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“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving  was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.” 

-Elisabeth Gilbert

 

“I want to remember how it was,” Scully admits. “I want to remember how it all was.”

They share a meaningful smile, one only two people who’ve known each other in the most intimate of ways for over twenty-five years can share.

Mulder watches her intently as she scoots closer to him so they share the same couch cushion, thighs and hands touching comfortably. The living room of their unremarkable house has an amber glow and smells of pine from the wood and sugar from their forgotten dessert. His warm palm rests invitingly on her knee and her lashes flutter under his touch. 

She pulls Mulder’s hand into her lap, tracing the lines, freckles, and well-earned scars along his tawny skin. These hands have held her, protected her, lifted her up on a pedestal she’s never asked to be on. These hands have brought her to orgasm more times than thought possible in her scientific worldview, and even wiped away tears she’s rarely allowed to fall. These hands have held her heart within them for longer than she cares to admit. 

These hands - this man, is everything.

Scully bites her lip, yearning for something only her husband can give her, and slowly unbuttons her sweater. 

“Not that I’m complaining,” Mulder says huskily, “But I’m still surprised you put up with me in the first place, let alone want to remember all the things we’ve said and done.”

“Mulder,” she tsks. “You know how I hate when you downplay how good of a man you are.” And he is. As frustrating and flawed as he is, he is the best man she’s ever known. 

He kisses her passionately, and she can feel his need for her thrumming in every inch of her body. “You know, when you look at me like that, sometimes I think even Bill would believe you, Scully.”

“I don’t want to talk about my brother while I’m thinking about doing very naughty things with you on this very old couch.” He grins and wraps his arms around her. “Just as long as you believe, Mulder.”

“Believing has never been easier when it comes to you,” he says simply, and Scully believes it too. 

Mulder removes her clothes quickly, impatiently ridding her of her pants and haphazardly tossing her shirt and bra onto the nearest lamp shade, darkening the room. Scully laughs and does the opposite to his for once. She takes her time stripping him of his black t-shirt, running her hands teasingly down his stalwart chest before slowly unbuckling his belt with a salacious smirk. Mulder groans before swiftly discarding his jeans and boxers in record time where they land on top of the giant Bigfoot mold of Goop-O ABC - a perfect memory from her past she’s too afraid to tarnish by indulging in more. 

Scully can’t help but compare childhood jello to their ambiguous relationship status. 

“Good thing we’re not eating it,” Mulder jokes as he lays her head back against the throw pillow and begins worshiping his way down the front of her bare body. But Scully’s mind is already replaying her words said from minutes ago. She does want to remember how it all was. Even if that means risking exposing old wounds still figuratively raw to the touch.

Even if it leads her to relive the day she chose to leave this house, and other times before it.

Scully winds her body around Mulder’s, savoring this moment of closeness. “I miss this,” she whispers into his skin. A hushed confession. “So much.”

Mulder hums and nuzzles his nose along hers. “You holding me, or me holding you?”

“Us, holding each other.” As they cling to one another for several minutes, basking in the tactile affection they’ve both yearned daily for since she left, Scully decides to attempt what she hasn’t yet been able to do: stay. “Show me you miss this too.”

He nods and kisses her like their lives depend on it. Maybe they do. “Always, Scully.”

Gazing up at him, so ruggedly handsome and impossibly endearing, she has an instinctive need to explore him and moments in their lives at a depth she hasn’t for a very long time. 

She flashes back to times that she’s left him in the past only to quickly return. Big moments yet relatively small compared to the life-threatening iniquity they’ve trudged through decades later. Living those moments back then garnered significance to her - to them, while each one has left a mark on her heart and on the pathway that’s shaped their journey together. 

Maybe thinking about leaving is exactly what she needs in order to stay. 

His hands grip her hips, fingertips swirling around the inked serpent embedded into her skin: a moment marking her fortitude to find the truth while rebelling against being consumed by it. A permanent reminder that Fox Mulder was, and always will be, under her skin.

The possessive gleam in his eyes and his beseeching touch elicits a memory of one marked moment she’d walked out of their basement office and left Mulder floundering in her wake...

