TITLE: Blood Ties 13: Echoes in the Dark by Dawn
Mulder took an involuntary step backwards as Grey brushed past him. His brother strode to the middle of the living room and turned, running a hand through his windblown hair.
"Hi, Grey. Gee, what a nice surprise. Come on in." Mulder shut the door.
Grey looked around the room. "Dana's not here?"
"We're out of milk." Mulder took in the stiff set of his brother's shoulders and the way he clenched and flexed his fingers as he roamed restlessly around the room. "We do, however, have beer."
Grey gave him a quick, distracted glance before heading down the hallway toward the bedroom. "Is it in the dresser?"
"Bottom left." Mulder trailed behind, leaning in the doorway as Grey jerked open the drawer and rifled through its contents. "Soda, too."
"Got it!" Grey grabbed the shirt and stood, sliding the drawer shut with his foot. "What?"
"A beer? Coke?"
"I told you, I can't stay. I've got a four-hour drive ahead of me, and--"
"Wait a minute, wait a minute. You're driving home? Tonight?"
"You're quick. Must be why they pay you the big bucks, huh?" Grey squeezed by him and walked back down the hallway.
Mulder reached him just as he was opening the front door. Slapping his palm to the wood, he pushed it shut and stepped in front, arms folded.
Grey scowled. "What the hell...?"
"You didn't really think I'd let you drop that bomb and walk out of here without an explanation, did you?"
"Look, it's been a lousy day, I'm tired, and I've got a long drive. I'll give you a call later this week."
Mulder didn't move. "Nice try."
"Damn it, Fox!"
"You drove up here to spend the weekend with Kristen. It's nine o'clock Saturday night. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure that leaves a good twenty hours before you even need to think about heading home. What's going on?"
"You are a pain in the ass."
"Tell me something I don't know. I repeat, what's going on with you and Kristen?"
Grey deflated, slumping back against the wall. "What's going on is that there is no me and Kristen." He tipped his head back until it thumped against the plaster. "It's over, Fox."
Mulder stared at his brother, lips parted, while his brain struggled to process the words. "I don't.... Over?"
"As in finished. Quits. The fat lady has sung." Grey pushed off the wall and wandered into the kitchen. "I'll take that beer now."
Mulder waited until they were both seated at the kitchen table. "Give."
"There's not much to say."
"That's bullshit. For over two years you've been hauling your ass up here to be with that woman. You love her. I thought--"
Grey looked up sharply. "You thought what?"
Mulder sighed and took a swig from his bottle. "I thought you were ready to propose, not split up."
"So why didn't you?"
"What makes you think I didn't?"
Mulder snorted. "Well, for one thing, she'd never have said no." His brother rolled the bottle between his palms, but said nothing. "Grey?"
Grey sighed and for the first time Mulder saw grief, rather than anger, etched into the lines of his face. "Leave it alone, Fox."
"That doesn't make any sense. I know she loves you; you'd be blind not to see it.
"As you once told me--it's complicated."
"I'm a bright guy. Explain it to me."
Grey drained his beer and retrieved a second from the refrigerator before answering. "I had the ring in my pocket. I was going to surprise her this weekend."
"She had a surprise of her own."
"You lost me."
"She'd just gotten word that she's being promoted to section head for her department." Grey picked at the label with his thumb. "She's very excited."
"I don't see what--" Mulder caught himself and looked at Grey through narrowed eyes. "Ah. You assumed she'd chuck her career and move to Raleigh to play dutiful wife."
"Fuck you." Grey slammed the bottle onto the table and stalked out of the room.
Mulder scrubbed his hands over his face with a soft groan. Shoving back his chair, he moved to the doorway and leaned against the jamb. Grey was pacing the living room with short, tightly controlled steps.
"My whole life is in Raleigh. My job, family..." He dropped onto the couch and buried his head in his hands. "Shit."
Mulder sat beside him. "You never talked about this?"
"It's taken me this long to come to terms with getting married again. I hadn't thought past the ceremony."
"Okay, so it's a little more complicated than you'd first thought. For god's sake, talk to her! Work it out."
"You think I haven't tried? I've talked till I'm blue in the face. We're at an impasse, all right? She's pissed as hell at me right now, and to tell you the truth, I'm not too thrilled with her either."
"Fine. Then you both take a deep breath and give it another go. You've weathered worse than this. There has to be a solution."
Grey shook his head. "Not this time. She won't consider leaving DC, and I can't leave Raleigh. So unless you know a way to eliminate about 200 miles worth of highway..."
