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"It’s quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don’t do it." --Jean-Paul Sartre

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Dammit to Hell!” Scully said as the El Camino sped away. Her boots stamped the dirt. “Motherfuckers.” The tires she had failed to shoot out kicking grit and dirt in their faces in as the souped up car peeled out of the deserted campground lot.

Things in the field got heated, and Scully was as prone to frustration as most, but Mulder was surprised by her outburst. They had only been tagging along on the case, and even when she was royally pissed, she was more likely to effect a bedside manner of cool detachment.

As the Tampa field officers who hadn’t gunned their engines and taken off in pursuit cleared the area, Mulder ran over to check on her. She was staring at the ground muttering, her posture stiff, her service weapon tapping against her right thigh. She raised her gaze to glare at him, but didn’t holster her weapon.

Livid Scully, he knew, was a product of having been coaxed from her comfortable bed on a Sunday by her hare-brained partner for yet another lead in yet another tucked away hamlet. This time in Florida — into the whorling claws of a hurricane no less — on something only remotely FBI related: A sea monster as described by a liver-spotted drunk coot. The Monster Mash. She knew every step.

Except this time, before they’d been able to board a flight home, they were called in to work with a team of local agents on a case sixty some odd miles north and inland of Tampa. The middle of nowhere, Florida.

It seemed a couple of locals had attempted to take advantage of the fact that law enforcement resources were spread thin due to the aftermath of the hurricane by robbing their local branch of Wells Fargo.

Luckily, the two men proved to be unusually inept. Their faces and license plate number were a matter of record, their hands stained with ink from a dye pack. Before long they would bumble themselves into custody, no doubt.

“Mulder, how did we get here again?” Scully asked, blowing her hair out of her eyes. Her face was flushed in the muggy heat, her eyes bright with what he could only assume was anger. He exhaled fractionally in relief as she put away her gun, hoped she didn’t notice.

“Where would that be, Scully?” Mulder said politely.

“You tell me!” she yelled, stomping away toward the bath house.

Mulder’s mouth fell open and he stared gapingly behind her.

The three or four of the Tampa field agents Mulder hadn’t realized were huddled nearby tittered. One winced and shook his head at Mulder. Another whistled softly.

Scully, on the other hand, wheeled her oh-so-red head around and irradiated him with a look of fury that actually frightened him. Livid Scully had become apoplectic in no time flat. She kept walking away, quickly. Crap.

As he made their way to their rental car to await her pissed off return, he tried to figure out what had made her so very mad. I mean, she’d been grouchy as hell all day and the day before, irritable with his driving choices. And should he happen to attempt to lighten the mood by cracking a joke? Nope.

He was occasionally treated to this version of Scully for a few days at a time. After a few...cycles of this routine, he more or less figured out what was going on, though the exact provenance of the mood, on any given occasion, usually remained unconfirmed. While his sky high IQ most definitely did not provide any kind of measure of his social acumen, he wasn’t a total moron in the ways of women.

Even as the thought crossed his mind, he realized it was bullshit.

She slipped into the passenger seat briskly, buckled up, and they were headed to the motel to pack. Then to the Tampa-St.Pete airport, with any luck to catch the late flight home.

He was glad they were no longer needed on this idiotic case. Maybe he could arrange a seat far, far from Scully for his for the trip to DC.

He assumed she would rip into him as soon as they cleared earshot of the local field agents. But instead she tipped her seat back a few degrees and sat in silence as he drove. He could see that she’d regained her composure, splashed some water on her face and was braced in the bucket seat. Whatever had upset her so much, she didn’t want to discuss it.

Finally, as they pulled into the motel lot, he broke the silence.

“Scully,” he offered “I’m sorry to have offended you. I know you’re not thrilled that I dragged you out to some Godforsaken place yet again, this time in a hurricane no less. I understand that.”

She grunted a laugh and turned her head to look out the window. He was happy to be treated to a better view of the underside of her jaw and the strong cords of her neck. Her pulse ticked away, slow and steady, visible to his practiced eye beneath the soft skin at her sternal notch.

She stole his breath more and more these days.

He had to stay on task, though, if he hoped to emerge from this current scrape at least alive. To improve his general standing with her would be an optimal result.

“I’m trying to apologize here. What’s funny about that, Scully?” he asked with genuine curiosity.

“Mulder. You’re apologizing about the wrong thing. God, If I became irate every time you cajoled me into joining you on some…some...zany caper, I’d… Well, I don’t know what I’d do. I wouldn’t be a very happy person.”

Huh? “Scully. Please. Explain it to me like I’m a fifth grader. What did I do to make you mad?”

“Ok then,” she said, inhaling the still stifling evening air deeply through her nose and into her stomach, and closing her eyes for a fraction. It was technique he’d seen her employ in the past when gathering patience. He gave her many opportunities to practice.

Mulder, I’m going to explain it to you like you’re an eighth grader instead. An eighth grader leaning against his locker talking with his friends as a girl walks by on her way to the library.

“ did this girl have owlish glasses, curled bangs, freckles, and an armful of books?”

Scully sighed. “All right, I’ll play along. Are you thinking of me Mulder? How do you know what I looked like back then?”

“I saw pictures photo albums your mom brought to the hospital when you were sick.”

He looked down as he confessed. She might think he was respectfully remembering her cancer. The truth was, he couldn’t put his eyes on her, remembering how those waxy pages later, after she was well, provided fodder for his prurient imagination. Scully through the years. Gulp.

“No this middle schooler isn’t me,”  she said. “It’s hypothetical.”

“OK,” he said, getting back with the program. “I’m listening, Captain.”

He had piloted the car into a parking space, and they remained sitting there talking for several minutes. He went to cut the engine, but realized how good the A/C felt. The sweat that had covered him all day was beginning to dry and flake.

“Mulder, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously. I’m really pissed.”

He felt pure of intention where Scully was concerned. “I know you are. I don’t mean to downplay it. But the thing is, Scully, I still don’t know why.”

“Right.” she said. She still hadn’t looked at him. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we just forget it and get on a plane?”

“Sounds good,” he said, smirking and cracking the seal of the door, exploding the mood quiet intimacy that had arisen between them. Now HE was pissed. He ripped the keys from the ignition and stalked off toward his room. He knew he should let it go if she wanted to, but damn he was tired of being put off by her.

Back in his room he closed the door and stopped, listed stiffly against the jamb, felled by her. He rested his hand over his heart and smiled. The pain was sweet.

A few minutes later after splashing water on his own face, He was genuinely shocked to realize he actually did want to know what he’d done to offend her. Maybe he wouldn’t change his seat after all.

Chapter Text

Alas, the last flight to DC was cancelled, they discovered when Scully had called to check, the storm churning up the coast wreaking havoc with airline schedules. No more flights were scheduled between Tampa to anywhere east of Chicago until morning.

An undeclared truce in place, they were grabbing a late dinner at the diner next door to the motel. By candlelight it turned out, though it was far from romantic; electric power had been up and down since the hurricane. Each booth was lit by three tea lights in opaque glass holders.

With some food in her stomach, Scully’s mood had vastly improved; she was enjoying the vegetable soup and wishing she’d ordered a bowl instead of a cup with her salad. She figured that was safe, what with the refrigeration situation. Mulder picked at the last quarter of a turkey club — he didn’t like mayo fortunately — the first three of which he’d wolfed down.

Looking at him shifting in his seat and avoiding her eyes, she felt a little sorry for having come down so hard on him earlier. For her, the incident was long past.

“Glad this place stayed open,” Scully said. “We really are in the sticks here. I don’t think there’s another restaurant for miles.”

Mulder nodded. “Yeah, it’s State Forest and protected wetland for miles around. Not many businesses.”

A few minutes passed. Mulder looked uncomfortable and strange to her, lit only by the candle light from below. His face faraway, almost pained.

“Hey,” she said, reaching across the table and touching him briefly on the forearm. “I didn’t mean to take your head off earlier.”

“What?” he said, wincing as he brought his attention back to her. “Oh, that’s ok. I’m over it.”

“Me too,” Scully said, nodding.

“Though I wouldn’t mind knowing what had you so upset…”

Scully thought about whether she wanted to go into it with him.

“Fair enough,” she said, sighing. They had nothing but time. She inhaled and tried to choose her words carefully. “I was irritated, but not surprised, when those idiot field officers got to snickering when I missed trying to shoot out those tires then got mad about it.”

“OK,” he said, listening.

“If I had been a male agent, I doubt they would have reacted that way. It’s annoying, always having to prove yourself. I deal with shit like this when we wander very far from DC, Mulder. All women in the field will say the same thing. So it was annoying.”

“I get that, Scully. I’m not deaf, dumb, or blind to the kind of treatment you sometimes encounter because of your gender.”

“But when saw you making fun of me and egging them on, I was hurt.” She was surprised and horrified to realize she was crying, swiping away tears before they spilled onto her cheeks.

“Hey. Scully,” Mulder said, jumping up to switch to her side of the booth, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“Offa me,” she said, rolling her shoulder and sloughing off his hand, trying to regain her composure. The combination of her bone deep fatigue and hormones had her all churned up.

If pressed, she’d have to admit that Mulder’s connection to Diana Fowley had mucked up the usually clear waters of their partnership. She probably wouldn’t have been bothered by any of this before.

He folded his hands on the table. “I hadn’t realized till just now how that must have looked to you. I’m truly sorry.”

She shook her head and looked out the window into the nearly empty dark parking lot. In the window, he could see her lips lit by candlelight set firmly against any more tears.

“My only defense is that I wasn’t making fun of you. I mean, I reacted to your uncharacteristic display of temper. But you have to believe me Scully, I barely even registered those off-brand douches.”

“What do you mean, you weren’t making fun of me? What was that….. face?” She imitates his agog jaw-dropped look from earlier.

“It was just a face,” he offered meekly.

She gave him her most skeptical look.

“Scully, I was a little bit surprised you were so pissed. And, in all seriousness?” He paused, as if unsure if he wanted to give up the goods.

“What?” she said.

“You, ah, you looked kind of attractive to me at that moment. For some reason.”

“Ah ha.” She said. Her cheeks warmed a bit at his confession.

He’d embarassed her, but she looked much happier than she had a few minutes before.

“I wasn’t playing to an audience, though. I wouldn’t do that.”

“Okay Mulder. I’m glad we cleared things up.” she said.

“Good,” he said. “Also, as an aside, I think those agents, immature as they were, were more laughing at me.”

She wanted to ask why, but wasn’t sure that was a safe line of questioning. “Like I said, I’m over it.”

“I have to, uh, go.” Mulder said suddenly, slipping out of the booth beside her. She wasn’t sure if he meant back to his room or what, but she saw him push into the men’s room.

She was looking forward to the best night's sleep the damp lumpy mattress in her motel room could offer. She signaled the waitress for a check. The waitress brought it over. In the time it took for Scully to slap down some cash request and receive a hand-written receipt, she was surprised to realize Mulder was still in the bathroom.

She hoped he hadn’t been snatched from the throne and dragged through the hoop into the sewers by the first cousin of the thing that had left creepy tentacle marks on his neck the day before. Maybe he wouldn’t even resist, as anxious as he’d be to get a glimpse of the sea-monster lair.

Just as she was rising to tap on the men’s room door to check on him, he appeared at the table again.

She was ready to go, but he sunk down into the other side of the booth as thought they’d just arrived.

“We’re paid up here Mulder. What do you say we get out of here, go back to our dry rooms, get some sleep?”

He nodded vaguely. Her curiosity was morphing into concern. His eyes were fixed at a point in the middle distance as he stared just over the top of her head. He was moving around in the booth in an uncharacteristic way, squirming like a toddler in a church pew.

“You okay?”

“Yes,” he said. Then: “No. Look, Scully. I need to see a doctor.”

Chapter Text

She eyed him carefully. “I know you are aware that I am a doctor, Mulder. Remember that baby we delivered yesterday?”

God, had that been only yesterday?

“No. I mean a different kind of doctor.”

“Okay. What kind of doctor?”

He sat staring at his hands.

She didn’t want to pry or embarass him, so she took him at his word.

“Alright,” she said. “We are probably an hour from the nearest ER. At least. Should I call 911? Are you ill?”

“No. I don’t think it’s a paramedic type thing.”

“They’re probably local volunteers,” Scully said absently, sliding in the booth next to him this time, giving him the requisite scan. She laid the back of her hand on his forehead, pressed two fingers to his neck.

His eyes were closed and he looked fidgety. But he submitted to her ministrations.

“Are you in pain? Are you hearing voices or having visual disturbances like in Quanchamatog?”

“Scully. That’s not how you pronounce it.” He said this in a singsong, teasing voice.

“I knew I should have stuck to calling it Rhode Island.”

He was smiling, she was relieved to see.

“No, nothing like that. At all.”

“Good. Can it wait, do you think? Well be back in DC in twelve hours. Whatever’s ailing you, I don’t need to tell you that some of the best specialists in their fields work in the DC Metro area. I’m sure I can refer you appropriately.”

“I’m pretty... uncomfortable.” As he said this, he lowered his head into his hands.

“Mulder you’re really starting to worry me. Are you going to tell me what’s going on? If not, I think we should set off for Tampa...”

“I have some kind of rash or something. Down there,” he said, pointing to his lap.

“Oh,” she said, relieved. Rashes were rarely serious in and of themselves. “Down there? Like on your penis?”

“Yeah,” he said. “In that general area.”

“I see. How long have you had this rash?”

“I first got itchy this morning I guess. I ignored it mostly. But its been getting worse all day. And now it feels so itchy it’s almost on fire.”

“Ok. What does it look like?”

“He gestured to the tea lights. I just tried to get a look, but between the power outage and not having a great angle or a mirror, it’s tough to say.”

“Of course. Sorry. Does it feel bumpy?”

“A little I guess?”

She nodded. “Warm?”

“Sort of…”

“Is it just on your penis, or on your testicles too?”

“I think just on my penis.” He made eye contact for the first time since he’d left for the bathroom. “Sorry to lay this on you, Scully. I know you’re tired.”

“Mulder, please. I won’t sleep until I know you’re ok and you know it.”

He smiled at her, almost bashful. “Thanks,” he said.

“It’s probably nothing,” she said.

“Really? Good...”

“But,” she interrupted him. “We need to make sure. Because if it’s not nothing, you could need immediate attention.”

“What could it be?”

“Well, lots of things. Most of them fairly innocuous.”

“What if it’s not... innocuous?”

“My biggest concern is that filthy water we were submerged in for several hours yesterday.”

“Ewww Jesus.”

“That, along with the broken skin from the monster bite on your neck, is why yesterday I prescribed the broad spectrum antibiotic for you to take… ahhhh… prophylactically.” She tried not to smile.

“Ha ha,” Mulder said.

“How many doses have you taken?”

“Two pills.”

“Ok. So it could be a drug reaction,” Scully said, running through the differential diagnoses in her mind. It could be a yeast infection from the antibiotic, though that was unlikely to appear so soon.

“Do you have a history --family or personal-- of psoriasis?”

“Not me. And no one in my family that I know of.”

“Did you ever see a scaly red rash on either of your parents? Or Samantha?”

“Nope.”

“What else?” Scully whispered. “Mulder, pardon my prying. But as your doctor, I need to ask: Have you had, uh, intercourse within the last six months?”

“This is not happening…” Mulder was chanting to himself, banging his head against the table.

He sat back up and faced her. “No Scully. I haven’t. It isn’t syphilis or herpes if that’s what you’re thinking.”

The relief that washed over Scully was palpable. She squelched all hints of a smile, stayed in doctor mode.

“A syphilis rash doesn’t itch, actually. I was more thinking of scabies, with the intensity of the itching you’re experiencing.”

“Is that, like, crabs?” Mulder asked.

“I guess that’s an anecdotal term for scabies, yes.”

“Well the rather pathetic state of my love life is coming in handy then, allowing us to rule out anything social in nature.”

“Look, it’s probably just some jock itch from the humidity. What kind of underwear did you have on today?”

“Boxers. The usual.”

“All cotton?”

“I think so. I’m not much of a label reader.”

“You had on jeans all day? They’re a little snug.”

“Scully.”

“Not that I noticed. Just making mental notes for the chart. Airflow is our friend here.”

He nodded.

“The thing is Mulder, your symptoms seem intense, and they came on quickly. My biggest concern is that you have a bacterial infection from that skanky water. If the oral antibiotic you’re already taking isn’t helping, you may need to be in a hospital.”

Mulder sighed deeply. Scully decided not to mention necrotizing fasciitis in particular. Considering the turn her feelings toward Mulder had taken recently, she didn’t want to think about it herself. Luckily it was uncommon, a zebra.

“It's been a long time since my Dermatology rotation. But I think I could get a much better sense of what it might be if I... examine you?”

“Oh, God Scully. I just don’t think I can…”

“Okay.” Scully was relieved, truth be told. “Do you want me to drive you to Tampa? I’ll have you to a hospital in ninety inutes.”

