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Mulder fumbled with the key in the lock which seemed to be made more difficult by the ringing phone on the other side. He was finally granted access and lunged at the handset on the desk.

 

“Mulder.”

 

There was a pause on the other end and then a delicate clearing of a throat.

 

“Agent Mulder. It’s DSI Stella Gibson.”

 

“Hi, uh, Stella. What do we, er, I owe the pleasure?” Now he was clearing his throat.

 

“I’m on a case in Belfast and something has happened that I feel the need to inform you and Agent Scully,” she said in a clipped but not angry way at which the British excel.

 

“Okay. Scully’s not here. Should we call you when she’s back in the office?”

 

Another pause.

 

“No, that’s all right. If you could just pass it along.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“I’m investigating serial murders, and it appears last night the killer was in my hotel room,” said Stella in unaffected monotone. “I keep a journal, a dream journal, and he left me a message in it.”

 

Mulder’s stomach rolled at this information. He was not sure how any of this involved him and Scully, but the thought of Stella being harassed this way made him ill. He had been on the receiving end of messages from psychopaths many times. Mulder could tell this phone call was difficult for Stella even with her calm tone.

 

“Not too long after our night together, I had a dream that featured both you and Agent Scully, and I recorded it in that journal. I wrote both of your names in it. It’s very possible that the killer read that passage. The journal is now in evidence. I don’t think there is any danger, but since it is now in the hands of the PSNI I thought you both should know.”

 

Mulder slowly nodded as if Stella could see him.

 

She continued in the wake of his silence. “Obviously, it was never intended for anyone but me to see. I apologize for you both being involved in this way, the invasion of your privacy--”

 

“Don’t apologize, Stella, please. Are you all right? Can we help in any way?”

 

“No, no, but thank you,” she said. “I just felt you ought to know.”

 

“Well, take care of yourself. Really. I hope you catch the son of a bitch.”

 

She smiled at his American tough guy term. “Goodbye, Agent Mulder.”

 

Stella replaced the phone in its cradle and stared at it. It was almost a relief that Scully wasn’t there. She knew that Scully wouldn’t have been able to brush it off the way he had even if she had tried. She sensed her same reserved discreetness in Scully, and knew this development would shake her. Stella hoped, in vain, that it would not sully the memory of their night for her.

 

She shook her head slightly as if that would stop her emotions about it all. She had work to do and a killer to catch.

 

***

 

Mulder entered his apartment and went straight for the answering machine. He hadn’t been able to get a hold of Scully all day. He hit play next to the blinking red light, hopefully.

 

“Call received: 8:01PM,” informed the automated voice.

 

Missed her by five minutes, Mulder thought.

 

Scully’s voice came over the speaker. “Mulder, it's me. I wanted to let you know that I'll be out of town for a day or two. It's a family emergency. I'll ...I'll call you when I can.”

 

He picked up the phone and quickly dialed. “Hey, Scully, it's me. Pick up if you're there. Scully? Are you there? All right, I just got, I got your message and I hope everything's okay. I'll try you on your cell right now.”

 

Panic started to set in as he called her cell. There was no answer there either. He left another concerned message. Frustrated, he hung up, grabbed his keys and hurried out the door, the news from Stella that he was supposed to relay long forgotten.

 

***

 

They rode back from the Cigarette Smoking Man’s fake office in silence with Mulder seething in the driver’s seat. Scully could feel it radiating off of him. After seeing the empty disk and the empty offices, she had felt so stupid, but the more she thought about it—as Mulder silently condemned her—the more pissed off she became.

 

As soon as he pulled up to the curb and before he could put it in park, Scully was out of the car. Mulder scrambled out and scoffed, “What the fuck do you have to be mad about?”

 

Scully stopped and breathed in deeply before turning around.

 

“Mulder,” she said, his name sounding like it was under the weight of a thousand UFOs.

 

He looked at her, waiting.

 

“I just ...I just want to go home.”

 

“Fine. Call me if you’re going to have another sleepover with Smokey. Or don’t. The fuck should I care.” He left her standing there, warring with a mess of conflicting emotions, but no energy to confront even one of them.

 

***

 

Mulder was trying to rally Scully with a pep talk, “That's the job, Scully—vigilance in the face of deprivation, the sheer will that it takes to sit in this crappy room spying on the dregs of society until our suspect surfaces. There's something ennobling in that.”

 

While she had come to see his relentless enthusiasm in the absence of the most basic creature comforts as endearing, it was times like this that she wanted to pull her gun on him.

 

Seeing that she was still uninspired he was about to further ruminate on their lofty position in this filthy loft when his cell phone interrupted him.

 

Mulder took the call, and without an explanation left Scully to view the “dregs of society” on her own.

 

After her minor disbelief at his insensitivity subsided, and after dealing with her all too familiar ‘Mulder has ditched me again’ emotions, she felt an uneasy dread settle into her bones. How many times has he done this before? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so annoying—and, at times, highly dangerous. But now that she had ditched him once— once, for fuck’s sake—any act of deserting on his part affected her heart more than her nerves.

 

They had spent most of the weekend apart after she had returned from her unsuccessful excursion with the Smoking Man. At first she had felt guilty; she knows exactly what it feels like to be left high and dry by your partner. Scully had searched herself for any signs that she had unconsciously done it as some sort of retribution, and she was fairly certain that that wasn’t a factor, but she wondered if, deep down, it served as payback. Not wanting to face that potentially petty side of her, she had pushed the worry back and covered it with her more honorable reasons and excuses.   

 

Armed with those defenses, she had been the first to break the silence. Scully had showed up at his apartment ready for an argument, but what happened was not the volleying of debating points like she was intending. It was a heated and passionate battle for the upper hand as well as fighting against the acknowledgment of some of the more unhealthy attributes of their relationship. There was no discussion. There was no calm exchange of feelings. There were mean remarks spat at each other and ultimatums disguised as challenges. And there was sex. Rough, punishing sex where they both felt like the punisher and the one being punished. The pretense of a resolution came as they came—orgasms to smooth things over. A comforting blanket of false absolution enveloped them as they brought each other to ecstasy. The jumbling of their nerve endings seemed to fall back into place without the anger and the animosity that had their blood boiling. But it was all still there. She knew it, she felt it. Mulder had gotten so unreadable to her that she didn’t know if he felt it, too, or if he was in denial.

 

There was a rift now. Their love had always seemed cosmic in nature. If this was a tear in the fabric of their time and space, what would happen if they fell into the vacuum of it? Would they fall back into that brief time of peace or would they go hurtling toward an astronomical end, slamming against meteors and asteroids along the way? She could not shake these feelings, and resentment started to seep in.

 

***

 

Scully answered the door wearing a fluffy terry cloth robe and a tired expression.

 

“Hey. I was just about to crawl into bed and sleep for ...ever,” she said walking away, letting Mulder close the door behind him. “How’d your case go?”

 

“Fine.” He stood, staring despondently at a fixed spot in space. A troubled feeling had taken up residence in the pit of his stomach on his drive back from Vermont. It had been too easy for them to separate and work on their own. They had each solved their case without the help from the other.

 

She looked at him with slight concern, but was too exhausted to pry. “Mulder, I’m so tired. Can I just see you Monday morning?”

 

“Monday? Uh, yeah, okay. I guess I can write up my report. Get some things done.” He made no attempt at moving. An awkward silence descended on the living room, causing them both to feel claustrophobic.

 

Scully swallowed her natural inclination to ask what was going on with him. She vowed to herself when she left that God forsaken warehouse that she would devote the weekend to self-care, and not give in to Mulder’s selfish behavior.

 

“Okay, so, Monday. See you Monday, I guess.” He made a half-hearted motion of defeat with his hands. “Get some rest,” he said as he finally made his way to the door.

 

***

 

“It’s not fucking witchcraft, Mulder.”

 

“Why not? What was that substance then? I’d put my money on ectoplasm.”

 

Scully groaned loudly. “I sent it to the lab. Why are we even talking about this? We can figure out the next step when we get the results.” She shrugged on her blazer and picked up her briefcase.

 

“I guess ectoplasm isn’t good dinner conversation anyways.”

 

“Dinner? I think I just want to go home, Mulder. Do you mind dropping me off on your way?”

 

“Oh.” He waited for his hurt response to have the desired effect, but she just looked at him expectantly. He grabbed his coat and passed by her with a heavy sigh.

 

Scully suppressed her instinctive roll of the eyes and followed him out of the station.

 

The car ride was much of the same: passive-aggressive sighs, pursed lips, and stiff body language.

 

“C’mon, Scully. I’m starving. Are you sure you don’t want to go get food? Or we can order take-out.”

 

Scully was irritated, but did not want to get into an argument with him. She had closed the discussion on the case for the time being, and wasn’t about to entertain this substitute for a debate. “I’m not that hungry. I might make myself a salad or something. You can stay and have that if you want, but I don’t have much at the house.” She knew the weak, conciliatory offer wouldn’t appeal to him. She was right.

 

“No, thanks. I’ll figure it out.”

 

His heart sank. It had been weeks of this pathetic back and forth. Their only intimacy since the whole Smoking Man debacle had been some angry fucks—after which, bitter feelings were assuaged for a short period, only to reappear a day or two later. It had been a perverse cycle that was broken by Scully’s cold and distant attitude.

 

He tried to behave normally, hoping she would work through whatever it was, but it seemed to be getting worse, and he found it difficult to hide his frustration and disappointment. Of course, talking to her about it might clear things up, but every time he started to bring it up he chickened out.

 

Scully got out of the car with barely a goodbye, and left Mulder to tend to his growling stomach and bruised feelings.

 

***

 

Angrily, Scully picked up Mulder’s fallen burrito. The slideshow continued to click through—a source of her frustration with him even in his absence.

 

“Crop circles. Give me a fucking break,” she muttered under her breath. She deposited the burrito in the trash on top of the salad she had indignantly thrown away after his departure.

 

The phone rang as she struggled with the uncooperative projector. Unable to turn it off, she grabbed the handset in a huff.

 

"Scully," she said, tersely.

 

“Hello, Scully. It’s Stella Gibson.”

Chapter Text

Mulder seethed his whole way home. He couldn’t understand her behavior, her outright dismissal of his work—their work. He was so sure that a trip to London would get her out of this funk, even if it was on the pretense of computer generated crop circles. She had done it before, let him take a flimsy case that was barely an X-file because she wanted to get away with him.

 

And what a trip that had been. Scully was playful and affectionate; he was happy. Being away allowed them to really let go of the sadness that constantly surrounded them. Reminders of Samantha, and cancer, and abductions were an ocean away. They could just be. Mulder didn’t take advantage of those moments of happiness. It was such an unfamiliar feeling that he had no choice but to recognize it when it happened. He truly cherished these times with Scully, knowing it could all disappear in an instant.   

 

He had thought he had lost her when she pulled that stunt with the Smoking Man. First, he feared for her safety and for her life, and now he feared his reaction to it all has ruined the good thing they had going. He knows she thinks he treats her unfairly, and he’s mature enough to admit (to himself) that he does sometimes, but he never could bring himself to apologize for punishing her for what she did, which he has done to her countless times before. Every time he thought to do it his anger bubbled up and drowned out his rational thoughts. He was so afraid that something had happened to her, and the intensity of those feelings always transformed into acrimony rather than understanding.

 

But, he justified, she was doing the same thing. How could she not see that his invitation to London was anything but an attempt to smooth things over? And a chivalrous attempt at that. This wasn’t a small gesture. This was a transatlantic trip back to the city where they had some of their most blissful moments as a couple. Not to mention that night they shared with Stella.

 

Stella.

 

He never had told Scully that she had called. He paused his imaginary debate, wondering what happened with that serial case. He decided to look her up while he was there. Not out of spite, he told himself. At least he didn’t think it was.

 

***

 

“Stella. Hi! What a surprise,” Scully said, letting out a shaky breath, trying to calm the nerves that were so raw when she answered the phone.

 

“I’m surprised I got you on a Saturday. I was going to leave a message.”

 

“Unfortunately, it’s not that unusual,” Scully said, rolling her eyes.

 

“Well, I’m in D.C. Thought I could take you and Mulder out for dinner.”

 

Scully’s eyes grew wide, and a sharp breath got caught in her throat. “Uh, um, well…” Scully faltered.

 

“It’s a simple dinner invitation, Scully.”

 

Yeah, but things are anything but simple at the moment, Scully thought. Not sure of the best way to explain Mulder’s solo trip to London, of all places, and not wanting to express any of the volatile emotions raging within her, Scully just laughed.

 

Stella was unconvinced. Something was going on with her and Mulder. Her time with them had been so brief, but she was good at reading people, especially people similar to herself. She recognized the masking of feelings instantly.

 

“Right. Well, Mulder is heading out of town, and I, I-- I would love to go to dinner with you,” she said with some defiance in her voice—defiance meant towards Mulder. Stella sensed this, too.

 

“Since it’s just you, why don’t you come to me. I’m staying at a friend’s home in Great Falls,” informed Stella.

 

“Give me a number where I can reach you, and I’ll call you once I’m finished with work.”

 

Stella gave her a local number, and Scully jotted it down.

 

“Can I bring anything?”

 

“No, no, just yourself. See you then.”

 

Scully kept the phone to her ear as Stella clicked off the line and the dial tone replaced that sultry, British voice. Thousands of thoughts ran through her brain, rendering her motionless.

 

***

“I’m out for the evening, Mulder,” Scully said, purposefully vague.

 

Mulder scoffed. “Well, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?”

 

Desperate to get off the phone with him, she dropped the attitude but remained non-committal. “Look, um ...why don’t you leave the address on my answering machine, and, uh, I’ll try for you.”

 

Mulder set down the phone, his initial anger giving way to consternation. Their whole conversation felt familiar, but not comforting in any way. It was a disturbing sense of deja vu. He tried to shake it off and returned to packing.

 

Scully resisted the urge to hurl the phone across the room. This has been some fucking day, she thought. She wanted to get off this exhausting mental roller coaster. It was all too much—the fight with Mulder, seeing Daniel, Maggie, Stella.

 

Stella.

 

She focused her mind on Stella. It was so tempting to push aside these responsibilities and seek comfort in her.

 

Scully pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and dialed the number on it. The breathy voice that answered gave her a tingly feeling in the pit of her stomach.

 

“Hi. It’s Scully. Listen, I, uh, something’s come up, so I have a bit more running around to do than I thought.”

 

“You were brought up in Croydon, too?” Stella mumbled with a chuckle.

 

“Pardon?”

 

“Nothing. It’s all right, Scully.”

 

“I was just calling to see if later tonight is okay with you.”

 

“Oh.” Stella smiled, happy her instincts were wrong. “Yes, whenever you free up.”

 

Scully hung up and tucked the piece of paper, that now had Stella’s address on it, safely in her jacket pocket. She flicked her wrist to look at her watch. She would go see Daniel, get those files for Mulder, and then head to Stella’s. The prospect of ending this horrible day in her presence propelled her into motion.  

 

***

 

“Scully? Scully, you there?” Mulder’s voice trilled from the fallen phone in her lap.

 

Scully snapped out of the trance the blonde woman with the ponytail seemed to have her in. Her heart racing from the near accident, she tried to calm herself with a deep breath and picked up her cell phone. “I’m here. I just-- what is it that you need, Mulder?” She sighed, heavily.

 

“I have that address.” He paused. “Is everything okay, Scully?”

 

“Yes. I’m fine. I thought I asked you to leave it on my answering machine.”

 

“Yeah, I know. I just thought I’d catch you before I boarded…” His voice trailed off.

 

“Can you call back and leave it in the message. I’m driving right now.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Okay. Safe flight. Bye.” She ended the call, distracted by a million other things.

 

Mulder pulled the phone away from his ear as if it stung him. In fact, her terseness did sting. An unsettling feeling had been niggling at him since their last call. He had finally pinpointed that deja vu notion from earlier. Their exchange was just like the one they had when he called her from Graceland—right before her infamous date with Jerse. It felt like their relationship which had grown in leaps and bounds since then snapped back to that horrible time; that time where Scully felt suffocated by him, trapped in this life with him. He had acted like a jerk about the whole thing, during and afterward. Then the news of her cancer had followed, and he realized he never really made up for how awful he was. Mulder considered canceling his trip. He had even made a U-turn on his way to the airport but then thought better of it. Maybe giving her some space was the best thing. He would call once he got to the airport, and say a proper goodbye—one between lovers, not professional partners.

 

Well, that plan had gone terribly wrong. Scully was miles away from him already and he hadn’t even gotten on the plane yet. He felt physically sick, his nerves all jumbled up in his chest and bloodstream, constricting his breathing and making him feel lightheaded.

 

As soon as he got on board he found the flight attendant and asked him for a Scotch. He called Scully and left the address on her cell phone voicemail, half hoping she would pick up, but fully expecting that she wouldn’t. He ended his message with a weak “have a good weekend” that made him groan and bury his face in the headrest in front of him.

 

“Lemme get that Scotch for you, sir. You look like you need it,” said the flight attendant passing by.

 

“Thanks,” Mulder muttered, pitifully.  

 

Scully tossed her cell phone to the passenger’s seat, and then gripped the steering wheel forcefully. Her chest was tight, a side effect of suppressing frustration all day long. She glanced behind her and pulled over once it was clear. She needed to collect herself and calm herself.

 

She was still reeling from that conversation with Daniel. She seemed to be disappointing everyone today, and now here was Daniel reminding her how she disappointed him nearly ten years ago. She wanted to be angry with him for saying that her reason for leaving was an excuse. It was an important reason, and his dismissal of it made her feel silly and childish. And it was one of many reasons, which she had explained to him exhaustively at the time. But, seeing him in that hospital bed, so vulnerable, softened all those hard feelings. The comfort she found in his eyes drew her to him, and she found herself back in his orbit. It was a strange feeling, especially now with what is going on with Mulder and Stella in town. She felt as if she was being tugged in all different directions and didn’t know which way she wanted to go. Out of all these influences that have presented themselves to her today, which was the answer to her own questions and not anyone else’s?

 

Each time the thought of Stella popped into her head, she viewed her as the light at the end of this weird tunnel in which she found herself. If she could just get to her, she would be okay. She pulled her car back onto the road as dusk started to set in.   

 

***

 

FUUUUUUUCK! screamed Scully in her head, her jaw clenched. She was standing on this stranger’s porch looking at a heart chakra crop circle image and being summoned back to the fucking hospital. This is a nightmare. I’m living in a nightmare, Scully thought as she got back in her car.

 

The woman’s parting words played over and over in her mind as she made her third trip to the hospital. “You may want to slow down,” she had said. Gee, thanks, lady. Christ. Everyone has an opinion on what I’m doing, don’t they? Well, fuck you and your Taoist bullshit. Scully fumed the whole way. She should’ve been heading to Stella, not dealing with snippy remarks from strangers or orders from authoritative lovers from her past.

 

***

 

Scully stood outside the entrance to the hospital. She was shaking, and tears kept threatening to appear, hot and stinging behind her eyes. It wasn’t just Daniel’s near death that had shaken her, but the conversation that had preceded it. He was the one with the weak heart, but her resolve had folded so quickly as she became that young girl again, eager for his approval. It had felt so good to rest her weary head on his chest and feel his allaying touch. It could be so easy to surrender to his guidance. She chastised herself for even considering it, but have any of the decisions she’s made in life been any good at all? She had ended it with Daniel for many reasons; a major one being that she didn’t want to be the cause of anyone else’s pain. It sounds like her leaving had done the opposite. It had continued to hurt his family, and him, as well. She had gotten a career at the FBI out of it, but that came with so much heartache that it was hard to view it as a good outcome of her decision. She had lost her sister and gained a chip in her neck. She had waited seven long years for who she had thought was the love of her life only for that to end up in some confusing relationship limbo.

 

A doctor stepped past the automatic door and pulled a cigarette pack from her pocket. The smoke wafted Scully’s way as the doctor took her first puff. She inhaled deeply. God, that smells good.

 

“Excuse me, can I trouble you for a cigarette?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” said the woman, holding the pack out to her.

 

“Thanks.” Scully put the cigarette between her lips and leaned towards the flame she offered. Scully took a long drag. “Oh my God.” She slumped against the wall with a satiated exhale.

 

“Been a while?” asked the doctor with a knowing smile.   

 

“Yeah. Quitting might be overrated, now that I think about it,” Scully said, luxuriating in the plumes of smoke.

 

“I never bothered trying,” she shrugged.

 

They smoked in silence. The nicotine seemed to calm her addled mind and steeled her nerves. It also gave her a bit of high, and she welcomed the lightheadedness that came with it. Just the act of smoking, doing something that she wasn’t supposed to be doing, buoyed her confidence. She was in charge of her decisions. Not Mulder. Not Daniel. Not the Surgeon General. Dana Scully was in charge of Dana Scully, and right now Dana Scully was late for a date with Stella Gibson.

Chapter Text

Scully knocked on the door of the stately home. Some of her confidence was burned up by the sudden onset of nerves. The last time she saw Stella was the morning after a threesome, for Christ’s sake. It was impossible for her to not feel awkward about seeing her again.

 

Not impossible for Stella, though. She opened the door and greeted Scully with a comfortable ease, which made Scully even more hypersensitive to her own nervousness. Neither of them made a move to embrace, Scully standing rigidly in the doorway, and Stella giving her the once over while gesturing for her to come in, a gentle smile on her face.

 

“I was beginning to wonder,” Stella said.

 

“Today has been ...a day.”

 

“Oh?” Stella started walking into the house towards the kitchen. Scully followed.

 

“Glad it’s over, is all,” said Scully, quickly, hoping to end the subject that she had regrettably brought up.

 

Stella went to the wet bar just off the modern kitchen. “Wine? Or something stronger?”

 

“Whiskey, please.” Scully tried to say this with casual coolness. Truth was she never really drank whiskey, but it reminded her of that night. She remembered the way it tasted on Stella’s lips.

 

Stella crooked an eyebrow, amused by Scully’s obvious display of nonchalance. She pulled two tumblers down from the shelf and opened the ice drawer, all while watching Scully. She removed her jacket and hung it on the back of the stool at the island of the kitchen. All the appliances were state of the art, maybe even commercial grade. Brushed stainless steel amongst midnight black granite countertops. A geometric pattern zigzagged on the backsplash of the main double sink and matched the one behind the bar. Already feeling out of place, the expensive design made her confidence shrink to almost nothing. She tried not to let the faltering inside her show by looking around with the impression that she was interested in the architecture and decor.

 

Stella handed Scully her drink, making direct eye contact with her and holding it, challengingly. Scully felt heat rise in her cheeks, but met Stella’s eyes. She quirked an unsteady smile, and brought the drink up between them.

 

“Uh, cheers,” she said, her composure losing steam under Stella’s observation.

 

Stella let her off the hook. She smiled and said, “Cheers,” and they clinked their glasses. Stella still didn’t move from Scully’s personal space. She had one hand in the pocket of her black slacks, and held the glass to her mouth as she sipped, eyeing Scully. Scully took a small sip and stepped away, pretending to admire the home.

 

“This is a beautiful house.”

 

“I hope you don’t want a tour,” Stella said. “I can’t think of anything more insufferable.”

 

Scully glanced back. “No, no. I guess it’s just what one says.” She laughed quietly at herself and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry. I’m not quite myself today.”

 

“Who are you today?”

 

“It would make more sense to ask when am I, maybe,” Scully mused.

 

Stella’s eyes slightly narrowed with curiosity. It was an odd thing to say. Scully seemed to be going through some personal quandary. Stella could see past the brave front, but didn’t push her into talking about it.

 

Scully felt uncomfortable in the silence, so she knocked back her drink, draining it in one gulp. She touched her fingertips to her wet lips, and her eyes went distant for a moment. “Do you mind?” she said, snapping back to the present, and waving her hand at the bar. “Can I make myself another?”

 

Stella nodded and then slid onto one of the bar stools, facing Scully, whose back was to her as she fixed her drink. She was not quite sure what to make of Scully’s behavior. Stella watched as Scully downed the second glass, and poured a third. Scully’s shoulders rose as she breathed in deeply, and exhaled. She finally turned back towards Stella, her lips pressed together in a self-conscious grin.

 

She stepped to Stella, invading her personal space this time. “I’m glad you called. I-- I’m just really happy to see you.” Her eyes didn’t rise to meet Stella’s until the end of her comment.

 

The whiskey helped to slow everything. She looked at Stella, and saw her, really saw her for the first time since she had arrived. The cool waves of blonde tresses that framed her face, her pale pink lips that hid a confused, but kind smile. There was a very slight discoloration along the left side of her face. It looked like yellow bruising concealed with light makeup. A healing cut criss-crossed her eyebrow. Scully’s eyes lingered there. She set her drink down on the counter and softly touched her fingers to Stella’s brow. Stella slightly stiffened under her touch. Uncharacteristically, anxiety flashed in her eyes, but she calmed shortly after as Scully caressed her cheekbone with feather-light strokes. Their eyes met. Violet-blue orbs honing in on each other, silently pleading the other to ignore the damage they had both incurred—Stella’s visible marks and Scully’s internal ones. Scully’s hand drifted from her cheek and curled behind her neck, drawing Stella to her. They pressed their lips together, first lightly, then more firmly. Stella parted her legs so Scully could step in closer, which she did, instinctively. They opened their mouths, tongues spilling into each other’s. Scully leaned in further, deepening the kiss even more. Stella, usually so in control in these circumstances, surrendered to Scully. She sighed against her lips, and her body melted into Scully’s. Scully released her neck, and ran her hands down Stella’s shoulders and arms, and then to her waist. She rubbed her thumbs against the soft fabric of Stella’s sweater, her movements more solid as the intensity of the kiss progressed. Scully pressed against her bruised rib, and Stella winced. The sharp shot of pain cleared her head for a brief moment and she pulled back.

 

“Scully.”

 

Scully looked at her, puzzled and out of breath. “What?” she asked, somewhat impatiently.

 

“What about Mulder?”

 

Scully was instantly irritated at the mention of his name. “What about him?”

 

“Are you still together?”

 

“Does it matter?”

 

Stella straightened up in her seat. “Why wouldn’t it matter?”

 

“I didn’t think you would care about that,” Scully said.

 

“About what? Fidelity?” Stella trained her eyes on Scully.

 

Scully saw something behind her stoic gaze. She looked wounded. Scully’s lips parted as if she were going to say something, but nothing came out as she realized she had insulted Stella.

 

“That-- that was rude. I’m sorry,” Scully stammered. “Mulder and I, we, we’re in, uh, a bad place right now. We’ve been, I don’t know, growing apart? I don’t know if that’s the right way to define it. It just feels ...toxic between us. So, I’ve pulled back, and actually I have no idea where we stand right now, what we are to each other.” She groaned internally. She had just unloaded on Stella like she would a therapist. And right after having her tongue down her throat. If she wanted to make any of this less awkward, she was doing a terrible job of it.

 

“And you’re using this,” Stella said, motioning between them, “to help you figure that out? You’re smarter than that.”

 

Now it was Scully’s turn to take offense. “What does that mean?”

 

“Surely you can see through the lies you’re telling yourself.”

 

Scully let out an exasperated sigh. “Why does everyone think they know what is best for me? That they know what I’m thinking better than I do?” She paused and measured a deep breath, her annoyance abating. She continued more calmly, “Or why do I gravitate towards people like that?” Scully fell silent, but Stella could tell inside she was screaming.

 

After warring within herself, Scully verbalized some of her thoughts. “Am I really that weak? Have I always been? Going from one controlling lover to the next, seeking their approval, and then running away when it got too real.” She huffed out a self-deprecating, bitter laugh. “God, what a fucking joke I am.” Scully shrugged frustratingly. “I projected my own infidelity onto you. I am the one that cheats. I am the one that breaks up families.”

 

Stella’s brow furrowed in confusion. Scully looked up and realized she was having an argument with herself, and Stella was lost.

 

She attempted to explain. “I ran into an old, um, boyfriend today. Well, he was a professor I had had an affair with during my residency. I left him. I didn’t want to destroy a family, but I--” Scully’s chin quivered and her eyes welled up. “I found out today that I still did. I left behind a painful mess for them to deal with, and just, just went on my merry way.”

 

It was becoming clear to Stella what was going on. This “old boyfriend” obviously had a hold on Scully, and he knew it and used it to manipulate her—then and now.

 

“The guilt is on him. Not you.” Stella said. “You share some responsibility, of course, but you did something about it. You ended it. He’s the weak one. He relied on you to do the right thing, and then blamed you for doing it.”

 

Scully pondered that and dabbed at the corners of her eyes, letting out a shaky breath. She walked away from Stella into the adjoining living room and sat on the sofa, burying her head in her hands.

 

Stella brought both their drinks, and sat next to Scully.

 

“I was being unnecessarily hard on you earlier,” she said, handing her the glass. Scully took it and looked at her. Her eyes were big and wet, and Stella felt a pang in her chest. She brushed a strand of Scully’s hair back. “Really I was doing anything I could to keep from tearing your clothes off,” she said with a smirk.

 

Scully’s eyes grew wide for a beat before understanding that Stella had said it for the purpose of levity. She chuckled. “Not if I had gotten to yours first,” she said, hiding her flirtatious smile behind her glass before taking a sip.

 

They drank in silence. Scully went from amused to disappointed during that silence.

 

“So, we aren’t… uh, we can’t..?” Scully murmured, swallowing the rest of her question.

 

“Fuck?” said Stella, pointedly.

 

Hearing that word come out of her mouth was incredibly arousing, and again Scully was rendered speechless.

 

“That’s up to you, Scully.”

Chapter Text

Mulder’s plane landed at Heathrow in the early morning hours of a gray day in London. He was dead tired, having not slept a wink. He could not stop worrying about Scully and himself, and what the hell was going on between them. Taking this trip alone was a huge waste of time that he only followed through with out of stubbornness.

 

He made his way to the rental car booth to pick up his vehicle. His plan was to drop his bag off at the motel and then make the drive to the site; a farm in Salisbury. ‘Motel’ was too generous a word—it was more like a glorified hostel. He hadn’t made Scully stay there when they had visited. It truly was a dump. The place they stayed at instead was a couple steps up, but then he surprised her with their final night at the Hilton. It had felt good to spoil her. She had been shocked, and she showed her appreciation in a way that made his dick hard if he recalled the memory of it for too long.

 

This thought brought up other memories from that trip—all x-rated ones. He remembered that he wanted to try and see if he could meet with Stella. He would stop by the Met once he got back from Salisbury.

 

What Mulder didn’t know was that Stella was not in London, or Belfast. She was back in DC with Scully straddling her lap at the very moment he made these plans.

 

***

 

Scully considered her dexterity after three stiff drinks a win. She was able to maintain the gentle grind of her hips while ravaging Stella’s mouth with her own. Their movements were slow and sensual although what they were both feeling inside was frenzied. Scully was about to burst from the exquisite, but borderline torturous, pleasure of being in Stella’s arms.

 

Scully had weighed her decision when Stella had told her it was up to her. A flood of messy thoughts clouded her brain, and had gone something like this: I’ve cheated before. Look where that got me. This isn’t really the same though. Is it cheating? Yes, it’s cheating. I haven’t had sex in weeks. I need this. How would I feel if Mulder did this? Shitty, right? This is shitty. Well, if I’m honest about it when he gets back maybe it will help push us in some sort of direction. Fuck. I really need something inside me besides my vibrator. Jesus, it’s hot in here. I have to get laid. Sorry, Mulder.

 

Decision made—poor or not, she still wasn’t totally sure—Scully had stood in front of Stella and removed her white top, revealing a pale pink satin bra. Stella admired the display, happy with Scully’s choice on the matter. She hadn’t needed to make sure Scully was okay with what she decided. She was a big girl and already had too many father figures in her life. Stella didn’t want to be another one. Stella liked to take control in sexual situations, but this was different. She had made it clear that the decision had to be Scully’s because of the Mulder factor, and once Scully made up her mind she would have to come to her. And she had.


After her shirt, Scully had kicked her shoes off and undid the clasp and zipper on her pants. She slowly and seductively wiggled them past her hips, and they slipped down and pooled at her feet. Scully glanced down at herself, forgetting what underwear she was wearing today, and flushed with embarrassment when she saw the simple white cotton briefs. It was no matching lacy ensemble that she was sure Stella had on. She looked at Stella sheepishly and shrugged. Stella couldn’t stop the grin that formed on her lips that came from Scully’s gesture. It was as if Scully had said, oh well, it is what it is , and what it was was fucking adorable.


Scully’s heart leapt in her chest when she saw Stella smile. She didn’t think it was possible to make this formidable woman smile that way, unexpected and genuine. It gave Scully a boost of confidence and the ambition to make her do it again. She wanted to make Stella smile, squirm, scream, and come. And if she kept up the good work, she might get all of that tonight.

 

Stella had set her drink down on the side table as she received Scully in her lap. She ran her hands up Scully’s thighs, teasing the elastic of her panties with her fingernails. Scully rested her hands atop Stella’s shoulders and started her slow grind against her. She arched her back as Stella brought her hands to her breasts. The satin was cool and silky under her palms. As she rubbed she felt Scully’s nipples harden beneath her touch. She snaked her hands around her back and pulled her close, her tongue lapping out to meet Scully’s sternum. She deftly undid Scully’s bra and slid it off of her. Scully moaned as Stella’s mouth closed around an erect nipple. She circled her tongue around and then softly bit as she pulled away to do the same to the other.

 

Stella dragged her tongue up Scully’s chest to her neck. Scully bent her head down to capture Stella’s lips. Their tongues teased each other playfully between wet kisses. Stella detected the spiciness of the whiskey on Scully and, as a surprise to her, tobacco. The fusion of tastes was illicit and rousing.

 

Scully reached down to the hem of Stella’s sweater and lightly tugged. Stella shifted and lifted her arms up so Scully could pull it over her head. So far Scully was half right; it was a black lace number that encased those perfect tits that Scully had had dreams about. Scully leaned into her to continue their kissing and wrapped her arms around Stella so she could unclasp her bra. Scully blindly removed Stella’s bra and broke the kiss, abruptly, to look at Stella’s breasts. She cupped them, one in each hand, and thumbed her nipples. Stella watched Scully looking at her body, eyes full of awe.

 

“I’ve thought about this so many times since…” she trailed off. “God, your tits are fucking phenomenal.”

 

Scully was mesmerized by her hands caressing those phenomenal tits that she missed another one of Stella’s rare spontaneous smiles. The childlike wonder on Scully’s face was so endearing that it made Stella stop breathing for a moment. This gut reaction, that was separate from the sensations of lust, gave Stella pause. Ever since the Spector attack, she had sensed that her emotions were a little more raw. Not that she had gone soft—she hated that expression—but that her feelings were very close to the surface. This was something that she wanted to keep in check; not deny the feelings, but have a handle on them, at least.   

 

Stella, spurred by these strong affectionate feelings, took Scully’s chin in her fingers, causing them to make eye contact. She brushed her thumb across Scully’s bottom lip and they leaned into each other, their lips touching, innocently and tenderly.

Barely parting, Scully whispered, “Touch me,” against Stella’s mouth. Stella, never one to take orders, complied immediately. She wedged her hand between them and wriggled her fingers inside Scully’s underwear. Scully’s sex was slick and wet. She teased her outer folds and then dipped her middle finger just inside. She was tight and swollen, and Stella felt her own cunt start to throb. She worked Scully’s opening with nimble fingers while watching her. Scully moved her pelvis rhythmically against her hand, trying to make contact between the heel of Stella’s hand and her clit. Her eyes were closed and her lips were slightly parted, expelling breathy, shallow pants.

 

The position started to become uncomfortable on Stella’s wrist, so she eased Scully down onto the sofa next to her, her fingers never stopping. She positioned herself above her, resting her elbow beside Scully’s face so she could stroke her hair. With more liberty in her movements, Stella pushed three fingers inside Scully. She drew them back out and then back in at a slow and steady pace.

 

“Oh my God,” Scully breathed out, quietly.

 

There was something about being on a couch with her hand stuck down a pair of white virginal panties that was a turn on to Stella. It reminded her of the forbidden makeout sessions of her youth. Her secondary school classmate with the blonde plaited hair, and the neighbor boy that she let finger her under her uniform while her aunt made dinner in the kitchen. Scully was too far gone to recall any of her own youthful indiscretions—the sensation of Stella’s fingers pumping in and out of her was swiftly building towards a climax.

 

Stella curled her fingers on the next thrust, hitting her G-spot with the precision of an Olympic archer nailing a bullseye. Scully’s breath hitched in her throat, and she saw stars. All thoughts of Mulder, and Daniel, and unfaithfulness fell away. Stella repeated the move until Scully’s mouth fell open in a silent shriek. She pressed her thumb to Scully’s clit as she continued to apply pressure to the sensitive, spongy tissue inside her. Scully came undone underneath her.

 

“Yes! Yes! Fuu-huuh-uuck.”

 

Stella slowly pulled her fingers out of Scully and caressed her wet pussy as Scully trembled from the orgasm. Stella resisted the urge to tell her, “Good girl,” since Scully was struggling with authority figures, but that’s what she thought as she soothed her sex with her hand.

 

Scully put her hand to her chest. “Wow. My heart is racing.” She took a deep breath which developed into a fit of laughter on the exhale. “I mean,” she said between giggles, “holy shit! That was good.”

 

Stella watched her, bemusedly, her palm still rubbing against Scully.

 

“It’s been so long since I’ve had that kind of orgasm—the kind that makes me laugh uncontrollably. I love those,” she said, smiling.

 

Stella hummed in agreement, although she realized she'd never experienced an orgasm like which Scully had described.

 

Scully pulled Stella down and kissed her deeply. “I want to taste you, Stella,” Scully told her, in all seriousness now. “I need to.”

 

She stood, wordlessly, and removed her pants. She was, indeed, wearing a matching set of lingerie as Scully had guessed. She hooked her thumbs into her lace bikini-cut panties and pushed them down her legs. Scully watched, hungrily.

 

Scully grabbed the throw blanket from the arm of the couch and laid it down on the cushion. She may be drunk on whiskey and sex, but she could still be considerate of someone else’s furniture. She was going to eat out Stella like there was no tomorrow, and she didn’t want to worry about unseemly wet spots in the middle of it.

 

Again, Stella felt a twinge in her chest that had nothing to with the aforementioned cunnilingus. These small gestures that Scully made were charming, and Stella felt helpless against her allure. She was, at once, appreciative of and frightened by the feeling.

She situated herself on the blanket and scooted her ass towards the edge of the sofa. Scully got down on all fours and crawled in between Stella’s legs. She lifted her left leg by cupping her defined calf and planted soft kisses on the inside of her thigh. As she got closer to her center, she could smell Stella’s arousal; it was pleasant, like sun-warmed grass and faintly sweet.

 

Her kisses became wet as she introduced her tongue to the soft skin. She ran her hands up Stella’s legs, amazed by their smoothness. She then hooked her arms under her butt and around so her hands could grip her hips. Her oral caresses got closer to her folds, licking the crease between her vagina and inner thigh, but purposefully avoiding her center. Scully’s fingertips grazed at the skin on Stella’s upper thighs, and she felt several ridges of what felt like scar tissue. Stella, hoping the move would go unnoticed, positioned Scully’s hands to rest on her stomach just above her pubic bone. Scully had noticed, but made no indication as such.

 

Scully placed the lightest open-mouthed kiss on Stella. The barely-there touch affected her more than she thought possible. She usually liked firm and deliberate advances, but Scully’s slow, delicate meandering was pleasing. Scully did this a few more times all along her opening, before lapping her tongue out to taste her.

 

Stella hadn’t taken her eyes off Scully since she had started going down on her. As Scully licked her cunt—top to bottom and back, clit to perineum—she ran her fingers through the soft, copper hair. Scully moaned into her pussy as she felt the pressure of Stella’s fingertips on her scalp. She tilted her head to the side and inserted her stiffened tongue into Stella as far as she was able.   

 

Scully felt like she could come just from the feel of Stella’s velvety walls around her tongue. She felt new wetness between her own legs. Scully scooted one hand down towards Stella’s clit and pressed circles into her. She used her other hand to do the same to herself. With both their clits at her fingertips and her tongue penetrating Stella, a vibrating hum started to pulse through her, like her body had become a tuning fork.

 

Stella’s vaginal walls clenched around Scully as she watched her hand go to her cunt to touch herself inside her underwear—her orgasm beginning as a tingle in her solar plexus. She rotated her hips to intensify the friction, and tangled her fingers in Scully’s hair, fucking her mouth with fervor now. Scully, energized by Stella’s zeal, increased her movements on their clits, rubbing and flicking their swollen bundles of nerves as both their bodies hurtled towards a mutual climax.

 

Scully rested her cheek against Stella’s inner thigh, breathing heavily. One arm was still looped around Stella, and she was relying on her to keep her upright—all her other limbs were shaky.

 

“Get up here,” Stella said. She disliked anything that resembled cuddling after sex, but right now she wanted Scully nestled beside her more than anything. Scully climbed up to the sofa and curled herself into Stella’s outstretched arm. She lazily strummed her fingers along Scully’s bicep.

 

Scully felt safe in Stella’s arms, not quite similar to how she felt in Daniel’s earlier, but not totally different either. Was she just substituting one father figure for another? Her feelings towards Stella mirrored her first loving feelings with Mulder, which had been born of respect. Sure, she rebelled from time to time when he got too controlling, but that wasn’t one of the foundations of their relationship like it had been with Daniel. Although, Mulder was too frequent an offender of it, thus their current predicament.

 

Stella was easier to talk to than Mulder. She could be more open and honest with her, for some reason. Maybe it was because she was a woman. Scully always thought it was better to put her energy into competing with men since they made her field far more difficult as it was. In retrospect, she couldn’t believe how quickly she revealed her emotions to Stella; confessions and admissions tumbling out of her with no filter. She could never say those things to Mulder. Or could she and she just didn’t want to; or was she too scared?

 

She burrowed closer and squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting the messy details of her life to invade her thoughts so soon after the freeing ecstasy of being with Stella.

 

Chapter Text

Scully awoke with a jolt. She had had fitful dreams all night, and she opened her eyes to an unfamiliar place which caused her heart to beat fast. She was only able to calm herself once she saw Stella sleeping peacefully beside her. The morning light bathed her in a gossamery glow. She looked ethereal, delicate yet powerful—a contradiction Scully couldn’t believe existed. Yet here she was in all her glory, angelic and luminous, nestled amongst expensive bedding, something tangible that she could touch—that she had touched and that had touched her in return.

 

Scully reached toward her under the sheets and lightly stroked Stella’s stomach. Her skin was warm and lush under her hand. She marvelled at Stella’s softness. With Mulder everything was hard. Not just his body, but every situation; every conversation was difficult. Nothing was ever easy. Scully moved her hand to brush the underside of Stella’s breasts, hoping to gently rouse her from sleep. She whispered through the touch of her fingertips and Stella responded with a sleepy hum. Scully’s caresses became deeper as Stella became more aware. She captured Scully’s wandering hand by the wrist and pulled her close. This, right now, with Stella was easy. The woman that tenderly and playfully embraced her on a bright Sunday morning was in sharp relief to the complicated man that she had followed into the dark.

 

Stella wrapped her legs around Scully’s, and their naked bodies pressed together. Scully tucked herself under Stella’s chin and breathed in.

 

“You always smell so good,” she said.

 

“It’s called perfume, dear.”

 

Scully huffed at her teasing. “You must think I’m so primitive.”

 

Stella chuckled.

 

Scully tightened her thigh’s grip on Stella’s waist and swiftly turned them both so she was straddling her. “I can show you primitive, if you want,” she said, a flirtatious smirk playing on her lips.

 

“Oh?” Stella coyly replied, placing her hands at Scully’s hips.

 

Scully leaned down and nudged Stella’s chin up with her cheek. She licked along her jawline and down her neck, pausing to suck on the delicate skin at her carotid artery.

 

“You make me downright feral, Stella Gibson,” whispered Scully as she continued her wet trail of oral attention to her collarbone and chest. She palmed Stella’s breasts once her mouth reached the space between them. Stella arched into her. Scully pushed her tits together, squeezing and groping. She worried one pert nipple between her lips, flicking with her tongue. Stella let out a contented sigh, which made Scully’s ministrations more voracious. She took the voluptous peak fully into her mouth and sucked. She was becoming sloppy and ravenous as if the oils of Stella’s skin contained an intoxicating drug.

 

The effect she had on her was a lot like being high or drunk. Inhibitions were lowered, caution was easily thrown to the wind. Even as her conscience tried to force her to think of Mulder and of consequences, her body and the rest of her mind were drawn to Stella. Rationalizations took charge and bullied her moral sense into submission. The devil had effectively pushed the angel off her shoulder. Scully was cognizant of the conflicting feelings, but the hot heat of Stella underneath her made sinning all the more sweet. If, for example, fingerfucking Stella was wrong, then she would be really, really wrong—thoroughly and intensely wrong. So wrong that Stella would scream out her name in exclamation of her wrongness.

 

Scully repositioned herself so she could have her knees on either side of Stella's left thigh and could freely grind against her. She put her hand to Stella's center and smiled when she found that she was already wet. She spread her arousal around and rubbed her, avoiding her clit. Two fingers slipped in easily. She pumped in and out, in and out, while lowering her head to indulge herself, again, on Stella’s magnificent tits. Moist sounds of Scully’s hand on Stella’s sex and her mouth on her breasts mingled with Stella’s soft moans that were becoming steady. Scully pulled out and massaged around Stella’s clit. Stella rolled her pelvis to deepen Scully’s touch, and Scully moved her fingers away at the sign of her need. She brought her fingers together and pushed the four of them into Stella. She felt Stella tense and relax to accommodate her. Stella resumed the rocking of her hips to meet the thrusts of Scully’s hand. Once they achieved a rhythm, Scully pressed her thumb to her clit. Stella gasped.

 

Stella grabbed at her own breast, the one Scully wasn’t hovering over; the tender mound was firmer to the touch with her impending orgasm. The build began in her abdomen and rose in her chest like the mercury in a thermometer. Scully could see Stella getting close, so she sat up tall on her knees and rubbed her own pulsing cunt. Stella, although caught in a pre-climax haze, registered Scully’s change in position. She gazed down the length of her own body to see Scully fingering them both. Stella came hard, gripping Scully’s fingers inside her. Her perfect mouth formed a perfect ‘O,’ followed by Scully’s name on a blissful exhale. Scully came shortly after—the sight of Stella coming pushing her over the edge.

 

Scully watched Stella pad around the kitchen in her bare feet, the steam of her coffee not at all disguising her admiring gaze. What did she expect when she donned just a pair of nude underwear and a thin white tank top? Scully had dressed in her clothes from the night before, not expecting Stella to want much of a morning after. She had awkwardly declined the robe Stella had offered her, the suggestion taking her by surprise.

 

“I have a massage in the city this afternoon. Can we meet up later?”

 

“Yes. I would like that,” Scully answered, trying to hide her eagerness.

 

“Sure you don’t want anything to eat?” Stella asked, not used to stumbling over accommodations for her sweet night companions. As much as she tried to tell herself that was all it was, the falsehood of that title for Dana Scully rang loud in her mind.

 

“No thanks. The coffee is fine. I should get going though.”

 

Stella leaned against the island counter across from Scully and nodded before taking a sip from her cup. Scully noticed a shift in Stella. The commanding presence from last night had transformed to this soft and gentle creature that Scully wanted to curl up next to and forget the world around them. As intimidated of her as she still was, there was a nurturing feeling that she felt flowed both ways. She wanted to take care of Stella, and the sense that Stella wanted to take care of her in return was strong. A vulnerability that was not evident during their rendezvous in London was partially exposed last night; and this morning it was unmistakable.

 

The investigator within her tried to connect the dots. Moving her hands away from the scars on her thighs last night, the post-coital shyness that laced her questions this morning, the fact that she covered up the fading bruise on her face with makeup before making them coffee. Stella’s nod seemed sad, even, like she was disappointed at the mention of her departure, but that didn’t seem possible, could it?


She knew that she didn’t want to leave Stella, but the situation with Daniel weighed heavily on her mind. She craved closure from that part of her life so she could focus on the puzzle of how Stella fit into her current life—a life that included (well, revolved around) Mulder. God, there was so much to sort out with him , she thought. Compartmentalizing was necessary for the time being so she wouldn’t buckle under the stress and the uncertainty.

 

After Scully left, Stella fixed herself some yogurt. She was on a soft diet for another couple of days due to her minor zygoma fracture. She couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into a steak or burger, or return the favor of eating out Scully. Restricting her meals like this was a very present and persistent reminder of Paul Spector and the havoc he had wreaked. She was surprised that Scully hadn’t asked her about the case yet or mentioned anything about her and Mulder being in her dream journal. The encounter with her manipulative ex seemed to be more troublesome than Scully had divulged, not to mention the issues she was having with Mulder that were bound to be complicated even further by the things they had done the night before and this morning. Stella didn’t envy Scully’s predicament, but she welcomed the distraction it posed for Scully. Maybe her own mental unsteadiness would go unnoticed.        

 

***

 

Mulder reentered London city limits with a ridiculous tourist hat affixed to his head. As if this trip couldn’t get any more aggravating, the event wasn’t even happening now. Dejected, he had toured Stonehenge, but the mysterious rocks did nothing to settle his concerns about how things were left between him and Scully. He actually wished she was here to gloat about his failure. What he would give to see her famous eye-roll right now.  

 

Flashing his badge (and stashing his dumb hat in the car) got him access to the offices where they had first met Stella. The Met was somewhat quiet for a Sunday evening, and he had to hunt down someone to inquire about her. An officer, slouched at his desk in front of a computer, looked up at him with bored annoyance.

 

“Is DSI Gibson in?” Mulder asked.

 

“Ah, no, she’s not,” he replied. “She’s actually in your neck of the woods, mate.”

“How’s that?”

 

“On holiday in the States.” He sniffed and shifted his bulky body in the chair. “DC, I think.”

 

A man in a suit walked up behind Mulder. “You FBI?”

 

Mulder turned and got out his badge again. “Yeah, Special Agent Mulder.”

 

Mulder thought he saw the man smirk, but he didn’t care about why. He just wanted to know if Stella really was in DC.

 

“We were in contact about the Belfast case. I thought while I was here I’d follow up on it,” Mulder said, casually.

 

“Yeah, I seem to remember your involvement in that case, Mr. Mulder.” The smirk on his face was no longer indiscernible.

 

He heard the officer behind him quietly snicker. Mulder put his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes at the man. These assholes had read the confiscated diary, not as concerned law enforcement officials, but as entertainment at the expense of their female colleague. The anger started to build in his chest at the thought of this disgusting boy’s club mentality.

 

“Figured that’s why she went to DC. To fuck her way ‘round the FBI for a bit. But, then what are you doing here, eh? Missing out on the fun?” said the man, smugly, as his co-worker continued tittering, spinelessly, from his seat.

 

Mulder didn’t even realize that he had struck the man until he felt his knuckles tingle in pain seconds afterward. The man wobbled back and caught himself on the partition of the cubicle behind him. Mulder didn’t wait for a response; he turned on his heel and left.

 

***

 

Scully’s eyes were transfixed on the intermittent drops of water that formed on the spigot of her bathtub. The day had given her a lot to process, so she decided to contemplate the events while relaxing in the bath. She was nowhere nearer to solving anything, but the warm water and the quiet provided some comfort.

 

She recapped what had transpired in the last eight hours. She had woken up in a stranger’s bed—not even Stella’s bed—a stranger’s bed with Stella in it. She and Stella had fucked in that bed after a night of fucking, and then had an awkward exchange over coffee where she left feeling more confused than before.

 

She had apologized to Colleen who proceeded to give her advice that had essentially rocked her world. She said things like “everything happens for a reason.” This whole situation of Mulder going to London and Stella being here did seem like some fucked up, but divine plan. What did it mean? The spiritual vision she had had later (or, at least, she had thought she had a vision) did nothing to answer her questions. It had prompted her to try an alternative treatment with Daniel, though, along with Colleen’s words echoing in her mind. “You may be more open to things than you think. It’s a matter of what you do with it,” she had said. Yes, it matters a great deal. But what am I supposed to do with Mulder and with Stella? If I make a wrong choice what path might my life take , pondered Scully. And if there is no right or wrong choice, will there still be regrets waiting for me at the end of the path, like there was with this reunion with Daniel? She rubbed her face with her wet hands. This enlightenment shit is hard, she thought. Give me data and facts over ambiguous metaphysics any day. Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve got my head so far up logic’s ass I can’t see the big picture. That vision may very well have been a sign telling me to stop and examine this path, to see the reasons why all things happen. I can start with examining why I cleaned my entire apartment, top to bottom, at the mere possibility of Stella coming over.

 

Scully got out of the tub, shaking her head at herself.

 

***

 

Mulder dialed Scully’s number, but his finger hesitated over the ‘send’ button. His jealous paranoia was acting up, big time. Scully’s attitude before he had left had reminded him of how she was before she ended up fucking Jerse. And now with the news of Stella being in DC, his imagination ran rampant. He couldn’t really ask Scully about it without giving away that he suspected something. Mulder closed his phone without making the call. He had a feeling that calling just to say he was coming back earlier than expected would come off as micromanaging her time, and she had made it pretty clear that she wanted some time to herself. Or time away from me is more like it, he thought, sadly. I can’t fucking believe I did this again. Driving her away, possibly into the arms of someone else. Bill Jr. was right about me. I am one sorry son of a bitch.

 

***

 

The waiter laid a dessert menu on the table between them. Stella raised her eyebrows at Scully.

 

“I have ice cream at home, if…” she said, shrugging casually.

 

“If?” Stella asked, innocently.

 

“If you wanted dessert, I was just saying that--” Scully stumbled on her words.

 

“Are you trying to get me to come home with you?”

 

Scully smiled. “Maybe.”

 

Stella let out a small laugh.

 

“I was trying to avoid the cliche so you wouldn’t tease me,” said Scully, lightheartedly.

 

They had finished off almost two bottles of wine, and the alcohol flowed through their bloodstreams, warm and tingling. Their dinner conversation had come easily—any of their jitters from the morning had promptly fallen away. Scully told her about Daniel’s condition and her attempt at alternative treatment. She left out the part about her having a vision in a Buddhist temple, though. She wasn’t quite ready to decipher the meaning of it yet.

 

Stella waved down their waiter. “Just the check, please,” she said, her eyes on Scully.

 

Scully put her hands in her coat pockets after the third time she had to stop herself from reaching for Stella’s hand as they walked back to Scully’s apartment. Scully was not a fan of public displays of affection, and she would bet money that Stella wasn’t either, but she found it was a natural feeling, reflexive even. She rarely felt that inclination with Mulder. In fact, she tensed up any time she sensed that he would initiate something in public besides, of course, his signature hand-at-the-small-of-her-back move. That was something she craved. It gave her such a secure feeling, and, sometimes, it would stir other feelings inside her—inappropriate for public consumption feelings.

 

So when she felt Stella’s hand press against her lower back as she unlocked her apartment door, she almost jumped. Scully put her keys in a dish by the door, and they both removed their coats.

 

“Do you actually want ice cream or?” Scully said, blushing.

 

“Yeah, sure,” she replied. “Washroom?”

 

“Down the hall on the left.”

 

Scully pulled the pint out of the freezer and removed the lid. She leaned down and looked at her reflection in the toaster, smoothing her hair and checking her teeth. Hearing Stella coming down the hall, she opened the drawer to get spoons.

 

“What flavor?” asked Stella, stepping into the kitchen.

 

“Uh, vanilla?” answered Scully, suddenly angry with herself for her boring taste in ice cream. She reached up to retrieve bowls from the cupboard, but Stella, now standing close behind, put her hand on Scully’s, stilling her. She slid her hand down her arm to her waist and spun Scully around, pressing into her against the counter. She fixed her eyes on Scully, pleased that she had caught her off guard. She found her own lust mirrored in Scully’s expression.

 

Stella glanced down at the ice cream carton on the counter. She dipped her finger inside and dug out a dollop of the frozen confection. Scully’s mouth fell open as Stella brought it to her lips. She kept her mouth open as the creamy glob slid off Stella’s finger and melted on her tongue, then she closed her lips around the slender digit and sucked. Stella reclaimed her hand and unbuttoned Scully’s shirt. She pushed it off her shoulders and let it slide to the floor. Stella made her hips and belly flush against Scully and reached around her back to unhook her bra. Scully felt hypnotized under the spell of Stella’s seductive movements. Stella scooped her finger through the ice cream again. She splayed her clean hand on Scully’s chest and pushed her back. Scully sucked in a breath with a hiss as the cold, ice cream-coated finger made contact on her throat. Stella ran her finger slowly down her chest, leaving a sticky sweet trail. She bent down and licked at the cream on her throat and followed the sugary line with her tongue. Her finger found Scully’s nipple and she swirled the remaining ice cream around it as her mouth made its way there. Stella licked her clean, tasting the smooth vanilla and the salt of Scully’s skin. Scully’s head fell back against the cabinet with a slight thud.

 

“Oh my God,” she moaned.

 

Stella stepped back, leaving Scully leaning, topless and breathless, on the counter. She grabbed her hand and pulled her with as she backed up towards the kitchen table. Scully was easily led at this point. She doubted she could move on her own accord. Stella turned them so they were both facing the table. She pushed her pelvis into Scully’s backside until Scully’s hips met the table’s edge. With one hand wrapped around and cupping her bare tit and the other at the back of her neck, Stella eased her down and bent her over the table. She took the shell of Scully’s ear between her teeth and flicked the lobe with her tongue.

 

Scully placed her palms in front of her and rested her cheek on the table. She was panting with anticipation, not knowing what Stella had in mind. She felt Stella’s tongue begin to trace the vertebrae down her spine. Once she reached the waistband of her slacks, she felt Stella make quick work of the button and zipper and gasped as the cool air hit her ass. Stella had pulled down her pants and underwear in one aggressive tug. She caressed her, warming her with her roaming hands, kneading the pale flesh. Stella leaned back over her, kissing her between her shoulder blades. She snuck one hand between Scully’s thighs and slipped a finger inside her. She was wet and Stella toyed with her slick entrance until she had Scully squirming underneath her.

 

She pulled out of Scully and brought her fingers, covered in Scully’s silky nectar, to her lips. Scully watched in her periphery as Stella sucked her fingers into her mouth. Her clit ached at the sight.

 

“Much better than vanilla,” Stella whispered against her neck.

 

Scully groaned in response.

 

Stella ran her damp fingers over Scully’s ass down to her entrance. She pushed three fingers in and began to pump in and out of her. Scully cried out, not expecting the sudden invasion or the frantic pace. She loved getting fucked from behind, and this was an entirely new way to experience it. The friction against her walls was amazing. She felt Stella’s other hand tangle in her hair and then a sharp tug.

 

“Uuungh!”

 

The varying stimulation on different parts of her body was like the layering sounds of an orchestra building to a crescendo. Her breasts peaked with taut nipples chafed against the table, the delicious pressure at her scalp where Stella pulled at her hair, her fingers penetrating her over and over—it was all becoming too much.

 

“Make me come, aaah, please,” Scully heaved out.

 

Stella withdrew her hand and rubbed her clit with her wet, slippery fingers.

 

“Oh God!”

 

She saw Scully reach out and grab the other edge of the table with both hands, knuckles going white.

 

“Yes! Yes! Yes!”

 

Scully’s swollen clit throbbed under Stella’s fingers as she came. Stella slowed her movements and stroked Scully’s back, gingerly, letting her recover.

 

“Wow,” Scully sighed into the tabletop.

 

Stella eased off Scully to let her recompose herself. She put the lid on the melting tub of ice cream and put it back in the freezer. A drop of it landed on her thumb and she sucked it off as she turned around. Scully was leaning against the table, her pants and underwear around her ankles, shoes still on, hair tousled. She looked like she had just been thoroughly fucked, which was an accurate description because she just had been.

 

They looked at each other for a beat. Scully was still in somewhat of a daze. Stella broke the gaze, becoming self-conscious with the feeling of not knowing what to do next. She was the guest in this house, but she had just acted like she was the master of it. This was why she always took lovers in neutral places or, on the rare occasion, in her home. She had told herself to not be too dominating over Scully considering her current situation, and she had been good up until just now. It somehow felt like she had just taken advantage. Scully had confided in her that this need to please controlling figures in her life was a painful self-realization, and Stella didn’t want to add to that. So what had she ended up doing? She had bent her over a table and roughly fingerfucked her from behind.

 

Scully had moved to the dining chair and was removing her shoes. She was watching Stella out of the corner of her eye and sensed in her a panic. Not sure what could have spooked her so quickly after making her come, she tried to rid herself of the confining clothing at her feet, so she could attend to Stella.

 

Stella was leaning against the counter, arms folded in front of her chest, looking down at her shoes. Once free, Scully went to her, fully naked, taking her face in her hands, and kissed her deeply. Stella uncrossed her arms and placed her hands at Scully’s sides. She returned the kiss, and opened her mouth to Scully’s probing tongue. Scully could faintly taste vanilla and herself. She nipped at Stella’s upper lip, and then kissed her along her jawbone.

 

“It’s not fair that I’m the only one without clothes on in my own house,” she whispered, before softly biting at Stella’s earlobe.

 

“I’m not a very good houseguest, am I?” Stella said, only half joking.

 

“Or I’m not a very good hostess,” Scully countered, gliding her tongue down Stella’s neck to her collarbone. She undid the buttons of Stella’s silk blouse and parted it, exposing an emerald green lace bra. She slowly placed soft pecks along the edge of the cups.

 

“I’d like to do everything I can--,” she said between kisses, “to make your stay here--,” she teased Stella’s nipple through the fabric with her teeth, “as pleasurable as possible.”

 

Relieved to see Scully gain command, she let Scully take her by the hand and lead her to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

Scully looked up to see her wrists bound to the headboard with strips of white silk. She pulled and twisted, but found that the binding was unyielding. Before fear could flood her mind, she felt a warmth between her legs, which, upon glancing down, she learned were also tied—spreading her wide open. Blonde hair pooled out on her thighs, and she saw the muscles contract on the svelte shoulders of the person that was presently eating her out. Must be Stella, Scully thought. But, I don’t remember getting tied up.

 

“I tied you up,” said a voice, reading her mind.

 

She inhaled sharply as Mulder suddenly appeared next to her. He began kissing her neck.

 

“It’s okay, though, Scully, you wanted me to.”

 

Scully, confused, nodded in response anyway.

 

A tongue’s contact on her clit made her writhe on the bed as much as she was able with her hands and feet restricted.

 

“Stella!” she cried out.

 

She peered down, but this time a head with short brown hair bobbed at her apex. A hand appeared on her chest and soothingly stroked the space over her heart.

 

“Shhh, shhh, it’s just Mulder.”

 

“Stella?” she asked, timidly, afraid to look at who was now lying next to her.

 

“Yes, dear. Calm now. Let us make you come.” She leaned down and sucked at the plump flesh at her breast.

 

Scully started to relax and enjoy the sensations.

 

“What in God’s name is going on here?” boomed a man’s voice.

 

Scully’s eyes shot open and immediately saw the source of the angry question. Daniel stood in the doorway of her bedroom. Mulder continued to lick her hot center and Stella’s suckling did not cease.

 

Scully panicked even as her climax swelled. Just as she reached the edge, she found herself back in the hospital. She was walking into Daniel’s room, but she saw herself in the bed instead.

 

Speak to me.

 

Scully sat up with a gasp. The phone was ringing. Disoriented, she got out of her bed and answered it. Her heart was pounding so loud in her ears she could barely hear Maggie tell her to come to the hospital.

 

Stella appeared in the doorway. She was wearing one of Scully’s satin nightshirts and her underwear. She didn’t say anything, but something about her demeanor made Scully feel like she had asked if everything was okay.  

 

“That was Maggie. I need to go,” Scully said, still rattled.

 

Stella nodded and went to her clothes on the floor at the foot of the bed.

 

“You’re welcome to stay,” added Scully.

 

“Thank you, but I’m going to head back.” She slipped her leather skirt over her hips and affixed the zipper.

 

“All right.” Scully was frozen in place. The panic induced from the dream, the alarming phone call, and her clumsy end to their date accumulated into a dense ball of nerves in her chest. As she stressed over her anxiety, Stella had gotten fully dressed and stood looking at her, calmly.

 

That fact dawned on Scully, and she tried to blink the fog in her mind away. “I should get dressed.”

 

“That’s a start,” Stella said, giving her a small smile.

 

Scully still didn’t move, so Stella did. She didn’t deal with awkward very well. Usually she was so in control, that the uneasy feelings always resided with her companion. She even took satisfaction from adding to their anxious state from time to time. Scully was not one of those people, nor was this one of those times. Scully was clearly distressed, but Stella’s own reservations and issues kept her from offering any comfort. She so rarely found herself feeling this way—wrapping up strong emotions in another person. The realization that she was doing this, and that it felt completely out of her control, unnerved her. They kept alternating between periods of ease and being comfortable with each other with these bouts of floundering discordance. She hated leaving Scully standing there with such uncertainty, but she also couldn’t get out of her apartment fast enough.    

 

***

 

Time seemed to slow. Scully took the momentary reprieve that came with the feeling. She felt lighter, having fixed one part of her three-part problem. Amends were made with Maggie and she closed the Daniel chapter of her life. Maybe they can both begin to heal, as well. She felt at peace leaving him behind this time. Before it had felt like running away, even if it was the right thing to do. He still didn’t understand her decision, but now she felt she could deal with that in a healthier manner, free of guilt. Besides, there was plenty of guilt in store for her. This she knew. And just like that, her moment of peace vanished.

 

As the familiar sense of dread settled in her bones, she saw the blonde woman with the ponytail. What was that, the third time she’d seen her? Must be an X-File, she thought as she jogged after her.  

 

***

 

“Maybe nothing happens for a reason,” she had said to Mulder. But, didn’t she feel exactly the opposite? She didn’t know what to believe anymore or what feelings she could trust. It felt as though she had had some sort of spiritual awakening, but her brain was still asleep and she didn’t know how to wake it up.

 

Putting into words the past couple of days with Daniel and dipping her toe into the waters of cosmic thinking came out in a confused and fragmentary story. She hadn’t consciously made the decision to not mention Stella, but she had left it out, all the same. Carrying the weight of her constant doubt and mistrust of her own feelings made her mentally and physically tired. She could fall asleep at the drop of a hat and often times Mulder droning on about something did make her eyelids heavy, but she had not meant to nod off, especially in his mid-sentence, and furthermore, while they were having a real discussion.

 

Scully woke up on his sofa under his scratchy Navajo blanket. She felt somewhat rested, but the anxiety was still burning in her chest, and it would remain that way until she told Mulder about Stella. She got up, full of purpose, and went looking for him.

 

He was lying on his bed reading one of her science journals. He had his glasses on and those see-through pale yellow pajama bottoms that he knew she loved. He could be a model out of a hunk of the month calendar made just for her.

 

“Hey.”

 

He looked up at her standing in the doorway. “Hey, sleepyhead.”

 

“How long did I sleep for?” she asked, crawling onto the bed next to him.

 

“Not long. About an hour.” He took his glasses off and set them on top of the journal on his nightstand. “Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally that you fell asleep while I was talking,” he said, smiling easily at her. “You must’ve really needed it. You were out like a light. What, did you party hard while I was gone?” Mulder chuckled.

 

Scully’s insides tightened, and she laughed nervously along with him. “Um--”

 

She was about to say it—she really was—but he reached over and brushed a strand of her hair away from her face with such tenderness that she fell silent.

 

“I missed you, Scully,” he said, softly, keeping his hand at her face and stroking her cheek.

 

“You were only gone a couple of days, Mulder,” she retorted, bothered by the sound of her own sensible tone.

 

“I don’t mean just this weekend.”

She knew what he meant. Of course she did.

 

Before she could tell him that, he was kissing her. The familiar feel of his lips on hers felt natural, his tongue in her mouth felt like it was coming home. His hands read her like a well-worn book, filled with dog-eared pages and notes in the margins. Her understanding of good and bad became muddled. Everything he was doing and saying felt so right—she had been waiting for him to get to this place—but her silence, her secret, made it all wrong.

 

Her clothing became a pile on the floor along with his pants. Every touch from him sent both a warm reverberation to her center and alarm signals to her brain. A tear escaped out of the corner of her eye as she mourned the loss of her black and white life and took root in a confusing and expansive gray area.

 

He felt heavy on top of her, but not as heavy as the guilt that weighed on her conscience. She was between a rock and a hard place. The rock was her sin of omission and the hard place was the pleasure she got from feeling his erection prod her aching cunt and the loving look in his eyes. Her breath hitched as he entered her—not just from the sensation of being filled by him, but by her own suffocating cowardice.  

 

He moved inside her, each thrust like the note of a lullaby finally calming her frayed nerves while he brought her closer to a release. She gave in, letting the rush of endorphins cloud her manic thoughts. He came inside her, grunting her name against her cheek. She felt his hot seed coat her sensitive walls, and she clenched around him.

 

He stayed on top of her, but leaned back to look at her, into her eyes. Her resolve crumbled and tears spilled down her cheeks. He, too, was filled with emotion so he just kissed each tear away, not needing an explanation.

 

Afterwards, they lay quietly in the bright room. They had made love with the light on, making Scully feel as if a spotlight shined on her indiscretions. Scully listened to his heartbeat, resting her head on his chest. He was running his fingers through her hair. Her eyes stared blankly ahead of her. She felt like she was in a state of shock—shock at herself at what she had allowed to have happen without coming clean first.

 

“Can I confess something?” he said.

 

Her heart stopped.

 

“I went to see Stella when I was in London.”

 

It started beating again, but much faster than she thought possible. “What?” She lifted her head to look at him. “Why?”

 

One syllable questions were all she could manage.

