It all started with a paper cut.
Actually, that’s not entirely true.
Fox Mulder had seen this coming from a long way off. Years, really. He knew in the back of his mind that his growing attachment to Dana Scully would eventually entangle him beyond hope of release; that his fondness and respect for her would deepen to the point of devotion. That his attraction to her would ripen into a passion that he could neither act on nor contain. He’s been in free-fall since the day they met, and is only just now hitting the ground.
It isn’t a matter of if, but when.
And the when happens to be Thursday, February twelfth, 1998, at eleven twenty-nine A.M, when Special Agent Dana Scully sits opposite him at their desk, leafing through a sheaf of papers, and slices her index finger on one.
“Shit,” she mutters, observing the droplet of blood gathering outside the cut and reflexively popping her finger into her mouth.
Mulder, slouching over his own stack of documents, looks up at her in surprise at her utterance and promptly falls in love. Hard.
The sensation rolling through his body reminds him of going to a shitty carnival on the Vineyard one summer when he was eleven. He has a distinct physical recollection of riding a rickety old rollercoaster that had no business operating with human passengers, anticipation building with the climb of the car on the tracks. He can still feel the euphoria of cresting the rise and dropping down the other side, a vortex of giddiness twisting in his stomach.
Only now he is experiencing this as a thirty-six year old federal agent in an office chair, across a cluttered desk from the most beautiful, resilient, and achingly unattainable woman he’s ever known.
“You okay, Mulder?” Scully asks, rising from her chair and crossing the room to fetch their first aid kit from a cabinet. “You look a little flushed.”
“Hypoglycemia,” he says quickly, then mentally kicking himself because she’s a goddamn doctor and knows better than him what the symptoms of severe low blood sugar are. Symptoms he certainly doesn’t have. “I skipped breakfast.”
“Uh huh,” she replies absently, wrapping a bandage around her fingertip. “Well, once we finish this report we can go to lunch.”
He wants to take a bite out of her. Instead he picks up a pen and watches letters and numerals swim across the page in front of him.
He’s finally, absolutely in love with Scully. And he has no idea what to do about it.
Mulder stays late at the office that night, tossing pencils upwards at the ceiling before realizing Scully will notice them tomorrow and know he wasn’t buried in research or catching up on paperwork like he claimed.
Falling in love is pretty inconvenient, which is probably why he put it off for so long. He had overlooked his growing feelings in much the same way he’d ignored a hairline crack forming in one of his favorite mugs a few months ago. He kept using the mug until one day he found coffee seeping out the bottom of the cup and onto his newspaper, soaking the pages together. He had foolishly thought the crack would hold, and felt stupid for being even momentarily surprised.
He spins lazily in his office chair, listening to the bolts squeak.
In reality, he has only two clear options.
One: he could sit back and do nothing. Pine for her quietly, nurse an ache in his chest so deep that it cuts him in half right down the middle. Sleep alone on his sofa until he draws his last breath, never uttering a word to her because she deserves more than him, deserves better than he could ever provide.
But he knows and respects her. After everything that’s been taken away from Scully, the last thing he wants to do is deny her agency or choice. And because he’s an asshole, he desperately, selfishly hopes that she chooses him.
So that leads to option two: do… something.
This is where he falters; he hasn’t wooed a woman in years. And if he thinks on it, his last two relationships were fairly heavily driven by the female participant; almost as though he were just along for the ride.
But Scully is different; Scully challenges him, excites him, brings him peace. She keeps him in line while simultaneously setting him free. Sometimes she even smiles at his jokes. He’s never had the privilege of someone else’s trust and confidence in that way before.
Mulder doesn’t know if she wants him the way he wants her. Hell, it seems impossible for anyone to want another person that much, but here he is, chewing on the eraser end of a #2 pencil, ready to upset the entire balance of his professional and personal life on the off chance she might.
It’s worth a shot. She’s worth a shot.
He only hopes he’s worth one in return.