It had to be at least three in the morning when the knocking at the door began.
Mulder groaned and rolled off of the couch onto his feet. He made his way sluggishly across the living room, ready to let whatever drunken prankster had stumbled into his yard know they could buzz off. Just as was about to yell through the screen door, he realized that it wasn’t just some frat boys terrorizing the countryside.
It was her. Mulder opened the door, instantly being shaken from his early morning stupor.
“I know it’s late,” Scully said, her voice shaky. Her eyes were red and puffy and it was clear she had rubbed off all of her makeup with her shirt sleeve. “I need to talk to you. It couldn’t wait.”
“Come in, Scully.” Mulder reached out to pull her inside the house, but she shrugged away from his touch.
“It’s okay. I need some fresh air,” she said. “Mulder, I...” She sighed, pulling stray hairs back from where they stuck to her clearly tear-dampened face. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for that night, Mulder. Ever since we met again, I can’t stop thinking about that night.”
He didn’t have to ask what night she was referring to. He remembered. He’d replayed it in his mind thousands of times, picking apart his each and every action. Analyzing all that led up to that eruption. Thinking, maybe if he had taken an extra step here, or one less word there, things might’ve been different. That night had kept him awake for a hundred more.
It had been a sticky July night, three years before. It started out as something stupid. Dishes left in the sink, rotten leftovers, that kind of thing. He thought it was funny that that was the one detail he couldn’t quite remember. What were they even angry about to begin with? Somehow it had escalated. The tension built and built until they were standing in the kitchen screaming at each other.
He didn’t mean to say it. It slipped out. He didn’t mean it.
Or maybe he did. He still wasn’t sure.
Before he could comprehend the weight of what had happened, she was out the door, taking their home with her. She left him standing on the porch, a ghost of what had existed moments before.
“You should be angry,” she interrupted, her voice breaking. Fresh teardrops began to make their descent as she spoke. “I left, Mulder. We had so much together. We had a home here. And I left. All because of one fight. I couldn’t look you in the eyes, but afterwards, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I abandoned you, the same way I-”
“You were in a bad place. We both were. If I had just stayed, maybe we could’ve worked things out somehow.”
He could no longer meet her gaze, the guilt rushing back and hitting him like a tsunami. “Scully, I shouldn’t have said what I said, no matter what was going on in my head.”
You abandoned him.
“I was angry. I felt robbed. Twelve years later and I...and I still thought about him every day.”
He thinks we didn’t want him. He thinks we hate him.
“I knew - of course I knew - that you were hurting too, but at that time I could only think of myself.”
You gave up on our son.
“We had part of our life stolen from us. That wasn’t your fault. I knew that, but I hurt you anyways.”
“Mulder...” Scully looked up at him with an intense longing. Not just for something they had lost, but for something they were never allowed to have in the first place.
“I’m sorry, Scully. I needed someone to blame. Someone to blame for William. You were the easiest target, and...I’m so, so sorry.” Mulder felt a tightening in his stomach, a lump forming in his throat. He swallowed it back. He inhaled sharply and quickly released the breath. How could he expect her to forgive him when he had never forgiven himself?
Scully gently placed her hand on the side of Mulder’s face. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s okay.”
He hadn’t really thought of it before, but it was becoming obvious now that they both blamed themselves for killing their relationship. But he knew better than anyone that some things never truly die. Some things can come back from the dead.
They stared at each other, unmoving for what seemed like the longest time. It was a comfortable halt to the typical chaos of their lives.
Even at her least composed, at her most vulnerable, Scully was stunningly beautiful, Mulder thought. In that moment, he felt completely bare. Not empty, but open in every way. Pulled apart at the seams. All illusions of strength had been washed away, leaving behind only two people who were no longer afraid to be weak; two people who were not afraid to live with their scars. They knew each other so completely that there was no shame in weakness. They were hurting, and they were done refusing to let that pain in.
It was in moments like these that they were the most beautiful.
Mulder placed his hand atop Scully’s where it rested on his cheek and slowly, ever-so slightly, inched forward to touch his lips to hers. She closed her eyes as he placed his free hand on the small of her back, her lips parting slightly. She sighed as their lips met, leaning into him. Gently, she removed her hand from his and let it rest on the back of his neck. At the loss of her warm palm against his cool skin, Mulder’s eyes fluttered open. He closed them again once he was cradling her face with his hands.
Eventually, they parted, keeping their eyes locked and their foreheads resting against one another for some time after. Finally, Mulder broke the peaceful silence with a whisper.
“I never stopped loving you for a second. I need you to know that.”
Scully smiled, sweet, yet mournful for lost time. “Likewise,” she said just as softly.
“C’mon,” Mulder said, grabbing Scully’s hand and leading her inside the house. It was pitch black, but he forewent turning on the lights. They knew the place well enough to see in the dark.
“You’re not sleeping on the couch again, are you, Mulder?” Scully said, gazing disapprovingly at the comforter strewn across the floor at the foot of the sofa.
“The bed seems too big these days,” Mulder replied, picking up the blanket and throwing it over the back of the couch messily.
“Yeah, well,” Scully said, a grin forming. “That shouldn’t be a problem for much longer.”