Inside the Cards

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Summary: She left him there in the dark with her lie, and now the truth won’t leave her alone.

Classification: SRA
Rated: PG-13
Key Words: Mulder/Scully Romance
Spoilers: Two Fathers/One Son
Disclaimer: No infringement intended.
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere. I don’t see why I’d refuse.

Notes: Although her life has been very difficult of late, Lib has continued to send me wonderful, constructive betas, helping me to improve the flow and structure of my narratives. I want to thank her for being of such value, not only as a beta but as a friend 🙂

For more of my fic, visit my website: Created and managed by the wonderful Circe Invidiosa.


“When I’m broken down and hungry for your love
with no way to feed it
Where are you tonight?
child you know how much I need it
Too young to hold on
and too old to just break free and run…”

–Jeff Buckley, ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’

The freezing water laps at her ankles, but Scully doesn’t notice. She stands looking out to the horizon, watching as the first pale sunbeam appears. The night begins to disperse, each star slowly fading until it winks out. She hugs her waist, tucking her hands into her sweater sleeves. The sun rises higher.

She turns and wanders down the beach for a while, curling her toes in the saturated sand. Around her, the day blooms with the first calls of seabirds. A wind picks up, stinging her eyes with brine. It reminds her of the tears she’s shed so often lately.

It reminds her of Mulder’s tears.

// “You hate me, Scully.” //

// “I don’t hate you.” //

// “You should.” //

She doesn’t want to recall her reply. How many times will she have to go over this in her head? She can’t change what she told him.

It passes through her mind anyway.

// “The opposite of love is indifference, Mulder. Not hatred.” //

It was the last thing she said to him, before she left.

A week has passed since then, but she can’t stop thinking about their argument. She’d never imagined herself capable of such cruelty. Never, never, never. The gulls seem to echo her thoughts with their cries.

A broken shell slices into the side of her foot, but she doesn’t notice. The sun rises higher.

Her hands clench into fists, her knuckles whitening, as her tears begin again.


When Scully returns, swinging open the kitchen door, she finds Tara cracking eggs against the edge of a bowl. Immersed in her muffin making, Tara is the perfect image of a domestic goddess, with her checkered apron, sparkling eyes and rolled sleeves. She’s whistling as she starts to stir in the blueberries.

“You’re up bright and early, Dana,” she says, turning to give Scully a grin.

Scully manages to smile back, a faint curve of her lips, before she stoops to brush the sand off her feet. A sting of pain reveals her cut–a thin red line along the arch of her foot. Wondering how deep it goes, she gives it a gentle poke. Blood oozes out. It’s deep, she thinks, but not enough for stitches.

“Tara, I’ve cut my foot. Do you have anything I could -?”

“Oh, you poor thing!” Tara immediately drops her spatula and rushes over, blue eyes widening at the sight of blood. “I’ll get you a bandage and some antiseptic cream.”

Scully nods gratefully and Tara bustles off to the nearest medicine cabinet.

The blood begins to trickle away from the cut, a thin crimson river. Scully is amazed that her body produced this vibrant liquid–that it flowed all the way from her heart.

Then she wonders what Mulder must think of her heart. Maybe he’s thinking, you can’t squeeze blood from a stone.

I am bleeding, Mulder, she thinks.


By the time Bill comes downstairs, yawning and stretching in his striped pajamas, the muffins are in the oven and Scully has carefully bandaged her foot. She’s got it resting on a chair, pointed at
the ceiling, and Bill can’t resist reaching over to tug her big toe. He stops when he notices the bandage.

“What happened, Dana?”

“Oh,” she says, looking up from the Sunday paper. She’s been reading the same sentence over and over, and for once Bill’s voice is a relief. “I must have cut it on a shell. I didn’t notice until I got here.”

“You’ve got to take better care of yourself,” Bill fusses, predictably. He’s kneeling beside the chair, peering at her foot. Scarlet splotches have already started to soak through the bandage.

Scully smirks. “Yes Mom.”

“I’m serious Dana,” Bill leans even closer. “Maybe you should go get this checked out. You know, get some stitches or something.”

“Do I have to remind you that I’m a medical doctor?” She cocks an eyebrow at him, tossing the paper onto the tabletop. “Honestly, Bill, I can take care of myself.”

He gives her his ‘yeah, sure’ sarcastic sneer, which used to send her right through the roof. She’s older and wiser now–she knows that anger isn’t going to change him. Nothing she does will ever change him.