Neither one of them had slept much, if at all, for the past two nights. Questing after sea monsters, delivering babies, then failing to catch ineffectual bank robbers had consumed nearly all their time.

“Scully, that’s good of you. But it’s dark. The roads are still covered in storm debris, and you’re running on empty.”

“It’s true I’d be getting us there on adrenaline alone.”

“You know what? It’s probably nothing. I’ll just go tomorrow. Do you have anything in that doctor bag of yours for the itch?”

“I could probably give you some cortisone cream. But I really think you should be examined Mulder. Maybe there’s a local doctor who would be willing to take a look at you?”

“I already asked at the motel. The only local doc is on vacation, as it happens.”

“Crap,” she said.

They sat for a moment in the dim silence. The waitress was sweeping the back of the restaurant, putting chairs on tables. They were the final customers.

“It’s going to have to be me, Mulder.”

“Scully, no. It’s feeling much better actually. I’m sorry I mentioned it.”

One look from her and his argument collapsed. He conceded, and celebrated his defeat by digging at the crotch of his jeans. Which he had been wanting to do for ten minutes.

“Try not to scratch, Mulder. You could be creating new tissue damage.”

Mulder grunted.

“I don’t see why you’re so opposed,” Scully lied. “I’ve seen you in your birthday suit before, you know?” She flashed to an image of him shivering on the floor of a tub, steam rising around his naked form.

“This just seems different. I’ve been unconscious then. Or otherwise wacked out.”

“And you’ve seen me in mine…” Scully said, as though he hadn’t spoken. “I have a hazy memory of waking up on a glacier wearing only your snow pants and jacket?”

“And a smile,” Mulder said.

“Was I?” Scully asked, smiling.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling back.

“I agree it’s a more intimate situation than has, ah, arisen before.”

“Scully, will you cut the crap? I’m dying here.”

“Sorry. Mulder, the thing you need to remember is that, in addition to being your friend and partner, I really am a doctor. Your doctor. Bodies are just bodies to me.”

“That helps.”

“Here’s how we’re gonna do it. We can keep it professional. I’ll go back to my room, scrub up, get out my kit, and set up an examination space. When you’re ready, you can just come over, like you’re going to a doctor’s office. I’ll examine you --it shouldn’t take long-- and you can be on your way. Sound good?”

He shrugged.

“Scully?”

“Yeah?”

“What if I, uh, you know, uh, during the exam…?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time. No big deal, Mulder. Besides, it can be preferable to examine a partially or fully erect penis as opposed to a flaccid one.”

“Jesus.”

“Especially when concerns are dermatological. For obvious reasons.”

“Oh God.”

“Some urology clinics actually have rooms set aside so men suspected of having certain conditions can take some time to become aroused before an exam.”

“Good to know.” He was starting to resent her smug certitude.

“Either way, I’ll know a lot more after getting a look at that rash.”

“This definitely isn’t sexy talk.”

“Nope. Purely clinical.”

“All right. Let’s go. We’re about to be booted out of here anyway. I’m going to take a quick shower before my… appointment.”

“Unless the power is back on at the motel, it will be a quick, dark, cold shower.”

“Which is probably for the best, actually. But to be on the safe side, Scully, can you smear some of that green clay mask on your face before I come over?”

Chapter Text

Back in her room, a particularly dingy iteration of the rundown local accommodation they tended toward, Scully brushed her teeth, washed her face, and scrubbed her hands thoroughly as she waited for Mulder. Moving about the room, lit dimly by a battery powered lantern provided by the proprietor, she threw huge shadows against the wall as she laid out supplies from her medical kit on the small table.

She gathered everything she thought she might need: sterile gauze bandages still encased in paper, rubber gloves, a Sharpie, hand sanitizer, a pen light, a legal pad to serve as a makeshift chart, and a pen. She’d wait until she was finished to make notes rather than drag out the exam.

When she was done, she pulled out a straight backed chair, sat down, and waited.

She presented a cool and collected exterior toward Mulder about the prospect of examining him, but in truth she was edgy. It needed to be done, but that didn’t mean she wanted to do it. Any more than he wanted her to, apparently. Though she’d have loved to shower and change into her pajamas, she decided to remain professionally dressed for their upcoming... appointment. Boundaries were their friend.

A few minutes later Scully heard a soft tap at her door. She opened it, and Mulder stepped past her into the room, avoiding eye contact. His hair was wet, and he wore sweats and a t-shirt.

“What’s up Doc?” he said, his voice marginally higher pitched than normal. Tense, he stood before her in bare feet. He smelled fresh and masculine. She felt like a wilted flower, and wished she’d taken a shower too.

“What’s up?” She repeated.

“I did that to myself, didn’t I?”

“Yep,” she said, nodding.

“Anyway…” he said.

“So. Mulder. Go into the bathroom and take off your pants. Wrap yourself in a towel and come on back. Do you want me to call you Agent Mulder?” Boundaries.

“No, Scully. Just Mulder. Any role playing we slip into could be a step in the wrong direction.” His smile looked lubricous in the dim light.

“Noted,” she said, turning her back to him, needlessly adjusting the supplies she’d set out.

“Though,” he called from the bathroom “if you want to try that some other time, just say the word.”

When he emerged a minute later, he was less sure of himself. He studied his feet as he made her way toward her, a towel fastened around his hips. He had taken his t-shirt off too. He stopped a few feet in front of where she sat on the chair.

“How is it feeling after your shower?” she asked, looking up at him.

“A little less itchy. But not much.”

“Alright, Mulder. Showtime.”

As she pivoted toward him, she was pulling on plastic gloves. She had moved the lantern directly behind her.

“You’re not going to ask me to turn and bend, are you Scully?”

“Not unless you really annoy me.”

He took a step toward her, took in a full breath and held it. Then he unfastened the towel but hung onto it, clutching it in his fist. 

Sitting on the chair, she flicked her pen light toward him, eye level with his crotch. It was as she remembered. His penis flaccid was within average parameters for size and circumcised. Normal male anatomy.

She glanced up at him, but he was staring straight ahead at the tacky sailboat painting on the wall, pulling in and expelling deep breaths slowly.

She reached out and gently took him in her gloved hand. He started at the contact, but resumed his deep breathing as she held his penis at the tip. She angled it up, down, and to each side. She ran the penlight up and down the shaft she could get a sense of the extent of the rash.

“Ok, Mulder,” she said, after a minute. “You’ve got a rash all right.” It was very very red. Too irritated to be accounted for by jock itch.

“Uh-huh,” he said, glancing down. “God, that looks nasty in the light.”

Scully didn’t respond to this.

“Mulder, I’m going to take off my gloves. I need more feel in order to determine how warm the rash is compared with the skin around it. And to get a better sense of the texture.”

“Texture,” he said. “O-kay.” He swallowed hard and nodded, fixing his eyes straight ahead again.

She peeled off her gloves and took him in her hand again, leaning in to examine the bumpy red rash as she ran her index finger up and down the length of him. The raised red area covered the top side and head of his penis completely, but the underside was mostly unaffected. She was conscious of inhaling his clean musky scent, and of her exhaled breath he could most likely feel against this most sensitive part of his body.

She pointed the light at his thatch of pubic hair. Peering at it closely, she ran her fingernails down through it three times. No sores or scabies.

She was dimly aware of a bead of sweat working its way down his abdomen, which rose and fell more rapidly than before. Then he was whistling. Yankee Doodle.

She held three fingers on the rash for a few seconds, then slid them down along the underside of his penis to determine if the unaffected skin was cooler. As she did this, his flesh came to life. His penis bobbed slightly in her hand, becoming partially erect.

“Oh, please god no,” he muttered, his arm coming up to cover his face.

“Hey,” Scully said, pausing her exam and standing up.

She heard him murmuring something, repeating a phrase. Chicken guts? She put her hand on his elbow until he uncovered his face and looked at her.

“Mulder, please. We talked about this. You’re an adult male having an involuntary physiological response. It’s normal and nothing to worry about.”

“Involuntary? Maybe when I was thirteen...”

“Have you ever had one when you didn’t consciously mean to? Since then?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever wanted one but not been able to achieve one?”

“Well, once in a blue moon. I suppose.”

“Involuntary.”

“I take your point.” He was speaking through a clenched jaw.

“You don’t need to distract yourself,” she said. “I just need to examine the the rest of your groin.”

“Okey doke,” he said, smiling cheerlessly.

She sat back down and worked more briskly. He was quite erect now. Apparently, Scully noted, Mulder was a grower rather than a shower.

“Mulder, can you hold your penis up against your stomach?”

He grunted, reached down and grasped himself, did as she asked.

With that out of the way, she pointed her light lower and examined his testicles. When her palm came up under his sac and gently lifted it, he groaned. His penis, still somehow getting fatter and firmer, twitched. She saw no sign of dermatitis, swelling, or abnormality anywhere else. She withdrew her hands.

“You can let go now,” she said. But he didn’t move, holding his penis against his abdomen posessively in his fist. She noted that his breathing was now shallow and rapid. She didn’t suppose she’d record that in the chart. It was hot, the two of them in the sweltering little room, no air conditioning. Sweat gathered at the nape of her neck.

“One more thing,” she said.

“Christ alive, Scully. How long is this gonna take?”

“This is important. We’re almost done.”

She leaned over to the table and picked up the medium-tipped Sharpie. In high school, she’d used the exact same type of marker to compose her ‘Dana Scully for Student Council Secretary!’ posters.

“I need you to hold the light,” she said, taking his penis from him.

He growled, but did as she asked, illuminating the area she was examining.

With her sharpie she planned to outline the upper edge of the rash near the base of his penis as she’d been taught to do. The line would be used to determine later if the rash was expanding or receding. To accomplish this, she grasped the head of his penis in her left fist and tugged, drawing it away from his body.

“Oh God,” he said as she pulled on him. They were both sweating. Her hand slipped against his shaft and head a few times, a firm grasp eluding her. “Jesus Scully!”

“Sorry,” she said meekly, letting go. She wiped her hands with the towel he was still holding, took a deep breath, and grasped him again, this time more firmly.

His stomach muscles were twitching. His breathing had become erratic. He began to pulse his hips rhythmically, jamming the head of his dick snugly into her fist. It was the tiniest of movements, reflexive or nearly so, but Scully could barely concentrate enough to draw the damn line.

Finally she released him. Fully flustered, she turned around to hide her pink cheeks, digging through her doctor bag and pulling out a tube of steroid cream.

“This will help with the itch. Do you want to apply it, or should I?” He still held a towel in one hand, her pen light in the other.

“Go ahead,” he said, shining the light down, illuminating his penis. His voice was different now, gravely and grave. His eyes narrowed as he met her gaze, challenging her.

She swallowed hard, regretting the offer instantly.

“It has to be dry.” She wanted to tell him to make sure it was dry when he applied it himself later. But her voice wasn’t quite working.

She opened a gauze compress bandage and wrapped it around her hand, then patted and swabbed his penis carefully until the skin was free of moisture. She had to pass her gauzed up thumb over the tip three times as he was oozing pre-ejaculate.

“Ughhhh Scully,” he said as she rubbed him there. She didn’t know if he was lodging an objection or articulating something else. In either case, his voice was going right through her. She was, she feared, beginning to lose control of this exam.

She uncapped the tube and squeezed a generous amount of cream on the palm of her hand.

She grasped his penis at the base. God. Thick. He jumped when she touched him.

“Cold,” he said, a smile lighting at the corners of his mouth. She tried not to think of his mouth.

“Sorry,” she said.

She meant to work quickly, intending to run her hand up his shaft briskly, slather some cortisone on the affected area and send him on his way. 

Instead she found herself slowing down as she worked, gripping him firmly, slowly stroking the long inches from root to tip, then back again, mindfully administering care to each and every millimeter of his rash. 

Truth be told, she was amazed by the way her fingers and thumb didn’t quite meet around his girth, entranced by how heavy and hard he felt in her hand. How hot. How alive. 

She snapped out of it when he exhaled audibly, as she applied cream to the underside of his glans with her thumb, rubbing soft circles against his tenderist skin. Ahhhhhh God, he said.

She pulled her hands back, and without glancing up toward him she squeezed more ointment from the tube and grasped him in one hand. With the other she palmed the head of his penis, twisting her wrist so that the entire area was well covered.

As she did this, he slid his hips toward her, trying to increase the contact. It was all she could do to pull herself away.

“All done,” she said, turning her back to him to wipe off her hands. Her voice sounded false and tinny to her own ears. She concentrated on speaking normally. “Go put your pants on and I’ll tell you what I think.”

She sat down and crossed her legs at the knees. Which made her feel a certain way. Which she would deal with later. She scribbled some notes on the legal pad: Be professional Be professional Be professional Be professional Be professional.

A few minutes later, he appeared. Dressed. Thank God.

“Hey,” he said. He sat on the edge of her bed. His eyes were soft now, his grin sheepish.

“OK, Mulder,” she said, turning to face him, clearing her throat. “There are two possibilities. I think you have contact dermatitis. Most likely from a new soap or detergent you started using recently. Does that ring any bells?”

“Yeah, maybe. Last week I took my laundry to a new place that just opened up on my block.”

“The underwear you wore today, were they washed there?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

“Ok good. This is a common diagnosis. We’re thinking horses not zebras here.”

“I’m going to go ahead and take that as a compliment, Scully.”

“I walked right into that.” She angled her face, which had bloomed into a full rosy blush, toward the carpet. 

“Ya did.”

“What about these sweats?” she said, leaning over and tugging at the fabric at his thigh below where they were... accommodating his still vigorous erection. “Were they washed last week at the new place?”

Mulder thought back. “No. The underwear came out of my laundry bag, but the sweats were in the drawer.”

“Perfect. So wear these tonight.”

“Will do,” he said.

“The other possibility, albeit very remote, is that you have some sort of cellulitis from an infection. I think the rash would hurt more than itch, and you’d be sicker in general. But that’s why I drew the line on you. I need to take another look in an hour. If the rash has advanced toward your heart, we’re heading to Tampa.”

“Okay.”

“So, Mulder, here are my instructions: Go back to your room, lie down on your bed, and read. Wear only these sweats or, better yet, nothing.” She ignored him when he wagged his eyebrows at her. “Don’t put on any clothes that might have been washed at the new place. If you start itching, put some more cortisone cream on the rash,” she said handing him the tube.

“But don’t paw at it, whatever you do.”

“Can I have a beer?”

“If that will help you relax, by all means. Just one though, with the antibiotic you’re on.”

“We want to leave it alone and we want it to breathe. Let it breathe, and come see me again in an hour. Can you handle that?”

“Can do.”

“If you fall asleep, I’ll call your room.”

“Okay.”

“See you in an hour.”

"Thank's Scully," he said softly over his shoulder as he opened the door to go.

He left. She collapsed onto her bed and, groaning, buried her face in a pillow. She didn't move for a long time.

Chapter Text

After Mulder left, she lay face down on her bed, perfectly still. She was withered and wrung out from the most trying medical exam she’d ever administered. And lack of sleep. And the unrelenting heat. And hormones, damn them. She didn’t want to move, not an inch.

Some time later, after her own involuntary sexual response had receded, after she had chided herself repeatedly for coming so close to a serious ethical breach, after much of the normally pleasant but in this case torturous tension had drained away, she felt the first twinge of menstrual cramps. Great.

She rose and grabbed the pen light from the table and rooted around her doctor bag for her small bottle of ibuprofen. She found it and shook it. She knew she’d been running low. But empty? These cases, this trip, this night, her life? Was turning into a cosmic joke. On her.

Just then the power came back on. The air conditioner bolted to the wall chugged to life. A minute later, the compressor started humming. She turned on a bedside lamp.

Looking at her hands in the weak light, the cleanest part of her body, she wondered how Leroy Walter Villarreal Suarez Jr. might be doing. Her first delivery, hopefully her last, ten pounds ten ounces. She’d held her breath as she cradled him after he’d slipped free of the birth canal, hoping to hear a wan little cry. His face twisted mightily and he’d opened his mouth and bellowed, shocking them all. Life. She smiled a little, remembering that moment.

Maybe the trip hadn’t been all bad. With the hot water heater now operational, she started running a bath. Help was on the way.

Her clothes were so dusty and permeated with sweat they could probably walk around on their own. She resisted the urge to slip out of them -- boundaries -- and washed her face carefully, swirling on the soap as Mulder sprung to mind. Literally. God damn. What else didn’t she know about him after six years? She thought of Fowley and glowered at the mirror, splashed very cold water on her cheeks and steeled herself for his impending follow up visit. She planned to have him in and out in under sixty seconds.

“I’m baaack,” Mulder said minutes later as Scully opened the door for him. As though he had ever been gone.

“Hello,” she said. She was going to manufacture a little smile, but she didn’t have to. It was genuine. Why was she always so glad to see him? It bugged her.

“Did you follow instructions?” she asked.

