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Rhode Island Sunrise

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It had been an innocent suggestion, their coming here. When he’d brought her home, into her apartment from that last long hospital stay, she’d burst into tears at the sight of her things. Then, swiping at her cheeks and apologizing, she’d explained how she’d never expected to be back, how she’d not even thought about what would happen with all of her little objects, her teapot, her books, her favorite pen, that made this home. Every item had been a reminder of the life she’d almost lost, a thing she would have left behind. He’d held a palm to her hair, looked into her wet, lost eyes, and suggested they take a little break while she recovered.

“I have that house. The summer house. It’s summer, Scully.” They could go to the beach, he’d said. Have ice cream and French fries. Rent a little boat and take it out on Quonochontaug Pond. She’d run her fingers over the back of her couch, touched briefly a small, framed photo of Melissa, and then turned to face him.

“Okay,” she’d said.

Now they sat on a moonlit dune and listened to the crash of waves, the sound of his childhood still playing out against New England shores, the wet lapping reminding her of her own family, her father’s life at sea, the various coastlines she’d walked barefoot with her sister. They wove their fingers together in the sand, her head on his shoulder, toes buried, as they waited for dawn.

“In the late nineteenth century, Thomas Edison tried to mine iron from these beaches,” he said. “It’s in the sand.” His own toes dug in beside hers, found the tops of her feet and wiggled against them. She smiled. “Little iron filaments they used magnets to pick up.”

“Hmm. Are they still here?” She picked up a small handful and let the pebbly grains sift through her fingers.

He just shrugged and held her closer to him. Iron in the sand, in the sea as in blood, each wave a heartbeat pumping water, life, back into them. The last time he’d been here, he’d nearly shot her. He’d lost time and little pieces of himself, traded them for unreliable, agonizing memory, so desperate was he for anything that could give him closure. And then more lies: a forged alien body in the Canadian ice, traded for a deceitful corpse in his apartment, then yet another fabricated version of his sister, weaving a net of untruths—unreliable, all. All except Scully, his one true thing, staid and steady in her honesty, her goodness, and he’d nearly lost her.

They wordlessly declared this night for healing, for putting themselves back together alongside the world blood of the pumping ocean, the life of the planet itself seeping into their pores through its wind and seaspray. The sky began lightening far eastward, a subtle silver-to-pink that revealed the vast line of the horizon in its fine contrast of gray on gray.

Scully turned to him then, skin still white with the glow of the waning moon and stars. “I can’t have children,” she said, emboldened by the primal battering of water against land. “When they first found the tumor, I tried to… I wanted to keep my ova safe from any radiation. So that when I was ready I could…” Her eyes were lost in that lightening sky for a moment. “But they told me I couldn’t.”

He thought back to his stealthy night at the Lombard Facility, to drawers and drawers of little sliver vials marked with her name. He swallowed back the information for another day, for some other session of self-flagellation and penitence. Tonight was for regeneration, for mending his past indiscretions in this place, for reopening the vast possibilities of her future, which were, he now realized, somewhat diminished. “What did they say was wrong?”

She took a deep breath. “There was some scarring that could prevent implantation. And problems with ovulation.” Another wave crashed against the shore and the earliest reddish tones began to illuminate low-hanging clouds. She bit her lip and met his eye. “It’s because of what they did to me. Whatever they did in that train car three years ago.”

Face pained, he squeezed her hand between both of his own. “I didn’t realize you wanted children so badly.”

Her own face crumpled, then, and she had to look away. “I’ve always, Mulder. I…” Another deep breath. Another wave against the shore. “I suppose now that I should just be grateful that I’m alive.”

“No,” he said. “No, you grieve for what you’ve lost.”

His palm cupped her cheek and turned it toward him, thumb brushing along skin as his eyes asked permission. She gave an almost imperceptible nod, tilting her chin just barely. He bent his lips to hers as snaking tendrils of sunlight broke free of the horizon line to reach them across the sea, lines of mottled fire on the water. She opened to him, her hands coming to the soft cotton of his shoulders as she lay back on the dune. His hand found her waist beneath the hooded sweatshirt she’d pulled on to block the chill as they’d walked from his childhood summerhome down to the dunes and water, clad in their pajamas. He lifted it over her head now, exposing smooth shoulders and a red ribbed tank. Thinking ahead, he draped the oversized sweatshirt flat beneath them and moved to kiss her taut nipples through the fabric. She arched her hips and let her fingers filter through his hair. After a moment, she pulled his face back to hers where she kissed him and they both tasted faintly of salt, of long-ago toothpaste, of the slow-stretched, peaceful evening that had led up to this: the musty, disused house, their clumsy, improvised dinner, her dozing on the couch until he woke her with fingers against her hair and eased her from the sofa to the back door. This had been waiting for them the whole time, this gentle lovemaking on the beach as the sun broke into view.

This place held bad memories for him—demons—that bound him to his painful history and seemed to freeze his forward motion. But in the breaking dawn, the ruddy light and salt air scoured clean the past and reopened their future, rending loose the baggage of what could have been. Here was another path. Here was what still might be. It was not the first time they’d done this, nor was it the gentlest (that had been at a darkened motel room in Allentown, where she’d begged him to make her feel alive, and he’d been almost too afraid to touch her), but it was the first time it felt absolutely right—the most correct, the absolute truest and best thing for them now, at this moment. Her eyes locked on his with unfaltering trust as she took him into her body, arching her toes into the fine dunesand.

“You’re beautiful,” he told her. “You’re perfect. The whole world is yours.”

Her eyes closed in pleasure as her mouth fell open and she gasped. “It’s ours.” A moan as he crashed into her again and she pulled his ear to her lips. “It’s ours, Mulder.”

He buried his face in the crook of her neck to hide the tears that came to his eyes. He knew they would take this week and keep it for themselves, tuck it into a box of untarnished memories and use it to light their darker nights. But they wouldn’t continue in this way when they returned to Washington. They couldn’t. There was too much at stake. As with their other intimacies, they would place this bubble of time in a glass jar, like the beautiful thing that it was, until maybe things were different. Until their lives had room for this thing that burned so bright, that scorched away all else. Scully’s legs lifted, wrapped tight around Mulder’s back, and he felt fine grains of sand dropping and sliding down his thighs. The sunrise lit the ocean aflame behind them—cast his back in rosegold, turned her hair to a scarlet inferno. The pace of her gasps increased, and her hips began lifting desperately with each thrust.

“Mulder, I’m gonna—”

And he brought his face up to watch hers, locked their eyes together and whispered so so quietly, “I love you,” and she tumbled over the edge, pulsing, gripping, moaning around him in the morning light. The sight of her face in pleasure was too much, and he tumbled with her, forehead-to-forehead, murmuring her name and spilling into her for what felt like hours. She held him to her with all her limbs until his movements slowed and ceased, warmed by his skin and the rising sun. She touched his face, kissed his forehead. When he began to soften, they separated gingerly, careful of sticky places and sand (he’d been thoughtful enough to bring a handful of tissues).

They tugged their clothes back on and then, love-drunk and sated, settled back against the dune. Mulder held her between arms and legs, her head resting against his chest, so they could watch the beach emerge into daylight together. Mulder kissed the top of her head and felt the grit of sand on her scalp.

“We’ll be okay,” she said, and it almost sounded like a question. She picked up one of his hands and toyed with his fingers.

“Yeah,” he said. “We will.”

And they watched the vast ocean until the sun got too bright and the sand too hot and they helped each other up, brushing off sand and smiling. They walked down the leeward side of the dunes, back to the summer house, hand-in-hand.