Dana had been wearing tanktops all week. Tanktops and denim shorts, no bra, sandals if she wore shoes at all. It was too hot for layers—she hadn't dressed William in more than a diaper and a onsie all week—and she was too busy for modesty.
The moving men, either out of respect for William on her hip or fear of lawsuits, did not leer or make comments—even though at one point she simply plopped onto the couch and lifted her shirt to nurse William. It was too hot to even drape a blanket over him.
The moving men were now gone. Dana had spent the day arranging and shelving. Duplicates of books and music—and there were more of these than she had expected—she put back in the boxes, to be put into storage or given away. William's room was bright, snug and cheerful. The house was a bit crowded with furniture, but otherwise had changed from a bachelor's place to a home for a family.
All this house needed, Dana thought, was her husband.
She went out onto the back deck with William and a glass of lemonade after sundown. The house retained heat like a brick oven, even though Dana set up fans in what she hoped were strategic places—but outside, after sundown, it was soft and cool.
Dana spread a blanket on the grass and lay William on it, so he could kick his heels and look around. She sat on the bottom step and drank her lemonade, and talked to William as he babbled back to her.
John had called every night this week, but not tonight. This worried her, though she told herself Monica would call if something was wrong.
She hated that John had had to leave only a few days after their wedding, but when you become engaged one day and marry the next, there was little time for niceties like time off. She had filled the days with moving and taking care of her paperwork, but still she missed John terribly.
Particularly when she wandered through the quiet house, touching his things, or lay down in the big empty bed.
Moving in while John was gone had seemed brilliant at the time—he would come home to a cozy house and a loving wife—but she hadn't thought how difficult it would be just to place a couch without him. Do whatever you want, he told her when they discussed it over the phone. "But what if you don't like it?" she said, and he laughingly promised he would, he would.
William slowly yawned and rubbed his eyes. "Are you sleepy, little man?" she asked him, and he blinked his eyes and yawned again. "All right." Dana drank the last of her lemonade, set down her glass, and gathered up both blanket and baby. She kissed his fuzzy head. He wrapped his fist around the strap of her tanktop and laid his head on her shoulder.
She talked to him as she carried him upstairs, soft reassuring patter that came as naturally as breast milk. When he was awake enough he responded in his William-language, but sleepy like this he just drooled down her arm.
Dana changed his diaper and put his onsie in the laundry hamper, kissed him a few times more and lay him in his crib. William tried to keep his eyes open just a little longer, but lost the battle with sleep as she sang to him in a whisper and patted his belly.
"Sleep well, my love," she murmured finally when his eyes stayed closed. She bent over the railing to kiss him one more time, then turned on the monitor and left the room, leaving the door open. She turned on the fan in the hallway.
Now. To fill the hours until she could sleep, too. The longer John was gone, the less inclined she was to sleep without him.
She had yet to watch TV here, yet to cook a meal. Oh, she'd watched television plenty of times with John, often in his arms—when she was heavily pregnant John would rub her back at its most tense points, so she could have some relief—but without him, she would only flip channels all night.
Dana went back to the deck and got her empty glass. She paused and glanced around the dark yard. John had planned it for ease of maintenance, not especially beauty or use. "Do you want to plant things?" he'd asked her. "I'd love for you to plant things."
"Tomatoes," she'd told him. "I want to grow tomatoes."
The yard was dark and peaceful. During the day it buzzed with bees and twittered with birds—it smelled warm and friendly, and the carpet of grass was cool.
Still, Dana expected to see something peering at her from the bushes—red or yellow eyes, dancing flames, or some other manifestation her ancestors would know better than she.
There was nothing in the yard but shrubbery and flowers. Dana gave herself a shake—You're being ridiculous, you know—and went back into the house. She locked the door: knob, chain, and bolt. She made sure the baby monitor was on, rinsed the glass, and put it in the dishwasher. She turned the back porch light off and the front porch light on, set the alarm system, and locked the front door.
She put a CD on the stereo. Her fingertips drifted along the bookcases as she considered what to read.
John owned more books than anyone she knew. Mostly non-fiction, though he had a sizable novel collection, too. Finally Dana chose one that looked well loved and settled herself in John's armchair.
She didn't read it. She leafed through the pages, charmed by John's underlines and margin notes. He annotated his own books. She loved it.
Sighing, Dana leaned against the overstuffed back, holding the book open on her chest. She closed her eyes, letting the music fill and soothe her mind.
I miss John, she thought. Why hasn't he called?
She breathed slow and deep, trying to keep calm. After losing Mulder so brutally she had become frantically protective of John, a feeling only intensified by their new relationship.
