TITLE: Walking Away 2: Stolen Shots
EMAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, sure.
CLASSIFICATION: S, A, mostly S POV
SPOILER WARNING: One Son, Arcadia
SUMMARY: Bridging the gap has been painfully trying. Something else makes it even worse.
DISCLAIMER: CC, let me play. Not making any profit I promise.
FEEDBACK: Feed me. :)
"If I was not so weak
If I was not so cold
If I was not so scared of being broken"
- Frail by Jars of Clay
Sometimes Scully wished she wasn't Catholic. That she wasn't raised to believe in God and leave everything to His great plan. At least then, she wouldn't have to question Him, to doubt Him, and to be utterly furious with Him.
Things should've been better. She should even have reason to celebrate. They gave back the X-Files. They were back to doing what they did best. Yey.
If the disturbing events that rocked their partnership didn't happen, she'd be carrying on her Laura Petrie role as cheesily as Mulder was provoking her to do. But things did happen and her only defense is to keep herself rigidly professional.
Unfortunately, Mulder seemed determined to push every damn button that had a big red sign saying, "Anyone sleeping with the enemy, hands off." And he didn't just press. He squeezed, kissed, hugged, held her hands and draped all over her in every given opportunity. God help her, she smiled through it all, her jaw aching from constantly gritting her teeth.
This last night in Falls of Arcadia, she couldn't wait to get to bed to end the day of torment. Tomorrow, she'd be blessedly and finally home. She didn't put the green facial she usually wore during the night because it would only take too long. All she wanted was be shower clean and minty fresh, then flop down on the queen-sized bed of the next best room - the guest bedroom - since the master's bedroom was a total wreck.
When she came out of the bathroom, she wanted to scream in frustration. Mulder had settled himself on one side of the bed, leisurely reading a file, oblivious to her dilemma. She was not in the mood to playfully argue their sleeping arrangements tonight. Please God, no more.
She waited for him to acknowledge her presence as she hovered beside him, her foot tapping impatiently. She wanted it clear that she wanted him out of there. NOW.
He lowered what appeared to be Big Mike's file, and then finally looked up at her annoyed expression. "Oh I'm sorry. Did you want the light off?"
If there was a phenomenon such as death by glare, the bed should have a Mulder-shaped pile of ash by now. Sadly, Mulder was still flesh and blood. And still on the f---ing bed.
So she reverted to stating the blatantly obvious. "I'm going to bed now, Mulder."
"Good night." was his answer, not moving a muscle. She wanted to bitchslap him.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, she dragged herself to the other side of the bed to get the spare pillow.
"You could've told me sooner that you wanted the bed." she grumbled.
She felt Mulder watching her tired progress out of the room. "Where are you going?" he asked before she reached the door.
"The couch." she answered flatly, not stopping and turning the knob.
She stopped then, turning slowly around to face him. Her brows knitted slowly together, not understanding the question. If he was just as confused, dear God, she didn't have the strength. She was too tired and just left it up to her face to let him know that he needed to say something clearer.
"Why can't you sleep here?" he clarified.
She blinked slowly. He snorted.
"Get over yourself, Scully. I'm not going to jump you."
And that was infuriating beyond she could handle in her tired state. It was a multi-laden statement and it hit surprisingly hard. It meant that the first time was a fluke. He'll be damned if it ever happened again. It was an embarrassing mistake, embarrassing enough not to be repeated.
Humiliated, angry, and exhausted, she didn't dignify that with an answer and left the room.
The couch was not at all comfortable and as tired as she was, it still took her about half an hour before she was able to sleep.
When she finally did, she dreamt she was floating listlessly across nothingness. A void that spurred neither dread nor peace, neither expectation nor anticipation. Just gliding towards vast emptiness that neither calmed nor frightened her.
And then she was falling. Not a terrifying drop, just softly settling down. She landed on something soft and so, so, comfortable. It felt good. Too good that she couldn't help feeling that something terrible was about to happen.
On cue, she felt the uneasy feeling of being watched.
So that must me the catch. She shifted, trying to block whatever it was. She rather liked the emptiness because of the absence of harsh reality and confusing emotions. As she tried vainly to get back to that void, something heavy and warm glided over her stomach, adding to the uneasiness. She fought sleep, dragging her protesting eyelids open.
