She was separated from the rest of the patients in the ER by only a thin curtain that was occasionally thrown back with a curt shhtt! by any number of hospital personnel, quickly and at random. She flinched every time.
She was wearing an ill-fitting grey sweatsuit provided to her by the police officers who came to take her statement and her clothes, as evidence. She was allowed to keep her shoes, for which she was grateful. They were almost dry, though marked by a Pollack-like splatter of blood, mud and rain water. She had eight stitches in her arm, nineteen in her side, and a prescription for an antibiotic which she clutched tightly in her hand.
Shhtt! The curtain pulled back once again, this time admitting a nurse named Carmen--the woman was in her 50s and overweight, her hair pulled back in a dark bun with wiry strands of silver running throughout. She smiled at Scully, revealing a mouth full of crooked teeth. She’d had a tendency to call Scully “honey,” which Scully wanted to attribute to her sweet, maternal-like nature, but probably had to do with the fact that she couldn’t remember her name.
“You’re almost out of here, darlin’,” she said, mixing it up a bit as she dipped her head to look Scully in the eye. “The doctor is filling out your discharge papers, now. These,” she handed Scully a few pieces of paper that were printed in faded dot-matrix ink, “are your after-care instructions. Ibuprofen for the pain. You can take up to 600 ml safely, every six hours.”
Scully nodded mutely and folded the papers around the smaller prescription. Nurse Carmen patted her leg gently.
“Do you have someone you can call to come get you? It’s late.”
Scully glanced up at the clock on the wall -- it was nearly 3:30 am. She flipped through her mental rolodex and came up empty.
“I… I don’t have my keys,” she told the woman in a halting voice, “he knocked away my keys.”
“Do you have a Super or a roommate that can let you in?”
At the word “roommate” Scully felt tears burn in her eyes unbidden, but nodded at the nurse. Gary, their building manager, would be cranky as hell about it, but would let her in. She tried not to think about Mulder, and of course could only picture him on the porch of some oceanside cottage, sitting in a bench swing with Debbie while they fed each other crabcakes and drank red wine.
Shhtt! This time the curtain produced her doctor, who had been kind enough, but always seemed too busy or distracted to meet her eye. His head was always buried in a chart or steeped in concentration six inches from her skin, sewing her back together.
“All right Miss Scully, you’re free to go,” he said, snapping a folder closed. “Have you been assigned a detective yet for your case?”
“No, they said they’d call me,” she answered, and thought but with my luck…
He nodded and walked away, and Carmen touched her elbow and told her which way to go to get to the hospital exit. She passed by a pay phone near the door to the outside, but realized she didn’t have any change and gave the nurse at the nearest station her sob story before the woman, looking bored, handed her the station phone’s receiver and let her call a cab.
She headed outside to wait.
There was an ambulance idling just outside the emergency bay, the EMTs leaning against the side of the rig, drinking coffee and joking with each other. She couldn’t remember if they were the ones who had helped bring her to the hospital, so turned the other way and walked forty feet down the sidewalk, embarrassed.
She hadn’t asked how long it would be until the cab showed up and wondered how many were even on duty this time of night.
The pavement was damp, as if it had only just stopped raining, and it was still cold. She rubbed her hands together and stamped her feet to keep warm, the movement jarring the wound in her side. She felt close to tears.
She heard the roar of a motor coming up the empty road, but a quick glance proved that it wasn’t her cab, just a motorcycle tearing up the drive, going too fast for conditions. She wondered if maybe the driver was hurt when he skidded to a stop under the overhang directly in front of the ER doors.
The rider swung off his bike just as the two EMTs pushed off the ambulance, chiding him and telling him he couldn’t park there. The rider ignored them and whipped off his helmet, about to trot into the doors of the hospital when Scully recognized him and shouted his name.
His head whipped toward her voice and then he came running, his face a mask of worry.
“Scully!” he shouted as he approached. He slowed only when he was nearly on top of her and reached out two hands, only to whip them back, as if afraid he might hurt her. “Scully,” he said again, “God! Are you okay?”
“How-” she said, not quite believing it was him, “what are you doing here?”
“I just found out,” he said, stopping short then stumbling into speech again. “That you were attacked. Jesus, I thought the worst.” He reached a hand out again, but didn’t touch her. “Are you okay?”
He must have driven in the rain. His jeans were soaked through and his hands looked red and chapped.
“Scully,” he said, again, “ are you okay ?”