 

“I never got the chance to tell you that Stella had called. She had written our names in a diary and it became evidence in a case she was on.”

 

Scully’s head was swimming. “Wait, what? What are you talking about?”

 

“She was just calling to let us know as a courtesy; it had no bearing on the case.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me this?”

 

“You had gone off with Cancer Man. I thought you were missing.”

 

“Oh Jesus, this again?” groaned Scully. “And what, you couldn't tell me afterward?” Scully said, fighting to keep her composure.

 

“It didn’t seem important. I’m sorry, it slipped my mind,” he said, defensively.

 

“Then why did you feel the need to go see her?”

 

“Why are you getting angry? I didn’t see her, okay? She wasn’t even in England. Actually, she was here. In DC, of all places.”

 

Scully knew what she was doing, and she was ashamed. She was trying to build a case against him, trying to make him share in her guilt. If he had kept things from her, then her secrets might not be so horrible.  

 

“Sorry, I, uh, I...I’m sorry.” She didn’t know how to explain what she was sorry for.

 

He accepted it, though, and his eyes softened. She laid her head back down on him.

 

“So, what was the thing with the diary?” she asked.

 

“She keeps a dream journal and she had had a dream about us. The killer—it was a serial case—got inside her room and read it, left her a note in it.”

 

“Huh,” responded Scully, trying to come off as apathetic to it all.

 

“I read up on it. It was a mess. She caught him, though.”

 

Scully smiled at that. “He went to prison?”

 

“No, he hung himself in the psychiatric facility,” he said. “Sounded like a helluva case, no wonder she took a vacation. He had attacked her, as well, while he was in custody.”

 

Scully grimaced and closed her eyes. “Oh my God,” she whispered.

 

The bruise on her face, the cut on her brow. The urge to leave and go to Stella was strong; she was practically crawling out of her skin.

 

“Can you turn off the light?” asked Scully, meekly.

 

He reached over and flicked the switch on the lamp.

 

“Goodnight, Scully.” He kissed her forehead.

 

“Night, Mulder,” she responded, barely above a whisper.

 

***

 

Scully pulled her coat tighter around her as she waited on the doorstep. Stella opened the door looking sleepy and beautiful.

 

“I didn’t know.”

 

Stella stepped aside, motioning for Scully to come inside.

 

“What didn’t you know?” Stella asked as they sat down on the sofa. She gathered the hem of her nightgown so she could curl her knees up and face Scully who was perched tense and stiff on the edge.

 

“About your case. Mulder never told me.”

 

Stella nodded, knowingly.

 

“Tell me about it.”

 

“No.”

 

Scully looked at her, puzzled.

 

Stella ignored her. “Mulder is back?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And how did I come up in conversation?”

 

“He said he went to see you in London. That’s where he was, by the way,” Scully said, weakly.

 

“Was that before or after you slept with him?”

 

Scully opened her mouth and then shut it.

 

“I can smell him on you,” Stella continued.

 

Scully closed her eyes in shame.

 

“I tried to tell him. I wanted to tell him, but I, I just couldn’t get the words out. I’m so confused. We were in such a bad place, and tonight it was like before. But, then, with you I-- it’s-- I like being with you. I like how I am with you.”

 

Stella remained expressionless. She was hurt and jealous that Scully had jumped into bed with Mulder barely 24 hours after they had spent the night together. But, she also knew she had no right to those feelings. She never indicated to Scully that this was anything or that she wanted anything. And it bothered her that she did want something. For a no strings attached type of person, the unexpected impetus of Scully’s strings were confining and uncomfortable. Her next course of action was an attempt to untangle herself, although it went against what she was feeling in her heart.

 

“You’re speaking about me like I am one of your choices. We’re just fucking.”

 

Scully felt like she was kicked in the gut. Stella’s comment offended her, angered her, and cut her deeply. Scully refused to believe that the connection she felt with Stella had been imagined or one-sided. She didn’t try to disguise her pained expression nor did it go unnoticed by Stella.

 

All or nothing, Stella thought, sadly. She was going to put some emotional distance between them. She had to. It was a matter of survival. And what better way to drive a wedge than with sex.

 

She leaned into Scully, putting her hand on her thigh, and licked her neck up to her earlobe and took it between her teeth. She felt Scully’s body stiffen. She was still warring with conflict, and Stella’s advance further confused things.

 

“You’re good at fucking around,” she whispered hotly into Scully’s ear. “He was inside of you, what, less than an hour ago? And here you are on my doorstep in the middle of the night.”

 

Scully’s breath became labored as she tried to restrain her raging emotions. Stella continued to nibble at her neck.

 

Scully pushed her away and stood. “I didn’t come here to fuck.”

 

“No?”

 

“No, I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

 

Now Stella was mad. The implication that she needed to be taken care of or looked after irked her. She stood, too, but was unable to meet Scully’s eyes.

 

“Thank you for your concern, but, as you can see, I’m fine.”



“Are you?” Scully took Stella’s hand in hers, tenderly.

 

No, she wasn’t fine. None of this was fine. She felt like a wounded bird, helpless and flightless. She couldn’t elude her own fragility. Stella thought she had found some solace in Scully, but feelings developed, and escapism sex was not an option with her anymore. She did want to lean on Scully, but as a support system, Scully was shaky, at best—her life in disarray, as well. She was angry that Scully was upsetting the balance in her life, even though the scale was already tipped, violently, by Spector and all that went on in Belfast.

 

Stella pulled her hand out of Scully’s and took a step away. “Yes,” she said, crossing her arms protectively in front of her.

 

Scully nodded and tucked her hair behind her ear. “Do you want me to go?”

 

***

 

Mulder’s uneasy feeling crept back under his skin when he awoke to a vacant spot next to him in his bed. When he had seen Scully at the hospital, and she told him about Daniel and everything that had gone on, his paranoia faded. He felt silly for even thinking he would come back to find Scully with Stella. How would she have found the time , he thought, relieved. What with defibrillators, holistic healers, and visions in Buddhist temples to keep her busy. And she had seemed happy to see him, much to his surprise.

 

Their lovemaking was gentle and emotional. He felt connected to her, more than he had in a long time. But waking up to her absence severed that connection, and he felt a chill come over his body. He thought back to the exasperation she had expressed when he mentioned Stella. She still had anger towards him; maybe it was deep down, but it was there, nonetheless. Here they were trying to fight their way back to some normalcy in their relationship, and he just glossed over their conflicts, hoping sentimental sex would smooth everything out. He knew Scully didn’t operate like that, so what did he really expect. She held onto things. He was going to have to actually talk about it with her.

 

He had tried last night, but ended up talking in circles until she fell asleep. When she appeared in his bedroom doorway, he had planned to continue, but she looked so soft and serene. They had gone a long time being at odds with each other, and every look between them had held such tension. It seemed that all that had fallen away, and any sadness he detected in her was just her grief over the time they had lost. That’s what he was feeling; he was so sure she felt the same.

 

Now, he suspected that Scully needed an apology from him; several, in fact. Not only did she need them, but she deserved them. He had been such an ass over Jerse and over The Smoking Man. She hadn’t even done anything wrong, but he fucking crucified her for it. No, some sappy lovemaking wasn’t going to fix this.

 

***

 

They had gravitated to each other with a mix of passion and ulterior motives. Stella pulled her close in an attempt to push her away, and Scully was determined to prove a point—that there was more than just sex between them. Having gotten too close to revealing their feelings, they stopped posturing. They recognized each other’s vulnerabilities, but silently agreed to ignore them, sanctioning sex as a way to achieve their disparate goals. Both of them knew, at some level, that it was a terrible, if not dangerous, idea, but just their proximity to each other blurred the lines of right and wrong, reasonable and irrational.

 

Stella’s touch was rough and unforgiving, and Scully happily accepted it at first, taking it as punishment for what she had done to both her and Mulder. But then Stella moved to provoking, hoping to drive her away while leading her to climax, simultaneously. This left Scully disoriented, a whole mess of feelings collecting inside her—guilt, shame, lust, exhilaration.

 

Stella had Scully up against the wall—hand under her skirt, underwear shoved aside—as she fingered her. She nipped at her neck and along her chest, leaving red marks on Scully’s pale skin, her sweater having been discarded moments before. Scully held on tight at Stella’s shoulders, taking each assailing thrust into her in stride, getting off on the pain and pleasure it incited. Scully’s submission to her and obvious arousal, troubled and excited Stella. She tried to push away the disturbing thoughts she had of Mulder fucking Scully and how it turned her on even with the underlying sense of betrayal.

 

Frustrated, she pulled out of Scully and yanked down her panties. She unfastened Scully’s skirt and pushed it down, too. She knelt, purposefully, in front of Scully and gripped her hips. Her soft diet ended now. She intended to whip Scully into a frenzy with her talented mouth.

 

Scully pressed her back into the wall for support as Stella assaulted her cunt. She was dripping wet and her knees were becoming weak. Stella moved her hands to Scully’s ass, and squeezed her, roughly. With one thumb she massaged her taint, gathering moisture from her drenched pussy. Scully squirmed. She slid her finger up to Scully’s asshole and stroked her. Scully’s hips flinched, and then Stella felt her push into her hand. Stella replaced her tongue with the fingers of her other hand and toyed with Scully’s clit.

 

“Like that?” she said, her voice dripping with provocation.

 

Scully didn’t respond verbally, but again pressed her ass towards Stella’s prodding finger. Stella applied more pressure until her finger slipped past Scully’s tightness. Scully moaned loudly.

 

“You let Mulder do this to you?”

 

A dry sob escaped her throat. “Stop, please.”

 

“Stop what?” Stella asked, wickedly, fingers playing, relentlessly, at her clit and asshole.

 

“Don’t say his name.”

 

“Do you let Mulder do this to you?” she repeated, ignoring Scully’s pleading.

 

“Yesss,” she hissed, straining against the building pleasure that just increased her shame.

 

Stella knew forcing Scully to think about Mulder while she made her come would be a final nail in the coffin. She fucked her cunt with her other hand and licked at her clit. Scully was panting and spasming, and quickly gave way to a powerful climax. Stella removed her hands from Scully and stood. Scully slumped to the floor in a tearful heap, face in her hands.

 

“Now I want you to go,” Stella said.

 

Scully cried harder. Stella left the room before her own tears fell.

Chapter Text

Scully stared listlessly ahead while Mulder left his third message on her machine.

 

“So, just call me back. Scully. Please,” said his voice through the speaker.

 

He had called this morning before heading into the office, telling her she didn’t have to come in since he had planned on them still being out of town. She wasn’t going to go in even if she was supposed to. He called again once he got to work, and was now calling to tell her he was leaving for the day.

 

Scully had barely moved since the second call, nearly seven hours ago. She had ventured out at one point, walking to the convenience store up the street to get a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. The coffee was black and the cigarettes were Morleys. She appreciated the bitterness of the coffee and the irony of the brand of smokes. She didn’t deserve cream and sugar, and she felt like a villain, so these were the perfect accessories for her.

 

Shame and guilt were ugly beasts, and she had grown tired of trying to fight them. They were two sides of the same coin, and they had completely consumed her. Her outlook seemed bleak; she could not see a way out of this fire she had started, so she just let everything continue to burn down around them.

 

Running away had been her pathetic forte in the past. She had left Daniel, she had been ready to leave the X-Files when they threatened to reassign her. Hell, she had even run away from a career in medicine only to mourn that decision a decade later when she realized her life didn’t consist of a husband and 2.5 kids. Did she even want that kind of life? What did she actually want? It was this kind of all-encompassing self-doubt that got her into this mess. She chased after things she was supposed to have at this point in her life, telling herself that she had settled for the X-Files and Mulder as consolation prizes, keeping in the back of her mind that they would somehow magically shift into that socially acceptable life.

 

But Mulder had made her happy, despite all the shit they had gone through. He deserved more than to be thought of as second best, especially next to some dream life that people expected a woman like her to have. He was who he was, and never pretended to be anything else, but she told him in actions and in words that it wasn’t enough. She wanted more. More what? She didn’t even know, but she was becoming more and more sure that she was the one pretending all this time.

 

And the idea of being with Stella made her happy, too, no matter how unrealistic she knew it was. But, just the fact that it was another unconventional relationship that made her feel this way told her that maybe her proclivities fell outside the norm. Her rational mind had just taken too long to catch up to her heart, and she had fucked everything up in the meantime.

 

Her punishment should actually be the mundane life with a boring spouse, bratty kids, and a dull nine to five job. That would be morbidly ironic, she thought, contemplating lighting up another cigarette. She chose against movement, not wanting to remember she was alive, and stayed buried under the weight of her blanket and her aggrandizing thoughts.

 

Mulder hung up and leaned back in his chair, staring at the phone. He couldn’t concentrate all day, Scully being a constant worry in his mind. Was she regretting sleeping with him without having resolved any of the issues that had plagued them for the better part of the last month? If he could just talk to her and give her that long overdue apology, they could move past this; he was desperate to.

***

“Stella Gibson for DCS Crawford, please.” She fidgeted with a pencil while she waited for her boss to get on the line.

 

“Stella. Good to hear from you,” came the voice of Detective Chief Superintendent Grant Crawford over the phone.

 

“I’m ready to come back next week,” said Stella, getting right to the point.

 

“Okay. I’ll get you on the books,” he responded, knowing her well enough to not second guess her judgement.

 

She appreciated his quick agreement. “Thank you. See you Monday.”

 

He wished her safe travels, and she promptly ended the call, hoping to avoid any niceties. She stood up from the desk in the home office and paced, taking some deep breaths to calm herself. Stella had arranged her flight home before calling Crawford. She would be leaving on Friday, extricating herself from this erroneous situation.       

 

She went to the bathroom and laid out her robe and a towel. Looking at her face in the mirror, she saw the bruise was almost completely gone. Stella shed her nightgown and observed her body in the reflection. The contusion on her face had stayed visible so much longer than the one on her torso, but she still felt tenderness at her ribs. After she tested the area for pain, her fingers went down to the scars on her thighs. She remembered Scully touching them and thought about what she would do or say if she’d known how Stella got them. Dangerous line of thinking, she knew.

 

Stella had told Jim at the height of the Spector case that everyone has physical, emotional needs that can only be met by interaction with another person. The trick is to ask someone appropriate to meet them. Some trick. Is there a person in the world that is wholly appropriate for anyone? Everyone came with some sort of baggage. She had gone years convincing herself that she wasn’t culpable for the damage caused by her trysts. If they were married or involved with someone, that was their choice to make, not hers. But, making herself so readily available for them to be tempted, and being blind to her unspoken influence made her complicit.

 

She had never realized that until Scully—until she cared enough about the aftermath and the person stuck in it. Her first instinct after letting herself indulge in more than a few shed tears was to leave—a good, clean break. What she did to Scully last night was anything but good and clean. It was dirty. She had played dirty, and that was not like her at all, especially with someone she had come to care about. She was always honest, sometimes brutally so, but she had lied to Scully.

 

As the foreign feeling of guilt and shame washed over her, she looked at her self-inflicted scars and had the urge to cut. Stella hadn’t felt like that since she was a teenager, and was stunned by the impulse. She went through the drawers of the vanity, looking for something sharp. Her fingers closed around a pair of cuticle scissors, shakily. She sat down and held the point to the skin near her scars. The relief she remembered was just a slice away, but she hesitated, Katie flashing in her mind’s eye—her speech about tough dreams and voices that tell us we’re not good enough. If she succumbed to this, everything she had told Katie would be a lie, too.

 

She threw the scissors in the sink. Enough, she scolded herself. That’s enough lying. To myself and to anyone.

***  
   

Scully wasn’t surprised when she heard the knock at her door approximately 25 minutes after Mulder had left his last message. That was about the time it took to drive from the J. Edgar Hoover building to her apartment.

 

“Scully?” he asked, in between knocks.

 

Scully got up, limbs heavy from the inactivity and her self-hatred. She knew he would use his key if she didn’t answer.

 

She unlocked and opened the door. Mulder stepped inside, cautiously, his chest deflating with relief that she was okay and alive. Well, she was alive, okay was debatable. She was in an oversized t-shirt that he seemed to recall her wearing on their first case together. He could barely see the running shorts underneath it. Thick wool socks were on her feet. The room was dark and silent. He smelled smoke—not fire smoke, cigarette smoke, and not just any cigarette smoke.

 

“It smells like cigarettes in here.”

 

“Mulder--”

 

He spotted the pack of Morleys on the coffee table. “Since when do you smoke?” Mulder tried to keep any accusatory tone out of his question.

 

“I’ve always smoked when I’m stressed. Since college,” she said, hating the way her voice sounded, small and gutless.

 

“Why are you stressed?” he asked, afraid of the answer.

 

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Daniel?” She looked away from him.

 

The way her tone went up, making it a question, put more fear into him. What wasn’t she telling him?

 

She shifted, keeping her gaze at the floor. “We’ll talk tomorrow at the office,” said Scully, cowardly.

 

“Scully, you’re scaring me.”

 

“Tomorrow.” This time she made eye contact with him, and immediately regretted it. The look on his face was tortured and she knew that image would haunt her for a good while. She controlled her breath that threatened to become panicked gasps for air, steeling herself until he turned to leave.

Chapter Text

He was there when she got to the office. Jacket off, sleeves rolled up. Ready for a fight? she wondered. Or to get his hands dirty from handling what she was going to tell him? He was facing away from her staring at the I Want To Believe poster. She didn’t say anything, but she knew he knew she was there. Mulder closed his eyes and took a breath. His gut was telling him that there was something to dread about the next couple of minutes, and he had learned long ago to trust his gut. The chair groaned, straining under his weight turning to face her. She looked as frightened as he felt—her pale skin even paler and dark circles under her eyes, a ghostly version of his partner.

 

Mulder stood, wanting to give his apology and argument for them to stay together some stature. “Scully, I want to apologize,” he started.

 

She winced, and Mulder noticed. It made him stumble on his next words. “I-- I want to apologize for, for a lot, for--”

 

“Mulder--”

 

He kept going. “For things that happened years ago, for things that happened the other nigh--”

 

“I slept with Stella,” she blurted out louder and more forcefully than intended. She just couldn’t bear another word of his apology.

 

He froze—a stunned expression on his face, his eyes, wide with shock, searing holes into hers. It was the longest moment of her life. He, mercifully, broke their eye contact, and then blindly groped for his jacket draped on the back of the chair. Once it was in hand, he walked out the door.

 

Scully was holding her breath. She let it out raggedly and nearly choked on it.

 

“Whoa, whoa, Mulder, where’s the fire?” Skinner’s voice came from the hallway. Luckily she hadn’t given into the tears yet. He appeared at the doorway seconds later.

 

“He nearly took me out. What’s going on?” he asked.

 

Scully tersely shook her head to indicate that it was nothing, still trying not to break down. She looked at him questioningly, not able to trust her voice not to betray her.

 

“I’m heading out of town this afternoon. Should be back by the end of the week, Monday at the latest.”

Scully nodded.

 

“Also, accounting is on my ass about this recent England trip, so tell Mulder to get his report in ASAP.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Everything all right?”

 

She nodded again. He hesitated, not convinced, but knew he would get nowhere by pressing her. Skinner gave her a concerned half-smile before leaving.

***

 

Scully found herself back on the doorstep that had become quite familiar to her in just a few short days. She chewed her lip while waiting out those long moments it took for Stella to answer the door. If she decided to answer the door, Scully thought, her stomach churning with nerves.

 

The relief when the door finally opened flashed only for a second and was gone when she met Stella’s eyes. Her face was unreadable, but she stepped aside anyway, allowing Scully to enter. They made their way to the kitchen, both consciously avoiding the living room and internally cringing, remembering how Scully’s last visit had ended.

 

“Coffee?”

 

Scully shook her head.

 

“Whiskey?” Stella said, this time with the hint of a smile.

 

Scully huffed out a small laugh, grateful for Stella’s joke. They looked at each other for a beat, then Scully dropped her gaze to her fidgeting hands, ready to launch into the apology she’d been rehearsing in her head.

 

“Stella, I’m so sorr--”

 

Stella shook her head and waved her hand as if to clear Scully’s words away. “There’s no need. We don’t need to do this—apologies for hurting each other, for using each other. It’s done, and it’s okay. I’m okay, and you’re going to be okay.”

 

Tears stung behind Scully’s eyes, and she shut them to keep them from falling. She nodded, imperceptibly, knowing Stella was right, but having a hard time accepting it.

 

“Have you spoken to Mulder?”

 

“Yes, well, I told him, and he walked out. I don’t know what’s going to happen. He’s angry, rightfully. I messed up pretty bad—by being dishonest. That’s what I feel bad about, not for being with you. Just because, logically, this doesn't make sense,” Scully motioned between them, “doesn’t mean it wasn’t real—it is real. For me, at least.” A tear escaped, and she quickly wiped it away.

 

Stella sighed. Scully had just sidestepped her plan for a quick and easy break. Stella had long ago developed a knee-jerk reaction to people declaring their feelings for her. She usually shut it down with a few succinct words. That intrinsic reaction didn’t come, and she let the silence thicken around them while she struggled with a response.

 

Scully’s last words echoed in her own head, loud and unrelenting, like an alarm bell telling her to abandon ship. She had said what she needed to say most, what she wanted Stella to hear. That was all she had control over.

 

“I’m gonna go,” she said.

 

Stella nodded, frustrated with herself for being cowardly. Scully turned away and headed towards the door. The sight of her walking away caused Stella to panic. She grabbed her datebook from the counter, jotted something down in it, and tore out the page.

 

“Scully.”

 

She pressed the paper into Scully’s hand. “My number. Ring me sometime. If you want. As a friend.” She kept Scully’s hand in hers, and squeezed it before saying, “It was real for me. It is real.”

 

***

 

Mulder didn’t know what to do or where to go so he drove aimlessly for awhile. He wanted to get pissed drunk at a bar, but it was nine in the morning. The terrible idea of finding someone to revenge fuck flashed briefly in his mind. It was ruled out quickly because what he felt was more hurt than anger. That would be an angry reaction—striking back with the intention to inflict pain. He was too crippled with pain to inflict any onto her, and he didn’t want to. Pain that he had caused earlier had helped her to make the decisions she had made. So it was self-pity and guilt mixed up with those hurt feelings.

 

With that revelation he stopped at a liquor store before getting back on a route to his apartment. The only thing he knew to do with these feelings was drown them. Sometimes it was in work and conspiracies, sometimes it was with porn, but this time called for alcohol.

 

By the time she showed up at his door later that evening, he had gotten wasted, sobered up, and was drunk again.

 

“I knew it, Scully. I knew it.”

 

She treaded lightly, wanting to be sensitive, but knowing a drunk Mulder would be difficult to deal with.

 

“What did you know, Mulder?”

 

“That you two were here fucking. As soon as I found out she was here, I knew. I just knew,” he rambled, animatedly. “I talked myself out of it. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but my first instinct was right, wasn’t it?”

 

Scully couldn’t bring herself to reward him with a response. He filled his empty glass with more vodka.

 

“Drink?” he offered Scully before downing his.

 

“No, thank you.” She wasn’t sure how long she could entertain this behavior.

 

“No, no, of course not.” He swayed a little, then filled his glass again.

 

Scully bit her tongue. She wanted to take away the bottle, to tell him to stop acting like this, but she knew she had no right.

 

“Why are you here, Scully?” He set his glass and the bottle down, and sat on the sofa, rubbing his face with his hands.

 

“I’m sorry, Mulder. I’m here to tell you I’m sorry for hurting you.”

 

The simplicity of her apology almost made him cry. Had he ever simply said “I’m sorry for hurting you” to her, to anyone? And even in his drunken haze, he felt her sincerity. He wasn’t ready to accept it, though.

 

“Duly noted,” he said, feeling like an ass as the words left his mouth.

 

She let out a measured breath, and was about to leave him to his wallowing when his phone rang. Mulder made no move to answer it. They both waited for the answering machine to pick up.

 

Skinner’s voice filled the room after Mulder’s outgoing message and the beep. “Mulder, I have a situation here that I could use you and Scully on right away. I’m in North Carolina. My assistant is arranging travel for you both. Check in with her as soon as you can.”

 

They shared a look. Scully raised a curious brow and Mulder slumped deeper into the couch.

 

“Want me to fix you some coffee?”

 

“No. I think you’ve done enough, haven’t you?” he replied, his question lacking hostility and heavy with emotional tiredness.

 

“Yeah,” she sighed, agreeing, and went into his kitchen to make the coffee anyway.

Chapter Text

They spoke only of logistics—packing, getting to the airport, boarding the plane. Once they took their seats, Mulder folded his arms across his chest and turned away from her as much as he could sitting right beside her in a cramped space. He either closed his eyes to sleep or to pretend to sleep. She wasn’t sure, but whichever it was, its purpose was to avoid her.

 

She had made him coffee, got him to drink water and to take Tylenol. He behaved and let her do it until her attention began to suffocate him. He was mad at her. Couldn’t she let him be mad? Mulder finally shooed her away—gently. They were both surprised at how gently he told her to leave.

 

Scully couldn’t decide if being forced into a working situation was a good thing or a bad thing. They had made an art of working alongside each other and pretending things never happened. Is that how this case was going to go, or had they grown since the last time?

 

They met Skinner at the Skobie residence. He served as a buffer so that they didn’t have to interact with each other, much to Scully’s chagrin and Mulder’s relief. Then they split up, Mulder going with Skinner to Morley Headquarters and Scully to the autopsy bay.

 

Scully’s discouragement grew as she watched them fall into the familiar pattern of avoidance. Not to say she wasn’t guilty of it. In the past she was the most frequent offender. This kind of behavior had, in part, led them to this place they were at. She wanted to change. She had changed. Her experience with Stella, she felt, had fundamentally changed her. How would it change her relationship with Mulder? That was the question, but he was tight lipped with the answer.

 

After finishing up the autopsy and doing some preliminary examinations of Mulder’s beetle, Scully went back to the hotel, and stopped at Mulder’s room before going to her own. She took it as a good sign that he even answered the door, considering the few tense words they had shared throughout the day and the cigarette-related digs she was sure were directed at her.

 

“Have you had dinner yet? I was thinking of ordering pizza.”

 

“I’m not hungry, Scully,” he said, sounding tired and sad, and tired of being sad.

 

“Okay.” She hesitated, not wanting to leave, but he hadn’t invited her in. “Oh! Do you want my notes on your bug?” she asked, grappling at the clasp on her computer bag.

 

He sighed. “Sure.”

 

Scully set her bag down on the bed and searched for the folder she had put together. She found it much too quickly. Mulder took it from her and turned away. She took the hint and gathered her things to leave.

 

Her hand was on the doorknob when he said, “I understand.” She almost thought she imagined it, he had said it so softly.

 

“I get it, Scully. I do.”

 

She looked at him, eyes full of sympathy, but also confusion. He expected to see that when he turned to face her.

 

“The place we had gotten to. It makes sense to me that you did what you did, if that makes any sense.” He chuckled inwardly at himself before becoming serious again. “But, Scully, it’s—it’s still tearing me up inside.”

 

Scully nodded.

 

“When Samantha disappeared, she left a hole inside of me. Then you came along, and you started to fill it, bit by bit, until there were no more empty places—just internal scars. And yesterday, when you told me, that hole was back. I feel empty again. Empty and lost.”

 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

 

“I know. I’m sorry, too,” he said, finally meeting her eyes again. “For a multitude of things. You deserve more than overdue apologies that I give you only in return of one of your own. I’m sorry for hurting you, Scully,” he said, echoing her words from the night before.

 

“Oh Mulder,” she exhaled on a shaky breath. “It’s okay.” Scully couldn’t help but think of Stella’s words about hurting and using each other—how it was done, and they would both be okay.

 

“Is it?” he asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

He approached her, took her bag and set it on the floor. Scully wanted to embrace him, but felt like everything was still in his court. He swallowed the emotion stuck in his throat, and threaded his fingers into hers. She returned the touch by caressing his knuckles, his soft, warm palms with her thumbs. Their teary gazes settled on each other.

 

“Scully, I’m not expecting you to fill that space up again. It’s not your responsibility, okay?”

 

“Okay.” She felt like “okay” was her new “I’m fine,” but it had the opposite meaning. Instead of using it to evade her innermost feelings, this was, in a way, declaring them.

 

“I want you to be happy, Scully. That’s all I want.”

 

“I’m starting to figure that out, Mulder—what makes me happy. How were you supposed to know when I barely knew.” She gripped his hands, firmly. “One thing I know for sure is that you are something in my life that makes me happy. That doesn’t change or lessen if I find something else to be happy about.”

 

His chest tightened. Is this the beginning of the brush off? Was she going to make him follow through on this “whatever makes you happy” statement? He would if he had to. He had meant it, after all.

 

Scully saw the fear in his eyes. She wanted to put him at ease, but also wanted to be straightforward about her feelings. “Mulder, I am truly sorry about lying to you. It was a betrayal. There’s no way around that, and if I could, I would take that part back.” She paused. “But, I don’t regret it.”

 

She looked down at their entwined hands. Why was this so hard to explain? “I need you to know that I had—have—I have feelings for her. I’ve—we’ve—ended the sexual aspect of it, but,” she looked at Mulder, earnestly, “but I can’t break off a relationship with her. She’s become important to me.”

 

She slipped her hands out of his and looked away again. It was frustrating trying to explain these complicated feelings, and she knew how her words must’ve sounded in his ears. “I’m sure this is hard to understand. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it myself.”

 

She chanced a look at him. He was still looking at the place in his hands where hers just were a moment ago.

 

“I make you happy?” he asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

“And Stella makes you happy?”

 

Scully faltered, a pang of selfishness sparking inside her. “Yes.”

 

“Then it’s not that hard to understand,” he said, giving her a smile and a shrug.

 

She looked back at him with wonder. Mulder closed the space she had put between them, and took her face in his hands. She reflexively reached for his forearms.

 

“What would make you happy, Mulder?”

 

“Besides proof of the existence of extraterrestrials, you mean?”

 

She laughed, still in awe of his strikingly tactful response to everything that she hadn’t even allowed herself to have.

 

“You, Scully. You.”

 

They made love slowly and thoughtfully, taking care to look into each other’s eyes, to feel each other’s heartbeats. They explored one another like it was the first time, but with familiarity embedded in the prints they left on their bodies with their touch, mapping out points as if returning to a beloved home town.

 

The last time they had slept together, they had done so from a great distance, resting on different planes of existence, of understanding—the gravity of unsaid things muddled with perfunctory responses to one another’s affected stimuli.

 

Afterward, they lay facing each other, legs still entangled, hands still roaming.

 

“How does it feel to be off that pedestal, and down on solid ground with me?” Mulder asked.

 

She smiled. “Good. Safe.”

 

“Thank you for letting me be a part of your life, Scully.”

 

“Thank you for accepting me as I am.”

 

He clutched his heart. “Aaah, there you go again, filling that empty space,” he chuckled. “I can feel it.”

 

She giggled and pinched his sides. He tickled her back. They both laughed freely, relieved to have moved in tandem from a dark place to one of comfort and ease.

 

As their laughter subsided, Mulder said, “At the risk of sounding really ridiculous, I have to tell you, as I went over everything in my head, trying my damnedest to be mad at you—to blame you for everything, a stupid line from Friends kept running in the back of my mind.”  

 

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mulder,” she said, so clearly knowing exactly to what he was referring.

 

“Of course, the lofty Agent Scully would not stoop to quote a lowly sitcom.”

 

She laid her head on his chest and had a flash of the last time she had done that. They had just had sex, her allowing him to make love to her under false pretenses as she withheld vital information and vital feelings.

 

“Mulder,” she said, seriously, “we weren’t on a break. There’s no excuse for me to have kept things from you.” She lifted her head and looked at him. “I really am sorry.”

 

He accepted her apology by kissing her, and they snuggled further under the sheets, ready for sleep to overtake them both.

 

“Mulder?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Am I supposed to be Ross in that scenario?”

 

Mulder laughed, and she joined him.

Chapter Text

The knocking at the door roused them from sleep, and the sound of Skinner’s voice jolted them awake.

 

“Shit!”

 

“Go in the bathroom,” Mulder whispered, gathering her clothes from the ground and tossing them to her.

 

He slipped on his boxers and answered the door.

 

“There’s been another death. Get dressed and meet me out front.”

 

Mulder nodded.

 

“Do you know where Scully is? I knocked on her door, but no answer.”

He shook his head and shrugged.

 

“I’ll call her cell. Get dressed.”

 

Mulder closed the door, relieved. Scully came out dressed in yesterday’s rumpled clothes.

 

Her cell phone rang from inside her computer bag.

 

“That’ll be Skinner,” Mulder said, amused by their close call.

 

“Fuck, what do I say?”

“Say you were in the shower.”

 

“Scully,” she said into the phone. “Yes sir...I was in the shower...yes...ten minutes?...all right.”

 

She hung up and looked at her disheveled appearance in the mirror. “Lovely.” She smoothed her hair a little, and then grabbed the rest of her things. “See you out front.”

 

Mulder caught her before she could leave, and kissed her.

 

***

 

Stella did another check around the house, resecuring locks and looking for items that she may have missed. She placed the key atop the note she had written for her friend, thanking her for letting her stay. Despite the situation with Scully, her trip had been relaxing, and had allowed her to recuperate. It was nice to be in an environment that wasn’t a hotel or her flat, which she’d found to be so dismally lonely when she had returned to it from Belfast.  She hoped it wouldn’t still feel like that when she got back later tonight.

 

The driver arrived and took her bags to load into the town car. She gave a last look around before setting the alarm. Leaving felt bittersweet. She had felt comfortable here, and got a much needed break from her usual self; the one that held back feelings and never let anyone in. It was here that Scully had broken past that wall. Even when she had tried to rebuild it, Scully had snuck back in before the cement set. She was grateful to Scully for that. This way it didn’t have to be an end. Stella felt good about how they left things; she was hopeful, but going home still felt sad.

 

She already missed Scully. Stella let herself feel that, welcomed it even, but she found some ugly feelings attached to it—ones of jealousy and resentment that Scully had Mulder to go back to. At least she assumed that they would patch things up. She remembered their night together, and how obviously in love he was with Scully. Stella was sure he would take her back, if he hadn’t already. They would have each other, and Stella would go back to her life of meaningless sex and sweet nights, living by herself within those neat and tidy, and, once again, impenetrable walls. Luckily she now had Scully’s lifeline to cling to as a source of comfort.


***

 

The rate at which Mulder’s condition worsened was alarming. Scully had thought they were in the clear. He was conscious; he was cracking jokes, and then another swarm of larvae hatched inside him. They couldn’t keep up. Skinner wasn’t answering his phone. Scully was coming very close to falling apart. She couldn’t help but feel that this was some warped version of karma—being forced to watch him suffer was the worst kind of suffering, and adding to it was her feeling of helplessness. She couldn’t do anything for him.

 

The doctor kept insisting they crack open his chest, but there was no way Mulder could survive it. She tried Skinner’s cell again, and got his voicemail.

 

“Damn it.”

 

She paced the hallway, and tried to avoid looking into Mulder’s room. Not even a week ago she had watched another man’s life hang in the balance. She felt helpless then, too, resorting to healers and spiritual remedies, but she didn’t feel the panic she was feeling right now. If Mulder didn’t make it through this, her world would crumble. As much as she wanted to claim independence, her entire being was wrapped up in this man. She was chastising herself for succumbing to this fatalistic train of thought when her phone rang.

 

Skinner told her he was on the way to the hospital with Weaver. She ran to find the doctor.

 

***

 

As Mulder fought for his life, Stella was returning to hers. When she got home, she immediately unpacked, sorted laundry, and put fresh sheets on her bed. She didn’t want anything around that could let her dwell on her time away. But, it would take more than that to fool her mind. As she finished each task, the melancholic thoughts crept back in. It was frustrating. She considered going out to a bar and picking up a guy. Some sexual release that she was in control of was tempting. She decided against it, figuring jumping into bed with some random was probably not the best idea when she was feeling emotionally off balance.

 

Stella poured herself a glass of wine and settled in front of the television. Some mind-numbing distraction would hopefully do the trick. She flipped through the channels before stopping on a Cheers rerun. She couldn’t concentrate on the show. Annoying thoughts invaded her brain like gnats. Stupid things, too, like what would she and Scully watch on TV if they spent the night in. What kind of movies would she like to watch? She wondered if Scully liked old black and white films. Cheers ended without her registering a single plot point or joke.

 

She filled her glass with more wine. The programming changed to the American reality show, Cops. She didn’t change the channel; she knew it didn’t matter what was on the screen, her mind right now was determined to fixate on Scully. And then as if she had willed her into existence with the power of her thoughts, there was Scully on her television. Stella almost knocked over the bottle of wine when she scrambled for the remote to turn up the volume.

 

Have I gone mental? I haven’t drunk that much wine, have I? Stella thought, afraid she was going mad. No, it really was her. They were investigating something in Los Angeles, and it looked like this Cops crew glommed onto them. Stella was perched at the edge of her loveseat. Her eyes searched for Scully in every cut and with every shaky camera movement.

 

The segment was short, and ended much too quickly for Stella’s liking. She had the urge to call Scully, to tell her about the wild coincidence, but it was too soon. She would make a joke about how she just couldn’t escape the enigmatic Dana Scully. It was the truth, though, wasn’t it? She was having a tough go of it, trying to shake her. Stella switched off the television, and an oppressive silence filled the room.

 

As Stella got ready for bed, she kept catching herself smiling at some memory of Scully or one of her irritated expressions from the show. She scolded herself the first couple of times, and then gave up, and let the images play in her mind. She was putting lotion on her legs when her thoughts switched from innocent to lustful. Ah, fuck it, she thought, and she began to touch herself. She didn’t masturbate often, usually fulfilling her sexual needs with other people. Actually, the last time she did this was because of the dream she had about her and Mulder. This time she kept Mulder out of it, and pictured Scully in positions she had witnessed in real life, and recently—Scully straddling her lap, Scully’s lips on her clit, her fingers inside Scully’s tight cunt. She came quickly.

 

Afterwards, she crawled into bed, and waited for the feeling of shame to engulf her, but it didn’t. She felt better and more at ease than she had since she left DC. Stella even felt a little proud of herself for handling her emotions and anxiety in a somewhat healthy way with self-care rather than resorting to a mindless fuck with some inconsequential person. She was going to get through this phase—this stage of mourning what could’ve been—what could’ve been if she had an entirely different life. It was silly, almost, to be upset about it, but Scully brought out these flights of fancy in her. Like Scully had said, even if they don’t make sense, it’s still real. She had come out on the other side with a relationship in tact. And that was something she could hold onto.

Chapter Text

Stella looked at the ringing phone, annoyed at the distraction. She finished typing her sentence and then peered at the caller ID. It was a DC number. Her irritation was immediately replaced with nerves.  

 

“Hello?”

 

“Stella, it’s Scully.”

 

“Well, hi.” Stella rolled her eyes. Well, hi? What a twit.

 

“I thought I’d get that first awkward ‘friend’ call out of the way,” Scully said.

 

Stella chuckled. “Thank you for that.”

 

Both of them had resisted the impulse to reach out numerous times, and both women kept that information to themselves.

 

“How are you? Are you back at work?”

 

“Yes. Everything is business as usual,” Stella replied, although the fact that the only thing she had fucked in the past two weeks was her own hand was hardly usual for her. She was sure their “friendly” phone calls weren’t at the point where she would share such a thing, if ever. The truth was she threw herself back into work, ignoring her base instinct to seek sexual release with indifferent partners, fulfilling her needs herself while thinking of Scully. This behavior was starting to concern her, but she was having trouble snapping out of it. “How are you?”

 

“Good, good. Same old here, as well.”

 

“And you and Mulder?”

 

Scully hesitated. “We’re good. Back on track.” She felt guilty saying it, and she hated her choice of words. Back on track? What an ass.

 

“I’m glad to hear it.”

 

Silence.

 

“This is a bit awkward, isn’t it?” Scully asked.

 

“You pointing it out has certainly made it so,” replied Stella with a hint of teasing.

 

Scully breathed a grateful sigh. Stella always knew how to lighten uncomfortable situations. “Sorry,” Scully said, meekly.

 

Stella could envision the shy smile that was on Scully’s lips at that moment. She felt a lightness in her chest.

 

“So, really, how is it being back to work?”

 

“It’s fine. I’m overseeing several cases rather than being assigned an inquiry. I have to go back to Belfast for an inquest.”

 

“Oh. Will that be complicated?”

 

“No. Yes.” Her tone was impassive.

 

“Do you not want to talk about it?”

 

“Not particularly.”

 

“All right,” Scully said. “Change of subject. Um…”

 

“How about television?”

“Television?” That’s the last thing she would expect Stella to want to chat about.

 

“Have you ever seen the show, Cops?”

 

Scully groaned. “Oh no.”

 

“Oh yes.”

 

“You get that over there?”

“We do.”

 

“Oh my God,” she groaned again.

 

“You looked good on camera.”

 

“I’m sure we looked like total buffoons.”

 

“Not at all. You were quite adorable, actually.” Stella let the affectionate observation slip, but she didn’t worry about it. It was a perfectly friendly thing to say, and it felt good to not completely hold back.

 

The comment made Scully blush, and she hummed her skepticism into the phone. A dull ache began to permeate in her abdomen. She missed Stella. She was such a serious person, and each and every time Stella was lighthearted and playful with her the effect was somewhat dizzying.

 

“I miss you.” She knew she shouldn’t say it, but she was compelled to.

 

Stella’s muscles tensed. She didn’t need this right now. Not with it already being so difficult to return to her normal life, her normal self. “I have to go,” she said, matter of factly.

 

Scully swallowed and nodded. She kind of expected this reaction. “Okay. Good luck in Belfast.”

 

Stella pressed the end button without saying goodbye. She sat staring at the phone, hoping the onslaught of unwanted emotions would pass. Maybe she should rethink this “friends” arrangement.

 

Scully hung up, mentally kicking herself. Why did she have to say that? Maintaining a friendship with Stella over the phone was proving to be difficult. She didn’t have the benefit of being face to face, and she was harder to read. Friends can tell each other they missed them, but Stella was not a normal friend. She was someone with whom she had a brief but passionate affair, and she wasn’t ready or willing to let her out of her life. She would have to be more prudent in their conversations in the future.

 

***

 

They had worked quietly for most of the morning, Scully doing some much needed reorganizing and Mulder researching something from The Lone Gunmen’s latest issue. Scully broke the silence.

 

“Mulder?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“In the interest of full disclosure,” she started, hoping to affect a casualness in her voice.

 

Her attempt was lost on him because he immediately became uneasy. Being cheated on had that effect. He was hoping this period of mistrust would be short lived, but right now it had him on high alert.

 

“I spoke with Stella last night. Just, um, catching up, you know. I don’t want to, um, I just thought you ought to be aware, or ...something.” She had sounded so much more sure of herself in her head.

 

Mulder raised his eyebrows and nodded slowly as if he understood, and that it was the most natural thing to hear.

 

“And how is the Detective Superintendent?”

 

“Uh, good. I think. You know how she’s not very forthcoming in conversation.”

 

“No, I don’t, actually,” he said, trying not to sound bitter.

 

Scully looked down at her hands.

 

“I mean, I can imagine she wouldn’t be,” Mulder back pedaled. He wanted her to be able to tell him these things, to talk of Stella as if she was a friend, because that’s what she apparently was now. Mulder needed to treat her as such even though it was exceedingly difficult when images of them fucking came so readily to his mind. He was in a unique position to have witnessed, in person, the two of them having sex. It wasn’t like he had to use his imagination to fuel his jealous-filled angst. All he had to do was recall images from that night. It was somehow worse than crafting his own illusion. It made it more real, and it was fucking torture.

 

“What do you want to do for lunch?” he asked, embarrassed by the transparency of his change of the subject. “Want to go out somewhere?”

 

“Sure,” she said, accepting the unspoken truce, wondering how long it would last.

 

They went to a hole-in-the-wall deli that had a wide selection of salads for her and Mulder’s favorite pastrami on rye.

 

He finished his sandwich and watched her. The particular way she picked through a salad had always amused him.

 

“I have a surprise for you.”

 

Just the sentence surprised her. She looked up at him. “You do?”

 

He reached back into his jacket that was hanging on the back of his chair, and fished in the inside pocket. He placed something on the table in front of her.

 

“Plane tickets? To Los Angeles?”

 

"The Lazarus Bowl, Scully.” He wagged his eyebrows at her.

 

“Really? You want to go to that? I threw the invite in the trash as soon as I opened it.”

 

“C’mon. It’ll be fun,” he said, and she made a face. “Besides, when we were there for the filming we weren’t, you know, together yet. We can actually have a little vacation without the pretense of it being work-related.”

 

“Won’t Skinner be there?”

 

He scrunched his nose. “Yeah. I made sure to book us into a different hotel.”

 

“Well, you’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?” She smiled at him.

 

“So yeah?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

***

 

DCS Grant Crawford stood leaning in her office door frame, but she didn’t notice him. He finally cleared his throat. Stella looked up and then back down at the papers at her desk. “Yes?”

 

“Ready for the inquest?”

 

“Yes,” she said, continuing to work.

 

“Good.” He kept watching her. Like everyone in the office, he was fascinated by her, even though he knew her better than any of them. They had come up through the ranks together; he secured a higher position ahead of her simply because he was a man. He knew it and she knew it. She never held it against him, but he always felt guilty about the unfairness. He pushed the high profile cases her way because she was the most qualified, but also to make up for the patriarchal inequity.

 

He knew rumors that they had had an affair flew around the station. She so much as looked at a man, the busybodies would concoct tall tales and scandals that would spread like wildfire. Not that she didn’t engage in illicit liaisons from time to time, but the gossip about her was appalling. He hated it, and couldn’t understand how she shrugged it off so coolly.

 

They had never slept together, or even exchanged the slightest sexual banter. He had always felt like a big brother to her even though he was only a year older. Just the thought of an affair was ludicrous. He was happily married. His wife, Marla, knew Stella fairly well, and knew about the rumors. She never once gave credence to them, often commiserating with him about workplace male chauvinism.

 

She looked up and saw him still standing there. Stella gave him a questioning look, not bothering to put words to it.

 

“Marla and I are having a dinner party, and she expects you to be there.”

 

“I’ll be in Belfast,” she responded, clipped.

 

“No, you’ll be back by Sunday. Plenty of time,” he said, smirking. He knew she hated their parties.

 

She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. She sighed.

 

Crawford grinned and turned to leave. “Have a nice trip, Stella.”

Chapter Text

They did a good amount of damage to Skinner’s Bureau credit card; a nice cozy dinner at an upscale but hidden trattoria in Brentwood and a chauffeured town car to shuttle them around. Mulder had his hand high on Scully’s thigh under her dress, and caressed her soft skin with his thumb in little, loving circles. In his other hand was a bottle of champagne that their waiter had let them purchase and take to-go. He had popped it open for them, and Mulder hoped the fizz would keep until they got to the beach.

 

The driver parked. Scully took off her heels and threw them back into the car before they began their walk in the sand. She clung to his arm as they passed the bottle between them. Scully had been handsy and giggly all night—well, when Skinner wasn’t around. Mulder felt like he had died and gone to heaven, or at least came back as a carefree zombie whose only purpose in life was to eat, drink, dance, and make love with Dana Katherine Scully.

 

They reached a darkened stretch of the beach that was away from the other late night strollers and the city lights. Mulder took his jacket off and laid it down for them to sit on. Scully sat between his legs and rested her back against him. He took a swig of the champagne and handed it to her, leaning in to feel her silky hair on his lips, and breathing in her scent which mixed with the salty ocean air.

 

“Scully?”

 

“Hmm?” she hummed, running her finger along the opening of the bottle.

 

“If you died and had the opportunity to come back and haunt me, would you?”

 

She laughed, well, it wasn’t really a laugh, but that same charming giggle that had been delighting him the whole trip. “You would like that, wouldn’t you?”

 

“You would withhold haunting me so I couldn’t get proof, huh?” He pinched at her ribs, causing more laughter. “That’s cold, Scully.”

 

“Would you haunt me?”

 

“Of course.”

 

She took a sip and offered him the last. He emptied the bottle into his mouth, swirling the crisp, bubbly liquid over his tongue. She relaxed her head back onto his chest and sighed. Scully stretched her legs out in front of her and then pushed her feet into the cool sand, letting the grains slide between her toes. Her bottom wriggled in his lap. He felt his cock twitch with the stirrings of an erection.

 

Mulder wrapped his arms around Scully, hugging her into him and nuzzling between her ear and shoulder. The increased contact increased the blood flowing to his member, and now Scully felt his hardness against her lower back. She made a soft cooing sound and shifted into him. Mulder’s hands went to the hem of her dress, and he gathered it up slightly.

 

“Hike up your dress,” he whispered into her ear.

 

“Mulder. There’re people.”

“They’re far enough away. Just be quiet.”

 

That’s all the convincing it took. She shimmied her dress up to her hips, and bent her knees, then let them fall open, resting on his thighs. His long arm draped over her shoulder, down her body—his hand right at her center. His other hand was braced across her stomach. He rubbed her over the fabric of her panties until they became damp under his touch. She pressed back into him, mewling her pleasure.

 

Mulder skated his fingers into her underwear and rubbed her hot, wet flesh in the same way, but without the barrier. He slipped his middle finger inside her and caressed her inner walls. She rotated her pelvis, trying to graze her clitoris against the heel of his hand, but he purposefully kept it out of reach. He added two more fingers and pumped in and out, in and out. Her arousal swelled, and her sex became more slick. If it wasn’t for the gentle whooshing and lapping of waves on the shore he would be able to hear the moist sounds his fingers made as he fucked her cunt.

 

Her head fell back on his shoulder, exposing her neck to him. He nipped and sucked along the taut tendon. She panted, her expulsions of breath hanging in the damp mist around them. He dropped his wrist, finally resting his palm on her mons, and letting her grind herself against it, his fingers still working inside her.

 

Her breathing became harsh and fluctuating. He felt her pulse in his hand, and she clenched around his fingers. He eased out of her and palmed her dripping heat as she rode out her climax.

 

Scully turned to face him and knelt between his legs, her hands going straight to the waist of his tuxedo pants. Unbuttoning and unzipping him, she looked around, furtively. “Scoot your pants down.”

 

He chuckled. “Scully, that’s not going to be as discreet as what we just did.” He did as he was told, though.

 

Scully stood and stepped to the other side of his legs, her feet flanking his ass, her crotch level with his face. He breathed in deeply to smell the evidence of her orgasm. Once his pants were down far enough and his dick was exposed, Scully reached under her dress and pulled her underwear to the side. She lowered herself onto him, sitting in his lap, impaled by his cock, face to face.

 

He wasn’t sure how she was managing to ride him in this configuration—she had no leverage—or maybe it was an illusion, and the tightening and untightening of her vagina around him in this position just felt like she was. Her lips were parted and her brow furrowed in concentration. They looked into each other’s eyes until Mulder’s balls constricted, and he had to look away. The intense eye contact in conjunction with what she was doing with her pussy was too much. He butted his forehead into hers and grunted.

 

She threaded her fingers through his hair, scraping at his scalp, which evoked another sharp moan from him. The rough lace of her panties rasped along the base of his sensitive penis as she rocked her hips against him.

 

“Fuck.”

 

The word tumbled out of his mouth and landed on her lips. She returned it by pressing her mouth to his. They exchanged a couple of hot, dissonant breaths before Scully pushed her tongue past his lips. He sucked her in just as her cunt sucked his length up into her. He gripped her ass cheeks, desperately trying to stave off his orgasm.

 

Scully felt his struggle and withdrew her tongue from his mouth. “I’m almost there,” she whispered, and then: “pull my hair.”

 

Mulder barely registered the unusual command, but he managed to submit to it. He tangled his hand in her hair and tugged roughly. Scully gasped. He was afraid, in his excitement, he had been too forceful, but he saw the smile creep up on the corners of her mouth. He pulled again. She quickened the pace of whatever magic she was doing down there, and he couldn’t hold back any longer. His grip on her hair tightened as he came, and it pushed her over the edge. Her walls contracted around him and milked his throbbing cock.

 

“Sweet Jesus,” he heaved.

 

They held each other until he became soft inside her, and then continued well after. Mulder rubbed the back of Scully’s head, soothing where he had pulled. Scully was resting her head in the crook of his neck, making his skin damp with her close breath.

 

A pestering notion snuck through his post-coital bliss, and he tried to stop it is as soon as it materialized in his thoughts. The hair pulling, the tantric-like sex she had performed on him. It was all new for them, for him. His sated feeling shrunk like his dick as he fought against entertaining the unprovoked suspicions.

 

***

 

She ordered whiskey instead of wine which she had been doing more often since getting back from DC. It was just another cruel tie to Scully that she found herself holding onto.

 

As the first sip burned its way down she thought about Reed and how it was seeing her at the inquest. She knew it was silly to think she could avoid her. Reed had done the autopsy on Olson after all. They had only seen each other a few times after that night—the case breaking wide open, and her focus on it had made their almost-tryst and subsequent awkwardness seem so trivial.

 

They had spoke briefly at Laganside House after they had each given testimony. Reed apologized for not reaching out after the case, and Stella said she understood, which she did. So much had happened. Rose was found, and had to deal with the trauma in the aftermath. They both carried guilt for Rose’s abduction, and even though there was no blame between them they associated those feelings with each other. It marred whatever connection they had been forming.

 

Reed had been congenial, making affectionate gestures and touching her arm several times. Stella cringed as she remembered how rigidly she stood, non-reciprocating with the friendliness. She sensed Reed might have wanted another chance, and she felt badly for behaving so chilly toward her in an effort to discourage any expectations in that regard. The desire for her was still there, but Stella didn’t want feminine softness right now. It was too much like Scully. They were even both forensic pathologists, for fuck’s sake. No, she needed something different.

 

Something different was seated at the end of the bar. Stella had felt his eyes on her since she had arrived. She slid the rest of the fiery, amber liquid down her throat, and afforded him a look. The bartender approached her, and she indicated that she wanted another with her hand while keeping her gaze on the man whose dark eyes were locked with hers. He broke first (they always did) and smiled at her. The bartender poured her another double, and the man raised his glass toward her, toasting God knows what and thinking it made him look charming.

 

The raffish display almost made her abandon him as an option, but her need outweighed her pickiness. His chest was broad and filled out the crisp white shirt neatly, his muscular forearms exposed due to the rolled cuffs. His skin was a glossy ebony that seemed to glow as it reflected the dim lighting of the bar.

 

Stella didn’t return his cheers, but instead tossed her hair back with a flick of her wrist while maintaining eye contact as if to challenge him. She wasn’t sure if he accepted her challenge or simply saw it as an invitation, but he slipped off his stool and walked to the seat next to her. His suit pants were well-tailored and looked expensive. They fit him just right, and Stella was glad she gave him a pass for his ridiculous toast.

 

“May I?” he asked.

 

She nodded and took a sip of her drink.

 

“I’m curious. What did you toast to when you raised your glass at me?” questioned Stella.

 

“To your beauty, of course.”

 

“And you think I would want to drink to my own beauty?”

 

He smiled and lowered his chin in bemused embarrassment. Looking at her again, he acknowledged her logic and said, “Good point. May I try again?” He was English, his deep voice refined and proper.

 

She nodded again.

 

He lifted his glass between them. “‘Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.’ To beauty,” he said, then added, “in general.”

 

Stella pressed her lips together to hide an impressed grin that threatened at the corners of her mouth. She raised her glass to his and gave him his well-earned cheers. They drank.

 

“Quoting an Irishman whilst in Ireland. Clever.”

 

“Ah, you’re familiar with Oscar Wilde, then. No doubt a fan of Salome,” he remarked.

 

“‘It is not wise to find symbols in everything that one sees. It makes life too full of terrors.’”

 

“Damn, you’re good,” he said, smiling. He smiled a lot and easily. It was a nice smile, warm. Stella was not in the mood for nice.

 

“Although, I’m partial to another: ‘I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.’”

 

He chuckled. “Didn’t he mean man as in humankind?”

 

“No,” she said, a teasing smirk on her lips as she sipped her whiskey.

 

“So what is it that you do, Miss..?” he waited, hopefully, for her name.

 

“Stella,” she replied. “I’m a detective.”

 

“Oh dear. I hope your life isn’t too full of terrors.”

 

Stella didn’t respond. She was enjoying this intellectual sparring, but she had had enough of the chit chat. She drained the last of her drink and stood in the space between his knees.

 

“I’m in room 742,” she said, directly, and turned to leave.

 

“Marcus.”

 

She turned back and looked at him blankly.

 

“My name is Marcus.”

 

She crooked a brow as if the information didn’t matter, and it didn’t. Even though the conversation was pleasant, all she needed tonight was a body.   

 

About twenty minutes passed before she heard a knock at her door. She had changed out of her clothes, and put on her satin robe over her bra and panties. She kept it untied and open.

 

He had his jacket slung over his shoulder and was leaning, casually, in the doorway. His eyes flashed brightly as he saw what she was wearing. He smiled. Stella wondered if he could help it. She considered having him take her from behind so she wouldn’t have to see his grin the whole bloody time.

 

She took his coat from him and threw it over the back of the chair, and began unbuttoning his shirt. He slid his hands inside her robe and circled her waist. She didn’t normally let men freely touch her body, but she liked his hands. They were large and rugged which was unusual for a clean-cut businessman. She had noticed them in the bar when she looked for a wedding ring which she was now in the habit of doing in spite of herself.

 

Together they rid him of his shirt. Stella ran her hands over his chest, feeling the hardness of his pectoral muscles under his smooth skin. She tipped her face up to him and he leaned down to kiss her. Pulling back slightly, she toyed with his mouth with her lips and hot breath. When she felt his lips twitch to form another smile, she pressed hers against his, firmly, and then snuck her tongue between them.

 

He moved his hands from her sides to her breasts. Her first instinct was to stop him, but she really did like the way his hands felt on her. She let him cup and squeeze her, and she felt her nipples become stiff peaks beneath his palms.

 

Without breaking their kiss, Stella tugged at his belt and walked backwards toward the bed, pulling him with her. When the back of her legs hit the mattress, she pulled back. She pushed her underwear down her thighs and let them fall to the floor, and then unbuckled his belt. His pants fell easily off his hips, but had to be helped past his muscular quadriceps.

 

As he stepped out of them, Stella sat down and scooted to the middle of the bed, reclining onto her elbows. She had one leg out straight and the other bent, and she lazily swung her knee from side to side, teasing him with glimpses of her nakedness.

 

Her eyes drifted down from his face to his cock which strained against the material of his tight boxer briefs. She raised her eyebrows in a silent command for him to remove them. He obeyed, and surprised her by not expressing his mirth all over his face. He let her look at him, standing confidently at the foot of the bed. Stella admired his defined body, his chiseled abs, and his long penis that pointed toward its eventual destination in solid erectness. She felt heat in her chest and moisture between her legs as she anticipated taking in his length.

 

She reached back and grabbed the condom she had set on the nightstand, and tossed it to the end of the bed so he could put it on. Her clit throbbed as she watched him roll the latex over his shaft.

 

He crawled onto the bed toward her. Stella was glad that he didn’t ask for permission. He was so fucking polite, she had half-expected him to. Instead, he loomed over her, toothy smiles long gone. She could feel the warmth radiating off his skin, and she ached all over to feel his weight on her and his length filling her.

 

Stella reached down and gripped his cock, stroked it in her fist, and then guided it to her entrance. She rubbed his head against her, wetting the tip with her arousal. Releasing him, she put her hands on his ass to urge him closer. He pushed into her slowly, aware of his size and her petiteness.

 

Once he was buried inside her, Stella let herself have a moment to indulge in the feeling of fullness. He was pressed up against her cervix with amazing pressure. She lifted her hips slightly to increase the intensity of it. Her lips parted and she rolled her eyes shut as a rush of pleasure washed over her.

 

She tightened her pelvic muscles to spur him into motion, and he took the cue. His rhythm was slow to begin with, pulling all the way out of her before sliding back in with long, deliberate movements. The friction along her walls and the tension as he stretched her with each insertion worked her up quite quickly. She felt a warm tingle spread in her abdomen.

 

On his next push in, Stella wrapped her legs around him, causing him to thrust into her roughly and deeply. She gasped; he grunted. He looked down at her as if searching for guidance. Stella licked her lips and nodded. He resumed, but with more force and a quickened pace. She locked her legs like a vice, and could feel the sinewy muscles of his buttocks flex against her calves.

 

“Harder,” she breathed out.

 

He put his hands under her and grabbed her bottom, lifting her hips with him as rose to his knees. His hands deftly moved to grip her at her sides so he could pound into her with the vigor she wanted. She covered his hands with hers, his lovely hands, and rocked her hips in time with his. Soon the slapping of skin on skin was drowned out by a hollow whoosh in her ears as her orgasm crested. She was vaguely aware that he was coming, too.

 

He fell down beside her with a flop, and then felt around for her hand. He laced his fingers with hers. It was such a strange gesture, but she let him do it while she caught her breath. After a minute, he propped himself up on one elbow and brought her hand to his mouth, placing a kiss on her knuckles, like some prince in a fairytale. She looked at him, amused, and then gently pulled her hand from his.

 

Stella got up, wrapped her robe around her, and went into the bathroom to wash up. When she came out he was gone. The only evidence that he was there was the rumpled bedding and his masculine scent mixed with the smell of sex. She knew she gave off a detached vibe, but no man had ever read her that well. Usually she had to give a polite brush off.


As she got ready for bed, she spotted the hotel stationery had been moved on the desk. It had something scrawled on it. I’m in room 310 with a smiley face drawn underneath it. Stella, now in the comfort of her solitude, finally allowed herself to smile back.

Chapter Text

“Gosh, you are in a mood, Dana.”

 

“I am not.”

 

Scully huffed as she pushed the door to her apartment open with her hip. Margaret Scully followed her in, arms laden with grocery bags. Scully placed the bag she was carrying on the kitchen table and started to unload it. She could feel her mother’s scrutinizing gaze.

 

After a few moments she looked at her. “What?” she said with the petulance of a teenager.

 

Maggie just raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips as she helped Scully put away her groceries.

 

“Well, I was looking forward to going to church and brunch with you, Mom, not Father McCue.”

 

“I thought you liked Father McCue,” Maggie replied, even though she knew what her daughter meant.

 

“I do.” Scully let out a measured breath. “I just would’ve rather it be the two of us, is all. It’s fine.”

 

“Really, Dana, you’re getting more and more anti-social.” Scully shot her a look to which Maggie responded quickly, “It’s not a dig at your job or at Fox—just an observation.”

 

Scully let the comment go, but her level of irritation went up slightly. She wasn’t even really upset at her mother for inviting Father McCue without telling her; the brunch had been pleasant enough. Mostly, she was on edge because it had been two days since she had called Stella, and she hadn’t received a call back. Her mind had proceeded to jump to conclusions as one’s does in situations like this.

 

The last time they spoke Scully had unwisely told her she missed her. She knew immediately it was a mistake, but she didn’t think it would actually scare her off. Rationally, it could stand to reason that Stella was busy with her inquest in Belfast, and that’s why she hadn’t heard from her. Problem was, she didn’t really think rationally when it came to Stella. She acted upon feelings rather than sound judgment. Every hour that passed without the phone ringing further cemented Scully’s notion that she had royally screwed up, that Stella cared never to speak to her again.

 

Regrettably, she found herself taking her frustration at herself out on the people around her. Currently her mother was getting the brunt of it, but earlier Mulder had been the unfortunate recipient. The worst part of it was that she was aware of her behavior and felt unable to get it under control. It also made her feel needy and clingy which were characteristics she’d always abhorred.

 

Last night during their lovemaking, Mulder had slipped a finger in her ass. He did this occasionally, and Scully always enjoyed it. However, this was the first time he had done it since her affair with Stella, and the shame of that came flooding back with this physical reminder of her and Stella’s last and final fuck. The feeling hit her so forcefully, and she reacted without thinking, reaching back and knocking his hand away.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked, breathlessly, voice full of concern.

 

Scully tried to hide her emotional panic. “Nothing. I’m just not in the mood for that.”

 

“Oh.”  

 

She started to resume her movements, but he pulled out and laid down beside her.

 

“Want me to be on top?”

 

“Scully, what’s going on?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I keep noticing little things—things like that, and, I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking it.” He didn’t finish his thought.

 

Scully prompted him, albeit with trepidation. “Overthinking what?”

 

“Things just feel different. The sex feels different. Not all the time, but-- it’s just ...different.” Mulder didn’t look at her throughout this.

 

“Well,” she started cautiously, “I am different. Something happened that caused a shift, so we’ve changed—adapted. I know I am the reason for that change, and that you didn’t get to have any say in it. I took that choice away from you, and I am sorry.” She kept hoping he would look at her. “It’s just an adjustment period.” Scully shrugged weakly. “I think,” she added in a softer and uncertain tone.

 

Finally, he looked at her. “How long am I going to feel like this?” he asked in the tiniest voice she had ever heard come out of him.

 

Now Scully looked away. “I don’t know,” she whispered.

 

Thinking about this and the possibility that she might never hear from Stella made her get more angry at herself. She had fallen for someone who just wanted her to be a fling, and she had hurt someone who loved her very much in the process.

 

“Dana? Where are you?”

 

Maggie’s questions cut through the fog of her muddled mind.

 

“Hm?”   

 

“Well, for one you are putting paper towels in the refrigerator.”

 

Scully looked down to see her mother was right. “Oh. I’ve just got a lot on my mind.”

 

“Want to talk about it? I can make us some tea.”

 

The phone rang, and Scully couldn’t hide her eager hopefulness. She went into the living room to answer it, and Maggie, spurred by her daughter’s facial expression, followed her. She was confused to see Scully’s face fall, slightly, when she heard it was Mulder on the other end.

 

“--fine. She’s here helping me unpack groceries.” She glanced up at her mother. “Mulder says ‘hi.’”

 

Maggie smiled broadly. “Hello, Fox.”

 

Scully stopped her eyes from rolling because it was sort of sweet. “She says ‘hi’ ...Okay...yeah...hmm-hmm...see you tomorrow.” She hung up feeling two ways. She was glad that Mulder was still in the cheery mood in which she had left him this morning, but she felt dejected that the caller wasn’t Stella.

 

After their botched banging from the night before, Scully had woken Mulder up with some morning head, hoping to soothe the wounds that had been reopened. It worked. What can she say, she gives a damn fine blow job. Last night had been a little hiccup, but they were still in a good place, moving forward and strengthening their bond. She had a little ways to go to rebuild his trust in her, but the outlook was bright.

 

“How about that tea?” Maggie asked, reupping her offer. She wanted to know what those reactions to the phone call were.

 

“No thanks, Mom. I have some stuff to do to get ready for the week.”

 

Maggie sighed. “All right.”

 

***

 

A pestering feeling nagged at Stella as she got ready for Grant’s party. She had such a difficult time settling back into her life after everything with Scully, much more difficult than she had anticipated. Stella had tried to distance herself, but felt silly when she thought about what she was distancing herself from—a friendship with someone with whom she had had a deep connection. Why would she push something like that away? The easy answer was that she just simply didn’t form relationships, so it was an unfamiliar and unsettling position in which to be. The more complicated explanation was that when her father died, her desire for any meaningful relationship had died with him. Scully had revived that want, and its presence terrified her. The loss of her father had nearly destroyed her, and she couldn’t bear the possibility of such a loss again. Feeling so deeply for Scully had brought back these fears that she was so sure she had conquered.

 

I’m brave enough to face it again, she thought as she gave herself a mental pep talk. I am also deserving of the happiness that comes with such a friendship. Stella was finally coming to this realization, and chided herself about her behavior. She had ignored Scully’s call, and had had no intention of calling her back. She had thought it best to sever all ties that made her feel, so she could go back to just sensory pleasures of the flesh and nothing more. She now knew it wasn’t fair to deprive herself anymore. And it wasn’t fair to Scully.

 

As Stella started to feel more like herself again, and began to grasp the concept of letting someone in while still being capable of maintaining her strong sense of self, she felt guilty for avoiding Scully. She had come back from Belfast buoyed by the closure of the Olson situation as well as the awkwardness that had befallen her and Reed. The anonymous sex she had had with the businessman had also given her a boost of self-confidence. He was the first person she had fucked since Scully, and it was a relief to get back on the horse, so to speak. And what a bloody good fuck it was.

 

Once she got home, she had coasted on these feelings, but not long after she felt something missing. The place that she had opened up and let Scully occupy (and then unsuccessfully tried to fill with other things) was still there—persistent and unavoidable.

 

She set down her hair dryer and picked up the phone.

 

“Hello?”

 

Stella had the impression that there was anxious expectation in Scully’s voice, and she felt a twinge of guilt and a touch flattered that she had an effect like that on her.

 

“Hi, Scully.”

 

“Hi!” she responded, way too enthusiastically.

 

“I’m glad I got you; the time difference can be quite tricky.”

 

“Oh yeah, it’s fine,” Scully said, being overly obliging. “It’s a fine time.” She put her palm to her face. What the fuck am I saying?

 

“Listen,” Stella began. “I want to apologize for not ringing you sooner. I must admit that I’ve been struggling since being back home, and I unfairly attributed it to you. I’m not used to relationships, relationships of any kind, really. It’s quite an adjustment, but one I’m not only willing, but wanting to make.” She said all of this calmly and confidently, although her stomach fluttered with nervousness.

 

“I completely understand, Stella. Thank you for your honesty.” Scully let out a silent sigh of relief.

 

“So what have I caught you in the middle of on a Sunday afternoon?”

 

“Well, I certainly wasn’t waiting by the phone or anything,” Scully laughed, now feeling at ease, and even more so when she heard Stella’s airy chuckle on the other end. “I’m folding laundry. Exciting stuff, I know. Mulder and I just got back from Los Angeles yesterday.”

