Weighing the Day

by banlu

Title: Weighing the Day
Author: banlu
Date written: April 9, 2004

Rating: PG
Category: S/A/H
Spoilers: Brief references to "Beyond the Sea", "Detour", and in a roundabout way, "Within".

Timeline: Season 5 - sometime between Chinga and All Souls.

Keywords: Mulder/Scully UST

Summary: "The mass of the day increased, weighing on her more and more, as the rate of time flying by approached the speed of light."

Archive: Ephemeral and Gossamer. Anyone else, please ask.

Comments: Written for Haven's April's X Play House Challenge. Er... um... that would be April 2003. Only a year late, LOL

                  No one can fight the good fight,      
                  ghostbust, alien chase, and or        
                  uncover a government conspiracy EVERYDAY.

                  Give us an everyday day.  Show us nothing 
                  important happened 
                  today - and make it fun, interesting, and 
                  readable.

                  elements to include
                          A long lost someone getting in  
                          touch for the first time in      
                               YEARS (hi jean)
                          Something burning 
                          a modem
                          something that is unfinished

Disclaimer: No matter how hard I wish, they aren't mine, aren't mine, aren't mine...

Thanks: To mims, as usual : D
Dedication:

Author's notes: At end.

Weighing the Day
by banlu

8:39 pm
Scully's living room

Scully rubbed her tired eyes then stared at the unfinished email. She had started it hours ago, in reply to the surprise note from her childhood friend Anna. They hadn't seen each other since they were twelve, and had lost all contact at sixteen, after one too many moves made their letters undeliverable. She sighed, noticing that the smell of her burned dinner still permeated the apartment. She wrinkled her nose when she got a whiff of an even nastier smell.

Oh, yeah. No sending tonight.

She looked glumly at her Kentucky Fried Modem sitting on her desk. Its casing had been cracked a couple of years earlier when Queequeg caught the power cord chasing a ball. It still worked, so Scully had decided to make do until she could afford a whole new computer with a dog-friendly, cord-free internal modem. But the Pomeranian had been eaten by an alligator only a couple of weeks later, poor thing.

And then she got cancer. She was still paying the medical bills six months later.

So that's why she was staring at a worthless modem while Mulder cleaned up after dinner. She winced at the sound of metal hitting the kitchen floor. She heard him curse a blue streak, evidence of his own tiredness. She sighed again. A lousy ending to what had started as a wonderful day. Scully cast her thoughts back, wondering when it had started to go so wrong...


9:30 am
Scully's bedroom

Scully stretched, looked at her clock and smiled at the time. She'd wanted to sleep late this Saturday morning, to catch up for the past week. She kicked off the covers as she got up, slipped on her slippers, and went to the bathroom. Afterwards, she washed her hands, splashed cold water on her face and grabbed her robe. She then headed for the kitchen and a cup of the fresh-brewed coffee she could smell.

She stopped short.

She could smell coffee.

Now, she knew the coffee couldn't make itself, since her Mr. Coffee was as dead as good old Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, may he rest in peace. That meant someone had had to make it. Which meant someone was in the apartment that hadn't been there when she made the rounds the night before. Which was something she always did these days before she latched the chain...

The chain.

It had broken and she hadn't called the manager because it was so late...

Suddenly she could smell pancakes, too. She relaxed. Only one person would walk into her place on a Saturday morning and make breakfast. She continued to the kitchen, a smile of welcome on her lips.

She turned the corner. "Hi Mom... Mo... Mu... Mulder?"

"Hey, Scully, you sure slept late." He stood by the microwave, grinning at her. She could see the steam rising off the plate of pancakes in his hand.

"You made pancakes?" she asked, incredulous.

His grin got bigger. "Zapped 'em, actually. Aunt Jemima's Buttermilk ones. Got her syrup, too."

Scully sniffed. "And sausages?"

"Jimmy Dean's microwavable. Ready in 45 seconds."

"The coffee?" she asked with sudden trepidation.

"Now, that I can make. Freshly ground, too."

Scully pulled out a chair. "How long have you been here?"

He placed the plate in front of her. "A couple of hours. I was about to die from hunger, so I finally started without you."

She sat down. "Mulder, why are you here?"

