TITLE: 'LCTTA2: Don't Turn Around'
SPOILERS: Everything up to and through 'NIHT2' RATING: PG-13
CLASSIFICATION: V/MSR/major angst ('cos I'm cruel like that <g>)/Post-ep for Nothing Important Happened Today 2, with flashback fill-in between Three Words and Empedocles.
SUMMARY: There'd been no news, but it wasn't until two weeks after he'd left that she found his letter.
FEEDBACK: Read over and over, saved onto disc and printed for later viewing at SketchShipper@hotmail.com and firstname.lastname@example.org :-) DISCLAIMER: There are much better fic writers out there that deserve to own them seeing as they treat them better, but sadly the legal rights on these wonderful characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013, Fox et al. I'm just toying with their emotions - no infringement intended. ARCHIVE: Go for it, but please drop me a line first :-) AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a follow-up to my fic 'Last Chance To Turn Around'. It's not necessary to have read that one, but I'd recommend it - if not very much appreciate it :-) The Writer's Block is still barely moving, so am now just giving the muse occasional prods. DEDICATION: To truthwebothknow for being the only person to date that gave me feedback on the first story.
EXTRA NOTE: **WARNING: Yes, the angst-mistress is back, and I'm in Super Psych-torture mode. Be warned, this had even me in tears, so if you don't like excessive emotion in a story for whatever reason, you might wanna skip this...Completely screwing with Mulder's head in my WiP is one thing, but this is just emotional overhaul. Nevertheless, if you don't mind that, step right in to my little world!!! :-)
'Don't turn around
'Cause you're gonna see my heart breaking Don't turn around
I don't want you seeing me cry
Just walk away
It's tearing me apart that you're leaving'
~'Don't Turn Around' by Ace Of Base
Two weeks. Two long, empty weeks had passed since he'd left her, and yet no word - no form of communication whatsoever - had headed her way. It was enough to twist the knife that much more.
Scully found herself day-in-and-day-out trying to carry on by throwing herself into complete motherhood-mode - putting William's constant needs before everything else in the hope that it would take her mind off of the recent loss and make it more worthwhile.
It wasn't working.
Two weeks of pacing the rooms with their son resting against her chest, sitting in the old rocking chair looking out at the stars, and glancing over at the phone every now and then - all whilst praying that there would be a sign from her vanished warrior as soon as possible - was making her nervous, depressed and twice as paranoid.
She blamed it on hormones, of course. Even post-natal depression wasn't too low on her rational list of explanations. Surely her life hadn't gotten to the point where she needed some crazy, aggravating and irrational guy with the nickname of 'Spooky' to fill her days? She'd had a life before being assigned to the X-Files, and at least for the first three or four years of their partnership she'd spent most of her free time alone, so why couldn't she just carry on as if he'd ditched her and gone on another ghost hunt alone? Why couldn't she do her own thing? She didn't need him to help look after the ba--
And there it was - evidence of the true reason right in the gentle warmth of her arms: said 'crazy' partner had become her everything, plain and simple. He'd given her everything he possibly could and then some to make sure she was always safe and happy. There'd been many ups and downs over the years, but he'd always trusted her, loved her and believed in her, even though she had initially been assigned to debunk his work. 'Spooky' Mulder - the FBI's Most Unwanted - had given her his trust, life, love, soul and now beautiful child against every possibility and law of logic...
Yet, two weeks of separation and he hadn't given her anything to settle her nerves with the knowledge he was okay.
"I do hope you don't inherit your father's memory, sweetie," Dana sighed, standing up from the couch and resting her cheek against the baby's crest of soft hair. "Ask him about anything in those casefiles and he'd run off every detail of information possible, but ask him to remember when my birthday is or...to keep in touch when forced away from home...No chance."
Small, blue eyes lifted to look at her with an expression that could only be described as disgust - as if unappreciative of the assessment of his father.
She let out a huff of hollow laughter - devoid of emotion since that day two weeks ago - and then rested her cheek once again against his head.
