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the things they say in the dark

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Tuesday Night...

The stench of blood and bleach instantly assails Scully’s senses; but it’s the image of her Mulder splayed out lifelessly upon a surgical slab that takes her breath away. 

Oh God, I can’t be too late.

She leans over him, his gauze-wrapped head surrounded by an ethereal blue glow of the operating station. Despite Mulder’s current state of nudity crudely left on display like a science experiment while barely covered by a surgical sheet, Scully cannot stop touching him. Won’t stop stroking his temple with trembling fingers, cooing encouraging words, or caressing his still fingers resting limply at her hip. 

“Mulder, you’ve got to get up,” she urges. “I don’t know how much time we have. You’ve got to get up, Mulder.”

He twitches slightly beneath her, his mind swimming peacefully in still waters of delirium she herself knows all too well. 

“No one can do it but you, Mulder,” she pleads. “You have to help me. Please, Mulder.”

A hot tear rolls down her cheek and splashes onto his eyelid. It drips down his face as if he were crying along with her. She bends lower, pressing her lips to his ice-cold cheek, willing him to find the strength to fight his way back to the surface. To wake up for her.

To live with her.

Because how could she ever live without him?

His eyes flutter. “You… help… me,” he croaks, his voice raw and weak. 

A warm wave of respite washes over her as he leans up and reaches out for her, burying his face into her neck. 

“Hey,” she gasps. “Mulder, it’s me. I’m here, I’ve got you now.”

“I knew you’d come.” She feels his dry lips move across her rabbit-like pulse point, seeking warmth and reassurance. She wonders briefly if she still smells of African sun and days-old perfume. 

Her watery smile is genuine as her heart swells with relief. “You know I’ll always find you, but we’ve got to get you out of here.”

As gently as she can, she lays him back down and grabs a wheelchair from the corner. “Okay, Mulder, think you try to stand long enough for me to get you in this chair?”

Mulder grunts in agreement and manages to sit up for her, his chest pressing into hers and leaning shakily against her. 

With her arms hooked up under his armpits, she supports his weight as much as humanly possible for her lithe frame, slowly lowering him down backwards into the seat. He immediately curls himself into a ball, his head sagging forward, and it bumps harshly against her boney shoulder, making him yelp in pain. 

A dark stain of blood blooms like a rose through the snowy surgical gauze. Her teary-eyed alleviation snaps back like whiplash.

“Shit! Oh, I’m sorry,” Scully laments as she cradles his face within her palms. Her wide eyes dart between his dilated ones, watching in panic as they roll to the back of his head. “Mulder? Fuck!” 

The terrifying thought that he could lose consciousness and never wake up sends her into action. She grabs the sheet that had covered his lower half and drapes it across his lap. Modesty might be the last thing on either of their minds but the risk of exposing him to more needless criticism from pedestrians walking the DoD’s sidewalks is one she isn’t willing to take for him. 

Scully quickly pushes him down the sterile hallway and into the elevator from which she’d come. She softly murmurs to Mulder as she navigates the wheelchair through the uninhabited side doors and past a startled group of onlookers out on a smoke break. 

With every step, her mind screams pleas of affirmation for her partner, her closest friend… the only person she can ever imagine herself with. 

Stay with me. Please. I’ll do anything. I need you. Don’t you dare leave me like this! 

She pushes Mulder up to the passenger side of her car, flings the door open, and immediately wraps her arms around him again. “Here we are, Mulder. I’m taking you to the hospital now, okay?”

He moans as his eyes flutter beneath furrowed brows. “Hurts…”

“Oh, Mulder…” Tears sting her eyes while she tucks his impossibly long legs into the passenger’s seat. “I’m so sorry.” 

What have they done to you? 

“In my head… hear you…” he murmurs. “...heard you, Scully.”

“No, no, you don’t have to speak,” she manages to say through the lump in her throat.

Guilt for her inability to protect him crushes her, but there isn’t time for it. Not now while his breathing is ragged and his bandaged wound is leaking precious life-blood down his ashen forehead.

“Mulder, stay awake for me, okay? I need you to stay with me.” Fear and fierce determination to see him through this in one piece sends a rush of adrenaline through her veins. 

