by Mary Parker

Title: Almost
Author: Mary Parker
Feedback: Please?
Rating: PG, I suppose
Classification: V, A, MSR
Spoilers: Post-episode for "The Truth"
Summary: Scully misses the same old song and dance. Almost. Author's Notes: What? A humanities major? Me? Okay. You caught me. Pity they don't belong to me. Pity the show's still over.

Another quiet night in the car: if she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend they'd just staggered wearily off another of Mulder's redeye flights with directions scribbled out to some awful motel with pilly nylon comforters. Almost. The word was an ache in her chest. The self-satisfied purr of the purloined black SUV shook her out of her reverie: no rental car had ever sounded like that, carrying the two of them through their borrowed hours of darkness because justice began at dawn and Mulder liked to have a base of operations before investigation began. Home was where the suitcase was, then. Scully twisted in her seat, looking automatically for the familiar outlines of her suitcase, but their bags had been left in the other car. There was only a little heap of the nearly empty shopping bags of secondhand clothes and Wal-Mart underwear. Here they were: a new beginning whether either of them were prepared.

She rammed the chair back on its runners and propped one bare foot experimentally on the dashboard. They would have new names, new clothes, new expressions on the same familiar faces. Scully let her head roll on the headrest, still surprised by the auburn crush of her hair against her cheek. Mulder hadn't batted an eye at her radical new personality, her rebellious posture. Traffic safety laws be damned, she thought recklessly, and then checked the mirrors to be sure: there was no one on the road for miles. She looked at Mulder. In the dim glimmer of the dashboard lights he looked like an oil painting, all brooding chiarascuoro.

"Almost home," he said. "The car, I mean. Almost homey in here."

"Almost." She looked out the window again. Miles and miles of nothing, if you didn't know what you were looking for. She didn't have the key anymore; she couldn't see the hidden pictures. She had given up the burning desire for control along with her only son. That had been the last straw in a long line of last straws. After ten years a surrender: she was Troy overcome by a swarm of soldiers brought in with the wooden toys of her son. She was Andromache, travelling with her ghostly lover mourning the lost last hope of her son. She was Clytemnaestra with no way to revenge Iphigenia: she had long forgiven her Agamemnon for circumstances beyond his control.

Enough with the Greeks: her life wasn't so tragic.

"It's not so bad, is it, Scully?" Mulder spoke suddenly. His voice was wistful. Scully wondered if his telepathic tendencies hadn't entirely disappeared after all.

"No," she said after a moment. "It's almost like before, if I don't think too much about it." But now when she was naked in his arms she would have stretchmarks instead of mosquito bites and she would not be alone on the hotel bed. Instead of running scared into the room she would have gone calmly to the small bathroom to rinse her mouth before he undressed her tenderly, as if his hands could somehow make up for all the years of pain. The awful thing was that the gentle touches at first and the overwhelming passion later almost did ameliorate all the aches of yesterday and the day before and the years before.

Sometimes she hated him for that. He touched her like a supplicant and she gave him her blessing, just like that. What right did he have to heal her? He wasn't a priest or a doctor. As far as she knew he wasn't a saviour anymore either.

She had seen his hands, though, in those innocent moments when he fell asleep in front of her and his long agitated fingers uncurled. His palm had been open on the console between them. She had stopped the car to walk, one of those endless desert nights since the pueblo. Perhaps it was only last night: without daily showers and much variety in clothing she lost track of time. She had gotten back in the car and sat looking out at the rolling sand for long minutes before noticing the cup of his hand like a wilting flower. His fingers were so articulate normally; now they looked like a boy's, reaching out, hoping. She studied the pads of his fingertips, the athletic arches and the impossible whorls.

In that moment, under the vast crystal silence of the domed desert sky, she understood. The sum of Mulder was there in the delicate ridges of his fingertips and the branching lines of his palms, in the scars and the ovals of his nails and the memory of his muscles that would hold a pistol steady. The future wasn't there, perhaps, but the past was: all his desires and sorrows and angers, all the touches he had ever given her or the women before her. He had lit menorah candles with those hands; he had held her daughter and held too the white roses for her funeral.

There was wonder left in the world, she thought, but considered this way none in the fact that Mulder's hands on her skin had power. He had been a saviour, splayed Christ-like on a table in a sterile room. He had saved her over and over.

No doubt when she touched him he felt the benediction of her love.

Now, rolling over the neverending ribbon of road, she reached out and laid her small neat hand on his arm. Her skin was pale against his dark sweater.

"Blessed art thou among women," he said, glancing for a moment at her. His eyes were compassionate. "I'm sorry, Scully."

"Why?" she said.

"Just." He stared at the road.

"Don't start," she said.

"I can't help it." He knew his lines as well as she knew hers; she couldn't count how many times they'd had this conversation.

"My choices were my own. When I follow you, Mulder, it isn't because I'm blind. This is not your fault. I could have left."

He sighed. She took her hand from his arm and dropped it in her lap. The silence between them was the aching pause between overtures, when the audience is unsure whether to applaud or wait for the next melancholy notes drawn out from the violin. Scully had never been good at distinguishing one sort of classical silence from another. She just waited for everyone else to applaud. But Mulder, she thought, would throw caution to the wind and express his appreciation. She nibbled on the inside of her lip and did simple integrations to pass the time until whatever he was mulling over escaped the dam of his lips.

Why, she wondered, were the cool sleek equations such a comfort? Precision. Reliability. The integration of e to the x is e to the x every time.

"Okay," said Mulder in the middle of her chain rule calisthenics. He blew out a long breath and reached out blindly for her hand. "Okay. Finnegan, begin again."

"Okay." She squeezed his hand and left her fingers curled in his as the SUV flung itself along the highway. Things would work out, she thought. Almost.

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