TITLE: Walking Away 1: Big Mistake
EMAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, sure.
CLASSIFICATION: S, A, mostly S POV
SPOILER WARNING: None, but 6th season timeline SUMMARY: Regretting one night.
DISCLAIMER: Borrowed them all from CC. FEEDBACK: Do throw me a bone. :)
NOTE: My first series. It's not finished and I have to warn you that I'm a very slow writer. Hope you bear with me and see to it till the end.
"Can I be a friend
We'll forget the past
But maybe I'm not able
And I break at the bend"
- Shimmer by Fuel
It was no exaggeration, no contest, mind-jarring, out-of-this-world, unbelievably incredible.
It was also a colossal mistake.
Blinking awake, she saw his back was a silhouette in the darkness of her room. It was a sign she had to figure out for a couple of minutes while she dizzyingly fell to the reality of the "morning after." Or 'the break of dawn,' she more accurately thought, after a glance at the clock on her night table.
He must've felt her shift because he turned slowly towards her as if dreading seeing her there. She watched him shut his eyes, cursing silently but clearly. She had prepared herself for it. She knew, in her random wondering of succumbing to physical temptation, that if they acted on it, it would end up this way. What happened was explosive but still wrong.
But it was hard not to feel the blow of seeing the regret he felt which he so obviously wore on his face. She looked away, summoning the mask of numbing coldness she had perfected throughout their partnership, her thick armor against emotional distress.
He opened his eyes eventhough he didn't want to. His head was still groggy from the lingering sensations. Her smell, her body, her face. She was inches away but already miles apart, withdrawn from him instantly that ached, terrified but strangely somehow, relieved him.
It made them still real. Still themselves. Still partners. It was still them. A relationship without a name or a definition. He had to believe that their boundaries were still solid and unbreakable. They were not just friends. And even after what just happened, they were not lovers. He didn't know how to fix it.
"I think you should go." she said, startling him from his reverie.
She was now sitting against the headboard staring at nervous fingers on her lap. Her eyes flitted to his once then back to her fingers. He didn't know if he really should leave. Although, at the back of his mind, he knew he would've said practically the same thing if she hadn't beat him to it.
"I know." he answered. And after a few awkward, clothes-shuffling moments later, he was gone.
She waited until she heard his car drive away before she let the first tear fall.
Morning was harsh, the memories too explicit. Simply shaking her head didn't cut it so she went to automatic mode. It was a weekend and chores and her mother were her only hope for distraction. Laundry started slow because she kept coming back to her bedroom feeling she left something. Or he did. And her still mushed brain would eventually go back to last night. Finally, she was out of the house before the clock chimed 10.
She heard the phone ring as she was struggling through her door, carrying her newly washed clothes. She dropped them and went to get answer the phone. But her hand paused over the phone, suddenly nervous. It was probably Mulder and she wasn't ready to speak to him just yet.
'Pick it up, stay neutral, and say as little as possible.' she told herself.
It was her mother. She wanted to make sure that they were still on for lunch.
Half a day finished, only half a day more to go. She was determined to get past this. She had to. She believed that if she was able to hold herself together the day after their 'mistake', the rest of the days afterward would be easier.
Not easy. Just a tad easier.
"Are you all right, honey?"
It was about an hour later, thankfully closer to her goal of getting past the high mountain. She and her mother were walking towards Mrs. Scully's choice restaurant. She was leading slightly, but now had stopped at the curb. Scully only then realized that they were already at the other side of the street, right across where they were parked.
Mrs. Scully looked more concerned each passing second she waited for her answer. Scully risked smiling to ease her mother's growing worry, hoping the corners of her mouth didn't quiver.
"I'm fine mom." Smile painfully stretching. "So which one is it?"
She looked down at the row of establishments as an excuse so that her mother would not see that the warmth behind her words did not match her eyes. Thank God it was good enough to distract her mother.
"Oh! It's been a while since I've gone back here..."
She watched her mother look back and forth, trying to remember which way to go. She took a deep breath, grateful that she wasn't caught. Half a day of forgetting was like carving wood with a butter knife.
She was getting tired.
