Work Header

Heuvelmans' On the Track

Chapter Text

Word ripped through the underground that Mulder and his legendary anagram, at last freed from the restrictions of his g-man job, were poised to illumine the preternatural arts. Properly, he ran an ad in FATE, and was soon obliged to hire Byers to skipper that email account or, (as Scully pointed out) spend every waking moment online bickering with anonymous nerds about bearwalkers, Nikumaroro Island, the Drake Equation, or D. B. Cooper.

Scully fretted over the upcoming tax season. Normally she relished doing her taxes, but in 1998 she'd lived in three different states, retired from the FBI, and worst of all, had an ill-gotten $200,000 that she suspected would not generate a W-2. And her filing status was rapidly blurring, as Mulder helpfully pointed out. 'If you think about it, Scully, it's common law in D.C.—so in the eyes of Washington we've pretty much been married for years,' he said. Astonishing, and rather moving, to think that this might have occurred to him back in their office, and he’d never even joked about it. 'Besides, I don't know what you're whining about,’ he said. ‘Try being simultaneously self-employed and on an FBI retainer, with estate taxes.'

If it seemed an absurdly poor idea to settle into a house where so many demons rattled, it was a choice made by two seasoned parapsychologists versed at finding joy in extremis. And if, in a twilit shadow, one crossed the cold spot of an unconscionable, far-reaching choice, made 'that night on Quonochontaug;’or glimpsed the caching of a lethal artifact; or even Mulder himself, cornered in a suicidal stand; it was a quick job of rationality and forward-thought to settle unease. How quickly an overlay developed, stronger each day, of remodeling, of kayaks and mountain bikes, of Scully's voice, calling 'Mulder, where's the—?'; the perfume of holy basil tea; and the sputter and thwip of Mulder string-trimming saplings in the lawn.

At the end of September, Mulder took a jaunt to Washington state to hear a Skookum hooting and coughing in the old growth, and Scully went to Baltimore to have lunch with Marcella, and go through the storage in her mom's garage. After days away, meeting back up in Quonochontaug had the restorative bliss of homecoming. They went to bed and only got up to get the extra-sharp cheddar and the sesame crackers. It was a rainy Thursday night. Mulder lugged a television into the bedroom so that Scully could nitpick the medical inaccuracies of ER. She fell asleep halfway through, but he was forced to finish out the episode, concerned that an attractive young doctor had contracted hepatitis.

In the middle of October, Scully arranged a birthday dinner in New York City, with both of their mothers in attendance. She picked, for its character and style, Delmonico's, a restaurant so old that Prohibition had closed it down. Mulder would have been just as happy with a trip to the lobster shack, but she chose it out of deference to their mothers. She wanted to make an official statement about her relationship with Mulder, in a formal setting, to the heads of their families, and she pushed aside intense privacy to do so, crediting her time with Dolores for such plain-dealing singleness of heart.

It was hard to know how to word such a radical admission. 'The good doctor and I are shackin' up in the Smallest State,' Mulder told the Gunmen. 'Sir, Mulder and I now reside in an undisclosed location,' Scully divulged to Skinner, on the phone, hand over her eyes in mortification. 'We were all undercurrents, like a copy of 1984,' Mulder explained to Scully. 'Our wilderness years,' Scully termed them, off the books. Utility bills, arriving, deliriously intertwined their names, like arborglyphs on paper birches.

Scully had never experienced a moment with Teena Mulder that wasn't fraught or troubled. The concealed depths of Mulder's parents intrigued her doubly of late, as she whisked their stone hearth, and learned the places the floor creaked, and the difficult nautics of chimney damper and wind direction. At the dinner in Manhattan she hoped to find some common ground with his mother, to begin a relationship that did not rely on Mulder's uncalculated flight paths. The first time she met Teena Mulder, Scully professed that gut instinct told her Mulder was alive. Certainly she had come across as recklessly speculative, like Mulder himself, and it seemed important, going forward, to display her ratiocination.

Delmonico's head waiter materialized among the Pompeian columns as the four of them stood in the portico joking about a motorbike chained to a parking meter. The head waiter had a black silk waistcoat and a sharp gaze which he kept deferentially lowered, like a laser pointer. Scully had placed her hands behind her back upon shaking the hand of Mrs. Mulder, and, from her position of reserve, watched the head waiter address Teena Mulder as if the rest of the party did not exist. The sense that he recognized her was so distinct that Mulder turned, seeking Scully's eye.

