Where the Heart Is

By Seema (seemag1 at )

Author's note: Missing scene from the XF2 movie. My gratitude to Liz and J. for looking this one over.

Disclaimer: Seriously not mine.


Scully ignored the curious looks as she walked down the hall, her heels tapping an even beat on the faded linoleum. At some point she knew she'd have to answer for the gaggle of agents gathered in the lobby, but for now, she was choosing -- as she had for the past six years -- to ignore the FBI. She also knew Father Ybarra had questions about her relationship with Mulder, and she wasn't sure how long she could avoid him. During the five years she had been at this hospital, she'd become quite adept at side-stepping questions about her personal life, but that privacy was about to come to an end.

The door to Mulder's room was ajar and she knocked lightly before pushing it open. The navy blue curtains at the window had been pushed aside, allowing the winter light to cast a bright white glow across the room, an eerie halo of sorts. Scully glanced from the cross hanging on the sea green walls and then to Mulder, sitting up in bed, his hands -- the right hand in a soft cast -- folded primly in his lap. His face was bruised and bandages covered the largest wound to his forehead. The urge to soothe away his wounds for him blended with an intense desire to slap him for his admirable but sorely misguided bravado.

"Hello, Mulder," she said. Her voice sounded scratchy, hoarse, as if she'd gone days without speaking. She went to the foot of his bed and grabbed his chart. It was easier to examine the facts then to look him in the eye. In theory, facts didn't have emotion or judgments associated with them.

"Just like the good old days, huh, Scully?" Mulder's smile was equal parts cocky and flirtatious. Damn him if he wasn't actually having a good time and hell if he didn't look sexy in the white hospital gown with the little black boomerang print. He gingerly touched the scar on his head. "Another one for the collection," he said, almost proudly.

Sometimes lying in bed, Mulder would trace each scar on her body, associating each wound with an X-File. Just when their faces and voices had faded from her memory, Mulder would remind her, his fingers touching each wound with exquisite tenderness and wonder. Padgett, he would say in a voice that would twist her heart. Felig, he would continue, and she no longer had the strength to remind him that it had been Agent Ritter who had shot her. Donnie Pfaster, Duane Barry, Gerry Schnauz, Mulder would continue and he would go on like this, touching, caressing, until she put her finger to his lips. Stop, no more.

Scully cleared her throat. "How are you feeling?"

"For having survived car crash, a punch to the face, an animal tranquilizer, touched with hypothermia, and nearly getting hacked to death, I'm doing fine. Thanks for asking."

Scully looked up from the chart. "Six stitches to the forehead, some broken fingers, some bruising, but surprisingly, no concussion." She frowned. "I knew you were hard-headed, Mulder, but you're really very lucky." She perched on the side of the bed. The mattress sunk slightly under her weight and she was startled when Mulder laid his good hand on her thigh. She didn't move away, letting the touch of his fingers press into her skin. "What were you thinking, Mulder, going after all of those guys with only a wrench? You should have called for back-up."

"I couldn't wait. They were going to kill her." Mulder shuddered. "How is Cheryl?"

"She'll need some reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation, but she should live. Monica Bannan is dead. We found her remains in the barn, along with some other remains, identities still unknown." It would take months, if not years, to piece together exactly who the victims were. Scully bit her lip; the image of seeing Mulder lying in the snow, surrounded by graying body parts and bone fragments, was seared in her memory.

"I'm assuming the guy without the body--"

Scully shuddered. During the tense thirty or forty minutes she spent reviving Cheryl Cunningham, she was very aware of being watched. The bald head with the brutal red tracks running down the cheekbone; the watery blue-gray eyes glassy and shocked; the thick neck with the ragged edge of skin rimmed in red, surrounded by ice. 'Unnerving' would be too mild a word to describe the experience. "Franz Tomczeszyn? He didn't survive."

"And the other guy? His husband?"

"Janke Dacyshyn? In custody, along with his cohorts. The FBI is bringing in a couple of Russian translators from New York. They should be here in a few hours and we should know exactly how long this has been going on and how many victims and where their remains can be found. The FBI is cross-referencing all missing people with type AB negative blood now for a potential list of possible victims." She sighed. "They asked if I wanted to help--"

"And?" Mulder broke in sharply.

