A LIFE, PROLOGUE: DEAR HEART
By Char Chaffin
Spoilers: Vague, Through Season Nine
Disclaimers: Clones on Loan
THANKS: To everyone who emailed me, asking for 'just one more "Life" story, please!' This is for you, with love -
DEDICATION: To Nancy, who is a dear spot in my own online life!
Additional notes at the end -
Summary: 'It's a lonesome town, all right...'
'Dear Heart, wish you were here to warm this night...'
Another dingy town, small and nondescript. Another motel, another greasy spoon diner, another series of days and nights spent holed up.
He hates his life. No, that's not quite correct, because by no stretch of anyone's imagination could this be called a life.
He hates his existence, that's more accurate.
Sitting in a corner booth at the diner, which is named - of all things - simply, "Eats," he pokes at a cold hamburger nestled between two halves of a soggy bun, garnished with wilted lettuce. One bite convinced him that his stomach couldn't handle the stress, so instead he's downed several cups of coffee and has spent the evening staring out the clouded window. Main Street, Po-dunk, USA. On a weeknight there's nothing happening. He figures it's as boring behind closed doors as it seems to be out in public. Ironically it's these deaderthan -a-doornail towns that afford him the most anonymity and safety. He used to think the big cites were easier to disappear in. He doesn't think that way any longer.
It's a clear night and the stars are slowly popping out. There's a quarter moon as well, and as he gazes at it through the blurry window he can't help but wonder if his woman is staring at the same moon, and thinking of him.
Of course, she is. He knows her. She might have her feet planted firmly on the ground but deep inside her heart she's a romantic, and a moon-gazer. He used to tease her about it just to watch her get indignant and argumentative.
"I do NOT gaze at the moon, Mulder! Why on earth would I want to?"
"Because you're hoping, if you do, you'll see a "Moon-Gotcha."
"I know I'm going to regret this, but... what's a "Moon-Gotcha?"
"Well, I'll show you. See the moon?"
"MULDER! Let go of my kneecap; that TICKLES!"
He can almost hear her laughter, as he stares at the moon. Almost.
'Dear Heart, seems like a year since you've been out of my sight...'
She's the reason he sits in tiny, dark diners that smell of old frying oil. She's the reason he moves from place to place, backtracking and side-stepping his way across the country. She and his child, his William. Two days old when he left, bending over the bassinet to kiss the tiny, perfect face. Trying to stem the tears, upset when two of them dripped onto the soft blue receiving blanket that lay over his son as he slept. Spilling more tears on her pale, sad face when he had to say goodbye; had to hold her so tightly one last time, there in the doorway of the bedroom they'd shared all too infrequently.
As he'd wiped at her wet cheeks, she'd done the same for him. And their final words to each other were banal and frustrating and so much like them...
"You'll need to change vehicles several times. And don't forget to get word to me - safely, of course - when you need more funds."
He'd nodded and buried his face in her hair, inhaling the scent, imprinting in his mind the good clean of it, knowing that anything resembling good was going to be damned scarce. "I'll try to leave notes with the guys, and maybe I can email you once in a while. As soon as I secure everything and it feels safer."
<I love you. I worship you. I can't bear the thought of having to leave you, even for a day, much less weeks and possibly months.> He'd wanted to say that, over and over again. Instead he'd talked of notes and goddamned email messages. They were both idiots, it would seem.
But the kiss they'd shared more than made up for the words they never spoke. Hard, desperate, taking, greedy, soft, tender, supplicating, needy... unutterably sad. No words could have topped it, and so none were offered. He'd walked to the curb and climbed into the taxi; it drove away carrying him, his suitcases... but not his heart. He'd left it, beating out its love for her, in her hands.
That drive away from Scully had signaled the beginning of hell for him. Days and nights on the road. Buying a beat-up car, driving it until he could dump it, and buy another. Seeking to vanish into the mystic the way their enemies seemed to be able to do at the drop of a hat. Praying that with his absence, he'd secure a measure of security for the woman and child he'd walked away from.
