Chapter 19: Living in Sin

     They stop occasionally to fuel up and stretch, taking two-hour shifts across the winding, mountainous back roads. Isaac remains silent, waking from his fretful sleep only to stare out the window, then doze off.

     Mulder and Scully don’t talk, either. Whatever passed between them earlier have been temporarily put aside; the events of the last day have dulled their anger, but the tension remains.

     “What will happen to him?” Scully asks out of the blue, somewhere around mile 700. Isaac is sleeping deeply; he’s calmed down, no more tossing and turning, she’s moved to the front to give him space.

     Mulder looks over, surprised to hear her voice. “If we get out of this, you mean? Don’t know…he’ll probably become a ward of the state. There’s foster care.”

     She considers this. “I wonder if the Van de Kamps have other family. An aunt or cousin…someone who could take him.”

     “I didn’t see any mention of extended family in his file,” Mulder continues. “Anyway…we have to figure out how to stop these attacks first.”

     Scully nods, sighs, resting her head back against her seat and turning away.

     Mulder glances at her, desperate to continue this conversation—anything is better than the cold, heavy silence. “How’s the hand?”

     She looks down at her wrapped right palm. “Hurts like a bitch, now that you mention it.” She unwraps it slowly, grimacing at the painful red blisters on her palm. “Second degree, not big. We should find a first aid kit, though.” She re-wraps it in the scrap of sweatshirt, drawing in a sharp breath at the contact.

     “You’re lucky it wasn’t more than just your hand back there.” He glances in the rear view where Isaac is sleeping soundly…now’s his chance.

     “Hey,” he continues. “Maybe we could have that talk.”

     “Mmmm?”

     “Provided we get out of this alive…do I have a home to come back to?”

     “You always have a place with me. You know that…” But she’s still looking away.

     “Do I? Sounded like one of us was headed out the door, last I checked. And your name’s on the mortgage.”

     Her jaw tightens, but she doesn’t respond.

     “What do you want, Scully? This isn’t one of those marriage things, is it? Is your mom still harping on us for living in sin?”

     She barks a laugh, rolling her eyes. “Jesus, no. No. I…no. My mother’s opinion of our marital status is not even on the radar right now.”

     “Well, good, ‘cause we’re kind of beyond me making an honest woman out of you,” he smiles, prodding her gently. “So you gonna tell me?”

     “I don’t know,” she whispers after a long pause. “I’ve spent most of my life chasing monsters and demons. Pursuing the truth. Your truth. I thought, when we left the FBI…I thought I would find myself again, in my work at the hospital. And I do, I love healing, but…I can’t help but feel like there’s something I’m missing. Some vital part.”

     Mulder nods, letting this sink in, but they both know what they’ve left mostly unspoken in their last several years together.

     “Maybe I’ve resented you for…for already having your answers,” she continues. “For throwing myself so deeply into your truth that I’ve neglected my own. Or because you didn’t seem to experience the loss so…acutely.”

     Her last confession catches him off guard. “It’s not that I didn’t think about him, Scully. I did.” He glances in the rear view, where Isaac remains sound asleep. “But maybe I didn’t talk about it enough,” he admits. “Maybe I blocked it off.”

     She looks at him then, considering this, but he can’t read her expression in the dim light of the dash.

     “Look,” he continues, “I’m sorry if I made you think you were the only one of us who felt William’s absence. I told myself I didn’t want to make things more painful for you…but I couldn’t handle another loss, Scully. We’d already given so much…I couldn’t face losing him, too.”

     He reaches across the console to take her unbandaged hand. She looks up, surprised at the contact, but doesn’t let go.

     “You’ve found your truth.”

     “Perhaps,” she says, gently pulling from his grip, distant again. “It isn’t exactly what I’d hoped for.”

     He nods, returning his eyes to the road. “Yeah. It rarely is.”

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