Promise

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully and just about everything else in this fic belong to 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions. Unsurprisingly, I'm not getting paid for this, although I wouldn't object if anyone really insists on sending me big wads of money. :p

Archiving: email me if you're insane enough to like this. :)

Well…this is my second TXF fanfic (technically). This is set at some time in mid-season 6-7, and as for what was really going on, you can decide for yourself once you've read it. I do have an explanation, but I'm not completely sure it's the right one. Other theories are welcome. :) I'm not sure if this is quite finished and it could do with a lot of revising, but being in a lazy mood and having a truly hideous stinking cold I felt like posting it today, with a view to editing it later. Anyway please enjoy.

~ Celerity, 11/09/01

'You'll never feel the heat of this soul

My fever burns me deeper than I've ever shown…

I understand what I am still too proud to mention to you

You say you understand, but you don't understand

You say you'll never give up seeing eye to eye

I don't know what to believe in, you don't know who I am

You say I need appeasing when I start to cry…

But never is a promise, and you can't afford to lie…'

~ Fiona Apple, 'Never Is A Promise'

* * *

From the moment I fell out of bed that morning, I knew it was going to be a bad day.

I stumbled across to the kitchen, almost tripping over the shoes I had kicked off yesterday, and flicked on the kettle with a lucky swipe. Tramping back towards my bedroom I paused to take in a view from the mirror. I was a mess, my hair sticking up like a bad punk groupie's and my complexion blotched like an Ordnance Survey map of somewhere very hilly. My feet were still blistered from the new heels I had been trying to break in all week and worst of all, somewhere vaguely behind me lay a pile of faxes I had to sort through before getting to work. I slumped over the sink, closing my eyes tight, and willed it all to go away. My imagination was never very powerful, so it came as little surprise when I reopened them to be greeted by an identical scene. I turned away and, tripping over my toes in an excruciatingly painful manner, made my way back following the sound of the kettle.

The coffee, once I had fumbled my way around the cupboards a little, woke me up a little, and I was able to peer blearily around me as I sat. I tried to push my mind back to yesterday, to try and determine if there were any reason for this morning's predicament, but for some reason it wouldn't go. Was I drunk? I wondered vaguely. Not likely. Overworked and underpaid to the point of exhaustion? Now there was a possibility.

I picked up the mug again and sipped it contemplatively, then put it in the sink and wandered bleakly back to my bedroom to make an interesting discovery: It wasn't mine.

I closed my eyes briefly, opened them again; did a double-take; did another just in case the first had been fooling me; but there was no arguing with it, the large bed in the decidedly dank-looking room was not mine. Nor, in fact, was the hallway I was standing in. I backed up, to be confronted with the bewilderingly familiar spectacle of a couch, a fish tank and a large television.

The image sauntered casually through my mental highway like a sightseeing tourist for a good while before I made the connection. When I did, it took a longer while for the discovery to sink in.

I was in Mulder's apartment.

I felt the urge to slap myself energetically on the forehead. Maybe that would wake the little bastard brain cells up. At that moment there was a knock on the door.

I turned, stupefied, and then, resolving to book myself in somewhere at the nearest opportunity, walked slowly and carefully over as if I were afraid the carpet would suddenly animate itself and start trying to trip me up. I opened the door.

Mulder, shabby in faded jeans and t-shirt, his hair messy and sticking out at improbable angles and his expression looking how I felt. His eyes suddenly seemed very green.

'Scully.' He seemed, not surprisingly, a little surprised.

For a moment I stood gawping like a goldfish, then I stood aside to let him in. He walked over to the couch, picked up the half-drained coffee mug I had left there and drank it, grimacing as he realised it was cold. He turned back to me, seeming to see me for the first time. He looked me up and down. I remembered I was still in my pyjamas.

He put the mug down and sat on the couch, half-grinning. 'What are you doing here, Scully?'

I couldn't quite prepare an answer to that one as everything was still a little fuzzy. I sleep-wandered over to join him. We sat in silence regarding the blank TV screen like zombies: I had a niggling feeling that something was wrong with me. Another part of me said it was just my sanity making its first cautious appearance of the day.

'Mulder, what is going on?' I said, turning to look at him. He glanced at me with an expression I recognized, and I felt a sudden unaccountable sinking feeling, like someone who has been flying a transatlantic aircraft on only one engine hearing the ominous kerplunk noise that announces they will have to learn how to swim pretty fast.

He seemed a little amused. 'I don't know. You tell me.'

I gawped. Then I recovered myself a little. Of course, there would be some easy, logical answer to all this. I neglected to remind myself that with Mulder there was never an easy, logical answer to anything.

