When Scully went to bed last night, sated and content in Mulder's arms, she had the full intention of leaving in the morning. She knew there was the possibility that her Mulder would wake up and freak out when he discovered her in his bed completely naked, and she wanted to avoid that while also giving herself time to process everything that had just happened. When she felt her face being showered with kisses, she realized her plan didn't work out, but maybe it wasn't for the worst.
But that was before she opened her eyes.
As soon as she started blinking away sleep, she felt her heart start to sink as he murmured words of love to her, as he adored her. This wasn't right. Mulder looked older, still handsome, still Mulder, but the lines on his face were more defined and his hair was graying haphazardly at the root. Her eyes scanned her surroundings, trying to get any sort of bearing, but she didn't recognize where she was. There were little traces of familiarity smattered around the room, a family photo she recognized on a nightstand, a vase Mulder got her a year ago after her cancer went into remission, but most of it was unfamiliar to her, and even what she did recognize looked worn and aged.
She was peripherally conscious of him as she did this visual sweep, but he sounded muffled because her mind was in overdrive. She locked onto his lips, and his voice came to her like the rush of sound that comes after breaking water's surface. He started rambling at her, talking about a dream and how scared he was, but as soon as she moved to sit up, she felt the swell of her stomach press oddly into her upper thighs.
Then suddenly, her heartbeat seemed to have a voice.
No. No. No. No. No.
Raising a shaky hand, she pressed her hands to her abdomen and froze at the sensation of taut skin curving under her timid fingers. Suddenly Mulder was there, pressing kisses to the areas around her hands and she felt an uncomfortable lump form in her throat as she witnessed her dreams happening in front of her.
This wasn't her life.
She looked around the room again, hoping that one of these times she'd blink and her vision would be filled with the sight of her bedroom ceiling at her apartment. She wanted to see the familiar crack in the paint and watch the comforting rotation of her ceiling fan. That moment didn't come, and all she could see was a life she hadn't earned. Mulder's hand reached out and cupped her face, turning her gaze to his as he apologized, undoubtedly assuming her silence was a response to his eccentricities.
"Mulder, something's wrong," she murmured, her voice sounding different to even her own ears.
"With the baby?" he asked, his hand dropping as his attention flickered down to her stomach.
Scully shook her head and looked around once more before admitting in a harsh whisper, "I'm not her."
"What?" he asked, his voice sounding strained.
"It's still me." Tears brimmed in her eyes as she watched his expression fall. There was a moment of silence as the words hung uncomfortably in the air between them. All the prior intimacy he'd been showering her with was quickly replaced by the distance of mutual dismay. Mulder looked stricken by her words and she looked away from his gaze when she couldn't bear the weight of it.
He'd never looked at her with such disappointment in his eyes, and it made her feel miserable.
"W-what do you mean?" he asked, trying to smile as if his amiability alone could diffuse the tension in the room. But the smile didn't quite reach his eyes because she knew he understood exactly what she meant.
"I think what happened to you happened to me," she replied, feeling the uncomfortable pressure of anxiety continuing to mount in her chest.
"Shit," he murmured, rubbing his face with his hands to presumably create a mask to hide his frustration and distress from her.
Even though she knew it wasn't a slight at her, his obvious grief at their predicament hurt nonetheless. She felt a harsh sting of embarrassment like she'd done something wrong, despite having no control over the situation. All she wanted to do was flee. Every fiber of her being wanted to go back to her apartment and process this by herself, but there was nowhere for her to go in a time she didn't belong in.
"So, it's 2018?" she asked slowly, trying to gather her bearings.
Mulder opened his mouth to reply, but apparently, even he wasn't confident enough to know what the hell was going on. He pulled a thin piece of what looked like metal off the nightstand and glanced down at it. "It's Wednesday, June 6th, 2018," he stated.
Scully felt an overwhelming sense of loss that was debilitating. She'd gone from thirty-four to fifty-four in the course of a night. She kept trying to think back, but it was like a record that kept skipping no matter how hard she tried to press the needle into the right groove. Twenty years, almost half of her life as of right now, was just blank nothingness. She hadn't gotten to live so many moments and the sense of loss felt all-consuming.
"Scully," a voice called out, sounding distant and muffled from the ringing that had erupted in her ears.
She opened her mouth, but all she managed was to gasp. Shit. She was having a panic attack.