With a weary sigh, she casually glanced at the restaurant at her left and froze.
Diana Fowley was having lunch at the rightmost corner. From where Scully stood, she could only see her and the back of the man that she was so thrilled to be with. She restrained from rolling her eyes as she watched the woman laugh and toss her hair flirtatiously. Then Diana moved her head and her eyes met hers. She said something to her company and her eyes flicked back to her. A ball of tight dread started at the pit of her stomach. The man turned to take a look.
For an instant, she thought she saw shock and panic alternate on his face. But then suddenly it was just as impassive as hers. She could've been wrong. Diana, nodded as if acknowledging Scully's presence for both of them. All she could do was nod back.
"Dana, I think it's this way." her mother's voice pierced through her stillness. She turned to her mother with exaggerate care. Walking to close the gap, she thought the two steps were too far away. As soon as she reached her mother's side, she took her hand and tucked it under her arm then walked away from the couple.
Away from Diana.
Far away from Mulder.
2 days later
One would think that skipping coffee so that it would not add to her agitation would work. She felt like she drank a gallon.
It was the first time since the X-Files was shut down that she welcomed a dozen other agents greeting her miserable morning. At least she wouldn't be stuck in the basement where she would have to suffer the intolerable tension.
Would he want to talk about it or would he just ignore everything that happened? That night and the morning after.
She winced inwardly at how it sounded like a cheap romance novel. There was nothing romantic about it. Them. It was a one-night stand as meaningful as a cold six-pack, innuendoes and a dirty motel room. She cringed at the thought and was grateful she had the presence of mind to change her sheets immediately.
The tiny hairs at the back of her neck rose in attention. In came the alien-chasing, myth-believing devil himself.
She looked up to at least nod as a greeting. He went straight to his desk without looking her way.
Well, that was humiliating. Apparently, his plan was not only to forget the awful experience, but to also forget she ever existed. The sinking feeling that this was signaling the end of their...their...whatever-ship weighed heavily in her chest.
To keep herself from sinking lower to the floor, she made the extreme effort to extend the same courtesy to him. She attacked the background checks like lives were going to be saved knowing some Mr. O' Connor of Georgia was carrying legal fertilizer. The hours slipped by blessedly faster than she had hoped.
She was checking a Ferdinand Michaels on her computer when a hand tapped on her monitor. Mulder was there, waiting for her to notice him.
"Aren't you going to lunch?" He was speaking to her now?
"I'm going to the cafeteria if you want to join me."
She tried to read his face but was still reeling from the shock that he was actually addressing her to get anything. "Uh...okay."
Blank as a newly packed ream of paper. No hint of regret, sympathy, or nervousness. Not even pity. So as far as he's concerned, nothing happened. There was a twisted pinch that made it hard to breathe and no matter how much she inhaled and exhaled, she couldn't relieve herself from it.
As they walked down the hall to the elevators, she felt his hand at her lower back. She moved slightly faster so that she wouldn't feel the warmth of it. Because of that, it earned her an uneasy stroll with him watching her so closely it was stifling.
They both stopped.
Diana was weaving through Bureau noon traffic like a snake eyeing her prey. When she reached them, she made a polite nod to her and then focused her full attention on her Monday meal. Complete with a devil of a smile. Scully waited to see if her tongue would make a slithering presence.
Disappointed that she didn't see even a forked end, she excused herself and started to walk away. She shouldn't have bothered since no one seemed to have heard her. But before she could get around Diana, a hand grabbed her arm to stop her.
"Where are you going?" Was that a frown? He might actually be confused as to why she was leaving so suddenly. Poor Mulder, easily distracted by women who had large claws sunk deep in him.
"Lunch." She answered back with her eyebrow.
There was a charged pause that passed a second too long. "I'll catch up with you."
He said this staring her down like her answer would be a critical turn to an active X-File. It was confusing and uncomfortable.
"Okay." Only then did he let go.
She hurried to the elevators, trying not to sprint on the way. Inside, waiting impatiently for the silver doors to close, she found him watching her intently. She stared back, fixing an equally neutral expression on her face.
