Author's note: Again, thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story. The response has been amazing, and I really appreciate it.
This is the last chapter. Make yourself comfortable, because it's a long one.
Disclaimer: Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and the X-Files are owned by Chris Carter and Fox. I just like to sneak them out every once in awhile and play with them. No harm done, right?
There was no traffic, and even though Dana drove slowly because of the storm, she reached Mulder's apartment in 15 minutes. She was surprised to note that from the outside, his place appeared to be dark, indicating that contrary to her beliefs, he was asleep. I should just leave and let sleeping Mulders lie. Maybe he will have forgotten about this by the morning. Scully kept telling hopeful lies to herself as she headed toward his apartment building. She unlocked the front door and headed toward apartment 42, her body seemingly on autopilot and paying no heed to her brain. She knocked softly. No reply. A minute later, she knocked louder. After Scully had shifted her weight from her left foot to her right and then back again, she heard movement in the apartment.
"Who is it?" Mulder called out, his voice thick with sleep—or suspicion.
Scully took a deep breath and let it out. "It's me. Can I come in?"
"What are you doing, selling girl scout cookies at four in the morning?" Mulder had that irate edge to his voice that Scully knew all too well. This is ridiculous, she thought angrily. He is going to keep me out here begging all night. She silently pulled his key from her pocket and opened the door.
Mulder was leaning against the wall, and by the look on his face she could tell he was surprised that she just let herself in without permission. Scully shut the door behind her and turned around to look at him. Despite all the rage churning in her, now that she was facing him, she couldn't think what to to say. She settled for crossing her arms in front of her chest and gave him her best evil eye.
"Well?" Mulder said, shrugging his shoulders. "If you came over to chat about the weather, which doesn't look too hot right now, it really could have waited until the morning." He looked Scully in the eye. "Or is there something else that brought you out in the middle of the night."
Scully took a step toward him. "We weren't finished," she said.
"Where I come from, they call that a fight."
"Okay then," Scully said, trying to stay calm. "Our fight. I never pegged you as a quitter, Mulder. Or someone as petty as to destroy another person's property. You have a hell of a lot of nerve. That morphine belonged to me. You had absolutely no right to destroy it."
Mulder turned around and walked over to his couch and sat down in the middle, leaving Scully no room to sit next to him. She followed him and sat in his office chair instead.
"Scully, somehow I don't think that that morphine really belonged to you. You can get in a lot of trouble for possession, you know."
"Can't say I really care at this point."
"What did you do, go to one of your doctor friends and have them steal the morphine for you? Gotta love that old-boy network doctors have, or should I say, that old-girl's network." He leaned back, looking satisfied with himself as he watched Scully squirm in her chair. "But don't worry, Scully, you still have your gun. Quick, easy, but a bit messy. I just hope I won't be the one to find you…"
"Stop it Mulder!" Scully spat, her voice deadly. "You don't have to be so crass!"
"Gee, sorry, Scully. You know me. I'm just so darned self-centered. I know I should be concerned that your dying, but I'm too busy planning what I can do with your side of the office once you're gone. I could really use some more bookshelves…"
"Shut up, you son of a bitch! Shut up!" Before Scully knew what she was doing, she got up, crossed the room, and slapped Mulder with all of her strength, all reserve gone. He quickly put one hand on his stinging cheek and reached up with the other and grabbed at Scully's wrist. "Dammit, Scully," he mumbled. "Calm down!"
Mulder dared to tell her to calm down? This only made Scully angrier. She watched Mulder's form melt and turn red, and a scarlet glow seemed to permeate the room. The roar of the blood in her ears was almost deafening, and what little of her brain was still functioning rationally was drowned out by the rage pulsating through her. Scully melded with the red, the liquid rage, and she didn't fight it. She allowed herself to drown.
She formed her open hands into fists and began to hit Mulder in this face, arms, chest, anywhere she could reach. Mulder looked shocked and put his arms in front of his face for protection. Scully heard her voice through the redness, though it sounded very distant, like an echo in the mountains.
