SUMMARY: He’d said enough out loud and made it real… post-Elegy fic.
Importuning Life for Life
AUTHOR: Circe Invidiosa
RATING: PG-13 for swears
WORD COUNT: 2546
ARCHIVE: yours for the asking
DISCLAIMER: I know the law, and the law would win.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Mucho thanks to Carol A. for the beta, to Helen Quilley and Audrey Roget for the encouragement and idea bouncing, and to bcfan for telling me to get my damn butt in gear and finish this already.
SUMMARY: He’d said enough out loud and made it real.
Mulder leaned against the ramp’s railing. He gripped it tightly, knowing that if he let go, he would slide down the wall. His conversation with Scully had gone horribly wrong. The last thing he wanted to do was make her run away from him, but he was still angry. Her deception still stung. If she had told him what she had seen, the apparitions, he could have helped her through it. They could have understood it together. And even if he wasn’t really sure of that, at least he could have done something instead of obliviously carrying on with the case and pulling her back into it.
Even as he cursed her stubbornness, he grudgingly regretted his words to her. Not only did he know that they must have hurt her, but he’d broken their unspoken rule and talked about it. He’d even dared to say how he felt. He’d said enough out loud and made it real. His anger made him weak enough to tell her what he was afraid of. And all that accomplished was to let her know that he believed it was hopeless. He believed she was going to die.
If he could have smashed the back of his head through the cinder block wall at that moment he would have. He closed his eyes and tried to will the feelings of guilt and anger away.
He heard the door at the bottom of the ramp open and then the sound of heels clicking in a familiar gait. He wondered, with anticipation and dread, if she had thought of a retort and was coming back to finish the argument.
He heard her speak to someone. “Excuse me. Would it be possible for you to call me a cab?”
He dashed down the ramp to find her at the front security desk.
“Scully? What are you still doing here? I thought you were going home.”
She turned and looked surprised to see him still there, maybe even a little frightened. “I — I was — I mean, I am. I just need to call a cab.”
“What’s wrong with your car?”
“Nothing. It’s just — It’s late. I’ve had a really long day. I’d just rather not face the drive home,” she explained, kneading her forehead as she spoke. She pinched the bridge of her nose, inhaling deeply before she looked up at him again.
There were dark rings under Scully’s eyes. She had been ready for bed when he called on her earlier in the evening and he felt like an idiot when she opened the door, looking cozy and warm, knowing that he’d be taking her back out into the cold, dreary night to chase more death. And yet, selfishly, he still asked her to go.
His hand brushed her shoulder, nudging her back towards the door. “C’mon, I’ll drive you home. We’ll pick up your car in the morning.”
The argument was already in her eyes when Scully looked up at him. But she surprised him by looking back down and nodding. She turned and was back out the door before he could say anything else. He followed, watching as she momentarily glanced at her car then quickly turned away. He directed her with a nod towards his car and she made her way ahead of him, eyes cast downward again.
He could feel her annoyance with him as he came up to the passenger side and opened her door for her. The tension was practically pulsing from her and she confirmed his suspicions by slamming her door a little too hard.
She was already buckled in with her hands clasped tightly over her lap. She held herself like that even after he started the car and pulled out onto the rain slicked street. The cold drizzle had stopped, but the pressure had not let up, another downpour imminent. He hoped he would have Scully home before that. Seeing her have to trudge up the stairs to her apartment in the rain would have been another blow to his ego that he didn’t think he could bear tonight.
“Are you cold?” he asked, attempting to start a conversation with something neutral but still showing his concern. His hand was already on the heater knob.
Scully didn’t answer right away. She stared down at her hands, glassy-eyed. Without looking at him, she turned her head slowly towards Mulder, realizing he must have something. He almost repeated his question when finally she robotically shook her head.
So much for conversation, he thought resentfully, pressing down on the gas pedal. He raced through a yellow light in the vain hope that Scully would pipe up with annoyance at his recklessness, but either she didn’t notice, or she, too, did not want to prolong the awkward car ride.