He poured her coffee. "I woke up and started to get breakfast. Then I realized I wanted to have it with you."

"Yet you were about to start without me," she pointed out.

He shrugged as he pulled the sausages out of the microwave. She watched him pull the wrapping off another stack of pancakes, place them on a plate and put them in the microwave. She heard it start up as she reached for the syrup.

"That was just to fill the hole in my stomach," he said, "not the hole in my heart."

Scully stopped in mid-reach, thoughts of syrup forgotten, the phrase 'hole in my heart' stuck in her head. She shook it loose.

"Mulder," she asked, "What did you just say?"

"I said, did you want some OJ?" He held up the carton.

Huh? Okay, she'd missed something. "Yes," she replied, "but what was that you said about a hole in your heart?"

Mulder concentrated on pouring the juice.

"Mulder?"

He put the glasses on the table and returned the carton to the fridge.

"Mulder?"

The microwave beep-beep-beeped.

"Mulder?"

He pulled out his plate of pancakes, then sat across from her. He speared a couple of sausages from the dish in the middle of the table.

She had missed something. She'd been too shocked to even notice him putting the sausages there.

"Mulder?"

He poured syrup on his pancakes. "Do you want me to warm up yours?" He gestured at her plate without looking up.

Scully glanced down at the pancakes in front of her. When she looked back at Mulder, he was focused on his breakfast.

"No, Mulder, I want to talk about what you just said. About you having a hole in your heart."

He cut off a piece of sausage with the edge of his fork, speared it, and then swirled it in the syrup that had dripped down the side of the pancakes.

"Mulder?"

He sighed and put down his fork. He raised his head, but still avoided her eyes. "It's just that sometimes, Scully, I... I... miss you. I wish I could see you every day." He looked into her eyes. "Today, I gave in to that wish. I'm... I'm sorry if I overstepped any boundaries." He returned his attention to his fork.

Scully was stunned. Mulder admitted he missed her. True, she missed him too on a long week-end, but she had never really admitted it to herself, let alone him. It would just encourage him. 'Now what's wrong with that?' she heard her mother's voice say in her head. Scully tried to shake that thought loose, too.

"Scully?"

'Yeah, Dana, what is wrong with that?' came Missy's voice. Now it was two against one.

"Scully?"

She reached for the syrup and drizzled it over her pancakes.

"Scully?"

She took a bite, looked up and smiled. "That's sweet Mulder."

He looked surprised. "That I miss you?"

"I meant the syrup."


And that's where the day started to go bad.
10:02 am
Scully's living room

She was reading the paper, still in her jammies. Well, she was trying to read the paper. It was hard to concentrate on world events while both her mother and sister were mentally chastising her for that glib comment.

'You hurt him,' they chorused, 'He didn't deserve that.'

'Apologize,' urged her mother.

'Tell him how you feel,' pleaded her sister.

'He's still here, so do something,' they shouted.

And surprisingly, Mulder was still in her apartment. He wasn't quite sulking, but he was in the corner of the kitchen, loading the dishwasher. He hadn't responded to her statement, but he'd continued to wait on her, silently offering the paper, refilling her coffee. She'd cleaned her plate, barely tasting the food while she hid behind the sports page, and, when she changed sections, guiltily noticing his breakfast was almost untouched. She'd taken her second cup of coffee and retreated to her couch.

"Uh... Scully?"

She jumped. She hadn't heard him leave the kitchen. "Yes?"

"Could I... uh... could I have the crossword puzzle? I have to... have to..." his request was interrupted by a soft 'pppttt'. "Sorry," he mumbled.

Scully bit back a laugh and kept her nose buried in the paper, but it proved to be an ineffective gas mask. Finding the entertainment section, she waved it at him. "Whew! Don't forget to turn on the vent fan. I need to take a bath after you're through."

"Okay." He grabbed the paper and hurried to the bathroom.

The voices returned.

'Dana!' huffed her mom.

'What's wrong with you?' asked Missy.

'Why are you treating him this way?' they implored.

She couldn't answer them.


