a sinking feeling that something was wrong.
"Damn," Frohike muttered, looking up from his computer. "Mulder, you're an idiot."
"What?" Langly and Byers asked in unison.
"Scully flew to the fair city of Philly last night, and then flew back to DC less than two hours later," explained Frohike. "She didn't check in to any hotels, but I looked up Mulder's Starwood account, and two guesses as to what was still on it, and the first guess doesn't count."
"He never changed that?" Langly asked. "Even after he and Scully started going at it?"'
"Scully probably doesn't even know. It's not like the clerks give you your life story when you check in at a hotel," Byers rationalized.
"When was the last time you checked into a hotel?" bickered Langly.
"I always knew Mulder was a glutton for self-punishment, but this goes above and beyond the call of duty," Frohike said. "It gets worse."
Byers and Langly stopped squabbling and snapped their heads in Frohike's direction.
"Yesterday afternoon, Diana Fowley checked in to Mulder's room. She then booked the room adjacent to Mulder's in her name. And then last night at 12:35 AM, a charge was made to the room."
"We still don't know what Scully knows," reiterated Byers.
"She must suspect something if she's off the radar," Langly pointed out.
"Mulder's going to be calling any minute. What do I tell him?" Frohike asked. Although Mulder could be a jerk, he was his closest friend. Weighing his friendship with Mulder against what he felt for Scully was like comparing apples and oranges at this point.
Frohike had made a promise to Mulder a few years earlier—never tell Scully about his ill-fated marriage to Diana, or about the existence of his son, Kyle. At the time, Mulder was scared. Scully had just been returned from her abduction, and Mulder was convinced that it had all been his fault. He felt that it would be safer for her to know as little as possible about his complicated relationship with his ex-wife and child, in efforts to shield all parties from future harm. The less they knew the better.
Back then, Frohike agreed with Mulder's logic. Witnessing the aftermath of Mulder choosing Scully over the Samantha clone and the agony that went with that choice, Frohike continued to protect his friend's interests. He didn't doubt for a moment that if Mulder were ever in a position in which he had to choose again, he would break. So whenever he received a phone call from Mulder, asking him to book tickets to Toronto, Orlando, the Grand Canyon, Frohike never asked questions.
Not to say it didn't make it difficult when hours later, Frohike would get a phone call from Scully. He learned to read her tones when she called, when it was okay to lie and say that Mulder was playing videogames with them; sometimes he would be so bold as to invite her over, knowing that she wouldn't call his bluff. As much as Scully was a guy's girl, she knew that the boys needed their time and space alone.
Most of the time, he would explain that he got a lead through one of their sources. That was sometimes true. Frohike estimated that about half of the famous Mulder ditches were actually day trips or overnight trips that involved seeing his son. He almost felt sorry for Mulder on more than one occasion when Scully would ream him for ditching her. Almost, but not really.
Because, in reality, what Mulder was doing was worse than ditching. He was living a lie.
A few months earlier
Frohike came close to breaking several months earlier, shortly after Emily's death. Scully had sounded lonely over the phone. She explained to Frohike that she had woken up in the middle of the night to an empty bed, and panicked when she realized that Mulder's overnight bag was gone. He wasn't answering his cell phone, and there was no sign of him at his apartment. The alarm bells went off in Frohike's head when he realized that Dana Scully was panicking.
"I actually just talked to him," Frohike managed to sputter out. "He didn't want to wake you. He said that you were having enough trouble sleeping. He wrote you a note but in typical Muldy fashion, he brought it with him." He even chuckled a bit for effect.
"He had to drive up to the Rhode Island house. The police called him—some neighborhood kids had broken in and they were using it as a party palace," Frohike continued to explain. They asked him to drive up today to assess the damage. He wanted to get it over with, so he left right after he got the call. He'll be back this afternoon."
"If you talk to him, let him know that I called," Scully said quietly.
"I will. And um, Scully? If you want to come over, we're all not doing much today. We even just happen to have some of your favorite beer in the fridge."
He wasn't planning on extending the invitation, and he certainly wasn't planning on her accepting it. "Maybe," she said slowly.
"Our Saturday tradition is pizza at five," Frohike said. "I'm just throwing that out there."
The boys had spent the next two hours faking police reports and tracking down Mulder. Frohike knew that Mulder turned his phone off when he was spending some quality time with Kyle, but that he checked his messages frequently. "Code red" was the extent of Frohike's voice mail, and it did the trick.
"What's wrong? What happened?" Mulder asked.
"Scully panicked," Frohike answered. "And you didn't leave that goddamned note. Luckily, you and I rehearsed our cover story."
"Shit," Mulder said. "I bet it's in the car."
"She needs you, man," said Frohike. "She sounds horrible. She's coming over here for pizza and beer, and I suggest that you make your original flight and get your ass here."