 

“Filming more episodes of Cops ?” Stella joked.

 

“Actually, you’re not far off. They wrote a movie about us, er, about one of our cases, and we were invited to the premiere.”

 

“What?” Stella asked, surprised.

 

Scully felt herself flush. Her favorite thing to hear in Stella’s accent was the word, “what.” It wasn’t just the lilting huskiness of the single syllable, but that it implied she wanted to know something about her. Stella Gibson wanting further information on anything that had to do with her was thrilling in and of itself.

 

Scully groaned, “God, Stella, it was so terrible. I can’t even tell you.”

 

“I’ll have to see it when it comes out over here. What’s it called?”

 

“Don’t you dare.”

 

“That’s a strange title,” Stella teased.

 

“I’m not going to tell you,” she said, adamantly.

 

“That’s all right. I’ll figure it out. I’m a pretty good detective, you know.”

 

Scully groaned again. “Anyways,” she said, changing the subject, “how was your trip?”

 

“It went well. More smoothly than I expected. I’m relieved to be done with it.”

 

“I bet. I admit I read up on it. So tragic, for everyone involved. I’m sure it was very emotionally taxing.”

 

“Yes. It was definitely one of my most difficult cases,” Stella conceded. “Actually, I was in Belfast for something else, something that happened during the case, but wasn’t related to the case.” She paused. Although she felt closure with Olson’s death and her inopportune connection with it, Stella thought that an unburdening with a trusted friend might do her some good. Her mind flashed back to the affable doctor who had asked her if she had any real friends. She had answered that she had a few, but she was really exaggerating the levels of those friendships for the purpose of avoiding a pathetic response. Now she had a real friend that could unequivocally fit into that category.

 

Scully waited, sensing that Stella would continue. She wondered if she was collecting her thoughts or working up courage.

 

“I slept with an PSNI officer, another detective. He wasn’t on the Spector case. He was murdered the following night,” she said, almost clinically. “My relations with him became a matter of the investigation, and…” Stella hesitated. “He was married, had children. My role in his adulterous decision came into question. Why hadn’t I asked if he was married and all that nonsense. I know that I’m not to blame, but with what happened with you and Mulder, I can’t help but think maybe I should put more responsibility on myself in these situations.” She sighed. “But then I feel weak for submitting to something that is held over women far too often.”

 

“I don’t think it’s your responsibility at all. The fact that you are stressing over it just shows how compassionate you are, how much you care.”

 

“Shhh, we don’t want that information to get out,” Stella joked. “I found myself checking for wedding rings just the other night. It has already become an involuntary thing.”

 

“Oh?” Scully said, encouragingly.

 

Stella just laughed, but it was a light, easy laugh.

 

“We may as well talk about these things. We are girlfriends, after all,” Scully reasoned.

 

This echoed Stella’s thoughts about her conversation with that doctor. Wasn’t she just reminding herself of this point?

 

“Well,” she said, her voice lowered conspiratorially, “he didn’t have a wedding ring, but he did have an enormous cock.”

 

Scully choked on her own breath and coughed. “Wow, okay,” she laughed.

 

“Too much?” Stella asked.

 

“I don’t know, you tell me. Was it?”

 

Stella cackled. It surprised them both. It had been a long time since someone had made her laugh like that, genuinely and naturally and heartily. Stella found things amusing or funny when flirting or bantering, but chatting with a girlfriend and being caught off guard with a raunchy joke was different. She welcomed it. And Scully did, too. She had heard Stella chuckle, titter, and even giggle, but this laugh was like angels heralding pure joy from heaven.

 

“Oh, you are cheeky,” Stella said, calming down after the unexpected laughter. “I like it.”

 

“All right, you want one in exchange?”

 

“Yeah, what have you got for me?”

“Mulder and I fucked on the beach.”

 

“Miss Dana Scully. I am impressed. Wait, a public beach?”

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

“Okay, good. A private beach isn’t as naughty,” informed Stella, matter of factly. “And how was it? Was it very From Here to Eternity with sand in your knickers?”

 

“It was pretty fucking great,” Scully replied. “No sand in any uncomfortable places, surprisingly.”

 

“Brilliant.” Stella looked at the clock. “Ah. I have to go. I’m going to this party. It’s my boss and his wife, and their dinner parties are so bloody dull.”

 

“Oh God, I’m sorry,” she empathized. “Thanks for calling, Stella.”

 

“Sure thing, mate.”

 

Scully’s grin was impossibly wide as she hung up the phone.      

Chapter Text

Stella took another large gulp of her wine. The alcohol was doing nothing to assuage her irritation at being caught in an inane conversation about-- it dawned on her that she hadn’t been following the gentleman’s ramblings. Something about his PR firm, perhaps?

 

Her attention was on the woman behind him. She had arrived with Detective Inspector Philip Dembry. They made an odd couple, if that’s what they were. She didn’t know much about Dembry outside of work. He was a stalky fellow with perpetually red cheeks—a bit bumbling, but a solid detective. She was currently heading the homicide case he had been assigned.

 

The girl he was with (she thought “girl” because she looked young, maybe mid-20s—could Dembry be that young, too?) looked tough and cool, like a modern day East End punk polished up for a stuffy, formal dinner party. She just didn’t quite go with Dembry and his ill-fitting suits and premature male pattern baldness.

 

Her eyes kept meeting the out-of-place young woman’s. She thought it was her preoccupation with the only interesting person in the room, but soon she realized that the girl was initiating most of their gazes.

 

“--and I says to Tucker, ‘The ‘Mericans are going to think you’re a right tosser if you are chuffed about that!’” The man who had been droning on at Stella laughed obnoxiously and nudged her elbow, bringing her attention back.

 

Stella stared at him blankly for a beat, and then offered a tight-lipped smile before simply walking away. She took the last sip of wine and sauntered up to Grant showing him that her glass was empty—something that needed to be rectified right away. He nodded and leaned over the guest he was chatting with to retrieve the bottle from the dinner table. Their conversation continued uninterrupted as Grant filled Stella’s glass.

 

She felt someone bump her from behind, and when she turned to see who it was, Dembry’s date was standing closely—intimately—next to her. The look in her eyes and the little squeeze she gave Stella’s forearm when she said “Oops! Pardon.” made the whole occurrence feel intentional, and that she was doing very little to hide that fact. Stella quirked her lips into a knowing smile. She watched her walk away towards the hallway that led to the washroom, her hips swaying the way they do when you’re young and confident, and are aware that someone is admiring them.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, Stella saw Marla approaching with a humorless-looking man in a burnt orange sweater vest that looked to be the texture of children’s craft felt. Her phone buzzed, mercifully, in the pocket of her slacks. Stella pulled it out and gave Marla an apologetic look before glancing at the screen—it was from the medical examiner’s office—and ducking out of the noisy dining room.

 

Stella stood at Grant’s desk in his office, jotting down the information the pathologist was giving her. As she thanked the ME for ringing, she saw the girl come out of the bathroom and poke her head towards the office door. When she saw Stella, she entered the room, flashing her a cheery grin. Stella looked down at her notes and ended her phone call. The girl was browsing the spines on the extensive built-in bookshelf that comprised two of the walls.

 

“Sorry to intrude, but it’s pretty brutal out there,” she said, still looking at the shelf, her head cocked to read the titles.

 

“You’re here with Dembry?” Stella asked.

 

“Yeah, but not like that. We’re each other’s beards. He was my date at this family thing, so I owe him,” she answered casually, tossing a look to Stella over her shoulder. “He’s not out, so mum’s the word, yeah? But, I can tell you don’t care,” she said, turning and taking steps towards the desk. “And that you can keep a secret.”

 

Stella nodded. “Of course.”

 

She held her hand out to Stella. “I’m Louise.”

 

Stella shook it. “St--”

 

“Stella Gibson. Philip told me.” She fiddled, nonchalantly, with a paperweight on the desk. “He also told me that you’re a proper good detective.” Louise now looked at Stella with charged regard. “Can I test you?”

 

Stella huffed out a small, skeptical laugh. “I suppose.”

 

“Okay, three truths and a lie. You ever play it?” She didn’t wait for an answer, but moved around the desk towards Stella, beginning her list of statements. “One, I want to kiss you. Two, you want to kiss me,” she said, dropping her breathy inflection and stepping closer. “Three, I took my panties off in the loo before coming in here.” Closer. “Four, I have green eyes.” Emerald orbs sparkled brightly—mischievously—back at Stella.   

 

“The lie is your eye color,” Stella responded promptly, unfazed.

 

Louise grinned. “But my eyes are so obviously green,” she teased with a laughing lilt to her voice.

 

“You’re wearing colored contacts,” Stella said. “What else are you lying about?”

 

“Why don’t you investigate,” she replied, leaning in and punctuating each syllable of the last word in Stella’s ear, her hot breath falling on her neck.

 

Stella put her hands on Louise’s shoulders and began to pat her down. She slid her hands underneath her arms, firmly caressing her torso and then down. She felt a soft bulge in the pocket of her satin bomber jacket. Stella reached in to see what it was. She pulled out a pair of black lace underwear, and let it hang delicately off her finger as she raised her eyebrows at Louise. She returned Stella’s look with a smirk that said “I told you so.”

 

Stella stuffed the lingerie back in Louise’s pocket and guided her by the hips to the darkened corner of the office, away from the view through the open door. They pressed into each other, and their moistened, ready lips met. Their tongues played together with a tentativeness that belied their mutual eagerness. Stella’s hands stayed solidly at Louise’s waist as Louise let her fingers roam and skim over Stella’s silk blouse. They kissed for a good while, Stella getting a couple of faint moans from Louise; then she worked her knee between Louise’s legs, parting them like she would if she was frisking a suspect.

 

Stella turned Louise around and took her hands, placing them on the shelf of the bookcase, wide and high. Louise got the hint to keep them there, and pushed her ass back into Stella as confirmation that she would comply. Stella’s hands ran down Louise’s arms to her breasts; she squeezed them and pinched the hardened nipples through the gauzy material of her flowy, bohemian dress. Louise arched her back to increase Stella’s attention at her chest.

 

One hand continued to fondle her tit while the other journeyed southwards to the hem that brushed against her bare legs, mid-thigh. Louise let out a hiss as she anticipated Stella’s touch under her dress, between her legs, where she was wet and aching. Her fingers delicately prodded at her tender, swollen folds, at first; then she felt Stella inside her—slow, pulsing movements going deeper and deeper.

 

Louise braced herself against the bookcase, fingertips grazing the vintage tomes on the shelf, rocking her pelvis into Stella’s hand. Another tweak of her nipple, and then Stella’s thumb was stroking her clit. Her fingers gripped the smooth wood of the bookshelf as her orgasm drew near, fluttering in her chest, then her belly—until the walls of her cunt were clenching around Stella’s fingers.

 

“Fuck!” she cried out in a ragged whisper.

 

Stella soothed Louise’s sensitive sex with her palm. Her other hand released her breast, and gingerly swept Louise’s silken chestnut hair aside. She placed her lips on her neck—not in a kiss—but faintly nestled there so she could breathe in the feminine scent of her and feel the softness of her skin.

 

Louise’s harsh breaths began to settle, and she felt tingly and warm in the spots where Stella was touching her. She sighed, bringing her hands down to a lower shelf and letting her head angle back towards Stella. They stayed that way until they heard someone exit the bathroom down the hall. Stella stepped back and looked around the room for a box of tissues. Louise offered the panties from her pocket. They looked at each other—a little sheepishly, but amused; Stella took the small scrap of lace and wiped her sticky fingers with it.

 

“We better get back out there,” Stella said, handing the underwear back.

 

“Yeah,” Louise exhaled. “I definitely got the better end of this deal with Philip. I’m fairly certain none of my family members gave him a hand job that night.”

 

Stella chuckled as she picked up her wine glass from the desk and followed Louise out towards the dining room.

 

The rest of the evening continued on in the usual boring way that the Crawford’s parties do, but Stella managed to get through it with a much better attitude. There were flirtatious, conspiratorial looks exchanged with Louise during dinner; and whenever Stella brought her wine glass to her lips she would smell Louise’s musk on her fingers, mixing with the bouquet of the oaky Cabernet Franc.

 

She made a prompt departure shortly after dessert was served, politely declining the after-dinner brandy. Stella nodded goodbye to Grant as Marla walked her to the door and retrieved her coat from the entry closet.

Chapter Text

Blue light from the TV made the sweat on their bare bodies look incandescent. For the last third of Caddyshack , Mulder and Scully had made out like horny teenagers. By the time the credits were rolling, their clothes were off, laying in crumpled heaps on the floor amidst fallen popcorn and beer bottle caps. Scully was sprawled out atop Mulder’s body, her head on his chest, brushing her fingers on the scar she had put there years before.

 

Mulder hummed contentedly. “I got my ‘peace on Earth’ after all.”

 

Scully propped her chin on her hand so she could look at him. “Tell me your third wish.”

 

“Why? You don’t believe it anyway.”

 

“C’mon, just tell me.”

 

“I set the genie free.”

 

“Aw, just like Aladdin. That’s really sweet, Mulder.”

 

He shrugged off her compliment.

 

“No, really. You were very selfless about the whole thing.” She leaned forward and kissed him.

 

“Well, Scully, I’m a giver,” he said, affecting a mock noble tone.

 

She giggled. “You are. That’s why I’m going to give you a bonus wish.”

 

He furrowed his brow at her.

 

“A sex wish,” she continued, sitting up. “Think of some fantasy that you have, and I’ll grant it for you.”

 

Mulder clapped his hands and rubbed them together, fiendishly. “Ooooh, Scully,” he taunted, eyes flashing. She smiled in return, unfazed by his playful teasing. She trusted him completely so no worries entered her mind. Actually, she was looking forward to hearing what he would come up with—he did have a very active imagination. Scully could tell he was already mulling over ideas.

 

“All right. Let me think a little. I want it to be just right.”

 

Scully pushed off him and stood up. “Take all the time you need.” She picked up his black t-shirt from the floor and slipped it on over her head. The hem came down to the curve of her ass. “C’mon, street rat, let’s go to bed.”

 

***

 

Mulder stirred the sauce in the pot on the stove. Scully had given him the easy task while she took a shower. Chicken was roasting in the oven. Mulder smiled to himself, noticing how domestic and normal it all was. The phone rang, and Mulder went into the other room to answer it, feeling so at home that the thought to not answer Scully’s phone never crossed his mind.

 

“Hello?”

 

There was a pause, and then “Mulder?” in that unmistakable British accent. He tensed, the easy, relaxed feeling from a moment ago gone.

 

“Yeah. Hi Stella.”

 

“Hi. I was just ringing to talk to Scully,” she said, painfully aware of the fact that this was obvious to both of them.

 

“She’s in the shower.” He hated how clipped he sounded. It wasn’t his intention to be short with her, but he was at a loss on how to behave with his lover’s ex-lover and current best friend—someone who he had fucked in the presence and at the insistence of his partner.

 

“Oh. I can ring back another time, then,” said Stella. There was an awkward silence. Stella wasn’t usually in the habit of feeling compelled to fill them, but she did here with him. “How are you, Mulder?”

 

Mulder sighed softly, though not loud enough to be heard through the line. He didn’t want to exchange pleasantries with her, and he knew she didn’t either. “I’m fine, doing well. And you? How are you, Stella?” He rolled his eyes at how fake he knew he sounded, and brought his fingers up to his brow, pressing against the tension building there. Scully walked in at that moment; wrapped in a robe, hair up in a towel. When he saw her, he tried to change his attitude to that of a cheerful one, but it was too late. She knew Stella was on the phone, and that Mulder was uncomfortable.

 

“Oh, hey, she just got out. Here she is,” he said, speedily. Mulder handed the phone to Scully, and mouthed the words “I’m sorry.” She watched, concerned, as he went back into the kitchen.

 

Scully sat on the sofa, thinking that if she went into another room it might look like she didn’t want him to hear any of their conversation. Everything was out in the open. This shouldn’t be awkward...but, it was.  

 

“Hi Stella.”

 

“Hey,” she breathed out, relieved to hear Scully’s voice. “Guess that was bound to happen sooner or later.”

 

“Yeah, it’s fine. He’ll be fine,” Scully said, mostly to reassure herself.

 

Mulder tried to focus on the sauce and block out Scully talking in the other room. He knew they spoke regularly. There was no reason for this to bother him, but it clearly did. He needed to get over it, and quickly, or he would probably say something rude or act like an ass. Things were so good with them lately, he didn’t want his neuroses and insecurities to ruin it.

 

“I don’t know. It’s sort of like a date, I guess,” Stella was saying. She sighed. “I don’t date.”

 

“We went on a date,” Scully reminded her.

 

“You’re different, though, aren’t you?”   

 

Scully blushed, glad that both Stella and Mulder couldn’t see her face. She loved being someone special to Stella. She knew Stella did not let people in easily or often, so to be that rare person that was allowed access meant a lot. It reminded her of her first case with Mulder. He was also closed off, so untrusting of everyone—of her. That night, in a candlelit motel room, he had opened up to her; he told her the story of his sister, and she felt the same feeling she was feeling now.

 

***

 

Stella stood outside of the theater and contemplated leaving for the third time. Why did I agree to this? she asked the redhead glowing at her from the illuminated movie poster.

 

“Oi! Stella!”

 

Stella turned at the sound of her name and saw Louise walking towards her. She regarded the poster that Stella had been looking at.

 

“I can’t believe you want to see this. It looks lame as fuck.”

 

Stella shrugged. Louise looped her arm with Stella’s and tugged her towards the ticket kiosk. “Two for The Lazarus Bowl , please,” she said. Stella reached for her purse, but Louise stopped her. “My treat. I asked you out,” she reasoned.

 

Once they were inside, Louise continued her chattering. Stella wondered if she was nervous or if she was this talkative by personality. She didn’t seem to mind Stella’s quiet, observant manner, although she did make a face when Stella declined her offer for refreshments. “How do you even watch a film without popcorn?”  

 

Stella learned that Louise worked at a pub in Islington, had two older brothers, and shared a flat with a guy who was attending clown college. She listened to the details of her colorful life, and didn’t offer much in response. Louise mostly talked about herself, but occasionally asked Stella questions which were met with short, perfunctory answers.

 

As the movie played, Stella realized that both Scully and Louise were correct in their criticisms—it was indeed terrible and lame as fuck. The actress that played Scully was quite beautiful, but she lacked that unique Scully-ness that she knew was impossible for even the most talented mimic to capture.

 

During the boring bits, of which there were many, Stella would close her eyes and picture Scully. She tried to pass off her urge to see the movie as just an innocent curiosity, but she knew it was more than that. Talking on the phone was great, but she missed seeing her, touching her, being in her presence. Obviously, some Hollywood version of her Scully was an inadequate substitute, but her wistfulness had gotten the better of her.

 

The on-screen Mulder and Scully had started kissing—in a coffin, of all places. Watching it made her uncomfortable in a way she didn’t understand. Maybe because it felt like she was being inconsiderate to Louise by obsessing over her feelings about someone else. Or it could be the image of Mulder and Scully together brought back little pangs of jealousy. She needed a distraction before her anxiety built even more.

 

Stella looked over at Louise who was all but yawning, staring at the screen, eyes glazed over with disinterest. She felt Stella’s gaze and looked at her. Louise couldn’t read the expression on her face, so she smiled and playfully threw some of her popcorn at her. That got her a return smile, something she was learning was a rare occurrence.

 

Stella reached over and placed her hand on Louise’s knee, caressing the soft skin with her thumb. Louise responded by sinking into her seat and slightly parting her legs. Stella’s hand inched higher to her thigh.

 

Louise leaned over and whispered, “This shite turns you on, eh?” nodding towards the screen.

 

“No, I’m just so fucking bored.”  

 

Louise grinned, and shifted in her seat again, a gleam in her eye encouraging Stella to continue. She watched as Stella’s hand disappeared under her dress, mentally patting herself on the back for deciding against wearing pants.

 

Stella’s fingers met cotton, and she rubbed her over the fabric. Louise brought her small popcorn tub to her lap to conceal what they were doing. Stella felt Louise’s panties begin to dampen, and she pushed it aside to finger her hot entrance. Louise sunk deeper in her chair, seeking more contact. Stella slipped her middle finger inside and pumped in and out several times before adding her ring finger. The heel of her hand rested on her mons, and Louise brought her own hand to her crotch and pushed down on Stella’s to increase the pressure there.

 

Stella glanced up at the screen just as it cut to a close-up of the Scully character. She shut her eyes and summoned an image of her Scully to her mind. Her clit throbbed and she felt wetness at her center. She pressed her thighs together.

 

God, this is perverse, she thought. I’m fingerfucking one girl, looking at another, all while fantasizing about someone else.

 

She was in too deep to stop it now, though—knuckle-deep to be precise. Stella opened her eyes. It looked like the movie was close to ending. Louise seemed to be close, too. Her eyes were closed, brow furrowed in concentration, and her lips were parted. Stella brought her slick fingers to Louise’s clit and massaged her with firm, circular movements. Louise’s grip on her popcorn tightened and crushed the cardboard in her hand. She lifted her hips as her whole body went tense under her climax. Stella continued to rub her, but softer and gentler to bring her back down.

 

Stella quickly removed her hand from Louise’s lap as the credits started to roll and people began to get up from their seats.

 

“You ready?” Stella asked. She chuckled at the sight of Louise who still looked a little gobsmacked.

 

“Fuckin’ Christ, woman.”

 

They made their way through the exiting crowd. Louise had once again linked their arms, keeping their bodies close together.

 

“That’s twice you’ve fingered me in public," Louise said in a low voice. "When do I get to return the favor?"

 

“I’m sure we can arrange something.”

 

“I’m famished. Let’s get something to eat,” suggested Louise once they were outside. “There’s a good chip shop around the corner—unless you’re too posh for the chip shop,” she teased.

 

“Oh, fuck off,” scoffed Stella. “Let’s go to the bloody chip shop.”

Chapter Text

“Handcuffs?”

 

Mulder bit his lip, nervously.

 

“Like S&M?” Scully asked.

 

“Well, not so much, but you wear the handcuffs and I’m the top—the one in charge.” Mulder’s cheeks tinged pink.

 

Scully noticed, but she was enjoying watching him squirm. “Do I call you ‘Master’ or what?”

 

“No, no,” he hesitated, thinking. “Maybe ‘Sir?’”

 

Scully slowly nodded.

 

“Jesus, Scully, you’re killing me here.”

 

She couldn’t contain her grin any longer. “I’m sorry, Mulder. I just love your panic face so much,” she laughed.

 

“You are cruel, Scully,” he said, shaking his head. “Wait, does that mean that you’re into it?”

 

“Oh yeah,” she purred, wrapping her arms around his waist.

 

“Really?”

 

“Hmm hmm, it sounds so hot.” Scully nipped at his neck. “I’m wet just thinking about it,” she said into his ear in a high, breathy voice, before erupting into giggles.

 

“Hey now,” he said, realizing that she was teasing him. “You know, that kinda thing could get you a spanking.” Mulder moved his hands to her ass and squeezed.

 

She hummed against his chest, and tilted her chin up to him. “Promise?”

 

He kissed her lips softly. Scully deepened their contact until Mulder reached behind his back and broke her embrace. He pushed her away. “Any more of that and I’ll take you right here on this desk, Agent Scully.”

 

She smiled slyly at him. “You realize that just encourages me.”

 

He adjusted the crotch of his trousers and gave her a warning look.

 

Scully put her hands up in surrender. “All right, all right.” She couldn’t help toying with him. The reveal of his wish had made her happy. Scully thought him being in control was a great idea after everything they had just been through. It might boost his confidence. And she did think the whole thing was pretty hot. It was new and exciting, and made her a little bit nervous, but in a good way.

 

“Actually, that was my second choice,” he said.

 

“What?”

 

“Sex on our desk. In the office.”

 

Her breath caught in her throat at his use of the word “our.” He said it so naturally, so easily. Her eyes stung, threatening to tear up. She scoffed at herself for getting emotional over something so silly. But the thing was, it wasn’t silly. Their argument over this desk all those years ago had brought up deeper issues that had forced them to examine their relationship and where that relationship was headed. They didn’t deal with those feelings very well at the time, but they had been working on it, together and individually, ever since.

 

She cloaked her sentimentality in a flirtatious response. “Good to know,” Scully said, raising a devious eyebrow at him.

 

They stared at each other for a long beat, color blossoming on Mulder’s cheeks again.

 

“So, uh,” he said, looking at the open files on the desk, “you wanna cut out early today?”

 

“Yep,” Scully answered immediately, going to the coat rack to gather her things.


***

 

“Can I come over tonight after work?”

 

Stella bristled at Louise’s forwardness.

 

“I have something—a surprise,” Louise continued, filling Stella’s silence.

 

“What time?” she said finally.

 

“I dunno. 10-ish?”

 

“Yes. All right.” Stella acceded.

 

“Brilliant! See you then.”

 

Stella pushed end on the phone. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this. This would be their third night in a row seeing each other. They had had their dinner and a movie date. Louise went down on her in the bathroom of the chip shop. Last night Louise had brought over takeaway. They chatted over kebabs and then fucked on the kitchen floor. Each date was mostly sexual in nature, but Louise’s familiarity concerned her; it was a bit too companionable, too close. Maybe she would broach the subject with her tonight.

 

***

 

Mulder fingered the silk of the bondage restraints on display. He grabbed a package that had a set of two in black and made his way to the counter.

 

It was a strange feeling to be in this sex shop again, and to actually be buying something he would be using with someone else. Mulder had frequented the video section here many times, but only ever bought stuff for him to get off to solo. Except for that time he bought Scully a vibrator as a joke for Christmas. He liked to imagine that they got off on that one together, in a way—her using it at home and him masturbating to the thought of it. She had gotten him a gag present that year, too: a Japanese octopus porn video. It was so obvious that they were meant to be together, but it still took some time, even after that gift exchange.  

 

Mulder hadn’t been able to wipe the smile off of his face since they had left the office that afternoon. Scully had agreed to his kink, and quite readily, too; although she had made him sweat for a minute there. In fact, she had even seemed amenable to sex at work, which had always been off-limits since they had started sleeping together.

 

Her eagerness helped alleviate his anxiety about his suggestion. Mulder had thought a lot about what fantasy he would propose. They had actually done quite a lot—sex in public, ass play...a threesome. Their night with Stella was, at the time, everything he could’ve hoped for from his wildest dreams, but he was still struggling to come to terms with everything that happened after. Was that one night of passion worth the heartache that had followed?

 

Mulder had considered the things they hadn’t done that he would like to do: watch porn together (maybe not that tentacle one, though), some sort of role play, and the sex at work. He kept the handcuff idea in the back of his mind, not willing to admit he wanted to do it. The implication that he wanted to control Scully bothered him. Scully had made it clear, rightfully so, that her life is her own and that she belongs to nobody. He had been selfish about this in the past, but was trying to do better, to be better. If he requested this from her would he be asserting power over her? She had said his wish could be anything, but would this be taking advantage?

 

He had wrestled with these thoughts incessantly over the past couple days. Bondage sex, even in its mildest form which he was proposing, requires trust. His trust in her had cracked when he learned about the affair with Stella. Maybe this was a way towards repairing that. She would have to completely trust him if this was going to work, if they were both to get enjoyment out of it which was the goal, but he would also have to trust her—trust that she was submitting to him out of love and not out of guilt.

 

***

 

Louise stood at the kitchen island, hands in the pockets of her slacks, looking confidently at Stella as she poured them each a glass of wine. Stella handed it to her and Louise placed it on the counter without taking a sip. Stella regarded her curiously as she brought her own glass to her lips. Louise was practically leering at her. She stepped to Stella, taking the wine from her and setting it down before pressing her lips against Stella’s. Louise brought her hands to the back of Stella’s neck and gripped her firmly, making the kiss somewhat aggressive. It caught Stella off guard at first, but then it aroused her, and she opened her mouth to Louise’s prodding tongue.

 

Louise tasted her, drank her in; she sucked her lower lip into her mouth. Her hands moved down to grab Stella by the waist and she grinded her hips into her. Stella made a startled gasp and pulled back.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Your surprise.”

 

Stella looked at her with confused fascination as Louise unclasped the fly of her pants. She shimmied them down her hips, and Stella saw an electric blue dildo spring up. It was affixed to Louise’s pelvis with thick black straps. Louise stepped out of her pants while watching Stella’s reaction.

 

It took a lot to shock Stella, but this certainly did. She opened her mouth to say something, but couldn’t think of a response. The whole thing turned her on, but she just stood, frozen in her astonishment.

 

Louise took Stella’s hand and guided it down to grip the shaft. They stroked it; Stella could feel the ridges and the veins of the life-like mold.

 

“You don’t give guys blow jobs, do you?” Louise said with a cavalier seductiveness.

 

Stella turned her nose up, defiantly. “No.”

 

“Do you want to give me a blow job?”

 

Louise ran the pad of her thumb along Stella’s moist bottom lip, locking her in a heated gaze with her eyes. Stella became light-headed with desire and nodded her head assentingly.


***

 

“On your knees.”

 

Scully, naked with her hands cuffed behind her back, slowly lowered to her knees. Mulder stood before her in just a pair of jeans. He unbuttoned them and slid them down his legs, his erection bobbing just inches from her face.

 

“Look at me,” he commanded. She did, and he put his finger under her chin. “Keep eye contact with me. Do you understand?”

 

Scully nodded, transfixed by his stern stare and the smell of him.

 

“I said ‘Do you understand?’”

 

“Yes, sir,” she answered, remembering the response they had agreed on.

 

“Take me in your mouth.”

 

Scully licked her lips and closed them around the head of Mulder’s penis. She swirled her tongue around his tip before taking more of his length in. He let her set the pace at the start. Then he brought his hands to her head and gently tousled her hair. He often did that, but with an intention not to assume authority of her movements.

 

Tonight was different, though.    

 

He put more pressure on her head and thrusted towards her. She was looking at him just like she was told. He questioned her with his eyes, making sure she was okay. Scully’s eyes sparkled playfully back at him. Their unspoken communication spurred him to continue.

 

Scully was one of those women who enjoyed performing fellatio. There was something incredibly erotic that came with the power to reduce men to a quivering mess with just your mouth. Although the sex act was the same, it became entirely different with Mulder holding the reins. Rather than her being in control of his pleasure, he was taking it from her—fucking her mouth. And to her surprise she liked this just as much—because it was Mulder, she suspected. If any other guy had attempted this with her he wouldn’t have had a dick to speak of afterward. She also guessed that she wouldn’t have been too thrilled with Mulder if he had tried it early on in their sexual relationship; they had to work to get where they were today. She knew Mulder wasn’t trying to assert power over her and that he trusted her to stop him if she wanted to.

 

Scully was able to roll her tongue over his head a couple of times, and the sensation made Mulder buck his hips harder. Mulder saw Scully’s eyes go wide. She swallowed, barely suppressing her gag reflex. Mulder eased up, and stroked her cheek with his thumb, then pulled out of her mouth and leaned down to kiss her. He could feel her swollen lips under his, wet and warm. He soothed them with his tongue. When he stood back up, she was panting, trying to catch her breath, still looking at him.

 

“You didn’t have to stop, Mul--”

 

He shushed her with his finger to her lips.

 

***

 

Stella was dealing with her own loss of control. The flesh of her moistened lips stuck to the tacky rubber of the dildo. She gathered saliva on her tongue to lubricate it, and once it was slick enough she took it deeper. Louise tangled her fingers in Stella’s hair, encouragingly.

 

There was something arousing in relinquishing control. Stella was always in charge when it came to sex with both men and women. She felt a sense of freedom doing this with Louise. Maybe dominating every sexual encounter inhibited her experiences at times. Even so, she couldn’t imagine ever doing this to a man—it would give them too much satisfaction. On a woman, though, that was another story.

 

Stella looked up at Louise. She was smiling. “Good girl,” she said, and Stella felt wetness between her thighs.

 

Louise pulled the dildo from Stella’s mouth. “I want to fuck you with this.”

 

Stella licked her tender lips and nodded.


“You want me to fuck you with my cock?”

 

She nodded again. Christ, what is this girl doing to me? she thought. But even as she was embarrassed by her submissiveness, her cunt throbbed in anticipation. She did want Louise to fuck her with her cock. Badly. She wanted it right now.   


***

 

“Stand up and turn around.”

 

Scully obeyed. Mulder unlocked one of the handcuffs, letting them dangle off her right wrist.

 

“Get on the bed. On your back.”

 

Once she did, he straddled her stomach, his hard cock, moist with her saliva, resting between her breasts. Mulder looped the cuffs through the slats of her headboard and secured them, again, to her other wrist. He moved down her body, kissing and licking as he went, flicking and teasing her nipples with his fingers. She shuddered underneath him.

 

He returned to kiss her mouth, sticking his tongue in hers and massaging the inside of her lips, her cheeks. Scully moaned. He nibbled his way down her jawline to behind her ear, and then to her neck and sucked at the soft skin.

 

“Mulder, no hickies,” she warned, forgetting their roles.

 

He sat up. He was calm, but imposing. “I will mark you if I want to. Do you understand?”

 

“Yes, sir.” Oh hell, that’s what turtlenecks are for, Scully thought, grateful that he had returned his attention back to her body. He latched back onto her neck, the heat and suction of his mouth made her writhe with pleasure. His hands played with her tits, kneading and stroking. Her clit ached to be touched. She struggled against the metal restraints above her head.

 

Mulder got up off the bed and walked to the closet. He retrieved the silk bondage ties from his overnight bag. Scully, her body cold from the loss of his warmth, shivered. He dangled the ties over her stomach, the silk skimming against her sensitive skin. Mulder took his time tying her ankles to the footboard of the bed. Satisfied with his knots, he crawled back up on top of her, his face hovering closely above hers.

 

“Do you want me to fuck you?”

 

“Yes, sir,” she rasped, desperately.

 

“Say it.”

 

“Fuck me. Please. I want you to fuck me.”

 

Mulder ran the tip of his dick up and down her slippery folds. She was so wet for him. He entered her slowly, watching her face. Her lips were parted, expelling shallow breaths; her eyes rolled up and the lids fluttered shut as he bottomed out deep inside her. He pulled back and began pumping in and out of her. Scully tried to meet his thrusts, but being tied down made it difficult. She gave up trying, and let him plow into her over and over, making them buck up and down on the mattress, the wood of the bed frame creaking. His cock felt so good inside of her, thick and pulsing; filling her, stretching her, making her whole body buzz with desire. She curled her toes and her abdomen flooded with warmth; her orgasm was building. Mulder looked close, too. His face was damp with sweat, jaw clenched in concentration, determined. He watched her breasts bounce with the vigor of his movements. Then they made eye contact, and he could see her silent plea to push her over the edge.

 

***

 

“Come for me.”

 

Stella was riding Louise at this point. She was in her lap, the dildo deliciously rubbing against the walls of her pussy. Louise’s hands gripped the flesh of Stella’s ass. She was letting Stella control the action, but she was still in charge. Stella kept looking to her for approval throughout, and it was making her crazy. She was going to come from just that. This powerful woman who could make men cry with a blank look had sucked her off and was now letting her fuck her with a fake dick.

 

The harness of the strap-on pressed against her clitoris, and she urged her again: “Stella, come for me. Come all over my cock.”

 

“Yes, yesss,” hissed Stella. “Oh my Go--” She went silent—waves of her climax washing through her.

 

Louise pushed up into her, making the toy brush her clit once more. She came, holding Stella quivering in her arms.

 

***

 

“That was incredible.”

 

Mulder caressed Scully’s wrists with his fingers; her delicate skin was marked with raw reddened splotches. “ You were incredible,” he insisted.

 

She wiggled her hands from his and hugged him, pulling him to lie back on the bed with her.

 

“Can I try it some time?” she asked. “You know, be the top?”

 

“Fuck yeah, Scully. I’ll be your sex slave anytime,” Mulder answered. “It’d be a goddamned honor.”

 

She snuggled happily in his embrace, and he squeezed her closer, tighter. Scully fell asleep quickly, and Mulder fought against his drooping eyelids to watch her in this contented, peaceful state as long as he could.

 

***

 

She awoke with a start. Out of impulse Stella reached to her nightstand for her dream journal that was no longer there. She didn’t keep one anymore. Her dream had been an ungodly mix of terror and catastrophe. In it, she choked the life out of Paul Spector with her bare hands, and she and Scully were in a terrible car crash. She sat up, chest tight with anxiety, trying to decipher what it could mean as the images faded from her mind and her memory of it faltered.

 

The bed shifted as Louise turned over in her sleep. She had forgotten that she let her spend the night. Once again their time together ended up centering around sex. That’s really all Stella wanted out of it so she was confused why this concerned her. Perhaps the camaraderie she developed so quickly with Louise reminded her of what she had with Scully, and what she was missing from that in their arrangement as friends. Louise was so unlike Scully, but still her time with the younger woman kept sparking in her painful little notions of loss.

 

She watched Louise sleep, her features soft in the blue-gray light that filtered through the window as the day began to dawn outside. The last time she did this was in Scully’s bed. She had memorized the lines of her face—the graceful slope of her nose, her jawline. Stella calmed her nerves to the memory of Scully’s chest lightly rising and falling with her idle breath, feeling a twinge of guilt for calling up an image when Louise was right there by her side.

Chapter Text

Stella was in her office going over CCTV footage that her team had gathered for her when she heard the commotion from the bullpen. Through her window she saw Dembry punch Detective Inspector Brooks hard on the jaw. Brooks fell back onto his desk, nearly knocking over a computer monitor. She rushed to her door, opened it, and looked at the men for an explanation. Dembry stared at her, his usual red face even redder. Brooks was rubbing his cheek, looking at her with guilty little sideways glances. The other detectives milling about all pretended to be suddenly interested in something else, avoiding their superior’s disapproving frown.

 

Dembry looked as though he was going to say something to her, but then stalked off angrily. Brooks stood, adjusted his jacket, and then skulked off as well. Stella put her hands on her hips, and shook her head out of annoyance, returning back into her office. She would talk to them once they cooled off.

 

***

 

“She’s my boss, Louise.”

 

“So?”

 

She was drying shot glasses with a dingy rag. Dembry sat at the bar looking at her with exasperation.

 

"And you told her I was gay?"

 

"Yeah, sorry, mate," she said, remorsefully.

 

He rubbed his face with his hands.

 

“What exactly did this guy say?” Louise asked.

 

“Fuckin’ Brooks,” he seethed. “Said he saw you two out together, and asked me what I thought about my boss fucking my girlfriend.”

 

“But I’m not your girlfriend.”

 

“Bloody Christ, Lou, I know. Ever since Crawford’s party, though, everyone thinks...I haven’t confirmed it or anything. I just thought the rumors would die down and everyone would forget about it.”

 

She gave him a sympathetic look. “Wanna drink?”

 

“I shouldn’t. I have to get back,” he declined, glumly. “Ah, sod it, gimme a pint.”

 

She filled a glass with dark amber liquid from the tap.

 

“So you’re shagging DSI Stella Gibson, eh?” sighed Dembry, resigned but impressed.

 

“Who said anything about shagging? We’re just hanging about.” She shrugged nonchalantly, but averted her eyes. She felt bad about lying to him, but she had the distinct impression that Stella might not appreciate her talking about their activities, especially to someone she worked with.

 

Dembry narrowed his eyes at her, skeptically. He didn’t quite believe her; he had known Louise for a long time. She liked to fuck around. “Funny, I don’t see anyone just being mates with her. As an inspector I find her a bit scary, but as a gay man, well, I still find her a bit scary,” he chuckled, “but bloody fabulous.”

 

“I know, right? She’s so posh.”

 

“God,” Dembry groaned in agreement, “she fucking is.”

 

“Think you’ll be in trouble when you go back?”

 

“Most likely. The arsehole probably already filed a complaint.”

 

“I can’t believe you hit him,” she said, grinning. “Wait, whose honor were you defending? Mine or hers?”

 

“Dunno. Both? Mine? He deserved it.”

 

***

 

Stella stepped into Grant’s office and sat down. The grave look on his face had her on guard.

 

“The Assistant Commissioner has asked me to take you off this case,” he stated, dismally.

 

“What?” Stella said, shocked.

 

“Brooks filed a complaint against you.”

 

“Against me?”

 

Grant sighed. “Are you aware of an incident between him and Dembry?”

 

“Yes. I don’t know what it was about, but I saw Dembry strike Brooks. I was going to talk with both of them when Dembry got back.”

 

“Apparently Brooks made a comment about you sleeping with Dembry’s girlfriend—he saw the two of you together.”

 

Stella felt pressure in her chest, but kept her composure calm. She crossed her arms and sat back in the chair. “How exactly does that justify a complaint against me, Grant?”

 

“It doesn’t, Stella,” he said, commiseratingly. “Brooks has it out for you, you know that. And I just learned of another incident with some American FBI agent.”

 

Stella looked at him questioningly.

 

“It was also about you. The agent cold-cocked Brooks,” Grant said with some satisfaction. “Are you familiar with an FBI agent?”

 

Stella’s head was swimming. “Y-yes.” She started to put some of the pieces into place. Mulder had been here while she was in DC. Stella brought the conversation back to the matter at hand. “I don’t see what any of this has to do with me heading this case.”

 

“Quite right. See, Brooks knew I wouldn’t take his grievance seriously, so he went over my head to Assistant Commissioner Davies. And Davies was still fuming over the thing with DI Olson.”

 

Stella rolled her eyes and shook her head.

 

Grant continued cautiously, “He said he’s tired of your sex life bungling these cases.”

 

“Oh for fuck’s sake.”

 

“I know, I know. I’m sorry, Stella.”

 

“This is ridiculous.”

 

“It is. Brooks and Davies are cut from the same cloth. Brooks knew what he was doing. I’d’ve liked to have had him removed from the case once I learned about what he said to the American agent, but by then he had already spoken to Davies.”

 

Stella stood and paced. “So that’s it? Nothing can be done about it?”

 

“I tried, Stella. I really did,” said Grant. “I’ve got something developing in North Wales—Bangor—might be sending you to do a review there.”

 

She took a measured breath and nodded stiffly.

 

***

 

Dembry knocked lightly on Stella’s office door and opened it when he heard her tell him to enter.

 

“Ma’am? May I have a moment?”

 

She motioned for him to sit. He shut the door behind him and sat across from her.

 

“I heard what happened, and I’m awfully sorry.”

 

“Why are you sorry, Dembry?”

 

“Well, none of this would’ve happened if I’d had kept my cool. Especially with an utter knob like Brooks,” he scoffed.

 

Stella smiled imperceptibly. “That’s true, but you’re not to blame.”

 

“Ma’am?”

 

“Brooks and his ilk are at fault,” she said pointedly. “Do me a favor and focus on this case. You’ll have to make up for his shortcomings. Don’t get distracted by his hate.”

 

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am.” Dembry got up, but hesitated before going to the door. He had been surprised by how gracious she had been. “Ma’am, I know this is none of my business, but are you and Louise..?” he trailed off. “I just sort of look like a pathetic wanker here.”

 

“You’re right,” she said cooly. “It’s none of your business.”

 

He nodded and smiled at her sheepishly before turning to leave.

 

“Dembry, don’t be ashamed of who you are. Men like Brooks should be ashamed. Understand?”

 

His ruddy cheeks flushed scarlet. “Yes, ma’am.”

 

***

 

“The night manager at the pub, Sully, he’s this really big bloke, all muscley and tatted; I say we send him to this guy Brooks, and you know,” Louise said, pounding her fist into her palm.

 

Stella smiled at that thought as she dished them each out some lo mein from a white paper takeaway container. Louise took her plate and started eating. Stella set down the carton and became pensive. “We’ve created an impossible situation for Dembry,” she said, dolefully.

 

“He’ll be fine. I’ve told him he should just come out anyway.”

 

“No, I understand his apprehension. Law enforcement is filled with toxic masculinity. There’s a certain benefit to putting parts of yourself aside in order to focus on the work, and so those with narrow minds can as well.” She took a sip of her wine. “Maybe my sex life does complicate things too often. People seem to keep getting hurt or compromised.”

 

Including me, Stella thought.

 

Louise frowned sympathetically, but remained silent. She twirled curly noodles onto her chopsticks.

 

“Along those lines, can we be clear about what is going on here?” Stella asked.

 

Louise looked up at her, nonplussed.

 

“I’m not looking for anything beyond sex,” stated Stella. “Are you all right with that?”

 

“Yeah, ‘course,” Louise answered, assuredly.

 

“To be entirely honest, I’m a bit hung up on someone,” Stella said, being uncharacteristically open. “I can’t quite reconcile my feelings about it.” Her eyes drifted from Louise to some far off point, glazing over with a thoughtful weariness.

 

Louise sat chewing her lip, watching her; she was taken aback by Stella’s tender demonstrativeness, and didn’t know how to respond. Stella finally shook her head as if to bring herself out of this melancholic stupor, and sighed deeply before taking another sip of wine. She hadn’t touched the dinner in front of her.

 

Louise leaned over and put her hand on Stella’s, and gave it a little squeeze in an attempt to offer some comfort. Stella smiled softly, appreciatively.

 

***

 

“God, that’s awful, Stella. I’m so sorry,” said Scully after hearing Stella recount her eventful day at the office.

 

“I felt like I was close, too—that I could’ve done some good on this case.”

 

“Yeah, of course.”

 

“It is what it is,” sighed Stella.

 

“We have an evaluation tomorrow morning. I think they’re going to try to shut us down again,” related Scully.

 

“Well, I hope you have better luck than I.”

Chapter Text

Stella dialed Scully’s home number, her heart beating fast with worry. Scully’s voice in the message she had left earlier sounded so fragile, like she was on the verge of tears. She had said that something had happened and she needed to talk. Stella left a quick message when Scully’s machine picked up, and then tried her cellular number, but got the voicemail there, too.

 

She tried to keep the panic at bay as she looked for their office number.

 

“Agent Chapman,” answered a gruff voice.

 

“May I speak to Agent Scully, please?”

 

“I’m sorry, that’s not possible.”

This response confused and bothered Stella. “Agent Mulder then?”

 

“You’ll have to talk to Agent Crane if you have information on Agent Mulder’s whereabouts.”

 

“Wha-- his whereabouts?”

 

“You want me to direct you to the task force’s hotline, ma’am?” asked the agent, impatiently.

 

“No. No, thank you.” She hung up.  

 

Stella logged into Interpol on her computer. Her heart sank lower as each search produced nothing. What was going on? There wasn’t much she could do besides wait for Scully to call back, but she tried her cell one more time just in case.

 

No answer.

 

***

 

Scully gingerly got out of bed, securing her hospital gown behind her. Her body ached all over. She searched in her bag for her phone, hoping it still had some battery left. It was possible it was being monitored but she didn’t care; she needed to talk to Stella.

 

There was a little juice left in it, and she scrolled through the numerous missed calls from Stella and a couple from her mother. Almost a week had passed since her life had been upended.

 

“Scully?” Stella answered anxiously.

 

Silence.

 

“Hello, Scully, are you there?” Then she heard soft sobbing on the other end. “I’m here. I’m here,” she whispered to Scully. Stella waited as Scully cried, continuing to say “I’m here” every so often.

 

The sound of Stella’s voice had broken the dam. She had cried in Agent Doggett’s arms after the nightmarish ordeal, and had been trying desperately not to break down again ever since. Scully finally calmed the racking sobs and gulped a stiff breath which hissed sharply in Stella’s ear.

 

“He’s gone,” she said quietly.

 

Stella felt a lump in her throat. She didn’t say anything, not wanting to bombard Scully with questions.

 

“He’s gone, Stella, and I don’t know how to find him,” she said, her voice cracking.

 

Slowly, bit by bit, the details of what happened came out between stifled cries and pained silences. She used the word ‘abducted,’ and this gave Stella a chill, knowing very well that it meant something different in their line of work. Stella knew there were no words that would do any good, so she just repeated “I’m sorry” over and over in faint whispers.

 

“Stella?” Scully said once she was done.

 

“Yes?”

 

“I’m sure this all sounds very unbelievable.”

“I believe you, Scully.”

 

“I found out some time ago that I was unable to have children,” Scully continued. “I had a hard time accepting it, and even tried IVF a couple times, but it never worked.”

 

Stella didn’t know where she was leading with this, but her heart ached for Scully all the same.

 

“The night Mulder disappeared…” Her trembling voice fell away. “Stella, I’m pregnant.”

 

Stella’s chest suddenly felt like it was filled with lead. “Oh my God,” she said, barely audible over the long distance line.

 

Scully realized it was odd to bring up her reproductive history, and so vaguely, but she wanted to somehow impress upon her what a miracle this was.

 

Scully’s phone beeped in her ear telling her the battery was running out. “Fuck,” she said defeatedly. “My phone’s about to die, Stella. I--I, uh, needed to tell you. I wanted to hear your voice because I’m lost...because I can’t hear his, and Stella…” She started crying again.

 

“Scully, I can get on a plane tonight.”

 

“No, no,” Scully insisted, tearfully, “I need to focus on finding him.”

 

“I can help.”

 

“No, it’s all right. Thank you. Knowing you would is enough—knowing you’re there,” Scully assured her.

 

“I’m here,” Stella confirmed.

 

Scully heard it before the phone went dead.

 

***  

 

Hospital beds were becoming all too familiar to Scully; she was lying in her third one this month. She was overcome with guilt—guilt for leaving her new partner high and dry again, and for not taking better care of the life growing inside her. She kept putting herself in harm’s way, partly out of some sick act of rebellion; but mostly because she was desperately trying to keep the X-files open, terrified that if they were to be shut down her hopes for finding Mulder would be, too.  

 

Agent Doggett, to his credit, had already developed a certain loyalty even though he didn’t understand much of it. They butted heads often, but she saw herself in his skeptical nature; and taking over the role of believer made her feel close to Mulder.

 

Doggett was out there in the field right now representing their ragtag little department—some horrific, cultish murders that included an FBI agent. She was somewhat relieved to be sitting this one out having been held captive recently by a slug worshipping cult. However, her reason for not being out there terrified her, too. The complications she had been experiencing worried her. She couldn’t lose this baby—she could not survive one more loss.

 

The pregnancy had been difficult so far, and it was still so early on. Her fear of miscarrying weighed on her heavily. That’s why she hadn’t told her mom about it yet. Maggie had been devastated when she heard Mulder was missing. Scully knew the news about the baby might’ve helped bolster her spirits, but she was scared of getting her mother’s hopes up, just like she admonished herself daily for the doing the same thing. Not that there was anything wrong with hoping—it’s what got her out of bed each morning, after all.

 

Besides, she had Stella to confide in, and Skinner had her back at work. That would get her by until she felt more sure—felt like she wasn’t going to wake up one day to find this pregnancy was all a dream.

 

Although, she craved comfort. Stella was an ocean away, and Skinner had to tread lightly at the Bureau. Scully had recurring nightmares of Mulder being tortured. At least she told herself they were nightmares; she couldn’t bear the thought of them being some kind of omniscient vision. Between that and the overwhelming anxiety and despair, she hardly slept; the lack of decent rest increasing her unraveling state of mind.

 

***

 

Stella remained seated at the conference table as everyone filed out of the room. Grant stayed behind to gather his things and eyed her, concerned. She was staring blankly at the closed file in front of her.

 

“Stella.”

 

She blinked and then looked up at him. “Hm?”

 

“Are you okay?” he asked. “You seem a thousand miles away.”

 

“Yeah,” she said, “I have a friend who is ill. I’m just a bit worried about her.”

 

“Sorry to hear that. Anything I can do for you?”

 

“No,” answered Stella. “Thank you though.”

 

He gave her a small smile and left her alone with her thoughts.

 

“No, nothing can be done,” she said quietly into the empty room.

 

She felt utterly helpless. Scully was living a nightmare, and there was not one thing Stella could do for her. She had come close several times over the past weeks to getting on a plane to DC. Despite Scully’s insistence that it wasn’t necessary, she felt that being there with her might help. Each time she had decided not to, fearing that her presence could just add to her stress.

 

She sighed, neatly stacked her files, and got up, steeling herself to go through the motions of the rest of her day.

 

***

 

“Can I ask you to do something?”

 

“Anything,” Stella replied. She sat up in bed and switched on her nightside lamp. It was 4 o’clock in the morning, but she was prepared to make travel arrangements the second Scully said the word. She was so relieved that Scully had been discharged from the hospital, and now Scully was asking for her help.

 

“Can you talk to me?” Scully said, softly.

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

Scully continued, trepidatiously, “Talk to me while I touch myself?”

 

Stella tensed. She was not prepared for that request. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” she whispered back.

 

“Stella, please,” she pleaded. “Mulder is gone. I’m carrying his child. The grief is consuming me.” Scully began to cry. “Please. Help me. Help me feel something else. Just for a moment.”

 

Stella felt every single tear that fell on Scully’s cheeks deep in her heart. She swallowed. “What are you wearing?”

 

“Pajamas,” Scully said, sniffling. She exhaled a pacified sigh, grateful that Stella would do this for her.

 

“Strip down to your underwear.”

 

Stella listened as Scully put the phone down to take off her clothes. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest.

 

“Okay,” said Scully, slightly out of breath.

 

“Touch your breasts.”

 

Scully followed her command; she tucked the phone between her cheek and shoulder, and palmed her boobs; her nipples were already erect. She started with light kneading, but as Stella continued to speak in a low voice over the phone, her clutches became rough and uncontrolled.

 

“Tease your nipples. I know they’re hard. I would take them in my mouth, swirl them with my tongue, bite them softly with my teeth.”

 

Scully arched into her own hands, pinching and rolling the sensitive peaks between her fingers.

 

“Are you wet?” Stella whispered. “Feel to see and tell me if you’re wet.”

 

Scully trailed one hand down to her center. She rubbed herself over the fabric of her panties. They were soaked with her arousal.

 

“Yesss.”

 

“Yes what?” prompted Stella.

 

“I’m wet.” Scully breathed out as she grinded her pelvis into her hand. “So wet.”

 

“Put your fingers inside you.”

 

Scully shoved her hand into her underwear and fingered her swollen entrance.

 

“Imagine it’s my tongue. I’m licking you, and you’re wet and tight, and you taste so good. You taste perfect.”

 

She whimpered as she fucked herself with her hand and pictured Stella’s mouth on her. Her ragged breaths became labored, and Stella could hear the frustration in her as she chased a release. Stella wanted to give that to her.

 

“Do you want to come?”

 

“Yesss.”

 

“Do you want me to make you come, Scully?”

“Please, Stella.”

 

“Rub your clit. Imagine it’s me, my tongue, licking; my lips, sucking.”

 

Scully was panting heavily now. Stella had to stop herself from moaning and squeezed her thighs together, pressure mounting at her core.

 

“Come against my mouth, Scully.”

 

Scully was right there. She stroked her clit furiously, desperate to let go, to feel ecstasy for a few brief moments. Stella pressed the phone to her ear to catch every strained groan.

 

“Come for me, Scully,” Stella ordered, her voice heavy and sensuous. “I want to feel your pussy quiver under my mouth, your clit pulse between my lips.”

 

Scully cried out as her orgasm finally, mercifully, overtook her. She was breathing rapidly after the shock of climax; and soon Stella heard those gasps for breath give way to anguished weeping. Stella’s vision became blurry with her own tears and she restrained a sob, covering her mouth with her hand.

 

After a while, Scully’s crying subsided, and the two of them quietly breathed into the phone. Scully felt drained, exhausted; she might be able to sleep tonight after all.

 

“Thank you,” Scully whispered.

 

Stella didn’t know what to say, so she was silent for several beats before saying, “Get some rest, Scully.”

 

“Goodnight.”

 

Stella waited to hear Scully click off before she hung up. She let the tears fall as she sat stiffly, the handset in her tight grip, stunned by what just happened. Taking a few shaky breaths, she dried her cheeks with the back of her hand, turned off the light, and crawled back under the sheets.

 

Her body felt listless, sluggish with the weight of her sadness for Scully; but, yet, she could still feel the buzz of arousal coursing through her veins. She shifted restlessly and adjusted her pillows. Stella closed her eyes and sighed deeply.

 

Try as she might to fight it, her body demanded release. Having been so intimate with Scully once again had proved to be too intense. Stella felt powerless and ashamed as her hands made their way to her aching cunt. She found herself slick and wet, and pushed three fingers in roughly. It didn’t take long before she was coming, calling out Scully’s name on a rasping, sorrowful breath.

Chapter Text

Stella checked her cell phone as soon as she landed in Wales. It was a short flight, but she had told Scully she would try to be available by phone as much as she could while she was out of town. There were no missed calls or messages.

 

She was slated to be in Bangor for two weeks, and she hoped that it really was just that and not like how it had turned out in Belfast. Although, it was a relief to be away from the Met, just for a bit. She was still a little bitter about being taken off that case. Stella had watched as each new lead fell through. Thankfully there hadn’t been anymore murders since, but they were no closer to catching a killer as they had been when she was removed.

 

As far as she could tell, Dembry and Brooks were working fine together. Louise had told her that Dembry said it was challenging, but he had taken what Stella told him to heart and was focusing on the case. Louise said that she didn’t hear from him for weeks at a time which was unusual because they spoke fairly frequently.

 

Louise had been understanding about their strictly sex arrangement, and was even more understanding each time Stella passed on her offers. Ever since the phone sex with Scully, Stella had been skittish at just the possibility of sex, whether it be with Louise or self-pleasure. Scully hadn’t asked her for that again, and she was both relieved and disappointed about it. On one hand she knew it wasn’t a healthy coping mechanism for either of them; but on the other, she craved that connection with Scully. Stella was the only one that could ease Scully’s pain in that particular way.

 

This caused in her a unique sexual frustration that she had never experienced before. It was was something she would want to confide in Scully, but Scully was the reason for it. It was a catch-22. Not to mention, she would never want to burden Scully with any of her problems right now, not with what she was going through.

 

A bell dinged indicating that the passengers could unfasten their seatbelts. Stella remained seated with her phone resting in her lap, lost in her thoughts, as everyone else stood and bustled around her in an impatient frenzy.

 

***

 

Scully took a deep breath before knocking on the door. Her mother’s smiling face appeared as the door swung open.

 

“Dana! What a surprise,” Maggie exclaimed, drawing her daughter in for a hug.

 

Scully savored the embrace and held onto her mom for a little longer than was usual.

 

“Come on in,” she said once they parted. “I still have the coffee on if you want.”

 

Scully followed her into the kitchen. “No thanks. Do you have any tea?”

 

Maggie opened the pantry and looked. “English Breakfast, green tea, chamomile,” she listed.

 

“Chamomile would be great.”

 

Maggie took a bag from the box and started the kettle on the stove. Scully sat on a stool at the island and fiddled with a button on her coat that she had draped over her legs.

 

“You don’t have to work today?” Maggie asked.

 

“No, I took today off,” Scully answered softly looking down at her hands. The little boy’s face flashed in her mind and she winced. All night long she had been haunted by the image of Trevor right as she pulled the trigger. She saw it as she lie awake and restless, and she saw it each time she fell into a fitful sleep; her words to Doggett echoing and pulsing with the rush of blood in her ears.

 

I shot a young boy. I shot a young boy. I shot a young boy.    

 

The incident the night before made her miss Mulder even more, but it also made her loneliness more acute. Mulder was the only person that would’ve understood what had happened, and how to console her, how to help her get past it. She couldn’t even imagine trying to explain it to Stella, and Doggett was as clueless as ever. Scully was going to wait to tell her mom about the baby once she was safely through her first trimester, but the events of last night had shaken her and she wanted to feel the closeness of her mother; so she decided a week early couldn’t hurt.

 

“Sweetie, are you okay?” asked Maggie, concerned.

 

“Yes,” she replied. “Just tired.”

 

The whistle on the kettle began its shrill hiss, and Maggie pulled it off, pouring water into the cup she had prepared with a teabag. She brought it to Scully and set it on the counter in front of her. Scully avoided her mother’s eyes and watched the steam rising from the cheerful ceramic mug. Maggie took the jacket from Scully’s lap and hung it over the back of a chair at the dining table. Then she sat next to Scully and found both of her hands with hers, pulling Scully to turn and face her.

 

Maggie watched as Scully struggled internally. She could see her features racked with nerves, her body stiff. Maggie had heard plenty of bad news come from her youngest daughter and about her, too; she didn’t know what awaited her now, but she tried her best to imbue the strength it looked like Scully needed.

 

“Mom,” she began, “I-- I, um, I hope you’ll forgive me for not telling you sooner, understand why I waited. I…” Scully finally raised her eyes to meet her mother’s. “I’m pregnant.”

 

Maggie’s mouth fell open, the corners curved up in a grin. She squeezed Scully’s hands. “Oh my goodness. Dana! I can’t believe it!”

 

“I can’t either,” Scully responded, smiling shyly under her mother’s astonished gaze. “I still don’t understand how it’s possible.”

 

“It’s a miracle, Dana. You’re not meant to understand God’s miracles.”

 

Scully knitted her brow. She would never understand how God could give her this child, but take away its father. Why such divine cruelty?  

 

“How far along are you?”

 

“Eleven weeks. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you soo--”

 

“Oh hush. Don’t worry about that. I’m thrilled, Dana.”

 

Scully had been about to tell her about the complications she had been plagued with the past months, but the look on her mom’s face stopped her.

 

“Were you able to tell Fox before..?”

 

The tight feeling in Scully’s chest increased. She shook her head and took a sip of her tea in an attempt to deflect both of their emotions.

 

“Oh sweetie,” Maggie said, trying to console her. She rubbed Scully’s back comfortingly. Maggie didn’t doubt that Fox Mulder was the father. She knew her daughter was a very private person and was sure there were things Scully would never tell her, but in her heart she knew this miracle came to be out of their love for each other.

 

“That explains the chamomile,” said Maggie, breaking the somber silence. “How are you doing without your caffeine?” she joked.

 

Scully groaned. “It’s the worst.”

 

Maggie laughed. “Mothers still smoked and drank back when I was pregnant, so I’m sure a cup here or there wouldn’t hurt. I stayed away from coffee for every one of my pregnancies because the smell made me want to vomit! Your father, bless his heart, switched to tea. Earl Grey, to be exact.”

 

Scully smiled. She could remember mornings when her father was home, sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper with his mug of tea. “Did you have morning sickness? With all of us?”

 

“Oh yes. It was terrible,” Maggie said, adding with a smile, “but worth it.”

 

Scully relaxed a little. Being able to have this conversation with her mom meant the world to her at the moment.      

 

***

 

Stella left the hotel restaurant after her dinner and turned into the bar instead of going to the bank of elevators that would take her to her room. Oddly, the seclusion of that room made her feel despondent when it usually offered a comfortable peace. She didn’t want to be alone with her thoughts or her feelings.

 

Also, she hadn’t heard from Scully in days. She didn’t want to call her and make her feel like she was being checked up on. Although, she thought maybe Scully would like to hear from her, and she knew it would do herself some good. She ended up going back and forth, over and over, and always decided not to call. It made her feel silly, and it depressed her, too. How was she so comfortable with this woman yet could still be reduced to these internal, nonsensical debates.

 

Luckily, this review was keeping her busy. She worked long hours most days pouring over the files and dissecting the department’s procedures. So many mistakes had been made. It had been one thing after another, and mistakes had led to other mistakes; it felt like she would never get through it all.

 

She sat down at the bar and ordered a glass of the same wine she had had with dinner. The bartender, whom she recognized as the one who waited on her a couple of nights ago, smiled at her as he poured her drink. Stella took her phone from her bag and stared at it for a minute before shoving it back into the front pocket. She took a sip of her wine and then massaged the back of her neck, feeling the knots of tension under her fingertips.

 

“Need some distraction?” asked the bartender.

 

Stella sighed. She could tell from his sympathetic look that the frustration was radiating off of her. “Sure,” she said, unconvincingly.

 

“You ever hear the story of ‘The Maiden of the Green Forest?’ It’s a Welsh fairytale.”

 

Stella shook her head.

 

“Welsh fairies can marry mortals—betcha didn’t know that either,” he said with what Stella knew he thought was a charming wink. “And they can impose upon their earthly betrothed any number of conditions.

 

“There was a prince named Benlli. He was growing tired of his wife. She had aged as mortals do, and he went in search for a young maiden. One day as he was hunting boar he met a beautiful fairy. He asked her to be his bride, and she was willing if he agreed to her three conditions:” He ticked them off with his fingers, animatedly, as he went. “He must get rid of his old wife; he must permit her to leave him one night of every seven; and he must not ask about where she goes or what she does, nor employ any spies to follow her.”

 

Stella raised her eyebrows as she raised her glass to her lips.

 

“The prince readily agreed. If he kept his promise, the fairy assured him that her youth and beauty would never fade, not until the long green rushes grew in his great hall.”

 

Stella pursed her lips curiously. He grinned, glad he was able to hold her attention so far.

 

“They lived happily for nine years--”

 

“What happened to his first wife?” Stella interjected.

 

“Oh, so happens she was gone when he returned with his new bride.”

 

Stella narrowed her eyes at him. “How convenient,” she said, skeptical of this throwaway bit of information.

 

He smirked, and then continued, “So they lived happily for nine years. She stayed as youthful and as beautiful as the day they had met. But, Benlli’s curiosity of where she went and what she did on those nights that she left grew and began to torment him. He became miserable and unhappy.

 

“One night he hosted a feast at his castle, and a monk named Wyland from the White Minister order noticed his wretched sadness. The prince told him of his fairy wife, and the conditions, and how the mystery of her laid heavily on his soul—he hungered for peace.”

 

A man at the end of the bar signaled for her storyteller’s attention. “To be continued,” he told Stella, and went to help the customer.

 

Stella sipped her wine and ruminated on the story. She despised the prince. Although it was only a fairytale, men of this reality were just the same—greedy, controlling, treating women as means to their selfish ends.

 

“Where was I?” he asked, returning to his spot across from her.

 

“Wasn’t that the end? Curiosity killed Prince Charming and the fairy lived happily ever after?” Stella said before finishing her wine in a satisfying gulp.

 

“You rewrote it while I was gone?” he laughed. He reached back and grabbed the wine bottle, holding it up to offer her more. She pushed her glass toward him and he filled it.

 

“Well, we can leave it like that if you want, but I have a feeling that you’ll like how it ends.”

 

“All right.”

 

“So the monk, who was magical in his own right, offered the prince the peace that he craved in exchange for his fairy bride and a percentage of all that flows into his palace vaults.”

 

Now Stella hated the monk, too.

 

“Wyland went to the cave that he knew to be the entrance to Fairyland and waited for the Green Forest Maiden to appear. Not long later a beautiful woman spirited by him going into the cave. He knew it was her. The monk cast his irrevocable spell saying, ‘Let her forever be as she appears now, and never leave my side. Bring her to the Cross near the town of White Minister, and I will wed her.’” The bartender had affected an authoritative tone as he emulated the monk.

 

“At the Cross he met a hideous ogress with moss for hair and old, wrinkled skin. She was the fairy. Every seventh night she would return to the cave and become her old self, Benlli’s aged first wife.”

 

Stella’s eyes brightened at this.

 

“She had promised that her beauty would never fade until the long green rushes grew. She kept her promise as Wyland’s spell was fulfilled. The Maiden flooded the prince’s palace, the rushes and reeds growing in the banqueting hall, which was now sunk deep below the earth. The prince was granted peace, but it was the peace of the dead.

 

“The monk was caught in his own dark plot—his reward became his doom.” He finished, flashing Stella a huge grin.

 

Stella nodded, pleased with the ending. The bartender looked back at her, expectantly. She could tell he was looking for some sort of praise. It was a good story; he had told it well and it had distracted her as promised. “Thank you. That was just my kind of fairytale,” she said.

 

He smiled. “Glad you liked it.”

 

He gestured at her wine glass which was now empty. She waved her hand to decline. “No, no thank you,” said Stella as she stood.

 

“You sure?” he asked, disappointed that she was leaving.

 

“Well, I’ve already been told my bedtime story, so I better be off,” Stella quipped.

 

He laughed, and then reluctantly retrieved her ticket from the register. He slid it towards her with a pen, and she wrote her room number in the space provided and signed the bill. Stella leaned over to pick up her briefcase, and turned to leave when she heard him say “I’m off in twenty minutes” in a low, hopeful voice.

 

She looked at him, surprised by his boldness. Stella considered this. He was not someone she would seek out for a one night stand, but he was harmless and she did want to get past her recent qualms regarding sex. She also had had a bit too much wine. Stella wasn’t sure if that fact eased her mind or not. It might make her decision to invite him up easier, but not so much the better decision.

 

“See you then,” she said, her eyes fixed on his, imposingly. He may have made the first move, but it was clear by her look that she was in charge. He smiled in agreement, but he was a little less sure of himself.  

 

She was okay with it until he was inside her, and then she wasn’t.

 

When the bartender had come to her room, Stella was still dressed in her work clothes. She helped him undress, and had to keep stopping him from trying to do the same to her. She kissed him to silence his nervous chatter. Stella reached under her skirt and slid her panties down while he stood naked at the end of the bed putting on a condom.

 

Gently pushing on his shoulders, Stella had wordlessly directed him to sit on the bed. She inched up her skirt so she could straddle his lap, and he leaned in to lick the hollow of her throat. Stella dipped her chin down so she could capture his lips with hers as she guided him to her entrance. She lowered herself onto his cock, and he broke their kiss to moan with pleasure.

 

“I don’t want this,” Stella said, coming to this realization suddenly.

 

She removed herself from his lap, picked up her discarded underwear and started to put them back on.

 

“What the fuck?” he said, more to himself than to her.

 

She looked down at his crotch; he was still hard. “You can take care of that in the washroom if you’d like,” Stella offered, politely.

 

His eyes widened in stunned confusion. “You can’t--”

 

“Can’t what?” said Stella, calmly challenging him. He looked back at her, but didn’t say anything. “Can’t change my mind?”

