It's evening before she sees Mulder again; he's back at their new motel when she returns from a quick trip to the pet store. While she's parking she sees him emerge from his room, waiting patiently for her to finish. She knows what he's doing—he thinks she won't make a fuss in public, and while she doesn't want to, she will if he forces her hand like this. She's put it off long enough.
She leaves the bags in the car and steps out. She can hear him approach, and she takes a steadying breath.
"What's the haps, G-woman?" He sounds absolutely delighted. With her back to him, it could be any given day in the nineties, and it just makes her angrier. How dare he. "You're never going to guess—"
"Mulder," she interrupts. "When we get back to DC, you should call your sponsor."
She watches him falter for a second, then recover and paste on the awkward smile that always comes out when he's actively trying to be charming. "What makes you think I haven't already?" he asks in that light, airy tone that's practically a confession. She's tired of it.
She levels him with an unimpressed look. "Stop it," she instructs him, slamming the door of her car. "I don't want to have this discussion in public."
"Then don't," he answers shortly, and walks away like he's not breaking her heart. Knowing him, he probably believes that he isn't, that she doesn't care anymore.
She follows him into his room before he can shut the door in her face. "You know this resets the six months, right? You understand that?"
His shock and betrayal is evident in the gape of his mouth. But how could he have expected a pass on this? She hates him for making her feel like she's the one in the wrong. "Come on, Scully, we were three weeks away."
That's a bit of creative accounting—he was wearing his hangover sunglasses all through the Tad O'Malley Incident, she just didn't have the energy to call him on it—but ultimately not the point. "Yeah, well, now we're six months away."
He closes his eyes. "Don't—don't do this to me again."
"Don't do this to us," she counters. "You think I don't want to come home?" Two nights ago, she'd allowed herself something she hasn't in a long time: hope. He'd seemed so much like his old self, and she'd wanted so badly to believe that this could be the start of a new chapter.
Thirty-six hours is, unfortunately, not a record for letting her down.
"Do you want that?" he accuses. "I'd think you could make a special exception for this. It was for the case."
That's a new one. She leans against the dresser, folding her arms. "Go ahead, justify it to me."
She listens with all the patience she can muster as he explains the circumstances—the need for green glass, the graveyard, meeting Guy. You're going to need this. "…So don't you see, Scully, I had to. I'd already refused once. If I didn't take what he was offering, it would have destroyed the trust I was building."
"And that's it?" she asks.
"That's it," he promises, without hesitation. "Scout's honor."
It's a lie, is what it is, because he was missing all night and showed up at the animal shelter wearing the previous day's suit. She knows he would have brought his own green glass bottle to the graveyard.
He could have brought ginger ale, a voice in the back of her head says, but it's the same voice that used to help her rationalize his drinking when it first started. It's the voice of what she wants to be true, not what is true. She knows better than to trust it now.
"You need to call your sponsor," she implores, brushing past him toward the door. "Tell him the rest of the story you're not telling me."
"Scully—" He catches her arm to stop her and she whirls, shaking his hand off.
"I'm not going to stand here and listen to you lie to me!" she hisses. "Don't get mad at me for going after a suspect without backup and then tell me you had to drink to solve this case!"
"Scully, what do you want me to say? I'm sorry, okay, I'll—"
"I want you to call your sponsor," she repeats, firmly. "I want you to pick up and start over. I want you to call me in six months and tell me I can come home, and have it be the truth." She reaches up and touches his cheek, because the sky is blue, grass is green, and Dana Scully can't stay away from Fox Mulder. "All I want is for you to be well."
"I'm trying," he pleads, settling his hands on her hips. For one terrifying moment, she is afraid he'll try to kiss her; afraid he'll use her love for him against her, the way he did at the beginning. He knows her weaknesses so well.
But he behaves. She wraps her arms around him, holding him as close as she dares. God, she misses him.
"I know, Mulder," she says. "I know you are." Four years ago she would have said I trust you but lies have never tasted right to her. "Just—keep trying, okay?"