Taken, Part 4: The Confession
One Hour Later
D.C. General Hospital
Scully was asleep when Mulder entered the hospital room. He was torn between letting her sleep and the fact that he had very little time. Walking out of the Hoover Building with the photo album would be career limiting if he were caught. Though all he really cared about was that getting caught would get him tossed off this case.
He sat in the chair by the bed and gently touched her shoulder.
Her eyes popped open instantly. "Mulder! I've been wondering why I hadn't heard from you." She pushed the button to raise the head of her bed until she was sitting up. "What happened? Was-" Finally getting a good look at him, she asked, "Are you okay?"
"Okay?" Mulder asked bewildered.
"You look ill."
Mulder shook off her concern and dove right in. "His name is Jaden MacKay and nothing he had to say is going to help us find Krycek."
"You're certain he's not involved in any way? He has no idea what's going on?"
"I'm positive," Mulder stated emphatically. "It's a total dead end."
Scully watched Mulder carefully. Something was chewing him up inside. "Is Skinner really letting you work the case?"
"No. He's permitting me to profile the boyfriend. And that's it." Mulder absently drummed his fingers on the large black book in his lap.
"What's that?" Scully queried, cocking her head toward the book.
"Alex Krycek's photo album." He hesitated, then added, "I thought you might like to see it."
Scully held her breath for a moment, then slowly released it. "I would--very much--but were you supposed to bring it here?"
The look Mulder gave her clearly said he'd taken it without permission. Part of her wanted to tell Mulder to take it back, but her curiosity won out and she extended a hand.
She hovered a long time over the first picture. "I don't think I ever realized how good looking your partner was. Is," she corrected hastily, flashing Mulder a forced smile.
Mulder tried to smile in return, but it came off looking grim. He watched as Scully slowly went through the album. Eventually, at her meticulous fussing with the photos, he felt compelled to ask, "Scully, what are you doing?"
"Straightening the pictures," she murmured, intently focused on the task at hand. "Most of the corners aren't even inserted into their holders."
It had crossed Mulder's mind to do the same thing so Jaden didn't have to get back his book in shambles, but lingering over the photos had felt too painful.
Scully's perusal got even slower as she got to the section showing Krycek's and Jaden's adventures. Her brow furrowed. "How does he afford all this?"
Mulder shrugged. "One of the questions I'm putting in my report."
She hesitated at a picture of a fairly ardent embrace, whispering, "I feel like a voyeur." She turned to the next page. When she was finished, she closed the album with a pained sigh, trailing her fingers over the back cover. "He's dead, isn't he, Mulder?" Her eyes begged Mulder to convince her otherwise.
"I hope not, Scully."
"We drift through this job, dealing with each other every day, never seeing what's behind the façade we all create." Scully's hair was now hiding her face. "He had a whole life, Mulder. A family, someone he loved, yet he put it all on the line to save my life."
"Isn't that what we do?" Mulder asked, needing convincing.
Silence descended for several long minutes before Scully was able to bring herself to ask the question that had been plaguing her. "Mulder, will you please explain to me what happened?"
Frowning in confusion, Mulder, asked, "What part?"
"Why didn't you go to Skinner?"
Mulder leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and scrubbed at his face. "I fucked up, Scully. There's nothing else to say."
"Don't-" Scully broke off, trying to figure out what she wanted to say. "Don't obfuscate the details with your guilt. There's more to it than that. And I need to know."
"Okay, Scully." If anyone deserved the truth, it was Scully. Mulder thought back over the last few days. "When Alex left the bar Sunday night, I wasn't entirely sure I even wanted to go to Skinner. I mean, it was frustrating to hear that I was being spied on again, but he'd come clean about it. And quickly I might add."
Scully was suddenly very interested in contemplating the back of her hand, though she hung on every word.
"Having him around was sort of... I dunno. Different. He acted like he looked up to me. I think that's part of why I was so pissed at him. I thought it had all been a sham--his wide-eyed hero worship. And maybe it was. I don't know... may never know. I'm so confused." He had to pause to collect his thoughts. "Once I got past being angry with him, I realized he'd done something no one else had ever done before. He chose me. He chose to believe in me, despite the fact that it wasn't good for his career or even logical. So, I went to bed on Sunday thinking that he and I needed to talk, but that we'd probably work it out and keep being partners. I mean, in a strange way, he'd passed a huge test of honesty and trust."
It pained Scully that Mulder didn't think she'd believed in him. But she could also see that he might perceive the two situations differently. "You've given up on the X-Files, Mulder?"
"No! Definitely not. I guess in my pathetic little fantasy world, I'd get the X-Files back and life would move on."
"But with a new partner?"
"No, Scully. Not without you. I went to work Monday wondering what I'd have to do, whose ass I'd have to kiss, to get the three of us working together."
"You think that would have worked out?"
"Maybe. I think you'd've liked him. He's an odd mixture of our best traits and none of the worst. He has your pragmatism, but my..." Mulder trailed off, searching for the word.
"Idealism?" Scully provided softly.
Mulder frowned. "That's a seriously weird way of putting it, but yeah. That."
"And then on Monday?" Scully prompted.