She blinked slowly. One more. Three times.
"Did I fall asleep here?" she slurred.
"Shh...go back to sleep." Mulder urged her, rubbing her stomach gently.
Even under heavy temptation of surrendering to blissful sleep, her conscience pushed her body to get up. "Sorry, thought...was...couch...going..." She tried but didn't make it halfway as Mulder pushed her back down, pulling back her legs, which had partly moved to hang on the side of the bed.
The soft landing on sinfully soft pillows was just too much. Still unsure of what was going on and too sleepy to think about it, she didn't argue. Sheets were pulled to her chin, hair smoothed, and the warm hand was back on her middle.
"Okay. You get the couch." she managed to whisper before she drifted off.
"Okay." Mulder answered without moving.
You would know that Scully wasn't exactly paying attention when you see her gazing out the plane's window without hurling breakfast.
She glanced at the heavy body slumped at her side, her shoulder practically carrying Mulder's entire weight. She frowned and went back to not watching the sky outside.
She woke up that morning not knowing where she was. It wasn't something that caused great alarm really. Their job took them to every kind of shelter they got stuck with. A nice room and comfortable bed didn't prompt her to grab for her gun. But the slow feeling of dread that she did something wrong made her take a good hard look at her surroundings. She vaguely remembered sleeping on the couch and it didn't add up to why she was now in the guest room. There was some noise downstairs and the smell of breakfast reached her nose, so she got up instantly and went about getting herself ready to go home.
When she finally came downstairs to join her partner, the disturbing feeling didn't leave her chest. She found Mulder in the kitchen sipping coffee while reading a local newspaper. Her empty cup, together with the matching place setting, sat waiting for her at his left. Still reading, he pushed the ham and eggs until it bumped her plate as she awkwardly sat on her designated place.
The California agents will be coming in half an hour so it explained why Mulder was up very early. He seemed to have everything covered: reported to Skinner, called the California Head office, made breakfast and...
"You're all packed." she said keeping her eyes on her uneaten eggs.
"Yeah." He looked up from his paper. "I figured we could leave as soon as the others started combing the place. I'm sure you're all set to go." He shrugged then went back to reading. She nodded dumbly.
'What was so interesting there anyway?' she wondered. "Uh, thanks for packing my stuff."
He looked up once again, probably hearing something off with her tone. "Was that all right? You seemed tired and I thought I should let you rest-"
"No, it's fine." waving him off with her fork, failing to really reassure him. There was nothing wrong with being considerate, taking care of everything for once. Taking care of her. It just seemed...she didn't know...too considerate. Domestic.
She shuddered at the thought.
The weirdness continued at the airport. They were making a pointless effort of getting themselves comfortable while waiting for their flight to be called. She was masking a killer headache when Mulder tried to get her attention, placing his hand over her left wrist. It took a small effort to turn her head to face him. She didn't hear his question but his expression clued her in that he was asking if she was all right. Hiding was useless after all. As expected, she said she was fine but ruined it by rubbing her temple.
She swore Mulder was the only one who could roll his eyes just staring straight at you.
That was when he sneaked his arm around her and helped rub her head. The contact was startling and she automatically went rigid. To recover, she pulled his hand away and patted his thigh, repeating that she was fine. Then she conveniently pulled out her notes to keep him off her back.
She only noticed that Mulder had left her side when he returned to his seat smelling like coffee. She couldn't help smiling in gratitude. He had noticed that she didn't drink any during their brief breakfast. The first sip was pure bliss almost draining the headache away. Then she saw Mulder look ultimately pleased with himself through one orgasmic sip.
Her first genuine smile turned to a frown.
Things became stranger still as they boarded the plane. Being busy early that morning but being too eager to get the hell out of suburban hell, it shot Mulder's efficiency as they later found that he booked their seats about five rows apart. It was a small glitch that could be solved by just deciding to meet at the baggage claim. They could've just left it at that. God knows they needed some personal space after having gone undercover as husband and wife. Only Mulder thought that their separated seats were impeding an active case. Whatever bogus reason he threw on the gathering flight staff, she didn't know. She left him alone in embarrassment and went to her seat.