Before the doors completely closed, she heard Diana through the murmurs asking Mulder if she could join them for lunch.
She didn't think it was possible, but she actually felt better. Lighter. Lunch alone was surprisingly good. It gave her time to think, placed things in proper perspective. She was not going to spend too much time thinking about what happened anymore. One lunch of soul searching was enough.
Maybe that was what he did. He had already decided what was best for him. For them. And after an hour of deep, uninterrupted thinking, she reluctantly had to agree. Their life was too complicated as partners and friends already, it just seemed an unwise idea to look for something more.
She had just launched her program in her computer when her sense of resolve dimmed.
"Had a nice lunch?" It sounded like his voice was vaguely sarcastic. But then, this was Mulder, when was he not?
"Yes actually. Very...uhm, nice." she answered without looking at him.
"I didn't know the FBI cafeteria served such delectable cuisine."
"No, I ate somewhere-"
"Yeah I know." he cut her off, definitely peeved. "I was there." 'You weren't.' wasn't added but clearly spoken.
Right. She forgot. She really did. All she thought of when the elevators closed was that she had to get the hell away from him that moment, pushing away the casual commitment that they were going to eat together.
She looked at him then, finding him leaning way back on his chair, his knee up against his desk to balance himself. He was waiting for her reason for ditching him.
"Oh yeah. Sorry about that. It just seemed a better idea to eat out." It was a lame reason but for crying out loud, it was just lunch. It's not like she left him alone. She turned back to her computer wanting to end the discussion that was starting to turn to a petty fight. He ignored her the entire morning and now he's annoyed that they didn't have lunch together? Ridiculous.
"You turned off your cellphone."
"Yes I did."
Keys clicked and chairs squeaked.
Out of the corner of her eye, he appeared to have stopped dead from his inquisition. Good. She visibly relaxed and resumed to the ever stimulating background checks
At a quarter past five, she was all set to go. She lingered for a while to wait for Mulder to leave before her, but he was still glued to his monitor. A moment's hesitation passed before she decided to gather her things. She immediately felt the once accustomed but now very uncomfortable feeling of him watching her.
When she finally looked at him as she passed his desk, she nodded, telling him she was going home.
As soon as she was out the hallway, relief flowed from head to leather covered toes. Progress. She survived today. Baby steps. Tomorrow should be easier.
She could almost feel a smile forming on her lips. Later, she would take a sinful dip in her tub. She would tuck herself in and fall sound asleep. Home sweet home.
Halfway to the elevators, she sensed a familiar presence walking beside her, matching her pace. Apparently, she spoke too soon. She had an insane urge to bolt. Forget the elevators, she could make a mad dash to the stairs and pull the emergency alarm before he could run after her.
She suddenly stopped instead, making Mulder walk ahead of her. She actually thought he'd keep on walking and she had it easy. But after two strides, he stopped as well, turning around with a questioning look.
"I forgot a file. You go on ahead." was her answer to that look. It was a pathetic trick a twelve-year-old kid would do. But it was almost half past five, she was tired and she had a feeling something dreadful was churning inside Mulder's head.
Sure enough, his face told her he wasn't buying her excuse. "I'll wait for you."
No escape. She hesitated before she went back to her desk and looked for the non-file to bring back.
When they reached the elevator, they had to squeeze into the packed car and ended up standing on opposite sides facing each other. For some reason known only to the spooky agent himself, Mulder pointedly watched her from across the car. She tried not to feel uneasy or embarrassed, but it was hard when he's blatantly staring with an audience of a dozen other agents. As soon as the silver doors slid close after they sqeezed their way out, Mulder grabbed her hand before she could walk away.
"Scully, we need to talk."
And there it was. All that weirdness throughout the day was because he was working up the nerve. She tugged her hand from him and watched his unreadable face.
Of course they needed to talk. It didn't mean she knew what she was going to say.
When in grave danger of soul lasceration, she relied on good old numbing. Emotional detachment honed and perfected through the years and solid security erecting bulletproof walls around her. Her spine stiffened and she simply stared back.
How their roles shifted immediately. The unflappable and the unstable. At least, on outward appearances.