“Yeah,” she said, slowly. She wanted to be dismissive, but she was in too much pain. “I’m -- I’m cut,” she said, raising up her arm to show him the stitches. “And here,” she said, pointing to her side.
“Jesus,” he said, “Will you be able to ride the bike? I need to get you home. Shit.” He looked around, “you can’t ride like this, we need to get you in a car.”
“No!” she said, and his head whipped back to her. “I can ride. Just… Please just take me home.”
He looked at her a long moment and then nodded, shrugging off his leather jacket to put around her shoulders. He helped her gingerly get it on, and then reached down to zip it for her. The inside of the jacket felt like silk, and was dry and warm. He put his arm around her and led her to the bike, the EMTs looking on silently, sipping their coffee and staring unabashedly.
He got her on the bike first, unzipped her jacket a bit to put her care instructions and prescription in the inside pocket, and then delicately lowered the helmet over her head, securing it before putting on his own. He got on, careful not to jostle her.
She was able to wrap her arms around him--luckily even the injured one--without much pain, and his body felt wonderfully warm and solid in front of her. He kicked the bike on, and he drove as carefully back to their apartment as he had driven pell-mell to get to her.
When they got back to the apartment, she was stiff, bone tired, and she wanted to tell him she’d made a terrible mistake, but she couldn’t find the words.
He escorted her to her bedroom door and hovered there, an energy radiating off of him that fairly trembled. She turned to him, one hand on the doorknob, and looked at him expectantly.
“Did he… hurt you?” Mulder asked. “Other than…” he gestured vaguely to her arm.
“Hurt me?” she asked, confused, and the look on his face broke her heart. Oh. Oh. “No,” she rushed out, and put a hand on his arm. “This is the extent of it. I got mugged, Mulder. That’s it.”
He must have rushed to the hospital without any information. She could only imagine all the dark scenarios running through his head.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Okay,” he said, “Okay…”
“Goodnight, Mulder,” she said, and he nodded.
“Call out if you need anything. At all.”
She took her hand off the door handle.
“I’ll leave the door open, just in case,” she said.
He nodded and backed away slowly, throwing her several concerned looks as he descended the stairs.
She fell into bed and slept for 12 hours.
At 4:00pm, she hovered at the top of the stairs, her tongue thick with sleep in her mouth, her side and arm hurting. Her hair was a mess and she was afraid of what lay at the bottom of the stairs. Of facing the day, facing Mulder, facing her future. She thought of the dolly zoom in Hitchcock’s Vertigo , and placed her foot on the first step.
Mulder was waiting on the couch and leapt to his feet when he saw her.
“I was getting worried,” he said.
“Post-shock sleep,” Scully shrugged.
“How are you feeling?”
In truth, she was feeling so many things they seemed to bottleneck in her throat and render her speechless.
Finally, she just said, “Fine.”
He nodded at her, letting the silence settle around them, and it occurred to her that he was using a psychologist’s trick--waiting for her to fill the silence. She smiled to herself and let him have the round.
“How did you know?” she asked, wanting to know since he’d shown up at the hospital on his motorcycle like Steve McQueen. “That I’d been attacked? Where to find me?”
He sat down on the couch and she gingerly lowered herself next to him.
“Sam called,” he said, “ she was working at dispatch when your call came in. When I walked in the door, the phone had been ringing off the hook. She called and called. I’m so sorry I didn’t get there sooner.”
“You drove all the way down from the Chesapeake? In the rain?”
He looked at her, confused.
“I never went to the Bay,” he said, cocking his head to the side.
“You- what?” Scully said, sure she hadn’t heard right.
“I never went to the Bay with Debbie,” he said, “I went over to talk to her and break things off, like I said I would.”
Scully felt like the top of her head had lifted off and floated away.
“But Samantha said-” Scully started.
“Sam only knew what Debbie had told her the last time she saw her. We never went to the Chesapeake. I told Deb I wanted to see her before the trip, but only so I could break it all off. I ended up telling her everything. We sat and talked for hours… She helped me figure out what to do.”
“What to do?” Scully said, feeling like pages had been torn out of an instruction book she’d been trying to follow.
Mulder looked down at the floor and then raised his eyes to her.
“I’m not the kind of guy who can date a woman… when I’m in love with someone else.”
Scully felt a surge of hope and happiness so overwhelming she wasn’t sure what the look on her face was. Mulder read it as something else all together.
