Title:  Black and White and Gray All Over
Author: Magdeleine Quinn
Rating:  PG-13
Classification: post-ep Triangle
Summary:  Scully deals with Mulder's drug-induced revelations
Spoilers:  The X-Files Movie, Triangle.
Distribution:  Whoever wants to, have at it, just warn me first.
Disclaimer:  My name is not Chris Carter and these wonderful characters are not mine.  Any assumptions to the contrary are flattering but untrue... although I'm open to any untrue assumptions that I am actually Sharon Stone...
Feedback:  Please, pretty please.  Flattery, flames, and anything in between.  I live for it!


Words are funny things.  For the things I deal with every day, the concrete commodities of evidence and disease, the words I use are exact, each one meaning a specific thing and no more.  A pot is a pot, a pan is a pan, a superior mesenteric artery is a superior mesenteric artery, and even gray is a color that has had its every gradation defined.  I spent years schooling myself in choosing the proper word for each symptom and clue, I drilled myself in exact terminology and developed a deep aversion for using any words at all until I could find the right ones.   Most of the time, I could.

Then the X-Files came along, and it seems like I've been sweeping up ever since.  Working harder than ever to put the correct terminology into play-- whereas Mulder will just slap a label on something and go from there.  Vampire.  Werewolf.  Bigfoot.  I'm the one who has to take his bizarre nomenclature and translate it into something that fits the evidence at hand... but there are a lot of gray areas left over.  Sometimes, I can't find the right words, and that's when I have to use the words I have and skim around the gray areas by quoting Mulder's opinion.

There are a lot of gray areas in my life right now.


Something seems strange.  The autopsy bay is cold, but that's normal.  The lights feel a little too bright, but then again they always do.  Corpse on the table, scalpel in my hand, mask on my face... all normal.  Even the little whir of the micro-cassette recorder is normal and expected.  Something, though, isn't right, something seems to be missing...

My voice.  I don't hear myself talking.

Probably because I'm not.

Oh, hell.

I blink, focusing on the open corpse and my scalpel hovering vaguely over its duodenum.  Nine P.M. and I still haven't made it to the stomach contents.  This is ridiculous.  How long have I been staring into space?

I look up at the clock; there's my answer.  Time to rephrase my little complaint... nine-thirty P.M.and I still haven't made it to the stomach contents.  Losing nine minutes is one thing, but half an hour?


My vocabulary is simply not equipped to describe the past forty-eight hours.  A terse description of the events, sure; the concrete, specific words that explain what Mulder had done and what I had done and what Spender's ass-kissing betrayal had accomplished.  But to explain what I had felt, at any given moment of that day, is like trying to carve a statue from a raincloud.  I just don't have the words.

Not the right words, anyway.

The hell of it is, I started this autopsy at six P.M. sharp, intending to finish swiftly and go home to a hot cup of tea, a warm fuzzy blanket, and bed by eight-thirty.  That, at least, would help make up for the lousy three hours of so-called "sleep" I had last night.  Too much coffee yesterday.  Too much coffee, too much adrenaline, too much running around the Hoover Building in pursuit of somebody, anybody, that I could beg, convince, or threaten into giving me the information that I needed to find Mulder.  Too much fury, too much panic, too much time on a ghost ship that kept giving me deja-vu, too much fear when I spotted Mulder in the water and too much relief when he was safe.

Too much time, after all of that, lying in bed listening to my brain chatter away about things I didn't want to hear.  I finally crawled out of bed around two A.M. and slogged my way through a mountain of paperwork, writing explanations for my behavior until my mind was numb and I could creep back into bed without any more insomnia-inspired monologues from my gray matter.

The alarm at six had felt like hitting a brick wall; how I've managed to live through the past fifteen hours or so, I will never know.  I had to face, first thing, a long chewing-out from Kersh, without Mulder there to take all the anger that Kersh wanted to throw his way, and in the middle of reading me the riot act, Kersh informed me that until Mulder was out of the hospital I will be on temporary assignment with Forensics, since they seem to be a little short-handed.  Meaning, as it turns out, that everyone is taking their vacation this week and that I-- and a few greenhorns not worth mentioning-- will be covering for them.