 

~~~

 

“All this, because I’ve...” Mulder starts. “Because I didn’t get you a desk?”

“Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life.”

“Yes, but it's m…”

Minutes pass in uncomfortable silence. Her head aches, bones throb, and her bruises are sore to the touch. After Mulder’s condescending comments upon her return, she refuses to let him see her wince. 

“I just thought this was ours,” he murmurs, somber and confused. “This desk, I mean. But…”

She blinks. “Screw the desk.”

He blinks back. “I don’t understand.”

Of course he doesn’t. She doesn’t really expect him to because she can’t allow him to understand how she’d only gone on that date because he insinuated she couldn’t possibly have one. He can’t understand how every sip of gin that burned its way down her throat was nothing compared to the flame of ardor burning within her gut. He can’t possibly understand her confusion of how every second of being kissed by another man only made her yearn for it to be him instead.

He doesn’t understand it was never about a desk at all.

Even if she did think about him while in that bar, in that apartment, within those hands of a stranger, it’s still not about Mulder. Not entirely, anyway; but it is about her and how she’s openly tailored her life to so easily tangle with his.

A cohesive half-life.

Scully shakes her head at his bowed one - his wordless attempt at penance. He’s hurt that she’s hurt and despite his awful attitude that ignited this uncharacteristic rebellion, she doesn’t want Mulder to hurt. She wants to stop second-guessing decisions she’s made in the past. Wants to stop wondering whether choosing one differently would have still led her to be beaten and nearly burned alive or not. Subconsciously before this, and selfishly now, she only wants it to be Mulder standing at her side with his hand on her back while she figures it all out.

Of course he doesn’t understand. Not yet, anyway.

“I know you don’t, Mulder,” she says as she stands, placing the wilted rose petal in the center of the desk. A symbol of what’s left of her dying personal life, perhaps; one she’s chosen to let wither away long ago. A token that signifies every facet of her is all in with him - always has been, no matter the cost. She just chooses to relinquish it freely now. “I know.”

“Scully…” Mulder stammers as he stares at the petal, perplexed. 

“No, Mulder,” she dismisses gently, unwilling to debate this topic she hopes to put behind her as quickly as possible. “It’s fine.” 

Her back burns as she moves, and it needlessly reminds her that she’s still spinning in an endless circle, chasing the tail of the truth she’s become so consumingly a part of. She pretends it’s the heat of Mulder’s palm warming her there instead.

“You’re leaving?” Something akin to panic flashes within his eyes.

Scully sighs, feeling the frequent and concerning pressure beginning to build behind her eyes again. “Skinner told me to go home early after I signed the bureau’s official copy of my statement this morning.”

“You’ll be back Monday?” he prods.

She swipes her tongue across her swollen lip and chooses her words carefully. “I have an appointment Monday morning at Holy Cross. But afterward, yes.”

She’ll be back because of her, because of him, because of them and how the good outweighs the bad. Because it’s her quest, too, dammit. It’s only taken her one defiant night to boldly navigate uncharted waters without him to accept that she likes it. Likes that this half-life has become his as much as it is hers. That though not everything is about him, maybe everything that remains is about them. 

That maybe two halves of a lonely life can create a fulfilling whole one.

Yes, but it’s m…

Yes, Mulder, she thinks - it is. 

“Have a good night, Scully,” he says meekly as she reaches the door. It sounds like a plea.

She nods, a weak smile curling her lips. “Good night, Mulder.”

And when she leaves, when her finger pushes the elevator’s button, she whispers in stark acceptance, “It’s your life, too.”

 

~~~

 

She’s swollen and soaked under his palm when his hand snakes down to cup her where she wants him most. Scully takes Mulder into her arms and they press together tenderly, bare chested and aroused. She inhales deeply, filling herself with his unique scent while his erection hardens fully into her hip.

“Please,” she husks into his ear. It’s all he needs to hear before he spreads her legs wider and nips his way down her ribcage.

He hums her name and two long fingers curl perfectly inside her as he kisses his way across her hips, over the slight curves and barely visible stretch marks above her pelvis. A happy memory blooms: William kicking and rolling within, Mulder’s hand splayed lovingly across her belly. Their child - their son, a miracle. But never her daughter, her child that came before him and was never meant to be.

