Date: Wed, 26 Aug 1998 01:48:24 -0400
From: Ellen Milholland <pretyclose@aol.com>
Subject: NEW: Always Like This (1/1)

Title: Always Like This
Author: Ellen Milholland <pretyclose@aol.com>
Rating: PG-13 (for language)
Classification: VA, some UST, ScullyPOV
Spoilers: Some reference to cancer-centric episodes.
Archive: Gossamer is fine. Anywhere else, please ask me first.
Disclaimers: I don't own them, they belong to CC and 1013 and Fox (oh
my!).
Thanks: To all of my beta readers / editors (including Anna, Marion,
Mara, Joey, and Jennifer) for the absolutely amazing help they gave.
Feedback: Most assuredly, everything except blatant flames.
Note on timeframe: In my mind, this story occurs about a year from the
time of the season finale, and in this universe, FTF never happened.

Summary: Scully and Mulder have a conversation in a car on a dark night.

~*~
Always Like This
by Ellen Milholland
~ * ~
"In the Car
We were looking for ourselves but found each other
In the Car
We groped for excuses not to be alone anymore
In the Car
We were waiting for our lives to start their endings
In the Car
We were never making love."
 -'In the Car,' Barenaked Ladies
~ * ~

You're talking to me, giving me details about the case as we sit in this
dark, cold car, but I stopped listening a long time ago. Longer than you
know, and in more ways than you could ever understand. I stopped
listening, but you never stopped talking.

I shake my head to clear it of these thoughts, and you look at me
questioningly. You're asking me what's wrong. You're asking me if I
heard a word you said. You're waiting for a response. The accusations
hang heavy in the air. Sometimes, I think you know. I think you know I'm
not listening.

So what do I answer? I'm giving a smile. "Of course I heard what you
said. Of course I was listening. I'm fine, Mulder, I'm fine." That's
what you want to hear, isn't it? And it's what I always give you. So
maybe that's how we go on day after day. I say I'm fine, and you believe
me. The world keeps spinning, and paychecks keep rolling in, and I'm not
dead yet. That surprises me. Thought I would've been by now. There
_have_ been enough threats.

You cock your head to the side as if there's more on your mind, and then
you nod a little. You're not talking, but I can hear the words you're
saying. Yeah, Scully, you're fine, your eyes say. You're always fine.
Fine. I can deal with fine. That's safe.

You give me a sliver of a smile, as if to reassure me, but it isn't
working.

Safe. This is safe. I'm not listening to a word you're saying when you
talk, and yet I'm trying to understand. I'm deaf to you now, but I'm
trying to read the words you aren't saying. Usually, they're more
important.

How long did it take for me to stop listening? Too long^Å not long
enough^Å I'm not sure. I listened for so long, wishing and hoping for the
things you never said. And we came to the impasse a hundred times^Å the
awkward silence, the uncomfortable pause, and the more-than-just-friends
look in your eyes. I was waiting for the moment when we'd shift. When
the relationship would take a turn. But years came and went, and  the
moment never came. Now I'm fine, and you're alone. We're both alone. Not
a foot apart, and we're alone inside our own heads. When our eyes meet,
there's more there than either of us would like to admit, and we look
away like there's fire in the gaze.
 

You're a little pale, Mulder. I'm a doctor; I notice these things. I
can't help but notice the heavy rings under your eyes, and the dark
hollowness of your cheeks. Haven't you been eating well? Can't you
sleep? Why can^Òt you sleep, Mulder? What keeps you awake at night?

Do you wake up sometimes in earliest hours of the morning and feel sobs
wracking your body? Do you wake up sweating while the loneliness makes
this ache in the pit of your stomach? Do you lay there, unable ^Ö
unwilling ^Ö to go back to sleep because the nightmares haunt you? Do you
wrap the blankets tighter around your shuddering body, trying to protect
yourself from everything that's out to get you?

