Mulder knew he shouldn’t have brought it up. This was just the biggest catch twenty-two he’d even been in, and he didn’t know what to do. The only way Scully could start to understand and be able to help was if he was totally and completely honest with her, but when he was, everything that came out of his mouth made her either think he was crazy or just gave her further reason to doubt him.
He had no doubts she wouldn’t abandon him though, Scully was transcendentally loyal above all else, but still, he should have left out the bit about the pregnancy. This Scully hadn’t gone through everything with William, and she hadn’t endured the grueling in vitro fertilization attempts they’d tried all those years ago. If he was remembering correctly, she wouldn't even bring it up to him as a possibility for another few months. The knowledge she was infertile was fresh for her at this time, the wounds hadn’t had time to scar over, and he felt like an asshole for practically rubbing it in her face.
She’d been extremely indulgent with him up until that point. She offered theories, she heard him out, they even bantered about the logistics of parallel universes and time travel, but as soon as the information about the pregnancy left his mouth, she shut down. He saw the hurt pass over her face, but as quickly as it had come, she was back to being strictly professional.
“I’m sorry, I-” he had started to apologize, but was cut off by her abruptly standing. She cleared her throat of any emotions she didn’t want to feel and motioned for him to go to his room.
“Go get ready. I’m going to take you to the hospital.” He started to protest but she held out her hand to silence him. “I know you insist you didn’t hit your head, but as of right now, we have absolutely no answers as to what this is. I just want to go get some tests done so we can see if anything abnormal shows up.”
She was right, as always. It would be best to get anything medical ruled out before they started going off on elaborate theories. He just hoped some sort of answer would emerge soon. He got dressed quickly and followed her out to her car. In his rush, he immediately pulled on the handle, only to get a frustrated, “Hold on Mulder, I haven’t even unlocked the door yet.” Manual locks. Wow, he really hadn’t missed that.
It was odd, for years he’d consumed time travel fanlore. Through movies, television, literature, and, hell, even fireside stories, the sci-fi topic had always been a popular narrative. Never did those stories mention how mind-numbingly torturous it would be regressing from one’s own modern-day conveniences. As wary as he was to trust it, he really missed twenty-first-century technology right now. Not only that, but no one mentioned how absolutely isolating and lonely it would be.
He missed his Scully so much it physically ached.
This Scully was trying her best though, and he more than appreciated it. They spent a few hours at the hospital, but it didn’t go how either of them had hoped. Well, he wasn’t quite sure what he was even hoping for anymore. Everything had to be done in absolute secret, so Scully had to run every single test herself by pulling some strings with her acquaintances, and more than a few hours later, she was exhausted from all the fruitless efforts. She poked, she prodded, she scanned, she analyzed, and she sighed in frustration as all the tests came back fine. “This was the first time I’ve ever hoped to find something abnormal in your test results.”
Those were practically the first words she’d spoken to him since they got to the hospital, barring the occasional “stick out your arm,” “lay down,” or “sit up.” It was hard to read her right now. She just went through all the motions mechanically, as if she didn’t want to emotionally invest in this until she knew what was going on. It was something he knew she did often, hiding behind her professionalism, but it had been years since she wasn't at least letting him in. He didn’t blame her, that was her favorite way of defending herself, but it only just made him feel more alone.
He realized she was waiting for some sort of response, and all he could muster up was a lengthy exhalation of breath. “Nothing was abnormal? Not even slightly?”
She let her lab coat slip off her shoulder as she shook her head. “Nothing. You’re in perfect health.” He couldn’t even be offended at how disappointed she sounded. He was too. She draped her coat over an office chair and focused her attention on him. He didn’t know what to do. It’d be one thing if he just felt like he felt like he knew some premonitory fact, if that were the case he’d simply blame it on deja vu, but he felt every years worth of memories. He could remember world series scores for games that hadn’t happened yet, he remembered intimate dates with the woman who hadn’t even so much as kissed him at this point in time, everything was vivid and taunting.
“W-what else can we do?”
She let out a humorless chuckle before putting on her jacket. “I don’t know what to tell you, Mulder.” Her words, though honest, struck a chord of hopelessness in him and he just sank into the chair behind him. Scully must’ve realized her words were a little too blunt and she sank down in front of him, resting her hands on his knees to get his attention. “Hey. I didn’t say we were giving up. It’s just been a long day. What do you say we go grab dinner and contemplate our next plan of action. Okay?”