 

“But, I was inside you,” he said incredulously.

 

“Ongoing consent,” she stated simply. “It’s something you should consider every time you jump into bed with someone.”

 

Stella began gathering his clothes from the floor. The bartender stood up awkwardly; his dick, now soft, hung limply against his thigh.

 

“This is unbelievable,” he said under his breath as he started to put his clothes on that she was handing to him.

 

Once he had his pants and shirt on and was stepping clumsily into his shoes, Stella said, “Right, off you go now,” and guided him to the door, pushing his bartender’s vest into his arms.

 

Alone in her room again, Stella slumped down onto the sofa and rubbed her face with her hands. What was wrong with her? She can’t even enjoy a meaningless fuck? Her briefcase was on the cushion next to her. She looked at it and sighed, reaching in the front pocket for her phone.

 

“Hello?” answered Scully.

 

“Hi, it’s me,” said Stella.

 

“Hi. Everything okay?” she asked, sensing something in Stella’s tone.

 

“I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed. Stella had had to extend her stay in Bangor to complete her review, but it was finally done and she was relieved to be going home tomorrow. She worked late and ate her meals at the station, trying to avoid the oppressive loneliness of her hotel room. Scully had gone through yet another trauma that had landed her in the hospital. She had expressed fears about the baby she was carrying, and Stella had not known how to respond or how to comfort her. Stella could hear how alone Scully felt in her voice, and she ached for her.

 

Stella had never been able to handle the feeling of helplessness very well—it did not suit her strong-willed nature, and it was beginning to take its toll. She was wound so tight, she was afraid something inside her would snap. She had her ways of managing stress, but nothing seemed to be working.

 

Swimming laps had helped a little until she had a nightmare about drowning. Her father was in it, and she hadn’t dreamt about him for awhile—since Belfast, actually. They were standing on a dock at a lake. She didn’t recognize it. The young version of herself, probably around the age of eight, slipped and fell into the water. It was freezing cold. She remembered being able to see her father clearly through the surface. He reached down for her, and she kicked her legs so she could grab his outstretched hand, but no matter how hard she kicked she could not get closer to him. She kept thinking that at any second he would jump in to save her, but he never did. She hadn’t returned to the pool after that.

 

This was also the longest period she had gone without having sex, even with herself. The night she had kicked the bartender out of her room, she and Scully had talked on the phone. Stella was unable to disguise the anxiety in her voice, but she told Scully that it was nothing. How selfish it would be to worry her with her problems. Instead she asked after Scully and how it had gone giving her mother the news. She was glad to hear that it had went well, and Scully had sounded like she was in a brighter mood.

 

Later, when she had crawled into bed, she let her hands roam over her body. The bartender hadn’t been the right choice, but surely she could coax an orgasm out of herself to help alleviate her pent up frustration.  

 

She was wrong.

 

Stella rubbed and fucked herself for what had felt like an eternity. She would get so close, but the gratification of release eluded her each time. Finally she had given up. Disappointed with herself, and sure that sleep would be just as difficult to come by, she took a shower and then got to work on the files she had brought back with her.

 

She recalled that night as she waited for the car to take her back to the hotel. Stella felt just as irritated as she did then, maybe even more so because of all the sleepless and sexless nights that had followed.

 

She took out her phone and dialed Louise’s number.

 

“Hi. I’m getting back tomorrow around 4 o’clock. Do you think you can meet me at my flat?”

 

***

 

Stella, I need you. Please come.

 

Scully thought about saying this numerous times over the past weeks, but could never bring herself to do it. Her loneliness was debilitating. She couldn’t do much besides go through the motions of each day—her mundane tasks, her job. Asking for help seemed to be too much to even consider.

 

She wrestled constantly with her painful memories and regrets that when an unprovoked feeling of joy or excitement about her pregnancy surfaced she felt guilty. This wasn’t how this was supposed to be. She should be able to share her hopes and fears with her partner, the father of her child.

 

The whole ordeal with Mary Hendershot had shaken her. She kept finding herself locked into reminiscences of the times she tried to get pregnant. They hadn’t acted on their feelings yet, but this was the start of it all. Scully had asked Mulder to be her sperm donor and he had accepted. He seemed as eager and as hopeful as she had during the process, and took the failure of it each time just as hard. Remembering these tender moments with him made things the way they were now so much more difficult.

 

Now that her mother and Agent Doggett knew, she had thought at least the burden of keeping it secret would ease some of her anxiety, but it didn’t. Maggie had become overzealous with her baby planning. Scully couldn’t bring herself to even think of things like cribs and breast pumps right now. And Doggett had been treating her with kid gloves. His exaggerated kindness was grating.

 

Luckily, Scully still had Stella who treated her exactly the same. She didn’t understand much about her particular predicament, but that didn’t stop her from being caring and supportive. Although, she could tell that Stella seemed especially stressed, but wouldn’t talk about it. Scully knew Stella wanted to be her pillar of strength, but Scully could also use the distraction—to be steered away from her own troubles, just for a moment at least.

 

She had asked that of Stella once before in the form of phone sex. Scully realized she had put Stella on the spot, and that wasn’t very fair to do. She was so overwhelmed with her emotions and worries at the time, she wasn’t thinking clearly. It had offered a brief respite though, and had aided her in getting some much needed sleep. She hoped Stella knew how much it had helped her.

 

***

 

Louise was sitting on Stella’s stoop, bundled up in a big coat and oversized headphones affixed atop her head when Stella arrived home. She stood and took Stella’s suitcase from the driver. She noticed Stella was avoiding eye contact with her, and hadn’t greeted her in any way.

 

They got Stella’s belongings inside, and Stella left them on the floor of the foyer, grabbed Louise’s hand and pulled her to her bedroom. She kissed Louise as she frantically tried to rid them of their coats.

 

“Well, hi Louise, how are you? I’m fine, thanks very much for asking,” Louise finally said when Stella pulled away to take off her scarf.

 

Stella looked at her, brows furrowed in distress, her chin trembling like she was about to cry. She sat on the bed and put her face in her hands.

 

“Oh hey, I was just teasing you,” said Louise. “But it looks like you don’t need that right now.” She knelt in front of Stella and put her hand gently over Stella’s. “What do you need?”

 

Stella dropped her hands to her lap and looked at them instead of Louise. “I need you to fuck me,” she said softly.

 

“I can do that.” She pulled Stella up to stand and began to unbutton her blouse.

 

Stella, grateful, placed her hands on Louise’s cheeks and kissed her. Then she pulled back and said, “Do it rough.”

 

Louise looked at her, concerned at first, but then nodded. Instead of undoing the remaining buttons of Stella’s shirt, she ripped it open, sending buttons flying across the room. Stella gasped.

 

Louise pushed her down onto the bed and knelt back down between her legs, forcefully shoving Stella’s fitted pencil skirt up around her hips. She tugged her underwear down her legs and didn’t even bother to remove them all the way, leaving the burgundy lace taut between Stella’s ankles. She leaned in and nipped up her inner thigh towards her apex. Stella’s muscles tensed beneath her touch. With one long pass of her tongue over Stella’s entrance she felt that Stella was dry; so she sloppily lapped at her, spending more time on her clit to get her worked up.

 

And it seemed to do the trick—Stella was soon writhing under her. Once she got the desired response she moved up to hover over Stella on the bed. She bit Stella’s hardened nipple inside the cup of her bra while scooting her hands underneath to unclasp it. She tossed it aside and grabbed Stella’s bare breasts, kneading them with bruising intensity. Stella cried out, and Louise was relieved to hear it was out of pleasure and not pain.

 

She took Stella by the shoulders and flipped her over onto her stomach, and ran her fingers down her back, between the crack of her ass, and down to her center, which was now slick with Stella’s own arousal. Louise pushed her three middle fingers into her roughly, her pinky grazing over her clit and her thumb massaging her taint. Stella moaned, and new moisture gushed around Louise’s fingers. She began to fuck her fast and hard. Stella bunched the comforter in her fists, harsh breaths stirring the hair that covered her face and echoing loudly in the silent room.

 

Louise folded herself over Stella’s back and slipped her free arm underneath Stella at her chest. In one swift, jarring move, she pulled them both to a standing position, her hand at Stella's cunt continuing its relentless pounding. She squeezed a handful of Stella’s boob, bringing their bodies tightly together. Louise made the movement of her hips mimic a man’s as if he was fucking her from behind, bucking against Stella’s buttocks in time with the pumping of her hand.

 

Then Stella’s breath hitched with a sharp hiss, and Louise felt the walls of her pussy flutter around her fingers. She withdrew her hand from Stella and rubbed her clit soothingly to stretch out Stella’s climax, her grip on her breast relaxing.

 

Stella leaned forward and Louise released her, letting her drop down. Stella turned over to lie on the bed still breathing heavily. Louise sat next to her.

 

“Sorry ‘bout your shirt.”

 

“It’s okay,” Stella replied.

 

They let a comfortable silence blossom around them. That hard sought after release that Stella needed had finally come, and Louise sensed Stella’s intense relief radiating off of her.

 

Later that night as Stella got ready for bed, her phone rang. It was Scully, and she was calling with devastating news.

Chapter Text

He’s dead.

 

Those two words rang loudly in Stella’s ears. It had been a week since Scully had told her, but it continued to haunt her. Scully was like a widow, a widow expecting a child and mourning its father. Stella couldn’t even begin to fathom what it was like to be in Scully’s skin right now. How does one deal with a loss of this magnitude, and one that is fraught with so many unanswered questions.

 

Time heals all wounds. This adage didn’t really apply to Scully, Stella thought. Her child will forever be a reminder of Mulder’s death. How could she ease this precise pain from which Scully was suffering? Stella remained in that interminable waystation of helplessness—desperate to help, but completely unable to.   

 

***

 

“I don’t understand why you need to go so far away, Dana.”

 

Scully leaned on the piles of clothes in her opened suitcase, closed her eyes, and sighed.

 

“I think you’re still in shock,” Maggie said.

 

“I just need to,” said Scully, hoping the matter would be dropped.

 

But Maggie continued, “I don’t understand.” 

 

“No, you don’t. You don’t understand,” Scully snapped, her exasperation building. “Nobody understands!”

 

Maggie was startled by her daughter raising her voice. Scully brought her shaky hands to her face—her cheeks were warm to the touch. She had to calm down.

 

When she looked up at her mother, she saw her hurt, downcast eyes. “I’m sorry, Mom,” she said softly. “I know you lost Dad--”

 

“Oh sweetie,” Maggie interrupted, “I know it’s not the same. You’re right, I don’t know what you’re going through. I just worry about you.”

 

“I know.”

 

Maggie came around the bed and put her hands on Scully’s stomach. “And about this little one, too.” She smiled at Scully, her outburst forgiven and forgotten.

 

They hugged, both needing the comfort and closeness. Then Maggie sat on the bed next to Scully’s suitcase, taking a set of pajamas and expertly folding them.

 

“So who is this friend in London? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk about her.”

 

***

 

Stella went from room to room of her flat, giving them the once over; tidying a stack of magazines here, checking surfaces for dust there. She had sat face to face with terrifying serial killers numerous times without a shred of anxiety, but Scully coming to stay with her was throwing her into a fit of nerves. This was finally her chance to be of some help to Scully; she didn’t want to screw it up.

 

They had kind of come up with the idea together. Scully said she wanted to get away, and Stella had suggested she come to London. Scully was quick to take her up on the offer, leading Stella to believe she was hinting at it from the beginning. Although, she was a little sad that Scully might’ve felt like she couldn’t just come out and ask. Stella had been vocal about flying to DC ever since Mulder went missing, of course she would be fine with Scully coming to stay with her. She felt it was a given, but she understood Scully’s reticence because she was stubborn when it came to asking for help herself. They were quite similar in that respect.

 

Stella looked at the clock on her mantle; Scully should be here any minute. She had insisted that Stella not bother with picking her up from the airport, so she ended up pacing the rooms of her home while she waited for Scully to arrive.

 

She had no idea what to expect from Scully’s mood. Would she be stoic and strong, or emotional and bereft? She had taken the week off of work, but didn’t know what they would actually do. Sightsee? Would Scully want the distraction?

 

Stella rubbed her palms on the front of her slacks. Why am I all clammy? she thought. Get yourself together. She hated being unprepared, but there was no way to prepare for this. Once Scully got here, she would be able to gauge her mood and could take it from there. She just wanted to be the right kind of comfort that Scully needed.

 

The anticipated knock at the door mercifully came.

 

“Hi,” Stella said. Scully replied with the same, and then they stood looking at each other for a long beat before Stella stepped forward to take Scully’s suitcase.

 

“No, no, I got it,” Scully said. “Please don’t fawn over me. I don’t think I can take it.”

 

Stella let go of the handle and stood back, opening the door wider. “Of course,” she said, agreeing. “Come on in.” Stella was grateful that Scully was voicing what she needed from her; she could work with that.

 

Stella watched Scully as she looked around Stella’s entryway. She felt their opportunity to hug in greeting had passed and would now be awkward. Scully looked the same as the last time she had seen her, hair slightly longer, but not much; her coat probably hiding a marginally pregnant belly. Her face had good coloring. She looked healthy which Stella was relieved to see; she had expected her to look pale and tired considering all she had just been through on top of her frequent stays in the hospital.

 

“This looks very...you,” Scully said.

 

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing,” chuckled Stella.

 

“Good. It’s good,” Scully answered. “It’s reassuring.”

 

Stella led her up the stairs to her bedroom so she could put her things down. Scully set her suitcase on the bench at the end of the bed, and continued to look around as she shed her scarf and coat. It was fascinating to her to be in Stella’s home. She wanted to see everything, catch every detail. Her bedroom seemed to be more homey than what she had seen so far. Maybe it was the one place Stella felt she didn’t have to be so pulled together.  

 

Stella took her coat and hung it up in her closet. “You’re barely showing,” she remarked.

 

“It doesn’t feel that way,” Scully said, placing her hands on her stomach. “I feel so, I don’t know...exposed.”

 

Stella frowned sympathetically.

 

“Show me the rest?” Scully prompted, diverting away from the attention her comment had just garnered.

 

Stella gave Scully a quick tour, and they ended up in the kitchen. Scully drifted around the perimeter of the bright room looking at Stella’s sparse decor. Stella let her take her time. She was leaning against the stove, watching her. She couldn’t take her eyes off of her. That glow pregnant women have was real—Scully was evidence of that.

 

Scully stopped in front of a small bulletin board. There were a couple of postcards and a delivery menu, and a 20 pound note with HE THAT LOVES NOT ABIDES IN DEATH written on it.

 

“John 3:14,” Scully said, softly. She touched her fingertips to it and looked thoughtful, eyes glazing over wistfully for a brief moment, then they filled with tears. Scully sighed and ended it with a frustrated laugh at herself. “Sorry. I have to warn you I start crying out of nowhere. Fucking hormones combined with...well anyway. Just ignore me.” She wiped away the fallen tears with her hand.

 

“You’re impossible to ignore,” Stella said. They shared a long look. “And don’t apologize.”

 

Scully nodded.

 

“So, I’m not much of a cook,” Stella said, sensing that Scully wanted the conversation steered away from the direction it was going. “We can get delivery, or go grab takeaway. Or there’s a nice little pub in walking distance. We can go through the park since it’s not too blustery out.”

 

“That sounds good. I’d like the exercise after that long flight,” answered Scully. She appreciated Stella giving her something else to focus on other than her emotions.

 

The walk was pleasant even though the air was rather frigid. They were both bundled up enough not to notice. Dusk had just set in, and the sky was a purplish gray color. Neither of them said much, but their silence was companionable. They seemed to be at peace just to be in each other’s company at long last. Their relationship since Stella had left DC was all talking—long-distance calls that didn’t befit bouts of quietness—so there was something satisfying in the silence.

 

The Rylston was a modern pub whose specialty was wood-fired pizzas. The atmosphere was lively considering it was fairly early on a weekday evening. Black and white photographs of British rock stars adorned the walls. They opted for a table in the corner instead of the patio outside where patrons were crowded around the chimeneas scattered about. They ordered the margherita pizza for one and a side of sweet potato chips to split with a Bordeaux Rouge for Stella and sparkling water for Scully.

 

Conversation came naturally, to their mutual relief. The awkwardness of their initial reunion had been brief and they had left it behind them to dissipate from Stella’s flat. Scully told Stella that Mulder had gone to university in Oxford, and she learned that Stella had attended Cambridge. They both reminisced over their college days, trading stories of rebellious youth and their fierce dedication to their studies.

 

“We would’ve gotten along quite swimmingly at university,” Stella proffered.

 

“Oh, I’m sure of it,” Scully agreed, smiling.

 

They walked back the same way through the park although it was dark by now. Scully thought back to when they had walked to her apartment after dinner and how she had to keep herself from reaching for Stella’s hand. This time the urge didn’t quite strike her, but she moved closer to Stella so that their arms brushed against each other as they strolled along. Stella smiled inwardly at the contact.

 

Once they returned and removed their cold weather layers, Stella got a fire going in the fireplace and her electric kettle going for tea. Scully sat on the single bar stool at the kitchen island and watched Stella putter around. She felt relaxed, but an uneasy feeling bristled beneath the surface which Scully couldn’t decipher. She didn’t know what the source of it was—most likely just general grief and anxiety; she found herself caught in its hold frequently as of late.

 

“How do you take your tea? With milk and sugar?”

 

“However you make it is fine,” Scully said, her voice somewhat restrained.

 

Stella went about making two mugs of tea. She noticed Scully seemed a bit more quiet since they had gotten back. There was something melancholic about her now that wasn’t there during dinner. She placed a mug in front of Scully, and leaned against the counter with her own in her hands.

 

Scully stared at the milky, raw umber liquid—no doubt the perfect shade of a proper cup of English tea. She curled her fingers around the cup, the warmth sending a soothing wave through her. “I probably shouldn’t have this. I’m sure a little caffeine won’t hurt, but I’m so paranoid with all the complications I’ve had already.”

 

“Oh, shit, sorry,” Stella said. “I didn’t even think of that.” She was going to take it back, but the way Scully sat with it in her hands, almost protectively, gave her pause.

 

“Seven times,” Scully said, cryptically. “That’s how many times I’ve been in the hospital since I’ve been pregnant, and I’m barely into my second trimester. Granted, several of those times were because of my own stupidity.” She brought the mug up to her nose and breathed in the slightly floral and warm honey-like scent as if she were testing the boundaries of that stupidity. She set it down without taking a sip. “I can’t believe I’ve made it this far, to be honest.”

 

That melancholic air around Scully that Stella had observed darkened. Scully slid off the stool and began to pace. “You know, it’s a lot of pressure just trying to bring this baby safely to term. Mulder was the last of his bloodline. His parents are dead; his sister, also abducted. Can you believe that?” She looked at Stella, but it was clear she didn’t expect an answer. “I was abducted, too. Did I ever tell you that?” She knew she hadn’t, but this sudden onslaught of stress had her speaking without thinking. Scully continued, getting more and more agitated. “Whatever they did to me gave me cancer, left me barren. My sister was killed in my home in an attempt on my life.”  

 

Jesus, thought Stella. How is this woman alive and standing in front of me right now?   

 

“And then finally things were okay. I mean, I guess if you don’t count being attacked by a death fetishist and zombies.”

 

Stella’s eyes widened at that.

 

“Mulder and I were happy. Things were so good,” Scully said fretfully. “We had even survived, you know…” She motioned between them, indicating their affair. “And then this miracle,” she said, putting her hands on her belly. “I didn’t even get a chance to tell him that he was going to be a father. It’s so unfair,” said Scully, her volume rising and tears spilling from her eyes. “It’s so fucking unfair!” Without realizing what she was doing, Scully grabbed a vase of flowers from the counter and threw it to the floor. The loud crash of the glass shattering into pieces jolted Scully out of her chaotic spiral.

 

Scully looked down at the broken shards, the water puddling, the flowers strewn about. She gasped and brought a hand to her mouth. She felt the wetness on her cheeks from tears she wasn’t even aware of having shed. Stella stood stock-still, not sure of what would come next. Scully looked up at her with a horrified expression etched onto her face. She was shocked at what she had just done, she felt terrible for behaving this way—for letting her emotions get the best of her.

 

The fear in Scully’s eyes pained Stella. Her outburst was understandable, inevitable even. She reached over the sink and picked up a small vase void of flowers that sat on the window sill; and walked over to Scully and put it in her hand. Scully raised it overhead, but then her face twisted in agony and she crumbled, collapsing in Stella’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably now. Stella held her, rocking her gently, on the floor of her kitchen.

 

After awhile, her crying abated. “I’m sorry. I’m a mess,” she said, sniffling.

 

“Hey, hey, what did I say about apologizing?” Stella softly chastened.

 

“I’m all over the place.”

 

Stella brushed away the strands of hair that had fallen in front of her face and stuck to the dampness on her cheeks. “Can I put you to bed?” she said tenderly.

 

Scully looked back at her with big, liquid eyes and nodded.

 

Stella got her upstairs, Scully leaning on her the whole way. She had her sit on the bed while she looked in her suitcase for pajamas. Scully had fallen somewhat catatonic. She let Stella undress her and put on her pjs—she even made eye contact with Stella a couple times—but Stella wasn’t sure she was actually seeing anything; she seemed dazed. Once she got her dressed, she turned down the covers and helped her into bed. Stella laid down next to her, still in her clothes, not wanting to leave Scully even for the short amount of time it would take to change into her own sleepwear. She watched Scully. Her glossy eyes were looking right at her, but again, Stella didn’t think she registered that she was there in front of her.

 

Eventually, Scully succumbed to her fatigue and she fell asleep. Stella got up off the bed slowly so not to wake her. She went downstairs and cleaned up the broken vase, poured their cold cups of tea down the drain and washed them out. She braced herself against the sink as everything Scully had said came rushing back, and she started to cry.

 

Awhile later, Stella having gotten ready for bed herself, climbed in next to Scully. She settled her head on the pillow facing Scully, and saw that her eyes were open.

 

“Did I wake you?”

 

“Kiss me.”

 

Stella felt flush all over. “I wasn’t sure--”

 

“Kiss me,” Scully urged again.

 

Stella propped herself up on one elbow so she could hover over Scully. Her heart was pounding madly in her chest. She swept Scully’s hair across her brow and caressed her cheek before leaning in for a soft and tender kiss. Scully immediately opened her mouth to Stella, but it didn’t feel rushed or urgent. Their tongues slowly spilled into each other’s mouths, their hands starting to explore one another’s bodies as well. The movements were gradual and sensual, if not a little timid, kind of like a first time between new lovers.

 

Stella broke the kiss. “Tell me you want this,” she said, breathlessly.

 

“I want this. Stella, I want you.”

 

Scully sat up and pulled her shirt over her head, and then leaned over Stella the same way Stella had when she kissed her. She undid the buttons of Stella’s silk sleep shirt, pushing the flaps aside to expose her chest. Their lips met again, and Scully hugged Stella close, their breasts pressing together; and she rolled them onto their sides so they laid facing each other. They continued to kiss, and then as if it was from a shared thought they both tucked their hands in between their bodies, fingers lightly traipsing a path downward—Stella’s over Scully’s slightly protruding belly. Their breaths became hot against each other’s mouths as they slid their hands past the elastic of their underwear. They each found the other wet and swollen—ready.

 

Scully felt Stella’s fingers enter her and she pulled back to look at Stella. When Stella opened her eyes (which had still been closed from the passionate kiss), Scully pushed hers into Stella. They fingered one another in the same slow, sensual way with which they had started, and with their gazes piercing each other. Stella felt as if she was high from the eye contact alone. It wasn’t until Scully’s orgasm hit, that this sexual staring contest ended. Scully squeezed her eyes shut, and Stella watched her face as she climaxed. She was so enamoured by the vision that she came, too, her walls clamping around Scully’s delicate fingers.

 

Scully swallowed the last of Stella’s moans with a deep kiss. Then they held each other, the quiet of the room enveloping them as their heavy breaths became fainter.

 

“You’re so beautiful,” Stella whispered in her ear just before Scully fell asleep.

Chapter Text

When Stella woke up, she felt her body heavy with an undefinable dread. She looked next to her where Scully was sleeping. It was not a peaceful sleep from the looks of it, her eyebrows were knitted, making her appear worried. Scully was still topless, the sheet resting across her breasts. Stella noticed her shirt was unbuttoned from the night before as well. She carefully got out of the bed and went into the bathroom. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, she did mental triage on all her emotions, trying to figure out why she felt so distressed—a feeling that had awakened her far earlier than she would’ve liked.

 

Tell me you want this.

 

I want this. Stella, I want you.

 

Panic started to set in as she recalled the night before. I didn’t ask her what she wanted, I made her tell me, Stella thought in horror. Scully was not in her right mind.

 

Stella looked away from her own scrutiny staring back at her from the mirror. She was stricken and ashamed that she might’ve had taken advantage of Scully’s fragile state.

 

Kiss me.

 

But, Scully had initiated it, demanded it even. No, no, I am in the wrong, she chided herself. She pressed the heels of her hands against her closed eyes.

 

What have I done?

 

***

 

She dreamt about Mulder again, but it was different this time. The nightmares of him being tortured had stopped shortly before they found him. Scully tried to recall the dream, but it was quickly fading from her mind. She remembered Jeremiah Smith was there, and then Mulder who was holding Samantha’s hand. It wasn’t an 8 year old Samantha nor the adult clone, it was Samantha as a young teenager. Then Scully was by herself on the edge of a cliff looking into the night sky. She was waiting for the sun to come up, but she never saw it glow on the horizon like she had expected, instead she felt it—warmth from the sun rising behind her.

 

The warm feeling had continued as she slowly opened her eyes. Stella was not there. The room was still rather dark, the gray weather outside providing little light through the sheer curtains. A clock on Stella’s nightstand told her it was 10 o’clock. Scully had slept late, and she had needed it. She didn’t exactly feel rested, but she felt lighter somehow. When she sat up, the sheet fell to her lap and she realized she wasn’t wearing her top. Her memory of their love-making remained clear, unlike the dream. Scully smiled at the thought of it as she got out of bed and retrieved her shirt from the floor.  

 

She padded into the kitchen and found Stella also still in her pajamas. She sat with an empty mug in her hands, staring into space.

 

“Good morning,” Scully said.

 

“Oh, hi,” she responded, snapping out of her daze. “How are you feeling?” Stella got up off the stool and offered it to Scully.

 

“Pretty good, actually,” she said, sitting down.

 

Stella busied herself at the sink, washing her mug. “I checked the cupboard for some herbal tea, but I don’t have any. I can make you hot water with lemon.”

 

“That’d be great. Thank you.”

 

Stella kept her back to Scully as she prepared her drink.

 

“What are you doing?” Scully asked.

 

“Hm?” Stella said, turning slightly to Scully with a bit of confusion crossing her face. “Cutting lemons?”

 

“No, I mean, why aren’t you looking at me in the eye?” Scully had noticed it immediately. Stella was always so arresting with her eye contact, sometimes intimidatingly so, that her avoidance of it was palpable.

 

Stella set down the knife on the cutting board and sighed before turning to face Scully. Once she did their eyes briefly met before Stella looked down at her hands.

 

“I’m so--”

 

“Nope,” said Scully, cutting her off. “If I don’t get to say ‘sorry’ neither do you. You have nothing to apologize for. I have nothing to apologize for. If you think you coerced me into something last night, you are wrong.”

 

Stella finally looked up again. Scully got off the stool and walked over to Stella and stood in front of her. “I felt alone and untethered and you reached out to me, anchored me. And over the past weeks even with everything going on, I sensed that you were feeling that way, too, so let me do the same for you.”

 

Stella’s eyes misted over. Scully took Stella's hands in her own. “This is uncharted territory. We are keeping each other afloat, and we aren’t going to apologize for surviving.”

 

A tear slid down Stella’s cheek. Scully pulled her close by the hands, leaned in, and kissed it away. Then she pressed her lips, moist with the salty tear, to Stella’s. She relaxed into Scully, the tension she had built up in her mind all morning fading away.

 

***

 

Stella had run out to Tesco while Scully showered. Scully had made a list with the ingredients for her mom’s Fisherman’s Soup so she could make it for their dinner. They had decided they would spend the day in, watching TV and being generally lazy, something they both rarely allowed themselves to do.

 

They were both back in their pajamas sprawled out on the sofa. Stella was sitting cross-legged, Scully lying down with her feet resting in Stella’s lap. The soup was simmering away on the stove; the rich, salty aroma of the sea permeating the air from the kitchen. A shared bowl of popcorn sat abandoned on the coffee table.

 

An Audrey Hepburn marathon was playing on one of the classic film channels. They had just finished watching Charade, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s was coming up next after a block of advertisements.

 

“Did you ever read the book?” Scully asked.

 

“A long time ago.”

 

“I read it one weekend, or at least I tried to read it. Mulder had kept calling me about killer cockroaches,” Scully said, reminiscing fondly.

 

“Oh God. Really?”

 

“I finally went to assist him after, I don’t know how many calls. Well, actually, I only decided to go once he told me there was some woman entomologist helping him,” Scully said, embarrassed.

 

Stella stifled a laugh, and gave Scully a sympathetic look.

 

“Her name was Bambi,” Scully continued, rolling her eyes. “And she looked like a Bambi,” she said holding her hands animatedly in front of her chest.

 

Stella snickered at that. “Scully,” she said, playfully admonishing her.

 

“I’m not proud of it, okay?” said Scully, chuckling now, too.

 

Stella liked listening to stories of their odd cases, some of them were of lighter fare and always more interesting than hers which usually involved flesh and blood men with monster-like mentalities. Concomitantly, Scully started feeling okay talking about Mulder and sharing some of their good times with Stella. She thought of the bible passage tacked up in Stella’s kitchen: he that loves not abides in death. Mulder will always live on because he loved, and she was lucky enough that he had shared his love with her.

 

The movie began and they both fell silent, becoming absorbed in the quirky, yet somewhat tragic story. When Holly Golightly sat on the fire escape, playing the guitar and singing “Moon River” in the most wistful way, Scully’s emotions overwhelmed her suddenly and she started crying softly. Stella reached over and rubbed her arm comfortingly, before getting up to get her a box of tissues.

 

“Thank you,” Scully said, dabbing her eyes.

 

She dried her tears and was fine for awhile, but the sorrowful feeling was just temporarily dormant, and Holly receiving news of her brother’s death set her off again.  

 

“Fuck,” she said, sitting up. Scully was frustrated with the highs and lows she was experiencing. It was exhausting, and she hated that she had no control over it. She felt Stella’s hand on her back.

 

“I, I just need a minute,” whispered Scully. She got up and left the room, Stella watching her with concern.

 

She went into the small downstairs bathroom, purposefully avoiding herself in the mirror and leaned against the wall. Her shoulders shuddered with a sob and she let herself cry until the tears stopped on their own without her having to try to hold them back. She splashed her face with water, and then looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her nose was red, her eyes were puffy. She took a few deep breaths and dried her face with the hand towel.

 

Stella gave her a small smile when she came back. Scully had to stop herself from saying ‘sorry.’ Why was it such an ingrained urge to apologize for showing emotion? She had done it her whole life, and it took effort to not do it; but she was grateful to Stella for making her aware of it, and she was going to try to break the habit.

 

Stella put a throw pillow in her lap and patted it, invitingly. Scully laid her head down and closed her eyes, soothed by Stella’s fingers softly playing with her hair. Lulled by her touch, Scully dozed off. Stella watched her sleeping face more than she did the movie, relieved that Scully’s features were relaxed and serene as she slept.

 

She woke up and saw the credits rolling on the screen, wondering if she had slept through the ending or through the next movie’s entirety, in addition. She turned and looked up at Stella.

 

“Hey there, Scully Golightly,” Stella said, brushing her hand along Scully’s cheek.

 

Scully smiled brightly back at her, and then sat up, needing to stretch. “Mulder’s friends called me that for awhile. I never understood why. I’m nothing like her.”

 

“You’re fiercely independent,” Stella reasoned.

 

Scully nodded. “Though, you more than I.”

 

“I definitely cook like her,” she joked.

 

Scully huffed out a laugh and stood, remembering that she had the soup on the stove. She went into the kitchen to check on it. “What’s on next?” she called back.

 

“That’s it for Audrey today. Back to regular programming,” she answered, coming to stand next to Scully, and peering inside the pot.

 

“Well, this looks ready," Scully said. "Or is it too early for dinner?”

 

“Let’s eat. I’m hungry, and it smells delicious.”

 

Scully served them each heaping bowfuls, and they sat down to eat at the small dining table just off the kitchen. Scully started eating, but Stella just stared into her bowl.

 

“What’s the matter?” Scully asked.

 

“Nobody has ever cooked for me before,” Stella said contemplatively as if the thought just occurred to her. Stella was truly touched by the gesture, not fully realizing the significance of it until they sat at her table for two which she had only ever sat at alone. “Thank you.”

 

Scully smiled tenderly at Stella, and leaned in towards her. Stella met her halfway, putting her hand on Scully’s cheek, and they kissed. It was simple and chaste, but full of warmth.

Chapter Text

The next couple of days passed similarly. They stayed in mostly, not really needing anything other than one another’s company. Both were overdue for some rest and relaxation, so they let themselves indulge. There were more lazy afternoons of reading and tv watching. They took naps together and some strolls through the park. There were nights of cathartic love-making, and a few urgent I-need-you-right-this-minute fucks in various places around Stella’s flat.

 

Scully was feeling better, and the bouts of crying were becoming fewer. She felt mentally stronger, and even allowed herself some excitement over her pregnancy. Stella also felt recharged; being there for Scully and letting her care for her in return had a restorative effect that had surprised her. They really were saving each other, bringing one another back from the brink over and over.

 

At breakfast, Scully had said she was ready to venture out, to do something touristy. Stella suggested a museum. They spent most of the afternoon wandering around The National Gallery. Stella had extensive knowledge of art history, and she became Scully’s unique and personal tour guide. Scully took extra time looking at Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, captivated by the tenderness shown between the mother and her child. Most paintings of the Madonna and child were stiff and formal. This portrayed a joyful maternal love. Scully had reflexively put her hand to her stomach and smiled. She was once again in awe of her miraculous blessing, but a little less fearful this time.

 

They had ended their self-guided tour after coming across The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli. Stella hadn’t realized The National Gallery had it in their collection. She was taken aback by the effect it had on her after all these months. Scully had noticed Stella’s reaction to it immediately, although it would’ve been imperceptible to anyone else.

 

They had left the museum and found a bench away from the crowds in Trafalgar Square. Stella told Scully the significance of the painting in the Spector case. She had never admitted how much that night had shaken her. Stella had expressed her irritation to Jim about the invasion of her privacy and the stress of turning her journal over to evidence, but she always kept her fear out of it. It made her feel weak to be afraid of a man’s action. She prided herself on being fearless and almost immune to the evils of men, wanting nothing more than to put a stop to them and bring them to justice. Paul Spector breaking into her hotel room had left her feeling more violated and bruised and broken than his physical attack on her had.

 

She had never voiced these anxieties to anyone. Scully listened intently. She knew exactly where Stella was coming from—she had grappled with the same difficulties many times over the years. Scully sat close to Stella, hoping the nearness would offer some comfort; she knew there wasn’t much she could say to make her feel any better, but she could be there for her. Stella did gather strength from it, and after she finished talking they sat in silence for some time, watching the passersby, feeling safe and protected at each other’s sides.

 

Later, they got Indian takeaway to bring back to the house. Scully had had a craving for curry. They were dishing their plates up when the phone rang. Stella went into the living room to answer the it. When she came back into the kitchen, she looked at Scully hesitantly and cleared her throat before speaking.

 

“Uh, that was Louise. She wants to pop over,” she said, warily, “to meet you.” Scully raised her eyebrows curiously. “Is that all right?” asked Stella, watching Scully closely.

 

“Sure,” said Scully.

 

“It’s not awkward?”

 

“Why? Because she’s your fuck-buddy?”

 

Stella blanched at the crude term.

 

“Stella, it’s fine,” Scully said, smiling. “Really. I was just teasing you.”

 

Stella took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. She wasn’t sure how comfortable she was with this.

 

Louise would be over within the hour, so they ate their dinner. They were just finishing cleaning up when they heard the knock at the door.

 

Scully couldn’t say what she was expecting, but she never could’ve imagined the girl she was shaking hands with at the moment. Louise was tall—that was the first thing Scully had noticed—and lanky with shoulder length wavy, brown hair. Her face was clean from makeup besides the thickly kohl-lined eyes, a faint smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks.  She had on a kelly green shirt that said ‘Girls invented punk rock not England’ on the front of it; a worn leather jacket; a short, pleated red and black plaid skirt over black tights; and combat boots. Stella, used to Louise’s eclectic fashions, couldn’t help but smile. Louise had a charming, easy air about her, making people comfortable instantly no matter what she was wearing.

 

They congregated in the kitchen, Scully sitting on the only bar stool with Louise and Stella leaning on the island on either side of her. It made her feel a little on the spot, like she was on display, but Louise’s casual attitude put her at ease.

 

Stella offered her wine which she accepted, and didn’t bat an eye at neither Scully nor Stella joining her. Louise knew that Scully was the person with whom Stella had been hung up on, but she didn’t know any of their history or that Scully was pregnant.

 

Louise looked at Scully thoughtfully. “Dana, you remind me of someone.” Scully had introduced herself as Dana.

 

Scully shook her head slightly, unable to help her figure it out. Then Louise snapped her fingers and pointed at her. “The Lazarus Bowl!”

 

Scully’s cheeks reddened.

 

“Scully, right? Dana Scully?” Louise had remembered the name of the character in that God-awful movie, and Stella had also referred to her by her surname before. “Was that really based off of you?”

 

“Unfortunately, yes,” Scully groaned.

 

Stella stiffened as she watched Louise put the pieces together.

 

“That’s why we saw that,” Louise mused, looking at Stella, “and that’s why--”

 

Stella gave her a warning glare; Louise took the hint. “Never mind,” she said, sheepishly.

 

Scully glanced at Stella who just shrugged as if she didn’t know that Louise was about to say that she had fingered her while watching Scully’s likeness on screen.

 

Never one to let the conversation stall, Louise continued, “No offence, but that film was rubbish.”

 

Scully chuckled. “None taken. I thought so, too.”

 

“What you’ve got goin’ on tomorrow night? My mate’s band is playing in Hackney if you guys want to come.”

 

“What’s the name of this band?” Stella asked with a grin.

 

“Anarch-Hysterectomy,” said Louise, coolly.

 

Stella laughed. “I’ve never heard the same band name twice out of all her mates’ bands,” she informed Scully.

 

“Stella here almost shot wine out her nose when I told her about Sticky Marmite Arseholes,” Louise joked, smirking.

 

Scully giggled and looked at Stella who was smiling and laughing. It was nice to see her relaxed and enjoying herself after the unexpected gloominess that had ended their museum trip. Then she turned back to Louise, still intrigued. “What kind of music is it?” she asked.

 

“They’re sort of like art punk.”

 

Scully looked at her, totally clueless.

 

“Like Talking Heads,” Louise offered.

 

“Ah, okay,” Scully said finally recognizing something that Louise was talking about.

 

“Well, let me know and I can have them put you on the list. It’s no bother if not.” She knocked back the last of her wine. “All right, I’m gonna bugger off. Dana, it was lovely to meet you.”

 

“Likewise,” Scully said, warmly.

 

“Stella, walk me out?” Louise said, winking and tilting her head towards the front door.

 

Stella looked at her confused, but followed her anyway.

 

When they got to the door, Louise dropped her voice to a whisper and said, “You’ve got something there with that one. You two are so bloody sweet together.”

 

Stella blushed slightly and smiled.

 

“And she looks at you like the sun fucking shines out your bum.”

 

“Doesn’t it, though?” Stella said, cheekily.

 

“Ha, yeah, right.” Louise started rummaging through her shoulder bag. “Listen, I got you something,” she whispered.

 

She handed Stella a paper bag. Stella pulled out the box inside. “Oh my God. Louise,” Stella said, amused.

 

It was a strap-on dildo.

 

“It’s just like mine, but flesh-colored because you said, ‘Isn’t the bright blue a bit off-putting?’” Louise mimicked Stella’s posh accent, and Stella huffed out a laugh. “So, you two kids have fun," she said, turning to leave. “Unless you want to have a three-way…” She raised her eyebrows, enticingly.

 

Stella chuckled and shooed her out the door. “Get outta here.”

 

She closed the door behind her, put the box back in the bag and placed it on the foyer table. She wasn’t going to show Scully just yet.

 

Scully was washing out Louise’s wine glass when Stella came back in.

 

“Well, that’s Louise,” she said.

 

“She is quite a character,” Scully remarked, drying her hands on a dish towel. “I like her. She’s a riot.”

 

“She fancied you, too,” said Stella. “I don’t know about you, but I’m knackered. Want to head up to bed and I’ll lock up down here?”

 

“Sounds good.”

 

Stella went around turning off the lights, checked the setting on the thermostat, and then grabbed Louise’s gift and headed upstairs, an impish smile playing on her lips.

 

Scully was sitting on the bed in her pajamas, rubbing her hands with lotion.

 

“So, Louise got us a present,” Stella teased when she came into the room. She took the box out of the paper sack and held it up for Scully.

 

Scully’s eyes widened before she burst out laughing. “Wow,” she said, “that girl is ballsy.”

 

“Actually, it doesn’t have balls,” said Stella, turning the package around to look at it.

 

Scully couldn’t stop giggling. “Ah, it feels so good to laugh,” she stated, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

 

Stella put the box on the top of her dresser and opened a drawer to get her nightgown. Scully watched her, her laughter subsiding. “Put it on,” she said, daringly.

 

Stella quirked an eyebrow at her. “Really?”

 

Scully nodded, her eyes filled with lust. Stella removed her sweater over her head. Underneath she had a pale pink camisole which she kept on as she undid the clasp of her slacks. She let them slide down her legs and then stepped out of them, all while staring at Scully, whose mouth hung slightly open with a quickened breath. Stella hooked her thumbs into her panties and peeled them down, slowly and seductively. She grabbed the box and walked over to stand in front of Scully while she opened it.

 

It was a simple design. All she had to do was step into it like a pair of underwear, which she did under Scully’s watchful gaze. Once it was snug around her hips, she gripped the shaft and stroked it.

 

“Wow, that’s hot,” Scully whispered breathlessly. She was unbelievably turned on.

 

“Wanna fuck?”

 

Scully could only nod.

 

“Then get that tight little pussy over here.”

 

Scully felt a gush of wetness between her thighs. She stood, the dlido poking her in the crotch. Scully increased its pressure against her as she pressed her body into Stella’s and kissed her. Her movements were slow, but hungry—needy. Stella met her with the same pace. Their tongues played, twirling around each other; their teeth lightly nipping at the soft flesh of their lips.

 

Scully was squeezing Stella’s bare ass cheeks, exposed by the harness. Stella had worked her hands in between them to unbutton Scully’s shirt. They were both grinding their hips into each other, searching for contact on their throbbing clits. Scully moaned desperately into Stella’s mouth, pulling away to rid herself of her clothing. Stella took her tank top off, leaving on her white lace bra. The lace was sheer, and Scully let out another throaty moan at the sight of her perked, rosy nipples showing through.

 

“Oh my God, you’re so sexy. I can’t handle it,” Scully whined. She crawled up on the bed, spread her legs and fingered her clit, leering at Stella. “Fuck me.”

 

Stella felt the same wild need seeing Scully, naked, laid out before her. She licked her lips, focusing on Scully’s cunt—wet, pink, luscious folds, her finger flitting over her plump bundle of nerves.

 

She climbed up and kneeled between Scully’s feet, dipping her head down to her lap. Stella snagged Scully’s finger gently between her teeth and sucked it into her mouth, tasting her arousal. She moved up Scully’s body with it still between her lips, rolling her tongue around it, not releasing the slender digit until she pressed her mouth against Scully’s.

 

Scully felt the rubber cock between her legs as Stella’s hot tongue invaded her mouth. Stella’s lace covered tits rubbed roughly against her taut, sensitive nipples. Scully felt light-headed from the agonizing pleasure of it all. Stella, still sucking at Scully’s lips, reached down to the dildo and ran the tip of it up and down Scully's drenched and swollen entrance. Then using her hand to guide it, she thrust her hips into Scully, the fake dick sliding deep inside her. Scully cried out at the sweet invasion of her aching pussy.

 

Scully’s intense physical reactions almost gave Stella the impression that she could feel her velvety walls squeezing around the shaft between her thighs. She began a pumping rhythm and Scully wrapped her legs around Stella’s hips. Stella looked down at Scully. Her full breasts were bouncing with their movement; her bottom lip was trapped between her teeth and her eyes squeezed shut; bracing herself for a strong climax which was building, quickly and fiercely.  

 

When it hit, Scully’s legs tightened around Stella—she could feel her thigh muscles quivering. Scully gripped fistfuls of the comforter in her grasp. A deep, drawn out sigh floated resonantly past her parted lips. Then her entire body relaxed except her chest which was heaving with heavy breaths. Her eyes fluttered open. “Holy fuck.”

 

Stella sat back on her heels, the dildo slipping out of Scully’s dripping cunt. She caressed Scully’s thighs, soothingly. Scully grabbed her hand and pulled her back down on top of her, then turned them over so she was straddling Stella’s hips, the toy resting against her stomach. She hovered over Stella, taking a moment to look deep into her eyes, before leaning down and beginning a wet trail with her tongue along Stella’s jawline, down her neck, to in between her breasts. She licked at the edge of the lace cups and then closed her lips around Stella's nipple. Stella arched her back into her, wanting more.

 

Scully sat up and tugged the lace down, wedging it under her tits. She thumbed Stella’s nipples while she kneaded the tender flesh. Stella hissed in pleasure. Still fondling her breasts, Scully scooted her knees down in between Stella’s legs while she kissed her way down Stella’s stomach. When her lips met the strap of the harness, she brought her hands down to grip the dildo and angled her body so she could get her mouth on Stella’s pussy.

 

Stella looked down the length of her body and moaned watching Scully work the cock with her hands, her head bobbing between her thighs as Scully pushed her tongue inside her. She was already close to an orgasm from fucking Scully, so as soon as Scully sucked her clit between her lips, Stella came.

 

Scully continued licking her until the waves of her climax ebbed. Then she crawled up and curled her body around Stella. They held each other until their panting breaths became quiet, Scully’s face tucked under Stella’s chin.

 

“We should send Louise a thank you note,” Scully said, chuckling.

 

Stella snickered. “Or a bloody fruit basket.”

 

Their bodies shook with laughter which made the rubber dick flop around between Stella’s legs, causing them to erupt into even more giggles.

 

Chapter Text

The two of them looked comically out of place among the throng of young punk rockers. Everyone was heavily tatted or pierced or both. There were towering mohawks that Scully had thought’d gone out of style decades ago. Shaved heads, androgynous looks, and lots of ripped clothing festooned the sea of people that littered the small space in front of the stage.

 

Stella had gone to get them drinks from the bar, leaving Scully by herself in the back a little ways off from the clusters of people. She felt incredibly awkward without Stella by her side, and questioned her suggestion to come here. Her stay in London was coming to an end, so Scully had thought something out of the ordinary like this might be fun. Her time and freedom to do spontaneous things had an expiration, and she had had a sudden case of carpe diem. Stella had seemed up for it, although it was possible she was just humoring her. Regardless, it got them out of the house and provided a very different change of scenery.

 

Scully saw a guy on the edge of the crowd eyeing her. When their gaze incidentally met, he took it as an invitation to approach her.

 

“Hey,” he said, raising his hand that had two beers, the necks clasped loosely between his fingers.

 

“No thanks,” Scully yelled over the din.

 

He shrugged, the studded spikes on the shoulders of his jacket almost touching his stretched, gauged earlobes. Scully watched him out of the corner of her eye and stifled a sound of amusement. He was looking around the bar with an obvious bravura of disinterest, but still standing oddly close to Scully. Stella narrowed her eyes at the sight of him as she walked up with their drinks. Scully saw her, and they shared a silent laugh between looks.

 

Stella handed Scully a sparkling water and then put her arm snugly around Scully’s waist, leaning in close to clink her whiskey glass with Scully’s. And just like that, he didn’t exist—it was just her and Stella. After taking a sip, Stella kissed Scully; not for the benefit of their third wheel, but because she got caught up in their closeness and their comfortableness. Stella had found herself unable to resist displays of affection more and more during Scully’s stay, which was uncharacteristic of her.

 

“Okay, ladies, message received,” he said, but made no move to leave. They easily ignored him, and made quiet conversation as if he wasn’t there. Someone came out onto the stage and made adjustments to the microphones, and the drummer took his place at the set up in the little alcove at the back of the stage. Louise appeared before them as if from nowhere, breathlessly.

 

“So cool you guys came,” she shouted, grinning widely. “It’s a good turnout, too,” said Louise, scanning the crowd. “I’m gonna grab a drink.”

 

Their new friend held up his second beer for her just as he had to Scully. Louise crinkled her nose at him. “I’m good.”

 

Another rejection didn’t phase him, and he responded oafishly, “Look, one of each hair color,” pointing at each of them in succession.

 

“Says the bloke with the green hair. Get the fuck outta here, man,” Louise said with impassiveness.   

 

Scully pursed her lips to suppress a chuckle. Stella, amused, watched the man for his reaction, which was nothing more than an eyebrow raise and a casual shrug as if this was par for the course for him. Louise turned to them and rolled her eyes as he sauntered away back into the noisy horde.

 

“So, coming tonight was your idea, wasn’t it?” Louise said to Scully who nodded, smirking at Stella. “I can never get this one out to a place like this.” She nudged Stella playfully with her elbow. Stella sipped her drink, coolly glancing at them both. “I’m gonna go join my friends. They’re over there,” she said, pointing towards the end of the bar, “but maybe-- oh! Hey, did you try out my gift?”

 

Scully’s cheeks tinged pink and her eyes widened. She looked to Stella whose turn it was to smirk now.

 

“You did, you sluts,” laughed Louise. “Who wore it?” she said, looking back and forth between them. Scully groaned with embarrassment and dropped her forehead to Stella’s shoulder in an attempt to hide. Stella, surprisingly, enjoyed Louise’s teasing and Scully’s adorable bashfulness. Louise’s eyes landed on Stella, and she smiled, knowingly. “Atta girl.”

 

Louise hugged them both before leaving for the bar and her group of friends. They made informal plans to meet up after the show, but knew they most likely wouldn’t. Louise saw how wrapped up they were in each other, and she didn’t want to intrude anymore than she had.

 

The first band that came on, Heresy, Scully would describe as deafening. There was no tune and the lyrics being screamed into the mic were unintelligible as far as she could tell. She rubbed her belly in apology, hoping the thalassic environment of the womb muffled the racket. Stella watched the musicians on stage and the rowdy crowd, unimpressed; her brow knitted—confounded that anyone was entertained.   

 

Mercifully, their set ended after only a few songs. Louise’s friend’s band took the stage. It was an all female group, and included a theremin player. The difference between the two bands was night and day. Their sound was alchemistic, blending acoustic and electronic components with the lead singer’s haunting, almost whisper of a voice that seemed to grow louder as it entered your soul. The mood was mercurial; sometimes sounding hopeful, sometimes somber and bleak.

 

It struck a chord with Scully, and she promptly became introspective—thoughts clamoring for her consideration, demanding her attention. A mourning for her youth, her chance to be young and reckless, bubbled up inside her. Sure she had her rebellious moments, but carefree days where the weight of the world was absent from her shoulders were long gone. Scully couldn’t even imagine what that felt like anymore. She was going to be a single mother, and the thought terrified her even as she steeled herself to take on the challenge. She had fought for that chance once before with Emily. Scully wanted a child so badly that each prospect, be it Emily or IVF attempt, made the fear of doing it alone non-existent. And she wasn’t truly alone those times. She had Mulder even though they weren’t romantically involved then.

 

Scully glanced at Stella. She seemed to be moved by the music as well, but in a contented manner—not like Scully who suddenly felt like she was spiraling. How did I reach this train of thought? she wondered. One moment she was lamenting her loss of youth and freedom, and the next she was grieving the loss of a child. It was like the thereminist’s fingers coaxing a melody from the instrument without touching it—some spiritual entity was plucking at her heartstrings in the same way. Scully took a deep breath, and her lungs filled with sour air. Tears stung behind her eyes, but didn’t appear as if they, too, were confused by the onslaught of emotion. She put the back of her hand against her forehead and found it warm to the touch.

 

Grief never truly leaves us, she thought. It may lie dormant for long periods of time, but it never goes away. It becomes embedded in our souls and a part of our identity. Being surrounded by young people, listening to the stirring music, had brought back painful memories of a loss from years ago as well as causing her to flash forward to a life of living with the pain of Mulder’s loss as she raised their child. This realization felt like a sucker punch to the gut that had knocked the wind out of her.  

 

Scully leaned into Stella. “Can we go?” Stella looked at her, concerned. “I want to go,” Scully said more firmly this time, meeting Stella’s gaze, unable to hide her panic. Stella nodded, and guided her through the crowd towards the exit, her hand at the small of Scully’s back.

 

She was able to breathe easier, the cool night air feeling antiseptic after the congested, stuffy environment of the club. Stella watched for a cab, glancing back at Scully who was practically gulping for breath, her cheeks flushed. Scully closed her eyes as she began to feel steady again.

 

“I just felt very claustrophobic all of a sudden,” she said in explanation. “An anxiety attack or something, I don’t know.” Her voice trailed off making her sound small. Stella wanted to hug her, but thought it not best if she was feeling claustrophobic.

 

A black cab approached and Stella put her hand up to wave it down. Inside they sat in silence, but Scully sought out Stella’s hand and held it tightly for the whole drive back while she watched the dark scenery pass by through the window. She was still a little shaky, but the overwhelming feeling had passed.

 

Stella was paying the cabbie once they arrived when Scully noticed someone sitting on the steps outside Stella’s flat. “Who’s that?” she asked.

 

Stella peered through the taxi’s windshield, and Scully saw surprise flash across her face for a brief moment before her signature stoicism set back in. “Katie Benedetto,” Stella answered.

 

***

 

“What are you doing in London, Katie?”

 

Katie stood as they came up the steps. She jammed her hands into her coat pockets and shrugged. “I’m with my mother. We’re visiting my aunt.”

 

“Does she know where you are?”

 

Katie shook her head and looked down at her feet.

 

Stella sighed and stepped past her to unlock the door. “Might as well come inside then.”

 

Katie looked at Scully before following after Stella, and Scully gave her a small smile, clueless as to who the young woman was.

 

Stella led them all into the kitchen, taking her jacket off and hanging it on the back of the stool. Scully hung back a bit until Stella introduced her. “This is my friend, Dana.”

 

Katie stopped her perusal of Stella’s space and looked at Scully again. “Are you two dykes?”

 

Scully had opened her mouth to say that it was nice to meet her, but closed it, taken aback by the rudeness. She glanced at Stella.

 

“I always kinda thought that about you,” Katie continued, speaking to Stella. “You have that ‘I hate men’ vibe, you know?”

 

Scully could see Stella battling under the surface to be patient. “You were released back into your mother’s custody?” Stella asked.

 

“Yeah, a month ago.”

 

“Should I give you two some space?” asked Scully. She felt like her presence was intrusive.

 

Katie snickered at Stella. “I don’t mind if your girlfriend stays.”

 

“How’d you get my address, Katie?” Stella wondered, ignoring the girl’s derision.

 

“I went to the station. It was pretty easy, you know. You’ve got some daft ones working there. I learned some tricks from Paul. He may have been fucked up, but he was intelligent.”

 

A chill went down Scully’s spine as she realized that Stella knew Katie from the Spector case.

 

“Do you want some tea?” Stella offered, filling her electric kettle with water.

 

“Have anything stronger?” smirked Katie.

 

“Coffee?” Stella deadpanned.

 

Katie rolled her eyes and then pressed her lips together in frustration. Her taunting was getting her nowhere with Stella. She let out a defeated sigh.  

 

“Katie, why did you come to see me?”

 

Katie chewed on her lip. She glanced at Scully, and Scully saw a vulnerable young woman standing there in the place of the ornery teenager to which she had been introduced.

 

“Everybody hates me. I’m just the psycho who fell for the serial killer,” Katie whispered, her eyes wet with tears. “You said I needed to find friends who warm me like the sun. But no one can even look me in the eye.”

 

Stella softened. “Then you need to be that friend for yourself.”

 

A tear rolled down Katie’s cheek and she quickly wiped it away. They stood in silence for a bit, the gentle hiss from the kettle the only sound. Katie looked down at her hands, pretending to be interested in a string that frayed from the cuff of her jumper.

 

“How did you stop wanting to cut?” Katie asked quietly, swallowing hard at the end of her question.

 

Scully, again, felt like she was imposing—like she was sitting in on a private conversation that the two of them had been in the middle of. She became uncomfortable with the task of hoping her presence didn’t make them uncomfortable.

 

Stella took the vigorous bubbling from the kettle as a moment to collect her thoughts. She wasn’t avoiding Katie’s question, she just wasn’t prepared to go down that road tonight. Letting the tea steep, she leaned against the stove and smoothed her hair lightly with her fingers before answering.

 

“A friend of mine killed himself. And I saw that I was on the same path. I came to the realization that the world is not fair, and I could either fight for my place in it or let it swallow me whole. So I fought,” Stella said. “And I still fight everyday. And some days I get tired and I don’t want to anymore. I won’t lie to you and say it gets easy. I don’t know if it ever will, but I know the alternative is much harder.” She said all this calmly and somewhat detached, but her words were filled with emotion.

 

Scully’s eyes misted over, and she bit her lip in an attempt to keep them from welling further. She wanted to go to Stella, wrap her in her arms, take all her pain away. Stella turned her back to them and fixed Katie’s tea. She set it on the island in front of the stool and motioned with a slight tilt of her head for Katie to sit. Katie mumbled her thanks and sat down, palming the warm mug.

 

“Drink your tea and then I’ll take you to your aunt’s,” Stella said before leaving the room.

 

Scully stood there, half in the kitchen and half in the living room, self-consciously wondering what she should do. Then realizing that just standing there was probably the most awkward thing for her to do, she stepped to Katie, putting her hand softly on her shoulder. “It was nice to meet you, Katie,” she said, sincerely.

 

Her eyes darted to Scully and then away. Scully started to leave, to go upstairs. Might as well get ready for bed, she thought. Put this bizarre night to rest.   

 

“Sorry I called you a dyke.”  

 

“Goodnight,” said Scully.

 

***

 

Scully was lying awake in the bedroom with the lights on when Stella got back.

 

“Hey, how’d it go?” she asked, sitting up.

 

“Fine. She’ll be all right.” She searched for pajamas in her dresser, and began shedding her clothes.

 

“You were so good with her. Gentle and patient.”

 

Stella slipped a gray tank top over her head. “I see a bit of myself in her,” she said. “My younger self, at least.”

 

“Are you okay? I mean, being forced to open up old wounds…”

 

She stepped into the matching sleep shorts and pulled them up, her face pensive as if wondering herself if she was okay. “Yes,” she said, and then said it again more definitively.

 

Scully watched her go into the bathroom to brush her teeth. She folded her legs up, hugging them, and rested her chin on her knees. She debated continuing the conversation or just dropping it; but Katie had come and left an elephant in Stella’s flat, and she felt they should talk about it. Scully had always been private with her feelings, but she had been sharing things with Stella as their relationship developed; and it had felt good—therapeutic even.

 

Stella came back in; shut off the light, leaving the lamp at Scully’s nightstand on; and climbed into bed. She laid down and situated herself so she was facing Scully. Scully laid back and did the same. “Were you the same age as Katie when you started self-harming?” Scully asked, delicately.

 

Stella looked at her for a moment, causing Scully’s stomach to churn with dread of having overstepped a line.

 

“A bit younger,” Stella said with no indication that she was irritated by the question.

 

“What led you to do it?”

 

Stella turned to lie on her back, staring at the ceiling as she spoke. “I was an angry teenager. My parents had divorced when I was ten. My mother told me it was because my father loved me more than her. She moved away—to Quebec. I didn’t care. I had my father and that was all that mattered. When I was 14 he got very ill and then died. My mother didn’t even come to the funeral. She had a new husband—a new life. I went to live with my father’s sister. She was very strict. And I pushed back. In every way I could think of. She was also quite loving, but I couldn’t see past my anger. How unfair life had been to me to take my father. Cutting was a way to channel the pain into something physical. Something I could understand.”

 

Scully reached out and ran the back of her fingers down Stella’s cheek. Stella nestled into her touch, her lips brushing against Scully’s knuckles.

 

“Show me,” Scully said when Stella looked back at her.

 

“I know you’ve seen them,” whispered Stella.

 

“I know I have, but I pretend I don’t because I know you don’t want the attention, don’t want to talk about it. But now we’ve talked about it,” Scully reasoned gently.

 

Scully sat up and peeled the covers back slowly. Stella began to feel panicked, but then the look on Scully’s face calmed her. What was her fear in showing Scully? Talking about it was the hard part, and Scully had made that easy. She bent her leg to put her foot in Scully’s lap. Scully held it, and massaged her arch softly, barely feeling the dashes of scar tissue there. She brought the sole of her foot up to her face and kissed it lightly, then did the same to the other.

 

Stella guided her to the next spot by toying with the hem of her shorts. Scully settled between Stella’s legs, pushing the fabric up, and caressing the soft skin of her thighs. She pressed her lips to each satiny line etched there, and then moved to the other leg. Her heart ached at how many there were. She had never focused on them before, but now that Stella had consented her to look; the concentrated attention to them, to the visible evidence of Stella’s pain, was heartbreaking.

 

Scully’s tender touch was soothing even as it overwhelmed her. She didn’t have the urge to cry—though she was feeling emotional and raw—but a tear escaped down her cheek, unbidden, anyway.

 

Stella lifted her hips when she felt Scully tug at her pajama bottoms, and Scully slid them and Stella’s panties down her legs. She went back to kissing the scars, and then began tracing them with the tip of her tongue. Scully made her way towards Stella’s sex, softly licking the crease between her pussy and thigh, and then the soft lips of her labia.

 

The tears Stella had thought weren’t there welled up in her eyes. She squeezed them shut and they spilled out from the corners of her eyes, pooling in her ears. Stella covered her face with her hand, not wanting to bring sorrow into their lovemaking, but then realized that it was a part of it—a part of them. There were events in their lives that had left them grief stricken; or for a lack of a better term, damaged. They had gone through these things separately, but allowing the other in on the pain had let them become shared experiences, and made Stella feel like healing was possible.

 

A warmth spread in her chest and more tears fell as Stella gave herself over to the emotion and the pleasure. Scully dipped her tongue inside Stella, stroking the plush walls of her sex, her upper lip grazing her sensitive clit. She could hear Stella’s breathing become stilted and rough, and she moved up to nibble on the plump bundle of nerves. Stella began to rock under her, the climb towards climax becoming desperate. Scully ran her thumbs along Stella’s thighs where the scars were and put more pressure on her with her mouth. Stella came abruptly, her breath hitching and then exhaling with a ragged sob. She didn’t mind the tears now; they were an emotional release made possible by the physical one.

 

Scully rested her cheek in the crook of Stella’s lap, her hands flanking her hips. Stella was warm beneath her and Scully felt like she was molding into her like melted wax. When Stella’s crying stopped, Scully redressed her, pulling her underwear and shorts up. She brought the covers back over her and tucked the two of them in while cuddling up to Stella’s side. Stella relaxed into her, and they both fell asleep, cocooned against each other.

Chapter Text

Stella felt Scully’s lips press against each of her closed eyelids. It was a feather-light touch, a whisper. She opened her eyes and smiled at Scully. Her hair was a fiery halo with the bright morning sun illuminating it from the window behind her. The sunshine was unexpected—it wasn’t forecasted to be sunny. It also wasn’t forecasted for Stella’s mood to be that way either. She had relived and refelt dark times from her past last night, but woke up feeling lighter. It was like the weather had gotten the memo as well.

 

Cheerful as it was, though, the outlook was somewhat gloomy. It was Scully’s last day in London. They both tried to push that fact to the back of their minds so as to enjoy their time together. Scully seemed to have an idea on how they could pass the hours—she sat up, unbuttoned her pajama top, and shrugged it off. The soft filtered light from the window reflected off the smooth slope of her chest. Scully laid back, taking Stella’s hand in hers and guided it to her stomach. She had Stella’s fingers trace the bullet scar that puckered the skin there. “It’s only fair you look at my scars, too.”

 

Stella propped herself up on her elbow and pulled her hand out from under Scully’s. She cupped Scully’s cheek and then ran her thumb across her bottom lip. Stella traced her fingers down Scully’s neck, between her breasts, and along the curve of her belly before settling back at the scar. “How did you get this?” The simple question dripped with equal parts genuine interest and sensuosity.

 

“Shot in the line of duty,” Scully replied, “by a fellow agent.”

 

Stella’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Not Mul--”

 

“No, not Mulder,” Scully chuckled. “Although, he could show you a scar from when I shot him.” She grinned at what had become a good memory. It wasn’t at the time she had done it, of course, but it had been a gesture of love, and that’s what they had chosen to remember about it. The corners of her mouth curled downward as Scully realized she used the present tense. “I mean, ‘could have shown you,’” she said, sadly correcting herself.

 

“Well, I want to know about this one,” said Stella, leaning in to place a kiss on Scully’s scar.

 

“I was investigating a crime scene photographer who claimed to have cheated death which, somehow, made him immune to death. It also appeared to be that he was 149 years old.”

 

Stella’s brow knitted, perplexed. Scully continued, “He said he had the preternatural ability to single out people who were about to die.”

 

“Good skill for a crime scene photographer,” Stella mused.

 

“Right? So he told me that he chased Death in these victims trying to get Death to finally take him. He wanted to die. He wanted to look Death in the face, and take the place of some other poor soul.”

 

Stella looked at her in wonder. It sounded like the plot of a film, not something Scully actually had experienced.

 

“I was that poor soul,” Scully said.

 

“What?” gasped Stella.

 

“He pointed his camera at me, telling me, in not so many words, that I was about to die. Then my partner, my temporary partner on the case,” Scully clarified, “came in and fired a shot at him. The bullet went through the lens of his camera, through him, and then here.” She touched the scar with her fingertips.

 

“I really thought I was going to die. The last thing I remember before passing out was him taking my hand and telling me not to look at Death. When I woke up in the hospital, I learned that he had died.”

 

“So…” Stella said, putting the pieces together, “you took his place?”

 

“I guess you could say that, but logically—rationally, no. I’m sure I just got lucky. And so did he—he got what he wanted in the end.”

 

“Are you invincible, Special Agent Scully?” Stella teased.

 

Scully quirked her lips in a sly smile. “I might be,” she said. “It actually fits with a theory that I am, in fact, immortal.” She tilted her chin up, loftily.

 

Stella huffed out a laugh.

 

“No, really, on another case, years ago, Mulder and I came across a man who could predict how people would die. His accuracy was...an X-file, truly. I finally caved and asked how I died, and he said I don’t.” Scully shrugged, the smirk on her face indicating that maybe a tiny part of her believed it.

 

“C’mon, you’re kidding,” Stella said with a soft giggle.  

 

“I’ve cheated death quite a few times, so I don’t know, maybe,” laughed Scully.

 

Stella placed her hand flat over Scully’s heart. “Wow, I am in the presence of a real life immortal goddess, then, am I?”

 

“I will accept sacrifices in the form of your clothes, thank you,” Scully taunted, running her forefinger down Stella’s chest, pulling the neckline of her tank down to form a low-cut V.

 

Stella sat up. “I don’t want to anger the gods.” She lifted the pajama top over her head, dropping it to the floor beside the bed.

 

Scully stopped her before she could scoot her bottoms off, placing her hand over Stella’s. “How about one piece of clothing for each scar?” Scully suggested. She had begun this whole thing to share something painful with her as Stella had the night before. Starting with the bullet wound story was meant to ease her into the scar that covered the chip at the base of her neck. Scully didn’t realize they both would become so playful talking about a marred spot on her skin.

 

“Quid pro quo?” Stella said, lightheartedly, even though she sensed Scully turning somber.

 

Scully grinned. She wasn’t quite done playing yet either, and she reached over and pinched Stella’s nipple. “Tit for tat.”

 

Stella swatted her hand away and laughed, falling into Scully to lie beside her. Their faces were close, their noses almost touching. They stared at each other, smiles slowly fading—this would all be gone tomorrow.

 

I don’t want you to go, Stella thought.

 

I don’t want to go, Scully responded telepathically even though they were unaware of what the other was thinking; though, out loud she said, “We should stay in bed all day.”

 

Stella nodded slightly, and tried to smile, but it came off as more of a tight-lipped pout. She turned over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. Scully continued to look at her, trying to seer the image of Stella’s profile into her brain.

 

After awhile, Scully sat up, her bare back to Stella. Their sadness was beginning to make the air in the room feel heavy. Scully looked over her shoulder at Stella. “This is for your shorts,” she said, trying to affect some of their flirtation from before. She reached back and gathered her hair into her hand, pulling it aside to unveil the small scar. This was the last scar she had to show Stella, so she wasn’t sure how she would get her underwear off. Maybe this story would be worth both items of clothing.

 

Stella moved to sit behind Scully, her legs on either side of her body. She let her fingertips whisper across Scully’s shoulders, meeting at the center at the scant white mark there. Scully drew her knees up and dropped her chin, the skin on her neck going taut and smooth under Stella’s hands.

 

“Seven years ago I was abducted and then returned after a couple months. I have very few spotty memories of what happened to me. I came to learn that I was experimented on by men from the government. My DNA was tampered with, my ova was taken, and a computer chip was put in my neck.”

