TITLE: Almost Home (25/?)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Gossamer, Spookys site, Xemplary,
etc.
SPOILER WARNING: Seventh season episodes through Requiem.
RATING: NC-17 (Most of the story is rated R, NC-17 parts will be
clearly marked)
CONTENT STATEMENT: MSR
CLASSIFICATION: SRA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance
SUMMARY: Post ep for Requiem. Mulder comes back... but he's
missing something.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.
NOTE: Thanks to my great beta readers Amy, Keleka, Lisa and Sallie!

Almost Home (25/?)
By Shoshana

February 28th, 2001
Wednesday
6:15 p.m.
Scully's apartment
Georgetown

Mulder and Scully sat at opposite ends of the couch staring at the
offensive sheet of paper on the coffee table. Crumpled and misshapen
by Mulder's initial fit of anger, it rocked precariously on the edge
of the wooden surface. Ten minutes ago he'd read the summons aloud
at her request while she'd bustled about her apartment, opening the
drapes, turning the heat on to take the chill off the late winter
night.

"Skinner--"

"Just got his too, Scully. There's a time stamp of five o'clock.
He either didn't know about this or he's not allowed to communicate
with hearing participants. I don't think he tried to pull a fast one
on us by not warning us in advance. He's known where we were the
last few days."

Scully played idly with the hem of her tunic top. She'd managed to
take her winter coat off before Mulder finished reading the entire
missive. He still wore his leather jacket, shoulders tense from his
spontaneous outburst.

They both had known it was possible--that Mulder could be called
before the OPR, forced to explain his mysterious disappearance five
months ago. The time and effort of dozens of FBI agents and vast
financial resources had been expended to search for him last fall.
The search had tapered off as autumn leaves left the lush Capitol
greenery, dwindling to nil by the season's first snowfall.

Scully, Skinner, and the Gunmen had continued to look for their
friend, never abandoning the fervent hope Mulder would show up in
some local emergency room. The men remembered Scully's return from
oblivion all too well; she only knew secondhand accounts of her
initial stay at Northeast Georgetown Medical Center.

It was one of the hospitals on their primary checklist--every
morning, afternoon, and night their high-speed Pentiums would search
lists of John Does for certain distinguishing characteristics--red
flags that should make Mulder's admittance to a hospital impossible
to miss.

Ironically, Mulder hadn't ended up in any medical facility they'd
been monitoring; he'd hitchhiked his way to Portland, flying home in
a comfortable jet. He'd been shell shocked the entire way home,
gazing with disbelief at the date on all the newspapers he could
muster.

His worries had been far from over, of course. Life had thrown him
another curve ball on top of his seemingly extreme case of amnesia--a
red-headed partner three months shy of her due date. Said partner
sat across from him tonight, skimming her elegantly done manicure
over the seat cushion beside her.

Scully had remained unflustered, observing him with a cool sense of
composure as he'd crushed the OPR letter between his hands--then
thought better of his action, unfurling the abused sheet, flattening
it on top of the coffee table. He'd then settled into the couch,
smiling sheepishly for a brief moment. His mood had darkened in less
than a minute as they'd pondered the consequences of the official
inquiry.

"What will you say?" Scully asked him, as of yet unflustered by the
matter at hand.

Mulder rubbed his eyes with the tips of his fingers, then threaded
his hands through his hair, pushing it off his forehead.

"Argh." He shook his head from side to side, eyes wide open,
perplexed beyond words for one of the few times in his life.

"You don't have to tell them what happened, Mulder. You haven't
told me," she said in a tone of voice she hoped didn't sound the
least bit accusatory. She didn't want him to feel bad about keeping
this to himself. Lord knows she hadn't been completely honest about
what she remembered from her abduction experience.

He turned his face toward her, jaw clenched slightly, pain evident
in his mossy-colored eyes. He didn't want to have this conversation,
not now, perhaps not forever. Especially not while she was pregnant
with her first and perhaps only child.