The glare from the streetlights onto the puddles made it difficult to navigate the roads to her dwelling that he knew so well. He could no longer make out the lines that defined the lanes, and half the drive to her home, he wasn’t sure he was in the right lane or if he’d drifted over into oncoming traffic, if there had been any that late. But again, Scully took no notice of his careless driving.
How ironic would it be, he mused, if a traffic accident were to take them both out before Scully’s cancer or whatever ridiculous misfortune fate held for him.
Mulder pulled up in front of Scully’s apartment and turned the car off. It was a few seconds before Scully realized that they’d stopped. He almost wondered if she’d fallen asleep, until she looked about her, saw where they were and said, “You don’t have to see me to the door, Mulder. I can manage.”
“That’s all you have to say to me, Scully?”
Scully frowned at him, genuinely bewildered at Mulder’s clear irritation. “I was trying to spare you. Is there something in particular you were waiting for, Mulder?”
“I dunno, Scully, maybe you wanna tell me what’s really going on here? This catatonia you’ve been in since you walked back into the psych centre is more than just fatigue.”
She looked back down at her hands again. “Nothing. Nothing’s going on. Just thinking.”
“About?” Mulder waited for her to reply, but all she did was shrug and his frustration gripped at his chest. “C’mon, Scully! I know when you’re holding something back. I thought you understood what I meant about being honest with me.”
She whipped her head around and glared at him. “And I thought you understood that I can’t just believe whatever you believe! I need time to process these types of –” She struggle for the right word before blurting out, ” — things. I need to be able to sort them out and appreciate them for what they are. Why don’t you ever understand that?”
“If you’d told me to begin with –”
She threw her hands up. “You’d what, Mulder?” She pointed at him accusatorily before he could reply. “When you didn’t know what I’d seen, you told me what you thought the apparitions were for Harold — a death harbinger. What would you have told me if you knew I’d seen them too? But you didn’t know, so you didn’t sugarcoat it. Do you think that’s what I would have wanted you to do?”
It was Mulder’s turn to avoid Scully’s gaze, knowing she was right. The steering wheel was fascinating now, especially the places where his hands had rubbed away the texture in the vinyl. He rubbed at the spots with both hands, relishing their smoothness, silently wishing he’d never started this argument.
“You want me to be honest with you,” Scully went on, “Well, I intended to be when I was ready to deal with what I thought I saw and what I understood it to mean. I expect the same from you.”
He snorted. “You expect honesty? Okay, then let’s face the facts here, Scully. You’re dying.” He horrified himself with those words, but he told himself that he didn’t want to take it back. It was time.
He looked over at her to see the effect of his words on her but she just took a deep breath and returned his gaze impassively. “Is that something you’ve really come to terms with, Mulder?” she asked, grimly.
“What do you want from me?”
“What do you want from me, Mulder? I told you. The doctor says I’m –”
“Do not say that next word, Scully! Just don’t fucking say it! I’d rather have the silent treatment from you for the rest of the night than hear that damn word come out of your mouth.”
She sounded hurt when she spoke. “It’s the truth, Mulder. What do you want me to say?”
“The truth? The truth is, Scully, that you are not okay. I let you tell me you’re fine –” he spat the word out with distaste, “when I can see what this is doing to you. I try to keep my distance every time you have a nosebleed so you don’t think I’m smothering you. I try not to ask too many questions about your doctors’ appointments or your treatments so you don’t feel like I’m prying. The truth is that I’m tired of pretending I –”
“I never asked you to.”
“You didn’t have to.”
Scully’s eyes widened momentarily with shock, then she turned and looked out the window, avoiding his livid gaze. Mulder felt remorse again for arguing with her and wondered why he hadn’t stopped this, but also wondered why this accusation was the one that broke her.
Surprisingly, Scully made no move to leave the car. Usually, she’d already be fleeing up the stairs and locking herself in her apartment. But he understood, as she obviously did, that after tonight, after this fight, there was no running away.