Unbidden thoughts of Emily and leaving during that time lick the forefront of her mind like flames as Mulder’s tongue deliciously does the same between her thighs, over and over again...

 

~~~

 

“...the fact that Dana can adopt this child, her own flesh and blood, is something I don’t feel I have the right to question and I don’t believe anyone has the right to stand in the way of…”  

Mulder’s words spoken on her behalf as a mother in the Hall of Justice echo loudly in her ears as she flees the courthouse.  

He knew. 

He knew she had no ova, had known this is why she’s been labeled as barren: unable to conceive. It isn’t from the cancer or treatment used to cure her. Her fertility has been stolen along with her autonomy. 

“Bastards,” she fumes. Her heart hammering like a drum suddenly feels two sizes too big in her chest, pushing inner indignation up through her throat. Her bottled up emotions strangle and constrict, the sting of unshed tears suffocating her as she collapses onto a wooden bench across the street.

Minutes later, Scully hears a familiar pattern of footfalls jogging across the pavement and cutting through the grass behind her. She swipes self-consciously at her cheeks warmed with frustration. 

“This seat taken?” The hesitancy in Mulder’s voice urges her to glance up at him. His eyes are soft, sad. It makes her breath catch. 

“Depends on what you have to say if it’s not.”

“Duly noted.” He melts onto the bench beside her, shoulder to shoulder, leaning in gently. It’s an olive branch she chooses to take. 

“The ova,” she implores. “ My ova…”

Mulder nods once. “When I found out what they’d done, you had lost so much already,” he reveals. “The cancer, Penny Northern, and you-”

Scully looks away, unable to watch the array of emotion twisting her partner’s face. “...have sacrificed a lot, Mulder.”

She feels the heat of his gaze begin to unravel the knot in her stomach. “Too much, Scully.”

The silence grows heavy between them, thick and tangible, and she can’t begin to guess what he’s thinking now. What else he’s protecting her from without her consent. Or maybe she doesn’t want to. 

“I didn’t say I don’t understand your reluctance, Mulder. I do, actually. Surprisingly so. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t deserve to hear the truth the moment you did.”

“I know,” he says earnestly. “I know, you’re right, Scully.” He runs a hand down his face and bows his head. “And... I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry.” 

She knows he’s not just talking about her stolen ova harvested through nefarious means or about her innocent little girl created out of malice instead of love. It’s a multi-layered apology five years thick. Her hand covers his white-knuckling the bench beneath them, her ire at the helplessness of it all dissipating as his fingers lace through her own. Their touch is soothing to more than just her. 

“I know you are, Mulder,” she whispers. “Me too.”

Birds chirp as a cool breeze sweeps through the rustling California palms. They sit together, quiet and contemplative as they lose themselves in hope that there’s a light at the end of this twisted tunnel. 

Scully unfurls her hand from Mulder’s and gives it a squeeze. “Thanks for doing this. For coming here. For supporting me.”

“Always, Scully.” Mulder watches her stand and nods, their common understanding in her need to process alone. “Where will you be?”

“Continuing to fight for my daughter,” she says simply.

Scully begins walking back towards the courthouse, catching the warm smile Mulder gives her as she turns. She carries the comfort of it close to her heart as she leaves with more hope than she came with. 

 

~~~

 

“Beautiful,” Mulder mumbles between her thighs. “So beautiful.”

Gasping as the sudden surge of her climax builds at the root of her spine and bursts like a dam, Scully moans for him, tugging on his dark head hovering over her clit. She pulls him towards her, into her, until she’s positively, achingly full of every last inch of him. He presses his forehead to hers and sighs, just as relieved as she to be back where they’ve always felt most at home. 

“Oh,” Mulder grunts, holding her steady to take his onslaught of deep, steady thrusts. “I don’t know how long I’ll last if you keep moaning like that.” 

“Don’t worry, I won’t take it personally,” she teases. Scully digs all ten fingers into his chestnut hair, her nails scraping against his scalp while he gasps his appreciation. 

Personally, she thinks, recalls his decades old words with vivid intensity. At that, she sits up and straddles Mulder’s lap, instantly sinking down to ride him from above. You’re making this personal. Her teeth drag across his upturned jaw, mouth roughly pulling his pouty lips between her own. 

