Chain of Love

By Mary Kleinsmith (BUC252@aol.com)

Category: Missing Scene for Alone

Spoilers: Everything up to and including Season 8

Summary: Scully seemed more than a little insensitive to Mulder's feelings. How does that make Mulder feel?

Rating: PG

Classification: Angst, MSR

Archive: Yes, anywhere

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and everything related to them belong to Chris Carter (the jerk!) and 10-13, with magic added by David and Gillian. I'm only borrowing them, especially since the fic writers have a better sense of what to do with Mulder and Scully than CC and Company does. Still, I'm not making any money on this.

Author's Note: Word of warning. Against my better judgment, I could find no way to write this story - which I felt needed telling very badly - without mentioning Doggett. But he's only mentioned peripherally, and does not make an appearance at all.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Sally, Brenda, Vickie, and Susan for the betas on this one, and for encouraging me in my flights of fancy.

Feedback: Please, please, please, please, please, please, please?

Chain of Love

By Mary Kleinsmith (BUC252@aol.com)

"Scully, it's me."

"Mulder! How's Agent Doggett?"

Dammit, can't she give it a break just this once? I wish I had the energy to be angry, but I just don't have it in me. Haven't ever since . . . well . . . since I woke up, anyway. But I also can't shake the lost look in Agent Harrison's sightless eyes.

"Well, there's a good possibility Harrison will never see again, but I don't expect you to worry about that. They say Doggett will be okay." Did that sound snarky? Okay, so I have the energy for a little anger after all.

"Oh, Mulder," she sighs over the phone, and I can see her rolling her eyes in my mind. "Of course I care about Harrison, too. Did they tell you her chances?"

"No," I sigh back, "they haven't said a word, and I doubt they will. I'm not family. I'm not her boyfriend or her fiancÚ, and I sure as hell am not her partner or another agent anymore. So why would they tell me anything?"

Okay, that sounded even higher on the frustration scale than the first comment. "Look, Scully. They say they're going to keep them both overnight at least, so I'm going to find a cheap motel. Call Buffalo General if you want the details, or I'll let you know more in the morning." Without waiting for another rebuke, I click off my phone. I'm not sure I could bear to hear much more of her voice tonight.

A friendly nurse smiles and refers me to a motel less than half a mile from the hospital. I ask her to see that I'm called should Harrison or Doggett's conditions change, but I don't expect to hear from them. I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or relieved when she gives me a slight smile and goes back to her paperwork. It used to be where I'd at least have gotten a second glance, but not anymore - not that I'd take her up on it anyway. I wonder if somebody's stamped "damaged goods" on my forehead in ink that can't be seen in a mirror.

I'm exhausted, though, and have no desire to dissect my desirability or lack of such after this long day. I know I should take my car, but instead decide to walk the few blocks to the motel. The clerk is kind, and very soon I'm holding the keys to my very own, very empty motel room.

I flick on a light and slam the door, making sure it snaps shut tightly. The bed, while old, looks welcoming, and I begin to empty my pockets onto the desk. When I withdraw a half bag of sunflower seeds, something metallic hits the floor, gleaming in the faint light.

Apollo 11 stares up at me from the ragged carpet, but I don't want to think about it. I don't think that even my ever-observant ex-partner and best friend noticed the engraving along the thick edge. Guess it's a good thing, since Scully must have liked it little enough to give it away. Picking it up as if poisonous, I dump it in the room's garbage can, hearing it clatter as it hits the metal bottom.

It's amazing how times change. When I gave that to Scully four years ago, I knew we were partners, and had accepted her as my closest friend and blessed protector. I even felt that we were moving towards something even more personal. Could I have been so wrong, even back then? I mean, if she had felt any deep affection for me, wouldn't she have carried the medallion with her? In much the way John Doggett must have been doing before he lost it during his capture? It's scary to consider that she could mean more to him after less than a year than I do to her after over seven. If she had kept it with her as a part of me, even if only while I was gone, it would be more worn than it is, wouldn't it?

I really should forget this and just head home, but I don't think I'm ready for that quite yet. It might sound impossible, but I feel like when I was abducted, they took my self-confidence - my self-worth - and my dignity along with any possibility of ever having another nightmare-free night. I don't know if I could go home and listen to the woman I love while doubting her feelings toward me. I hurt, and I think I've already put on enough of a display this year. I just don't have the energy to get into a discussion with a pregnant lady on how to be honest where gifts are concerned. Maybe I'm being oversensitive about this, but I can only see two possibilities: the gift meant nothing to her beyond its extraterrestrial nature, which she then passed on to the new X-Files agent, or it meant more to her as a gift to pass on than as something to keep and cherish.