Please… please don’t leave me here without you. 

A veil of rage paints her vision the same shade as Mulder’s blood when she imagines what They have done to him. Her foot presses the gas pedal to the floor and the tires squeal as she drives. 

She grips his limp hand like a vise the entire way. 

 

-

 

Four Hours Later...

Mulder lays in the Intensive Care Unit, strapped up to an array of monitors for testing, hovering on the verge of sedation. She stands guard in the hallway now that Skinner is gone, making herself sick over the long list of possible complications he now faces. Every frightening one sends an ache through her sternum and invades her every thought. 

Blood clots. Edema of the brain. Memory loss. Muscle weakness. Reactionary seizures. Infection, stroke, coma.

Her, falling dangerously deeper in love with her partner...

Scully feels the tug seven-years-deep between the two of them begin to tighten: a visceral pull they cannot seem to ignore. There’s this endless ebb and flow of loving Fox Mulder the way she does - fiercely and foolishly, perhaps. But if there is one truth she cannot deny, it is that those who dare love this man are both blessed and stricken for their loyalty. 

Scully’s nails click along the keycard’s cool metal still nestled within her jacket pocket, her fingers weighing the heft of its significance. 

It’s a loyalty debt Diana Fowley will surely pay in full for in the end. 

Through the ICU’s glass reflection she watches a protective storm swell behind her eyes, wicked and unwavering. Her barely suppressed anger for the men who orchestrated this macabre massacre of his mind stirs like a hurricane that sets off sirens and rattles boards over windows. 

She sees Mulder lying there, sick and vulnerable, and suddenly it’s all too much. 

Scalding tears stemming from shadow men’s sins she’s been stifling since Africa and Antarctica - since stolen ova and failed IVFs - sear her cheeks. She slumps heavily against the wall before finally allowing relief of Mulder’s safety to win the emotional warfare within. 

No one else will ever hurt him again, she decides. No one else will harm him and leave with a pulse.

“...forms for your husband?” a wary voice questions from behind her. 

Scully blinks, wiping her cheeks clean. “Sorry, what?” 

“Oh dear, I’m sorry to interrupt.” A nurse with kind brown eyes and a silver bun wrapped tightly at the crown of her head stares up at her, patting her arm tenderly.

Scully, disoriented and borderline delirious, takes the offered clipboard with a pad of detailed medical questions attached. “No, no it’s fine.”

“We have a few more forms that need to be filled out before the neuro team examines him,” she explains.

“I’ll take care of it,” Scully rasps, throat clogged with emotion. 

“Don’t forget to take care of yourself too,” the nurse adds softly before walking away.

Minutes pass and it’s not until she enters Mulder’s room and tangles her fingers through his that she realizes she never actually denied she was his wife.

Mulder’s wife… Her breathing stutters to a stop as she allows the wonderment to briefly caress the pleasure center of her brain before swiftly tossing it back out. Too unrealistic. Too dangerous. Too real.

“Wife,” Mulder slurs, his eyes flickering beneath heavy lashes. “...could only be so lucky.”

Scully exhales and rolls her eyes as he finally succumbs to sedation. She can’t help but smile, all the while chastising herself for uttering such a ridiculous notion aloud. 

Or had she…?

 

-

 

Thursday Night: 48 Hours Later...

It’s late when they arrive at Mulder’s apartment. The only light that illuminates their way in is the green glow of the fish tank. Two mollies float lifelessly at its surface and a thin layer of dust coats the glass. With her arm slung around Mulder’s waist, Scully helps guide him through the living room, past a pile of laundry haphazardly tossed on the couch next to an empty pizza box, and into his bedroom she’s only seen once before. 

“Home sweet home,” Mulder quips, his exhaustion evident no matter how hard he tries to hide it. 

“Let’s get you settled.” Scully watches Mulder slowly sink into the mattress and wind himself within the disheveled covers that smells of stale cologne. “I’ll set your prescriptions here on the table with my penlight so I can easily check your vitals later. Remember, you’re not to leave this bed without help.” 