Personal.  

Yes, it most certainly is…

 

~~~

 

She storms out of the Gunmen’s lair and into the moonlit night. The metal door bounces off the brick building, slamming shut with a cacophonous bang. She’s angry, fuming within the crisp Virginia air - so fucking angry she can’t breathe. Tears sting her eyes but she refuses to let them fall. 

Scully, you’re making this personal.

Of fucking course it’s personal. It’s personal that she was abducted and experimented on like a lab rat for three months. It’s personal that her sister was murdered in her home by the same faction of men who medically raped her to create her daughter for no other purpose than to watch her suffer. It’s personal that she nearly lost her own life to cancer given to her by the cabal of men Scully knows damn well that Diana Fowley is associated with. Personal interest is all she has and he should know it by now. 

“Damn him,” she huffs, pinching the bridge of her nose.

She’s accepted that every thread of her professional and personal life has somehow weaved its way through Mulder’s for some time now, embraced it even. Including her implicit trust of him. The blatant fact that the feeling seems to be less than mutual is not only frightening, it feels like betrayal. The pain of that prospect is unbearable. 

Apparently one busty brunette can so easily beguile her best friend with a shared, shaky past and a simple promise to believe. 

Her cheeks flush with the embarrassment of it all.

Behind her, the door opens and closes again, softly this time. She smells him before she sees him as a stiff breeze swirls his scent around her, smothering her in a familiar comfort she can’t possibly allow herself to indulge in now. Maybe never again. 

“Scully?” His voice is soft and soothing, and she hates what it does to her.

She should ignore him - disregard him the way he has her lately, but three seconds later she turns to level him with a blazing stare that she hopes burns a couple of inches off his height. Taking him down a peg or two certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing. Her neck will thank her. 

“We should talk,” he laments, as though he hadn’t brushed aside everything she’d just said to him. Her nostrils flare and he swallows. “Uh, I’m afraid to ask, but what did you mean, there’s no reason for you to continue?”

She stares and he stares right back.

“I’m not doing this with you,” she dismisses, arms crossed protectively over her bleeding heart. “Just go, Mulder.”

“I…” He frowns while raking a hand through his hair. “Yeah, okay. But not without you.”

“Excuse me?” She’d laugh if the sting of his words didn’t hurt so much. 

Mulder looks chastened. Good. “You need a ride, right?”

She wants to say fuck off and call a cab like the one she’d arrived in hours ago. But she doesn’t want to wait in the cold and refuses to face the Gunmen after her partner of six years just labeled her well-researched facts as “reaching” in front of them. And as she sees him slouch against his car door in that damn leather jacket with his hair mussed and just a hint of five o’clock shadow, she’s afraid she might want to just fuck him instead. So Scully says nothing as she reluctantly slides into the passenger seat, and neither does he the entire ride to her place. 

He parks the car in front of her building and cuts the engine. She stiffens at the presumption he’ll be invited in. 

“Scully-”

“Don’t. Just don’t.”

“Okay…” he sighs, sounding undeservingly dejected.

Scully scoffs and clenches the door handle.

“I’ve been your partner for six years,” she blurts. “Your friend. I feel as though my work, my support has given you everything you’ve needed, Mulder. More, even, and then some. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s time to move on now that-” Her throat tightens, as if the war between her heart and her head is coming to an abrupt end. 

He groans, wounded by her words, scrubbing his hands roughly down his face. “Shit, Scully, you know everything means nothing without you by my side.”

Scully blinks, suddenly overwhelmed. She wonders idly if they were standing, if he’d be kneeling at her feet right now. How dare he throw the weighted hallway confession at her tonight? How dare she allow herself to believe it?

Somberly staring out the window, face flushed with barely suppressed emotion, she finally admits to herself in the side mirror that yes, she is in love with Mulder, and fears that may never be enough.

Scully can only nod in acknowledgment as she opens the door, brushing off his pleading gaze. “Go home, Mulder.” Her voice is thick and his name chokes her on its way out. 

She refuses to cry as she leaves him behind.

 

~~~

 

The wet slapping of their bodies colliding at a frenzied pace pulls her back into the present. Mulder winds his fingers into a fist-full of her hair and moans into her mouth with every sensuous swivel of her hips. Her Mulder, no one else’s. 