Scully glanced down at her hands. "The FBI has plenty of doctors on staff who can help them," she said quietly. The silence that followed felt heavy with recriminations and she knew Mulder wanted to know how she could deny closure to the victims' families, and she wanted to argue she was no longer in the business of cataloging the dead; she wanted to focus on the living. It was, she knew, a selfish feeling, but one she couldn't deny. For the living, the promise of something more was genuine and possible, something she could believe in. The dead were beyond all that and she'd long given up the hope they could ever speak to her. The grim task of identification and notification was best left to someone better able to comprehend and absorb what had been lost. "I'm sorry, Mulder."

He shook his head. "No, no," he said. "You did what you had to do. I- I, understand."

"Do you?"

Mulder hesitated. "Do you?"

Scully scowled, crossing her arms against her chest. "I asked first."

"You're afraid of the darkness, Scully, but it's a part of me. For six years, I've pushed it away because I wanted to be fair to you, even if it meant being the lonely, crazy mountain man living in the backwoods of West Virginia." Mulder stroked his chin thoughtfully and idly Scully wondered if he missed that shaggy beard of his. She certainly didn't. "You had your residency to occupy your thoughts and time, but when you weren't home, it was just me and the Internet, with the laundry and dishes to keep me company. You keep telling me to write a book about things we've seen, but reliving what was isn't something I'm interested in. The X-Files aren't who we are anymore, but that sense of purpose I felt when Agent Whitney asked for my help, when I knew I could make a difference." Mulder pressed his lips together. "I needed to experience that power, that for a moment I could be someone more than just the man you come home to."

Scully took a deep breath. "And now? What now?"

"I'm glad you didn't give up on me," he said simply.

It wasn't quite the answer or reassurance she wanted. "Mulder."

"You came through, like you always have, like I knew you would. You haven't lost your touch, or your aim, for that matter." Mulder grinned at her. "I like that in a woman."

"Hmm. For a moment there, I thought you might have liked something in Special Agent Whitney." She knew it was disrespectful to make a dig at a woman killed in the line of duty, but Scully found it difficult to be sentimental over someone she barely knew and certainly, didn't like. Whitney's death couldn't erase the discomfort and uneasiness Scully felt while witnessing Whitney's dark-eyed flirtation with Mulder.

"No," Mulder's voice was surprisingly gentle. "You never had anything to worry about, Scully. Her fatal flaw, no pun intended, was that she wasn't you."

Scully cleared her throat. "Well, there's a memorial service for her on Saturday," she said. "Not sure we'd be welcome, but I thought I'd let you know, in case you wanted to pay your respects."

"I appreciate that." Mulder glanced towards the window. A light snow had started to fall, gently coating the branches of the pine trees just outside the hospital walls. "You know what I'd really like, Scully?"

"What?"

"To go home. To our home." He looked at her intensely. "What do you think?"

"You say that now, Mulder, but where are we? You said just a few hours ago we couldn't be together."

"I was wrong."

"You seemed so sure of yourself." Scully still remembered the panic of feeling his fingers slip away from hers, the physical detachment so severe and complete. "What's changed?"

"You told me you weren't coming home. You made the ultimatum, not me, Scully."

"I had no choice. I gave nine years of my life to the X-Files. The life we have now, Mulder, it isn't perfect, but it's the life I've always wanted with you. The very idea of living a life secondary to the X-Files once again, I had no choice."

"I needed you this one time, Scully. Once the case was solved, I was going to walk away. Six years without the X-Files and I wanted to feel that thrill, that excitement again. Just this one case, for old time's sake. You brought me in, and then you left me." Mulder shook his head. "Honestly, I didn't want to do it without you, but I couldn't let the FBI down--"

"Even though the FBI let you down?" Scully's voice sounded shrill even to her ears.

Mulder's expression didn't change. "Not when there was a possibility of saving lives. There was a time when you would've felt the same, no matter the consequences." He gazed at her intently. "Don't think I don't know hard these last few years have been, Scully, but I didn't think you'd changed so completely."