Mostly, he'd prayed.
The sheets on the lumpy bed are old and pilled, frayed, smelling of bleach and a touch of mildew. The blanket is threadbare and the bedspread should have been put out of its misery years ago. It doesn't matter all that much to him because it's not like he's going to fall asleep, anyway. Usually he finds himself flat on his back, staring at the ceiling and wishing with an intensity bordering on pain that he was in that apartment in Georgetown. He'd have both arms full of family, better believe it. Instead, he counts the cracks in the cheap plaster job that some underpaid Joe Schmoe slopped over the ceiling - probably back during the Depression - and he thinks of every second he held her, every kiss he gave her.
It keeps him sane.
From that first tentative meeting of lips to the first mesh of their bodies on a night much like this one, he never questioned that they belonged together. In his mind it was inevitable. If he was unsure of anything, it was the regard and interest their relationship might generate among those who'd seek to use them to control and manipulate a future that he was just beginning to comprehend and to fear. That alone kept him from declaring himself on more than one occasion.
But one night... one night it was impossible to deny it any longer. One night everything that needed to be said between them was whittled down into a kiss so fiercely sweet that it nearly sent him to his knees.
He still can't recall who kissed whom first. It just seemed as if one moment he was looking into her eyes and the next she was bare and warm and beneath him in his rumpled bed, their mouths fused together. There was no memory of having undressed; only the magic they created on each others' bodies with lips, tongues, hands.
Her skin was damp and satiny against his. Her legs twined around him, holding him tightly while her mouth fed from his with greedy passion. Into the silence of the room their sighs and gasps, broken words of need and desire, blended with that first hard thrust of his flesh piercing hers. When she arched up against him, when her blue eyes went opaque and blind with the power of her release... that's when he knew he'd do anything to keep her at his side, loving him. That's when he became the strongest he'd ever been in his life - and the most vulnerable.
As the shadows shift across the small motel room, he rubs at eyes gritty from lack of sleep and wonders if William is still awakening at two in the morning to nurse. A smile breaks over his face when he recalls how unbelievably lovely Scully looked when she nursed their son, how his tiny hand fisted against her pale skin, the way her eyes met his as William fed at her breast. Glowing with new motherhood, she presented the most beautiful of miracles and he'd sat next to her in complete awe as she nursed their child.
Twenty hours later, he was gone.
Mulder rubs at his eyes again, trying to alleviate the sting of tears held ruthlessly at bay. He tells himself he's doing the right thing, staying away. He knows the consequences of being found, especially if Scully and William were found with him.
But, God Almighty, he misses them. The pain of loss kills him, little by little, each day he spends on the road, moving farther away from them.
'A single room, a table for one - it's a lonesome town, all right...'
Another gray dawn and he's sitting on the bed, still fully dressed, still thinking. It's been three days and he should probably head out, find another little burg and start all over again.
He doesn't want to. He wonders if he'll ever be able to face that new dawn, easing the car back on the road and driving again.
He wants to go home. The ache inside him threatens to overwhelm him to the point of pain, as he stumbles to the bathroom to splash tepid water on his face. He needs a shave, and yet why should he bother? The only woman in the world whose opinion of him truly matters is as unattainable to him right now as a star in the night sky.
He can't go back to Georgetown; that's a no-brainer. But Jesus, it's a big world and surely there are many hiding places in it. Instead of actively searching, he's been sobbing into his coffee when he could be making some short-range plans.
Would Scully live with him anywhere? He knows she would. She'd pack it up in a minute, cram William and her clothes into suitcases, bag up a stroller and nab the first available mode of transport out of town.
Would she leave her family behind if the only way they could disappear involved allowing the Scullys to think they were dead?
There's the million-dollar question. Luckily for him he's sure enough of her love and commitment to provide the only acceptable answer...
'But soon I'll kiss you hello at our front door...'
His fingers shake when he dials the phone, taking a chance on calling her cell.
"It's me. I need you to listen."