Scully nuzzles her way into the crook of his neck, sucks at him, reclaiming him while worrying his flesh between her teeth. “Mine.” 

She pulls away as he cups her face, his eyes narrowing, and she can see within the flecks of gold that he knows exactly what she’s remembering now. “Yours.” 

Scully bounces up and down faster now, hips rolling toward him, her clit aching for more of his touch. After all these years, her body still stretches with every smooth uptake of his oversized cock. She keens, euphoric, when his tongue flicks the underside of her nipple. 

God, she’s missed this, making love to Mulder this way. A momentous night spent rattling the walls of St. Rachel’s motel - twice - and a few frantic fucks since just haven’t been enough. Not for her and certainly not for the man whimpering beneath her while he reveres her body with his own. And she remembers a night like this one, their first night spent telling each other how much they love one another with their bodies and not just their eyes...

 

~~~

 

“It’s so good,” she moans. The storm pours rivulets of water down his bedroom window in a rhythmic curtain as their body’s sway like a pendulum along with it. “We’re so good together, Mulder.” 

“I knew we would be,” he says, so sure of it. Of course he is, he’s probably been waiting for her to come to him like this for years. 

They say nothing more as Mulder continues to stretch her walls and fill her up, complete her soul in the most fulfilling way possible. Wholly and all consuming. 

Her legs wrap around his thrusting hips to lock her ankles, silently begging them to finish together. Mulder gathers her to his chest, kisses her firm and sure, and she loses all sense of where she ends and he begins. Between the heaving slopes of their bodies, they’ve come full circle. 

“Come with me,” she pleads to him while he sighs into her mouth, yearning to be joined in every way possible as her pulsing walls flutter around the thick of him.

“Together,” he agrees while his cock plunges exquisitely through her folds. God she loves him, she thinks but dares not say as her climax swells and washes over, rolling across her body like midnight’s tide.

She feels Mulder jerk and shudder, spilling inside her. Her chin quivers with raw emotion as they meld pliant into one another, their sweat-slicked bodies sinking into the sheets. Their panting subsides when they settle comfortably side by side. Mulder shyly murmuring adorations into the shell of her ear makes her feel so loved, so wanted. She aches to return the sentiment. 

“I'm not very good at this," she confesses in the dark after what seems like an eternity. “I’m not sure I know how to, to…”

“Be more?”

She nods, feeling even more exposed. His warm lips press against her forehead and covers her hand with his own, their fingertips curling along the soft skin of their palms.

“I think, Scully, we just be, ” Mulder says softly, and something bright and beautiful blooms in her chest. 

An hour later, her leg is stickily draped over him, her palm splayed open over the solid curve of his chest. His heart thumps in time with her own as he sleeps soundly with his slender fingers laced through hers. 

This is where all things have led them. This is everything, and the weight of it is completely overwhelming. She’s in love with Mulder, utterly and unconditionally. If she’s being honest with herself, she’s loved him for longer than she can even guess, and that is exactly why she has the sudden urge to leave. 

The truth is, she wants to stay. Wants to stay curled into his lean body and revel in the feel of their newfound intimacy around her and inside her again. But the very real insecurity building about how he will receive her when the sun supersedes the moon is also true. 

Her fingertips brush over his chin, graze his pouty bottom lip, linger in his soft chestnut hair. Will he look into her eyes as she lay bare and exposed and see a partner and friend, or a friend and lover? Can they enter the basement office as all of those at once? This is huge for her. For them. Even though she’s never been more certain about her choice to walk this path that’s led her to this moment with him, she needs to fully process it in her own way, in her own space - alone.

After she slips out of his bed and dresses, Scully looks down at a peacefully sleeping Mulder and knows for certain that up until this point in time, nothing had happened for a reason. 

“I love you,” she breathes daringly, barely a whisper. Saying it in his presence, even while knowing he hasn’t heard, stirs butterflies in her belly and sends a ripple of excitement down her spine. 

When Scully leaves, she’s smiling to herself as the door of apartment 42 snicks shut behind her. Outside the pending sunrise paints the sky the color of her flushed cheeks, and the springtime’s storm continues to pulse in tandem with her racing heart. 

 