After a few minutes, Mulder crashed beside her looking exhausted. Such effort for seat 12A business class. She refrained from commenting, not exactly sure she wanted to know what that was all about.
"Good to know you're settled in." said the FBI ass.
"I'm perfectly fine with my seat. You're the one who has a problem with yours." She opened her notes, flicking off unwanted attention.
Then there was some wriggling after that as Mulder tried to make himself comfortable. Or maybe he was just making a show of his annoyance to her indifference. When the wriggling continued long after, she had to look up and see what was wrong with him and found him looking like a child holding in his tantrum. In the midst of another bout of shifting, his elbow jabbed her shoulder hard.
"Damnit! Sorry." he hissed. "I just can't get myself comfortable."
"Well then that seat wasn't worth terrorizing the flight staff."
That stopped him.
Good. She went back to her notes.
After reading half a page, Mulder started moving again. She was about to whack his head with her notebook when a ball of clothing was suddenly thrust over her left shoulder as a substitute pillow. Mulder's head followed it, his weight shifting slowly over to her.
"Do you mind?" she asked the hair on her cheek.
"Not at all." was his muffled answer. He was dead to the world (or just pretended to be) before she was able to say anything else.
Now it's five disturbing hours later and they will be getting off. She wondered if she should just pull his balled up coat from under his head to wake him. It would be sweet revenge especially after being the recipient of pointed glares by three different flight attendants who were present at Mulder's earlier badge flashing performance.
She had tried pressing herself to the window more but Mulder was in grave danger of falling on her lap. That would only look worse to their already blown 'active case' cover.
Her headache hovered like a drifting old satellite but it was light enough to endure the rest of their journey back home. The pilot announced that they would be landing in a few minutes, reminding them of safety procedures. She peered under Mulder's heavy head to wake him but was surprised to see his eyes already open. She didn't know how long he's been awake. All she knew was that her entire left side was numb and she needed him off her.
"Mulder." she whispered, shaking the shoulder he was leaning on.
"Give me a few minutes." he said, not lifting a single limb. Maybe he just needed to find his bearings so she waited.
The annoyed, pixie-haired flight attendant was looking for a reason to be a bitch and eyed them from across the head of the aisle.
"Mulder." she tried once more.
"Hmm..." The attendant was now five rows away from them.
"My entire left side is dead." He righted himself up and buckled his seat just as the attendant passed their row.
Mulder had left his car at the airport, so they proceeded to it after going through the airport's very own 5th level of Dante's inferno - baggage claim.
"Hey Scully, want to grab some Chinese and videos?" He tossed the question over the hood of his car.
"Maybe next time, Mulder." was her automatic response.
Since the fiasco, they had never gone to each other's apartments even to discuss a case. It was an unspoken rule after what happened on that awful night. No one dared to suggest it. If they needed to work extra hours, they stayed late at the office. Sometimes one would call the other, yet they made sure that the conversations would not stray to personal.
After El Rico, Scully practically shut him out. She thought things couldn't possibly get worse after the night they slept together, but when Mulder accused her that she was making things personal after she presented him of evidence that Diana was hiding too many things from them, she couldn't be more wrong.
He dismissed every single evidence she showed, barely hearing the disturbing yet irrefutable facts. It was one thing that he dismissed her when they were alone in their basement arguing theories; it was another matter when he coldly slapped away sound proof of Diana's suspicious motives in front of the Gunmen. His attitude was a hard punch to her gut and she repeatedly felt it whenever she remembered.
The days after that passed by through a haze of anger and hurt which presented itself the only way she knew how - through distance, giving Mulder a wide berth.
Mulder certainly felt it but kept from saying anything. He knew he hurt her, but he didn't know how to apologize. They were never good at that.
Scully knew when it started to take its toll on him. Only him because she never wavered, keeping herself a holler away. Mulder started dropping by and waving a file as an excuse. He called on weekends for no apparent reason, talking nonsense and fishing information about her personal plans. She certainly never encouraged it but she was never rude. She made sure that the phone calls always ended with a firm goodbye or Mulder would be out her door after only half an hour when he 'happened' to be around Scully's neighborhood.