There's one thing that Kersh didn't need to tell me; it's obvious that I'm on his shit-list now, right on the top... that is, until Mulder gets out of the hospital.  Angry as Kersh is at me right now, I'm pretty sure that Mulder is going to get the ass-chewing of his life the next time Kersh sees him.


The micro-cassette recorder is not one of those voice-sensitive kinds, and so instead of shutting off when I spaced out, it kept on recording, like a faithful dog trailing after its sleepwalking mistress.  I rewind the tape-- another time-consuming event-- and finally locate the spot where my voice trailed off into silence.  The voice coming from the machine is strange, distorted, and higher than it sounds inside my head.  "...past the pericardial sac.  The laceration continues into the right lobe of the liver; it reaches three and a half centimeters into the tissue of... the..."  Then nothing except for the sound of my breathing.  It sounds like an obscene caller's audition tape.

I hit the STOP button and close my eyes, feeling the fatigue lapping at me, leeching away what remains of my energy.  It makes it hard to focus, but I try; I summon up my mental snapshots of the light at the end of the tunnel.  Home.  Warmth.  Bed.

Other images, though, keep intruding; images from yesterday.

Mulder in the hospital bed, propped up on one elbow.  His bruised face looking up at me...

I wrench my eyes open, shaking my head.  NO.  Leave it alone.  Back to work; back to things I can precisely define, things I know the words for.  I hit the RECORD button, set the tape recorder down, and pick up my scalpel.  "... three and a half centimeters into the tissue of the gall bladder.  I do not believe that this laceration was the cause of death, the severing of the inferior vena cava notwithstanding, although I do believe that this wound came before the final, and fatal, slashing of the jugular vein.  The liver itself appears to be healthy; no sign of cirrhosis or abscesses..."

Dull.  Had I ever imagined, before the X-Files, that I might start to find autopsies dull?  Even a case like this one, a man brutally murdered with a piece of jagged metal, is beginning to bore me.  No signs of alien abduction, no implants, no evidence of genetic tampering, not even suspicious bodily decay.  I miss it.  For all its inconveniences and all its frustrations, the X-Files had, at least, possessed an entertainment value higher than anything else the Bureau has to offer.

Mulder might be getting out of the hospital in the morning, or so I was told when I ambushed a nurse in the lobby.  Sure, I stopped in on my lunch break, but time had been tight and, despite my careful planning, I hadn't had the time to do more than check in at the front desk on how he was, then scurry on back to work.  I hadn't left a message, either.  Or called.  I probably should have.  Too late to worry about it now; surely by now he was sound asleep.  Especially considering the drugs they have him on.

Drugs.  Yes, definitely drugs, lots of them.  He certainly wasn't himself.

The image swims into focus again:  Mulder propped up on one elbow.  A long, shallow scratch along his forearm, bruises on his knuckles.  His face, so close to mine that I can feel his breath.  A bruise on his left cheekbone.  Five o'clock shadow and mussed hair.  And his eyes...

I blink.  Oh God, I spaced out again; twice in the middle of a single liver.  This is impossible.  I slap the scalpel down, grab the recorder and hit the STOP button with more violence than it deserves.  "Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT!"

Water.  Cold water.  That'll help.  Wake me up.  Clear my mind.  Help me focus.  The latex gloves, surgical mask and protective eyewear all come off; I toss the gloves into the medical disposables bin on my way over to the water cooler.  I hadn't realized, until I watch the water dribble into the paper cup, just how dry my mouth is.  How long has it been since I've had water?  Or eaten, for that matter?  My lunch break was just about used up, driving to and from the hospital; I wasn't hungry at the time so I just said the hell with it and went back to work...

I should have asked the nurse if I could see his chart.  I'd looked at it idly while we were waiting for him to regain consciousness, but it hadn't been more than a cursory glance, just checking to see if the hospital doctors had come up with the same diagnosis as I had.  I hadn't made any mental notes about the medication.  What did they have him on, anyway?  Norgesic?  Darvon?  Fenoprofen?  Whatever it was, it had certainly had him babbling.  Nazis.  Me and Skinner on the ghost ship-- straight out of "The Wizard of Oz".  Something strange about never seeing me again and me saving the world.  Nonsensical babbling, all of it.