"Hey, hey, hey," Mulder's warbled voice rambled. She felt a pair of hands grab her face and then suddenly all she could look at was Mulder.
Scully watched as his mouth moved but she couldn't make sense of the sounds. She opened her mouth again and felt a shuddered breath leave her lips before another gasp tore through her. The sensation of wet heat scorched her cheeks in rivulets and she realized she was crying. Rationally she knew what was happening, but there wasn't anything she could do to stop it. Her body was grieving while her mind was racing to figure out what it was she needed to grieve in the first place.
She reached up and wrapped her hands around Mulder's wrists like she was shackling him to her while his fingers stroked the sides of her face in an attempt to bring her comfort, despite the fact she could feel him trembling. "Scully," she heard Mulder's voice say. Her gaze flitted up from his mouth to his eyes and she felt herself finally take a solid breath.
She might not be able to recognize anything right now, but she knew those eyes. How often in times of distress had she only been able to ground herself by looking into his hazel gaze, and yet again, they were her anchor.
"That's good. Breathe with me," he praised, taking exaggerated breaths while continuing to lock eyes with her. His voice was clearer now, and she started to feel just how tense her body was.
"T-that's it," he nodded, shakily. "Relax, Scully. I'm here."
She took breaths in time with him, and it dawned on her that he looked like he was absolving her of her worry by taking it on himself. "Are you okay?" she asked, her voice coming out strained.
He chuckled humorlessly in response. "I'm the one who should be asking you that." His jaw was clenched and despite his attempts to appear collected, she could tell he was freaking out just as badly as she was.
She didn't feel any better about the situation, but she was breathing again. Every part of her body felt uncomfortable and wired, but she was having a hard time understanding what normalcy would even feel like in the body of a fifty-four-year-old pregnant woman. She wasn't even sure if these were her unadulterated feelings at the situation or if this was all heightened pregnancy hormones.
He was still watching her intently as if he was trying to read her mind through the micro-expressions of her face. Trying to give him any sort of semblance of comfort, she released his hands from her grasp and pulled back slightly.
"Thank you," she murmured, wiping her face.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she replied simply.
Mulder's jaw clenched in response, but she didn't know what else he wanted to hear.
"I promise I empathize with how hard this is, and I know this isn't really something you can control, but I need you to keep yourself as calm as you can. This is a high-risk pregnancy, and we need to prevent anything that could hurt the baby."
Scully chuffed a laugh in annoyance. She didn't blame him, what he was saying wasn't irrational, but it still aggravated her that she couldn't even wallow in deserved self-pity without being reminded of her situation.
"Sorry," he murmured gently from her reaction.
She hated that just within the matter of a night, their entire dynamic had shifted and things were awkward again because she didn't know how to act. The tension in the air threatened to choke her, so she just decided to try and help figure out the specifics of what exactly they were dealing with.
"Did you lose any time?" she asked.
He nodded, appearing to recognize what she was doing and slipping effortlessly into the role of Agent Mulder. "I was in 1998 from Monday to Friday, the same amount of time has passed here. If I woke up like nothing had ever happened, it should have been Saturday the 2nd," he answered, rubbing a hand through his hair.
"Does anything look different? I mean, does this all seem the same as you left it?"
Mulder looked around the room, his eyes scrutinizing everything in anticipation for any slight deviance. When his gaze fell onto the nightstand, he picked up the black rectangular thing from earlier. "What is that?" she asked.
"Remember how I said phones have changed a lot since 1998?" he murmured, his fingers dancing across the screen with practiced precision.
That was his phone?
She watched as his brows furrowed, his head careening back slightly as he brought the device closer to his eyes. "What?" she inquired.
"This was taken a few days ago," he replied, holding it out for her to look.
It was an image of Mulder, looking physically the same as he did now, but it was from an unflattering angle, his face reflecting extreme confusion. "You don't remember taking that?" she asked.
"Well I've taken photos similar to it, but I delete them," he replied, looking at the screen again. "It's easy to accidentally take photos with this especially if you're unfamiliar with it."
"Do I have one?"
"A phone? Yeah, it should be on your nightstand," he stated, gesturing to the other side of the bed.