He nodded like a child and followed her lead. They tiredly trudged down to the car and, after he tried opening the door prematurely once more, they were on the road in no time. It felt like all of D.C was mourning with him. The sun had set while they were in the hospital, and it must’ve rained too. The black pavement of the streets now reflected the warm light of the streetlamps as Scully drove by. The normally busy streets were now relatively vacant and it just made everything a little eerier. The only sound was the crackle of the radio playing the contemporary hits.
He smiled to himself when he recognized Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence. He and Scully had thrown such a fit last week when they heard this song on the classic rock station. “If this is a classic, I’m ancient!”
“Something funny?” she asked from beside him.
He looked over and noticed she’d been staring at him, but upon meeting his gaze, immediately darted her eyes back to the road. “Oh, nothing,” he offered lamely. She didn’t press him any further as they turned down a darkened road. He was too busy noticing how dated everything around him was to actually pay attention to where she was going. “Uh, Scully. Where are we going?” The alleyway was familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
She swerved off to the side and turned off the car. “Well, I figured if I can’t help, maybe they can.” She said this nonchalantly as she got out of the car, as if this was clearly the next step. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, but he couldn’t help the sharp twinge of excitement that shot through his body at the word 'they.'
Mulder felt his hands trembling as he unbuckled his seatbelt. It took three tries to do it successfully. By the time Scully had knocked on the door, he was practically running to get to her side. “Mulder, what the hell’s wrong with yo-”
Before she could fully voice her concern, the voice of an old friend rang out. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t Agent Mulder and the scrumptious Agent Scully.” Mulder felt tears prick at the corner of his eyes, and he was grateful Scully had turned to look at the camera in the corner of the door.
“Ha-ha. Let us in Frohike,” she deadpanned.
“What’s the passwo-”
“Frohike,” she warned with a growl. As soon as the name left her mouth, the door locks started sliding open. There were more than a few of them, so it took a moment, and in that time Scully looked over at him again.
He felt like he was going to throw up. This couldn’t be real. There was no way they would really be on the other side of the door. “Hey, are you okay?” Scully asked in a whisper.
He barely paid the question any attention though because as soon as the door opened, he was closing the gap between him and Frohike, drawing the older man into his embrace with little regard to the other's surprise. He was just as Mulder remembered him; short, warm, slightly sweaty, wrinkled, and bathed in Old Spice. Mulder couldn’t even smell that cologne anymore without feeling a twinge of sad nostalgia. “ The ladies love it, Mulder. Maybe if you tried it Scully would become more than your partner.”
“Woah there cowboy. If anyone’s going to greet me like that, I’d prefer it to be Scully.” Contradicting his words, Frohike wrapped his arms around Mulder and returned the hug, rubbing his hands up and down Mulder’s back.
“You okay, Mulder? Ya look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Mulder looked up and was met with Langley pivoting on a swivel chair, reclining in his classic, faded Ramones shirt on. Mulder had to turn the radio every time the Ramones came on to avoid being overwhelmed by memories.
“And the Ramones are here, and they don't fight. And every night they get on stage and they play ‘California Sun,’ and I circle the mosh pit like they do on the west coast.”
“Mulder’s going through something right now, and he needs your advice,” Scully’s voice rang out behind them. He could hear her starting to re-bolt all the locks since Frohike was preoccupied.
“Are you in danger? Are you hurt?” Beyers concerned voice called out. Mulder released his embrace and saw his suit-wearing friend evaluating him from the other side of the room. They were here. They were all really here. Alive. God, he missed them.
“Oh, uh, well. I don’t really know.”
“What do you mean?” Langley asked, motioning to an open seat that he took readily, Scully sitting next to him a moment later.
“Can you all promise not to dismiss me? What I’m about to tell you may sound crazy, but I’m serious,” he lamented.
“Of course, Mulder. That’s our favorite thing about you,” Byers comforted, the other two nodding in agreement.
He just decided to lay it out bluntly. “When I went to bed last night it was 2018. When I woke up this morning it was 1998 and I have no idea how it happened or how to reverse it."
Without missing a beat, Frohike was pulling up a file on his computer, “That actually sounds similar to this story I heard from a confidant in Wyoming-.” Mulder couldn’t help but smile at all three of them snapping into action to figure out an answer. They all were quick to offer every solution that sounded plausible, from time travel to parallel universes to mind swapping to multiple personalities. It made total sense why Scully would bring him here, they were great for thinking even farther outside the box than him.
Speaking of Scully, she was being unusually silent. He glanced to the side and noticed she had been unabashedly staring at him. Her brows were furrowed and her lips pursed in a straight line. She was looking at him with concerned, analytical fascination. Before he could give it more thought, Frohike asked him a question and pulled his attention back. “So what were you doing the day of?”
