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With Mulder dripping quietly on the carpet behind her, Scully tries to unlock her apartment door without actually touching it. Her suit is ruined, her shoes thick with glop, and there's goo in her hair and in her mouth. The doorknob slips from her hand.

“You need help?” Mulder asks, squeegieing slime from his face with the blade of his palm. He flicks a fistful of the stuff on the floor, and Scully scowls.

“I'm gonna have to pay to get that cleaned, Mulder. Serves me right for thinking this would finally be the year when I didn't have to get the whole building shampooed.”

“Then I guess it doesn't matter if I do this,” Mulder says, and then he shakes like a dog and splatters gold goo all over Scully's front door, the walls, the darkening carpet. She rolls her eyes, wipes her palm on her skirt and manages to get the door open and stumble inside.

Mulder pushes past her, past the dining table, and into the living room where he closes the curtains. “And now I have to wash those too,” Scully sighs. “Don't forget the window by the big lamp.”

Curtains shut, Mulder pulls his shirt off over his head, balls it up, and tosses it through the open bedroom door. “God, Mulder,” Scully says, unbuttoning her blouse as she crosses to the bedroom. “I mean, where were you raised?”

She leans over to pick up his t-shirt, the alien goo already beginning to dry and crust over. She deposits it unceremoniously into the laundry basket, and follows it with her own shirt. Then she kicks off her shoes and leans over to shimmy out of her stockings. She feels Mulder's hand slide up her bare back. Like it's instinct, she arches up against him, pulls to standing while he rakes his fingers through her hair, and then she turns around and kisses him. He tastes leafy, organic, like the mossy smell of the goo, and she admits, quietly, to herself, that she doesn't hate it. He wears messy well, her Mulder. She doesn't, so after a lingering moment against his lips she turns around again and heads for the shower, flinging her skirt into the laundry basket with a sweet over-the-shoulder toss. “You coming?” she asks.

There's only one window in the bathroom, and it's small and narrow and mostly blocked by the branches of a Japanese maple, but Mulder closes it anyway and pulls the wooden shutters closed too.

She's naked and the golden goo is drying in her hair, leaving it knotted and crunchy. She tests the water with her palms; it's scalding, perfect. Mulder pushes up behind her, slides her hair aside and plants a kiss on the back of her neck. She lets out a low, unbidden moan and steps under the steaming stream. Mulder kicks out of his boxers, tosses them to the floor, and climbs into the shower beside her.

The Rules: No kissing at work. No flirtatious phone messages, no written declarations of love of any kind. Windows closed, phones turned off, and it's always at Scully's house where they give in to their desires, never Mulder's. He says it's too dangerous, that he's being surveilled, that if his many enemies knew his weakness they'd exploit it. He reminds her about Antarctica, and she doesn't bother telling him that even if they kept their relationship secret forever they're still at risk; it's the life they've chosen for themselves and she wouldn't trade it. They only ever have sex in the dark.

She works a fat dollop of shampoo through her tangled hair while Mulder stands clear of the shower stream and shivers a little, letting Scully hoard the warmth for herself. She moves over to make room for him. He cups his hands, collects some water and tips it down her back, rinsing the shampoo down the drain. The tenderness of the moment makes her stomach flip.

“Mulder,” she says. She cradles his cheek in her hand, and he turns to kiss her palm. Her heart thrums with the rush of the water and she pauses to take in his rangy frame, all lean limbs and a whole head taller than she is, shimmering silver in the water. She runs a hand up his chest and stops just over his heart, splaying her fingers. His is thrumming too. “I want you.”

He backs her against the wall and cocks a knee up between her legs. “I'm never gonna get tired of hearing you say that,” he says, his voice a low rumble. He kisses her with wet lips, and water streams down both their faces. Her cunt throbs against his thigh and she reaches for his ass to pull him in closer to her.

“I want people to know,” she says, and she kisses him again. “I want everybody to know.”

Now he pulls back. “We can't, Scully, you know that.”

“I don't know that,” she says, sidling away from him, stepping back under the shower spray to work some conditioner through her hair. “I know you think so.”

He puts a hand on her side, just above her hip, and gently, and she leans into his palm without even meaning to. It's amazing how the touch of his fingers can stir her so deeply, make her hungry and horny and driven to distraction. She shakes her head. “No,” she says. She slips from his touch again and rinses her hair. Then she opens the door, reaches for her towel, and steps out of the shower, leaving Mulder alone in the steam. His mouth opens and closes, just once.

He makes her crazy, her Mulder. Her body cries out for him like he's an appendage, and the smallest distance between them comes with an ache. She knew she wanted him, long before either of them had had the guts to make a move, but somehow she'd thought she was beneath him, like something as mundane as romance had no place in the ascetic life of Fox Mulder, like it was cheap. He didn't even have a bed, for Christ's sake; the pleasures of the flesh, for him, were perfunctory, something to be exorcised through triple-X movies lolled splay-legged on his couch. It surprised her, later, to learn that he was an inspired, energetic lover who took his time, who laughed and wrestled and whispered long, low declarations of love that made her squirm. She tries to keep up, and on good days, she thinks she does.

He's standing in the bathroom doorway, a towel wrapped around his hips. His dark hair is poking up in wet spikes, giving him the look of a wide-eyed bird, until he licks his lips and lets out a purr. “Looking hot, G-woman,” he says. Scully's naked, perched on the edge of the bed, towel around her hair. She loosens it free and runs her fingers through her hair, combing it carefully straight.

