Bridging The Gap

by Katie Phillips

Bridging The Gap
By Katie Phillips
March 2004

Disclaimer: I know their not mine and I appreciate CC letting me play with them.
Keywords: MSR, Scully and Mulder Angst Spoilers: Up through and including En Ami. Assumes basic knowledge of that episode.
Rating: PG13
Feedback: Please!!! xfstories@yahoo.com Archive: I'll do the basics, if you want to put it somewhere else, please ask first (I always say 'yes').

Summary: Mulder has a hard time forgiving Scully for going off with the Cigarette Smoking Man. His actions, and hers, makes them each reevaluate their professional and personal relationship.

Author's notes: This is my first attempt to write a post-ep story, so please be gentle with me. I also wrote this without the aid of a beta. I have no one to blame but myself for any misspelled words or missing comas.

This story is dedicated to any X-files fan who was left wanting more when the credits rolled at the end of an episode.

XXX
Scully had been duped, plain and simple. She turned to Mulder hoping for some words to soothe her hurt pride but he had already left Spender's offices. She hastened down the stairs and outside to where her car was parked.

Mulder wasn't sitting in the car as she expected but leaning against it, arms crossed his body language telling her he was no where near forgiving her for going off without him.

Scully walked around and opened up the driver's door glancing over the car at Mulder. He didn't make any motion towards getting in himself. "I think I'll take the bus home Scully." His voice was flat, without emotion.

Scully merely nodded. It was abundantly obvious that Mulder couldn't get away from her fast enough. "Okay, I guess I'll see you Monday." The statement came out more like a question as Scully tried to feel out her partner's intentions. It was Friday afternoon and it had been months since they had not seen each other on the weekends.

Mulder simply nodded and Scully shivered at the icy look he gave her as she got into the car. She watched him in her rearview mirror as she drove away. He stood motionless, arms crossed over his chest watching her with the same dispassionate gaze until she disappeared from sight.

XXX

Mulder sighed deeply as Scully's car disappeared from view. It would be a pain-in-the-neck to get home from here, but he knew that if he had stayed in her presence one second longer he would have likely said something they would have both regretted. Better that they have a chance to calm down before speaking. Scully hated when things were bad between them and Mulder was confident that she would come to him and ask his forgiveness.

Looking up and down the street, Mulder quickly decided against taking the bus and waved down a cab. Climbing into the back seat, he told the driver where to go before letting his mind drift.

How could things between him and Scully gotten so bad, so quickly.

Ever since the first of the year, things between him and Scully had begun to shift. To most of the world, the subtle changes in their relationship would have perceived as moving along at a snail's pace. Mulder snorted to himself remembering how it had taken him close to seven years to come up with the nerve to actually kiss her. And it hadn't been much of a kiss at that.

Enough, though, to start the ball rolling.

Scully's attack at the hands of Donnie Pfaster resulted in the next major shift. After dealing with the FBI and the local PD, Mulder had taken his visibly shaken partner back to his apartment. There he had stayed up with her all night, holding her and comforting her has she relived, over and over, the terror of Pfaster's attack.

To thank him for his support and his help in cleaning up her apartment, Scully had taken Mulder out to dinner two weeks later. Her choice of restaurants was a far cry from the takeout joints and greasy diners they usually frequented. It had been a small Italian restaurant and they had spent the evening, not talking about the X-files, but about themselves. Mulder had even gotten up the nerve to kiss her again. This time on her cheek.

In California, Scully had been deeply affected by a case involving a doctor's choice of treatment on a dying patient. Mulder, not being able to stand seeing her so down, had insisted on a night of dancing before they returned to DC. Scully had reluctantly agreed and they had spent the night sipping beer and in each other's arms. Mulder kissed her again that night, twice.

It was only after Scully saved Mulder from death at the hands of a computer generated female, that Mulder felt pumped up enough to show Scully how much passion he had for her. After escorting her back to her apartment, he had come in for coffee as was his habit. They sat on the couch and talked and joked about their adventures inside the video game and before Mulder knew it, they were making out like teenagers on Lover's Lane.