Drugs make people say strange things.  Stupid things.  Well, not stupid stupid, just... careless.  So I certainly shouldn't be dwelling on it.  Nothing to worry about.  Not that I'd worry.  Why should I worry?  Ridiculous.

...Haven't I taken a sip of that water yet?

Nope.  Apparently, I've just been standing here, staring at it.


Okay, so I'm worried.  Irritated.  Or at least... unsettled.  Well... almost.  It's another one of those gray areas.

I hate trying to find words to express my emotions.  There's rarely anything simple or exact about what goes on inside my own head.  Trying to fit a word like "grief" around how I feel about Melissa's death doesn't leave room for the guilt that I have tied in with it, or the rage, or the tiny hidden slice of relief that it wasn't me, or how I miss her... it also leaves holes where the "expected" parts of that emotion ought to be.  It's almost like trying to fit the traditional definition of "God" around the perception of deity that I have.

Emotion is just too unwieldy to pin a label on, too sprawling to stuff into some neatly labeled container; to do so might somehow diminish what it is, for the questionable purpose of communicating the accepted definition.  To use a gruesome metaphor, it's like the original Cinderella story, in which the stepsisters cut off pieces of their feet to make them fit the slipper; it didn't make the slipper fit, it just gave them mutilated feet and a blood-soaked slipper.

I really don't want to think about this.  On the other hand, I'm starting to think that if I don't spend some quality time mulling it over, I might not get this autopsy done until sometime next year.

I know what I'm avoiding, and really there's no getting around it.

He said he loved me.

Mulder, after babbling about Nazis aboard the Queen Anne, looked up at me with those big glazed eyes and told me that he loved me.  Much as any drunken frat boy might inform his buddies of his love for them while staggering home from the bar, moments before vomiting or passing out.  It was the drugs.  Obviously.


I've been telling myself that it was the drugs for about twenty-four hours now, and it's a phrase that's starting to wear thin.  It already occurred to me that all the medication did was suppress Mulder's inhibitions, and let him say something that he normally wouldn't say.  I don't have much evidence in that direction... except that I saw his face when he said it.

It's almost like being on the X-Files again.  I come up with an original theory, Mulder comes up with evidence that doesn't fit it, and I have to go back to square one and painstakingly piece together a new theory.  This time, ironically enough, Mulder didn't even need to *be* here to blow up my original reasoning.

I sigh, slip down against the wall until I'm sitting on the cold, hard tile, and wrap my arms around my knees.

Time to come up with a new theory.

The little pieces first, the stuff I already know.  I know he respects me, that he respects my opinion, much as he argues with me.  I know he trusts me; it's been us against the rest of the world for so long that I can barely remember a time when he doubted my loyalty.  And I know he worries about me.  We never talk about it-- there's a lot that we never talk about-- but I remember his eyes when the subject of my abduction came up, and there was some kind of guilt in them; as though somehow he should have been able to protect me.  I suppose that, as the second female in his life to be more or less abducted right in front of him, on some level his impulses to protect me are tied in with his original failure to protect Samantha.

Now to edge out into the gray areas...

I know he likes me.  At least, that's easy to assume.  He teases me constantly; it serves as a kind of barometer for his mood-- if he stops teasing me, I know that something is seriously wrong.  He smiles when he talks to me; if the smile isn't on his face, it's in his voice.  When I'm depressed, he brings me pizza and tells me stupid jokes until I either cheer up or throw him out of my apartment.

I know... I think I know... that he sees me as his friend.  A lot of that goes along with being his partner; the two of us have seen things together that nobody else would believe.  We've lived through the deaths of both our fathers, through Melissa's murder and Mulder's search for Samantha, through my abduction, his apparent death, my cancer, his crisis in belief, and... and Emily.  Things that, alone, might have broken us, we have always survived together-- bent, but not broken.  Good friends.  Maybe even best friends.

