“You sure you’re okay?” Mulder asked as she breathed heavily at her front door.
“Yes, I’m sure, Mulder,” she answered softly, sighing and then lifting her eyes to his, almost embarrassed, before looking down. “I… I don’t have my keys.” She whispered, the words and the pain in her voice hurting his heart.
“Not a problem. I happen to carry sets of keys for such emergencies,” he joked, trying to keep it light. He shifted the pink plastic drawstring bag to his other hand and fished in his pockets.
Pulling them out, he slid her key in the lock and opened the door. She hesitated for a second, before stepping across the threshold, and walking inside. He watched her look around and he knew she was reliving her abduction.
“Mulder! I need your help!”
He pushed those thoughts down, not wanting her to see he was thinking of the words that would forever haunt him. She did not need to know how many times he listened to her voice on his answering machine. How her words ripped out his heart and replaced it with something foreign, until she was with him again.
She had been through enough. Adding his own pain would be an unnecessary hurt; something he would never willingly place upon her.
“The window has been replaced, the place has been cleaned and all the locks were changed,” he said softly, watching her as she stood silently in the middle of the room. “So, even if you had them, your keys wouldn’t have worked.” He gave a nervous chuckle, and set her things down at the dining room table.
She said nothing as she stepped closer to the couch and ran her fingers across the back of it, looking at the floor where he knew Duane Barry had attacked her, the blood and broken fragments of her phone evidence it had happened.
“I… I found a phone as similar to yours as possible. I… I wanted everything to be as close to the same when you came home.”
“If I did,” she whispered, her back to him.
“No. Scully, when. It was never an if but a when,” he said quietly and she sighed, her shoulders slumped.
“How could you possibly have known that, Mulder?”
He heard the tears in her voice and he knew he needed to tread lightly. He fiddled with his keys, took a silent breath, and stepped closer to her.
“Because I know you, Scully. I know…”
“What, Mulder? What do you know?” She whipped around and the sadness on her face made him ache. “I didn’t save myself. I didn’t escape from some facility or… or a spaceship. I was found. Delivered to the hospital like some… package. Months I was gone and you say I would be back because you knew? No, Mulder.”
Her eyes filled with tears and although he knew she may not want it, he had to hold her. To touch her and be sure she was really standing there, despite seeing her and knowing it was fact. Hesitantly, he reached out and she did not move, staring at him with tears spilling from her eyes.
Slowly pulling her close, he took a deep breath as he closed his eyes. She smelled of the antiseptic scent of the hospital and not like Scully as she usually did. Like his Scully. She felt frail and weak as he held her, and he knew she would hate to be thought of that way.
Her arms wrapped around his waist and she cried softly into his chest, as though afraid to let him hear her tears, despite the fact that he could feel her body shaking. They stood silently, each drawing the strength they craved from the other.
God, he had missed her. His life had been upside down without her; the person who had been sent to spy on him, becoming the most important person in his life. He pulled her closer to him and took a deep breath, weighing the words he chose carefully.
“I knew, Scully. I knew because... any other outcome… it would have been unacceptable,” he whispered into her hair and she took a deep shaky breath. Her arms tightened around him and he felt their breathing fall in sync.
When he felt her hold on him relax, he did the same, still letting her take the time she needed. When she was ready, she took a small step back, keeping her head down. He held her chin and lifted her face to look at him, his other hand still on her upper arm. When her eyes met his, he smiled faintly and she sighed with a shake of her head.
“Unacceptable, Scully,” he whispered.
Feeling a sudden bout of courage, he leaned in and kissed her temple, something he had never done before. He moved his hand, gently caressing and holding her cheek.
His lips remained pressed against her skin, his bravery shocking him. The warmth of her flesh was the best gift he could ever receive and he wanted to feel it as long as she would allow.
She gripped the sides of his shirt and drew in a deep breath as she remained unmoving, allowing him to comfort and also be comforted.
Taking a deep breath, she pulled back and looked at him, releasing his shirt and dropping her arms by her sides. He moved his hand from her face and squeezed her arm lightly. She smiled slightly and he nodded as he stepped back.
“Do you want some tea? A bath? Anything I can help you with?” he asked, and she shook her head.
“I… I think I’d like to take a nap,” she said quietly and he nodded, knowing her well enough to know she would need time on her own.
“You sure? Anything you like, Scully, I can get it for you.”
She smiled sadly and shook her head. “I just need to sleep, but thank you, Mulder.” He nodded and walked to the door before stopping and taking his keys out of his pocket.
“Here,” he said, taking her key off his key ring. She took it from him and sighed. “I don’t want you locked out of your own home.”
“Thank you. I’ll make you another copy.”
“It’s okay, I have an extra one at home. Just in case.”
She stared at him and then stepped close, wrapping her arms around his neck. He closed his eyes and held her tight as they both once again took a breath in unison.
“Thank you,” she whispered into his neck. “For not giving up on me.”
“Never, Scully,” he whispered back and he felt her nod.
As she pulled back, she smiled. A real smile; one he had not seen in a while. She stared at him, before raising up on tiptoes to softly kiss his cheek, keeping her head down and avoiding his eyes when she stepped back.
“You get some sleep,” he said softly, touching her arm with a small smile. She nodded, her head still down.
He opened the door and stepped out, waiting to hear the lock turn before he walked away. As he rounded the corner, he stopped walking and dropped his head back, breathing a deep sigh of relief.
She was home. She was safe.
She was alive.