Yes, you probably do. And yet, that doesn't make me feel closer to you;
it only pushes me farther away. You're on the other side of a wall that
isn't made of stone and mortar but blood and tears ^Ö no less
impenetrable. I'm losing you, and you're losing me. Or maybe we're
already lost. Standing on different sides of the wall, the wall that
we've been carefully building since our first moments together. For
protection^Å from ourselves, and from one another.

But I'm fine. I can deal with this ^Ö like I always do with you. Like
I've dealt with everything in my life that's kept me from being the
perfect daughter, the perfect agent, or the perfect woman. I'll deal
with it. It'll be fine.

Again, it's all too obvious that I'm not listening. Again, you're asking
me if I'm alright. Demanding, insisting that I tell you the truth. Oh
Mulder, what's the truth anymore?

"Yes, I'm fine," I'm telling you. I don't hate lying anymore, not like I
used to. I'm fine. It's a defense mechanism. I'm sure you understand
them. You have a few of your own.

Your eyes tell me you're worried, but I'm trying not to listen to them
either. I'm fine. I'm fine. I've been fine for the past five years.

Can't you tell from the way I look at you that I'm not fine? Can't you
tell by the look in my eyes? Desperation, fear, sadness, and so much
more is there; if you'd only bother to look. But you accept my fineness
with a nod and a shrug, because that's the _safe_ thing to do, and I
wonder if you even care.

I suppose you do. Why would a man make a silent vigil by the bedside of
a dying woman, why would he risk his own life for her, why would he put
everything he believes in on the line^Å for a woman he doesn't even care
about? Sometimes, I even think you love me.

And of course, I love you back. The kind of love that leaves you feeling
a little warm and heady and safe. I've betrayed myself for that love.
I've grown and changed and lived and died, yet through it all, there's
been that love.

And I can't explain why, but that love isn't enough to make everything
right. I'm not fine, Mulder. God damnit, I'm not fine.

You're giving me this look that threatens to push me over the edge. God,
stop worrying about me like you do. I'm better off without your
sympathy, without your pity. Dana Scully needs no one, and most
especially not you.

But that's a lie, and we both know it. I'm lost without you.

I'm not fine, Mulder. Figure it out! I must've given you all the pieces
by now. Slip them together, make them fit. I believe you can do it. I'm
not strong enough to do it for you.

The sky's falling and shattering all around me, and I'm not fine. I'm
scared, that's what I am. That tenseness in my jaw and in the way I grip
my pen ^Ö yes, I know you watch me ^Ö it's stress, and it's fear, and it's
pain. I'm telling you my secrets when I'm talking my sleep, but you're
never there, you're never listening, and the secrets go unheard.

I'm trusting you with everything now, Mulder. Don't screw this up.
Please God, don't let him screw this up. One screw up, and we're fucked
here, Mulder.

I'm looking you in the eye now, when you're staring at me, and a littleflush is creeping up from under your heavily starched collar. I can tell
even in the dark. You think I don't notice when you look at me like
that, but I do. I always do. I'm more perceptive than you give me credit
for, sometimes. But I'm meeting the look unflinchingly ^Ö I hope ^Ö and I
wish you could see everything inside of me by the dim light of the
overcast sky.

"What?" Your eyes ask the question, and perhaps your lips did, too, and
I merely didn't hear them. How do I form the words to tell you what I'm
thinking?

Millions of words to choose from, and I cannot pick even a few to tell
you how I feel. Finally, I settle on a phrase, and I hope it's enough.

"I never expected this," I say.

Those are not the words I anticipated. I intended to say, I'm sorry, but
I opened my mouth and^Å

Oh God, it's _that_ look. That hurt, pouty, "feel sorry for me" look.
Stop that, Mulder.

"What do you mean?" you ask me.

What do I mean? So many answers to such a simple question. We're still
staring at one another, as though breaking the eye contact would ruin
the moment. I guess it would. But, oh Lord, we need this moment.