Taking a look at the building blocks I've assembled so far-- respect, trust, concern, friendship, shared experiences-- I can cautiously say that yes, Mulder loves me.  If that's the word for it.  On the one hand, it seems to be too big a word; on the other hand, it doesn't seem to cover it at all.

So.  Mulder loves me.  That's not so bad.  Okay.  We're friends, he loves me, and everything is okay.  I open my eyes and take a sip of water.  Now I can just get back to...

...That doesn't settle it at all.  I've been pretending that the only way he could have meant it was in a strictly platonic way, and the word doesn't fit.  The idea doesn't even fit.


It would be easier if I could say everything between us is perfectly platonic-- a hell of a lot easier-- but I can't.  There are times when it seems like he's completely satisfied, just being my friend and my partner, but there are other times... oh, there are other times.  Times when he looks at me and doesn't say anything, but something in his eyes makes the breath catch in my throat.  Times when that perpetual teasing of his takes a weird swing toward the serious, long enough for me to have a moment of unspoken panic, before he changes the subject.  Times when his hand lingers on the small of my back... or on my upper arm... or, once in awhile, on my hair, or my cheek.  And those times in the hospital, when he came to see me, and I'd catch him looking at me when he thought my eyes were closed... and I would see concern, and tenderness, and fear, and something fierce and desperate that I don't have a name for.

And, of course, there's Exhibit A.  The hallway.

I don't think about it, much... well, I try not to.  For a long time, I was absolutely convinced that those last moments before the bee stung me were just a dream... which is not as ridiculous an idea as one might think.  During that whole virus-induced unconscious period, everything I'd stuffed away in the nooks and crannies of my brain came spilling out.   My whole world was made up of strange, psychedelic hallucinations, bizarre scenarios played out by my own private cast of characters, including my parents, my brothers, Melissa, Emily, Duane Barry, Krycek, the Cancer Man, Skinner... and Mulder.  Even after Mulder found me, and administered the antidote, the effects lingered a bit, turning everything in Antarctica into a kaleidoscope of wild, flailing colors and blurry shapes... the only thing I remember clearly is Mulder's face.

Considering that my memories were full of dancing bears and pink elephants, it had been easy to believe that what he did in that hallway was a dream, starting at that moment when his hands slipped up to cradle my face, and everything seemed to slow down and get confused.  His thumb, brushing soft circles on my cheek.  The smell of his sweat and the aura of heat coming off of him.  The look in his eyes as he leaned in and pulled my face towards his, and the way my heart stopped as I realized he was going to kiss me.

I thought that perhaps I had replaced my real memories of the bee sting with something else, some fantasy pulled up from a Freudian section of my mind that was better left alone.  Mulder never mentioned anything about it, and so, for months, I assumed that it never happened.  In fact, I was so confident that it never happened that I casually mentioned the bee sting to him, one day, as a passing comment-- and he flinched.  He recovered nicely, of course, and if I hadn't been watching him at that moment I never would have noticed.

But I noticed.  And I knew.

And that knowledge is a lot harder to explain away than the looks or the touches or the teasing.

I stare at my hands.  The gray area is starting to separate into black and white, but the black and white is spelling out something that I don't think I'm equipped to handle.

He might be in love with me.  He might be, and God, what am I supposed to do then?

It's all very well and good for a man to be in love with a woman who loves him back, but when the situation arises in which one person is in love and the other one isn't, then there's trouble.  If the man and the woman are friends, then the friendship is bound to suffer.  And if they work together, it would be a great detriment to the work environment.  And if they're partners... it would be even worse.

But is that really the situation in this case?

It's another one of those gray areas that I don't have the words to define, that I don't want to define, but I have to.  I don't know how to deal with the possibility that he is in love with me, but it would help a great deal if I knew whether or not I wanted him to be.

I suppose the real million-dollar question here is:  Am I in love with Mulder?

Help me, God.

I don't know where to start.  The very idea of looking at that bond is practically sacrilegious.  The question is too difficult to answer directly... maybe I should start with the easy answers and work back up.

I like him.  Some days, I will admit, more than others-- sometimes he can be an unbearable pain in the ass, ditching me so he can act like some kind of macho G-man and inevitably get himself into trouble that he could have avoided if I were along.  There are days when I am tempted to throw things at his head if I hear him crack another sunflower seed with his teeth, and there are days when I think my brain will explode from trying to reconcile his concept of a case with the facts at hand.

