She had reached for his hand.
She didn't know it at the time, but she'd reached for his hand. For him.
If the circumstances were different, perhaps his heart would be bursting at the seams, flooded with joy and pride in the fact that it was his hand she wanted to hold in her own.
She'd reached for his hand, and he'd given it to her. The image of her feeble, exhausted body thrashing on the couch, re-traumatized as she relived the horrors of the night on the mountain, was etched permanently, he feared, in his mind. She had done it for him. She had chosen to endure all of that pain again because he had asked her to.
Was he selfish? To ruminate on something so superficial as her reaching for his hand, when she lived every day of her life paralyzed by the possibility that she may one day be swept off of her feet and aboard the ship, back to that dark place she spoke of, away from the world which she had fought so relentlessly, so wholeheartedly to make her own even as it threw her way the most unimaginable horrors?
She'd lost so much. Because of him. Her sister, her health, her chances at one day having a family of her own, her hopes of one day being a doctor instead of being confined to the basement office, to him, and this little life he led. She'd lost herself, who she wanted to be, all because of him.
What he wouldn't do to be able to give it all back to her, to put the very world in her hands.
Her hands, one of which had reached for his own as she lapsed momentarily back to that dark place, illuminated only by the inferno which threatened to engulf her, scorching the souls of every other visitor to the mountain that night. Every visitor except her.
His Scully was safe, however they chose to define that word these days. She was safe, she was here with him, where he could look at her with his own eyes, hold her in his own arms. Oh, how he longed to hold her in his arms.
But she had pulled away. She'd slipped her hand from his as he sat beside her on that leather couch, as if she had never reached for it in the first place. They left the office and she did not utter a single word until they met with Skinner later that afternoon.
She'd gone cold, his Scully. Like she was frozen in time. Frozen in this nightmare in which she was undoubtedly living. He could see the fear in her ice blue eyes. The same fear he'd seen when she woke up from her hypnosis. The same fear he'd seen as she used every last bit of her strength to keep her very life from slipping away when he no longer could.
She sat almost completely still in her chair, her fingers tapping mindlessly away at the keys of her keyboard. They had no case. No report to write. He knew she wasn't typing anything of substance. She was avoiding the conversation which they both knew was inevitable at one point or another.
She sat there, typing, mere yards from him, and yet he'd never felt further away from her.
He watched her for a while, her eyes never leaving the screen of her computer, as his searched her face for some sort of sign. Some sign that she was in fact here with him, that she knew he was here with her and for her.
I will always be here, Scully.
He wanted so badly to tell her that, but he couldn't find the courage to do so. His concern for her gnawed away at him for the rest of the day, a concern born purely from the depths of his heart. His heart, which beat solely for her.
Just tell me what you need, Scully. I'll give you anything you need. I'll be everything you need.
By the time seven o clock rolled around and it was time to leave, Mulder noticed that Scully hadn't even begun to clear off her desk as she usually did nearly a half an hour before they would head out. She hadn't moved from her chair since they'd left Skinner's office, and it didn't seem like she had the intent to anytime soon.
"You don't have to wait for me."
She spoke so softly, as though her voice might break at any given moment.
"I'm sure you have better things to do on a Friday night, don't you?"
Her tone was rigid. Distant, and so so cold.
"What's that supposed to mean, Scully?"
She looked at him for the first time in hours, and for the first time in as long as he could remember, he was unable to read her expression, unable to look into her eyes and in turn see into her soul.
"You should go home."
"But you're here."
She swallowed hard. He never went down without a fight. But she would not break. She would not let him see her like that. She would not let him bear witness to the scars which lingered on her skin and deep within her. She would not expose him to the perpetual emptiness that had made itself at home inside of her. No, she would not let him drown in her darkness.
"I'm not leaving anytime soon, Mulder. You should really go."
It was taking everything in her to maintain her composure, her cool exterior. Little did he know, she felt like she was crumbling from the inside out.
But he knew.
"Your car isn't here, Scully."
"I can take a cab."
His change in tone made her whirl her head around to look at him. That look in his eyes, she'd know it anywhere. He was so worried about her that he would explode at any moment, putting even the greatest geyser or volcano to shame.
"Don't look at me like that, Mulder. Please."
She felt tears pricking at her eyes as he rose from his chair and made his way over to her, organizing her papers and filing them away into her bag and she made no effort to stop him.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Her voice was almost a whisper as he handed her bag to her and turned her computer off without saving the word document of alphabet soup she'd been working so diligently on for the past two hours.
"I'm taking you home."
"I have work to do, Mulder."
He scoffed at this. She shook her head, trying to shake the voice in her head telling her to let him take care of her, just this once. She shook her head, unzipping her bag and removing the papers which he had just tucked so neatly in there.
"Look at me."
"Scully, look at me."
His voice was soft, pleading, as he placed two fingers gently under her chin, tipping it up so that she had no choice other than to face him.
His heart broke for her. For this woman he had come to love so dearly, this woman who he had sought so desperately to protect, hoping that she might one day forgive him for the hell he'd put her through.
"Please, let me take you home."
"It's fine, Mulder. I'm fine."
The tears that welled up in her eyes as she blinked rapidly told him otherwise.
"I won't leave you here. So either we go now, or I sit here until you're ready to go."
She stared blankly ahead of her in an attempt to regain her composure before taking a deep breath and letting out a sigh of defeat.
Was there anything he wouldn't do for her?
Reluctantly, she allowed Mulder to pack her bag once more, watching him as he did so. Watching him, when a thought occurred to her.
She asked warily and he turned to her instantly. Suddenly she no longer had the guts to ask.
She shook her head.