"He has his faults," Scully sighed, glancing at the framed photograph on her desk, "but they went hand-in-hand with all the positive things ....Ma-" Her voice trails off as she spots the previously unseen item lying just behind the picture frame. Three uncertain steps forward and she's reaching for it with her free hand. "What-?"
The cream envelope with simply 'My Scully' written in familiar script across the front contained a folded sheet of paper and CD, only confusing and intriguing her more.
Awkwardly struggling to sit William on her lap so that both hands are free, she reached round and unfolded the letter.*If my planning's right you won't get this for a little while after I've left to slay the big white whale. If that's not the case and you're reading this almost straight after you've kicked me out the door...Well, it just goes to show that you really do intend to always keep me guessing - I mean, when was the last time you looked for anything on your desk?!*
Yet another snort of laughter escaped as she smiled and looked back over at the frame on the desk. In the past she'd always used it to rest her laptop on, but for security reasons she'd only used the systems at the internet cafe since his departure, so she'd had little reason to do anything on the desk yet.*Anyway, whenever you're reading it, the message will always be the same... Firstly, I need you not to feel guilty for any of this...I know why you had to ask me to leave, and you need to know that I'll always do whatever it takes to ensure you and William are safe. I don't trust Kersh, but I do trust you, and I know deep down that this is the best course of action if we ever want to be together...as a family...a real family...*
Her hold on their miracle child tightened whilst the hand holding the letter began to tremble a little. By the looks of the shaky writing and small ink splotches, it was obvious she wouldn't be the only one on record to have had emotional difficulty facing this.*You're my everything, Scully...You have been since the second you stepped in my office for the first time. Even though it's not always been what you've believed in, you put the work first and sacrificed everything for the sake of my cause...never gave up, no matter what. And with that strength and determination you brought knowledge, trust, faith, care, devotion, truth, love...Too much to list here. I'll never be able to thank you enough for sticking by me, supporting me, listening to me - even my crazy theories - saving me, believing in me, completing me by making me the whole person I never thought I could be, loving me, giving me reason to believe in myself - in everything. ...For gifting me with a very special, beautiful son...*
She didn't know if she could read on - this was just becoming too painful to deal with, especially in her current emotional state. They already knew what they felt for each other and what William's birth meant - particularly in conjunction to his having to leave. But to see these words in black and white - as much pain and love visible on the note paper splotched here and there by now-dry tears as what she would have seen reflected in the depths of Mulder's hazel eyes if he were here - only intensified the sentiments. They hadn't been able to make love before his departure as it'd been too soon after her giving birth, but since his miraculous return from the dead they'd certainly been able to fill the gaps that had been left unexplored in the short space of time between the consummation of their relationship and his abduction... None of what was written covered new ground, and yet she still has to briefly put it down and reach for the nearby box of tissues.
Long bored with toothlessly chewing on the cuddly toy, William spots his chance and reaches for the paper.
Not noticing as she blows her nose and wipes at the tears still flowing down the side of her face, Dana's mind jumps back to the argument she'd had with her partner after the incident at the FSC. His irresponsibility over that had left her close to breaking point - the thought of what would have happened if the military had caught up with him before the Gunmen had been able to get him out making her blood run cold (even thinking about it today has the same effect) - and the need to make him realise she needed him there and not rushing off, throwing away his second chance at life necessary. Still insecure about if and where he fit in the new world he'd been resurrected to, though, he had turned away from her with his head lowered.
'There'll always be answers to search for, Mulder, no matter how much or how little Truth we find... I don't know how I'm pregnant, I don't know how you were abducted, and I certainly don't know - no matter how grateful I am - how you're back from the dead...All I do know for sure is that-...Is that I want you here...I need you by my side to help me live...I...'
'You don't need me...Y-...You've always been the strongest person I know, and now you have others to support you...I...I don't-...You shouldn't have brought me back.'
Just to hear him say those last words had been her undoing, and she'd angrily reached out to make him turn around.
