The force of her emotions scared him but despite her shocking appearance, she seemed to be unhurt. He closed his eyes and held her, profoundly grateful that she was letting him comfort her. Despite the countless times he had turned to her for this, he couldn't remember a single instance when she had reached for him. After her non-reaction to his declarations over the last few months, he had ceased to hope that she ever would. In fact, she had been distancing herself from him, uncomfortable in his presence as never before and shrugging him off as if his touch had become repugnant to her.
But this time she had reached for him. In fact, she was clinging to him as if she were afraid that he would disappear without a trace, taking her sanity with him.
What the hell had happened?
He held her close, his own heart in his throat as she cried. He had never seen her like this. Even after Pfaster, her tears had had to be coaxed out of her and her body had not been wracked with sobs as it was now. Then, she had merely allowed him to hold her as she cried into his coat. This was entirely different. He tightened his grip on her, closed his eyes and threw a prayer of thanks up to whoever might be listening.
His heart had dropped to his toes when he had burst through the door to see her as still as death on the floor. He had been unable to draw a breath as he approached her bloody form and the relief, when she had opened her eyes and reached for him, had hit him so hard he almost passed out. He had no idea how he managed to get his arms around her and lift her off the floor. He stretched his legs out, pulled her onto his lap and leaned against the door, prepared to hold her all night if that's what she needed. He said nothing but stroked her hair, held her tight and let her cry.
Finally, she lay quiet in his arms. When she spoke, he had to strain to hear what she murmured into his collar bone.
"I've missed you," she breathed.
"I'm right here."
"I know." Her voice was a little stronger. "I'm sorry."
This was too confusing.
"I've been so angry with you," she said, "and it wasn't your fault. I never should've blamed you."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I know." He could feel her smile against him. "I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry and I won't do it anymore."
"Scully, you've never done anything you have to be sorry for."
That got a chuckle out of her but when she spoke, her voice sounded sad. "I wish that were true. Anyway, it's not your fault if I go and do something stupid, Mulder."
"Now you're scaring me." He smiled into her hair.
"I'm okay." she sighed. "You can let go of me, now."
"Aw Scully," now his own voice was wistful. "I don't want to."
"What do you mean?"
"You never let me do this."
She stiffened in his arms but didn't let go of him. He wondered briefly if he'd made a mistake but decided he had nothing to lose anymore.
"I didn't know you wanted to." She finally answered.
"I told you." He couldn't seem to shut his mouth.
At that, she lifted her head from his shoulder and looked him in the eye, so that he saw the exact moment when she realized what he was talking about. Her eyes grew huge and dark and her brows snapped together but still, she didn't pull away. "Mulder, you were high."
"Doesn't change the truth." Their faces inches apart, they stared at one another for a few moments and she could see that he was simply telling the truth as he knew it. "I thought I would die when you walked out of that hospital room," he admitted.
"Oh Mulder." She laid her head back on his chest. "You've been making comments to me like that for years; how was I supposed to know that you were serious that time?"
"I was serious every time." He couldn't believe he was finally telling her this but as long as she remained on his lap, wrapped in his arms, he could keep talking forever.
"Since when?" the skeptical doctor demanded.
"I don't know, really. I mean, I know when I realized it but looking back, I think it had been true for a long time."
"I stopped denying it when your cancer was diagnosed..."
"Two years ago!"
"...but now I know that I had it just as bad when Dwayne Barry took you. I lost my mind then, Scully."
"Five years ago?"
"The truth is, I'm pretty sure you had me when you burst out laughing in the pouring rain in that cemetary in Bellefluer. I know you had me when I stumbled out of Ellen's Air Base and saw you standing there, like a knight in shining armor, gun drawn, there to rescue me from the NSA."
"That was our second-our first case!"
"I know. It may have been when you used logistics to explain why you didn't believe in extra terrestrials the day we met."
"You never said anthing!"
"I did too! Weren't you listening to me out in the hallway right before that fucking bee stung you?"
"I thought...right afterwards you were so angry with me and then you went off with Agent Fowley...the gunmen told me about you two. I felt...unnecessary."
"Oh, Scully." He pressed his lips against her hair. "Do you want to know why I never told you about Diana?" She nodded. "Because she hasn't crossed my mind in eight years. Not once."
"But...you took her side against me despite all the evidence that I showed you..."