"I never expected to^Å" I pause, and you don't want to wait, so you're
asking me to continue. "I never expected to^Å

"End up here," I tell you, but we're both left unfulfilled by the
implications. Where? This job? This stuffy, cramped car in the middle of
a bitterly cold winter? With this beautiful, shattered man of a partner,
sitting beside me, as we talk about chasing after aliens with not so
much as a laser blaster or a ray gun? More than thirty years old, and
I'm not married, like I expected to be. Don't even have a boyfriend, and
you know that all too well. I can see the jealousy in your eyes when
another man's around, rare as it may be.

And yes, Mulder, I've seen you check me out. I've seen you run your eyes
over my chest. I've felt you run those tendrils of fire up my legs, from
my feet to my ass. I'm trying so hard not to let on that I know, that
I've found out your little secret. I wonder if I'm a player in the
little porno flicks inside your head.

"I'm not keeping you here," you say. I'm startled by your words, torn
from my reverie.

Oh, Mulder. I know you aren't keeping me here, because I know the power
I have over you. I know that if I really told you I was leaving, no
buts, you'd beg me to stay, but what else would you really be able to
do? I've got you on a leash, and you know it.

"You couldn't keep me here."

You almost smile. I can tell by your eyes, because I know your face so
well.

"I know."

I shake my head a little. There was a time, though it feels so long ago,
that I would've stayed here if you'd have asked me. But that time isn't
now. Never again, Mulder. Now I'm the one with the hold over you, and I
know it. I see it in your eyes, even now. I can see you thinking, 'Don't
go, Scully.' I can see you praying to whatever God you choose to believe
in.

"And that's not really what I meant," I say finally.

"What did you mean, then?"

"I wasn't talking about this car, necessarily."

"Okay," you say simply.

Mulder, do you love me? I want to ask. I want to just say the question,
and have the answer. I want to hear the confession either way. I want to
know. I need to know. I need this night to be my witness. I need to be
able to remember this stuffy rental car and this night^Å to know that
this is real. That anything's real anymore.

"I wish there were stars out," I say, looking out the windshield into
the dark night.

"There're too many clouds."

Of course I already know this. That's obvious, but you say it because I
know you can' t think of anything else to say in response. Hell, I can't
think of a good response either.

"I wonder if it'll storm tonight."

"I hate lightning."

"I hate the thunder. I can deal with the lightning."

"Once, when I was young, someone told me the thunder was God yelling."

I look at you from the corner of my eye, wondering why you chose to tell
me that. But you're looking intently into the sky, hands firmly on the
steering wheel.

"I once thought the rain was God crying."

"It's funny the things that you'll believe when you're young."

Before I can stop myself, I'm asking the question I don't want to know
the answer to. "Do you still believe?"

You're wincing. That wasn't fair; forgive me.

"God doesn't yell," you answer, but we both know that's not the question
I was asking. But what _was_ I asking?

Do you believe in anything anymore? Do I? Aliens, God, goodness and
mercy^Å Do we believe in anything now?

You're mesmerized by the wind blowing the leaves and limbs of the trees,
and your voice is so quiet.

I shouldn't have asked that question. It's been so off limits for so
long. I think I may have screwed something up, now. And I was worried
_you_ would, Mulder. We can't ruin this night. We need it so much.
Jesus, I'm such a bitch to you.

"He whispers." The words surprise even me, and you turn to look at me.

You reach out, and your finger hovers just above the cross that hangs
around my neck. You don't touch it, you don't touch my skin. "Do you
talk to Him, Scully?"

My throat closes at the tone of your voice. I clear it, and I whisper,
"Yes."

"What do you ask for?"

We've stumbled into something I never expected, and I don't think you
did either. How did you do this? How did we walk so blindly into a
conversation that is so damned intense?

I wonder if you know^Å you're the only person in the world that I'd even
consider answering this question for. There's not one other soul in the
entire universe who could get a response out of me.