 

Stella wrapped her arms around Scully’s midsection, her hands stroking the soft skin of her belly, marvelling that life was growing inside after all that had happened.  

 

“I removed it once I discovered it, but I was unable to identify what it was. It appeared to be a tracking device of some sort—highly advanced technology. Then a couple years later I was diagnosed with cancer, a nasopharyngeal tumor. I knew it was from what they did to me, but we were unable to find out exactly how or what. I went through some treatments, but the cancer progressed. I reached a point where there wasn’t much left my doctors could do. Then that chip, that fucking chip—Mulder was given one, told that it would cure my cancer. I had nothing to lose.” Scully lifted her head, sitting up straighter as if steeling herself to make the decision again. “We put it back in my neck...and the cancer went into remission.”

 

Stella brought her hands back to Scully’s shoulders, and she rubbed her thumb over the pearly dash. Scully bitterly laughed. “God, my life is just one long bad sci-fi flick.”

 

Stella tutted, not wanting to hear her talk like that, and Scully sighed, “You’re right, it’s more of a horror movie.”  

 

Stella frowned. Her eyes wandered over Scully’s back; a pale landscape, the rolling corrugation of her vertebrae. Stella traced her fingers down her spine, and then circled the dark line of the snake just above the waistband of her pajamas; running over it, round and around, with light, effleurage strokes. “All right, you’ve got my bottoms. Tell me about this and you can have my underwear.”

 

Scully chuckled softly; a bit of the bitterness was still there. “Talk about a horror movie,” she scoffed. Okay, maybe more than just a bit.

 

A deflated breath passed Stella’s lips. She was learning that happy memories were few and far between for Scully. She knew the feeling well. She unwound her legs from around Scully and laid down beside her, her head resting next to Scully’s hip. She looked up at her and said, “You don’t have to talk about it.”

 

Scully stared ahead, unfocused. Her thoughts started to buzz around inside her skull like pestering gnats. She thought about the ouroboros and things coming full circle. But the way that happened in her life was maddening, like she repeated the same mistakes over and over and continued to be punished by them. Fucking Jerse had been a rebellion, pushing against the oppressive parts of her life, which had included Mulder at the time as well as her fear that Leonard Betts had been right—that her commitment to the X-files and to Mulder had led to a silent killer invading her body.

 

Going with the Smoking Man was also a form of rebellion, she considered now, looking back. Mulder had ditched her so many times before, why couldn’t she do it to him? She hadn’t done it vindictively, of course, doing her best to keep him in the loop; but that had failed and he blamed her in the end.

 

And this led to even another rebellion...with Stella. Not that what happened with Stella was anything like what happened with Jerse, it was Mulder’s behavior and her attitude and reaction to it that was similar. Though, it seemed, each time this cycle came around the stakes were higher, her affair with Stella being the apex.

 

But, they had made it through—all three of them, for a brief time anyway. Mulder’s fate was not a part of this vicious cycle. She did not burden him or Stella or herself with responsibility, perhaps just God, but the burden of her grief was something that had been tattooed onto her heart, inked into her soul—maybe even weaved into the helices of her branched DNA. She hoped and prayed to a God she now cursed, that she didn’t pass on this pain to her child.

 

Stella watched Scully, not daring to say anything. Scully was far away for the moment, and she would wait for her to return.

 

She finally spoke, her lips curled in a grimace, “It was a one night stand. The tattoo was impulsive, just like the sex.” Then she thought, No, not just impulsive, but petty and spiteful. She did not look back on that moment with any pride.

 

“You know there’s no shame in that, right?” Stella said. “Even if the sex is bad.”

 

“No, no, it was really good actually.” Scully remembered that delicious rush of adrenaline when Ed had grabbed her arm and then kissed her. It had been so long since someone had touched her that way. She had pent up frustration (over the long dry spell and over Mulder) so severe that masturbation barely did anything in the way of relief. Ed had broken the dam for her, and Scully had freely let her inhibitions float away with the torrential flood. Giving in to her powerful desires, her sexual needs, had felt good; and had made the sex so much better. “Until he tried to kill me and stuff me in a furnace,” added Scully, ruefully.

 

“Jesus,” exhaled Stella.

 

“See what I mean? My life is made up of this—just a series of X-files. Down to this even,” she said. Her knees went down when she crossed her legs, and she placed her hands on her stomach.

 

Scully felt a lump develop in her throat, and her chest began to feel tight. The reality of her life that she would have to face again tomorrow came crushing down on her. She would go back to work on the X-files without Mulder. For what reason? Out of loyalty? To honor his memory? Would he even want that? He had said, “There’s so much more than this.” She missed him so fucking much, and now she was about to go home and she would miss Stella on top of it. Scully wasn’t sure she could bear it.

 

Stella was feeling pangs of dread as well. She didn’t want Scully to leave and deal with all of this by herself. The situation was so messy, the type of mess Stella usually avoided, but she found herself wanting it. If this is what came with Scully then she would gladly make room in her life for it—heap Scully’s mess right on top of her own. Stella had gone from not being in relationships to a long distance one with a woman with a baby on the way. And it didn’t scare her as she thought it might, but it did make Scully leaving that much more painful.

 

Stella sat up. That’s enough talking for now, she thought. Out loud or in our heads. She pressed her lips against Scully’s and kissed her, long and deep.    

Chapter Text

Scully watched the illuminated fasten seatbelt sign with increasing anxiety. Her lap belt was confining and uncomfortable against her stomach. The buzzing stress of going home had been trickling into her bloodstream, or so it felt, at a consistent rate. Ah, fuck it, she thought, and unfastened it. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, taking deep breaths. Stella’s face filled her mind’s vision, and it helped to calm her; at least until the images of their last lovemaking took over.

 

They had undressed slowly in front of each other, then Stella had Scully lie down on her back in the middle of the bed. Stella climbed up on all fours, her face directly above Scully’s. She was upside down from Scully’s viewpoint, and it made Scully slightly dizzy, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of Stella. Her hair came down in cool golden curtains; her eyes glinting periwinkle, almost lavender, in the dimly lit room. Stella bowed her head, her lips softly meeting Scully’s. Their chins perfectly cradled the other’s noses like puzzle pieces. Lips slowly parted and caressed, and the tenderness of it nearly brought Scully to tears.

 

Even now, crammed into her economy seat hemmed in by strangers, Scully felt that private intimacy—her surroundings blinking away in black flashes until it was just her and Stella again.

 

It shouldn’t have felt much different, but it did. Stella’s upper lip on her lower one, her plump bottom lip brushing against the double-curved bow of Scully’s top lip. Her insides sparked, fireworks going off in her chest and behind her eyes—all from an upside down kiss.

 

Stella breathed in Scully’s low-pitched moan, and lapped at her open mouth with long deliberate licks. It brought forth more breathy sounds from Scully who clumsily answered back with her own tongue.

 

Stella edged forward, nudging Scully’s chin up with her own, and kissing the delicate skin under her jaw and the spot at her neck where her pulse thrummed beneath. After some gentle sucking and nibbling, Stella moved further to Scully’s breasts, tracing the smooth concave between them with the tip of her tongue. Scully opened her eyes when Stella’s lips wrapped around a sensitive peak. Stella’s tits, perked with perfect ripe raspberries, were poised right above her. Scully barely had to lift her chin and open her mouth and there it was, a pillowy mound tipped with a luscious, taut nipple.

 

Scully felt her own nipples tighten under her blouse and it wasn’t from the chilly draft of the plane’s compartment. She tugged her blazer closed and crossed her arms in front of her. She didn’t need her body to react like this while she was trapped in her seat for the next eight hours. This was going to be a long flight, she thought. She went to mentally shake the memory from her mind for the time being, but sensed anxious thoughts at the ready just waiting for an opportunity to strike. Scully wanted to keep those feelings at bay until she had to face them, and she also knew that they would come rushing at her as soon as she set foot back in her apartment. Scully shifted in her seat and tried to get comfortable; closing her eyes again she allowed her own little, personal in-flight porn movie to resume.

 

Stella had spent quite a bit of time on Scully’s boobs—possibly because of Scully’s attention to hers or because of the delicious feel of them under her mouth. It was most likely both of these factors. Scully certainly wasn’t complaining. She loved when Stella sucked on her tits, and in this position she had ample access to Stella’s, too.

 

Stella felt a trickle run down the inside of her thigh. She was so wet and her pussy was throbbing. Not wanting to abandon this location—the peaks and valleys of Scully’s beautifully sculpted chest—but needing to taste more than just the salt of her skin, Stella crawled forward, tucking her head between Scully’s legs to lap at the spring of her dripping cunt.

 

Scully gasped loudly at the first contact of her swollen sex, and on the next sharp intake of air she smelled Stella’s arousal. And once again what she desired was right there in front of her. Scully ran her hands up Stella’s thighs and gripped her ass cheeks, craning her neck up only slightly so she could press her lips against Stella’s slick folds.

 

They ate each other out with the slow intensity meant to savor every second—every jolt of ecstasy that ran through them. Bodies clasped like two commas, one inverted, fitting neatly together. Scully came first, her head falling back onto the bed as she let out a guttural moan. She squeezed at the flesh of Stella’s buttocks, her nails making pink crescent marks on the pale skin. Stella felt Scully’s pussy contracting, saturated with fresh moisture from her orgasm. She gave Scully a few more soothing strokes with her tongue before sitting up on her knees.

 

She adjusted her position so she could comfortably straddle Scully’s face. Scully prodded at her entrance, and Stella bit her bottom lip still coated with Scully’s cum. She smiled at the taste, its silky sweetness. Scully moved her hands to guide Stella’s hips into motion, encouraging her to ride her face; which she did, but still at the slow, seductive pace that they had been indulging in.

 

Now that Stella was grinding her pussy against her mouth, Scully reached up towards her tits, her fingertips gliding over Stella’s flat stomach, feeling her abdominal muscles tighten and ripple underneath with her movement. Her chest was damp with a fine layer of sweat, and Scully’s fingers slipped and skimmed between each breast, pinching and tugging, sporadically, at her nipples.

 

Stella’s climax crested and she grasped Scully’s hands, firmly trapping them against her chest as she rode it out. Scully was able to hear her honeyed whimper even from her place sheathed between Stella’s thighs.  

 

DING!

 

Scully was jerked out of her reverie by the sound of the seatbelt sign disengaging. The seat companion to her left gave her a cursory glance before returning to her magazine. Scully let out a deep breath and rubbed her face with her hands. She pressed the button on her armrest to recline the seat a paltry four inches, and attempted, futilely, to sleep.

 

***

 

Stella sat at her little dining table drinking a glass of wine, staring at a fixed spot ahead of her but seeing nothing. She was alone, and she felt alone just as her house now felt empty. The solitude and the sadness did not overwhelm her, though. The essence of Scully seemed to have been absorbed into the walls, her presence still lingering. Scully had filled her lonely home with memories as well as with hope that more would be made. Stella had things to look forward to and things to look back on. So, she wasn’t so much as drowning her sorrows as she was just giving them a bit of liquid company.

 

She would go into work tomorrow; go to meetings, catch up on paperwork and messages, and she would do that day after day until she could take more time off to go see Scully. Hopefully before the baby came. And then hopefully after that, too.

 

She remembered Scully’s face as she assured her that she would visit as soon as she could. Scully didn’t seem convinced. Stella was surprised at her own confidence in everything going forward, and she tried to impart that to Scully. She was scared, and Stella understood that. Hell, she was scared, too, but this last week together had instilled in her a strength and a belief that things would be okay. Sure, it was a blind faith, something she wasn’t used to, but Scully had had an effect on her. Scully’s contradictory mix of faith and facts had shifted something inside her, allowing room for hope which Stella’s stern practicality usually edged out.

 

It could’ve all been a false bravado manufactured by a sympathetic faction of her mind in order protect her heart from the sadness that came with the distance and being apart. She decided to go along with the charade, if that’s what it was, instead of dwelling on things out of her control.

 

***

 

There were messages on her machine from her mother, Skinner, and Doggett even though they all knew when she would be back. It annoyed her slightly, made her feel like she was being checked up on, but it was the last two messages that made her hurl the answering machine across the room, the cord ripping from the wall with a snap. They were both just simple reminders of appointments but the juxtaposition of them and what they meant and really reminded her of was what upset her. She had an ultrasound visit with her doctor scheduled as well as the finalization of Mulder’s will.

 

Life and death.

 

When Mulder died, Scully had felt she had died, too. Being with Stella this past week brought her back to life, in a sense, but, she wasn’t sure she could deal with the constant back and forth, the bipolar nature of it all. It was extremely taxing, and it was taking its toll on her.

 

Scully looked at her luggage she had dropped haphazardly on the floor by the door, but decided to leave it until tomorrow along with the mess she made with her answering machine. In her bedroom, she kicked off her shoes, shed her blazer and pants, and crawled under the covers. No amount of replaying her and Stella’s sexual activities would ease her aching soul now, and she buried her head in her pillow wanting tears to come, but none did. She tossed and turned, restlessly, and kept moving her legs to find the cool spots on the sheets. It was always a comforting feeling. But the cool spots weren’t cool, they were cold—the whole bed was bitterly cold, and Scully feared it would never have comfort or warmth for her again.  

Chapter Text

“This dress hides my baby bump pretty well, don’t you think?” Scully asked, smoothing down the forgiving fabric over her stomach.

 

Maggie nodded. “You look lovely.”

 

“Maybe I don’t have to tell anybody tonight,” she said, cautiously.  

 

Maggie gave her daughter a stern look. “Dana, you are telling your brothers. What do you want to show up to Christmas with a baby instead?”

 

Scully shrugged her shoulders as if she was considering it as an option.

 

“Please, Dana. Think of it as a birthday present to me.”

 

“But I already gave you that scarf,” she joked. Outwardly Scully chuckled, but inside she was a nervous wreck. Telling Charlie wouldn’t be that bad, but Bill was another story. She didn’t even want to tell him “hello” let alone that she was expecting a child.

 

She swallowed down her nerves and asked, “When are they getting in?”

 

“I thought Charlie would be here by now. Bill’s flight got in at seven, so they should be here soon, too.”

 

The doorbell chimed confirming her speculation. Scully watched her mother’s face light up, and she followed her towards the door.

 

Charlie came in like a burst of energy followed by his wife, Gina, and their three sons.  

 

“Happy Birthday, Mom!” he exclaimed, and wrapped her up in a big hug. His brood filed in, setting down their overnight bags and taking turns giving Maggie birthday well wishes. Charlie turned his attention to Scully and embraced her with the same excitement, even lifting her slightly off her feet. “Hiya, sis!”

 

“Hey Charlie, how are you?”

 

“Good. Good.” He gave her a long, concerned look, and then leaned in and whispered, “I’m so sorry about Fox.”

 

She knew her mother had told them about Mulder’s passing, but she still wasn't prepared to respond to condolences. Scully nodded, her lips pressed together in a tight line. He squeezed her shoulder, and Scully was touched by the genuine sympathy in his eyes.

 

They all moved into the kitchen where Maggie had set out pre-dinner snacks. The boys started in on them immediately.

 

“It was a long drive,” Gina laughed, gesturing at her hungry kids.

 

“Bill’s not here yet?” asked Charlie.

 

“Speak of the devil,” came a voice behind him. Bill walked in, grinning widely. He slapped Charlie on the back a couple times in way of a greeting. “We pulled up right as you guys shut the door.”

 

Tara came in after him, one child perched on her hip and another holding her hand. Everyone exchanged hellos and hugs, and amidst the bustle, Scully was able to avoid Bill. She returned the polite head nod that he gave her from across the room. The kids were given the task of putting all the luggage in the guest rooms upstairs which left the adults in the kitchen, and provided the perfect moment for Scully’s news, or so Maggie thought.

 

“Dana?” she urged softly in the first break of conversation.

 

Scully played dumb. “Hm?” Couldn’t this wait until after dinner, Mom? Scully whined in her head. She felt everyone’s eyes on her, and they waited, expectantly, for her to speak. She looked at her mother again, pleading with her eyes, but Maggie just smiled back encouragingly.

 

“I, um, have some news,” Scully began, her throat going dry. “I’m-- I’m pregnant.” She put her hands up in a little motion like she was saying “Surprise!” and she wished the floor would open up and swallow her whole.

 

Tara let out a squeal. Scully, normally annoyed at things like this, was grateful for her sister-in-law at this moment because everyone else stood in silent shock. It was only seconds long, but felt like an eternity. Gina finally stepped forward and gave Scully a hug, congratulating her. Charlie had that concerned look again, but he said, “That’s great, sis.”

 

Maggie winked at Scully with a see-it-wasn’t-that-bad grin on her face which quickly faded when Bill piped up. “Who’s the father, Dana?”

 

None of your fucking business. “Mulder, is, was... Mulder,” Scully said.

 

Bill laughed. “So he knocked you up and left you.”

 

“Bill!” hissed Maggie.

 

Scully said in a measured tone, “He didn’t leave me, Bill, he died.” You insensitive asshole.

 

“Well, he left you to chase martians or some crap, right? And that’s how he died? Same thing.” He shrugged cockily and looked around the room for agreeance, but he only met uncomfortable glances.

 

In her mind Scully was climbing over this kitchen island to slap the shit-eating grin right off his face. She took a deep breath; a battle warred inside her: finally tell him off like she has wanted to for years in a reign of hellfire and expletives or swallow her pride and save her mother the heartache.

 

She attempted a middle ground: passive aggressive sarcasm. “Yes, that’s exactly what happened. Thank you for simplifying my loss so eloquently.”

 

He sniffed. Scully could see him make the decision to drop it, but his glare to her told her this wouldn’t be his last say on the matter. “Of course, I’m sorry for your loss, Dana...and happy for you, too,” he said stiffly, practically through gritted teeth.

 

Tara visibly winced at her husband’s bland attempt at making nice.

 

Scully said, “Only you, Bill, could make it sound like you’re congratulating me on the death of my partner and offering condolences for my pregnancy.”

 

Charlie cleared his throat and spoke up before Bill’s seething could become verbal. “What time’s the reservation, Mom?”

 

“Uh, eight. We should get going,” she said, her eyes downcast. She left the room.

 

“Real nice, Dana,” said Bill, shaking his head.

 

Scully restrained herself from snapping back with a childish “You started it!” and went to get her sweater from the living room. This dinner is going to be a fucking nightmare.

 

***

 

“How was your time off, Stella?”

 

“Good.”

 

“Go anywhere?”

 

“No.”

 

Grant ended his line of casual questioning there. Sometimes he’d get lucky and Stella would be in a chatty mood (well, chatty by her standards, at least), but this was not one of those times. He decided to just get right down to it. “How would you feel about taking over my speaking engagements on the conference circuit?”

 

Stella raised her eyebrows with interest.

 

“You are a far better speaker than I, and I think it would be a nice change for Scotland Yard to be represented by a woman. You would continue to do your reviews, but would have extra time for research and preparation of your speeches.”

 

“Do I decide the topics?”

 

“Yes, you would have complete freedom there. The PR department will have to sign off on them, though, and a CS, but I’ve arranged for that to be me, and you know I won’t give you any trouble.”

 

“When is the first one?”

 

“End of next month. Helsinki.”

 

“Yes. I would very much like to take this on.” Ideas for issues she wanted to put a spotlight on had started to fill her mind already.

 

“Good,” he said. “And thank you. I hated doing them. I was absolute rubbish.”

 

Stella stood and smiled at him.

 

“Marjorie will have a packet on the Helsinki conference for you.”

 

“Thank you,” said Stella. She turned to leave, but hesitated at the door. “Would it be possible for me to take another week off after this conference?”

 

The question perplexed him. Stella had rarely taken time off as long as he’d known her and now here she was taking full weeks at a time. Curious as he was, he didn’t pry. “I don’t see why not. You’ve got plenty of time saved up. Just give me the dates when you can and I’ll submit them.”

 

“Thanks, Grant,” she said, smiling again.

 

Two smiles, he noticed, intrigued. “Pleasure.”

 

***

 

Scully sat on the back steps of Maggie’s house. She could hear the clinking of silverware and mingling voices as her family enjoyed cake and coffee inside. Dinner had gone on without incident. She and Bill ignored each other, and Scully found pleasant conversation with Tyler, Charlie’s eldest. Scully didn’t know any of her nephews very well. She only saw them on the occasional holiday or family get-together.

 

Tyler was soft-spoken and shy, which wasn’t uncommon for a 15 year old, but he seemed to open up as they chatted through dinner. He had a lot of questions for her; about her job mostly, and what his dad was like as a teenager. Scully wasn’t sure if he was genuinely interested or if he just felt bad for her about the exchange she had had with Bill back at the house. When she had left the kitchen, she'd run into Tyler in the hallway. He had been listening, and he gave her an awkward but sympathetic smile.

 

Scully leaned back on her elbows and looked up. The sky was clear and she could see the stars, the Dippers and Cassiopeia. She followed the long serpent’s tail of Hydra with her eyes and found its head, the bright star, Alphard, which she recalled meant “the lonely one,” and she tried not to think about her own loneliness or what Mulder had said about starlight. Somehow the thought that souls might reside there didn’t comfort her, and the fact that these beautiful stars were really only burnt out, dead planets didn’t either.  

 

A shiver ran through her, and it wasn’t just from the chill in the air, it was her grief reminding her of its presence, that it would never be far off. She wrapped her sweater around her and was about to get up and go inside to give some excuse to leave when Tyler came out through the door.

 

“Can I sit out here with you?”

 

“Yeah, of course.”

 

He sat next to her on the same step and hugged his knees. “Gramma saved you a slice of cake.”

 

“Think she’ll let me take it to go?” said Scully, smiling.

 

“Dad’s the one you’ll have to go through, I think. He already told me and Trent to sleep in the living room so you could stay.”

 

“Optimistic, isn’t he?”

 

Tyler laughed. “Yeah,” he agreed, then asked, “It’s your old room? The one next to the bathroom?”

 

“Uh, yeah, although I didn’t live in it for very long. Gramma and Pop didn’t buy this house until I was 17. We moved around between bases before that. I have many childhood bedrooms scattered all across the country.”

 

He chuckled and then rested his chin on his knees.

 

“Do you remember Pop?” Scully asked.

 

Tyler shrugged. “Kinda. I remember one time he built a blanket fort with me in the living room and he said it was a Navy ship and that I could be the captain and he was my chief mate.”

 

Scully’s eyes got misty and her chest tightened. She didn’t get to see her father interact with her nephews much, so picturing him down on the floor playing make believe affected her, especially now that she was carrying one of his grandchildren.

 

“That was pretty cool. I wish I could’ve known him now,” he continued. “And I wish I could’ve met Mr. Mulder.”

 

Now her vision was blurred by tears. “I wish those things, too,” she said softly.

 

“But, do you think, would Pop be kinda like Uncle Bill?” asked Tyler. “They’re, like, both these military dudes, and I’ve heard stories of how strict Pop was with you guys.”

 

Scully considered this. Her father wasn’t happy with her choice to go into the FBI. Bill also didn’t approve of her choices in life, but she just couldn’t picture her father reacting with the same contempt. Maybe, though, he would blame her for Melissa’s death just as Bill did. “I, uh, I don’t know. Maybe,” she said, flustered. She hadn’t felt guilt over Melissa this acutely in years. Scully didn’t want to think of the possibility that her father would be disappointed in her if he was alive today, if he would view her pregnancy and Mulder’s death the way Bill did.

 

Sounds of laughter came from the house. Tyler turned his head to look back at the door, then he looked at Scully. She seemed to be lost in her head, her eyes set in a dull gaze. He wanted to say something, but decided to wait. After a while of a not-at-all-uncomfortable silence, Scully sighed. It was kind of a defeated sigh, crestfallen.

 

Tyler glanced back at the door again, then, “Aunt Dana, can I tell you something?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“I’m gay.” He said it with split-second confidence, but then darted his eyes away, looking down, shoulders sagging.

 

Scully’s tense features softened and the darkness that had fogged her thoughts faded a little. She scooted over and put her arm around him. “You are amazing, Tyler,” she said, awe in her voice. “Thank you for telling me.”

 

“I haven’t told anyone else.”

 

“It takes a lot of courage to show people the real you, and honestly, there are people out there who don’t deserve to see it, but that’s their loss.” She felt him lean into her slightly, and she hugged him closer. “I love you and I support you and I respect you.”

 

He let out a big breath of relief and straightened his legs out in front of him. Bill’s booming voice carried through from inside followed by more laughter. Tyler looked at Scully and rolled his eyes. She chuckled and nodded, knowingly. Their dislike for Bill another little shared secret between them.

 

“You’re gonna make a real good mom, Aunt Dana.”

 

She huffed out a soft laugh; she already felt like she was failing. This kid had more maturity than many adults she knew, so maybe she could put some belief in his opinion.

 

***

 

“My nephew came out to me tonight,” Scully told Stella.

 

“That’s beautiful.”


“Yes,” said Scully, “it really was.”

 

This was one of their phone calls where it was late at night for Scully and early in the morning for Stella. They had a surreal mood, these calls, always bathed in a soft quietness.

 

“It’s just strange though, I don’t know him very well. At all, really.”

 

“No, not strange. You are removed from his personal life, his daily life, so you are a safe person to tell. And I’m sure he saw something in you that he knew he could trust,” said Stella. “Look at Katie, she dislikes me, but she still came to me.”

 

“I don’t think she dislikes you, Stella.”

 

“Maybe not, anyway, you get my point.”

 

“Yeah, I do.”

 

Stella looked at the clock on her nightstand. She should get up and start getting ready for work, but she just burrowed further under her covers. She was warm and relaxed and Scully’s voice was in her ear.

 

“What do you think happens when we die?” Scully asked.

 

“Hm,” pondered Stella. “Well, I don’t have a religious faith, and that’s where certain beliefs stem from. Even atheists believing that there is nothingness after death is faith-based. There is no evidence of what happens, no one can claim to know,” she said. “I guess what I believe in is whatever helps me get through grief. That’s really the best any of us can do with uncertainty.”

 

Scully nodded. “Damn, that’s a good answer.”

 

Stella softly chuckled. “What do you believe happens?”

 

“The scientific side of me leans towards the thought that nothing happens, that our minds and souls cease to exist, but I’ve seen so much that I cannot explain. I think...I think I’m afraid to believe in any of it.” A pang of regret prickled through her. Scully realized she had never asked Mulder this question. She knew he didn’t believe in God, but he, at the same time, had believed in a number of spiritualistic concepts: past lives, ghosts, etcetera. Did he have one overall, steadfast belief about life after death, like the starlight idea? Or was he like Stella and believed in what helped him make sense of things?

 

“Uncertainty is scary. Death, the future. It’s okay to be afraid.”

 

“Good, because I am,” Scully said.

Chapter Text

There was a fluttery rumble of movement inside Scully’s pregnant belly, but she couldn’t tell if it was the baby kicking or her nerves when she heard the knock at the door. Her body had changed so much in the time since she had seen Stella. She went to open the door, her cheeks coloring pink already.

 

“Oh my, look at you,” Stella said in greeting. Scully blushed deeper, her self-consciousness keeping her from hugging Stella. She stepped aside instead, letting Stella come in with her luggage. Stella set her bag down and went to Scully, cupping her face and placing a soft, warm kiss on her lips.

 

When they parted, Stella said, “You’re flushed.”

 

Scully put her own palms to her cheeks. “I don’t know why, I was nervous for you to see me like this,” she admitted.

 

“Don’t be silly. You’re beautiful, a beautiful mum-to-be.”

 

Scully bit back a smile and tucked her hair behind her ear. She led Stella to the bedroom even though she had been in her apartment before. Scully took her coat and hung it up in the closet, and then covered her mouth and the yawn she was unable to suppress.

 

“Try to contain your excitement,” Stella teased.

 

“I’m just so tired,” she said, her eyes apologetic.

 

“Well, let’s find something on the tele, and you lie down and I can give you a foot rub or something.”

 

“Oh shut up,” Scully scoffed with a chuckle.

 

They channel surfed until they found Doctor Who on BBC America. Scully yawned again. Stella put a throw pillow on her lap. “Come on,” she said to Scully. She laid her head down and quickly fell asleep despite not wanting to. She was overjoyed that Stella was here, but this pregnancy fatigue was no joke.

 

An hour later, Stella was also asleep, slumped over slightly. She awoke to the sounds of keys in the door lock. Panic ran through her but her movements were dulled by her grogginess and the napping Scully in her lap.

 

A petite woman with curly dark hair came through the door, balancing large Tupperware containers in her arms. She smiled broadly at Stella. “Hi,” she whispered, seeing that Scully was asleep. Maggie walked around to the front of the sofa. “You must be Stella. I’m Maggie, Dana’s mother.” Stella made a move to get up or offer her hand to shake. “Oh no, don’t wake her. She hasn’t been sleeping well, so this is good. I was just dropping off some meals for Dana.” Maggie nodded towards the kitchen, smiled again at Stella and said, “I’m so glad you’re here,” then went to load up Scully’s freezer, leaving Stella somewhat stunned. She hadn’t even said a word in return.

 

She continued to sit, feeling awkward, until Mrs. Scully came back in to say goodbye in the same cheerful whirlwind with which she had entered. Stella chuckled inwardly at the whole thing. How different she and Scully were. Maybe years of trauma had worn away any of the cheeriness she may have gotten from her mother. Stella shifted carefully, trying to get comfortable enough to resume her nap and not wake Scully. She laid her head back on the cushion and soon joined Scully in her slumber.

 

When Scully woke up a while later, Stella was still asleep. Scully sat up and watched her for a moment, smiling. Stella’s mouth was slightly open. She looked peaceful. And beautiful. And she was here. It hadn’t been a dream.

 

Scully took Stella’s hand and lifted it to her mouth. She placed a soft kiss across her knuckles and then turned it over and kissed her warm, open palm.

 

“Mmm,” Stella hummed as she started to rouse.

 

“Hi,” Scully said when Stella opened her eyes and turned to look at her.

 

“Hi.”

 

They smiled at each other.

 

“Your mother was here.”

 

“Oh my God,” Scully groaned, rolling her eyes.

 

Stella laughed. “She introduced herself, put some food in your refrigerator, and left.”

 

Scully got up and went into the kitchen to see what her mom felt was so important to bring over today. She knew when Stella was getting in, and it was just her mother being nosy. There were two new containers in the freezer next to the others that Maggie had stocked it up with last week.

 

“I hope you like lasagne,” Scully called out to Stella. She grabbed two bottles of Pellegrino and walked back into the living room, handing one to Stella. “My mother is driving me crazy.”

 

“She seems sweet,” Stella said.

 

“She is. She has been so supportive and helpful, but…” Scully shook her head, remembering what Stella had told her about her own mother, and instantly regretted what she had just said. “I shouldn’t complain. She’s great.”

 

“You have fish,” said Stella, pointing at the tank in the corner. “I don’t remember that last time I was here.” She got up and looked through the glass. A dark gray molly swam by and then darted behind a rock.

 

“They were Mulder’s. We packed up his apartment, and, I don’t know, I decided to keep them, I guess.” She had been surprised when the Gunmen declined her offer. They had acted weird over everything of Mulder’s she had tried to give them. They did arrange for the safe transport of the tank, though. It had been an emotional couple days for everyone. And Scully found she liked having the fish.   

 

“Do you want to go out, go for a walk?” Scully asked. Suddenly she couldn’t stand being in her apartment with her mother’s freezer meals and Mulder’s fish. She wanted to enjoy Stella’s company away from the depressing facts of her life.

 

“Sure.” She could sense Scully’s anxiety. Stella wanted her visit to be helpful not stressful, but she wasn’t quite sure how to put Scully at ease.

 

***

 

Their walk had turned into dinner and a stroll through the park with ice cream cones for dessert that they had gotten from a street vendor. It was late by the time they got back home, and they changed into their pajamas and crawled into bed.

 

Scully had relaxed once they were out of the house, and they fell back into their easy comfortableness much to Stella’s relief. Scully had even kissed Stella in the park. There were a couple passersby and it was dusk. They had stopped to watch the sky glow from orange to pink as the sun set, and Scully leaned over and pressed her lips to the corner of Stella’s mouth. Stella turned into her and they both deepened the kiss, Scully gently sliding her tongue over Stella’s bottom lip, tasting vanilla.

 

Scully wanted to continue what she had started in the park, and began kissing Stella as soon as they settled under the covers. Her hands sought out the soft parts of Stella, her boobs, her ass; and Stella did the same, but each time she felt Scully’s pregnant belly she would pull away, finding somewhere else to put her hands. Eventually she broke the kiss, frustrated with herself, and laid back.

 

“I thought I had done everything, but this is new,” she said.

 

“You mean you haven’t had pregnant lesbian sex before?” said Scully with mock shock.

 

Stella turned to her and smiled. Scully was propped up on her elbow looking back at her. She put her hand to Scully’s cheek. “You’re beautiful, and I’m in awe of your body, but I can’t seem to get out of my head about it.”

 

“Yeah, I get it. Takes some getting used to.”

 

Here Scully was, the pregnant one, calm and collected, and Stella was a ball of neuroses. She didn’t even have the hormonal imbalances to blame. Stella rose up on her forearm and kissed Scully, pushing her back to lie down. She pulled back and looked at her, deep into her eyes, connecting, seeing Scully—her Scully. Things were changing, but it was still Scully.

 

Scully’s lips were curved up in the sweetest, most patient smile; Stella leaned in and kissed her again. She ran her hand down her chest, skating her fingers underneath the neckline of her tank top, and rubbed her palm across the soft peaks of Scully’s breasts. “Your tits are huge,” she whispered against Scully’s still smiling mouth. Scully giggled.

 

“And I’m really fucking horny so we gotta make this work.”

 

Stella laughed now, her head falling to Scully’s shoulder. Scully slid her hand under Stella’s shirt, feeling her smooth, warm skin. “Take this off.”

 

Stella sat up and pulled it over her head. Scully cupped one breast and felt Stella’s nipple with her thumb, then her hand went to the waistline of her pajama shorts. “These too.” Stella shimmied them off as Scully scooted down to lie in the middle of the bed. “Sit on my face, facing that way,” she said, pointing behind her.

 

Stella felt moisture between her legs; Scully was taking charge and making sure Stella was comfortable which was quite the turn on, but Stella still felt a bit guilty—she should be making Scully feel comfortable, not the other way around. She was going to get over this hang up, whatever it was, and make it up to Scully.

 

Stella got on her knees and positioned herself over Scully, her calves flanking Scully’s biceps, spreading her wide for Scully. Scully ran her hands up Stella’s stomach and grabbed her breasts, squeezing and kneading, and teasing her nipples as she began to slowly lick Stella’s slit. Her own pussy throbbed at the first taste, that heady floral scent invading her senses. Scully stuck her tongue inside and caressed Stella’s inner walls. Stella began to rock her hips, and a breathy sigh escaped her lips. Scully lifted her chin to take Stella’s clit between her lips and brought her hand down to finger her. She slid two fingers in and pumped them steadily as Stella tried to align with her pace and keep Scully’s contact on her clit. It all felt so good, she had trouble controlling her movements as the euphoria overwhelmed her.

 

“Yes, Scully, yesss,” she hissed.

 

Scully moaned into Stella’s pussy. She was so aroused feeling Stella under her tongue and fingers, hearing her sounds of pleasure, smelling her, tasting her. She engaged her Kegel muscles hoping to relieve the mounting pressure, but it only served to stimulate her more. Worked up and hearing Stella getting close, she brought her hands to Stella’s hips and lapped greedily at her dripping cunt, nibbling her clit. She kept contracting the muscles of her sex, and it almost felt like she was getting fucked. She reached up and tangled her fingers in Stella’s hair and tugged. Stella gasped loudly.

 

“Uunghh, more,” she breathed out.

 

Scully pulled her hair again and flicked her tongue over Stella’s bundle of nerves. She felt the spasms of Stella’s cunt and it was like it set off her own orgasm. Scully kept sucking at Stella’s clit, moaning as she came with her, a fistful of hair still in her tight grasp.

 

They both began to relax and Stella unwound her legs from around Scully’s face, lying down beside her.

 

“Did you..?”

 

“I did. I’ve never done that before without being touched.”

 

“Was it good?” Stella asked.

 

“Oh yes, really good,” she said, resolutely. “See what you do to me?” She took Stella’s hand in hers and placed a kiss on the inside of her wrist.

 

“You weren’t kidding when you said you were horny,” Stella said with a laugh.  

 

“That’s not something a pregnant woman would kid about.”

 

Stella pulled the sheets over them, her naked body cooled down now. They turned to face each other and just stared for a moment.

 

“I love you,” Scully said. “Don’t say anything. I just wanted to say it. I didn’t say it to Mulder enough and now he’s gone.”

 

Stella felt breathless once again. She tried to return the sentiment with just her eyes, but leaned in to kiss her, too. Scully told her not to say anything—she wasn’t sure she could even if she tried. Scully sought out Stella’s hand again and held it near her heart and closed her eyes.

 

Stella watched her for a long time. Scully’s lips parted slightly, expelling soft, tell tale sleepy puffs of breath. Stella gently pressed her lips to Scully’s temple.

 

She whispered in her ear, “I love you.”

 

***

 

It took her awhile to fall asleep. The rush of saying those three words out loud even to someone sleeping made her giddy, but prompted some anxious thoughts. Stella had only ever said those words to one other person: her father. The last time she had told him she loved him, he went to sleep and never woke up again.

 

So when she awoke in the middle of the night to Scully sweating, dampening the bedsheets around her, her face drained of color, Stella was struck with a nauseating feeling of déjà vu.

 

She shook her by the shoulder, lightly and then intently. “Scully. Scully, wake up. Scully!” Stella took her pulse with shaky hands. It was thready, weak. She reached over Scully and grabbed the phone from the nightstand, trying to remember the emergency number here in America. She dialed 9-1-1.

 

“I have a pregnant woman who is unresponsive...um, the address, fuck,” she stammered, racking her adrenaline-muddled brain. “3170 West 53rd, apartment, uh, 35...okay, thank you.” She hung up, put her underwear and shirt back on, realizing she was still naked, then checked Scully again. Stella put her palm to her forehead. Her skin was cold and clammy. Even her lips had paled.

 

“Scully,” she pleaded softly, tears stinging her eyes. Look what happens when she says those words, means those words. Look what happens when she loves someone.

 

***

 

Scully came to, slowly blinking awake, and recognizing her surroundings with dread. Her hands went immediately to her stomach. Stella was sat in a chair by the window. She stood up. “The baby is okay,” she said, wanting to reassure Scully of that right away. “And you’re okay, as far as they can tell.”

 

“What happened?” she asked.

 

“They think your blood pressure dropped very low, but they can’t say conclusively.”

 

Scully let out a bitter laugh. “Of course not.”

 

“Everything is checking out fine now, though.”

 

Scully looked at the monitors, then around the room. “Can you hand me that chart?” She sat up, propping the pillow behind her. Stella handed her the clipboard. Scully flipped through the pages, then dropped it to her lap with a frustrated sigh.

 

“Do you want me to ring anyone? Your mother?” Stella asked.

 

Scully shook her head. “No.” She stared blankly ahead for a moment, then looked at Stella. “You should go back to the apartment.”

 

“No,” said Stella, pulling the chair she had been sitting in closer to the bed. “I’m going to stay here.”

Chapter Text

“Oh fuck, yes, right there.”

 

Stella hooked her fingers as she pushed into Scully again, and smirked at the whimper that followed. Scully was so wet that her arousal was dripping down Stella’s hand. Stella was hugged up to Scully’s side, fingering her and kissing her neck; the prominent pregnant stomach bolstered between them no longer an issue for Stella.

 

Scully’s panting breaths filled the room as they both focused on her release, and then they heard the front door shut.

 

“Hi girls, it’s just me,” Maggie called out from the living room.

 

Scully and Stella looked at each other, eyes as big as saucers. “Shit,” Scully mouthed to Stella who was frozen in shock. Stella pulled her fingers out of Scully and looked around for something to dry her hand with. Scully pulled her underwear and sweats up quickly. Luckily, that was the extent of their undress as it had been an impromptu midday finger bang initiated by Stella post nap. Stella grabbed the towel she had left on her suitcase after her shower and wiped her sticky fingers.

 

“Hi Mom!” Scully yelled, looking around the room for signs of their fucking. “We’re in here.”

 

Maggie came in. Scully and Stella tried not to look guilty. “Hi, sweetie,” she said to Scully. “And hello again, Stella.” She gave Scully a hug. “Oh, your heart is racing. Are you all right?” Maggie asked, pulling back.

 

“Yes, fine, Mom,” she said, avoiding Maggie’s concerned gaze. “We were just, um…” Her mind blanked out.

 

“Going through Scully’s maternity clothes,” blurted Stella, picking up one of Scully’s dresses that was draped over a chair. “Seeing if she needs more of anything.”

 

Maggie seemed to buy it. “That’s why I came by actually. Come see what I brought,” she said, grinning.

 

Stella looked at Scully and they both let out amused sighs of relief before following Maggie.

 

“What do you think?” Maggie asked, waving her arms like a Price Is Right model around a large stroller contraption. “Frances O’Donnell’s daughter got two of these, so she thought you might like to have it. Isn’t that nice?”

 

“Uh, yes,” Scully said. “Very nice.”

 

“I know you said you’re not ready to start getting this stuff, Dana, but it’s time. You’ve got to prepare,” Maggie advised. “I can’t believe you haven’t got the nesting bug yet.”  

 

Stella decided to jump in and try to help both of them. She went over to look at the stroller. “This is a proper pram, Mrs. Scully.”

 

Maggie smiled widely. “Pram. I love that,” she said, putting her hand on Stella’s arm. “Please call me Maggie.”

 

“One less thing to get, I guess,” conceded Scully.

 

“I have a list,” Maggie said, going over to her purse on the sofa table. “Why don’t you look it over before you go shopping, and maybe, Stella, you can help her start checking some of this stuff off.” She handed a piece of paper to Stella. “Excuse me, I have to use the ladies’ room,” she said, and then looked at Stella, “or the loo, eh?” She giggled at her own joke and Stella couldn’t help laughing, too.

 

Scully shook her head. “I’m mortified,” she said to Stella.

 

“She’s delightful,” Stella argued. “And she likes me.”

 

“Then you're lucky she didn’t walk in on, you know,” Scully said, her voice low.

 

“Me knuckle deep in your pussy.”

 

“Stop it!” shushed Scully, playfully swatting Stella and trying to keep herself from laughing.

 

Maggie came down the hall looking at something in her hand. “Dana, what is this?”

 

Scully’s smile fell when she saw her mother holding her discarded plastic hospital bracelet.

 

“You were in the hospital two days ago?” she asked.

 

“Uh yes, everything’s fine, though,” Scully said, assuredly.

 

Maggie looked at Stella, worry etched onto her face. “Well, I’m glad you were here.” Stella gave her a slight nod. “You would’ve called me if you were alone, I hope?” Maggie asked Scully.

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

Stella swallowed a lump of emotion. She didn’t want to think of what would’ve happened if she hadn’t been there.

 

***

 

Stella came out of the shower to sounds of her own voice. She put on Scully’s robe and went into the bedroom, drying her hair with a towel. Scully was at her desk watching something on her computer.

 

“What is that?”

 

“It’s you.”

 

Stella looked at the screen. It was her, speaking at the Helsinki conference.

 

“The conference has it on their website. ‘Mindful and Compassionate Discourse: Communication Between Law Enforcement and the Press’ by Special Guest Speaker Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson.” Scully beamed at her proudly. “I love this, Stella.”

 

Stella shrugged off the compliment and the robe, and went to the closet. Scully paused the video and watched her, short of breath all of a sudden.

 

“I’m definitely going to watch the rest of this later,” she said, clicking off the monitor, “when there’s no distraction around.”

 

Stella turned to see Scully smirking at her. “Oh, I’m the distraction, am I?” She put her hands on her naked hips. “It’s not your sex-crazed pregnancy brain?”

 

Scully shook her head as she walked over to Stella. “Nope, it’s this.” She traced her fingers across the swell of Stella’s breasts. “And this.” Scully put her other hand on Stella’s ass and squeezed. Scully’s gaze went from Stella’s parted lips down to her chest, her nipples now perked, aroused. She teased one with her fingers before sliding her hand down to cup Stella’s sex. “And especially this,” she whispered.

 

Stella put her hand over Scully’s and grinded her hips into them. She hadn’t been prepared for Scully’s increased, insatiable libido, but she certainly didn’t mind it. Stella had made Scully rest for a day after her night at the hospital, but since then they had fucked frequently and often; Scully seeming, at times, to not be able to keep her hands off of Stella.

 

Like right now.

 

Scully stuck her middle finger inside Stella’s warm entrance, stroking her labia with her other fingers, feeling Stella starting to get wet. She drew her hand up and sucked her coated fingers into her mouth, then kissed Stella so she could taste herself. Stella moaned, and then said against Scully’s lips, “How do you want it?”

“I want to be fucked,” she whispered back. “Hard.”

 

Stella saw that Scully had something specific in mind when she led her by the hand towards the bed, and then opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out a vibrator. She handed it to Stella and took off her shorts and underwear.

 

“It’s rather large, isn’t it?” Stella commented. “Bigger than Chester.”

 

“Oh, how is Chester?” asked Scully, remembering they had affectionately nicknamed the strap-on dildo that Louise had given them.

 

“He misses you,” Stella mused, stroking the vibrator and twisting the base, turning it on and off. “Seriously, though, did you buy this for yourself?”

 

Scully laughed as she pulled back the rumpled sheets. “No,” she said, crawling onto the bed. “Mulder got it for me as a gag gift for Christmas.”

 

“Okay, that makes sense.”

 

“You gonna write a review about it or fuck me with it?” teased Scully.

 

“Goddamn, woman, relax.”

 

“I can’t,” Scully whined. “I’m so--”

 

“Horny? Yes, I know.” She got up on the bed next to Scully, setting the toy aside. Stella pulled the top of Scully’s tank top down to expose one breast, and bowed her head down to suck on the rosy, taut nipple. Scully had told her how hypersensitive her boobs and clit were at this stage of her pregnancy. Not that Scully needed any help getting worked up, but Stella did love the noises and squirming it incited from her.

 

Scully threaded her hands lightly in Stella’s damp hair, holding her to her chest. “Aah, Stellaaahh.”

 

Stella bit softly with her teeth and then pulled back, palming her tit, plump and full in her hand. She reached behind her and picked up the dildo, scooting down to settle between Scully’s legs. Scully’s knees fell open at the sound of the vibrator buzzing on, and moaned in anticipation. Stella ran the tip up and down Scully’s slick folds. She was so wet—another symptom Scully had noticed at the end of her second trimester was increased natural lubrication. These changes and her heightened sexual drive were something she was going to take advantage of while Stella was here. And Stella was more than willing to indulge in these benefits with her.

 

She felt Stella push it into her, the resonating hum and feeling of fullness causing Scully to sigh euphorically. Stella began fucking her with it hard, as requested, the sight of it sliding in and out of her pussy making Stella’s cunt throb. Scully cried out loudly when she came, and Stella felt resistance as she slowed her movements of the toy inside her, Scully’s walls tightening around it.

 

She slipped the vibrator out of Scully’s vagina and turned it off, then laid down beside Scully and lazily ran her fingers over her own swollen folds. Scully turned to face Stella after finally catching her breath and saw that she was playing with herself. Their eyes met and Scully gave her an impish smile. “Look who’s horny now.”

 

“Yeah, you gonna help me out or what?”

 

Scully crawled off the bed and grabbed Stella by the ankles, pulling her to the edge, then she knelt down and started kissing her inner thigh as Stella continued to finger herself. Her scent, shower fresh and musky, drew her closer, and when she reached her center she took Stella’s hand and ran the wet tips of her fingers across her lips. Then she laced their fingers together, and pressed her mouth to her sex, lapping at her with the flat of her tongue. She ate her out until Stella was writhing and panting, and she felt Stella’s grip on her hand tighten. She moved up to her clit and sucked it between her lips, flicking her tongue. Stella gasped as her orgasm crested, her abdomen filling with tingling heat spreading warmth up to her chest and through her limbs, making her body go limp, content and sated.

 

Scully stood up and went to her dresser for a clean pair of underwear. She looked over at Stella who showed no signs of moving. “Come on, get dressed. We can’t just have sex all day long,” razzed Scully.

 

“Oh my God, you can fuck right off,” said Stella, a smile playing on her lips.  

 

***

 

“Okay, we need something called a Diaper Genie.” Stella was reading off Maggie’s list as they walked down the street. “What exactly is a Diaper Genie?”

 

“You use it to dispose of soiled diapers.”

 

“You can’t put dirty nappies in the regular rubbish bin?”

 

“Apparently not,” replied Scully. “The baby store is just up here.” She stopped, a window display catching her eye. “Let’s go in here really quick,” she said with a hint of mischief.

 

Stella looked up at the store entrance. It was a sex shop. She chuckled and shook her head at Scully.

 

“You know what we should try,” Scully said in a low voice, stepping close to Stella and fiddling with the button of her blouse. “One of those double ended dildos.” Her eyebrows raised suggestively.

 

“You’ve lost your mind,” Stella teased, but thought about how much more fun that would be than shopping for baby stuff. She saw Scully tense up.

 

“Keep walking,” she said, flustered.

 

Stella furrowed her brow and then turned and followed. A man was walking towards them. He was looking at Scully.

 

They made it past the sex shop by the time he reached them much to Scully’s relief.  

 

“Scully. Hi.”

 

“Hi,” she responded with forced cheerfulness. He smiled at Stella, and Scully introduced them, “Um, Stella, this is my boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Stella Gibson.”

 

“Hello,” said Skinner.

 

“We were just shopping for baby stuff,” Scully said, pointing to the store a couple of doors down from them.

 

“Oh. Guess it’s getting close, huh?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, I’m meeting someone for lunch so I gotta go. Nice to meet you,” he said to Stella. “See you on Monday, Scully. Doggett'll be glad to have you back.”

 

Scully sighed deeply after he left, her playful mood now somber. She didn’t want a reminder of going back to work while she was enjoying her time with Stella. They continued walking towards the baby store. “I’m not in the mood for this anymore,” Scully said.

 

Stella shrugged. “We don’t have to.”

 

“I don’t think I’m going to go back to the FBI after my maternity leave,” stated Scully, obviously thinking in longer terms than just their afternoon. “My heart’s just not in it anymore, in the X-Files.” That heart being Mulder, she thought. With him gone there was no more truth to search for.

 

“What do you think you’ll do?”

 

“I don’t know. Maybe teach? Something stable.”

 

“Well, it’s good you have some time to think about it,” Stella said. “You want to go home now?”

 

“No, let’s find this fucking Diaper Genie. You’ll score some major Maggie Scully points,” Scully joked, trying to shake her gloomy thoughts.

Chapter Text

This time had been the hardest goodbye. Next time they would see each other, the baby would be here and Scully’s life would be infinitely changed. In just over a month, she would be a single mother.

 

Stella had been reluctant to leave; Scully’s trip to the emergency room had scared her. She had relaxed once Scully had been cleared and discharged from the hospital, but the worry was always in the back of her mind. Stella downplayed it for Scully’s benefit, seeing how her mother’s constant concern seemed to suffocate her. Scully was scared, too, but she was hell bent on not letting that get in the way of enjoying their time together. She compartmentalized, tucking her anxieties away into a box to be opened and dealt with later. Perhaps it wasn’t the most responsible way to cope, but it was the best she could do and that would have to be enough.

 

Now Scully’s thoughts alternated between fond reminiscence of being with Stella and a gnawing fear of what might lie ahead—these fears dulling the excitement over the baby’s arrival. Her mother had talked her into having a baby shower even though she knew her only friend had just flown back to England. Maggie said she would have her friends over and the invites went out. Scully dreaded the day as well as the rest of the baby planning. It had been fun getting some stuff with Stella, but now that she was left to do it by herself or with her over-anxious mother it became an unpleasant chore.

 

As she made her way down the halls of the FBI, cooly deflecting stares from other agents, she thought how nice it would be not to come here every day, not to go into that basement office that was filled with memories and files that comprised her life with Mulder. It may have been an unconventional life together but it was just that—a life together.

 

She’d wait until she was on maternity leave to tell Doggett and give her notice to Skinner. Or maybe she was jumping the gun a bit without having another job in place. Scully made a mental note as she got on the elevator to call her colleague, Vivian, who ran the Forensics Department at Quantico to see if there was a place for her in the faculty.

 

Her thoughts about leaving were coincidentally juxtaposed with news from Skinner that Doggett had been offered advancement by Kersh. When he came into the office and told her he wasn’t considering the offer, she felt a twinge of guilt.

 

“You don’t owe me anything, Agent Doggett.”

 

He joked that he still had questions. It was almost satirical to hear him say he wanted to stay when she was already one foot out the door. She couldn’t add his voluntary career suicide to her list of worries right now, though.

 

Especially not when another worry was about to take its place at the top of that list.

 

***

 

When Scully didn’t call her back for a few days Stella thought nothing of it. They often went long periods in between talking; it felt as if no time had passed when they did connect again. Although, this time she didn’t know that Mulder had been resurrected and was fighting for his life again.

 

She must’ve been craving company because she went to the pub Louise worked at after she got off work. When she stepped through the door she saw Dembry sitting at the bar talking to Louise, and she almost turned around and left before either of them could see her, but that made her feel silly so she walked up to them and took the seat next to him.

 

Louise was surprised to see her, but tried to mask it, the corners of her mouth fighting the wide grin wanting to appear. Dembry tried to hide his own flustering, sitting up straighter, attempting to exude a workplace professionalism. Stella noticed all this. It amused her, but also made her wish she had a few more people in her life who were comfortable around her. Not that Louise couldn’t be, it was just that their comfortableness was private.

 

“Hi,” Stella said, amiably.

 

“Ma’am,” Dembry replied with a polite nod. Stella smiled, and shook her head imperceptibly.

 

“Of all the gin joints in all the world…” Louise joked and Stella laughed, and Dembry’s jaw dropped.

 

***

 

Scully unlocked her apartment door with shaky hands. She had come home to shower and change, and get down that box of Mulder’s clothes she hadn’t donated—clothes Mulder needed now because he was alive.

 

Mulder was alive.

 

She rubbed her face with her hands, the realization washing over her again in waves, all the different emotions collecting into nervous energy coursing through her. Scully was surprised she hadn’t gone into early labor considering what had happened over the past few days.

 

It was in the shower when the thought that she needed to call Stella and tell her hit her. How would she explain such a thing?

 

She sat down on her bed in her robe, hair dripping onto the comforter. The phone was in her still shaky hands. She took a deep breath and dialed.

 

Louise, in the interest of discretion, felt like she couldn’t bring up much regarding Stella so she talked about herself which was her default anyway. She and Dembry told Stella how they had met and become friends; Dembry had been flatmates with Louise’s brother. Dembry had finally eased his nerves over being around Stella in such a casual manner, and the three of them were having a good time drinking and talking.

 

Stella’s phone rang and she took it out of her pocket and looked at the screen. “Pardon me,” she said, excusing herself, and stepped away to an unoccupied corner of the bar.

 

“Hello?”

 

Silence.

 

“Scully?”

 

Scully cleared her throat. “Stella.” A long pause. “Something’s happened.”

 

Stella felt her heart drop. Oh God.

 

“Mulder is…he is…” She swallowed roughly. “Mulder is alive.”

 

Stella almost laughed; her brain couldn’t compute Scully’s words. It sounded like a cruel joke, but she knew Scully would never joke about this.

 

“It’s a long story,” Scully continued, “I can barely make sense of it myself.”

 

Scully’s words fell away from Stella’s ears, and all she could hear sounded like Scully was talking to her from underwater. Panic set in—confused panic. What Scully said, Mulder being alive, that was real? How? It’s not possible. Her mind rejected the thought.

 

“...discharged from the hospital this morning,” Scully said, still speaking, her voice becoming clear to Stella again.

 

“I...I don’t know what to say,” whispered Stella. I mean, what does one say to something like this. She was a whole mess of feelings right now, and a lot of them were ugly feelings she wasn’t proud of.

 

Mulder is alive. Then why does it feel like somebody died? Something did die, though, didn’t it?  Stella thought. Her emotions had instantly felt like grief, but, rationally, she should have been feeling the opposite. I guess if people could come back from the dead, Mulder was deserving of such a miracle—as was Scully.

 

Then her thoughts turned selfish, If people can come back from the dead then why couldn’t her father? Why did it have to be someone who could take away the person she loves from her? She was suddenly glad that Scully hadn’t heard her say “I love you,” but then that felt really petty. Stella cringed, disturbed by the path her feelings had taken. Scully had said it out loud—she loved her; maybe that hadn’t changed. And if Scully hadn’t heard her then maybe she could pretend she didn’t and this would all be easier to take.

 

Scully covered her eyes with her hand. This was such a weird conversation, and she didn’t know how to feel about it. She put herself in Stella’s place and tried to consider what it would be like to get this news, but couldn’t begin to imagine. “Stella, I have to go, but I will call you, okay? Soon,” she assured her. She would let Stella absorb the shock, and give herself some time to as well. Scully felt “I love you” on her lips, but she just said “Bye” and hung up.

 

Stella stood, stunned, her hand dropping with the phone to her side. She went back to her place at the bar and gathered her things. “I have to go.”

 

“Everything okay?” Louise said, worried by the stricken look on Stella’s face.

 

“Yes,” replied Stella, unconvincingly. She took her wallet out to pay for her drinks.

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Louise waved her hand at her.

 

“Thanks,” said Stella, and muttered “Goodnight” to the two of them and left.

 

***

 

They entered Scully’s apartment, Scully carrying Mulder’s duffel bag. She had apologized for packing up his apartment, and that he couldn’t go back home; it had been rented out soon after. He understood...kind of; “You were dead,” following the “buts” after these apologies making sense, but not. It was as if he had come out of a coma, but no one had been waiting for him to wake up, having resigned to the fact that he was gone.  

 

He looked around her apartment and saw his fish tank in the corner of the living room. Mulder gave Scully a shy smile before going over to it.

 

“Missing a molly,” he noticed.

 

“Yeah, she wasn’t as lucky as you.”

 

They looked at each other awkwardly, and then Mulder looked away. Scully said, “Mulder...I don't know if you'll ever understand what it was like. First learning of your abduction...and then searching for you and finding you dead. And now to have you back and, uh…” Her voice cracked.

 

“Well, you act like you're surprised,” he chuckled, glad that he was able to make jokes, but hating what he had said.

 

Scully didn’t laugh. “I prayed a lot,” she told him. “And my prayers have been answered.”

 

He swallowed, then looked at her stomach. “In more ways than one.”

 

Scully looked down at herself; her pregnant belly was the elephant in the room, and her cheeks turned red. “Yeah.”

 

“I'm happy for you. I think I know...how much that means to you.”

 

To me? Scully thought, his words and his tone devastating her. She tried not to show it, but she was very close to breaking down into tears. “Mulder…” she said risking her voice to betray her composure.

 

“I'm sorry. I don't mean to be cold or ungrateful. I just...I have no idea where I fit in right now. I just, uh...I'm having a little trouble processing everything.”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Scully said, nodding, trying to wipe the pained look off her face. He needed time. “Um, can I get you anything? Are you hungry?”

 

Mulder shook his head.

 

“I’m gonna put your stuff in the bedroom,” she said, picking up his bag. “Why don’t you just rest.”

 

“Rest,” Mulder said to himself, bemused. “I’ve been resting for three months.”

 

Scully just looked at him. She had no idea how to respond to most of the things he had been saying. Scully searched his eyes, she wanted—needed—their unspoken communication, their connection. It wasn’t there. She turned and left the room.

 

When she came back, Mulder was standing with his back to her looking at something in his hands. He turned at the sound of her and held up a picture frame. “Where was this taken?”

 

Her heart beat fast. “Uh, London,” she said, trying to be nonchalant, and kicking herself for not putting the photo away. It was of her and Stella. Louise had taken it with a vintage Instamatic. “I went there after you...after we buried you.” Those words would never be easy to say, and she hoped it didn’t sound like how she thought it did, like she had moved on from his death so quickly.

 

“To see Stella?”

 

“Yes.” Might as well be honest, she thought.

 

“Oh.”

 

They stood in awkward silence, avoiding each other’s eyes. Mulder set the photo back down on the desk. “I think I do need some rest,” he said, and sat down on the sofa.

 

“Why don’t you go lie down in the bed,” Scully suggested, taking his jacket that he had shrugged off.

 

“No, it’s all right. Here’s fine.” He laid down, adjusting one of the toss pillows under his head. Scully watched him fold his arms over his chest and close his eyes. She resisted the urge to touch him, to smooth his hair, to run her thumb across his lower lip. Was it because he seemed so fragile that she was afraid to touch him? Or something else?

Chapter Text

Mulder slept on the couch the first night, and on the second he knocked softly on Scully’s open bedroom door.

 

“Scully?” he whispered like a child awakened in the middle of the night by a bad dream.

 

“Mulder?” she responded. She hadn't been asleep.

 

“Can I sleep in here with you?”

 

“Of course. I told you you could.”

 

He came around the bed and got under the covers. Scully continued to lie on her side, her back facing him. She was suddenly nervous of the sound of her own breathing. Mulder stared blankly at the ceiling.

 

“I’ve been having nightmares,” he said. Scully turned over and looked at his darkened profile silhouetted by the low moonlight. “But, they’re flashbacks, I think,” he continued. “What I see happening to me matches up with my scars.”

 

“I had the same ones,” Scully said, her voice soft and gravelly. He looked at her for an explanation. She described what she had seen: him strapped to a metal chair, a circular saw cutting into his chest, the rods pinched at his cheeks, the drilling of his soft palate. “I was afraid that they were visions, but I convinced myself they were just nightmares,” she said, pausing, “until I saw your injuries.”

 

“How is that possible?” he asked.

 

“I don’t know,” she whispered back.

 

They laid in silence for a while, neither of them knowing what to do with this information. Then Mulder said, “I need you to put in for my reinstatement to the FBI.” He said it to the ceiling; he had looked away from her.

 

“Mul--”

 

“Scully,” he interrupted, expecting her to tell him that it wasn’t a good idea. “I need to make sense of this.”

 

“What about talking to someone, a psychiatrist?” she suggested cautiously.

 

“Yeah, maybe,” said Mulder, half-heartedly. She couldn’t see his face very clear, but she sensed him getting distant again. “Submit the request in the meantime,” he said, “please,” and then turned away from her.

 

***

 

Not surprisingly, Kersh had denied Scully’s application to get Mulder back on the X-Files. Also not surprisingly, Mulder ignored that order. In some aspects he was the same old Mulder. Doggett was missing and a manhunt for Absalom was underway; Stella hadn’t returned her last call. Scully tried not to let the stress build too much, but it was a lot to take.

 

Scully had just pilfered Howard Salt’s computer from the evidence room. When she reminded Mulder that he could go to prison for what he was doing, he had replied glibly that prison would be a Princess Cruise compared to where he had just been. Just days of being back, of having him back, and he was risking everything. How could he take a miraculous second chance at life and be so willing to gamble it all away?

 

She tried to be sensitive to what he was going through, tried to consider what it was like to literally rise from the dead. Scully could relate, though, couldn’t she? She wasn’t dug up from a grave six years ago, but she had come back from the very brink of death with no knowledge of what had been done to her. Mulder had come back to much more than just a trusted partner like she had. She was his best friend, his lover; and, in his words, his touchstone and his constant.

 

And adding to this, she was now carrying his child, a fact they had barely talked about. When she had asked him to be her donor, they had not gone to the next step of a sexual relationship yet, but he had agreed. Each attempt was unsuccessful, so they had never had the discussion of how involved he would want to be as a father, if at all. He seemed to get his hopes up, just as she did, after every procedure and was crushed each time it didn’t take. “Never give up on a miracle,” he had told her; she asked him to stay, and then he held her in his arms, getting her through the night, that night in which she had felt the depths of hopelessness. He gave her the strength to believe, to hope—back when she was fighting for her life after her abduction, and then again when she thought she could never be a mother. God, her life was full of miracles, and she felt she had him to thank for giving her strength and hope.

 

Scully couldn’t understand his detached attitude, but figured it was how he was coping with the trauma. She would try to be patient.

 

***

 

Mulder had continued to test that patience, and almost got himself and Agent Doggett killed. Scully and Mulder entered her apartment, the awkward silence from the car ride following them in.

 

Mulder stood near the door, a disheartened expression on his face. Scully thought he looked lost.

 

“Mulder?”

 

“I don’t feel at home here,” he said.

 

Scully tried not to let the sting of that comment show. “Tomorrow we’ll get your money back into your accounts, and--”

 

“No, Scully, not that. I mean, yes, I do need to get all that in order, but I mean, here, as in the land of the living. Life has just gone on without me, and I don’t see a place for me.”

 

How could he not see? What he was saying gutted her. “Mulder, I missed you so mu--”

 

“I can’t say the same." He winced at his own words, and Scully could not hide her hurt this time. “I don’t mean that to sound as bad as it does. It’s just-- I was dead. I wasn’t somewhere missing you.” He walked over to her. “But, Scully, I feel a tremendous sense of loss for what I did miss.”

 

Her head was down. Mulder put his finger lightly to her chin so she would look at him. Her eyes were filled with tears, and she closed them before he could make eye contact with her, one tear spilling down her cheek.

 

“Everything’s changed.”

 

She opened her eyes, looking at him now. “Not really,” she said. “I haven’t. Have you?”

 

“Something’s changed.”

 

“You mean this?” Scully put her hands on her stomach.

 

“For the lack of a better word, Scully, ‘duh,’” said Mulder, trying to inject some lightness into what was proving to be a very difficult conversation.

 

“Not long ago this was something that we both wanted,” Scully said, failing to see the humor. “Has that changed for you?”

 

The question stumped him. He didn’t think it had changed. He thought back to her IVF attempts. He had wanted this for Scully, at first, but had come to want it for himself and for them. It didn’t work and he was crushed, but he tried to be hopeful for Scully. Then they began their relationship, and being with Scully made him ridiculously happy. He had felt complete, and what he might miss out on in being a father didn’t seem to matter anymore. But, to be wrenched from a happy life and then come back to that possibility...no, his position on having a baby with Scully hadn’t changed, but things were different.

 

“The Gunmen seemed to be wondering about paternity,” Mulder said, looking down at his feet.

 

Scully felt this like a blow to her chest. She had the urge to slap him because of the insulting insinuation and also to knock some sense into him. She took a deep breath. “Are you wondering, Mulder?” she asked, pointedly.

 

“I-- no, I’m-- I’m having trouble believing it,” he struggled. “Scully, you were barren.”

 

Her chin quivered. She had had trouble believing it herself. Of course, this news was a lot for him to process. She couldn’t expect him to fast-forward months of emotions in just days, to come to terms with major life changes so quickly, especially after what he had been through. “Um,” Scully said, trying to backtrack her initial anger, “I couldn’t believe it either. I was still in a state of shock when I heard you were-- that you had been taken.”   

 

He nodded. Mulder understood that this had been hard on her, but he had so many other muddled feelings piled on top of this knowledge that being sympathetic to her got lost.

 

“I wondered ‘how’ a lot, Mulder, but I never wondered ‘who.’”

 

“Then why did Lang--”

 

“I didn’t really feel like having a conversation with them about my IVF procedures or that you and I were sleeping together, Mulder.”

 

He huffed out a small laugh.

 

“I told my family that the baby is yours,” Scully said. “Which reminds me, I haven’t told my mother that you are alive.”

 

“Oh boy,” he said, and smiled at her. She smiled back.

 

They hadn’t said everything that they were feeling, things that still scared them, but progress had been made—baby steps.

 

***

 

Stella listened to Scully’s voice message again, annoyed at herself. She had avoided the call on purpose, and she hated that she had. Mulder being back was good news, incredible news, why did she have to keep convincing herself of that?

 

“Ma’am?” Dembry poked his head in through her open door.

 

Stalla was standing, facing the back wall of her office. She had been pacing.

 

“Ma’am?” he said again.

 

She turned around, startled out of her thoughts. “Yes?”

 

“Can you sign off on this?” He held out a file for her.

 

Stella took the file, sat down, and opened it, leafing through the papers. She signed her name in all the spots she needed to and handed it back to Dembry.

 

“Thank you.” He watched her get lost in her thoughts again, and he hesitated to leave. “Are you all right, ma’am?”

 

She looked at him, at a loss of how to answer, then she managed, “Yes.” He nodded, gave her a small smile, and left. It was nice that he cared enough to say something, but it bothered her that her distress was so noticeable. Stella knew her hasty exit from the pub the other night would prompt some concern; Louise had checked in on her as well.

 

And Scully had phoned her again as she said she would. People cared about her; Scully cared about her. Stella could not imagine what it was like for Scully right now, all the emotions she was dealing with, but Scully had taken the time to connect with her. She didn’t deserve to be ignored or avoided, especially because of Stella’s own selfish thoughts.

 

Her hand hovered over her cell phone on the desk. She did the mental math to figure out the time difference and decided to call at a better time. Stella told herself that this was not stalling. She shook her head and went back to her work.

 

***

 

Scully held her face under the stream of the shower, replaying the conversation she had just had with her mother. Maggie had been beside herself with joy, and insisted on coming over immediately. She hoped Mulder would be up for the visit because he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

 

She reached for the shampoo and saw a small, unlabeled travel bottle tucked in the corner. Scully opened it and smelled its contents. The scent was decadent; mild and clean, but overwhelming at the same time. It smelled of Stella, and she became instantly aroused.

 

Mulder being back and living with her in her apartment had put satisfying certain needs on the back burner. Physically, her body still craved sex, but the events of the past week had kept her urges in check...until now.

