"Point blank?" Tim asked.
Griscom nodded. "That would be my guess, detective. It's unlikely that a longer-distance shot would have left an exit wound like that one. Anything else I can do for you, today?" he asked, his face twisted in a slight smirk.
"No, I think we're done here, unless you have a suspect you want to share with me."
Griscom chuckled and started walking back toward his car. "Come see me in a few hours, detective. I'll have it all laid out for you."
Bayliss smiled and waved as the cell phone on his hip began to ring. He flipped the phone open and pulled it to his ear.
"I knew a cell phone would be a good birthday present," Mulder responded.
Tim smiled. Mulder had been gone for several days on a case in Illinois. He and Scully were on the road several times a month, but Tim never got used to it. At least now he and Mulder could eliminate some of the phone tag.
"How's the case going?" Tim asked.
"Not good," Mulder responded. "Pfaster is still missing and now we've got a dead girl. Our only lead, the prison chaplain, has disappeared as well. I need to get Scully out of here, she's not doing well with it. We're going to turn it over to the US Marshals."
Tim shook his head. Mulder had told him about Donnie Pfaster when he first got the case. After getting the call from Skinner, Mulder had looked physically ill by the time he set the phone back down. He had quickly explained to Tim how, early in his partnership with Scully, a death fetishist had kidnapped and nearly killed her. Pfaster had messed her up badly at the time, more mentally than physically. He had made her afraid in a way that no other case ever had. Mulder knew that Scully had consulted the bureau's psychologist after the case. It had taken her a long time to get over Donnie Pfaster and now he had escaped from prison under suspicious circumstances. He and Scully had been called in to look for him. Tim could hardly imagine it. The Dana Scully he knew was rarely out of control, practically unflappable.
"So, you coming home?" Tim asked, pulling himself back to their conversation.
"Yeah. We'll be at BWI at 7:45 tonight. Can you come get me?" Mulder asked.
Tim smiled. It was an ongoing joke with them. Early on in their relationship Tim had made Mulder watch "When Harry Met Sally." Now he knew that the day Tim didn't come to the airport anymore was a sign that it was over.
"Yeah, I just caught a case, but I should be able to get out by then. If not I'll leave a message for you at the gate."
"Sounds good," Mulder replied. "Hey, Tim?"
Tim switched the phone off and tucked it back into his pocket. "Okay, let's get this one wrapped up! I've got places to go, people to see."
Tim smiled as he caught sight of Dana Scully's red hair.
"Dana! How was the flight?" he asked, taking her carry-on bag from her. She shrugged and hitched the shoulder strap on her briefcase, glancing back down the jet way.
"Mulder should be out in a minute. We got there late and he ended up having to stow his bag in one of the overhead bins way in the back of the plane."
Tim nodded and waited. Dana looked tired and stressed. Mulder had not exaggerated her strong reaction to the case.
"Can we drop you off?" he asked.
"No, I'll just catch the MARC into town. Mulder's tired too," she answered.
"Mulder's what?" Mulder asked as he broke away from the last of the stragglers deplaning.
"Finally here..." Tim responded, smiling. He hugged Mulder, sliding a quick kiss on the other man's neck.
"It's good to be home," Mulder replied.
They moved deliberately through the airport, waving to Scully as she headed toward the regional train. In a few minutes Tim had stowed Mulder's luggage in the back of the Explorer and they were headed into town.
"I don't ever need to hear Pfaster's name again," Mulder said, dropping his head back against the headrest. "I supported Scully when she argued against the death penalty for him, but now...part of me wishes they had fried him."
Tim nodded as he pulled over into the right lane preparing to exit into the city. "She's lucky to have you, Mulder."
Mulder looked into the mirror. He had aged ten years on the trip. It was hard to see Scully so upset. It wore on him.
He looked out into the other room where Tim lay in bed reading a book. He was so cute with his glasses sliding slightly down his nose. Mulder sighed. Scully should have this too, she deserved it. More than he did, that's for sure. He squeezed a little paste onto his toothbrush and began to scrub his teeth. His mouth full, he walked into the bedroom, giving Tim a half-hearted smile.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and picked up the clock radio to set the alarm. The radio came on and music filled the room. He stared at the small apparatus as he recognized the song. It was that song on the radio, "Don't Look Any Further" ...again. Something didn't feel right. That song again. Each time they had heard the song, it was a sign. It had been playing in the jail and again at the diner after they lost track of Pfaster again. Scully had reported hearing it in the hospital room when Revered Orison disappeared. It had always been a sign, a warning. He abruptly turned the radio off and in the sudden silence set it back on the lamp table.
He leaned over and gave Tim a quick peck on the cheek. Tim reached up and brushed his finger where Mulder's lips had wet his skin.
"Minty," Tim said smiling.
Mulder got up and went back into the bathroom, rinsing his mouth out.
"You might think I'm nuts, but I've got a really weird feeling about Scully," Mulder said, as he returned and lay down in bed next to Tim.