His mother ignored the mafia-wife treatment as if it were only natural, and went in with her arm linked through Mulder's. Scully and her own mother followed. There was a sharp squeak in the hallway floor of the house in Quonochontaug, that you must circumvent if anyone was asleep; a certain angle of south-east wind kept the chimney from drawing. Scully felt the new priviledge of this insider knowledge that Teena Mulder undoubtedly carried. Arm-in-arm, the Mulders were tall, looked like each other, and had strong opinions about clam chowder; there was a Brahmin, exclusionary elegance around them that reminded Scully that she was UM and he was Oxford.

Mrs. Mulder had shaken Scully's hand with a new and civil interest and an accepting smile, breathing some life into the reserved space they held between them. Teena Mulder's steel irises were recessive blue, but Scully imagined that she carried the green allele which gave Mulder those misty boreal eyes. In keeping with the theory of imprinted sexual selection, Mulder had chosen a mate with blue eyes, like his mother, and Scully was curious about what other phenotypes they shared, or what about herself had unconsciously reminded him of his mom.

At the table, Teena Mulder, livened by Maggie Scully’s friendliness, slumped her shoulders and laid her hand confidingly between their place settings. It was impossible not to warm to Scully's mother. Scully knew there was something about herself and Mulder which shut other people out, turning conversation away like the baffle in a flue, but that was not the case with her mother.

'My gracious, when the children were small,' Teena Mulder said to Maggie, 'I used to wonder if there would ever be a time of my life without sand in the bathtub.'

'Oh, yes!' said Maggie, turning to smile at Scully. 'Sandy little kids.'

'It's the price you pay,' Mulder said shyly, opening a leatherbound menu. He wore a beautiful suit, and a vintage Hermès necktie of his father's that he'd dredged up somewhere, and his Fisherian runaway hair was so attractive that Scully leaned closer on the pretext of scouting the soup du jour. She hadn't realized how much she missed him Double O Sevening around in a suit.

'This is outrageous!’ he said happily. 'When I was a whippersnapper, dinner was twelve cents.' He turned and looked at Scully, and forgot what he was saying. While Scully and her mother shopped, he had spent the afternoon reading too much Borges, or Lalla Rookh, and was word-addled, and on a birthday high. While he was occupied at Gotham Book Mart, Scully had splurged on a little Devoré velvet dress—a dress so perfect that to wear it transfigured the bent of the day. Despite Mulder's formal manners, she sensed that the dress was on his radar, and probability logic whispered that he was likely to leave it on her back at the hotel, as they swam the warm and sloshy symbiotics of drunken metaphysics.

'He was born on Friday the thirteenth,' Mrs. Mulder was saying, 'at the hospital in Oak Bluffs. Hurricane Esther had torn up Cape Cod, and our island was a mess. He was my first, and so slow, an endless labor of Twilight Sleep nightmares. I was thinking, although I could barely think: the twelfth. My due date was the twelfth, and I must have it on the twelfth, not the thirteenth. But it just went on and on.'

'Oh, my dear,' said Maggie, sympathetically.

Scully twiddled her butter knife, entranced. She felt Mulder looking at her, and met a sticky look, with too many things that could have been said. It was startling to hear his mother vouchsafe any part of the family's history, and she was afraid to break the spell. Under it all swam the dreadfully languid mixture of morphine and scopolamine, of a man's thumb on her eyebrow. Finally, she tipped toward him, and muttered, 'Why have you never told me this?' from the side of her mouth.

'What, the fact that I was born under a bad sign in a crossfire hurricane? I’d have thought that was already obvious.' Mulder flashed his catchy smile, and all the women chuckled. He smoothed his tie nervously. 'Mrs. Scully, what illuminating details can you give us about Dana's birth?'

Maggie Scully put down her cutlery and warmed to the subject, looking fondly at Scully. 'February of 1964. We were stationed in Annapolis. Cold, but beautiful. She was tiny and perfect and fussy, and seemed generally outraged at the state of things. Oh, everything had to be a certain way. And she had a scream that would crack crystal.'

Mulder made a noise into his water glass, and Scully attempted to camel-kick him, confined by her dress, and got into difficulties with a chair leg. 'She still has a scream that'll rattle your nerves,' Mulder said, and he and Maggie held up their glasses and toasted each other.

Scully said: 'And I'm still outraged at the state of things.' She spiked a mushroom from his plate with her salad fork.

Their merriment faded as the head waiter returned and stood at Mulder's elbow, facing Mrs. Mulder with his head ducked subserviently, while an underling replenished their icewater.