 

She missed Stella’s touch, their closeness, but she also missed Mulder’s. Since he had been back, things had been tense; he had been distant, not only in attitude but literally. They had barely touched each other. Holding his hand and laying her head on his chest after he had woken up was the longest physical connection they had had. Since then there had been only the occasional brushing of hand, a touch on the arm. Obviously, he hadn’t touched her intimately, but the little things he used to do out in the open like putting his hand at the small of her back were gone, too. He was back, but she felt alone.

 

Images came as if they were taunting her: Stella’s tits, Mulder’s ass, her lips, his cock. Her hand followed the sluicing drops of water down between her legs. She began to fuck herself. Tears stung behind her eyes, the discrepancy between her desires and her reality casting the fulfillment of a baser impulse in a depressing light.

 

There was a knock on the bathroom door, and she bit her lip and stilled her fingers. “Scully?” came Mulder’s worried voice. She had been in the shower for awhile and her mother was on the way.

 

“Be out in a minute,” she called out. She placed both hands on the cool tile and took several deep breaths. She would get no release—not right now.

 

***

 

“Fox, you have been in my prayers, and now here you are standing in front of me,” Maggie said, smiling tearfully.

 

He looked at Scully who was also smiling. She had told him that she had prayed for him, too. His lips curved into a wide grin knowing that he had had the prayers of two Scully women.

 

Mulder made a motion for Maggie to have a seat, and the three of them sat down. “So were you surprised?” chirped Maggie, nodding her head towards Scully.

 

“Uh, yes,” he chuckled, “that would be an understatement.”

 

“You’re back just in time. There are still a lot of Daddy things for you to do.”

 

Scully grimaced. “Mom, please--”

 

Maggie ignored her. “Fox, take her to a Lamaze class; she wouldn’t let me.”

 

“I am a doctor,” Scully said exasperated, “and besides that, I have delivered a baby.”

 

“In hurricane conditions, no less,” Mulder offered.

 

“Well, there are other things to do,” Maggie said, undeterred. “Did you and Stella find a crib when you went shopping?” she asked Scully.

 

Scully stiffened, and she felt Mulder turn his attention to her. “Yes, we-- I ordered one. It hasn’t shipped yet.”

 

“You’ve met Stella?” Mulder heard himself ask before he could rethink his decision to do so.

 

“Oh yes, darling thing, and such a great help,” gushed Maggie, “especially with Dana's scare and getting her to the hospital.”

 

Mulder’s rising jealousy gave way to concern. Scully sat, speechless, as she watched this awkward scene play out before her. She hadn’t told Mulder about any of her complications yet. Her mother only knew of the one, and Scully couldn’t believe that she had just brought it up. Mulder kept looking at Scully, and she avoided his drilling gaze.

 

“She calls you ‘Scully,’ too, I noticed,” Maggie said, patting Scully on the knee, completely unaware of the tension she had caused. “And I thought it was cute that she slept in bed with you. It reminded me of you and Melissa when we vacationed out on Catalina Island, your slumber parties away from the boys.”

 

It just kept getting worse with every word out of her mouth, and Scully didn’t know how to stop her. Her chest tightened; her cheeks were hot. Mulder had given up trying to get Scully to look at him, and stood.

 

“Maggie, I’m sorry to cut this short, but I think I need to lie down,” said Mulder.

 

“Oh, all right, yes, of course.” She stood and gave him a hug, and he went down the hall to the bedroom.

 

Scully watched him go and then turned to Maggie. “He needs to rest,” she assured her. “Thank you for coming over,” Scully said, walking her towards the door.

 

“I love you, sweetie.”

 

“I love you, too, Mom.”

 

They hugged and Maggie left. Scully stood a moment, her hand still on the closed door.

 

Mulder was tying up his tennis shoes when she came into the bedroom.

 

“I thought you were going to lie down.”

 

“No, I just-- I can’t take these awkward reunions. I’m sorry,” he said, sounding sincerely apologetic. “I hope I wasn’t rude.”

 

“No, she understands. It’s fine.”

 

He stood up and slipped a hooded sweatshirt over his head. “I’m going for a run.”

 

Scully looked down at her fidgeting fingers. “Okay.”

 

She heard the door shut, and she sunk down onto the bed, covering her face with her hands.

Chapter Text

His feet hit the pavement heavier than he’d’ve liked, but he was running. He was alive and breathing in crisp morning air. It felt so good to move, to get his blood pumping...to be out of Scully’s apartment and away from all of the things to which he was having trouble readjusting.

 

Maggie saying that there were “Daddy” things to take care of followed by the mention of Stella—it was all too much for him right then. Before his abduction, Mulder had finally come to terms with Scully’s affair, they had moved back to a place of trust. Now coming back to this was like he had to start all over again. He knew he couldn’t blame her for seeing Stella—he had been dead; buried. Unfortunately, the green monster of jealousy had been resurrected along with him.

 

Mulder took a big intake of air, hoping it would relieve the stitch in his side. He was feeling those months of inactivity, and his anxiety wasn’t helping. Running usually allowed him to think clearly, to sort out things. How was he supposed to sort out the fact that they had probably fucked in the bed that he now shared with Scully?

 

He jogged to a stop at the entrance to a small park, and put his hands on his knees. He tried to steady his breaths. Scully had been alone, and she had had Stella to turn to. This was a good thing, he thought. Instead of feeling grateful, though, he just felt bitter—bitter that he had missed out on so much of her pregnancy. And now that he was back, he was wasting time being frustrated by her.

 

Mulder stood, bent his leg and reached back to grab his ankle, stretching his quadricep. He knew he wasn’t being fair to Scully or to himself. Scully had just been trying to survive a loss on top of the shocking news of expecting a baby from her barren womb; and he, well, he should really give himself a break. He had been through something horrific. His body was healing quickly, miraculously; his mental health, on the other hand, was struggling to catch up.

 

And with Scully’s due date looming, he couldn’t help but be impatient. Mulder wanted to do those “Daddy” things Maggie had talked about. He just had to get his head right. Mulder switched to stretch his other leg, an idea forming in his brain. He put both feet to the ground and began running again, not into the park as he intended at the start of his run, but down the street, another destination in mind.

 

***

 

Louise knocked on Stella’s door. She ran her fingers through her hair, which was made damp by the thick fog, blankets of gray-speckled blackness surrounding her. The nearest streetlamp had burned out.

 

Stella answered the door. She looked disheveled—her hair mussed, the shirt untucked from her skirt and misbuttoned. “Hi,” she said, a weird detached air about her.

 

“You didn’t return any of my calls. I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” said Louise, trying not to put too much concern in her voice.

 

“I’m fine,” Stella replied. “Do you want to come in?”

 

“Sure.” Louise followed Stella inside, not knowing what to think of her apathetic behavior. Was she drunk? Louise wondered.

 

They walked into the living room, and there was a man standing there in his undershirt, pulling up his pants. He smiled at her as he buckled his belt.

 

“This is, uh…” Stella said, struggling for his name. She picked up a glass of whiskey from the sofa table, losing interest in the introduction.

 

“Nicolas,” he offered, unperturbed.

 

“He was just leaving.”

 

Nicolas looked at Stella. This was news to him. “Uh, yeah,” he said, grabbing his shirt from the floor. Only the sound of the ice clinking in Stella’s glass sounded in the quiet room as the women watched him get dressed. “Okay,” muttered Nicolas, just to fill the awkward silence. He shrugged his suit jacket on, and then patted his pockets as if to check that he had everything. “Goodnight,” he said to them with a strained nod, and ducked out of the room and through the front door.

 

Stella tipped her glass back for the last sip of whiskey. Louise asked, “What is going on with you?”

 

“I felt like fucking a man,” Stella said and shrugged.

 

“Okay.”

 

Stella put the glass down and began unbuttoning the cuff of her blouse.

 

“You know you can talk to me,” Louise volunteered.

 

Stella sighed. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” She fiddled with the other cuff. “You can stay over if you’d like.”

 

Louise took this as Stella’s composed version of a cry for help—at least for the moment. If just sleeping beside her would bring Stella some comfort, she would do it. Louise nodded and followed her upstairs.

 

***

 

“Is that my couch?”

 

“Sure is,” Frohike said. “It was the one thing we could all agree on was cool enough to keep.”

 

Mulder’s old, brown leather relic fit in well with their nerdy bachelor decor of strewn electronics, conspiracy collectibles, and Langly’s punk rock posters.

 

“I made a case for the billiard ball coat hanger, but Mr. Town and Country over here vetoed it,” Langly teased, looking at Byers who scrunched his nose.

 

Frohike slapped Mulder on the back. “I got your porn.”

 

“Keep it,” Mulder chuckled. “Actually, I am here for something of mine. You let me store some boxes from my mother’s house in your storage unit. Can I go through them?”

 

“Of course, Mulder, I can take you down there,” Byers offered.

 

“Thanks.”

 

He went into the other room to get the key.

 

“What’s it like living with Scully?” Frohike asked.

 

Mulder shook his head, smiling. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

 

“Yeah, that’s why I asked, dingbat. I think you’re still braindead.”

 

“Well, she’s very patient to put up with me. I am like a zombie houseguest, I’m sure.”

 

Byers came back into the room. “Ready?”

 

They took the stairs down to the basement. Mulder tried to hold his tongue, but couldn’t help himself and asked anyway, “Byers, how was Scully after-- while I was gone?” He knew it was silly to ask, but he needed some outside reassurance.

 

“Oh, she was devastated. You know she always keeps her emotions close to the vest, but...I saw enough Scully tears during those months to last a lifetime, Mulder. It was heartbreaking. And then to hear she was pregnant. She’s been through a lot.”

 

“Yeah, she has.”

 

“And so have you.”

 

***

 

It wasn’t until the evening that Mulder got back to Scully’s. He had called and told her he was at the Gunmen’s so she wouldn’t worry. She was eating a salad at her kitchen table, and his heart ached at the sight of her. He really didn’t want to make her feel alone, but he knew he was—knew he was making her walk on eggshells in her own home.

 

“Hey,” she said with a small smile, a timid smile. “Want me to make you something to eat?”

 

“No thanks. I ate with the guys.”

 

She nodded, moved the lettuce around the plate, and then put her fork down. She hadn’t even been hungry, having stressed about Mulder all day; replaying that painful conversation with him and her mother from earlier over and over had made her lose her appetite.

 

He sat down across from her just as she started to get up. Their timing was off, even in the little things. “Oh,” she said, and settled back into her seat.

 

Mulder became flustered, too, and scrambled to stand up and take her plate for her. “Were you done?”

 

“Uh, yeah. Thanks.”

 

He placed her uneaten dinner in the sink, and started talking before he turned around. That was easier somehow. “I hate that things are so weird between us, Scully. I don’t want it to be like this.”

 

“Like what?” Scully asked softly. She was unsure of what he meant by that; his comment could either lead to something she was desperate to hear or something she was terrified of hearing.

 

“Tense, awkward,” he said. It wasn’t even the good kind of sexual tension that they had had for years. They had come too far for this to reset them. He wouldn’t let it. “I’m sorry for the distance. I can feel myself putting up barriers, defenses. I don’t want to do that, but...I try...uh...I freeze up, physically, psychologically. I, uh…”

 

“Mulder, you’ve been through something traumatic--”

 

“Yes, Scully, but so have you. I don’t want...I don’t want to, I mean,” Mulder struggled, trying to get his uncontrolled thoughts in order. “I would like for us to work through it together, to heal together.”

 

Scully’s eyes welled up with tears. He had acknowledged that his abduction had broken her as well. She nodded. “I would like that, too.”

 

He walked over to her and knelt down, taking her hands in his, a silent vow passing between them.

 

***  

 

Stella awakened late the next morning. The light that came through the window was muted, but still irritated her, feeling too bright to her eyes. She had a slight hangover, not terrible, but a dull, persistent throbbing at her temple. The side of the bed next to her was empty.

 

She got up, put on a light cotton robe over her pajamas, and padded downstairs to the kitchen. There was a post-it on her coffeemaker with the words “Turn me on” written on it and a little cartoon drawing of a coffee cup with a smiley face and Xs for eyes. Stella huffed out a laugh and pressed the on button.

 

She drank a tall glass of water while she waited for the coffee to brew and tried not to think of her actions from the night before. Not that she regretted having a sweet night with...with whatever his name was, it was just she didn’t like that she needed to drink a bit too much to get in the headspace to do it. Stella also didn’t like how she was with Louise, all nonchalant and closed off. Luckily, Louise didn’t seem too miffed at her. She would ring her later—after she made another phone call—a phone call that was overdue.

 

But that would have to wait until a decent time of day there in DC, not the crack of dawn on a Saturday. The stalling got her in trouble yesterday, though. Too much time in her head convinced her of ugly things, false things: that she’s not good enough, not worthy of love or strong enough to love in return. No more, she told herself. Enough of that bollocks. She poured some coffee into a mug and looked out the kitchen window, the brightness no longer hurting her eyes.

 

***

 

Scully made herself comfortable on the couch. She cozied up under her blanket and opened her book. Smiling, she read the first sentence of the chapter over and over several times. She couldn’t focus on the words because she was thinking about her talk with Mulder last night.

 

They had continued their conversation in bed. He asked her all about her pregnancy. Did she have any cravings? Yes, pistachio ice cream. Pickles, too? No. Are strangers touching her belly? Not if they know what’s good for them. What does it feel like when the baby kicks? Like when you’re nervous and you feel butterflies in your stomach, but the butterflies are bats. That got a good chuckle out of him. He was fascinated by everything.

 

Then he asked about the trip to the hospital that Maggie had mentioned. She told him, and then she told him about all the other times. He listened intently, and the sadness showed on his face. The ordeal with Mary Hendershot particularly disturbed him, and rightly so. Mulder asked a couple questions and expressed his concerns, but she appreciated that he didn’t treat it like an X-File...even though it was. Her name was in yet another file in one of their cabinets down in the basement.

 

He gained some perspective hearing how difficult things had been for her. And that’s what it felt like to her, too. It wasn’t some pity party meant to make him feel sorry for her or to feel bad about not being there. It was two people reconnecting while being gentle with each other. He kissed her on the forehead and they fell asleep holding hands under the covers.

 

Scully tossed the book on the coffee table and was about to turn on the TV when the phone rang. She wondered if it was Mulder. He had left some time this morning while she was still in bed, saying he had to go out and would be back later. Scully put her hand to her cheek where he had kissed her goodbye. She had been half asleep, but she remembered that.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hi Scully,” came Stella’s voice.

 

“Stella, hi.”

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t phone you back sooner--”

 

“Remember, we don’t apologize,” Scully said.

 

“Right.”

 

“I figured you needed some time.”

 

Stella sighed, relieved. “Yes. It is quite a unique situation.”

 

“It sure is. How are you?”

 

“I’m doing wel-- I’m doing okay,” she answered truthfully. “How are you?”

 

“Oh, hanging in there,” Scully replied. She rubbed her belly and sat back. “Happy to hear your voice.”

 

Stella didn’t know how to respond to that affection, so she deflected. “And how is Mulder doing? Readjusting all right?”

 

“I think so. It’s going to take time. I suggested he talk to someone, but I don’t think he liked that idea. I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis, but it seems like he’s suffering from PTSD.”

 

“That’s not surprising considering. Where is he staying? With you?”

 

“Yes. That is a whole other readjustment. You know we worked together for seven years, we spent most of our time together, but we have never lived with each other. Well, besides that undercover case. But, it’s not like we decided to go to the next step and move in together even though it was heading in that direction, so, I don’t know, it’s strange. Not bad or anything, just…” she trailed off when she realized she was rambling.

 

Stella smiled. She liked chatty Scully, even when she was chatting about Mulder. “He must not be there right now,” she mused.

 

“No, he went out somewhere this morning. I don’t even know what time he left actually,” Scully said, craning her neck to look at the clock. It was almost noon. “I don’t want to make you jealous, Stella,” said Scully and Stella tensed up on the other end, “but I ordered our pizza from Aldo’s.”

 

“You bitch,” Stella said in mock anger. Scully giggled. They had fallen back to their easy rapport, and Scully was grateful. With everything changing so quickly, she needed Stella’s stability, her resilience.

 

***

 

Mulder wasn’t quite sure why he had knocked; he had a key, he lived there. Maybe it was to hide the present.

 

He also wasn’t sure why he had kept the pizza man joke going for so long, but her comment about being stuck in an episode of Mad About You tickled him enormously.

 

Mulder was able to successfully hide the wrapped gift, and when she saw it after his subtle nod, she complimented his package, the package. The innuendo flustered him even as it thrilled him.

 

None of this mattered now anyway. They were in an ambulance on the way to the hospital—the pizza was left to get cold and the present remained unopened.

 

He had been so scared seeing her double over like that, in so much pain she couldn’t even speak. And when they arrived in the emergency room, he was still scared and left out in the hallway because of some idiotic hospital policy. Mulder needed to be with her. Didn’t they get that?

 

***

 

Between a couple visits with a sleeping Scully and trips to the Hoover building to help Agent Reyes and be accosted by Agent Doggett, Mulder was finally able to get back to the apartment. He wanted to get some things for Scully and there was someone he had been wanting to call.

 

Her name was programmed in Scully’s cell phone. He hit the dial button.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Stella, hi. It’s Mulder.”

 

“Oh, hi.”

 

“Scully is in the hospital,” he said getting right to the point. “Acute abdominal pain. She seems to be out of the woods, but they’re keeping her for observation. I thought you should know.”

 

“Thank you,” she replied simply, but the same panic that had come over her when she had taken Scully to the hospital gripped her again.

 

“Uh, Stella?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I heard how much you were there for Scully while I was...gone, and I just want you to know how grateful I am for that. I’m glad she has you.”

 

“And I’m glad she has you back.”

 

***

 

Mulder would never forget this moment. It wasn’t the best location for such a memory, but it fit well into their history. His hand was on her belly. He felt the baby—his baby—move, responding to his touch, he hoped.

 

Scully watched him as a wide grin spread across his face. He was in awe. It was the first physical connection he had with his child. These were the moments she had ached for, had mourned the possibility of them ever happening.

 

She kicked herself for changing the subject, asking where he had been. Even though she had been sleeping most of the time, in and out of a drugged haze, she missed him, felt his absence.

 

He took his hand away reluctantly and told her about working with Doggett and Reyes. Scully vouched for both of them, and that meant something. He would try to be patient with all these people in her life because they were now in his life. Scully and this child she was carrying were his life, his whole world. He had briefly left this world, but she had never stopped being his constant, his touchstone. And he would do his best to be hers again.

 

Chapter Text

Things stayed calm for a couple days. Scully was discharged from the hospital with orders to take it easy, but bed rest, thankfully, wouldn’t be necessary—she went back to work...and so did Mulder.

 

She had felt foolish and a little hurt when he showed up at the meeting with Kersh and the Galpex executive. They had been getting better at communicating, or so she thought, until he went rogue and pursued an X-File without telling her, and without even being a part of the X-Files in an official capacity.

 

Mulder was never one to operate officially anyway, so when she found out that he had flown out to the oil rig ahead of Agent Doggett it wasn’t too surprising to Scully—it was frustrating as hell, but, nevertheless, familiar. She had awoken to an empty bed for the second morning in a row, gone into work having left several messages for him with no response, and began the autopsy on Simon De La Cruz not knowing that Mulder was marooned in the middle of the ocean with the black oil that she had just found dead inside the victim’s pineal gland.

 

“Mulder?” she said, wondering if he could hear her disappointment through the crackly transmission of the radio.

 

“I was just in the neighborhood” was his aggravating response.

 

She had to tamp down her personal feelings, though. As usual, it was a life and death situation, and any ways in which she felt slighted by him ditching her became unimportant and trivial. Scully hated that he put her in this position so many times where she had to discredit her feelings because of some dangerous crisis Mulder found himself in. It made her feel irrational and that her emotions were frivolous. She tried not to think of this as a one-step-forward-two-steps-back situation in terms of them rebuilding their relationship, but it stung—it stung deep.

 

Scully admitted that despite the harrowing circumstances, it was a benefit to the case that he was out there. He had been right about this being an X-File, and now he was telling her that she had to find out how to kill the virus in order to get him home alive. No pressure or anything.

 

The next thing he said gutted her—a flippant remark that shook her to her core. “When he’s old enough, tell the kid I went down swinging.”

 

It made her so mad, but more terrified than angry. She could lose him again, just like that, and this time he wouldn’t be able to rise from the dead. Scully had gone months coming to terms with him being gone forever, and never quite succeeded, only to miraculously have him back. Now she faced the possibility of going through it all again.

 

No, she wasn’t going to tell her child this story, at least not with an ending that resulted in Mulder’s death. He could damn well tell the kid himself about the time he was stupid enough to insert himself into a dire situation for the umpteenth time. It could be a whole series of bedtime stories—Father Fox’s Cautionary Tales.

 

“Let me talk to Agent Doggett,” she said, sidestepping his gut-wrenching comment. She needed to talk to someone who didn’t have a fucking deathwish. Mulder putting himself in harm’s way repeatedly since he’d been back didn’t instill a lot of confidence in her. In fact, it made her feel like she and this baby of theirs were inconsequential to him. Or maybe he felt invincible now, running head first into danger with no regard to consequence. She couldn’t sustain a life like that, though—one of constant worry—and if he made it off that rig alive she was going to tell him that.

 

Just like old times, Mulder hung up and Scully got to work.  

 

***

 

Mulder had quite a bit of time to think about his latest adventure on the flight back from Texas. He and Doggett had been released from the hospital showing no signs of contagion, and hopped on the next plane to DC. He’d been relieved—and sensed that Doggett was, too—that they weren’t seated together. There was still no love lost between them, but the animosity was fading. He was more worried about facing Scully once he got home.

 

She had just been home from the hospital for a couple of days and he had decided to burden her with undue stress. His brain reflexively grasped at justifications for his reckless actions, but he knew he had let Scully down. Not on the case, per se, but with his behavior, his return to form that included keeping her in the dark.

 

He couldn’t do that anymore. They were a team, maybe no longer in a professional way, but in life. Mulder surmised that this was a last ditch effort to get back on that team even though the powers that be—Kersh and just good old common sense—were telling him to let it go.

 

All of his doubt about being the father of Scully’s baby had fallen away, but in its place a fierce feeling of responsibility took root, and it scared him. He had gone into the basement office that morning in an attempt to get his job back; he had a family to provide for, a child on the way. Mulder was well-educated and experienced—he could easily find another career path, something stable, but the X-Files were all he had known for so long, and all of his and Scully’s pain and suffering were entrenched in this work. He felt he owed it to both of them to give it one more try.

 

Mulder had known it was a bad idea when his first instinct was not to tell Scully his plan. Mistake number one. Him ditching her had been a point of contention between them for years. It had caused some deep-rooted issues that they had still been working on when the Bellefleur case came up. Actually, they might’ve even finally gotten past those problems at that point. They had been in a really good place, and then everything had gone to hell in a handbasket, no, to hell in a spaceship.  

 

He should’ve been focusing on continuing to build that foundation with Scully, especially in preparation for the baby. They were going to be parents together, they needed to be one strong unit of trust. Instead he went off on his own leaving her to worry. That does not build trust, you idiot, he thought.

 

He pulled the shade down over the window, blocking out the bright orange setting sun, and shifted in his seat trying to get comfortable. Maybe he would be able to sleep, to get some rest so he could adequately grovel when he got home.     

 

***

 

Stella’s call waiting beeped just after she had received the news. She pulled the phone away from her ear to see the number and saw that it was Scully. How did she know she needed help getting off the phone at this very moment?

 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Dunsmuir, I have to take this call. Thank y--...no, I don’t think I can make the funeral. I’m sorry...no, thank you, though. I have to go...uh huh, thank you...okay. Goodbye.”

 

Stella sighed deeply before clicking the line over to Scully. “Thank you for saving me from what could have been a lengthy conversation.”

 

“Oh. You’re welcome,” said Scully.

 

Stella’s breathing sounded loudly in her ears, and like it wasn’t even her own breath, like she was detached from it—a delayed reaction.

 

“Stella? Are you there?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I thought the call had dropped. Where did you go just then?”

 

“My aunt’s just died. That’s what the other call was.”

 

“Oh my God, Stella, I’m so sorry.”

 

“It took a minute to register, I guess.”

 

“The aunt that raised you?”

 

“Yes. I-- I don’t know how I feel about it.” There was a numbness setting in. They weren’t close, they never had been; and Stella felt that part of her independent spirit was born out of their constrained relationship. But, there was also an underlying guilt that had surfaced once she’d  heard she had passed.

 

Stella hadn’t spoken with her aunt in months. The last time was while she was in Belfast and she had had a rare bout of sentimentality after sitting with an elderly woman at the hospital. The woman had mistaken her for a loved one. Stella didn’t correct her; instead she sat with her and held her hand until the woman fell asleep. It had been at the end of what Stella remembered being one of the longest days of her life. She had kept herself together while the people around her were spiraling, and she remembered that her aunt had done that for her many times during her tumultuous teenage years.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Scully asked.

 

“No, no. I’ll be okay. I’m just stunned is all,” said Stella. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Pretty good, but my doctor is suggesting I take my maternity leave early. Well, not suggesting, really, more like insisting.”

 

“You should listen. What’s keeping you there?”

 

“Nothing, I guess,” Scully said, considering. Maybe babysitting Mulder? she thought. If he was going to continue this stubborn mission to stay on the X-Files she would have to be there. She hadn’t told Stella of Mulder’s recent antics, and she didn’t want to bother her with her complaints now after hearing about Stella’s loss.

 

“I better go. I have to sort some things now, and it looks like I’ll have to make a trip back home,” said Stella, the dread already feeling like dead weight. No pun intended.

 

“Call me if you need to talk, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

“And call me even if you don’t.”

 

Stella smiled. “Okay.”   

 

***

 

Scully was prepared to be angry with Mulder, to yell at him for being so irresponsible, but when he walked through the door she was just so relieved to see him alive. She wanted to jump into his arms and kiss him until they were both breathless. Jumping was certainly out of the question in her condition and it dawned on her in that moment that they hadn’t kissed since he’d been back. They had had to work up to that simple gesture of holding hands the other night. This thought made her sad and also a little self-conscious for some reason.

 

Mulder had perfected the puppy dog look over the years, and he was putting it to good use now. He started apologizing straight away, but Scully was barely listening, thinking about their lack of physical affection instead.

 

“I’m gonna take the heat on this, Scully. I’m sure Kersh will fire me, but my focus is going to be all on you and this baby from here on out,” he was saying.

 

How can she trust this? “I trust you,” she said. She just knew she could and that she did.

 

He looked surprised. “Did you say ‘I trust you’ or ‘I trusted you?’”

 

“Mulder, I trust you. I trust the words you are saying right now and your intentions,” Scully said. She knew he believed what he was saying, that at this moment this was his truth, and over the years their truths had conflated into one truth that they shared. What happened to his sister, what had happened to her and to him. This was their truth, and if tomorrow he flew to some remote corner of the earth in search of something, then that would be her truth, too.

 

Mulder continued to look at her, puzzled. He knew his homecoming wasn’t going to be overly joyous—he had fucked up—but he didn’t know what to make of her behavior which was a weird mix of heartfelt and somber. “I really am sorry, Scully.”

 

She nodded and gave him a small smile. He wanted to hug her, to kiss her, but something was holding him back. That anxious feeling that had been plaguing him since he’d been back pervaded the air in his chest. He’d gotten better at talking through his feelings with Scully, not by leaps and bounds by any means, but a hell of a lot better than he used to be. There was something about physical touch that seemed to make him freeze up. He had been slowly testing himself with little touches here and there, but progressing to intimacy, no matter how much he desired it, felt inaccessible to him.

 

He was sure it was a result of his trauma, and was hoping that it would just run its course, but it was starting to freak him out which made him even more anxious. He hadn’t gotten an erection since he’d come back to life. Maybe his penis didn’t get the memo. This concerned him enormously, but he was too scared to go to a doctor about it, and he thought it would be too awkward to discuss with Scully even though he knew she would be understanding. Look how understanding she was with his latest shenanigans.     

 

So instead of going to her and embracing her like he wanted, he picked up his duffel bag and said, “I guess I’ll call it a night.” It felt like a real jackass thing to say so he shrugged sheepishly as he passed by her towards the bedroom. Scully was already in her pajamas. He wondered if she would follow.

 

She did.

 

Once they were in bed, Mulder leaned over to kiss Scully on the cheek. Another little test for himself. Scully turned her face and captured his lips with hers. Their mouths moved and pressed together, and then she opened hers to him and snuck her tongue out tentatively to lick across his lower lip. Mulder felt a rising panic, but told himself to fight through it. Her lips felt so good against his, he wanted this so badly, but his body and his brain thought otherwise. He let her tongue invade his mouth, and he let out a moan. It was a sound of frustration—frustration at himself—but he hoped it didn’t sound that way to her.

 

Scully noticed that his hand on her shoulder was stiff and unmoving, and that he wasn’t kissing her back with the same passion. Perhaps he was waiting for her to make a move, to steer them towards something more sexual. She ran her hand down his chest and stomach to his crotch and stroked him over his boxers. He was soft. She kept rubbing him and kissing him, even sighing his name in a sultry breath, but his dick remained limp as the rest of his body tensed up.

 

Mulder pulled away and she removed her hand quickly. He laid back and rubbed his face with his hands. “I’m sorry.”

 

“No, you don’t need to say ‘sorry,’” she said.

 

“I just, I can’t…”

 

“It’s okay. We don’t have to.”

 

“Not because I don’t want to,” he stressed.

 

“I understand. It’s okay, really.” Her cheeks were burning and she was glad for the darkness of the room. Scully’s embarrassment was acute, but she was mostly concerned that Mulder was okay, that he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong or disappointed her. “We can give it all the time you need.” She found his hand and held it, giving him what she hoped was a comforting squeeze.

 

“I know you need to.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Isn’t your libido...heightened?”

 

“Oh,” said Scully. “I did experience that between the second and third trimester, but it’s back to normal now,” she lied. It was definitely still heightened, not to the degree that it had been, but it was, at least, more manageable—especially considering she hadn’t gotten herself off in weeks.

 

He turned over on his side and looked at her. “What if...what if I watched you, you know…”

 

“I’m fine, Mulder. I don’t need to, I...” His suggestion had flustered her.

 

“I, uh, think it could be good for both of us. A way to be intimate that I can, I don’t know...handle.”

 

“Um…”

 

“You don’t have to. It was just an idea.”

 

Her mind was buzzing, but the logic of what he was saying was becoming clear. “I’ve never done that before, you know, in front of anyone. I mean, I’ve touched myself in the midst of sex, though, but this seems different somehow.”

 

Mulder nodded and gave her little, resigned smile.

 

“But,” she continued, “I think you’re right—we would both benefit from it.”

 

“So, you want to try it?”

 

Scully shrugged as if to say ‘Why not?’ and he was glad he saw it because it was cute as hell and helped the awkwardness dissipate.

 

“Yeah,” she said. “You’ll tell me if you want me to stop, though?”

 

He didn’t think his current hang-ups would extend to this, but he agreed. “And you stop if you’re uncomfortable, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

Scully shimmied her pajama bottoms and panties off under the covers, and laid her head back on the pillow, closing her eyes. She wasn’t sure how to begin.

 

“Do you want me to talk to you during? Like dirty talking?” he asked. “I don’t know how much my brain will let me get away with, but…”

 

“What if you described one of our times together?”

 

“Oh yeah, that’s a good idea. All right, let me think. So many to choose from.”

 

Scully giggled.

 

“Okay, remember that one time you and I had a threesome with Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson?”

 

Scully’s eyes flew open and she looked at him questioningly. Why would he pick that out of all the times they had made love?

 

“Relax, Scully. Despite everything it’s a very fond memory for me, and I want you to know how okay with it I am. Whatever happened while I was...dead, it’s all okay. I have no hard feelings,” he said and then chuckled. “I literally have no hard feelings.” He motioned to his crotch.

 

She huffed out a laugh, amazed at his ability to make light of the situation. Then she wondered if he knew she had told Stella she loved her if he would still say it’s all okay.

 

“I can use another time if you want. I don’t know, I just wanted you to know that it’s a non-issue.”

 

“I appreciate that, Mulder. I don’t mind. Whichever memory you want to use is fine.”

 

“Okay, close your eyes.”

 

She did.

 

“Tease your clit and imagine your legs entwined with Stella’s and her pussy grinding against yours.”

 

Geez, he was jumping right in, Scully thought, but the image was injected into her mind like a cortisone shot, instantly relieving the inflammation of reticence. She followed his instructions and brought one hand around the side of her pregnant belly to her cunt and rubbed herself. Even though the conversation leading up to this was awkward and not very arousing, she had gotten wet from the kissing that preceded it. Her sex was slick, and she wet her fingers before bringing them to her sensitive clit.

 

“You were both wet and I could hear that you were. It was so fucking sexy.”

 

Scully whimpered remembering the feeling, and remembering that he had been watching them, and that he was watching her now.

 

“She told me to come on your tits. I had seen that happen in porn so many times and I never found it that arousing, but those words from those lips…”

 

It was interesting to get some insight into his thoughts about that night. It wasn’t like they had discussed it afterward. His voice was low and seductive, but he also put the picture in her head so clearly that she could hear Stella’s command from that night. Scully had begun fucking herself, two fingers pumping in and out, her other hand massaging her breast over her silk pajama top.

 

“And that it was you, and that you wanted it, and I came at the same time you did—pure ecstasy, Scully.”

 

“Yesss,” she moaned. “Yesss.”

 

He inched closer to her so he could whisper in her ear. “Then do you remember what happened?” She bit her lip and nodded her head, eyes still squeezed shut. “Stella licked my cum off your tits and then kissed you.”

 

“Ooooh god,” she wailed. Her breaths were coming out fast and ragged.

 

“Did you like that? Tasting my cum on her lips?”

 

“Yesssohgodyesss.”

 

“Make yourself come, Scully. I want to see you come.”

 

Her brow was knitted in concentration, her lips parted, expelling panting breaths. “Mulder” came out in a sort of sob. He saw her hand grip her breast and felt the movement of the bed as she thrust her hips into her hand.

 

“Come for me, Scully.”

 

And she did.

 

She cried out, punctuating the loud moan with his name again. Scully kept her eyes closed, relaxed the hand on her boob, and rested her other hand on her hip. She was winded, like she had just ran a sprint.

 

When her breathing became calmer, Mulder told her to open her eyes. She looked at him. “You’re so beautiful, Scully.”

 

“God, Mulder, that was amazing.”

 

“We’ll get to the real deal. I know it,” he said confidently.

 

She nodded. “It’ll just take time,” Scully said, “and we have that now.”

 

Mulder leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose. “We do.”

Chapter Text

Stella passed into the town limits of Peacehaven, this coastal village which had been her home for a brief time. It had neither been a peaceful place nor a haven of any kind for her. She looked back on that part of her life as a sort of purgatory between the time of her father’s death and university. It had felt like a punishment for sins she didn’t commit, just as purgatory in the Roman Catholic sense served as temporal punishment for sins which had already been absolved. It was redundant. Wasn’t the loss of her father torture enough?

 

She had served her time, and when she left at eighteen to attend Cambridge she had vowed not to return. Her only remaining link was the relationship with her aunt which was sustained merely by a mutual obligation. Stella had no close friends that she had left behind, no other family in the area. Whereas the finality of her aunt’s passing offered a relief, this last part—settling her affairs and her modest estate—had to be dealt with before she could close this chapter of her life that had been written so many years before. Stella had mentally closed it, but her aunt had remained the bookmark.

 

Stella had rolled down the windows once she reached the main road that paralleled the chalk cliffs for which the seaside town was most recognized. The ocean air felt cleansing; her chest had begun to feel constricted the closer she got to her destination, and this helped her to open it up. She took a few deep breaths.

 

The CD she had been listening to ended and she pressed the button to go back to track eleven. Louise had made her a mix that she had listened to all the way through twice already. One song in particular had moved her; she found the arrangement eerie and a little unsettling, but the lyrics were inspiring and hopeful. There was a substratal drone of thunder that underscored the melody which was in contrast to the cloudless sky outside her windshield. It represented her conflicting emotions well.

 

The song was low energy, one of the few calm tracks on the disc, but the words carried energy, a galvanising energy that she needed. The singer—Cat Power, according to Louise’s handwritten scrawl on the makeshift cover—had a melancholic, kind of drowsy voice, like she had just woken up or was about to fall asleep.

 

Never give up no never give up

If you’re looking for something easy

You might as well give it up

Never give up no never give up

 

She turned onto Bramber Avenue with a renewed sense of motivation. It was funny to her that she ended up living on Bramber Road in London. She was sure it was just sheer coincidence and not some subconscious nostalgia that had made her settle on that particular flat.

 

Stella pulled into the little driveway in front of her aunt’s house. It looked the same as the day she had left, not much wear and tear. Her aunt had prided herself on appearances so she had it kept up pretty well. She noticed the lattice on the side of the house, which she had used many times to sneak out at night in her youth, was still there, but now shrouded in climbing honeysuckle vines. When she got out of the car, the smell from the small trumpet-shaped flowers overpowered the salty sea air.

 

She found the key that Mrs. Dunsmuir had told her would be under the ceramic turtle near the front steps, and unlocked the door. She stepped inside hesitantly.

 

***

 

Mulder walked out of the basement office, quite possibly, for the last time. He had just unceremoniously given the reins over to Agent Doggett, and it was easier than he had thought it would be. He had bigger and better things on the horizon; a life with Scully, a family, something he hadn’t had since his mother died, but even when she was alive it hadn’t given him much of a familial connection—what he had with Scully was stronger and fostered in him a fortuitous sense of change, going from a dysfunctional family to a functioning and loving one of their own making.

 

Thinking along these same lines, Mulder called Maggie when he got back to Scully’s apartment—his home. Scully was still at work. She would be taking her leave at the end of the week at her doctor’s insistence. It was true that doctors made the worst patients—she had still needed cajoling to agree to take it early. He hoped that now that he was officially out of a job, which subsequently reduced his chances of getting into trouble, she would feel better about her decision.

 

“Fox?” Maggie said, answering his call. “What’s wrong?”

 

Poor thing was so used to receiving bad news. “Nothing. Everything is fine,” he quickly assured her. “I was just calling to see about that Lamaze class you were talking about. I want to take Scully.”

 

“Oh, that’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Just a minute, let me get the information for you.”

 

He tucked the phone between his shoulder and his ear, reaching into a bag for the purchase he had made on his way home. Mulder grinned at the cover. There was a drawing of an expectant mother holding her pregnant belly smiling back at him next to the self-explanatory title, What To Expect When You’re Expecting. He had done some rudimentary research online, trying to get some insight into what Scully was going through. That’s how he had known about the increased sex drive. It was then that he knew he needed some education in order to be as supportive as he could be.

 

Maggie came back on the line, breathless. “Found it. I thought I had thrown it out since Dana was so adamantly against it.”

 

“Your daughter is very stubborn, but I think you know that,” he quipped.

 

“Boy, do I ever!” Maggie laughed. She gave him the contact number and wished him luck, saying again how thrilled she was.

 

He got off the phone and dialed the number she had given him to sign them up, hoping Scully wouldn’t be too pissed at him.

 

***

 

Stella was packing photo albums into a box. Her aunt kept them in the built-in buffet in the dining room alongside her china serving dishes that Stella had no intention of taking. She had gone through the first book of photographs intending to take out the ones she wanted to keep, but seeing pictures of her father quickly became too much, so she decided she would take all the albums and go through them later, if ever.

 

The albums filled one medium cardboard box. Stella lifted it to test the weight, and seeing it wasn’t too heavy brought it over to the other boxes she had begun stacking at the base of the staircase. She was about to start in on the kitchen when there was a knock at the door.

 

“Hey-oh, Stella Gibson,” said the man standing on the steps when she opened it.

 

Stella furrowed her brow, trying to jog her memory. “Freddy?”

 

He chuckled. “I knew you would recognize me. Mum said you wouldn’t.”

 

Stella smiled, but didn’t offer a response. She wasn’t interested in going down memory lane with anybody, especially Freddy Chapman.

 

“Heard you’d be here, and I just wanted to stop by and offer my condolences and my assistance, you know, if you need some dim-witted braun,” said Freddy, laughing and flexing his biceps. “With boxes and what not,” he added more seriously when his silly joke was met with an expressionless look from Stella.

 

She stepped aside and let him come in. Maybe she could be done with this a lot quicker with his help. He followed her up the stairs, and she said, “I’ve packed up the bedrooms. You can bring the boxes down for me.”

 

“Sure, sure, sure,” he said, overly-cooperative, happy that she was taking him up on his offer.

 

Stella showed him the boxes in the master bedroom and then the ones in the guest bedroom, formerly her bedroom.

 

“This one was yours?” he asked.

 

Stella nodded stiffly. He walked into the room, and she turned to leave, but instead of picking up a box he went to the window and looked out, tutting, “Can’t see Mum’s place anymore because of that addition the Smythes put up.” He glanced back at her. “Bloody eyesore, if you ask me.”

 

Stella controlled her heavy sigh so he wouldn’t see her impatience. I didn’t ask you, she thought. “So, just these boxes here,” said Stella, hoping to bring him back to task.   

 

He nodded, looking at the boxes scattered about, and then, much to Stella’s relief, bent down to pick one up. He followed her back down the stairs, and she explained to him how she was sorting the boxes. She had marked the ones she would be taking with an X, so he should be able to easily separate them out.

 

“What about these?” he asked, pointing to several milk crates filled with vinyl records.

 

“I’m going to take those.” She was planning on giving them to Louise. “The turntable, too,” added Stella, pointing next to the crates. She wasn’t sure if Louise had one.

 

Freddy stooped down to pull out a record. It was Patti Smith’s Horses. A twinge of nostalgia rustled inside her. She had listened to that album over and over endlessly as a girl of, what, fifteen? Sixteen? It occurred to her that Cat Power, that melancholy poetess from Louise’s CD, had a similar voice.

 

Stella stepped towards him as he held it up, and she reached for it. He watched her as she turned it over, and she hoped that her unexpected wistfulness wasn’t evident on her face. Reading the track titles she suddenly remembered why she was so obsessed with this album: “Birdland.” The song was about a boy whose father had just died; the boy dreams that his father was not dead but aboard a spaceship and he begs to be with him again, to go aboard the ship, away from his fatherless existence on earth.

 

She had cried so many tears listening to this song, the kind of gut wrenching sobs that hurt your chest and tore up your throat on their way out. Stella could almost feel the pangs of it now. She pushed the record back into Freddy’s hands and turned away to collect herself before her stoic facade had the chance to crack. Stella was actually grateful that Freddy was here now because she might’ve lost it if she was by herself, and, for some reason, she was determined to not break down while she was here; but so many reminders of her father, more than she had remembered or expected, were there to threaten this resolve and cause her to crumble.

 

Stella cleared her throat and was about to ask him to take the crates to her car, but he spoke first.

 

“Did you find anything of Joey’s?” he asked while looking at the album in his hands.

 

She sighed. Stella had a feeling this would be brought up, she could almost see it on the tip of his tongue every time he opened his mouth to say something. “No,” she said.

 

“God, he really loved you, Stell.”

 

She blanched at the shortening of her name, and at the implication that Joey had loved her. Had he, though? She thought back to their brief teenage romance. It had been intense, and maybe she had even loved him, the way a mixed-up teen would love another, but it was all too overwhelming for her to make sense of her feelings at the time.  

 

“You know, he would’ve been forty next year,” he said.

 

Of course she knew, she was the same age. Stella considered saying this, a brusque rebuffing might deter his current subject of conversation from going any further, but she refrained. He was also mourning a death from years ago, just as she was.

 

“Do you think he would’ve still killed himself if…”

 

Stella shook her head slightly and shrugged as if to say how can one know.

 

He persisted in the same vague way, either not seeing her obvious unease or choosing to ignore it. “What if you hadn’t…” His sentence dropped off again. He wanted her to answer these morose, unanswerable questions for him.

 

Stella hated “what ifs.” She didn’t deal in “what ifs.” She looked at Freddy, really meeting his eyes this time so he would know she wasn’t going to entertain his finger-pointing hypotheticals. “You can blame me for his death if you want, if it brings you some closure, but you’ll need to accept that I don’t blame myself. Joey had his demons. Most of us do. Sometimes they win.”

 

Freddy sniffed, looked down at the album he was still holding, and then put it back in the crate. He nodded several times, his head bobbing up and down, as if a physical gesture that showed his acceptance of her response would convince him that she was right, that no amount of dredging up the past would change it nor explain it.

 

Stella deemed the subject closed whether he thought so or not. “Do you know of anyone that can finish this up for me? Sell the house?” She had packed up everything she wanted to keep. It had been easy; her aunt had all the things from her bedroom in boxes in the garage already. She had the family photos, a few things of her father's; there was nothing else that held any sentimental value for her.

 

“Yeah, I can help with that,” said Freddy.

 

He loaded the boxes and crates into her car. Stella gave him the house key and her card. She wrote the name of the law office that was handling her aunt’s will on the back of it should he need it.

 

“Thank you, Freddy,” she said, holding her hand out to him. He shook it and gave her a small, sorrowful smile.

 

***

 

Mulder stuffed a pillow under his shirt. “Relax the back. Breath in, breathe out,” he said, then made some panting noises.

 

“How do you know all these things, Mulder?” asked Scully. He was charming and she was amused, but a worrisome feeling had been vexing her since she left the office earlier that morning. He made some joke about Oprah, and she could only offer him a taciturn smile, then she said, “Thank you for doing this with me.”

 

He had signed them up for a series of Lamaze classes, and even though she didn’t think it was necessary, she was looking forward to spending the time with him, doing this thing that expectant mothers did with their partners.

 

Mulder could see her nervousness; he hoped it wasn’t about the class, he hadn’t wanted to make her uncomfortable about it. “What’s the matter?”

 

“I don’t know, I, uh, maybe it’s hormones, or I just, it’s just, I’m just feeling so strange about this,” fretted Scully. She hesitated to say she was worried about Doggett since she knew Mulder was not too fond of the man.

 

Mulder began to mentally kick himself for signing them up. “This, having-a-baby this?”

 

“No, no, leaving work, I guess.” She knew he was working on being honest with his feelings, so she would do the same. That’s what couples do, right? she thought. Tell each other their fears and anxieties?  “I mean, I, I walked out of that office today feeling like a deserter.”

 

Mulder could relate. He had felt like he was abandoning his noble cause, his search for the truth, which he thought affected every man, woman, and child on this planet. Delusions of grandeur aside, though, he carried a sense of guilt when he walked out of that door; it was still with him, and he anticipated that he would be stuck with this feeling for some time.

 

He didn’t want that for Scully, though. “You’ve paid your dues there, Scully. More than paid them,” attested Mulder. “You’re concerned about Agent Doggett?” he asked, as it dawned on him that his ever selfless Scully could be worried about her now former partner.

 

“You know, the entire time I was down there I had someone to watch my back.”

 

Mulder felt a sharp twinge of gratitude where he usually felt resentment. As much as he disagreed with Doggett, and considered him a poor appointment to the X-Files, he was grateful that he was there to have her back, especially after hearing some of the stories where it was lucky that Scully came out alive at all. This was growth, thought Mulder—that his gut reaction to the man was now civil, even favorable.

 

But, his foremost concern was not Agent Doggett, it was Scully. He would have her back from here on out, starting literally at this Lamaze class where he would sit behind her, supporting her emotionally and physically, preparing them both to bring this child into the world. “I’m betting that Agent Doggett can take care of himself. He’s a big boy. You’ve gotta worry about the little boy,” he said smiling. “Or little girl. Boy? Or girl?”

 

Scully didn’t respond, but smiled back. She appreciated his efforts to make her feel better about leaving, and being understanding about her feelings about Doggett. Scully knew how hard this was on Mulder, leaving the X-Files behind, no matter how happy-go-lucky he appeared to be. And now she had left his life’s work in the hands of someone that Mulder deemed incapable.

 

The X-Files had lost its two founding members in the space of a week. She considered herself a founding member; certainly Diana shouldn’t get that title just because she was there when Mulder discovered the files. The office was only given bureau credibility once she had joined him, up until then it was just a side project of one their agents.

 

She hadn’t told Mulder that she didn’t intend to go back after the baby was born. In fact, she had only told Stella that she was thinking about teaching, and had inferred as much when she inquired about staff positions with the head of Quantico’s Forensics Department. Scully wondered if Mulder thought her leave was only temporary, and that’s what made the bitter pill easier to take. Would he be upset if she didn’t go back?—that the X-Files would no longer be a part of their lives?

 

“We should go,” she said, trying to let go of these worries for the time being. In its place, though, another worry wiggled its way through. There would be a lot of touching at this class, and Mulder had finally voiced his issues with that. He had initiated more contact between them since that night she had masturbated by his side at his insistence and encouragement. There were more kisses and physical gestures, but they were at his pace and based on his comfort level. She was afraid this class would force him into a situation for which he might not be ready.

 

“Let’s get our Lamaze on, mama,” he said, cheerfully beaming at her.   

 

***

 

Instead of leaving after saying goodbye to Freddy, Stella walked down the street to the promenade. The Bastion Steps that led down to the concrete beach were just a short walking distance from Bramber Avenue. After the claustrophobic feeling of being in that house with so many painful memories and, likewise, in Freddy’s company, Stella wanted the fresh air of the ocean and the expanse of the horizon before being confined to her car again. This would be her farewell to this town. She would not be coming back here—to this place where people lived in their tragedies and dwelt on the past.

 

She descended the steep, winding staircase built into the cliff’s edge, and was relieved to find the man-made shore free from people; she had the hard, cold, mausoleum-like terrace all to herself. She burrowed her hands into her coat pockets and braced against an unexpected gust. The sun was still out, but a bitter wind whipped around her. The peal from a lone seagull flying above startled her, but then its continuing squawk, along with the gentle crashing of waves upon the cement, became a copacetic soundtrack to her languishing thoughts.

 

The outside chill gathered within her, under her skin, in the form of self-reproach. She realized that this whole time she had been replaying her father’s death, glossing over memories of her aunt who was the one who had just passed. Even Freddy Chapman was mourning his brother instead of the recently deceased.

 

Stella hadn’t thought about Joey in years until Katie had turned up on her doorstep and forced her to remember that time. Freddy had probably thought about the abortion she had had at seventeen more than she had over the years. Clearly, he reasoned that it played a part in Joey’s decision to end his life. Maybe it did or maybe he was just very troubled. Looking back now, she recalled what a terrible time it was, and her own suicidal thoughts, but how it had also been a turning point for her.

 

Her aunt had dealt with her unexpected pregnancy with a swift hand. She didn’t even question Stella’s choice to have an abortion, in fact, she had encouraged the decision, saying Stella would make an awful mother. Stella remembered agreeing with her, but carried the sting of that comment with her for sometime afterward. Her aunt had made the arrangements and cared for her as she recovered which belied the complete disdain which Stella had believed her aunt harbored towards her.

 

Beans on toast. That was what her aunt made her each day as she convalesced, and then as she grieved over Joey’s death. It had been such a comfort to her then, but years later she found the distinct smell of it only brought back the heartbreak of that time, not the memory of the rare appearance of her aunt’s gentle nature—that anomaly where she was more caregiver than disciplinarian.

 

Those tragic weeks of her seventeen year old existence had been the casting of the mold of the woman she would become, hardening, but also softening, pieces of her soul—of her heart. She owed some of that growth to her aunt, and for the first time since she had heard of her passing, the initial guilt and apathy were finally replaced with a true sadness. Stella took a deep breath, relieved to be in a natural stage of bereavement rather than the confusing emotional limbo in which she had found herself.

 

***

 

Both Mulder and Scully had trouble letting go of the X-Files; they had inserted themselves back into the thick of the Sacks case—Scully did it because she was worried about Doggett and Mulder because he was worried about Scully. They worked together, though, and the case had been closed with minimal fatalities and injury.

 

They were driving home from the hospital when Mulder heard a soft giggle from Scully in the passenger seat.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Oh nothing,” she said, still chuckling. “It’s just, poor Agent Harrison. We didn’t answer her question.”

 

Mulder huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, we bantered like an old married couple instead, huh?”

 

Scully smirked and gave him a sideways glance. “Probably best that we didn’t tell her that we tested your theory that being naked together in a sleeping bag would generate warmth.”

 

“I was right about it, wasn’t I?” he said, smiling, then added under his breath, affecting a lofty tone, “I’m always right.”

 

“Yes, you were right,” she acquiesced. “God, I wanted to jump your bones so badly.”

 

“Well, you know I wanted to,” said Mulder, finding himself blushing about the boner he had gotten three years ago while pressed up against his partner’s naked body.

 

“You showed remarkable restraint, Mulder,” she laughed.

 

He winced and adjusted the crotch of his pants in jest, making her giggle more, then he said seriously, “I was so scared, Scully. Once you fell asleep, I kept checking to make sure you were still breathing.”

 

Scully reached for his hand and held it between hers in her lap. “It’s amazing either of us are alive to tell these tales.”

 

He squeezed her hand and rubbed his thumb along the inside of her wrist. Touching her was becoming easier, actually he found his anxiety abated when he touched her, so he started doing it more often. He felt the psychological barriers within him crumble a little each time they made contact.

 

The Lamaze class had been a big push in this direction—he had probably benefited more from the whole thing than Scully had. It had been all about connecting with your partner—breathing together, empathy; pretty hippy-dippy stuff he had thought, and doing the exercises in a room full of other people was strange, but they were able to connect, and he felt a closeness to Scully that he had been craving.   

 

***

 

“Peacehaven?!” Louise exclaimed. “That’s where you grew up?”

 

“Well, from fourteen to eighteen.”

 

“Did you know Peter and the Test Tube Babies?”

 

“Yeah, ‘course. I dated the bass player,” said Stella.

 

Louise’s jaw dropped. “You did?!”

 

“No,” Stella deadpanned.

 

Louise swatted at her. “Don’t be cheeky,” she warned, and Stella grinned, teasing her. “‘The Queen Gives Good Blow Jobs’ is so brilliant.”

 

“I did see them perform, though, before they recorded their first album.”

 

“Ugh, I’m so jealous,” she lamented as she continued to sift through one of Stella’s boxes. She pulled out a framed picture of Stella in uniform. “Oh my God, what is this?”

 

“That’s from when I graduated from the Met Leadership Programme,” Stella said, smiling. She had been surprised to find it on the dressing table in her aunt’s bedroom. It seemed like a personal, sentimental place for her aunt to keep it.

 

“Something about the uniform,” Louise said, looking at the photo. “It’s turning me on.”

 

“There’s one in my closet,” goaded Stella. “I still have to wear it from time to time.”

 

Louise nodded. “All right, I’m gonna keep that little nugget of information in my back pocket.”

 

They had gone through two of the boxes that had miscellaneous items from her youth. Louise had raved about her secondary school sweaters, so Stella told her she could have them. Louise whipped her t-shirt off over her head and put one on.

 

Stella plugged in the record player that Louise was going to take along with the records; she wanted to listen to Horses one more time. “Do you have any pot?” Stella asked.

 

“Are you trying to entrap me, Inspector?” Louise said slyly as she reached behind her for her bag. She dug around inside and pulled out a coin purse, and from that she produced a joint and a lighter. Stella raised her eyebrows, and then held out her hand for it.

 

Louise had thought seeing Stella in her uniform was one of the sexiest things, but watching her spark up a joint was becoming a close contender. Stella took a long hit, handed it back to Louise, and then thumbed through the records looking for Horses. She put the record on and sat back on the sofa, reaching for the joint again.

 

Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine, drawled Patti in a vintage crackle from the speaker of the old machine.  

 

By the time “Birdland” came on Stella was feeling the buzz. Louise must’ve known that Stella wanted this to be an introspective time, because she laid back on the carpet and just listened, occasionally taking the joint from Stella when she passed it to her. She had heard a good deal of Patti Smith’s music before, and even read an article about “Birdland” fairly recently—how it was based off of the memoirs of Peter Reich, the son of controversial psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. Peter wrote in his book, aptly titled The Book of Dreams, about this dream he had after his father’s death. Louise wondered if Stella knew this, but she sensed now was not the time to find out.

 

Stella was glad that her talkative friend intuited her need for the absence of conversation. The nostalgic music and, for that matter, the nostalgic high, had drawn her inward. She had forgotten the peculiar feeling of mellowing presentness one could experience.

 

Stella thought about those lyrics from the Cat Power song, the ones that advised the listener to “never give up.” “Birdland” had a similar refrain, but it was so much more desperate and futile, but still fiercely relentless. As the birds attacked the poor, grieving boy in the song’s sad tale, he wailed his plea.

 

All his limbs, everything was twisted and he said,

“I won't give up, won't give up, don't let me give up

I won't give up, come here, let me go up fast

Take me up quick, take me up, up to the belly of a ship

And the ship slides open and I go inside of it where I am not human.”

 

The human experience was such a tragic adventure, even for those with good memories. If you were lucky enough to love the people in your life and receive love from them, they could be ripped away from you at any time, sometimes in death, but sometimes in even more painful ways.

Chapter Text

Scully awoke to a hand rubbing her arm and a gentle prodding at her back. “Mmm,” she sighed, and pressed back. Maybe she was dreaming.

 

“Scully,” he whispered in her ear, “I want to make love to you.”

 

Okay, it was a dream, but such a nice dream. She hummed again. Then she felt that unmistakable feeling of an erection against her buttocks. It seemed so realistic.

 

A very awake Mulder—awake in areas that had been maddeningly at rest—peppered her exposed shoulder with kisses. “Scully,” he said, trying to softly draw her from sleep.

 

He licked up behind her ear and Scully sleepily giggled, “Mulder,” then the next second she jerked awake fully. “Mulder?”

 

“Good morning, Scully,” he said against her neck and pushed his hips into her backside.

 

This was no dream. She was awake and he was awake, and he was rock hard. Scully twisted to look back at him. “Are you sure you’re okay to?” Her body was already reacting to him, she hoped he was.

 

“Oh yes, Scully.” He kissed her lips, thrusting his hips again.

 

“Well, this is probably the best position,” she said, ever the practical one.

 

“No, Scully, I need to see you.” He had never been so happy to have morning wood in all his life, but fear of not being able to maintain it worried at him. Mulder needed to connect with Scully, to look into her eyes to know that everything would be okay.

 

Scully turned over and put her hand on his cheek, giving him the look he needed. “I’m right here.”

 

They both removed their bottoms, Mulder taking his shirt off, too, and Scully keeping her tank top on. She didn’t want anything to take them out of the moment, nothing like the sudden movement of a tiny limb rippling beneath her skin to remind them that they weren’t technically alone or to detract from any sexy feelings they were having. And, besides, she was self-conscious—her belly button was starting to look really weird.

 

Scully got on top, straddling his hips. She took his dick in her hand and stroked up and down his shaft a few times. He moaned her name, his eyes fiercely locked with hers, and she smiled back, a breathy moan escaping her throat as well. He felt so good in her hand, hard and hot and alive—she swore she could feel the blood rushing through the veins underneath his silk-like skin. Scully was tempted to scoot herself further down the bed and take him in her mouth, but this was his first time back in the saddle, so to speak, and she didn’t want him to be nervous about coming before he was inside her.

 

She rose up on her knees and ran his tip along her entrance. Her folds were warm and slick, and the sensation overwhelmed him. He squeezed his eyes shut to compose himself, then opened them when he felt her lower herself onto him. Their eyes met when his head hit her cervix. The pressure there, although it was slightly uncomfortable, made her breath hitch, and she looked at him with an expression of awe.

 

Scully put her hands on his chest and started to move. This position worked well because she could control the pace and depth, and make sure Mulder was okay, but it also felt amazing. She could feel herself getting very wet, almost embarrassingly so.

 

Mulder ran his hands up her arms and then down to cover hers. The curve of her belly pressed against his lower abdomen with an unfamiliar yet satisfying weight. They had created this child doing exactly what they were doing now. He had expected that being aware of the baby’s presence during sex would weird him out, or even be detrimental to his ability to keep an erection, but all he felt was more love—love for Scully, love for their child, and love for whatever greater power allowed him to be here in this moment.

 

He came with the same explosion of love that had run amok in his mind and his heart. It was a release that was a long time coming, but there was so much more to it than just that. In his euphoric haze he knew Scully hadn’t come, yet the look on her face, the smile on her lips, told him not to worry, and he didn’t.

 

His orgasm eased and his breathing calmed; his eyelids had drifted shut and his cock began to soften inside her. Mulder felt Scully take his hand and bring it to where there were still joined. She placed his fingers to her clit and covered his hand with hers. Mulder opened his eyes to see Scully still in a state of building ecstasy; her lips were parted sensuously—a hint of the smile remained.

 

She lifted her hips, causing him to slip out of her, and pressed herself into their hands. Her intention was not lost on him, and he still wanted to play so he crawled his fingers down and pushed two inside her. She was unbelievably wet so he added a third and pumped in and out of her, trying to keep his thumb on her clit.

 

“Yes!” she gasped. “Make me come, Mulder.”

 

He propped himself onto his elbow, giving him better leverage, and worked his hand, hard and fast, at her dripping cunt. Her walls began to spasm around his fingers—she was so hot and wet and vice-like, he briefly wished it was his dick inside her instead.

 

“Fuck,” whimpered Scully, and then her head fell back and she let out a guttural groan that only faded once her fervid climax did.

 

She flopped down beside him, gingerly and carefully, the only way a pregnant woman can flop, and put her hand over her racing heart.

 

“You all right?” he asked.

 

“Oh yeah, more than all right. Thank you for that,” said Scully, chuckling softly. “How about you? How’d that feel for you?”

 

He found her hand between them and held it. “It felt like home.”

 

***

 

After work, Stella went shopping. She had decided to start dream journaling again after a lucid dream she had the night she and Louise got stoned. It had surprised her because she thought that smoking weed inhibited REM sleep which was when lucid dreams would occur. Stella was not confused as to what the dream meant, though; she knew that dreams where you kept ending up back in the same place meant frustration, specifically at the inability to move forward. It was fairly obvious to Stella that this was about the role she played in Scully’s life—there was the feeling that she belonged there yet did not know her place. This made Stella want to run even in her waking thoughts, but her love for Scully prevented her from acting on those feelings.

 

Instead, she tried to remain aloof—in conscious denial of their odd situation. Like the dream journaling, Stella was also reintroducing swimming back into her routine. Funny, it was a dream that had made her stop. She realized that by bringing these things back she was attempting to recapture a bit of who she was before becoming involved with Scully. Not that her stopping either of these things had anything to do with Scully, but she associated the absence of those activities with a life that had Scully in it.  

 

Next to the stationary store was a baby clothing boutique, and Stella stepped inside, feeling instantly out of place. She wandered around, nonplussed, not knowing what to look for, what was practical versus what was just cute. A set of footie pajamas with a matching hat caught her eye. Does a baby need a hat with pajamas? she wondered. It was quite sweet, though—pale blue with planets and celestial-type figures, and two floppy points at the top. Scully hadn’t told her the sex of the baby, but she liked the hat and fuck gender norms anyway. And it had stars on it, so it would be perfect coming from his or her Aunt Stella For Star, or whatever it was that she would be to the kid.   

 

Her shoulders slumped at this track her thoughts had taken, and she looked around, uncomfortably, as if her uncharacteristic sentimentality was visible to everyone. This was too fucking domestic. Maybe she would ring Louise and see if she could come over later. They could have really dirty sex. Then it worried her that she felt she needed something dirty to cleanse herself of something as pure and innocent as shopping for a newborn. Feeling properly pathetic, Stella grabbed the hat and pajamas and made her way to the register.

 

***

 

If Scully had had her way, they would’ve stayed in bed all day, alternating between fucking and napping, but her mother was throwing a baby shower for her in her apartment in less than an hour. She was not looking forward to it; making small talk with people she barely knew sounded like a nightmare.

 

She gave Mulder a pitiful look which was meant to be a final plea for help as her mother pushed him out the door. Scully had told Maggie that it was all right with her if he stayed—that she would prefer that he did—but her mother insisted that Mulder make himself scarce for the afternoon, and he always gave into Maggie’s wishes when given the opportunity.

 

Scully looked around the living room and sighed. Her mother interpreted it as worrying about party preparations, not as the sense of dread that it was.

 

“Your tea’s getting cold, dear. Don’t worry about this,” Maggie said, grabbing a bouquet of flowers and taking them into the kitchen. Scully rolled her eyes. A pink balloon floated in front of her and she glared at it before swatting it away with an aggravated huff.

 

***

 

The party guests were all enjoying their cake and coffee when Scully finally got a chance to sneak away. She had already endured opening presents in front of everyone, forcing herself to make the obligatory “oohs” and “aahs” for each one, participated in some ridiculous game involving toilet paper, and shot down questions about her and Mulder from Skinner’s assistant who was somehow inexplicably invited.

 

She sat down on the bed in her room and dialed Stella. “I’m in hell,” Scully said when she answered.

 

“Oh no. That bad, huh?”

 

“As if the party wasn’t bad enough, my mom is trying to force some baby nurse on me, and she’s here trying to do everything for me. I’m surprised she hasn’t followed me into the bathroom so she could wipe my ass, too. I’m just…” She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself.

 

Stella bit back a smile at that image but hummed sympathetically.

 

“I just had to vent,” said Scully, and she really had needed to, but mostly she wanted to hear Stella’s voice.

 

Stella looked at the empty wine glass and the blank document opened on her laptop in front of her—she was certainly up for a distraction, especially a Scully distraction. “So, I have a conference in New York next month, can I come by and see you and the baby?” She had thought about mailing the baby gift, but since she would be in the general vicinity, not really, but at least in the same country and on the same coast she would try to visit. Stella wasn’t sure how well-received her presence would be with Mulder back in the picture, but it didn’t hurt to ask, she decided.

 

“Oh that’s right, I will have a baby by next month,” Scully said sarcastically. “I kinda figured I would just be expecting for the rest of my life. I swear, it feels like I’ve been pregnant for thirteen months.”

 

“How are you feeling?” Stella asked, trying not to assign meaning to the fact that Scully hadn’t answered her question.

 

“Pretty good, actually. Tired, though. I’d just like to sleep through this last week or so.”

 

There was a knock on Scully’s bedroom door, and Maggie poked her head in, “Dana?”

 

Scully put her hand up. “I’ll be right there, Mom.”

 

“You have guests, Dana,” she chided, giving Scully one more disapproving look before shutting the door again.

 

“Busted,” Scully quipped. “I have to go, but I would love to see you next month. In fact, I’m already looking forward to it.”

 

“Me too,” said Stella.  

Chapter Text

Scully tried to go over what had transpired in the last thirty-two hours, but a tight constriction in her chest hastened with each thought that she was unable to prevent from flooding her mind. Hot tears were just below the surface, and she didn’t want them to spring up because the next thirty-two hours would require all the emotional strength and resolve she could muster. But she couldn’t stop the flashes of images that came to her: Lizzie swapping her pills, her mother’s devastation, Billy Miles, Krycek, Billy fucking Miles.

 

And the image that she kept ending up on was Mulder’s face as the elevator doors closed. Would she even see him again? She was going to have this baby without him, and she wanted to scream or cry or both at the unfairness of it all.

 

“There’s enough gas to get us to Richmond, but let me know if you need to stop before then.”

 

Monica’s words barely penetrated the anxious fog in her head.

 

“Dana?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“Are you okay?” Monica winced at the trite question. Of course she wasn’t okay. She didn’t know how the woman was keeping herself together.

 

“Yes, fine,” Scully answered plainly, not betraying the panic coursing through her veins, although, she could feel Monica’s wary sideways glance on her.

 

I’m so worried about you. You keep everything so bottled up, she remembered her mother saying to her at the hospital. Yeah, well, I’m worried, too, Mom, but uncorking a spate of emotions isn’t going to do anyone any good right now, thought Scully.

 

She adjusted herself in the seat and laid her head back, closing her eyes to the road ahead of her and the interior of this car that would take her to some unknown destination. The upsetting thoughts and images did not disappear from her mind’s eye, though, but soon her stress fatigued her enough that she succumbed to sleep.

 

***

 

Stella had her head between Scully’s legs, but there was nothing sexy about what was happening. In fact, Stella was terrified, frozen in fear until she heard Scully’s next scream. The baby’s head was crowning. Stella looked around. They were in what looked like an abandoned shed. Luckily there was a basin of freshly boiled water and some strips of clean bedding ripped up into rags next to her. No one else was there. She remembered trying to ring for help, but her mobile was dead. They were all alone, and she would have to deliver this baby.

 

“Push, Dana,” she heard herself tell Scully. Why had she called her Dana, though? No time to wonder. Scully did as instructed and pushed, grunting through gritted teeth, her face ruddy with exertion.

 

The baby’s head was covered in blood and amniotic fluid, but Stella could see a fine reddish fuzz that resembled its mother’s hair. Stella cradled the head, and encouraged Scully to push again. “You’re doing great, Dana,” she said. ‘Dana’ again. Why was that so odd to her?

 

Scully dropped her head back in exhaustion. “I can’t.”

 

“Yes, you can. You’re almost done. I promise.”

 

She lifted her head again and with sheer determination pushed again. She let out a blood-curdling scream that alarmed Stella, but she knew she had to focus on the baby that was now fully in her arms. Her trembling hands struggled to hold the slippery infant as her eyes clouded over with tears.

 

“You did it, Dana,” she said, delicately toweling the baby off. “It’s a girl! You have a baby girl. What are you going to name her?”

 

“Stella.”

 

The voice sounded strange and it wasn’t from Scully. Stella looked up and saw that Scully had passed out, her head hanging limply forward, chin on her chest.

 

“Stella,” came the voice again. It was a man’s voice. A voice she recognized.

 

Stella turned around, the baby still squirming in her arms, but as silent as her mother. Paul Spector stood there leering at her. His skin had a deathly pallor, his lips were bluish-purple—lifeless—but his eyes were alive and menacing, sparking with hatred as they bore into her.

