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Times Colliding

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1998

This wasn’t funny, but she knew he didn’t mean it as a joke. Mulder was being completely and one hundred percent serious, and that’s what scared her. Over the years, many people jokingly asked her if he was having a mental breakdown. When they heard his opinion on what happened to his sister, when he was talking about a theory of his, when he was just being himself, the question would come out under the guise of mocking sympathy for the ‘poor, disturbed man’. She’d send them a cool glare, maybe an irritated and snarky remark, but nothing more.

Until this very moment, she’d never had the thought herself.

She didn’t even know what to say to him right now and figured the best course of action would arise after listening to him talk. Before he got too into his story, she called Kersh’s office and told the receptionist that she felt ill and had needed Mulder’s help getting to the hospital, and that neither of them would be into work today. She didn’t like it, but it was the truth; people had more sympathy if she was the one in need. They cared more. She hated it, but there was nothing she could do about it. Sometimes she felt like she was the only one in his corner.

Which is why she felt it imperative that they figure this out on their own, or at least try to. If they went to the doctor or somewhere where this would be documented and put in his file, people would just discredit him more than ever before. No, this had to stay between them for as long as possible.

She set her phone down and made her way back to the couch, discarding her heels along the way. Mulder's eyes never left her the entire time and she found it a bit disconcerting, but in the grand scheme of things, it was the last thing she was worried about at this point. “So,” she said, breaking the silence, “Can you tell me what your memories are from the last day you can remember?” Before she sat down, she ran her fingers through his hair to look for any signs he hit his head, then she checked his pupils. They were normal, but she could see the fear within their depths and it scared her. Mulder wasn't one to get frightened easily, despite frequently being in dangerous situations, he has a knack for keeping a level head. It was rare that she saw such a glimmer of anxiety in his eyes.

Mulder didn’t seem thrown off by her proximity or touch, and his overall demeanor wasn't reflecting the fear she saw. While watching her take a seat, he softly answered, “I don’t know how much I can tell you.”

She did her best to keep her face from expressing the frustration she was starting to feel, “What?”

“I don’t want to say something that changes the future. I really need to get back to the Scully of my time, it’s very, very important,” he stated with serious conviction.

“Am I-is she sick again?” She’d just beaten her cancer less than a year ago, she didn’t want to think it’s what she had to look forward to in the future. That is, if what he was saying was true.

“No, no” he reassured with a smile tugging on his lips. “Nothing like that.”

She waited a moment for him to elaborate on what he meant, but the explanation didn’t come. She sighed and decided to play the theory game. “Okay, so, Mulder from 2018, do you remember one day in the ‘past’ where I randomly told you that I was visited by a version of you from a different time, or me telling you that you seemed to be possessed by a future you?”

“No,” he answered honestly, seemingly not sure where she was going with this, but eager to hear what she had to say.

“So, let’s say we get you in the time you need. I’ll presumably be back with my Mulder and I can assure you I’ll be telling you-er-him about this, so this already isn’t your ‘timeline’ as you were calling it. The future’s already been altered for me and my timeline’s Mulder so it doesn’t really matter what you say to me beyond that. I’m not the same Scully you know.” It sounded ridiculous coming out of her mouth, and it didn’t even make sense.

His eyes widened and he nodded, taking in her theory, if you could even call it that. “Or what if you are the Scully from my past and I’ve already changed everything, and the Scully I know won’t exist anymore.”

Scully was shocked as she watched his face fall as despair took over his features. He gasped and it sounded like a sob, as if he was trying to keep his emotions at bay, but the prospect of what he'd just said being true was too much to take. “Hey, hey, hey,” she comforted, scooting closer to him when she saw tears escaping over his cheeks. This was unsettling, Mulder rarely cried in front of her. She rested a hand on his shoulder and was shocked when he fully embraced her. She was used to Mulder touching her, but this was different. Usually he had reservations, he was tentative, but he was touching her like he had thousands of times before. If this was a Mulder from the future, just how close were they exactly. The question made her heartbeat a little faster and she immediately dampened the feeling down. This simply was not the time for her juvenile yearnings.

“This isn’t fair,” he keened as if crying to the gods, pressing his face into her neck and dampening her skin with his tears.