He groans, “Scullyyy

“Mulder, don’t even try it,” she chastises. “You heard the doctors, the only reason you’re discharged is because I told them I wouldn’t leave you alone.” It’s not a lie by any means, but it’s not her only reason for refusing to leave his side. The truth is, no one can care for him the way she can. 

“But-”

“You’re weak, your entire body is healing from brain-induced trauma, and the risk of you not following doctor’s orders outside of in-patient care is-” Scully stops, her voice catching. “Too great for us to take.”

The word us hangs ominously in the space between them, and Scully knows Mulder will gladly reach out to cradle her confession close.

He nods, tenderly tapping her hip while she dutifully hides her expression of vulnerability. “Okay, doc, I’m all yours.”

Scully swallows thickly, overwhelmed and emotionally raw. The caffeine from her last four coffees and the adrenaline rush of driving Mulder home has worn down both her body and her resolve. Unbidden, her hand finds its way to his face, grounding herself with the feel of his warm cheek in her palm. 

She wants to hold him and maybe never let go.

“I should go - let you rest in your own bed,” she whispers. It’s a half-hearted protest and the laundry laden couch seems too far away. She’s never felt so eager to be anywhere with someone in her life. And that’s all she wants to do right now, just be with her best friend.

“Don’t go,” he pleads. The panic in his voice cuts through their calm. “Stay with me. Here.”

Scully reaches out to triple-check his temp with the back of her fingers and Mulder takes her wrist delicately in his hands, strong thumbs stroking over her pulse. She stills and lets her eyes slide closed. A reassurance that his plea for comfort isn’t fever-induced but one of lucid desperation. 

Nodding, her pinky locks easily with his in a preemptive promise of permanency she doesn’t dare speak aloud. 

He squeezes, and a fierce grip of adoration takes hold. More intense and powerful than it’s ever been, not to be tamped down to the dark recesses of her heart, refusing to be confined within her lockbox of romantic repression. It steadily winds up her spine and weaves its way through her ribcage, filling her chest with ardent affection.

Under his watchful gaze, she kicks off her shoes and flicks off the light before crawling her way over to his side, curling into herself. She can almost hear his thick lashes fall shut just a breath away. “Goodnight, Mulder.” 

His body softens next to hers, sinewy muscles uncoiling. They can rest easily now that they’re breathing the same midnight air. “Night, Scully.”

I almost lost him again, she thinks. Almost.

Scully leans into his warmth, her hand bravely trailing across his expanding chest, fingers splaying over the steady rhythm of his heart. She’s so, so tired. She hasn’t slept soundly in days. All she needs is to feel the tangible proof that he’s still alive and here and literally within her hands. 

“I dreamed of you,” he mumbles in the dark. His soft voice is raw like honey - his breath a warm comfort against her throat. “I hope I always will.”

Then what seems like only mere minutes since she’s fallen asleep, Scully’s eyes fly open as the mattress jerks violently beneath her.

“Scully, no! Don’t go,” Mulder moans, head thrashing and arms flailing beside her. “Sc-Scully!”

“Mulder?” She jolts up and hovers over him. The clock reads a blurry 4:28 a.m. “Shh, I need you to wake up for me.”

In the hospital, his cerebral cortex had been mollified with sedatives to help reduce swelling where his dreams were lulled. Now, his t-shirt is soaked in sweat and his breathing comes out in shallow puffs as his lungs try to keep up with his racing adrenaline.

Scully flicks on her penlight and swallows the knot in her throat in confirmation that it’s not a seizure. She frames his scratchy jaw with her hands, tethering them with her touch. “It’s me, Mulder, it’s okay.”

He blinks up at her with watery red eyes. “It’s you.”

“It’s me,” she breathes, fearful yet calm.

“It’s always you,” he rasps, awed, and with something akin to reverence. 

Scully shakily slides her hand down his face and presses two fingers under his jaw. His heart hammers in time with her own that’s lodged somewhere in the pit of her gut. 

“Nightmare?” she hesitantly asks, wanting to unburden him but afraid to feel it fully for herself. His knowing gaze catches hers in the moonlight and it’s like they’re the only ones in the universe, breathing each other in like oxygen. “Wanna talk about it?”