She reached over and grabbed her own square device and stumbled slightly, having expected it to be heavier than it was. She tentatively pulled out a white cord she presumed was charging it and sat back up. What appeared to be something like a home screen on a computer was of her and Mulder on what looked like a porch, absolutely beaming at each other. She squinted her eyes, her vision not focusing like she thought it would, as she tried to take in how she looked. After a second, another screen popped up that said "Swipe up for Touch ID or Enter Passcode" followed by a more familiar set of numbers with letters attached.
Not wanting to ask Mulder for everything, she tried her usual passcode and entered 0-9-2-5. Luckily it worked and a new screen popped up with a bunch of differently colored squares that reminded her of applications on a computer desktop. She looked at them all until seeing one labeled "Photos" and clicked on it, surprised when a digital version of a photo album popped up.
She clicked on the last one, hoping that it was the most recent, and was rewarded by seeing the date from yesterday at the top of the screen.
"Have you gone golfing recently?" she asked.
"No, I don't golf," he replied, puzzled.
Scully showed him the phone and he took it from her hands so he could bring it close to his face, his eyes squinting as he took it in. "Do you mind if I look for anything else?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I don't think it's really my permission to give, but go ahead."
His finger flicked on the screen a few times and a small smile quirked on his lips for a moment. "Well it looks like they had fun," he replied, handing her phone back to her while setting his own on the nightstand.
"What do you mean?"
"From the photos, it looks like they went on a date yesterday, and then there were just a few different shots that Scully must've taken while I was looking away," he replied. She felt a bit ridiculous about it, but hearing the other couple had been going on dates like all was normal while they'd been trying to figure everything out was frustrating. Scully supposed she couldn't really be jealous being she'd just thrown herself at the Mulder she was with, but thinking about the Mulder she knew out there having fun with another woman made her chest ache in discomfort. But then again, it was technically her he was going on a date with.
Was he just as curious about her older counterpart as she was his? Had things about herself that irritated him now mellowed out with time, making the Scully he was currently with the better version of herself. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment at both the notion she was disappointing to both versions of Mulder and the fact that this whole situation was just so ridiculous.
She gave a little non-verbal sound of acknowledgment before setting her phone down next to her. "Does anything else seem different?" she asked, hoping he hadn't noticed her reaction.
"Not in here," he sighed. "We can go check the rest of the house, I can give you a tour while we're at it."
"Can I brush my teeth first?"
"Of course," he stammered. If she had to take a guess, he wasn't used to having to treat his wife like a child. "I need to run to the kitchen and grab something anyway. Um, the bathroom is just right through there, let me know if you need anything and can't find it."
She nodded and watched as he walked out of the room, his footsteps alerting her of a hallway and stairs that lay outside the door frame. Scully stood up and walked over to the bathroom,
Entering without even bothering to turn on the lights, instead choosing to let the light from the bedroom illuminate the space, she sat down on the toilet and tried to keep calm and neutral as she was reminded of her very real pregnancy stomach. She knew she wasn't too far along, probably barely into her second trimester being how her bulge was defined but not enough to make her usual sleep attire unwearable.
Scully finished up going to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror, trying to prepare herself for the inevitable shock. She could only see her silhouette in the mirror's reflection. The light from the curtains creating a dull glow strong enough to outline her form, but not enough to illuminate her face. She'd stared at that darkened figure in the mirror enough to know it was her. She looked relatively the same like this, but she could tell her hair was slightly longer, despite the fact she already knew that from the way it danced along her shoulders.
Scully raised one hand to the light switch and held it there for a moment, exhaling once before turning the lights on.
She was met with a familiar face, the same one she'd become intimately familiar with for thirty-four years. This was the face she'd looked at when she learned how to floss around her braces, these were the same features Melissa had shown her how to highlight with makeup as a teen, the same skin she'd press her hands to as she washed her face in hundreds of motel bathrooms across the continental United States — but it was different in a way that almost took her breath away.
It was the first thought that came to her mind upon seeing herself. It wasn't that she thought she looked exactly like her mother, but it dawned on her that with age, the features that made her resemble her mother had become more pronounced. The wrinkle patterns around her eyes and mouth from smiling. The Scully family scowl having its very own defined line on her chin, a token she'd inherited from her parents now permanently etched on her face.
Her neck looked aged too, all those years spent looking down at casefiles and looking up at Mulder creating different creases and lines that defined her body at this stage in life. Raising her hands, she brushed her fingers through her hair tentatively. The color was slightly different, a little more coppery than she remembered. She wondered if she dyed it now as she looked to see if she had any traces of grey or white in her hairline.