"Call her. You'll feel better, I'm sure," Tim replied.
Mulder nodded and reached for the phone. Each unanswered ring raised his apprehension up a notch. Finally he hung the phone up.
"That's not right. I'm going down there," Mulder said, getting out of bed and heading for the closet to get dressed.
"I'll go with you," Tim said, throwing back the blankets.
"No Tim, I'm sure it's nothing. Go to bed. You have a full day tomorrow," Mulder said as he pulled a gray t-shirt over his head. "I'll call you when I get there."
Later, when he was filling out the paperwork, Mulder was still not completely sure what had happened. The sense of dread that had come over him as he got ready for bed had steadily grown as he drove down Interstate 95 toward Scully's apartment. He didn't even notice as the speedometer wavered between 75 and 80; for once the speeder's god being on his side and keeping the Maryland State Patrol at bay. The Beltway gave way to the suburban Maryland side streets, and then finally the District and Georgetown. Mulder turned onto Scully's street, keeping his eye open for a vacant parking place. Finally, in desperation, he pulled over and put his flashers on, pulling an FBI identification card from the glove box to put on the dash of the car.
Mulder jumped from the car and headed up toward Scully's apartment, his hands working through the keys on his ring readying hers. He came to the door and could hear pulsing music. In his haste, he dropped the keys. Leaving them on the floor, he pulled his gun from the holster and kicked the door in.
Pfaster was in the living room. Mulder called out for him to stop, to put his hands up. He scanned the room, looking for Scully. What had Pfaster done with her? To her? He tried to control the tremble in his gun hand as he continued to look for Scully. His mind would not allow him to think about what he might find in the other rooms.
The other man followed Mulder's orders, then suddenly the air was filled with the crisp retort of a semi-automatic. Pfaster dropped to the floor, exposing Scully as she emptied her clip on her tormentor. Mulder stepped back as small flecks of the light, the ceiling rained down on him. He couldn't hide the look of horror he knew must be on his face, but he could see that Scully's own face was blank as she cast her glance from Pfaster to himself. Shock, he thought. Before Mulder could catch her, she sank to the floor.
He gently picked her up and carried her to her room. It was destroyed, clearly ground central of the battle between Scully and her captor. He set her down on the edge of her bed as far from the broken glass and destroyed bookshelf as he could manage. He pulled a blanket from the linen closet and put it around her shoulders. She pulled it closer, trying to cover herself from him. It broke his heart.
The police came quickly, summoned by Scully's neighbor who it seemed hadn't been bothered by her screams, but did notice the gun fire. For the first time in memory the coroner's office responded quickly , performed their routine crime scene activities, and removed the body. The questioning went smoothly, Scully's responses remarkably coherent, her voice low and her eyes dead. Mulder knew he had to get her out of there.
Finally everyone was done for the time being and they could leave. They'd have to go through it all again with the Bureau the next day and stop by the precinct station for more paperwork, but for now they were free. He went to find her in her room.
"If you want to pack some things, we can get out of here," he said, crossing to where she stood by the window. She nodded and reached into her dresser drawer. She pulled out her Bible.
"You can't judge yourself," Mulder said, touching her arm.
"Maybe I don't have to," Scully responded, moving away and sitting down on the bed.
" The Bible allows for vengeance."
"But the law doesn't."
Mulder moved to sit next to her.
"The way I see it... he didn't give you a choice. And my report will reflect that... in case you're worried. Donnie Pfaster would've surely killed again if given the chance." He doubted she was even registering what he was telling her.
"He was evil, Mulder. I'm sure about that, without a doubt. But there's one thing that I'm not sure of."
"Who was at work in me. Or what... what made me... what made me pull the trigger."
"You mean if it was God?"
"I mean... what if it wasn't?"
He moved closer until their bodies touched, holding her for a moment. Her body felt like a coiled spring, with every muscle seeming hard and tight. After a beat she straightened up, pulling away.
"We should go," she said. She got up and walked back to the dresser pulling a pair of sweat pants out. "I'll just change and then we can leave."
Mulder nodded and went back into the hall to wait. Clearly she needed a little more time to herself but her stoic expression was frightening him.
Mulder helped her into the Explorer and drove down the street. He pulled an expert U-turn and headed back toward Wisconsin Avenue.
"Where do you want to go?" he asked, turning slightly in order to look at her.
She stared down at her hands. "Can we go to my mom's?" she asked. "I don't think I can be with anyone else tonight, not even Tim."
"That's fine," Mulder answered, as he pointed the car toward Mrs. Scully's home in Bethesda.
Mulder pulled into the driveway of the neat colonial. The house was dark. Scully took in the obvious emptiness of the house and sighed.
"I totally forgot," Scully said slowly. "She's in Florida, at my aunt's. She won't be home for two more days."
"Well," Mulder said, exhaling slowly, "we could go up to Baltimore or we could just stay here. You have a key, don't you?"
Scully nodded and opened the car door. "Let's do that. If you just come in with me while I get the lights, then you can go."