~~~

 

Mulder swipes at a rogue tear rolling over the swell of her cheek as she sways above. “Where’re you going?” he whispers, kissing her temple. “In here?” 

She wonders if he can feel it. If he can sense her mind rewinding to life-altering moments in their past together, back when their hearts were colliding and their minds weren’t always in sync. After all, he can feel her thinking the way she can feel his gaze whispering across her skin. 

Her hips grind against his and she whispers, “Sometimes you know me too well.”

“Mm,” he hums into her neck and she relishes in the way he groans, low and luscious. “Sometimes is never enough.”

“I’m remembering,” she exhales while languidly rising and falling in his lap. “About times I left.”

“Mm, times you had every right to, you mean? Times you left out of love?”

He understands now, of course he does. She only wishes he could have understood it all back then. Back when it mattered most.

He pulls her nipple into his mouth, then releases it through his teeth. 

“I- oh, that’s good,” she gasps, tugging his mouth back to her breast. She’s so close, the rushing sensations threatening to take hold. “I mean, the times I left because I loved too much.

“It’s okay, Scully, to relive it and let it go,” he urges and softly kisses his way up to her lips. “Let go, honey. Let it all go.” His hips snap up to hit her in just the right spot two, three more times, and then she’s sailing fast and free. Her thighs squeeze his hips as she crashes around him like a riptide, her hands gripping the couch as the cushions move beneath them like sand. “That’s it,” he croons.

She cries out, dimly aware of his hands reverently smoothing up her waist to her undulating breasts as she loses herself in the moment. She’s in their home, in his arms, and it’s so good. It’s always so good with him and nothing and no one else can ever compete. 

“Yes,” Mulder gasps and pulls her as flush to him as possible, trembling under her and rendering her soft as putty in his hands. “ Yes…

She feels him empty deep inside in swelling waves of pulsating thrusts. Then there is quiet, and there is bliss. There is release . Scully feels the heft of preceding pain slough off her shoulders as she floats on the coattail of her climax. She sighs in relief, kissing the broad planes and curved flanks of Mulder’s warm torso, intending to help him do the same. For all the past culpability she has tried to carry alone, Fox Mulder’s is, and always has been, two-fold.

Scully is not the only one who will always need healing. 

She looks down between her breasts at Mulder brushing her hair away from her flushed face and sees his expression open, exposed. It’s full of affection and appreciation and hope, and her heart swells with the sheer weight of it all. “Mulder…”

“Scully,” he breathes back. It’s reverent and awed. And with all the times she’s left him beforehand in whatever way, for whatever reason, the wave of lingering guilt over leaving and not coming back when they’d needed each other most still threatens to drown her...

