Sitting vigil at Mulder’s bedside wasn’t an uncommon place for Scully to be. After he’d been admitted, the doctors could find nothing physically wrong with him other than a slight fever and exhaustion. There was definitely evidence of a heart aberration but he seemed to be mostly back to normal.
She sat next to him while he slept, every so often reaching out to lay her hand across his heart, just to make sure it was still beating.
Finally, his eyes opened again and found hers. She wasn’t sure what he was thinking, or feeling, or even what had happened.
“Hi,” she gasped with relief.
“You again,” he said weakly with a grin. She laughed, having expected some kind of one-liner.
She reached out to hold her hand across his forehead. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m not sure,” he said, looking at her apprehensively. “What exactly... happened?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “We were in the park, and… Mulder, you were right there with me, walking next to me, and suddenly… you just hit the ground. It was like you were having a seizure of some kind.”
He looked confused, but nodded slowly, as if coming to an understanding.
“And… the alleyway…?” He looked at her uneasily, some kind of secret shame painted on his face she didn’t understand.
He closed his eyes in what she could only describe as relief. “Thank God,” he whispered.
He reached out for her hand and squeezed it searchingly, almost as if he were verifying she was real. “Scully… do you think this was a mistake?” he suddenly asked. “You and me?”
The question took her off guard. “What? Where is this coming from?”
“Please, just answer me.”
“No, Mulder,” she assured him. “I know we’ve been through some rough patches the past few weeks but… no.” She squeezed back.
He smiled in relief. She looked at him curiously. “What… happened to you?”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I was… afraid, Scully,” he said. “Terrified, actually. First for our lives, because I didn’t have my weapon. Then…” he turned and looked away from her. “My body felt so cold, and everything went dark, and then… I thought you were breaking up with me.”
His mouth opened and he looked back at her, figuring it out. “I must have imagined it. It wasn’t you. It was... something else.”
She was quiet for a moment, anticipating his next words.
“It was the monster, Scully,” he said, a familiar spooky glint in his eye. “It had to be.”
She didn’t say anything. She could practically see the gears cranking in his beautiful mind.
“I was afraid. It was mortal fear, Scully,” he said, a look of understanding coming into his eyes. “Except… I wasn’t afraid for my life. I was afraid for yours.”
Her mind flashed to the moment she herself had thought he was dying, and how the world had felt like it was ending: the chill in her body and the black moon. She didn’t know what to think, what to believe. So she did all she could in the face of her long standing mental battle with herself over Mulder’s far fetched theories and the way they stacked up against the evidence she’d seen with her own eyes: she sighed.
“It must have gotten into my head, somehow, like it gets into all of its victims’ heads, and exploited my fear,” he continued. His eyes locked onto hers. “I felt my heart actually breaking, it… it was killing me.” He closed his eyes, leaning his head back into the pillow, reliving what must have been some kind of personal hell.
He needed rest more than he needed to be theorizing. She reached up to ruffle his hair softly. “Mulder-”
“You saved me, Scully,” he said earnestly. “You saved my life. If you hadn’t done whatever it was you did…” he looked at her, perhaps imagining the worst.
She bit her lip, believing him, but having trouble processing it all. She had indeed found him in some state of cardiac distress. If he’d believed his heart was breaking, maybe it had been.
And maybe it was time to level with him.
“Mulder…” she said, sitting back into her chair, “I think it tried to exploit my fear, as well.”
“What do you mean?”
She sighed. “I felt the same thing you did. My body going cold, and the moon going black.”
He blinked. “What happened?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know Mulder. I thought I was going to lose you. But I didn’t.”
“You made it go away.”
She nodded, not wanting to admit out loud that maybe this, she could believe. If it was true, she was glad. But she didn’t feel the need to question this theory, to probe and categorize it. She had somehow saved Mulder, and that was what mattered. She filed it away as a rare success: a neat bow she’d tied to wrap up seven years of loose ends and dangling uncertainties.
“You need to rest, Mulder,” she said. She watched him quietly for a few moments, his chest rising up and down. He was okay; they were going to be okay.
“Why didn’t you have your weapon?” she suddenly asked, somewhat alarmed at his irresponsibility.
He scratched his chin. “I, uh… haven’t told you something, Scully.”
“I'm sort of… no longer employed by the FBI.”
She blinked. “They fired you?”
“I quit. Two days ago.”
“You what?” This was completely unexpected. She’d known he’d taken the loss of the X-Files hard, but this seemed a bridge too far. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
He sighed. “I didn’t know how to tell you. It all happened so fast.”
