Scully ducked her head into the street, looking both ways before bustling across the crosswalk, Mulder following a single footstep behind. To onlookers, their height difference was exasperated as they hitched their arms up and jogged quickly through the sounds of honking traffic, but it never seemed to cross their minds. When they picked back up on the sidewalk, he ducked his head and leaned forward, just enough so she could hear him, just enough so she could let a laugh kick up her throat.
She grinned up at him, not dignifying his comment with a response as she rolled her tongue against the pink skin of the inside of her mouth. Replying in her cheeky way, she pushed her hands into the pockets of her high-waisted pants, the front of her blazer spilling over her arms. He tipped his head back in a laugh, using the motion to brush his fingertips over his ear where a com sat stiffly in the dip.
They turned sharp on their heels, hardly pausing as the storefront came into view. She hauled on the handle and he grabbed the thin, metal frame just above her head, holding it the rest of the way open so she had to duck slightly under his arm.
After you he seemed to joke, pulling his shoulder in to duck the lighthearted swat she'd sent his way. Her fingers still grazed over the loose overshirt he wore, washed out denim that was thin enough it was like feeling her skin on his. Her hand lingered around the top of his shoulder, sliding almost to the side of his neck, and were it not for the team in their ears and the clerk in front of them, he would have pulled her into a kiss then and there.
Instead, they made it to the counter without so much as the whisper of an incident. He leaned forward on his palms, feeling the cheap, painted wood strike the meat under his thumbs, and gave the clerk his best smile. His sugar-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth, false bravado, so-bad-it's-good smile.
"Hi," he started, and in that single syllable Scully almost cracked, having to hide her low laughter behind her left hand, the cool of the band pressing into her bottom lip like ice on a cut.
Mulder had this voice he used on only the occasions where it was of the utmost importance that they left the moment more knowledgeable than they'd entered it, but their usual necessary means had no bearing. It was the twist of a grin, the dimple of summer-touched skin, and an inflection like he was an angel sent from the heavens on a gentle, stained-glass wind. It was as fake as the day was long, and only worked on a select few members of the population, but nevertheless he kept it charged and ready, which was more than could be said about his phone, or anything else he owned.
But it was also one of the only things on this earth that could make Scully break. Even now, with a com in her ear and the weight of so many eyes on a grainy screen in a van a block away, she could feel her barely attained resolve slipping through her fingers.
Because it was so categorically untrue that the blinding white virtue she kept stowed away beside her innocence and her expectations went off like a light. She couldn't keep her bullshit thermometer from rising to an incredible temperature, spilling out of her mouth in accusation. She was a professional, but the picture of innocence Mulder was not--calamity, maybe--and she was only human.
"Is there any way we can trouble you for directions?" he asked the clerk with that unwavering pitch, a felled lance of hair over his eyes that he pushed away with particularly earnest hands. Scully had to bite the inside of her cheek swiftly before she blew their cover.
"Ya from out of town?" the clerk asked sympathetically, leaning onto the hand he had planted on the desk just beside him.
"That obvious?" Mulder asked, laughing like he hadn't lived in the area for a decade.
"No sweat; where're you trying to get?"
"My wife and I--" he started quickly, gesturing to her with the tilt of his head, and it at least made Scully stop laughing, but she still held something behind her curled up fingers while her lips kept on smiling.
They'd had the rings for three weeks. They'd worn them to work for three weeks. They'd been married for three weeks and a lifetime.
Still, she hadn't gotten used to hearing the new moniker, hadn't even had time to adjust underneath fiancée, which she had only ever heard once, when he broke the news to Teena, who Scully was sure would have to be reminded about it the next time she and her son spoke.
It hadn't been a quickie by any means, not for them at least. There had been a night at a diner in Missouri, after a long day in the heat when Mulder had joked and Scully had called his bluff and they finally had to ask what it was all for. This waiting, this following each other to the ends of the earth, but not home at night. This thing where they rested in each other's arms and mouthed love into the crooks of necks while discussing the case outside of state lines before tucking tail to the confines of their basement office and studiously avoided thinking about it.
(Mulder had meant his proposal, sure, but in the end it was Scully who proposed. Neatly and to the point, but so full of an unrestrained want and sincerity that Mulder had covered her hand across the crayon-scribbled tabletop without even checking left or right.)
When they got back to D.C. they put in the paperwork and called their mothers and said 'I do' on a Wednesday a few weeks later in the presence of the magistrate while Melissa took photos on a clunky disposable camera of which there had only been one clear shot in the end.
The lighting of it was shoddy at best, and in the background you could see Maggie only as a blur of movement, but clear as day in the forefront was Scully and Mulder, his hands cradling her face sweetly and her smile as broad as the shoulder pads of her suit jacket.