"Damn you, Mulder! What the hell do you care if I die? You never notice me, I'm just a goddamned piece of office furniture to you! Four fucking years of running after you, trying to make sure you don't die, loving you and being ignored, damn you for messing up my life!" Scully's tears nearly choke her as her blows to Mulder become more urgent.
"Stop it, Scully, now!" Mulder yelled.
She couldn't. Feelings locked up in closets for years come pouring out faster than Scully could channel them through her fists. "I don't mean anything to you, I never have, I never could compete with the aliens and the fucking truth and Samantha! I hate you for that! I hate you Mulder, I really do. You have sucked my life away, and for what?" She sobbed and her aching arms forced her to slow down her blows.
Mulder looked up at her when she mentioned Samantha's name. He noticed that the force of her attack was flagging, so he quickly reached up and grabbed both of her wrists. He pulled her down to the couch, twisting her violently so she landed on her back. He then leaned his upper body onto her, still holding tightly to her wrists.
"Your hurting me Mulder! Stop it! Get off of me!" Scully felt like she was suffocating under his weight. She twisted underneath Mulder, but he only leaned on her more heavily. Her wrists were beginning to chafe from his grip.
"Not until you calm down, Scully. I'm a little tired of being your punching bag. What has gotten into you?"
Scully looked at Mulder for the first time since he pinned her on the couch. The red anger began to fade, and Mulder became Mulder again. She noticed a small trickle of blood coming from his nose. As she looked at Mulder's battered face looming over her, Scully felt something tear in the pit of her stomach. A deep sob, so profound that at first she didn't know what it was, birthed from her soul. It spilled out of her mouth like a wave onto a beach, followed by another, and another. There was no mantra of vulnerability this time, just deep, primal sobs that made her shake. Scully managed to twist her body toward the back of the couch so Mulder couldn't see her face. He relaxed his grip and wrapped his arms around her waist as if to steady her from the cries that were coming louder.
Scully couldn't think; she became a medium on which unwanted images, feelings, and emotions were painted; all her pain was on display all at once in her brain in a macabre art gallery. She saw the crystal Melissa always wore sparkling at the base of her neck as she lay in her coffin. She watched her father's ashes being poured into the ocean as "Beyond the Sea" played on her mother's cheap portable radio. She felt the bite of jealousy as she watched Mulder dance with Phoebe, wondering why she wasn't the one being kissed. She felt herself stepping over the threshold of her apartment after returning home from the post-abduction hospitalization and noticing remnants of yellow police tape on her walls. She was floating above her body on the bathroom floor of a hotel room, as the blood from her nose made a small puddle on the floor and she prayed for the headache to stop. The sharp, cold pain of the tattoo needle was on her back again, as she heard herself take deep, almost sexual gasps from the pain. And the shame of Ed Jerse, and the shame of all her weaknesses, and failures, and endless disappointments, washed through her.
She cried for what felt like an eternity. Finally, the sobs lessened in their intensity, and it was only when they had almost ceased did she notice that Mulder was stroking her hair. She couldn't think. There was nothing left to think. Or to feel. All possible thoughts and emotions had already been filtered through her soul tonight, leaving big, ragged holes.
After a few minutes, he spoke softly to her. "That was an awful lot that you had hiding in there, Scully. Are you okay?"
Her face was still turned away from Mulder's, and she buried it in the back of the couch. She nodded.
Mulder sat up. "Don't go anywhere. I will be right back." He returned in a few minutes and knelt in front of the couch. He took Scully's shoulders. "Sit up, Scully. I brought you some water. It's okay." Scully wasn't sure what was okay, but she allowed him to guide her into a sitting position. He handed her a box of Kleenex, which she took gratefully. She was coming back to life, slowly, and she realized how frightening she must look to him right now. After she blew her nose, Mulder handed her a warm wet washcloth and she wiped the tears and mucus off of her face. The glass of water he gave her next was cold, and she drank every drop and handed the glass back to him. He remained kneeling at her feet as he reached out to stroke her face.
Scully found her voice. "Yeah. Thanks." She couldn't bring herself to look at him, not yet.
"I could count on one finger the number of times I have seen you cry, Scully. If you were counting the same for me you would need an abacus."
