Title: Lifelines in Plastic
Author: Eral C
Written: September 2001
Category: Angst
Disclaimer: I'm borrowing them, they're not mine. They belong to Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny with a little help from Chris Carter, FOX and 1013.
Spoilers: Possible S9 'spoiler' spoilers, if that makes any sense at all.

Summary: "She could no sooner give this up than she could stop breathing and if she had to choose, she fears she would choose the latter. That terrifies her."

He handed the piece of paper to her on the day he left, folded it up and placed it into her shaking hand before walking out the door. It was a list of numbers and at the bottom of the page, in his handwriting, it simply said 'Keep this safe.' She put it in the drawer beside her bed until, three weeks later, she found out what it was.

It was a Thursday that she came home from work and found the motel room card key pushed under the door, with a post-it that said 'tomorrow, 8pm, start from the top'. She fingered the card for a few minutes then smiled slowly as her logical brain made the connection. Room numbers, it was a list of room numbers, each representing a special date; the first was William's birthday, the second hers, the third his, the fourth the date they first met, and so on. Finally, after three weeks of silence, of despair, of hopelessness, she held a small piece of plastic in her hand, a lifeline.

From then on, it was the same. Always the third Thursday of each month, always under the door when she arrived home. Now they have made it through all of the birthdays and the date they first met, this week it is the date he first kissed her. So, it's been six months since he left, six months since he has seen his son. They agree they must risk these meetings to maintain their own sanity but they can't bring themselves to involve their son, no matter how he aches to hold him, how she longs to see them together. She takes new pictures for him each month and he is amazed at the change he sees in every new set, the way his son is growing up with every month that passes.

She puts on the baseball cap and takes care to tuck all of the hair tightly inside before she leaves the apartment. She will remove the cap after she has dropped William off with her mother, her son gets upset when he sees her without her usual red hair. Tonight she wears a wig in a similar style to her own but a in light shade of honey blonde. She's worn blonde before and he hates it, it's the first thing he reaches for when they meet, the one barrier that he is instantly compelled to remove. Last month she was a brunette, with long spiral curls that bounced as she walked, even now with the natural spring in her step long gone. She actually liked that look and, despite the various brunette issues she may have had over the years, she had felt comfortable rather than confused as she stared into the mirror.

As she pulls into the motel, she notices that there is only one other car there and she knows it's him, even though he has a different car each time. She thinks about how much she needs this, needs *him*. It is what sustains her, gives her courage and a faint glimmer of hope for her future, for *their* future. She loves her son with everything she has but it is *this*, this one risky night each month that defines her, that fills the gaping hole in her heart. She could no sooner give this up than she could stop breathing and if she had to choose, she fears she would choose the latter. That terrifies her.

She opens the door and he's there, lying on the bed, his hands behind his head, a grateful smile across his lips, as though he doesn't quite believe she will come until he sees it with his own eyes. He, the ultimate believer, is unable to accept *this* without visual evidence. As she steps inside, he rises from the bed and walks over to where she is standing, a small envelope in her hands.

As she knew he would, he removes the wig she is wearing and, still without a word, runs his fingers gently through her hair, over and over, as if re-acquainting himself with a lost love, which, in a way, he is, although she is not lost by choice. Pulling her towards him, he wraps his arms around her and holds her so tightly that she can actually *feel* his heartbeat, strong and steady. Finally, he looks into her eyes and kisses her.

They lie side by side now, still naked, eyes locked. She is reminded when she looks into his eyes of how much she loves him, how there could never be anyone else for her, no matter what. Nobody has ever focused on her the way that he does, when she looks into his eyes it's as if she sees herself reflected back, as though she lives inside him. She reaches behind her and takes the envelope from the table, passing it to him, knowing he longs to see the pictures inside.

For a moment he says nothing, then he strokes his finger across one of the pictures so tenderly that she feels a lump in her throat at the sight. He looks up from the picture and he shakes his head,

"He's more beautiful each time, Scully."

