Lasting Consequences




Chapter One
**************

*Friday Night*

"Scully!  Stop!"

I hadn't been sleeping, so the screams didn't wake me this time.  I
wrapped my arms around Fox Mulder, who was shaking with terror.

"It's all right, Fox.  I'm here.  Agent Scully's fine.  She's alive and
well and sleeping at home."  Actually, I doubted that last.

"Scully's...dead."  Mulder's words were punctuated by deep, sobbing
breaths.  There were no tears yet.

"You called her two hours ago.  Remember?"

"I did?"  The sleepy eyes sought mine, searching for something.  Truth? 
Reassurance?  I nodded, giving him all I could.

"Yes.  She's fine.  You'll see her in the morning."

"Okay.  But if she's not there, I'll find you."  Mulder tried a weak
smile.  But he still clung tightly to me.  I stroked his hair.

"I won't let anything happen to either one of you, Fox.  Not if I can
stop it.  I love you."

As usual, at those words Mulder buried his head in my shoulder as if he
were trying to hide.  He began to cry.  I held him as he rocked, until
he quieted.  It had been a long night.  It had been a long few days.

"Walter..."  My name still sounded awkward on Mulder's lips, as badly as
"Fox" fit on mine.  

"I'm here."

"Scully isn't asleep, is she?"

"Probably not."

"Neither were you."

"No."

"Oh, God, Walter.  Why don't you let me go home?  You'd get some sleep."

"No, I wouldn't.  I can't forget that first night."

"I'm not suicidal."

I just held him.

                                *   *   *

*Previous Monday Afternoon*

The door closed behind Dana Scully.  I stood and Mulder sat in mutual
shock at her words.  She *knew*.  She knew about the fire burning
between us.  She knew the secret we had been hiding almost from
ourselves.  And she said that no one else did, which could only mean
that she had been keeping it.

Mulder looked up at me.  "Now what?  I feel like a rug's been pulled out
from under us."  


I sat next to Mulder and drew his chair closer.  He closed his eyes for
a moment.  "So do I.  Fox."  I had never called Mulder that before; I
knew Mulder disliked his first name.  Mulder smiled.  A glorious Mulder
smile, like the sun coming from behind a cloud for a second and, as
quickly, hidden.  

"I..we...have so much invested in staying apart and playing safe.  Okay,
my partner knows something.  Maybe everything.  Now what do we do?  Oh,
God, sir!  We can't go backwards into nothing."

"No, we can't.  And I'm tired of playing this damn game.  Especially
now."  I slowly reached for Mulder's hands as they fidgeted in his lap. 
Mulder watched my hands move towards him.

It was like capturing two baby birds.  I held his hands gently, stroking
them lightly, calming their frantic movement.  It was not the way I'd
expected this first mutual touch to be.  There was no fire, no flair of
arousal.  Instead, there was relief and fear and tenderness, all mixed
in with Mulder's pain and confusion.  

Today, Mulder had witnessed his partner shoot herself in the head and
lie in a pool of her own blood.  Today he saw another woman hold a gun
to him; held a gun on her.  Today, his partner all but betrayed him in
the concern she and I had felt for him.  And now, with the woman who
caused all of this dead by that same partner, and the case solved for
good, all Mulder felt was empty.  That's what he had said.  There had
been nothing Scully or I could say that eased it.

I had been paralyzed.  I'd wanted to take Mulder in my arms, but we were
denying ourselves that to preserve ourselves and our careers.  Now
Scully had freed us with her words.  A