In the conversational lull, Mulder glanced uneasily at Scully, perhaps wondering whether she planned to get him back for the birthday thing at the Headless Woman nearly two years before. But this was not about awkward half-stabs at synergy, when their hands were tied by code of conduct. She reassured him with a look, and saw the pain his mother stirred up in him. In youth he'd often woken feeling he was the only person left in the world. His mother's electric white hair had nothing to do with age; it had turned after Samantha was taken away. Canities subita. Mulder and his mother were identically scarred by the loss; she had become an island, but Scully intended to keep his life from being defined by tragedy.

She had bent to this task from the beginning—the compunction to push him out of his funks, to save him from himself, to drive him forward to better days. And they were much better days. Mulder was looking at her, and she found that, unaware, her hand had settled on his leg, and she took it away. She was used to touching him constantly now, reading an email with her chin on his shoulder, fake karate-kicking him on the beach. One morning when she had cut her foot on a barnacle, he carried her up the beach stairs on his back. Nor could she linger at a viewpoint without his arms sliding around her and his chin capping the top of her head, like the fox-face on a Dog Soldier headdress.

The waiters withdrew, and Scully sat back, and a little distance opened between herself and the rest of the table. She nipped at her crisp wine, and held up her glass. 'If I may, on this occasion of Mulder's thirty-seventh—'

Across the table, Mrs. Mulder looked at her curiously, and politely lifted her goblet. 'There's something I'd like to impart,' Scully said. 'We, uh—Mulder and I—wanted to see you both because, although it's not generally known, and not to imply that we were anything less than professional while employed by the Bureau—but it has gradually come about that we find ourselves—that we are—serious about each other, and we just thought you should know, not only because you're the two most important people in our lives, but also because we understand these years haven't been easy for either of you.’ She paused to draw a breath. It was not a toast, exactly, and her glass bent the light in a brilliant line that wavered across the linen tablecloth. She was decidedly out of her element; the room looked like the upper crust dining saloon on the Titanic: an ornamental whirl of gilt and chandeliers and mirrors.

In moments of tenseness, Scully lay back once more in the grass, watching the clouds, captured in the liquid mirror of Dolores' sage, xenogeneic eye. Was this her standard for peace—thirty days in the hole? Across the table, Teena set down her glass, looking questioningly at Mulder. Scully's own mother leaned reassuringly close and rubbed Scully's arm and said 'Dana? You don't owe us an apology.'

‘I know that, Mom,' said Scully, putting down her wine glass, 'in theory. But it's hard not to think how different things might have been.' She looked a little desperately at Mulder.

He nodded and picked up the thread. 'If there's anything Scully and I regret, it's how hard the FBI years were on both of you. We've both scaled back on work, and we want you to know that our house is always open to you. Come to the beach and see us and we'll do the cliff walk or cruise to the islands. We're doing some private consulting in our field, mostly from home, although Scully's got a cubicle at the state medical examiner's office in Providence and I'm still doing outreach stuff for the Bureau, and incidentally they're trying to talk her into teaching an experimental pathology lab at Stanford, but I hope she doesn't go because she's the only one who can make a proper French press cup of coffee—'

There was a silence, and everyone smiled uncertainly.

'Oh, it sounds lovely,' said Maggie. 'You know what the funny thing is, Dana,' she said, and everyone turned to her, relieved, 'Melissa said as much to me forever ago, years ago, when you first joined the FBI, and you went missing and then you were in the hospital and we spent a lot of time with Fox, sitting around in waiting rooms, and we all got to know each other a bit—'

Scully tried to imagine a spring-wound, frantic Mulder hanging irritably around with her New Age sister. 'What did she say?'

'As you know, your sister was nothing if not unerring in her honesty,’ Maggie said. ‘She never hesitated to tell the truth, as she personally saw it. She told me you two were in love.'

'We weren't!' Scully said, startled. 'She was speculating.' She exchanged a mortified look with Mulder.

He shook his head and leaned forward earnestly. 'I hate to say this, Mrs. Scully, since she can no longer defend her position, but Dana's sister had the wrong end of the stick.’

'I see,' said Maggie.

'When was this?' Scully cut in. '1994? She had no idea what she was talking about.'

'Pure speculation,' Mulder agreed. 'I mean, we cared.'

'Of course we cared,' said Scully, 'but that's a completely different thing. We were in the trenches.'

'We were swept up in a lot of things, but not that,' Mulder agreed. 'You could get censure or suspension for misconduct. As it was, Scully got called by review boards; suspended without pay; arrested for contempt of Congress—all because of me. We had plenty of trouble.'