"He looks more like you every day, Mulder."

"He has your eyes, Scully. Beautiful, clear blue eyes."

"Do you know how bizarre it is to look at him and see your face with my eyes? It just-, I don't know, I guess he still amazes me."

She stops talking as the lump in her throat suddenly makes it impossible to continue, but he knows anyway, he understands what she is saying. It still amazes him too and he aches to see his son, longs to watch him laugh and to hold him when he cries. They each fall silent, lost in almost identical thoughts.

His thumb is making tiny circles on her hipbone and suddenly she knows what he is about to say, he says it every time. In some bizarre attempt to stop the words from escaping his lips, she leans in and kisses him. He responds but even as he is kissing her back, she can still feel his thumb on her body and she knows he will say it anyway. When they break apart he doesn't let her down,

"You're too thin, Scully."

She doesn't bother to challenge him, how can she when he literally holds the evidence in his hand. She knows she has lost weight, knows she looks a little more gaunt than she should but she can't help it. She keeps busy at work, then she's busy at home with William and she doesn't have time to think of eating properly. She has time at the end of the day when William is finally sleeping but by then she has no appetite, no desire to do anything other than to go to bed and imagine she can feel Mulder's arms around her as another long night begins.

"I *know* you're taking perfect care of William but I need you to take care of yourself too."

"I'll try, Mulder."


"I promise."

This is the part she hates, the moment when she has to say goodbye, knowing she has to survive another long month without him, hoping she has the strength. They kiss for a long time, neither wanting to be the one to pull away first, to break the spell. She tucks her head under his chin as he holds her to his chest, his hands stroking her hair as she breathes him in, as though she can capture his essence and carry it with her. He kisses her forehead before taking her hands and holding her slightly away from him,

"You're still beautiful, Scully. Perfect."

"I'm not perfect, Mulder."

"Maybe not but you're perfect for me."

"We're perfect for each other, Mulder."

She knows she has to leave but she needs one final touch before she goes and he seems to sense it because he pulls her back into his arms and holds her again. She's crying now, just as she always does, just as she always vows not to. He brushes her face with his thumbs and somehow they both manage to smile,

"I love you, Scully."

"I love you too."

"Tell William I love him."

"He knows you love him, Mulder, don't you ever worry about that."

They have this routine memorised down to the last step so he is already heading towards the bathroom as she opens the door and feels the cold night air shock her back to reality. He can't watch her go and she is unable to drive away knowing he is watching her leave, it seems too final, too much like goodbye. From the small bathroom, as he hears her drive away, he puts his head in his hands and he starts to cry.

As she juggles William and a bag of groceries in her arms, she looks down instantly as she steps inside the door, looking for her lifeline. Nothing. The floor is bare, the small envelope that she knows should be there is conspicuous only by it's absence. Her head starts to pound, her vision starts to swim and she feels sick but she somehow manages to set the groceries down onto the worktop and William down into his playard before the room begins to swim. She wills herself not to pass out by reminding herself that she, Dana Scully, does *not* faint. Her body has other ideas and she forces her head down to her knees and tries to steady her breathing.

The room comes back into focus gradually and she glances to check on William, who is still playing in blissful ignorance of his mother's fragile state just a few feet away. She slowly stands up, holding on to the door for support, her legs still shaky. As she raises her head, she is hit with a flash of vivid red and at first she fears it's blood, wonders why she is bleeding. Her vision clears and she suddenly identifies the splash of red not as blood but as flowers, a huge vase of red roses standing on a dining room table that was most definitely empty of any floral decoration this morning.

She feels as though she is in a bubble as she walks over to the table, as though her body isn't quite attached to her head. There is a small, blank envelope standing against the vase and she reaches for it in what feels like slow motion. She recognises the handwriting the second she opens the card and sees one short sentence 'This time, *you* choose the room'. She flips it over and although she gets only as far as the first line before her eyes start to swim with tears, it's enough to read 'Apartment 35,...'

No motel this month, he's coming home.


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