Mulder had been all too willing to move the action into Scully's bedroom, but Scully had put an abrupt stop to that thought by simply placing her hand on his chest and shaking her head. She had been right, as always. His lust had been provoked by having his ass kicked by one buxom female before having his ass saved by another.

Scully made her wishes perfectly clear. She wanted him, badly, but was determined that their first night together not end prematurely with each of them scrambling to get ready for work. Mulder reluctantly agreed and they had chosen their next free weekend to escape to the shore and consummate their relationship.

Mulder was pulled back to the present by the cab driver demanding payment. Mulder dug out his wallet and shoved a wad a bills into the driver's waiting hand. He climbed out of the car and headed into his building his mood getting more sour by the minute, especially when he admitted to himself that he had half-expected to see Scully's car parked in front of his building waiting for him.

This was supposed to have been 'their' weekend. Now it looked like he would be spending it alone.

XXX

Scully arrived back at her apartment her feelings of hurt having been replaced with those of anger. She known the moment that she had agreed to go with Spender that Mulder would be mad at her. For a brief moment, when she had appeared at his door having returned from her adventure, she saw relief wash over his face only to be replaced by rage. She never, in a million years, thought he would be so mad as to not even listen to her complete explanation.

How many times had she dropped everything to bail him out of trouble when he ditched her? More than she could count. Not once had she treated him the way he was treating her now. She knew that Mulder was waiting for her to appear at his apartment ready to say whatever it took to make things right between them.

Not this time.

A long soak in the tub eased some of Scully's anger, but not all of it. She glanced at the clock. It was nearly six. Mulder should be beginning to wonder where she was. He wasn't very patient when it came to such things and Scully sat half listening for his familiar knock.

When it hadn't come by ten, she closed the book she was pretending to read and headed into her bedroom. Rummaging through her drawer, she came upon the nightgown she had picked out for their romantic weekend away. Disgusted by the mere sight of it, she threw it into a corner and picked out her baggiest pair of pajamas. If Mulder decided to make a late night appearance, she had no intention of rewarding him for his efforts.

Scully tossed and turned for what seemed like hours. Her mind wouldn't relax enough to let sleep overtake her. She had to find a way, somehow, to convince Mulder that her actions were legitimate. Even as she scolded herself for needing to prove herself to him, Scully knew she would get no peace until she did.

The first light of day found Scully throwing a few items into a bag and heading out the door. She had no intention of calling Mulder and telling him where she was going. Instead she left a note on her kitchen counter.

'Have gone looking for evidence. Alone. Will be back in time for work on Monday.'

XXX

It took most of the day to drive to Milford, Pennsylvania. Scully was exhausted by the time she reached the cabin on the lake. Impatient to get inside, Scully threw the car into park and dashed up the front stairs.

Unlike Marjorie Butters deserted house, this one was still furnished. It was, however, void of any personal touches. Scully rifled through several drawers before discovering a brochure describing the cabin and those around it.

Spender had taken her to a rental property.

Discouraged but still determined to find something to rationalize her journey here, Scully slowly went through every room looking for clues. The last room she checked was the room in which she slept. Scully closed her eyes thinking again of how she woke up in this room wearing pajamas that were not her own. Opening her eyes, she threw the closet door open. It was empty but for one thing.

The black dress she had worn to dinner.

Scully grabbed the dress and stormed from the room.

Scully sat on the edge of the pier dangling her feet into the water. The air was still warm and the water cool as she dragged her feet slowly back and forth. She couldn't help but think of the man who had died in these waters and how close she had been to dying herself. Scully was so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she didn't hear the sound of the cigarette lighter being used behind her.

"None of this is your fault Dana. I want you to know that." Spender took a long
drag and blew the smoke out over her head.

"Forgive me for not putting much validity into your opinion." Scully refused to look at him choosing instead to stare out onto the water.

"Cobra would have died even if you hadn't taken me up on my kind invitation. His death had been carefully planned, as was yours."

Mulder comment about wondering why she was still alive popped into her head. Scully looked up at Spender. "Then why am I still here?"

Spender smiled at her and took another drag before answering. "I thought I made that clear to you Dana. You have always held a special place in my heart."

Scully snorted at this comment. "Yet, you have no problem using me to get the information you wanted and drive a wedge between me and my partner."