"I don't like people to see me cry," she said.
"Why do you think that you always have to be the strong one?"
"Someone has to be, Mulder." She wiped her nose and rubbed her sore eyes, still avoiding Mulder's gaze.
"What is that supposed to mean, Scully? That I'm not strong? That you need to take care of me?"
Scully sighed. "I'm the anchor, Mulder. I have always been the anchor."
"Anchor for what?"
"For you. For us. I think of things in nautical terms, I guess because of my father. I'm the one who holds everything in place, so you have the freedom to do what you want to do. You know the boat will always be there when you get back, so to speak, because of me. It's my job to find you when you run off half-cocked about something to make sure you are okay. And I am the one who is always smoothing things over with Skinner, trying to convince people in the Bureau that our work has some validity. Me doing all of this allows you to continue on your search for the truth, whatever the hell that is."
Mulder was silent for awhile. When Scully finally looked at him, he was staring out the window with a distant look on his face. After a few minutes, he spoke.
"That's quite a job description, Scully. I know all that you have done for me, and the X-files, even though I guess I am not too good at acknowledging it. But my throbbing face tells me that you need a little more than an apology."
"Honestly, I don't know what I need anymore."
They sit in silence for a few more minutes. Mulder reached up to Scully and brushed stray hairs off of her face.
"You are right, you know, when you said that I only see things in the context of how they affect me."
"I'm sorry I said that, Mulder. We were both angry and…"
Mulder interrupted. "It's okay, Scully. You are right, and I guess I needed someone to tell me that to my face. I have always been like that. Self-centered."
Scully smiled. "Yeah, but you have your moments."
Mulder smiled back. "Don't we all. But seriously, Scully, I have a question for you, and I want you to think about it for awhile before you answer, okay?"
Scully had no idea what Mulder wanted to know. Then she remembered that she had mentioned her feelings for him when she was attacking him. Oh God no, she thought. He is going to ask me about that. And I'm way to vulnerable right now to tell him anything but the truth.
Mulder took a deep breath. "Scully, I want you to think about all the times you asked me for something. Think about any demands you have put on me, on our friendship, over the past few years. Really think about it, okay?"
Scully let out the breath she had been holding in, relieved he wasn't asking her if she had more-than-friendly feelings for him. Her mind skimmed over the peaks and valleys of the past few years, trying to think of the times she has asked him for help of any kind. She chewed her lip as she concentrated, trying to jump over the invisible wall that was always there, the wall that she had put up that made the friendship flow one way, to Mulder only. Surely there must have been times she needed his help desperately and had asked Mulder to put her first. Surely.
After a long time she spoke, wondering how her silence was interpreted by Mulder. "Okay, there was that time when we were on our very first case, and I rushed into your room with those bug bites on my back for you to examine. You told me what they were and calmed me down. I was so embarrassed, but you didn't make me feel stupid."
Mulder grinned. "Good night, how could I forget that? There was my new partner, practically au naturale in my hotel room. I knew right then that we were going to get along very well."
Scully reached out and gently punched him on the shoulder.
"Ow, no more! I have been beaten enough for one night, and you definitely do not hit like a girl. What else have you come up with besides the naked mosquito bite incident?"
Scully chewed her lip. "That time in New Mexico, after I shot you. I knew that government file we found had my name on it, and I asked you to find out why."
"And I did a bang-up job with that request, didn't I?" he said sarcastically.
"What do you mean? We found those files in West Virginia. We learned more about the experiments the government is doing on abductees. You led me to Penny Northern. You found out everything you could, Mulder. Don't beat yourself up because of the cancer, okay?"
Mulder nodded. "Okay, what else?"
"Well, there was that time you went to my friend Sheila's wedding with me, so I wouldn't have to be asked a million times why I didn't have a boyfriend at my age."
Mulder laughed. "Oh Scully, it was worth every minute of it to see the look on your face when the bouquet was heading in your direction. I never saw someone run away from something so fast in my life!"
"Yeah well, if I had caught it, Sheila's mom would start to plan our wedding right there and then. Believe me, I wanted to get as far away from that bouquet as possible."
