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Variations on a Fugue

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I let him into my body. Minutes turned into hours after she remembered her real life, and she knew that she was focusing on the wrong issue. Mulder wasn't responsible for her violation.

But he'd been the instrument, or an instrument, the one closest to hand. The one leaving the most visible marks. And so she couldn't stop thinking about what she'd allowed. What she'd been coerced into allowing: the one thing she'd committed to denying herself, because it would leave her with a certain integrity; and even that, false in all but form. A mannequin in the shape of the only man she trusted.

For all their moral outrage, she and Mulder had very little room in their lives for integrity. This abomination was even more complete than that surrounding her abduction.

At least he didn't press her to continue their sham of a marriage. He was still, she thought, in love with the woman he thought he'd married, and she'd sea-changed on him, turned out to have bones made of coral and implants made of metal.

"This is us," she told him when she showed him the reports of cases they'd investigated. "This is who we are." But he didn't understand: he'd never lost his sister, never watched a UFO hover brilliantly in the sky above his head. He thought she was only talking about their histories. The man that he was now was more than the X-Files, and so much less.

****

Six months after they'd returned to Washington, Mulder still didn't remember his history beyond the barest flashes.

He retained just enough to return to the FBI, all the procedual memories and background knowledge that made him qualified to work as a Special Agent. They went back to the X-Files, but he found it all so incredible that he lasted all of two weeks before Skinner granted him a transfer out. Before he stopped talking to her, he admitted that he hadn't been able to handle the nightmares. Scully remembered when he hadn't been able to sleep; neither solution seemed ideal.

Scully didn't fight him on his decision—without his credulity he was more trouble with witnesses than he was worth, communicating his skepticism with every tilt of his eyebrow or pout of his lips. She wasn't comfortable with switching roles with him, either, becoming the one who would tolerate every insane possibility or speculation. It was better for them both not to have him stumbling through the motions that Mulder had inhabited with passion.

Nor did she think that profiling was a more dangerous job for him than teaching psychology. It had been amply demonstrated that, when the Conspiracy determined to do the next horrific thing to him, he'd be within easy reach no matter where he fled. Or maybe his amnesia would protect him; maybe he was a broken tool without his passion to seek out the unexplainable.

"Is it true?" one of her old friends asked, calling from Quantico. "They say he had a breakdown and lost his memory, and now he's—fixed."

"There was no breakdown," she said, wondering whether he might not be doing more good hunting the human monsters than they'd ever managed in the basement of the Hoover Building. "But the memory loss, yes. I was under the impression that he was open about it."

"Well, sure," Janice said. "But he's got a reputation as a joker, and, honestly, would you believe it?"

She very much wanted to say that Janice had no idea what she might believe. "Mulder has been through too much already," she said instead. "I hope no one there is making it harder for him."

That ended the conversation pretty quickly.

Mulder still called her, not constantly, but regularly, with the kind of concern she would have expected from a trained therapist. It was easier on the phone, when she didn't have to see the man who'd touched her, who'd made love to her with complete sincerity. He asked all the right questions in just the right order.

It made her sick.

She'd always been demanding, and she'd told herself that holding herself to the same standards was reason enough to justify her requirements. But this time, what she wanted from Mulder was not reasonable and not generalizable. She wanted the man who'd allow her utterly inappropriate intimacies on their first case, who'd tell her about his implausible childhood trauma and stop the car to pull out the spray-paint just to make a mark on the world.

For the first few months she asked him about his memories, retold stories in an attempt to make them real to him. He tried hard, no one could have disputed that, but somewhere in those disarranged neurons the fire that had consumed him had been quenched, and she wasn't enough to rekindle it. After a while she only updated him on the latest X-Files, and, if she hoped that one of the cases might trigger the old enthusiasm, neither of them found it necessary to discuss the matter.

"I miss you," he said one night early in the winter. And then there was just his breath across the phone lines, familiar and terrifying.

They never lied to one another, not out loud, not if it wasn't personal. She and Mulder hadn't, and she still owed his memory that honesty. "How can you?" she asked.

"Dana—" he began, and for a hot second she wanted to hurt him, physically. If she could have she would have reached out across the miles and pistol-whipped him. But then—"she wasn't entirely made up. I can still recognize so much in you."

Which was better, but not enough. "Then you're missing her," she said, her voice like a pond in winter.

"No," he said, that broken sincerity she knew so well. "She's gone. But you're not, Scully."

And even if it was that profiler's genius speaking in him, she wanted to believe him. More than she'd ever wanted to disbelieve the other things.

"You can't be him," she said, shutting down her false hopes. She didn't say, because she only feared it occasionally, that Mulder would be happier nonexistent—most of the time she thought that Mulder would want to be fighting still, for the barest chance to save Samantha or explain what had happened to her or expose the men whose machinations had brought them to this place. Most of the time she thought that he would grieve with her, if he could have. "You do good work. You're a fine agent and," she fought through the stiffness, "I am proud to call you my friend."

Now they were breathing together, her a little faster, not quite in sync any more than they had ever been.

"So that's it," he said, and the finality of it was something that Mulder would never have accepted.

"Take care of yourself, Fox," she said, and hung up the phone. In the morning, she'd talk to Skinner about finding someone to bring on board who might be able to handle the X-Files. Someone with a good imagination and no family; not a partner, surely, but perhaps an assistant and a gun arm.

Mulder would have understood the need to keep moving even when there was nothing left.

She hoped he wouldn't call again.

Where she was going, he couldn't follow.