 

“Stella,” he said again, clearly, although his tongue was thick with death just like the last time she had seen him. Then he lunged at her, and Stella shielded the baby the best she could and braced herself for the impact.

 

“Stella.” Louise was trying to shake her awake.

 

Stella gasped and her eyes flew open, her whole body jerking as she broke free of the hellish grasp of her nightmare. She was breathing heavily and didn’t even notice that she was tightly gripping Louise’s arm.

 

Louise looked at her, eyes full of concern, her own heart racing from being pulled out of sleep abruptly by Stella’s anguished murmuring. Stella loosened her hold on Louise as soon as she became aware of it and tried to regulate her breaths. She sat up, rubbing her hands over her face. “Can you get me a glass of water?” she asked Louise.

 

Stella pulled out her journal from her nightstand drawer and uncapped the pen that rested between the pages. The tip of the pen hovered over the blank page hesitantly, her hands still a little shaky. She thought about not recording this dream, wanting it to fade completely from her memory as dreams tend to do. What was the purpose of this self-imposed exercise? Then she realized therein lies the problem, this funk she had been in—she loved someone, but felt she served no purpose in that person’s life, especially in the family life she was on the verge of having. Stella didn’t belong to a family anymore, and she didn’t belong in a family, either. She had one living blood relative that she hadn’t spoken to in years. Her mother didn’t care if she was alive or dead, and, to be honest, the feeling was mutual.

 

So in this dream she had given herself a purpose, she had made herself important. But even in the dream, things had gone horribly wrong. Stella huffed and put the journal back in the drawer, no new entry written in it. She sat back against the headboard and folded her arms across her chest, her lips forming a pout. The sense of worthlessness always made her feel weak, and she hated it, but it was one of those lies she told herself that she was quickest to believe.

 

When Louise came back with the glass of water, Stella was resisting a deep descent into the well of self-pity. She looked at the glass Louise held out to her and the kind expression on her face. It was like she was throwing a rope down to Stella to help her up.

 

“Thank you,” said Stella, taking the glass. She took a sip and cleared her throat. “What do you get out of this…” Stella hesitated, almost using the word ‘relationship,’ “arrangement?”

 

Louise quirked her mouth thoughtfully. “I have a feeling that ‘some of the best orgasms of my life’ is not quite the answer you’re looking for.”

 

Stella allowed herself the soft chuckle that came from that response, but then fell pensive again. She had been clear with the girl from the start that this was only about sex, so Louise’s answer could be entirely truthful and not just a lighthearted joke. “I don’t know what I’m looking for,” Stella said, her eyes downcast.

 

Louise got up on the bed and sat cross-legged next to Stella. “I enjoy your company,” said Louise, adding with a smirk, “whether you’re naked or not.”

 

Stella smiled, but kept her gaze down at her lap.

 

“I hate to break it to you, Stella, but you’ve got yourself a friend. And I’m bloody tough to shake.”

 

Stella knew she was right. That it was just fucking was another lie she had told herself, but she still felt that she was selfish in their friendship, using Louise as stress relief, as a distraction, as a balm to her sudden rashes of loneliness. “You are a good friend,” Stella agreed, nodding. “I’m sorry I haven’t been one in return.”

 

“Well, that’s a load of bollocks. What the hell was that dream that has you thinking this way?” Louise asked, nonplussed.

 

And as a surprise to herself, Stella told her friend about the dream. She added just enough of real life events to put it in some context, which included the fact that Scully was pregnant, and the father was back in the picture. She left out things like alien abductions and people rising from the dead even though she was sure that Louise would’ve readily believed it, but the gist was there, and her heartache was painfully, conspicuously, woven throughout all of it. As uncomfortable as she was exposing herself this way, she felt better for it, better than she would’ve just jotting it down in her journal.

 

“Jesus, what a fucking nightmare,” Louise sympathized. “And not just the nightmare. All of it.”

 

Stella sighed and shrugged. There wasn’t much she could control in this situation, so she would forgive her little bout of feeling sorry for herself, and try to move forward to face whatever came next with some degree of faith and positivity.

 

She turned off her bedside light and Louise got back under the covers. Stella laid awake for awhile, going back and forth between worrying and telling herself not to worry. Scully’s due date was tomorrow. Each time she closed her eyes a horrific image from her dream would flash in her mind, and each time she would mentally shake it away as not being real, but an underlying fear persisted. She finally fell into a dreamless yet fitful sleep.

 

***

 

Meanwhile, across the ocean in the deserted town of Democrat Hot Springs, Stella’s nightmare was coming true for Scully although under completely different but still terrifying circumstances.

 

“Harder! Push, Dana!” Monica urged. She tried to ignore the fact that they had an inhuman, possibly alien, audience. Her focus had to be on this baby, although Scully’s heartbreaking begging of them not to take her child was almost enough to crush her fortitude. Luckily, the adrenaline rush and an inherent loyalty to Agent Scully and her baby helped her find the strength.

 

Scully braced herself for the next push, eyes darting around at those that watched with a bone-chilling passiveness.

 

“Keep breathing, Dana. Keep breathing.”

 

She gave one more desperate plea for Monica, God, anybody, to not let them take her baby, and then she pushed as hard as she could.

 

A baby’s cry joined the tail end of Scully’s last scream of effort. Gasping for breath, Scully made eye contact with Billy Miles’ lifeless eyes just before her own eyes rolled up and back and she slumped back against the metal frame of the daybed.

 

“Shit!” Monica said as she saw Scully lose consciousness. She was holding the crying baby in one arm and trying to push on Scully’s belly to deliver the placenta. Some random bits of knowledge from working ritualistic cases were coming in handy for her. Monica hardly noticed that the gathered spectators were turning to leave.

 

Scully came to with a jolt as a gush of blood followed by the placenta hemorrhaged out of her. She looked around, frantic and delirious, too relieved to question why the throng of replicants, super soldiers, whatever they were, left her and her baby unharmed.

 

Monica cleaned off the infant and wrapped him in a large strip of cloth before handing him over to Scully. She hadn’t even had a chance to tell Scully that it was a boy.

 

Scully cradled him in her arms, hugging the child as close as she could while still looking at him. His eyes were bright and alert, his cheeks rosy, his little lips curved into a circle, and he made a soft whimper. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Her eyes flooded with tears, and she held him closer, a sob escaping her throat, passing the smile on her lips.

 

That was what Mulder saw when he walked into the room. He didn’t register the blood or the muddy footprints of all those who had been present for his child’s birth. He just saw Scully and their baby. The moonlight, or was it that starlight that he had followed, fell on them, bathing them in a divine glow. Mother and child looked like a stained glass shrine to which the faithful would travel miles to speak their prayers. The image took his breath away, and he almost uttered a prayer himself.

 

Commotion outside broke him of his reverie, and the details of the harrowing events that took place in this room became clear. He stepped closer to Scully, softly saying her name so as not to startle her. She flinched anyway, but then saw that it was him. “Mulder,” she said, breathlessly.

 

“I’m here.”    

 

***

 

Finally, they had a shred of normalcy: the first night at home as brand new parents. They fell into an easy rhythm; Scully would nod off, William would awaken, politely demanding to be fed by making adorable, little cooing sounds that Mulder couldn’t help but grin every time he heard it even if he was too tired to get out of bed. Mulder would bring him to Scully, and they would chat while she breastfed him if Scully wasn’t too sleepy.  

 

They did the first couple of diaper changes together, side by side, giggling at Mulder’s clumsiness and William’s animated facial expressions. But soon, Mulder mastered the task and Scully got more rest as a result.

 

The next few days passed as such with the added bonus of visits from Gramma and Aunt Monica who had, not surprisingly, become attached to the little guy. Scully was enjoying this family time, but she missed Stella. She had called to tell her about the birth, glossing over the horrors of it because she couldn’t bear to relive it so soon nor could she explain parts of the story, still not quite understanding some of what happened herself. Stella had congratulated her, but Scully sensed a despondency behind her words. She sensed it because she understood it, because a part of her felt the same way. She and Mulder were in domestic heaven, but she wanted to share it with Stella, too. The impossibility of that rasped uncomfortably against this fresh, new happiness.

Chapter Text

The last person they had expected to show up at their door was Deputy Director Alvin Kersh. He did not come to congratulate them on the baby, but, instead, to pop the family’s happy, little bubble. Nothing the man ever said to them since they had met him was in their favor, and tonight had been no different. However, the usual satisfaction Kersh got when squashing them under his heel was gone; there was an abnormal sincerity behind his eyes as well as fear. His fear was palpable, and it hung in the air of the apartment after he left.

 

It gnawed at Mulder’s insides, and that fear drove him to say it.

 

“I think I need to leave, Scully.”

 

They were lying in bed, the lights off, William asleep in his bassinet beside them. After listening to what Kersh had to say, they had gone through their nightly routine, wordlessly, each trying to process the information.

 

His words crawled to her in the darkness and settled on her chest, heavy and constricting—suddenly she couldn’t breathe. Even though the thought had crossed her mind several times since Kersh had left, she had, not once, entertained it as a possibility. It was an option that came to her simply because her rational mind worked that way, but she batted it away each time. She couldn’t do that now that Mulder had verbalized it.

 

“No,” she whispered. Scully had wanted to say it loud and emphatically, but all it did was faintly spill past her lips on what little air she had left inside her.

 

“If they come after me, that puts you and William in danger. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you two.”

 

Nervous energy collected in the pit of her stomach. It made the blood in her veins feel caustic, like it was sending poison to her heart. Her cheeks felt warm. She sat up and turned to him, but he could not see her face and how conflicted she was. “Don’t you get it. You leaving. Us being apart. That is the something bad happening.”

 

He moved to sit up and embrace her, but Scully shoved him away, yelling tearfully, “Goddamn you!” Mulder struggled to see her in the dim moonlight but only saw her dark figure get up and go to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

 

The sound woke up William and he began to cry. Mulder went to him and picked him up, holding him against his shoulder and rubbing his back. ‘Goddamn you.’ Yep, I’m pretty sure God has damned me, Mulder thought, bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet trying to soothe William. He walked them to the bathroom door where he heard Scully softly sobbing on the other side.

 

She was slumped against the door, her face in her hands, shoulders shaking. When she heard William’s cries subside, Mulder having comforted him, she slid down to sit on the floor, hugging her knees. Her mind was a muddled mess. She knew some of it was her hormones which had been erratic since the birth—wide-ranging mood swings that were often nonsensical to her, and sometimes alarmed her in their intensity. Scully figured it was due to some degree of postpartum anxiety, especially considering the conditions in which she gave birth.

 

The idea of Mulder leaving had floated around in her head, but denial, stubbornness, and selfishness had effectively pushed it out. Mulder voicing it gave it more weight, but instead of facing it calmly and reasonably, she had let it crush her, making her react in a visceral manner led by her crude base emotions.

 

The next morning, another visit solidified their fears. Scully had apologized to Mulder for her outburst, but said she wasn’t ready to talk about it (even though she knew time was of the essence). Now she had no choice but to face it. The Gunmen had been monitoring Kersh. They confirmed what he had told them the night before—that Mulder’s life was threatened. Kersh had been threatened as well, and it looked like he was putting himself at risk in warning Mulder.

 

Nobody had to say it, but collectively everyone in the room agreed that Mulder leaving was the best option. Their mistrust of Kersh had been understandable, but unwarranted this time. Going on the run with a newborn was out of the question. Mulder staying was basically a death sentence. He would have to go.

 

They started to formulate a plan. With help from the Gunmen, Mulder would have fake identification, be able to operate off the grid and to communicate with Scully. He would try to find proof that would expose the Super Soldier project or a way to kill them, then he’d be able to come back.

 

Scully paced the rooms of the apartment as the guys worked—her headspace feeling suspended in a surreal domain. She fed William, rocked him to sleep, cried in the bathroom again, checked on William, tried to nap. Mulder kept eyeing her when she would come near the kitchen—she avoided his concerned gaze each time.

 

They got to a point where the Gunmen needed equipment at their place to finish things up, and Mulder asked them to get some files from the basement office. The boys had no problem sneaking past the Hoover building’s security, but they would have to make sure not to be seen by Doggett or Reyes. In order for their plan to work, Doggett’s investigation had to end. He was trying to shine a light on the shadows of this conspiracy, but Mulder knew from personal experience that sometimes operating within the shadows was the only way to expose certain injustices. The evidence of that night at FBI Headquarters had been cleaned up within 48 hours, video footage had been replaced—Doggett’s investigation against the Bureau would never have credibility and only continue to put all of them in danger.  

 

Mulder saw the guys out and then took a deep breath, pressing his forehead against the closed door. He needed to start packing, but he had to talk to Scully first. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, a disposable camera in her hands.

 

“One more photo and then I can get it developed,” said Scully. She looked up at him sadly. “But not in time to send you off with a picture of your son.”

 

William fussed from inside his bassinet. Scully looked at her watch and did the mental math to see if it was time for him to nurse. “I would say you should take it with you and get it developed on the road,” she said, standing and setting the camera down on the dresser, “but that would probably be too risky.”

 

Scully picked up William and sat back on the bed, leaning against the pillows. She cradled him in one arm, unbuttoned her blouse with her other hand, undoing the clasp of her nursing bra, and brought him to her breast. William instantly quieted and latched on to her.

 

Mulder watched on in awe. Scully was a natural at this. Motherhood looked good on her. It broke his heart that he would miss any of it. “Scully, I don’t want to go.”

 

“I know you don’t, Mulder. I’m not trying to make it more difficult for you, really I’m not.” She paused, searching for what to say, but what was there to say? “I just feel like I’ve lost you so many times...I don’t...I don’t know if I have it in me-- the faith, the blind hope it takes to get through it again.”

 

He went over to her and knelt down next to the bed by her side. “I know, Scully. I don’t know if I do either, and it’s selfish of me to ask it of you.” He placed his hand over hers, running his thumb across the delicate ridges of her knuckles.

 

“I thought I was the one being selfish,” she said. “I don’t want to let you go.”

 

“Well, then, we’re both selfish,” he replied. “Or neither of us are? I’m not sure. But, what I am sure of is that I will do everything in my power to get back to you two as soon as possible.”

 

She turned her hand under his, her palm facing up, and laced her fingers with his, giving him a little squeeze. Then she glanced down at William, and said, “Look.” Mulder stood up and looked down at his child asleep at his mother’s breast, his lips lax, but still around her nipple. Mulder took him from her, gently, so he wouldn’t wake him. He didn’t put him back in the crib right away but continued to hold him, swaying slightly, and watching his peaceful, slumbering face.

 

CLICK

 

Mulder looked up to see Scully with the camera, having just taken their picture. “For you when you get back,” she said with a little shrug, “and for me while you’re gone.”

 

***

 

Scully got off the phone with a grimace on her face. The wince was directed at herself—she had passed up another opportunity to tell Stella that Mulder had left. Scully wasn’t sure why she had so much apprehension about it. Each time she was about to say it, she took a deep breath and something completely unrelated came out of her mouth. Stella would be visiting in just over two weeks, she would have to tell her before that...or maybe Mulder would be back. This uncertainty was driving her mad.

 

That was partly why she decided to cut her maternity leave short. Vivian, her colleague that ran Quantico's Forensics Department, had told her she could start whenever she was ready, even after the semester began, but Scully thought it best that she start the Fall session off with her students, and that it might help distract her from the fact that Mulder was gone. Her classes were two days a week, so it wouldn’t take away too much of her time with William, and her mother was looking forward to babysitting him regularly.  

 

Scully put the phone back on its charging base and turned back to her computer where she had been typing up her syllabus. A sound came through on the baby monitor, but it was not from William. She froze, staring at the blinking lights of the monitor. The creaking from the mobile above William’s crib floated out of the speaker. She knew what she would see when she went to check on him—William awake and apparently controlling the movement of the mobile. Her chest burned with anxiety as she got up and went to the bedroom.

 

The mobile was spinning slowly, and she saw that William was awake, watching it. Scully stopped it with a shaky hand and then scooped William up in her arms, hugging him up to her shoulder so he wouldn’t see the alarm on her face.

 

***

 

Scully exited the internet cafe, pushing William in his stroller. She stopped to adjust the blanket over him; the evening air had a chill in it. There was a phone booth a couple of yards away, and she walked them over to it.

 

When she had left her apartment an hour ago, the Gunmen were doing a sweep of it, and had already found two bugs—one was a listening device and the other was a camera. The violation she had felt when she first learned that she was being watched had burrowed under her skin, intensifying with her first meeting with the Shadow Man, and even though she saw him explode into dust, the feeling was still there, present and persistent, almost like a physical irritant. Paranoia had pretty much been a constant in her life since she had started working on the X-Files, but it had never reached the levels it was at now. It was exhausting—mentally and physically—a steady stream of stress surging between her gut, and her heart, and her brain.

 

Scully ducked inside the phone booth, taking as much of the stroller in with her that would fit. She dialed Stella’s number and bit her lip, nervously, as it rang.

 

“Hello?” Stella asked, sleepy and disoriented.

 

“Hi, Stella, it’s Scully.”

 

“Hi,” she said, becoming more alert. “Where are you calling from? A strange number came up on the caller ID.”

 

“Um, a pay phone. I-- I don’t have my cell phone with me.”

 

Stella sat up in bed and turned on the light on her nightstand. Something was wrong. “Is everything okay?”

 

“Yes,” Scully said, reflexively, then, “No.”

 

Stella didn’t say anything, knowing that Scully’s hesitation would soon give way to an answer—there was no sense in pushing, but still, a dread settled in the pit of her stomach.

 

“Uh,” Scully looked up and blinked, tears already forming in her eyes. “Mulder has left. He, uh, he had to go away.”

 

What does that mean? Stella thought. She stayed silent.

 

“It’s not safe for him here, so he had to go.” That explained it, right? wondered Scully, trying to hear herself from Stella’s position.

 

“When did he leave?” asked Stella, not sure if she should be asking questions, but not knowing what else to say.

 

“About a week after William was born.” Scully sucked in a breath.

 

Stella couldn’t stop herself from feeling hurt. She had spoken with her several times since then, and Scully hadn’t said anything about it. Why? She didn’t want to make this about herself, it was obviously something very serious. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Stella said softly, needing to know.

 

The tears, now, spilled down her cheeks. Scully turned herself away so she couldn’t be seen by the people walking past. “I was hoping he’d be back by now.” Her voice broke, and she brought her hand to her mouth to cover the sob that followed.

 

“Oh Scully,” sighed Stella, listening to her cry on the other end of the line, feeling every mile of their distance like a weight on her heart. She had so many questions, so much of this didn’t make sense, but she refrained from asking them, instead, she attempted the impossible task of being a shoulder to cry on from an ocean away.

 

Scully forced herself to calm down, taking a few stilted breaths, then she groaned, frustrated at her uncontrollable emotions.

 

“Can I still see you next week?” Stella asked, reluctantly, her voice sounding small in her own ears.

 

Scully hesitated, words from the Shadow Man flooding her mind: I know your blood type, your resting heart rate...I know that on one lonely night you invited Mulder to your bed...I know of the relationship you have with Stella, more than even Mulder knows about it. Ms. Scully, we know exactly where to squeeze to get you to cooperate. That was it, that threat made her hesitate on the phone with Stella now. Sure, she watched the Shadow Man get annihilated by the iron in that quarry, but how many of these Super Soldiers were out there ready to take his place?

 

Her need to see Stella won out. She was being selfish again, or was it a dangerous naivete?—thinking she could see Stella and keep her safe, knowing deep down that she couldn’t. “Yes. Yes, of course.”

 

Scully’s hesitation was not lost on Stella, and it squeezed at her insides. Something had set them on a path she did not want to go down, she didn’t know what it was, but she was following Scully along it, blindly and against her own better judgment, further into the dark.

Chapter Text

Stella watched Scully as she set the table for them to eat a dinner she had made. Her lips were drawn in a straight line as she observed her actions through her detective lens. Scully seemed ill at ease in her own home, cagey and guarded. There was something she wasn’t saying.

 

Stella thought it had just been residual awkwardness from when she had arrived, but Scully carried on in this manner after they had, or so it had appeared to Stella, moved past the tension of their uncomfortable greeting and subsequent exchange.

 

Scully had opened the door, abruptly and mid-knock. She stepped back, and not in a casual, welcoming way, ushering her visitor in, but to create distance. Stella had traveled all this way, and now that she was standing right in front of her she felt they were still far apart. She brushed that feeling aside and stepped close to her anyway, leaning in to hug her. To Stella’s relief, Scully hugged her back, first softening into the embrace as if she were allowing herself to yield to the comfort just for a moment, but then Stella felt her body tense up.

 

This should’ve discouraged her from kissing her, but Stella thought maybe she was reading too much into Scully’s body language and being self-conscious about her presence. But, Scully pulling back to avoid the kiss sent a clear message. Stella set her jaw as if she was receiving a physical blow.

 

“Mulder’s back,” Scully said as an explanation.

 

“Oh,” said Stella, then wrinkled her brow, puzzled. “You mean, he’s back-- he’s here?”

 

“No, I meant-- like we’re…” She fell silent, her eyes searching Stella’s face as she searched for what to say.

 

Stella would say it for her. “Together.” Scully nodded and looked down at her fidgeting hands. “So back to being friends then, I suppose,” Stella said.

 

Scully looked up and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

 

“Don’t say you’re confused,” warned Stella, recalling the look on Scully’s face when she had said the same thing that night she slept with Mulder and then came to her with all her...confusion.

 

Scully’s eyes welled with tears as she realized why Stella had said that, and then she remembered that night herself. She looked down again, and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

 

Stella was standing stiffly, her body and her mind in defense mode, but the way Scully stood in front of her, looking so vulnerable and desolate, made her soften. She reminded herself of all the horrible things Scully had been through. Let her be confused, for fuck’s sake, scolded Stella inside her head. Hell, most of what happened had been confusing, to say the very least.

 

She sighed and reached out, placing her finger under Scully’s chin so she would look at her, then she put her hands on Scully’s cheeks, wiping a tear away with her thumb. “We don’t apologize for surviving,” she said, quoting Scully’s own words. “It is as it has to be.”

 

“It’s so unfair to you.”

 

Stella shrugged. “Life isn’t fair, is it?” Scully’s chin quivered, and she wrapped her arms around Stella, hugging her like she had wanted to before.

 

Scully was aware of Stella’s watchful gaze as she placed the food on the table, and she was painfully aware of her own aberrant behavior and what it might look like from Stella’s perspective. She had the Gunmen sweep her apartment again a couple of days ago and they hadn’t found anything, but what if. What if? The feeling of being watched was unshakeable.

 

Also, there was an underlying fear that William would do something strange like what he had been doing with the mobile. After their awkward greeting, Scully had eased a little bit, but when she took Stella into the bedroom to look in on the sleeping William, more what ifs came to her. Nothing odd happened, of course. Stella had smiled so big when she saw him—her whole face lit up. “Scully, he’s perfect,” she had said.

 

“Do you want wine with dinner?” Scully asked, looking at the two bottles she had in her cupboard.

 

“Please,” Stella answered, taking her seat.

 

Scully uncorked the bottle and poured each of them a glass. She had plenty of pumped breast milk to get William through the night, and she needed something to help her relax. She sat down across from Stella and gave her a shy smile before taking a large gulp of her wine. Stella, still heedful, raised her eyebrows at Scully.

 

“My first drink since before I was pregnant,” she said, tilting the wine glass in her hand.

 

“Cheers to that,” said Stella, clinking her glass with Scully’s.

 

Scully grinned, and their gaze lasted a little too long, making Scully self-conscious. She cleared her throat and picked up her fork, moving the contents of her salad around on her plate. “How was the conference?” she asked— a nice, neutral conversation starter.

 

“Good.”

 

Or not. They each ate a couple of bites in silence.

 

“Did you speak on the same topic as the last one?”

 

“No, this conference had a theme, Policing for Social Equality, believe it or not. I spoke about protecting victims of gender violence during an investigation.”

 

“God, that’s so great, Stella.”

 

She shrugged and took a sip of wine. It had gone well, she was happy with the reception her presentation got, but the conference was the furthest thing from her mind right now. “Have you been able to contact Mulder since he’s been...away?” Stella was done with the small talk, but she would still tread lightly.

 

The question affected Scully—Stella could see so visibly on her face; it was a pained expression, but it only just flashed across her features before she caught herself. “Um, not really,” she replied, vaguely.

 

“It must’ve been hard for him to leave.” She was pushing it, she knew, but she had to see if she could get Scully to talk to her, to confide in her as she had in the past.

 

Scully blew a puff of air past her lips, then stood up, taking her plate with her mostly uneaten salad and her wine glass to the sink. She scraped the food down into the garbage disposal, ran the water, and flushed it down the drain, hoping the loud noise would drown out the hollow echoing of Stella’s comment. Scully drank the last of the wine in her glass and poured herself some more.

 

Stella had stopped eating as well and watched her. Scully’s back was to her as she stood rigidly, facing the sink—avoiding. She saw Scully take a deep breath, but she still didn’t turn around. “Scu--” A knock at the door interrupted her.

 

“‘Excuse me,” Scully said softly, going to the door.

 

Whoever it was got a friendly greeting and invited in. Stella saw a dark-haired woman come into the kitchen with Scully. “Stella, this is Monica.”

 

Stella stood and shook Monica’s outstretched hand. “Monica, as in delivered William, Monica?”

 

Monica grinned, blushing. “Yeah,” she said with a chuckle. She looked down at the table. “I’m sorry to crash your dinner.”

 

“Not at all,” Stella replied.

 

“I forgot I asked you for these files,” said Scully, holding some folders in her hand. “I need them for Friday’s lecture. Thank you.” She set them down off to the side on the counter. “Do you want some dinner?” Scully offered, glancing at Stella and then looking away. Stella pursed her lips, knowingly, at Scully’s unexpected, but opportune distraction.

 

Monica joined them at the table and made for a lively dinner companion, keeping the conversation going mostly on her own as Stella and Scully exchanged the occasional telling look. Scully’s was apologetic, knowing that Stella had wanted to talk, and Stella’s was questioning, wondering why she was here at all. Scully knew she was feeling that way and, at one point, put her hand on Stella’s knee under the table. Stella put hers over Scully’s and they laced their fingers together, Scully giving Stella a little squeeze.  

 

Scully had just cleared the table when William’s cry belted out from the baby monitor. “I’ll get him,” Monica said, getting up.

 

“Oh I was hoping he’d wake up,” said Stella.

 

Scully went to the refrigerator, grabbed a small bag of expressed breast milk, and ran it under the warm water of the faucet. Monica came back in with William who was still crying and fussing in her arms. She talked to him, trying to comfort him, telling him that Mama would have his bottle ready in no time. Monica saw Stella watching them, captivated. “Do you want to hold him?” she asked Stella. “He’s not too happy right now, though.”

 

Stella stood, smoothing down the front of her slacks. Monica handed over the wailing infant to her, and she cradled him in the crook of her arm. William looked up at her, his face red and tear-stained, and his cries quieted to soft whimpers. Monica and Scully looked at Stella in surprise. She didn’t see their amazement, though; all her attention was on this precious baby in her arms. “Well, hello there,” said Stella, and he cooed at her in response.

 

Scully brought her the prepared bottle. “Look at you two, already fast friends.” Stella looked at Scully, her eyes glassy with emotion. They smiled at each other.

 

Stella sat back down and fed William his bottle. He was very cooperative, and Stella thanked him for being so. Monica washed the dishes even though Scully insisted that she not bother. It gave Scully a chance to watch Stella with William. She was enamored of the pair together, just as Stella seemed to be with William and he with her. Was it possible that he recognized her voice from hearing her in the womb?

 

Once he had finished, Scully took him from Stella, worried that he would spit up on her nice silk blouse. Stella said she wouldn’t mind, but Scully just chuckled, giving her a skeptical look, and Stella laughed back.

 

They were all seated back at the dining table. Monica had put a pot of coffee on.

 

“I forgot to get dessert,” Scully fretted.

 

“I think you have some vanilla ice cream in the freezer, Dana,” said Monica. She got up to look. Stella and Scully shared a sly glance, both remembering how they used vanilla ice cream as foreplay and then fucked on this very table.

 

Stella quirked a smile at her. “I better get going,” she said.

 

“No, stay,” urged Scully.

 

Stella stood anyway. She went to where Scully was sitting and bent down to kiss William on the top of his head. “Goodbye, sweet William.” She turned to Monica. “It was lovely to meet you.”

 

“You too, Stella.”

 

Scully got up and handed William to Monica. “I’ll, uh, walk you out.” She was a little panicky; she was not expecting Stella to leave so soon.

 

“No need,” Stella said as Scully followed her into the living room. She grabbed her jacket from the sofa and shrugged it on. Stella untucked her hair from the collar and turned to Scully who was looking down at her hands, her shoulders slumped, deflated. Stella sighed and, finally, Scully lifted her head to meet Stella’s gaze. Scully had tears in her eyes and one rolled down her cheek. Stella smiled at her, sympathetically, and then she put her hand to Scully’s cheek and wiped the tear away.

 

They looked at each other without saying anything, but words silently passed between them. Neither of them wanted this reunion to be this way. It had been less than ideal, and not enough time and too many things had been left unsaid.

 

Stella left. Scully stood staring at the closed door.

 

“Dana, are you okay?” asked Monica behind her, holding William.

 

She nodded slightly, putting her hand to her cheek where Stella’s touch still felt warm. Then, snapping out of her sad trance, she said, “I’ll be right back,” and went out the door.

 

Stella was standing on the sidewalk across the street from Scully’s apartment building waiting for the cab she had just called. Scully jogged up to her and then guided her to a darkened spot away from the light of the streetlamp.

 

“I told you I loved you. I still do,” Scully said breathlessly. “I know I said not to say anything then, and you never said it back, but did you want to?”

 

“I did.”

 

“You wanted to?”

“No, I said it back. You were sleeping, and then you were in the hospital…” Her voice started to match Scully’s frantic pitch. “Then Mulder came back, and…” she hesitated, her breath getting caught in her throat, “...and, I’m sorry, I can’t say it to you now.” Her eyes pleaded with Scully to understand. “I can’t.”

 

“Can’t or won’t?”

 

“I don’t think a clarification of that will make either of us feel any better.”

 

Scully looked away, letting out a shaky breath. It was quite a bleak impasse at which to be stuck—one that left them both feeling alone. Stella closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. She thought of how Mulder had left Scully and now she was, too. Not that it was harsh as in intentional, but it was harsh in a crushing and unavoidable way. No matter what angle—or whose angle—you looked at, the circumstances were cruel.

 

Stella put her hands on Scully’s shoulders. “I am here for you, though, okay?” She waited for Scully to look at her. “Always.”

 

Scully nodded, then leaned in and pressed her lips to Stella’s. They stayed that way for a moment—just chaste, gentle pressure against one another. Anything more, they both knew, would complicate the situation further, but then, as she often did, Scully got caught up in Stella’s presence. Scully deepened the kiss, opening her mouth and sliding her tongue along Stella’s lower lip. Stella almost lost her resolve, too, but she pulled away, pressing her forehead to Scully’s. “Please don’t do this to me, Scully.”

 

Again, Scully nodded. They shared one last look, and then Scully turned and walked back to her building.

Chapter Text

“Comer’s been shot.”

 

Mulder, surprised by this news, stepped aside to let the messenger into the motel room. “Is he dead?”

 

“No, but I’m sure he will be soon.”

 

“Did he get to Scully in time?” he asked.

 

“Mulder, I told you that you couldn’t trust him. He went to kill your child. Scully shot him.”

 

Mulder’s face went white and he slowly lowered himself to sit on the bed. “Is…”

 

“William is alive, but not safe. Josepho will still go after him.”

 

“I have to go back.”

 

“No, you have to make them think you are dead. Luckily, Comer got that message through to the FBI, but Josepho is going to want proof.”

 

Mulder’s stomach turned. He felt like he might throw up. Scully thinks I’m dead. Oh god, she’s going through all of it again. “How do we get word to Scully that I’m alive? I have to. She can’t think this,” worried Mulder.

 

“We can’t do that, Mulder. At least not yet.”

 

He let out a frustrated sigh and looked down. A bandage hung loosely from his arm. Mulder had been using it to fashion a makeshift sling for his shoulder.  

 

“Why are you helping me, Shannon?”

 

“I told you, I want to destroy the Super Soldier program, and I need you to help me expose it.” She went to him and helped him with the bandage.

 

He had dislocated his shoulder in a struggle with a Super Soldier. Shannon had shown up just in time to prevent his head from dislocating from his body. She killed the man or did as much as she could to disable him so they could get away. Mulder knew now that they could only be killed one way.

 

Shannon secured the bandage with the metal clasp then went to the door. “Pack up. We need to move. Comer could give away this location.” She left him sitting forlornly on the shabby twin bed.

 

He stood up on his unsteady legs. His entire body felt heavy; his limbs throbbed. And it wasn’t all from the aches of his injuries, it was the crippling helplessness in his heart that came with the knowledge that his family was in danger and he was unable to protect them when the whole reason he had left had been to do just that.

 

***

 

Stella exited the locker room at the gym. Her hair was wet from her post-swim shower and fell around her shoulders, leaving dampened spots on her gray sweater.

 

“Stella!” a man’s voice called out to her. She turned to see who had said her name and looked at the source suspiciously. He jogged up to her, smiling widely. “Hey,” he said.

 

“How do you know my name?”

 

His cheeks reddened slightly. “Oh, I asked someone at the front desk. I thought I should know your name after the other night.”

 

She stared at him blankly. What did one have to do to have a simple, no strings attached fuck? she asked herself rhetorically, but she had known at the time that this one may come back to bite her.

 

Stella had noticed him several weeks ago when she had started swimming regularly again. He was always on the treadmill that faced the hallway that went from the pool to the locker rooms when she finished her evening swim. She had admired his runner’s body in passing and he was rather good looking in the face as well. He would often catch her eye and smile as she walked by.

 

The night she had returned from DC, Stella went home, dropped off her luggage, and grabbed her gym bag. She needed a swim. Since leaving Scully’s she had been like a pressure cooker, steam slowly building within her in the form of heated emotions—emotions she felt were useless, feelings that did not serve her. That is not to say they were meaningless, though. In fact, it was how much it all meant that made it so unbearable.

 

The pool had been empty which she was glad for, and she waded into the shallow end, but instead of starting her laps she let herself sink down, almost sitting on the pool floor, completely submerged.

 

She screamed.

 

She screamed until she had no more breath, the dissonance loud in her own ears even though the water’s density deadened the sound waves. Stella came up for air, not gasping but exhaling a sob that had stealthily trailed behind her violent, vocal release. She didn’t want to cry—the screaming was supposed to replace the need for that.

 

Covering her face with her wet hands, she wept—shoulders shaking, her salty tears mixing with the chlorinated water. When she had nothing left in her, she leaned back against the side of the pool, letting her head fall back to rest on the ledge, and closed her eyes. Her body gently rocked with the water, her limbs occasionally fighting against the natural buoyancy.

 

Stella had decided to forgo her laps that night, although she felt an exhaustion like she had swam miles. Exiting the pool area, she ran into the treadmill guy, quite literally―the collision causing her to drop her goggles. He picked them up, handed them to her, and then made an attempt at flirting. The attempt was weak, at best, if she remembered correctly, but at the time she was too concerned about whether it was obvious that she had been crying—surely her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy.

 

In her succinct and direct way, Stella suggested he join her in the women’s locker room. It threw him off guard, but he eagerly followed her. She led him to the last dressing compartment and removed his shirt over his head when he turned to face her. He chuckled and made some sort of joke which Stella silenced with just a look. His face grew pink with embarrassment—it was clear he didn’t do this often nor did he know how to proceed, so Stella leaned into him, her hands on his chest already slick with sweat, and kissed him.

 

It spurred him into action and he returned the kiss with gusto, pressing his body into hers, pinning her against the mirror on the wall behind her. She tugged at the waistband of his gym shorts, and he pulled back just enough to take them off, not even stepping out of them before kissing her again. His hand went to the strap of her swimsuit and peeled it down her shoulder, then he yanked at the scoop neckline exposing her breast and palming it firmly.

 

Things were happening fast and she wasn’t in a good headspace to begin with. Stella felt as if she was losing control of the situation, but she was inclined to go with it as her life felt out of her control at present anyway. He leaned down and sucked her nipple into his mouth, flicking it with his tongue. It felt good; there was a gush of moisture between her legs, but, thankfully, she was able to suppress her moan.

 

He kissed his way back up to her lips, then stepped back to put the condom on. She had grabbed it out of her locker on the way to the dressing rooms, handing it to him without so much as a look. Stella watched him unroll it onto his cock while she adjusted the top of her suit, pulling the strap back up, covering herself, not out of modesty, but to regain some upper hand.

 

He pressed back into her, kissing her lips again. She reached down in between their bodies and with one hand pulled the crotch of her suit aside and with the other guided his cock to her entrance. He thrust his hips once and was inside her—he grunted into her open mouth.

 

He began to move, pumping in and out of her. The build-up was exquisite; she was surprised how quickly and intensely she had become aroused. His cock had the perfect girth and length to give her that delicious friction and feeling of fullness. But then he ruined it by pulling back and looking into her eyes—deep into them, searching for a connection that she knew he wouldn’t find.

 

Stella pushed him off her gently, then turned around placing her hands on the mirror and looked back over her shoulder at him. He got the hint, ran his hands down the sides of her body to her ass, and pulled the swimsuit to the side like she had done. He positioned himself, again, at her slick folds and slid back inside her. He bucked into her at a faster pace than before, possibly nearing his own release. The angle change had his head hitting her just right, and she didn’t have the heat of his gaze boring into her. Then she glanced at her reflection in the mirror and the shameful feeling came back, but she was too close to climaxing for it to slacken its momentum—most likely, it would only serve to compound the feeling. She had turned away so she wouldn’t face the stranger while engaging in this toxic form of managing her emotions, but facing herself was worse.

 

She closed her eyes and pressed her cheek against the mirror. It felt cool on her hot skin. His hands gripped her hips as his thrusts became more forceful. “Harder,” she whispered, egging him on. His movements pitched her body forward in a rhythm, crushing her into the mirror. Her eyes were closed, but she squeezed them tighter, keeping them shut, as the dam burst inside her. Stella was silent as she came.

 

He stumbled back, leaning against the opposite wall, breathing heavily, having come shortly after she had. She pushed back on her hands, opening her eyes but looking down so as to avoid her reflection. He started to say something, but she just pulled the curtain of the dressing room aside and left. She grabbed a towel and headed straight to the showers, hoping he would discreetly exit the women’s locker room.

 

He had and she thought that would be the last of it, but now here he was standing in front of her, using her first name. Stella looked at his expectant expression, then turned to leave.

 

He tapped her arm. “Wait, uh, can I take you to dinner?”

 

“No.”

 

He was flustered, and he rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “Just drinks? A cup of coffee?”

 

“No.” She turned again and walked toward the gym’s lobby.

 

“Do you even want to know my name?” he called out after her.

 

“No,” she said, but she said it softly—he was unable to hear it.

 

***

 

“I’m here for you. Always.” My hurt feelings have made a liar out of me, Stella thought as she stared at her phone. She had just listened to Scully’s message again. The call was from two days ago. Stella had ignored it but listened to the message she had left. She could hear the tension in Scully’s voice then and still had chosen not to ring her back right away. As she listened again, that tension seemed more acute and like it was laced with fear. Guilt surged within her, making her chest feel tight. She dialed Scully’s number.

 

“Hello?” a woman’s voice answered.

 

Stella hesitated. “May I speak to Scully?”

 

“Stella?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“It’s Monica.”

 

“Oh, hi.”

 

“Dana’s not here. Something-- she had to take care of something. I’m watching William.”

 

“What’s happened, Monica?”

 

There was a pause at the end of the line as if Monica wasn’t sure how much she should say, if she should say anything at all.

 

“She left me a message, and there was something in her voice...I just...I need…” Stella trailed off, she wasn’t prepared to try and get information from someone else, to have to prove her validity as a trusted friend of Scully’s.

 

“There was an incident here. Mrs. Scully was attacked by a man who came here to kill William. Dana shot him.”

 

“Oh my god,” Stella whispered.

 

“And,” Monica continued with a strained tone, “Agent Mulder is presumed dead.”

 

Stella’s heartbeat quickened upon hearing all of this horrifying news, but everything else seemed to slow. She could hear her own breathing in her ears. Monica was quiet as she let Stella absorb this information. She was grateful Monica had told her what happened, but she sensed there was even more she was holding back. “Can I-- what can I do to help?” The offer was feeble, she knew, coming from 3,000 plus miles away.

 

“Honestly, Stella, I don’t know. There’s a lot at play here and a lot we don’t understand. I think Dana has a plan, though.”

 

Stella nodded. “Please tell Scully I phoned and…” She paused, swallowing a lump in her throat. “And...yeah, just let her know I phoned,” repeated Stella, weakly.

 

“I will.”

 

“Thank you, Monica.”

 

***

 

Monica followed Scully into the nursery. They had just come from the hospital to have William checked out, and, miraculously, he was fine. She looked at the spot on the floor near the crib where Comer’s blood had seeped through the rug making a faint stain on the hardwood. Monica also noticed some blood splatter on the dust ruffle and she went about removing it from the crib while Scully changed William out of his dirty, soot-covered clothes. Monica could still smell the smoke.

 

William smiled up at Scully from the changing table. He kicked his legs, spiritedly, not seeming to realize the danger he had just been in. Or maybe he did, Scully thought, and he knew he was safe now. But Scully didn’t feel safe. She felt extraordinarily lucky that she found William unharmed, but she felt anything but safe. She ran her finger down along his soft cheek and tried to smile back, but she was unable to.

 

Scully opened the drawer to retrieve a pair of pajamas and pulled out the one that Stella had given him. She brought the fabric up to her face and breathed in, foolishly thinking it would smell like Stella, but all she could detect was the clean scent of the baby laundry detergent. Once he was dressed, she scooped him back in her arms and went into the living room.

 

Monica followed her again. “Here Dana, let me take him. You should change. That smoke is on our clothes, too.”

 

Scully nodded, but hesitated to hand him over. She didn’t want to let him out of her sight. Monica put her hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eye, silently telling her it was okay, it would just be for a couple minutes. Monica shrugged off her coat and took William, holding him on her hip.

 

Scully came back out in her own pajamas and sat down on the sofa with a heavy, exhausted sigh. She watched Monica talk softly to William, showing him the objects that sat on her desk. “There’s Daddy,” she said, holding up the photo of Mulder with William. Scully felt a pang in her chest. She didn’t know if Mulder was alive, but something told her that he was. It was just a feeling, though, an intangible notion, and her need for some sort of proof fought hard against it.

 

“And there’s your friend, Stella,” Monica said to William, now showing him the photo of her and Scully. Another sharp twinge flared in her chest. Monica looked at the picture herself more closely before setting it back down, then she went to the sofa, handed William to Scully, and sat down beside her. “Stella called for you while I was here with William. Things got so crazy, I forgot to tell you.”

 

Scully looked down and cleared her throat. “What did she-- did she say anything?”

 

“She wanted me to let you know she had called.”

 

That was it? “Okay.”

 

“And,” Monica continued reluctantly. Scully looked up at her, hopeful—hopeful for what, she wasn’t sure. “I told her some of what happened. She sounded really worried.”

 

“What did you tell her?”

 

“About Comer’s break-in, and your mom, and that Mulder might be…” She stopped, not wanting to say it. “I’m sorry if I overstepped a line.”

 

“No, no, you didn’t. It’s fine,” assured Scully. “You didn’t mention what William did with the artifact?”

 

“No, I’m not sure what to think of that myself.”

 

Scully nodded, then looked down at William. He was swatting at a strand of her hair. She took his hand in hers and leaned down to kiss it.

 

“Stella also asked if she could help,” Monica said, adding, “She seems to care for you very much, Dana.”

 

Scully looked at her, nonplussed. What was her intention with that statement? What else had she and Stella talked about? She had gotten used to Monica’s “feelings,” what she called a sensitivity to energies in the universe, but her input on this was somewhat disconcerting. Was she fishing for Scully to divulge an explanation of her relationship with Stella?

 

Scully made a little shrug, wiping the confusion off her face and said, “She’s a very close friend,” leaving it at that.      

Chapter Text

Shannon didn’t sleep. Neither did Mulder, but he just suffered from insomnia—she had no need for sleep. It was dawn, and they had just come from a facility where they had successfully broken in and out of without detection. Shannon wanted to keep driving, suggesting he sleep in the car, but he needed to stop, to be alone with his thoughts, and to reflect on what he had learned the night before.

 

The military facility they had just come from was deep in the Adirondacks. An iron quarry was nearby, which was the reason the research labs were built there. Shannon knew of many such places scattered across the country, and he was glad that, so far, they had stuck to the East Coast. She wanted them to drive to New Mexico next, and he dreaded venturing that far from Scully. The further he went in distance, the idea of returning to his family became more and more out of reach.

 

They stopped at a motel on the outskirts of the mountains. Mulder got himself a room, and Shannon went off to do whatever it was that she did while he indulged in his humanly need for rest. He dropped his duffel bag on the floor and sunk down onto the bed with a sigh. Laying back, he looked up at the ceiling, the cottage cheese stucco was yellowed with years, maybe decades, of smoke. The only room available had been a smoking room. He rarely saw them in motels anymore, but they really were way out in the sticks.

 

He didn’t attempt to close his eyes, knowing that he would not be sleeping—even resting his eyes for a moment seemed futile. After lying there for a long while, staring into space, thinking about everything and nothing, feeling numb, but also an acute heartache, he sat up. There was a Morley brand ashtray on the nightstand; he opened the drawer and placed it inside next to the Bible, then shut it closed.

 

Shannon had told him that there was a man who was working to keep the Conspiracy alive. The Super Soldier program was an offshoot of this project. She believed the man was in New Mexico, and Mulder believed that the man was his father—his biological, cigarette-smoking, piece of shit father.

 

Mulder rubbed his face with his hands. His mind flashed to the files he had read in the facility, the ones documenting the tests done on Jeffrey Spender. He was shocked to learn that Jeffrey was alive, having survived a shot to the face by the evil man they shared as their father. There were photos in the lab reports that showed the results of the tests, his half-brother was now terribly disfigured, unrecognizable, and on the run, just like he was, having escaped the facility just days before.  

 

He stood and went to his bag, unzipped it, and pulled out a book. It was the baby planning book he had bought before William was born. When he was packing to leave, he grabbed it at the last minute, remembering a lengthy section at the end about the postpartum stage. Mulder had thought it might help him to know what Scully was dealing with while he was gone, to experience the beginning of his child’s life somehow.

 

Mulder opened to a page that was marked with a piece of paper—a printed out email from his last correspondence with Scully. He reread the last lines he had already memorized: I am scared for you, Mulder. And for William. The forces against us are unrelenting. But so is my determination. To see you again. To regain the comfort and safety we shared for so brief a time. Until then, I remain forever yours, Dana.

 

The familiar sting behind his eyes came and he blinked it away. He began to read where he had last left off. The section was about pregnancy loss, and it didn’t apply to him, but it kind of did in its own heartbreaking way. “For Dads: You’re Grieving, Too,” he read. The book told him that he may find himself shifting into the role of “protector.” That’s why he was doing this, right? To protect Scully and William. But, most of the time he felt like he was just protecting himself, that his family was still in perpetual danger. “Unrelenting” was the word Scully had used.

 

The things he was learning in pursuit of the truth only continued to prove that William may never be safe, and Scully was left to defend him on her own. No matter how much determination he had, and how much optimism he fooled himself with that he would be able to expose and end the conspiracy, didn’t seem to be helping Scully. They should be figuring this out together. He needed her expertise. No, he just needed her.

 

***

 

The weight of this decision was crushing her. She was left to make it herself, and there was no one that could help or understand. Mulder was unreachable and, quite possibly, dead. Something her mother had said to her not long ago made her afraid to mention that she was even thinking about it. You have to love him and raise him in spite of everything, she had pleaded with her when she was just trying to find answers. Monica, who had witnessed most of the dangers William had been in, had said, in not so many words and in her kind-hearted way, that there was no choice to be made. Mulder’s three closest and trusted friends were dead. They were her friends, too, and she was still grieving the loss when this new threat to William had occurred.

 

Stella had said she would be there for her no matter what, and then she wasn’t. Scully understood why, she didn’t blame her for creating distance, but Scully needed her. She needed someone in her corner as she was about to make the hardest decision of her life.

 

They had only talked once, briefly, since Stella had called and spoken to Monica. Not long after William had been found, Monica was in a car crash and fell into a coma. For days they feared she wouldn’t make it, but, thankfully, she pulled through. Then, Scully had been roped into assisting her former department on several X-Files cases, all while keeping up with her class-load and single motherhood.

 

Scully had called her after all this. Weeks had passed by and the last exchange they had had was their painful parting outside Scully’s apartment. Scully filled her in on things that had happened, William being kidnapped and Mulder still presumed dead. She imparted this to Stella, matter-of-factly, void of emotion—her general exhaustion and guardedness, surprisingly, kept her from breaking down. Stella had been sympathetic. Scully could tell she felt helpless, though. She was there for her like she had said she would be, but that was the extent of what she could do for Scully.

 

Scully wanted them to keep in closer touch, to talk more often. She sensed this was difficult for Stella and didn’t want to put her in a stressful position. Their relationship had become somewhat one-sided with Scully going through trauma after trauma, needing comfort and understanding from Stella. Scully was grateful that she was there for her, but at what cost to Stella? Scully feared for her. She feared that she was in danger by association, and she feared that the circumstances of her life had hurt Stella. This plagued her with a sense of helplessness, too.

 

Then more tragedy had struck—the Gunmen had died and William had been threatened once again. Scully needed her friend now more than ever, especially with what she was considering. Scully stepped out of the nursery, shutting the door softly so as not to wake William. She grabbed the phone and sat down on the sofa, dialing the number that would check her line for recording devices. The Gunmen had installed it for her not long after the whole Shadow Man ordeal. It was one of Langley’s inventions actually. She felt a pang in her chest—every time she used it now reminded her that they were gone.

 

Once she knew the line was clear, she called Stella. It would be evening in London, and she hoped Stella would answer like she had the last time. Her heart sank deeper with each unanswered ring. Stella’s voice came on in the outgoing message, and after the beep, Scully opened her mouth to say something, then closed it and hung up. She sat back looking at the phone in her hands, then set it beside her on the cushion. Staring ahead blankly, she felt a lump in her throat and she tried to swallow it down. One of her hands made a fist, her nails purposefully digging into the flesh of her palm. She wasn’t sure what to do now, but she was sure that crying wasn’t going to help. She had cried so many tears lately, and she knew there was still so much more left in her, but even as it offered a release of sorts, Scully felt, sometimes, as if she was drowning, and things seemed so much harder to get through.

 

So she put on a brave front—for no one’s benefit, not even her own, and for no reason other than to fool herself into thinking that she could go through with the decision, the decision that deep down in her gut she knew was what she had to do.

 

The phone trilled loudly next to her and startled her out of her numbed concentration. She was in the middle of wallowing in her loneliness, accepting it as her cross to bear, when the sound of someone trying to connect had reached her ears. The tears she had held back threatened to appear again when she saw that the incoming call was Stella.

 

“Hi,” Stella said. “I saw that you called. I was just in the shower.”

 

“Yeah, I didn’t leave a message.”

 

That much was obvious. Stella nodded, a little perplexed. Scully’s detached tone concerned her. She unwound the towel around her wet hair and dropped it to the bathroom floor. Stella waited for Scully to speak, but was just met with silence.

 

Stella was about to say something, but, finally, Scully spoke. “I can’t keep making these calls and I’m sure you can’t stand to get them anymore.”

 

The statement stunned Stella even though she didn’t know what Scully meant by it. She looked up at her reflection in the mirror and then turned away as if disappointed that it didn’t have an explanation for her. She leaned against the counter, unable to respond.

 

“All I have is bad news every time I call...I can’t…”

 

“Scully, what’s happened?” she said, somewhat authoritatively.

 

“It’s William…”

 

“Is he all right?” asked Stella, dreading the answer.

 

“No, he’s not. He’s not safe, Stella. He’s not safe.”

 

“Is he in immediate danger?”

 

Nothing.

 

“Scully.” She said her name firmly, hoping to snap her out of giving her these cryptic sentences in this strange manner.

 

“He’s not safe,” Scully repeated. “He’s not safe with me.”

 

Again, the statement was veiled, and quite ominous. Stella’s mind flashed to Sally Ann as she was pulled from the submerging car with her children. “What do you mean by that?” Stella said, stricken, her voice barely above a whisper.

 

“I can’t keep him. I can’t.”

 

Stella shook her head, now realizing what Scully was leading to.

 

“I have to give him up.”

 

“No,” said Stella. She said it louder and more forceful than she had meant to. Then she said it again softer, gentler.

 

But it was too late, Scully was already reacting to the first “No,” closing herself up, resigning to being alone with this devastating decision. No one would support her in this, not even the one person she thought would have, unfailingly.

 

As the dead air stretched over the long distance line, Stella realized her mistake. It had been an involuntary response. She didn’t want Scully to go through yet another heartache, especially one of this magnitude. But it was her decision, and she was the best person to make it, and if Scully’s maternal instinct was as strong as she knew it to be, then it was the right decision. She was about to backpedal, repeal her initial reaction, but Scully beat her to it. She cleared her throat and said flatly, “I have to go.”

 

There was a click as the call disconnected and then a harsh, accusatory dial tone sounded in Stella’s ear, causing her to recoil. Stella paused a moment, in shock at what had just transpired, then she dialed Scully’s number again. Her heart raced. Scully wasn’t picking up. The phone rang and rang, not even the answering machine would give her the opportunity to explain.

 

Over the next couple of days, Stella tried to get a hold of Scully with no luck. She left messages on her cell phone, even emailed her, but, still no response from Scully. She hoped Scully just needed some time before talking to her about it again, but she feared that she was going through giving up William all by herself. Finally, she rang the X-Files office. She let out a half sigh of relief when she heard Monica answer.

 

She cut right to the chase. “I can’t get a hold of Scully.”

“She’s not talking to anyone right now,” Monica said with a heaviness in her voice.

 

“William...did she?”

 

“They came to get him yesterday morning,” said Monica, somberly. “He’s gone.”  

 

***   

 

There was a knock at her door, and she thought about ignoring it like she had been doing, but something told her to answer it. Scully looked through the peephole, blinked, and then looked again. She undid the chain lock and opened the door. Before she could say anything, Stella was wrapping her up in her arms.

 

When they finally parted, Scully asked tearfully, “You came all the way from London to give me a hug?”

 

“I came all the way from London.”

 

Scully nodded, then her face twisted, pained. “William. Stella, I gave him up.”

 

Stella grabbed her bag and dropped it inside the door before embracing her again. Scully was shaking in her arms, sobbing, trying to speak but was unable to get anything intelligible out. She kicked the door shut behind them and guided Scully to the bedroom.

 

They laid down on the bed together. Stella propped herself up on her elbow and placed her hand over Scully’s heart. “Deep breaths. Follow me, okay?”

 

Stella inhaled through her nose, then exhaled slowly out of her mouth. Scully tried, but the breaths were shallow and harsh. Stella kept going, syncing the pressure of her hand on Scully’s chest with her breathing. Eventually, Scully got there and they did about a dozen breaths together. Stella gave her an encouraging smile. Scully tried to return the smile, but the tears promptly came back.

 

“It’s okay to cry. Just remember to breathe.”

 

They went through the process again, and Scully was able to calm herself. She looked up at Stella with a watery, grateful gaze. Her swollen eyelids drooped, drowsily. Stella leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, then laid back on the pillow, letting her eyes close. She could feel Scully watch her for a while, then when she sensed she was asleep, Stella opened her eyes to check on her.

 

She was laid on her side, her cheek on a damp, tear-stained spot on the pillow. Her lips were pressed together in a slight frown. Stella wanted to gather her up in her arms again, but Scully needed to sleep.

 

Stella got up carefully and went straight to the nursery. It was still as if a child lived there, and Stella felt a sharp constriction in her chest. She wandered through the rest of the apartment and found William’s things everywhere—bath toys in the tub, bottles in the dish drainer, a pacifier on the coffee table. Stella picked up the phone.

 

“Hello, Agent Doggett. Is Agent Reyes there?” she said in a hushed voice. “Monica, it’s Stella.”

 

“Stella, hi.”

 

“I’m at Scully’s and there’s still baby stuff everywhere.”

 

Monica sighed. “I know. She told us she wanted to be alone. I tried to check in on her this morning, but she didn’t answer the door.”

 

“We have to get this stuff out of here. I’m going to take her out later. Do you think you can get rid of it then?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

Stella hung up, rested the phone back in its cradle, and sighed, looking back at the bedroom door. It seemed they were so far from a place where Scully could begin to heal, but this would be a start.

 

She went back to look in on Scully. The frown was gone and the tension on her forehead had eased as well. She was on her back now, one arm up, resting above her head. It made the hem of her shirt rise, exposing her stomach. Stella crawled up onto the bed beside her and ran her hand over the smooth skin. Her eyes blurred with emotion as she thought of the child Scully had carried in there. Now he was gone.

 

She was about to remove her hand so she could wipe away a fallen tear, but then she felt Scully’s hand rest atop hers. Her eyes remained closed, Scully seeming to still be asleep. Stella traced light circles on her lower belly with her thumb. The warmth of her skin, the weight of her hand on hers, their closeness—a sensual stirring thawed the chill inside her.

 

Stella rebuked herself for having that kind of reaction. Then Scully shifted and pushed Stella’s hand down. Stella couldn’t tell if she was pushing it away or guiding her—guiding her towards something she needed. Scully had asked Stella to talk to her while she touched herself, to help bring her to a release, when Mulder had first gone missing. Stella had been hesitant, but then Scully said, “The grief is consuming me. Help me feel something else.” Stella ached to give her relief, any relief no matter how brief. She wanted to make her feel good even if it was just for a moment. Was that so wrong?

 

Stella lowered her hand until it rested on her mons and rubbed her over the fabric of her leggings. Scully’s hips lifted ever so slightly. Stella looked up at Scully’s face just as her lips parted, letting out a soft sigh.

 

Scully blinked her eyes open, looking, unfocused, at the ceiling. She felt the warmth of Stella’s body at her side and turned to her. Stella was close, her face inches away, with an expression of mixed emotion. Scully craned her neck and tilted her chin toward Stella, her lips brushing against hers. Stella made no move, either into Scully or away from her, but she kept stroking between her legs.

 

Scully opened her mouth, a hot breath falling on Stella’s lips, then she put her hand over Stella’s, like before, and pressed it against her, grinding her pelvis into them. At this display of need—of want—Stella returned the kiss, pushing her back down. Scully’s tongue slid past Stella’s lips, licking at the hollow of her mouth, moaning into her. Stella slipped her hand out from under Scully’s, going to the waistband of her pants and shoving her hand inside in search of her naked heat.   

 

Scully grabbed a handful of the comforter as Stella’s fingers entered her. She thrust her hips to meet her. With her lips still crushed against Stella’s, their tongues hotly lapping at each other, Scully whimpered, nipping at the flesh of Stella’s bottom lip with her teeth. Stella withdrew her fingers, focusing on her clit, and Scully’s body tensed up beneath her. Her kisses became clumsy as Scully got lost in her building climax. Stella pushed two fingers back into Scully, pumping them in and out several times before curling them to stroke that spongy, ribbed spot deep inside her.

 

She cried out as she came, eyes wide, her head falling away from Stella back into the pillow—the pale pallor of her cheeks was now pink. Stella watched her, searching for signs that she had crossed a boundary. Scully, coming down from her orgasm, was looking up, past Stella—her eyes were glassy, dazed. Stella began to panic.

 

Scully was surprised about what had just happened, but she knew she wanted it, needed it. Where she thought she would feel guilt inside was empty...for this particular action. She already felt so much guilt for giving her child up, what did this matter? It’s just kicking a pebble onto a mountain.

 

She looked at Stella and saw the fear in her eyes. Scully reached up and put her arms around her, bringing Stella down into an embrace. “Thank you for being here,” she whispered.

 

***

 

Stella was able to convince Scully that she needed to get out of the house. She changed out of the leggings and t-shirt she had been wearing for several days, never bothering with clean clothes or pajamas after her long showers she used as an in-home escape. Still, she dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt, and dark sunglasses to hide her bloodshot eyes.

 

They walked up to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away. It was quiet, just a few of the after-lunch crowd coming and going. Scully wanted to sit inside in the back, but Stella told her she needed fresh air and some sun, so they got their coffees and chose a table outside.

 

After a while of sitting in silence, Scully said, “It was awful of me to ignore your calls.”

 

Stella shook her head. “It wasn’t,” she reassured her.

 

“I was so ashamed,” said Scully, looking down. “I still am.” She took a sip of her coffee, set it down, and sank lower in her chair. “Mulder will never forgive me. I can’t look my mother in the eye. She doesn’t understand. I thought you would’ve understood, even without knowing all that had happened.”

 

“All I need to know is that you feel it’s what you have to do.”

 

“But, you said--”

 

“There’s no doubt of the love you have for that child, what you did was selfless. My reaction was selfish. I didn’t want to go through watching you suffer a loss this great after everything you’d been through.”

 

A tear slipped down under the rim of her sunglasses and she wiped it away quickly. “Maybe if I was stronger I could’ve protected him.”

 

“What you did took an incredible amount of strength, Scully.”

 

Scully looked away, unconvinced.

 

“When I was seventeen I got pregnant,” said Stella. Scully turned back, regarding her with surprise. “I had an abortion. I’m not comparing the situations. Your decision was infinitely more difficult than mine. I was young and ill-equipped to make the decision, but I still made the right one. The woman I was to become was inside that teenage me, guiding me. I think for some women that maternal instinct can kick in even when motherhood isn’t the outcome.” Stella furrowed her brow, hoping what she was saying made sense to Scully because it was something that had helped her to get past her own guilt. “You made the right decision.”

 

Scully reached across the table for Stella’s hand and she folded it between her own. Stella put her other hand on top, her palm warm from cradling the coffee cup. They both gave each other a comforting squeeze and shared a small smile.  

Chapter Text

“Dr. Scully, there’s someone here to see you.”

 

Scully looked up from her computer, and before she could ask her TA who it was, Charlie poked his head in the door.

 

“Surprise!”

 

It was a surprise. She didn’t think he even knew she was here teaching now. Her mother must keep the rest of her family up to date, and this unexpected visit had Maggie Scully written all over it.

 

“Charlie, what are you doing here?” she asked, smiling and coming out from behind her desk to give him a hug.

 

“Thought I could take you to lunch.”

 

Scully looked at her watch. “Yeah, I don’t have another class until 3:30.”

 

“Great!”

 

Charlie drove them to a nearby sushi restaurant, and Scully waited until after they had ordered to grill him.

 

“Mom sent you, didn’t she?”

 

“No, I told you, I have meetings in the city.”

She raised a skeptical brow at him.

 

“She may have suggested it, but I wanted to see you.”

 

Scully nodded, looking down. “Mom is so upset with me. I don’t think she can forgive me for this.”

 

Charlie shook his head. “Dana, she’s sad. And she’s worried about you.” He twisted his mouth trying to think of what else to say, watching as his sister blinked away tears. “I’m not sure what you need to be forgiven for. Sounds like you made a very hard decision.”

 

“He was put in danger so many times, Charlie. Kidnapped, almost killed. He’s not even a year old.”

 

“You don’t have to justify it to me. Or to Mom. To anyone really. I’m sorry you had to do this on your own.”

 

She shrugged with stiff shoulders.

 

“And I’m sorry we didn’t come to see you after he was born.”

 

Scully reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet. She took out a small photo of William and handed it to Charlie. “Oh, he’s definitely a Scully,” he said. “Look at those eyes. You did good, mama.”

 

Scully took the picture back. “Well, he’s not a Scully anymore. And I’m not a mother.” She tucked it back into her purse, her features hardened, eyes now dry.

 

“Hey, hey,” Charlie gently chided. “You gave him life and then you gave him a chance at a life. I wish you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself. I get it, I do, but you don’t deserve--”

 

“Charlie…”

 

Charlie nodded, pressing his lips together. He knew he would only get so far with his sister. She was always so closed off, more so since she had joined Mulder on the X-Files, growing further apart from the family after Melissa had died. “All right, I’m done,” he conceded. “Just know that I’ve got your back, okay?”

 

She swallowed roughly and gave him a strained smile. The waiter brought them their food, and they ate in a thick silence.

 

Charlie fidgeted uncomfortably, then cleared his throat. “Uh, Tyler came out to us, and he said he had told you at Mom’s birthday.”

 

Scully raised her eyebrows, caught off guard by the change of subject. “Yes, he did.”

 

“Well, thank you for...being there, uh, you know, being what he needed that night. I know you made him feel less alone and I’m grateful for that, Dana.” Now Charlie’s eyes were wet.

 

“He’s a great kid. You should be very proud.”

 

“I am,” he said. “I am.” Charlie wiped his mouth with his napkin and took a sip of water. “He asked us not to tell anyone else, Mom or Bill—especially Bill, so if you could continue to keep it to yourself.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“He wanted to come with me. I told him that maybe he could give you call later if you felt up to it.”

 

She nodded her head. “Yeah, sure.”

 

“You’re gonna make a real good mom,” Tyler had said to her that night, and she had had trouble believing him. Her fear that he would be wrong had become real. She did not turn out to be a good mom, she was a coward. All the words of encouragement she had gotten from Stella and now Charlie were no match for her self-hatred.

 

***

 

Stella had also received an unexpected visitor, one that was much less welcome. Her mother, Marilyn, now sat across from her in her office. She looked smaller than Stella remembered, frail yet hard, and cold. Her dull blonde hair was graying at the roots, sunken cheeks unsuccessfully hidden by too much rouge, and her lipstick bled into the wrinkles around her mouth.

 

She had sat down—neither of them bothering to attempt a warm greeting with a hug or even a handshake—putting her handbag in her lap, smiling at Stella. It felt like they were facing off in some sort of match only Marilyn was privy to. “You’re doing well for yourself,” she said, looking around.

 

Stella nodded, continuing to stare her down, hoping she would just come out with whatever it was that she wanted. Marilyn smiled back at her again, like she knew what Stella was doing. “You didn’t tell me that Millie died,” said Marilyn.

 

“We haven’t spoken in twelve years.”

 

“We’re still family.”

 

“What do you want?”

 

Marilyn looked offended, but Stella knew that to be an act. She folded her arms across her chest waiting for a response.

 

“I wanted to see you. Tom and I moved back a while ago. I kept meaning to pop by.”

 

“You’re no longer in Brossard? When?”

 

“We’ve been back, in Birmingham, for about, oh, five years now.”

 

Stella closed her eyes and shook her head. Three years ago she had gotten drunk and sentimental, and mailed a Christmas card to her mother in Quebec. She hadn’t even gotten it.

 

“Tom’s son is in a bit of a pickle. He’s all caught up in some fraud thing with his employer—being held at Winson Green.”

 

There it was. She needed something from Stella and that’s why she was here. “Why do I care about Tom’s son?”

 

“Well, he’s your stepbrother, Stella.”

 

“All right,” Stella said, standing up, “time to go now.”

 

She waved her hand as if Stella had misunderstood everything. “No, Stella, please. His wife is pregnant. They’re going to give me a grandbaby.”

 

Stella looked at her astounded and almost amused by her audaciousness.

 

Marilyn scoffed back. “Millie raised you to be a spinster like her. I’m not going to get one from you.”

 

“How do you think you know anything about me?”

 

Marilyn stood and gestured around the office. “There’s nothing personal in here. No photos. Nothing. I know you. I’m your mother,” she said, callously, using the title like a weapon.

 

Stella narrowed her eyes at her but held back what she really wanted to say, instead speaking calmly she said, “I’m unable to help Tom’s son, but thank you for stopping by.” She added sarcastically, “Catching up has been ...lovely. Congratulations on your grandchild,” and ushered her toward the door.

 

Marilyn tutted, obdurately resisting Stella’s dismissal. “Stella. Stella for Star,” she said, patronizing.

 

Stella turned, training an icy gaze on her. “You do not get to call me that.”

 

Her mother smiled, cloyingly, at her. “Oh, don’t be so bloody dramatic.”

 

“Goodbye, Marilyn,” said Stella, cooly. “Let’s make it another twelve years before we do it again, shall we?”

 

Finally, a look of defeat crossed over her mother’s face. “Goodbye,” she spat out, pushing by Stella and yanking the door open.

 

***

 

Mulder and Shannon had been in New Mexico for just a few days when he ran into an old friend, well, an old young friend. Gibson Praise lived with a family on an Indian reservation in Weed Hope, a tiny town just south of Chaco Canyon. Gibson told him that he had sensed he was near, and tracked him down with his friend, finding Mulder fueling up at a gas station on the Interstate.

 

Mulder was reminded of his incredible ability and also grateful that he was alive and well. Scully had told him that the last she had heard he was a ward of the state of Arizona, Agent Doggett arranging for special protections. Gibson had run away from the children’s home he was put in shortly after he arrived. He said it was easy to escape when you can read minds. His friend at the school for the deaf had said her cousin in Weed Hope would take him in if he ever needed a place to go.

 

“Congratulations,” Gibson said.

 

“For what?”

 

“Becoming a dad.”

 

Mulder smiled proudly for a moment before the corners of his mouth fell downward. He didn’t even realize he’d been thinking about William.

 

“It’s been in the back of your mind the whole time,” Gibson explained. “It was like that with Agent Scully, too.”