"The bride's very large brothers had already cornered me in the bathroom and asked me when I was going to make an honest woman out of you. I told them that you had picked me up at a bar just the weekend before, and I would need to know you a little better before I popped the question."
Scully covered her mouth in mock horror. "Oh Mulder, you didn't!"
"No wonder Mrs. Shannon told my mom that I should quit the FBI before it completely ruins me. My mom had no idea what she meant! Oh my!" Scully laughed and moved down to the floor where Mulder was sitting. "I am feeling a little too tall up there," she explained.
"Okay Scully, what else did you come up with? Surely that can't be the end of the list."
Scully paused. She didn't want to bring up the topic that she had forbade Mulder to talk about: a ban borne out her desperate desire to forget. But she had to.
"Mulder, I know you did a lot to try and find me when I was taken. I've been told that you didn't sleep for three months. And I appreciate how hard that must have been on you. My mom told me that you were running around half crazy when I was in the coma."
Mulder's face twisted. "Once again, worthless. All that work didn't help find you."
"That's irrelevant, Mulder." What matters is that you did everything in your power to help me, at the expense of your health and well-being."
Mulder nodded, looking down at his lap with half-closed eyes, as if the weight of the memory was almost too much for him to stand. "Anything else?"
Scully shifted to make herself more comfortable on the floor. "Ah, Mulder, I couldn't think of anything else. A couple of those were pretty important things, you know. The length of the list isn't important—the quality is."
Mulder stood up and walked to the kitchen. He came back with two bottles of beer and a worried look in his face. He bent down and handed Scully, who was still sitting on the floor, her beer, and plopped down in his office chair with a sigh. A hearty swig from his drink didn't make him look less morose.
"That's all I could come up with too, except the wedding thing. I honestly can't think of many times when you asked me for something, anything, Scully."
"I've wanted to, Mulder, countless times. But I just thought…" her voice trailed off.
"Thought what? That I couldn't be the anchor, even for a little while? That I would lose respect for you if you showed me you were human? Was that it?"
Scully mutely nodded.
After a minute, Mulder said softly, "did you ever think, Scully, that you let it be all about me? I'm not trying to make excuses for my behavior, and I am certainly not trying to blame my shortcomings on you. But maybe I forgot to look and see how things affect other people, I mean you, because we were both so good at putting me first? You never spoke up, never demanded for me to acknowledge you. It's like we both got lost in my search for the truth."
Scully looked at Mulder with his serious, pained look. I can't believe this, she thought. Tonight he has enough insight for the both of us.
She spoke slowly, hand-picking each word, for the last thing she wanted was to hurt Mulder any more than she already had. And if that meant opening opening herself up, exposing private places for him to see, well, so be it.
"I never thought I would be the kind of woman who would let herself get swallowed up by somebody else's life. I grew up watching traditional Catholic women who sacrificed everything for their husbands, who played the role of the good suffering Catholic mothers. Thank god, mom and dad were different. Mom taught me how to be strong, how to be my own person."
"You are your own person, Scully. That is one of the things I admire most about you. You have more self-confidence than any other woman I have ever met."
Scully chewed her lower lip. "But for the past few months, even before the cancer, I have felt all of that slipping. I can't explain it, Mulder, but I felt like I was living your life, not mine anymore." She cleared her throat and looked out the window. "I guess that's why the whole Ed Jerse thing happened. I needed to have, or to do, something that was truly mine, not just an extension of you." She turned and looked Mulder in the eye. "You were a real jerk about that, you know, Mulder. I was embarrassed enough without your smart ass comments about my two personal appearances in the X-files."
"Oh Scully, I'm so sorry. I act like that when I don't know what to say. I couldn't understand why you got that tattoo, why you had a one-night stand. I felt like I was staring across my desk at a stranger, and where the hell did my Scully go? I knew you were angry at me, and I should have apologized to you, but we felt so distant from each other. And then we found out about the cancer…" his voice trailed off. "I guess I didn't realize until tonight how upset and hurt you have been lately. But you know, Scully, you are not exactly a big help when it comes to figuring out what is bothering you. If I hear one more 'I'm fine Mulder' I am going to scream."