Before Mulder could answer she got out and headed toward the front door. He grabbed her overnight bag from the car and followed her, aching to bridge the gap she was creating between them. By the time he reached the house, she had taken her keys out and opened the door.
"The lights are on the right, in the hall," she said, stepping aside so Mulder could enter first. He stepped in the house and flicked on the lights. She paused a moment and then stepped in, closing the door behind her. She turned and quickly locked the deadbolt, pocketing the keys.
She looked around the hallway. "The thermostat is in the living room. We should turn up the heat." She moved into the darkened front room, Mulder shadowing her movements again.
"Scully, let me just call Tim and I'll stay with you. I...I don't want to leave you here alone tonight."
Scully looked back at him and nodded.
Mulder reached into his pocket and quickly dialed home on his cell.
"Yeah," Tim answered, his voice full of sleep.
"Hey, it's me," Mulder replied. "I don't want to go into it now, but things were complicated at Scully's. I'm at her mom's now and I'm going to stay with her."
"What happened? Is Scully alright?" Tim answered, his voice suddenly more aware.
"Everything's fine. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. Just...just get some sleep now."
"Okay, tomorrow. Tell Scully I'm thinking of her," Tim replied.
"I will. And Tim...I love you," Mulder said quietly into the phone.
"Me too," Tim replied before hanging the phone up.
Mulder flipped his phone shut and put it back in his pocket. He walked into the living room. The lights were on, but Scully wasn't there. He followed the trail of light into the kitchen where she was standing by the stove.
"I thought a little tea might help," she said, turning to look at him. He could tell that she had been crying, the tears still apparent on her cheeks and he felt a tightness in his chest.
"God, Scully...what did he do to you? Did he...did he really hurt you?" Mulder asked, reaching to touch the bruises on her face.
Her eyes dropped down. "He would have, but no, he didn't...he didn't rape me."
Mulder looked away. He didn't even want to hear her say the word, the thought of it too much to bear.
The teapot whistle interrupted the uneasy silence. Scully reached for the mugs and filled them with hot water. She handed one to Mulder. He took it, looking up at her with a smile.
They sipped at their tea until finally Scully stood up and dumped the rest down the sink. "I think I'll try to get some sleep," she said. "I know that Skinner and a whole lot of people are going to want to talk to us tomorrow."
Mulder stood up and walked over to the sink, disposing of the remnants of his tea as well. "I think that's a good idea."
He followed her out of the kitchen to the front hall. They both reached for her bag, she finally pulling her hand away. She lead the way up the steps.
"You can have the guest room," she said, as they reached the top of the steps. "I'll take my mom's room."
Mulder followed her into the master bedroom, setting her bag down on the end of the bed. "You going to be okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm just...I'm just going to take a shower and then, well, try to sleep."
He turned to leave and then stopped and looked back at her. "It's going to be alright."
She nodded but her quivering lower lip and tear-filled eyes told him that she didn't believe that yet. She began moving toward the bathroom but sensed that he was still there. She turned back to look at him, still standing in the doorway. "Thanks, Mulder."
He nodded and headed toward the guest bedroom.
Mulder shot up in bed, the air filled with Scully's cries from the other room. They were cries of terror. His heart was racing. It took him a moment to realize where he was. Understanding the pain Scully must be suffering, he pushed the covers back and hurried to her room.
"Scully, wake up," he said, sitting down on the bed so he could take her in his arms. She continued to whimper, trapped in her dreams. "C'mon, Scully, it's okay, I have you now."
She pulled him tighter. "He grabbed me and then I got free, but then he had me again and he was so strong."
"You're okay. It's okay," Mulder repeated over and over as he rocked her slowly in his arms.
"Don't leave me," she pleaded.
"I won't leave you," Mulder answered. He loosened his hold slightly so he could scoot underneath the blankets next to her. He wrapped his arms around her, tucking his body behind hers, holding her close to him. He felt her relax slightly against him. Finally, she slept.
It was morning when she woke, the first light of dawn could be seen through the shades covering the windows in her mom's room. Scully moved against Mulder without thinking. She moaned slightly, remembering again how the nightmare of Pfaster attacking her had entered her dreams the night before. He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the top of her head. For just a moment she felt safe. Mulder had her. He had come.
"Mulder, I..." Scully whispered, not sure what she wanted to say. She turned so she could face him, her face covered with tears. She put her arms up around his neck and leaned in to kiss him, first gently, then more hungrily. She wanted more of that feeling. She wanted to be safe. She wanted to stay in his arms. She rolled closer, until she was on top of him, kissing more intently.
"Scully..." Mulder started, but was quickly silenced by Scully's continued actions. She clutched at him, controlling him, trying to control anything in her life.
"Mulder, I...I need you," she panted, her hand sliding down to touch him. He was hard.
She moved against him again, her soft hands along his chest. His body responded in kind.
She slipped her t-shirt off. He touched her breast. The nipple hardened as he brushed against it. He reached down to kiss it.