"Oh^Å lots of things." Fuck. What kind of answer is that? And why am I
letting you get to me like this? This is dangerous.

We both know it.

"Like what?" You draw back your finger and look up, and you're staring
into my eyes, and I know that you need to know the answer, and I need to
tell you. We need this.

"Safety, I guess." Can you understand how hard this is for me? Can you
see it in my eyes?

"Safety? For who?"

"Oh, me," I pause, "You^Å Lots of^×" I stop, and shake my head. There's no
one else I pray for. My prayers are for you and me alone. Can you
understand that? Can you ever know what that really means?

You don't know what to say. That's clear enough. I can't break the hold
your eyes have over me. Begging, pleading. For what, I'm not sure.

"I don't want anything to happen to you," I say quietly.

"You don't need to worry about me," you say defensively.

"Of course I do."

Fuck, fuck, fuck. What the hell am I thinking?

"I don't need you to watch over me."

"I didn't mean it that way^Å"

"How did you mean it then?" Your voice is tired and cold.

"I need to worry about you^Å It's who I am."

"What are you worried about?"

Damn. I'm cornered. How did you do this, Mulder? How do you manage to be
the only person who can catch me completely off guard like this?
I take a deep breath, and you watch me. When did we become these people,
Mulder? Calculating, cold, and cut off? Cut off from one another, cut
off from ourselves. The breath I'm taking shudders a little, and you
notice, I can tell by the way you look at me.

"I'm worried^Å I^Å" Take the plunge, Scully. Go on. "I don't want to lose
you to something stupid."

"You're afraid of losing me?"

I can do little more than nod. The tone of your voice^Å How the hell are
you doing this to me? Making me crumble^Å No one else can do that,
because I make sure of it. But you're tearing down the walls, and for
the first time in a long while, I'm listening. I'm listening to your
words, and you're taking my breath away, Mulder.

"Yeah. I guess I am."

"Shit, Scully." You look away, and my mouth falls open a little, I
think. What just happened? You shake your head, and say again, "Shit."

Words form on my lips, but you don't give me a chance to say any of them
before you're talking again. Thank God. I don't know what I might say.

"You know, that's just one of those things you never expect to hear.
Dana Scully^Å worried about someone else's welfare."

I'm angry and hurt, and my face must show it because you add. "Well^Å
_my_ welfare."

"You doubted?"

The tone of my voice, wounded by your words, makes your eyes cloudy and
you sigh. I bite my lip, taking a deep breath. How did this conversation
take such a dangerous turn? Damnit, I never expected this.

There is a long, drawn out pause.

"Does He listen?" you ask, clasping your hands in your lap, staring out
the driver's side window.

I think for a moment. "I suppose it depends on how you look at it."

"What do you mean?"

"Well^Å I'm still here, and so are you." I'm saying so much more than the
words, and I hope you understand.

There's another pause, and I think I may be holding my breath, clutching
the sides of my seat.

"Did you pray when you had cancer, Scully?"

Your voice is so soft and so tender^Å "For a while."

You look at me and raise an eyebrow, and I continue. "I stopped after a
few months."

"Why?"

"Because I was convinced^Å that He wasn't going to help me. That I^Å had
to do it on my own."

"All by yourself?"

I nod. "Yes."

"Wasn't that lonely?"

Oh, God, Mulder^Å More than you could ever know. More than you could ever
understand. Convinced of the fact that I was going to die by the hand of
a silent killer^Å You could never understand. No one could.

I can't explain how lonely it was, Mulder. Don't ask me to.

"Yes, it was."

"I^Å" you stop, as if catching yourself.

"You what?" I ask after a quiet moment.

"I never wanted you to feel alone."

I know that, Mulder. I saw it in your face, and I heard it in the sobs
you didn't think I was awake for. I could feel it in your touch on my
hand, even through the haze of pain that constantly muddled my thoughts.

"I know."

You won't meet my eyes. "I tried so hard, but God, I couldn't watch you
like that."

