Summary: She remembers the space he’d carved around himself, and the moment she realized the distance was too great to cross.
She makes her way up the long drive, the old farmhouse looming like a specter from her past. There are no lights in the windows, just a cold, hulking shadow against a darkening sky; an apt metaphor if she thinks about it too much, which she won’t.
“Where are you, Mulder?” Scully whispers to herself. His car is parked next to the porch. It’s evening, too early for sleep.
The air is damp as she leaves the warmth of the car, carrying a folder of papers. Spring has turned the ground to mud beneath her feet, and she, in her most expensive pair of heels, frowns. Her good boots are at the bottom of a box at the back of her closet along with the rest of the things she never unpacked.
The porch creaks in the same places, the screen door still protests on its hinge. She knocks once before trying the handle, finding it open.
The house is dusty and silent. She curses under her breath, gooseflesh rising along the back of her neck, wishing she had her holster. Three months on the job after so long away and she’s still not used to carrying.
She’s debating whether to check upstairs or leave the file on the kitchen table when a voice calls her name from outside.
She steps onto the porch, squinting into the darkness. “Mulder? Is that you?”
“I’m out back,” he calls. “Watch your step.”
She turns on her phone’s flashlight and makes her way to the back yard. A shadow sits on the frame of the old pickup they haven’t used in years.
“I’d have left the porch light on if I’d known you were coming,” it says.
She points the phone in that direction, eliciting a wince from her partner as the beam hits his eyes.
“Sorry,” she mutters, shutting off the light. “What are you doing out here, Mulder?”
There’s the distinct sound of liquid sloshing, the kiss of a bottle at his lips.
“Just sittin’ and thinkin’.”
“In the dark? It’s chilly,” she says, rubbing her shoulders for emphasis.
His face resolves as her eyes slowly adjust. He’s sitting on the tailgate, legs dangling off the end, a beer nestled between his thighs.
“I thought you’d be working.”
“Guy can’t take a break once in a while?”
She smirks. “Who are you and what have you done with my partner?”
“Hah-hah, funny. Have a seat, Scully.”
She does after a pause, easing herself onto the tailgate to join him.
“This’ll warm you up,” he says, offering her a beer.
“How many of these have you had?” she asks, accepting the bottle with a raised eyebrow.
“Just the one, doc. Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s not that kind of party.”
The cap twists off; the taste of malt fizzes on her tongue, goes down smooth.
“I take it you’re here for business and not pleasure,” he says, nodding to the folder in her lap.
“Mm. It’s the autopsy results for Lisa Baylor. Scrapings from her fingernails revealed traces of skin; they’re processing the DNA and I asked the lab to run it through NICS. We’ll have the full results in the morning, but I thought you’d want to get an early start.”
“You ever heard of email, Scully?”
“You mean the thing that keeps you tethered to your computer at all hours? Yeah, I’ve heard of it,” she mutters.
He offers a wry smile. “You didn’t have to drive all the way out here for that.”
“Maybe I wanted to talk about the case in person.”
His voice grows soft. “You don’t need an excuse to visit, you know. You always have a place here.”
“I wasn’t looking for an excuse.”
“Checking up on me, huh?”
“Mulder,” she sighs. “Don’t start.”
A cricket chirps in the grass at their feet, filling the stillness that hovers like a black mist. She remembers the space he’d carved around himself, and the moment she realized the distance was too great to cross.
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” he says finally, nudging her shoulder in apology. “Been a rough year. Sometimes I forget we’re on the same side now.”
“I’ve always been on your side, Mulder,” she murmurs, feeling their history like a lead weight in her chest. “I’ve only ever wanted what was best for you.”
“I know,” he nods, then holds out his bottle. “Truce?”
“Truce,” she agrees, letting the glass clink softly. For a moment, the silence is comfortable, familiar, and she closes her eyes.
When she opens them, she’s looking at his profile in the dusky light. With his beard shaved and his hair trimmed, she can almost see the man she met twenty odd years ago. Without thinking, she reaches out to touch his cheek, the stubble rough against her fingers.
He looks over, bemused, and she pulls her hand away, still feeling the ghost of his skin against her palm.
“You clean up good, G-man,” she says.
He chuckles, his gaze turned upward. “Hey, it’s starting.”
He points to the sky and her eyes follow, trying to see what he sees. A pinprick of light flicks across the sky, followed by another, and then another; the beginnings of a meteor shower.
Mulder reaches behind them and pulls out two rolled sleeping bags, settling back against one in the bed of the truck. She doesn’t ask why he brought two instead of one, for the same reason she knows the extra beer in her hand was never intended for him.
She pulls the rolled blanket behind her and lies back to watch the show. Her eyes flit from one corner of the heavens to the other as more of the blue-white streaks make their way across the night, and she marvels at how the stars can still stun her with their beauty, how the universe in all its endless mystery can be so breathtaking, even after bringing such grief.
His voice is rich and vulnerable, spoken to the open air. “It wasn’t all bad, was it, Scully?”
She doesn’t have to think. Her response is as immediate and as involuntary as a heartbeat. “No…it wasn’t.”
She finds his hand without trying and listens to the sound of their mingled breathing as the sky falls around them.