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Nuptiae Sub Rosa

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The rush of the pressurized air whizzes past his ears as the engine jostles him gently, the lullaby of air travel. It’s no wonder people doze off so often on airplanes; aren’t these the same tricks you use to get babies to sleep? It certainly works on Scully, he thinks as he looks over at her, head resting on the wall next to the window with a puny little airline pillow tucked into the crook of her neck. The ambient light on red-eyes always makes her look a bit angelic, he’s noticed. The gentle slope of her nose illuminated in a hazy yellow glow, her plush lips slightly parted while her eyelashes dance with her dreams. 

 

She’d asked for the window seat, and he obliged, though he secretly loves it when she sits on the aisle or in the middle. Invariably, she falls asleep if the flight is more than a couple hours long, and he always leans towards her a bit to make his shoulder available as a pillow. There’s something about those moments where she’s so vulnerable and unguarded around him that make him feel special, because he knows how much trust feeds into her willingness to do so. She’s been this way around him nearly from the start, but it was only after a couple years working together and seeing how she was around other people, even her family, that made him realize just how lucky he is to get to see this side of her.

 

And yet he puts her through so much. It’s no wonder she’s so exhausted; after a night in jail and then flying down to Florida and back at the drop of a dime, they’d gotten on another plane the very next day for a case that turned out to be such a waste of time that they are returning to D.C. in the middle of the night rather than bother expensing a hotel. 

 

His initial reaction when he learned that she’d been held in contempt of congress and chose jail over giving them any information regarding his whereabouts was pride that she believes so much in him and his cause, that she’s tough enough to withstand the questioning as well as the consequence of refusing to answer. Once he had time to really think about it, he felt ashamed and worried, because this very well may not be the last time she’s put in such a position. 

 

It was just the most recent in a long list of reasons that he’s been thinking about asking her to set up a contingency plan, to protect them both. The feeling of helplessness they each experience when the other is hospitalized or detained is enough to make his stomach turn just thinking about it. How many times has he been asked “are you the husband?” and been turned away when he said no? Enough that he started lying and saying he was, at least when they were out of town and no one was around to fact-check the statement. 

 

While she is the center of his universe in so many ways, to the outside world, she’s nothing more than his coworker. 

 

Another thing about airplane cabins that he’s always noticed: they provide a strange sense of privacy. Maybe it’s only imagined, but it exists nonetheless. The ambient sounds of the engine and the air, the ruffle of peanut bags and slosh of watered down drinks being consumed; it gives you the perception that each word that falls from your lips lands only upon the ears of their intended audience. And so he reaches over and brushes his index finger over the exposed flesh of Scully’s wrist until she stirs and blinks her eyes open, furrowing her brow at his intense expression. 

 

“Is something wrong?” she asks, her tongue thick with sleep. 

 

He shakes his head and she plucks a water bottle from the seat back, taking a sip before returning it. Not for the first time, he laments that while his knees are crammed firmly against the seat in front of him, Scully has plenty of room to roam. 

 

“Are we about to land?” she asks next, looking around them and taking in the scene. The cabin lights are still off, as are the fasten seatbelt signs. Many of the passengers are asleep, and the flight attendants are milling around the drink station chatting. She’s flown hundreds of times, enough of them red-eyes to know that they are still mid-flight. 

 

“No, we’re still about an hour out,” he says, and she gives him one of her patented “are you kidding me right now?” stares. 

 

“Care to share why you woke me up then?” she asks, barely concealing her irritation. 

 

“I wanted to talk to you about something,” he offers by way of explanation, and she closes her eyes briefly. 

 

“Right at this exact moment?” she questions, a bit whiny. 

 

“It’s really important,” he replies, and that seems to get her attention.

 

She shifts her torso so that her back is against the airplane wall, one leg bent at the knee and tucked up onto the seat beside her. Once she’s comfortable, she gives him an expectant look. 

 

“Okay, I’ll preface this by saying that your initial reaction to my proposition might be very...strong, but I really need you to hear me out. Can you promise to do that before you come to any conclusions?” he asks earnestly, keeping his voice relatively low, given the venue. 

 

She quirks an eyebrow at him, intrigued but weary. “Is it absolutely essential that we have this conversation while trapped at thirty-six-thousand feet?” she asks, but her tone is just a little bit facetious, so he continues without directly answering the question. 

 

“Do you promise, or not?” he asks flatly, and she rolls her eyes but then nods. “Okay,” he begins, “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Years, actually, since you were returned after your abduction. We end up in these situations where one of us is incapacitated, or at risk, or otherwise unsafe. And as your FBI partner, there’s only so much I can do. Only so much you can do, and I think we could better prepare ourselves for future such situations. If we had different legal entitlements, or abilities…protections, different protections...” He’s trying to back into it, to set it up such that by the time he gets to the meat of it, she’ll understand. But her eyebrows are all bunched up in the middle of her forehead and her bottom lip is pushed out like she thinks he’s crazy, so he decides he should just get to the point. “What I’m saying is, I think we should get married.”

 

She blinks at him, her expression cemented in that same “you’ve really lost it now” look that he’s seen more times that he can count. She lifts her hand and presses the backs of her fingers to his forehead. 

 

“Did you have a cocktail, Mulder?” she asks, slipping her hand down to feel his pulse just under his jaw. His heart is racing, but it’s not because he’s having a medical emergency. He reaches up to pull her hand away, holding it in both of his own. 

 

“I know it sounds crazy, but you promised to hear me out,” he says, and she gives him an incredulous look to top every incredulous look she’s given him in the nearly four years they’ve known each other. 

 

“You’re serious?” she questions, her eyebrows now nearly kissing her hairline. 

 

“Yes, I’m serious, Scully. Think about it; you wouldn’t have had to testify against me if we were married. The law protects spouses from having to testify against one another. And for medical reasons, all the times you’ve needed to make decisions regarding my care and had to fight tooth and nail. If you were my wife, you’d have the legal right to make those decisions.” Her expression is softening just a bit, and he shifts in his seat to mirror her posture, so he can face her fully. “When you were in the ICU after your abduction, it was terrifying to know that your family could have decided to pull the plug on you or have you transferred to a different hospital too far away for me to keep you safe, or any other number of things that I had no control over. I don’t ever want to be in that position again, Scully. I don’t want you to be either.”

 

He can see the wheels turning in her head, accepting the benefits that legal marriage would allow them. 

 

“But what about...are you...are you speaking in a strictly legal sense or are you suggesting that we live as…?” She doesn’t finish her sentence, but he understands what she’s asking. He shakes his head emphatically. 

 

“Strictly legal sense, nothing else about our relationship or our partnership would change at all. In fact, it would be important that we keep it a secret given that spouses can’t be partnered. Everything would be exactly as it is now, except that when we run up against one of those moments where the legal protection is needed, we can play the marriage card, so to speak.”

 

She nods softly, her eyes unfocused and dreamy as she contemplates. He’s unsure if he should keep talking, say more about why he came to this conclusion, but just as he’s about to open his mouth, she speaks. 

 

“Okay,” she says, then turns to meet his eye. 

 

“Okay?” he asks, not quite believing that she could come to agree with him so quickly. 

 

“Yes, Mulder, okay. It makes sense. How do you want to do this?”