Maybe it'll all seem better somehow in the morning, I hope, dropping onto the bed still in my jeans and sweatshirt, realizing that I'm cold. I know this is Western New York State and not exactly Miami Beach, but I don't have to be the psychologist I am to know this cold is coming more from the inside than the outside. I don't want to analyze this anymore, I admit, as I begin to let my mind float. It's a nice, peaceful place where my mind shuts off but without the nightmares that come with sleep.

I'm not sure how long I've been like this, but when there's a knock on my door, I abruptly lose the peacefulness. Ignoring it seems like a good idea except that my curiosity is just too strong and besides, I note there is sunlight peeking around the edges of the blinds. It's daytime already - which means it could be Skinner looking to kick my ass or housekeeping wanting to clean a room I haven't had the chance to mess up. I should probably have checked before opening the door, but I've learned that locked doors don't keep anybody out who really wants to get in.

"Scully," I said quietly in acknowledgment of the rounded woman standing at my door preparing to knock again. It occurs to me that she's again endangered her health and that of her baby by flying here like this. "Are you crazy?" I say without a smile. "Flying at this point in your pregnancy isn't safe. I thought you were smarter than that."

"It's okay, Mulder. I checked with my doctor. And I had to be sure that my partner was okay."

I turn away, not ready to look into those soulful blue eyes while ignoring the burning in my own. "He's going to be fine, Scully. Visiting hours probably start in the next few hours," I add, glancing at my watch.

"I wasn't talking about Agent Doggett, Mulder," she adds, and I feel a hand on my arm, pulling me around to face her once again. "Why did you hang up on me last night?"

"We were done talking, Scully," I add with a shrug. "We always hang up when we're done talking - it saves on the batteries." The joke falls flat, as I knew it would. I flop back to the bed, studying her while I'm hoping she's not studying me.

"Mulder, it took me an hour to find out where you'd gone, and I've already been to the hospital. I talked to some poor little candy striper who'd overheard the directions the nurse gave you to this place." I don't say anything - what's there to say? "Dammit, Mulder, what the hell is wrong with you?"

It was a mistake, and I see red, and it's not her hair. But I realize that I don't know how to say what's wrong to this woman. I love her, and I don't want to hurt her, even if I, myself, am hurting. And yes, I most definitely am hurting. "I'm as well as a guy can be who was dead less than two months ago," I say and see her cringe, looking toward her feet. Ever the pragmatist, though, she instead examines my lack of housekeeping skill.

"This place is a mess," she says, moving awkwardly to her knees to collect the sunflower seeds I hadn't noticed spilling on the floor. Guess I'd had the chance to mess up the room after all. I watch as she collects a palmful of the seeds, rising to her feet again and finding the garbage. I hear her gasp as she brushes them into the can, on top of what I know is there but hope she wouldn't find. "Mulder, what is this?"

"It's just a stupid piece of tin," I say, and I realize that it's what I feel at this moment. It makes it easier to think she'd give away something useless than something that has physical as well as sentimental value. But then, maybe it only had value to me.

"It's not a piece of tin, and it doesn't belong to you, Mulder," she says angrily, getting her Irish up, as it were. Well, two can play at that game.

"Where's the doll, Scully?"

The blunt non-sequitur draws her up short, and it's apparent that she's not connecting quite yet. "What?"

"The doll I gave you a couple weeks ago. Do you still have it?"

"Of course I still do."

"Will you still have it next week?"

"Yes, I will," she says, but it's quieter, and I think she's starting to see where I'm going.

"And what about in six months? Will it still be in your closet, waiting for the baby to be old enough to play with it? Or how about a year? Or two? Or four? Will it stay there, forgotten, until the baby is an adult when you take it out and realize that it really didn't mean anything to you anyway?"

"Nothing will ever happen to the doll, Mulder. That's a promise to you and to your mother's memory."

"Well, at least there's that. I wish the memory of us was as valuable to you." Okay, now I've moved on to bitter. I guess hurt confronted always ends in bitterness for me.

"I don't understand," she claims, and I wonder for a minute if it isn't true. If she doesn't see. "'Us' is not a memory for me. It's now and it's here," she motions to the air around us. "And it's also here," she adds, laying a hand on her enlarged stomach.