Though she was deep in thought, she was still paying attention because as soon as the question left Frohike’s lips, she squeezed his arm with a death grip. A death grip that spoke the words “If you say you were inside me, my fist will be inside your throat,” quite clearly.
“Um, I woke up at home, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched tv, and went to bed,” he explained as Scully’s death grip lessened with his omissions.
“Had you done anything out of the ordinary recently?” Langley asked.
“Well, the other day I went to a non-traditional herbalist,” he shrugged. It didn’t seem worth mentioning, but it was truly the only thing he could think of.
“I didn’t take you as the voodoo medicine type, Mulder,” Byers chimed in.
“Well, it wasn’t really for healing or anything. I just bought a few medicinal gummies, not that kind Langley,” he reprimanded at the blonde’s suggestive eyebrow waggle. “They apparently just had health benefits and a good luck charm placed on them.”
“A good luck charm? Since when do you believe in stuff like that?” Frohike asked.
He started to feel uncomfortable under all the scrutiny, regardless of how well-intended it was. He also felt uncomfortable since he knew Scully was aware that he’d gone to the herbalist in regards to her pregnancy. It was ridiculous, but he’d been worried her whole pregnancy that something might go wrong. She sought comfort in the church, but even if he tried, the words of hope and praise felt like hollow dreams in his mouth. It was easier for him to place faith in someone else’s convictions. “Um, well, I’m not religious, but it sounded convincing and I’m not one to easily scoff at an attempt for good fortune.”
“Did you take these gummies?”
“Um, well. I actually got them for Scully. I forgot about them until yesterday, but when I showed them to her she seemed skeptical-”
“Scully? Skeptical? I don’t believe that,” Frohike deadpanned, winking at Scully when she playfully glared at him.
“I took one to show her they were harmless, but I had to check on dinner before I saw if she took hers,” he shrugged. “They were just vitamins, they could have been repackaged One A Day Women’s for all I know.”
“You had to check on dinner? What do you guys live together in the future?” Byers asked.
“Wait, they don’t already?” Langley piqued up.
“And why are you worried about her vitamin intake?” Frohike added in confusion.
“I wouldn’t have taken it,” Scully’s voice dominated the rest. They all turned to look at her and she just continued to stare in conviction. “I know myself. I don’t think I would have taken anything like that.”
He was about to mention the fact he had seen her consume something from a herbalist before, that tea not too long after their first time, but he realized the implication of her words. I don’t think I would have taken anything like that if I was pregnant.
She was right, that’d been Scully’s initial question when he presented them to her. Will this be okay for the baby?
“Well, that would make sense. If this is what caused the change, that would explain why it only happened to you,” Langley pondered.
“What was the name of this herbalist, Mulder?”
“Uh, the shop was on M Street? Ran by a woman named, uh, Barbara something,” he recollected.
Frohike typed rapidly on his computer for a few moments before exclaiming, “I don’t see anything, but it probably hasn’t been built yet.”
“So what should we do? Wait until that business venture goes through?”
Frohike ran his hand over the few hairs on the top of his head and turned to Mulder, “It’s getting late. Why don’t you let us look into this Barbara woman a bit more. We’ll call you with our findings, okay?”
“That’d be great, thank you,” Scully smiled, standing up from her chair.
Mulder stood up along side her, but instead of following her to the door, he went around and hugged each of the gunmen again.
“Mulder, what’s with all the hugging? You’re acting like you didn’t just see us the other week after your Bermuda stunt?” Frohike wheezed through Mulder’s crushing hug.
“What can I say, I just like seeing my favorite three stooges,” Mulder joked, playing off the sentimentality he felt. Then, he decided to take this chance to say what he'd always regretted not telling them. "You guys mean a lot to me, you know that right? You're my best friends and I really appreciate all you do for me."
The room was silent for a minute as all the guys seemed shocked at his blunt honesty. Even though they were pretending to shuck off his compliment, he could tell each of the men appreciated the affection they so rarely received. “Yeah, yeah, whatever, but I’m serious. If the next person to hug me isn’t my favorite redhead, I’m not gonna be pleased," Frohike chided.
“Goodnight, you three,” Scully’s voice sternly sang from the doorway.
He followed her out to the car, sparing one last look to the gunmen before sitting in the car. When he looked at Scully to thank her for taking him there, he saw that same look of pensive contemplation masking her face. “Are you okay, Scully?” he asked as they settled in the car.