She stroked his hair the best she could from this awkward hugging position as she tried to comfort him. “Well, your theory is wrong because if you changed things that badly, the events leading up to you being here wouldn’t have happened so you wouldn’t even be here.”

He eased back at this, pressing his fingers to his eyes and wiping away the wetness, as if embarrassed by his outburst. “You’re right, you’re right,” he admitted, sniffling.

She smiled at him and withdrew her hand, ignoring the way he looked at it longingly. “So, can we stop talking about timelines? I may be a scientist, but science fiction isn’t my genre of choice, this is barely making sense to me, and I’m concerned about more pressing matters, like making sure you’re okay. The theoretical speculations can wait for later.”

He nodded and leaned back more into the couch, “Yesterday I-.” If he stalled one more time she was going to strangle him. “How detailed do you want me to be?”

“Well the only things you’ve told me, or at least implied, were that we share a house, we have sex, and that having sex with me was the last thing you can remember doing,” she deadpanned. Honestly, if the situation wasn’t so weird, she would have really enjoyed hearing those sentiments come out of his mouth. They’d been getting closer the past few months. Even a few weeks ago he’d told her he loved her although he'd been high on painkillers. Now he’s talking about a nonexistent, detailed sexual history, but he’s claiming to be a time traveler. Would it be possible for him to just express interest in her like a normal person? Of course not.

He let out a self-deprecatory laugh and nodded, “Fair enough. Yesterday I woke up in our home with you. It was Friday so we both got up and went to work, I-”

“Do we still work for the X-Files?” she asked. She didn’t even know how much she believed any of this and she felt ridiculous even indulging, but she couldn’t help but be curious. Twenty-five years of the X-Files seemed unimaginable.

“No, not really. It’s been disbanded time and time again. We’ve helped out twice in the last decade for brief stints, but-” then his face took on an almost peaceful expression with a nostalgic smile, “This was our last time. I’m sure of it.”

He seemed almost content and it confused her. The X-Files was Mulder’s life mission, she couldn’t imagine what he’d ever give it up for. “So, where do we work?”

“We both teach at the academy, I deal with profiling and you with forensic pathology. Our schedules are pretty similar and we get to see each other a lot."

“Do you like it?” she asked. Teaching at the academy as a full-time job seemed like the last thing Mulder would ever want to do, at least the Mulder she knew.

“I do,” he answered honestly.

Then something sparked in the back of her mind. She could only ever imagine him being this accepting of the X-Files being gone if the questions he wanted to know were answered. Does he know what happened to Samantha? The question burned hot on her tongue, her lips even ghosted the first syllable, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask. This felt like getting a new book, but only reading the first few chapters before reading the last page. You got to know the ending, but you didn’t enjoy the journey as much. This had become her mission as much as Mulder’s, and it felt like cheating to know anything before him. She would go through it with it by his side.

What was she even saying? This could easily just be Mulder in a state of confusion, rambling subconscious desires. Though he seemed so earnest about all this, and while he seemed like Mulder, he seemed wiser and like he’d seen things she could only imagine. “I’m sorry for interrupting you. Please continue.”

“No, no you’re fine. I can only imagine how strange and confusing this must be for you,” he implored. As he said this, he tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and cradled her face in the palm of his hand, stroking the skin of her cheek. He was staring at her with adoration and she felt her face flame up and she had to look away. These were the touches she dreamed of, but now that they were happening, she was overwhelmed.

Again, in the story of their romance, he was a character after the climax and she was barely past the introduction. She didn’t have any of this development that he claimed to have. Sure, she loved him, but she didn’t know what a relationship with him would be like outside her personal speculation. She wanted to reciprocate, but she didn’t know how. She didn’t know what he liked, she didn’t know what was okay, she didn’t even know what to say, and she didn’t even know what was going on; so she just sat there.

He slowly withdrew his hand and put it in his lap, she looked up at him through her lashes and saw he was still staring at her, but his eyes were sad now.”I’m sorry. I’m making you uncomfortable.”

She hated that she was the reason he looked hurt right now, “No, no, I just- this is a lot.”