 

 




Their arrival at Reagan National Airport becomes a layover as they stay only long enough to procure tickets to Las Vegas and board another plane within the hour. Scully is exhausted but unable to sleep as her mind races with a million questions, chief among them being what the hell are we doing? She knows that it’s crazy, but at the same time it’s exceedingly practical. They’ve been lucky to escape some of the situations they’ve found themselves in with limbs and lives in check; at some point, that luck will run out. Who knows what decisions Mulder’s mother would make on his behalf were she in the position to do so? Scully shudders at the thought. Crazy as this is, it just makes sense.

 

Mulder glances over at her intermittently from his window seat, perhaps grappling with the same kinds of questions, though he’s barely spoken to her since they boarded the plane. She has the distinct impression that he’s afraid if he says too much, she’ll change her mind. Not being the type to move forward with any big decision before properly vetting it, she finally speaks. 

 

“So how do you imagine this playing out, Mulder? The next time I'm inevitably hospitalized you’ll just say you’re my husband so they let you in? I think my mother might have some questions for me, if that’s the case.”

 

He snaps his head over to look at her as though he hadn’t realized she was there. 

 

“No, not necessarily. We’ve made it work the last few years by sheer will and the occasional white lie, so I think we can continue to do so. If we reach a point where we need to disclose our marital status it should be a situation dire enough that the consequence of revealing it is a better alternative than not,” he replies levelly. He’s clearly given this a lot of thought. 

 

She turns away for a moment, staring blankly at the Sky Mall brochure tucked into the seat back pocket in front of her. 

 

“I don’t think I would have disclosed it in the congressional hearing,” she says, turning back to look at him. “I think I would still have taken the night in jail, being held in contempt.”

 

He gives her a little smile and a nod. “I think that probably would have been the right call, at that point. However, if I hadn’t made it back from Russia, and if a night in jail turned into the possibility of a longer stay in prison…” He gives her a pointed look. 

 

“Yeah, I think that would have been the right time to play the marriage card,” she says, returning his smirk. 

 

They hold eye contact for a moment until it starts to feel a little awkward, and she looks away again. They had agreed to visit the chapel tomorrow, after they’ve each had a chance to get some sleep; should she be thinking of tomorrow as her wedding day? 

 

It’s certainly not the way she imagined it would be, not that she’s imagined it all that much. The idea of marriage and children was never one she could visualize without knowing who would occupy the role of groom, husband, father. There was a time she’d considered such a future with Daniel, and even with Ethan, but never very seriously. The other girls at her Catholic high school were putting together scrapbooks full of wedding plans and dreaming about their wedding night, including romanticizing their first time with their future husband, while she was applying to undergrad and researching medical schools. 

 

Their wedding night. 

 

She feels a flush of heat rise to her cheeks at the realization, and she glances over at Mulder. He has to know that a marriage is only legal if it’s consummated, right? Or was this a detail he was going to spring on her later? The beverage cart rattles by on its way back to the front of the plane. 

 

“Excuse me,” she calls out just as the cart passes their aisle. “Can I get a gin and tonic, please?”

 

Mulder gives her a surprised look. “You don’t usually drink on the job, Scully,” he teases, and she gives him a deadpan expression. 

 

“We’re not exactly on the job anymore, are we?” she retorts, and he shrugs. 

 

“Make it two,” he says to the flight attendant. 

 

Scully downs her drink in four long gulps as Mulder eyes her suspiciously, taking small sips of his own. She waits several minutes until she feels warmth spreading in her belly, and then she turns her head just enough that he’ll know she’s speaking to him, without making eye contact. 

 

“Mulder, are you aware of the fact that an unconsummated marriage isn’t considered fully legal and can easily be annulled?” She uses her professor voice, her talking-to-a-lazy-small-town-sheriff voice, her strictly-business voice because this topic is far too fraught to make light of. 

 

“I am aware of that, yes,” he answers coolly, and she turns to look at his face, which is unreadable. 

 

“And?” she asks with raised eyebrows. 

 

He meets her eye. “And, what? I mean, it’s not ideal if we leave such a loophole in place, but it’s not my decision to make. How would you like to handle it?”

 

“Handle it?” she repeats, and she sees him fight off a smile. 

 

“No puns intended. It’s really your call, Scully, I’m fine either way,” he replies, taking a sip of his drink. 

 

“That is incredibly unfair, Mulder,” she admonishes him, wishing she had another drink herself. 

 

“How so?” he asks with a perplexed wrinkle of his brow, and she knows he really doesn’t get it. 

 

She shakes her head and busies herself stirring the ice in her empty cup. If she says that yes, they should consummate it, that’s as much as saying she wants to have sex with him. And if she says no, she may as well reject him, in addition to risking voiding the whole transaction if anyone ever found out. 

 

“It’s not a choice I’m comfortable making for both of us,” she finally answers, turning to face him again. “We have to make a decision together.”

 

“Okay…” he says, considering how to proceed. “Pros and cons? What are the pros of...consummating?” he asks, carefully choosing his words.

 

She draws in a deep breath.

 

“Well, it would eliminate the risk of annulment, which would be a serious issue if we were in a position to need to call spousal rights into play,” she responds, pleading with the universe that Mulder does not throw out ‘getting to have sex’ as a pro. 

 

“And cons?” he asks, thankfully not offering any pros of his own. 

 

“Um…it would be quite awkward, I imagine,” she says plainly, and she sees him nod from her periphery. 

 

“So,” he summarizes, “we’ve got possible annulment and whatever consequences come as a result of that, versus...temporary awkwardness.”

 

They are both quiet for a beat. 

 

“I suppose that decides it,” she says quietly, then steals a glance at him. He gives her a sympathetic little smile. 

 

“I suppose it does,” he says. 

 

The flight attendant passes by again, and Scully turns abruptly, touching her arm to get her attention. 

 

“I’m sorry, can I get another one of these, please?” she asks, holding up her glass. 

 

“Better make it two,” Mulder adds. 



Chapter Text

They are approaching the front desk of The Cosmopolitan just past 5:00 am when Mulder stops suddenly and turns to her. 

 

“Are we getting one room or two?” he asks with a bit of hesitation. 

 

She gives him a perplexed look “Two. Why would we only get one?”

 

He bites his lower lip, apparently debating how to say what comes out of his mouth next. 

 

“I mean, we’ll have to be in the same room at some point, for…” he begins, and her eyes widen, but only briefly. “Plus, this is on our dime, and it would just be cheaper,” he finishes. 

 

She sighs, looking away with a solemn nod. 

 

“Right, one then,” she replies. 

 

“I can always sleep on the couch or the floor, if you’d be more comfortable-”

 

“It’s fine, Mulder,” she cuts him off. “We’ve slept in the same bed before. No big deal.”

 

The room is nice enough, and it does indeed have a couch, though not one that Mulder could comfortably fit on. She has no intention of banning him from the bed anyway; it’s enormous and they can easily avoid coming within a foot of each other if they so choose. Save for that sliver of time they will need to get very, very close to each other. She tries not to think about it, but when she does she feels a flutter in her belly that is a disturbing mix of fear, nervousness, and excitement. She’d be lying if she claimed to have never thought about it before, but she certainly didn’t think those idle fantasies would come to fruition. Not in this circumstance anyway. 

 

After a quick shower and a change into her thankfully modest silk pajamas, she falls asleep almost instantly, lulled by the quiet murmur of an old movie Mulder is watching in bed beside her and the familiar crack of sunflower seeds between his teeth. 





