After The Dark
by Aspen

She rises silently and goes to sit by the window, waiting for light. He never stirs; he doesn't realize she's gone. Watching him, she's reminded that it's not the first time she's left him lying alone in bed, and he didn't notice then, either. For all his vaunted expertise in observation, Mulder's good at not seeing anything he doesn't want to know.

"I'd do it all over again," she'd said, and it was probably the truth. It might have been a lie, but she's honestly not sure. Staring into the darkness, she can almost catch a glimpse of that girl nine years earlier, the girl she once was. Intelligent, determined, and not a little ambitious-- so eager to succeed, so thrilled to be selected for a special assignment, working with a well-known analyst, even if the tasks themselves were a bit odd... would she have turned it down if she'd known more, that girl she was then?

No. She sighs, quietly. No, I wouldn't have, not then. For one thing, turning down a special assignment wasn't really an option, not if I'd hoped to do well at the Bureau. For another, I would have been sure that I could outwit any secret agenda; I still trusted.

When could I have left? Certainly not that first year, when she was still struggling to prove herself, both to herself and to others; not when her father died, and all further chances at understanding were lost, and the work became, as always, a refuge and a place to focus, to hide. Not when she was abducted - funny, now, how easily that word comes to her - nor even after, when she was trying to understand what had been done to her, and why. She couldn't turn away after Melissa was killed; that would have been a denial of too many things. And then the cancer, her impossible recovery, her second abduction-- all of these things and more tied her to the choices she'd made. And through it all, there was Mulder, always Mulder-- Mulder with his intensity, with the strength of his beliefs; with his concern and caring and their friendship which had grown and deepened and changed as they shared experiences that too often no one else could or would believe. How could I have left, and still been me?

She closes her eyes, now, in a futile attempt to block out the new flood of memories. Somewhere she's read that ghosts walk before dawn, and she certainly has ghosts enough to share. Images flick through her mind, not unlike pages from a book of the dead, and she opens her eyes to look out at the last of the night, trying to see the faces before they grow dim.

Her father. Mulder's father. Samantha. Melissa. Pendrell, whose first name she'd had to look up. Emily, impossible in her life and her death. Byers, Langly, and Frohicke, all gone. William. She smiles slightly in the dark, thinking that her son, at least, might have a chance to live, but without her; she should have learned from Emily that she could never be a mother, other than in name. As to that, even her own mother was lost to her now, if she wanted to keep Maggie safe, too.

Mulder hadn't wanted to tell her of the invasion's date, being afraid that knowing would crush her spirit. The truth, she thinks, is that her spirit and will would have broken long ago, if it could have been done, but none of them ever understood that, either-- not Skinner, not Doggett, and not Mulder. Monica might have, but they'd never really had the chance to find out. Once she might have been angry, but no longer. Anger takes both energy and time, and she doesn't think that there's much of either to spare, any more.

I could leave now, she thinks, and knows it to be true.

Leave. Just go, escape, deny. Travel somewhere, anywhere, far from here, and make a new life doing something that bore no resemblance to forensics, medicine, or investigative work. Maybe she'd even have a pet, although not another dog like Queequeg, nor fish; she's heard cats are both self-sufficient and good company.

She lets herself be held by the vision for a brief moment before the sun rises. Mornings are dangerous, she knows, but they also bring an end to the night's dreams, and that's good.

"Scully?" Sleep-blurred and dazed, Mulder sits up in bed, rubbing at his eyes. She moves into the light, where he can see her more easily. "There you are. Bad dream-- I thought for a minute that you were gone." He grins up at her, trying for a lighter spin. "Glad to see it's not true, because I just couldn't live without you again."

She smiles back. "I know."


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