In retrospect, the next couple of hours were just a deceptive lull in her day.
12:20 pm
Scully's living room

An hour after Mulder had entered the bathroom, Scully had exited it, all scrubbed and shaved, all soft and scented. Saturday was her pampering day, and she wasn't about to change her routine just because Mulder insisted on hanging around. Well, she did put on her robe instead of walking naked to the bedroom as she usually did. And she closed the door so he couldn't see her sprawl on the bed for a few minutes, like she always did, airing out the last few damp places before dressing. Only this time, annoyingly, one certain area had remained damp.

She spent the next half-hour on her nails, both fingers and toes, filing and shaping, buffing and polishing. After they dried, she put on her old loafers, stripped the bed, gathered up her dirty clothes, and headed for the laundry room with Mulder trailing along like a stray pup. Not wanting him to see her unmentionables, she sent him to collect her mail. After returning to the apartment, he hit the couch and she sat at her desk to pay her bills.

Mulder turned on the Maryland - Georgia Tech basketball game at noon, but even with the sound turned down, the squeak of sneakers on the court made it to her ears. Though she didn't watch often, she enjoyed seeing her alma mater play and she planned on joining him after she finished her chores. She wondered who he rooted for since Oxford wasn't exactly a basketball hotbed - and it was in England, to boot. She figured it wasn't UMass. Any boy who pulled for the Yankees and the Knicks in Bosox and Celtics territory wouldn't root for the home team. This, she realized, was early evidence of Mulder's blatant disregard for his own safety.

She decided asking him the name of his favorite college team would be a perfect way to smooth some feathers. She started to turn toward him when she noticed the letter from Anna, and all thoughts of Mulder fled from her head as she was transported back to her youth.

Anna Finnegan, as Irish as could be, was as red-headed and freckled-faced as any Scully, but tall and willowy next to Dana's short sturdiness. Anna's mother had been from the Old Sod and talked with a lovely brogue that the girls tried to imitate. She had been as good a friend to Maggie as Anna had been to Dana. But the facts of Navy life made it hard to keep in touch. Scully remembered how disappointed she had been when her last letter came back marked 'No Forwarding Address'.

She ripped open the envelope, but her excitement was tempered by sadness when she read that Anna's mother had recently passed. An old friend of both their moms, Anna wrote, had attended the funeral and told her that Dana was living in Georgetown.

Anna had tried calling, but after getting the machine every time, had decided to write. She was living in California, married to her college sweetheart, an engineer, and was a soccer mom to a ten year old boy and an eight year old girl. Her husband was Italian, and not only did her children tan, they had no more than a smattering of freckles across their noses! She ended the letter by asking Dana to email her, since they both seemed to live busy lives.

Scully checked her watch. Her first load of laundry was almost ready for the dryer and then she had that game to watch. She decided to write to Anna later. Besides, her old friend had asked if there was a man in Dana's life, and Scully realized she didn't quite know how to answer her.

She looked at Mulder, sprawled on her couch like it was his own, sock-covered feet on the coffee table, scratching first an ear, then his crotch. She half-expected him to b...

"Uuuurrrrp."

She sighed. For good or for bad, yes, there definitely was a man in her life.

'For good, honey,' said her mom, cheerfully.

'See' said Missy smugly.

"Oh shut up," Scully mumbled.

"You say something, Scully?"

She shook her head, got up and went out the door. She was halfway to the stairwell when she heard Mulder trot up behind her.

She was tempted to tell him to heel.


That's when the day crossed the event horizon, leaving all hope of escape behind.
2:24 pm
A nearby grocery store

Scully forgot to ask Mulder about his favorite team while they were watching the game, since she was busy mentally composing an answer to Anna's letter. Afterward, Mulder's stomach had growled and he asked what was for lunch. Her cupboard was bare, so they headed off to the grocery store.

While she methodically walked the aisles, stocking up on her usual healthy fare, Mulder would periodically disappear and return, each time dumping something into her cart. Deli meat and cheese, rye bread, chips, beer... guy stuff, she mused. She rounded the end of an aisle to find Mulder standing at the meat counter.

"Hey Scully, how about steaks for dinner? I can cook 'em on your grill." He grinned.

"I don't have a grill, Mulder."

His face fell. Then it lit up again when he saw what was on sale. "Hey! I have a recipe for stuffed pork chops."