'We went to the wall for each other,' Scully admitted, 'but it's just part of the job.'

'Maybe it’s a job that looks romantic from the outside,' said Mulder, 'but it's rough.'

'Yes, it's rough, and it's painful, and the paperwork is insane,' Scully said. They’d gotten too defensive, and she busied herself perfectly bifurcating a cherry tomato with her steak knife.

Scully's mother looked at her curiously. 'Dana, what does it feel like to have a man call you by your surname?' she asked.

'It makes me feel strong,' Scully said. The question surprised her. It was her father’s name, and reminded her of him, of all the time he’d spent teaching her things that he could have let slide, because she was a girl. He’d believed in her, though. She whisked her fingertips together. 'I almost can't describe it. It makes me genderless, I suppose, equal to anyone.'

'It sounds noir, like a Dashiell Hammett novel,' Teena Mulder said.

'I think she’s calling us hard-boiled, Scully,' said Mulder. 'You know, credit where it's due, Mrs. Scully, Melissa was astute. She may have been a telepath.'

'What was Samantha like?' Scully asked him.

Mulder reached around the butter plate and put his hand on his mother's, and they were lost in each other's eyes. 'She was so alive,' Mulder said. 'She knew so firmly who she was.'

His mother smiled yearningly. 'She was full of personality, like her brother.' When she looked at Mulder, tilting her head, her worried eyebrows exactly mirrored his. 'I know you're just trying to find peace, Fox,' she said, 'and I know that you were as hurt by what happened as your father and I, but sometimes I think you’ve let Samantha push us apart.'

Mulder nodded, accepting this, but Scully reached over, stung, her fingers on his arm, determined to negate the comment.

'It's okay, Scully,' Mulder said softly.

'You've always done what you felt was necessary, I suppose,’ said Teena Mulder, ‘but you've been the one link to the past that refuses to stop pulling, that never relents. Everything you do hurts.'

Scully breathed in, and out. She saw that his mother was unaware of his guilt, and that their move to Quonochontaug was painful for her. Mulder had Scully's hand and was squeezing it hard, clearing his throat. He let go of her and got up, leaned over his mother and kissed her cheek. 'Not, not anymore, Mom,' he said raspily.

'Oh, my darling,' she said, and ruffled his head. She managed to smile, as he withdrew, and Mulder was back in his chair, looking at Scully. 'Welcome to the Mulder family, Scully,' he said, and leaned toward her. She’d never kissed him in front of anyone, but he met her eyes with a quick, tense message, and planted a kiss on her mouth. He tasted, stunningly, like umami and an Esquire fragrance sampler.

'Aw,' said Maggie Scully, smiling brightly and sadly. She lifted her glass. 'A toast,' she said. 'To Dana and Fox.'

Mrs. Mulder, with a long breath and a distant look, held her own glass and looked into it. Scully held her own shaky glass before herself, and through her tears the chandelier light bent through it. She closed her eyes for a moment, and saw the sun, the grassy yard, the doe. She dropped her free hand between their chairs, and Mulder made a symmetry of their fingers, and folded them tight. She felt the tacit solidarity they had while making a rush together through a scary doorway, guns drawn.

'To Fox and Dana,' said Teena Mulder.

'To Mulder and Scully,' Mulder suggested.

'To my strong girl,' said Maggie affectionately, 'and to a man of courage and persistence. May you find peace and happiness.'

'To all of us,' Scully said. Her arm was getting tired, and her glass was wavering.

Mulder nodded, and squeezed her hand. 'To all of us,' he said.

The splashy crystal clangor of four Waterfords meeting above the centerpiece felt like a commitment, a pact.

They drank.

In November, Scully discovered some nostalgic items that had been in storage since the middle of summer. She had not trusted the movers with the box, but had transported it herself, although she had rather incautiously scrawled 'x files' on one side, and left it for months in her mother's garage.

A serious storm hit the coast in the afternoon, crippling the power grid. Mulder was on a research jaunt to the Providence Athenæum, and Scully was pleased with the inroads she'd made on a monograph for the American Journal of Human Genetics, 'Generational Mutations in Long Runs of Homozygosity', which Mulder had suggested she title 'Home Runs in Homozygosity'.

When the lights pulsed and went off with a snap of finality, she found a flashlight and unplugged everything vulnerable to surges. The gale push-rocked the house. From the living room window, she watched the treacherous ocean heave spray at the cliffs. On the coastal road, a siren approached, wailing, and faded. She called Mulder's cell, but reached the inaudible mumble of his voice mail.