I decided to sort out the facts. 'Where have you been?'

'I…I went to collect my mail,' he said, pointing to the newspaper and bundle of letters he had dumped on the table. I stared at them keenly, half-expecting them to spontaneously combust. This they thankfully failed to do. So far, so good.

'Where did you sleep last night?'

This, predictably, amused him a little. I could see him being on the verge of a witty quip, so I stopped him hurriedly and told him to answer the question.

'I was on the couch, I fell asleep watching some old movie – Scully, what is it?' He looked genuinely worried, and put his hand on my shoulder. 'Are you okay?'

I looked out of the window, sighing. The rain had spattered the window with a blizzard of tiny droplets which united into a bleary mist over the world. I turned back to him, hoping that for once in his sorry life he would take me seriously.

'Mulder, when I went to bed last night I was in my apartment. I woke up this morning…and I was here.' I searched his face for laughter, and found none. He was silent, and looked down.

'Do you sleepwalk?'

I was furious. 'Goddamnit, Mulder, I mean it. This is…this is scaring me.'

'I'm sorry.' He tilted my chin up and looked at me with his puppy-dog eyes. Oh God, I thought, he's doing it again. I stood up, making a good stab at the difficult task of appearing dignified in checked pyjamas and without the height advantage of heels. When he got to his feet he almost dwarfed me.

'Could you please take me home?' I asked, not looking at him, biting my lip and staring off into the middle-distance.

The silence hovered between us like glass for a moment; then he walked to the door and held it open, waiting while I picked up my clothes and my shoes in serene humiliation, and then accompanied me in silence to his car. I received an odd look from the man in the lobby, but I was past caring. He drove me home without speaking. There didn't seem to be much to say.

As soon as I got to my apartment I closed the door and leaned against it with a sigh of relief. I was home. I got dressed and hurried out without waking him, then I got dressed quickly and grabbed some breakfast before heading out to my car. I was going to be late for work.

* * *

That night I locked my door, just in case.

The next morning, with surprisingly and humiliatingly little variation, it happened again.

* * *

He was waiting in the office when I arrived later that second day. Bent over a file at his desk, glasses on, as I had first seen him, as I had seen him countless times since that morning. He heard me enter and looked up, removing his glasses and closing the file.

'You okay, Scully?' The enquiry was sincere, so I nodded slowly and sat down, pulling up a chair on the other side of the desk. I didn't want to dwell on the subject.

'So what's on the bill for today, Monster Boy?'

He gave me a look that was half-amused, half-puzzled, then relaxed and grinned. 'Telekinesis,' he said, pushing the folder he had been looking at over to me. I opened it and flicked through, pausing at a photograph of a young woman, staring blankly at the camera like a dummy.

'Eugenie Harris. She claims she has the power to physically move objects and people with only the force of her will. Claims which are backed up by a pile of ruined furniture and a group of very confused schoolchildren.'

I raised an eyebrow.

'They thought they were going to a theme park, then a blink later and they're all standing in a Puritan church on the outskirts of Baltimore,' he continued, barely smiling. 'Harris is an evangelist who believes in converting youth.'

I winced a little, and turned over another page. 'So what are we meant to do?'

'There's a sample of Harris's blood which needs checking out for any unusual substances.' I nodded and got up, pushing the file back to him.

As I was leaving, a thought struck me and I paused. It was difficult for me to say.

'Mulder, do you…' I considered leaving it, then made up my mind. 'Do you think this could have anything to do with what happened to me this morning?'

He seemed thrown off guard for a moment. 'No,' he said finally.

I had been expecting a little more of an explanation. 'Why not?' I asked, feeling fragile.

'Well for a start, if you ask me Harris is a fake.'

'I thought you said there was evidence…'

'Evidence which could very easily have been put together by a community eager to bring her down. Eugenie Harris is not a popular figure in Baltimore. If she wants to make a fool of herself I think there are a lot of people who would be more than willing to help her.'

I was confused, and surprised. 'Then why are we investigating her?'

He shrugged. 'You never know.'

The entire thing seemed so unlike him, so like some bizarre charade, that it lent me anger. 'So what would be your professional opinion on this morning, then?'

He seemed to consider his words carefully before he said them. 'I think…I think that maybe you were very tired last night, and even though you may not have a history of somnambulatory activity-'

'Mulder, what is wrong with you?' I was bewildered and livid, and the combination made me raise my voice. 'Why is it that the one time I suggest that there might be…something else going on here, you say it's impossible?'

He spoke almost calmly. 'And why is it that whenever I think there's a logical explanation, you have to make it complicated?'