Upon seeing nothing, she let her hands fall to her sides. She by no means thought she was unattractive, she'd never been the type to equate beauty with youth, but it was a shock seeing these changes in her reflection. Leaning forward, she pulled on her face lightly, testing the elasticity and examining texture differences. As she did this, she saw something move near her in the mirror and she jumped back in surprise.
Scully turned and saw Mulder standing in the doorframe, his brows turned upwards while the corners of his mouth pulled in the opposite direction. She felt her face burn in embarrassment at having been caught in a moment of self-criticism, criticism that Mulder clearly felt hurt by on her behalf.
"You're so beautiful, Scully," he murmured, and she knew he meant it with his entire being.
"It's just jarring, Mulder. You woke up to a face you recognized, I've never seen her before," she replied, pointing to the mirror.
"Do you think I'm unattractive now?" he countered, the tone of his voice indicating that he knew damn well her answer would be no. She couldn't take the thought of him being self-deprecating any better than he could when she did it.
"No, I don't," she stated firmly. And she truly meant that. That was the face of Mulder, the man she loved with her entire heart. She'd wanted to grow old with him, and this was the face that just proved she'd lived her dream. His hair was graying, the lines around his eyes she'd see when she made him laugh were more pronounced. This was the face she loved, and that love wasn't contingent on age.
He walked up to her and tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear with his pinky. "Please don't be mean to yourself," he whispered. "I can't stand the thought of anyone hurting you, including yourself."
The insecurities she'd had her entire life wanted this conversation to be over, so she just nodded in response, leaning in when he kissed her temple. The intimate gesture made her wonder if it was truly her and the developments they'd made in the past few days that made him comfortable enough to express his affection openly, or if it was seeing her in the body of Scully, his wife and being in his natural habitat.
"What're you holding?" she asked when she noticed the weird placement of his hands at his sides.
"Can you take these for me?" he asked, holding up his hands to reveal a Dixie cup and a small glass of water.
"What? Are those your time-traveling gummies?" she deadpanned.
"No, I couldn't find them. I'm not sure what they did with them. These are the vitamins you need to take for your health and the baby's," he answered patiently, not reacting to her tone. "There's one to prevent high blood pressure and another to prevent gestational diabetes. I think one is just a prenatal, and I can't remember what Scully said the other one was for."
He didn't even bother correcting himself or add a descriptor and it made her feel like a stranger to hear him refer to 'Scully' yet not be talking about her. He couldn't say it was something she said because she wasn't that Scully. In 1998, he could enjoy her because she was his wife as he remembered her, now she felt like she was failing to meet the expectations of the Scully he loved most.
"It's probably a folic acid or DHA," she replied, taking the cup out of his hand and throwing her neck back before taking a sip of the water he'd offered.
"I think you're right," he nodded, taking the Dixie cup from her and throwing it in the trash can. "Did you brush your teeth yet?" he asked.
"No," she said, reaching for her toothbrush only to stumble when she wasn't sure which was hers.
"The purple one," he told her gently, grabbing the green one for himself.
They stood next to each other, brushing their teeth in tandem. As her wrist moved, she shifted her shirt slightly and revealed a glint of gold. Spitting into the sink and putting the brush away, she reached up and felt the familiar comfort of her cross pinched between her fingers. The chain was slightly brighter than the cross pendant, and while the chain must have needed replacing, this was still the same token of her past that rested comfortably in the hollow of her throat. She pinched it between her index finger and thumb and felt soothed by the intimate comfort. It was her go-to thing to fidget with when she didn't know what to do with her hands or when she was in deep concentration.
When Mulder finished up he smiled at her in the mirror before turning to her and asking, "Ready for that tour?"
She nodded and followed him out of the bedroom and into a large anteroom, adorned with photos of them along the walls and a few tables holding various items including a phone. "This is the landing, hallway, whatever you want to call it," Mulder explained awkwardly.
He turned around and gestured to a door, "this is just a storage closet, it's mostly empty," he replied, opening it only to have to quickly move his arm up to keep a box from falling on him. His brows furrowed as he shoved the box back into the closet and closed it precariously. "Huh," he grunted to himself. "Must've moved some stuff around."