His hands find her waist and clutches her tight in response. Minutes pass this way. His nose buried in her shoulder, slender fingers gripping her shirt. He doesn’t want to let her go, and she isn’t sure that she wants him to.

“Mulder?”

“Head hurts,” he hisses. 

Scully reaches over and gives him two pain pills she knows will knock him back out within minutes. 

“Here, let’s get this off you.” Mulder leans forward and together they pull the damp shirt over his wrapped head. “It’s okay now. I’m right here.”

He boldly tucks a wild strand of hair behind her ear. “I ask too much of you.”

There may have been a time when his statement rang true, but now it’s as false as their sense of trust in anyone other than each other.

“No, Mulder.” Scully’s sternness is an equivalence to her commitment. “You don’t ask any more than I’m willing to give.”

Tears swell along his lashes and she can’t bear to see it. Instead she gathers him into her arms, gently yet desperately. She slides down his bare chest and he weakly pulls her tighter against him, her head lulling until she fits it into the curve of his neck.

“God, Mulder…”

“S’kay, I know. I heard you before… heard what you thought,” he mutters sleepily. “But I only feel you now - can feel you thinking.”

She stiffens and doesn’t speak. Doesn’t think that she can, because beneath the thick layered haze of painkillers and sleep aids, Scully knows he absolutely means it. He’d previously heard her thoughts as he lay near death, strapped down and deserted like a wounded animal as she begged him to live. Begged him to come back to her because she wouldn’t live a day without him by her side. 

Because she fell in love with him a long time ago. 

I feel you slipping away from me with every minute I fail here, she recalls writing to him in her journal on the Ivory Coast, distraught at the swelling sensation of him drifting away with the surf.

She absolutely meant her pelting thoughts of adoration for him threatening to drown her then. And as frustrating as it is, she means it more and more every moment.

Mulder nuzzles his face against her neck amongst her silence. "Sorry, I just… I can’t describe it,” he admits wearily. “Don't have the words."

She strokes the back of his head tenderly. "You'll find them when you’re ready," she soothes. "And I'll be here listening when you do."

Emboldened under the cloak of darkness, Scully allows her hand to run through the valley of sparse hair between Mulder’s pectorals up to his soft neck and watches him rest in beautiful repose, his mind at ease with her vow locked safely away in their hearts.

She tries not to doze in Mulder’s arms, but she’s exhausted from the rollercoaster of emotions she’s been riding over the past couple of weeks. And it’s this time that she envisions something other than saving his beautiful mind, dreaming peacefully of a brown-haired boy with freckles on a beach as she and Mulder sit by his side, building sandcastles to the sky...

 

-

 

Friday Night...

She pads her way around the corner and gapes at what she sees through the open door. “Mulder!”

Mulder jumps, the razor slipping from his grasp and clanging loudly into the bathroom sink. “Scully!”

His face covered in foamy white shaving cream pinkens under her glare, the mirror fogging over with steam from the running shower. His long toes flex along the butterscotch tile as his hands grips tightly at the towel slung precariously low around his hips. 

“Care to explain why you’re breaking rules?” Her question is a loaded one, she realizes, as their shared desires of need professed under the veil of midnight’s shadows have yet to be revisited. 

“I’m itchy.” He nods to a pile of wadded up pajamas, cringing. “And dirty.”

“And stubborn,” she adds.

He feigns shock with a goofy grin on his face but cannot conceal his swaying stance.

“No showers, Mulder. Your equilibrium can’t be trusted yet,” she sighs, moving past him to switch the flowing shower into a bath instead.

“You want me to stink, Scully?” he pouts, and God help her he’s never been cuter.

“You don’t,” she lies. “But shaving after you’ve just taken your sleeping meds? What am I going to do with you?”

He cocks a brow.

“Shut up, Mulder,” Scully smirks. “Now sit.”

The intimacy of the moment is unexpected. 

Confined within the small space of his tiny bathroom, Mulder rests patiently on the edge of the tub, her slender hips cleaved between his colt-like legs as she slowly shaves away days worth of stubble.

“Scully...” The expression she sees upon his upturned face sucks the air from her lungs: one of heart-felt longing and hesitation to change it. She knows it well because it’s the same one she sees when she looks in the mirror. 