"Mulder, oh, God..."
He closes his eyes at the sound of her voice in his ear, soaking it in, letting it wash over him. He murmurs into the receiver, "I know. Me, too. But right now you have to listen. Okay?"
A sigh of longing and then a firm, "Yes. I'm listening."
He finds himself taking a deep breath as he retains a death grip on the phone. "I want you to pack what you can, and leave. Contact me when you get settled and tell me where you are. Go wherever you want, as long as you feel safe when you get there. Soon, okay? I can't live this way any longer. I can't."
He breaks off, fighting to keep his voice even. It's asking too much of her, he knows. Yet he could no more stop himself from asking than to stop breathing. One more hour without hearing her voice might have done him in, and under more sane circumstances a phone call could have gone a decent way toward placating him.
But he's not quite sane, not right now. And his need for her is allencompassing... There's a plea in his tone when he pushes his mouth closer to the receiver, as if by touching it with his lips he's somehow touching her. "Can you do it, Scully? Can you drop it all, the job and the family, and meet me? Can you disappear with me?"
Her sigh fills his head and his heart. "You even have to ask? I'm more than ready. Consider us on the way. I can't do it any longer either, Mulder. It's killing me in small measures, each day."
Her willingness to give it all up, relinquish contact with her family, humbles him. In truth, he expected her to need a bit of time to think it over. Though he wants to run with the words she just echoed in his ear, he also wants to give her an out, just in case she's being impulsive.
Mulder's jaw clenches a bit as he cautions, "Be very sure. Once we do this, we can't go back. You know that. You stand to lose so much, Scully. If I were a less selfish man I'd find reasons to stop myself from asking you."
"Mulder, you're not selfish. I made the choice a long time ago to walk with you, stand at your side and put my trust in you. I love my family but you are my life. There's no question in my mind as to the path I need to follow. There's nothing more to be said, except to iron out the small details and then try to relax as much as you can, until I contact you."
She's holding firm with him, being the practical one, but he can hear the small tremor behind her words. If it takes all that he has and all that he is, he'll keep her and William safe and that tremor will never return...
With a soft whisper of, "I'll wait for your call, Scully," he disconnects, fighting the prick of tears at the corners of his eyes. He has a tough job ahead of him... making sure he stays calm until she calls him, and then making damn sure he's ready to hit the road, when she does.
'And, Dear Heart, I want you to know I'll leave your side nevermore...'
The days have melded into weeks that have dragged on, weighing him down more than usual. His cell has remained stubbornly silent and he's wanted to stomp on it in frustration. It's not that he worries she'll change his mind. She won't. Even the thought that she'll leave her mother, her brothers in the dark concerning her fate, won't sway her.
She's going to do it. She's coming to him.
Mulder refuses to think about anything except their immediate safety. Instead of agonizing over what's she's giving up for him, he finalizes what arrangements he can, and stays as optimistic as possible. Instead of worrying about what next year will hold, he makes himself concentrate on the pure relief he'll feel when his family is safe in his arms and he's holding them close. As far as he's concerned, the day after that miracle and every day thereafter will take care of itself.
They'll need to bury themselves in a place that accepts the stranger and asks no questions; begin a life as far removed from their present existence as possible. He tells himself, with complete honesty, that there isn't a way of life he couldn't endure as long as Scully and William could be at his side. As long as he can count on awakening each morning with her sweet face next to him on the pillow and fall asleep at night after rocking their son to sleep in his arms...
That's all. That's everything.
Mulder sits with ill-concealed patience and makes notes, pours over road maps, drinking bad coffee and ignoring gritty eyes left over from another almost-sleepless night. It's coming together, slowly, but there will be all kinds of small yet important details that need to be ironed out. Again, he refuses to dwell on anything other than willing the damned phone to ring, hearing at last that she's somewhere with William and both of them are waiting for him to find them.