Scully closed her eyes. The calculus of what she had given up during the X-Files sometimes was too much to bear and when she summed all she had left, it equaled to Mulder. In retrospect, perhaps she had pushed back on Mulder too hard, not giving him the benefit of the doubt. It'd been, as he pointed out, six years since he'd gone after the inexplicable and impossible, but the very idea of standing on the precipice scared the hell out of her. It was only a step or two removed from losing everything she had left, and after all these years, she wasn't quite sure Mulder understood that.

"Mulder, I thought I'd lost you, in more ways than one. I saw you slipping away from me, back to the X-Files, and I don't know what's more painful. Having you in my life with the monsters in the dark, or not having you at all." There were still times when Scully replayed the year she was pregnant with William, searching for Mulder, and finding him dead, and then miraculously, alive. And then to have William and Mulder, a fullness in her life she only experienced for days before it all slipped away again. The emptiness never quite faded, the scars of the year without burned in memory and heart. "It was -- is -- a terrible choice."

"And now?"

"I don't know."

"Monsters, whether in the dark or under the bed, are part of my charm, Scully. Always has been. You've known that from the day we met." He paused. "And maybe that's why you meant so much to me, because you didn't see me as spooky or crazy, like everyone else. You saw something else in me and you stayed. Scully, I need you to stay. I need you to be with me."

"That's what I'm afraid of. I find my footing and then you come and knock me off balance." She stopped short of describing exactly how fearful she was of his need for her, that in one way she found it incredibly flattering and in another, terribly suffocating. The undeniable truth, the one she had found so hard to admit for so many years, was that she needed him in that same incredible and terrible way. Scully sighed and got up from the bed. She paced the length of the room wearily. "I don't know how to live with you," she said.

"You've been living with me for years," Mulder said in a bewildered tone. "Scully, what are you saying?"

Scully stopped. Words and emotions jumbled together in and looking at Mulder, she thought about what it had been to find him lying in that barn. She didn't remember much, only the pure adrenaline of finding the wooden plank, nearly longer than she was tall, and taking her best swing. Hovering over Mulder, cradling his face in her hands, she'd known that in one way or another, they'd reached a fork in the road; she could only hoped they choose the same direction.

"I want to come home, Scully." Mulder's tone was defiant. He stirred in bed, as if he was about to get out, and Scully shook her head in warning.

"Mulder," she said. "Don't move." She moved closer to him and he grabbed her wrist with his good hand, pulling her closer.

"What do you want me to do, give up the very idea of the paranormal? Accept that there are some things out there that we'll never find the answers for, that there is no value in finding those answers? I'll do it for you, Scully. I'll give it up." He sounded so sincere, so earnest, and she knew that for this moment he actually believed in what he was saying. Hell, even she believed what he was saying. They'd managed to stay away from the X-Files for six years. Maybe there was hope. As difficult as it was sometimes to live with him and all of the demons that surrounded them, it was even more difficult to be without him.

"Really?" Scully asked. "You'll give up the X-Files? For good."

Mulder tipped his head to the side. "I'll go cold turkey. Tomorrow."

Scully frowned. "So the next time the FBI comes knocking--"

"I'm not home. At least not tomorrow."

"But you'll leave the house every now and then?"

"Sure," Mulder said. "I like fresh air as much as the next guy. But if I happen to run into a transgendered body-swapping Russian, I reserve the right to investigate." He shrugged when she opened her mouth in protest. "Scully, some cases are a confluence of events not aniticpated to occur more than once in a lifetime, if even then."

Scully considered the possibilities of such an event occuring again. Rare, she decided. "What about the facial hair?"

"I thought you liked the facial hair."

"Please."

Mulder sighed. "All right. I promise to shave at least twice a week."

"And the newspaper clippings?"

"What about them?"

"I'd like to paint that room," Scully said. "It gets dark in the winter, depressing with all that black and white newsprint. I was thinking a nice cheery yellow."

"Yellow?"

"Yes, yellow." She considered. "And maybe curtains." She smiled mischievously. "Lace curtains."

Mulder sighed. "Is that all you want?"

"No." Scully leaned over him, pressing her lips lightly against his warm forehead. "Come home, be home." She intertwined her fingers with his. "That's all I've ever wanted."

the end