He wants her. And as much as she’s tried to fight it she wants him, too. She wants to kiss him the way lovers do. To make love with him the way her body yearns to. She wants to straddle his hips and ride him so hard their souls merge. 

Scully turns away, slightly breathless as she rinses the razor clean and runs trembling fingers across his chin. “Shh, don’t move.”

He says he’s heard her thoughts, has listened to her wordless cries of desperation and can feel her thinking right now - if she dares believe such a thing. And as quick as she questions the improbable, she finds that she does believe because she cannot deny that incessant tug between them neither can thrive without. 

“Just a little more.” She drags the blade carefully over the curve of his strong jaw again and again, feeling his warm body meld further into hers with every stroke. “You’re tired, Mulder,” she breathes, and the husk in her voice startles her. “Maybe this wasn’t the best time for this.”

He looks up at her through his dark canopied lashes. “Timing is everything, isn’t it?”

Something twists in her middle and has her heart thumping. It scares her sometimes just how quickly she blooms under the intensity of Mulder’s gaze. 

Jesus.

She blinks and spins around, steadying herself and her breathing. She returns the razor and pours body wash that smells like pine into the rushing bath water.

“Thank you,” Mulder offers. “And I’m sorry.”

Scully squats down and lets the water warm her fingers in hopes the flush of her cheeks can be blamed on the heat. “Don’t be. I should’ve offered to help this morning.”

“But aren’t you sick of it?” 

“Sick of what, Mulder?” She takes a moment to see past her affection for her partner and really looks at him under the vanity’s lighting. Neosporin soaked gauze and sunken eyes. Pale skin that still smells of hospital grade antiseptic... 

Fox Mulder this way hurts her heart. 

“Saving my ass,” Mulder mumbles while plucking at the thread-bare towel barely covering his hips. Scully makes a mental note to buy him a new set for Christmas. 

“No,” she says simply. His guilt has no place here tonight. She turns the faucet off and glances back up Mulder already gazing her way. Will she never tire of falling heart first into his hazel whirlpool of green and gold? “I happen to be quite fond of it.”

Mulder laughs. “I knew it.”

“C’mere, Mulder, let’s get you cleaned up.”

He swings his swimmer’s legs over the porcelain ledge. “There’s a solid innuendo in there somewhere, but knowing you’re about to see my bare ass you’re constantly saving, I think I’ll just let you enjoy the moment.”

Scully scoffs yet can’t withhold a smile. He’s been drugged and groggy for days, loose-lipped and loopy. But right now, she’d give just about anything to hear him speak at all. “I must disclose that as your doctor I’ve seen your bare ass before, so no need to be shy.”

“I’m blushing,” he teases, but so is she. 

Mulder relinquishes his towel and passes it to her over his shoulder as he carefully sinks into the sudsy water. Scully bites her lip and tamps down the part of herself bubbling to the surface that yearns to strip her own clothes and climb in there with him. 

“We need to change this bandage again anyway so I can at least wash your hair for you while it’s off, okay?” Her tone is tender yet she can feel herself trembling at the reminder of what’s left of it. Rolling up her pants to her knees, she steps into the tub behind him to bracket his lanky body within hers.

He simply nods, but the hitch in his breath at her suggestion makes her chin quiver in spite of her doctor's disposition. 

The warm water sloshes gently around them as she enfolds the back of his slumped torso between her knees. Selfishly, she thinks of the many moments spent fantasizing alone in the dark about him settling between her legs for a far different reason. Scully swallows, pushing her desire away. She’s gotten seven years worth of practice, anyway.

“Mm, I gotta say, those sleep aids really kick insomnia’s ass.” His smooth cheek nuzzles against her knee while his heartbeat thrums into her inner thighs. 

“I’ll be quick.” She carefully removes the wrappings and pushes her fingers through the soft tufts of hair along his marred head, brown silk sliding through in slow, soothing strokes. She frowns when her fingertips graze over raw, patchy bald spots carelessly shaven away in surgery.

Butchers, she thinks. A stark reminder of her thoughts on poor Gibson’s similar unethical experience under the knives of merciless men. “You okay?”