He nodded appreciatively, giving her his full, undivided attention. It wasn’t like Mulder-her Mulder- was callous and didn’t pay attention to her, but she could always see there was a flurry of activity was going on behind his eyes. As if when she spoke, he was already trying to formulate a solution to her problem before she got it all out. This Mulder was different, he hung off every word like gospel. She also didn’t know if he had stopped looking at her since she got through the door.

“What was the last case we worked?” he asked, pulling her out of her thoughts.

“Oh, um, technically that freelance one you took with the man with the ringing in his ears,” she said tentatively. She knew how badly that had bothered him, he didn’t talk for the longest time after stepping out of that car. He nodded and then looked like he was lost in thought. “Then, it wasn’t really a case, but you took a side trip to the Bermuda Triangle.”

That seemed to register something with him and his face lit up, “Oh, so I’ve told you I love you already!”

She raised her hand to halt his celebration, “Well you were under the influence of heavy narcotics, so-”

He playfully swatted her hand away and exclaimed, “Oh, come on! You know I meant it. At this stage you have to know how much I love you.” Her mouth gaped open in astonishment. Sure, she had an inkling, but she didn’t want it to be just wishful thinking. Then his face returned to that solemn expression and he leaned in a bit, “I guess I never knew when you officially started loving me? You said years, but you may have just been trying to make me feel better since I had said the moment I met you,” he sighed, running his hand over the back of his neck.

Since the moment I met you?

“Is that why you said ‘oh brother’? Because you didn’t reciprocate?” he asked, with trepidation heavy in his voice. “Wait, maybe I shouldn’t be asking,” he sighed, as if he was betraying the trust of future Scully by asking.

“I didn’t want to say anything because you were high on drugs. It would have been the same if you had admitted anything to me while drunk. It would be irresponsible to hold them against you in the light of sobriety,” she explained. This wasn’t the time for her to admit why she really went with ‘oh brother’ instead of what she really wanted to say.

He looked like he was about to say something more, but she held up her hand again. “Mulder, it doesn’t matter what I think right now. What matters is that we fix whatever’s happening right now, and in order to do that, we need to figure out exactly what has happened. That starts with you explaining because, not to point fingers, but I know this wasn’t my fault.”

She could tell he was upset that she didn’t reveal her inner feelings to him, but he wasn’t the Mulder she knew. He had the face, he had the body, but the person in front of her may as well have been a stranger. “You’re right. I’m sorry. So we went to work and I don’t remember anything unusual happening. We drove home together, we ate dinner, you read while I watched tv, then we had sex and fell asleep.”

She didn’t know what she expected him to say. ‘Well around three in the afternoon I started fidgeting with my time machine and, gee, I guess there was a glitch.’ It was just so mundane. She had no idea where to go from there.

“Well,” he started, contemplation in his voice, “I had gone to a non-traditional herbalist for you a few days ago, but that was for something unrelated. I don’t think it would have mattered.”

She didn’t even know what constituted a traditional herbalist, let alone a non-traditional one. “You went to a herbalist? For me?” she asked, disbelief heavy in her voice.

“Future you, yes. You didn’t ask me to, I just was interested and thought it would benefit you. You thought I was ridiculous, but you heard me out regardless,” he explained.

That made more sense, and that honestly was one of the first understandable and relatable things he had said since she got here. “Benefit me how?” she asked. There was something he wasn’t telling her. Why was it so important for him to get back? The Mulder she knew would probably be giddy if he got an opportunity like this. Also, why did he think she needed some sort of non-traditional medicine?

His mouth opened to respond before closing it and settling on a noncommittal shrug. She rolled her eyes, “Mulder, you’re not telling me something. Whatever it is, I highly doubt it’s more shocking than anything else you’ve said today.”

He paused for a moment, appearing to find the words he wanted to say. “In 2018 you’re pregnant with our child, and I need to get back to you. I have to be there.”

Scully would've been less surprised if he'd slapped her. She didn’t know if he was delirious and revealing subconscious desires, or if it was Mulder from a different future. All she knew was it was a future she would never have. She was infertile, and she could never give Mulder a child. She could never make Mulder as nervous and excited as this one obviously was about their future baby. That was a future she’d never be a part of.

And it hurt like hell.