“Sure you can, Dana,” he says, and suddenly his eyes turn bitter. “You take care of yourself very well, letting yourself get dragged into the worst situations -” He cuts himself off, but she sees he’s dying to continue, his lips whitening from the strain of being held together.

Uh-oh, Scully thinks. She’d been hoping to avoid this particular confrontation.

“Bill -” Tara begins, hands on her hips, her voice mock-stern. She sounds like a mother telling her son to play gently with a kitten–Now, now, Billy, don’t be too rough.

Scully smirks and Bill takes this as the worst kind of insolence. He straightens up like Ahab used to, stiff and proud, trying to intimidate her. It’s such a primitive male reaction that Scully’s smirk widens on its own accord. Bill flushes red, his eyes blazing, and she pities the pimply, sniveling cadets who have to train under him.

But she doesn’t balk.

“Don’t worry Tara,” she says, calmly, “I want to hear what Bill has to say.”

Her words have the desired effect–Bill splutters, suddenly unable to speak. She smiles at him, but it’s a threatening gesture, her teeth bared. Two can play at intimidation, she thinks, you sanctimonious bastard. Her eyes are ice.

“Why don’t I finish your sentence for you, Bill?” she asks softly, but doesn’t wait for an answer. “Dana, why do you let that partner of yours drag you into the worst situations? Can’t you see how he’s poisoning our family? Why couldn’t you have stayed in medicine and settled down with a nice doctor? Why don’t you have 2.3 kids? Oops, I forgot, you’re barren -”

“Are you finished?” Bill snaps, although she sees a hint of contrition in his eyes. Good.

Tara clears her throat and Scully glances up in surprise. She’s still here? “Look, Bill…Dana…let’s just calm down and have some breakfast. Mattie’s going to wake up any minute and -”

Scully feels Bill’s eyes on her face. “So *are* you finished, Dana?” The question is smug and belittling, making her cheeks flush hot with rage. Her composure has ebbed away.

She flicks her eyes back to lock on his. “I’ll never be finished,” she says, sharply. She intends to get the last word in and escape through the kitchen door, back to the beach.

But as soon as she stands up, Bill speaks.

“I’ve got something to tell you, Dana,” he says. “Your partner, Mulder…he called.”

All the blood drains from her face. “What?” The word comes out as a gasp. She steadies herself on the back of a chair, her legs weak.

“Yeah, he called the first night you were here. You were already asleep, so I said I’d take a message. Then I thought…I just thought you must be here to avoid him. He sounded like he was desperate to talk to you, Dana. Like he’d done something to hurt you.”


Scully leaves Bill’s house without saying goodbye. She doesn’t have time to deal with her brother–not that he would ever listen to her, anyway. He glowers at her until she’s finally out of his sight.

She almost tells the cab driver to ‘step on it’, but thinks that would be more Mulder’s style than her own. She prefers to leave sedately, coolly, as though she was never there in the first place.

That’s how I hurt people, she realises. That’s what hurt Mulder the most.


On the flight back to DC she imagines Mulder sitting next to her, his hand pressed over hers throughout the midnight turbulence.

“We’re almost there,” she hears him whisper in her ear, warm lips brushing the lobe.

In reality her hand is cold, and someone’s dowdy grandmother, knitting a scarf, fills the seat beside her. The clacking needles are giving Scully a headache that she chooses to ignore. Her mind is filled with Mulder, replaying her last conversation with him.

The scene was familiar at first. He was sitting on his couch, in his darkened apartment, dressed in a crumpled shirt and black pants. His feet were bare, resting on his coffee table. But that was where the familiarity ended. Because Mulder was smoking.

And he wasn’t just smoking. There was a half-empty bottle of whiskey beside his feet and a glass smashed against the far wall. She wondered what his neighbours had thought. She wondered what she’d do, if he threw her against the wall like that.

He took another puff of the cigarette before he spoke, not looking at her. “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

Exactly, she thought.

“I came to tell you that I’m taking a leave of absence.”

He grinned, tapping his cigarette against the side of the table. “Would you like a drink?”

Now, she wishes she’d accepted. It would have made their conversation easier to bear.

“Would you like a drink, ma’am?” says a female voice, and Scully starts, her heart pounding until she sees it’s only the flight attendant.

“Yes please,” she says, annoyed at her soft tone. “I’d like a gin and tonic.” At least this time she’ll be armed with some Dutch courage.