Maybe it seemed too cold considering how long they've been partners and good friends. Scully called it self-preservation. For all she knew, Mulder had done this to them. Trust was hard won, and she had fought brutally to earn his. Yet in one of the moments she needed it for him to see the truth, she found that he could easily take it back. Or give it to someone else.
There seemed to be a hierarchy on holding Mulder's trust. Being demoted from where she thought she was as Diana slithered up to the top, it gave a whole new meaning to 'first come, first serve.'
If that was it, now she wasn't sure if she ever really had it. She retaliated by withdrawing her own.
She still trusted him professionally; there was no doubt about that. Personally, well, that's an entirely different thing.
What bemused Scully was that Mulder kept reaching, however useless it seemed. The calls always came and there's always a case that needed to be discussed that couldn't wait till the next working day.
But she figured, Mulder would get the picture someday and get tired of trying.
Then Falls of Arcadia was slapped to her face.
There were times during the case when she had the overwhelming urge to sock him. She focused on squeezing her folded arms instead. If she laid a hand on Mulder, blood would certainly be drawn.
She needed a break from being in too close proximity with Mulder. Keeping herself on guard 24/7 was making her dead tired. The only way she had lasted this long of repressing every bit of emotion from Mulder was the thought of going home today.
She could almost feel the warmth of home and the stress-less environment when she realized Mulder had not started the car, his eyes trained on the steering wheel.
He kept silent and kept staring for probably half a minute. Then he snorted and shook his head, turning the ignition.
"What?" she asked as they joined what seemed like the rest of the D.C. population trying to fit into one highway.
"Nothing." Scully narrowed her eyes, not liking his tone that sounded tense. Angry.
She bit her tongue to keep from taking the bait. She didn't need this now. In a few minutes, she'd be finally home and free from Mulder's fluctuating moods.
A loud blast made her jump from her seat. It came from a truck, which Mulder tried to cut in front of. The driver sped ahead of them after making sure we saw his colorful gesture.
"Jesus Mulder, take it easy." she said as she watched the truck gaining distance.
"Sorry. Just trying to get you home as soon as possible."
Was he making it her fault? "No one's in a hurry, Mulder." she lied.
She gritted her teeth. Will. Not. Take. The. Bait.
The car suddenly swerved as Mulder tried to cut in front of a different car, making her grab the dashboard.
"Mulder! What is wrong with you?" This time he didn't answer.
"If you have something to say to me, then say it before you get me killed. Stop taking it out on everyone else!"
Scully raised her eyes heavenward and repressed the urge to grab the steering wheel and crash them to the nearest car herself. Instead, she watched the cars pile up before them and the car slowed to a crawl.
Great. More quality time with a 40-year-old adolescent.
"Would it kill you to spend time with me?"
The question came when her vision had blurred from staring straight ahead and her thoughts had strayed for distraction. She could play dumb and pretend she had no idea what's bothering him.
She didn't. Brutal honesty it is.
"Do I have to?" That must've hurt but she didn't have the heart to care anymore. Well, he asked.
Mulder seemed to be as mesmerized by the line of cars as she was. They were like a couple of people watching a serious movie at the drive-in.
"Would it be so bad?"
Yes, she thought.
"No." was what she answered. So much for honesty. It was partly true, but the thought of one chance of being left vulnerable for Mulder to try to gain back her trust made her sick.
"Are you saying yes?" Was she?
"Haven't you had enough of me already?" she blurted, finally turning her head to look at him. Her voice sounded like a whine, but she couldn't help it. She was all set to go home because the longer she stayed with Mulder, the more she'd likely say something she'd regret all too painfully. One down, how many more to go?
Why was he so goddamn relentless? They have been together 24 hours a day for the past several days for chrissakes. Can't they have at least one peaceful weekend without being so aware of each other's presence?
"I wouldn't have asked if I have."
In a few words, he had just caused steel walls to rise as fast and as hard around her, putting her in a protective dome.
His answer scrambled her thoughts and she could barely formulate anything coherent. And that made her angry. His words were confusing and too direct for Mulder that it almost seemed like a line fed for the sole purpose of pulling the rug under cold, uncompromising Federal Agents.