"I need to show up, Scully. I'll lose my job if I don't. I know
they'll think I'm a nut job when I tell them about Bellefleur, about
the ship, about the little I remember of my abduction. I'm so hazy
on details--I'm not sure whether I dreamed what happened to me during
my captivity. For all I know, everything I remember from the last
five months could be an implanted memory."

She considered this with some gravity, nodding her head as she
curled her lip with the edge of her teeth. He considered this her
'thinking mode' and couldn't suppress a tiny smile as he admired her
zen-like calm.

Scully caught the tail end of his grin, smiling back and asking,
"What?"

"Nothing," he lied, not wishing to explain everything he loved about
her just yet. He didn't want her to feel self-conscious about every
little thing she did. And he wanted to keep the discussion on track
for now.

Her eyes kept smiling as she retorted, "I'll bet. Something's on
your mind, Fox Mulder. Give it up. I want to know, too."

Mulder shook his head no, fully aware she didn't believe him for one
DC minute. His palms rubbed up and down the rough fabric of his
jeans, then tapped a staccato beat against his thighs. He had a
plan--one he'd been formulating for days. It had been too soon to
reveal it to her on their trip to Bellefleur, but now might be a good
time to tell all.

He turned to face her, slinging his arm over the back of the couch.
Their hands were still too far apart to meet, but he considered that
a good thing for the moment. They needed to discuss the future as
sensibly as possible; he was much more rational when he wasn't
touching her.

He thought she might feel the same way--they'd made an art out of
avoiding one another physically on the job last year, especially
after they'd become physically intimate. There was so much heat
between them when they were alone in their own homes, it became
difficult to touch casually at work.

Mulder studied her for a moment. She was waiting patiently for his
reply, accustomed to long pauses in their conversations, particularly
ones this important in the scheme of things. He decide to go for it,
take a chance she wouldn't banish him to Alpha Centauri the minute
she heard his plan.

"I'll go to the hearing, Scully. I'm obligated to do so. To tell
the truth. I'm not going to lie about what I think may have happened
to me."

"It didn't only happen to you, Mulder. Other abductees have been
returned. We have evidence, medical records, personal accounts. You
don't have to feel like a kook anymore. God knows it took me years
to believe," she told him with a grin. "I'll be there. I'll back
you up with what medical evidence we have."

He smiled at her, wanting to bridge the physical gap between them,
but resisting the temptation for now. "I know you will. I know I'll
piss off fifty per cent of the panel with my talk of alien abduction
and brain waves and cloaked space ships. The other fifty per cent
might actually listen to me." He paused, taking in a long, steady
breath before his bombshell. "It will be great to get it off my
chest. Almost like therapy. But Scully, after I tell them what
happened, after they make a decision whether or not to retain me as
an agent or to keep the X-Files open--what happens after that? We go
back to investigating the paranormal when we know there's more
important things--"

"You want to quit?" Scully interrupted.

She'd had a horrible sinking feeling about this since he'd read the
letter to her. Just as she'd expected, he wanted to quit the bureau.
It was too soon--too much had happened to him in the last week and a
half. He'd had to make the physical and emotional adjustment of
being home for the first time in months, discovering a ready-made
family waiting for him. He'd recovered part of his memory, but would
that be all--would he always wonder about the years he had lost?

Mulder waved his hands in the air in protest, then covered his mouth
with one hand, debating his response. Scully seemed agitated, anger
bleeding through her previously calm composure. His best guess was
that she was furious because he hadn't mentioned anything about this
before tonight. She might be willing to listen to his rationale for
quitting the bureau; it was the perceived deception that was pissing
her off.

Scully sighed heavily, then launched herself from the couch with a
lot less difficulty than either of them would have expected. He
practically leaped off the couch, but she raised her hand in a silent
gesture, asking him not to follow her. He fell back, sitting down on
the edge of the couch, watching as she walked to the window
overlooking the parking lot.

