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Load Out/Stay

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“I’ve been wrong before, but shouldn’t you be the one telling me to come inside, it’s cold, you’re going to fall off the roof Mulder…” His voice trails off as she shoots him a pointed look over her shoulder. “Like I said, I’ve been wrong before.”

He hands her a steaming mug, then a second, and she drums her fingers along the sides of them, trying not to burn her hands as he climbs out the window and joins her on the roof.

“You’ve been right before too,” she concedes after a moment. She lowers her lips to the rim of the mug and takes a tentative sip, the smell of peppermint burning hotly in her nose.

“What are you doing up here, Scully?”

She had taken a perverse pleasure in watching his car pull up the dusty driveway, seeing his face turn upward as he examined the creature perched on his roof. What had he thought she was, she wonders, what litany of monsters had run through his mind before he finally realized it was her? When had her predictability knocked her down on the totem pole of fantastic possibilities?

“I wanted to see the stars,” she says finally. “I can’t see them at my place.”

“Now you know the obvious response to that question is–”

She silences him by squeezing his hand. “No, Mulder.”

They sip their tea in silence.

It had happened slowly. She’d started staying at the hospital more and more, started keeping an overnight bag in the backseat of her car, like the old days, like the days when a phone call at 2am would tell her to meet him at the airport in 6 hours, they were going to Michigan. She stayed at work, at hotels, at her mother’s house one pitiful night when darkness seemed to be everywhere. After a few months of transience she got her own apartment close to her old neighborhood and stayed with him on weekends. For a while, she did not stay with him at all.

In some ways it is just like the old days, their separate but equal homes, their visits made in moonlight. He holds her these days the way he held her then, at the beginning, like she might shatter if he held her too tightly but like she might disappear if he didn’t hold her at all.

“When I was a kid, Missy and I made up stories about the stars. Long, sprawling epics that would put Homer to shame.”

“Oooh, tell me a story, Scully.” He wags his eyebrows at her and she smirks, looks down at her tea.

“It was a thousand stories we’d heard before. In our version, the Pleiades were these sort of… mystical sisters who controlled the fate of men. Some of them were good, some were evil, but the youngest sister was… neutral. A blank page. The seventh sister, whom we called Bridget–”

He lets out a sharp laugh at this and she shoves his shoulder.

“Bridget was cast from the sky in our version, her punishment for her indecisiveness. Her older sisters made her live among the mortals until she could understand the powers she had been given, until she was ready to help them rule the fate of man.”

“Am I supposed to be getting turned on by this?”

“Sh.” She puts a finger to his lips and holds it there for a moment longer than she should. She thinks she feels his lips pucker ever-so-slightly to kiss it, but she’s not sure.

“So Bridget, alone in the world, meets Steven, the hunter–”

“Steven?” He has taken her hand in his, turning it over and over in his palm.

“It was the name of Missy’s boyfriend at the time.”

“Ah.”

“So Bridget and Steven traveled the world, and fought monsters and men. They overthrew a kingdom with not one but two corrupt kings.” She gestures up at Gemini in the sky. “They reunited a lost bear cub with its mother.” Scully points to Ursa Major, and then Ursa Minor, slightly down and to the right. “And when Bridget’s sisters saw the great things she had done and the wonders she was capable of, they welcomed her back to the sky.”

“I’m sensing a but,” Mulder observes astutely.

“But,” Scully concedes, “she’d fallen in love with Steven. She didn’t want to go alone, so he followed her back to the sky, and now he chases her, chases her sisters across the night. And Bridget is the smallest star–” She points now to the star cluster, shaped, she’s always thought, like a kite. “–the one you can barely see with your eyes. And there’s her hunter.” She points to Orion, broad and huge, all-consuming.

“I have to be honest, Scully, I never pegged you for an amateur astronomer.”

“Close. Captain’s daughter.” She doesn’t move her hand from between his, but the fingers on her other hand are starting to ache from gripping her mug.

“You done with that?” he asks.

“Thanks.”

He rises carefully and takes the two mugs back inside through the window. Her belly and throat feel warm, like she has been drinking gin, only she hasn’t. Downstairs, her slippers are on the rug beside his bed. There is a change of clothes in a garment bag in his closet and she never stopped keeping a toothbrush here, even when they weren’t speaking.

It would be easy.

Mulder returns with a blanket, the one that he keeps at the end of the bed. She runs colder than he does.

“I’m fine, Mulder.”

He sits beside her and wraps them both in it anyway. His arm is heavy across her back. She leans into him, her head resting familiarly against his shoulder.

“Just a little bit longer,” he sings softly into her ear. “We wanna stay…”

Scully smiles sadly and can’t help but hum along. “Just a little bit longer…”

They had danced to it once, years ago, lifetimes ago, in a hotel room in an unknown state, static and mountains trying to block the radio signal. They were running, they were scared, they were unsure of everything but each other.

She is still sure of them, after all this time. She knows their story is a long one, that it is full of twists and turns that always seem to lead back to each other. She knows that no matter how far she goes in the sky, he will chase her across the darkness.