“Look, I’m sorry. I know you don’t feel the same way. And I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable, and I swear going forward I will keep it to myself, but for weeks I’ve felt like this and I thought there might be a chance you felt it, too. But you don’t, and I respect that. I just… I needed to say it. I needed to say it out loud. Once.”
She felt light and heavy all at once, elemental. Lit from the inside, like she’d swallowed a mouthful of ginger.
He stood suddenly and ran his hands through his hair until it stood on end.
“This is all my fault,” he said, pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes.
Scully was taken aback.
“ Your fault? Mulder-” she said.
“I shouldn’t have pushed myself on you,” he said, “after Ethan was here. You were hurt and vulnerable and- you said it was a mistake. It was. The mistake was mine.”
He looked to the ceiling, shoved his hands into his pockets.
“You didn’t push yourself on me, Mulder,” Scully said, refusing to let him take on responsibility for anything that had happened in the last 24 hours. She took a bracing breath. “And the only mistake was mine. When I told you that that night didn’t mean to me what it did. When I let you think for one second that I don’t feel the same way you do.”
His eyes snapped to hers.
She stood and walked to him, his mossy eyes searching and perspicuous. He was miles deep and a fathom tall. She realised in that moment--and she would be able to look back and remember it clearly--that to love him had an inevitable feeling. Inevitable as gravity. As death and taxes. She grabbed his hand.
“My life right now is as tumultuous and up in the air as it has ever been and might ever be. I’ve been figuring out who I am on my own. I’m giving up what I thought I wanted out of my career and life for what I know I want. I’m about to move 3,000 miles away. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I fell in love with my roommate.”
As he looked at her, a smile blossomed on his face and reached his eyes. He squeezed the hand she was holding.
“I’m sorry I pushed you away. Frankly, this,” she put her other hand on his chest, “scares me. But I also know I would regret not at least trying to be with you. I’d regret it until the day I died. I didn’t realize that until I thought I was about to.”
He leaned down and rested his forehead against hers, took a deep breath. She felt everything inside her click into place.
He leaned down and pressed the gentlest kiss to her lips.
They slept together that night--only slept. Mulder had gone out and picked up her prescription earlier in the day while she slept and the pills made her queasy.
Mulder tucked her into his own bed downstairs, brought her Saltines and ginger ale. When she awoke the next morning, he was curled around her. He helped her change her bandages and tie her shoes--she still couldn’t quite bend over.
At noon that day -- Labor Day -- the phone rang, it was Ellen calling from Seattle.
“Dana?” she said. “God, how are you?”
Scully didn’t have the first idea how to respond to that particular question, so she deflected.
“Ellen!” she said, “how are you ? How goes the internship? You ready to come home yet?”
“It’s fabulous! And that’s actually why I’m calling. Dana, they offered to hire me on full-time. They want me to work out here while I finish my degree.”
“Oh Ellen, congratulations!” she said, feeling genuine joy for her friend.
“Thanks,” Ellen said, “I know you were counting on me to take the lease back over, and I can still probably help out for a few months now that I’m getting paid, but I thought I’d see how the new roommate is working out? Any chance he might want to stay for a bit longer?”
The roommate in question was currently tidying up in the kitchen, and came to the room’s doorway to eavesdrop on her conversation.
“The new roommate?” she repeated for his benefit, and then gave him a tart look, “He’s working out okay, I guess.”
At that, Mulder feigned insult and promptly whipped off his shirt and started doing push-ups.
“I take that back,” Scully said, maintaining eye contact with him while he exercised, by which she couldn’t help but get a little turned on. “He’s definitely working out.” Mulder stopped doing push-ups, sat up, and kissed his bare bicep. Scully let out a guffaw. “I’ll ask him.”
Ellen laughed too, without knowing why, and said “I’m so glad. And thank you. Oh, I’m going to miss you! Listen, I’ve got to get going, but we’ve got so much to catch up on. Talk soon?”
She watched Mulder as he disappeared back into the kitchen, still shirtless. “Sometime next week?”
“Done. I’ll call you. Bye Dane!”
Scully rose to hang the phone back up on the wall and drifted into the kitchen, leaning against the doorframe to watch Mulder as he put dishes away.
“You do that a lot?” she asked him.
“Do what?” he asked, without looking away from his task, “Housework like a helpful roommate, or exercise hard to maintain my girlish figure?”