2018

It was always something with them. She should have figured something like this would happen being they were finally happy for once in their lives. She rummaged around the kitchen, putting bread in the toaster, bacon on a frying pan, and eggs in another, acts of domesticity, simple routines that were the one thing keeping her from breaking down completely. She could hear Mulder stumbling around upstairs, his footsteps lacking confidence or purpose and it sounded like a stranger rummaging around. She had to hold herself back from going up and checking on him. It was probably best he had a moment to try and collect his thoughts.

You love me?

His voice had sounded so childlike and sad, filled with disbelief and self-doubt. How could he even ask that? Even if he did think it was twenty years ago. It broke her heart. She raised her hand and rubbed the small swell of her stomach as a tear slid down her cheek, despite her greatest attempts to keep it at bay. This isn’t fair. This was supposed to be their second chance at normalcy. A second chance to experience being parents without trauma, without loss. Now he was gone, and it was the cruelest deja vu.

This also just didn’t make any sense. She was a doctor, and well aware of the different variations of amnesia a person could get. They didn’t just conveniently lose twenty years for no reason. Mulder didn’t receive a traumatic brain injury, he didn’t have a history of alcoholism, and there was no history of memory problems in his family. As she cooked on the stove, intermittently listening for sounds of distress from Mulder, she called a medical colleague of hers from the hospital. She prodded them for any information by pretending she was hypothesizing about a journal she was reading, but their conclusions were no different than her own. It didn’t make any medical sense.

After ten minutes, the food was ready, her phone call was done, but Mulder was nowhere to be seen. Concern started brewing in her gut and she set the plates down on the table before making her way towards the stairs. “Mulder?” she called out, her voice echoing off the walls.

She was relieved to hear him immediately call out, “In here.” She heard the voice come from somewhere on the first level with her, and she waited for more of an explanation of where ‘here’ was but she didn’t get one. Then she realized he probably didn’t know what room he was in, so she decided to just follow his voice.

She found him in his study, sitting at his desk. Seeing him sitting there made it almost feel like any other day, but she knew better. He wasn’t moving around the chaos with expertise, instead, he looked like an intruder rifling through Mulder’s things. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“This is my desk, right? My desk from my apartment?” he asked, touching the familiar wood,

“Yeah, you brought it over when we moved,” she explained. He nodded, accepting her answer and continued fidgeting with an assortment of items in front of him.

She stood next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, pleased when his actions became less desperate and he calmed into her touch. “Do you recognize anything?” she prompted.

He quirked his head a little bit as he scanned the desk, “Um, n-no. The way it’s organized makes sense to me, but the objects are just, different.” His phone dinged with a text message and he jumped. She saw him eye the phone with a blank expression and he picked it up with two hands. The screen lit up and his head cocked to the side. He pressed on it as if he were trying to press buttons, but it just jilted the screensaver and nothing more. The only thing visible was ‘One unread text message.’

Mulder offered her his phone and asked, “What’s this? And what’s a text message?”

She stared at him for a second, waiting for him to smile and say ‘gotcha’, but it never came. He just continued holding the phone out to her like a lost child. She took it from him and started to explain, “This is your cell phone, they’re a lot slimmer now.” She held out her palm and said, “give me your hand.” He obliged and she pressed his thumb to the print reader. The phone went to the home screen, a photo of him kissing her cheek lovingly as she beamed. She didn’t know how much pain she could take at this moment and quickly tapped to get to the texts.

“Did it just scan my thumb?” he asked incredulously.

“Yeah, it took you a few years to get on board with that. You still hate it to be honest,” she chuckled. “Smartphones like this are touch screen now, barely any buttons. A text is like an email, but to your cell phone and usually shorter. You just got one from Dominos Pizza offering you a coupon.”

“How do you make a phone call? It doesn’t have an antenna.” He was still staring at it with undisguised distrust, as if she was holding a stick of dynamite in her hand. She let him look at the screen as she typed in the first few digits of her number, her contact info and picture coming up instantly as she pressed ‘call.’ In a few moments the sound of her phone going off rang in the other room and she hung up her demonstration. He just looked shocked.

“Hey,” she whispered, trying to pull him back to earth. “Let’s go eat breakfast before it gets cold.” She was about to set the phone down but he grabbed her wrist lightly, “Wait, um, could I see that picture of us that was on the phone before we go?”