She remained silent for a while, buckling herself in, turning on the car, and staring at nothing for a moment before answering. “They’re dead. Aren’t they?”
Her question took him off guard and she looked over at him in an attempt to read his face for confirmation. She took his surprise as confusion and continued to elaborate. “In your time, that is. For a while too, I’d guess.”
This was the first time since this morning she’d said anything even remotely acknowledging the idea he was from a different time. “How did you know?”
She shrugged, as if to shake off the tragic implications of her words, “I’ve never seen you like that.” Yet again, he waited for her to explain a bit more, but she didn’t offer anything up. Instead, she pulled away from their little alleyway and navigated to the main streets.
“Like what?” he prompted.
“You’ve always been fond of them, but I’ve never seen you so reverential of them. You honestly looked nervous when we were on our way to the door. I thought you were going to cry.” She pulled up to a red light, but she still didn’t turn her attention to him, only sparing an occasional glance out of the corner of her eye. “Then the way you paid attention to them. It didn’t even matter what outlandish theory they were spouting, you were enraptured.”
The car remained silent as he digested her words. She was right. It scared him how well she could read him while she was currently an enigma to him. But she was right, seeing them meant more to him than he thought possible. It was a constant source of guilt in his life that they died and were buried while he was in hiding. Aside from Scully, they really were his best friends, and he wasn’t there for them. That seemed to be a theme in his life.
He realized he hadn’t answered her yet, and he decided there was no point in hiding anything from her. Not right now. “Yes. They all died in 2002.”
She was silent and he thought she was just processing the information until the car pulled off to the side of the road. He heard the sob at the same time he saw her hands reach up to cover her face. His heart dropped and he was immediately moving to comfort her. It was awkward since the middle console of the car dug into his side, but he reached over and placed one arm around her shoulders as the other tried to pry her hands away. He could feel her trembling. “Scully, I’m sorry. I keep telling you things that upset you.”
She let one hand fall, but the other went down to clutch her chest as if she was trying to keep her heart intact. “2002? Mulder, that’s only four years away. I thought they would have gone at scattered times, from old age, illness, or maybe one by tragedy.” Her voice was able to remain strong through that, but her next words made her voice break as her bottom lip quivered. “I didn’t think they’d all go at once, so soon. They mean a lot to me too, and I’ve never told them.”
He pulled her closer to him and she grabbed his hand as tears streamed down her face. Part of him was relieved that her reaction proved she believed him. At least, she had to a little bit. He might have blamed it on the stress of the day if it wasn’t for the fact she had a similar response when she had to tell him herself all those years ago.
They’d been on the run for a month when the realization struck him. The first month had been so stressful that he’d hardly had time to think of anything aside from ‘Are we being watched?’ or ‘Are we safe?’ Then it struck him one night when they were winding down and getting ready for bed, “I wish I could call the gunmen and tell them what happened. Do you think Skinner, Doggett, or Reyes would have reached out and filled them in?”
Her back had been facing him, but he was still able to pick up on the way she completely froze. She slowly turned around and he saw a look of pure grief on her face. “I didn’t know how to tell you,” she whispered, as to keep her voice from breaking.
“Tell me what?” he asked, scooting towards the edge of the bed so he could reach out to her.
She moved towards him, but seemed reluctant to touch him. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, her lip quivering as a tear rolled down her cheek. His heart plummeted as he registered the implications of her demeanor.
Frohike, Langley, Byers. They were his only friends.
“What happened?” he asked, not caring that his own voice was starting to tremble as his throat tightened. It felt like he was swallowing a golf ball.
“I barely know myself. They were on a case themselves and they made a sacrifice. They saved so many people. They were heroes, just like they were in life. ” As soon as her explanation was done, a sob escaped her throat. He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her waist as she ran her hands through his hair.
“They’re dead?” It was obvious, but he needed to hear it. He needed to make it real.
“Yes,” she choked out. “Skinner ensured they finally got the respect they deserved. They’re buried at Arlington.”
“Arlington National Cemetery?” he asked in disbelief. She nodded and he couldn’t hold it anymore, he started sobbing into her abdomen as she cradled his head. Arlington. The fact Skinner went through that for them, the fact he gave them the dignity and respect that they never got in life meant the world to him. He wished he could call Skinner right now and thank him.
He wished he could call them and hear from them one last time. He couldn’t even remember the last time he saw them? What did he say? Did he mention how much he appreciated their work, thank them for how many times they’ve saved his ass, or did he make a rude joke at their expense?