But for the most part, Mulder is easy to like.  He's funny, and charming, and generally a thoughtful guy-- not counting the days that he thinks he's doing me some kind of favor by ditching me-- and he's such an adorable little boy at heart that I end up forgiving him for every misdeed.  That mind of his operates on these wild, intuitive leaps that keep him miles ahead of me, some days, and miles into left field on other days... but it's always fun to keep up, more fun to work at beating him at his own game, and it's even fun to try and figure out where the hell he's going, on those tangential days of his.

He's gallant, he's perverse, he's irritating and supportive and incredibly sweet, he's stubborn and courageous and he knows me better than anyone else.  I admire him; I respect his passion and drive and intelligence... and, all right, even his irritating qualities are endearing.  Occasionally.  Part of that little-boy charm, right up there with his smile and those eyes.

I trust him.  It was the hardest lesson to learn, the most difficult gift to give-- to blindly follow this crazy man in the midst of a storm of other answers, simply because at the end of his path, we might find the truth.  It took a long time to get to this point, it has never been easy, and now that I do trust him... well, frankly, it doesn't make sense.  Why Mulder?  I don't trust his theories, I don't trust his sources, I don't trust his tactics or his judgment, but I trust Mulder-- because he trusts me completely.

The answers are more difficult, now-- I'm edging out into the gray again, clinging to rationality like a lifeline.  I much preferred the autopsy, boring as it was-- at least the words were black and white and wouldn't change meaning on me.  Still, I decided to do this, and I'm damned if I'll stop now.

I don't have to talk to him in order to communicate.  On cases, of course, I talk myself blue in the face attempting to persuade him onto more rational lines of thinking-- but on the times that I win, the times that he listens, I don't think he's listening to the volumes of words that I'm throwing at him. I think he listens to that silent language that we use to impart the things that words can't handle, the primal language of look and touch and tone that communicates the huge, primal concepts of emotion and perception.  I don't have to pile on word after word in some fruitless attempt to show him a picture of my feelings or my ideas-- he just looks at me, between the words, and sees the reality.

I depend on him.  Not just for backup-- although, unlike a certain partner of mine, I happen to have the good sense to make sure I have backup before plunging into a potentially hazardous situation.  And I don't need him there to go through the minutiae of each day, or act as some kind of counselor or confessor.  Nor am I really the type of person who needs a shoulder to cry on, as a rule.  But the knowledge that if I do collapse, there will always be someone there to catch me-- that, strangely enough, makes it possible to make it through without collapsing at all.  It's an odd source of comfort, but valid nonetheless.

And... I need him.  At the other end of the office or at the other end of the telephone line, it doesn't matter, as long as he's there.  When he disappeared-- into the Bermuda Triangle, no less-- I just couldn't function as my normal self.  Some deeply buried part of my psyche reared up and wanted to go around shooting everybody who got in my way; I could barely recognize myself anymore.  The cold hard fact of the matter is that I need my recommended daily allowance of Mulder, or else I just can't make it as Scully... all that's left over is Dana, and after all this time, I'm not really sure who Dana is anymore.

I can't face the next questions with my eyes open; I close them, but it's not dark enough, even then.  I press the heels of my hands into my eyes until the stars swim behind my eyelids.  That's dark enough, and safe.

Do I love Mulder?

I care for him.  I know that much.  He's closer to me than anyone else in my life.  There's nobody else that I understand more, that I depend upon more, that I trust more.

Maybe that's love.

I don't use the word much.  With my family, of course; I understand what it means when it comes to my family.  I used it about my first crush and about my first serious boyfriend... but somewhere along the line, I figured out that what I'd been calling love had mostly been wishful thinking.  I haven't really used the word since then.  I haven't really been sure what it means.

Maybe this is it.  This bond.  The agreements and the arguments.  The similarities and the differences.  The things we tell each other, the things we don't have to, and the things we pretend not to know in order to protect each other.


Which leaves just one question unanswered...