Spender sat down next to Scully who was surprised by the sight of his bare feet. He lowered them into the water next to hers grimacing ever-so-slightly. "The water's colder than I expected. Don't take Fox's grumbling too seriously Dana. He is like his father that way. I don't like loosing control of a situation either."

Scully glared at him. "I'm not his to control."

"No you're not, and I'm sure Fox knows that. Keep in mind Dana, that Fox has lost everyone in his family, except me. He is scared to death about loosing you too."

"And you use that fear to your advantage."

Spender simply shrugged and tossed his cigarette butt into the water. "You're his Achilles' heel Dana. He will sacrifice anything, even his love for you, to make sure you're safe." He pulled another cigarette out and lit it. "Can you handle that responsibility Dana?"

Scully wanted to throw his words back in his face but couldn't. They held too much truth. Mulder would sacrifice everything for her, including their relationship. The question was whether or not it was worth it. "Why are you here Spender?"

"I wanted to help you and to tell you the truth about the diskette."

Scully laughed at this. "I already know the truth about the diskette and I don't believe I need any more of your help."

Spender looked at her a long time before slowly standing up. "I'm sure Mulder told you that I used you to get the diskette and he was right. I did and to be honest with you Dana, I'm not sorry about that in the least." Scully said nothing but stared out onto the lake her chest heaving as she tried to contain her anger.

"I was going to use the diskette to save myself and increase my power over others. Unfortunately, for me, I couldn't go through with it. I apparently spent too much time with you Dana for I threw the diskette into the lake."

Scully looked up at him trying to read his face. It was hidden in shadows. "On your bed, you will find the tapes you went to such great lengths to record."

"How did you get them?"

"By the killing the man sent to kill Cobra, and you." He took another long drag of his cigarette. "I have also recorded tonight's conversation. That, along with the other tapes, should be enough to convince your partner that your motives were justified." Spender turned and began walking towards the shore. He stopped at the sound of Scully's voice.

"Why?"

"There may be a time when I have no choice but to destroy you Dana. Now is not one of them, you still have time to walk away."

XXX

Langley turned off the television and threw the remote across the room. Another Sunday afternoon wasted watching the Redskins get clobbered. He must be a glutton for punishment to keep watching week after week. He rose from his chair prepared to raid the kitchen when he heard a knock on the door.

He glanced at the two other Gunmen who shrugged from behind their computers. None of them were expecting company. The knock came again this time accompanied by the sound of Mulder's voice demanding entrance.

Frohike rose from his chair and systematically unlocked the door and opened it. "Hi Mulder, come on in." Mulder smiled weakly at Frohike and the other Gunmen.

"What brings you here Mulder, I thought this was your big weekend away with Scully." Byers asked looking up briefly from his computer screen.

"The trip has been postponed. Indefinitely." Mulder said throwing himself into a chair.

Langley reappeared from the kitchen holding two beers. He silently handed one to Mulder before opening the other for himself. "How come, you've been talking about this weekend for two weeks?"

Mulder glared at Langley over his beer bottle as he took a long drink. "You've got to be joking Langley. You expect me to go off with her after what she did to me?"

Frohike walked over and sat down in the chair directly across from Mulder. "Are you still mad about that?" Mulder answered him with a glare. "Come on Mulder, she made a mistake. Anyone can make a mistake."

"Her 'mistake' could have killed her." He slumped lower in his chair. He had come here expecting the Gunmen to sympathize with him not take Scully's side. "Besides, she hasn't apologized yet or explained why she did it."

Frohike looked confused. "You guys talked after you checked out the Smoking Man's offices, didn't you?"

Mulder shook his head. "I left her at the office building and haven't spoken to her since."

Frohike stared at his friend and shook his head. "Are you sure you're not just mad at her because she pulled a 'Mulder' on you?"

"A Mulder? What's that supposed to mean?" Mulder looked from one Gunman to another.

"A Mulder" Langley explained "is when someone disappears without a trace leaving everyone to wonder if he will come home in one piece or in a body bag."

"You specialize in them." Byers added. "Or have you forgotten how many times you ditched Scully only to have her save your sorry-ass?"