“Will you do something for me, Scully?” Mulder asked. He wanted to sound compassionate and conciliatory, but his voice was hoarse from yelling and he croaked out his words.
“What do you mean?” she asked, wiping her nose. His heart nearly broke as she surreptitiously checked for blood.
“You said you came here tonight because I asked you. Will you do something for me now?”
She didn’t answer, still looking out the window, but she made a slight shrug.
“Scully, for once,” he paused, glancing away, unable to watch her as he made his request, “just for tonight, just pretend that you need me. Indulge me. Let me take care of you. Would — would that be so bad?”
“Yes. It would,” she said after a long, thoughtful pause. Her voice was so small, betraying the utter devastation in which her words had left him. Yet she still hadn’t made any move to get out of the car.
He’d just tried to make it right and she just could not let go of her self-righteous stubbornness, not even for a second. Well, fuck her damn cancer. God, his vindictive side wanted her to leave now. He couldn’t say which urge he was fighting more — trying to persuade her all over again or yelling at her to get the fuck out.
She spoke up before he could decide. Her tone was gentle but sad. “Mulder, you said that we’re afraid of the same thing. But we’re not. We’re really not, Mulder. I’m not afraid to die. I’ve faced death and I’m sure of what will happen when I have to face it again. I’m afraid of — for you. So I can’t — I can’t be what you need tonight because it wouldn’t just be tonight. You know that.” She turned her body to face him and he could see her teary eyes. “And there just isn’t enough time.”
He instinctively started to shake his head, even though he had no idea how to respond. He could never have predicted this reaction from her even if they’d had a thousand years together and not just a few more moments.
She stopped him. “I know I’m dying, Mulder. If you think I haven’t come to terms with that, then you’ve forgotten who I am. What I haven’t come to terms with is where this will leave you when I’m gone, and everything I won’t be able to do or be for you.”
Mulder wasn’t often rendered dumbstruck, but everything he’d ever wanted to say to her came rushing into his head, and suddenly none of it was coherent. All of it was sensation and anxiety and if he opened his mouth, he knew all that would come out was a heartfelt garbled noise, which Scully wouldn’t appreciate.
Mulder didn’t know how much time had passed, but it occurred to him that she was waiting for him to respond. When he focused on her again, Scully was nodding bleakly like she understood what he couldn’t say and was out of the car in a dark rush of overcoat, billowing out beneath her and sweeping up the steps into the building.
Time was lost to Mulder again as he sat and debated about what he should do. He’d made his mind up to just go home and sleep on it, and had even started his car when he stole a final glance up at Scully’s apartment. The blinds moved, and he was sure he’d seen her hand pulling them away from the pane. She was watching him. She was waiting to see what he’d do.
He turned the car off again, and contemplated her words as he tried to decide what it was that she really wanted. And when he imagined them all over again, the words were coming out of his mouth. I’m afraid for you. I haven’t come to terms with everything I won’t be able to do or be for you.
He strained to see if she was still watching. The rain had begun now and was falling in big globs across the windshield, obscuring his view of her window. It didn’t matter. He had his cell in his hand and was already dialling her number before he was out of the car. He took the steps up to her building two at a time. She answered with a sigh by the time he was through the front doors.
“Mulder, it’s late. I don’t want to fight any more. Just go home –”
“Scully, just listen. You’re wrong –”
“Perfect response to me saying I don’t want another argument. Good night, Mulder.”
Her apartment was just down the hall, but it seemed to be getting further away even as he neared. “Can you just this once stop being stubborn and concede that I might be right? That I might know — Scully, it will be enough. You are enough.”
He thought he heard her breath hitch. He was outside her door now. “Do you hear me, Scully?” His next question he was to ask if he was enough for her, but it died on his lips as the knob twisted sharply and the door fell ajar into her darkened apartment. He heard her slippered feet shuffle back, waiting to see what he would do.
He pushed his way in and closed the door behind him.
Author’s note: Title comes from the poem, A Dream Lies Dead by Dorothy Parker.