 

~~~

 

“This cannot go on, Mulder,” she reasons once again. “You know it can’t.”

“Don’t, Scully. Just don’t.”

Yet she is, because her soul is shredding apart and they’re both smothering in the abyss of their own making. During the entirety of 2013 they may as well have been existing within separate worlds, circling each other in opposing orbits. And that is exactly what they’ve been doing: existing and not living. She is not perfect. Far from it, hiding her own self-deprecating guilt within herself for years. She too holds blame for the ever-expanding chasm between them. 

The fact is, she loves Mulder more than she’s ever thought possible - achingly so, and he may not see it now, but she is doing this for the both of them. She’s doing this for their future. She is trying. 

“No,” he groans. “You can’t leave.”

“Mulder,” she chokes. The pain is acute. If she weren’t a doctor, she’d assume her heart had stopped beating a long time ago. The thought of spending even one day, one week, truly separate from the man she has loved more than herself for decades is unbearable. But maybe that’s the problem: putting herself second. Maybe this is why she has lost sight of herself within the engulfing darkness they’ve created. “Are you listening?”

He doesn’t respond and she doesn’t expect him to. He rarely responds at all anymore. She can’t remember the last time either of them have smiled. Has no recollection of the last time they made love. She cannot recall a recent night they shared a room, let alone the bed they’ve held one another in since he’d first carried her across this threshold.

It hurts.

His knee bounces impatiently, wide eyes fixated on the disheveled office he hasn’t left in days. This obsession has placed a stranglehold on their very existence. 

"Mulder, I have always admired your stubbornness, your dedication… it’s why I fell in love with you. But I've also been hurt by it, and so have you."

And they’ve lost themselves along the way. 

“I know,” he pleads desperately now, flailing his hands about instead of reaching out for hers. “I know, but I’m better. I’m getting there. I- my meds are good. It’s good. I’m good, Scully.”

A sharp twinge in her heart collides with the throbbing pain in her chest and she feels their intense ache meld together, forming a constricting knot around her ribs. She fears she’ll cry at his continuous denial of the state of their relationship, but she can’t. If she cries, it will only be that much harder to leave. And she has to leave, absolutely must leave now. For him, for her. For them.

“Yes...” She can only nod in acquiescence because it is true. He is getting better. His health is good and the meds are good, when he decides to take them. Yet they are not. “But you still don’t see me, Mulder. Still don’t talk to me or touch me or… I’ve lost my Mulder.”

Scully… ” He stands, watery eyes scanning the room, still looking for answers in covert locations he hopes exists, slowly realizing the only place left to look for those answers is within himself. “I'm sorry, Scully.”

It’s the truth. And if she closes her eyes, she can almost pretend they’re happy again, holding hands in the sun and loving one another under the moon. A time before December 22, 2012. 

“Yeah,” Scully shakes her head, chin quivering. No more pretending. She’s suffocating and he’s drowning and neither can save the other. "So am I."

A slam of his office door and muffled string of obscenities are the last things she hears before she walks out the door.

In her car, eyes bleary with tears, she watches desperately for the door knob to turn. Waits for the screen door to fly open and for Mulder to care enough about their future together to try and stop her - to convince her to stay. To put them first. But that moment never comes. 

Scully finally starts her car and leaves her home and her husband behind.

When hot tears scald her cheeks the entire drive, she can’t help but feel deserving of the burn.

 

~~~

 

“I left, Mulder.” She chokes back a sob and squeezes his sweaty chest against her own, holding him tight, allowing her pounding heart to thump in time with his, finding their stasis again. 

He nuzzles her sternum, peppers her neck with kisses. This is her Mulder: her partner, the love of her life. Her past and her future. 

“I know,” he soothes as her nude body shakes against his. “But I left, too.”

“God.” Tears sting her eyes at the thought of how often he’s left her over the years. Both physically and emotionally, and she can’t help but think back on her decision to force him to leave at the most crucial time in their newborn son’s life... 

No.  

No, she refuses to dwell on that turn of events knowing their son is alive and as safe as he can be right now while the man she’s hopelessly in love with has just made her come undone on their ratty old sofa. 

And tonight, she won’t have it any other way. 

“I blame myself for you leaving, Scully,” he confesses, as though he hasn’t uttered these same self-deprecating words one hundred times before. “But we’ve both left each other, too.”

While her fingers comb reverently through his silky hair, she recognizes his past actions have kindled her reactions to flee, yet both hold fault and regret. Neither are absolved from the cuts they’ve inflicted on one another. Reluctantly, Scully accepts they both have made each other bleed. 

“It’s what we do.” Her breathy admission is a painful one - a necessary unpleasance of a truth undeniable. 

“I know, but don’t,” he mumbles against the underside of her jaw. “Don’t leave. Not tonight.”

She’d once told Mulder that maybe nothing happens for a reason. She has lived by that notion during the years after she left. But as she sits here now, naked and sated within her husband's lap, reliving moments that have left them floating adrift within a sea of uncertainty, Scully holds the belief that maybe everything does. 

Maybe everything always has. 

“I’m staying.” She palms his face, strokes his cheek as her liquid eyes convey the endless adoration she has for him. There are still things left unsaid and an air of suspense on where exactly they’re standing on the path of their revived relationship. But one thing Scully is certain of, she never wants to leave again. “I’m not going anywhere, Mulder.”

“Neither am I, Scully,” he affirms. His gaze is soft and understanding, patient. This Mulder won’t leave, either. This Mulder waits. “Neither am I.”

Lacing his fingers within hers, he tucks a strand of crimson hair behind her ear, his emerald eyes sparkling under the light of the moon shining through the window.

She smiles easily against his brow. “So we stay.”