“Come here,” she says to Mulder. He comes over, crouches down by the foot of the bed and gives Scully a kiss on a sinful part of the inside of her thigh. She grabs his hair and pulls him between her legs, close enough to smell her. He takes a deep breath, then flicks out an exploratory tongue and she leans back on her hands, a moan bubbling up in her throat. He buries his face in her and kisses her, long and deeply and she grabs at his hair, his cheek, his back, clawing hard enough to leave marks. She hears herself groan, “oh, god, Mulder, yes,” and all the lights are off in her bedroom, the curtains closed, the only illumination coming from the sliver of bathroom light spilling across the floor. And it's enough to make her push him away, though she can barely believe it herself. This beautiful man, hers, devoted only to pleasuring her, and here she is challenging him every step of the way. And then she thinks that that might be the reason he loves her after all.

“Stop for a second,” she says, pushing gently on his shoulder. He sits back on his heels and licks his lips again.

“Yeah?”

“Turn the lights on.”

His eyes widen. “Scully, we can't.”

“What, you think they're out there? Watching with binoculars, staying away only because we've had the foresight to turn out the lights? Mulder, either they're coming after us or they're not. Being in a dark apartment doesn't change that.”

“We have to do what we can to protect ourselves,” he says. “To protect you, Scully. These men, they're already hurt you more than I can bear.”

“More than you can bear? I think I'm the one who has to bear it, Mulder.”

“Can't we bear it together?”

She sighs. “I know you want to take care of me,” she says. “But I can take care of myself. I'm tougher than you think, Mulder.”

He smiles. “You're tougher than I am, that's for sure.”

“Without question,” she smiles back.

“I just think,” he begins, getting serious again. “If we flaunt our happiness, if we play it like we're untouchable, these men will make it their business to shut our happiness down. But if we take precautions – it's a power play, Scully. We're the ones on our heels.”

“I guess I'm sick of always running,” she says, considering. Really, it infuriates her, this cabal of men who move through the world with impunity, seemingly motivated only by the desire to put an end to Mulder and his crusades. And Mulder always says he's not the one in danger, that if they kill him they risk making a martyr of him, but if they kill her, that's punishment. That's an exercise in execution, the one thing that could stop Mulder cold. Sometimes, to herself, she wonders why her death wouldn't be a martyrdom too; after all, she's spent seven years on the x-files, and she likes to think of it as her crusade too, that she's in it just as much as Mulder is, hell bent on finding the truth. She asked Mulder that once, and he kissed her to shut her up. “I want to show them we're not afraid,” she says, finally. “Don't you?”

“Not if it puts you in danger,” Mulder says, pulling himself up to the bed so he can sit beside her. The heat from his thigh against hers makes her yearn for him again, but she steels herself.

“I want to tell people about us, to shout it from the rooftops. I'm the woman who gets to spend her life with the one and only Fox Mulder, and that's something I'm more proud of than anything. Why can't I show it?”

“You know why,” he says, but she doesn't, she really doesn't.

“I want to kiss you at work,” she says. “I want to make out in the car, in the elevator, I want the world to know how happy we are.”

“Well, that's unprofessional, for one,” he says, but he's smiling. He brushes a wet strand of hair off her face, tucks it behind her ear. Her stomach flips again.

“I don't care,” she says. “Let's do it, Mulder. Screw 'em, screw all of them.”

He sighs. “Scully...”

She gets up, goes over to the night stand and turns on the bedside lamp. Then she opens the curtains on the window on the far wall, then the one by the bed. Then she turns off the bathroom light and turns on the bedroom's overhead light, and the room is bright and flooded. She can see Mulder, all of him, and he's beautiful, he glows. She goes back to the bed and sits down on his lap, taking his face in both of her hands and kissing him hard.

“Let's leave the lights on,” she murmurs into his mouth. “I want to look at you. At least give me that.”

He pulls back, runs his hands up her side and cradles both her breasts. He leans in and bites a nipple, gently, a quick sting. Gooseflesh rises on her arms and she stirs. “Okay,” he says. “Just this once.”

“We'll see about that,” she says. She has plans, plans to chip away at his careful veneer of protection, to slowly and deliberately move their relationship out of the dark and into the waking world. In the dark, it's magic, it's surreal, it's something out of a dream, and she confesses it's a dream she's had many times over their seven years together. But in the light, it's real, it's human, something alive and practical and permanent, something not about the x-files, something about real life. And she needs that, and she suspects Mulder needs it too, even if he won't admit it. But she'll drag him, kicking and screaming, out of the shadows; she'll show the world what she has, what they've made together.

He pushes her back, gently, and gets up to straddle her on the bed. His hazel eyes twinkle, and he looms over her, strong and slim and gorgeous as hell, and she can't help but stare. She takes a small pleasure in the fact that he's staring at her too. Seven years together and they can still surprise each other, and she thinks that even if they're together for a hundred more they'll never run out of ways to make each other happy.

She grabs for his hair, pulls him close, and kisses him as hard and as deeply as she knows how, and he moans her name, and she moans his. She rolls him over and crawls on top of him, her hands wanting to be everywhere at once. And when they're done, they lie entwined, naked and spent and wrapped around one another, and they fall asleep with the lights still on.