 



Sleep, as usual, eludes him. Even with all he’s been through in the last seventy-two hours and all he knows is coming his way in the next twenty-four, he cannot get his mind to stop racing. Russia, the black oil, Krycek, the diplomatic pouch, Scully on trial. Scully herself, sleeping soundly a foot away from him in the same bed. 

 

He watches the gentle rise and fall of her rib cage as she lies curled on her side and wishes she were facing him so he could see her expression. Is it peaceful, pained, worried? Even in sleep, he can always read her. He wonders what she’s thinking about tomorrow, if she’s as nervous about their agreed-upon consummation as he is. 

 

He’s thought about it hundreds of times, of course; how could he not? She’s an incredibly beautiful woman, and knowing her mind as he does only makes her more attractive to him. Just sitting with her in this hotel as the soft light of the television casts shadows across the curve of her hip is enough to get him half-hard, knowing what’s in store tomorrow. At the same time, he’s afraid. Of hurting her, of being terrible in bed, of not being able to overcome the awkwardness afterward. Will she let him kiss her? Will they hide under the covers with most of their clothes still on? Will it feel procedural?  As much as he knows he has no right to, he desperately wants to see her. He had once, on their first case, seen her in just her bra and panties. But she was so afraid and it all happened so fast, he can only barely recall the white cotton stretched across her backside and the dip of her spine. 

 

Somewhere around 10:00 am, he finally falls asleep, the rhythmic sound of her breathing both a comfort and a distraction; he’s gotten so used to sleeping alone. 





 



When he wakes, Scully is gone. The clock next to the bed shows that it’s just past 3:00 pm. He feels panic grip his chest, wondering if she changed her mind and fled. He uses the bathroom and then checks all the likely surfaces for some kind of note, but finds nothing. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he dials her cell, pleading with the universe or whomever might be listening that he hasn’t summarily ruined their relationship with this wild idea. 

 

“Scully,” she answers on the second ring, and he lets out a relieved breath. 

 

“Scully, it’s me. Where are you?” he asks, trying not to sound irritated. 

 

“Just out and about, doing some shopping. Regardless of the perfunctory nature of this...arrangement, I thought I might like to wear something other than a dirty pantsuit,” she replies in an easy, casual tone. 

 

She doesn’t sound like someone about to flee, in fact she’s looking for something to wear. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. 

 

“I imagine there’s no shortage of wedding dresses for sale around here,” he retorts, and he hears her scoff. 

 

“I’m not going to wear a wedding dress, Mulder. I think that’s a bit much,” she says flatly. 

 

“Sure, whatever you want. Your call,” he replies, a sudden wave of nervousness coiling in his belly. “I’m going to head out myself, maybe find something to eat. Do you want me to get anything for you?”

 

“Nope, I’m good,” she says, the screech and click of hangers moving along clothes racks audible on the other end of the line. “What time did you want to head to the chapel?”

 

The way she’s discussing this as though they’re making plans to meet at the coroner’s office is a little unnerving. Is she going to be so detached through the whole thing? Knowing her, probably yes; that’s exactly how Scully gets through difficult things. It makes him a little sad that marrying him is something she has to compartmentalize in order to endure it. He suddenly worries that the sex part will be so clinical he won’t be able to perform. 

 

“Um, maybe around 7:00? Is that enough time?”

 

“Sure, sounds good. I’ll see you back at the hotel in a bit.”

 

He hangs up and looks around the room. At her suitcase, perched neatly on the luggage rack with the lid closed while his is flung open on the couch with a T-shirt hanging over the side. At her made side of the bed, her glasses set atop a book on the nightstand as though she’d been reading before she left. Had she showered, crossed the room in a towel while he slept unawares? He wonders if she’ll always be such a mystery to him. 

 

 





She slips her cell phone back into her pocket and holds up the two options she’d narrowed it down to: a black lace thong and matching bra, or a white silk set that covers a bit more. One is distinctly more “bridal,” but she’s not sure yet if that’s really what she’s going for. The dress had been easy enough to find; a simple A-line that falls just below the knee, with cap sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. Its ivory hue is bridal-adjacent, but not blatantly so, and she also picked up a pair of matching heels that are quite tall, given she and Mulder’s height difference. The panties were a last minute addition when she realized she only has basic cotton briefs with her, and she isn’t completely confident that any of them are still clean. If Mulder is likely going to see her in her underwear, they may as well be something she feels worthy of being seen in, she reasons. 

 

She’d woken around noon with the bright light of midday sun seeping in around the blackout curtains, surprised to find Mulder’s nose just inches from her own. She studied him for a long while, taking advantage of this rare opportunity to consider the cleft of his chin and the prominent bridge of his nose. He’s a handsome man; there is no denying that fact. 

 

She thought about the day ahead, and what it would mean for their partnership. The goal is that it will mean nothing, aside from a piece of paper that could save their asses in the right moment, but she isn’t naive enough to believe that they can get married, much less have sex, and walk away unchanged. 

 

What would sex with Mulder be like, she wondered? What did she want it to be like? They could burrow under the covers in the dark, execute the act as a strategic task, if they had to. Did anyone have to orgasm for it to count? She didn’t think the court system looked that closely when defining consummation. Thinking about it while Mulder’s sleep-warm body radiated near hers, about him having an orgasm while inside her, set off a throb between her legs and she clenched her thighs together. She wanted him. And she had to have him, literally. They had to do this. She may as well enjoy it, right? 

 

She replaces the black lingerie on the rack, deciding that white makes more sense with her dress anyway, in case her bra strap shows. After she checks out, she makes one final stop at a convenience store to pick up some fresh razors. On her way past the feminine hygiene aisle she pauses; she should probably get condoms. She’s on birth control and has been nearly continuously since she was seventeen given how much lighter and shorter it makes her periods, but she doesn’t know with absolute certainty that Mulder doesn’t have any other partners, or the last time he was screened for sexually transmitted infections. After a few moments of contemplation, she throws a pack of Trojans in her basket. 






When he returns to the hotel room with a freshly dry-cleaned suit, Scully is in the bathroom and he can hear the rush of running water from the shower. He takes the opportunity to tuck away a couple items he’d procured; a box of condoms in the bedside drawer and two small gold rings in the interior pocket of his suit jacket. Both were impulse purchases, oddly enough; only in Vegas can you find prophylactics and 24K gold jewelry while waiting in line for coffee and bagels. Not knowing her ring size, he guessed that the tip of his pinky was the closest approximation at size 5, which makes sense for her tiny hands. The condoms he debated heavily. On the one hand he didn’t want it to seem presumptuous. On the other hand, they had literally agreed that they were going to have sex. He’s not sure if she’s on birth control, but knowing Scully she’d probably use one even if she were. In the end, he didn’t want to end up having to call things off in the final hour due to lack of preparedness, so he bought them. 

 

He checks the clock; it’s 6:15. He already showered and shaved before he left, so all there is to do is get dressed. Flopping down on the bed, he grabs the remote and flips nervously through the channels, trying to think as little as possible about what the next few hours hold for him. For them both. 

 

Just as his busy mind has settled enough to absorb the details of a MASH rerun, the bathroom door opens and she steps out. She’s wearing an off-white dress, which surprises him. It’s shorter and simpler than a wedding dress, cut low, but modestly, to show more of the skin on her chest and shoulders than he’s ever seen her reveal before. Her hair is down, softly curled, and she’s wearing a bit more makeup than she does on a typical workday. It’s not that she is exceptionally dressed up that strikes him, but that she’s dressed up at all. That she went out of her way to do absolutely anything for this occasion, for him, leaves him awestruck. She catches his eye and gives him a mildly confused expression. 

