Apartment 42
Alexandria, Virginia
Friday May 23, 1997
6:37 pm

Mulder prowled the confines of his small apartment again, finding himself wondering what else van Blundht had touched. The clothes *His* clothes! their quarry had been wearing at the time of his arrest had been donated to Goodwill, even his favorite black jacket, which he had replaced before he gave the first away. He fingered the stiff new denim possessively. My most comfortable jeans, too.

He had brought in a cleaning crew to scrub the walls, furniture, and floors, turned his apartment upside down, had gone so far as to replace his fish. He had compulsively reorganized *all* his notes and books, both here and in his basement office, searching for anything that had been taken or damaged. But, nothing had. Outside of the charcoal suit that he had returned to its rightful owner, it was as if van Blundht had never made the trip back to DC with his partner.

That's not true. He *had* been here, invading what little space Mulder had to call his own, had left scratches raked across the arms of his desk chair in the basement. He huffed at the thought. Then there was his SIG, which now jammed occasionally when releasing the clip. I'll have to drop it off for the Bureau to refurb. He riffled through the stack of books on his coffee table, attempting to decide which to keep or which to donate to the local library.

Walt Whitman. Keep.

Tony Hillerman. Donate.

Deborah Tannen. He turned the paperbound trade volume over, reading the raves printed in white on the dark blue cover, while his fingers slid along the slick, uncreased spine. Keep? Donate? He had purchased the book in 1995, when he and Scully hadn't been seeing eye to eye on so many things. He had thought the linguist's insights might be of some use, but events had overtaken them, so he had continually pushed it back on his reading list.

"Mulder? You in there?"

The book thudded onto his leather cushions, half-hanging off the edge as Mulder walked over to admit his guest. "Frohike? What's up?"

The diminutive man entered hesitantly, surveying the disarray in the narrow room. "I've found information on another cancer treatment, if you're interested."

If I'm interested? Mulder shifted some of his notes off one of the mission chairs so the Gunman could use it. "This isn't one of those Mexican healing rituals, is it?"

Standing close to Mulder, Frohike frowned up anxiously. He really has no clue, does he? "No, Mulder. This is serious. It's one of the new gene therapy treatments. I've discussed it with Agent Scully..."

Mulder bent over him. "What? *You've* discussed it with Scully? When did this happen?" First van Blundht, now Frohike? How is it that everyone can talk to Scully but me?

Easing himself away from his friend's intense stare, Frohike sat. "Actually, she came to us, Mulder. She had read about it in one of her medical journals, so she wanted us to contact some of the patients who had recovered." The round-faced Gunman glanced out the window. "In an unofficial capacity, of course."

The agent's jaw dropped. Why didn't she...? He shook his head, wondering where their partnership had taken yet another wrong turn. I was so sure...

"Mulder?"

Sinking to the leather, he locked Frohike in a frustrated stare.

The little man crossed his arms. "You *do* want to hear about this, don't you?"

Mulder had to concentrate to keep his temper even, so he distracted himself by twisting the hem of his black polo shirt nervously. "Yeah. Sure. Go on." He leaned back, waiting for his friend to begin speaking, but not really focused on the somber face across from him.

The Gunman eyed him closely, then released his breath in a sigh. "Well, it involves the suicide gene. Maybe you've heard of it?" Mulder was impassive, so Frohike continued. "Viruses containing thymidine kinase are introduced into the region of the brain where the cancer is growing. They enter any cells that are dividing, which, in the brain are only the cancer cells..."

Mulder bounced off the sofa. "Right. Then you inject Ganciclovir, which kills the TK infected cells. I saw the show too." Wrapping his arms around himself, he stared out his window.

"Mulder!" Frohike crossed over to his side. "This isn't a TV episode! This is about Scully!" He stepped away at the taller man's glare.

The tall agent pursed his lips. I know that.

The Gunman punched his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose. "What you *don't* understand is how low a success rate this procedure actually has. It's a treatment of last resort, not first, something for someone who's desperate, who has exhausted all other possibilities."

Mulder blinked. "What? Why are you telling me this?"