“More than okay,” he hums, and she feels the vibration deep in her bones. “Remind me to return the favor.”

“I‘ll add it to my list.”

Long moments of comfortable silence pass as she methodically pours small amounts of water over his scalp, carefully avoiding the areas exposed with stitches and medical tape. She’s massaging a dollop of shampoo through the longer strands of shorn hair when his wet hand reaches up behind him to cover one of hers. 

“Is timing the reason why we haven’t given in?” he suddenly blurts.

She freezes under his touch as she ruminates on what exactly he’s asking while under the influence of a multitude of prescription narcotics. But deep down she already knows - has been waiting, equally terrified and impatient for him to voice it for longer than she cares to admit. 

Honesty is how she decides to respond to his candor. “It’s many reasons, I think. But in hindsight...”

“Yeah,” he sighs. Not disappointed, but resigned. Honoring the fact that she has far greater reasons than finding The Truth to not to step over their finely-crafted line and finally fall into one another. 

They both do. 

“There’s a lot to consider,” she justifies in defense. But it’s tenuous, more like a question, as if she doubts it herself. 

It’s an excuse. 

“You’re right.” His thumb swipes across her soapy knuckles and gives her hand a squeeze. “I know you’re right but after everything I just… I want you to know I’m grateful for that. For you.”

Her vision blurs. “Mulder…”

“Scully, I dreamed of things others thought I wanted. Things from my hopes in the present that were twisted by my past. But I’ve been reminded that when I can't trust myself, I can trust you,” he explains hoarsely, desperation lacing through each word. “I always have.”

A rush of air is siphoned from her chest. There’s so much to say and not enough oxygen in her lungs to say it. Something bruised inside of her that she’s tried to ignore over the past year suddenly aches under the seriousness of his words. Her eyes flutter shut within the thick silence and she focuses on that familiar connection buzzing between them - a tuning fork singing their song of silent communication.

Always, it hums. 

“I know,” she says to the back of his head, and yet she doesn't. Not fully. There are many pieces of the Diana puzzle still left for her to connect for herself, hurt she needs to heal from. But what Scully does know is if she has trust in anything, she trusts in him.

“I hoped,” he admits. “But...”

Yes, but.

Scully grips his fingers still coiled around her own. It’s appreciation. An assurance that his trust is mutual. Her eyes open and there’s several moments that slip by, like the soap suds running in rivulets down Mulder’s spine before she speaks again. 

“Almost done.” It’s said like a promise. Like a feeling as warm and relaxed as Mulder looks ready to drift into a drugged-induced dreamland beneath her touch. 

“Almost,” she says again and seals it with a feathery kiss to the most tender flesh of his skull. 

 

-

 

Saturday Night...

Scully quietly looms above his bedside, her fingers outstretched and itching to feel him. She’s tried hard to keep herself occupied with his recovery and not allow herself to continue to indulge in moments like this. Reading JAMA, typing up overdue case reports, cleaning both Mulder’s apartment and her own has done little to curb the craving for comfort. 

Check lucidity, temperature, reflexes, and leave. That’s it. No more cuddling and midnight confessions. No more indulgence, Dana.

She leans in and he twitches as she whispers his name in the darkness. 

Eyes heavy, he rolls her way when she smoothes down rumpled edges of fresh gauze across his forehead, running her palms down his forearms to check for appropriate reactionary responses. It's a necessity to touch him, she excuses - a doctor’s duty; but she’s taking her time. She enjoys the solid feel of him beneath her hands. 

“Don’t worry, doc. I’m following the rules like a good boy,” he rasps.

She hides her amusement with the dip of her chin. “First time for everything.”

He hums happily with a languid “Scully” dripping from his lips, all honey and terribly inviting. Her thumb trails tenderly across his pouty mouth, audaciously giving into temptation. She allows it to linger far longer than it should. Just for a moment, she tells herself, savoring the warm sensation of his soft lip leaving its own embedded mark along her thumbprint.

And she’s struck with how exhilarated she is to do it again. 

Scully swallows and steps away from her partner’s bedside with great difficulty. 