A tiny part of her wanted to believe him. But like any victim of betrayal, there was a gag reflex whenever considering that her betrayer was being sincere. She never thought relenting would be this frightening.
"Are you saying yes?" he repeated.
'To what?,' Scully thought.
Mind and heart debated furiously. This was Mulder. The man who fiercely believed that her cancer will not destroy her, the man who exchanged his sister for her, the one who literally went to the end of the earth to save her. And this was just take-out dinner.
Yet he is also the man who had put blind faith to someone else over undeniable evidence, over sound proof that could at the very least caused reasonable doubt.
Her eyes strayed to her window and watched her blurred reflection on the tint. This was almost ridiculous. Why was something so simple be so complicated at the same time.
She had two choices: let this keep hurting her or move on.
She took a deep breath.
"As long as you're paying for my Spicy Chicken."
She could almost hear Mulder sigh of relief, giving her a mental image of Mulder whooping in front of a cheering crowd.
"Isn't it your turn to buy?" he asked, not hiding his grin.
"Would you rather drop me off instead?"
"That's with garlic sauce right?" he asked as he made a turn.
"This is not the way to my apartment." The heavenly smell of hot Chinese take-out almost made her miss the wrong direction Mulder was steering his car to.
"We're just taking a quick side trip to the guys."
"Why?" she asked through the delicious steam coming from their food.
"I just want to pick up something that Langly wanted me to check out myself. Some satellite photos." He made a left to the Gunmen's street and his eyebrows raised slightly in surprise.
Scully turned to look and found that the street was actually packed. So much for the Gunmen's need for isolation.
"So there is a case." Scully wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed that the whole evening would not be all 'play.' She wrestled with the feeling while Mulder crawled by, trying to get a parking space.
"Not really. Langly just wanted me to check it out. You're welcome to take a look if you want to. It's nothing yet."
She nodded absentmindedly. They had reached the Gunmen's without luck.
"Why don't you try circling the block and I'll pop in to get the file." she offered.
"Is that okay with you?" he asked, looking grateful.
"Just don't touch my chicken." she tossed over her shoulder as she got out of the car.
'Wouldn't dream of it.' was what she thought she heard him say as she slammed the car door shut.
After a couple of minutes, she heard a muffled 'Who is it?' behind the Gunmen's door after she rapped loudly on it. She couldn't tell who it was.
"It's Agent Scully." A series of clicks and thumps followed.
Byers's congenial smile appeared and she smiled back. Of the three, she secretly liked him the best. Probably because he was the most normal of the pack. And that included Mulder.
"Is there something you need Agent Scully?" he asked as he ushered her in, automatically locking the dozen of locks on their door as soon as she passed through the doorway.
"I'm just here to get some photos that Langly had for Mulder." She looked around at the unusually quiet...what exactly do they call this place? Home base? Headquarters? "Where are Langly and Frohike?"
"They went to watch the Wizards make a fool out of themselves." She faced him, mildly surprised he followed basketball.
"Did Langly leave the photos?"
"He mentioned it. He didn't leave it out so I have to check it in his room, which would take some time. Is that okay?"
"That would be fine as long as it would be all right with you." she answered, smiling at his look that told her that the idea of sorting through Langly's stuff wasn't appealing.
He smiled back at having been caught at his small discomfort. "Anything for you Agent Scully." And then he left her to brave Langly's room of terror.
Scully casually looked around the place to amuse herself while waiting. The place wasn't exactly quiet. Innumerable devices hummed and random beeps kept it from being completely silent. It was very much alive even when empty.
She found herself looking at the main computer. It was opened on a simple Windows Explorer page. She quickly scanned the folders and snorted when she saw a folder named "Bare Essentials."
'Frohike's probably.' she thought.
There was a sudden thump from somewhere and she cocked her head to distinguish where the noise came from.
"Are you okay in there?" she called out to Byers.
"I'm fine Agent Scully. I'll just need to..." she lost the rest of his words as he seemed to go to another part of the place farther away from her.
She was about to abandon the computer to ask Byers if he needed any help when she saw a 'Surveillance' folder in the list.