Nothing had much changed after that, except the teenage giddiness that shot through her when she caught sight of her ring, or felt his on the back of her neck when he held his hand there at the end of a long day, his chin on her head and his heart steady under her ear.
(When they reflect on it, twenty years from now, they'll realize it was all just legalities in the end.)
She reached up, her hand on the back of his shoulder just over the dark seam of his shirt, resting silently there until he turned that wide open look on her, mouth perched toward looseness, face free. "I'll be right back," she said, giving him a meaningful look disguised by amusement as she tipped her head toward the back.
He hitched his chin down ever so slightly, and she dropped her hand to signal to the clerk as if she were headed to the restroom.
Behind her, she could hear their voices as a steady thrum, Mulder playing up a lack of spatial awareness as the clerk patiently took him through some route they'd never need. She cut around one shelf full of herbal multivitamins and ducked behind the next, listening out for anything coming her way as she first laid her hand on her gun where it was tucked in the back of her waistband, then let her carefully manicured fingers drift over her com for a hitch of reassurance.
She dipped into the back quietly, slipping past the grainy bathroom door down a short hall with a few battered doors to choose from. Her shoes, soft on the ground for once, scuffed against grimy tile as she hovered a hand at her waist and listened closely for the sound of the familiar voices they'd been tracking for over a month.
They weren't even supposed to be on the case, but there had been questions, hard to answer, and in had come Scully at some VC top dog's request; and Mulder, not requested, but not far behind because he had questions, too.
(And it was fun for her, in a way, to see them try to find their way around Spooky Mulder, the attentive, disruptive shadow to Agent Scully, Doctor Scully, Dana Scully.)
Above it all, however, they'd done good work--always did good work--and so here they were, in an unsuspecting convenience store hideaway for a would-be serial killer, had Scully not found the red herring.
The grocer, in the kitchen, with the poisonous herbs, she'd thought to herself at the time, and was reminded of it now as she passed another flat of multivitamins.
Up ahead, she could hear the multi-cadence discussion of--she paused, her face twitching to parse through the steady flow from the three Virginian voices--getting out of town, she realized. She cursed silently and swiftly as she undid her piece.
"You've got," Mulder started, motioning to her hair with splayed fingers. "Is that oregano or were you having fun without me?" he added, tongue slick against his teeth.
She scowled as she flipped her fingers through the soft red of her hair, dispelling whatever it had been that had been dumped over her head when the suspect had knocked a shelf over on her to evade capture (not that it had worked.)
"Is it all gone?" she asked, eyes tipping up as her mouth screwed up tighter--she could still feel pieces of something against her scalp.
He made a face like she'd just made it worse and reached, without thought, for her hair, brushing his hand gently through from root to tip until he had to reset. She watched as the flakes hazily marched from her to the ground beneath them, not making eye contact until his palm fit around her jaw and tipped her head up to look at him. Gingerly, he pinched a strand of her hair between his thumb and forefinger and rearranged it until it sat just as it had that morning when he'd sat at the foot of their bed and watched her fix it in the bathroom mirror.
She fit her palm against his wrist, holding him there with the nothing more than the most simplest of pressures.
His eyes were twinkling in that way where she knew the next thing out of her own mouth would be an amused rebuff. "I've got pretty damn good directions to a pizza place," he offered, mouth crooked. "And since you seem to be into that kinda thing…."
She laughed something small for the two of them and rested her thumb steadily over his thrumming pulse point. "I'm getting pineapple on my half," she said, just to watch him squirm.
"And red onion. Extra."
"I don't know how I ever married you," he said on a half-laugh, curling his fingertips into the back of her hair, head tipped just a fraction to the side. He'd tried to say it with disdain, but there was a barely concealed wonderment there that made her tongue heavy in her mouth and her heart light in her chest.
"Pure luck," she tsked, smiling almost to herself. "All of it, apparently. I'm getting olives, too."
He grinned, a full grin for any of the numerous bodies around them to see, and she turned her head just enough to press her mouth fleetingly to the inside of his palm. It wasn't as lined as it would be in the years to come, life lines not so worried or frayed, but the love line that sliced over the flesh there was stronger than it ever had been, than any of the other millions of hims ever would have.
He drew her into his chest for only a moment, his hand on the back of her head and her breath against the old relic of a t-shirt he'd put on under his denim overshirt that afternoon before they'd set off for their bust.
"Come on," she said as she pulled back. "All that paperwork won't do itself."
"It's funny you say that," he said, face pinched against the sun as they set off to go get their acquiesced release. "Because I found that if you leave it long enough-"
She laughed, her tongue peeking between her teeth as she pushed at his side with only half her hand. "First thing in the morning, Mulder."
"Sounds good to me."
When they walked, their height difference was an obvious split between them, but if anyone bothered to look close enough, they'd see how easily they fit into it. How easily they fit next to one another. Their hands brushing and brushing and, once they rounded the corner, curling together at the pinky.