Near her feet, a blue tarp was spread on the floor, arrayed with the many fluted bones of a small theropod bestowed by one of Mulder's many well-wishers, and of uncertain provenance. Mulder wanted it off his hands and planned to donate it to the University of Wyoming, but, along with Scully, became immersed in puzzling the skeleton together and attempting classification. 'Dino', as they called him, was thought to be East Asian, of the Ornithomimosauria clade, flightless: perhaps Harpymimus, with its toothy beak and disemboweling toe.

In the dim light, she could do no more than pick up and admire a petrified bone or two; it was no fun without Mulder. The evening before, they'd settled on the floor and worked for hours, drinking beer and discussing Michael Crichton novels. Mulder in the light of a circle of desk lamps, examining a two hundred million-year old bone through a hand lens, then consulting a paleobiology text while caressing the arch of Scully's socked foot, all the while holding forth on The Andromeda Strain. As Dino came together, with his awkward little wings elbowed out like a running Peanuts character, they fell into a discussion of the nature of lives brought together like a wrinkle in time. 'Kairos,' Mulder said unironically, 'the right time for a thing to finally happen.'

Scully passed through the kitchen, compulsively checking the empty, storm-thrashed driveway, and went into their office, sweeping the flashlight. Mulder had renovated the kitchen and both bathrooms before she moved in, but they had not yet redone the office, which was already a stockyard maze of banker's boxes and slide projectors, astrolabes and schematics. On the wall, her darkened lightbox displayed Röntgen's x-ray of his wife's hand, beringed; and the ossified wing bud on a girl's scapula; and the agarose gel electrophoresis of the Peacock infant's gene imbalances, from which arose her monograph. The place was an impenetrable wilderness, but she and Mulder had fallen in love in an office, and a room where they worked together—hammering out emails or grinding through research—was its own sort of heaven.

She found the box she was looking for, and drew from it a hardbound logbook. Back in the living room, she built a fire in the fireplace, and got the flue to draw, and sat on the hearth warming her back. The ship's log was as heavily embossed as a yearbook, with a thick, bumpy cover; all that remained of the U.S.S. Ardent, scuppered in '95. The doctors at Bethesda had used it to save Mulder's life. She looked through it with her flashlight and found where her entries began, then paused to shine the flashlight on her watch. She leapt up and looked out at the driveway, paced the kitchen while calling Mulder's phone, checked the driveway again, then sat back down by the fire, picked up the book, sighed sharply, and began to read.

The desperation in the entries pulled her in; they were written by lantern light, firm and calm as she sank beneath the surface of the corrosive disease; scoring the book with her blunted lessening of hope, entry by entry, as Mulder faded. She could smell the dank, wintry iron of the becalmed ship, and the salty crumbling dead; the bloody rust. The ship groaned all around her. As the flashlight followed the lines, a horror built up in her, so that she heard, under the storm, her own nervous swallowing.

Then, when all was lost, the storm reached straight into the room and took the pages of the book and fluttered them in her hands, and Mulder was coming through the kitchen door, dropping things loudly and calling out, as he slammed the door, 'Scully!' He had an armload of groceries and books, and he scattered them onto the table as she flung herself at him. 'Time to batten down the hatches!' he yelled, while she rattled kisses against his jaw. 'The power's out from here to Halifax!' He pawed among the groceries. 'Guess what—you're wrong about the disemboweling toe! And look at this fancy mustard!'

The storm was a wonder, absolving them of the menial schedule of life. Time left completely, and there were no chores, no work obligations, no expectations of anything but pure survival, with the couch shifted close to the fireplace, and wine breathing in the kitchen, gas lantern light, and a stack of new books. With fearsome thrash, the surf besieged their very cliff. As they stood at the window together, the heavy silvery gleam of the sky loomed and then receded beyond the small universe of semidarkness in each other's arms.

A boundless interval passed, uncounted: the clocks had stopped. In bed, Scully separated herself from Mulder's warm clasp, and rose. The hall was medievally dark and drafty. 'How can you even move, Scully?' Mulder called plaintively after her. On trembling legs she sidepassed the creak in the floor and went into the back office, flipping the dead light switch.

In their crepuscular study, a single electronic light glowed—the blinking clamshell eye on her old military-grade laptop, waiting on the desk. The house rumbled and crouched under the brunt of the storm. Above the curtains, rhododendrons frothed on the slope of the lawn, and the cedar wove slowly in thickets of rain.