“Yep. Well. Mostly I complied. I might have pawed at myself a tiny bit. Briefly, I swear. New land speed record. It was a medical emergency of a different sort.”

She looked at him levelly, refusing to react. She shook her head and let her eyes fall closed.

He shrugged and smiled.

“How does it feel?” she asked.

“It feels really good, Scully. I admit, I’m surprised you don’t know.”

“Mulder...” she warned.

“Oh, the rash. Better, I think. Less itchy. And maybe less red. It hasn’t crossed the line.”

Neither have we, she thought. And I’d better get you out of here before that changes.

“Should we take a look?”

“Should I?...” he asked, gesturing toward her bathroom.

“Not necessary. Just pull those down...” she said, pointing toward the waistband of his sweats. She suddenly felt very tired.

In the illuminated room with his pants around his knees he was flaccid and a little ridiculous. The fierce hooded sea monster that had taken up all the air in the room earlier had been tamed, replaced by a cute little seahorse. The dermatitis looked less angry and was not advancing.

He hitched his t-shirt up and out of her way with one hand. She reached down and touched his penis, though she hadn’t exactly planned to. It was good to be thorough when conducting a clinical exam. He twitched a little in her hand, but it was obvious he was in a different stage of the sexual response cycle than he’d been when he left. Resolution. She envied him. The rash was less raised and cooling off. His skin there was so soft.

“That’s it,” she said, stepping away and packing up her doctor kit. “It looks better. You’re fine. It might take a week or so to clear up. Re-wash those clothes twice before you wear them again. And get the name of that detergent if you can. You’re allergic. See your doctor when we get back.”

“You are my doctor,” he said, pulling up his pants. He wasn't just flirting. It was true.

He sat down in the chair and glanced at the yellow legal pad on the table, reaching out to pick it up. Did he always have to be so inquisitive? She maneuvered quickly around him and grabbed it up. She tore off the top page, balled it up, and tossed it in the wastebasket. Two points. Mulder’s eyes followed her. She tucked the legal pad into her briefcase.

“Should you and I make a follow up appointment?” he asked. “For when this is all cleared up?”

She ignored him. More than sixty seconds and counting and he wasn’t gone yet. Way more.

“Scully,” he said. “I’m teasing you...” Mostly, he thought. Unless I’m not. He didn’t want to pressure her or saddle her with his feelings for her. “I didn’t mean…”

“It’s fine, Mulder. You’ve behaved admirably.” We both did, she thought. “It was an unusual situation. Tomorrow we can pretend it never happened.”

“We’re good at that,” he said. She thought she heard an edge of rancor in his voice.

She seemed subdued, upset.

“I just don’t want things to be weird…” he said.

“Mulder, it isn’t weird. Nothing weird happened. And if you feel weird about it, we can just rip this day from the book of our lives. Crumple it up and throw it out.” She dusted her hands together, still avoiding his eyes.

“Can we?” he said. He wasn’t sure that’s how it worked.

“I’m beat,” she said, sighing. “I’m gonna take a bath…”

“Okay, I’ll get out of your way. Thanks again Scully.”

“Mulder do you have any Advil?”

“No,” he said, halting halfway to the door. “I’m an aspirin guy.”

“It has to be Advil,” she muttered. “Ibuprofen.” She supposed there wasn’t an open store within twenty miles. On storm clogged roads.

“Cramps?” he asked. Here’s hoping this meant the end of her PMS.

She didn’t answer. She was removing her earrings, her back ramrod straight, setting them on the bedside table. It was obvious she wanted him gone.

“I can ask at the desk...”

“Would you?” she asked, not turning around.

She must be desperate, he thought. To ask for his help.

“I’m going to get in the tub. Here’s my key,” she said, handing it to him.

He left her room, pocketing her keycard, letting it snuggle up and slide against his keycard. He slipped on his sneakers and headed toward the front of the motel, a little self-conscious, padding around in sweats without underwear. He pulled his t-shirt down to cover his business and strode toward the office.

No one was installed behind the desk, so he rang the buzzer against the wall. A few minutes later, a man came into the office through the back door.

“How can I help you?” he said. “Room eight, right?”

“Yeah. I need some ibuprofen. My partner does.”

“Let’s see,” the man said, ducking beneath the counter. “Ibuprofen for room nine.”

He was heavy set and in his late thirties. Mulder hadn’t seen him before. A lot of these little motels were Mom and Pop places. He assumed he’d been checked in by Mom. He wondered how the man knew what room he was attached to. He looked around, his well honed sense of paranoia activating. Then he realized there were only three cars in the parking lot, including theirs. Maybe a dozen rooms. He relaxed. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Behind the desk they had toothbrushes and toothpaste, small bottles of mouthwash and shampoo, little packets of benadryl, cold capsules, and Tylenol. No ibuprofen.

“Sorry,” the man said. “We usually have some, but we must be out.”

“Is there somewhere I could get some? It’s something of an emergency.”

“Well, there’s a gas station out on state route forty one, maybe fifteen miles away. They’ll be open as long as we have power.”

“The power’s back, right?”

“They’re needing to shut down sections of the grid from time to time for repairs. It’ll be days before it’s steady,” he said.

“Great,” Mulder said.

“Hang on,” the man said. “We live out back. My wife needs the stuff from time to time, and my dad uses it too for his knee. Let me see if I can find some ibuprofen for room nine.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Mulder said.

The man was gone for fifteen minutes. Mulder had read all six pamphlets covering the major tourist attractions in this corner of Florida: go carts, caves, a petting zoo, a winery, a horse farm, and a drag racing museum. He idly wondered if Scully’d like to visit any of them before they shoved off the next day. He pictured her in a go cart, laughing and goggled as she wended around a figure eight track. Nah, probably not. He was about to give up on the proprietor and head back to his room when the man pushed through the door again.

“Sorry,” he said. “We have three kids and it’s a school night. Lot’s going on back at the ranch.”

“Sorry to pull you away,” Mulder said.

“Not at all. We appreciate your patience with the power situation. Here you go,” he said, handing him a small ziplock baggie with eight or ten Advil. Score.

“Take good care of her now,” the man said absently. He had turned his attention toward the open ledger on the desk, a pencil in his hand. Mulder figured he had forgotten they were in separate rooms. Partners, but not partners.

He stopped by the vending machine on the way back to his room, the man’s last words running through his mind.

Maybe he would take care of her. Turnabout being, after all, fair play.

Scully with her gloomy suits and her unfailingly professional demeanor. With her indoor plumbing and her stupid salads. With her secret cramps and her bad dreams he heard through the wall but never acknowledged. Scully who delivered babies and saved his bacon and showed up every single time he needed her. With her private pain she kept so close to her chest.

He half wanted to break her and he half wanted to mend her. He wasn’t even sure, in this case, what the difference might be.

Chapter Text

Outside Scully’s room, studying the spider web cracks in the concrete in the nearly deserted parking lot, Mulder was experiencing a failure of nerve. Already.

He pulled up his t-shirt and scratched his belly. His wiener still itched, but significantly less intensely than it had a few hours earlier. The crud had quit creeping, thank god, and he was trying not to grab at it. Airflow, steroid cream, and changing his pants had worked wonders. Scully knew her stuff.

After leaving the motel office, he stopped by his own room for a few minutes. He kicked off his sneakers and loaded the goodies from the vending machine into a plastic shopping bag. He tossed the snacks on top of the seeds and a newspaper he’d purchased at a gas station earlier that afternoon. Then he added two beers from the minibar and a Toblerone. Probably they’d charge him eight bucks for that alone. He smoothed his hair down in the mirror — that was hopeless — and left to go next door.

Like a hurricane caught offshore, he was stalled in front of her door. He tried to take himself back to the moment he’d decided to do this. He supposed he was after two things. For one, he wanted her to admit she wasn’t as utterly unmoved by him as she pretended to be. He also wanted to offer her genuine comfort in a moment of need.

He’d be like her own personal Florence Nightingale. With a big squishy, pushy crush.

He should probably just drop off the snack food and medicine and be on his way. He’d all but decided to do just and only that by the time he took in a big breath, knocked twice, and let himself into Scully’s room.

She was out of the tub, bedecked in full pajama party regalia: oversized flannel. Fortunately the A/C had cooled the room considerably. He briefly wondered what she’d be wearing otherwise. He shook the image from his mind. This wasn’t about him.

Well, in a roundabout way it probably was.

“Hey there,” he said. “Special delivery for Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully…”

She lay face down on top of the bed covers with wet hair and a damp hand towel draped over her low back. She groaned.

“Hey,” she said, looking up as he stood over her. “I was just wondering what happened to you.”

He unpacked the contents of his shopping bag and set the items one at a time on her night table: A regular Coke, a Diet Coke, a bottle of cold water, a ginger ale in case she was nauseous, a bag of Doritos, his seeds, a bag of M&M’s, cheese on wheat crackers, the Toblerone, and two beers.

“Wow,” she said, flipping over and sitting up. “That’s quite the haul.”

“Last but not least,” he said. He pulled the Advil from his pocket.

“I was afraid to ask,” she said, snatching the baggie from his hand. She shook out three pills, cracked open the Coke, and knocked them back. “Mulder, where did you get these?”

“I asked around,” he said. “Do you want to eat something? Won’t they upset your stomach?” Three pills seemed like a lot for a person her size, but she was the doctor.

“Good point,” she said, eyeing her options, then looking back at him. “Mulder?”

“Hmmm?”

“Have you been paying attention to my… preferences?”

“You don’t indulge very often, Scully. When you do it catches my eye. Would you care for something else? Skittles? Sour cream and onion chips? Life Savers? Lots of non-nutritive food options at our fingertips...”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “This is perfect.” She grabbed the bag of M&M’s and tore it open, sitting up against the headboard and twisting the cap off the water. She tossed the damp towel to the end of the bed.

“Thanks for the drugs, Mulder. Seriously. You have no idea.”

“Speaking of drugs,” he asked, “do you smell that?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I decided about twenty minutes ago I do not smell that. Whatever illicit or illegal activity might be going on in the next room or anywhere else is somebody else’s problem. At least until I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep.”

“Fair enough,” he said, nodding. The skunky sweet smell of marijuana was strong, and not a big deal. But there was also a harsh synthetic odor wafting through the air he couldn’t quite place. Some type of inhaled stimulant, probably. He was not inclined to get involved either.

He picked up a beer and eyed the chair across the room, the one she’d sat in earlier while examining him. He thought of dragging it over and perching next to her where she lay sprawled on the bed. Not wanting to be confused with her home health aide, however, he opted instead to flop on the mattress next to her.

Might as well sin boldly.

He popped open his beer and took a big swig, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Nervous.

She was scrutinizing him from the corners of her eyes.

He dug the last item out of the bag, a newspaper. He leaned back against the headboard, crossed his legs at the ankle, and started perusing the front page. He enjoyed picking up a local paper on the road from time to time. She knew this.

“Mulder?” she said.

“Yeah?” Like he climbed into the sack next to her all the time. Playing dumb was worth a shot.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” was all she said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he said. “I thought maybe I could keep you company until the meds kick in? What does it take, a half hour?”

“Closer to an hour,” she said.

He nodded.

“Suit yourself. I’ll be lying here. But I want to go to sleep soon, so prepare to get the boot.”

“Will do,” he said. Not looking at her, taking another sip of his beer.

She neatly folded the edge of the M&M bag over three times and set it on the nightstand. She finished the water in one deep draw and lay back down on her stomach.

“Thanks, Mulder” she said turning her head toward him.

“Least I could do,” he said.

She snorted out a little laugh.

“How are you feeling by the way? Still better?”

“Yeah.” he said. “Much.”

“Good,” she said. Her eyes drifted closed.

“Do you want me to freshen that up for you?” he asked, pointing to the towel at the end of the bed. Improvising now.

Her eyes popped open. “Sure,” she said. “Thanks.”

He set down his beer and got up, snagged the towel from the end of the bed and headed into the bathroom. “Hot or cold?” he asked.

“Hot,” she said. “As hot as possible.”

“Hot,” he repeated, looking into the vanity mirror. So far things were going... not bad. Considering what a half-assed plan he’d formulated. He waited till the water from the tap was steaming, soaked the towel, then wrung it out thoroughly.

She sat up to take the towel from him as he walked by, but he passed her and brought it around to his side of the bed.

“I got it,” he said. “Lower back?”

She was eyeing him warily. But she lay back down. “Yeah,” she said, pulling up the edge of her pajama top a few inches. Exposing her tattoo. He very much wanted to get a closer look at it, and had since she first got it. Now, however, was not the time. He was content to play the long game where Scully was concerned.

He folded the towel twice longwise and laid it carefully against her skin, edging the elastic of her pajama pants a little lower with his fingertips as he applied it. She groaned again. He felt a flicker of arousal light low in his gut.

He sat back and opened his newspaper, skimming it while keeping a furtive eye on her. She was breathing deeply with her eyes closed, relaxing more and more completely as the minutes passed. He sensed some tension still in her body, though, and knew she hadn’t fallen asleep.

He turned to the Classifieds. That section in particular always brimmed with local color.

She winced and inhaled sharply, rolling and clutching her hip.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said. She was breathing shallowly, her mouth a tight white line. He was suddenly glad his body didn’t put him through such an ordeal each month.

“Does the Advil help a lot?”

“Eighty percent,” she said. “At least. I’ll be able to sleep.”

He checked his watch. “Hang in there for another forty minutes.”

She nodded. Then a puzzled look crossed her face. She seemed about to speak.

“You want to watch TV?” he asked, heading her off at the pass. “Take your mind off it? We could catch the news, maybe get updated on the case...”

“No,” she said. “You can if you want.”

“Nah,” he said. “This is just getting good.” He rattled the Ocala Star-Banner.

“Mulder you don’t have to hang around. I’ll be fine.”

“But I was wondering, Scully. Can I ask you a doctor question?”

She nodded.

“If I’m allergic to my underwear, why don’t I have a rash everywhere my boxers were touching?”

“Because you don’t manscape,” she said, smiling. She rolled back onto her belly, a little closer to him now.

“Ah,” he said, smiling too. “I see. I knew all that fuzz would come in handy someday.”

“This towel’s getting clammy again,” she said, making a sour face. She peeled it from her back and tossed it in the direction of the bathroom.

Mulder stared at her bare sliver of back, pink from the moist heat. She must be in a wild mood, Scully, messing up her room like that. He decided to refrain from commenting.

“Do you want me to warm it up for you again?” he asked instead.

Just then the lights went out with a pop. The air conditioner shuddered to a halt as well.

“Crap,” he said. “The owner warned me this might happen.”

“They must be doing repairs,” she said. “Powering down sections of the grid.”

He wondered how she knew these things.

He put the newspaper aside and slid down in the bed, fluffing the pillow, settling in next to her on his back, shaking out his arms and letting them fall to his sides. It was perfectly dark and eerily quiet. He could hear her breathing.

“Mulder?”

“Can I ask you one more medical question Scully?”

“Um, okay.”

“The steroid cream you gave me. Is it gonna make it seem like my penis has been hitting the gym? If you know what I mean.”

“Mulder!” She was laughing. “We’d prescribe a lot more of it if that were the case. Though I think such a potion, if it existed, would be contraindicated in your case. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing.”

“I see,” he said. “Care to say more about that?”

“No,” she said. “Definitely not.”

It was a clear night and a gibbous moon shone through the window. His eyes adjusted and so could make out the outlines of the larger forms in the room.

“It’s so quiet,” she said.

He rolled up onto his side and decisively placed his hand where the hot compress had been, flat against the center of her low back. He kept some space between them though, not otherwise touching her.

“Mulder? What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” he answered, keeping his voice soft and low. “Really, Scully. This isn’t a move. I just want to take care of you tonight.”

“But Mulder…”

“Like you took care of me. When I needed you to. I know it was uncomfortable for you.”

She sighed deeply. He was glad she wasn’t denying it.

“You take care of everyone, Scully. You delivered a baby yesterday. I still can’t believe that. But who takes care of you?”

“Mulder, we’re on a case…”

“What case? Come on, Scully. If you want me to leave I will, but don’t make excuses. Those morons are either nabbed or three hundred miles away. Probably both. We’re flying home in the morning.”

She sighed again, even more deeply. But she said nothing. Another tacit truce.

He began moving his hand on her back in slow circles. He felt the apprehension in her body, the indecisiveness.

“Just till you fall asleep,” he whispered.

She relented and relaxed. So did he, resting his head on his arm as he massaged her lightly, ranging a little lower, a little higher with each swipe.

“I saw some pamphlets in the office earlier. What do you say we pursue some local recreation before we leave tomorrow?”

“What kind of recreation, Mulder? G-rated, I hope.”

“We’ve got plenty of wholesome options,” he said. “The humidity is supposed to break. It’s gonna be a nice day.”

“Can you press harder?” she asked.

“Sure,” he said.

He did, though he didn’t have a great angle, digging the heel of his hand into her back.

“Ahhhh,” she said. He wished he could see her face. But he didn’t want to get greedy.