Mulder kissed her gently on the side of her neck as her hand snaked down again, this time inside his boxers, firmly stroking his penis. He could feel himself growing harder as his hands moved down, trying to avoid the bruises which seemed to cover her body.
"Are you sure?" he asked, panting slightly as she continued to stroke him. "You're upset and this is...Scully, I don't think this is the best thing for you right now."
"Mulder, I need you," was her only answer. She did. She needed him. She knew if she stopped to think she would regret this. She would not stop to think. She couldn't.
Any further protest he might have offered was snuffed out by the persistence of her mouth and hands. His boxers and her panties quickly joined her t-shirt on the floor. She straddled his hips and with a hand on his shaft eased herself down onto him, setting a silent rhythm with one small hand splayed on his abdomen to balance herself. Gradually the pace became more of a wild dance.
She felt Mulder's felt orgasm start to build. He reached one hand between them to touch her clit but she swiped his hand away and dug her fingers into his hips. Her nails dug in as she held on for dear life. She was going to hold. She had to. She began to shudder and her muscles contracted around him. She relaxed enough to allow him to move and with a few quick upward jabs of his hips his orgasm exploded through his groin.
She fell against him, panting. She could see where her nails had left a welt on his shoulder. She felt a sense of regret. This should not have happened. In the end, the act was quick and if it had been anyone other than Mulder, it might have been quite forgettable.
Mulder looked up from his cup of coffee as Scully walked into the kitchen. He met her eyes briefly and then looked away. He was so ashamed. He should be focused on her, but all he could think about was how he had screwed things up. Tim. He wouldn't think about Tim now. He couldn't. Besides, he had let her down when she needed him most. First he had allowed Pfaster to almost kill her, and then he had allowed the unthinkable to happen. He had messed everything up, hurt everyone he loved.
Scully poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down across the table from Mulder. She took a deep sip and engrossed herself in the pine knot in the table top.
"Scully," Mulder started. He couldn't go on.
"Let's just...not," she responded. He nodded.
They sat in silence as they each finished their coffee.
"Scully," Mulder began again. "We have to talk about this."
Scully shook her head. "No, we need to forget it. We need to forget about Pfaster and everything that happened after it." She paused and looked at him, her eyes pleading with him. "We don't tell anyone, especially Tim. You don't ruin your life because of what I did."
Mulder shook his head. "You didn't do this, Scully, I did. This is my fault."
"I'm sorry Mulder, but you don't have the monopoly on blame," Scully answered. She stood up and poured the last drops of coffee into the sink.
When she was finished she turned back to him. "Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to call my mother and get her to come home today. You're going to go back to Baltimore. On Monday we'll finish filling out our reports and meet with OPR. We will not talk about this again. You will not tell Tim. It shouldn't have happened and as long as we don't bring it up again, it won't matter."
Mulder thought about throwing out a quip about denial, but bit his tongue instead. "Okay," he responded. He owed that much to Scully. If this was the way she wanted to play it, then that's what they would do.
"Hey," Tim said as Mulder came through the front door. He got up from his chair in the living room and took Mulder in his arms. "I saw the Post. How is Scully?"
Mulder stepped back, his face creased with pain. "Terrible. I...he could have killed her, Tim. Why did I let her go home alone like that?"
Tim led Mulder to the couch where they both sat down. "You didn't know, Mulder. You had no way of knowing this would happen."
"No, I knew. I felt it was wrong the whole time. I should have..." Mulder's voice trailed off and he looked away from Tim's face.
"You were there for her when she needed you. You helped her."
Mulder continued to look down toward his feet. Yeah, he had really helped her.
Mulder looked up from the report he was trying to finish. She had sighed. Again. He knew she wanted to talk, but he had been avoiding her.
"Okay, clearly you have something to say," he responded, his tone clipped.
Scully moved away from the small table where her computer sat.
"And you don't think we should talk about it?" she asked.
"No. I think we made our decision. We just need to live with it."
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not living very easy these days," Scully answered.
"You were right. We can't tell him. It would kill him and I...I can't do that. Not after everything that has happened. Scully, I love him."
She knew. And it was killing her a little bit more every day.
The following days were torture. Every time Mulder looked at Tim he felt guilty. He had betrayed the man he loved in the most base way and now he was too much of a chicken to own up to his actions. At least when Tim had nearly strayed he had told Mulder...and he had not actually slept with that other man, that Will. No, what Mulder had done was much worse. You could hardly even compare the two.
It was worse with Scully. He couldn't talk to her anymore. Normally he would have talked to her about the strain with Tim, but under the circumstances it was impossible. Everything was impossible. He couldn't sleep, he couldn't eat. Even Skinner had noticed.
Mulder looked up from his desk to see his boss standing in the doorway. Wordlessly, he motioned for Skinner to come into the office.
"Is Agent Scully..."
"Meeting with the Bureau shrink," Mulder replied.
Skinner nodded. "Do you...do you think that's something you should consider?"
