AUTHOR: winter baby
FANDOM: The X-Files
SUMMARY: Needful things come in twos.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It can't be "I'm back, I love you, let's run." It can't be as easy as that. Alternate ending, so I guess aroundthe time of The Truth.
+  Twice  +
[ 1 ]
He fingers the dull red strands of her hair. They're the colors of forgotten sunsets, glinting in the lamplight of the dingy motel room. She's become so faded; even her shimmering blues eyes have turned into something pale and weary. He wants to cry for her, to mourn for everything she has lost, but somewhere along the line he's forgotten how.
She tells him it's all right, that she's learned how to take care of herself without him.
That hurts, even though she meant it as reassurance. He doesn't want her to get along without him; he doesn't want her to learn how to cope. Because he can't without her.
She's always been the stronger one. That shouldn't be something to be bitter about, but he can't help it. He wonders when he became so petty, especially about her.
She's the one to break the silence.
This can't be safe, she whispers to him, not for the first time.
He answers, I don't care anymore.
It's always the same answer, the one she can't accept.
He can feel the distance between them. She's someone else, someone sadder and colder. She doesn't smile the way she used to and she doesn't kiss the way she used to.
He can't possibly expect her to be the same person as when he left, but this woman lying in his arms on this bed is not the one he fell in love with.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but they forgot to mention the second part – fonder for the past, which is something no one can ever go back to.
Nothing's permanent, especially people.
He doesn't know what to say to her anymore.
She kisses him just then, not with passion, not like the way she used to, but with something quieter. He recognizes it as yearning.
He can tell, though, that this yearning isn't for him. It's a yearning for things the way they used to be.
How is it they both want the same thing but neither can admit to it? Or even find it, for that matter?
She whispers with her eyes half-closed, I love you. I miss you.
He suspects she's really talking to William.
She's trying to make it all like it was before, when they still were together and they still had William.
[ 2 ]
He thought he understood, when she lost Emily. He thought he was compassionate, and could sympathize with her. After all, he had lost a little girl too, a sister.
Now he realizes that he never really knew anything at all. Losing a child is something entirely different.
It's a silent death, like suffocation. Like not being able to scream. Like drowning.
Afterwards he's changed. He's quieter, and less aware of the things around him. It's only a little change, but still, he's not who he used to be.
But this is only the first time for him.
She's done it twice already.
[ 3 ]
She turns her head away at the question. No, she doesn't know where he is. No, she can't get him back.
What do you mean he's gone? he asks tersely.
His voice has anger in it. She wishes there was some other way to do this.
I gave him up for adoption, she answers quietly.
The words don't sound real to her, but they are. He falls back onto the couch, not looking her in the eye. His breathing becomes rapid, and then slows again, as if he's calming himself. He clenches his fists together and refuses to look up at her.
He was my son too, he says finally, staring at the kitchen doorway.
Is your son, she replies defiantly. That's why I did it. To keep him in the present tense.
You could have at least told me, he accuses.
How? How was I supposed to have told you?
He doesn't answer.
You ran, she continues through clenched teeth, and I was left alone with him. I couldn't...
She takes a deep breath, and holds back the tears that threaten to fall. She's already cried too many nights over this.
I just couldn't protect him anymore, she says.
I would have come back eventually, he tells her, his whole body tense. You could have waited for me. We would have protected him together.
He's grasping at straws, she knows. Even he doesn't believe what he's saying. She leans against the wall for support, tipping her head back in desperation. She closes her eyes and steadies herself.
He's better off this way, she whispers. You have to realize that.
[ 4 ]
She thought his homecoming would be something sweeter, something less rushed.
She never expected to open the door of her apartment one day and just find him standing there, his arms at his sides like useless things.
Both of them were frozen, staring at each other. He had a bag of her stuff packed and ready to go, sitting on the coffee table.
His first words to her were, Where's William?
She shut the door, and prayed for strength.
[ 5 ]
He grabs her bag off the coffee table and gets up suddenly.
What are you doing? she asks, confused and maybe a little angry.
He takes her by the arm and leads her to the door. She struggles, and yanks her arm free of his grasp. She stands in the middle of the living room, glaring at him.
What's going on? she almost yells at him out of frustration as she rubs her wrist where he grabbed her roughly.
He turns around to face her, and drops her bag on the floor by his feet.
He says, I came back.
She stares at him expectantly, waiting for the rest.
I came back, he repeats, to take you and William with me.
Take us where? she asks, hating him for doing this to her.
Look, we shouldn't talk about this here, he says as his eyes sweep over the living room, checking for surveillance equipment. He won't find anything. Doesn't he know that by now she's lost everything worth spying on?
Just come with me, he avoids her question, and I'll explain along the way.
He wants her to drop everything. He wants her to leave her whole life behind and blindly follow him. Like always. Like she has a million times before.
And what has she to show for it?
Nothing. Nothing but a broken heart, two gone children, a dead sister, a lifetime of suffering condensed into a few, short years. And he wants her to do it again. For him.
But if she doesn't go with him now, he'll leave again and who knows when he'll come back?
So she walks over to him and lifts up the bag with her own two hands.
She leaves her apartment with him following, and tells him to shut the door behind him.
[ 6 ]
She thought she could do this. She thought she could love him again, but something inside of her wouldn't let her.
He's driving fast, down naked roads because it's the middle of the night, or early in the morning. She's lost track of time.
He said he came back for her but really he's afraid of being alone. It was never about her; it was more about his fear of loneliness than it was ever about her, because after almost a decade of her standing beside him, he couldn't get used to the empty spot where she used to be.
So he came back. And he placed her next to him again. A warm body in the night that he could reach over and feel, smooth skin and soft lips, but it could have been anyone. It's just, who else would take him?
At least that's what she tells herself. Because it's easier for her to have him be a callous son of a bitch than someone really in love with her, so much in love that he'd risk his life just to feel her again.
It's been like that from day one, but she can't let herself think of it like that.
Because then she'd have to return the feeling, and that would lead to nights spent together and the miracle of a child growing inside of her. And that child would be something else she could lose.
Emily wasn't a child of love, but William was. And now he's gone.
She let it happen once. She let herself fall into the pattern of gaining and losing – gaining his love and losing him, gaining a child and losing him too – all because she wasn't strong enough not to fall in love.
She lost him but now he's back, telling her silently with his eyes that they could do this again, be in love again even without William, because in the beginning that was all they had – each other.
She could easily let herself fall back into that pattern, fall back in love, but he comes with no guarantees of permanence. And she needs that, for her own sake.
He could be gone from her tomorrow, on the run again or something worse; or he could be with her until the very last day of the world.
But it's an uncertainty. With him it's always an uncertainty, and she's lived too long in doubt. She needs some kind of fact, some kind of hard, cold fact that'll have him rooted next to her.
Because when he's lonely he knows where to find her, but she can't say the same for him.
She just learned how to sleep without crying, to dream without remembering, to live without loving.
She knows she won't have the strength to learn that twice, or even the strength to survive it the second time around.
[ 7 ]
She suggests they stop at a motel, and so he slows the car into the parking lot of a random one, like he has so many times before on cases. But this time he doesn't bother to learn the name of the establishment or ask for a receipt or even sign his real name, because he's not the man he used to be.
He lies down on the bed, tired from driving across the country for her, only to have her hesitate.
She slides in next to him as he draws his arms around her, and he kisses her with his eyes shut tight.
So he won't have to see her empty ones staring through him.
[ end ]
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