“We’ve got horseback riding. Caving. A petting zoo. A drag racing museum. Go carts. Any of that sound like fun?”

“A drag racing museum? We haven’t done anything touristy since the Liberty Bell.”

“I forgot about that,” he said. “What a letdown. Who knew it would be so dinky?”

“Harder,” she said. He sat up and straddled her, grounding his knees on the mattress on either side of her legs, still not touching her except with his hands.
.
“Mulder what are you doing?”

“Creating leverage, Scully. You’re the physics major here.”

He placed his hands on either side of her sacral vertebrae and pressed, kneading with his thumbs.

“Ohhhhh,” she said. “That’s helping.”

“Good,” he said. The air had grown still and solid. The massage was facilitated by her sweaty back. But hindered by her shirt.

“Why don’t you take this off?” he said, plucking at her top. “No A/C. You’re hot.”

“Do you really think that’s a good idea, Mulder?”

“I do. It’s pitch black and you’re face down.”

“What if the lights come back on?” she asked, beginning to work at the buttons.

“I’ll shut my eyes till you’re dressed again.”

“You’d better,” she said. She gave up on the buttons and pulled her shirt off over her head.

He worked his hands up her back, plying her stiff form with his thumbs. He treaded gently over her exit wound scar — she was still healing — but spent some time working on the tendons and muscles between her scapula, coaxing them to give up the tension they were holding. He moved higher and loosened her shoulders, her neck. He ran his fingers up through her hair, massaging her scalp with his fingertips.

Every so often she’d sigh contentedly.

As he worked his way up her frame he’d sit back occasionally and brush his backside against hers, then straighten up again.

He dragged his fingers gently down her spine, down her arms, then pressed his hands deeply into her lower back again. He noticed as he did this she was curling her hips against the mattress, rhythmically, almost imperceptibly.

He pushed back and laid down beside her again, keeping his hand on her back.

“Thanks, Mulder. I feel better. You should go.”

“What’s the rush, Scully? You got plans?”

“Maybe,” she said. He thought he heard her smiling through the dark.

“Does it hurt anywhere else? You were holding your side before…”

“Yeah,” she said rolling over, her back to him. “Here.” She took his hand and put it on her abdomen, just below her hip bone.

He rubbed his palm in tight circles at the spot.

“What are your other symptoms? Besides the cramps? Are you bleeding yet?”

“No,” she said. “Tomorrow. First I get irritable for a day or two. Or three.”

“I wasn’t gonna say a word…”

She pinched his arm.

“What else?”

“You really want to know?”

“I do. It’s always interesting to hear how the other half lives.”

“I get bloated, concurrent with the bad mood. I retain like five pounds of water. Then I get the cramps. They’re sometimes intense, but only ever last a day. Then I get my period. And we start all over again.”

“Scully, where does someone like you keep five pounds of water?”

“My abdomen. My extremities. My breasts. My clothes don’t fit right. My nipples get sore. Especially when its cold.”

“Every month?”

“Pretty much. For a few days, yeah. Sometimes I hold my coffee cup against my breasts when it really hurts.”

“Am I ever in the room, when you do this?”

“Yep.”

“I’m sure I would have noticed that.”

“I’m stealthy.”

“God, women have a lot to deal with.”

“Well, men have their own challenges...”

“Yeah. I guess I’m exhibit A in that regard. Today anyway.”

“We all have our crosses to bear, Mulder,” she said. She had rolled onto her back to talk with him. His hand was still on her hip, his fingers soothing her there.

“Do they hurt now? Your nipples?”

“Yeah. The Advil won’t help much. I take a diuretic for that. Usually I skip it though. They’re hard on the kidneys.”

“So you just go with this ingenious coffee cup remedy?”

“Heat. At home I use a heating pad.”

He drew his hand across her low belly, let it rest between her hips.

“What else helps?”

“Let’s see. Stretching. Hot baths. They’re a cure-all. The worst part of getting shot was I couldn’t take a bath for a month.”

He knew that wasn’t true, but didn’t want to summon that world of pain.

“Hot water bottles. Those have a nice warm heft to them. Heat and pressure.”

“Are you leaving anything out?

“Yeah,” she said.

He lowered his head and took her nipple in his mouth.

“Ohhh Mulder. Ahhhh, God. Stop.”

“Okay,” he said, picking his head up.

“You’ve been sweet tonight. I appreciate it. But I don’t want to cross any lines here. We need to be back to normal tomorrow.”

“Let’s not then, cross any lines. Let’s move the line a little, just this once. We already agreed to tear this page from the book of our lives, didn’t we?”

She snorted. It was satisfying to lob that hyper-rational tidbit back into her court.

“Just let me help you, Scully. Nothing needs to change tomorrow. We’ll still just be you and me. I’m fully clothed. Your pants are on. I’ve been benched by you anyway, right? Doctor’s orders.”

“You don’t take orders. It’s well established.”

“I do tonight. I don’t want to push you, I don’t.”

He lay perfectly still next to her for a long minute, his hand draped across her belly. He could feel her ruminating, arguing with herself.

“Take your shirt off then. Just your shirt.”

“See?” he said, whipping his t-shirt off over his head, “I’m very compliant.”

He lay perpendicular to her on the bed, keeping his lower body, and his conspicuous arousal, far from her. He’d deal with that later. He nuzzled her breast, then brought her nipple into his mouth again.

“Aghhhhhhh,” she said as he nipped and nursed her, bucking her hips up when he sucked her deeply. Heat and pressure. In the close air of the room he could smell her. Musky, a little sweet.

He trailed his hand lightly up and down her thighs, from her knees to her hips and back.

She ran her fingers through his hair, along his neck and down his back. Her hands small and strong on him had been his undoing earlier, during her exam. He knew not to look, then did it anyway.

After working both breasts thoroughly, he rested his chin in his hands. In the faint light the tips of her nipples glistened with his spit. Good luck forgetting that image. He blew lightly across her body.

Her eyes were closed, but she was unmistakably open to him.

He placed his hand flat on her belly, let his pinky dip down beneath her pj’s and toy with the elastic of her undies. Scully and her plain cotton sexiness.

“Anything else I can do for you?”

He needed to be invited, for this part.

She put her hand over his and slid it lower.

He curled his hand against her over her underwear, feeling her heat, her need. Not moving.

“Under,” she said. “Touch me, Mulder.”

“You need it,” he said, sliding his hand into her panties.

“I do. I need it. God.”

He twined his fingers into her tight curls. Then she stretched her legs and pointed her toes, sighing, parting her legs fractionally. He bent his middle finger, oh, and she was already so wet. As she sighed, he crooked his finger and began to spread her slippery warm wetness toward her heart. Soon he was sighing himself, circling her clit which was rising and pulsing under his touch.

“Two things, Scully.” His breath hot and fast in her ear.

“Yeah?”

“You feel really fucking good. Jesus.”

“I do. You do. What else?”

“I can’t kiss you. I want to. But if I kiss you, this day stays.”

“S’okay,” she said, throwing her head back. “For me too. Suck on my tits some more though. Please.”

He complied.

Chapter Text

They both woke abruptly when the lights and air came back on. He was curled around her, both of them on top of the covers, his hand nestled between her breasts.

As soon as he gained his bearings he rolled away and pressed his face into the mattress, remembering his promise to close his eyes. He heard her moving around, popping the tab on a soda and ferreting out some more pills from the baggie he’d brought her. Then she was digging through her suitcase, switching off lamps and slipping into the bathroom. Closing the door.

He let out a breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding.

He checked his watch. Three. He wondered briefly if he should decamp to his own room as he had told her he planned to. Of course that was before. He smiled as he recalled her trembling under his hand, his mouth on her breast, her whole body taut and straining.

He raised his hand to his face, ran two fingers along his lips. The ones he’d used to tease her till she moaned, then, when her knees fell open, he slipped them inside her. She was wildly slick and open to him, but just so incredibly tight. He slid them out and worked on helping her relax.

He touched them to his tongue, tasting a vestige of her salt and musk. Then he stuck his thumb in his mouth and sucked on it like a toddler.

She liked his thumb. She'd told him so at least twice. Which escalated to love when it was finally mashing her fat little clit. God she was juicy. He popped it out of his mouth and held it up the light from the window, wiggling it. He used to think his thumb was just the appendage that separated him from the other apes. On a good day at least.

Though sometimes getting in touch with his inner animal was called for. When someone was threatening Scully or had hurt her, for example. The day they crossed his girl, that sorry son of a bitch made a date with one unrepentant savage. That is if she didn’t take care of him first. She could beast with the best of them, then meet her mother for five-thirty mass.

Now, though, his thumb gleaming in the refracted light, loved by Scully, it was something new.

He thought maybe she'd be a little repressed, with all that Catholic business. He could’ve worked with that. But she’d been so open, so responsive. So… so… so… God.

Oh fuck Mulder, she said after he’d been teasing her a while, maybe too long, lost in the feel of her there, so soft and snug, circling her clit, then tracing every sweet slippery inch, mapping her till he could all but see in the dark.

He rolled onto his back and settled a pillow under his head. The stream of conditioned air passing over his torso felt pleasant, drying the sweat that had collected on his skin as he slept pressed against her. He scratched idly at his chest, remembering her hands on him.

He had no idea her state of mind, but he hoped she wasn’t regretting it. He closed his eyes as he heard the bathroom door open, bracing himself for whatever was to come next.

He turned his head away from her as she slipped quietly into bed, this time under the covers. She’d left the bathroom light on and the door open a sliver. After she arranged the sheets and settled in, he stole a glance at her. She was resting her head on her pillow looking at him, a smile, thank god, playing at the corners of her mouth he still had never even kissed.

“I thought you were asleep,” she said.

“I was dozing,” he said. He wanted to play it cool, but he was dimly aware that he was grinning big like the idiot he was. “How you feeling?”

“Good,” she said. “Better.” Still smiling. He smelled her soap. Her minty breath.

She seemed to have changed into a tank top of some sort. No bra. Her pajama pants and underwear he’d pushed down to her knees and she’d kicked off at some earlier fevered moment were still balled at the foot of the bed. He wondered what she was wearing under the covers.

“Must have been the ibuprofen?” he offered.

“Yeah,” she said. “That stuff works wonders.” She bit her bottom lip and buried her smile in her pillow.

“Somebody’s a little shy…”

“Maybe,” she said. “Then again there is a strange man in my bed.”

“You have no idea just how strange…”

“I think perhaps I have some idea.”

“Probably you do,” he conceded.

He knew he should offer to vacate her bed. The problem with that was, he didn’t at all want to.

A loud thud next door was followed briefly by raised voices. Then a hush.

“Must be tussling over the last of the dry goods,” Mulder said.

“How are you feeling? You know...” she said, flicking her eyes dramatically toward his crotch, “down there.”

“You making fun of me?”

“Just a little.”

“Much better than at the diner. But itchier than when I fell asleep.”

“Ah. I was afraid of that. I’m not sure our… activities worked out as well for you as they did for me.”

“Maybe not,” he admitted.

“Should I take a look?”

“Why not?” he said.

She slipped out of bed and, to his astonishment — in the middle of the night in three seconds flat — she morphed effortlessly from sex kitten to general practitioner.

She flicked on two lamps and dug out her trusty penlight and some gauze. She set them on his bedside table and he remembered to notice her attire: some snug white cotton shorts the same ribbed material as her tank top. Nice.

“Hey,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said, getting with the program, getting up himself.

“Is the tube of cortisone cream in your room?”

“Yes it is.”

“Go get it. I’m gonna scrub up.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Mulder,” she said when he was at the door, “You know what? Wash your own hands really well. And bring your suitcase back too. With all your clothes.”

“Okay. But Scully? Isn’t it a little hasty for us to be shacking up? I mean, I thought we agreed this was a one time thing…”

She stared at him blankly for a few seconds. Then they both cracked huge smiles.

“You’re a buffoon, Mulder.”

“I had you there. For a second. I know I did.”

“You wish. Hurry up while we still have lights. And air.”

“You can admit it, Scully. You can’t wait to get your hands on my junk again. You’re only human.” He slipped out the door as a roll of wrapped gauze whizzed by his head.

He returned as directed and opened his suitcase. She laid all his clothes out on the bed and separated the items washed in the suspect detergent from the rest.

“You shouldn’t even handle these,” she said, stuffing a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and two pairs of boxers in a plastic bag.

“You’re sure none of this came out of the laundry bag?” she asked, gesturing to the rest of the clothes on the bed. “These boxers?” she said, holding up a plaid pair.

“I’m sure,” he said. “Those were in the drawer.”

“Good. Make sure you wear them tomorrow. It wouldn’t be ideal to go commando in jeans. Not in your condition. You should stick to looser pants for the next week, too. Once we get home.”

He couldn’t think of a smartass retort, so he just nodded.

“Not sure about those socks,” he said, pointing to one of the two pairs on the bed.

She tossed them in the plastic bag and tied it off.

He re-packed his suitcase as she went to wash her hands again.

When she came back out he was sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Hey,” she said, standing in front of him.

“Hi,” he said.

“You ready for round two?” All business.

“I guess so.”

“You still itchy?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s hard not to scratch.”

“Resist. That’s how you get a secondary infection. You don’t want that.”

“I believe you. I don’t even want this one.”

She turned toward him smiling, shaking her head.

“Hey Scully? I’m not sure I can rip this page from the book of my life. I’m not sure I want to.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “Kissing or no kissing, I knew we were in trouble around the time I took my pants off.”

Sooner, she thought. As soon as he shuffled in with her favorite vending fixes. It was a clumsy odd Mulderish seduction. Her new favorite kind.

“You seem calm about it.”

“I am now. But I was engaged in some mild panic in the bathroom earlier. When you were pretending to be asleep.”

“So what happened?”

She stepped closer to him and rubbed her knuckles lightly along his sternum.

“What always happens. I saw you. And I felt better.”

“Really?”

“Pretty much.”

He took her hand and kissed it, held it between his two hands.

“Maybe this was a mistake, Mulder. But let’s keep it in perspective. We’ve been in worse situations…”

“That’s a fact. An understatement, really.”

“I mean, for example, I’d rather be somewhat expertly... tended to by my handsome partner than gutshot by an overzealous rookie agent...”

“When you put it that way…”

“At least it was an experience, unlike that one, worth the awkwardness that’s bound to ensue.”

“Expertly?”

____________________________

 

“Please.” she said, as she ground her heels in the mattress, gripped the sheets in her fists, tilted her hips as he tried again with his fingers. She brought in a big breath as he entered her and exhaled slowly and yeah, that was better, still tight but he was moving, nice and easy.

Inside her, also painfully hard himself, thinking of her need, her desperation, he couldn’t stop himself from curling his hips against the bed.

He saw her eyes were on him and he pressed harder, faster, seeking purchase. “Mulder,” she said, and reached down his body, arranged crosswise on the bed, her nails scratched at his low back. He latched onto her nipple and bit back a moan.

“Come closer,” She pulled at the waistband of his sweats, as far as her little arms could reach toward his hips as they rocked and twitched. “I want to touch you. Please.”

Just knowing she wanted to grab his ass pushed him to the edge. He could come in his pants grinding his junk against the sheets like some lonesome teenager just listening to her say “Mulder” and “please.”

But he was losing focus. The task at hand. He released her nipple brought his lips to her ear, “Scully,” he said, meaning to explain. But instead he took her earlobe in his mouth and sucked on it, scraped his teeth across it. She canted her head giving him better access. He kissed her behind the ear, then lapped at her with his tongue. Slid his lips down and was nibbling on her neck.

Goddamn. Distracted. He pushed back from her and buried his face in the sheets, hands on his head. Took three big breaths and willed himself to still his hips. Looking up at her, not too close, he tried again.

“Even though you said the magic word, Scully, I think we should stick with the plan. If I’m not mistaken, we were just getting somewhere.” She smiled and nodded. He scooched up and trailed his fingers back down her body.

“Ahhhh,” she said.

“Don’t you agree?”

“I do,” she said nodding,

“I will take a rain check though,” he said.

She smiled and nodded.

_______________________

 

Was he fishing for compliments, or actually insecure? She couldn’t tell.

“Somewhat expertly. I thought so. Admittedly, I don’t get out much.”

“But you liked it?”

Wow. Insecure. With zero reason to be.

She had given him an utterly embarrassing amount of feedback, that she knew.

But, in her defense, after more than two thousand days as her partner, after hundreds of nights working cases on the road, just the two of them, after always finding a way to rid himself of her, of making sure she was ensconced in her own room before seeking the sweet relief of crawling half naked and alone between the cold sheets of his own uncomfortable motel bed to idle away the night in some strange, safe, solitary daze? Mulder had seduced her.

First with his perfect sweetness, the way he came to her bearing gifts, a supplicant at the gate. Peering over his newspaper, offering consideration and favors. Clearly, he had designs. Before she knew for sure what was even happening, she was deeply relaxed and properly bothered.