 

“What?” she asks, and he realizes that he’s staring at her. 

 

“Sorry,” he says as he shakes his head gently, breaking the spell. “I just need to get dressed, give me five minutes.”





 



“Are you related more closely than second cousins?” the clerk at The Little White Chapel asks boredly, her eyes fixed on the paper form in front of her. 

 

They exchange an amused glance. 

 

“Not to my knowledge,” Mulder answers, and the clerk drags her eyes up to level an irritated glare at him. 

 

“It’s a yes or no question, sir,” she says flatly. 

 

“No, we’re not,” Scully answers for him. 

 

“Okay, and have either of you been married before?”

 

They look at each other again, this time to gage whether they’re about to learn new information they had never thought to ask for. They each shake their heads softly, and then Mulder answers for them both. 

 

“No.”

 

“Okay, I need both your IDs, and seventy-five dollars. If you want flowers, or a photo package or anything like that, prices are on the wall behind me.”

 

“You want a throw pillow with our picture on it, honey?” Mulder jokes as he pulls out his wallet, and she rolls her eyes even as she gets a little thrill from his use of a pet name. 

 

“Tempting, but I think I’ll pass,” she retorts, handing her driver’s license to the clerk. 

 

They complete the necessary forms, pay the fee, and are directed to a small waiting area containing a gaudy heart-shaped love seat. 

 

“How do you think this would look in my apartment?” Mulder asks rhetorically, draping his arm across the back of the couch behind her. 

 

She smiles at his stupid joke, and then inexplicably starts giggling at the absurdity of it all, dropping her face into her hands. When she lifts her head to look at him, he’s smiling at her with a confused wrinkle in his brow. 

 

“This is the single most ridiculous situation I’ve ever found myself in, and that’s saying a lot after nearly four years of working with you ,” she offers by way of explanation. 

 

“Well, better laughin’ than cryin’, I guess,” he replies with a shrug and a smirk.

 

“The night is still young,” she returns, and immediately realizes how it sounded when she sees his face fall. 

 

“Ouch,” he says with a light tone that doesn’t match his wounded expression.

 

“Mulder, that’s not what I meant,” she defends regretfully, but the playful banter has been successfully quashed and the doors to the chapel are swinging open. 

 

A sloppy-drunk couple in jeans and flip flops stumbles out, a sweaty Elvis impersonator with a beer gut following after them tossing handfuls of rice to join the existing grains that litter every corner of the floor. 

 

As the couple exits to the lobby, Scully turns to Mulder and puts her hand on his knee, hoping to regain some of the levity she inadvertently ruined. 

 

“At least you get to be married by The King,” she offers with a squeeze and a tight smile. 

 

“All is not lost,” he says dryly, and her hand slips off his knee as he stands. 

 

“Evenin’, folks,” Elvis says as he returns from the lobby, his accent on point even if his outfit could use some work. “Follow The King right this way to wedded bliss.”

 

They follow him as instructed to the front of a small chapel, the few puny rows of pews empty and sad looking. 

 

“Alright, lovebirds,” The King continues, “we can do this one of three ways: no-frills shotgun style, short and sweet, or long and lovely. What’ll it be?”

 

She steals a glance over at Mulder who is looking markedly stoic and doesn’t seem to intend on answering. 

 

“Whichever is fastest,” she says to Elvis, and he nods, pulling a slip of paper out of his pocket. 

 

He gives them a little hand motion indicating that they should stand closer together, and they shuffle a bit until they are side-by-side but not quite touching, facing The King. 

 

“Alright, Dana Scully?” he asks, pointing to Scully, and she nods. “Fox Mulder?” he asks next, pointing to Mulder, and she sees him nod out of her periphery. The King replaces the paper in his pocket. “Looks like we need a witness, just one moment, please,” he says as he jogs to the back of the chapel and shouts “Cheryl, witness!” in the direction of the lobby. 

 

Scully looks over at Mulder again but he’s staring straight ahead with an almost militant posture. Needing to feel like they are in this together, she slips her hand into his and squeezes. He looks at her then and smirks a little, shaking his head. 

 

“What?” she asks, smirking back. 

 

“Well, now I feel like I have something to prove,” he says lightly. 

 

Her eyes widen. “Mulder, I didn’t mean it like th-”

 

“It’s okay, Scully,” he cuts her off, “I’m up to the task.”

 

Before she can respond, Elvis is back and the bored clerk is slumping into an empty chair near the door. 

 

“Okay, folks, let’s get this show on the road, shotgun style,” he says with a little pop of his hip. Mulder holds on tight to her hand, giving it a little squeeze. 

 

“Do you ,” he points at Scully with a flourish, “Dana Scully, take this,” now he pops his hip the other direction and points at Mulder, “handsome devil Fox Mulder to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

 

“Oh,” Scully says, surprised that they are jumping right to the vows, “yes, I mean I do.”

 

“And do you ,” he continues, still pointing at Mulder, “Fox Mulder, take this beautiful woman Dana Scully to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

 

“I do,” Mulder says, and she can hear a smile in his voice. 

 

“Alright, are we doing rings?” he asks, and she opens her mouth to say no, but Mulder cuts her off. 

 

“Yes, actually,” he says as he drops her hand and reaches into his jacket pocket. “I don’t know if this will fit, Scully, I took my best guess.”

 

She studies him with a puzzled expression. When and why did he get rings? They’re matching thin gold bands, nothing fancy. At least he doesn’t seem to have spent too much money on them. 

 

“Alright Mr. Fox, place the ring on the little lady’s finger and repeat after me: with this ring, I thee wed,” The King instructs, shifting his hips back and forth to punctuate his words.

 

Mulder slips the band onto her finger and it’s just a tiny bit loose, but fits quite well considering he had no idea what her size was. 

 

“With this ring, I thee wed,” he says, and then flashes a goofy expression at her for barely milliseconds, but it makes her smile. 

 

“And Miss, soon to be Mrs. Dana, put the ring on your king’s finger and repeat after me: with this ring, I thee wed,” Elvis repeats the instructions to Scully. 

 

She pushes the ring onto his finger, twisting it slightly to maneuver over the bulge of his knuckle. 

 

“With this ring, I thee wed,” she repeats, and the whole thing is so cartoonish it doesn’t feel real. She now understands how someone could do this on a whim; it’s like being in a cheesy play. 

 

“By the power vested in me by the state of Nevada and the glory of Graceland, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride,” Elvis proclaims, lifting the white cape of his jumpsuit in a gesture that is more Dracula than rock star. 

 

Scully’s eyes snap up to meet Mulder’s and find an equally surprised expression. Somehow they’d been so preoccupied with the idea of sex they completely skipped over the fact they’d need to kiss. His shock fades and he gives her one of his patented boyish smiles, then steps closer and brings one hand to her waist, the other to her jaw. Her heart speeds up, lips involuntarily parting as he bends down. She slips her own hands around his ribcage to rest on his back and when he’s so close that his image blurs, she closes her eyes. He presses his mouth to hers so tenderly, his lips softer than she could have imagined. She immediately wants to lean into him, to open her mouth, to taste his tongue, but he is pulling away just as soon as he arrives and she finds herself reaching for him, opening her eyes as she grips the lapels of his suit jacket. 