“Goodnight,” she whispers as she flees his moonlit room. Dazed, she lowers herself onto the couch and swirls her fingertips along the shapes on his woolen Aztec blanket. Her mind is calm now that she’s touched him again, her body pliant and warm.

Flushed.

She stays that way until sunrise.

 

-

 

Sunday Night...

He doesn’t know she’s here again. Not after she’d told him she was going home tonight so she can be ready for work in the morning. He doesn’t know she’s let herself in and is now leaning against the door frame of his bedroom, watching the shadows dance across the dips and valleys of his handsome face. 

He doesn’t know she can’t stay away.

And it’s not that she doesn’t want him to see her hovering, to have him feel the weight of her laying next to him as she frets over what that smoking bastard has done to him. What he’s done to them both. God, no. Scully just doesn’t want to have to explain why. Why her need to be as close as possible is too great a risk without the temptation to slip into something deeper.

Something decidedly unplatonic.   

The buzzing of her cell phone tears her gaze away from Mulder’s long limbs tangled within the sheets. How much time have they lost looking into the dark? She scoffs at herself as she walks back into the living room. Seven years ago they’d lost nine minutes, and they’ve been looking for it ever since.

ONE NEW MESSAGE flashes across her screen. Sprinkling a layer of fish food into the gurgling tank, Scully presses the voicemail button and listens. 

“Agent Scully, it’s AD Skinner. I know you’re still assisting in Agent Mulder’s recovery and don’t want to disturb you at this hour, but I’ve received some… news. I’d like to meet with you in the morning. As soon as you can, Scully. It’s important.”

The message ends and Scully chews her lip as she considers what his words might mean. For Mulder, for her - for the future they’ve been fighting for. The seriousness of Skinner’s tone triggers an anxious roll of her belly. Should she leave the comfort of Mulder’s presence and meet their boss at four a.m., or wait in blissful ignorance until the sun rises before she walks the halls of the Hoover again?

Her tongue drags across her lips in contemplation as she stares up at the fine lines in the popcorn-textured ceiling. However heavy the news may be, she knows she’s the only one who’s able to carry it.

She lays there for a long time, letting the Mulder-scented leather meld around her like warm wax, listening to his soft snores floating through the air as her fingertips trace the gold cross cradled within the hollow of her throat. 

Wondering.

Worrying.

Her eyes stay open until his snoring stops before rising to disappear into the pale-pink dawn as silently as she came.

 

-

 

Monday Morning: Three Hours Later...

She’s gone, Mulder. Dead. Killed. No, murdered. Found DOA with a Syndicate-sized bullet in her brain...

Scully jabs at the elevator’s UP button, exhales when her lungs begin to burn.

Fuck, pull yourself together.

But she’s tired. Just so damn tired of worrying and questioning and dissecting the most important aspects of her life; of their work. Confused about who to trust. And these last few weeks have been enough to make her question everything she’d ever thought she’d known or felt or believed. 

Except the one glaring consistency of being utterly and unwaveringly in love with her partner. And God, she wants to say it. Aches to let each syllable roll off her tongue, as if loving Mulder weren't exorbitantly obvious already. But the word love seems a wholly inadequate description for what she feels. He’s been etched into her heart for so long she can barely remember a time when he wasn’t. She is his one in five billion and he has become her everything. 

It both terrifies and thrills her in equal measure. 

The elevator doors ding open and Scully hopes that maybe one day she’ll finally be ready to risk it all and do something about it. Maybe, when their hesitancy is gone and their timing is finally, finally right, she can stop pretending she doesn’t feel half-empty and incomplete without him. 

Something Mulder had desperately pleaded to her in this hallway over a year ago has taken up residence within her; but it’s only now that she accepts that making each other whole people doesn’t mean they aren’t still broken. Now, it’s up to the both of them to slowly mend the chasmic cracks of the past in order for them to have a future together. 

The resounding clack of her heels slows as she approaches his apartment door. She’s about to tell him another person he cared a great deal for has been murdered. And telling him this will hurt him, she knows. 

It will hurt her to hurt him. 

It already does. 

Bearing bad news and a kaleidoscope of butterflies stirring a sickening storm in her stomach, Scully stares up at the number forty-two, and knocks…