The way he brushed his bony ass against her more generously padded one, so plausibly accidental, so obviously not, as he maneuvered his thumbs between the muscles of her back, her neck, releasing stress accumulated by time spent riding shotgun in cars and squeezing into airplane seats and standing for hours, slightly stooped, slicing into corpses. As well as addressing more ancient tensions born of days and weeks and months of worry and irritation and grief.

It was a study in misdirection any magician could learn from.

He’d lit a fuse in her body, south of her navel and north of her knees, and she didn’t know much, relieved as she was already of higher brain function. But she knew for sure she wanted to be around for the bang.

Also, not for nothing, she was topless. The boy had skills.

But also, restraint. He gave her time and space to consent to every new and lovely aspect. At any point if she’d asked him to, he’d have planted a kiss on her temple, wished her good night, and shoved off back to his own room without any wheedling, or even static the next day, she was sure. Which stoked her desire, and his too she imagined, knowing that free and unencumbered by his hopes, she wanted it. Wanted him. The way he made her say it.

So confident. Not to mention, creative.

When his mouth descended on her breast in the near perfect dark, it had shocked her. She gasped and her back arched, her hand finding the back of his neck as he lathed her nipple with his tongue, then sucked her deeply and pulled. She felt that in every firing synapse in her body, Jesus. It was all she could to stop him, to try to inject some space and time into the proceedings.

The most stunning revelation of the evening, far from the only, was that somewhere secreted away within that impossible body and fathomless mind and ramshackle spartan life? Mulder had moves.

Who knew?

And then his big hand was down her pants, the night outside moonless, stubborn stale air hovering, Whereverthefuck, Florida as good a place as any, the barometer bottomed out and holding, the grid shut down, the room deep and dark and quiet as the end of the world and his hand, at long last, was down her pants.

He rubbed her slowly, exploring aimlessly for long minutes while nibbling and licking and sucking her tits, his raspy voice in her ear, drawing from her a series of long, astonished sighs. She raked her nails lightly up his spine, bumping along the cervical vertebra, counting them down seven to one, until her fingers were at the nape of his neck. She let her hands drift through the downy nap of his hair. So so soft, softer even than she remembered. Or imagined. Mulder.

He tucked two fingers inside her, grunting at his discovery. But then they were gone. He touched her everywhere, tracing and trawling, circling her clit, slow and lazy, occasionally swiping across it, like an accident, touch and go. And it was making her crazy. That was his unique gift, after all, for which he seemed to have endless aptitude. Nothing new there. She’d been about to grip his wrist, place her hand over his hand and offer some gentle instruction. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But then he changed gears and zeroed in on her. And she knew then, looking into his ravenous eyes, a cagy smile quirking his lips, that he’d been playing her like an instrument, one he had been practicing for years as he sat across from her, silently secretly surveilling her as his disinterested gaze betrayed no such intent, tuning her, gathering data, applying that prodigious brain of his to the mundane little problem of her.

She might have been pissed off at such a realization. But her toes were curling and she knew, she just knew, he was about to make her sing.

His breath was hot in her ear, her name on his lips. And his hips, held away from her, true, but she watched transfixed as he drove them against the mattress, his need for her building as his fingers moved faster inside her. And his thumb. God.

And she’d told him what he was doing to her, how she loved it. Her cheeks reddened as she recalled the way she’d spread her legs for him.

It had taken her three years to ask him to turn up the heat in the car when she was cold. But just now, in bed, she had begged him.

Even so, she’d wanted more. Much more. His lips soft on hers, for starters, then his mouth hard. More than that even she’d wanted his body on top of hers, his fat cock pressed against her bare flesh. She’d offered these things, and he’d been the one to reign her in. He had a lot of control. Imagine that.

Mulder, the monomaniacal cluck, so stubbornly alone, equal parts abandoned and aloof and arrested, against all odds, absolutely knew what he was doing.

She wondered if someone had convinced him otherwise. The thought bothered her.

“If it’s not clear to you that I enjoyed myself, Mulder, we need to register immediately for one of those partner communication seminars. And actually attend it this time.”

She was standing in the vee between his knees, her hand clasped between his, and she looked at him levelly, wanting a real answer.

He nodded. “It was."

“Mothmen,” she muttered. Then they both smiled.

“So tomorrow?” he asked.

She sighed. “I don’t know. But like you said before, we’ll still be you and me. We’ll figure it out.”

“We will.”

She yawned

“You sleepy?”

“Yeah,” she said. “You?”

“Yeah,” he said, yawning too.

“It’s interesting,” she said, “how yawns are contagious. I wonder what biological basis is, for that behavior.”

“For psychopaths, yawns aren’t contagious. The lack the requisite empathy. A researcher in England discovered that, then set up a screening test.” He brought her hand to his lips, sweetly kissed each of her knuckles.

“Good to know you’d pass. I’ve slept with my quota of psychopaths.”

“I agree wholeheartedly,” he said, his head snapping up. “So you're planning to sleep with me Scully?”

Oops. “I’m not planning anything.”

She wasn’t planning to. But apparently the part of her that said things had other ideas.

“Huh.” His eyes were on her chest. Her skimpy tank top wasn’t providing much cover.

“Why don’t you let me get a peek at that rash?” she whispered. “Then we can go back to bed.”

“Okay,” he said.

He lay back on his pillow and worked his pants down over his hips.

“Take those off,” she said, dragging the chair over to the bed. “You can sleep in the buff.”

He looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Airflow, Mulder. Grab my penlight and some gauze on the bedside table. Dry yourself off really thoroughly.”

In a pique of shyness, he was tucking himself under the covers to follow instructions.

“You’d look cute with one of those headlamps doctors used to wear, Scully. Don’t you have a birthday coming up?”

Yeah, she thought, and you look even cuter naked in my bed that I imagined you would. Which, while a good problem, is still a problem. She sat down and pulled her chair up to the edge of the bed.

“I do. In about ten months.”

“Oh,” he said. “I think I’d be more comfortable if we both took our clothes off, Scully.”

“May I?” she said, holding the sheet covering him by the edge.

He nodded.

She peeled it back. “Light please,” she said.

He shined the penlight down to his groin.

“It’s not so bad,” she said, running her fingers along his shaft. “Chafed. I can imagine how that happened. Sorry about that.”

“Really, it’s okay. Talk about worth it.”

“I was worried those bumps were going to blister. But they're almost gone. You took those boxers off in the nick of time.”

“Thanks to you. All kidding aside, you’re a good doctor, Scully.”

“Well you need a new one.”

“Why?”

_____________________________

 

She’d splayed her knees and pulled them up toward her chest, offering herself to him, and God, he was on her, leaning in, banging her with his fingers, brushing her clit with his thumb, painting it. Her face, which had been straining all night if not all her life, dissolved into a mask of pure pleasure, animal and guileless. Her eyes drifted closed and she started to hum.

“Oh.” she said, a minute later with a start, in a voice he’d never heard, all the many moons they’d spent together, and a bolt of warmth ballooned in his solar plexus, stealing his breath, then burst, sending lovely shivers trickling to his belly, before settling, oh, so cozy and viscous, in his nuts.

He brought his face close to hers and she scraped her palms along his jaw as he pinched and rolled her nipple between his fingers. She slid her hands to his ears and held him there, then pulled him closer so they were breathing the same air, him and Scully, her little nails scratching his scalp, her palms petting his hair. He looked down at her, her eyes closed, her lips parted, expectant. And he wanted nothing more than to kiss her, imagined the sweet slide of her tongue in his mouth.

But then h”e would be lost. All bets off.

He braced himself on his forearm and looked down on her as he worked her over. He’d discovered a sweet spot for sure, set up a steady rhythm and mined it for all he was worth. She snatched a fist of his hair and twisted, needlessly, as she already had his complete attention.

Scully, her delicate ribcage so pale it shone in the low light, her skin like skim milk, her lungs filling and falling, faster and faster. She groped her hand toward his face and traced his lips, then slid her fingers into his mouth, rubbed them against his tongue. Scully, his partner, who didn’t even seem to like him half the time, panting and pleading, her nipples so smooth and pliant when he began this doomed campaign hardened to stiff little nubs. He was full on fucking her now with his fingers.

And Christ, he was about to make her come.

Forget his pink itchy dick, he’d need to see a doctor when he got home about a lobotomy in order to tear this page from the book of his life.

____________________________

 

Now though, Scully was towering above him. She’d moved the chair and stood, hands on her hips. Clinical. Stern. He tried to shake that other Scully from his head and tune in.

“You have to keep it lubricated at all times for at least a week,” she said, handing him the tube. “Cortisone. Don’t use Vaseline. As my last act as your personal physician, I’m going to call in four tubes to your pharmacy in the morning. If you run out, get some Cortaid at the drug store. It’s weaker, but better than nothing. Get some gauze too. To dry yourself off before you apply the steroid. You can use any clean fabric, but sterile is best. Airflow. And don’t scratch. Loose pants, or none at all when you can get away with it.”

She ignored his eyebrow wag.

“Your boxers should be a hundred percent cotton. Read the labels.”

“I think I got all that,” he said. “Your bossiness is kind of a turn on, by the way.”

“We’ll see how long that lasts,” she muttered.

He laughed a little. Scully.

“I think it’s dry,” he said, and tossed the gauze in the direction of the bedside table. It missed and fell on the floor.

He picked up the tube of medicine.

“You want to do it?” he asked, holding it out to her hopefully.

“You do it. I want to watch.”

“You want to watch? Scully!”

“Yeah. To make sure you’re using enough.”

He sat up and squeezed out a dollop of the thick white lotion into his palm.

“More,” she said. “Much more.” Supervising. Peering down at him stonefaced as one of those idols on Easter Island. If those idols were really really pretty.

“Okay Captain,” he said, adding more, then glancing up at her for her approval.

He added even more until she nodded. He capped the tube and tossed it also to the bedside table, where it missed and also fell on the floor.

He could tell she was locked in to doctor mode because she didn’t even scowl at him for junking up her room.

He peeled back the sheet and applied the medicine to his penis, taking the same time and care as she had done. “I was thinking Scully,” he said as he worked.

“About what Mulder?”

She always cared what Mulder had to say. Well, most of the time, anyway. But any thoughts he might be having while his hand was sliding over his cock were of particular interest to her.

“You know, I know we don’t take vacations. But I think if we ever did, I would like to go to Easter Island. With you. Because I’ve never even been there. Even though it has all those spooky idols. If that’s a place you’d like to go, of course.”

He was done with the medicine, but her silence after his confession was making him edgy. If he’d miscalculated and looked up and she had ambivalence on her face, or disgust, he didn’t know, as exposed as he was, what he would do.

Maybe she didn’t want to know that. Maybe she wanted things to go back to normal tomorrow. Maybe that would be best.

He was about to yank the sheet back up to cover himself when she spoke.

“I might like that,” she said. “To go to Easter Island with you. Mulder.” Her voice sounded kind of thick, a little rough.

Relief flooded his body and he lay back with his arm behind his neck and looked up at her, naked in her bed.

She stood stock still, her chin dipped, her gaze focused on the cruddy carpet. And tears had collected in the corners of her eyes, threatening to spill. Unexpected, but he didn’t think it was a bad thing.

Then looked him right in his eyes. “Mulder,” she said, smiling a little, shaking her head. “You keep surprising me.”

He nodded, not quite trusting his voice.

She turned away, busied herself putting things in their proper place. He leaned down and picked up the gauze where he dropped it on the floor and wiped the gloppy medicine off his hand. Then he tossed it back toward the bedside table where it landed, again, on the floor.

He was naturally just as unkempt if she was kempt, his anti-particle in every way. His perfect opposite.

He tucked himself under the covers and peeled them back on her side, fluffed the lame motel pillow on her side of the bed and then his own, laid down his heavy head and absently scratched the fuzz on his low belly as she moved about the room doing Scullythings. He closed his eyes and braced himself for what he knew he needed to do next.

Her heard her switch off the lamps, then felt her climb in bed next to him, tuck herself under the covers.

“Scully,” he said, turning toward her. “It’s late.”

“It’s later than late,” she said, “it’s practically early.”

“Yeah. And it’s been a lovely evening,” he said.

“It has,” she agreed. “By any measure.”

“But if you want to get some sleep, I can get lost.”

She propped her head up on her elbow and looked at him evenly. “Do you want to get lost, Mulder? It’s okay if you do.”

“No,” he said. “I don’t.” He was surprised to realize he meant it.

“Then don’t,” she said, lying back down, head on the pillow. “We’ll need to figure out what’s next. And that’s gonna be tricky. But tomorrow’s still a few hours away.”

“It is,” he said. “You sure?”

“I’m sure. Are you sure, Mulder?” She reached out and rubbed her knuckles against his chest.

“Yeah,” he said, sliding toward her. “I’m sure.”

“I was thinking though, Scully,” he said when he was cozied up next to her, “that I’m at a disadvantage, all naked over here. You with those clothes on.”

“I’m wearing very little, actually.”

“Still,“ he said, fingering the edge of her tank top. “How about you let me take this off you?”

She rolled her head on her pillow and pinned him with her eyes. “That seems fair,” she said.

He flashed her a grin and reached for the hem of her shirt. She lifted her arms and he pulled it up over her head.

“That’s better,” he said.

It was brighter in the room now. The power was flowing, for one thing. Light from the bathroom door, cracked, illuminated a slice of the shabby room. Light incandescent streamed through the window and under the door from the halogens in the lot, bathing the space. Light on their faces. Nowhere to hide.

And here she was stripped to the waist on her back in the bed and facing him. And he was above her, taking her in. So so so pretty.

“Scully,” he said, tearing his eyes away from her breasts to look her in her eyes. “I don't believe I've ever mentioned this. But you’re really really pretty.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. But she nodded.

He was hard. But he didn’t want to impose that on her. So he slid down next to her and moved his hips away, kissed her belly, her breasts. He was tracing them and nuzzling them, her hand lazily running through his hair when he remembered.

“Scully?”

“Hmmm?”

“Why can’t you be my doctor anymore?”

“Oh yeah,” she said, smiling. “Come closer and I’ll tell you.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’m game.”

He sidled his body closer to hers, snuggled up as best he could without... oversharing his current condition. Then he brought his face down to hers and rubbed his big honking nose against her sweet little nose. Eskimo kiss.

She grasped him with both hands by the hair and whispered, “Closer.” He felt her hot breath in his mouth, and God, he was in real trouble.

He rolled toward her, pressed his hopelessly stiff prick against her hip.

She nodded and smiled at him, still face to face. “That’s better.”

“Mulder,” she said, “you need a new doctor because I’m experiencing a conflict of interest. As your internist, I need to recommend that you refrain from sexual activity till this rash calms down.”

He was nodding.

“But as your…”

“FBI Partner with benefits?” he offered.

“Yes. As that, I need to recommend that you let me, ah, do this.” She reached down and grasped his shaft, then rubbed his head languorously against her soft belly.

They both groaned. She licked his nipple.

“Though I promise to be gentle. This time. You see the problem here?”

“No problem,” he said. “Oh, Scully. You’re fired.”

Chapter Text

Scully swims through sleep’s stratum, up up. Cold rain pounds the fresh earth and pools at their feet, soaks through her ruined shoes, so impractical, so vain, sloshes at the bottom of a grave, fresh, desecrated. Her umbrella useless against the chill, his hand at the small of her back for ballast. Heat and pressure. Then it’s gone. 

I see you Red, a voice sinister simpering, welcome to the surface horizon, northstar black sludge, we’ll have a second date sometime, girly-girl. So so so cold, she kicks hard and paddles away, past a small casket that holds only burlap and sand, keeps moving. Don’t sneer at the mysteries of the deep young lady, and she stands on the sand as waves lap an African shore, the heartbeat of the world. 

Up, up, she pops the hatch of a boxcar, peering out, sun shocked, eye level with cracked red earth on all sides, land pocked and parched for miles. The floor under their feet is humming, muscular and energetic. Power. Even as she guesses electric, she knows it’s alive, wobbling, organizing, falling in line, coming for her. His hands on her face, his eyes dark with want see her new, the promise of his lips sliding against hers, she breaths into his mouth and Ouch! The pinch needles the back of her neck. Then, the cold.  

An old man approaches, his creased face a map she can’t read, his hand soft on her shoulder with a message: the Navajo word for sweetheart? Is shi'a ski. She repeats it, he nods, she pulls with her arms, up, sensing the surface through the milky refracted light. Beautiful? He calls after her, Is Nizoni! 

Up, up, caught in a deluge, water sheets against car windows, clatters on the roof, infernal, deafening, yet again the world ends. The bottom of the ocean is as deep and dark as the imagination, and whiskey slides down the back of her throat, burns. She crimps her forehead, then hears the first startled cry, moves toward it, chubby starfish hands balled into fists, so rudely dislodged from the known world, pink and close and warm, manhandled into clamor and chaos, a new child, enraged, beautiful, so cold.  