 

“You okay?” he asks with a concerned tilt of his head, pulling her hands from his jacket and holding them in his own. 

 

“Yes,” she replies, pulling in a big breath. 

 

He turns and puts a hand on her back to guide her out of the chapel, motioning to The King that they would not like to have recycled floor-rice thrown at them. Cheryl follows them back to the front desk and picks up a camera. 

 

“You get one picture for free. We’ll mail it in a couple of weeks to the same address you put for the marriage license,” she says flatly, pointing to a big white three dimensional heart pinned up against a red wall. 

 

They do as they are told, walking over to the heart-wall and standing awkwardly side by side.

 

“I’m not, like, a professional or anything, but is that really how you want to stand for the picture?” Cheryl asks doubtfully, and Mulder slings an arm around Scully’s shoulder. She pivots her body towards him and puts one hand, the one bearing the gold band, on his chest. “Yeah, that works,” Cheryl says before there is a flash and a click. “Congratulations,” she finishes with a sarcastic sneer. 




 

 

They walk slowly along the strip, coats bundled tight against the chill of a desert night. They haven’t said much since leaving the chapel, and he’s not sure how Scully feels right now. He’s not entirely sure how he feels, actually. The whole thing was more like a performance than any kind of legally binding ceremony, and yet he knows that a marriage certificate and a photo will arrive in his mailbox within a few weeks, and that he and Scully are legally, truly, married. They pass by a bar, one entire length of it open to the street. 

 

“Wanna grab a drink?” he asks, and she nods. 

 

An hour and a half later, they continue their trek back to the hotel, pleasantly buzzed but decidedly not drunk. Taking the edge off is one thing, but he needs to be absolutely sure he has her enthusiastic consent if they are going to go through with this. The stop at the bar was good; they were able to shift out of ceremony mode back into a rhythm that feels natural for them, debating random inconsequential things and talking trash about the Gunmen. If not for the new piece of jewelry he can’t stop playing with, he might forget that they just got hitched. 

 

“So,” he says, feeling like he needs to get the ball rolling, “anything I should know about before we...consummate this thing?” The alcohol gives him just enough courage to force the words out. 

 

She gives him a skeptical glance as he holds the front door of the hotel open and she walks through. 

 

“I don’t think so. Like what?” she replies.

 

“Um, I guess I don’t know,” he says as they join a small group of people waiting for the elevator. “Can I kiss you?” he adds, almost as though it were an afterthought. 

 

Scully shoots him a look that makes his heart sink, because it seems like a definite no. She steps very close, puts her hands on his shoulders and pulls gently so she can get her lips to his ear. 

 

“These people are going to think I’m a prostitute and get us kicked out of this hotel, Mulder,” she chastises him, then pulls back. “Of course, dear, you can kiss me whenever you want. I’m your wife, aren’t I?” she says loudly for the benefit of the other hotel guests, and he blushes a little but also smiles. 

 

“Okay,” he says, and then steps forward and lifts her by the waist before kissing her fully on the mouth. 

 

She jerks a little, startled at first, but quickly moves her hands to his shoulders and settles her weight against him. This time he lets one kiss become two, and then three, and then too many to count. They are mostly chaste, with just a few errant brushes of one tongue against another, and when he pulls back and sets her down on the ground, he sees that they’ve missed the elevator. 

 

“We can catch the next one,” he says with a shrug, smirking at her dazed expression. 

 

She ain’t seen nothing yet , he thinks to himself, and presses the button to call the elevator again. 

Chapter Text

She excuses herself to the bathroom as soon as they walk through the door of their room, and he strips down to his suit pants and undershirt. It’s a normal level of undress for her to see him in, not one she should find surprising when she returns. He adjusts the lighting so that it’s easy to see but not harsh, just one bedside light and the desk lamp illuminating the room. Satisfied that it’s up to snuff, he sits on the end of the bed and resists the urge to turn the TV on. 

 

She emerges a few minutes later, her dress exchanged for a hotel-issue bathrobe. She walks hesitantly over to the desk located directly across from where he’s sitting and leans against it, clearly very nervous. 

 

“What are you thinking?” he asks, searching her face. 

 

“That this is very strange,” she says with a sigh. 

 

He nods. “It is, a little. But, whatever would make it more comfortable for you, just let me know. If you want the lights off, or to leave some clothes on, or something else. Whatever you need, it’s okay.”

 

She sighs again and shakes her head. “I just don’t want it to feel like a transaction, Mulder. I don’t want it to feel cheap.”

 

He frowns at her. “I don’t think that’s possible. Not with you,” he implores. “Come here,” he directs, motioning her closer with his arms. 

 

She steps forward and when she’s close enough that he can reach her, he gently touches her hips and pulls her into the space between his knees, then takes her hands. 

 

“I care about you, Scully. Regardless of the reason we may have found ourselves in this situation, being with you could never be meaningless to me. It could never be cheap.” He hopes his tone sounds as sincere as he feels. 

 

She nods, but doesn’t meet his eye. 

 

“Scully,” he continues, “do you trust me?”

 

She looks at him then, the brilliant blue of her irises softened by the ambient light, but still holding entire oceans within them. 

 

“You are the only one I trust,” she replies, repeating words he said to her once. 

 

He smiles at her and she returns it, and suddenly it’s just them. The same two who have herded pigs, and been stranded in the middle of lakes, and aged eighty years in a night together. Just Mulder and Scully, on the next great adventure. 

 

She steps closer and puts her hands on his shoulders, and he threads his around her waist. She kisses him, tentatively at first, but then more urgently, taking his bottom lip gently between her teeth and lapping at his tongue. He’s surprised by how passionately she kisses – his orderly, methodical partner. He wonders if this level of enthusiasm will translate to other areas and the resulting rush of blood to his cock makes him realize that he’s already hard. He feels a momentary surge of embarrassment, as he typically does when he finds himself aroused around Scully at inopportune times, but that’s the whole point of this, isn’t it?

 

Her hands leave his shoulders briefly, and he realizes that she’s untied her bathrobe. He assumes that he’s meant to take this as an invitation, so he moves his hands from her waist over terry cloth to her bare skin, warm and smooth and so tiny he thinks his fingers might touch if he extended his hands around the narrowest point. After giving some time for them both to acclimate, he brushes his thumbs over her rib cage and she pulls in a breath, arching towards him. Experimentally, he brings his fingers to the edges of the robe draped over her shoulders and to his delight, she drops her arms to her sides and allows him to push the robe off, letting it puddle on the floor around her feet. 

 

He pulls away from their kiss momentarily to look at her, replacing his hands on her waist. She’s wearing tiny white satin panties with a matching bra, and his cock aches at the sight of her: her little coin slot of a belly button and her small but perfect breasts cradled in the silky cups. He shifts his hands and urges her to turn around so he can see the back, and she obliges. Having had his eyeful, he turns her back to face him and lets out a low wolf whistle, to which she rolls her eyes. 

 

“Really, Mulder?” she complains, but he can see the smile she’s fighting off. 

 

“Sorry, you’re just really beautiful,” he says plainly, and her mouth quirks up in a shy smile. 

 

“Thanks,” she forces out, and then steps closer again, resuming their kisses. 