He looked a bit chagrined, as if he was holding something back. But then out it came. “I heard some guys talking about you at work,” he admitted. “I didn’t like it. And I didn’t say anything to them, but when I got pulled into that meeting, and the directors mentioned they knew what was going on between us, and… I was pissed. I just lost it, Scully.”
“What, uh… what did you hear?” she asked, not sure she wanted to know, and also pretty sure she already knew. “...About me?”
He sat up, took her hand. “It doesn’t matter, Scully. What matters is you were right. And the bureau should have protected you, not made the situation worse.”
“Mulder, I don’t think they knew how bad it was.”
His face fell. “How bad was it?”
She sighed. “I didn’t want to tell you this, but… the other day, after Skinner told us about the tape…”
“Yeah..?” he urged.
“Some guy touched me in the elevator.”
Mulder was expressionless for a full three seconds, then she saw his jaw start to clench in that way that, as much as she hated admitting it, turned her on. “Touched you how?”
“He grabbed my ass, Mulder. Standard fare.” It still made her uncomfortable to think about it, but the events of the evening had brought to her attention the fact that everything could have been much, much worse.
“Who was it?”
“Some guy, it doesn’t matter.”
He looked at her, and she could tell he was trying to restrain his anger. “It does matter, Scully, because I need to make sure I’m kicking the correct ass.”
She laughed at his predictable reaction. “I reported him already, Mulder.”
“If you tell Skinner, he’ll scrub through the surveillance tape and find the guy himself,” Mulder pointed out.
In fact, that’s exactly what had happened after Scully called Skinner to tell him about the incident. He’d tracked the asshole down with lightning speed.
“According to Skinner this guy has been a running problem. It’s negligence on the bureau’s part. I think this can help you get your job back, Mulder,” she said, trying to get him to refocus.
“Scully, I told a room full of FBI directors to go fuck themselves,” he said, to her great surprise. “I won’t be getting my job back.”
“They’ll have to take into account your state of mind,” she insisted. “Especially since this harrassment was happening right under their noses and they had no idea.”
“Scully…” he began, then paused. “The truth is, I’m not even sure I want my job back.”
She was shocked. “What?”
“I just… I don’t think it’s what I want anymore.”
She eyed him curiously. “What do you want?”
He looked up at her through puffy eyes. He looked so exhausted, so worn down. “I want you,” he said simply. “I want you to know that all I want is you.”
She closed her eyes, letting this in, everything she ever wanted to hear from him. That she was enough, that she could give herself to him fully. It was all she’d wanted to hear since the moment his quest for his lost sister had come to an end.
There were so many things she wanted to tell him, but one of those things was more important than the rest, and she knew she shouldn’t keep it inside anymore.
“I love you, Mulder,” she told him. And it was just like he’d said: a piece of cake.
He blinked, almost as if he couldn’t believe it, and reached out to touch her face, as if convincing himself she was really here. “I love you, too.”
“I should have told you a long time ago,” she said. “I don’t know why it was so hard.”
“It shouldn’t be hard,” he said. “I want this to be easy for you, Scully. And I want us to be something you’re proud of, not something you’re ashamed of.”
She did feel ashamed, but not of him or of them. She realized that her actions over the past few days had had the unintentional effect of making him feel less than worthy, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m not ashamed of you, Mulder,” she said softly. “I’m not ashamed of us, either. I just… I felt judged. Because everyone else wasn’t seeing the truth. They weren’t seeing the real us.”
He squeezed her hand. “I don’t think anyone will ever see that, besides you and me.”
“I know,” she agreed. “But you told me when we first started that we should shine a light on this. And I made the unilateral decision to keep us in the dark.”
Her decision had amplified the problem, as far as their coworkers were concerned. She was now realizing the unknown would always be far more exciting, salacious even, than the alternative. Maybe that was what had kept her on the X-Files all these years.
Maybe that was what had kept her next to Mulder all these years.
“It’s not too late, Scully,” he said. “To turn that light back on.”
She nodded and squeezed his hand. She could feel tears brimming inside her eyelids.
“Come here,” he said, scooting over. “I need to put my arms around you.”
“Both of them?” she chuckled, as she crawled into the tiny bed.
She leaned into him, close to his face, and gently stroked the hair from his forehead. He held her in his arms, and those arms were strong and sure.
I want to believe what you and I have is real, and true, and good, he’d told her that very first night, the night their walls fell down. She wished now they would have stayed down.
He’d never wavered from that belief. And she wouldn’t, either.