He's kept in sporadic contact with the guys, understanding and grateful as hell that he'll always have a lifeline to the world he and Scully have chosen to leave behind. As some of those aforementioned small details have been ironed out, Mulder finds himself more and more impressed with their expertise and their cunning. Their unswerving loyalty and dedication to him and his loved ones has meant the world to him. Thanks to their efforts, he and Scully - and William - will have anonymity and a safe mode to function in. The rest will be up to them.
Mulder is more than equal to the challenge.
He stares at his cell as if willing it to ring; then forces himself to cease the obsessing. Pouring the rest of his cold coffee down the drain in the bathroom sink, he prowls the small confines of his room, peeking out of the drawn curtains at the window, seeing nothing but the image of Scully as she stood on the curb and watched him leave. He never wants to replay another image like that in his mind, ever again.
He wants to see her face light up when he walks into a room; wants to feel her arms come around him in the dusk of the evening after the supper dishes have been cleared. He wants William on his knee, gurgling up at him while they play 'horsey ride,' and he wants most of all to curl his family close in the dead of night when the only threat outside their window is a thunderstorm, a blizzard, a heat wave. He wants it so badly, and waiting for it to begin has been the hardest thing to deal with.
<Damn it, phone... ring.>
And as if by magic, through his desperate will alone, it does. Mulder snatches it up so fast he almost flings it across the room. He punches a button and barks into the receiver in a voice too rough, overly worried; so hopeful.
"It's me." She sounds tired but wonderful; Mulder lets his clenched fingers relax around the small cell phone. After weeks and weeks of uncertainty her voice in his ear is his only reality.
He sighs through her name as he responds to that short salutation and when she speaks again he can almost hear the smile she must be wearing.
"We're ready for you. Plattsburgh, New York." Her voice lowers to a soft whisper as she recites an address. With those few words she's given him that lifeline he needs; has blessed him with a future and proven her trust and loyalty all over again. As if he ever needed further proof.
It takes a moment for his voice to steady but he manages to reply without blubbering. "I'm leaving now. It may take a few days. Leave a light on for me, okay?"
Her watery chuckle is a balm and a promise. "I'll also put the coffee on and turn down your side of the bed. Hurry, okay? Your son wants you to read him a story."
Mulder closes his eyes against the sudden burn of tears that he won't allow to fall. Now is not the time for them. Now is for gladness, for anticipation. For reaffirmation.
"I'm never leaving you again, Scully. I promise."
He has to strain to hear her; miles and miles between them - as well as a shaky connection - reduces her reply to a thread of sound. But he catches the words right before she disconnects.
"I won't let you, Mulder. Never again. I love you so..."
Mulder carefully folds his cell and places it in his pocket. He scoops up the papers, maps and other assorted items from the small table near the window, collects his belongings and walks out the door. He slides behind the wheel of the old sedan parked out in the lot and singles out a map, spreading it open the seat next to him. He drives away with a smile on his face and an image of Scully waiting in a doorway somewhere up north, William in her arms, smiling for him.
'And, Dear Heart, I want you to know... I'll leave your side... nevermore...'
Final notes: I have received so many emails from readers who enjoyed "A Life" and wanted to know how it all began, that I just had to reopen the series and write a prologue. It's been wonderful for me, revisiting this universe and creating a beginning for it. Thanks for wanting more!
Nancy, as always you are in my thoughts and my prayers. I'm so glad we're friends!
The title and words of the song I borrowed? Written by Henry Mancini in 1965, "Dear Heart" is a lovely, sad and yet hopeful melody!
I love to hear from you; email me sometime! firstname.lastname@example.org
Website? Moi? But of course! http://char.chaffin.com
If you enjoyed this story, please feed the author.
Title: A LIFE, PROLOGUE: DEAR HEART, by C. Chaffin (1/1), MSR, PG-13
Author: Char Chaffin
Details: 19k · PG-13 · Series · 01/01/06 · Email/Website
Gossamer Category(Keywords): Story [Romance, Angst]
Pairings: Mulder/Scully romance
SPOILERS: Through Season Nine
SUMMARY: 'It's a lonesome town, all right.'
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