"You don't have to make dinner."

'Let him' said her mother and sister.

"We can order a pizza." Scully knew one shouldn't listen to voices in one's head.

Mulder's face fell again. "But Scully, I want to make dinner for you." His lower lip stuck out in a beautiful pout. His sad eyes would have put every SPCA shelter in the black if they had used them on their 'we need money' posters.

"Lordy, woman, let him make dinner if he wants," said a large black lady as she passed them. "If my Frank had looked like that every time he wanted something, he would have had every thing he asked for." She winked at Mulder. "And I mean everything."

Scully felt herself blush. Mulder's lip stuck out even further, but there was laughter in his eyes.

So Mulder had bought the pork chops. And potatoes and onions. And broccoli and apples and a stuffing mix.

And wine.

Three bottles.

Because he "couldn't decide."


For the first time, she noticed the gravity of the situation.
3:36 pm
Scully's living room

Unlike breakfast, their late lunch went smoothly. Of course, the fact that they sat in front of the TV and barely said two words to each other might have had something to do with it. Mulder fixed their sandwiches while she put the groceries away. He made a turkey with lettuce, tomato and light mayo on rye for her, and for himself, a turkey, ham and swiss on rye with brown mustard. He had wanted to put mustard on her sandwich, since it was "less fattening", but Scully had prevailed.

That's probably why they didn't say much while eating.

And mercifully, her mother and sister were silent as well.

After they finished lunch, she had sent Mulder to fetch her clean clothes from the dryer. As she retreated to her room to sort the laundry, she saw Mulder using some of the wine to make a marinade for the chops.

She came out of her room, carrying the clean dishtowels, to find that Mulder had settled in front of the TV again, beer and chips at hand. This time it was the Virginia - North Carolina State game, and he seemed much more involved. She went to the kitchen, put the dishtowels in their proper drawer, then stopped by the TV for a second on her way to her computer. She was surprised when he cheered on the Wolfpack.

"NC State, Mulder?" she asked.

"My father went there." He shrugged. "I guess that's why he wanted to be buried in Raleigh. Happy memories."

"But not for me," she murmured. She flashed back to the night Mulder had been shot in the leg, his blood splattered all over the dock.

And so soon after her own father's death.

She shuddered.

"Hey, Scully, you all right?" Mulder asked as he put a soft hand on her arm.

She looked into his worried eyes, seeing his love for her shining through, and said, "I'm fine."

He dropped his hand from her arm and abruptly turned towards the TV. He took a swig of his beer and said, "I'm missing the game."

'Dana Katherine Scully!' chastised her mother.

'Why the hell'd you do that?' asked Missy.

She didn't have an answer for them, or for any of the other questions that had come up that day. She went to her computer and sat down in front it. She decided to ignore her mother and sister and turned her mind to answering Anna's letter. They had twenty years of catching up to do, so she had better get started.


It was at that point she felt herself stretching, as different parts of her were pulled at different speeds.
5:52 pm
Scully's kitchen

When the game ended a few minutes after four, Mulder announced he was going for a run. He left the apartment, returned with a gym bag, and went into the bathroom to change. He came out, plopped down on her living room floor, stretched, then left with a mumbled "bye." Scully took advantage of the quiet to catch up on some journals.

And to try out some wine.

She was on her second, or maybe her third, glass when he returned. He went into the kitchen, guzzled some water, then hit the shower. Figuring he'd be starting dinner soon, Scully got up to set the table. She stopped when she heard him singing. At least that's what she hoped he was doing. She couldn't make out the muffled words, and if there was a tune, well, it wasn't one she was familiar with.

She pictured him in the shower, water cascading down his chest, his back, his buns, dripping off his...

'You go girl!' approved her mother.

'Mom!' said Missy.

'Well, I did have four children.'

'Eeeewwww!' groaned the sisters.

Just then, Mulder walked out of the bathroom wearing a grin and a towel. The run seemed to have improved his mood.

"You ready for a dee-licious dinner, courtesy of chef Mulder?"

She eyed the towel. "Are you wearing that to cook in?"

His eyes twinkled. "Of course not. I'll exchange it for an apron."

