The apartment was oddly quiet. Because her practice's hours started and ended earlier than his, she was usually home by now, making dinner or reading a novel if she was tired: her not-so-subtle hint that it was his turn. He shrugged and headed to their bedroom to get out of his suit and put on some comfortable sweats.
He opened the door. What he saw there rocked him to the core.
"What the Hell?!" "Shit--" "Mulder, no-"
He didn't wait around to see or hear more. Mulder turned around and bolted out of the apartment, ignoring his wife's protests, heading back to his car. He spent not a moment wondering where he was headed as he jerked it back into traffic, narrowly missing an oncoming Honda. So what if he got hit? It wouldn't end anything. The world he'd known, lived in for years, was gone. It had been shattered by what he'd seen inside his apartment. He wouldn't be missing anything.
Mulder drove aimlessly around for hours, finally pulling up outside a bar. Inside, he spent a long time staring at a shot of vodka. The liquid was cleared, unmarred by smokiness or foam. Mulder envied that kind of clarity. He'd thought he'd had it. He guessed he was wrong.
Mulder didn't remember actually drinking anything, yet somehow he found himself in D.C. sitting on what he'd formerly thought of as their bench. No, it was just a bench. Not theirs. Just a plain bench. He forced himself to think that way. He wondered if she'd been here without him, if anything remained that could still be considered sacred. He doubted it, but a thin thread of hope, light and fragile as gossamer, remained.
This was how she found him. He'd sat there for who-knew-how-long when suddenly he felt a soft hand on his shoulder.
He ignored the hand.
He ignored the voice.
"Come on, Mulder, talk to me."
Kept ignoring it.
"You can't sit in stony silence forever."
Got sick of ignoring it. "I can try."
Scully took that as a sign of encouragement and slid down beside him. "Mulder, we've got to talk." Mulder heard no sign of shame or hesitation in her voice.
"Let your lawyer do the talking. It'll be easier." He tried to speak in a monotone, but a hint of bitterness crept out. He stared straight ahead, not willing to give her any victory, no matter how small. He expected her to wince, duck her head, show *some* sign that he'd hurt her, but she continued speaking calmly.
"I don't want a divorce, Mulder. I don't think you do either."
"Oh yeah?" His voice rose with the anger that he could no longer hold back now that she was near. "You don't want divorce? Well, what the fuck am I supposed to think you want when I catch you screwing some stranger in our bed?!"
She was silent for several moments. "You're not supposed to think anything, Mulder. That...was a mistake. I never meant for you to see that."
"No shit." He leaned into his hands, his suddenly sweating palms pressing his bangs back from his face. "So what do you want to do now? Just go home and forget it ever happen? The happy little couple? Let me fuck you right away so I can prove to myself how much manlier I am?"
"I..." A miracle. Hesitation. Uncertainty. Mulder supposed he should be happy to hear it in his wife's voice, but somehow, scarcely without his notice, he'd stopped caring. "I don't know, Mulder. I guess I was hoping that you'd know what to do."
Gradually, he sat back up. Neither of them said a word. Husband and wife sat together, watching the moon gleam, glowing out of the sky above and the reflecting pool below. Any chance passerby would have thought it romantic.
"So what did I do?"
"To make you stop loving me. I want to know what I did." His voice was emotionless, stating the question as matter-of-factly as if he was noting that it was Thursday.
She sucked in a breath of air. "You didn't do anything. I still love you, Mulder. More than anything."
"You didn't love...him?"
"Oh, Mulder. No. Only you. It's always been you."
Anger flared. "Then why-"
Scully smiled ruefully. "Why did I have sex with him?" As he turned to watch her she quickly looked up and caught his eye. "It was sex, Mulder. Know that. I've made love with no other man than you since the day you placed this on my finger." She held out her left hand, the moonlight glinting off the golden band she'd worn for years. She obviously meant for him to take her hand-a way of achieving a connection with him, perhaps, if only physical-but he ignored it and after a moment she let it drop. "I haven't made love with anyone else because I haven't loved anyone else."
Mulder snorted, but she let it pass without comment, maybe as penance. "Who was he?"
"Does it matter?" she challenged.
"Does it matter whose dick probed you?" he retorted. "Whose hands grabbed at you, whose lips kissed your face and your breasts? Who made you scream his name and come?" He waited for a verbal response and got none. "No, Scully, I guess it doesn't matter who it was."
She turned her head away from him and he noticed several shining tears slowly dripping down her cheeks, tears previously hidden by her shadow. "He was nobody. A man I met at work. No one I'm likely to see again.
Mulder was slightly struck by the open honesty of her tone. "Then why did you do it?" he asked, for the first time letting his own raw agony seep into his voice.
Scully pondered the question for the briefest of moments. "I don't really know why," she said slowly. "Physical release. Relief. It wasn't because I had any sort of feelings for him. He was just-there. A means to an end." She looked up and caught his eyes again, her blue eyes filled with tears he knew she was fighting with all her being. He knew her that well, at least. "I didn't bring him home because of anything you said or did. This was all about me."
"You're saying I had no role in this whatsoever?" Mulder asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "That seems fairly unlikely to me. I'm your husband, Scully."
As flippant as Mulder's last statement had been delivered, it seemed to echo in the air around them. *I'm your husband, Scully.* To have and to hold...to love and to serve...
To stay faithful to.
"If you-if we-had anything to do with this, it's what I've let us become," she said, looking down at her hands. "Something went wrong between us a long while, ago, Mulder." He had to agree there. "Whatever I've been feeling-or what I've been denying to myself that I've been feeling-that's what caused this."
"What *is* it you're feeling?" Mulder asked. "God, I can't even guess anymore."
"That's part of it," Scully said softly.
"Part of it?"
"Mulder, we used to be able to talk without saying a word. We'd be in a room together and I'd look up to say something and you'd be there, and you'd already know just what I was going to say. And just by looking into your eyes, I knew that you knew." She paused for a moment before going on. "But maybe we got too used to it, started taking it for granted...because somewhere along the line you stopped hearing me. And it's just as much my fault, because I stopped trying to speak to you."
"I didn't realize..."
"You couldn't have. There was no reason for you to think anything was wrong." She sniffed a little. "At first, nothing was. But then I started feeling...alone. Scared. Don't ask me of what. I just knew something was wrong. Somehow, we'd disconnected and I wouldn't bring myself to talk to you. I denied it, told myself I was happy...Then one day I woke up and I *couldn't* talk to you. I felt out of control, and alone, and he was there. So that's...that's why I did it."
"This doesn't make it all better, Scully," Mulder said.
"I know it doesn't-"
"Stop," he interrupted her. "Let me finish. Neither of us are perfect people...we've had our share of problems. But what you did just added to them. I love you," he continued, his voice threatening to crack, "I don't want to give up on us. But every time I close my eyes, all I can see is you and him together...You promised to love me forever. You brought a man you barely know to *our* home and proceeded to screw with him in *our* bed. I can't forget that! I don't even want to try." Mulder noticed that Scully's shoulders were trembling as she struggled to hold back more tears. "So what do we do, Scully? Where do we go from here?"
"I don't know, Mulder," she said. "I just don't know."
He said nothing, so they sat there amid the moonlight and the shadows and waited for a new light to come.
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