'How can you say that?' she'd gasped, fighting the need to slap his face. 'How dare you say that! Look at me, Mulder. Look at me.'
His head had lifted, but it had been obvious he couldn't keep eye contact for more than half a second.
'For almost eight months I've been here alone, Mulder, searching everywhere and grieving every second of every day - unable to take another breath until you were back. Certain my life was over, with only the determination to find you and the miraculous part of you growing inside me to keep me holding on. When you...when you 'died' and I had to bury you, I knew that not only was I burying the most important person I will ever know, but also my heart, life, soul - everything that I am - along with you.
'I know things have changed, they've had to, and I can't help that. But nothing will ever change my love or need for you. Nothing, and certainly nobody. So, you look at me now and tell me what you see.'
Reluctantly he'd glanced at her face, then down at her swollen abdomen before quickly looking away again.
'A supposedly barren woman who's become pregnant since my disappearance.'
'But not your Scully?'
Finally, eyes locked and they had found themselves looking deep into the other's being. His response had been so cold that she found it hard to read what was going on inside his complicated mind. All she had known was that if he'd answered no, that would have been the end - there would be no way of getting him back and her world would come tumbling down around her.
His mouth had opened a fraction, her breath had caught in her throat as she'd watched the word form on his lips, but then he'd given an imperceptible shake of his head and closed his moth again. She'd begun to breathe again, but with every second that passed in his hesitation to answer, she'd felt fragments of her heart begin to die all over again.
'Wh-at?' A nervous chuckle from him eventually, but it had been obvious he knew exactly what she'd been getting at.
'If you saw your Scully you'd trust me, believe in me, listen to me. Your Scully would be the last person you'd be this damn cold and hurtful toward.'
'The Mulder that left me behind so that there was no chance of me being taken knew the pain we'd pain through with the IVF, and yet still found the strength to make me never give up on a miracle. If you saw your Scully standing here with everything she is resting on the line, you'd know and believe me when I say that there hasn't been and never will be anybody but you; that you're my constant and touchstone...Believe me when I say there is only one possible father of this child...That I never gave up on that miracle, and waiting paid off, but not because I slept with someone else or tried any other procedures without you.'
'Do the math, Mulder! You disappeared late May. It's now December and I'm only a month away from giving birth. Somewhere in that head of yours I'm positive there still resides a brilliant mind...somewhere that's not being blinded by your current bull-headedness. And if you're implying I was sleeping with someone else when we were together, I swear I'll shoot you on the spot here!'
'You don't...I can't-'
'You once told me you didn't want this' - A hand lowered to gently rub the pregnant mound, and she noticed his gaze flick down to watch for a second - 'to come between us, but I don't think that's the case here ....We need you, but you just want to ignore us. My Mulder would fill out expense reports before ever doing that to your Scully...' She'd taken a step closer so that very little space separated them, and had then tentatively reached up with her free hand to caress the almosthealed scars on his face. He'd flinched away at the contact at first, but it hadn't taken long for him to instinctively relax into her touch. 'I prayed so damn hard, Mulder.' Her voice had become a choked whisper. 'I'll never be able to express how hard I prayed to have you back...My partner, my best friend, my soulmate, the man who would go to the ends of the earth for me...The man who died for me... I know you need help coming to terms with all that's changed, but please let me be the one to help...You do fit in: here.'
His head had lowered to rest against hers, a shaky hand had lifted to curiously rest over where their child grew and he'd let out a small sob. He'd wanted to believe - he really had - but his head had then shook, his hand had sharply pulled away, he'd stood up straight again and pulled away from the warmth of her palm. 'I'd die a thousand times over if that's what it took to protect you, but I can't let you put yourself on the line - especially now - to cover my back...You want me to look at you, but look at me: I'm abused and broken...You deserved a lot more than me before...I can't let you lower yourself any further...I won't let you.'
Tears clogging her throat and blurring her vision, she'd helplessly watched as he'd turned away and silently moved toward the exit.