The image of Mulder at the oven, hot buns exposed as he leaned over to check the chops, had Scully licking her own.

"Scully?"

'That's what I call cooking,' chuckled her mother.

"Scully?"

'Mmm-mmm good!' exclaimed Missy.

"Scully? You there?"

She could hear the amusement in his voice. She reluctantly banished the image from her mind. "What, Mulder?"

"I said dinner will be ready at about quarter-to-eight."

Oh, God, she'd missed something again.


She began to feel light-headed and heavy-footed, as the gravity of the situation changed at an ever increasing rate.
7:07 pm
Scully's kitchen

After changing into his jeans and a clean grey turtleneck, Mulder started dinner. He peeled and chopped the onions and apples, mixed them with the stuffing, added some "secret ingredients" from her spice rack, and moistened it with wine. He scrubbed the potatoes and put them in the oven to bake. Then he removed the chops from their marinade, cut slits down their sides, and crammed in the stuffing. Putting the meat in a casserole dish, he poured in the marinade, covered the dish, and put it in the oven next to the potatoes.

Scully had decided that Mulder's jeans-clad buns were pretty hot, too.

'You should have seen your father's when he was young,' sighed her mother.

'Mom!' Scully could almost hear Missy rolling her eyes.

Mulder washed up the pans he'd dirtied, and began cutting up the broccoli.

She poured herself another glass of wine, leaving the second bottle half empty. She couldn't believe Mulder had used so much of it on those pork chops.

"Scully?"

"Hmmm?"

"Do you have a steamer basket?"

"Yeah, up there." She gestured toward a cabinet.

He opened a door.

"No, the next one."

She heard a giggle. 'Missy,' she warned.

'Wasn't me,' said her sister.

'Or me,' said her mom.

Then that left...

'You!' they laughed.

"Scully?"

She blinked. "What?"

"Do you have one of those cheese boards?"

The broccoli was on the stove. She'd missed something again.

"Why?" she asked cautiously.

"So we can have the cheese and crackers."

"Uh, in the china cabinet." She pointed at a drawer.

"Why don't you have a seat on the couch and I'll bring the stuff out, okay?" he said smiling. There was that twinkle again.

She did as he suggested, perching on the edge of a cushion because she suddenly felt like a stranger in her own home.

"Mulder," she said as he deposited the appetizer on the coffee table, "who cut the cheese?" She heard giggling again, and was afraid that it came from her.

Mulder barked out a laugh and waggled his eyebrows. "You wanna build a tower of furniture, Scully?"

She froze. Was that what this day was about? Was Mulder trying to take things a step further, to get a bit closer? Sometimes she could still feel him in her arms, shivering from shock and cold, his back rising and falling against her chest as he settled into sleep, his presence warming her as her body warmed his. She had tried to talk to him then, her emotions still see-sawing from her fight with the cancer, but he had brushed her off.

She had never told him how mad that made her.

"Not with you, Mulder."

'Dana!' shouted her mother and sister, shocked.

'You should be ashamed,' scolded her mother.

'What is wrong with you?' asked Missy, frustrated.

What was wrong with her?


The mass of the day increased, weighing on her more and more, as the rate of time flying by approached the speed of light.
7:33 pm
Scully's living room

Mulder was still in her apartment, and he was still cooking. After her retort he'd sat back and turned on the TV, but spent more time looking in his wine glass than at the tube. Scully had gone to her desk and returned to the draft of her email to Anna. She'd started with her condolences, told about the deaths of her father and Melissa and corrected her place of employment from the CIA to the FBI. Some info about her mother and brothers, and now she was stuck.

Actually, she'd been stuck since before Mulder went on his run, wondering how to describe her life to this person who had once known her so well. Hell, she was having a hard time describing her life to herself, and the most confusing part was back in the kitchen making a sauce to go with his pork chops.

'Honey, it's only confusing because you won't admit how you feel,' said her mother.

'You love him, he loves you. What's so confusing about that?' added Missy.

'Tell him,' they insisted.

Scully wished they would leave her alone. She took a sniff. Dinner smelled wonderful.