 

Victor, Gibson’s friend whom he lived with, came around the side of the trailer with a bundle of firewood and set it down by the firepit where Mulder and Gibson had been catching up. Mulder had had dinner with Gibson and the Tsosi family—Victor, his mother, his grandmother, and little sister—and he would be staying with them for the night. Shannon said she would be back to get him in the morning. Victor put another log on the fire, then grabbed a soda from a small cooler and sat down in one of the lawn chairs.

 

“I’m desperate to get back to them, Gibson. Do you have any information on that military base outside the canyon? Have you heard anything about a Super Soldier program?”

 

“No. I don’t go into town much. Actually, I’m kinda scared to find out how close I am to all of that.”

 

Mulder nodded. They sat in silence for a while, Mulder thinking but trying not to and Gibson listening to his thoughts.

 

“Mom’s friend works at the hospital in the emergency room,” Victor said, piping up. “A couple of weeks ago she had two men come in. They’d been in a car accident. One man was military, in a uniform. She said he had strange bumps on the back of his neck. More military came, took him away before the doctors could work on him.”

 

“Sounds like a Super Soldier all right,” Mulder said.

 

“Like your friend,” stated Gibson.

 

“You could tell that Shannon was one?”

 

Gibson nodded. “She’s on your side, though.”

 

“I found that out pretty quickly when she saved my life.”

 

“I’m on your side. I want to help.”

 

“No, Gibson,” Mulder said firmly. “It was dangerous just coming into town to find me. Which I still don’t understand how you knew. You said you sensed me. Can you hear thoughts from far away?”

 

“Yours I can. Not too far, though. I heard you when you were on the ship, too.”

 

Mulder thought about this. Why would he have a special link with Gibson?

 

Gibson touched the scar on his head, prompting Mulder to think about what had been done to him, when his brain was experimented on by the Smoking Man, his father, with the aid of his ex, Diana.

 

Gibson nodded. “You’re part alien. Just like me.”

 

This was something he had known to some degree, but it had never been said to him in such simple terms so matter of factly. Mulder made a mock pouty face. “Well, how come I can’t read minds?”

 

“Guess I’m still more special than you,” Gibson teased. “You could’ve used it. Woulda helped you with the ladies.”

 

Mulder huffed out a laugh.

 

***

 

Scully spotted her mother among the crowd outside the church. She caught her eye and Maggie excused herself from the small group of women she was talking to and came over to her.

 

“Hi, Mom,” she said, her confident smile wavering. She swallowed and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear nervously. Maggie shook her head and wrapped her arms around her daughter, hugging her tightly.

 

“I’m so sorr--” Scully started to say in a whisper-soft voice, then it got caught on the lump in her throat. Her mother was shushing her anyway.

 

Maggie rocked her gently and rubbed her back. “I know, I know,” she said.

 

The church bells rang above them, but they held each other a little longer as the mingling parishioners headed inside. When they parted, Maggie wiped the fallen tears on Scully’s cheeks and smiled at her. “Coming in?” Maggie asked, tilting her head toward the entrance.

 

Scully breathed in deeply and nodded. Maggie took her hand, gave her an encouraging squeeze, and they walked into church together.

 

***

 

Victor’s mother, Tanya, was drawing Mulder a map of the area surrounding the military base when Shannon arrived. She glanced at it over Mulder’s shoulder and pointed at a line that indicated a fire road.

 

“That’s sealed off now—gates, around-the-clock patrol,” she stated.

 

“You were there?” asked Mulder.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did you find anything?”

 

“Something found me.”

 

He furrowed his brow at this cryptic statement. Shannon reached in the back pocket of her jeans, pulled out a folded envelope, and handed it to him.

 

It had “Fox Mulder” written on it, and inside was a key card to the Mount Weather Military Complex.

 

“What is this?”

 

“It’s access to the facility in Virginia.”

 

“Who gave it to you?”

 

“It was on the dash of the car. I was walking the perimeter, looking for an entry point, and when I came back it was there.”

 

“Can we trust it?”

 

“I don’t know. You may have a friend out there trying to help,” said Shannon. “Or an enemy setting you up.”

 

Mulder thought about Jeffrey. He certainly had reason to want to see these programs destroyed. “We gotta take our chances. This gets me back closer to Scully.”

 

“I agree. I think exactly what we need is there, and until now we had no way of getting in.”

 

Gibson came into the kitchen. “Take me with you. I can help.”

 

Mulder turned to him. “Absolutely not. I appreciate it, I do, but I’m not putting you in danger. Not again.”

 

Gibson was quiet for a long moment, then he tapped his temple and said, “You make a better father than what your thoughts are telling you.”

Chapter Text

The four of them rode the elevator in silence, Skinner keeping a close eye on Scully, who stood stoically, deep in thought. She had her fingers at her lips as if she could hold the feeling of Mulder’s kiss there, but it was already fading—what with the news that Knowle Rohrer’s body had been recovered and her realization that she would have to tell Mulder about William. Any joy she felt in his homecoming had been darkened by the grave circumstances in which they found themselves.

 

It hadn’t helped that the first she had seen of him in months, he had put on an act. He had to do it, though, to survive his first days in custody, but it was chilling to witness even if she had known he was going along with it. The disturbed feeling it had given her had not really gone away, resonating deep in her bones, untouched by their passionate reunion.

 

The way he had walked toward her when he had finally dropped the model prisoner facade made sparks go off in her chest, and she still felt it afterward just thinking about it. Mulder drew her in and kissed her deeply, not caring that Skinner was there, and she found that she didn’t care either. All that existed in that moment was Mulder, his touch, his breath—he was alive and in her arms.

 

They exited the detention facility, Monica and Doggett going to his truck and Scully following Skinner to his car. “I need to examine that body, Agent Doggett,” Scully said tersely as if the importance of that task didn’t carry the weight of a man’s life at stake.

 

“On it!” he replied.

 

Skinner waited until the dread thickening around them overwhelmed him. He had expected her to say something, then realized that was unlikely. What could she say? What could he say? But he felt like he was about to choke on the silence so he cleared his throat and spoke. “What are your thoughts on this? Me defending Mulder, I…” Words failed him like he knew they would.

 

Scully stared out the passenger side window, making Skinner suffer the silence a little longer. She was steeling herself, not wanting her emotions to overcome her right now. Finally, she said something, her voice passive and flat. “We’re being set up to fail. We have been since the beginning, since I joined the X-Files. There is no favorable outcome.” Her words were teeming with a hopelessness that broke Skinner’s heart. “Especially with what has already been sacrificed,” she added.

 

“Do you want me...to tell him? Tell him about…” Skinner said tentatively.

 

He saw her shake her head in his peripheral vision. “No. It needs to come from me.”

 

That was easier said than done, though. As she waited to be buzzed into the holding area the next morning, she felt physically ill. Scully licked her lips; her mouth was dry and her tongue was like a stale, thick thing that threatened to betray her as soon as she chanced to speak this horrible truth.

 

Mulder was lying on the cell floor. Scully approached him gently, lightly touching his shoulder to ease him awake.

 

“Mulder, it’s me.”

 

“Is it time to go?” he asked, groggily.

 

“No, it’s early.”

 

He yawned, sitting up, then stood and embraced her. It felt so good to hold her again. “God, Scully, I missed you so much.” Mulder could feel her nod against his shoulder, but she didn’t say anything in return. “How’s William? Getting big, I bet.” Her hold on him slackened and she pulled back.

 

“Mulder, I…” Now she stepped away from him, and he was confused and saddened by the loss of contact. Scully avoided his eyes. “I’ve done something and I, I don’t know if you’ll forgive me or even understand what it was like…”

 

“Scully,” he said, panic breaking out in a storm in his chest.

 

“I gave him up.” Hot tears sprang forth and she whispered it again, risking a glance at him. “Our son, Mulder.” She could no longer hold back the sob lodged in her throat. Guilt took over the small amount of courage she had gathered to say it, and his stricken face devastated her—she covered her face with her hands unable to stop the flood of emotion.

 

He wrapped his arms around her again, wanting to comfort her but too stunned to verbalize any comfort. Mulder held her tight as she cried, rocking them back and forth. The news had registered with him, but he found himself incapable of reacting, a numbness setting in. Scully sucked in a breath and fought to get control of the crying.   

 

It’s okay to cry. Just remember to breathe.

 

Stella’s voice in her head caused a stillness inside her and she breathed in deeply through her nose, letting the air out slowly. “I’m sorry, Mulder,” she managed. “I’m so sorry.”

 

“I know you had no choice,” he said, not really knowing, but trusting her. If Scully felt she had to do it, then it must’ve been the only way to keep him safe. He buried his face in the crook of her neck, the soft strands of her hair rustling against his cheeks. Mulder focused on the tangible parts of her, the feel of her petite frame in his embrace, her scent, the rise and fall of her chest against his own. He knew if he followed the train of thought his brain was trying to force on him he would crumble. Mulder always wanted the facts, the truth, but right now he wasn’t ready to hear what led Scully to the point of giving up their child.

 

He didn’t have time to ask questions even if he had wanted to—a loud buzz sounded in the cell and the door opened. A military officer stepped in. “Time’s up.”   

 

They parted, and Mulder held her at arm's length, willing her to look at him. It hurt her to meet his eyes, but she did. He took her face in his hands, brushing across her damp cheeks with his thumbs. Mulder gave her a weak smile and they exchanged a silent communication with their looks but the signal was weak as well, clouded by their grief.

 

***

 

The course of the trial was a downward spiral, any leads or credible witnesses were quickly shot down. It had been made pretty clear early on that it was all an elaborate charade with a predetermined end. A “legal” way to finally snuff out the longstanding threat to their plans—evil plans that have taken many forms over decades with a cabal of nefarious men fighting to wield their egomaniacal power, the Smoking Man holding an influencing position for far too long with a personal vendetta against his biological son. Either he was still alive pulling the strings or his legacy was being virulently upheld by a new Syndicate.

 

With Mulder goes the truth, and they were both on trial. The testimonial evidence alone should’ve given them a fighting chance, and, certainly, there was hope when Scully proved that the body the military claimed to be that of Knowle Rohrer was not, but it had all turned out to be in vain. When Gibson showed up, the real truth, the one being disguised through subterfuge on the part of the “fair and impartial” tribunal, was revealed to Mulder—he would not be getting out of this alive.

 

Gibson had read the minds of these men and found that a guilty verdict with a sentence of death was the only goal. When Scully had suggested that Mulder plead guilty on a lesser charge, Gibson had to tell her they would not entertain that option, or if they did, any lesser charge could not be trusted, and Mulder would continue to be in danger for his life. Kersh and the prosecutor, Special Agent Kallenbrunner, were the only ones on the opposition taking the process seriously. But with Kersh, he had grim threats that were directing his actions, fear outweighing his allegiance to justice, and Kallenbrunner was simply doing his job with no idea to what was at stake nor of the lengths these puppet masters would go to make sure their conspiracy continued. Both Mulder and Scully had feared this would be the case when the whole ordeal began, but that didn’t make it any easier to take. Mulder was staring down the barrel and there was nothing they could do.

 

Although it was a mad dash to secure witnesses and track down Knowle Rohrer’s alleged body, Scully had kept Stella updated during this time. It wasn’t until the crushing, albeit expected, blow of the verdict came down that she stopped. She was so consumed with worry over what the sentence would be that she hadn’t spoken a word to anyone.

 

After being removed from the courtroom, Scully had joined Monica in the hallway, and then she watched Mulder get escorted out right after. Their eyes met and they each saw the futility of their fight and the inevitable loss before them in the other. Skinner followed and he had trouble looking at Scully as he told her that the trial had been adjourned, his head hanging, sorrowful and apologetic. He, too, did not have any faith that justice would prevail.

 

Monica drove her back to Scully’s apartment where Doggett was with Gibson. Skinner had called her cell phone on their way to relay the guilty verdict. The judges hadn’t even pretended to deliberate for very long—the underhanded pageantry no longer necessary.

 

They did make everybody wait for the sentencing, however. Scully had been seated in the same spot on her sofa for the past three hours. She just stared into space, unmoving—a statue. The blood in her veins felt as cold as stone, the dread in the pit of her stomach just as hard. To Monica and Doggett, Scully was as quiet as a statue as well, but to Gibson her unrelenting, dark thoughts were loud. He started up a conversation with Monica to distract himself from hearing them.

 

Then the call had come through. Doggett answered it, Scully remained motionless. After he hung up, she finally spoke, her voice hoarse with emotion and her extended silence. “Who was it?” Scully asked, knowing the answer.

 

“Skinner.”

 

The last vestige of hope she had had vanished when she heard his tone on the phone. Not wanting to make Doggett be the bearer of the terrible news, but needing to hear it, she prompted him simply, “Agent Doggett?”

 

“Death by lethal injection.”

 

Just the words themselves felt lethal to her. She immediately crumbled, covering her face with her hands, crying more of her endless supply of tears. How many times would something inside her die until she would be pronounced dead herself?

 

Gibson slipped out of the kitchen to the bathroom. He sat on the cold tile floor and hugged his knees, trying to block it out, then he, too, cried for Mulder. And for Scully and all that had been lost.

 

***

 

Stella was at work when she received a text from an unknown number. Check Interpol was all it said. She had been waiting to hear from Scully about the trial—was this cryptic message news on the proceedings? Stella excused herself from the meeting she was in the middle of, helping the PR department clean up after a mess made by an inspector who got too chatty with the press.

 

Sitting down at her desk, she logged onto Interpol and searched Mulder’s name. The results came up immediately, and at the next click Mulder and Scully were staring back at her from the computer screen. The photos from their FBI badges were side by side beneath large, garish letters that read WANTED.

 

Stella read as much of the statement as she could before her vision blurred. She stood, reaching back behind her to grab her coat. As she left her office, dazed, the coat dragged across her desk, scattering a stack of files to the floor. In the hallway, Stella ran into Dembry. She thought he said something to her, probably out of concern by the look on his face, but she didn’t hear it and kept walking.

 

She didn’t remember the drive back to her flat. Time seemed to have a bendable quality all of a sudden. Stella went upstairs to her bedroom, to her closet, where she pulled down a box from the top shelf. She was now moving with purpose, not like back at the office when she had walked out aimlessly. The items in the box were neatly arranged, and Stella pulled them out frantically as she searched for something. Under a blanket her aunt had crocheted for her, Stella found it, the small black pouch that held a straight razor.

 

It was what she had used when she was younger. When she had discovered it amongst her things from her past, Stella’s first instinct was to get rid of it, but then she felt confident enough that she would never reach the depths where she would feel the need to use it. How could she predict the events that had taken place and the black despair that would engulf her?

 

Stella set the razor on the sink in the bathroom, then went downstairs, bringing back up with her a bottle of whiskey and a tumbler. She kicked her heels off, shrugged her jacket down her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor where the other things strewn from the box laid. Pouring herself some whiskey, she thought for a moment, then she swallowed it all in one gulp and undressed down to her underwear and bra.

 

She poured another drink, drank it, then abandoned the glass and took a pull straight from the bottle. With the razor in one hand and the whiskey in the other, she sat down on the bathroom floor, leaning against the wall of the tub. She crossed one leg over the other knee and rubbed the arch of her foot, feeling the faint ridges of scar tissue there, then she put the razor into the neck of the whiskey bottle, tipping it to dip the blade in the alcohol. Her muddled mind reasoned that this was cutting responsibly, sterilizing the instrument she had used decades ago to self-inflict replacement pain.

 

Stella took a deep breath and held the razor to the sole of her foot.

 

***

 

Louise was walking home, her arms laden with plastic grocery bags when her cell phone vibrated in her pocket. She set the bags down on the ground and answered it. “Wotcher, Philip,” she said, congenially, her smile fading with his anxious words that followed.

 

“Have you spoken to Stella?”

 

“No, why?”

 

“She left here, suddenly. She was in the middle of a meeting. I saw her as she was leaving, and, Lou, she looked like somebody had just died.”

 

“Have you tried ringing her?”

 

“Her mobile is here, she left it on her desk. They are trying her home phone, but there’s no answer.”

 

Louise turned and looked down the street for a cab. “Okay, I’m going to go over to her flat. Ring me if you hear from her.” She put the phone back in her pocket and waved down the taxi that had just turned the corner.

 

When she got to Stella’s she knocked on the door several times, and then tried the knob, finding it unlocked. “Stella?” called out Louise as she entered. Nothing looked unusual on the first floor. Louise said her name again as she ascended the stairs. The house was quiet, like no one was home.

 

She found Stella in the bathroom, slouched on the floor, an almost empty bottle of whiskey next to her and drops of blood all over the tile.

 

“Oh my god, Stella,” she said, crouching down to her.

 

Stella was staring ahead, glassy-eyed. She tilted her head toward Louise, trying to focus on her. “Oh hey, it’s my fuck buddy.”

 

“Uh, right now I’m your what-the-fuck-buddy.” She gently brushed the hair that had fallen in front of Stella’s face back. “What’s happened? Stella, please talk to me.”  

 

Stella huffed out a drunken chuckle. “What has happened? That’s what I’d like to know.”

 

“Where is the blood from? Are you hurt?”

 

“I stepped on something.”

 

Louise knelt down and looked at Stella’s feet. The bottom of her left foot had three bloody lacerations in a triangular shape. She saw the razor under Stella’s calf. “Is this what you stepped on?” Louise asked, picking it up.

 

“That’s it. Careful, it’s sharp.”

 

Louise nodded and then stood. She dropped the razor in the sink and opened the mirror cabinet to look for bandages. She cleaned and dressed Stella’s wound, and then tried to help her to stand. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

 

Stella stood with Louise’s support. She was wobbly, putting her weight on one leg. Louise got them to the bed, and Stella sat down and gripped Louise’s arms. Looking at her intensely, and a bit frightened, Stella whispered, “I’m never going to see her again.”

 

Louise didn’t know what was going on or what Stella’s anguished comment meant, but she felt her despair. Louise’s chin trembled and she fought back tears. “Just lie down now,” she instructed with a shaky voice.

 

She was able to get Stella into bed and under the covers, then she went downstairs to get Stella some water so she could take some Advil. Louise laid down beside her once she got some medicine in her and ran her fingers through Stella’s hair comfortingly, watching as Stella’s eyelids grew heavy and finally, mercifully, closed.

Chapter Text

They were headed west—to New Mexico. Shannon had gone back there shortly after the trial had begun to find out who had set Mulder up. Gibson had wanted to go with them, to go back to what he had called home for the past year, but it was too dangerous. Monica and Doggett vowed to keep him safe, but with no real plan on how to do it.

 

All this had been hastily communicated as Mulder and Scully made their escape. There was no time for goodbyes or thank yous, everyone just shared loaded looks as they quickly imparted plans and instructions. Kersh, who had a change of conscience after listening to Mulder’s final plea in the courtroom, told them to stay away from airports and train stations, and Doggett supplied their getaway vehicle with several dummy plates.

 

The gravity of their situation, as well as the fear of finality, kept sparking a panic within Scully. It came in waves. During the first eight hours of their drive, she would alternate between a grateful serenity and the overwhelming panic. She would look at Mulder or grasp his hand, and feel a profound gratitude that he was freed from that prison and alive. It was exhilarating, even intoxicating, to know that they had escaped his certain death and were now together.

 

Then she would think of what was left behind, and the panic would rise from her gut to her throat, like the hands of the reaper crawling its way up to choke her from the inside out. Scully pictured these hands as skeletal at first, but then they became black smoke—long, creeping, vaporous digits that not only sucked the breath from her but invaded her bloodstream, poisonous and toxic. Her mother. Stella. Monica. Family and friends, some of whose lives were now in danger, too—all manifestly lost to her now.

 

If and when they found this person who had set them on this catastrophic path, all that they might gain is some truth and clarity, but would it change their predicament? Probably not. Sacrifices made would not be able to be undone. Scully stared down the tunnel of this new existence. She was terrified, but she was not alone. Finally, Mulder was by her side again, and she was so thankful that they weren’t facing this next chapter apart from each other like they had with so much over the past months.

 

Although, Scully hadn’t always been completely alone. Stella had gotten her through some of the darkest times of her recent life. Internal hysteria would set in whenever she thought about Stella—she would get hot and feverish, sick to her stomach, sick to her heart. Then those four words, “death by lethal injection,” would inject themselves into her mind. The government was sanctioning the murder of an innocent man—her man, her first true love and father of her child. There was no choice. There was no question. She and Mulder were now fugitives on the run.

 

***

 

Stella awoke with her eyes still closed. There was soreness radiating from the sole of her foot, but it was bearable compared to the intense throbbing in her head. She couldn’t even bring herself to moan out of pain. Surely the light in the room, the reality of her surroundings, would add to the agony, but she needed to wake up, to suffer in motion with lucidity.

 

She blinked her eyes open, slow blinks that required effort. Trying to swallow with her parched throat caused her to cough sending sharp, stabbing pains to her temples and an incredible amount of pressure to the space behind her eyes. She squeezed them shut again as if it would quell the torturous pounding. Stella tried once more; the ceiling, the walls, the shaded window, started to become clear. More blinking and some squinting and Louise’s shape began to discern itself from the chair in which she was sitting. Her knees were curled up underneath her, she had a sketch pad on her lap, and she was lowering her headphones to hang around her neck as she watched Stella struggle with consciousness. Louise offered her a small smile.

 

It was too much work to return it, and there was not the makings of a smile anywhere inside of her anyway. Stella managed to shift a little and prop herself up on her pillow. There was a glass of water on her nightstand and she brought it to her dry lips, first taking small sips then drinking it all down. She motioned towards the pad in Louise’s hands. “What are you doing?”

 

“Drawing,” she replied. “Something I do when I’m stressed.”

 

Stella nodded. “And this stressed you out?”

 

“Mmmhmm,” intoned Louise. “Loads.” It was slight, cautious teasing.

 

Now a little smile showed at the corners of Stella’s mouth. She looked away from Louise to the clock beside her. It was well into her work day. She closed her eyes defeatedly and pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers.

 

“I had Philip tell your boss that you are taking a personal day.”

 

Stella thought back to how she had left the office yesterday—her memory of it was a bit fuzzy, but she knew how unstable it must’ve made her look. She sighed. “Fuck.” Her aberrant behavior would require an explanation.

 

“Think you could manage some tea?”

 

“Yes, please,” Stella said; just the thought of it was fairly restorative.

 

Louise made a move like she was going to stand up but then hesitated, glancing at Stella with worry etched into her forehead.

 

Stella looked at her, knowingly, then she darted her eyes downward. “You can leave me alone,” she said, quietly. “I’m not going to do anything.”

 

Louise accepted this, but how much she trusted her words, Stella was unsure. Once Louise left the room, Stella sunk down, covering her head with the covers, trying to hide from the guilt she was feeling on top of her sorrow, but instead, she sealed it in around her. It pressed in on all her achy, tender spots—her head, the arch of her foot, the unsettled pit in her stomach, and the most tender of all, her heart. It had been pulverized, practically reduced to a pulp, but it still beat within her chest, stubbornly, doggedly—determined. But Stella did not know of its determination, each wearied pulse taunting her, laughing at her; its persistence felt corrosive to her very being, unforgiving and ruthless. Stella was so far from even the paltriest bit of peace. She waited for it to consume her, wanting it to be whole and final, but knew it wouldn’t.

 

She threw the covers off her, sucking in a deep breath of the cooler air. There was light inside her, there was hope and love, a fire that refused to be extinguished. Scully had shown that to her, but it had been there all along. Her scars, the breath that continued to pass by her lips, the tedious yet willful beat of her battered heart were proof that she was still alive—a survivor, a fighter. She would fight for herself just as she had hoped Scully would each time she fell into the darkness. That’s what they would both have to do. And maybe, someday, their lights would meet again or even guide the other back.

 

***

 

“What are they?” asked Scully.

 

“Pueblos. Anasazi Indians. Abandoned 2,000 years ago. Nobody knows why,” Mulder explained.

 

“That’s where they said he would be,” said Shannon. “‘The Keeper of the Truth.’”

 

Mulder and Scully looked at each other warily. Shannon got out of the back seat of the car.

 

“You think it’s him?”

 

Mulder nodded. “Yeah.”

 

“Then what do we gain from talking to him? It will all be lies. And if he sent you to Mount Weather to get you killed, he might be setting you up now to finish the job.”

 

“We’ve got to take the chance, Scully. Right now we have nothing to go on to exonerate us. We could be on the run indefinitely if we have no leads.”

 

“Okay,” she agreed.

 

They got out of the car and joined Shannon at the base of the small canyon across from the pueblo carved into the mountain on the other side. There was smoke floating out of one of its windows.

 

“I can’t go with you,” Shannon said. “There’s magnetite in the rock.”

 

Mulder and Scully made their way towards the pueblo. They climbed the crude ladders up to the room from which the smoke was coming. An old Indian woman was tending a fire, and when she saw them enter, she stood and walked out through a doorway. They followed her down a narrow passage. She stopped at the entrance to a primitive living space, motioning for them to go inside.

 

A man in a suit stood at the other end of the room with his back to them. Then the telltale Morley smoke drifted in swirls around him, and he lowered his hand holding the lit cigarette between his thumb and forefinger. The Cigarette Smoking Man turned, smirking smugly, pleased with his sinister reveal. “You’ve come to see the wise man, but you look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

 

“You’re no wise man,” said Mulder. “But you should be a dead man.” CSM’s appearance unsettled him. Krycek had told them that he had been close to death two years ago, still sucking down cigarettes through a tracheal tube. This man had no evidence of that—there was no hole in his throat, no signs of advancing age.

 

“You’re upset to see me alive, are you?” He took another drag, letting the smoke seep out of his mouth as he continued to speak. “You are wondering why I can’t die, and I am thinking the same thing about you. I’ve tried to have you killed, Fox, but here you are standing in front of me.”

 

“You sent me there to die?”

 

“Does that make me a bad parent?” he asked sarcastically. “Scully knows a thing or two about being a bad parent, doesn’t she?” Mulder took a threatening step forward. Scully tried to mask how the blow from that comment landed on her. CSM smiled. “You don’t know what you had with that child. He was the key to everything.”

 

“Not anymore,” said Scully. “Jeffrey risked his life to take that away from you.”

 

He chuckled. “Oh right, the iron serum. That only reduces his powers for a short time. I’m sure little William is moving things around with his mind on that farm you shipped him out to.”

 

“I’m going to strangle you with my bare hands, you sick son of a bitch, and I’ll enjoy every second of it,” Mulder seethed.

 

A look of fear crossed CSM’s face for a moment as Mulder came closer to him, but before he could act on his promise, shouting from down in the canyon interrupted them. Mulder and Scully went to the window and saw Shannon down below. “Mulder!” she yelled, running toward the pueblo.

 

“Shannon, get out of there!” Mulder called out.

 

“They’re coming! They’re going to blow it up!” The sound of a helicopter buffeted in the distance following her warning.

 

Mulder turned with the full intent to kill his father before they made a run for it, but he was gone. A thin stratus of cigarette smoke hung in the air where he had stood. The man had vanished like a ghost just as he had inferred in his greeting. They looked at each other, startled, then ran out to the passageway.

 

The helicopter was getting closer, rattling the pots in the makeshift kitchen. The old woman began to panic. “Come with us,” Scully told her, taking her gently by the arm. They went down the ladders, taking turns helping the woman.

 

Shannon was on her hands and knees, alloyed patches forming on her skin like a metallic rash. She started to shake. “Run!” she grunted through gritted teeth. Scully began towards their car, guiding the Indian woman as fast as she was able. Mulder hesitated, not wanting to leave Shannon. She urged him again, “Go!”

 

He turned to run after Scully but saw her stopped as someone approached them from the base of the canyon. “Mulder!” Scully shouted and started to walk backward. As the man ran towards them, Mulder could make out his features—it was Knowle Rohrer.

 

The helicopter launched missiles at the pueblo, lighting up the side of the mountain in a giant explosion. Mulder fell to the ground, covering his head, then looked back to Shannon just as her body rocketed toward a canyon wall, obliterating into dust.

 

Knowle Rohrer had stopped when he saw what happened to Shannon. He tried to turn around and run, but he was already weakening. The helicopter circled around and began unloading gunfire into the canyon. Mulder ran to Scully and the woman and they took off toward the car. Knowle Rohrer had fallen to his knees, his body convulsing. They made it past him right before he was hurled into the rock beside them.

 

Evading bullets, they got into the car and sped out on the dirt road. Once they got onto the highway, the helicopter had disappeared—either they had lost it or the attack had been called off. Finally, Mulder and Scully could breathe sighs of relief. The woman sat in the back seat, wringing her hands and muttering anxiously in her language.

 

“We’ll take her back to the Tsosi’s. Maybe they can find out how to get her to her family,” Mulder suggested.

 

Scully nodded. Her heart was racing. Looking down, she saw that her hands were shaking, too, and she tried to still them, running them up and down her thighs. Mulder placed one of his hands over hers. There had been yet another near miss where they’d barely escaped with their lives. Scully turned her hand over and laced their fingers together.

 

***

 

Mulder sat on the floor of the hotel room with his back against the bed. Scully was wrapped in a robe, lying down, her head propped up on her hand looking at him. Rain pattered at the windows and the glow from the bedside lamp fell on his pensive face. The night bore a remarkable resemblance to one on their first case together when Mulder had first told her about his sister. She thought of how far they had come and how much tragedy they had endured since then, but what had remained the same, tested but never broken, was their trust in each other. Scully hadn’t realized it until much later, but she had loved him from that moment on.

 

“What are you thinking?” she asked softly.

 

“I’m thinking...I’m guilty. I’ve failed in every respect. I deserve the harshest punishment for my crimes,” said Mulder, mimicking his compliant prisoner act.

 

“You don’t believe that.”

 

Mulder sighed. “I believe that I sat in a motel room like this with you when we first met and I tried to convince you of the truth. And in that respect, I succeeded, but...in every other way…” He turned to look at Scully. “...I’ve failed.”

 

“You don’t believe that, either.”

 

Mulder hummed in accordance. “You believe it of yourself, though, don’t you?”

 

“I did fail. I failed you...and I failed...him,” she said, looking down, her voice catching on the mention of William.

 

“You had to, Scully. You heard the man, he is the key. They want him. We were just providing them with a way to get access to him. Now they can’t...well, at least it will be harder for them.”

 

“Do you think the Smoking Man knows where he is? He mentioned a farm. I don’t know anything about the place or the people he was sent to live with.”

 

“I don’t know. He could’ve been posturing, trying to rattle us. You said so yourself, he only tells lies.”

 

Scully’s somber gaze found him again. “Maybe.” A small but weary smile appeared in her pursed lips.

 

Mulder reached out and touched his finger to the cross at her neck, the symbol of her faith. That she was by his side now, a fugitive on the run far from a safe and normal life, was a symbol of her faith in him. He brought his thumb to her mouth and caressed her lips; she pressed a kiss into him. Then Mulder crawled up onto the bed with her, curling up around her. Scully hugged him in and they held each other close.

 

She nuzzled against him, looking into his eyes. “Maybe there’s hope,” he whispered. Mulder squeezed the hand at her waist a little tighter, pulling her closer, and closed his eyes, comforted by her presence—the love in her eyes and the warmth of her touch. Scully watched him, then settled into their entwined embrace where they both found the solace they had fought and longed for.

 

Her last thought before she drifted asleep repeated Mulder’s words:

 

Maybe there’s hope.

Chapter Text

Life on the run was a struggle, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Mulder tried his hardest to make sure of that. He knew how difficult it was for Scully to be away from home and her friends and family. It wasn’t much of an adjustment for himself since he had been on the run for so long already. In fact, it was an enormous improvement because he had Scully with him now. She was all he needed. Scully had left people she needed behind. Rather than take it personally or get depressed by that thought, he acknowledged it and did what he could to bring Scully a little joy amidst their dismal circumstances.

 

They had continued west into Arizona. One night they had stayed in a motel of concrete teepees just past the New Mexico border in the small town of Holbrook. They both enjoyed the novelty of it—different as it was from the usual rundown motel fare—and had slept in late the next morning, staying in bed until just before the check-out time.

 

Mulder had found a health food store when they made it into Sedona and bought a bunch of her favorite yogurt and a small Igloo cooler. It was hard to eat healthfully like Scully does while living on the road. Salads in dumpy diners left a lot to be desired and he could tell she was growing tired of it.

 

They indulged in some roadside attractions along the way, breaking up the monotony of drive-eat-sleep-repeat. The Petrified Forest had provided them with a day’s worth of adventure. They took their time meandering around the vast landscape, taking unoccupied hiking paths, easily avoiding the other few tourists. Most interesting were the hundreds of petroglyphs carved into stones. The outlook at Newspaper Rock had viewing scopes, and Mulder spent the better part of an hour pointing out each one that resembled an alien. Scully put up the skeptical front, but only just to tease him.

 

But, the best way to pass the time, they both agreed, was the sex. They were making up for lost time, and it was as if they were addicted to each other like they had been when they had first started sleeping together—they couldn’t get enough. They did it in every possible place—in the car, in the shower, on the floor, standing up. Right now, Mulder was taking Scully atop a dresser. She was sat on the edge, legs spread, at the perfect height for him to pound into her. The dresser knocked rhythmically against the wall, surely disturbing the occupants on the other side, but neither of them were bothered by that notion.

 

Although they knew they should be more careful; at the previous motel, the manager had been called on them twice. They had planned to stay at the last stop for just a night or two, but when they saw that the rooms were equipped with Magic Fingers, they ended up staying a week. It had been redemption that was years in the making for Scully, not to mention the added bonus of fucking on a vibrating mattress.

 

They would need to work on being more low profile, though, but Mulder’s only goal at the moment was to make Scully come. And she was close. He could tell by the way her nails dug into the flesh of his shoulders and the way her mouth hung open. Mulder crushed his lips into hers wanting to breathe in the last of her breath before her orgasm took the air out of her. He timed it perfectly; she gasped as her walls tightened around his length, and he swallowed down the sweet, intoxicating exhalation.      

 

***

 

Grant popped his head in Stella’s office door. “Gibson, join me for tea? I’ve got a table at Humphrey’s. I know it’s one of your favorites.”

 

She looked up at him thoughtfully. He rarely called her by her last name, nor did they take meals together outside of his wife’s parties. “Let me just finish up here,” Stella said motioning to the paperwork at her desk.

 

They walked the few blocks to the restaurant in silence. It was early evening, but dark out, and the beginnings of flurries salted the sky. Grant ordered them each the meat and two veg special and a bottle of wine. Stella obliged him some aimless chit chat, waiting for him to bring up the purpose of this meeting.

 

She knew it was about how she had left the office last week and then took the following day off. She also knew he was doing this out of genuine concern. They had already met about it professionally, the way a boss would address an employee’s erratic behavior. When she had walked into his office the day after, he had looked down at her shoes, her flat-soled boots, and raised an eyebrow. Before he could launch into his official reprimand, which he had stated was merely a formality, she apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again.

 

“Stella,” he began, becoming serious, “I saw what your computer was open to on the day you left. Those two fugitive FBI agents. The man, Mulder, he was the bloke who had the altercation with Brooks, yes?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Are you in a relationship with him?”

 

Stella shook her head. “No.” Then glancing down, she added softly, “With her.” Grant regarded her with sympathy and she saw it in his eyes when she looked back up at him. “I’m in love with her,” Stella confessed, followed by a small shrug and a sort of unamused laugh.

 

“All that time you took off?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Grant nodded his head slowly, seeing the tragedy of her personal situation. “I’m so sorry. Stella, you deserve every happiness. You know that, right?”

 

Stella leaned back and sighed. She couldn’t believe she had just admitted that and that she was going to continue discussing it. Saying those words out loud had felt freeing, like a step in the right direction. She had been resisting it as a truth inside her thinking it would protect her from heartache, but it hadn’t, although accepting the fact did nothing to make the impossible become possible. “I don’t think we were meant to be happy together,” said Stella in a low voice. “Grant, you wouldn’t believe some of the things that happened. I mean, big, giant signs from the universe,” she said, gesturing with her hands.

 

“Sometimes it’s in love’s best interest to ignore signs from the universe.”

 

“You’re supposed to encourage me to move on, you tosser.”

 

Grant chuckled. “From what little I know of it, I’m rooting for you two.”

 

Stella grew somber again. No matter how badly she was hurting she was safe and sound. Mulder and Scully were in constant danger out on the run, and she was rooting for them.

 

***

 

“I think we’re being followed,” Mulder said, glancing in the rearview mirror.

 

“For how long?”

 

“I noticed him about fifty miles back.”

 

In that time the highway had thinned out, leaving them, the car tailing them, and a few other vehicles on the road.

 

“Should we get off?” Scully asked.

 

“I’ll make it look like I’m going to take the next exit and see what he does.”

 

Mulder put the turn signal on and moved into the right lane. The other car remained in the left lane, but stayed at the same speed, still keeping a distance. They approached the exit and Mulder put the signal on again. Their pursuer switched lanes, leaving one truck between them. Mulder started to take the exit, then swerved back. The truck behind them exited, and the car continued to follow, speeding up, now directly behind them.

 

It was very early in the morning; the sky had yet to take on the bluish light that signaled the dawn. Mulder could not see the person in the other car. The vehicles that had been in front of them had gone on at a faster speed and disappeared over the hill ahead. It was just Mulder and Scully and a threat to their safety on this quiet stretch of highway.

 

Mulder was watching in the rearview mirror when the other car threw on the brights and sped up, tapping their back bumper. Mulder stepped on the gas, but the other car was newer and faster; it struck them again, this time causing them to spin out.

 

They were now facing their attacker. He backed up and rammed into them. The airbags went off in their faces, and they felt the car being pushed back, metal scraping against asphalt underneath them. “Mulder!” Scully yelled.

 

“Try to get out!” he said, grappling with his door handle. The airbags were deflating, letting out a powdery substance in an opaque fog.

 

They had been pushed to the side of the road, their car tipped at an angle on an incline. Coughing and contending with the cumbersome material of the airbags, they saw through the cracked windshield that the man was getting out of his car, a gun in his hand.

 

Scully got her seatbelt off and reached into the back seat, blindly feeling around for one of their holsters. Mulder tried to get the car in gear again. He pressed on the gas, but it just revved the engine.

 

“Scully, get down!” He bent down over the console toward her when he saw the man raise his weapon at them. Scully’s fingers found her gun and she struggled to free it from the holster with one hand.

 

In one swift move, she pushed Mulder’s head down into her lap and brought the gun out and over him, pointing it ahead, and fired.

 

***

 

Monica hung up the phone with a sigh.

 

“No luck?”

 

She turned to see Gibson standing behind her, and gave him a puzzled look.

 

“I've heard a lot of thoughts about Stella,” he explained.

 

“I wanted to give her some sort of an update, even if we have no news,” she said. “All I was able to do was tip her off when it was all going down. Scully has a device on her phone that checks for bugs, that’s why I wanted to come over here.”

 

“And to feed the fish,” said Gibson, going toward the tank.

 

She smiled. “And to feed the fish.”

 

Gibson opened the fish food jar and tapped some flakes into the palm of his hand then scattered them onto the surface of the water.

 

“Is this her?” he asked, setting down the container and pointing to a framed picture on the desk.

 

“Yeah, I only met her once,” she said. “I know she means a lot to Scully.”

 

Gibson nodded in agreement. He knew that as well.

 

“Alright, we better get going. Agent Doggett’s waiting.”

 

Gibson was excited to be returning home to Weed Hope. He was aware of the danger and understood why Monica and Doggett had been hesitant about the idea, but he had no other place to go.

 

Monica was struggling with similar feelings. The X-Files had been shut down, and she and Doggett were in the process of being reassigned. Deputy Director Kersh was missing, and they feared he was dead as a result of orchestrating Mulder’s escape. Under suspicion themselves, she and Doggett worried about their capability of keeping Gibson safe, so they agreed to take him back to New Mexico. They would be getting on the road in the morning.

 

Gibson knew something about their trip that Doggett did not, though. Monica was intending on going further to visit her parents in Mexico City and would be sending Doggett back with her resignation from the FBI. So many lives had been upended by what Mulder had called a war against the truth. He looked sadly around Scully's apartment, then followed Monica to the door.

 

***

 

Mulder and Scully had made it to the next rest stop before they heard the sirens. They were now on foot, bruised and banged up, and loaded down with all of their belongings from the car. After Scully had shot their assailant, they pushed both vehicles into a nearby ditch, the man’s body buckled into the driver’s seat of his car, and set them on fire.

 

Scully got bottles of water from the vending machine and joined Mulder at the picnic table where he was poring over a map.

 

“We’ll have to find another car, at a used car lot or something,” he said. “Maybe here.” Mulder pointed to a spot on the map. He took a sip of water and looked at Scully who seemed lost in thought. “Scully?”

 

“Do you think they can track us with the chip?” Her hand went up to the back of her neck.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Should we take it out?”

 

“No,” he replied quickly. “Definitely not, Scully.”

 

She nodded slowly, unsure.

 

“We could take some other precautions, though.” He wanted to change the subject. “Like disguises. I can grow out this stubble,” said Mulder, rubbing his chin. “You can dye your hair.”

 

Her expression changed from the detached pensiveness that had concerned him to one of sadness. She took a strand of hair between her fingers and looked down at it. “Yeah.”

 

Mulder walked over to her and hugged her. “Let’s try a wig first, though, okay?”

 

He felt her nod against his shoulder, then she wrapped her arms tightly around him.

Chapter Text

“Look at me, Scully.”

 

She kept her eyes closed, and her brow furrowed. “Harder,” she whispered, harshly.

 

Mulder lowered down onto his forearms on either side of her, his face directly over hers. “Scully. Open your eyes.”

 

This time she did; irritation flashed in them. “This isn’t working,” she said and scooted out from underneath him. Scully got onto her hands and knees and gave him an expected look.

 

He sighed, trying to keep his own frustration at bay. His dick was softening and the invisible wall put up by Scully was moving into place. Mulder laid down beside her and put his hand to her cheek. Her features hardened, defeated. She laid down, too, staring up at the ceiling.

 

“I can’t keep having this disconnected, rough sex with you so you can feel like you’re being punished because you think you need to be punished. I want to make love to you, Scully.”

 

She winced; his tenderness was painful to her. Scully turned on her side away from him and pulled the sheets up over her naked body.

 

“Scully,” he said sadly, trying one more time. Mulder stared at her unmoving, bare shoulder.

 

“Let’s just call it a night, Mulder.” Her words floated to his ears listlessly. He ached to touch her.

 

The distance she was putting between them was widening, stretching, sometimes slowly, sometimes drastically and sudden. Looking back, he figured it had begun about two months into their time on the road. He had been driving. The radio had surrendered to the static and he turned it off.

 

Scully was looking out the passenger side window and said, “It’s William’s first birthday today.”

 

Mulder stiffened and stifled a crestfallen sigh. There was a barrage of bad feelings. He should’ve been prepared for this, should’ve known this hard day would come. But, like Scully, or so he had thought, he had buried his grief in order to continue on. At first, they had spoken practically about William—what Jeffrey had injected him with, the things Mulder had learned from Shannon, and what he found in the facilities while he was on the run. William was more than anyone ever anticipated. Scully had done the right thing by giving him up, they both agreed, or at least they said that they did. Then they stopped bringing him up. Mulder wasn’t sure if it was because it was too painful for themselves or if they were trying to protect the other from the pain.

 

Mulder reached out and placed his hand on hers. She let him keep it there for a while, but then crossed her arms in front of her, shifting to further face the window. Maybe she wanted him to say something. Maybe she knew there was nothing to say. Maybe this hole inside her would remain gaping and cavernous and maybe she would collapse into herself, never to regain her original structure.

 

***

 

She smelled the coffee first, then she felt the dip of the bed. Scully opened her eyes to Mulder sitting next to her, the trace of a warm smile hidden behind his shaggy beard.

 

“Hey,” he said.

 

She replied, “Sorry,” and he simply leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.

 

He stood up. “I went out and got the good coffee,” said Mulder. “And bagels.”

 

Scully propped herself up on her pillow and cradled the coffee in both hands. Mulder held up the bag and said, “Real cream cheese, too,” with a little waggle of his eyebrows. She huffed out a laugh.

 

Scully sat down at the rickety table, a bagel topped with fluffy, white cream cheese in front of her. She frowned. Her appetite had been non-existent for a while now. She had lost weight, so much that it alarmed Mulder. He didn’t say anything besides gentle urgings for her to eat, but she could see it on his face and the concern in his eyes.

 

Mulder was behind her, sat cross-legged on the bed, unwrapping his own bagel. The TV was on now, set to the local news. He had picked up some newspapers while he was out. They were in a pile on the table. She took the one from the top and opened it. An event guide slid from between the pages. It was glossy and thick. They were staying at a run-down motel just off the Las Vegas strip; there was a lot to do and things to see in the area.

 

She decided to leaf through it while she picked at her bagel, trying to make it look like she had eaten some of it without having to actually eat it. There was a long list of shows to see, from big name performers to little nightclub acts. A whole section was dedicated to conferences. One caught her eye, and she tensed up. The International Law Enforcers’ Summit at the Paris Hotel. She read further and gasped when she saw the closing day speaker was DSI Stella Gibson from London’s Metropolitan Police.

 

“What’s wrong?” Mulder asked.

 

Scully shook her head. “Uh, nothing. I just bit my tongue.”

 

Closing day was today. She could be seeing Stella in mere hours. But how? It was dangerous, especially with all the law enforcement around for the conference. Surely there would be FBI there. Mulder would make them leave town if she told him about it.

 

Scully was a mess watching the clock and waiting for an opportunity to sneak away. They had spent the morning lazing about. Scully pretended to read her trashy novel and Mulder found a sci-fi B-movie marathon on television. Finally, he stood up, claiming a need to move. “I think I’m gonna go jump in the pool. Wanna come?”

 

“No, thanks.” Besides the pool looking pretty grimy, she knew this was her chance. If she wasn’t angling for an escape she would’ve suggested Mulder avoid the pool as well.

 

“You can read out there. Keep me company,” he said, shrugging.

 

That’s all they did these days—keep each other’s company. She didn’t say that though. “I’m getting a headache. Probably should stay out of the sun.”  

 

“All right.” He changed into his swim trunks, a black pair with obnoxious flames rising from the hem bought at some gas station in Utah, she recalled.

 

Once he was gone, Scully quickly dressed and put on her wig and cheap sunglasses (also a gas station purchase, possibly the same one the ugly boardshorts had come from), then she wrote a note for Mulder and left.

 

She made it to the entrance of the conference hall just in time. Streams of people exited the doors. Her heart was not so much beating but vibrating inside her chest as she searched for Stella. Being the speaker, Stella was one of the last to leave. She walked out with two men on either side of her, engaging her with follow-up questions.

 

Scully stood trying to be discreet but also to catch Stella’s eye. She nervously pushed back the side swept bangs of her dark brown wig. Then Stella saw her. She barely missed a beat of her conversation with the two men, but Scully knew she had seen her. Scully walked over to look at the window display of a nearby jewelry store, affecting an inconspicuous air as best she could.

 

Stella joined her, knowing enough to act like she didn’t know her and pretended to be interested in a gold bracelet. “I’m in room 1121,” she said under her breath. Scully nodded, and Stella saw that she did in the reflection of the window. She left Scully standing there and went toward the bank of elevators.

 

Her composure finally fell when she got back to her room and waited for Scully. She kicked her heels off and paced the floor in front of the bed a few times. “Oh my god,” Stella whispered to herself. She took a deep, unsteady breath.

 

The knock.

 

Then there was Scully.

 

They just stood there looking at each other, not saying anything. Stella stepped forward and put her hands to Scully’s face, then her fingers went up to the wig and she tugged it off, placing it down on the desk with care. Bobby pins tacked down her real hair and Stella took them out gently, one by one.

 

Her fingernails scraped her scalp as she raked them through, giving life to the fiery mane. No. Bringing it back to life. The red hair—it smoked, it burned her fingers.

 

Stella looked past, but still noticed, the gauntness, the dark circles under her eyes. And once Scully was naked she would look past, but notice, the thinness—the sharp jutting of her hip bones and rib cage, the angry bruises scattered on her pale skin in various stages of fading. They rose and seeped from underneath, little patches of sad watercolor paintings on the sickly canvas of her body.

 

Stella swallowed roughly, then opened her mouth to speak. Scully shook her head and pressed her lips to Stella’s. Scully self-consciously worried that her lips were cold; Stella’s were so soft and warm. They both seemed afraid to move, but when Scully discarded that feeling she pushed into Stella, almost aggressively, frantically, and Stella went with her, swept away.

 

The clothes came off, laying on the floor like freshly fallen leaves that announce the change of the season. Stella couldn’t catch her breath. Scully was everywhere, all at once. Her lips and hands and tongue on every part of her. It was as if Scully wanted to crawl into Stella’s skin or be absorbed through it so she no longer existed in this world. Stella had never been touched with such desperation.

 

Then her fingers pressed into her center, offering a slight relief to the ache there, and Stella did the same to Scully. They were both the source of that ache and the only comfort. They fucked each other, madly, searching for their own release and to give it.

 

A clamoring, still standing—their entwined bodies in the middle of the room. The room felt huge, like a universe. And they were there, together, one star about to burn out, trying to keep from exploding into nothing.

 

Harsh breaths, staccato, marching between them. Then a whimper. Scully came unexpectedly. The sensation overwhelmed her and she stilled her hand, her fingers going lax inside Stella. Stella took the opportunity to kiss Scully again without all the urgency, but Scully only allowed the leisurely embrace for a moment. She reached for Stella’s wrist, brought it up between them, and interlaced their fingers, sticky with cum, together. Stella watched Scully play with her fingertips, smearing their arousal around. Scully leaned in and took two of Stella’s middle fingers into her mouth and placed her own hand at Stella’s lips. They sucked at each other's fingers, tasting their combined cum, watching one another, until Stella folded. The need for release enveloped her.

 

Scully pushed her back against the wall and lowered to her knees, her hands gripping Stella’s hips. Her mouth met Stella’s hot, wet sex, and she licked the length of her entrance, nipping at her clit. Stella’s fingers were in her hair again, and as her orgasm jolted through her core, she made fists—handfuls of fire.

 

They had made each other come, there should’ve been a satisfaction, a contentment, but they both still had an intense need. Greed didn’t quite capture the crux of their situation, but they were greedy. And still coiled together they went to the bed. They moved above and below the other, around, up and down. Skin touching skin, a mess of limbs—wetness and heat.

 

They came again, grinding their cunts against each other, their legs criss-crossed, fingers working their clits. Scully fell back, finally spent, her head near the pillows. Stella stayed up, propped on her elbows at the foot of the bed, watching the heavy rise and fall of Scully’s chest.

 

When her own breath leveled out, Stella crawled up and laid down beside Scully, looking up. “Scully,” she said. It was the first word spoken between them since Scully had knocked on the door.

 

“I just,” Scully began, interrupting her. But there was nothing to interrupt. Stella hadn’t intended on saying anything else. She only wanted to say Scully’s name out loud into the silence of the room, the room in which Scully was present. It still felt dreamlike.

 

“I just want to close my eyes,” Scully said, turning on her side, facing Stella who was still looking up at the ceiling. “Just for a minute. This bed is so comfortable,” she murmured, also meaning that being next to Stella in that bed was more comfortable than it had been with Mulder as of late. She drifted into sleep, and it felt like stepping off a cliff.

 

***

 

Mulder read the note again. The hurried scrawl of Scully’s handwriting; it belied the casual message.

 

Mulder,

I needed to get out for a bit. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.

Please don’t worry.

S

 

Please don’t worry. Was she fucking kidding? He checked her duffel bag; her gun was still there. There was no sign of a struggle in the room, nothing indicated that she had been under duress writing the note. Mulder was stuck; he paced, he kept walking over the wet spot on the carpet from when he had stood, still dripping from the pool, seeing her note the first time. He couldn’t leave, what if she came back? And where would he go? There was no place he could think of where she would go to “get out for a bit.” He understood the need for space, but for a couple of hours?

 

“What the fuck, Scully?” he asked the absence of her. Frustrated, Mulder kicked the wastebasket across the small room. The contents spilled out on the floor—the wrappers from their breakfast, an event guide insert from the newspaper. He leaned down, picked it up, and looked through it.

 

***

 

She smelled Stella’s perfume first, then she felt the dip of the bed. Scully opened her eyes to Stella sitting next to her, a blank expression on her face. “Mulder is on his way over.”

 

Scully’s eyes widened. “What?” She kicked at the sheets tangled around her legs. “How?” Her heart was beating fast and she stood. “Why?” She started picking up her clothes from the floor. Stella was calmly making the bed, sharing none of Scully’s panic and offering no explanation.

 

Scully picked up the wig, then the bobby pins. She looked down at them laying in her palm. Stella was watching her and she saw her deflate. Scully looked up and pleaded with Stella with her eyes, but neither of them knew what that plea was for. Stella was trying to box up her feelings, but sorrow and sympathy still showed on her face. Scully turned, her arms full of her disguise—her second self, her parallel self—and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

 

Stella sat down on the bed; she had already dressed. She crossed her legs and leaned down to feel her newest scar on the sole of her foot—that jagged triangle—before putting on her heels.

 

The knock.

 

Stella went to the door and looked through the peephole, although she didn’t need to. She knew it was him; she could hear his worry in the knock. They silently nodded their greetings to each other, acknowledging the awkwardness and forgoing unnecessary pleasantries, but Mulder said, “Thank you for calling.”

 

He looked around the room and then stopped himself. If he just outright asked if they had fucked, Stella would probably be honest with him—from what little he knew of her, he was aware of her candor. But, he didn’t want to know. Best not to uncover this mystery.

 

“Mulder, I had hoped you were both okay all this time, but seeing Scully...she seems…” Stella didn’t know what to say to not make Mulder feel worse than he already was. “She seems hollowed out.”

 

He nodded, sadly agreeing with her. “It’s been rough. We’ve had a few close calls, and I know this life,” Mulder hesitated, then reworded his statement, “that living like this is taking its toll on her. On us,” he added, either to confide in her or to inform her that he and Scully were still an “us.”

 

“The light inside her, it’s almost extinguished. Mulder, don’t let it go out.”

 

Scully looked at herself in the mirror before putting her wig on. Her face was sallow, harsh and thin. She was a shell of the woman Stella had last seen. Funny how she had thought that at the time, too. She had been a grieving mess, thinking things could not possibly get worse. How wrong she had been about that.

 

These last five months on the road had not been kind to her, and she had not been kind to herself, each day hating herself a little bit more. Seeing Stella had caused her to confront this, but she wasn’t sure she could really face it.

 

Scully listened to their muffled voices on the other side of the door. She would have to go out there sooner or later and confront even more of her grim reality. With the wig now in place, she gave herself one last look. The dark hair made her features harder and sunken.

 

The three of them hadn’t been in a room together since the morning after the night they had shared, but they had been a constant in each other’s lives all along.

 

Scully raised her chin to appear more confident but seeing them both standing there shook her. She looked from one to the other and settled on Mulder. “Mulder, I’m sorry I left like that.”

 

“I’m just glad you’re safe. I didn’t-- I was scared something had happened.” Something had happened, though, hadn’t it? thought Mulder. He was going to do something about it. “Scully, I want you to stay with Stella. Fly back with her.”

 

Scully and Stella were both taken aback by this. Then Scully’s surprise turned to anger. “Don’t do that. Don’t make it look like I have a choice when I don’t. I’ve hurt her before, do not set me up to do it again—make it seem like I’m choosing you over her.”

 

“Scully, I--” Mulder tried to explain.

 

“And besides it wouldn’t work,” Scully continued. “I can’t get on a plane, even with a fake ID. I can’t be seen with her. The Shadow Man knew about her. They're probably watching her. This could put her in more danger.”

 

Now it was Mulder’s turn to be surprised alongside Stella.

 

“This was already too dangerous, and that’s on me,” said Scully. “Fuck!” She was almost manic at this point. She shook her head. “No, we have to go.”

 

Scully went over to Stella, took her face between her hands, and kissed her deeply on the lips. Then she hugged her and whispered in her ear, “I love you.”

 

Stella was frozen—stilted, panting breaths trapped inside her chest. Scully went to the door. “Come on,” she said to Mulder and walked out, leaving him and Stella staring at each other, stunned.

Chapter Text

They were silent on the way back to their motel room, but as soon as they closed the door, Mulder spoke, wanting to set his intentions straight. He tried to keep his defensiveness and hurt feelings out of it.

 

“That’s not why I wanted you to go with her, Scully,” said Mulder, beginning in the middle of the discussion they had had back in Stella’s room. “To put you in some bad position.” He paused and collected himself, having heard bitterness in his last words. “You’re already in a bad position with me, and I’m scared for you. I don’t want this for you.”

 

“There’s not much we can do about it,” she retorted, pulling her wig off and tossing it on the bed. She had not had the same talk with herself about not being defensive as Mulder had.

 

He sighed heavily. “Scu--”

“Mulder, I hate myself,” she said, emphatically. “Things that have happened before have broken me but giving up William has shattered me. And I can’t pick up the pieces. I can’t because some are with William, and with Stella, and my mother. I have hurt people I love and let them down. I have done it to you and here you are with love and forgiveness giving me back pieces of myself, and I am grateful for that, but it still doesn’t make me whole again.”

 

They stared at each other. He did not have a response to that unless she could hear the breaking of his heart. No, there’s not much we can do about that, Mulder thought, reiterating her statement.

 

Scully started to take the bobby pins out of her hair, but her hands were shaking. She got the first couple out and let them fall to the floor, then one got tangled and she struggled with it, tugging angrily. “Uuugh!” she grunted, frustrated, her face turning red. Mulder went to her and put his hands over hers to stop her, then he worked the stubborn metal pin out.

 

Scully burst into tears and Mulder wrapped his arms around her. Her frail frame sagged in his embrace. “I’m so sorry, Mulder,” she managed to say in between sobs. “I’m so sorry.”

 

He shushed her, rocking her gently. “It’s okay.” Mulder wasn’t sure what she was apologizing for—sneaking out to see Stella (and possibly—most likely—sleeping with her), William, her outburst; but when he said “It’s okay,” he meant it for any or all of it. These past months he had been watching her drown and he had no life preserver to give her. If her time with Stella had brought her up to the surface for a moment, then he was grateful it had happened.

 

***

 

“Danny, what have you got for me.”

 

“You were right, ma’am. Keeping tabs on Stella Gibson paid off. They’ve been seen in Las Vegas.”

 

With a few quick keyboard strokes, he brought up security camera footage on his computer screen. He pointed at a fuzzy figure, the back of a woman’s head. “That’s Scully.” Then Stella exited the conference hall and he pointed to her. “And that’s Stella.”

 

They watched the women’s brief, subtle interaction in front of the jewelry store. Danny typed some more commands and the image on the screen changed to the hotel hallway. It showed Stella going into Room 1121 and Scully knocking on the door a short while after. “The two of them are in there for just under two hours.” Danny missed the little smirk that flashed on Erika Price’s face. He fast forwarded the footage. “And then Mulder shows up.”

 

“Kinky,” she murmured under her breath.

 

“Fifteen minutes later, Scully leaves, followed by Mulder.”

 

“When was this?”

 

“About twenty-four hours ago.”

 

Erika’s jaw clenched and she closed her eyes in frustration. “Danny, tell me you mean minutes.”

 

“No, ma’am,” he replied, pleasantly. “Hours. We had trouble getting into the hotel’s live CCTV. We could only get footage after the fact.”

“Unbelievable,” she said. “We are in the process of creating the first truly virtual world and we can’t get fucking video from a theme park hotel until a day later.”

 

Danny shrugged.

 

“They could be long gone now, but let’s get an agent out there.”

 

“Agent Crane was attending the conference. I think he is still in Vegas.”

 

“Jesus Christ. This is all fucked. We had an agent there the whole goddamned time?” It was her job to locate Mulder and Scully, but her suggestion to follow Stella Gibson had fallen on deaf ears of those in charge. She had enlisted Danny to track her anyway while she was in the States.

 

“We have a man on Stella now. Agent Reynolds. At McCarran Airport, international departures.”

 

“Pull him. No use tracking Ms. Silk Blouse any longer,” she ordered. “Put him with Crane. See if those two dip shits can put their tin can brains together and find the mark.” She turned on her heel and made towards the door with a huff. “Super Soldiers, my ass.”

 

Danny watched her go, a grin growing on his face. He had lied about the twenty-four-hour time frame. It was more like forty-eight hours since Mulder and Scully had been with Stella. He could’ve easily hacked into the Paris Hotel CCTV and accessed their live feed. In fact, that’s just what he had done, and then he doctored the time stamp to make it look like it had happened a day ago and sat on it for another day. It was the best Danny could do to help Mulder and Scully gain a head start. He wasn’t the only one working under Erika Price, and if he wanted to keep helping them he would have to make it look like he was still doing his job.

 

He had considered Mulder and Scully his colleagues, maybe even work friends. They had called upon his help many times over the years when he was at the FBI. Titanpointe had recruited him about two years ago, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that he did it for the money. It was only after that he had learned it was really part of a larger clandestine consortium with their hand in all sorts of villainous projects. Danny had been just about to quit when he caught wind that they were on task to eliminate his old FBI buddies. He decided to stay on in order to thwart this plan.

 

Danny dialed a number and spoke into the handset. “Agent Reynolds, stand down. Report to Agent Crane.”

 

“Copy that,” came the reply.

 

Agent Reynolds gave one last look at Stella Gibson and turned, walking to the exit.

 

Stella retrieved her bag from the security check conveyor belt and went to her gate. She stood, indecisively, looking back and forth at the bar and the attendant at the gate desk, tapping her plane ticket against her palm.

 

The attendant smiled as she approached. “Can I help you?”

 

“Yes. I’d like to change my flight going to Heathrow to Washington D.C., please.”   

 

***

 

Mulder and Scully had passed into California nearly seven hours ago. They drove, stopping only for gas until they hit the ocean. Not much talking had happened along the way. After Scully had calmed down, comforted by Mulder who was still in a state of shock over everything that had happened with Stella and the things Scully had said, they packed up and left town.

 

Mulder parked the car alongside the coastal highway and walked out to the bluff that looked out over a small, unpopulated stretch of beach. It was overcast; featureless, gray clouds spreading under the marine layer—a slowly moving, somber mass that felt like it was playing tricks on his eyes. He had been driving too long. Mulder rubbed his face with his hands.

 

He heard Scully approach behind him, then she stood next to him. She looked straight out ahead at the hazy horizon. After a while, Mulder spoke, his voice hoarse. “It’s resentment. You resent me and I don’t blame you.” He felt her turn to look at him, but he continued to stare at the water. “I should’ve never left you and William. Hell, I should’ve never left you to go back to Bellefleur in the first place.”

 

Scully reached out and took his hand in hers, linking them, standing side by side—just how they had been, metaphorically, coming to those decisions. Scully had told Stella she loved her back at the hotel because she wasn’t able to show her and she might not ever see her again. She hadn’t been saying it to Mulder all this time even though when he was dead she had regretted not saying it enough while he was alive, thinking that simply being with him on the run indicated that she did.

 

“I love you, Mulder,” she said, then rested her head against his shoulder.

 

Mulder squeezed her hand but was at a loss for words. He thought back to the first time she had said that to him. It had been the day after they had slept with Stella. It was in the shower and they had just made each other come while Stella was in the other room. It was Scully’s response to him telling her that she made him happy. It had surprised him then and it surprised him now.

 

“How much longer can we do this?” he finally said. “Live like this?”

 

“I don’t know,” Scully replied, and she honestly didn’t.

 

He turned to her, taking her other hand in his as well. “Scully, I love you so much. It’s killing me to see what this is doing to you.”

 

She leaned in and put her arms around his waist. He kissed the top of her head, but his lips met the synthetic hair so he moved further down in search of her skin. Mulder placed a soft kiss at her temple and he felt her tighten her hold on him.

 

***

 

Skinner was reading an expense report that made his eyes blur when his assistant’s voice came on over the intercom.

 

“Sir, Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson here to see you.”

 

He wrinkled his brow, trying to think of where he had heard that name before and from where such a title came. “All right,” he said.

 

He stood as Arlene opened the door to his office and ushered Stella inside. “Ah yes, now I remember,” said Skinner, holding out his hand. “Agent Scully’s friend.” He tried to hide the wince he felt just from saying Scully's name. Stella shook his hand and he motioned for her to have a seat.

 

She remained standing. “Do you mind if we take a walk instead?” asked Stella. “Outside.”

 

They left the Hoover building, Skinner directing them to a nearby esplanade. It was pretty sunny out for a winter day. The city had not seen any snow yet.

 

“It seems quite silly, but I’d rather take precaution than not,” Stella said. “I guess it’s possible that your office is bugged?”

 

This caught Skinner off guard at first, but she was friends with Scully so he shouldn’t have been too surprised. “It’s very possible, Ms. Gibson.”

 

“You’ve got to do something to initiate their return. You need to do it now.”

 

Every sentence from her threw him. “Wha-- You’ve seen them?”

 

She nodded almost imperceptibly.

 

“I-- I can’t. I don’t know how. My superior was found dead because he helped them escape. I--” He struggled to explain the layered dilemma they were in. “My hands are tied.”

 

Stella stopped and turned to him. “Then bloody untie them,” she said, her voice raising slightly. “These two people, their lives are at stake, and after they’ve lost so much at the hands of your government. Do something.”

 

Skinner looked away but nodded, then he stuffed his hands in his coat pockets. “Okay. I will try. I’ll see what I can do.”

 

Stella suppressed an eye roll at his weak commitment to the task. “You can start by giving me Mrs. Scully’s address.”

 

“Scully’s mom? Why?”

 

“Because someone should let her know that her daughter is alive.”

 

***

 

Erika stepped into her boss’ office. “Yuri, we have a lead on Mulder and Scully.”

 

“It’s about damn time.”

 

She shook her head, annoyed. He was well aware that she thought this manhunt was unnecessary.

 

“May I get back to more pressing matters now?” she asked. The simulation was the only thing important to her. It was her baby.

 

Yuri Yavokov, known as Mr. Y in sinister circles, took off his reading glasses and regarded her. “What would those pressing matters be, Erika?”

 

“The simulation.”

 

“And here I was thinking it was finding the boy. Did you forget that was the reason we were looking for Mulder and Scully?”

 

“They don’t know where he is. It’s a wild goose chase. Let Spender’s men find them, kill them, whatever. We will find William, but he’s of no use to us now. He’s a fucking infant, Yuri. What are we supposed to do with an infant? He’s only useful to us when he’s older.”

 

“We can’t let Spender get to him first.”

 

She huffed out a laugh. “That decrepit skin-bag of smoke can’t find anything besides a pack of Morley's. He’s inconsequential, Yuri. I keep telling you that.”

 

“He’s kept tabs on Mulder and Scully for years, Erika. I wouldn’t underestimate him.”

 

“Yeah, because that chip thing worked so well in tracking Scully, huh?” she said sarcastically.

 

“That’s old technology. I was never relying on that,” said Yuri, waving his hand to dismiss the point she was trying to make. “I was relying on you, though. To find them. To find William.”

 

She stood a little taller. “I think it’s a mistake,” Erika stated. “We go after the boy later.”

 

“Later,” he chuckled. “As in years later? Leaving all this time for someone else to find him or for something to happen to him? We need to secure him now.”

 

“That didn’t work with Gibson Praise. He was nine years old and he slipped through your fingers.”

 

Anger flashed in his eyes at the mention of Gibson. He had been a part of that project and its failure was still a sore subject for him. Erika knew that. “Erika, you have been assigned a job. I suggest you do that job and when you’ve completed it, you can focus on your precious simulation.”

 

Her mouth formed a stiff line.

 

“Am I understood?”

 

“Yes,” she said, seething.

 

***

 

“Oh my goodness! Stella, come in,” Maggie exclaimed when she saw Stella standing on her porch. She wrapped her up in a hug, though, before letting her through the door.

 

Maggie chattered anxiously as she led Stella into the kitchen. “It’s been so long. You’re looking well. Can I make you some tea? Gosh, I won’t be able to make it properly for you, I’m sure. How about coffee?”

 

Stella put her hand on Maggie’s arm. “Tea would be lovely, Maggie, however you make it.”

 

She smiled at Stella’s gesture to calm her and it worked. Maggie took a breath, then got the kettle going on the stove. “So to what do I owe the pleasure?” asked Maggie nervously. She knew it had something to do with Scully.

 

“I want you to know that Scully, um, Dana, is alive. I saw her.” Maggie’s eyes grew wide and teary. “I’m sure you have been wondering, probably going mad with worry. I know I was,” said Stella.

 

Maggie nodded, then crumbled, covering her eyes, and started to cry. Stella got up from her stool at the counter and put her arm around her. Maggie turned into her, burying her face in Stella’s shoulder. She cried for a while, Stella holding her and fighting back her own tears.

 

The kettle whistled shrilly on the stove, and Maggie finally pulled away, sniffling, to tend to it. “I didn’t know what to think. I prayed. I prayed a lot.” She poured the hot water into two mugs and dunked green tea bags in each of them. Maggie handed one to Stella and then sat down at the kitchen table. “You know I’ve been in this situation before with her.” Stella sat next to her.

 

“Is she okay?” asked Maggie.

 

Stella was afraid of that question. In her opinion, Scully was not okay. She wished she could just tell Maggie that she was alive and leave it at that. “She’s, uh, she’s hanging in there. They both are. They are surviving. Under the circumstances, I think we can be grateful for that.”

 

Maggie nodded. She understood, and she was glad to hear that Mulder was still with her. “Can we expect them home? Is anything being done?”

 

“I’ve spoken to their former boss, Walter Skinner. He said he would do what he could.” Stella didn’t want to over-promise results. Skinner hadn’t been too confident that he could do anything, but she wanted Maggie to know that someone cared enough to try.

 

“I miss her so much, Stella.”

 

“I know. I do, too.”