Her eyes drifted to the window, where she saw an endless sea of stars slowly fading from view as the moon left night behind and welcomed the sun.
Mulder stood in the lobby of the Hoover Building nervously, scanning the room for Scully. He checked his watch again, hoping she’d be able to get away from her classes at Quantico in order to do this with him.
It had been a few weeks since he’d gotten back on his feet, which was, according to her, ample time to allow the board to cool down. Mulder assumed her role for once, however, skeptical they’d even allow him into the elevator.
Soon enough, he saw her approaching in the way which he’d become accustomed: by completely owning the room. She walked tall, all five-foot-three of her, and had that air about her he loved. The air that said don’t fuck with me.
“Hey stranger,” she grinned as she affixed a “guest” badge to his leather jacket. She placed both hands on his chest and got up onto her tiptoes to give him a kiss, right there in the middle of the lobby. “What’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?”
“I hear there’s a pretty good cafeteria,” he said. “Can I buy you a chocolate milk?”
“Maybe later.” She took his arm and they walked towards the elevator.
As they rode up in silence, she leaned into him a bit. “What are you going to say?”
He shrugged. “I thought I’d wing it.”
She chuckled. “You’ve always been good at that.”
They walked down the hallway towards Skinner’s office, and there was definitely staring. Men, women, everyone. They all watched them, curious faces eyeing the two agents who had hidden their affection for each other so skillfully for so many years.
Or maybe they hadn’t.
“Good luck,” Scully whispered, giving him a peck on his cheek. He gave her a wry smile and closed the door behind him as he entered Skinner’s office.
Skinner was the only one in the room, which he wasn’t expecting. Mulder glanced around at the conference table surrounded by empty chairs.
“I take it this is a bad sign?” he asked.
Skinner looked up as if this was just another day on the job for him, another reprimand to hand out. “Sit.”
“Sir, if I may--”
“Don’t talk too much, Mulder,” Skinner said, annoyed. “That’s what seems to get you into trouble around here.”
Mulder zipped his lip with his fingers, twisted, threw away the key.
“First of all, as a follow-up to the final case report you and Agent Scully submitted, you’ll be interested to know there were no attacks like the ones you and Scully witnessed in Los Angeles reported in DC on May 18th.”
Mulder nodded. May 18th had been the last full moon.
“Considering Agent Scully’s sexual harassment complaint and the possible litigation against the bureau for discrimination in regards to your relationship, I was able to convince them to make this whole thing go away if they let you have your job back. The past few weeks will be considered a probation period. You’ll be reinstated Monday.” He fixed him with a glare. “And not on the X-Files.”
Mulder nodded again.
“I went to bat for you, Mulder,” he continued, going back to his work. “You owe me big time.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that, sir. But I didn’t come here to get my job back.”
Skinner stopped, looked up. “Excuse me?”
“I’m here about Scully. About the complaint.”
Skinner eyed him. “It’s being taken care of.”
“I see, I see,” Mulder said thoughtfully. He placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, tapping his index fingers against his lips. “Yeah, I’m gonna need that guy’s name.”
Skinner furrowed his brow. “Why can’t you get it from Scully?”
Mulder raised an eyebrow.
“Ah. Right,” Skinner conceded. He tried to hide a smile. “Is this really the only reason you came all the way down here?”
“I just want the name, sir.”
Skinner rooted around in his desk for something. “You know I can’t give you that information, Mulder, so you’re wasting your time.” He pulled out a notepad and began to write something down with a pen. “But I do think they can use you back in the BAU if you’re interested.” He ripped the paper out. “I think you should reconsider.”
“I’ve been thinking about what you said, actually,” Mulder interjected.
“What did I say?” Skinner asked.
“A few months back. After… Samantha. You told me moving on would be good for me.” He nodded thoughtfully, gratefully. “I think you might be right.”
Skinner regarded him. “It’s good to hear that, Mulder. Might I ask what you plan on doing next?”
Mulder shrugged. “I don’t know. The possibilities are endless, I suppose.”
Skinner smiled, as much as Skinner ever smiled, stood up and extended his hand. “Well, it’s been an honor, Agent Mulder.”
Mulder took his old boss’s hand and shook it warmly. “Likewise.”
Skinner handed him the slip of paper and sat back down. Mulder looked down, and on the piece of paper was a man’s name.
“Keep it off-campus, I’m done cleaning up after you,” Skinner said to his desk, not looking up.
Mulder grinned, pocketed the note. “Thank you, sir.” He headed towards the door.