The smell of the sauce Mulder was making mingled deliciously with the aroma of the stuffed chops and potatoes. He had pulled them out of the oven and was using the drippings from the casserole dish as the base for his sauce. She saw him add another glug of wine to the saucepan. At the rate he was using the stuff there wouldn't be enough to drink with dinner, she thought with a frown. Good thing she'd just refilled her own glass. She took a sip and set it down on her desk.

"Scully?" Mulder called to her. "Everything will be ready in about five minutes, so if you want to wash your hands or something, now would be the time."

As Scully turned to get up, her elbow knocked over the glass. The wine spilled all over Anna's letter, splashed her neat stack of freshly paid bills and seeped into the crack in her modem. There was a 'fffzzzztttt' and a pop, followed by a little wisp of smoke.

Scully pushed back in surprise, overbalanced the chair, and landed on the floor with a thump.

"Scully!" Mulder came running to her side. "Are you all right? Are you okay? What happened?"

She sat up and rubbed an elbow. "The modem... spilled wine on it..."

Mulder saw the smoke, crawled under the desk and unplugged the fried peripheral. He came back to her side and brushed her hair out of her face. "You hurt anywhere?"

She tested her limbs. "No. Might get a bruise or two, that's all." She crinkled her nose. "Are you sure you pulled the right plug, Mulder? I still smell something burning."

"My sauce!" Mulder scrambled to his feet, tripped on the loose power cord, and hit the floor hard. "Owww!"

He got to his feet again, this time more slowly, rubbing his knees while he limped to the stove. He pulled the saucepan off the burner. Scully followed and saw him scowl at the black mess charred in the bottom.

"I'm sorry, Scully. I ruined the sauce and it looks like I ruined your pan, too."

"Wasn't your fault, Mulder."

"I'm surprised you said that."

Whoa!

But she deserved it.

'We told you so,' chimed Mom and Missy.

She ignored all three of them and grabbed some paper towels to mop up the wine. As she headed to her desk, she could hear the 'sssss' of water turning into steam as Mulder ran the blackened pan under the faucet.


She could feel herself collapsing under the increasing g's.
8:23 pm
Scully's kitchen

After they had cleaned up their respective messes, they sat down to dinner, Mulder with an ice bag on one knee. The pork chops were delicious even without the sauce, but the broccoli had gotten a bit over-cooked and the baked potatoes were, well, baked potatoes. Hard to screw up one of them. But like breakfast and lunch, the meal was eaten in silence.

At least there was silence between Scully and Mulder. Her mother and sister, on the other hand, wouldn't shut up. They kept urging her to apologize for her behavior throughout the day and to tell him how she felt.

'He's still here,' they kept reminding her, 'he's got something on his mind, too.'

They were picking at the slices of frozen cheesecake they had bought for dessert when Mulder cleared his throat.

"Scully."

She waited a moment. "Yes."

"About today... I'm sorry for the mess I made..."

"I told you it wasn't your fault."

"That's not the mess I'm referring to."

She replayed the day. "You mean the bathroom after your shower?"

"No." He sighed and started again. "No, I'm talking about being here underfoot all day. I know I should have called before I came this morning..."

"Yes, you should have."

"It's just that I didn't see you much this week and I... I missed you."

"You told me that this morning, Mulder."

'Don't bring it up!' her mind screamed, but her mom and Missy seemed to have taken control of her mouth.

"What did you mean when you said you had a hole in your heart?" she heard herself say.

"I meant that... that... I don't feel..." he paused. "It's that when you're not around... I get lonely. And I feel it," he patted his chest, "right here."

Scully felt her throat tighten and tears formed in her eyes. She blamed the wine.

"Mulder, I think we've had too much wine to talk about this now."

'Dana stop it!' commanded her mother.

'Aaarrgh!' howled Missy.

"We hadn't had any wine this morning." His voice sounded tight.

"I hadn't had my coffee yet."

Mulder's "Damn it, Scully!" was nearly drowned out by her mother's and Missy's 'Damn it, Dana!'

"What do you want from me Mulder?" Scully implored, "I never asked you to come over..."

"But you never asked me to leave. You've done so plenty of other times, why not today?"

Scully paused, waiting for the accusing voices in her head. But, surprisingly, none came. It figured. She'd been trying to get them to leave her alone all day, but now when she needed them...

