TITLE: Signs Along the Way (1/1)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Gossamer, Spookys site, Xemplary,
etc.
SPOILER WARNING: Seventh season episodes through all things.
RATING: PG
CONTENT STATEMENT: MS/UST
CLASSIFICATION: VA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully UST
SUMMARY: Post ep for all things.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.
NOTE: Thank you Gillian Anderson, for giving us so much to think
about.

Signs Along the Way
By Shoshana

I have a huge crick in my neck. What did I do, fall asleep sitting
up again? Seems to happen all the time anymore, in cars, in planes,
on my couch at home... Hey, wait a minute... this isn't my couch,
it's Mulder's. My thighs are sticking to his leather couch, even
though I've got hose on.

Or maybe simply because I do; it's so hot under this heavy woolen
blanket. The wool is itchy against my skin. I never could wear pure
wool, it always irritated me, made me rush to the girls' locker room
in between classes. I'd change out of that Christmas sweater Grandma
had given me, and Mom had made me wear to school.

Mom was never the wiser. She got the satisfaction of watching me
run out the door, wearing those handknit cardigans that arrived
yearly, no matter where Dad was stationed. She wrote Grandma glowing
letters, about how all of us loved to wear them. That's why they
kept arriving year after year, till she passed on.

I feel more alert now and I push the navajo rug off me, bundling it
to one side of the crinkled leather surface. I rub my eyes with my
hands; they are watery, from sleep, from exhaustion, from spending
the whole day in a car, rushing from hospital to work to home again.

I lean my head back and roll it around, from one shoulder to the
other, working out the stiffness I've woken with. The bones crack
softly, remind me that I am no longer twenty-five, no longer pulling
all-nighters in med school, no longer working forty-eight hour shifts
as a hospital intern.

A hospital intern. That's what I was when I met Daniel. A fresh,
young, terribly naive woman-child. One who had devoted so much of
her life to straight As and volunteer work and cultivating the
perfect resume to get into Medical school, that I'd stayed home
most Saturday nights, never left the dorm on a school night.

I'd dated some. Even started a few relationships. But the young
men, my peers, always wanted more of me than I had to give at the
time.

That's one reason I was attracted to Daniel. He didn't expect any
more of me than some company for coffee at first. We'd discuss
classwork. We'd discuss my future, what I wanted to accomplish in
life. Coffee led to dinner, dinner led to clumsy kissing in his
car. Kissing led to trysts in his hotel room, the one he'd taken
while temporarily separated from his wife.

I knew it was wrong. I knew I should stop it. I wanted to, but I
was so taken with him, and he was so taken with me. I knew the
attraction between us could last, could develop into more than
simple lust. But ultimately, I couldn't do it. Couldn't commit
myself to a man twenty years older than myself, twenty years
wearier of the world.

I told him to reconcile with his wife, move back home. He didn't
want to. He begged me to stay at the university, stay with him
forever. I couldn't. I couldn't carry that kind of guilt with me
the rest of my life. I couldn't be the one that tore his family
apart.

So when the FBI recruited me, when they asked me to move to
Washington, I left at the end of the term. I did it for him. I
did it for his family. I hoped and prayed that he would return home
to them.

I made a clean break. No forwarding address. No mother's
home address. No promises to keep in touch. It wouldn't have been
fair to either of us. It wouldn't have been fair to his wife, to his
daughter.

It was easy. It really was. Once I packed up and left school, once
I enrolled in the Academy, I was too busy to brood about what could
have been. I had to fight so hard for respect... because of my size,
because of my sex, there was never a moment to look back and regret.

I didn't hear from him. I assumed that he'd gone back to his
wife, which was all I really wanted for him. I don't know what I
would have done if I'd been aware of his presence in Washington.
It's odd our paths never crossed, with all the hospitals, all the
emergency rooms Mulder and I have been to the last seven years.

He was well hidden. I'm sure that was intentional. He hid in a
corner of academia I would never stray into, never have the need to
do a consultation for. Unless he wanted me to. Unless he was brave
enough to confront me again, to tell me he'd left his wife, his
daughter.

He would have been ashamed to tell me he'd left them. Ashamed that
I'd been the stronger one, strong enough to follow my own path. I'd
offered him a golden opportunity, an opportunity to right the wrong
thing we'd become.