'But I love you!' It had been the truest and most sincere thing she'd been able to choke out, and yet the high cry of her voice had made it sound so desperate...
'And, God, I love you so much - more than I'll ever be able to say. You and your baby...' Never turning. Never lifting his head. 'But I don't know who I am anymore. I've hurt you, and there was once a time I would never have knowingly done that. Mulder was returned and brought back from beyond the grave by his guiding light, and yet the man here now is nothing but a shell filled with darkness.'
The closing of the apartment door had been the final straw on the camel's back, and she'd collapsed onto the floor, crying the life out of her body.
Two hours later he'd returned, on his knees.
'Please, help me,' he'd wept, wrapping his arms around her waist and pressing his tear-stained cheek against her abdomen. 'I'm so sorry. Please...'
/ / / / / / / / / /
As the darkening night air begins to envelope the apartment block, the harsh, unexpected ring of the phone snaps Dana back to the present and awakens her from the sleep she hadn't even been aware she'd slipped into...
....Finding herself lying on the large bed in her room, comfortably wrapped in a blanket fresh from the closet - the soft sound of her son's sleepy breaths coming from the crib to her left. Her body jolts upright as her mind works to solve how she got there.
She remembers finding the letter, reading the letter, having to stop because it had become too painful, and then... Nothing.
With a yawn, she pushed the blanket aside and reached for the phone.
"Hey, pretty lady! ...Are you okay? Did I wake you up?"
"Frohike?" Instantly panic stations activate. The guys could only be calling her at this time in the day for one reason. Nevertheless, she tried to stay calm as she replied, "No...No, I just put my head down for a second while William's asleep." A pause to gather herself and then it's finally time to ask: "What's the matter?"
"Uh...Well...uh..." Hesitation couldn't be good, and it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to deduce that the elf-esque member of the Gunmen was terrified to ask his question. "It's nothing to worry about, but ....Is he there?"
"Wha-" Scully's voice cuts off and she quickly turns her head to first look down at the bed she's sitting on and then over at the entrance to the bedroom. Surely... "Why?"
"We were tracking his movements and had him as far as Greenville," Frohike quietly explained. "...But about three days ago we lost the trace, and can't get a signal off the cell phone we gave him...We just wondered if he'd - you know - returned...?"
"He knows it's not safe. He wouldn't turn around...He wouldn't risk-..." With the cordless handset against her ear, she walked out into the living room - casting an inspecting eye around the area and holding her breath in anticipation; desperate to see her partner and scared to at the same time. "He's not here."
"Okay. It's probably just a technical problem - Langly's working on it as we speak," the voice at the other end of the line sighed. "It was worth checking in case..."
"Find him. Please...find him and let me know what happens."
Without saying anymore, Scully disconnected the call and wandered into the kitchen.
"Mulder?" she whispered, intently listening to and looking at everything around her. But silence was the only answer offered her. "Mul-der?" A final search of the apartment turned up no partner, so - relieved and defeated - she made her way back to the bedroom...
Just catching the glint of light on shiny paper out of the corner of her eye.