Frohike raised an eyebrow at Mulder. "I bet she never demanded an apology from you or pouted the way you are now." Mulder began to feel quite defensive. "Even when you refused to trust her when it came to Diana."

"And we all know how that turned out." Langley added handing Mulder another beer. "She blew every cent of her savings and all her vacation time running around Africa trying to save you."

Frohike spoke quietly feeling sorry for his friend. "Mulder, I've known Scully for a long, long, time and not once during all that time did I see her look as hurt as she did the other night when you refused to acknowledge her."

"I know you were mad, and are still mad, but did it ever occur to you that perhaps Scully needed some comfort that night too." Byers had shut down his computer and now stood behind Mulder. "Mulder, for years we have heard you cry into your beer about how much you needed Scully, wanted Scully, loved Scully. Why are you bent on destroying what has taken you so long to achieve?"

"Because I'm a self-destructive, self-centered son of a bitch?" Mulder sighed.

"That you are Mulder, but we still love you." Langley joked.

"More importantly, so does Scully." Frohike picked up a phone sitting on the table next to him and handed it to Mulder. "Call her, Mulder. Now."

"I can't." Mulder muttered even as he reached for the phone. He dialed Scully's number and was almost relieved when her answering machine picked up. Leaving no message, he hung up the phone. "She must be at her mother's. I'll talk to her tomorrow at work."

All three Gunmen looked at him suspiciously. "I promise."

On a typical Monday morning, Mulder arrived at work no later than eight. This particular Monday, Mulder found he was running late and scolded himself for trying to put off the unavoidable. Sooner or later he would have to face Scully and sooner or later they would have to talk. True, they were experts at avoiding subjects they deemed too personal, but this was too important to put off for long.

Mulder felt a wave of relief when he walked into his office and saw signs that Scully had already arrived. The coffee pot was full and the office tidied. On his desk lay a folder labeled 'Spender'. Attached to it was a post-it note stating that the original of this report and it corresponding evidence had been delivered to AD Skinner that morning at 7:30 AM.

Looking up at the clock, Mulder saw it was approaching nine. He settled into his desk assuming that Scully would reappear from the ladies room or wherever she had gone within a couple of minutes. As it got closer to 9:30, Mulder could wait no longer and headed up to Skinner's office.

He found Skinner sitting behind his desk working on paperwork. He was alone. Mulder knocked on the door and at Skinner's nod entered the office and stood in front of his boss.

"What can I do for you Agent Mulder?" Skinner put aside the folder he was reading and looked up at Mulder. He had been expecting him since early that morning.

"Actually, I'm looking for Agent Scully. I know she had planned on dropping off a report with you this morning" Mulder's voice trailed off.

"Scully was here around 7:30. She dropped off her report on her time with the Smoking Man and asked me to give you these." Skinner pulled open a drawer and pulled out a small plastic bag full of miniature tape cassettes. "She told me that you would be able to provide a better analysis of them than she could."

Mulder took the bag and began turning it over in his hands. He was about to speak when Skinner continued. "Agent Scully also gave me this." He picked up a piece of paper and waved it at Mulder. "It is her resignation effective immediately."

Mulder's mouth dropped open. "Her what?"

"Her resignation." Skinner repeated. "I informed her that I was unwilling to accept it at this time." Mulder sighed in relief. "She looked exhausted. This situation with the Smoking Man and your lover's spat seem to have taken their toll on her."

"We're not lovers, Sir." Mulder said looking totally defeated.

Skinner stared at him a long time as if trying to ascertain if he was telling the truth. "Whatever the specifics, your personal relationship with Agent Scully has affected her deeply. So deeply that she sat here, crying, wondering if she could still be effective as an agent and your partner."

Mulder sat down, the weight of Skinner's words to heavy for him to bear standing up. Scully rarely cried and to do so in front of Skinner was almost unthinkable. "What did you tell her?"

"I told her to take a few days to rest and think about what she wanted to do with her life, inside and outside of the Bureau. I also told her that whatever she decided, I would respect her wishes."

Mulder stared at a spot on the floor. "Do you know where she is?" Mulder's voice was barely above a whisper.

"No."

Mulder rose from his chair and walked over to Skinner's door. He looked, to Skinner, like a man about to face his executioner. He stopped and turned back. "Off the record Sir, what do you think she'll do?"