Mulder stared at him. Was he that transparent? "No, I...no, it wouldn't help."
Skinner stayed another moment, leaving behind some signed paperwork and then headed back to his office. Watching him leave Mulder wondered how long it would be until he totally lost it.
"The best part was working with Howard again. Man, I miss that woman. She was a breath of fresh air in our department."
Mulder nodded as he half listened to Bayliss describe the citywide manhunt they had just concluded.
"Unfortunately I shot the wrong man and then they told me I'd have to go to jail... Mulder?"
Mulder looked over at Tim.
"You're a million miles away? Did you hear anything I said?"
"I'm sorry, Tim. I'm just...there's so much on my mind right now."
Mulder nodded. Yeah, that's for sure, he thought. He did not want to talk to Tim about this, it would only lead to other things...things he really did not want to talk about.
"How's she doing?"
"Fine. Tim...I should go work on some files. I've really been getting behind in my work lately."
Mulder turned and walked out of the kitchen. Tim stood silently fuming. He wasn't much for confrontation, but this had gone on for too long. If Mulder didn't tell him what was going on... Tim picked up the sponge from the sink and threw it across the room. It fell with a clunk, leaving a streak of wet down the wall. It didn't solve anything, but somehow Tim felt slightly better. For the moment, anyway.
Scully looked in the mirror, hoping to see that the bruises were finally faded enough to be covered by her make-up. With her fair skin it seemed like they would never go away. She retouched a spot by her cheekbone and then turned to go downstairs. Her landlord had called to say her apartment was ready, but she wasn't sure if she was ready to leave her mom's house yet. Maggie had not said anything, but Scully knew her mom was worried.
"I think I'm just going to go, Mom," Scully said from the door to the kitchen.
"Are you sure, honey? Just a cup of coffee, maybe?"
"No, thanks. I'll...I'll see you tonight."
She turned and headed for her car.
As Tim walked in the house he smiled. The smell of garlic and tomato hung in the air. This was a very good sign. Mulder only cooked when he was in a particularly good mood. The smell of the red sauce caused Tim to harden slightly in anticipation.
"Hey, you got home early," Tim said as he entered the kitchen. He delivered a quick kiss to Mulder's lips and dropped down on the stool. He graciously accepted the glass of red wine Mulder offered.
"All that was left was the paperwork, so I exercised my right to take a little annual leave," Mulder responded, turning to stir the sauce as it bubbled on the stove.
"Leaving it for Dana again?"
"Of course," Mulder replied, chuckling slightly. He kept his back to Tim, trying his best to keep his tone light. This was his chance to turn things around, to get them back on track.. He had to do this, he had to do it now. He could feel that Tim was growing impatient with him, but it felt like if he looked at Tim, Tim would know what a fraud he was, how he had betrayed him. Either way he was going to lose here.
Mulder turned off the flame and picked up the pan. "Hey, can you grab the pasta bowl and bring it to the table?"
Tim followed him. Mulder had set the table with the good dishes and had lit a couple of candles. It was a nice change from the frozen pizza served on the coffee table they had been enjoying the past couple weeks.
Mulder set the sauce down and moved toward the stereo. Picking out a couple of CDs, he filled the room with quiet jazz.
"Ah, very nice," Tim said as he sat down.
Mulder disappeared again into the kitchen, this time reappearing with two plates of Caesar salad. He set Tim's down and then sat down across from him.
"This looks great, Mulder."
Mulder nodded, again taking his eyes away from Tim's instead concentrating on the salad.
"Is something the matter?" Tim asked, dropping his fork down on the plate.
"No, I just...I feel like I've been so distant. I'm sorry, Tim."
"I know," Tim replied. "I...I can cut you some slack here, but I have to know this is going to end, something's going to change. You have to talk to me, Mulder. I love you and you have to trust that we can solve this problem."
"I...I want to, Tim. God, I want to do that so bad, but there are some things..."
Tim nodded. He wasn't going to force it out of Mulder. He could wait a little
bit longer. They had too much invested to not give this problem some time to
The dinner finished with few words exchanged. As Tim finished up the dishes Mulder slid his arms around his waist.
"Let's go upstairs. We can finish these in the morning."
Tim followed Mulder up the stairs and into their bedroom.
Mulder slid his t-shirt off, again unable to meet Tim's eyes. They had only made love a couple of times since...Mulder couldn't even think about his betrayal.
Naked, he knelt on the bed, reaching across to Tim. Tim held his arms out to his lover. Mulder pulled him close, Tim's warm body against his. He brushed his lips against Tim's lips, then down his neck. He wanted to cover his deception, make it disappear forever.
Tim ran his hands up Mulder's neck. He slipped his tongue into Mulder's mouth, probing deeper and deeper. He pulled back slightly as Mulder reached down and began to stroke his cock. He could feel himself growing hard under Mulder's touch.
Tim guided Mulder onto his side and continued kissing his neck and shoulders while Mulder pulled the lube from their bedside table. Tim paused for a moment as Mulder reached back and slicked Tim's penis.