Breaking through she’s stopped, the old man snags her wrist, whispers. Beware FBI Woman, of the man next door. Her puzzled gaze, Albert? Is that you? And before her eyes he breaks down and blows away, gone to goofer dust, given flight by gusts of breeze, scattered and sown, returned to the baked red earth to begin again.

 

Awake now. eyes still closed, Scully comes to her senses, shakes off the mantle of dreams, cranes her neck and sighs. Soon she's aware of an unfamiliar sensation, a body weighing down the other side of the bed, limbs entwined with hers. She sits up, startled, opens her eyes then squints against the mid-morning light. All the nuts, Florida. Oh yeah. What it reveals is a face more familiar to her than her own. Slack, peaceful. Pretty as a picture and naked as the day he was born. Mulder. Her partner. In her bed.

What had they gone and done?

Chapter Text

She was chilly. Cold actually, naked too, her flesh goosed, the air conditioner still chugging away, the bedspread cast aside. Gently, she disentangled from her sleeping partner, lifting his arm slung heavily over her ribs, and slipped out of bed. He resettled, but didn’t stir.

Thirsty.

Before ducking into the bathroom, she copped a gaze at snoozing Mulder in the bed. Her bed. Mid-morning sun filtering in through the windows, him bellied down on the mattress, smooth back and spindly calves protruding from the sheet that covered his glutes, his thighs. His strong stubbled jaw. Breathing deeply.

And yeah. Mulder’s recent confession aside, she wasn’t sure she should hold out any hope of ever being the pretty one in this relationship.

Needed water. She filled a glass cold from the tap and tipped it toward her lips, intent on draining it down. She caught herself, though, and spilled it down the sink. Between the hurricane and the resultant power situation, no telling what type of beasties might’ve worked their way into the water table, sea monsters aside.

Instead she grabbed a fresh washcloth off the shelf, stopped the sink and cranked the spigots full blast, holding her face over the water, breathing steam. She dipped her cupped hands and scrubbed her neck and her cheeks, her chin and nose, eyes and her forehead. She rose, and was surprised by her reflection in the glass. She smiled ruefully, though not without mirth, shaking her head.

After Mulder had turned up in her room on an otherwise ordinary night and dazzled her with his... rather extraordinary skill set? They could have walked things back. That would have been the time. Shattered as she was, there had been some privacy in the dark. A sense of remove. The fiction that he was just helping her with her cramps. Returning a favor, as it were.

After she came, she rolled away from him and hugged her knees. Remembered how to breathe. And whatever doubts and fears she’d batted away while in the clutches of her outsized need for him and the resultant hormonal surge returned all at once. Then she was rocking, swaying side to side, praying she’d come back to herself. Anxious to recover a sliver of dignity. She wished he would take the hint and go away.

She could feel him behind her, waffling...waiting... shifting on the bed. Go away, she thought. But did not say.

A few heartbeats later, he fitted his bare chest to her back, stilling her body. When his arm came around and gathered her closer, her mind also came to rest. Then he nuzzled his face in her hair—Mulder—and she, spent and depleted, surrendered to sleep.

Still, she’s pretty sure that from there, they could have tucked that moment into some forgotten pocket and moved on. Plausibly.

Recovered their practiced dynamic, established and perfected over the course of dozens then hundreds then thousands of days and nights, filled with slideshows and jokes and car rides and quarrels and flights, interrogations and meals and phone calls and chases and meetings and fights. It was what they did. It was who they were. It was what she knew.

It was a fine thing they built over time, a beautiful jalopy of a partnership. Every week they kicked the tires, hopped in and away they went.

But it could be fickle, fragile. It was threatened, she knew on some elemental level, by whatever Mulder was working out with Diana Fowley. Existentially so. She would stay as long as she could.

But this. This? This could be even more destabilizing. Which is why she knew he’d never touch her. Even after she’d absorbed the fact that he absolutely wanted to.

Instead he’d lean into his porn and his pickup basketball, his burritos and geek talk with the Gunmen, his phone sex and his books and his movies and always, his true love, his files. Clearly he found time to pump some iron too, as much as he’d filled out in recent years. He sharpened and hardened his torso, bringing to the fore obscure muscles and tendons and veins she’d long forgotten the names of. She’d look him over coolly in the car or office, then look them up later in Gray’s Anatomy, then get herself off with the tome open next to her on her bed just like she did when she was fourteen. As if he needed another way to vex her.

To get him back she whetted and sculpted her own physique, got a better stylist who vamped and fussed over her hair until it curled just so, till she imagined that it whispered to him through the dark. After her cancer, after Jerse, with that chip stitched into her neck and a new fierce determination, she learned to carry her losses, afraid but brave, with one true mission, and she became a new thing. So she took to wearing lower waisted pants and black bras and tighter shirts, maybe releasing an extra button to show him the hollows above her collarbones, her sternum and her throat. She gave as good as she got.

As iron sharpens iron, as it says in the good book, so one person sharpens another. That was what they did. They were two flinty bodies and mismatched minds grinding and colliding, sparking and sliding, until they were each honed to the finest edge. Which they then turned against any who dared come at them.

It was all for their work. He needed it for his reasons. She needed it for her own. She loved it. Her work was the one thing she was finally getting right.

Which was funny, because by any rubric she herself might have once applied, her career was orbiting in irreversible retrograde. The types benchmarks, promotions, and accolades she might once have sought after and craved were all but lost to her. To dutifully, dumbly climb those rungs was all she had known to do, before. Before she’d met him, before she’d been drawn in to his nebulous, hazy, imbroglio world. But there, in a place she once hadn’t ever dreamed of or dared believe in, she was thriving.

Her family didn’t understand, that she knew. Within the Bureau, she'd been all but written off.

And the odd thing was, she didn’t care. He didn’t care either, and that was the beauty of him, the quality she’d found so perplexing and attractive when they’d met. Even when it pained her, the way he led with his chin.

These days at work she’d catch wind of some drabble of gossip, or be faced with another agent, driven by petty jealousy, ignorance, or worse, who’d dismiss and demean them, and it rolled right off her. Not because she’d adopted his mindset, but because she knew now what he knew then: They were scared. And they were wrong.

What she and Mulder did, what he had taught her to do, the most important tool in their remarkable combined skillset, was to not know.

Instead, to listen. To people, to situations, to evidence. Instead, to ask questions, then better questions, then even better questions, and of the right people, no matter how impertinent. With him, she was willing to forget what she knew, and open to what was really happening. And then open some more. And it was terrifying. But she did it anyway.

Every day she watched cops and scientists and doctors close themselves off. Cleave to their comfortable stories that allowed them to keep it all together. But Mulder had helped her understand something she would have once claimed to know: science is not about certainty. In fact, it’s the lack of certainty that grounds it, and the most valuable journey a scientist could undertake is to find a way of unlearning how to think about something.

Their stalemate gifted her weekends to herself, and she, monkish, holed up with her books and papers from all corners of science and strived to make sense of some of what she’d seen, to at least find the gaps between the known and what she knew, to knit the worlds together. It engrossed her completely.

She’d found compatriots in the realm of theoretical physics, guys she’d dismissed out of hand when she’d been piloting toward med school, and was in regular communication with several think tanks. These people devoured her and Mulder’s work, and were startingly close to beginning to explain some of what she’d seen.

In fact, if Mulder was as determined to undo them as she feared, that would be her next move. Though the prospect grieved her. She loved catching bad guys. Righting wrongs when the opportunity arose. 

And she loved him. Of course she did, and had for some time, just for his eyes, God. And his loneliness. And his compassion. And his courage. His mind alone was like candy to her. And in a lot of important ways he loved her back, and properly. So she accepted this stasis, leaned into it. Learned to embrace it. He was her ticket to this ride, with his bottomless mind and nose for the unfathomable, and it thrilled her on every possible level.

But he didn’t touch her. And she didn’t touch him. And she reminded herself regularly not to need him, chided herself when she forgot. That was how this worked.

So when, in the dead of night the power had returned, after he’d broken that very important rule, she pulled on some clothes and stole into the bathroom. She splashed water on her face, brushed her teeth with jittery hands. She found her own eyes in the mirror, breathed into her belly and steadied.

“It’s fine,” she said to firmly to herself. She repeated it like a mantra as she prepared to emerge and dismiss him, send him back to his room. It’sfine it’sfine it’sfine it’sfine it’sfine it’sfine it’sfine.

When she felt good and girded, she slid into bed and settled herself. Smoothed the covers around her body and pivoted on her pillow to face him.

And then?

She doesn’t remember changing her mind. Just the feeling of her anxiety washing away. What was it she had been so worried about? It was Mulder one pillow over, feigning sleep. Just Mulder. Her dorky—albeit dashing—partner who used anagrams for pseudonyms, got seasick on ferries, and once asked her to autopsy an elephant. His ties were hopeless and half the time his socks didn’t match. Mulder.

She must admit, she’s not exactly crystal clear on how, a half hour later, she’d wound up stretched out on the bed next to him, shirtless. While he lay back on two pillows, his fingers laced behind his neck, eyes slivered to slits and raking over her body, his stiff cock in her hand, a revelation.

She loved how quiet he was in bed, his slow hands and his eyes on her, stalking her, strafing her, taking her in. She assumed he’d be as loquacious and frenetic in the sack as out of it. Not so. Mulder, surprising her again. If she had any inkling it would shut him up, she would have made a grab for his package years before.

As she worked his cock slowly with a twist of her wrist, she looked up his long brown body, his stomach undulating, his jaw clenched. And when her fist slipped over his head, he’d gasp. He reached down toward her. She thought he was going for her tits, as one would. Instead, being Mulder, he snagged her foot. Held it snug between his palms and brought it to his lips, kissed her instep, her arch. Nipped at the tips of her toes, hard enough to get her attention.

When she looked up, he captured her eyes with his, locked her in like a tractor beam. A playful smile on his lips. She met his gaze and, held it, held it, held it... until it was too much. She blinked first, looked away.

He smiled bigger, hitched his hips and let his eyes drift shut. Closed his lips around her big toe and sucked. And some floor she’d not even realized she’d been standing on her whole life dropped out from under her.

Whoo-boy.

She was parched. She dried her face with a towel and crept back into the room. Opened the half fridge hoping for water, willing to pay the minibar markup, only to find it stocked with wine, beer, and soda. Chocolates and sports drinks. Blech.

Needing the real deal, the H2O., she pulled on a clean tee and some joggers, then paused. She didn’t want to rouse him, rooting around for her usual armor.

Because as the light rose in the room she could see he was well and truly out, not fake sleeping like before. Powered down, his breathing full and even, brainwaves oscillating slower and slower, La plus que lente, destination delta, lost to the world. Mulder. She was glad he was resting so deeply. Like anyone, he needed to be restored from time to time. Plus, he wasn’t easy to subdue. And they had, after all, kept each other up until the sky, so inky black, had dawned perfectly blue.

Whoops.

Her simple plan was to score some cold clean water, slip back into the room, and catch a bit more sleep herself. Checking her wallet, the smallest bill she had was a ten. She folded it into her pocket and slid her keycard in beside it.

On her way out, she stole one last glance at Mulder, still soundly sleeping, his long body all tangled up in the sheets. 

As a kid she liked to imagine she’d captured a wild animal, a meerkat or panther or linx. In her pretend world she’d charm it and tame it and train it and feed it until it wanted to stay, then hide it in her room all day while she went to school. So when she got home they could play.

This was like that.

She slipped out the door, making sure it shut softly behind her.

Outside, a fresh breeze washed over her, sun bathed her face. Mulder had been spot on, the dank thick air had moved out overnight. And the sky that had been clogged with low gray clouds for days was high overhead and perfectly clear.

She cased the place out of habit, felt for her Glock at her back. Not there.

But she wouldn’t need it. Their rented taurus was now the lonely occupant of the sad parking lot, the lines cracked and faded, the asphalt, once black, baked and bleached to blue.

Everyone else had checked out and bugged out, she supposed, even the two who’d been up to no good in the next room the night before. All the better. She took a big gulp of air and steadied herself, set a course for the office to get some change.

The door was open, the little bell twinkling as she entered. But no one was manning the ship. She pressed the buzzer, stuffed her hands in her pockets, wandered over to the rack of pamphlets advertising local tourist traps. Mulder must have read every one when he came over here to scare her up some Advil, her hero for real, voracious as he is. God, Mulder. Maybe she would do something touristy with him. She eyed their options.

Wine tasting was the most adult activity. But all wrong for them. Mulder wasn’t a wine kinda guy, and she wasn’t all that curious about the fruits of the vineyards of central Florida.

She remembered Daniel raising up a glass of Burgandy or Shiraz and sniffing deeply, then offering it to her to do the same. He’d be holding forth over dinner on the finer points of wine. Or the history of photography. Or, most boringly of all, Jazz. She recalled feeling like she should learn to like these things, too. Making herself listen attentively, ask questions. And it shamed her, how she just wanted to catch a buzz and get him alone.

Mulder had never made her feel like that, not once, like she needed to try to be someone she wasn’t. They were peers, equals, friends and foes, two kids struggling and scrapping in a sandbox, then coming together to build something intricate and fine.

Of all the touristy stuff, she found herself drawn to the go carts. Mulder’s gangly legs tucked into a little car, knees akimbo, his gaudy tie flying over his shoulder as he rounded a curve. Could be fun.

Then again, they should probably just head to the airport, let things normalize a little. Settle down. They’d passed up a half dozen chances to pump the brakes the night before, but it needed to be done. They had both agreed at some sober moment during the most interminable unlikely lovely complicated evening she’d ever spent with her partner, that they would need to reassess in the morning.

A man came into the office from the back door.

“Hello there. You must be room nine.”

“Yes,” she said. “Hello.”

“Sorry for the wait. My son’s home sick from school today. And my wife’s over in Sugarmill checking on her mom, after the storm. He’s only six so he needs some TLC. Double duty.”

“I hope you didn’t leave him alone?”

“Oh no. My dad’s with him. They both love themselves some Spongebob.”

Scully smiled. Whereas normally she would just nod and give him a tight grin. She felt loose and liquid, unveneered, cracked open in some dimly remembered way.

“How are you feeling, by the way, Miss? Your partner was concerned. Had me scare up some Advil.”

“Oh, that was you. Thank you for that. I’m fine, though.”

“And your partner? He asked my wife about a doctor?”

“He’s okay too. We’re both well. Thank you.”

“Checking out?”

“No, actually.”

Scully hadn’t even thought about calling the airport yet. They both needed badly to rest. “We’ll need the rooms one more night.”

“Very good. We’ll put you down for another night,” he said, taking a pencil to the tidy registry book in front of him. “Not like we’re busy. Storm scared away all the tourists. For a minute, at least. You two must be looking for those idiots who robbed the bank.”

Scully nodded.

“We appreciate what you do. If it wasn’t on the government, I’d comp your rooms. I don’t advertise it, but Elmer’s my cousin.”

“Really?” Scully said, shifting gears slightly. “Elmer Santiago Smith?”

“Yep. Blacksheep to his bones. We’re good people, for the most part.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Scully said. She noticed the man for the first time really. Big guy with a tidy beard. Solid. 

“I even gave him a job last year when he got out of prison. A-gain. Fixing things, sweeping up. That didn’t last long. He could work, Elmer, he’s always been great with cars. But work’s just never been his thing. He’s a lazy no account freeloader. But he’s harmless for the most part.”

This was true. He’d only been nabbed for bumbled burglaries, petty theft. Drug possession.

“I don’t know the other guy.”

“Robert Bacon Blight,” Scully said. “He’s from Orlando. They met in prison. He’s much less harmless.”

His rap sheet was more colorful: domestic violence, armed robbery, possession with intent, sexual assault.

“That’s Elmer,” he said, shaking his head. “Always falling in with the wrong crowd.”

“Has anyone talked to you?” Scully asked, perking up some more. “Mister?...”

“Smith. Bertram Smith. Bertie.”

“Do you have any idea where Elmer might be, Mr. Smith?”

“If I did I’da called y’all already. I doubt I’d be much help. Haven’t seen him since he quit.”

“All the same,” Scully said. “I’m going to get someone over here to interview you and your wife, in case anything comes to mind.”

“We’d be happy to help. Why not you though?”

“Oh, we’re off duty, Agent Mulder and I. We were down here on another case. Just helped out yesterday with the pursuit. We’re in a holding pattern until we can catch a flight back to DC.”

She felt a little self-conscious, slightly exposed, snapped back into professional mode but wearing a flimsy tank top, braless no less, her Keds and some sweats.

“Hey,” he said, peering closely at her. “You delivered that baby. I saw your picture on the news last night. They interviewed the mom. She seemed like a whack job, talking about a sea monster, of all things.”

”That was me,” Scully said.

“Wow,” he said, shaking his head. “It was a sweet story.”

Scully nodded grimly. Oh no. The FBI was getting better at public relations. They wanted to take the focus off flubbing the bank robbery thing by pushing some human interest.

