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Fortune's Fool

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Scully didn't knock.

Mulder was sitting on his couch. His eyes were closed, and the muzzle of his Glock was to his temple-- in the underwater light of Mulder's living room, the gun looked heavy, oily, somehow animated, as if it were acting of its own volition.

"Don't. You. Dare."

The gleam of tears, the shimmer of green as his eyes flew open.

His pistol slipped from his fingers, and he watched her... he watched her fly at him.

She curled her hands in his sweatshirt and jerked him toward her; he sagged in her grip. Curbing a mad impulse to slap him, Scully willed her fingers to relax. She placed her hand at the back of his skull, and pressed his forehead against her own. The muscles at the back of his neck were knotted like walnuts; she could tell that he was gritting his teeth. His breath was harsh and whistling and tasteless against her lips.

Realizing that she was leaning almost all of her weight against his shoulder, she let his shirt go, and cupped his cheek. Tensing her fingers, Scully felt him shiver as her nails dented his skin.

"Look at me, Mulder." Her voice was even, but without expression. Her heart would not slow down, and Mulder refused to open his eyes. Squeezing the back of his neck, she spoke against his skin, her voice now like velvet rubbed against his cheek.

"You can look at me, Mulder." Calling him, she saw his lashes flicker. "Mulder," she repeated as she kissed the hollow beneath his brow. "Mulder." His tears, too, were oddly tasteless... She couldn't really feel her hands, but trusted that they would respond. As he would.

When he did open them, she couldn't think of anything to say, and merely looked at him. So many colors. The white orb of his eyeball, the livid pink of the muscle, the flexing black of his pupil, the kaleidoscopic riot of iris, shifting, shifting...

"Scully," he croaked. Like the rustle of leaves at the bottom of a well long gone dry. God, how long had he been crying?

Hands trembling, Scully retrieved the gun from his lap, and unloaded it. In one fluid motion she straightened her back and sailed the weapon at the window. The glass crazed, but did not shatter-- the masking tape X bounced the Glock back, and it skipped once and then lay still on the dark carpet, probably in much the same place it would have fallen had Mulder squeezed the trigger. Both she and Mulder stared at it for a long moment before he lifted his eyes to hers. What she saw there numbed her. He was broken, and his eyes were dim and sightless.

Backing toward the kitchen warily, Scully filled a jellyjar with cool tapwater and returned almost immediately.

She tipped his chin up, and murmured, "Drink this. You're dehydrated."

He obeyed, swallowing mechanically, the lip of the jar clicking against his teeth. She was fiercely glad when she felt him curl his hand around the glass and take it from her.

He drained it, and wiped his mouth, and then his eyes, with the back of his hand.

"I don't know what to say."

"I'll tell you." She closed her hand on his jaw, letting her nails dig into him this time. "Apologize to me, Mulder. This once. This time only."

His mouth buckled, and she almost bit her tongue. But enough was enough.

"Jesus, Scully, I'm sorry--" A hitching indrawn breath. "I'm so--"

She pressed two fingers to his lips.

She grazed his lower lip with her knuckles, then stroked his matted hair back from his forehead. "I never want to hear you say you're sorry again, Mulder. You've never done anything that would merit the grind of recrimination you subject yourself to in a single day-- except for this."

Her fingers tightened in his hair and she felt him wince.

"You were going to leave me here?" She felt almost giddy with rage, and heard her voice squeak with it. Mulder's teeth were drawn back over his teeth and she felt not a few hairs come away in her fingers as she released him.

"I can't stay--" He was keening. "I can't stay and watch you die by inches, and know that I caused it. I won't. Even I'm not that fucking masochistic, Scully." He hid his face in his long hands.

"I'm sorry," she breathed against his ear. "I'm sorry that you're sorry, that you're tormented, driven. Obsessed. You might even be wrong about everything you've ever worked for. But there's nothing I can do to ease your pain if you close yourself off from me. If you kill yourself."

She pushed his chest back against the couch, the couch she hated because she knew it was sour with Mulder's night terrors, and climbed into his lap, dragging his arms around her as if she were wrapping herself in a quilt. He was simply too big to gather into her own lap, and she was suddenly exhausted. More fringe benefits of a tumor on the brain.

"I'm sorry about all those things," she said, her arm between his heaving back and the cushions of the couch. "And that's why I came to apologize. Because I didn't mean to take this out on you. And I never wanted you to take it out on yourself.

"You've crippled me, Mulder. I'm emotionally hogtied. And sometimes... sometimes yes, I think it would be better for me to leave you... Leave the X files... but it's not what I want. I want to stay with you. My feelings for you.... I don't think there are words for them... I never thought that two people could be this close and this far way... I mean, we're both so alienated... " She was laughing before she knew it, even as she felt the tears swarm past her clenched lids. "I could live without you Mulder, but I choose not to. I won't let you go. I love you in ways that I have never even heard about. And I never... I never want to see you... Like this again. Or I swear to God that I'll put a bullet in my head the moment I find out you've left me, and then I'll catch up to you and kick your ass."

She felt him shaking all around her, her own personal earthquake of bitter self-loathing and despair.

"You're everything to me, Scully-- everything--" Loud braying sobs against her shoulder, an ugly sound, Mulder's voice wrenched from a throat too clenched to speak. He looked demented with grief. "Don't go... don't leave me..." It was this desperate whisper that threatened to break her heart. Scully couldn't hold him tightly enough.

She had no idea how long it took him to exhaust himself against her hair; she felt it cling wetly to her cheek. Discreetly pushing the firearm under the couch with her toe, she disentangled herself from his slumping body and sat beside him, pulling him down, placing his head in her lap.

There, his cheek pillowed on her thigh, she felt Mulder's ragged breathing even into rumbled snores. The crying had left him congested. Scully felt moisture soak the silk of her trousers, and she bit her lip to think Mulder was weeping in his sleep. Shifting her weight, she craned her neck and smiled. He was drooling on her knee.

Slipping one hand under the damp collar of his sweatshirt, she kneaded his back until her legs were numb, and then she scudded out from beneath Mulder's prone form.

Limping into his bedroom, she gathered the sheets and blankets and trundled into the living room. She draped a comforter over him and made a nest for herself on the floor beside the couch. Mulder's left hand dangled by her head, and she turned and kissed his palm, tucking his hand back against his chin. He unconsciously clenched his fist, as if trying to hold her kiss against his skin.

Lying back, Scully let herself examine him: the lush mouth slack in sleep, the long insistent line of his nose, his frowning chin. It belonged to her: a face she knew as well as her own, and loved better. Sighing, she curled around one of Mulder's pillows and slept.