While she hated this situation, seeing him be so shy and nervous around her was endearing and cute. “Of course,” she reassured. When Mulder got his phone he only really used it for two things; making phone calls and taking pictures of her and them together. So she went to the camera roll, scrolled for a while until she found this picture of them from last month. She clicked it to enlarge it and then handed the phone to Mulder, who held it with his fingertips.

She stood over his shoulders and watched as he played with the picture, swiping around at the screen until he figured out how to enlarge one section of it. He zoomed in on his lips on her cheek, then moving to her face. “You look so happy,” he murmured.

“I was,” she comforted, running a hand through his hair, ruffling it a bit.

It was so quiet, she almost didn’t hear it. “I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

“I can’t remember,” he lamented.

She bent down and kissed the crown of his head, letting her lips linger for a few moments before pulling back. “It’s not your fault. We’ve been through so much, we can get through anything. You’re alive and you’re with me. For that I’m nothing but grateful.” Making him feel bad wouldn’t help anything. By the way he solemnly nodded, he already was mourning enough for the both of them.

He tried moving the photo back to its original orientation, but he accidentally went to the next one and spend a considerable amount of time looking at that one too. It was a photo of her reading a book on the opposite end of the couch he was on, her feet resting on his lap.

Now that he had a grasp of how to get to another photo, he spent a few minutes going through doing so; her sleeping on his shoulder, her staring at the camera with indulgent amusement, her brushing her teeth in the morning, her with an open-mouthed, toothy grin as his hand grabbed her bare breast while he was buried inside of her.

At the last one, he gasped and turned his head away, embarrassment painting his face red, “I-I’m sorry,” he stammered, offering the phone to her.

She laughed and took it from him, taking one appreciative glance at it before setting it down on his desk face down. “Mulder,” she cooed, getting his shy attention. He could barely meet her gaze as she tried to reassure him, “ You have nothing to be sorry about. You took that photo. That was us.” He was trying to repress a smile, but the corners of his lips betrayed him. She kissed his temple, happy when he leaned into her lips this time, instead of sitting still as a statue.

She eased back and squeezed his shoulder, “Now come on, I’m starving.”

She turned around and heard him stand up from the seat. She’d almost reached the doorframe when he called out to her again. “Oh, hey Scully?”

“Yeah?”

“Whose kid is this?” She turned around and she learned it was possible for this day to get a lot more painful. Between his fingers, he was displaying the photo they’d both shed a thousand tears over. Their beautiful baby boy looking up at the camera. He was holding it and staring at it as if it was the most random thing he could have found, and she felt her throat start to clench uncomfortably with an onslaught of emotion. “It was just laying right in the middle of the top desk drawer, right there as if it was really important. Hey, are you okay?”

She wiped the offending tears off her cheeks and nodded. “Yeah, yeah, um, he’s a relative. I just, I just think it’s sweet you have his photo,” she lied. Before he had a chance to break her heart any more she demanded, “Now come on, I’m not kidding. I’m eating for two here, and the other one is going to throw a fit if I don’t eat in the next minute.”

She turned around without further explanation and started towards the kitchen, trying to calm the quivering of her lip and the tears threatening to spill over. She heard him following behind her, but she was startled when he lightly grabbed her wrist. She didn’t turn around, but she stopped for him. Scully felt him bend over to get a better look at her face, obviously upset at what he found there. “I’m sorry. I keep making you sad.”

She waved her hand in the air and used the side of her index finger to wipe away the stray tears once and for all. “No, no, don’t be sorry it’s not your fault. This just-this just was the last thing we needed. I’m not the only one this is affecting. I can only imagine how upsetting this must be for you.”

She was glad when they started moving towards the kitchen, she was serious about being famished. As they sat in front of their food, she dug in as he continued talking. “I just wish I remembered anything.”

“So, what do you remember?” she asked between bites of her eggs.

Last week I got back from the Bermuda Triangle, and yesterday had been my first day back off of medical leave. We just filled out a bunch of paperwork, I went home, watched some tv, then I fell asleep. Then I thought I was-” he stopped suddenly, forking eggs in his mouth to avoid talking.