Now she had even more reasons to want to get out of Florida.

“They sure do keep y’all busy. Makes me feel a little better about that big Federal tax bite.”

“As I mentioned, we’re off duty. If you see Elmer and this other guy, Robert Bacon Blight, don’t confront them. Just call 911 and let us handle it.”

“Yes Ma’am. But I don’t expect to see him. On the news they said they were looking in Georgia. Makes sense. He’s got people there too. Anything else I can do for you?”

She flashed to Mulder asking her the same question the night before. Then shook it out of her head.

“There is, actually,” Scully said. “I need change. For the vending machine.”

“Sure thing.”

He dished out ten ones and handed her back her ten spot.

She quirked her eyebrow at him.

“Drinks and snacks on the house for FBI agents who deliver babies and have to bother themselves looking for my dumbass cousin Elmer, besides,” he said, winking at her.

“Thank you, Mr. Smith. Bertie. I hope your son feels better.”

She was back out the door, and around the side of the motel, thinking only of water. She fed the limp dollars into the slot and bought three bottles, downed one of them on the spot.

As she turned to head back to her room, a bottle in each hand, something caught her eye. A flash of chrome in the bright sun. It had come from a nearby abandoned barn.

She walked toward it, crossing the country road that ran behind the property and shielding her eyes, peering into the shaded structure.

She stepped inside. And there, behind a pile of stacked haybales, amidst the stifling air and dust, slatted with sunlight slashing through the crumbling roof, was a car.

An El Camino, to be exact. Red with a black racing stripe. The very same car that had spit gravel in her face the day before.

Bertie’s dumbass cousin Elmer had come home to roost.

They were here.

Chapter Text

His dick knew things.

In general, thinking with your little head not your big one got a bad rap.

But for him? The opposite seemed to apply.

Such were Mulder’s first thoughts when he was startled awake by the motel door closing as Scully left to find them some water. Pearls of wisdom no doubt gleaned from his hazy dreamworld he’d managed to smuggle to his conscious mind.

He sat up and opened his eyes, and was assaulted by the blazing Florida sunshine edging its way around the blinds. He rolled over and expected to find Scully sweetly snoozing next to him. But she was not there. Or anywhere, he ascertained after swiveling his head to case the compact room. Huh.

Figuring she probably left to score them some provisions, he smiled and closed his eyes against the encroaching daylight. He ran his hand down his midriff to check on the little guy, genius that he was. Still asleep. Moderately itchy, but nothing like the prickling, burning slice of pure hell he’d suffered yesterday. He gave his penis a grateful squeeze, rolled on his side, and pulled a pillow over his face.

Of course he’d been mortified when he sprung to life in her hand the night before, with Scully in full on doctor mode, acting so clinical and detached. While he was so very very exposed. A wave of anger arose in the wake of his humiliation. At her. Which wasn’t fair. She was doing him a favor, after all. Taking care of him, like she always did.   

But now, considering what that moment of vulnerability had led to, he was glad it happened. And hardly surprised.

And when his big head has been muddled and confused on a night a few weeks before? His dick had shown the way forward. When a different woman had laid her hands on him, slipped her tongue into his mouth.

He didn’t want her. He felt like a block of wood as she kissed him and touched him. And yet he let it happen. His mind filled with a fuzzy gray static as she whispered to him how she needed him, how she’d never stopped loving him, until she was kneeling on the floor in front of him. She opened his pants and he let her, hungry for something she was offering. He would think a lot about that later.

But then his dick was in her mouth. And she worked it, employed all her little tricks. And still it stayed soft.

Until, giving up, she stood. She crossed the room and poured herself a scotch. He tucked his junk in his pants and zipped up. Not even embarrassed.

“You love her,” Diana said, her back to him.

He nodded. “I do.”

“But Fox,” she said, closing the distance between them, sitting down next to him, “She doesn’t know you like I do. There’s so much I want to give you...”

She launched into the pitch he’d heard from her before. Since she returned, she’d been whispering to him whenever she could get him alone, offering him access. “There are so many things we can accomplish together, Fox. Why would you want to keep toiling in the dark when you can shape the future of the human race? You’ve more than earned your seat at the table. And your voice is needed there...”

Though he never really felt engaged in these conversations, his big head listened to what Diana had to say.

But the little one was more persuasive. Not to mention more persistent. The truth was, Scully had been the only one able to get him off for months. Though of course she hadn’t touched him.

His extensive collection of salacious videotapes these days stayed tucked in their hiding places, moldering in their cases. The magazines delivered to his door each month, Penthouse and Hustler and Escort and Razzle and Club, remained stacked on his entryway table, their spines uncracked, their pages unperused. Most with the black no-see-um wrapper still intact.

A fact Scully discovered while visiting his apartment a few weeks before. She turned up on the late side one evening, work on her mind, files in her hand, her body tucked dutifully away in some somber suit.

“Oh that,” he said when she placed her palm on the towering cache of smut, popped an eyebrow in his direction. She had spent enough time in his space to understand that this was a departure from his usual behavior, where his porn was concerned. Whereby he’d rip the covers off the mags as soon as they arrived and leaf through them, looking for anything particularly good. He’d turn down the corners of memorable pages then leave them piled haphazardly around his place: on end tables, under the fishtank, next to his bed.

The explanation was not something he was prepared to share. So he thought fast, and invented something on the fly that seemed remotely plausible. “Yeah, the boys tell me that those are going to be collector's items soon. Print is dead, Scully. Everyone making the switch from atoms to bits and bytes. Paper’s so pulpy and inefficient. I have a book on it somewhere...” He riffled through his bookshelf, glad to escape her excruciating gaze. He plucked out a book and handed her a copy of Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. “He’s a smart guy. You should check it out.”

His effort to distract her was in vain. She put the book aside without glancing at the cover and continued to silently cross-examine him. He pretended to be interested in another book he’d pulled at random, but the moment stretched on uncomfortably. "I thought I could get more for them if they remained in pristine condition,” he said as he paged through the book he wasn’t reading. For all he knew he was holding it upside down. “You know how people keep their Star Wars toys in the boxes with the cellophane on?”

She shrugged, unconvinced. But she moved on, willing to let it go. Her stacked heels clacked obnoxiously against his hardwood floors as she slowly made her way into his living room.

He doubted she wanted to know the real reason. Though he was pretty sure he could turn the tables on her if he blurted it out. It would serve her right for the way she roamed around his apartment and let her eyes light on his stuff, storing her little data points in that mind, trying to figure him out. But maybe one day the tea leaves of his pitiable life she seemed so eager to read would finally speak to her. Maybe it would occur to her what was actually going on.

Which was that every time he touched himself, he imagined it was her hand. And he would try to switch things over, open one of his skin mags— his trusty strategy for years when it came to getting his thoughts off his partner and back where they belonged —but it wasn’t working anymore.

He’d listlessly page through the glossies, looking for a promising spread, land on some blowjob scene and eyeball it for a while. But when he got down to business it was her mouth on him, warm and receptive, her eyes on his face, his hands in her coppery hair. He’d smolder for a while, thinking of her lips, her strong small hands, and always her eyes, then fervently work himself up. And the magazine, forgotten, would slip away onto the floor.

On the bright side, his inappropriate intrusive fixation on his FBI partner was saving him two hundred bucks a month he used to spend on phone sex. The last time he dialed in he couldn’t even get it up. So he spilled his guts to one of his regular providers, droning on for forty-five minutes about how he had it bad for his partner, all the things she did that made him crazy, the reasons he couldn’t tell her. Realizing even therapy would be cheaper, and feeling like a terrible cliché, he’d quit calling those numbers.

His videos were his last line of defense. Their absorbing input had always been able to capture his attention, so he’d try one of those. It might work for a few minutes, but the real action was behind his eyes. In his mind it was her heels digging in to the small of his back as he plunged into her slick little cunt. She’d be beneath him hot and panting, open her mouth to moan and he’d stuff his fingers in, slide them slowly against her tongue. Soon he’d be picking up the pace... The television would blare fruitlessly in the background, rife with bad dialogue and silicone silo tits and oh babys. The money shot would come and go, unseen by him, and the screen would fade to black.

The reason porn had quit working was simple: in his fantasies, she always comes too. Usually more than once. He’d start slow, imagine he was taking his time kissing his way down her body. That could take a while. Then he’d tease her, rubbing the fat head of his cock up and down her slit. When she begged him to, he’d slip inside her and slam his hips forward. He’d hold there, bottomed out, and kiss her sweet mouth. Then he’d slide it in and out, looking into her eyes, feeling every inch of her.

Soon he’d need to fuck her harder, faster. He’d reach down to tease her clit until she was thrashing and pleading. Then she’d say his name, and her face would change, and she’d come on his dick. He’d watch her ride it out, humming with pleasure as her warm wet circles broke against him and travelled up his body in waves. Till his nuts and his gut and his heart and his throat and his brain were replete with her. Finally he’d come, imagining he was cradled by her hips and rocking, buried deep inside her, spilling his secrets into her ear.

In his dirty busy mind he’d already had her so many places and ways: in showers and motel beds, in cars and elevators, bent over his desk at work, the door unlocked, her skirt bunched around her waist, her drugstore pantyhose dangling from her ankle. Quick or slow or sweet or mean, acrobatic or missionary, rough or tender. Or both. God. Even boring. Just the two of them in his bed, nose to nose under the covers, whispering and wrestling and whiling away a Sunday morning.

And the most pathetic and woebegone detail? Sometimes his tortured imaginings contained no sex at all. He wanted to watch a movie with her feet parked in his lap. He wanted to shop for groceries with her and hold her hand on the walk home. To spend a weekend with her on the Vinyard and show her his old high school. He wanted to rub her back when she was sad and play footsie with her under the table during boring budget meetings. He wanted to gather her close and kiss her eyelids and hold her in his arms as she fell asleep. To watch her to rise naked from his bed and pull on his clothes she’d just stripped from his body. On red eye flights he wanted to leave the arm rest up and snuggle with her under those dingy felt blankets. To read to her while she soaked in the tub and find the nooks and hollows of her body where she was ticklish. He wanted to make her giggle, make her laugh, make her cry happy tears. He wanted to make her wet just with his voice. To lay in bed and watch while she got dressed for church. He wanted to kiss her in front of her idiot brother, maybe even slip her a tasteful amount of tongue. To shower with her before work, to soap her up and shampoo her hair. He wanted to stock his fridge with an assortment of her gross non-dairy yogurts.

Scully. Before she’d even descended into his office and introduced herself, he assumed she was a plant. Or a dupe, a patsy. Why else would a promising and talented young agent be conscripted to his lonely, disrespected division? Most likely she’d already agreed to keep tabs on him, to cast his work in a negative light. And even if she hadn’t, he was certain she’d be manipulated, using the lever of her obvious ambition, into doing so. He also suspected, since she’d spent most of her time thus far in the FBI in the lab or the classroom, that she was a house cat. The kind of agent who might hold romantic notions about working in the field, but who would soon balk at the grueling, unpredictable hours, the endless travel, the physical grind. And blanch at the dangers. It’s no kind of life for anybody who wants a life.

By the time their flight touched down in Oregon on that first case, he knew for sure that she was fun to spar with. And all kinds of smart. And even sort of cute. And while it can obviously be helpful to have a partner if things go sideways, he remembers hoping that didn’t happen to them before she washed out and retreated back to the lab. Because he suspected this itty bitty pathologist with zero field experience and impractical footwear? Would be more likely to become a liability than properly cover his flank.

After they’d worked a half dozen cases together, it was fair to say he’d reconsidered the hasty assumptions he’d made about Scully. Which is to say she surprised him at every turn. Except on the couple of occasions when she’d astonished him, leaving him flat-footed and slack-jawed in her wake. Against all odds, he had himself a partner. Which is not to say he fully trusted her. Not yet. And he doubted she’d hang around much longer.

But still. He’d learned that she was game. Skeptical and rational, but up for anything. She never complained about bad food or lumpy beds. And courageous, staring down firearms pushed in her face without blinking. She was fearless and cagy, and could take a punch or dish one out. And in the next moment she could soften, to connect with a suspect or a victim, to care for a child, or for him. She believed deeply in what she was doing. When he bumbled into trouble, which he seemed to have a knack for, she more than had his back. Yet when she’d sided with him and blew off her buddies from the Academy? It wasn’t loyalty to him she was demonstrating, but to the victims. To the truth. Above all, Scully was honest.

In some ways, he knew her so well. Yet all these years later there was there were aspects to her he could only guess at. Scully, he’d come to understand, was a deeply private person. Didn’t give pieces of herself away in idle conversation, like most people do. The fact that he was a trained and skilled profiler didn’t seem to help. In his fevered mind he’d become preoccupied with the things he didn’t know about her. Like how, exactly, does she like to be touched? He thought about that a lot. Is she a morning sex person? (God he hoped so.) Is she loud in bed? Or more quiet and intense? A little repressed, or wild and uninhibited? He could imagine it either way. Is she bossy? Submissive? A little of both? What does she taste like? Does she talk dirty? Will she like it when he does? (Because he definitely does.) How would he tease her? What are her kinks? Does she like it rough? And if he wanted to go down on her for hours, would she be okay with that?

So, yeah. He loved her.

That switch had been flicked for him on a steamy summer evening, a moment when he’d been staring down the real possibility of losing her. She walked away. He followed her, flew out his door like he’d been shot out of a cannon. Stormed up to her where she’d turned to face him in his hallway. Fists clenched, voice raised, he was in full on fighting mode. But he wasn’t fighting her. He was fighting to keep her. So instead of telling her off, as his body language suggested he might, he told her what she meant to him. How he needed her. Things he hadn’t even realized before they came out of his mouth. But all of it the truth.

She’d been resolute, determined to tell him her news and be on her way, her body rigid and self-contained. But then she broke, like a marionette whose strings had been cut, she softened and stepped into his embrace. He looked in her impossibly blue eyes glinting with tears and realized with dreadful certainty that, Christ, he was going to kiss his partner. More than that, if she let him, he was going to pick her up and carry her back through the door of his apartment and lay her down and fuck her.

That plan had been derailed, but the urge for him remained. And not long after, he gathered his courage and, with all the earnestness he could muster, he’d looked her in the eyes and confessed.

So he’d told her that he loved her. But had he shown her?

That was a thorny question, and it made him uncomfortable to consider it. Because he had to admit that for the most part, he hadn’t.

It was strange, but once his feelings for Scully had shifted, his behavior toward her had become less loving. For one thing, he didn’t let her in on that fact that she’d become the only featured player in his secret late-nite fantasy theatre. But more than that, he found himself especially irritable with her. Dismissive. Self-centered. Sometimes even cold.

When he was looking for an excuse to be angry with her, he told himself a story that she’d rejected him. Because, oh brother. But he’d seen her eyes go wide for an instant, felt her animal panic. She’d pored over his hospital chart and had to know he wasn’t high. So he’d concluded that she didn’t want him. Didn’t love him.

And Fowley’d chosen that inopportune moment to skip back over the pond and make a play for his ass. And though he had no interest in rekindling that relationship, just having her around reminded him of all the reasons it just might be a bad idea to get tangled up sexually with your partner.

More than that, even though he knew that Scully felt insecure because of Diana for several legitimate reasons, he hadn’t bothered to reassure her that she had nothing to worry about. When Diana called him and invited him downstairs for lunch, he’d go. Mostly to be near his files, and to mine the trashcans for cases when her back was turned. But he’d steal away from the bullpen, not tell Scully where he was off to, or why. He let her twist in the wind, wondering who Diana was to him and what her reappearance meant for their partnership.

It would make sense that once you’ve discovered the person you love, the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your days (not even to mention nights), the person who is, quite possibly, it for you? That you would try to make that happen. To lock that down. And yet he seemed to be doing everything but.

Even after she’d been shot by Ritter, and he’d almost lost her again.

And why was that? How to explain this puzzling behavior.

Maybe she didn’t want him, and he was just protecting himself.

The thing was, when he was being honest, he knew that wasn’t true. When he’d been about to kiss her in his hallway, she’d looked confused at first. And then concerned, with real fear flashing in her eyes. But by the time his lips were hovering over hers? They were on the same page. She’d gone molten in his arms, and her mouth awaited his, hot and ready. His body remembered how she’d opened to him, with her sweet breath and her fingers on his neck. He knew in his bones how that encounter would have ended, if not for that stupid fucking bee. Recalled it every chance he got.

As a psychologist, looking at the situation objectively? He’d have to conclude that he was engaging in some epic self-sabotage. Yup.

That night in her apartment when Diana had made her intentions clear, he’d agreed like some kind of docile sheep to join her. To scrum up with the other chosen few at El Rico Air Force Base as Armageddon loomed and save himself at the expense of the rest of humanity. And Scully, even though he wasn’t by her side where he belonged, was still fighting. For him, For them. For the truth. For the future.

And to repay her for her steadfast faith in him and devotion to their work? He was flirting with the one thing that could tear them apart. With inflicting a betrayal that could send her packing for good.