"Fill me, baby," Mulder begged.
Mulder rolled over to watch Tim sleep. He looked so relaxed, so gentle in his sleep. A tear slipped out of the corner of his eye. He hated himself for what he had done to Tim, what he was going to do. It was the worst crime he had ever committed and it was to the one person who had never judged him, loved him unconditionally.
It made it all the harder.
Tim woke to find the other half of the bed empty. He got up expecting to find Mulder slumped on the couch watching "Battle bots" and finishing off his first pot of coffee, but when Tim got downstairs it was quiet and empty as well.
Returning to their bedroom he noticed that the top drawer on Mulder's dresser was partially open. Tim pulled it out further. It was empty. Looking further he discovered that Mulder's suitcase and garment bag were gone as well. He had taken most of his suits and several pairs of shoes.
Reaching for the phone he hit speed dial "1."
"Hey, Dana, it's Tim. You don't know where Mulder is, do you?"
"No, we're in the office all week. Skinner thought we should sit in on interviews for the new associate director. Why?"
"He's gone. He took a bunch of his stuff and left without telling me. There's no note or anything. You don't think something happened, that someone came and took him?"
It would have sounded insane to say that about anyone else, but with Fox Mulder, you never left out extreme possibilities.
There was a pause on the line. Tim could hear the slightest sigh from Scully.
"Tim, I'm going to come up there. Just give me about an hour. We'll get to the bottom of this," Scully answered, her voice shaking slightly.
Tim agreed and hung up. Where could he be? Why would he leave like that? Tim realized that Mulder's behavior had been very strange lately, but this was an awfully extreme response. Hopefully Scully would have some answers.
She didn't know what to say to Tim. In her heart she knew why Mulder had left. In some ways she was a little surprised he hadn't called to tell her where he was going, but maybe since she was the root of all his problems he didn't want to deal with her either.
She still wasn't sure how they had gotten to this point. She would like to lay the blame at the feet of Donnie Pfaster, but the truth was she was the one who had caused this. She was the one who had ruined the best thing Mulder had ever had. She wasn't sure how or why it had happened. Had she subconsciously wanted him to end his relationship with Tim? Could she have done this intentionally?
She paused outside the door to Tim and Mulder's townhouse. In some ways, Mulder moving to Baltimore had changed everything. Mulder was with Tim now. They were a couple and although they would never admit it, Scully would always be the third wheel. Until now. Now she was something else, the elephant in the middle of the room...the home wrecker.
She was raising her hand to knock when the door opened.
"I saw you come up the walk," Tim explained as he headed back toward the kitchen. Scully followed, sitting down on the stool across from Tim.
"Have you heard from him?" she asked.
Tim shook his head. He was so confused about this. "I just don't...I mean things have been a little bit weird, but this was without any warning."
"But you think he left on his own," Scully replied.
"There's no sign of any struggle, he took things that are meaningful. He took his photo of Samantha, his journal, those kinds of things."
Scully nodded. It was as she thought.
"Why would he have done this?" Tim asked, his voice breaking.
She knew, but she was the one who had made the rule. She was the one who said they would not tell Tim. It wasn't her place to change that without consulting Mulder.
He was a chicken. He had run rather than stay and face the music. Pulling up in front of his dad's house he wondered again why the car seemed to drive itself back to the Vineyard. He had been up here the past fall helping his mom put their house in Chilmark up for sale. She had decided to condense her holdings, selling the Chilmark and Greenwich houses. He had hung onto his dad's house and the cottage in Quonochontaug. He didn't know why. Why this house, not the Chilmark house? This house only had painful memories. Of course the Chilmark house wasn't much better.
A house filled with bad memories. It seemed like the perfect place to atone for his sins.
He should call Tim. He would be worried. Tim probably thought the Men in Black had come for him. It had been so cowardly, sneaking out, away from his lover.
He would just hang out here a few days. That would give him time to figure out what to do next.
"Are you sure he hasn't called?"
"Tim, if he calls, I'll tell you," Scully replied sighing. Tim had called her at least once a day since Mulder's disappearance the week before. It was getting harder and harder to face him. For the first time she wished she had taken the phone company up on its offer of a free caller ID box.
"I don't want to worry his mom, but could he be visiting her?"
"I doubt it. That's never really been his idea of a refuge," Scully responded. Mulder had gotten much closer to his mother since he had met Tim, but there was still a distance created by time and personal trauma that would always keep her at arm's length.
"I think I might try."
Scully sighed. "Tim, don't. I know he isn't there. He wouldn't go there."
Scully was met with the sound of a dial tone as Tim hung up on her. She understood his frustration, but there wasn't much she could do about it. She had made Mulder promise to not say anything and it wasn't her place to tell Tim. Even though it was killing her.
Tim pulled into the driveway. In some ways he wasn't surprised to see Mulder's car pulled up to the closed garage door. When Tim asked why Mulder wasn't selling this house he hadn't gotten a good answer. Maybe this had always been the reason, so that Mulder would have some where to run to if things got too hard.
