She bumps into him in the hallway. Her gaze at her feet, her focus in some other zip code, and she just doesn’t see him as he rounds the corner.
He steadies himself with a hand on her forearm; she exhales his name, a question. Their eyes meet. Of course he’s still here. She knew that. Skinner mentioned it when he called. “He might appear in your office without warning,” he’d said dryly. She’d said something flippant, she doesn’t remember exactly what, and now here he is, ahead of schedule. There’s not even a nameplate on her door yet.
He recovers faster than she does. “Congratulations,” he says. “A.D. Scully. Never thought I’d see the day.”
“Me neither,” she admits. “I guess my status as office pariah wasn’t permanent.”
That halfway smile she remembers so well. ”Mine is.“
Scully ducks her head in acknowledgement, then looks at him – really looks at him – for the first time. "How have you been, Mulder?”
“Not as good as you,” he says lightly. “Still in the basement.”
Her voice is gentle. "You chose that.”
“And you didn’t. I know.” He almost sounds bitter.
The lights strobing red and blue across his face while they watched the last five years burn down. It’s been years, but she can’t forget the heat from the embers, the emptiness behind his eyes. He didn’t take her to the airport. He never returned any of her calls.
“At least now I’ll have my own desk,” she jokes. At least, she wants it to be a joke. But Mulder darkens immediately, and oh, she remembers this, too: the moods he’d swing into, like a sudden gale; the storms in his eyes.
“Scully, you could’ve—“
But she shakes her head. This is not something she’s going to re-litigate — not here, not ever. Water under the bridge, her mom would say, but when has Fox Mulder ever left a bridge unburned?
“I heard about the Bryce case,” she says brightly. A nice, normal case that would never have landed on their — on his desk, back when they were partners. Standard-issue serial killer. “That was good work.”
“Thanks, boss,” he sneers, and that’s when Scully finally decides to call it. Since she left D.C. she’s gotten better at office politics, but she should’ve known her new skills wouldn’t work on Mulder.
There’s nothing obvious in the hallway to drag her away, so she gestures vaguely in the direction she was heading. ”Anyway, I should–“
"Of course,” he interrupts. “You’ve got a lot of work to do. Don’t let me keep you.” He tosses off a sarcastic salute before he goes.
She watches him until he disappears into the stairwell. Her face is hot. She’s furious and sad and fired up, all at once, and she wonders how the hell she survived five years with him. Had she felt like this all the time?
Moments pass. No other ghosts show up in the hallway. Scully finds her office — still no nameplate, she’ll have to ask maintenance about that — and sits down behind the desk. Her desk. She puts her feet up on it the way he used to do. She finally exhales.