For a moment I didn't answer him. I just looked at him, confused, almost tearful, in love and hate. I was tired, tired of it all, tired of the endless arguments and discourses and words and words that heaped themselves upon us obscuring the one from the other. I was tired of having to make excuses for myself to the one person who knew who I was. But I didn't say that.

'Because we're different people, Mulder,' I said. 'Because we're not the same. We think differently, we act differently, we are utterly different, and that's why…' I stopped short. It couldn't even be said. That would break the promise; the unspoken promise we had made so long ago, and that had hovered between us ever since, like a storm waiting to break. Like the expression on his face after I had spoken.

I couldn't bear to look at him any longer. I turned and walked out on him, closing the door slowly behind me.

* * *

The day passed in a meaningless drone of work, all set against the background of an uncomfortable, deep-seated guilt that ate away at me all through the mindless routine, sat with me in the car on my way home, followed me to my door and was still with me when I opened it and went in to find him sitting calmly at my table, watching me. Despite myself I felt a quickening of my heart, and I stopped in the doorway, touching the wood with my hand.

'Mulder?'

He hardly stirred. 'Scully.'

'What are you doing here?' I felt a curious sense of backwards déjà vu.

He got up and walked over towards me. 'I thought we should sort out what's been happening these past couple of days.'

I wasn't sure what he meant. There was one meaning in his words, but another in his look and his stance. I nodded, not sure what I was agreeing to.

'Do you want a blanket?' I said, feeling ridiculous. He shook his head and went over to the couch, slumping on it and stretching out as if it were his own. It was late; I had worked overtime in the lab, and I was tired. I stifled a yawn and went to bed. His presence, a small rustle as he turned over, the feeling of him being there was powerful and strange. With that and the fear of some unknown power whisking me away, I discovered within a matter of hours that I couldn't sleep.

I opened my door cautiously and went out to the kitchen. I took a glass and filled it with water, running the tap slowly so as not to wake him. It was cold to my teeth, and the condensation formed on the glass like an echo of the fuzziness of the darkness all around. If I kept quite still I could hear him breathing. Without knowing why I felt tears fill my eyes, and a strange feeling take hold of me.

I walked quietly over, feeling my feet connect with the floor like a reassurance. His sleeping form was a dark shape in the dimness. I sat, slowly, hardly daring to breathe, on the floor beside him, and I watched him. There is a peculiar fascination about sleep; it is the only time when a person is utterly unaware, utterly without control, a time when someone can simply be, without reference to the world or its conventions or anyone else in it. I felt, as I sat in the darkness watching the sighing rise and fall of his breathing, his eyes closed in rare peace and his lips parted, his arm hanging over the edge and the rest of him sprawled untidily like an overgrown plant on dead wood, that I could have watched him forever.

Perhaps he was awake the entire time; perhaps he heard my breathing or shifting to escape cramp, but I was suddenly aware that his eyes were open, and the rhythm of his breathing quicker. I froze, guilty as a criminal.

'Scully,' he said in a whispered grumble, then turned a little and stretched, finally resting on his back with arms above his head. 'Still here?' he murmured.

'Still here,' I confirmed quietly. We were silent for a while, but it wasn't our usual companionable silence; the words I had said earlier were still hurting him, and he had not forgotten them. It was difficult to say; there was so little mentioned between us that it felt like breaking a taboo, but I said in a bare breath of a whisper, 'I'm sorry.'

He didn't answer. For a moment I thought he hadn't heard, and then he spoke.

'Scully, you have nothing to be sorry for,' he said, turning over onto his side so his face was inches from mine.

'I do. Mulder, we're not…we're not that different, you and I.' I hoped he understood I meant so much more, things that I was not willing to say.

'We are,' he said. 'We are, and that's why…' He couldn't say it either. 'Scully, if I'd had to…work with someone who was like me, I'd have killed myself years ago.' I smiled. 'So would you.'

I had to admit it was utterly true. He grinned a little, and I laughed. Then, suddenly serious, he reached for me with his hand, stroking my hair quietly, then pulled me in toward him and kissed me.

He had broken the promise. When I drew back afterwards and looked at him, smiling, I realised it was gone. What had been chaining us all these years, with the weight of preconceptions, fears, losses, betrayals all in our minds, had evaporated as though it had never been. We were finally free.

* * *

I awoke late the next morning, his arm wrapped around me and a cool breeze blowing in through the window. I blinked myself alert, then quietly and carefully detached his arm and got up to make us some coffee. Then stopped dead.

The couch stood in front of a TV. Opposite the TV, next to the couch, was the grim spectre of a fishtank. I ground my teeth.

'Mulder!!'

* * *

Well I hope you enjoyed this little piece of randomness. :)

~ Celerity