She reached for the laptop, and a pale movement in the corner startled her. One of the atmospheric urban paintings that had hung over Mulder's couch in Alexandria was propped against the wall, and when she looked into it, an eidolon, watery and naked, simmered in the glass.

The ethereal strangeness of her time with Dolores had left threads at the edges of her life. There was more to her layers of self now—a totem animal that led, a glimpse through a hedgerow. A couple of days before, on a hike up the trail through the blueberry barrens, she and Mulder had encountered a matriarchal group of does. Scully had stopped and held herself proudly but respectfully, without pressuring them. Mulder's fingertips were light against her back. She half-expected the deer to recognize something in her, but they snorted and flung themselves into the brush. But, I'm one of you, she thought.

Back in the bedroom, he was still laying there bonelessly: stormlit Mulder in the raw. Scully opened the laptop in the haymow bedding. Rain needled the storm windows, but the house was sturdy, versed in the breezes of the Beaufort scale. She climbed onto the bed and crossed it on her knees and pulled a swathe of sheet across his damp body and climbed back on, sitting on his stomach, her teeth clever in her bottom lip. His heart steadily jarred her vulva. He looked up mystically, hands susurrating up and down her thighs as the laptop spun up and processed noisily, and the sigh of a whistle buoy folded itself through a lull in the wind. 'Is the power still out?' he murmured.

'Yep.' Scully, knees deep in the bed, leaned sideways and dragged the laptop closer.

'I'm going to make foil potatoes in the fireplace,' he said. ‘We’ve got to get to work on Dino.’

She touched his cheek to make sure she had his full attention. She was still not used to having as much of him as she wanted, and she thumbed his square mouth, and the sweet collop beside it. 'Something to show you, Mulder.'

'Mm, Scull,' he said against her fingers, glitz in the ink of his eyes, '—you were telling me about the wolf named Sköll...'

'Fimbulwinter, the Norse end of the world, as I first read of it, while dying in a pocket of time on the Norwegian Sea,' she swallowed, '—with you. It seemed like a half-remembered dream until I found that old ship's log. The fog, the wolf chasing the sun. But that's only part of what I want to show you here.' She tapped the laptop's trackpad, and called up a widget. Mulder pinched the bridge of his nose as she turned the screen toward him. 'I know you think all our work was destroyed in the fire.' She tapped the directory, but he had his hand over his eyes. 'Mulder, I wrote up every single X-File we ever opened, case-by-case reportage and analysis.'

On the screen, a file inventory, listed by date: 'Oregon’; 'Ellens Air Base, Idaho'; 'Lake Okobogee'; 'Eugene Victor Tooms’. Mulder scissored his fingers, squinting, then looked up at her, startled.

'Lab reports,' Scully said softly, '...x-rays, recording transcripts, coroner’s reports, all attached.' She tapped her fingers nervously on his chest. 'I mean, it’s just my own observations, and technically it's all still classified. Maybe you'll want to expand upon it. Substantiate, refute...'

Mulder was silent. Her reports were one-sided, of course, mere addendums; myopic when compared to those sibylline reams of files reduced to char. And the amount of voluntary hours she'd invested—going over her notes on lunch breaks; typing on motel beds; calling him late to pin down some detail—were a little ridiculous.

He wasn't even looking at the screen, but was gazing up at her, and she felt, like the decay spin flip of phosphorescence, her outline in the green light, tousle-haired and topless. His face was strangely unreadable. An echo came to her: his sick, distrusting voice, calling her out for always taking her little notes!

‘It's true, initially I didn’t do it for you, I did it because I was reporting on you,’ she admitted, a little defensively. ‘And because I am an investigator. And then, after a while, it was just habit, my way of working through my impressions, of arguing my point.' She swallowed, chilly now. She wanted to roll down beside him and pull the comforter over her head, and they could sleep, two washed-up crime fighters, through the worst of the storm. In her own way, she had sabotaged his career by helping him prove up the X-Files division, when his investigative gifts would have better served Violent Crimes. Looking down at the odd list of files, she saw how makeshift and distorted a record it was. 'Maybe, Mulder, in a cumulative sense, it's more of a testament to our time together.'

Mulder surged up then, and his thick warm arms went around her, and he sighed roughly as he laid his cheek over her heart. Scully, relieved, put her arm around his head and looked up at the gleam of storm light in the window.

His gritty jaw rasped her skin. 'And somehow, Scully, all those files,' he said, as her fingers sorted the rumpled plush of his head, 'all those files are the story of how you saved my life.'

'The story of us,' Scully said.