Everything had moved quickly for them—too quickly, her mother's expression had said when Dana told her they were married. Two weeks ago they had still just called each other friends.
But then there had been a conversation that was serious and tearful—a hug that lingered longer than a comforting hug should— then a kiss that led to more kisses, to touches, to caresses, to him sweeping her into his arms and making love to her with aching tenderness. He asked, she said yes. She said a lot of things, actually, but mostly she said yes.
It all still seemed slightly unreal, but Dana thought this was because John had been gone so long. It still didn't feel like a marriage, and it wouldn't, she thought, until they were living as a family.
She missed him. She wanted him home. She wanted him back in her arms, in her bed, laughing his warm husky laugh, touching her with his long fingers, kissing her until the world stopped turning. Oh, he was a sweet lover—never treating her as his toy or his possession, but not as if she was an untouchable goddess, either. When they were together, they were simply a man who loved and a woman who loved in return.
She thought John would probably laugh and look at her as if she puzzled him, as he often did, if she shared these musings with him. That was all right. Like any good cop he trusted his intuition and his understanding of human nature, but beyond that his worldview was blissfully uncomplicated. After years of trying to follow Mulder's jumps and hops, it was a relief to watch John's mind work from point A to point B.
She knew exactly what she loved about him—could list them off, point by point, and had listed many of them for her mother when she looked so disapproving. He was reliable, he was gentle, he was intelligent and well-read, he was honest, he would never raise his voice or his hand in anger to herself or to Will. Then there was his lean, sculpted body, his muscled shoulders and strong legs, but Dana thought it best to keep her physical attraction for him to herself.
Dana smiled, her eyes still closed. It was hard to believe how much she missed him. She could almost catch his scent on the air.
Something brushed her lips.
Dana shrieked, leaping to her feet and still clutching the book to her chest. On the way her forehead connected with something that felt like bone, and a man's voice grunted, "Oof!" She whirled, to see John stagger to the sofa.
"Helluva welcome home, babe," he said, holding his jaw.
"John! Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry! You surprised me." She put down the book and went to him. "Let me see that."
John lowered his hand reluctantly. "Only a week and already you're beatin' up on me. Bully." He grinned at her, and she smiled back, stroking his jaw.
"I don't think you're going to bruise."
He tilted his chin towards her further. "I bet if you kiss it, it won't hurt at all."
Dana chuckled. "You're silly."
"Just a little."
She bent to kiss his jaw, and when she allowed her lips to linger he pulled her into his lap. "Welcome home," she murmured as she put her arms around his neck, and she kissed his mouth.
He'd missed her too: his lips opened and his tongue pressed against her lips, which she opened at once. She moaned when his tongue slipped into her mouth, and she wound her fingers into his hair. She leaned into him, kissing him deeply as his tongue began a thorough examination of her teeth and the insides of her cheeks.
When he'd kissed her to his satisfaction he pulled away and looked at her, his eyebrows raised. "You are not wearing a bra."
"Your powers of observation are very astute." She began to unknot his tie, kissing around his face.
"I am learning more things about you . . ." He cupped her face in his hand. "But why did you scream, babe?"
"You startled me, that's all. I've been a little jumpy—I'm still getting used to this house."
"What's to get used to? It's just a house."
"The noises." John shook his head, so Dana said, "It makes noises at night—creaks and thumps, mostly. Haven't you noticed that?"
"I guess not."
"I've found them a little unsettling."
"Honestly, babe, I haven't noticed any weird noises. But maybe I'm just used to them. This is a pretty old house." He was absently stroking her shoulder. "Maybe we have mice."
"It doesn't sound like mice," Dana said, "but it doesn't matter." She lay her head on his shoulder. "You're here, and I'll get used to it."
"I'm sorry I scared you. I wanted to surprise you."
"Is that why you didn't call?"
"Yep." He sighed and stretched out his legs. "We've been on planes and in airports all day. Monica thought I should call, but like I said, I wanted to surprise you. Which reminds me . . ." He put her off his lap and leaned towards his garment bag—abandoned, along with his raincoat, by the sofa. "I got you a wedding present." He unzipped the outer pocket and started hunting around.
"John . . . I thought we agreed we weren't doing anything like that for now."
"I know, but then you surprised me with this," he gestured around the room, "so I wanted to surprise you with something too . . . if I can ever find it." He slid off the couch to his knees, lay down his bag, unzipped it and started poking through his clothes.
Dana twisted her wedding band. There had been no white gown, no champagne toasts, no path of rose petals, no priest's blessing. John had worn a black suit and she had worn a white sundress, and the marriage was solemnized by the Commonwealth of Virginia. A honeymoon and maybe a formal ceremony would wait until they were more settled.