Skinner sighed. As much as Mulder annoyed him, he hated to see him suffer. "Up until today, I would have told you that there was nothing on Heaven or Earth that would have kept Scully from being your 'partner'." Mulder noticed the special emphasize he placed on the word 'partner'. "Now, though, I'm not so sure."

It took every ounce of willpower Mulder had not to run down the hallway towards the elevator. There was no reason to give his fellow agents anything more to whisper about him over the water cooler.

Reaching his office Mulder threw himself into his chair and began rummaging through his desk until he found the small tape recorder. The tapes, he noticed, were numbered and Mulder carefully inserted the first into the machine smiling slightly. Leave it to Scully to think of actually numbering the tapes.

Mulder jumped slightly at the sound of his own voice asking Scully to pick up her phone if she was still in her apartment. He cringed at the sound of Spender's voice even as he reached for a pencil to start taking notes.

Mulder spent the next few hours listening to the tapes. Laughing as Scully promptly told Spender to put out his cigarette then wincing when Spender had the nerve to question her love for him. She wasn't scared to love him, was she?

Rage filled his body when he heard Scully accuse Spender of drugging her. Had that been the case? Why hadn't she told him? A little voice in Mulder's head reminded him that he had never given her the chance.

The comment that made his blood run cold was the last made by Spender informing Scully that she still had time to walk away. Had Spender planted the seed of doubt in Scully's mind or had he provided a seed long buried with enough light to flourish.

Mulder turned off the tape player and rubbed his eyes, noticing for the first time the loud grumbling coming from his stomach. He looked at his watch and was surprised to find it well past eight. He had spent the better part of the last twelve hours listening and relistening to Scully's tapes. Despite the weariness he felt and the hungry that gnawed at him, he knew he needed to find Scully. Now.

He had a pretty good idea where to start looking.

XXX

Having checked into her hotel shortly after noon, Scully changed into a comfortable pair of pants, opened up every window to let in the fresh sea air, and had collapsed on the bed. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow. She awoke just as the sun was setting feeling somewhat refreshed.

Scully stretched as she stood and glanced at the room service menu sitting by the phone. She knew she should eat something, but didn't have the energy or the will to do so. Instead she grabbed a sweatshirt, one of Mulder's old ones that hung down to nearly her knees, and went outside.

Scully opened the cabin door and walked out onto the beach. The air was cool, but the sand warm beneath her feet. She breathed the salty air and knew immediately that she had made the right decision to come here, to the hotel where she and Mulder had planned to come together.

Although they originally opted for the honeymoon suite, Scully had rented a simple room that opened out onto the beach. The ocean had always had the power to soothe her soul and rejuvenate her. She hoped that it would do so again.

Scully strolled down to the water and stuck in a toe. The water wasn't too cold and she walked along the sand occasionally getting splashed by an errant wave. She had no idea how long she walked, hours she suspected, because it was full dark by the time she headed back towards her room.

The moon was rising over the water and the sight so beautiful that Scully couldn't bare to go inside. Not just yet. She sat down and buried her toes in the sand feeling more at peace than she had in days. She knew what she had to do. The hard part would be explaining it to Mulder.

Mulder leaned against his car and watched her. He knew as soon as he spotted someone walking along the beach in the darkness, that it was her. Her red hair caught a few rays of light from the street lights behind him and shone like a beacon lighting his way to her.

Scully had told Mulder, years ago, how the ocean was a source of tranquility for her. In her younger days she would walk along the water for hours trying to resolve a problem that plagued her mind. Mulder felt a pang of regret when he realized that, this time, he was the problem.

Scully didn't look up at the sound of approaching footsteps nor at the sound of someone sitting down next to her. She knew Mulder would seek her out. She could feel the heat of his body as he whispered his greeting.

"Hey."

"Hey." Scully replied still not looking at him.

"I listened to the tapes Scully. All of them." Mulder stopped took a deep breath and turned to look at her. "I understand, now, why you did what you did. I would have done the same thing."

Only then did Scully look at him. From past experience, she knew that, in his own way, Mulder had just apologized to her. She said nothing but gave him a slight nod and a weak smile.