She came up behind him and kissed his bare back.
“Your figure is decidedly non-girlish, Mulder,” she said, ignoring his question, “for which I am increasingly thankful.”
He turned suddenly in her arms and she found herself staring at his bare chest. He rubbed his hands up down the tops of her arms, careful not to get too close to her cut.
“Oh yeah?” he asked, leaning his face down into hers.
She nodded into his kiss, “Yeah,” she said, right before his lips met hers. She deepened the kiss immediately, remembering the way the big muscles on his upper back had moved beneath his skin as he did push-ups, the way he’d looked at her with intent the entire time he was doing them.
He let her lead, doing nothing more than returning her enthusiastic kisses and dropping his hands to rest lightly on her hips.
She reached down and tipped her forefingers into the tops of his jeans, pulling him closer and then running her fingers to his fly. He pulled back, just as she popped the button.
“Hey,” he said, nudging her face with his nose, brushing his lips lightly against hers. “What are you up for, here?”
She looked down at him with intent, at where his erection was pressing against the fly of his jeans. “Whatever you’re up for, flyboy,” she said, and nipped at him.
“I just,” he leaned back a little bit more, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
She unzipped his fly slowly.
“You’re not going to hurt me,” she said.
“You pop a few of those stitches, your doctor might say otherwise,” he said, putting his hands on hers to still her movements.
“But I want you,” she said, licking her lips, reveling in the concupiscent lustiness he brought about in her.
He smiled at her slowly.
“We can figure this out,” he said, “we just need to be creative.”
“I have, so far, been both pleased and impressed with your creativity,” she said.
“Then allow me,” he said, and turned their positions so that she was standing with her back to the counter, then bent down to shimmy her sweatpants and underwear off, while she stood, patiently, wondering what his plan was.
When he straightened back up, he leaned forward, bracing his arms on the counter on either side of her.
“What,” he said, leaning forward to kiss her, “can you do that doesn’t hurt?”
She grabbed his head and brought his mouth back to hers for a deep, thorough kiss, then she released him.
“That,” she said, “didn’t hurt.”
He smiled at her.
She reached forward and grabbed his fly again, and then started to lower his jeans down around his hips when she suddenly hissed in pain. Mulder grabbed her and straightened her.
“So no bending over,” he said. She nodded, a little disappointed. “Can you sit?”
“As evidenced by sitting on my ass nearly all of yesterday evening and again this morning, all information points to sitting being a medically approved position for Patient Scully,” she said in her best med student voice.
“Okay,” he said, and then surprised her by reaching down and easily lifting her up and onto the surface of the counter, which was cold against her aforementioned ass. She let out a startled yelp.
“Mulder!” she said.
“Was that pain, or the temperature of the counter?” he asked.
“The temperature of the counter,” she said through gritted teeth.
He smiled wickedly.
“The longer you sit on it, the more it’ll warm up,” he said.
She shook her head.
“Mulder, counters are for glasses, not for a-”
“Shh,” Mulder cut her off with a finger to her lips. “I promise I’ll clean up,” he said.
She tilted an eyebrow at him, but complained no more.
He put his hands on her thighs, spreading her legs apart so he could step in between them, their faces now perfectly level for kissing. He ran his hands lightly up her legs until his thumbs were just brushing at the crease where her legs met her pubis, sending a shiver down her spine.
He had pulled his jeans back up, but hadn’t zipped them, so she reached down and slipped her hand inside, grasping the silken steel of him, and he hissed into her mouth.
“You first,” he whispered, and then lowered himself to the floor, now at the perfect level to lean forward and press his face into her sex, giving her an open-mouthed kiss and inhaling deeply through his nose. “I love the way you smell,” he said, and then darted his tongue out to press into her labia. “I love the way you taste.”
She reached out and ran her hands through his hair, digging her nails into his scalp when he gently parted her labia with his fingers and started running his tongue softly over her clit, gradually with more speed and pressure.
She concentrated on keeping her torso immobile, which was difficult when all she wanted to do was gyrate her hips into his sumptuous mouth, chasing the orgasm she could feel building even now.
Just as he’d done before, he pressed one long finger and then another up and into her, and moments after he started rubbing the rough pad of her G spot, an orgasm surged up within her. She let go of his head and braced her hands on the countertop, holding herself as steady as she could as the waves crashed within her, and he gently lapped at her, slowing as she came down.