"Never mind. Let's get out of here."
He gave her a cautious look, nodding slowly as she stood up from her chair and started to walk to the door, following close behind her before locking up.
Scully opened the door to her apartment, flipping the light switch three times to indicate to Mulder that she had made it up safely. She had been surprised when he didn't insist on walking her up. He'd offered, she'd declined, and that was the end of it. He bid her a good night and she'd made her way inside. She went to the window, watching as his car pulled away before setting her things down and heading for her bedroom.
Mulder was startled awake by a knock on his door, and he reached for his phone to check the time. 11:37 pm. He grabbed his gun from the kitchen table before going to open the door.
Before he could even acknowledge her presence, Scully, still in her work clothes, made her way past him and into his apartment. She kicked off her heels, sitting at the end of the couch, tucking her knees and hugging them to her chest, her chin resting atop them. Mulder sighed as he shut and locked the door before setting down his gun, his heart aching for her, his arms wanting to pull her close to him and his mind wanting to tell her that everything would be okay, no matter how untrue that might turn out to be.
He sat down on the coffee table, pushing some magazines aside to be directly in front of her. They sat there in silence for a long while, until finally, Scully's breath caught in her throat and she couldn't help the sob that escaped her as she reached helplessly for Mulder's hand.
She reached for his hands, and he gave them to her, unquestioning, leaning in toward her as she hunched over, burying her face in their joined hands as she tried to ward off the demons within her. Demons which took the form of painful sobs and sharp pains in her chest.
Of all the times he'd seen her cry, nothing hurt him more than this. The way her nails dug into his hands, her hot tears soaking them as she fell apart before his very eyes. He felt helpless. Here was the woman he claimed to love more than anything, in tatters before him, and he felt as though there was nothing he could do to take away her pain.
She lifted her head to look at him, the agony, the weight of the burden she carried, written undeniably across her face, in her bloodshot, tear stained eyes, in the way her lip quivered as she tried to find the words to ask him what she really needed of him.
But she didn't have to, because in that moment, he knew exactly what she needed.
He moved onto the couch beside her and she was quick to throw herself against him, holding on like he was all she had left. Her saving grace.
She clawed at his white t shirt, sobbing against his neck as his arms made their way around her protectively, as if shielding her from all the darkness, not just that in the world around them, but that which grew inside of her.
"Mulder.." she whimpered as her breathing began to return to a steady pace as he held her close to him.
"I'm here, Scully." He murmured as she scooted closer, seeking out his warmth, the solace that only he could offer her. "I'm right here."
He sat there, just holding her, his fingertips brushing over the small of her back as her body went limp against his, the tears which had once inundated her eventually subsiding in stains on her cheeks and his shirt. He tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear and she looked up at him, her eyes exhausted and devoid of the wetness which had plagued them earlier.
"Hey." He murmured, brushing the pad of his thumb over her cheek.
To his dismay, she sat up, rubbing her hands over her face once before letting her hands fall in her lap. There was an extended silence as she looked around and then back at him, as if trying to piece together what had just happened.
"Can I stay with you?"
He couldn't help but smile.
"Of course you can." He took her hand in his, squeezing it affectionately, giving her a knowing look.
She glanced down at their locked hands and then back at him.
"It helped, you know?"
He furrowed his brow slightly and she smiled softly.
"When you held my hand."
She stroked her thumb over his knuckles, watching as his other hand came to cover hers, lifting it up to his lips, pressing a kiss to her palm and then each of her fingers. She couldn't help but giggle and he felt a wave of joy wash over him.
"We can hold hands anytime you want, Scully."
She smiled at this, giving him an almost flirtatious look as she stood up from the couch, pulling him up with her and letting him lead her into his bedroom.
He cleared off his bed for her as she rummaged through his drawers before disappearing into his bathroom.
She used a rag to clean the makeup that had smeared under eyes before discarding her work clothes in favor of Mulder's dark gray Oxford t shirt and a pair of his boxers. Picking up the pile of dirty clothes, she turned the light off before stepping back into his bedroom where he sat on the edge of the newly made bed.
"There's extra blankets and pillows into closet, if you need them." He said nervously, trying to divert his attention anywhere other than her body, dressed only in his clothes. He swore she smirked at him as she pulled back the covers and made herself comfortable.
"You okay?" He took her hand in his again and she gave him a sweet smile, her eyes struggling to stay open.
"I am now." She murmured, giving his hand a tug.
"Good." He leaned over her, pressing a kiss to her forehead and then one to her cheek, giving her butterflies in her stomach at the sheer tenderness of the gesture.
"Promise you'll get some sleep for me?"
She frowned as he started to head toward the living room, forcing her to let go of his hand.
"Nooo. Mulder, Come back."
She gave him her best Scully pout and he gave her a curious look, slowly inching back toward the bed.
"More hand-holding already, Scully?"
He teased and she bit back a smile as he continued to move closer.
"I think I'd rather you hold me instead."
"I think I can do that."
He gave her that goofy grin that was so Mulder, climbing in beside her and she rolled onto her side so that he could spoon up against her. She sighed contently, reveling in the warmth of his larger form draped over her smaller one, surrounding her with unwavering comfort and engulfing her with an unspoken love. A love that would never falter or fray, a love that in this moment and for many to come, would slowly begin to fill the void, the emptiness she'd become all too familiar with. A love which, to her darkness, would bring lasting light, whether she realized it or not.
"Thank you, Mulder. For doing this for me."
She said sleepily, her eyelids fluttering shut and he smiled to himself, pressing a gentle kiss to her neck that was all the answer she needed.
There wasn't a thing he wouldn't do for her.