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the stars seem out of reach

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Back then, there were all of these reasons they couldn't, they shouldn't, like - like, they'd be a fucking disaster together (and they probably would have been, but he fucked up his marriage pretty badly, and there's a slight overlap in her last two serious relationships that even he's too polite to point out, so) and they worked together (not anymore) and his feelings and Mulder's feelings got all tangled up and bled all over each other and it was easier to just - not.

 

He's never been able to describe their relationship - suspects that maybe there's no one word that properly encapsulates the last two decades. She wasn't (just) a co-worker (Chris), or a friend (Gary) or - or lover (Téa), and his feelings are such a strange combination of paternalistic (a vestige from the early days, back when she was a plain-faced 24 year old who listened to The Clash on her discman and spoke too freely to interviewers and worried about being replaced) and vaguely spousal (because you can't go through what they have, can't be the only two who understand and not have it bond you in some, strange way).

 

(She tweaks his side and laughs, "Surprise!" and when he hugs her (grabs her), her hand cups the back of his neck for a moment, and when she pulls away, his hand falls, instinctively, to that spot at the small of her back and some things between them, some things, will always be easy).

 

 

*

 

OK, yeah, she said she'd come, said she'd fly out and see him, but there are years of empty promises like that (his wedding, her play), and he's not sure what makes this one different, why this one, this one she decided to keep.

 

(Maybe it doesn't matter).

 

 

*

 

 

"You were pretty good up there," she says, in a way that'd be almost flirtatious if it wasn't him, if it wasn't them.

 

"I bet you say that to all the guys," he pretend to demur, and she still gets the same two lines that bracket her mouth when she smiles.

 

"Only the ones who buy me dinner?" she half-asks, rhetorically, and he sighs, in mock-annoyance

 

(wonders - won't ask - how long she plans to stay).

 

 

*

 

 

Her arm's under his jacket, low across his back, playing with a belt loop on his hip, and when he glances down at her, she looks like she's listening, intently, to whatever Amanda's saying, even though he knows - he knows - she can't stand her

 

(it's the same face she wears when she talks to Téa).

 

 

*

 

 

"Let's blow this joint," he murmurs, likes the way she ducks away from the breath tickling her ear, likes the way her hair's falling across her face. "Téa's not staying with me," he says - doesn't elaborate - and her eyebrows arch slightly, but all she says is -

 

"It's nice that you guys are trying to work things out," and it's level and non-committal and there's a rueful smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

 

 

*

 

 

They're on the sidewalk outside the theatre when she lights up ("Filthy habit," he says, mock disapprovingly, reaching for the cigarette for a quick drag, and she slaps lightly at his hand, but lets him take it, and he's standing there, in downtown Manhattan, when her hand curls around his wrist, guiding the cigarette back to her mouth).

 

 

*

 

 

Her hair's blonde again, her accent that curious hybrid she can't seem to shake, and the backs of her fingers keep brushing his in the elevator up to his room.

 

 

*

 

 

He's sitting on the hotel bed and she's rooting through his mini-bar and it's just the two of them, without the buffer of Mulder and Scully, and there aren't any cameras or carpets or kids, and even though he's known her for most of his adult life, he's spent so little time with her like this.

 

She grabs a soda and joins him on the bed.

 

"You're paying for that," he mumbles.

 

"The hell I am," she replies, twisting off the cap. "What are we watching? Basketball?" she answers her own question before he can open his mouth, sounds so much like Scully for a moment that his throat aches

 

(and he doesn't miss it, usually, doesn't miss the long days or ass-crack of dawn starts or Vancouver or the fucking rain or the days he could barely look at her, the days even her voice had him all but grinding his teeth, but sometimes, sometimes he misses parts of it. Just - parts).

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

"Chris says the script's coming along," she says, and her bare toes are pressing into his calf, through his slacks.

 

"Chris says a lot of things," he replies, flatly, and she laughs (and it's still loud and infectious and disarmingly unselfconscious).

 

"Have a little faith, David" she pretends to admonish.

 

"In Chris? Did you see the last movie-" he breaks off when she shoves at his shoulder.

 

"Hey!" she protests - then, off his look, "It was pretty fucking awful, wasn't it?" and they're both laughing and maybe twenty years ago, they would've cared, back when she was above doing television and he clung to his half-finished doctorate like it could save him, but they've done a lot of growing up, together and apart, since then.

 

 

*

 

 

They don't have a lot to talk about, but, really, they never did.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

She crosses her ankles, her dress creeping a little higher up her legs.

 

"If you could go back," she says, picking at the soda bottle's label with her thumbnail, "would you - would you do it again?"

 

(and it's a question, a what if game, that belongs to Mulder and Scully, not them, but for a moment, he imagines never having done it. Never having been tied, inextricably, to Mulder. The show. Her. Never having met her).

 

He leans over, impulsively, and kisses her temple, lingers there for a moment, nose flattening against her hair, before replying, "Some of it."

 

"Some of it?" she echoes, and his hand lands - clumsy and heavy and affectionate - on her thigh.

 

"The parts that mattered."

 

(Back then, there were all of these reasons, all of these reasons that don't matter anymore (and maybe, he thinks, maybe they never did)).