Spoilers: The End
DICLAIMER: I don't own 'em. sounds of hysterical crying in the background...fading into quiet sniffles
Respond to: firstname.lastname@example.org
He was walking in a hallway. Run-walking in front of him was...was...himself.
His hair was different; he was wearing jeans, and a T-shirt that somehow looked old and faded, even though Mulder knew he had only bought it a few weeks ago. Another figure brushed by him. It was Scully. She was different too. He tried to speak, but no noise came out. He walked up and tried to touch her, but he met an invisible wall just inches from her arm.
He looked at the strange figure of himself, trying see what was different. The picture older, harder. There was a jaded look about him, a veteran's look, something his friends back at Oxford would have balked at seeing. His physical frame was the same; maybe a tad more muscular, but still the same lanky form. His eyes seemed darker, more green, and his face had small a worry-line on his forehead. Mulder realized he was looking at an older version of himself, a point years in the future. Will I look like that?, he thought. Will I become so lost in my obsession that I am changed so much?
Then he looked at Scully. Oh God, he thought. She was...a different person. Her bright, flaming hair was shorter, and she looked so much thinner, barely over a hundred pounds. Before him wasn't the strong, vivacious young woman who had marched into his office a week ago for her first case with him. She too looked harder, and older. The way she walked was different. There was no spring of youth in her step, no eagerness to her stride. And her eyes—her beautiful, luminous blue eyes were tired, old. She had lost something. They had been through something— something that changed her.
Her innocence. My God, he thought, I've taken that away from her. Somehow she had been with him up until the time he was in now, and Mulder could see how the experiences these older versions of himself and his new partner had been through had changed Scully. Not Dana anymore. Just Scully, now. I've dragged her with me, and I've stolen something from that I had no right to take. Mulder's thoughts scared him. Will I do that to her? Will I let her into my life; let her into my problems, my quest, and someday wake up to find that I've made her into nothing but a shadow of a young woman who's aging too fast? If I trust her, will I destroy her in the end?
Then Mulder looked ahead, and saw that they had reached their apparent destination. It was his office. Now he recognized the hallway, the lighting. The future Mulder had stopped about three feet into the room, just staring straight ahead, stock-still. The future Scully was beside him, anguish and pain on her face. Then Mulder watched in mild surprise as she turned and embraced his older self. Scully wouldn't do that, Scully who was so proud of her strength. But what he saw when he looked past them made him gasp. It was burned. Everything was black and smoking. He could see the remains of his things: the radio; the file cabinet; the wastebasket; his basketball. He could see what was left of the desk—no, two desks. So he had gotten her a desk eventually.
Everything was gone. The only thing that was still untouched, except for a few burnt edges that had curled in, was his poster. I WANT TO BELEIVE, it said. The only thing left, some omen of what would happen if he continued his quest, no matter whom he hurt in the process. He wanted to cry; to scream at the Powers That Be for doing this, for taking his life— for letting him drag Scully down with him.
Things were fading now, getting blurry. He could still see himself standing there, with Scully's figure clinging to him. But they were only dark shapes, rapidly losing depth, swirling away with the smoke from the still smoldering objects of his sanctuary. He felt his real self sinking, lower and lower, until darkness engulfed him.
Mulder awoke with a start, his neck aching from sleeping on the couch at an odd angle. He was covered in sweat, and his breath was coming in short, loud rasps. The alarm clock on the small table said 4:33 a.m. He rose and stumbled, making his way to the bathroom. Throwing open the door, he went straight to the mirror.
No worry-line; no hard, jaded look. His hair was the way it was supposed to be, and his eyes were their normal hazel, brown-green; instead of dark, gray-green. Mulder sighed. Just a dream, then.
Walking to his kitchen, Mulder made a glass of lemon ice-tea; deciding to just stay up until it was time to go to work. He remembered every detail of his dream clearly, and couldn't get it out of his head. Scully had put her arms around him, and he wondered if he would ever be lucky enough to have that happen in real life. But then he remembered why, and instantly regretted it. How could he go to work tomorrow, knowing that someday in the future he would be her undoing?
Sure, he had only met her little over a week ago, but even then she had trusted him— running into his motel room and begging him to check her back for the marks, fully trusting that he wouldn't try to take advantage of her. And, he realized, he was already starting to trust her. He knew she was sent to watch him, to ruin him, but he also knew that she was worth his trust, and that she wouldn't betray him in the end.
Was his dream a foretelling, a vision of what could happen if he let her in? If they became real partners, not just the paranoid wacko and the skeptical scientist sent to spy on him? Would his quest be the cause of both their futures? Was it worth it?
Even more important, though: if they ever did reach that point, would they make it through?
He watched the smoke curl up from the burning remains of their office. Scully held him, her head on his chest, her silent tears going unnoticed on his shoulder; and Fox Mulder's mind drifted back to an old image— a dream he had had so many years ago— and he remembered.