Mulder leaned towards her, giving her a slight shove with his shoulder. "I don't suppose this means we can have great makeup sex, does it?"

Scully smiled more acknowledging his attempt at humor. "Sorry Mulder, I think we've hurt each other too much this time for that." She saw his shoulders slump and reached out to stroke his face. "I hope you realize how hard it is for me to turn you down Mulder." She ran her thumb over his bottom lip, causing his eyes to immediately fill with desire. "Especially when I think about all the things this mouth of yours could do to me."

Mulder took her hand in his and turning her palm upright, gave her a small demonstration of what she was missing. Scully closed her eyes savoring the sensation briefly before reprimanding him. "Mulder..."

He dropped her hand and tried his best to look guilty. "Sorry."

Scully shook her head and looked back over the water. "Mulder, I wish this all could be resolved by a good roll in the sack, but it can't." She looked at him and Mulder saw the hurt in her eyes. "Some of what Spender said has made me think. About you, the X-files, our relationship."

Mulder wanted to interrupt her but she silenced him with a raised hand. She needed to get everything out in the open even if it hurt him and her. Their feelings had remained silent long enough.

"Since the beginning, our relationship has revolved around you. Your quest, your desires, your sister. Over time, your quests became mine. So much so, that I'm not sure where you leave off and I begin." Scully stroked his face again briefly. "Mulder, you throw 150 percent of yourself into everything you do and you expect everyone to do the same."

She dropped her hand and looked back over the ocean. The moon was higher now and basked them both in its silvery light. "I'm not sure if I can handle the responsibility of those expectations or even if I want them." Scully glanced over at Mulder and saw he was desperately trying to keep from talking. He didn't have to speak, his eyes told her everything she needed to know. He was terrified she was going to leave him.

"You're offering me not only your body but your soul. I don't want to commit to you unless I can do the same. It wouldn't be fair to you, or me."

"Are you leaving me?" Mulder blurted the words out before he could stop himself.

Scully smiled at him. "I need time to work this all through Mulder. To make sure the path I've chosen is the right one for me. I need put myself first Mulder."

Mulder opened his mouth to argue with her but quickly closed it. He knew Scully had always put his needs before hers. "What do you want from me, Scully?"

"A little time and a little space."

Mulder nodded and stood up offering her a hand to help her up. She took it and he hoisted her to her feet. He wanted to seek the comfort of her arms, but kept his distance dropping her hand quickly. "Will you be alright to drive back to Alexandria Mulder?"

"Yeah, it isn't that far." Mulder tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. He hoped that she would invite him to stay. He walked her to the door of her cabin not quite sure if he should kiss her goodnight or not. He took the safe route and simply wished her a good night before turning and heading back towards his car.

Once inside, he gripped the wheel leaning forward so his head rested between his two hands. Only then, did he feel the full impact of Scully's words. As much as he hated to admit it, she was right. He was a selfish bastard and even though he loved her and would do anything for her, there was very little chance of him changing.

Mulder was ready to give his heart and soul to Scully fully and completely and wanted nothing less from her. Did she have it in her to relinquish so much of her closely guarded life to him?

He wasn't sure.

Mulder took a deep breath and leaned back scrubbing his face with his hands trying to rid himself of his paranoid thoughts. He had no control over Scully's decision about whether or not she would give herself completely to him, but he could help bridge the huge gap that had sprung up between them.

Neither he nor Scully was very good about expressing how they truly felt about the other. Each opting to count on their silent communication skills to do it for them. Mulder had breached their code of silence once, only after being shot full of painkillers.

Mulder got out of his car and quickly walked over to Scully's door hoping he wouldn't loose his nerve. He knocked gently and a moment later Scully opened the door. She didn't seem too surprised to see him. Mulder smiled, she knew him too well.

"Um, Scully, I wanted to tell you" Mulder looked down at his shoes for a second or two before meeting her eyes. They were darker than normal and filled with tenderness and understanding. "I love you Scully."

Scully stood at looked at him her eyes filling with tears. Mulder hoped they were tears of happiness. She smiled weakly and reached up and stroked his cheek. "I know." She looked at him for a moment longer before turning and going back inside.

Mulder sighed knowing the gap was a little smaller now.

End of story


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