Tim walked up to the porch. It was a lovely house. He wasn't sure why they hadn't used it in the summer. It seemed like the ultimate decadence to have a house on Martha's Vineyard and not use it. But Mulder had never wanted to bring him here. He said the house had too many bad memories; memories of the clone who pretended to be Samantha, memories of the years after Samantha was gone and most importantly, that horrible night when Alex Krycek had murdered Mulder's father.
He was about to knock on the door when he heard noise coming from the backyard. Abandoning the front entrance, Tim walked around the side of the house.
Mulder was working on a chunk of ice near the rear of the house. Tim stood at the corner watching until Mulder looked up and saw him.
Mulder leaned the pick against the house. The two men stood facing one another across the long yard. Finally Mulder left the ice pick and started walking toward Tim.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I suppose I should ask you the same thing," Tim answered.
Mulder nodded. He had promised Scully, but this was too much. He had to come clean.
"Do you have anything to say for yourself?" Tim asked.
"I'm so sorry, Tim. I should have..."
"Yeah, Mulder, you should have."
"It was...lots of things..." Mulder absently picked at the edge of his coat. He was hot and sweaty. "Do you want to go in, get something to drink?"
Tim nodded. Mulder moved toward the back door, Tim following him.
As Tim pulled off his coat, Mulder filled the tea pot with water. Setting it on the stove, he turned and faced Tim.
"How did you know where I was?"
"Your mom thought you might be here."
"You called her?"p>"You disappeared, Mulder. What the fuck did you think I was going to do? Just move on with my life? Next time you run out...leave a fucking note!"
Tim's chest hitched. He had not really realized how angry he was.
"You should have just let me go," Mulder replied, his eyes downcast.
"Oh yeah, why?" Tim prodded.
"I'm only going to hurt you. Get away from me, Tim."
"Jesus Christ, Mulder. I thought we had gotten over this 'woe is me' attitude. I fucking love you!"
"You wouldn't. You wouldn't if you knew what I had done," Mulder said, his eyes now fixed on Tim's angry face.
"What did you do that was so unfucking forgivable?" Tim asked.
"I slept with Scully."
Tim stood there for a moment, stunned. Of all the things he had dreamed were going on with Mulder, this had never crossed his mind. Except it had. It had always been back there, nagging. He wasn't the kind of guy to be jealous, but he knew how Mulder felt about Scully. Hell, he'd felt the same way about Frank, but he sure as hell had never considered sleeping with Frank!
"You...you have got to be kidding," Tim finally responded.
Mulder turned away, unable to look at Tim any longer.
Tim moved over to grab his shoulder, spinning Mulder to face him.
"You don't hide from this. You...you bastard. How...how could you?" Tim screamed. He was hurt, he was disappointed...he was just so shocked by the admission.
Mulder's head hung. He had no words of explanation.
Finally, thankfully, Tim left.
Scully reached for the remote to turn on the TV as the pounding started. Dropping the remote she walked quickly to the door. Checking the peephole, she slid back the dead bolt and opened the door.
Tim just stood in the doorway, the sleet dripping off his hair and the edge of his coat.
"He told you."
Tim nodded. He didn't speak, he was incapable. The betrayal from two people who he trusted so much...there were no words.
Tim turned and started walking down the hallway. He stopped and turned back to look at her once more.
"How could you?" he asked.
She didn't know what to say. There was no excuse for her actions. This man was hurting and she was the cause.
"I'm sorry," she said, a tear slipping down her face.
Tim turned and left.
He didn't know what to do. The betrayal was unspeakable, but in his heart, Tim still loved Mulder. Yes, he had almost strayed as well and he knew that Scully had been incredibly needy, but this was the ultimate betrayal, the betrayal that he had always feared.
It had been two weeks since he found out, three weeks since Mulder had slipped from their bed in the middle of the night. He felt like he had been walking in a haze. He had no idea what to do, how to make this pain go away.
He jumped slightly as the phone rang.
"Is this the home of Fox Mulder?" an unfamiliar voice asked.
"Yes, uh, yes it is," Tim replied without thinking. In his mind, it was still Mulder's home.
"I'm sorry, this is the Fairfield County Sheriff's office. Your name and this number were listed as next of kin for Teena Mulder."
Tim sat in stunned silence, not thinking to interrupt the sheriff to tell him he wasn't speaking to Mulder.
"Please accept my condolences. Mrs. Mulder appears to have passed away last night..."
Tim paused. He didn't know how to make the call. He would have driven down to DC, but he was due in court in half an hour.
"Oh," Scully replied.
"Is...is he there?"
"No, he's in Skinner's office. He's ASAC on a big case."
"Did you want me to have him call you, Tim?" Scully asked, her voice soft.
"Uh yeah, no...the sheriff called, uh, from Connecticut. Teena died last night."
Scully sank down on her chair. "No, she didn't..."