Am I in love with him?

Oh, brother.

I can accept that I love him, that he loves me, even the scary possibility that Mulder is in love with me.  But this... I don't know, this just stretches plausibility.

I'm attracted to him.  Of course.  He's a handsome man.  And I've had the odd fantasy or two... or three... about him.  I sneak an extra look at him, now and again, when he's wearing those jeans.  I'll admit that I've caught myself occasionally wondering what he's like in bed, and once or twice I've had dreams about him that made it really difficult to look him in the eye the next morning at work.  But really, that's nothing out of the ordinary-- everybody daydreams about a co-worker now and then.  It's no big deal.

Particularly since it's been so long since I've had any significant sexual contact with a real, live, man... it's not surprising that I'd fantasize a little about my good-looking partner.  Perfectly normal, as a matter of fact.  He probably has his fantasies, too.  It's just another one of the little things that we pretend we don't know about each other.

Love and the occasional twinge of attraction do not, however, add up to some kind of earth-shattering passion, not in my book.  I would be fooling myself if I thought that.

Still... I do think about him fondly, from time to time.  I can admit that, here in the dark behind my eyes.  Occasionally, I'll find myself watching him from across the room, gleaning a strange sort of comfort from the way his eyelashes curve over his cheek when he closes his eyes to think... comfort from the steady sound of his breathing, or the familiar scent of the cologne he sometimes wears, or even from the peculiar way he clears his throat when he's embarrassed.  Comfort.  A million tiny, sweet, constant things that I couldn't live without, whether we're slogging through a sewer, choking down god-awful food at the thousandth cheap diner in the thousandth tiny town, arguing at the top of our lungs about who's going to drive the car, or just beating our brains out in a tiny office in the basement of the Hoover Building... little things, wordless fragments, all adding up to something that I can hold in my heart.


I don't think I'm in love with Mulder.  Not yet.  But I could be, under the right circumstances.

Circumstances that have a lot to do with what Mulder does next.


After hours of silence, the ring of my cell phone just about gives me heart failure.  I whip my hands away from my eyes, but the darkness is slow to fade and I'm still blind as I frantically slap at my pockets, trying to locate the damn phone.

Found it!  I whip the phone out and open and up to my ear in one swift movement.  "Scully."

"Hey, Scully.  Guess who."

My heart thumps once, hard.  Mulder.  Shit.  Speak of the devil.

"Well, well.  Look who's back from the dead."  My voice sounds too high, like it does on the tape recorder.  Calm down, calm down...  "I'm surprised they actually let you use the phone."

"Let, nothing.  I'm out, Scully.  I'm home."

I can't think of a good response to that one.  Oh.  Okay.  Huh.  Wow.  Not a lot of winners in the bunch.  "Really."

"Yeah, really.  They tried to sell me a handful of Tylenol for five dollars apiece, but I told them I already had plenty of illegal drugs at my apartment, so I could probably manage for myself."

The dark spots are starting to fade, but my heart still isn't beating quite right.  He's playing our normal game now, but I keep waiting for the sucker-punch, for the By The Way that will lead into an apocalyptic dialogue.  Breathe, Dana, breathe...  "Sounds like you haven't lost your winning ways with hospital administrators.  How could they ever bear to let you go?"

"You'd be surprised what a few twenties in the right pockets will do."

"Hah, hah."  Deliberate sarcasm on my part, but I find myself smiling into the phone anyway.  "You sound like you're feeling better."

"Not really, but I *am* feeling a little less woozy."

I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose.  Lucky him.  He might be feeling less woozy, but I'm still exhausted, and the slowly building panic in my stomach isn't helping.  "They took you off the painkillers?"

"Yeah.  Too bad, they were a lot of fun.  You should try them sometime."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"It'd be the only thing you'd keep in mind.  Those drugs are something else, Scully; I can't remember a thing since I jumped off that ship."

What did he say?

I blink.  All of a sudden I'm wide awake.

Of all the possibilities that my busy brain has cooked up since that moment in Mulder's hospital room, it never occurred to me that he wouldn't remember his little confession at all.