Frohike glowered back. "That's what I want to know. What's happened to you, Mulder? Where have you been? It's been a month now, but between cases you've been searching this place and the Basement like there's buried gold somewhere."

Mulder began pacing, the unspoken rebuke utmost in his mind. She doesn't have many months left. He stopped. "Yeah. I hear you." Suddenly anxious, he stood by the Gunman. "Thanks."

Frohike nodded. Someone had to say something. "Mulder, just... just go talk to her, all right?"

Holding the door, the agent waved Frohike out. That's what she keeps saying. 'We just talked, Mulder, nothing more.' Since the incident with van Blundht, Scully had shut herself off from him, keeping their conversations limited to only the cases they were working on.

Oh, she was always there for *him*, just as she had been at the Correctional facility when he had met with van Blundht today. 'You're no loser, Mulder.' Part of him had been grateful for her words of support, but part of him had wanted to shout at her: 'I'm not the fragile one here! You're the one with the tum...' But he had only muttered something cryptic about not being Eddie van Blundht, a statement he was sure she wouldn't understand.

Trailing silently out to the car, she had hurried to the left side, taking the wheel without asking if he wanted to drive. He had let her, assuming she had *wanted* to retain control over as much of her life as she could. They didn't talk about the cancer, because he assumed she *didn't* want to talk about it, that she wanted to keep everything as normal as possible. After all, she had talked about 'all those things she still needed to prove' and chose to answer all his queries with 'I'm fine, Mulder.' Both of them knew that wasn't the case, but he had let it go, again, assuming that she didn't want him to take charge of her or smother her. It had worked, originally, following her lead to the Weisses and the Golem, although she wouldn't admit it.

She was putting in longer and longer hours, delving into more depth on their X-Files, taking on more autopsies for the rest of the Bureau. He had assumed she was attempting to *prove* she was fine, to everyone, including him. But he didn't know how to tell her it was enough, that there was nothing she needed to prove. He assumed she would eventually realize he understood, like she always did, so was content to let things go on as they had been, just concentrating on their cases.

This is silly. He knew he had overreacted by kicking in the door upon returning to DC after the janitors had let him out of the control room. Their quarry had no murderous intentions toward either him or his partner, *that* the soda, sandwich, and apple had made clear. But to think that she was willing to let the NotMulder make advances like that, after all the rumors and innuendo they had put up with, just grated on him. Was this what their relationship really boiled down to? His eyes fell on the tottering volume again, trailing over the title. Maybe *I* just don't understand... Dropping onto the cushions, he flipped the front cover over to begin to read.

-o-0-o-

Apartment 42
Alexandria, Virginia
Friday, 8:59 pm

Turning the last page, Mulder sighed. This sounds like us a lot of the time. So many things assumed, so few things stated.

He recalled her words: 'We just talked, Mulder, nothing happened. Nothing! Really!' Rubbing his eyes, he sighed again. They had revisited this point over and over, getting nowhere. 'We didn't talk about anything. Nothing to do with the X-Files, or any of my other cases, or even about anything medical, just ... nothing.'

Then he would lean into her face, growing impatient, territorial. 'But he was about to...'

She would frown, shake her head, then stomp away off to another autopsy, or change the subject to their latest case.

So, he was about to kiss her. You'd kissed her, hadn't you? You'd held her in the hospital, told her the Truth would save us both, and kissed her on the forehead. Then they'd come right back to work, heading off to New York and the Weiss case. Why should she leap to the wrong conclusion if he, who she thought was you, had kissed her again? Why should you? He bolted off the sofa, thinking over the advice in the text to something he'd learned at Oxford, but had never really understood.

Men offer companionship to get sex. Women trade sex for companionship.

That had been van Blundht's angle, how he had gotten to those women. Take the shape of someone each had really wanted to get to know better, let them talk, and...

Well, not all women. Phoebe certainly hadn't been interested in companionship, or romance, particularly. But Scully's not Phoebe, you dolt. She's on the road with your almighty self almost constantly, and she's got this *thing* in her brain. He began pacing again. Think like a profiler, not like some self-centered alpha male. She has this growth in her head that will kill her if we don't find a cure, so she wants to tell somebody about her life. He froze in his tracks. Was it really that simple? Grabbing his cell phone, he headed for the door.