"Okay, okay. I haven't exactly been forthcoming. I'm just not very good at being vulnerable, you know? I hate the way it makes me feel. It goes against my grain."
"I think it's time to learn, Scully. Look at what happened tonight. You've been so angry at me for so long, but couldn't tell me. And so it all exploded, you exploded. Keeping all that angst to yourself can't be good for your health." Mulder paused and lowered his voice. "Please don't push me away anymore, Scully. It's killing me. It's really killing me. And tonight, when I saw the morphine…" Mulder rubbed his hand over his face, covering his expression from Scully.
"What about the morphine, Mulder?" Scully prodded.
"I guess it felt like another like another cold analytical decision of yours. Like you look at your cancer as a problem, as a troubling case, and the morphine was the best solution. Neat and clean. The way you like it. And I just felt-and here is my self-centeredness rearing its ugly head-that maybe you could be that cold not only about your own life, but my life too? Like you were just going to leave on a Friday, say goodbye Mulder, have a good weekend, see you on Monday, and go home and kill yourself. Just like that. Without giving a damn about me. Maybe I have the hope you don't, Scully, I don't know. But I am not as unrealistic as you think. I know you are sick. But can't you have enough faith in me to think that I would do everything in my power so you would go comfortably? That I would take care of you?"
"Dammit Mulder, that's what I am afraid of!"
"Afraid of being taken care of? Is this what the morphine was all about? So you could die before you became sick and dependent?"
Scully rolled her eyes in impatience. "Of course it is, Mulder. I tried to tell you that tonight at my apartment. I don't want a repeat of the scene two years ago. I don't want a bunch of people standing around my bed feeling sorry for me. Or feeling sorry for themselves. I rather be remembered as I am now, not some frail suffering shell. And you had no right, no right in hell, to destroy those morphine bags. They belong to me, and despite your fears of my insensitive clinical detachment, it is my choice how I want to die. I'll say it yet again: I want you to remember me as the woman you've known for the past four years, not some hollowed-out stranger."
Mulder's face was serious. "I promise to remember you doing one of your episodes of pontification about Darwinian theory. Does that make you feel a little better?"
Scully steadied her breath to calm herself down again. "Actually, I prefer that you remember me as the person who always pulled your butt of the sling," she deadpanned.
"How about immortalizing you the time you were covered with cockroach infected dung? That would be a great picture for me to carry around of you in my wallet."
"Watch it, Mulder, or I'll beat you again!" She realized they were both laughing, and for a second, things felt almost back to normal. Almost.
Mulder became serious again. "I want to get back to the issue of you asking for something from me. Okay, Scully, this is your big chance. Tell me what you want from me, tell me what you have wanted from me for the past four years. I'm listening now, okay? So you tell me the truth."
Scully took a deep breath. The hell with vulnerability. I'm sadly mistaken if I think I have anything to lose anymore.
"Okay, Mulder, you asked for it. First of all,I want an apology for what you did tonight, by destroying my private property. After that, well, um... I want to spend time with you outside the office. My apartment seems too big sometimes, and I start thinking thoughts that make my head hurt. And I want you to be there for me when I get sick. I mean, I am asking you to forfeit a chance for a personal tour of Area 51 if I am sick and need you. I know that is a tall order, Mulder, but…"
"It's okay, Scully. Done." He paused, gripping his fingers into fists. "And even though I strongly disagree with you having gone out and gotten IV narcotics for euthanasia, you are right, it was not my place to destroy what belongs to you. I did that in a moment of anger and frustration, and it was the wrong thing for me to do. I am very sorry." He genuinely looked contrite.
Scully took in the sincerity of his statement and his expression, and said, "I accept your apology, but I am still mad about it. I'm honestly not quite ready to completely forgive you."
Mulder nodded. "I get it. It was a serious fuck-up on my part. But go ahead with your wish list anyway, OK?
"Sure, now where was I? Oh yea. I want you to stop ditching me when we are on assignment. I am really sick of chasing you down."
Mulder nodded. "Go on."