"Scully?  Are you there?"  He sounds concerned.  It's a good thing I didn't space out for half an hour again; that would have really had him worried.

"I'm here, Mulder."  I could let it slide, but I've put too much effort into sorting things out tonight, and I need to make sure.  "You don't remember anything at all?"

He clears his throat with an embarrassed harrumph.  "Well, you know the drill.  It's all a big blur after I hit the water.  I'm not sure what I dreamed and what really happened..."  There is a tiny pause.  "Scully, I didn't... did I do... I mean, did I say anything that..."

His voice sounds very young and unsure.

Usually Mulder is the one who has the sudden flashes of insight, but tonight seems to be my turn.  No matter what he'd said, no matter what he'd meant by it, right now it isn't something that he can deal with.  Not sober, at least.  And I know I'm not ready to deal with it.  Not here, not now, not sitting on this cold floor with a corpse across the room, my ass half-asleep and my cell phone clutched in my hand.

There's too much gray; I can't find a word to save my life.


This is something we need to hash out.  We've been pretending for months now-- he's been pretending that he didn't try to kiss me, and I've been pretending that I still didn't remember.  Pretending, just to keep from hurting each other.  This is a chance to get past that, to move on and start to explore that gray area, to sort it out into black and white and see if it spells out a future together.

"Scully, come on, cut it out."

But it's not as if this is our last chance.  Surely there will be other times, times when I'm not exhausted and he's not in pain.  Times when we've had a little more time to think about it, a little more time to deal with the words and what they mean.  If he's not ready to deal with it now, and I'm not ready to deal with it, perhaps it's best if it just goes away for awhile.


Maybe not.

"Scully."  His voice is going up in pitch; he's still trying to keep it casual, but I think I'm scaring him.  "Say something, Scully."

"Something."  I still don't know what to say.

Sometimes words are too much.

"You're really starting to make me nervous, Scully.  What did I do?"

I open my mouth.  I'm going to tell him.  I am.  I can.  I will.

But the words don't come.  I'm choking on the gray.

"Scully?"  He's really working at making this sound like a joke.  If I didn't know him so well, I'd fall for it.  "What happened, did I dress up in a tutu and do a little dance for you?"

Oh, hell.

Sometimes it's better to just play along with the joke.

Sometimes there's nothing else to do.

"You'll find out when I get the blackmail pictures back from the lab,"  I hear myself say.  "I think they turned out really well."

And there it is; I hear his tiny sigh of relief

"Oh, goody.  I haven't had a good blackmail picture since college."  His voice is back to normal.

"Then you're gonna love these."  Relieved he may be, but I think I'm more relieved than he is.  Cursing myself for a coward... but relieved, and embarrassed about it.

"Great.  I can send copies to all the relatives in their Christmas cards."

I can't help it; despite the brush with our own personal apocalypse, I'm smiling into the phone again.  "I'm sure they'll be very proud of you."

"It has to be an improvement over last year's."  Another one of those pauses.  "Scully, are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  A little tired, maybe."  It's a lie, but it's one I can live with.  "I'm trying to finish up one last autopsy before I go home."

"I'd better let you go, then.  I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay.  Goodnight."

"Hang on, Scully--"  I have another little moment of panic, but all he says is, "Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yeah.  I'm fine.  It's just good to have you back, Mulder.  That's all."


"Goodnight."  I press the END button, and sit there, looking at the phone, listening to my heart rate slow down to its normal quiet murmur.  Reprieved.  The moment of the apocalypse has been postponed.

I still can't find the words, but I believe that they're out there, somewhere.  Perhaps the words will come when we're both ready, when the time is right.  Or maybe we'll make up some new ones.  Mulder is good at that.

There are a lot of gray areas in my life right now.  And that's fine.

The black and white can wait.


*** Many thanks to Saint Robbie for the wonderful beta reads (I *will* remember how to spell explanation, I *will*),  to Paulette for the generous feedback and encouragement (high-five!), and to ErlyBird for the support, the content comments, my Muse-keteers ears and the tux for this rampaging baby Sasquatch.  Cheers!***

***Feedback is not only welcome, it is cherished, and you can send me some at playwrtrx@yahoo.com***