Careful

by Oracle

Title: Careful
Author: Oracle
Classification: VA
Rated: PG
Key Words: Mulder/Scully UST, alt-u, sallie-safe Spoilers: Never Again
Disclaimer: So sue me.
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere. I don't see why I'd refuse.

Summary: Isn't this what she's always wanted?

Comments: I guess you'd call this a 'what if' scenario. To tell you the truth I'm not sure I really like it, but hopefully someone will, lol.


"Careful what you wish for."

--Ed Jerse, Never Again


Mulder doesn't touch her anymore. He doesn't put his hand to the small of her back. He's careful not to brush against her casually. He opens doors so she can walk through first. He lags behind, making sure not to get too close.

When they reach for the same object he moves away. When they're having discussions he stays at a distance. When she hands him something he's careful to hold it by the edge.


The teasing, the innuendo, the laughter, the camaraderie, have stopped. One day Mulder was Mulder, the next he was a consummate professional.

Sometimes he might smile politely. He says 'thank you' after every autopsy, every batch of paperwork. Embarrassed, she replies, "Just doing my job", and then there's a silence, an awkwardness, until one of them leaves the room.

Every day, without fail, Mulder offers to buy lunch. Every day she refuses and he pays his share down to the penny. He doesn't touch her anymore. He's cleared an area for another desk but she no longer wants to requisition one.

It should be fine. Everything should be fine. She doesn't understand why she's angry. Why shouldn't his suits be neatly pressed? Why shouldn't he get coffee for her without being asked? Why shouldn't he treat her with the utmost respect and courtesy? Isn't this what she's always wanted?

His regulation haircut is neat and his shoes are polished. He doesn't call her late at night. He only calls to talk about current cases.

He's careful to divulge all information, not just what he thinks is necessary. He's careful to check out the quality of motels before booking and to tell her about upcoming flights in advance. He's careful not to investigate anything she might automatically scoff at. He's careful not to mention his opinions on religion. He's careful not to tell her what to do. If he does give her instructions, he's always careful to make sure she knows they're from Skinner.

He's careful and honest and professional and calm and neat and polite. He isn't cold and he isn't affectionate. He doesn't touch her anymore and late at night sometimes in motels she hears his shower running for hours, or him pacing around his room, or his TV playing infomercials. Never porn, not any more. He's so careful.


She didn't sleep with Ed Jerse, but she wanted to. She was going to. She would have.

They were on his couch, kissing and touching, and he was just about to slide her pantyhose down her legs when he fell asleep. Intoxicated and out like a light. She was drunk too, but not drunk enough for it to be an excuse.

She tried to shake him awake but he just mumbled and started snoring. Annoyed, she lurched into the bedroom and fell asleep.

She would tell Mulder all of this, if it would make a difference. But it wouldn't make a difference. Even though she didn't fuck Jerse she wanted to, she was going to. She would have.

In any case, it shouldn't matter. Why should Jerse change anything? That isn't the point. She's not sure what the point is.


Mulder was going to say, "But it's my life, too." He cut himself off just in time, but she heard the words anyway. She'd thought that was the point until he almost said it.

Mulder, demanding all of her time, using her as a sounding board, invading her territory, eating the food in her pantry, touching her inappropriately. Obsessed with "his" work. Treating her like a partner sometimes and a sidekick at others. Trying to protect her when she can protect herself. Jostling her with quips about her love life, or lack of, as though this wouldn't hurt her.

Playing the car radio too loud and singing off-key. Forgetting to get rye bread instead of white, forgetting to put low-fat milk in her coffee, forgetting her birthday. Wearing loud ties and unwashed, wrinkled shirts. Making schedules for her. Telling her what to do and where to go and who to trust.

Even though it wasn't about him. Right? That's what she told him.

She thinks about it now, one month later, and realises this is true only to a certain degree. Without Mulder she still has family, friends, a career and a personal quest. She could date, if she wanted to. She could do whatever she wants. Whoever she wants. But without her best friend there's no joy in her life. There's no point.

Before Philadelphia she could have sat Mulder down and explained how she sometimes felt sidelined, left behind, taken for granted. How sometimes she felt like nothing but a soft place for him to fall. They could have discussed it, worked through it, made things comfortable again.

It's too late now. Philadelphia happened, and then at first she was too angry to talk to him. Now she's too ashamed.