As if she could hear him spiraling, she got down on her knees in front of him and grabbed his arms to get his attention. Her eyes and the tip of her nose were red. There were tear tracks running down her cheeks and her lips looked like they were being dragged downwards with invisible strings. “Mulder, they did so much for us while you were gone. For me.” A choked sob escaped his lips at her words, and she wiped some tears away, but they didn’t stop. “They loved William so much, they were fantastic with him.”
Her face started falling and she cried, “Mulder, I loved them so much.”
He pulled her up so they were both sitting on the bed and they just held each other and cried. “Me too, Scully, me too.”
He’d always been touched and moved at how deeply she cared for them. He was even surprised that at this stage in her relationship with them that she felt this way. He didn’t know if it was the stress of the day combined with this information, or if she loved them so early on, but it touched him how much she cared for them.
He ran his hand up and down her arm as she wiped at her face, sniffling while trying to compose herself. “How?” her voice came out weakly.
“They were heroes,” he answered honestly, using her own words.
She eased herself up into a sitting position, out of his arms, and put her face in her hands. He leaned upright but kept one hand tracing circles on her back. “I’m sorry,” he said for probably the hundredth time today.
With a final sniffle, she wiped her hands over her face and tried to compose herself for good. “Stop saying that, Mulder. You can’t help this and I keep asking the questions.”
She started the car up and he put his hand back in his lap. “Do you want me to stop answering?”
“Well, I don’t even know how much I even believe this is real.”
She couldn’t play the despondent skeptic card forever, “Well you’ve been having strong reactions for someone who claims not to believe.”
She pulled up to a red light and let out a sigh of admittance. “Why us? Why is it always us?”
He knew the question wasn’t really directed at him, and for that he was glad, because he truly didn’t have an answer. All he could think of was that the fates really had it out against them and any possibility of their happiness. “I wish I knew.”
“So, will we go to work tomorrow? I don’t know what to really do in this situation?” she asked as she turned down the road.
“I guess it’s all we can do. I’m just hoping we can go home and I’ll wake up tomorrow in the right place,” he sighed, rubbing his eyes in sudden exhaustion.
“Home?” she repeated.
Hearing her questioning tone made his heart drop again. They finally were together again. The past few months of reunion had been absolute bliss. Being separated from her for those years hurt more than anything he could imagine. He missed her so much, he felt like he was missing a part of his soul. The thought of not being able to stay with her after finally getting back to her for good made his heart race. He especially didn’t want to be away when he didn’t even know what was going on in his life right now.
It was bold, but he felt no shame around her. “Scully, could I please sleep on your couch?”
“You want to sleep on my couch?” It was hard to read her tone. She seemed confused more than anything.
“Scully, what I look forward to most in my life is laying next to you every night. Having you in my arms. I know that would be too much, and I would never ask anything of you that would make you uncomfortable. You probably don’t even love me right now, but I really would appreciate being near you tonight. Please.”
She’d reached another red light and she turned to him in touched surprise, “Y-yeah, um, okay. Do you need me to stop by your place?”
He was honestly surprised how quickly she conceded, but he wasn’t going to question it. “No, that’s okay. I’m exhausted.”
“Good, me too,” she agreed.
Within ten minutes of comfortable silence, they were at her place. God, so much had happened here, so many developments both good and bad. Her bedroom would always remind him of so many intimate nights, including the night he met and held William for, practically, the first and only time. He wasn’t going to lie, he was excited to be there again.
He followed her up the stairs and down the hallway to her apartment, taking in the scenery with silent admiration. “Sorry, I didn’t clean because I wasn’t expecting company,” she apologized sheepishly.
“Don’t apologize. I’m just grateful you’re allowing me to be here,” he whispered, running a hand through her hair as she unlocked the door.
She didn’t say anything in response. She just unlocked the door and walked into her apartment, stepping away from his hand like it hadn't even been there. He walked in behind her, shutting and locking the door before kicking off his shoes and throwing his coat over the back of a chair.
“Um, so, make yourself at home. I’m probably just going to get ready and pass out,” she elaborated awkwardly. She seemed to be accepting that he was telling the truth and, with that, she accepted that he definitely knew the odds and ends of her apartment and she didn’t need to waste time explaining.
“I know this must be a little uncomfortable for you. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated all you’ve done for me today. All you always do for me.”
She smiled, but quickly hid it back and averted her eyes. “Um, no problem. Goodnight, Mulder,” she offered before disappearing down the hall.
“Goodnight,” he called out. He let out a breath and unbuttoned his shirt before collapsing on her couch. It felt a lot better than he remembered it. Probably because they hadn’t broken those springs trying that ridiculous position yet.