He stood when she exhaled, and she rolled her head from one shoulder to the other, letting the ringing in her ears lessen with each breath.
“How are you so good at that?” she asked, her tongue all lassitude in her mouth.
“I was a double major,” he said smugly, his cocksure grin charming as a flop-eared terrier.
She shoved him in the shoulder and he fell back a step, then moved forward to carefully help her down from the counter. She stood in front of him, still in a shirt with no pants, and he pressed a finger under her chin and tilted her head back until she was looking up at him.
“I like this look,” he said, “it’s very Donald Duck.”
She laughed and shoved his shoulder again.
“You know, I was going to push for reciprocity, but I think I just changed my mind,” she said.
“Nah,” he said, and leaned down to nip at her nose, “plenty of time for that.” He then leaned over sideways to look at her aftercare instructions, which had been stuck to the fridge. “When do you get your stitches out?”
“Friday,” she said.
“Gonna be a good weekend,” he mumbled into her lips.
She felt herself deflate.
“I leave for California the Friday after that.”
She hadn’t even begun starting to pack.
He leaned his head forward until it once again rested on hers.
“We’ll figure it out,” he whispered.
That night, they sat on the loveseat on their balcony, watching the stars wink on in the sky, Venus emerging brightly from the ecliptic. They drank iced tea (Mulder may have had a beer or two) and talked about how they’d handle being long distance, Scully tucked into Mulder’s side.
They had yet to come up with a plan that excited them both. The pull of sunny California started to wane.
“Have you ever found a place you felt like you belonged? Somewhere you just felt at home? Where you knew it was where you were supposed to be?” she asked him after a few minutes of silence.
He squinted his eyes, thinking. Then,
“It’s not down on any map,” he recited to the stars. “True places never are.”
Melville. She gave him a look, thought of her father.
“Yeah,” she said, “I’ve been searching for it my whole life. And I think… that place might be you.”
“You gotta go, Scully,” he said, looking down at her, knowing what she was getting at. “Med school is your dream, so it’s my dream, too. I won’t let you not go.”
She took a breath, knowing he was right.
“Besides,” he said, “I don’t want to be the only doctor in this house,” he said, then shrunk away from her, knowing what was coming. She swatted at him, then let him settle back against her.
They sat in silence for long minutes, until Mulder finally shifted.
“Be right back,” he said, and stood, her side going cold from where he’d been.
He came back a minute later, carrying the large white pillar candle that Scully had lit for him his first night in the apartment. He produced a lighter from his pocket, flicked it on and touched it to the wick, then set the candle on the small table in front of them.
“I’ll make you a deal,” he said, settling back onto the loveseat and gently tucking her back into his side. “Take this with you to California. I’m going to get one just like it. And when either one of us is doubting, or when things get too lonely or dark, we’ll each light the candle.”
She glanced up to look at his profile, her heart constricting in her chest with love for this man.
“To cast out the darkness?” she asked, her voice quiet.
He nodded, then rolled his head to look at her.
“I mean, we should have a go at the evil spirits, too,” he said, chuckling.
She smiled at him, and leaned her head against his shoulder, watching the flame dance in the light breeze of the DC night.
When Mulder got home from work the next day, Scully was on the couch trying to study, her stitches itching madly.
“Hey,” he said, swinging the door closed. He hung his keys absently on the hook by the door, and kicked off his shoes. He had something in his hand. He was radiating a nervous energy. “Something came for you in the mail.” He looked at her significantly. “From Georgetown.”
“Probably paperwork for the end of term,” she said, barely looking up. “I’ve got a lot of crap I’ve got to fill out. You can put it in the kitchen.”
He sat down next to her.
“I don’t think that’s what it is,” he said, and held out a standard white envelope.
She looked at the return address. Georgetown Medical School .
She felt her eyes go wide and looked at him.
“Go on,” he said, and she wasted no time tearing into it.
She read the letter twice before leaning back into the couch and finally looking at him.
“Don’t make me guess,” he said quietly.
“Accepted,” she said, the smile blooming on her face mirrored back at her. “Full ride scholarship.”
“You get to stay,” he said, mirabile dictu.
“I get to stay.”
The sunlight coming through the sliding glass door behind him glinted off his hair, turning it into a filmy halo of gold. He reached out and hooked her thumb through his pinkie, pulling her hand up until it was against his chest, pressing against his beating heart.
She felt the thump and swish of it, its heat and birr, and she knew what it felt like to be home.