 

He lets his hands trail over her bare back, slide across the soft skin of her belly, flit over her rib cage, and brush down the sides of her thighs. He avoids touching her breasts or her ass, thinking that he should wait a bit longer before she might be ready for that. When she bends one knee and places it near his hip on the bed, he’s unsure what to expect. When she brings her other knee to rest near the opposite hip, her backside sliding over the tops of his thighs, he groans. 

 

“Scully,” he whispers around kisses.

 

“Hmmm?” she hums in response. 

 

“I feel like I should tell you, it’s been a really long time. I can’t guarantee my stamina.”

 

She chuckles, but never stops kissing him. “Likewise,” she says against his mouth. 

 

“Well, that’s not really apples to apples, Scully,” he explains as she kisses along his jaw. “If you don’t last very long, that’s a success. If I don’t last very long, the whole thing is a bust.”

 

She sits up, cradling his face in her palms. 

 

“Mulder,” she says very seriously, “shut up.”

 

“Okay,” he replies, and they resume kissing again. 

 

She slowly increases the tilt of her torso towards him. Her weight isn’t enough to actually change his position, but her intentions are clear so he slowly reclines until he’s lying on his back and she is straddling him. Resting her weight on his pelvis, she slips her hands under his T-shirt, her fingers skirting up his abdomen electrifying his skin and making him jump. The tips of her fingers meet with his nipples, grazing over them lightly, and his cock throbs in response. She hums, perhaps able to feel it through his slacks. The idea sends another throb and she grinds against him, confirming his theory. He brings his hands to her hips, holding her steady as he arches up into her, feeling her heat even through the three layers of fabric that separate them. She pushes his T-shirt up to expose his belly and he sits up to remove it, delighted to see her arms move behind her back to unhook her bra. She doesn’t take it off, but as they find each other’s lips again and slowly recline back onto the bed, gravity does the work for them. The silky fabric tickles his sternum as it slips down her arms and he wants to look, to touch, but doesn’t want her to feel objectified, so he keeps his hands on her waist and his eyes closed. He can feel the shift of her lifting one arm off the bed, and then the other, and then the slip of the silk across his skin as she tosses it to the side. Knowing that Scully is sitting topless in his lap sends a little jolt of anxiety through his chest and he suddenly feels too alert, too aware, no longer lost in the moment. His previously stiff cock begins to soften and he opens his eyes, her porcelain skin and fluttering lashes filling his visual field. 

 

She must sense it, the change in him, because she pulls back, crossing her arms over her chest, and looks at him with a fearful expression. 

 

“What’s wrong?” she asks, and the self-consciousness in her tone breaks his heart. 

 

“No, nothing, nothing is wrong,” he insists, sitting up to close the distance between them. 

 

“You don’t want to do this,” she says, starting to move off of him, and he reaches for her hips to still her. The wounded look she gives tells him not to try and stop her, so he lets go. She moves to sit on the edge of the bed with her back to him, her arms still crossed over her chest. “It’s okay, Mulder. If you’ve changed your mind, it’s okay. We don’t have to do this.”

 

He scoots over to where she sits, draping a leg over the edge of the bed on either side of her hips and pulling her flush against his chest with an arm around her waist. He rests his chin in the crook of her neck and sighs, the press of her bare back against him soft and warm. 

 

“I haven’t changed my mind. I’m just...I’m nervous, I guess. I mean...it’s you,” he says quietly, his lips very close to her ear. 

 

“What does that mean?” she asks, clearly taking it the wrong way, still.

 

“Can I confess something?” he asks, and she scoffs, but it’s not derisive, more ironic. “I’ve thought about this...with you, before. Maybe a couple times.” He keeps his tone light, casual. 

 

She laughs softly. “Is that so?”

 

“Yes, and, while I know this is an ad hoc, strictly one-time thing, I still don’t want it to be awful. I will have to face you in the office on Monday, after all.”

 

She brings one hand to her face and groans regretfully. “Don’t remind me,” she says with a much lighter tone, and he smiles against her shoulder. 

 

“Suppose I’ll have to skip asking you how your weekend was, huh?” he jokes, and the vibration of her chuckle against his chest makes him cling to her a little tighter. “Do you think this is going to change things?” he asks softly, tilting his head to brush his lips over the side of her neck. 

 

She hums and tilts her head to the side, allowing him greater access. “I don’t see how it couldn’t in some respects, but I’m sure we can move past it.” 

 

Her voice is becoming breathy, and he realizes how much she likes for her neck to be kissed. His cock stirs, finding a new surge of confidence. He increases the pressure of his lips, darting his tongue out to flick at the back of her earlobe and she makes a little noise. 

 

“What happens in Vegas, as they say,” he offers, reaching around to touch the arm she still has tightly pinned against her breasts, brushing his fingers over her forearm until she lets it drop away. 

 

In the dim light, he can see the pale pink tips of her nipples tighten as they are exposed to the air in the room. He loosens his grip around her waist, trailing his fingers across her rib cage and inching closer to the place where flesh becomes breast. She arches her back, wiggling a little, seemingly welcoming it, and so he gently cups one while his lips travel down to the juncture of her shoulder. She lets her head drop back against him, breathing heavily but not making much noise, and he resolves to bring her to a place where she isn’t even aware of what sounds she’s making. 

 

One hand at her breast, his lips on her neck, he lets his other hand trail down her belly, finding the hem of her panties. Tentatively, he traces his finger along the edge of the fabric back and forth from hip to hip. A stream of air pours forcefully from her nose, another indication of suppressed sounds, of her holding back from showing him what she really wants. What she really likes. 

 

“Is it okay if I touch you?” he asks, because maybe she’d prefer that they just do what they have to, no frills or extras. But he wants it all, if he can have it. If this is the only time he will ever see her, touch her, taste her, he doesn’t want to leave anything on the table.

 

She hesitates, but the way her hips are flexing he knows it’s because she’s fighting with herself over what she should do, not what she wants; it’s fairly clear what she wants. “Yes,” she finally breathes out, her chest heaving just from the anticipation that giving consent brings.

 

He slips his fingers just below the hem of her panties, pushing down slowly into her hair, which is trimmed short. He can’t help but wonder if he will get to satisfy a longstanding curiosity over whether it matches the hair on her head. Further down, he follows the curve of her body to where she becomes warm and wet. So fucking wet, so slick that he veritably growls in her ear in response. Her breath is ragged as he slides his fingers across her slippery lips, more of her weight falling against his chest as she gives in to the sensations, moving her legs further apart to allow him access. He leans back a bit so she can recline against him, moving his own legs wider to accommodate her. 

 

In the past few minutes, he’s learned the following: she likes to be kissed on the smooth patch of skin behind her ear, she likes to have her nipples pinched, and now he can add a pattern of varied touch to her vulva. He swirls his middle finger around her clit and then slips down to her entrance, dipping inside as far as his second knuckle before repeating the motion. She is trembling beneath him, breathing hard and flexing her hips erratically. He wants to make her come so badly, to bring to life a fantasy he’s guiltily indulged in for years. When she seems to be reaching a fever pitch, he combines all three of his tricks; flicking his tongue at the skin behind her ear, squeezing and pinching one of her nipples, and sliding his finger around, down, in, up, around, down, in, up, over and over at a quick pace. Without warning, she pulls in a huge breath and clamps her hands down on each of his thighs, stiffening in his arms. He doesn’t stop what he’s doing and after what seems like a very long time, she emits a low moan and then she’s gone, falling apart as he pushes his finger as far inside as it can go, feeling her grip and release over and over. The soft cries escaping her mouth are the most beautiful sounds he’s ever heard, and he rocks his hips against her to bring a little relief to his aching erection that is currently pressed against her lower back. She goes limp, and he withdraws his hand from her panties, wrapping his arms around her and gently kissing her cheek as she comes down. He knows the moment has passed when she stiffens a little, sitting up ever so slightly. 