Shaking his head, he resumed his tour. "Over here is a different entry way to the bathroom we were just in. That room on the opposite side is going to be the baby's room. These are the stairs that take us downst-"
"Can I see it?" she asked, putting a hand on his arm to halt him from moving towards the stairs.
He paused and turned to her, looking at the closed door. "The nursery?" he prompted. Upon her nod, he shrugged and moved towards it. "Honestly it's just clutter space right now. We haven't-"
"What?" she replied, walking towards him as he just stared into the room.
"I haven't seen this," he murmured, shaking his head in disbelief before taking a few steps into the room.
She followed him and smiled at how fitting the theme was. "This is really pretty," she replied, looking around the nighttime sky that had been painted onto the wall, complete with various constellations and stars.
"Mhm," he grunted in response, turning his head once to look back at the closet space they'd just been at.
When he pivoted back around, she caught the sight of him looking forlornly at the walls of the bedroom. "Are you okay?"
He looked over at her and he exhaled a deep breath. "Yeah, I just-uh, I guess I just didn't think I'd miss out on something like this just from being gone for a few days."
Her heart ached for him at the admission. She knew how badly he'd wanted to get back, and she could tell this hurt him more than he wanted to let on. Hell, one of the first things he did upon getting back was bringing her the prenatal vitamins she needed to take. He was clearly going to be a great father, and she could tell missing out on even this small milestone was a huge loss to him.
Trying to make him feel better, she stepped forward and squeezed his arm lightly. "Well, look," she offered, pointing to two areas on the ground. "You're still going to be able to build the crib that'll keep the baby safe every night, and the changing table you'll spend hours fantasizing about potty training at. Those are the parts that will really show your love, cleaning out the room and painting it are just a little part."
He smiled softly and murmured, "Thanks."
Not wanting him to ruminate in this loss anymore, she asked, "Can we go look at the rest of the house?"
He nodded and placed a familiar hand on the small of her back, walking her out only to slightly bump into her when she stopped. "What?" he prompted.
"Look," she replied, her fingers going to the doorframe where "Mommy" and "Daddy" were written alongside a black line and yesterday's date.
"That's my handwriting," he observed, tracing the letters of his new name with his fingertip.
"And I get the impression you probably did most of the major painting in the room since I probably had to step out and away from the fumes quite often. So you really did do most of this even if you don't remember," she mused.
His only response was a kiss to the crown of her head as his hand returned to the small of her back. Mulder looked like he was about to close the door until thinking twice about it, keeping it open instead. They walked down the creaky stairs as Scully held onto the railing for balance. "At least you'll know for sure if the kid ever tries to sneak out," she joked, earning the first laugh of the day.
"That's a good way of thinking about it," he chuckled, walking in front of her when they reached the bottom of the stairs.
She couldn't help but notice that the house smelled pleasantly odd, hints of her, hints of Mulder. It smelled like their cars after a road trip, his perfume and his cologne, the sweat of the day, lingering together and mixing to create an olfactory blend that's uniquely them.
"This is our living room, as you can see it's connected to the dining room and the kitchen," he explained with some gestures. He watched as she walked around and took things in. Much like upstairs, there were traces of familiarity around but for every item she saw and recognized, there were at least two that were foreign to her. She could say definitively though that everything she saw was distinctly her or Mulder's taste.
She turned when she saw Mulder walking to an entryway and she followed him into a hallway. "This is just a closet, he replied, opening it to show several overcoats, including a pink, green, and blue puffy one she thought she'd gotten rid of years ago. He shut the door and walked down the hall a little further and opened a door, "This is my office, and right across the hall," he replied, opening another door, "-is your office."
Knowing that their offices were across the hall brought a small smile to her face. Peeking in, it was obvious who was the neater of the two, but seeing Mulder's made familiarity bloom in her chest as she saw several news articles and photos pinned to the wall. "What about that one?" she asked, pointing to another door.
"That's just the basement," he replied, waving his hand dismissively. "We really don't keep anything down there except the water heater and boring stuff like that."
She nodded, taking another look in the direction of her office. "My desk is bigger than yours," she observed, her head glancing back and forth between the two rooms.
"Never say I don't learn from my mistakes," he replied with a smirk. "Do you want to see outside?"
She nodded and made her way back to the living room. "Where are we? Geographically speaking?"