"They aren't sure, they think maybe suicide."
"So, uh, you'll tell him?"
"I'll...yes, I'll tell him."
"Good." Tim hung the phone up. She would take care of him.
Tim stood in the doorway watching. It was amazing. He never would have thought Frank Pembleton could be anything but a homicide detective, but watching him teach these young students about ethics, it seemed like this was his calling, his vocation.
Tim had never felt like he had a vocation. He had just moved from one thing to the next, never really feeling that he had a plan, not until Mulder. After Mulder everything just seemed to make sense.
After all the things they had gone through together it seemed so impossible that it was over, he and Mulder were over. He could not wrap his head around it. Denial was what they called it, he supposed.
Tim turned around. That deep sonorous voice never failed to bring him to attention.
"Frank." Tim leaned in and hugged his former partner. He felt Frank stiffen for a moment and then relax and return the hug.
"What brings you into these hallowed halls?" Frank asked.
Tim shuffled and looked at his feet.
"Everything's okay, isn't it, Tim? You're not sick again, are you?"
All of this concern from Frank; it was so strange, but this Frank Pembleton was a different man. That was why Tim had come. Maybe Frank could help him...again.
"Frank, I need...I need your help."
"That's rough, man," Frank said as he set down his coffee cup. The campus coffee bar was filled with students quietly studying, a TV playing CNN in the corner.
"I knew what their relationship was, I mean, I know what it is to have a partner, I know how it was with you, but this..."
"I caught you looking at my butt once, Bayliss," Frank joked.
Tim tried to smile. He knew Frank was trying to help, but jokes weren't going to help, not now.
"Sorry, man," Frank apologized. "So, are you going to talk to him? To her?"
"I don't know, Frank. I just don't know what to do."
"Tim...uh, thanks. Thanks for calling. I'm...we're going up to Greenwich. I...uh...I don't know...I'm...uh...I'm sorry and thanks."
Tim hit rewind and listened to the message again.
"I'm...we're going up to Greenwich."
He hit rewind again.
They were together. He should have realized. He should have known all along. He dropped down into a crouch next to the desk, his head bowed, the tears unfettered. Mulder was gone, he'd lost him.
His self-pity was interrupted by the door bell. After a moment, Tim stood, and walked to the door, brushing away the tears that had fallen on his cheeks.
"What are you . . . ?" Tim stopped as Mary Pembleton walked past him into the hallway.
"We need to talk, now."
He stood stunned as Mary marched past him and into the living room.
" For some reason, Frank thought I was more equipped to help you with this one. Something about tact and the ability to be empathetic," Mary said with a smile.
Tim chuckled slighty. He had not had much to laugh about recently, but Mary could always make him feel a little bit better.
"I care too much about you Tim to see you throw this away," Mary began as Tim sat down in the chair next to the couch.
"Mary, this is totally..."
"Nonsense," she said, cutting him off. "I almost threw away what I had with Frank because I was unwilling to forgive him for his faults."
"That is not true and you know it, Mary. What happened with you and Frank was about him, he did that."
"Yes, it was mostly about Frank's obsession with work, but Tim, our reconciliation would not have happened if I hadn't forced it. I had been unwilling to confront what was making us unhappy. I'm not afraid of that confrontation anymore, I'm more afraid of not spending the rest of my life with my family."
"This is different."
"You think an affair of work isn't the same as an affair with a woman?"
"Yeah, I guess I do."
"Well, in my book any betrayal hurts. You might want to consider that next time, Tim."
"I'm sorry, but I can't quite put Frank being late for the baby's baptism with Mulder sleeping with someone else, Mary."
"Do you know how much that hurt me? How much trust I lost in Frank? To know that he put some junkie's death before me, before our child?"
Tim nodded. He understood Mary's point.
"But what do I do?"
"Just go to him. Talk it out. You need to sit down and face what happened. People are not perfect, Tim."
He knew Mary was right. He had no idea if Mulder and Scully were coming right back from Connecticut, but the only way to know was to drive down and see for himself. They could work past this. It was going to take some time, but it wasn't like Mulder was in love with Scully. It had been one time, it had been a very extreme circumstance. They still had a chance.
He hadn't been totally surprised to discover that Mulder had held onto the apartment in Alexandria. It seemed like a ridiculous expense to him, but there were lots of things that Mulder spent his money on that seemed outrageous to Tim. At least he had hung onto his key.
Mulder's car was parked out front. Looking up, Tim could see that there was a light on in the living room. He opened the front door and breathed the familiar scent in deeply. It reminded him of the early days of dating Mulder, the trip to the art gallery, their trip to the mountains...
He stood outside the door. He could hear muffled voices inside. He knew he should knock, but he couldn't. He slipped his key into the lock.
" Mulder, she was trying to tell you to stop. To stop looking for your sister. She was just trying to take away your pain."
He opened the door to find them together again, Scully in his arms, her lips on his neck, kissing him.
Tim closed the door, leaving the key in the lock. It was over.