Arriving at Dulles Airport doesn’t help Scully’s mood. The whole place stinks of wet wool and spilt coffee, and its wide windows are obsidian black, shining with splattered sleet. Scully weaves through crowds of dour business commuters and chirpy tourists, walking as fast as she can with her trolley of luggage.

In her haste she nearly runs into an embracing couple.

“Sorry,” she mutters, but they don’t hear her. She catches snippets of their conversation as she moves past–“…missed you so much…” “I couldn’t stay away another day…” Her eyes sting but she ignores them, choosing to scowl at herself instead of crying. Tears won’t help anyone.

Isn’t that what she said to him?

// “Do you think you’ll make me feel sorry for you? Tears aren’t going to help, Mulder.” //

// “What the hell do you want me to do? What can I do to fix this?” //

At the time, there was seemingly no answer, no way for them to heal. No elixir, no suture, no salve. There was no way to stitch this kind of wound.

What could Mulder do?

The answer arrived too late, a few nights later. Scully was sitting in front of Bill’s cold fireplace, a refugee from bad dreams at four in the morning. When the answer came to her, it burned bright for an instant, bursting like a flare in her mind’s eye. It had been so obvious all along.

And then it shattered.


Maybe can still salvage something, Scully thinks, when her taxi pulls up in front of the Hoover Building. She climbs out into the pouring rain, sheltering under her briefcase. She almost forgets to pay the driver.

Instinctively, she knows Mulder will be in their office, making it ready for the X-files. She didn’t try calling him from her brother’s house. In the steely silence after her fight with Bill, she did nothing except book a flight, pack her things and kiss her sleeping nephew on the cheek. Tara stood in the front doorway, wringing her hands as Scully’s cab pulled out of the drive.

Bill was up in his room, staring down at her from the window. Another attempt to intimidate her, she realises now. Her big brother was watching from above, like God himself.

Scully smirks as she lets herself into the office building’s musty sanctuary. Poor Bill, with his delusions of omnipotence. He’ll continue to believe in his supreme influence over her until the day he dies. He’s convinced that his words of divine wisdom will eventually penetrate her skull. Then, of course, she’ll quit her job to settle down in suburbia with a normal guy, maybe a stockbroker, and some adopted kids.

Poor Bill, she thinks again. Talk about fruitless quests.

She can’t figure out why she went to Bill’s in the first place. Maybe because it was the farthest she could fly, under the circumstances. At any rate, she was on autopilot when she called her brother.


It was the day they got the X-files back. A day they’d been dreaming about for months–the day when all those boring hours in the bullpen were brought to a close.

She cried in the ladies’ room after their meeting with Kersh. As always, her sobs were merely silent spasms. She leaned on the tiled wall for support.

Afterwards, she went home and started making methodical plans.

First, she called Skinner. She told him she needed some time away and he said she could take two weeks. Then she called Bill and he said–“We’d love to have you come stay with us, Dana”. After that, she booked her ticket and a mechanical voice wished her an enjoyable flight.

But when she called Mulder, he didn’t pick up and his machine was turned off.

She almost left without telling him. Skinner would pass the message on, after all. She couldn’t do it, though, despite everything. She couldn’t disregard Mulder, as he’d so often done her. She couldn’t ditch him.

So she drove to his apartment, let herself in, and found him smoking in the dark. He offered her a drink.

“I want to talk to you,” he said.

“You’ve been drinking.”

As she spoke, she remembered the time he’d shown up at her door, sweaty and flushed in his leather jacket, hard liquor on his breath. But she discarded these thoughts immediately. He was pale this time, his eyes shadowed and desperate.

“Look, Scully,” he began, “I know it’s unusual, but I’ve been thinking.”

She didn’t allow his flippancy. “About what?” she asked, maybe more sharply than she’d intended. Or maybe not.

She wanted him to think she was impatient to leave–that she had more important things to do than stand here in the dark, speaking to him.

“I think you should get a transfer. Not only for selfish reasons…”

“I’m sure there are plenty,” she said, her words icicle sharp. Her anger had been there all along, festering beneath the misery and hurt, but she was still surprised when it hit. It broke over her like a tsunami.

Mulder continued as though he hadn’t heard her, like he hadn’t seen fury flicker in her eyes. His voice was slightly slurred. “Look Scully, I know how you feel. How could I not? I can’t stand another day having to…having to…”

“Having to what?”