"Farr's Corner, Virginia," he replied, walking over to the front door and stepping out onto the porch, only to trip on something.
"You okay?" she asked, walking towards him.
"Yeah," he replied, bending down and looking at a large brown box.
"An Amazon package for Dana Scully," he remarked. "She must've ordered this since I've been gone."
She didn't want to ask another question, so she just pretended like she knew what that was. She stepped onto the porch with him and watched as he flipped the box over to reveal a "Lifetime" logo with the words "Portable Basketball Hoop" written underneath.
Mulder gasped lightly and chuckled, turning to her with a beaming smile. "This is amazing, Scully. Thank you."
She just smiled at him awkwardly and watched as he picked the box up and set it against the siding of the house. "Christmas came early this year," he joked. "Now we can play Horse."
"I'm surprised you didn't already install one," she mused, closing the screen door so bugs wouldn't get in.
He didn't really reply to her statement, just looked down before grabbing her hand and walking towards the stairs, walking along grass that morphed into gravel before turning and showing her the exterior of the house. "It might not look like much, but it's all ours."
"Do we have neighbors?" she asked, observing how the trees around the property seemed endless.
"Technically, yes. They live about ten minutes down the road that way," he replied pointing off in the distance. "We chose to live here for the seclusion, but there's an elderly couple living nearby that we've met a few times."
She nodded and thought about what he'd told her a year or two ago when they were in Home, Pennsylvania. "This is the type of place you always imagined yourself, right?"
Mulder nodded and smiled fondly. "It is. I-um, I ended up luckier than I ever dreamt I could."
Scully was glad he wasn't looking at her, so he didn't catch the way her smile faltered. When he had told her this was the type of place he imagined settling down, the words "me too," burned the tip of her tongue. Instead she made a joke about The Andy Griffith Show, keeping it to herself that she spent most of her childhood dreaming of her dad being stationed in Mayberry so she could befriend Opie and live in the serene, idyllic town.
A summer breeze washed over them and she felt the silk of her pyjamas rub against her skin, making her acutely aware that she was currently standing on their front lawn with Mulder in their sleep clothes. She felt a lump form in her throat that threatened to choke her.
Sometimes when she was drifting off to sleep at night, alone in her apartment, her walls would come down enough for her mind to indulge the fantasies of her heart. Fantasies that often involved scenarios not at all unlike what she was experiencing now. Living somewhere beautiful with Mulder, waking up and being basked in his pure and unfiltered love, and, even after finding out about her infertility, she'd allow herself to dream of a swollen stomach and a child that looked like a beautiful blend of both her and Mulder.
Ever since waking up this morning, she felt like she was living in one of her indulgent dreams. Looking up, she saw Mulder's brows furrowed in concern, probably glancing at their home and having the same thoughts she was.
Everything was perfect, except for her.
* * *
After showing her their property, Scully had told him she wanted to take a bath and just have a moment to herself. She let him show her where everything was before closing the bathroom door, making his heart ache for the days Scully would take a bath and their house would be filled with the smell of her bath oils and the sounds of her gentle humming emitting from the open door.
She was close to reverting back to how she'd been when this all happened in the first place, scared of any intimacy he showed her because she didn't know how to respond. He couldn't blame her; Scully used to have a tendency to withdraw when she was overwhelmed, but he was still frustrated that it felt like they'd taken one step forward, three steps back in the progress they'd made together.
It hurt more seeing it in the face of the Scully he'd grown older with. He was accustomed to honesty with that face, openness that he'd come to cherish as one of the best rewards he'd ever earned, but this wasn't her anymore, not really.
Mulder was getting changed in their bedroom when he heard it. A quick, sharp gasp from the other side of the bathroom door. His mouth had just opened to ask if she was alright when he heard the sound of a sob muffled against skin, and his heart sank as he realized she was crying and clearly wanted to be alone while she did so. Almost immediately following the sob, he heard her quickly turn the faucet on, but even the roar of the tub filling up wasn't enough to drown out the sound of her shuddered breathings and the tears of a heartbroken woman.
If she'd have let him share the moment with her, he would have held her while she cried. He wouldn't have told her to stop or tried to mollify her feelings, but she didn't know that. Scully wasn't ready to be open and honest with him and despite how much it hurt, he had to accept it. This was the Scully whose favorite word was "Fine." She wasn't ready to tell him how she was really feeling despite what they'd just gone through.