It's Tuesday. She wakes and doesn't want to get out of bed. The clock says 8:16.

Mulder is probably at the office already, tidying up before she arrives. There aren't wacky slideshows anymore, just carefully organised piles of paperwork and files, and Mulder sitting behind the desk, waiting for her, waiting to look up, smile politely and say, "Good morning Scully."

She rolls onto her side, buries her face in the pillow and decides she isn't going in today. And she isn't going to call Mulder. If he wants to find out why she hasn't shown up, he'll call her.


A few hours later he arrives at her door. She's just had a shower and is dressed in sweats and one of his old T-shirts. She's drying her hair with a towel.

When she opens the door his eyes catch on the T-shirt.

"Scully," he says, formally. "Can I come in?"

She opens the door wider but doesn't move. If he wants to come in he's going to have to touch her. But he just stands there, helplessly. He looks down at his feet and doesn't say anything. Mulder with his charcoal suit, his muted tie, his polished shoes and average haircut, and the face of a desperate little boy.

"Mulder, come in," she says, and reaches out to take his hand. He takes a step backwards. "We have to talk." Her voice cracks.

He turns and starts walking away.

"Mulder?"

He shakes his head, shoulders clenched. She's seen him breathing like this before. He's trying not to cry.

He's gone, driving away, before she realises what he must be thinking.


She tries his cell phone, their office phone, his apartment phone, and no one picks up. She leaves messages and waits for hours, but he doesn't call.

She drives down to the bench beside the Potomac where they used to sit. There's no one there but a young mother and a baby in a pushchair.

She drives to his office, to his apartment, to the Lone Gunmen's office, to all the restaurants and cafes he might be eating at.

By the time she returns to her apartment she's crying and has to keep pulling over to blow her nose, and Mulder is lost.

She opens her door and is greeted by the sight of him sitting on one of her armchairs. He would look composed to anyone but her.

"Sit down, Scully."

It's the first thing he's told her to do since Philadelphia.

She sits.

"Mulder -"

"When you were assigned to work with me," he says, "there was no way I could have imagined how much...just how much I'd come to rely on you. I care about you, Scully, and I respect you. I trust you. I couldn't have asked for a better partner and now I've screwed everything up."

She's on the verge of crying again, tight-lipped, her eyes closed.

"Scully, what's wrong?"

Immediately she wants to reassure him with her usual responses. She'd love to tell him that she's fine. Everything's fine, Mulder. Everything's just the way it should be.

What can she say? They're out of sync and they've never talked like this before. She's not sure it's even possible.

"Everything's wrong, Mulder, but I'm not leaving," she manages to get out. "I'm not leaving."

"You're...you're not?"

Finally she senses some hope in him. She tries to smile, tries to let him know it's okay. He stands up and tentatively sits beside her on the sofa, but he doesn't touch her.

"What can we do, Mulder?" she asks, when she's calm enough to speak. "I don't know how to change this. The way things were...it wasn't working. But now it's like I'm killing you. And I can't live with that."

"Scully, you're overcomplicating things," he says sharply, then he swallows and adds, "I mean...shit. I'm sorry. I'll listen to whatever you need to say."

"That's what I'm talking about. Why are you acting like this?" she asks, keeping her voice quiet and tender. She doesn't want him to hurt anymore.

He shrugs. "I guess I'm trying to give you what you want. To make you feel appreciated. I've always appreciated you, Scully. Sometimes you're all that gets me up in the morning."

She rests her palm against his cheek. A hesitant gesture, but when her skin meets his she can't help needing to touch him more, even if he pushes her away. She moves her hand down his face, caressing him, and he closes his eyes.

"I gave it a lot of thought," he says. "After what happened in Philadelphia, and what you said...I was afraid. I didn't know what else to do."

"Mulder, would it help if I said that I want you in my life?"

There's a pause. His hands have been clenched, white-knuckled. Now they open, fingers slowly relaxing, as he absorbs her words. She waits for him to speak.

"Scully," he says, "can I hold you?"

She opens her arms to him and he leans in, awkwardly. He doesn't know where to put his hands. She pulls him closer, revelling in his warmth, his smell, burying her nose in his sideburn, brushing her lips against his skin.

"I love you," she whispers. "Please don't change."


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