"Scully." He took her chin and tilted her face up to his. "I don't have a lot of friends. I need more than circumstantial evidence and someone's gut feeling-even yours- before I'd turn on any one of them." She dropped her face back onto his shoulder to hide her shame. "I did listen to you," he continued. "After I left the gunman's, I went to her place. I broke in and ransacked it, looking for anything to back up your suspicions." Her head snapped up and she looked him in the eye. "I didn't find anything. I waited for her to come home and I confronted her. That's why I was there when you called me to help you rescue Cassandra Spender."
Scully's mouth dropped open when she realized the depth of the misunderstanding between them and the unnecessary pain they had caused each other. "I thought you were with her beause that's where you wanted to be," she said. "I thought...You said that I shouldn't let it get personal."
"I meant that Diana had nothing to do with you and me."
"But it was personal. I was trying to protect myself."
"My job is to protect you. Your job is to protect me."
"Are we talking personally or professionally?"
"Both. I can't do either one without you. Without you, there is no me."
She pressed her face into his neck again and he felt fresh tears slip from beneath her lids. "Oh Scully, don't cry. You're not hurt. You're okay. We're okay."
"Mulder, it's not Padgett!" she exclaimed, lifting her head. "It was someone else. I saw him!"
"You saw Nasiamente, Scully. It is Padgett. He told me what would happen and then it did. I don't know how but it is Padgett. I don't think he wanted to hurt you, though. When I caught up to him, he was burning the book. He'd rather destroy it than hurt you. In his own demented way, I think he really does love you. Or wants to, anyway. When I first suspected him, I thought he was just a creep but after I read his book, I was..."
"I read the part about the two of you. I was so jealous I wanted to puke."
"Oh, Mulder. There is nothing he could ever say or write that could make me fall in love with him."
"I know. He said so. He said he misjudged you."
"He did. His mistake was that while he studied me, he ignored you and without you, there is no me."
"I suppose we'd better go arrest him."
"For what? Lethal fiction? 'Stop me before I write again!'?" she started to laugh and he joined in. It felt so good to be able to laugh together again. They sat on the floor in a happy daze, trying to assimilate the odd turn this stakeout had taken. The heavy cloud of misunderstanding, distrust and dread that had settled over them for months had dissipated, leaving them both a little giddy. The last time Mulder had felt like this, he'd been lying in a hospital bed in Bermuda. He grinned, remembering exactly why he'd felt so happy then.
"I love you, Scully." He repeated those hospital words.
"Are you gonna spend the rest of the night making wild, passionate love to me?" she asked, curiously.
His heart began to pound in his chest as a thousand possibilites flooded his fertile imagination but when he opened his mouth, the word that popped out was "No."
"No?" She looked up at him as though he had lost his mind.
"No." He repeated. "When I make love to you -and I am going to make love to you-it's not going to be because some fictional psycho back from the dead tried to rip your heart out. It's not going to be because I've rescued you from a frozen horror at the bottom of the world or because you're dying of cancer. And it sure as hell won't be because some shape shifting loser sweet talked you into it. When I make love to you -and it will be wild and passionate-it will only be because you can't stand one more day on this planet without me inside of you." His voice had dropped to a low, sexy murmur and she found that she could barely breathe. To cover her emotional response to this speech, she couldn't resist looking at him in mock dismay and saying "It's never going to happen, is it?"
"It is going to happen." He'd never believed anything more strongly.
"If this were one of Padgett's books, we'd do it right here on the floor." she teased.
"We've never done anything by the book, Scully and I'll be damned if I'm going to start with one of his! We will do this on our terms. On your terms. I've had years to get used to the idea that I'm in love with you. I don't ever want to wonder if traumatic events pushed you into something you don't really want as badly as I do."
She felt a rush of tenderness for him, knowing that he had literally placed his heart in her hands. He was right. She'd been suppressing her feeling towards him for so long that it would take some time for her to pull them into the light and be identified. She owed it to him to give the situation the serious consideration it deserved. She didn't want him to wonder if she were simply reacting to the horrors of their profession. If this were going to happen, they'd have to proceed carefully. it was much too important to catapult themselves into. Baby steps had gotten them this far and together they would move forward.
"Okay." She whispered, secure in the knowledge that he would wait for her and that she would catch up to him. Soon.