"I was dying." The words are dry and bitter on my tongue.

You shake your head. "I wish you wouldn't say it like that."

"It's the truth."

You take a deep breath, and you let it out through your nose. "I tried^Å
to convince myself that it wasn't true. I tried so hard to think that if
we worked hard enough we could overcome it. I tried to shrug it off. But
then^Å I just couldn't do it anymore. I was watching you waste away, and
there was nothing I could do^Å Sometimes I would just^Å break down
sobbing. I would wake in the night to the sound of my own tears. I was
pretty torn up."

"Are you still?"

You think for a moment. "Yeah," you admit softly.

There is a long silence, and we're both thinking. I can almost see the
wheels in your head turning as I look at you out of the corner of my
eye.

"I used to wish on falling stars when I was a little girl."

"Did your wishes ever come true?"

"Sometimes^Å I guess it all depended on what I wished for."

"If there was a falling star tonight, what would you wish for?"

Oh God, you had to ask that, didn't you Mulder? Couldn't contain
yourself, could you? Why the hell are you doing this to me? Do you like
to watch me squirm like this?

"I don't know. Lots of things, I guess."

"Pick one." You say it immediately.

"Only if you do it, too."

"Who says I wish on falling stars?"

"Mulder." The tone is slightly threatening, I guess, because you shrug
your shoulders.

"Alright, alright. So, what would you wish for?"

"I wish^Å that there^Å were more answers, and fewer questions."

You nod and lean your head back against the seat.

"Now you."

You nod again, "I know. I wish^Å"

You stop mid-sentence, and you look over at me with an intensity that's
rare. I arch my eyebrow, and you look into my eyes.

"I can't tell you."

I furrow my brow. Oh my God. This couldn't be happening. Friday night,
I'm waiting outside some madman's house in a darkened car with my
partner^Å and now you're wishing for things you  can't tell me and we're
talking about my cancer and I cannot believe this is happening.

"Why not?"

You shake your head, lips pressed together as if you're afraid the words
might slip out of their own accord.

Damn you, Mulder. You're doing it to me again. The walls are falling,
and I'm setting myself up to be hurt again. I can't protect myself from
this. I know you, and you know me. This is as good as it gets, Mulder,
isn't it? If we're going to change everything, let's get ready for it at
least.

I hear a sigh escape my lips. You wince a little at the sound, and I
almost feel bad because I know this is hurting you, too. Why does it
always come back to this? This cat and mouse, this back and forth. Pain
and pleasure, and never a compromise. Either we're screwing ourselves
over with misplaced professions or badly timed looks of adoration, or
we're cold and distant, running on auto-pilot through our days. It's all
or nothing, with you and me. And Mulder, I can't deal with it. I don't
want it all, but I can't stand having none, and so I'm begging for a
middle ground.

"I wish we could see the stars tonight, Scully."

"Want to catch a falling star?" I ask you.

You seem to think for a moment, and then you nod. Your hand reaches out
to touch my cheek, but there's no contact. Your fingers hover above my
skin, and I press my lips together.

"One of the things I want, yeah."

And then you turn away from me and put your hands back on the steering
wheel, staring out into the murky, purple sky.

Oh Mulder, I wish I could make our dreams come true. But I can't. Not
tonight. Not in this stuffy rental car. Maybe never.

How we got here, I don't know, and how we'll ever escape^Å I don't know
that either. I turn to look at you, but your eyes are closed now.

Your voice breaks the stillness. "Will it ever be enough, Scully? Or
will it always be like this?"

I take a deep breath, and I think my body's trembling. "I'm not sure."

"Yeah. Me, neither."

~ * ~

End.

Please! I'm begging you! Let me know what you thought! :)

--
Ellen Milholland <pretyclose@aol.com>
Http://fly.to/visions.of.sugarplums & Http://welcome.to/youthfic
     ~*~*~*~*~*~
"I may not be perfect, but parts of me are excellent." - Ashleigh
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