"Alex didn't even show in the morning. I figured he was sulking. I got pissed all over again because he should have been there to deal with the fallout of his confession. But he wasn't high on my agenda for the day. I really needed you to follow-up on the Duane Barry shit, not him, so I let it go. I only saw him once and that was around lunchtime. He was headed out of the building. I called to him, but he either didn't hear me or ignored me. Then once you disappeared, I mostly pushed him out of my head."
Mulder rubbed the back of his neck, remembering a very painful morning. "Tuesday morning, you were gone. I was scared sick, and then had to face Skinner and OPR and the HRT. I really needed someone at my back, and he didn't show up. Again. I just got angrier at him. I threw myself into finding you and stopped thinking about Alex Krycek."
"Once I disappeared, why didn't you say something to Skinner about what Krycek told you?"
Mulder looked at the ceiling. "To what end, Scully? I really didn't connect the dots. Did you? Can you even now? What Alex basically told me is that someone who has influence in our chain of command was keeping an eye on me. And that they disapproved of me continuing to involve you in my cases. Then you get abducted by a violent felon. I still can't connect the dots. The only thing that would have come about as a result of talking to Skinner is that we might have known Krycek was missing hours earlier. It wouldn't have helped us find him. Or you."
Scully nodded slowly. "I just wanted to understand Mulder. You seemed so suspicious of him. I thought you must have a reason."
"Mostly I was angry at myself. Feeling very guilty."
"Because he was my partner and he was out pursuing something alone. Because I wouldn't listen to him. If I'd had his back, he might still be here. None of this would have happened to him or you."
"Mulder, you don't know that. No one knows why he was outside my place that night. He could have been waiting for me to get home. Maybe he wanted to talk to me about something. If he had a hunch something was going to happen to me, it's information he didn't share."
"He didn't get an opportunity to share! I wouldn't let him."
"But even if you'd listened to him, you don't know that you'd have been out there on the street with him that night! You can't keep beating yourself up based on 'what if.'"
"Aren't I what?"
"I see it in your eyes, Scully. Guilt. It's written all over you. What's that about?"
"I left him behind!" She exploded, then felt bad for it. "Okay? I keep going over and over and over it. And the one thing I can't live with is that I left him there."
"Scully, if you hadn't gone for help, you'd both be gone," Mulder stated with conviction. "I couldn't live with that."
"I'm trying to deal, Mulder. But you're going to have to let me work through the guilt in my own way."
"Ditto, Scully," Mulder replied tiredly.
Scully just shook her head, staring down at the photo album in her lap. "So, are you going to tell me now why this book bothers you so much?"
Mulder gathered his defenses around him. "It's always hard to see the effect on the victims. Alex and Jaden were happy and-"
"I've been listening to you and watching you very closely since you arrived. Something about Krycek's relationship with Jaden MacKay upsets you. I think it hurts you, and I want to help if I can."
Every fiber of Mulder's being screamed denial. "Scully, it's nothing."
Scully searched for some reasonable explanation. "Does it bother you that Krycek's gay?"
"No!" Mulder stated emphatically. "That's not a problem."
"Mulder, please help me understand. I want to be able to help but you're shutting me out."
"Christ." Staring at the floor, Mulder eventually offered, "When Skinner told us this morning that Krycek had a boyfriend, I was..."
When Mulder didn't seem inclined to say more, Scully prompted, "Was?"
"I was happy," he whispered.
Mulder looked at her blankly, then raised a brow.
"Oh!" Scully's cheeks suffused with color. "I... I... really had no idea." Eventually, she felt compelled to confirm her conclusion. "You're gay, Mulder?"
Mulder went back to contemplating the floor. "I think it would be more accurate to say that I'm work obsessed, but when given the opportunity, I prefer men."
"How come you never told me?"
With a one-shouldered shrug, Mulder replied, "You never asked."
"Okay." Scully had to pause a moment to let the revelation sink in. "You were happy at the knowledge that you and your partner were sexually compatible?"
Mulder frowned. "That's an odd way of putting it, but, yeah, I guess so."
"Would you have slept with him?"
Finally meeting Scully's stare, Mulder firmly replied, "In a heartbeat."
"That's not very, uh, professional."
Mulder just flashed her a sardonic grin. "And that applies to me, how?"
"Oh come on, Mulder. It would have been quite a risk."
"Why are we talking about this? The question is academic at this point."
"Because he's gone?" Then Scully added more astutely, "Or because he's totally in love with his boyfriend?"
"Mulder, it's just so-"
"Pathetic," Mulder interjected. "I don't need to hear this. I really don't. It's already been a difficult day. Because the more I find out about Alex Krycek, the more I envy Jaden MacKay." Mulder paused and looked down again. "The more I hurt for him. There's nothing I want more in the world than to get Alex Krycek back so he can return to his lover. And that hurts in its own special way. So, please don't give me any grief about this. I can't deal with it today."
Scully's expression was tinged with hurt and sympathy. "Mulder, I'm not trying to give you a hard time. I was just trying to understand. I'm sorry this is so hard for you."
"I have to get back, Scully. I have to report to Skinner."
Scully's brows drew together in concern. "Mulder-"
"Please, let's not talk about it anymore," Mulder asked softly.
"Okay." Scully lifted the heavy book and handed it to Mulder. "Do whatever you have to do to get those back to the boyfriend. They aren't doing the Bureau any good."
Mulder nodded, took the album and left the hospital.
End Part 4