"And I want you to talk to me. Really talk, about something besides the X-files. I want to hear funny stories about your life, and I want the chance to tell you about mine. And when I am dying, I want you to be there for me, and for my mother. Like you were when I was sick. Stay with me. Hold my hand. Read to me. Instead of wasting my precious time by seeking out all who should be revenged."
She looked up at Mulder shyly. Here goes nothing, she thought.
"And I would like to wake up in the mornings and find you making coffee in my kitchen."
Mulder leaned back against the couch. "I can do all of that, Scully, I really can." He took her hands in his. "But please promise to let me in, okay? I can't be all that responsive to your needs if I don't know what they are. And yes, I promise to help you, and your mom through this. Regardless of the outcome."
She noticed he didn't mention the coffee.
Suddenly Scully felt all the emotional and physical stress of the last several hours descend upon her in a rush. Her eyes, still sore from crying, involuntarily closed. Scully used her willpower to open them, but she knew she was fading fast. Mulder looked at her with concern.
"All right, Agent Scully, we have had enough of that touchy feely share and care stuff for one night, don't you think? We both really need some sleep if we are going to make it to Ohio tomorrow."
Scully leaned her leaden head against the couch and yawned, not bothering to cover her mouth. "Ohio…the Hoosier state?"
"No, that's Indiana. Ohio is the Buckeye state."
"Mulder, what's a Hoosier?"
"Scully, what's a Buckeye?"
"It's a nut-shaped object that comes from trees indigenous…"
Mulder held up his hand. "Enough! We can contemplate state nicknames on the plane tomorrow. But for now, we both need sleep. You are in no shape to drive home. I'll make up my bed for you, clean sheets and all, and I will sleep in the usual place."
Scully was way too tired to object. She nodded in agreement and slowly put her hands on the ground and began to push herself into a standing position. She made it to her knees; then she was stopped by Mulder's hand on her shoulder. He brought himself to a kneeling position and put his other hand on the back of her neck.
She tilted her head back and knew what was coming. Mulder's lips pressed themselves gently against hers, and despite her exhaustion she felt herself respond with equal force. She opened her mouth and Mulder's tongue entwined with hers, teasing and tasting, and she moaned from the perfection of it. Mulder pulled away when they both became breathless he ran his finger down her cheek and looked into her eyes. Breathe, she told herself. Just breathe.
Mulder continued to caress her cheek. "I know you have loved me for years, Scully." He spoke softly, his voice taking on the husky quality that indicates he is talking about something difficult. "You didn't have to hit me to get that through my head. Even I am not that dense, although it amazes me how my beautiful, brilliant Scully could fall for me. But I know that you know the feeling is mutual. Very mutual." Scully nodded, unable to take her eyes from his. "And to show you how much I care, I need you to answer one question for me."
Her heart was beating so loudly she was sure Mulder would hear it. "What?" she whispered.
Mulder leaned back and crossed his arms in front of his chest, looking very pleased with himself. He smiled wickedly. "Do you like your coffee served to you in bed?"
Author's Note 2: There you have it. Clearly, this could have been a 30 chapter saga, following Scully through the progression of her illness to the point of debilitation she dreads, and see what she chooses to do, i.e. euthanasia or die naturally. Even though the morphine is gone, I'm sure Scully will get narcotics prescribed to her at some point for pain, and an overdose would be easy, and as Mulder so spitefully pointed out, she always has her gun. I'm not trying to be crass, I'm just pointing out that I chose not to take this story in that direction. Instead, I wanted Mulder and Scully to finally talk about her illness and impending death. Mulder, who does love to ignore troubling things, was confronted with the reality of Scully's prognosis when he found the morphine in her apartment, and he went a little nuts. Scully, with only a little prodding from Mulder, completely broke down, those "I'm fine"walls crumbling in the face of Mulder's actions so fast and so hard that she physically lashes out and then drowns in a tsunami of emotion. So the story ended up being not about Scully's cancer, but how both of them were handling the idea of her illness and death, which was very, very poorly. My question was, what would happen when they were both confronted with each other's take on the situation? So that's what you got here. I hope it satisfied.