"Can't? Or won't?" When Grey looked at him blankly, Mulder explained, "You said you can't leave Raleigh."
"_Why not?_ Kristen's family lives back in Chicago, mine are all within a 30 minute drive. Not to mention that I've worked my ass off to get to where I am in the department. Then there's the house-- I've got roots there."
Mulder closed his eyes, tucking his chin to his chest. "You didn't expect her to live in that house, did you?" When he looked up, Grey wouldn't meet his eyes. "Are you out of your mind?"
"That house means a lot to me," Grey replied through clenched teeth.
"It means too much. No wonder she was pissed, Grey. Can't you see? You're still not ready to move on, and Kristen damn well knows it."
His brother finally looked at him with weary eyes. "This from the guy who spent twenty-five years obsessing over his missing sister. In case you've forgotten, Fox, it's not that easy."
Mulder ached at the obvious defeat. "Maybe Scully can call Kristen. Hell, if it'll help, I'll talk to her myself."
"It's too late. Please, just leave it alone."
"All I'm saying is--"
Grey leaned forward and picked up several photos scattered across the coffee table. "Is this a case you're working on?"
Mulder glared at his brother for a long moment before giving in with a sigh. "Yes."
He grimaced. "Someone really doesn't like women."
Grey flipped back through the photos, swearing under his breath. "Are you crazy? If it were me, I wouldn't let Dana anywhere near this."
Mulder snatched the pictures and stuffed them into the folder. "Thanks for the tip." He went back into the kitchen and reclaimed his beer, chugging the rest.
"So...what? You're allowed to point out everything I'm doing wrong but I'm supposed to say nothing?"
Mulder rounded on Grey. "When you don't know what you're talking about? Yeah, I'd rather you shut the hell up."
Rather than back down, Grey got into his face. "Right. What do I know? I'm sure it's no big deal that Dana's hunting this sicko even though she's a dead ringer for the victims."
Mulder felt the blood pounding in his head. He shouldered his way around Grey. "Of course it's a big deal, you bastard! Do you really think for one minute that I want her on this one? If I had my way she'd be in California right now, visiting my son-of-a-bitch brother-in-law. She won't go!" He chucked the empty bottle into the recycle bin.
The crash of shattering glass defused his anger. Mulder ground the heels of his hands into his eyes, the tension of the past two weeks slamming into him. He heard a chair scrape across tile, then a sigh.
"Sit down. You look like shit--I don't know how I didn't notice."
He was too tired to argue. Mulder folded into a chair and looked across the table at his brother. "It was made very clear to me that the continued health of the X-Files division, and my place in it, depends on my cooperation in catching this 'sicko.' I didn't have any choice, Grey."
"Give me a break. When has anyone--least of all me--been able to tell Scully what to do?"
As if on cue, the front door opened, and a moment later Scully walked into the kitchen. "Hey. I thought you'd be with Kristen."
When she turned to load milk and a few other perishable items into the refrigerator, Grey gave Mulder a sharp shake of his head. Aloud, he said, "Some things came up. I have to head back to Raleigh tonight."
"It's awfully late to be making that trip." Scully shut the refrigerator and joined them at the table, ruffling a hand through Mulder's hair. "Maybe you should crash on the couch, get a fresh start in the morning."
Grey shook his head. "Thanks, darlin', but I really don't think--"
"It's after ten and you've had two beers. Take the couch." Mulder locked eyes with his brother. "We can hash things out in the morning."
When Grey still looked reluctant, Scully strode out of the kitchen. "You're staying," she called over her shoulder, "I'll get you a sheet."
Grey glared at Mulder. "Thanks a lot."
Mulder raised both hands. "You want to argue with her? Be my guest."
"If you'd kept your mouth shut, I wouldn't have to."
"I just think you need to slow down and--"
"Sheets are on the couch," Scully said from the doorway. She inclined her head toward Mulder. "I'll be in the bedroom. Do not bring that case file."
"Scully, I was--"
"Forget it, Mulder. You've been up working on that profile two nights running. You need sleep." She turned the frown into a smile. "Good night, Grey. Yell if you need anything."
"I'll be fine. Sweet dreams, darlin'."
"Will you?" Mulder asked quietly.
Grey stood. "I need to sleep. And so do you."
Mulder followed him into the living room and watched as he made up the couch. "We'll fix this."
Grey stretched out and flung one arm over his eyes. "Go to bed, Fox. You look ready to drop."
"Fine. But we'll talk more about this in the morning."
When he turned out the light a few minutes later, his brother appeared to be sleeping soundly.
The next morning Grey was gone.