-o-0-o-

Apartment 5
Washington, DC
Friday, 9:27 pm

After gazing out her spyhole, Dana Scully leaned against the wall, releasing a sigh. I'd better pack my bags. She had seen that her partner was without, only, unlike last time, he was holding a paper tray with two orange cups, a stained brown bag wedged between them.

"Sculleee? You okay?" The familiar call was muffled by the wood.

Scully opened the door. "Yes, Mulder, where are we going?" She watched him gaze down at her, surprised, with a faint tinge of something else. Fear? Embarrassment? She stood back, since he was hovering on her doorstep.

"Going, Scully?" Shuffling slightly, Mulder peered anxiously at his partner, who was shoeless under a faded FBI T-shirt and jeans. Has she lost more weight? "Did Skinner call you?"

Now it was her turn to look astonished. "No, he didn't. I thought when I saw the coffee, that..."

Mulder glanced at the white caps, steam curling out of the openings. "Oh. This." He held them out to her. "No, these are for you, I mean, us."

After accepting the tray, she stepped away from the door. When he refused to follow her, she looked over her shoulder. "Mulder! Come in. Ow!" She shook her left hand. "It's leaking. Let me pour these into something more permanent."

He circled her sofa, surprised at the materials spread out on the living room table. "Scully?"

She reappeared, the bag in her teeth while she carried two oversized mugs.

Mulder took the sack and one of the hot cups, settling carefully on the couch. "You're not reading the latest medical journals?"

She glanced at him. Do I have to work *all* the time for you to be satisfied with me, Mulder? Crossing her legs on the bolsters, she sipped quietly. "No, I'm not. But, it *is* related to the Weiss case, and I *do* have the latest results from the DNA analysis of the smallpox in the bees..."

He shook his head. "That's fine. I didn't want to talk about that. What?" He watched her, staring at him, wide-eyed. "What is it?" He cringed when she shrank back against the cushions. "Scully, what?" He slid over to her. "Are you okay?"

"I think I should ask *you* the same thing, Mulder, or should I say, Eddie?"

He frowned. "What? I was just curious about these tomes of yours." He waved one hand at the thick historical texts on the table, while noting that she had defiantly jutted her chin at him. Does she think I want her to work all the time?

Standing quickly, she closed the books, then arranged them in a neat stack, tucking a three ring binder at the bottom. "Oh, it was just the Weiss case, Mulder. After hearing Ariel's story, I decided to bone up on my Eastern European History."

As a sudden thought struck him, he slid to the edge of the cushions. Have I been that distant? While Scully carried the stack to her bookcase, setting the volumes in a blank space on the middle shelf, he reflected over his actions the past month. Yes, I have.

"It's silly, I know. It has nothing to do with work, or the Golem." She glanced over at him. "But, I'd never heard of Khabbalism; I didn't know there were mystics in Judaism, like St. Theresa, or Hildegard von Bingen."

He thought back to the Kevin Kryder case. She's attempting to connect with me. Mulder crossed the room to stand beside her, taking one ivory and gold volume with gilt-edged pages off the end.

Her small hands flew to the spine, gently cradling it. "That's a new translation of the Five Books of Moses. They're beautiful. It's poetry, finally, not some stilted list of begats." Lifting the weighty hardbound away, she carried it back to the sofa to tuck her feet up, then slip on her reading glasses. "Listen to this, Mulder." She thumbed through the text until she was at a page covered with black and white reproductions of manuscript illuminations, a white box with two lines printed in the center.

"At the beginning of God's creating of the heavens and the earth,"

She flipped the page.

"when the earth was wild and waste,
darkness over the face of Ocean,
rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters-

God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
God saw the light: that it was good.
God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light: Day! and the darkness he called: Night!
There was setting, there was dawning: one day."

Mulder waited, thinking back to his solo visit to the Hebrew Library, how words had the power to destroy, or, create. Or heal. His partner's voice broke into his musings.