He looked away, running a nervous hand through his hair. "I'm sorry for...It's just that..." His eyes flitted everywhere as if trying to catch someone who may be eavesdropping on their conversation. He shifted his weight from one foot to another, fists clenching and unclenching.
She continued watched him.
"I'm just...sorry." Waiting the entire day to talk and coming up with that.
"I'm sorry too."
He looked up from staring at the tire tracks on the cement. She had to give him credit for offering a half-hearted smile. She couldn't do more than move her lips. She wished that a car would pass or the elevator doors would open, but they were not blessed with any kind of distraction. Life seemed determined to let them finish this.
"If we're both sorry, then why doesn't it make things better?" he asked, his eyes focused somewhere behind her.
Maybe because they were apologizing for the wrong things. Out loud, she said, "I don't know."
"Scully, Diana was..." She couldn't help flinching at that.
"Mulder, you don't have to explain yourself." Beginning a sentence containing both of their names was not good. She didn't want him to go on about something that she was still not used to be irrationally affected by.
"How could I not? I'm sure what it must've looked like to you."
He didn't have an idea. If he did, he wouldn't have let the entire weekend go by in silence.
"Mulder-" she said, still unsure what to say. "It's fine."
Yes, that probably sounded absurd under the circumstances. Mulder's reaction proved that it was. He looked at her like she just told him she had an ongoing affair with Alex Krycek. His face bloated and she wasn't able to duck at his explosion.
"Fine? Does this look fine to you?!" he hissed, his hand gesturing between them. Saving her from saying something she'd regret, the elevator doors opened and three agents got out. They moved aside, using the interruption to cool their heads.
By unspoken agreement, they moved towards her car. As soon as they reached it, Mulder slumped back on the passenger door while she leaned sideways near the trunk facing him.
"Scully, we have to get past this." he said wearily. It was the first time he gave a clear indication of how hard this was for him. His earlier outburst seemed more out of frustration. This was different. It was a relief knowing she wasn't the only one having a miserable time dealing with this horrible aftermath.
She turned and leaned back, mimicking his posture. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the hard words off her lips. "Mulder, whatever happened that night shouldn't mean anything." Moss seemed to grow inside her mouth with every word she uttered. "And your relationship with Diana shouldn't matter because it's none of my business. It was one night and..." And f---ing what?
"And it shouldn't matter." he finished for her.
She winced inwardly, not expecting how much it hurt hearing those words from him. She turned her head to find him looking even more deflated than he seemed a minute ago. Slowly leaning forward as she tried to subtly peek under his lowered head without actually ducking, the effort turned out fruitless, as she still couldn't read his face.
She didn't know why she did it. Probably, she was trying to connect with him or maybe just trying to get his attention, but she reached over and pulled out his hand from his pocket, interlacing her fingers with his.
It didn't make him look at her, but it somehow reconnected what they seemed to have lost over the weekend. A thin thread tangling them sloppily together. They both stared at their clasped hands for a short eternity, trying to sort out, forgive and reconcile through simple touch.
After a while, Mulder held her hand with both of his, pulling her closer to him. She watched him lift her sandwiched hand against his chest. "We'll get past this." he whispered to her, not sounding completely convinced himself. Seeing such a determined not to mention almost insanely relentless man look so unsure, her vision started to blur and she had to look away.
After the sting in her eyes passed, she turned to him fully, tugging down her hands. She looked at him with what she hoped was certainty and assurance. "We will Mulder." she said as she gave his hands a final squeeze.
Mulder watched her face so closely as if he was waiting for the punchline to come. She had to steel herself from giving her doubts away, plastering her face with all the assurance she could muster. When she thought her face might actually mold to the expression, he finally dropped her hands.
She walked around and opened her car door. On cue, he stepped away and walked somberly to his own car. Time to regroup and go home. Yet the thought of a relaxing bubble bath didn't seem like a good idea now.
As Scully passed Mulder's parking spot, she found him sitting eerily still inside his car, hands on the wheel and staring blankly ahead.
She turned a blind eye and moved her car along.
END Big Mistake
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