She slowed to a halt and then moved round in front of the sofa...to see the large bouquet of roses lying there with a pink envelope propped up nearby. As a gasp escaped past her quivering lips, she stooped to reach out and pick up the card labelled 'My Scully, always'.*William kinda gummed my letter to you into oblivion, so I figure I should fill in for what you didn't read. Don't get irate. I checked, double-checked and even triple-checked that I wasn't followed; Cut all power to anything upon me so that no signals could be picked up, and even broke into the complex through the emergency exit door - who says you don't learn anything from being a hired gun for the FBI?*
Scully smiled and found it within herself to let out a genuine laugh - culminating in a grateful sigh for his sense of humour, which could lift her up no matter what the occasion.*This was just a quick visit...One final check-up on my family before I got too far away. I promise I won't turn back again until the day I can come home to stay. That first night together in my bed I mentioned about how we were both looking for answers. At the time I was referring to the ever-changing stages of our relationship and how we needed to learn to share our feelings... But that phrase has special meaning now too, because whilst we've found our own Truth in each other, there is still a lot out there to help fight the future, and we will find the answers... together... I'd best go now before I crash out on your couch and never leave. Just knowing you're asleep in the next room with William - both safe and sound - is enough to fill my heart and remind me what I'm doing this for. Don't let bad memories or nightmares haunt you. Please. You were talking in your sleep and... I remember those words, and I remember that my mind was screwed up at the time...All you need to remember - as I also do - is that it ended happily. Take care of yourselves, stay safe and try to enjoy every day. Remember every second you have with our little miracle so that you can recall every memory to me the second I return - which I swear (if not for my own sanity) will be as soon possible. I love you both so much, always. M P.S: If you get lonely, just put the CD (I put it by the hi-fi so that Will's interest didn't divert to gumming that as well) on and pretend it's me saying the words.*
With eyes that watered but remained clear enough for her to finish reading the card, Scully glanced over at the stereo system on the cupboard to her left. Sure enough it was switched on and a CD had been loaded - now on pause and waiting to be played. Only hesitating long enough to pick up the bunch of flowers with the hand still holding the card and quickly bury her nose in them to inhale their sweet smell, she walked over and pressed the PLAY button. After a second or so the air was filled by the sound of a doo-wop group harmonising in a low-bluesy tone to evoke an emotion that hit close to what was feeling.
I'll be home, my darling,
Please wait there for me
We'll stroll along together
Once more our love will be free
At the corner drugstore
Each Saturday we will meet
I'll walk you home in the moonlight
All of these things will repeat.
So darling as I write this letter
Here's hoping you're thinking of me.
My time is up, so long until
I'll be home to start serving you.
I'll be home, my darling.
Please wait there for me.
We'll stroll along together,
All of these things will repeat.
She was still standing by the cabinet - flowers and card tightly clasped against her chest - when the song finished a couple minutes later and sadly smiling, but she was using an elbow resting on one of the shelves to support her. Trust Mulder to find a song with lyrics that relayed his own thoughts, despite the fact that it wasn't the type of music he would normally listen to (she guessed he'd used his investigative skills to track it down on the internet...with a little help from Google...). However he'd come across it, it had the desired affect - giving her more hope than she'd had before and a reason to look ahead.
"Just don't turn around again, Mulder," she quietly chided, switching off the stereo and looking over at the window above the desk. "Thank you for this, but..." Dana paused, swearing she could sense the presence of his body behind her. She would have turned around - God only knew how much she wanted to - but she couldn't risk seeing him and not being able to let him go. Couldn't risk having to say 'I'll be seeing you' (his choice of phrasing to try avoid the pain 'Goodbye' afforded them) all over again. So, no matter how stupid she probably looked, no matter whether he was there or not, she continued, "...We've come through enough in the past...and we've gotten this far. I know without a doubt that I won't be able to make it through this separation, but we'll survive as we always have... Go ahead to wherever you must to find a way home, but don't turn back again until you have. And no, I'm not irate - I just want you to be careful and safe...I love you too much to lose you again." After a moment of still silence, she slowly begun to turn. A deep voice from behind made her freeze on the spot, though.
"No, wait! Don't turn around... Jus-...just wait a second...I-"
A shrill baby-cry burst out from the direction of the bedroom, and Dana quickly moved to tend to their son, but when she turned there was nobody in the room. Surely she hadn't imagined his voice...had she? She hadn't heard the door go, but... Another call for attention temporarily cut off any further considering her mind could do on the subject, and she rushed to William's crib.
Outside the apartment, a tall figure very slowly, carefully and quietly pulled the front door closed and then walked away...for now.
ADDITONAL AUTHOR'S NOTE: The song Scully listens to is called 'I'll Be Home' by The Flamingos. When 'Nothing Important Happened Today' aired it was one of the first songs I thought of and have been desperate to get it in a fic, so took the oppurtunity here - LOL
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