I don't want to go down another angry path and point out that the "here" she was meaning was a child whose life she'd endangered this week by going back to work against her doctor's wishes when Doggett came up missing. That's another discussion for another day - I couldn't take them both at once.

"What are we, Scully? What have we been?" She's silent for a moment, so I go on. "You were my everything. Everything. Partner, best friend, confidante, lover, and soulmate. What of those things is left now? Partner? You have a new one. Best friend? Confidant? They go hand in hand, but best friends talk, and you haven't talked to me in a long time. Not really talked. Lover? Have you noticed how you can't even bear to touch me since I came back? I don't mean holding hands in the hospital room, I mean really touching. And I could live with all of that, I really could, if it weren't for the last one. Soulmates. That's still there, and as strong as ever. It sits here," I motion to my chest, where my heart beats faster with each passing moment, "but it's a double edged sword, because without the rest, it brings nothing but pain."

My eyes meet hers, and she has tears in them. But she doesn't speak, and I feel a need to. I've held it in for weeks - not even my therapist has heard it all. "Do you realize how many times I've wondered if I wouldn't have been better off if they'd left me in the ground? And never more than last night, than yesterday. Life's gone on without me, and so has everybody I've ever known. Does what we had mean so little to you that you don't even want to keep the momentos?" I finally ask straight out.

She seems confused for a moment before her eyes move from mine down to the keychain in her hands. "But, Mulder. It's just a keychain. One that stands for teamwork, not friendship."

"Is that what you always thought?" I ask, standing to come to her. I take the medallion from her hands, fingering it for a moment before tipping it so the meager light's gleam shines on it's edge.

"Mulder, what . . ." She tips it to catch the light better from her angle, and whispers as she reads, "DS, yours forever, FM. Oh, Mulder! Why didn't you tell me about this before? Four years and I never saw the inscription."

"Would it have made a difference?" I respond, and I know my tone isn't gentle. "Obviously, remembrances of our life together weren't a priority for you. Did you even look at it while I was missing? While I was dead?" She cringes on the final word. I know its use bothers her, but I'm not in a mood to be too concerned with her sporadic sensitivities.

"No, Mulder," she admits. "The keychain wasn't enough. I held onto other things. Things that made me feel you again. . . . smell you again. Your gray T-shirt tucked under my pillow. The blue shirt you wore that last day, so welcoming for me when I needed to hold it in place of holding you." Suddenly, she's crying, and I find I can't stay angry with her anymore. Knowing that she held these things of mine while I was gone helps, but the hurt is still there. I push it aside with all the other aches I deny every day when she asks, "why didn't you tell me about the engraving?"

"At first, I figured you saw it but didn't feel the same way. That you were ignoring it, hoping I'd do the same and we'd go on as always. And I didn't want to lose what we had, so I settled for just that, and no more. Then, after," I motion to her stomach, implying what more we'd become to each other, I figured you were keeping it as a remembrance, a keepsake. We never were the best where talking was concerned. And then, yesterday, when I found it near where Agent Doggett disappeared, and one of the other agents identified it as the one he'd been carrying . . ."

"Oh, Mulder," she says, coming into the arms I felt were so very empty. Still, I kept my arms at my sides, not ready to embrace her just yet. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I thought the keychain was a symbol for you of teamwork, and that's the only reason I decided to share it with Agent Doggett. He's been there, and he's backed me up when I needed it. But he'll never, ever be you."

I wish I could say that I didn't smile at that, but I admit it - I did. I slowly raised my arms to envelop her, wondering how I lived the last few weeks without this. We embraced for a few minutes more before she withdrew, quickly moving to pick up my coat and throw it at me. "C'mon, Mulder. We've got a lot of work to do."

"Work?" I ask, feeling the smile returning to my face for the first time in days. "I don't have my work anymore."

"Well, you do now. We need to go find another Apollo 11 keychain."

"Why?" I ask, but I suspect I know the answer.

"You don't think I'm going to let a coworker have my most prized possession, do you? My first love letter, however unorthodox? Not on your life, Fox Mulder." With a determined look on her face, she's dragging me from the motel room to her rental.

We show the keychain to clerks in a dozen stores, and one of them finally recommends we try the Buffalo Museum of Science where we hit pay dirt. They have the exact keychain, even after all these years. Agent Doggett will never know, but I'll feel a whole lot better with him carrying this one rather than the original. That one only has one true owner, and I think she finally agrees that it shouldn't be any other way.

The End