They’d dodged a bullet that night. More than that, they’d gotten their files back, and were free to resume their work. And by any measure he should have felt relieved. But he woke the next morning with a hangover worse than any he’d ever gotten from liquor. He looked in the mirror to shave and realized he couldn’t even meet his own gaze. He was ashamed. And he had to admit that he’d been seduced by Diana after all. Not into bed, but into complacency.

Needing some time and space to think things through, he called Skinner and redeemed a few vacation days. He threw some clothes in a bag and set out driving, not sure of his destination.

On the road, heading north, armed with this new clarity, he mulled things over. How was he going to feel, he wondered, when he succeeded and chased her away? That seemed to be his end game, after all. He knew what he’d do. He’d track her down to wherever she’d absconded to and interrupt her as she attempted to reboot her life. Then, looking desperate and half mad, he’d profess his love.

But it would be too late. She would conclude, quite logically, that he only wanted her when she was leaving. And even if she loved him like he hoped she might, she would not settle for that. Not Scully. And it would be selfish of him to ask her to.

It hit him then, with complete and utter clarity, that he had no idea how to love someone. He’d had bad models and a dearth of life experience in that arena. He knew how he felt. But love is a verb. It’s about what you do. She had taught him that.

He was good with the grand gestures, sure. Tracking her down at the bottom of the world and fishing her out of an enormous alien vessel, for example. Then breathing life back into her and hauling her to the surface while sidestepping rabid lizard monsters who swiped at them with razor-edged claws.

But she needed more. For him to find mundane ways to express his care and concern, perhaps. To show her how much she mattered to him. How much he valued her and all the ways she contributed to their work. To his life. She needed to see that he put her first. She deserved these things. She had earned them. And he knew she wouldn’t let him glimpse her secret self, let him know her in the ways he desperately wanted to, until he gave them to her.

He wasn’t sure he could do it. But he knew he had to try.

He decided to start right away. He’d been thinking of her all morning, of course. About celebrating their return by pressing her her against a wall in their office and pushing into her, fucking her breathless and senseless before lunch, to be exact. But he hadn’t thought of her at all, he realized. Not once.

Scully. She’d be there right now, in the basement waiting for him, their first day back where they belonged. Wondering where he could be with half the morning gone. Bewildered as to what might be keeping him from reclaiming his precious turf. Maybe she already talked to Skinner and knew he was taking a few days off. Maybe she’d be worried. Or pissed. Or worse, wondering if he was enjoying a morning lounging in bed with a treacherous leggy brunette.

At the next rest stop, he pulled off and powered up his cell phone. He was relieved to see that he'd missed a call from her. She hadn’t given up on him yet.

Rather than listen to her message, he dialed her back. She answered on the third ring.

“Hey Mulder,” she said.

“Hey Scully,” he said. “Are you in the office?”

“I am,” she said. “Where I thought for sure you would be. Skinner told me you were on vacation. What’s going on?” Her voice was brittle. Defensive.

“I will be, Scully. I’ll meet you there. And soon. But I need to take care of a few things first.”

“Okay,” she said thoughtfully. “What kinds of things?”

“I, ah, I need to get my head straight before coming back. I’ve been mixed up. About some stuff.”

“I see,” she said.

They were both quiet for long seconds.

“How are you?” he asked.

“Me?” The question surprised her. “I’m good. Enjoying the silence. Working on expense reports. Glad to be out of the bullpen.”

“You sure? You were popular, Scully. I think Agent Kargoll was working up the nerve to ask you out.” Mulder would glare at him as he brought her a donut on a little plate in the mornings. He’d leave it on the corner of the desk if she wasn’t in yet, like an offering to the goddess incarnate.

“Yep,” she said. “I noticed that too. Reassigned in the nick of time...”

“I did my best to scare him off...”

“He was persistent, I’ll give him that.”

“He seemed like a nice enough guy. You could do worse than landing a boyfriend who arrives bearing gifts every morning...”

“I could do better, too.”

“No doubt,” he said. “What would be better than that?”

“Hmm. Why do you ask?”

“Research,” he said.

“Research,” she repeated. “Okay. Let’s see. The bearing gifts is ok. But maybe someone with some sense of what I actually like?”

“Let me jot that down,” he said. She snorted a little laugh. Which warmed him all the way through. “It’s true, Scully, you’re not a big fan of donuts. I benefitted from his crush on you more than you did.”

“I tried to wait until he had his back turned before handing those off to you...”

“You’re very kind,” he said.

Just then a truck blew by on the highway, laying on the booming brake, rocking his car.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“I, ah, hit the road this morning. Just to think. Just to drive. But I suppose I’m heading home. To see my mother for a few days.”

“Everything okay?” she asked. He heard the concern in her voice, the fear that she’d be needing to tend to him trepanned and shocky, bail him out of jail. The usual.

“Yeah,” he said. “Or it will be. I really think it will be.”

“Allright Mulder,” she said after a long beat. “I’ll be holding down the fort. Drive safe. And keep in touch.”

“I will. And save me some of that paperwork, Scully.”

She laughed and hung up.

He had, in fact, visited his mother. She was glad to see him, and he stayed a few days, helped her out with some chores around the house. Got on a ladder and plucked the muck and leaves from the gutters, shifted some dusty busted furniture from the basement to the curb.

And he absorbed the silences of that house, his mother’s sadness, the way every possession, every exchange seemed steeped in a deep, abiding misery.

He remembered his mother different. Laughing, for example. Playing bridge with her friends, toying with her strand of pearls as she leaned in to gossip. Teasing him with a glint of joy in her eyes. Before Samantha had been taken.

It had broken her. Broken all of them. Now she ghosted around her own home, tending to her roses, watching television. Always alone. He lived much the same way. This was all that was left.

All because his father had been unable to protect them from the men he worked with, no matter how noble his intentions. The same men he had been tempted by Fowley to join up with, if he was telling the truth. Now they were reduced to ash. He had no idea what remained, but he knew he and Scully would find out.

By the time he climbed in his car to come home, he was committed to not making his father’s mistake. And to living differently. Less stubbornly solitary. To inviting some goodness into his life, no matter how strange it felt.

And last night, when it was actually happening, when he was wrapped up in bed with Scully in real life, it had been so vivid, so peculiar. As he rolled his naked frame against hers, time slowed down. In his head he heard the seconds ticking away distorted by doppler effect, whomp whomp. Felt his stiff prick slide against her buttery thigh, painfully slow. Pressed his ear to her chest. Imagined the steady squeeze and release of her heart beneath her breastbone. Heard the whoosh of her blood through her veins.

Looked up at her flushed face, this beautiful untamable breakable beast.

And he loved her.

He’d told her so, he thought as he drifted, smiling and sated, back to sleep.

Now he needed to show her.

Chapter Text

Old Ending to the story:

 

They both woke abruptly when the lights and air came back on. He was curled around her, both of them on top of the covers, his hand nestled between her breasts.

As soon as he gained his bearings he rolled away and pressed his face into the mattress, remembering his promise to close his eyes. He heard her moving around, popping the tab on a soda and ferreting out some more pills from the baggie he’d brought her. Then she was digging through her suitcase, switching off lamps and slipping into the bathroom. Closing the door.

He let out a breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding.

He checked his watch. Three. He wondered briefly if he should decamp to his own room as he had told her he planned to. Of course that was before. He smiled as he recalled her trembling under his hand, his mouth on her breast, her whole body taut and straining as he rubbed her.

He raised his hand to his mouth, ran two fingers along his lips. The ones he’d used to tease and mash her fat little clit. God. He touched them to his tongue, tasting a vestige of her salt and musk. Oh fuck Mulder, she’d said just before she came. She’d been so open, so responsive. So… so… so… God.

Forget his pink itchy dick, he’d need to see a doctor when he got home about a lobotomy in order to tear this page from the book of his life.

He rolled onto his back and settled a pillow under his head. The stream of conditioned air passing over his torso felt pleasant, drying the sweat that had collected on his skin as he slept pressed against her. He scratched idly at his chest, remembering her hands on him.

He had no idea her state of mind, but he hoped she wasn’t regretting it. He closed his eyes as he heard the bathroom door open, bracing himself for whatever was to come next.

He turned his head away from her as she slipped quietly into bed, this time under the covers. She’d left the bathroom light on and the door open a sliver. After she arranged the sheets and settled in, he stole a glance at her. She was resting her head on her pillow looking at him, a smile, thank god, playing at the corners of her mouth he still had never even kissed.

“I thought you were asleep,” she said.

“I was dozing,” he said. He wanted to play it cool, but he was dimly aware that he was grinning big like an idiot. “How you feeling?”

“Good,” she said. “Better.” Still smiling. He smelled her soap. Her minty breath.

She seemed to have changed into a tank top of some sort. No bra. Her pajama pants and underwear he’d pushed down and she’d kicked off at some earlier fevered moment were still balled at the foot of the bed. He wondered what she was wearing under the covers.

“Must have been the ibuprofen?” he offered.

“Yeah,” she said. “That stuff works wonders.” She bit her bottom lip and buried her smile in her pillow.

“Somebody’s a little shy…”

“Maybe,” she said. “Then again there is a strange man in my bed.”

“You have no idea just how strange…”

“I think maybe I have some idea.”

“Probably you do,” he conceded.

He knew he should offer to vacate her bed. The problem with that was, he didn’t at all want to.

A loud thud next door was followed briefly by raised voices. Then a hush.

“Must be tussling over the last of the dry goods,” Mulder said.

“How are you feeling? You know,” she said, flicking her eyes dramatically toward his crotch, “down there.”

“You making fun of me?”

“Just a little.”

“Much better than at the diner. But itchier than when I fell asleep.”

“Ah. I was afraid of that. I’m not sure our… activities worked out as well for you as they did for me.”

“Maybe not,” he admitted. He’d humped the mattress so ardently as he got her off he’d be surprised if he didn’t have some residual damage.

“Should I take a look?”

“Why not?” he said.

She slipped out of bed and, to his astonishment — in the middle of the night in three seconds flat — she morphed effortlessly from sex kitten to General Practitioner.

She flicked on two lamps and dug out her trusty penlight and some gauze. She set them on his bedside table and he remembered to notice her attire: some snug white cotton shorts the same ribbed material as her tank top. Nice.

“Hey,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said, getting with the program, getting up himself.

“Is the tube of cortisone cream in your room?”

“Yes it is.”

“Go get it. I’m gonna scrub up.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Mulder,” she said when he was at the door, “You know what? Wash your own hands really well. And bring your suitcase back too. With all your clothes.”

“Okay. But Scully? Isn’t it a little hasty for us to be shacking up? I mean, I thought we agreed this was a one time thing…”

She stared at him blankly for a few seconds. Then they both cracked huge smiles.

“You’re a buffoon, Mulder.”

“I had you there. For a second. I know I did.”

“You wish. Hurry up while we still have lights. And air.”

“You can admit it, Scully. You can’t wait to get your hands on my junk again. You’re only human.” He slipped out the door as a roll of wrapped gauze whizzed by his head.

He returned as directed and opened his suitcase. She laid all his clothes out on the bed and separated the items washed in the suspect detergent from the rest.

“You shouldn’t even handle these,” she said, stuffing a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and two pairs of boxers in a plastic bag.

“You’re sure none of this came out of the laundry bag?” she asked, gesturing to the rest of the clothes on the bed. “These boxers?” she said, holding up a plaid pair.

“I’m sure,” he said. “Those were in the drawer.”

“Good. Make sure you wear them tomorrow. It wouldn’t be ideal to go commando in jeans. Not in your condition. You should stick to looser pants for the next week, too. Once we get home.”

He couldn’t think of a smartass retort, so he just nodded.

“Not sure about those socks,” he said, pointing to one of the two pairs on the bed.

She tossed them in the plastic bag and tied it off.

He re-packed his suitcase as she went to wash her hands again.

When she came back out he was sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Hey,” she said, standing in front of him.

“Hi,” he said.

“You ready for round two?” All business.

“I guess so.”

“You still itchy?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s hard not to scratch.”

“Resist. That’s how you get a secondary infection. You don’t want that.”

“I believe you. I don’t even want this one.”

She turned toward him smiling, shaking her head.

“Hey Scully? I’m not sure I can tear this page from the book of my life. I’m not sure I want to.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “Kissing or no kissing, I knew we were in trouble around the time I took my pants off.”

Sooner, she thought. As soon as he shuffled in with my favorite vending fixes. It was a clumsy odd Mulderish seduction. Her new favorite kind.

“You seem calm about it.”

“I am now. But I was freaking out in the bathroom earlier. When you were pretending to be asleep.”

“So what happened?”

She stepped closer to him and rubbed her knuckles lightly along his sternum.

“What always happens. I saw you. And I felt better.”

“Really?”

“Pretty much.”

He took her hand and kissed it, held it between his two hands.

“Maybe this was a mistake, Mulder. But let’s keep it in perspective. We’ve been in worse situations…”

“That’s a fact. An understatement, really.”

“I mean, for example, I’d rather be somewhat expertly... tended to by my handsome partner than gutshot by an overzealous rookie agent...”

“When you put it that way…”

“At least it was an experience, unlike that one, worth the awkwardness that’s bound to ensue.”

“Expertly?”

Was he fishing for compliments, or actually insecure? She couldn’t tell.

“Somewhat. I thought so. Admittedly, I don’t get out much.”

“But you liked it?”

Wow. Insecure. And so really just so, oh God, very skilled. With his hands at least. She wondered if someone had convinced him otherwise. The thought bothered her.

“If that wasn’t clear to you, Mulder, we need to register immediately for one of those partner communication seminars. And actually attend it this time.”

He nodded. “It was.”

“Good,” she said.

“So tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. But like you said before, we’ll still be you and me. We’ll figure it out.”

“We will.”

She yawned

“You sleepy?”

“Yeah,” she said. “You?”

“Yeah,” he said, yawning too.

“It’s interesting, how yawns are contagious. I wonder what biological basis is, for that behavior.”

“For psychopaths, yawns aren’t contagious. The lack the requisite empathy. A researcher in England discovered that, then set up a screening test.”

”Good to know you’d pass. I’ve slept with my quota of psychopaths.”

“I agree. So you're planning to sleep with me?”

Oops. “I’m not planning anything.” She wasn’t planning to. But apparently the part of her that said things had other ideas.

“Huh.”

Why don’t you let me get a peek at that rash?” she whispered. “Then we can go back to bed.”

“Okay,” he said.

He lay back on his pillow and worked his pants down over his hips.

“Take those off,” she said, dragging the chair over to the bed. “You can sleep commando.”

He looked at her with raised eyebrows.

“Airflow, Mulder. Grab my penlight. It’s on the bedside table.”

He did. Then, in a pique of shyness, he was tucking himself under the covers.

“You’d look cute with one of those headlamps doctors used to wear, Scully. Don’t you have a birthday coming up?’”

Yeah, she thought, and you look even cuter naked in my bed that I imagined you would. Which, while a good problem, is still a problem. She sat down and pulled her chair up to the edge of the bed.

“I do. In about ten months.”

“Oh,” he said. “I think I’d be more comfortable if we both took our clothes off, Scully.”

“May I?” she said, holding the sheet covering him by the edge.

He nodded.

She peeled it back. “Light please,” she said.

He shined the light down where she was examining him.

“It’s not so bad,” she said, running her fingers along his shaft. “Chafed. I can imagine how that happened. Sorry about that.”

“Really, it’s okay.”

“I was worried those bumps were going to blister. But they're almost gone. You took those boxers off in the nick of time.”

“Thanks to you. All kidding aside, you’re a good doctor, Scully.”

“Well you need a new one.”

“Why?”

“You have to keep it lubricated at all times for at least a week,” she said, handing him the tube. “Cortisone. Or Vaseline if you run out.”

“You want to do it?”

“You do it. I want to watch.”

“You want to watch?”

“Yeah. To make sure you’re using enough.”

He squeezed out a dollop of the thick white lotion into his palm.

“More,” she said. “Much more.”

“Okay, he said, adding more. She took the tube from him then leaned back as he reached down and applied the medicine to his penis. He spent more time than strictly necessary smoothing it over the head with his fist, watching her face as he worked. He was getting hard in his hand and he didn’t seem shy about it.

She stood up and pulled her tank top up and off.

His jaw dropped.

She pulled the sheets back up over him, turned off the light, and climbed into bed with him.

Under the covers she pressed her body to his.

“Mulder,” she said, “you need a new doctor because I’m experiencing a conflict of interest. As your Internist, I need to recommend that you refrain from sexual activity till this rash calms down. But as your…”

“FBI Partner with benefits?” he offered.

“Yes. As that, I need to recommend that you let me play with your dick.” She grasped him and rubbed his head languorously against her stomach.

They both moaned.

“Though I promise to be gentle. This time. You see the problem here?”

“No problem,” he said. “Oh, Scully. You’re fired.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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