 

“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” she says regretfully, like she’s done something wrong. 

 

“What do you mean?” he asks, giving her a little squeeze, “I think that’s exactly what was supposed to happen.”

 

“That’s not...I mean...that wasn’t the point of this. That’s not what we needed to do,” she adds, and he can hear the shame in her voice. 

 

“I don’t know, I think maybe you needed that,” he offers. “Don’t be embarrassed. Scully, that was amazing. I honestly feel honored.”

 

She gives a little half-laugh, half-whine, and while he can’t see her face he knows that she’s cringing. 

 

“Perhaps we should have clarified what, exactly, it is we were going to be doing here before we...got started,” she says in a very pragmatic way, a very Scully way. 

 

“We could have done that, but you said you didn’t want it to feel transactional. That didn’t feel transactional to me. You?” he challenges.

 

She shakes her head no, her hair brushing against the front of his shoulder. 

 

He scoots back a little, towing her along with him, until they are far enough from the edge of the bed to lie down. Scully lays on her back and Mulder scoots up next to her on his side, propping up his head with his hand. She’s got one arm draped across her chest again, her eyes focused on some distant spot on the ceiling. He can see the gears turning in her head so he doesn’t speak, just studies the shadowy outline of her features. 

 

After a time, she sighs and then rolls to her side so she’s facing him, mirroring his position with her hand propped on a fist. She looks at him for a beat, and then reaches out and rests her hand on his waist. It seems to be a re-initiation of sorts. He touches her jaw, brushing his thumb across her cheek softly until she closes her eyes, and then he leans forward and presses his lips to hers. They kiss slowly, the angle a little bit awkward until Scully puts her hand on his shoulder and pushes gently until he rolls onto his back. She rolls partially onto him, draping her leg over his and leaning her bare chest against the side of his torso. 

 

They continue to kiss as her hand slides down his chest and belly, resting over the button of his slacks. She keeps it there as they kiss, and the way she shifts her hips, moves her leg closer to where his dick is waiting very impatiently to be touched, he gathers that she is too shy to make the move. Should he be the bold one? Should he encourage her, let her know that it’s okay? It’s a risky move, the possible negative outcome being that she is offended or feels rushed. Feeling like he is about to combust, he goes for it. Placing his hand over hers, he pushes it down until it slides over his throbbing cock, sighing in relief as she grips it over the cloth. She is emboldened, returning her deft fingers to his fly to pop it open and slip her hand under his boxers. He nearly leaps at the sensation of her palm brushing over the head, which is slick with precum. She pumps slowly in the tight space under the fabric, and unlike her he cannot suppress the moans and declarations that tumble from his lips. He’s not even sure what he’s saying, but when she chuckles he knows it’s not offensive. 

 

“Are you laughing at me, Scully?” he asks in mock-offense. 

 

“Of course not,” she replies with a smile in her voice.

 

He rolls toward her, flipping her on her back and pushing his knees into the space between her thighs. His arms bracketing her head, he kisses her neck and gently thrusts against her as her hands come to rest on his lower back. 

 

“Didn’t your mother ever teach you to never laugh at a man in bed?” he asks teasingly, his lips brushing over her clavicle. 

 

“The only thing my mother taught me in that regard was to wait until I was married,” she returns, and he lifts his head to look at her with an impish smile. 

 

“Check,” he says with a wag of his eyebrows.

 

“I hate to break it to you, Mulder, but that ship has sailed,” she replies playfully. “Can we stop talking about my mother now, please?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he says obediently, returning his lips to the skin on her chest. 

 

As they continue to kiss and arch into one another, she slips her fingers under the waist of his pants at his hips and pushes them down slowly. When he’s absolutely sure she wants him to remove them, he quickly pulls one leg free and then the other, his boxers going with them. He’s now completely naked while she is still wearing those little white panties, the silky fabric of which feels incredible against the sensitive skin of his shaft as he grinds against her. She reaches down to grip him, then slips her palm under his sack and squeezes gently. He can hardly see straight, he wants her so badly. It feels so imminent now, he might burst from anticipation. 

 

She moves her hands to her own hips, tugging at her panties and moving them down her thighs. His position between her legs is an obstruction, so he moves away, grabbing the scrap of fabric himself and tugging it down and off her legs before returning to his post. When he feels the brush of her lips against the head of his cock he groans, then remembers the condoms. 

 

“I, um, I picked up some condoms, if you want to use one,” he says shyly, and she giggles. “What? Why is that funny?”

 

“I got some too,” she says with a shy smile of her own. 

 

“Well, let’s remember this for the next time Skinner claims we’re never properly prepared,” he adds as he reaches into the bedside drawer to retrieve one. 

 

“Mulder,” she says in a warning tone. 

 

“Sorry, no moms and no bosses from here on out. Promise.”

 

He sets the condom on the bed near her shoulder, kissing and touching a bit more, unsure if she’s ready, not wanting to rush. To his pleasant surprise, she reaches up to grab it, the plastic crinkle of the wrapper a sound that his body responds to viscerally with a new rush of blood, making him painfully hard. He’s more than ready. The cool touch of the latex and then her fingers trailing down his shaft as she rolls it on have his chest heaving, waiting, anticipating. When she’s done, she meets his eye with a questioning look. He nods softly, and she guides him to her entrance, moving her hand to his hip when they are perfectly aligned. 

 

He dips his head to press his lips to hers, kissing her gently as he slowly pushes in, pausing intermittently to be sure he doesn’t hurt her. He doesn’t consider himself exceptionally endowed, but she is so small and had said herself that it’s been a while. She sucks in an audible breath and he freezes.

 

“You okay?” he questions, his lips inches from hers. “Am I hurting you?”

 

“No,” she answers breathily, “it’s okay. It’s good.”

 

Tucking his face into the crook of her neck, he slides the rest of the way in and she lifts her legs, hooking her ankles around his hips. He takes a moment to absorb the degree to which they are entwined and in contact; breast to chest, belly to belly, the heat of her radiating against his balls, her hands on his back, and the tight grip of her around his cock. He feels a pang of regret that this is as much of her as he will ever have, that this first time will also be the last. Not wanting to spoil the experience, he pushes that thought aside and withdraws halfway before thrusting in again. She lets out a little whimper and he feels like he could melt into her, both of them absorbing into this hotel mattress and staying in this exact moment for eternity. He withdraws again, nearly all the way, and thrusts in again a touch more forcefully, and for that he finally gets a true response. 

 

“God, yes,” she whispers against his neck, and that’s it, he’s done for. 

