She wanted to escape - to get as far away from her apartment, as far away from the F.B.I. as she could get. She wanted the day to pass her by without any indication of its significance. Just another day. She didn't know how he planned to spend the day, and she didn't care.
Or so she told herself.
So she drove, out of the city, beyond the confines of infrastructure and gridlock, into rural Maryland. She wanted to go somewhere different. Somewhere clean. Somewhere that didn't remind her of conspiracies and the evils of men, and skeletal remains that were so badly burned they couldn't be identified without dental records. Somewhere that didn't remind her of Mulder.
She passed a horse-drawn buggy, steadily making its way along the side of the highway, a man and woman in simple black riding side-by-side atop the bench. It reminded her of a case long ago. She and Mulder barely knew each other then.
She questioned how well they knew each other now.
In Maryland, it was cold and gray. So vibrant green in spring and summer, turning to golden, rust and brown in the fall, the trees along the road she traveled stood stark and bare, skeletal fingers supplicant to the winter sky.
Bodies - hundreds of bodies. Burned beyond recognition. Families. Children.
I'm with Diana. We're coming to get you. You're coming with us.
She pressed on the accelerator, urging the car ahead. Faster. Farther.
The future is here...
An acrimonious ache constricted her chest, its tentacles grasping her lungs. She couldn't breath, couldn't swallow. Bitterness lodged in her throat, unmovable. She had to get out. She signaled and pulled over to the side of the road, stepping out onto the shoulder into the cold, crisp air. In Maryland, there was snow on the ground, covering up the blemishes in the landscape with an even covering. Clean. Smooth.
I know her, Scully. You don't.
No, Mulder, she thought, I don't.
She stared at the landscape, and a gradual curtain of darkness fell over the countryside, dimming what was already dull gray to a deep, near-black. The Chesapeake Bay lapped at frigid shores not far away, and a solitary, lonely light shone from the lighthouse in the distance.
You saved me.
She didn't know if it could be fixed. Their partnership, their friendship, for lack of a better word, worked on nothing more than the strength of their trust in each other. Without that trust, what was left?
...thought they could sleep with the enemy...
You don't know her, Scully.
You're making this personal.
I love you...
She pulled up in front of Mulder's apartment sometime after eleven, and when he didn't answer her knock on the door, she used her key to let herself in. He wasn't home. She considered leaving the flowers behind, but decided the humiliation would be too great if he wasn't alone when he returned.
So she went home.
Wearily, she climbed the front steps leading to her empty apartment, the bouquet of half a dozen red roses still clutched in her hand. A peace offering, a gesture of faith, turned into a reminder of the past. They had six years together, but would they make it to seven?
She let out a long sigh, and looked down at her keys, searching out the brass door key. When she looked ahead to her door, she saw Mulder. He leaned against the wall like a GQ model, watching her approach with those always-questioning eyes.
"Mulder, what are you doing here?" she asked.
"Waiting for you," he replied, brushing his hands together and turning to face her. "I've been calling your cell phone but it keeps kicking me to voicemail."
"I turned it off," she said.
She didn't meet his gaze, but knew he was assessing her just the same, wearing the same, hurt, defiant look in his eyes that he'd worn earlier that day, when A.D. Kersh begrudgingly reassigned them back on the X-Files.
She focused on getting the key into the lock.
She paused, but didn't look up. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a vase of flowers on the floor against the wall, just behind Mulder's legs. He reached out and drew her chin up with two fingers, insisting she meet his eyes.
In Mulder's eyes, she saw that look again - the one she didn't want to see, the one she didn't want to deal with. Not today, not after everything that had happened. Then he said, "We have the X-Files back. No more jag-off assignments, no background checks. We can get back on track."
Of course, he meant more than just the X-Files. She wanted that, she really did. They both did, and that was something. She nodded, and he dropped his hand away from her face.
"I, um..." he turned, and picked up the vase of flowers. He'd brought an even dozen, six red, and six white. More elaborate than anything they'd ever exchanged before. An apology of sorts, she suspected.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Mulder said, softly. She managed a slight smile, and held out her six roses. With more than a little awkwardness, they exchanged flowers.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Scully whispered back to him.