The night they'd first had sex, him and his Scully in 2000, she'd left the next day. When he woke up, turning over and reaching for her warm body only to end up grasping at cool sheets, it hurt, but he had spent the previous seven years experiencing how Scully processed information she was uncertain about. She was a scientist, a rationalist first and foremost. As clinical and odd as it may sound to others, that night she collected the evidence to support her hypothesis, and she needed time to analyze the results. Staying there in the morning, having to navigate the situation and hearing his post-coital reflections in the light of day would have been independent variables with the potential to skew her understanding.
Was that his method of reflecting on their first time having sex? No. He woke up a new man, one who would never forget what it felt like to bask in the warmth of Scully's affection or to receive the gift of being cradled between her parted thighs while she whispered her adoration into his ear. However, he was used to waiting in the wings for Scully to come back with an answer. He spent most of his time there anticipating counterarguments, so he was more than prepared to retaliate by laying out his feelings.
Luckily that was one of the rare times where they happened upon the same conclusion.
This time she didn't get that chance. If he had to take an educated guess, he'd assume that if Scully had ended up waking up in the arms of her Mulder after they made love last night, she would have slid out of bed and retreated to her place. Now she was faced with not only having to process the intimacy they shared last night, but in this bizarre, unusual, and stressful circumstance.
He heard more sobs, echoing loudly against the ceramic of the tub, and it reminded him of the bad years. Back when he heard this sound often and was too numb to do anything about it. His hands ached with the need to go knock on the door, to crawl in the tub behind her and hold her. But she clearly wanted privacy, and he had to remind himself of that as the sounds of her crying followed him down the stairs.
Not knowing what else to do, he went back onto the porch so he could think, sitting in the swing and letting his legs propel him forwards and backwards. Even with the distance, he still felt like he could hear her crying, but he didn't know what he could do to help her. He didn't know what she wanted.
Even in the short time they'd just spent together, he saw her checking out her reflection more often than normal. He was used to Scully's own interpersonal dance she'd do while passing reflective surfaces: flicking her hair to add volume, pivoting her body to see if her clothes were in place, adjusting her makeup a little bit. But those were cute, small adjustments made from a confident woman. What she was doing now was staring in hollow shock when she'd catch a glimpse of herself. He didn't like it when he saw her in front of the mirror earlier, the doubt and fear that was swirling in her eyes. He couldn't blame her, going from 1998 to 2018 was a jump even for him, but he'd seen the progression. This was a new body for her.
He didn't want to hurt her feelings by making it appear that he wanted to get rid of her, but at the core of it all, he knew she was uncomfortable here and he missed his Scully. It would probably be easiest if they could get this solved as soon as possible.
Mulder felt like he was out there swinging for an hour by the time he heard the porch door open and she emerged with red-rimmed eyes. Her hair was damp, curling around her shoulders, and she was wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants that he hadn't seen her wear in years. They were probably familiar to her, despite being ancient to him. He moved to get up, but she surprised him by joining him on the swing, sitting next to him with enough distance that they weren't touching.
"Should we try to go find the woman's shop again?" he prompted after a few minutes of silence.
"The witch, you mean?"
"Yeah, we'll be talking to the version of her that caused all this," he explained.
She was quiet for a moment and he caught her looking out to the fence of the property pensively, holding onto her cross so tightly he was worried the edges would cut into her fingers. "C-can we do it tomorrow? I don't want to go anywhere."
He was surprised by her confession, he would have imagined her curiosity as to what the outside world looked like would have been piqued. "Yeah, okay. We don't have to go today," he replied gently.
Scully looked over and caught his gaze and her eyes darted back to the fence, as if it was the only thing keeping them safe. "I-um," she began, looking frustrated with herself. "I'm trying to be mindful about the fact that I am currently a woman who is dealing with a high-risk pregnancy. I know what you said earlier was right, I need to avoid stress and try not to get worked up, but I'm having a hard time doing that. While I don't like being treated like an invalid, I don't know what's out there and I just-" she trailed off with a shrug, looking down at her feet.
"I really appreciate that," he replied softly.
She was silent for another moment, and he could see her sinking deeper into herself. He wanted to at least let her know he was still there, that he meant everything he said in their time together even if they were now in a different time. "Scully," he whispered, waiting to continue until she was looking at him. "You can talk to me. I don't expect that you're having a good time, and I promise I won't be offended if you say you're hurting."