“You thought you were-?” she prompted.

“Um, I thought I was having a really good wet dream, but then I woke up and you were-” he trailed off, making hand gestures in place of words.

“Initiating morning sex with you,” she finished with a teasing lilt.

He chuckled shyly, “Yeah, and I don’t remember a single thing in between. Not like it was fuzzy or anything, it's just not there. I fell asleep after a day at work, I remember it viscerally, and I woke up here.”

She paused for a moment, trying to think. She’d never heard of anything like this before. “There’s nothing odd that you remember?”

He shook his head, “No, not at all. I got off my meds a while ago. I’d just been at my apartment recovering since. What?” He questioned her when he saw a grin cross her face.

“Oh, just the Bermuda thing. That was the first time you said ‘I love you’ to me,” she gushed, fond of the memory.

“May I remind you that all you said was ‘oh brother’,” he teased with a serious tone.

“Mulder, what did you want me to say?” she laughed. “You were on drugs. I’d wanted to hear those words for years, I was so pissed that was when you decided to say them.”

He stopped eating and looked at her like she’d just told him she saw an alien in the front yard and caught it with a butterfly net. “Years?”

She realized this Mulder hadn’t had half the conversations about their love revelations as she had. “Oh god, Mulder. I’d loved you years before that happened. Around that time I was almost overwhelmed with how much I adored you, but it was so hard to tell how you felt about me. I always thought you were just being a flirt and teasing me. I didn’t think I was your type back then, so sometimes it hurt.”

He was shaking his head at her as she spoke and immediately rushed out, “No, no Scully, I meant it. I love you so much. I would do anything for you, you’re the most important person in the world to me.” He was rambling and she grabbed his hand to calm him down. He didn’t need to worry over something she already knew.

“Oh, Mulder. I know you love me. You’ve shown me a thousand times over,” she kissed his knuckles again and rested them along the side of her face.

He tentatively uncurled his fingers so that his palm was cupping her face. He was touching her as if she was a china doll that was going to break under pressure. He stroked her cheekbone with the pad of his thumb, watching her with amazed reverence. It was a touch she’d experienced a thousand times over, but she realized he considered this the first time he’s been allowed such a luxury. Instead of going for another bite of food, she let him experience their intimacy. He brushed a tendril of hair behind her ear before bringing his thumb back to her cheek.

Then he went a little lower and let his thumb graze over her lips. He jumped visibly in his seat when she puckered her lips to kiss the digit on her mouth. He ran it back and forth, mesmerized as her lips tugged against him. After a moment he withdrew, almost embarrassed, but looked at his thumb as if it turned to gold.

“You don’t have to be shy, Mulder,” she almost whispered.

He smiled sweetly and they finished up eating soon thereafter. “Hey, if you just want to put on your shoes, I’ll be ready in a minute.”

“Where are we going?”

“I want to go to the hospital and get a CT Scan, maybe even an MRI.” I don’t know what this is, but I want to try all that I can,” she explained. He just nodded and turned to get his shoes. “The closet’s the other way,” she called out, watching him spin on his heel to go the opposite direction.

She hoped the CT scan would give some sort of answers. She didn’t know which was harder; having Mulder forget twenty years of their relationship, or having to relive the bad times to tell him. Both were horrible, but at least she knew Mulder still loved her deeply, even if he was being a school boy about it, but she knew if this didn’t get better that there were a lot worse conversations they would have to have.

We had a son whom I gave up, only to meet him years later. He’s presumed dead contrary to the vivid images in my head that scream he’s alive. We never found your sister. The X-Files, while a source of intrigue and mystery, never became well-respected and are now officially closed. Your mother killed herself. My mother is dead. Your biological father is the man you hate the most, the same man who wants to pretend he’s William’s father, despite evidence of the contrary. The three closest friends you’ve ever had died and you couldn’t even attend the funeral. There was a period of our relationship where you were so depressed, and I was so miserable, that leaving was all I could do. You were abducted and dead for the darkest period of my life. And that’s just the general overview.

God, she wanted something, anything to happen so she could get her Mulder back. She felt a slight stir in her abdomen and her hand stroked the bump idly. She wasn’t the only one that needed him.