“Oh, and Mulder?” Skinner called as the younger man opened the door.
“Put some weight behind it.”
The basement still looked the same, but it felt different. None of his things had been touched and everything was in its particular place. He was beginning to wonder if anything could get another soul to come down here willingly.
There wasn’t a whole lot he needed, so he walked around the room collecting his personal belongings, placing them in the cardboard box on his desk: his nameplate. His globe. His I Want to Believe poster. A photograph of him and Scully in the field. A few books and pictures, and his basketball. He laughed as he picked up the plastic wind-up teeth that Scully had given him once on a road assignment “because [he] just wouldn’t shut up.”
There was a gentle knock at the door. “Well?” Scully asked as she walked inside. She leaned against the door and crossed her arms. “Are you still the FBI’s most unwanted?”
He chuckled. “Nope. They’re the ones who are unwanted this time.”
She nodded approvingly. “No interest?”
“Not at this time,” he grinned.
“I thought you might turn him down,” she said. He didn’t bother asking why she thought that. She was smarter than anyone in the building.
“I just think… I’m ready, Scully. To move on.”
She looked at him, her eyes soft with understanding. “As long as you’re sure.”
He nodded. He was sure. She crossed the room, put her arms around him. He laid his head on top of hers.
“Hey, Scully,” he murmured into her hair. ‘I’ve been meaning to ask you something. Out there in the forest, when you thought I was dying, and you said you were afraid, how did you beat it? How did you stop it, while I couldn’t?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know, Mulder, I just… I just couldn’t let it happen, so I pushed through, I fought the fear. I had to.”
“And I let the fear take over,” he said grimly. “Because I believed it.”
She buried her cheek against the smooth leather of his jacket. “I couldn’t afford to believe it, Mulder. I refused to believe that I was going to lose you.”
“I guess I didn’t ‘cowboy up’ like you did,” he chuckled. “But that’s my Scully. Only you could stare down death and win through sheer determination.”
He felt her sniff a laugh against his chest.
“I actually think you stopped it,” he told her. “Skinner told me there were no more attacks on the last full moon. I think you and your trademark Scully rationalism stopped an actual monster for good.”
He could feel her nodding against him. “I hope so, Mulder,” she agreed. “I hope you’re right. In fact, I’m counting on it this time.”
The phone rang just then, and out of pure habit he leaned over and hit the speakerphone button.
“Agent Fox Mulder?” came a voice.
“My name is Billy Miles. I don’t know if you remember me.”
Mulder looked over to Scully. “Oregon, seven years ago. You had multiple abduction experiences. I'm here with Agent Scully.”
Scully looked concerned. “Billy, are you all right?”
“Yeah. This may seem weird, me calling like this, but, um, I don't know where else to turn,” Billy said.
Mulder frowned and looked at Scully. “I’m afraid the X-Files have been closed, Billy.”
“It’s just… there’s been some kind of UFO crash. And people are disappearing again. I just needed someone, anyone, that I could talk to about this stuff.”
He and Scully shared a look of helplessness, that there were going to be calls in their future they simply could not answer.
Mulder thought for a moment, then gave Billy Miles a phone number. “These guys don’t have the resources we used to have, but I promise they’ll listen, and I promise they’ll believe you, Billy.”
He hung up the phone and Scully looked questioningly at him. “Have you volunteered the Lone Gunmen as the unofficial future of the X-Files, Mulder?"
“They’re a good place for him to start, don’t you think?”
She raised an eyebrow. “I guess if we have to find someone spookier than you are, they would be the way to go.”
He grinned at her, and they stood in their office for a few moments, enjoying the quiet solidarity they’d always shared inside these walls. He wondered if there would ever be another team down here doing quite what they did.
He lifted the framed picture of Samantha off his desk, looked at it for a beat, and placed it in the box, closing the lid. He was embarking upon yet another part of his life, but he now knew what the sections were: before the X-Files. During the X-Files. And after.
Looking at Scully, he knew for sure: it was time for the after.
“You ready to go?” she asked him.
“Yeah. I am.”
He took her by the hand, pulled her in close, and kissed her: one final good morning kiss in their office.
“So… what does this mean, then?” she asked as she looked at him, eyes full of happiness. “Where do we go from here?”
He held her close, breathing her in. Her heart beat softly against his. His hand dropped down to her abdomen, holding it against the slight swell, and she covered his hand with her own as they shared a secret smile.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, looking at her, her eyes brighter than stars. “As long as we’re together, we have nowhere to go but up.”