"God said:
Let us make humankind, in our image, according to our likeness!
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the
heavens, animals, all the earth, and all crawling things that
crawl about upon the earth!
God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God did he create it,
male and female did he create them."

He recognized a different cadence, a separate speech, underlying her readings. I don't speak Hebrew. Mournful, he chewed his lip, nodding as she spoke.

"Thus were finished the heavens and the earth, with all their
array.
God had finished, on the seventh day, his work that he had made,
and then he ceased, on the seventh day, from all his work that he
had made.
God gave the seventh day his blessing, and he hallowed it,
for on it he ceased from all his work, that by creating, God
had made.
These are the begettings of the heavens and the earth: their
being created."

Finished, she lifted her face, her green eyes lighter than he had seen in weeks. "You see? In a sensitive, literate translation, there's no real disagreement between modern evolutionary theory and the Genesis account."

He allowed himself to be pinned in her clear gaze. No unbridgeable disagreements between science and belief. Between you and me. Is that what you're trying to tell me, Scully?

Closing the book, she placed it reverently on her white coffee table. "I'm sorry, Mulder. What was it you wanted to talk about?"

Shifting to the center of the couch, he leaned toward her, then tapped his nose. "I got this from my mother's side, if you're wondering."

Slipping off the frames, she folded the earpieces down to twist the lenses in her fingers. After a few seconds, she glanced up at him. "I was curious, but I didn't want to pry. With all the terrible things that have happened to you and your family, it hardly seems to matter."

He shrugged. "That's okay. We never talked about it much at home. We *were* on the Vineyard, after all." He waved at the texts. "Mind if I borrow some of that knowledge over there? I'd like to learn a little about my ancestors." He brushed the back of her hand with the tips of his fingers. "We can talk about it, if you have the time." He glanced at the floor. If you have the time... good going, G-man.

She pumped her chin once, then, relaxing slightly, set the glasses beside the translation before she unrolled the top of the bag. I'll bet these are those super-sweet powdered doughnuts he likes.

As she peeked inside, he grinned. Surprise!

She pulled out what appeared to be two paper-wrapped biscuits, studded with tiny black specks. "Scones? You picked up scones with currants? For *both* of us?"

He sent her a look of mild astonishment as he reached toward her hand, leaving the larger of the two tall golden pastries to her. "But I thought you *liked* scones, Scully."

She arched one eyebrow. "I *love* scones, Mulder, but you usually bring doughnuts, especially right before we go on a case."

Taking a huge bite, he leaned back, waiting until he had swallowed before replying. "This isn't about a case." The coffee already lukewarm, he took several long sips. "I told you, I just wanted to talk."

She dropped both feet to the floor. "Now, I know there's something wrong, Mulder. Is it your Mom? Is she okay? Do you need my help with something this weekend?" She watched him shake his head, confused. "Then, what is it?"

He drained the mug before setting it on the low table. "I just wanted to..." He shifted uncomfortably. Now or never. "Why are you considering gene therapy, Scully? Is the tumor growing?"

Now it was her turn to look shocked. "Frohike told you?" She sighed. "I'm not, not really. I just wanted to check out my options, that's all." Nibbling at one sharp corner, she studied his face. "I hope to find a treatment that would allow me to continue to work, and, no, the mass hasn't enlarged."

He slid over beside her. "Why didn't you come to me about this?"

She shrugged. "It didn't seem significant. We've been busy with so many other things..."

He touched her arm. "Nothing is more important than finding a cure for you."

She jumped. Why did he say that? Now, after everything... "Nothing? Mulder, what do you mean? We have so much work to do."

He sighed. "I mean we need to find a cure for you, Scully. You won't let this thing beat you, and neither will I, okay?"

Both eyebrows arched. "Okay. But, if I may ask, why now? Did van Blundht say something to you I didn't hear through the monitors?"

He backed up across her cushions until he was at the far edge of her couch, focusing on the bookcase across the room. "No. It was enough. You heard everything I did. I can just be really thick-headed sometimes." He flicked his eyes at her chuckle. "I assume you want things a certain way, then something happens that shocks me, and I have trouble realizing things weren't the way I assumed, at all."

She lifted one corner of her mouth. "Nothing happened, Mulder. Really."