"All I wanted was to watch my son's baseball game," Mulder sighed.
"You should have told her," Frohike hissed. "Then you wouldn't be in this mess. It's not fair to her, it's not fair to your son, and it's not fair to you."
"I'm trying here, Hickey," said Mulder. "What do you expect me to say to her? Your daughter's dead so I'm off to see my kid who I for got to tell you about. Have a nice weekend? That would break her heart."
"For someone who is claiming to be self-less in this whole mess, you are a selfish prick sometimes," Frohike added. "See you at seven. And call her."
These thoughts left Frohike's mind as he saw the ringing phone in front of him. He looked up at Byers and Langly, who stared back at him blankly. "Hey Muldy, we're going over to her apartment now. It looks as those she's still in DC. No activity on her card this afternoon," he said, choosing his words carefully. "We'll call you with an update from there. Hang tight, it'll be fine."
Frohike noticed the hesitation on his friends' faces.
"What else was I supposed to say?" he sputtered.
"You did the right thing, Melvin," Byers answered. "Let's just go to Scully's apartment and see what's going on.
They let themselves into the apartment. Langly made a beeline to the phone. "Ringer's off," he said, before checking the messages.
Byers saw the suitcase by the door, and lifted it, noting that it was still packed. He poked his head in the living room, where he saw a pillow and blanket messily thrown on the sofa. Nothing out of the ordinary—since the "Sculdervelopment" as the trio had nicknamed Mulder and Scully's relationship shift, Scully's apartment was never as pristine as it was before her abduction. He ventured towards the bedroom—the door was open, and he saw a sleeping figure curled up on one side of the bed.
"This isn't good," Frohike said in the kitchen. Immediately, the others ran to him. He held up a prescription bottle for their inspection.
"Relax, she just took two," Byers said. "And the date on this is a year ago. She's not used to them. She probably popped them when she came in to sleep. You know she has trouble sleeping when he's not around."
"But what are they?" Langly asked, snatching the bottle from Byers.
"Sleeping pills, you dumb hippie," Frohike snapped. "Look up the prescription online. See how long it takes to get out of your system."
"Give me a second, geez," Langly muttered, off in search of Scully's laptop. He emerged from the living room a couple of minutes later. "A dose of two pills would be enough to put someone under from six to nine hours. She's more underweight than the average user, so it may be longer."
"It's five thirty now," Byers said, looking at the clock. "She probably got in around six or seven, so she should be up soon.
"I am in the room. Feel free to ask me," Scully said.
The trio whipped their heads around, looking at a yawning Scully, clad in tattered sweatpants and a grey t-shirt. "All three of you look guilty, but I don't think it's because you just went through my medicine cabinet."
A cell phone rang. Frohike looked at it. He looked up, and saw that Scully was pretending not to hear it. "I have to take a shower, and when I get back, I expect the three of you to be here."
"She's fine, Mulder," Frohike said into the phone. "She took a sleeping pill and was conked out all day. The ringers to her phones were off. She didn't look too surprised to see us."
"Thank God," Mulder muttered. "Is she sick? Can I talk to her?"
"She just went into the shower. I'll have her call you when she gets out."
"Give me the phone, Hickey," demanded Byers, who wrestled the phone away from his friend. "Mulder, it's Byers."
"What the hell is really going on? What are you guys holding out on me?" Mulder asked, absolutely panicked.
"Listen, Mulder, I don't know if it's my place to tell you or not, but Scully flew out to Philadelphia to meet you last night, and then flew back less than two hours later. We don't know anything for certain beyond that."
"Shit," Mulder muttered, punching a wall in his hotel room. He had been going stir-crazy since he had wrapped up his panel earlier that morning. "Shit."
"You knew this was going to happen at some point," Byers gently added, handing the phone back to Frohike.
"Get a sense of what she knows," Mulder began, but he was interrupted.
"No, Mulder," Frohike said. "That's your job, not ours. We protected you for as long as we could, but it's not our job to lie for you anymore. She deserves to have this conversation with you, not us."
Mulder was silent, and angry with himself. For as much as he hated to admit it, Frohike had been right all along. "She's going to want answers now," Mulder murmured.
"What do you want us to say?" Frohike asked, this time more tenderly.
"Use your judgement," Mulder said helplessly. "I'll call later. I'm getting the next flight out of this godforsaken city."
As soon as he hung up the phone, he threw it across the room. It bounced off the television console and landed on the floor with a clatter. In protecting the two people he loved most in the world, he had somehow fucked everything in his life up. He always knew that his lies would catch up with him, and now that it had finally happened, he had to think of a way to fix everything. He knew that he only had one chance to explain it all to Scully, and he had to hope that she would somehow understand why he had lied.