Mulder shook his head, leaning forward to snub his cigarette against the whiskey bottle, sending tiny sparks across the table. Scully watched them flicker orange and burn out.

“Having to what, Mulder?”

He shook his head again. “Just leave, Scully,” he muttered.

“I thought you wanted to talk. Well, talk Mulder. Go on.” She spoke as though she was rolling her eyes at him, as though she was saying–I’d rather fold laundry than talk to you, Mulder. Just get it over with.

That was when his tears started, without warning. They rolled down his face without sobs or moans, without even a hitching of his breath. He squeezed his eyes shut but that didn’t stop them. He was a pitiful sight, but her anger had stolen any sympathy she might have felt. She just watched, impassive, as he turned his face away. He didn’t want her to see.

“Do you think you’ll make me feel sorry for you? Tears aren’t going to help, Mulder.”

He raged then. “What the hell do you want me to do? What can I do to fix this?”

She didn’t reply.

“I know how you feel, Scully. I screwed up badly this time. Are you waiting for an apology? Gee, Scully, I’m sorry I was such as ass, it won’t happen again. I went on instinct, listened to Diana and nearly sold us out, and I’m sorry.” His words were lacquered with a hard, sarcastic veneer, but then he paused, ashamed. When he continued, she could barely hear him. “Is that what you want? Because I can give you that. You know I can.”

“It isn’t enough,” she whispered.

“I didn’t say it would be.” He laughed, painfully. “Scully, don’t you get it? An apology is all I can give you. You already have everything else.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her voice was a study in feigned indifference. She turned slightly, as though she would walk out before they were finished.

Mulder pretended not to notice.

“There’s nothing else, Scully,” he said. “I’m cleaned out. You have everything I had when you met me. All I can do is apologize, which isn’t enough, because we both know it *will* happen again. Who knows when?”

She didn’t answer.

“We’re at an impasse, then. You can’t trust me and I can’t give you a reason to. You hate me, Scully.”

“I don’t hate you.”

“You should.”

“The opposite of love is indifference, Mulder. Not hatred.”


These last words have plagued Scully more than anything else she said to him, mainly because they aren’t true.

She’s usually a bad liar, but somehow pulled it off this time. She lied to Mulder without stuttering, without even blinking, and from the expression in his eyes she knew that he believed her.

She left him there in the dark with her lie, and now the truth won’t leave her alone.

What she feels for him is the opposite of indifference. She loves him from her feet to her forehead, to the tips of her fingers and nose.

She’s loved him in cars and planes, in elevators and expense report meetings, in jungles and ocean liners, and in tawdry motel rooms.

Most especially, she loved him when he brought her out of a three-month-long absence, when he was determined to cure her cancer, and when he rescued her from a frozen, subterranean spacecraft.

She loved him when he vanished into the desert and reappeared in a starlit dream.

And when she catches him sleeping, with an unlined face and even breathing, she can hardly stand the feeling.

In every place she’s been, at every time, she’s held him in her heart. He was there even before she met him, and he’ll still be there after one of them dies.

There’s no escape. Even if there was, she wouldn’t take it.


When Scully opens their office door she’s greeted by silence and bare walls. At first she feels a pang, thinking she was wrong. Maybe he isn’t here.

But then she sees the desk, reassuringly cluttered with files and blurry photographs. Mulder’s elbows are also resting upon it, his face in his hands.

“Scully,” he whispers, when she steps into the room. “Why are you here?”

He rubs his eyes, keeping them closed. It’s been a while since he shaved and she wants to run her fingers along his roughened jaw.

“Mulder, I -”

Usually, after they’ve argued, she comes up with some kind of stratagem. Sometimes she even writes it down. This time she has nothing to go on, so she tugs her necklace and bites her lip, totally at a loss.

“Bill didn’t tell me you called until today,” she finally blurts. “I came as quickly as I could.” Her voice shrinks with every word. Telling him the blunt truth is harder than she’d thought, although maybe that’s because she’s rarely tried it before.

Mulder stands slowly, looking up into her eyes. He walks around the desk and leans against it, his arms folded. She’s surprised there’s no hurt in his expression, after his broken words of a moment ago. His eyes are blank as a fresh page, but they’re studying her, cataloguing everything. His gaze is almost unbearable.

“I didn’t think you were coming back,” he says, sounding almost casual. There’s bitterness as well, of course, and resignation.

