AUTHOR: CB Files (aka charvill)
(see part I for full description)
Time-off was very rare and, usually, I cherished every second of it. Mulder and I had gotten into a habit of using the time to "catch up" because I was usually so physically exhausted from 18 hour shifts that anything but sleeping beside him was an impossibility.
So waking up alone in a cold bed had brought on a panicky feeling. Since I'd gotten him back from being sentenced to death---had it really been over six years?---we never were apart during the night. The only time we'd come close was a few months ago when he spent time in a hospital recovering from a near-death experience. But, it was more of a desperate need to know each other was truly alive and not a figment of our imagination or some wonderful dream that whoever woke up first had the privilege of watching the other sleep before winding up in each other's arms.
I quickly threw on my robe and rushed into the living room---where he'd fled the night before after one of the stupidest arguments in history---desperate to make this right and bring him back to bed only to find it completely empty. The couch---his makeshift bed---was empty; he had even gone to the trouble of folding the blanket he'd taken and set it neatly at the end, the pillow sitting atop it neatly. I felt the air rush out of my lungs as I puzzled over the meaning of it. In five minutes of searching, I found that he hadn't even left a note.
The crystal vase, its fresh white roses (a gift from Mulder), mocked me and it took every ounce of strength I had not to throw it across the room in a temper tantrum. What had I done that would make him this angry? I thought back to the night before when I had thrown our lack of a public commitment in his face. How did that warrant such behavior? It wasn't like he didn't know how I felt, so...? What the fuck was going on here?
So, I did what any normal woman would do. I showered and washed my face, scrubbing away the traces of tears I'd let pour out under the spray of intensely hot water, before getting dressed and heading to my mother's. When I called with an invitation of a girls' day out (the idea sounded so uncharacteristic I was surprised when she didn't go into a panic over it) she accepted immediately. We had brunch at a local restaurant before heading out to the mall for a shopping spree and pedicures. Yeah, like I said, what any normal woman would do---just not what I would normally do.
It was fun, but even gossiping over the latest church and family scandals (my cousin, Jenna, was getting remarried for the third time, Bill was having an impossible time with getting Matt to behave at school, Charlie was leaving the Navy---even as he was about to be named Captain---to start a seafood restaurant), I couldn't take my mind off Mulder. The worst was that I knew the whole time that Mom was dying to ask where he was.
Ever since I'd been able to confide the whole truth about where we'd been she had never seen me without him at my side. Despite the angst that had surrounded our relationship---she'd watched, and even held, Mulder as he broke down while he confessed how much blame he felt for "putting me in a situation" that ended with me giving our son away---she had never treated him as anything less than a son. She knew what he meant to me, and so she loved him unconditionally for that. Hard to believe, right?
And, as we walked back to my car in the mall's massive parking garage, I felt like someone was watching us. I glanced around, pathetically hoping Mulder would emerge from behind one of the concrete pillars, to find nothing. Had I really grown that dependent on a man's presence in my life? My inner feminist all but screamed at my sad display of neediness.
"Dana, is everything okay?"
"What?" I looked over the hood of the car to find her eyeing me warily, as she waited for me to unlock the car---since, normally, I would have pressed the button about fifteen feet before we reached the vehicle. "Oh, yeah, yeah, sorry," I mumbled, hitting the unlock switch quickly before checking the area around us again. The sound of tires on the pavement as a car---undoubtedly full of teenagers enjoying a skip day---brought me out of my paranoid musings.
I walked her inside and we chatted a little longer over a glass of iced tea, which definitely didn't help turn my thoughts from him, before I promised to pick her up for mass that weekend and kissed her goodbye.
The hulking, late-model black Bronco blocking my car in the driveway, and the dark haired man standing beside it, sent my pulse skyrocketing. Years of habit had me feeling at the small of my back, only to find nothing to wrap my fingers around.
He held his hands up. "Dana, please. I'm just here to talk. I swear, please just listen for a minute."
"How the hell did you find me here, Ed?" Suddenly, my paranoia at the mall didn't seem so ridiculous. I backed towards my mother's house reaching into my jacket pocket for my phone. I'd taken it out of the car, holding on to blind hope that maybe Mulder would return one of the ten texts I'd sent him throughout the day.
"I followed you." My outraged expression must have made him feel the need to explain. "It was the only way I could think of to get a chance to talk to you alone. You know he would never have let me anywhere near you, Dana."
Remembering the scene at O'Toole's, I knew just how right he was; although that had been before...
"I promise, I have only the best intentions. Will you please just let me try to make this right?"
"Do you really think your promises mean anything to me after what you did?"
He took two steps toward me and I dug my heels in determined not to let him see the fear I felt at such a simple gesture.
"Dana, I only want to talk." Another step. "I've had to relive the nightmare I put you through every day the last ten years. Every day I imagined what I would say if I ever got the chance to apologize." Another step. "Please."
He was less than five feet from me now; close enough that I could see the moisture in his eyes and the physical effect ten years in lockup had done to his body. The pain was evident in his voice and his eyes held an infinite sadness that I'd only seen in one other person.
"Dana?" I turned to find my mother standing in her doorway looking from me to the stranger gazing hungrily at her daughter. "Are you alright? Do I need to call---"
"No, Mom, it's okay." The last thing I wanted her to do was call Mulder, or Skinner (who would definitely be calling Mulder), or even the police. "I was just leaving."
"Are you sure, honey?"
I nodded and she hesitated for a second before retreating back inside.
I whirled and closed the space between us. "Listen," I hissed, my finger less than inch from his face, "if you make me out to be a liar for what I just told my mother then I will make the last ten years of your life look like a cake walk, are we clear?"
"Perfectly." His mouth innocently twisted into a half-smile.
"So then what the hell do you want?"
"Can we go somewhere to talk?"
My jaw went slack.
"You can drive." He turned and headed back to his SUV. "Just let me pull my car to the side so you can drive. Is that okay?" When I made no move to protest, he smiled again and quickly put his car into reverse.
"I must be losing my mind," I said aloud to no one before getting in my car, turning on the engine, and unlocking the passenger door.
I watched as Dana pulled out onto the street, the dark stranger grinning hugely as he hopped in beside her. Reaching for my phone, I entered "911 Dana" as he'd shown me one day while my daughter was in the other room and scrolled down until I found his name in my cell phone's list of saved numbers.
Then, I prayed. Please, Lord...please don't let this be a huge mistake on my part.
((to be continued))