"Scully?"

"What!"

"Scully, are you all right? You've been blanking out on me all day."

She sighed and rubbed her forehead. If she'd drunk as much wine as she now suspected she had, she was going to have one heck of a hangover. "I'm fi..." she stopped at Mulder's grim face. "There's nothing wrong. I've just been pre-occupied. I have been thinking about what you said this morning."

A hopeful look lit up his face.

And she extinguished it. "I don't miss you."

The silence in her head was more damning than anything her mother or sister could have said.


You may be able to come out the other side, after all.
8:49 pm
Scully's living room

After Scully dropped her bombshell, Mulder, as in the morning, cleared the table then began washing dishes. She returned to her desk and her email to Anna, only to spend the next ten minutes pondering the ways she had sabotaged the day. When she realized she didn't hear any noise coming from the kitchen, she turned and saw it was empty. She panicked, thinking he had left without her noticing, but relaxed when she heard the toilet flush. He came out of the bathroom carrying his gym bag and walked over to pick up his jacket off the back of the couch.

'Don't let him leave without apologizing to him,' said her mother.

'You know how important the truth is to him,' added Missy. 'He deserves it from you.'

Damn, they were back.

And they were right.

As Scully watched Mulder drop his bag on the couch, she realized he had spent the day wooing her, in spite of her resistance. And he was leaving now only because she had lied to him.

And to herself.

'Finally!' exclaimed Missy.

'Now tell him, honey,' urged her mother.

As she watched him put on his jacket, she realized that she should not have been surprised by his actions. Since her cancer, things had changed between them. Not the feelings for each other, but the willingness to admit those feelings. Every now and then, a piece of the truth between them would slip out.

She used to ignore it, and hope it would go away.

Now she marveled at it.

And hoped it wouldn't disappear.

But she was still mad at him for brushing her off in the Florida woods. He had more apologizing to do.

Scully took a deep breath.

"Mulder."

He picked up his bag.

"Mulder."

He started for the door.

"Mulder, I'm sorry."

He stopped and looked at her, his expression closed.

"I lied to you."

He waited.

"Sometimes, I do miss you. It's just that I'm afraid."

"Of what?" he asked softly.

"Us."

"So am I."

That surprised her. "Is that... is that why you wouldn't talk with me in the woods last fall?"

Mulder mirrored her surprise. "Is that what today was about?"

"Some, I guess. But it also seems we do what you want, when you want. I can either go along or say no. You won't do what I like to do."

"When do you ask me to do things?"

That made her think. When was the last time she had asked him to do something? All she could think of was Florida.

"In the motel in Florida, when I brought you wine and cheese," she told him. "I wanted to spend the evening with you, but you went running off searching for Mothmen."

"We didn't know they were Mothmen then."

"And when I wanted to talk about surviving my cancer, you trivialized it with that Ice Capades remark."

Mulder looked down for a moment. "I'm sorry about that, Scully. It's just that you'd never opened up like that to me before and you surprised me. And scared me a bit, too. I didn't know how to respond so I just avoided it."

Scully sighed. "That's something we've both done, but we seem to be changing."

He gave her a shy smile. "I'm trying to. This being an 'us' is scary stuff. There're responsibilities, expectations, and all sorts of things I can't put into words."

He looked into her eyes.

"And I'm afraid of losing you. Of losing whatever I have with you, whatever makes us an us."

She blinked back tears. "I'm afraid of that, too."

Mulder held out his free arm. "C'mere."

They hugged for a moment before Scully took a step back.

"Next time you want to spend a day with me, ask first, okay?"

He nodded. "Okay. And you do the same."

She gave him a dazzling smile. "I will."

And as the door closed behind him, she knew she would.

end

Author's notes: A little science: The comments between sections refer to what happens to objects that get too close to a black hole. Go here for more info (if you want) - Jillian's Guide to Black Holes
http://www.dragonweave.com/gothos/html/black_holes/black_ho les_types.html

And there once was a theory that black holes are gateways to wormholes, and that an object sucked in at one end of the universe could be spit out to the other side.

Also, I have no recipe for stuffed-pork chops, so you'll have to ask Mulder for his secret ingredients.

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