They had been fine for quite a while. On the run, they had to cling to the hope that their love would be enough. And it had been. After some time in their new, solitary home, things had changed. She was working and gone all day. They had adapted to their new routine, but slowly, a shadow had begun to emerge. It hadn’t been visible at first, but it grew bigger and bigger.
She didn’t want the darkness, she had said. He didn’t know if it had been there, lurking, until he gradually sunk into it until it had swallowed him. Or if he had been the one to bring it into the house.
When he had started to spend more and more time in his office, turning it into their old Hoover basement, it hadn’t troubled her at first. She didn’t consider that one thing was different: The basement had been theirs. This office was just his. It hadn’t been a deliberate act to shut her out. On the run, for such a long time she only had him. And he’d had her. Now she was having her own life, a job to go to every day, a job that left her exhausted more often than not. It was only healthy that he at least sometimes minded his own business as well. Right?
None of them could tell when he had started to live in his own head, to withdraw into himself more and more until it was almost impossible for him to come back out.
When she started her job at Lady of Sorrows, he had been the one to take care of the house, to keep it clean. Make dinner which was waiting for her when she came home. They would spend the evenings together, talking, playing cards or a board game, watch animal documentaries on TV. Make love. They had been okay. There was the occasional fight, but nothing out of the ordinary, things every couple went through.
Looking back, she thought it might have been just a matter of time until they imploded. They had gotten better at talking to each other, but they almost never talked about him. William. About their pain and their guilt. Their grief. Or what had happened to Mulder when he was gone. His abduction. His torture. His death. His resurrection. His year on the run, without her, without their son. His time in prison. And what all of this had done to her as well.
They packed all these things away in boxes and set them aside in their own mental storage unit which was never to be visited again. But suppressed feelings tend to resurface at some point. They should have known. They had seeped back in and separated them, drop by drop.
In the beginning, they would get up together, and when she was leaving for work, he would kiss her goodbye and wave to her while she was driving away. As time went by, he would retreat to his office early on und just mumble a “bye Doc” without even looking at her.
He would begin to stay up late, crawl into bed when she was long asleep. At first, she pretended it didn’t bother her; he had always had a different rhythm. They were a couple, but still two separate people with different preferences.
He would sometimes hole up in his office for what seemed like days, sleep in and get up when she was long gone to work. It took her some time to realize that something was truly off. That she missed him although he was right there. But he wasn’t. Something had become between them. When previous weekends had been about spending time together, now they were each minding their own stuff. They still talked to each other, but it was less and less often.
In the years of their partnership, he had shared his theories with her, had been interested in what she had to say, couldn’t wait for her to prove him wrong.
Not anymore. She didn’t even know what he was doing in that office of his. She had stopped asking, and he didn’t tell.
Some days and nights, he would just stare blankly on his computer screen, not being able to process what he saw there, not even being able to read a single word. There was so much going on in his mind, but he had lost the ability to focus, to analyze things, to act. He was aware that he had become entirely passive, but he couldn’t help it. It was like there was some tiny Mulder figure somewhere in him, the real Mulder, that was trying to reach out to her. But his body wouldn’t move.
At some days, he felt numb; it seemed he had somehow detached himself from the world. He felt like everything in his body had slowed down, as if he was stuck in quagmire and could only move in slow-motion. And every move would just suck him in further. He was secretly glad that there weren’t any neighbors close by; the thought of stepping outside and running into people seemed unbearable to him. But mostly, he closed himself off from everything and everyone in his office anyway.
There were also times when his mind couldn’t stop working. There was so much going on in his head, hundreds of thoughts, all of them screaming at him, layered on top of each other, none of them finished. He was unable to filter and unable to communicate. On the outside, he seemed completely passive while his mind was raging. He wanted to reach out to Scully, cry out for help, but found himself unable to. He couldn’t even meet her eyes. How could he convey what was happening to him when he didn’t understand it himself? He felt so helpless, so useless. Sometimes, rage would start to rise in him, rage towards the world that he wasn’t a part of, rage towards himself.
It wasn’t always like that. Some days, he woke up and felt okay; maybe he had just had a difficult time and he was doing better, he thought. There was so much stuff he planned to tend to around the house; fix something, clean out the shed, repaint the front door. But he always found a reason not to. He had a headache; it was raining; he would do it tomorrow. But he never did.
When the dark clouds on his horizon started to roll back in, sometimes even more massive than before, it would render him hopeless. Defeated.
He was aching for Scully. When had been the last time they had made love? He didn’t know. It had been too long, that he knew for sure. He wanted to be close to her, feel her skin against his. Feel her unravel underneath him. Feel alive again. But what did he have to give, like this? She deserved so much more. She had always been by his side. Sacrificed everything. And he had left her when she had needed him the most. How could he ask her to to save him, again? To step into the darkness with him and maybe get lost in there too?
Maybe she was better off without him. She probably was. But he could never bring himself to leave her, knowing it would crush him, tear him apart. And he hated himself for being selfish, again. He was guilty of so many things. Over and over again, he had failed her, and now he was doing it again.
He knew there was a lot of weight she was carrying, but she had closed off to him, had buried it deep inside her. And who was he to help her, hold her, love her? He did love her, yes. More than anything. But what had he brought her? He was afraid his embrace would suffocate her, that he would cling to her like she was his safety buoy while he would suck even more life out of her. Strangle her.
It was like there was a veil between them, separating them, blurring their features. He wanted to reach out to her, speak to her, but he couldn’t. So he immersed himself in his search for the unknown, for the truth. That was what he had always done, right? That was his quest, that was him. If he succeeded at this, he would feel good again. But he didn’t. He was going in circles, like a dog chasing his own tail. He didn’t realize how it was eating him up. How he was eating himself up.
When she told him she would leave him he was devastated. He felt like he had been run over by a truck. It couldn’t be. They were Mulder and Scully, bound together forever. He wanted to curl up in a corner and wait until his life was over.
After shock, denial and anger had subsided, his innate thirst for wanting answers kicked in. He knew he would only find them in himself this time.
It wasn’t that she didn’t love him anymore. She did. She had said so, barely holding back tears, when she left. So how had he managed to chase her away? When had been the last time he had actually seen her, goddamnit?
As long as she still loved him there might be hope. He would hold on to that in his darkest hours. She was his quest now. Winning her back. Making her truly happy. Life without her simply wasn’t possible. That he had made her life with him impossible ripped his heart in two, but he promised himself he would do everything he could to be a better man for her. He’d get help. He’d recover. He’d get himself together, and he would wait for her. He would take care of himself, for his own sake and for hers.
His search had defined him for so long and it would probably never completely leave him, but he wouldn’t lose himself in it anymore. How could he have been so blind? He’d found the greatest truths of them all a long time ago. She was his truth and always would be.
There was hope.