She doesn’t hear any pain. Is he hiding it, or is there none to hide?

“Mulder, how could you think that?”

He shrugs as though she’s boring him. “I know you want to keep working on the X-files, Scully. I also know you don’t want to work them with me.”

“I didn’t think there was an alternative.”

“Oh, I’m sure we can arrange something. Or you can arrange something with Skinner, if you’d prefer.”

“Mulder -” She shakes her head, swallowing a rush of exasperation. “Mulder, I’m not working on the files without you. It wouldn’t be possible.”

He smiles sardonically, “So you’ve come here to make nice.”

“Mulder, no. Of course not.” She pauses, taking a sharp breath. “I’ve come here to apologize.”


When he averts his eyes from hers, she knows for sure that his barbed words have been a front. Now she’s finally forged through it, into his sorrow, and she knows what to tell him. She’s envisaged this.

“The last time we spoke, I wasn’t honest with you.”

He winces, his shoulders tensing. “You don’t need to apologize, Scully. I know how you feel, and you know how I -” he cuts himself off with a grimace.

“You don’t know how I feel, Mulder.”

“Stop it.” His voice is painful to hear, a raw scrape of hurt. He’s more beaten than she’s ever seen him, more wounded than she’d thought he could be.

“Mulder, I’m not indifferent to you -”

“Please stop.”

“If I don’t care about you, then why did I go to your apartment that night? I could have just left.”

A silence arcs between them for a moment, their conversation suspended. Their eyes tell what their voices can’t describe.

Then he walks towards her and she can smell him, stale cigarettes and a coffee stain on his breast pocket. How long since he showered? Scully doesn’t care, really. She just wants his hands on her body, his arms around her. She’s so greedy for his touch she’d do anything for it, for its electricity. The air is humming around them already and he’s three feet away.

They make eye contact again and she puts a hand behind her back, crossing her fingers. Please keep looking at me, she thinks to him. Please believe what I’m saying.

“Then how do you feel, Scully?” he asks. He’s leaning forward and she feels his breath on her face. It smells like a potion, tastes like a drug. “What do you feel for me?” His questions aren’t demands, but behind them she hears his ever-present desire for answers.

She hesitates, terrified because she knows that this is it. This is the making or breaking point.

She wills herself into it.

“Mulder, what I feel for you…what it comes down to, is that I don’t want to leave. Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure that I *could* leave, at this point. I refuse to give our partnership up as a lost cause.” She smiles, gently, watching as her words leach the darkness from his eyes. “And Mulder, the things I said to you at your apartment… they couldn’t have been further from the truth.”

He pulls her to him, clasping her body against his. They breathe together for a moment, his heartbeat pressed to her ear. As always, he’s unfazed by her oblique style, by the way her words skip over her emotions like a stone.

“I feel the same,” he says quietly, his breath stirring her hair.

“I’m not sure I could describe what we are to each other,” she whispers, nose pressed to the silk-smooth skin behind his ear. “But I know, Mulder. I understand it now.”

These words first came into her mind in front of Bill’s fireplace. The ocean wind was howling outside, echoing in the chimney. She tried to choke back her tears as she imagined this soothing embrace, this confession. She thought it would never happen, but she was wrong.

Cupping her face in his hands, Mulder kisses her forehead,then the bridge of her nose, and she gasps. Tiny zips of current jolt through her system. She’s been so starved of him, so exhausted without him, and now he’s waking her up like a fairytale prince and she can’t resist. Her fingers slide into his hair, while his velvet lips move over her cheeks, her chin, her earlobes and eyelashes.

“Mulder no, stop -” she whispers after a while, as he trails tender kisses down the side of her neck.

When he pulls away abruptly, readying for a backlash, she tugs him down again so she can whisper against his mouth.

“No, Mulder. Here.”

She kisses him slowly, teasing her tongue over his warm lower lip.

Mulder stiffens further in her arms, so she tries again, her thumbs stroking through his hair, over the curves of his ears, while her tongue darts into his mouth.

“Here,” she murmurs when she’s done, licking her own lips and tasting him there.

He gapes at her for an instant, so she whispers, “Here,” once more. When he bends to caress her mouth with his, she knows he finally understands.


I took the title from a Chili Peppers’ song.

“something inside the cards i know is right
don’t want to live somebody else’s life
this is what i want to be
and this is what i give to you…”
–The Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘I Could Die For You