So he stayed away, stayed as far from my domain as he could. I'm
sure he knew where I was. I'm sure he could have found out anything
he wanted about me. But he wasn't a stalker, he wasn't a psychopath.
If he had been that dysfunctional, if he had been that screwed up a
person, I would have never fallen for him, never have gotten past
that first stolen kiss.

Right. I know. Appearances can be deceiving; I've learned that
much from working on the X-Files. I've seen strange phenomena,
strange people throughout the years. But I knew, I just knew he
wasn't a bad person. Just a bad husband. And I thought at the time
that only as long as I aided and abetted him in being so, would he
remain so.

Or so I thought. I was wrong. I was dead wrong. But I made the
right decision the year I was twenty-five. I took back my
independence, took back my ability to make decisions for myself,
and no one *but* myself.

It was the first time, but my no means the last time I tore myself
away from a man, from a lover. I did it with Jack. I did it with
Ethan. I broke off those relationships, for what I felt to be quite
rational motives.

It was easier to leave a man behind the second time. Even easier the
third time. I told myself, 'you're in the wrong place, this is the
wrong time.' You can't get tied down now, can't try to lead two
lives... one in the FBI, one of domestic tranquility.

Nothing about my new life in the FBI was tranquil. Not at the
Academy where I met and dated Jack, nor when I was assigned to
Quantico and found Ethan. We'd only been living together for a few
months when I was assigned to the X-Files.

It was pure attraction, nothing more than that at first. And at
long last, here was a guy my own age, one completely different
than my last two lovers. We'd grown to like each other. I was
sure we'd grow to love one another.

He couldn't put up with my schedule, with my frequent trips out
of town with my new partner. It was irrational for him to be
jealous. Of course I'd have a male partner. Of course I'd travel
around the whole country with him. There were too few female agents
to pair two of them together.

And unlike Daniel, unlike Jack, who both had wanted to marry me, he
wasn't willing to sacrifice for me, to see less of me, to wait at
home for me. One Sunday I returned to our apartment and he was gone,
just gone. I sat down and looked around, looked at the bare spaces
where his stereo had been, looked at the bare shelves where his
books had been in neatly organized rows.

I must have sat and stared at the walls for an hour or so, before I
got up, made myself some coffee, and opened my briefcase. I sat down
on the futon, opened a case file, and worked till ten o'clock that
night.

Around 10:30, I got a call from my new partner. He always seemed to
call at the most inopportune times, but I was getting used to his
unpredictability. It had irked the hell out of Ethan. But I'd
welcomed his voice that night and every night thereafter.

Had I a clue then, had I even the slightest idea what would happen
to me in the next few years... would I have stayed his partner?
Would I have developed such a strong friendship, such a faith in this
maddening, self-important, but brilliant man?

He trusted me. He believed in me. With every good reason to
suspect me, he extended his hand to me, grasped it as an equal
partner. He didn't expect any more of me than my best, my best as an
FBI agent and a scientist.

What did he expect of me as a woman? Certainly not what my lovers
had. He was respectful of me, of my ability to protect him, to
protect myself. He never made one untoward move, never devalued our
relationship for a fleeting affair.

I'm sure he didn't think he'd get very far if he approached me
sexually. Either that, or his past experience dating Diana had
soured him on office relationships. So, instead of ignoring my
femininity completely, he used humor to break the tension between
us. He didn't want to treat me like one of the guys, but he saw no
reason to handle me with kid gloves either.

So... I stayed with him. It was the first time I had a close
relationship with a man that didn't include sex. It was the first
time I grew to love a man, completely, unconditionally, without
regrets. And it's the first time I've wanted to stay, really stay,
with a man for the rest of my life.

I rise from the couch, stretching my arms to the ceiling, shaking my
legs out one by one. I navigate my way around the coffee table by
the green light of the aquarium. Live fish, Mulder. What a novel
concept.

It's two-thirty in the morning. I'm still exhausted. But I'm not
going back to that torturous excuse for a couch. Instead, I think
I'll go make a choice... follow the signs along the way... the ones
which lead to my new lover's bed.

fin

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