Her back turned to him, her voice caught as she spoke. He knew she
was fighting back tears; he just didn't know why.

"Mulder, I don't think you can make a decision like this right now.
I know everything has happened so fast. I know you're struggling to
integrate your life before you met me with the last year of your
life. But you can't do this anymore. You can't make decisions by
yourself anymore."

She turned around slowly and he saw the tears she'd shed already,
streaming down her cheeks. "We can't raise a child, be a family, if
you don't want to include me. How could you come to such a decision
without so much as asking me how I felt about it?"

"I am asking you," he interrupted. "I'm asking you now," he
answered.

He wanted to rush over to her and gather her into his arms--he
resisted the impulse, wary of her mood.

"You sounded like you had already made your decision, Mulder.
You've never asked me what I want to do after my maternity leave is
over. We've never discussed our future beyond May when the baby will
be born. It would have been nice--"

Scully put her hand over her mouth and rushed by Mulder, en route to
the bathroom. Oh shit, Mulder said to himself. The door slammed
and he raced over there, placing his hands against the door, counting
backwards from one hundred slowly before opening his inept mouth.

He heard muffled sounds of her throwing up. Probably not morning
sickness, he surmised. Probably just the stress, the pain he had
brought to her. Why can't I ever learn, he thought. I could have
brought up leaving the bureau a hundred different ways. Count on me
to choose the wrong way.

Mulder couldn't stand outside the door and listen to this anymore.
He knocked softly, then called to her, "Scully, please let me help
you. I want to help you."

He heard the faucet being turned on, then off. He thought he heard
her brushing her teeth, then knew she was when she walked over to the
door and opened it, toothbrush still in her mouth.

"It's open," she said, returning to the sink so she could rinse.

He didn't enter--just leaned against the door jamb and watched her
finish up, dabbing a towel across her mouth. He dropped his head to
his chest, closing his eyes and relaxing stiff muscles by leaning
from one side to the other. When he re-opened his eyes, she was
standing six inches away from him, smelling of mint.

She lifted her hand to his cheek and stroked his rough beard with
her thumb. A tiny smile told him he was one lucky man. Scully
hadn't banished him yet.

"Let's get something to drink, Mulder. I need some camomile tea,"
she told him.

He followed her out to the kitchen, ducking into the refrigerator to
inspect the beverage selection. He reached for a beer, then thought
better of it. What if she wants me to leave, he thought. He didn't
relish that prospect, but he knew it was a likely one. It was still
early and he should wait and see how the rest of the evening played
out.

"You can have a beer, Mulder. I'm not sending you home," she said
with amusement.

He glanced over at her smirking face and said, "Sure you're not
telepathic, Scully?"

She leaned against the counter, grinning back at him as he opened
his beer with an opener he'd found with no problem at all. It was
strange the things he could remember about their life before his
abduction, she mused.

"I don't have to read your mind to know what you're thinking,
Mulder. I know you too well."

He slouched against the dishwasher, several yards away from her. "I
think you've got the advantage, Scully. You've got eight years of
interpretive observation. I'm still trying to remember most of last
year."

The teakettle sang and she was still smiling as she threw a tea bag
in her mug. She motioned toward the living room with her head, and
he followed her back out to the couch. They sat close to one
another, knees almost touching.

She looked over at him, sensing his continuing apprehension.

"Mulder, relax. I told you I'm not making you leave. And take that
jacket off for goodness sake." She then gave him a wicked smile and
added, "I'm not promising you anything about sleeping arrangements,
though."

He laughed out loud, relieved she was trying to lighten the
atmosphere. He knew he wasn't completely absolved. That's why they
were having this tete-a-tete on the couch.

"I'm sorry, Scully," he told her, not wishing to waste another
moment without making a sincere apology.

She took another delicate sip of her tea, then placed her cup on the
coffee table, avoiding the OPR summons handily. Her hand sought out
his free one and she curled her fingers into his palm.