Hesitating for half a second, she moved the mouse and clicked on it.
A long list of folders came to view. She frowned as she read the names, not recognizing most of them. Scrolling down, she stopped dead when she found a folder named "D. Fowley." She opened it without a second thought.
Another list of folders ran down the page, named by date that was mostly pretty recent. She looked up from the computer, debating if she should ask Byers first about this before she went on snooping.
It gnawed on her that they didn't tell her that they were already closely keeping tabs on Diana before she had approached them. She shook away the thought and looked at the latest entry. A chill crept up from the base of her spine.
It was the day when she confronted Mulder about her suspicions on Diana. To be exact, it was specifically timed a couple of hours after the humiliating episode of being mocked in front of the Gunmen.
Before she knew it, the cursor had moved over it and blinked as it opened the file.
The thumbnails of photos spread over the screen like a series of snapshots, somewhat giving her a thorough view of the entire event. Her mouth went dry when she saw the pictures where Mulder entered Diana's apartment without Diana opening for him, making her wonder when he had acquired a key. Then her eyes widened in shock when she saw the Cigarette-Smoking bastard enter the living room as well. She clicked on one photo to enlarge it and found that Mulder was in the verge of shooting the old man. She checked the next photos quickly and exhaled the breath she didn't know she was holding when she saw the man leave the apartment unharmed.
Then Diana entered.
She was rapidly scanning the photos now. Mulder and Diana appeared to have talked at length. There were a dozen photos of them just sitting in her living room. Diana looked like she was the one doing most of the talking while Mulder just sat and listened.
Then she saw the series of photos of Diana standing up, walking towards Mulder, and then leaning down to...
Her entire body went ice cold as she stared at the one photo that captured the kiss gut-wrenchingly well.
'This happened after their argument.' was the one thought that kept pounding in her head. Her headache was back with a vengeance.
Through the shock and now the unbearable headache, she heard even footsteps approaching, alerting her of Byers' return. She quickly closed the folders and tried leaving the screen the way she found it.
Then she went to the farthest chair from the computer, reached for her cellphone and dialed.
Outside the Gunmen's, she found Mulder just easing into a parking space. She quickly walked towards it, tucking the manila envelope that contained the satellite photos under her arm. When she reached the car, she knocked on the passenger window so that Mulder would roll it down.
"Here it is." she said as she handed over the photos, trying to act natural.
"Thanks. Come on, get in. I almost ate your order."
She swallowed a golf-ball lump as he tossed the envelope to the backseat. He acted like nothing was wrong. Everything was normal. Crop circles. UFO sightings in Gulf Breeze.
It was almost believable.
"Mulder, I'm going home." she said as she stepped back from the car window.
"What?" His head turned towards her so quickly she thought his neck would snap.
"My headache is coming back hard. I don't think I'm up for a tenth viewing of Silence of the Lambs."
"Are you...but..." He stopped, still processing her words and what suddenly changed. He wasn't really taking this second ditch well and he didn't hide his disappointment.
"I'm fine Mulder. I just think I need some rest. I think we both need it. You go on ahead."
He frowned at her. She looked away not wanting Mulder to catch any expression or gesture that would give her away.
"Then I'll take you home." He leaned across the passenger seat to open the door for her.
"No, it's okay. I'll take a cab."
"Scully, we're already on our way. Get in, I'll take you." He pushed the door open.
A car horn beeped in front of the Gunmen's. She waved the driver over.
"You called already?" he asked in disbelief as they both watched the taxi crawl to their spot.
"I did while I was still inside. I'm sorry about this Mulder. I'll see you on Monday okay?" She restrained herself from sprinting towards the cab.
She stopped in the middle of opening the cab's door and looked back at Mulder. He had gotten out of the car, slouched beside his own door looking like a kid who lost a game he didn't even understand.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." The answer rolled off her tongue easily. She thanked God for the habit.
"Scully?" He stopped her once again.
His eyes watched her intently.
"Are we okay?"
She hesitated before she could catch herself and he saw Mulder's eyes widen in alarm.
"We're fine." Then she ducked inside the cab before Mulder could say anything else.
END Stolen Shots
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