She'd told her mother, "I want a marriage, not a wedding," and she thought now it was a wonderful thing to have, as unconventional as it may seem.
John was saying, "A couple days ago you said that it was hard to organize everything . . . and I know you're not supposed to give your wife anything that plugs in, but I think you'll forgive me this time . . . where did I put that thing?" He stopped and all but slapped his forehead. "Raincoat." He searched the inner pockets and pulled out a small nylon case. "I got you a PDA."
Dana sat on the edge of the sofa, took the tiny computer from his hand and unzipped the case. "It's adorable!"
"It does more than look cute." John got back on the couch and Dana leaned against his side. "Right now it's just got the basic programs and some of my freeware games. But I wrote down some websites where you can get more programs. I wasn't entirely sure what you'll need."
"Games, huh?" She grinned at him.
He coughed, smirked, and looked away. "I am a Tetris addict. I'm not ashamed of it. Oh, and here in the memos program, there's some stuff I wrote for you."
"Instructions?" She tapped the program icon. John had made a "Dana" category, with three notes inside.
"Nope. Just some stuff I was thinking about. You don't have to read them now." He pressed the power button, but Dana turned it back on.
"What were you thinking about? I want to read it."
"Then I'm putting my stuff away." He started to stand, then paused and looked at her. "It's . . . It's been a long time since I've been in love, Dana."
Dana smiled at him over the PDA case. "You wrote me love letters," she whispered, feeling flattered and pleased and shy.
"Yeah." He smiled too, the tops of his ears blushing pink, and got to his feet to carry his things upstairs.
Dana waited until he was gone to open the first letter. It was short but heartfelt.
I miss your body. I miss your hands running over my back. I miss how tight and hot you are when I'm inside you. We didn't have enough time for each other before I had to go and God, I miss you.
Babe, there's so much more to you than how beautiful and sexy you are—but right now I just want to touch you. I want to kiss your sweet mouth and soft skin. I want to feel your body loving me.
I love you, babe. I'll be home soon.
The smile it brought felt too big for her face. She decided to keep the other letters for when he was away again, turned off the PDA and zipped up the nylon case. She turned off the baby monitor and went upstairs.
In the bedroom, John was putting dirty clothes in the hamper. He didn't look up when she paused in the doorway. "I missed you," he said quietly. "I felt like we'd never been so far apart."
"We haven't," Dana said. "Not for months."
"I fell in love with you like a car crash," he said, still not looking at her.
Dana crossed the room and wrapped her arms around him. She didn't know how what she felt for him had come to be. Love had simply come.
"I love you too," she said softly.
He turned in her arms and kissed her. "I'd like to take a shower. I'm grimy."
"Okay. Do you need some dinner? Did they feed you on the plane?"
"Sort of—it was this weird lasagna-like substance. Have you eaten?"
"Not yet. It's been too hot to cook."
"Do you want to order in?"
"No . . . I'll put something together. I bought deli meat, would you like a sub? Turkey and provolone on multi-grain?"
"It sounds very good for you."
"That's the idea." She ran her hands over his chest. "You're my guy now. Taking care of you is in the job description."
His smile was very tender. "A sandwich would be great."
"I'll make it a quick shower."
"Okay." It took an effort to leave his arms—she loved the scent of his soap and end-of-the-day sweat, loved the feel of his soft shirt and the muscles beneath. She gave him a quick kiss and resolutely stepped away. She could feel his eyes on her as she left the room.
On the way downstairs Dana paused at Will's room and peeked in at him. The baby slept soundly, his fingers in his mouth. She smiled and left the door open.
In the kitchen she took out the makings for sandwiches from the fridge, as well as two red apples. She slathered the bread with brown mustard, layered the bread with romaine lettuce, turkey, tomatoes, pickles and cheese.
Part of her knew it was ridiculous to feel so happy doing this. The rest of her just felt happy. Her husband was home, her family was complete—and before the night was over they were going to make love.
Dana licked her lips and closed her eyes for a moment. She and John had had sex a grand total of seven times now—including a quickie in the front hall of her apartment while Monica impatiently honked her car horn below—and she wanted, very much, to add to that number.
Dana was slicing the sandwiches into halves when she felt John's hands on her shoulders. He kissed her neck and whispered, "Boo."
"Eek," she whispered back, and touched his cheek. "This is ready."
"Looks delicious." He stayed standing behind her, holding her around the waist, his face pressed against her neck.
She rested her hands on his forearms. "What is it?"
"The back of your neck smells like baby powder."
Dana inhaled, her hands gripping his wrists. She found her voice: "We should eat. It's getting late."
John kissed her neck and let go of her waist. "Looks good, babe," he said briskly, picking up the plates.