He nodded. "I know. And you talked about nothing, too." Patting the back cushions of the sofa, he gathered his courage. "That's why I'm here. I want you to feel you can talk to me about nothing, Scully."

She waited.

Mulder tipped his head. "Really." He let out a short laugh. "I know that sounds odd, coming from me, but if you thought you could tell it to me once, I'll listen to it again." He held up his hand. "Promise."

"No interruptions? No off-the-wall theories?"

He nodded. "No jokes about robot creators of a machine that can make anything starting with N."

She tossed her head, moving her auburn pageboy off her cheek. "So, it set out to make nothing of everything before they convinced it to stop. I've read The Cyberiad too, Mulder."

He grinned. "I'm all ears."

She shook her head. "You'll be bored."

He dipped his face forward in one swift, frustrated motion. Why is she making this so hard? We used to be able to talk, back... He sighed. Because *you've* made it that way. "Try me."

She took a long breath. "I told him about my life in the twelfth grade."

He waited.

She tucked her chin for a moment. "No, you won't want to hear that, Mulder."

He bounced across the bolsters until he was beside her, one arm stretched along the sofa back, replying in his dry drawl. "It has to have been better than my senior year."

She gauged his body language. He was sitting on his left ankle, looking as if he had just hopped over the back to drop in place. Mulder slid his left hand forward until it touched her shoulder, prodding her lightly. His right hand was curled around his knee, not plucking at the piping on the cushion as it would when he was bored or restless. Her partner had tipped his head, those odd bangs he had adopted falling forward over one eye while he chewed his lower lip.

Her vibrant eyes narrowed slightly. He really can chose the strangest hairstyles at times. Both his dark eyebrows were arched slightly, as he was nodding his eagerness, which was all she really needed to read him.

He leaned toward her slightly. "Tell *me*, Scully."

This might actually work. She settled in, twisting around until her back was against the cushions, her shoulder just contacting his side. He's not moving. Curling up beside him, she wrapped her arms around her knees. "Okay, I had this *huge* crush..."

Finis

=====o=====================================================o=====

Not quite what you'd expected, right? I enjoyed Small Potatoes thoroughly, but thought the distance we saw between the lead characters right at the end quite poignant, and wanted to do something about it. Also, a whole month had elapsed, according to the screen tag, and *still* no notice of Scully's cancer. This story was an attempt to bridge both gaps.

The title is a shortened version of the one for Deborah Tannen's 1990 book You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. I've often wanted to mail a copy to 1013 as I watch them struggle to write dialog for the intelligent, independent woman that is our Doctor Dana. (William Morrow & Co., First Edition, 1990, ISBN-10: 0688078222, ISBN-13: 978-0688078225, 330 pp.)

The Five Books of Moses is an astoundingly beautiful translation of the Pentateuch from the Hebrew scholar Everett Fox. His treatment of the Fall of Man provides insights I never knew were in the text, and nicely sets a good deal of Christian Theology on its ear. (The Schocken Bible, Vol. 1, Schocken Press, First Printing, April 1, 1997, ISBN-10: 080524140X, ISBN-13: 978-0805241402, 1056 pp.) Just as a postscript, several years later, Dr. Fox ran across this story, and dropped me some very kind words. He was surprised, and not unhappy, to read his tale showing up in an X-Files context, glad to see he had helped, in some small way, to open doors of understanding. Awed and honored, I wrote him back, thanking him for the depth of his perception in his translation, and informing him I had given away many copies as presents over the years. Real authors, too, like positive feedback.

Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age is a classic of science fiction humor, what with one dragon times one dragon yielding 0.6 dragons, as well as the aforementioned robot inventors, Trurl and Kalapakus. I couldn't dig up my copy, so I have no idea how old it really is (1965, translated to English by Michael Kandel, 1974). If you like Douglas Adams, check it out the next time you're at a library or bookstore. (Penguin Modern Classics, 1st Edition edition, June 5, 2014, ISBN-10: 0141394595, ISBN-13: 978-0141394596, 304 pp.)

E-mail, as always, is welcome.

Originally released to ATXC and XFF 4/22/97

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