Timeline: 2x08 One Breath

Category: Post-episode fiction

He'd learned his lesson—the most painful of his adult life. It wasn't just reassignment they could use as a tool. Reassignment had been child's play. Closing the X-files and separating them had just been step one. He hadn't foreseen step two. They were willing to do much more heinous things to separate them. They could take her.

He had her back, but he knew the stakes now. They could do anything. They would. It wasn't just the fate of the world at stake: it was his sanity and his heart. He loved her.

And her sister was right. It was easier to run around chasing the assholes responsible and generally rage against the world than to sit down and tell her that he loved her. It wasn't just because he was a chicken shit coward. If he said it out loud…she wouldn't come back next time. The next time he'd lose her forever. And then he'd spend the rest of his life looking for her, just as he'd spent the last few years hopelessly searching for his sister. That's what happened to the people he loved.

He wondered why it had never occurred to him before that she reminded him of his sister. Not that they looked alike or that Scully acted anything like his little sister had, but he loved his partner as fiercely as he did his sister. That was a surprise. A psychologist by training, Mulder wasn't used to probing his own feelings. It had taken her disappearance to awaken him to his own feelings. The shock, despair, and guilt were too much. He loved her and she was gone. He'd put a gun to his head. He'd never been able to tell her that either. He couldn't do that to her: he'd done more than enough.

He'd lost her. And he'd selfishly wanted her back, so he wouldn't have to live with the knowledge that he loved her and it was his fault that she was gone. But he wanted her back for a multitude of reasons that weren't as manifestly self motivated. He was aware that Dana had something to live for. She had people who missed her that were more important than he was or ever could be. She had a mother, a sister, and brothers who wanted her to be safe. She had friends that she cared about. She had nieces and nephews. She had a godson. Her presence was wanted. She was invited to weddings and christenings and bridal showers. She sometimes mentioned these things to him and they all confirmed that Dana Scully had a world outside of the FBI that loved her and needed her.

It should have been him that was taken. No one would have missed him much. Except for Scully, and she had this whole other world: she would have been alright. She was stronger than he was; she had a mental fortitude that he couldn't hope to attain. They must have seen this. They must have acted with calculation.

They were assholes for taking her and not him. And he knew that Melissa believed that telling Scully what he felt would be better for her than running off on a mission of revenge, but he still would have liked to shoot point blank whoever orchestrated the abduction of his Scully. No, shooting would be too good for them. He'd like to strangle them. Wrap his fingers around their necks and squeeze. Watch their eyes bug out and have them think about their own mortality as they suffocated in his grip. That would give him a great deal of satisfaction. Even with her back, he wouldn't mind careening down an dark alley, if he could get his hands around the anonymous bastard who was responsible. Of course, he was responsible and he'd already failed to pull the trigger.

He had her back. Maybe he didn't deserve it, but her world did. She was alive and she was getting better. He had the chance now, should he care to take advantage of it, but he knew he wasn't going to tell her that he loved her. Even sick as she was, she would grace him with a withering look, if he did. He didn't particularly want to see that. And, he didn't want to burden her with the knowledge. The knowledge that spooky unlovable Fox Mulder had taken her into his heart, and that anything that might possibly happen to her for the worse would wound him deeply. The knowledge that he needed her like he needed air. It was pitiful and he didn't want her pity.

He had learned to live without his sister from an early age. The loss pulled at him, but carried on. He wasn't sure how long he would have survived without his Scully.

"You never told me much about him," Margaret Scully said, handing her daughter the cup of water.

Scully leaned forward in the hospital bed, trying not to spill any of the water on herself as she took a sip. Her head slipped back onto the pillow as her mother took the cup back from her.

"Didn't I?"

She hadn't told her mother a lot lately. There were things about her job on the X-files that she had needed to shield her family from. It had created some distance between her and her family; it had accelerated her connection with Mulder.

"How long have you worked together?" her mother asked, adjusting the pillow behind Dana's head.

"He didn't tell you?"

"We didn't talk about those kinds of things, Dana."

"What did you talk about?" 'Not aliens, please God.'

"Just you."

Scully blinked slowly. "They separated us a couple of months ago. We'd been working together for about a year."

Her mother looked curiously at her. "Why would they separate you?"

"They had their reasons, I guess," she responded evasively.

Her mother had a look about her that seemed to indicate that she had the wrong idea about their reassignment. She wouldn't guess that it was for more mundane reasons than an elicit office romance. Sometimes they just wanted to shut you down. She'd have to explain too much in order to make her mother understand.

"He cares about you very much," her mother stated still looking as if she had guessed some secret.

Scully glanced over at the VCR tape on the hospital side table. Superstars of the Super Bowl. This odd little gift was supposed to speak volumes, she knew. It was supposed to tell her all the things that Fox Mulder couldn't bring himself to say out loud, while still appearing to be rather thoughtless and inappropriate, so that she wouldn't be able to read the hidden meaning. And so she'd responded in kind, not betraying anything to him when he'd handed it to her. That's how it worked, she realized—she and him. All layers of meaning left uninvestigated, waiting to be probed.

"I know, Mom."

There had been times when she'd worried about their partnership. She'd worried when his head was easily turned on assignment by the return of an ex-girlfriend. She'd worried when he'd refused to let her call him Fox—even though he'd assured her that no one called him that. She worried that on some level it would always be a one-way partnership. She would be doing all of the giving and he'd be off chasing monsters in a blink of an eye without even calling to inform her that she'd been ditched. Even after they'd been separated she kept worrying. Worrying when he didn't acknowledge her in the bullpen. Worrying when he got a new partner—one that was open to extreme possibilities and might in turn be a more welcome addition than she had been.

And yet, somehow he always redeemed himself. There was no doubt that he cared. He always proved that he meant what he'd said: he trusted her and no one else. Who had he trusted when she'd been gone? Her mother sat here waiting for her to come back to her. Her sister had held vigil over her. And yet, oddly enough the person she felt the most compelled to return for was Fox Mulder—her former partner. She knew somehow that he needed her more than anyone else. Everyone else in her life would mourn her loss, but they would move one. They would be strong and carry on. Mulder wouldn't have been able to do that; she already knew how Mulder dealt with loss.

She didn't need her mother or her sister or AD Skinner or anyone else to tell her how he'd behaved when she had been unconscious or before she'd been returned. She knew in her heart. And it was an odd feeling, knowing that this man was tethered to her and needed her. It was a responsibility—one which she took seriously. She held more than his trust.