Her brows furrowed and her lips pouted out while she accepted his plea. "I just hate losing time," she admitted. This wasn't new information to him, they'd spent a lot of time discussing how disjointed they both felt upon coming back from their abductions, but he could tell this was likely the first time she'd said this out loud and he wanted to make sure she felt heard. Especially considering this situation may have brought her unresolved trauma to the surface.
"Because it reminds you of when you've been taken?" he prompted, taking her hand.
She nodded once, sharply. "It bothered me how much my body had changed. It was slight, but I felt robbed," she acquiesced before her lips pursed to the side as if she could seal her emotions from showing in full. "This is like that, but almost worse."
When she didn't move to say anything, he tried coaxing her. He knew being this open was uncomfortable for her at this stage in her life, but this situation required both of them being open and honest if they were going to get through it.
"Tell me about it," he whispered, bringing her hand up to his lips and pressing a kiss. A while back when they were in 1998, she'd made a comment that it frustrated her to think he knew everything about her, so he was trying to make a conscious effort not to belittle her by telling her how he presumed she felt. He might know his Scully like the back of his hand, but the farther back in time he went, the more of an enigma Scully was to him.
"About how I felt then, or how I feel now?" she asked, looking at their conjoined hands resting limply on her lap.
"Either, both, whichever feels better to talk about."
"I can recognize now why I felt the way I did back then. I had cramps because of all the stuff they did to my uterus, my muscles were fine because I was up and moving even if I don't remember it fully," she explained. "Back then it was more about feeling since most things done to me were internal. My hair grew longer, I was paler, but it was only three months."
She took a deep breath and stared at the windchime as it played a tinkling melody unfitting to her despair. "Now I have twenty years I missed out on, and my body is completely different. I have wounds and scars, evidence of a life lived that I'm not privy to even though it's my own."
"I know it's not the same, but I'm here to answer any questions you might have," he reassured, cocking his head slightly in the hopes of catching her eye.
"I don't know what to do," she admitted in a defeated sigh. Words he never heard leave Scully's lips in any life. "I feel like the more I know, the more I'm committing to staying here. I don't know if hearing about my past will make it feel more like my own or less."
Deciding to be as open and honest as he was wanting her to be, he murmured, "It bothers me to see you upset, but in this situation, I think it's the only rational response. I want to help you however I can, but I'm sad that I don't know how."
"I just think of how Mulder probably reacted when he was here," she replied, her eyes welling up with stubborn tears. "My Mulder. He probably woke up and he wasn't scared. I bet he accepted it and was eager to see what the new world held, probably relentlessly asking your Scully this and that, but I can't-." She stopped with a sharp intake of breath as her eyes shut and hot tears fell onto the skin of their joined hands. "I wish I could be more like him, more curious and excited, but I'm scared. I don't want to be here, and I want to go home. I want everything to be normal," she sobbed, not holding back anymore as her emotions overtook her.
"Come 'ere," he whispered, taking his hand back only so he could wrap it around her and draw her into his chest. Mulder was grateful when she wrapped her hands around his middle and pressed her face into the cotton of his shirt, allowing herself to be comforted.
It struck him as funny that her wanting everything to go back to normal entailed leaving their lives where they were the most normal they'd ever been only to go back to a time where things were beyond chaotic and stressful, but he understood what she meant nonetheless.
"I think you were right when you said if you were faced with what appeared to be a spontaneous twenty-year memory loss that you'd assume it was amnesia," he stated, rocking her back and forth gently while he held her. "It wasn't as abnormal of a circumstance so it makes sense why he could have reacted better."
He imagined now those two probably were even more confused being they might have gone back to a reality his Scully wouldn't remember because of what they'd done last night. He woke up on a mundane day in 1998, one he could readily place himself in logistically, but Scully would have a harder time orienting herself being they never had sex in 1998. They wouldn't know what the hell was going on.
So it really was up to him and this Scully to fix it.
"How do you think future me is reacting?" she asked with a sniffle.
How would Scully react to losing a child for the second time? Three, including Emily? He didn't know how he'd handle that level of grief now, let alone twenty years ago.
"Not well," he mused, his heart aching for his wife.
Wherever she may be.