"I know. I'm... I wasn't feeling that great when we got home... and
I don't want you to think it was the subject of our discussion that
made me run away from you."

"I didn't think that, Scully. I know you don't back down from
arguments," he said with obvious pride.

She ducked her head, feeling her cheeks burn at his words. It was
impossible to stay angry at this man anymore. He was stupid and
thoughtless and arrogant at times, but he knew exactly what to say to
back in her good graces.

"No, I don't," she asserted, raising her eyes to meet his again.

Mulder took another swig of beer with his left hand, then set it
down on the table. He wrapped both his hands around her left one and
brought it to his lips. He kissed her tenderly, then lowered their
hands to his lap.

"I'm not going to make any career moves without your approval,
Scully. It was the most logical idea to me at the time. They can't
fire me if I've already resigned."

Scully nodded her head in agreement, then responded, "They can still
make things difficult for you. What if they decide to declare you
AWOL the whole five months. I think staying an agent until they've
decided this case is a stronger position. If you really want to
leave, we can discuss that. I don't know that I want to be a field
agent anymore. Not with a baby to care for."

He raised his hand to her shoulder, kneading the tight muscles
there. "You can teach at Quantico. They would only send you out-of-
state occasionally."

"What will you do?" she asked.

"Turn around, Scully. I want to get both sides," he said, helping
her do just that.

Ecstatic little moans told Mulder he had hit all the right muscles.
He kept massaging as he answered her question, "I can always teach
there, too. Or at one of the universities. I don't think that's a
problem. Maybe I can take care of the baby."

Scully turned her head, eagerly meeting his eyes. "Are you
serious?"

Mulder nodded his head yes.

"Really serious?" One more nod in her direction.

"I'd like that very much. I was going to ask my mom, but--"

"It would be a lot safer for me to be Mr. Mom all day, Scully. Your
mother is no match for the kind of people I'm worried about."

"Do you really believe a threat exists? Krycek may have been
bullshitting us. Maybe the Project is dead like he and the smoking
man."

"Maybe. Maybe not. I'd rather not take a chance on it. Short of
changing our names and going into a witness protection program,
having one of us take care of the baby at all times is the best
solution. But it's no guarantee of anything, Scully. I don't know
what to tell you--things can still happen."

"I know... I know... but I don't want to do anything rash like go
underground, Mulder. Leaving my Mom and my brothers behind would be
like a death in the family. We can work with the Gunmen, try to find
out whether there's a threat to us--or anyone, for that matter."

Mulder put his hand on her hip, gently goading her to turn around.
He covered both her hands with one of his own, then told her quietly,
"There may be no threat, Scully. To us, or anyone. But we won't
know until we do more research. And you know we'll get it done.
Bureau resources or not, we'll get it done."

"The hearing is Friday morning," she reminded him, apprehension
seeping into her equally subdued voice.

"All the cool kids will be there, Scully," he quipped, hoping to
disarm her fears.

A smile rejuvenated her face, erasing tiny lines and wrinkles Mulder
had been loath to see there. He returned her smile, then without a
word, nestled her comfortably against his chest.

"Now, about those sleeping arrangements," he whispered softly in her
ear.

Retaliation was immediate.

"Hey! Those are important organs down there!" he cried in mock
indignation.

Mulder pulled back from her, capturing both her hands in his own.
Scully chuckled silently, beaming up at him with a high-wattage grin.
She struggled against his grip, but he held fast.

"Leggo!" she sputtered, suppressing laughter.

"Promise not to throw me out?"

"Sure," she answered unconvincingly.

"Seal it with a kiss?" he prodded.

"Hmmm, maybe," she retorted, still smiling.

His eyebrows hitched in surprise. "Not good enough for you?"

"Depends on the kiss," she threw back, with impish glee.

"Well, now--" he said, inching toward her.

"Well, now, indeed," she replied.

The couch was empty that night.

fin

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