 

He lifts his head, looking at her face as he begins a steady rhythm, watching and listening, feeling to understand what she wants, what she likes. He is an eager student, discovering quickly that hard, but not necessarily fast, is her preference. The way her eyebrows pull together and her mouth falls open as he slams into her feel like revelations on the secrets of the universe. This mysterious being, beautiful and intelligent, strong and vulnerable, private but open to him now as she lets him see, lets him hear her most intimate side. How much she really does trust him has never been more clear than it is now as she brings her own hand to her breast, rolling her nipple between her thumb and forefinger. He grabs one of her thighs, pushing it up to rest against his side so he can deepen his angle, and she closes her eyes. He watches her face raptly, memorizing the way she licks her lips, closes her mouth to swallow before it falls open again involuntarily with a gasp, and then contorts into an expression of absolute agony. She holds her breath, squeezing her eyes shut tight, and he feels her grip him like a vice. Her eyes fly open, locking on to his as she starts coming, her hand going to the back of his neck to pull him into a kiss as his balls draw up against his body, his own orgasm rushing through his groin and exploding inside her. They whimper and moan, cry out into each other’s mouths, swallowing down the sounds of release and pleasure, drinking in the melody of their final boundary crossed. As the intensity passes, he slumps against her with half his weight resting on the mattress, panting and letting the final dredges of dopamine wash over them both. 

 

Planting one last kiss to her mouth, he stands and walks to the bathroom, disposing of the condom in the trash can and using the toilet. He regards himself in the mirror, his ruffled hair and flushed cheeks, and smiles at his reflection. Who would have thought? Hoped, of course, he’d always hoped. But he can’t believe that it’s happened. 

 

When he returns to the bedroom, the lamps are both off, and he can see Scully’s small form beneath the blankets on one side of the bed. He feels around on the floor for his boxers, slipping them on before he crawls under the sheets. She is all the way to one side of the bed, which he takes as an indication that their closeness has come to an end. He feels a wave of sadness, but of course this was always the plan. He suddenly wishes he had kissed her a few more times before he went into the bathroom, before the spell was broken forever. 

 

“Night, Scully,” he says in the dark. 

 

“Goodnight, Mulder,” she answers in a neutral, unreadable tone. 

 

He heaves a deep breath and closes his eyes. Maybe he’ll be able to convince himself it was all a dream. 



Chapter Text

She lays very still, listening to Mulder’s breathing from the other side of the bed. She needs to brush her teeth and wash her face, but in the very brief amount of time he was in the bathroom she accomplished only turning off the lights and locating her panties. Her pajamas are tucked away in her bag, which is zipped closed on the couch that’s near Mulder’s side of the bed, and standing partially dressed to rifle through it only a foot away from him feels impossible. And yet, she just had sex with him. That actually happened. 

 

It already feels unreal, like a dream or a fantasy, though less than thirty minutes have passed since he was inside of her. It was better than she could have possibly imagined, and while she knows that they will return to Washington tomorrow and pretend it never happened, she wonders if that will be as easy as she had initially thought. Will she remember the way his lips felt on her neck every time she looks at his face? Will his hand on her back remind her how it felt on her breasts? Now that the door has been opened, will it always feel like a temptation?

 

Of course, Mulder being the horrible sleeper that he is, she never hears the even breathing that indicates he’s fallen asleep. She finally drifts off, teeth unbrushed and face unwashed, bare chested and wonderfully sated. 

 

She wakes to the tug of the sheets as they pull away from her, feeling exposed even in the pitch-black room. It takes her a moment to place herself, to understand that what woke her is Mulder sitting up and breathing heavily as though he’s been exerting himself. She sits up and reaches for him in the dark, her fingers finding first his shoulder, and then his back. He’s hot and damp with sweat, his heart racing beneath her palm. 

 

“Mulder, what’s wrong?” she asks in a sleep-weary voice, and he sighs heavily, perhaps just having placed where he is, and who is beside him. 

 

“Nothing, I just had a strange dream. I had it last night too,” he says, his voice distorted by what she would guess are his hands rubbing over his face. “Sorry I woke you,” he adds. 

 

“It’s okay,” she replies, taking note of the fact that she literally cannot see her hand in front of her face for how dark the room is. She thinks about getting up to retrieve her bag, to take it into the bathroom and find her pajamas. Mulder shifts a bit before his hand wraps around her forearm and slides down to thread his fingers between hers. 

 

“Are you okay?” he asks, and she’s confused about what he means. 

 

“Yes,” she offers, but there’s a slight question to her tone. 

 

He lays back down, but doesn’t let go of her hand. She lays down as well, facing him, getting a little thrill from knowing that she is wearing nothing but her panties though he can’t see her. She can almost feel him thinking, and knows by intuition that his eyes are open and staring back at her through the void. Her heart picks up its pace, though she can’t say why. Perhaps her body senses it before her mind can catch up. 

 

One of his hands is still holding hers, but she jumps a little as she feels the other one brush along her side, resting in the curve of her waist. Her clit throbs and she tries to ignore it, to ignore the current running between them right now. It was only supposed to happen once, that was the agreement. One time, to consummate the marriage. His hand slips around to her back and it’s just the tiniest bit of pressure, the smallest, almost imperceptible tug towards him that she is unable to resist. She scoots closer, allowing him to pull her against his chest, her head tucked just under his chin. Her bottom lip pushes into a pout, her eyebrows gathering in an expression of a sound she won’t allow herself to make. A sigh, a moan, a hum of satisfaction at how good it feels to be touched, to be held. His hand brushing over her bare back and the steady beat of his heart against her cheek feel like something she hadn’t realized she was missing. It’s almost relaxing. Almost, but not quite, because she wants him even closer. 

 

More, she wants more. 

 

Scooting up just a little, she tucks her face into the side of his neck, breathing in his aftershave and feeling the tickle of his stubble against her nose. One of her arms is pinned beneath her, the other draped over his waist. She flexes her foot, worming it between his shins until he moves his top leg a bit and she pushes her thigh between his, the heat from his groin radiating against her skin. Closer. She sighs against him, suppressing a groan because it’s still just not enough. She wants more. 

 

Her heart pounding in her ears, she darts her tongue out to taste the skin of his neck. It’s rough and salty, and when she presses her lips to the same spot, he flexes his pelvis towards her, revealing the hardening length of his erection. She wants to cry, to scream, to beg because she is apparently not done with him. She is not okay with one time. Once was not enough. A tiny whimper escapes her throat and the hand on her back moves quickly down to cup her backside, pulling her tight against him. That is when the dam breaks. 

 

She lifts her head, finding his waiting lips as they kiss desperately with thick, sleep-laden tongues. She feels as though she’s being engulfed, a wildfire uncontained as her hand finds its way under his boxers and grasps his cock. His moan is gasoline, and she pulls at the waist of his underwear, bringing them to his knees with some assistance. It’s hard to say who is responsible for removing her panties, but they are suddenly gone and she is moving over him, sliding her drenched lips over his shaft as he gasps for air beneath her. Their bodies seem to know one another, even after such a brief acquaintance, and by only the flex of her hips he finds his way inside, filling her deliciously and making her cry out in relief. She drops her head to his chest, reveling in this closeness, this consummation that is indeed consuming her, vibrating in her bones and coursing through her veins. Sitting up, she rocks against him, feeling the grind of his pelvic bone as his hands travel up her torso to find her breasts, squeezing and pinching while she rides. She lets her head drop back, losing herself to the pleasure until he sits up, scooting towards the head of the bed and bringing her along with him. Now he is propped up against the headboard, and she is perched in his lap flexing her hips forward and back as he gently cups her jaw, kissing her feverishly. She feels an orgasm tingle in her toes, taking shape as it trails up her legs, and only then does she realize they didn’t use a condom. Far from this slowing things down, it inconceivably turns her on even more, the idea of his cum inside her, and she wraps her arms around his shoulders, scratching at the flesh of his back as she feels herself approaching the edge. His hands are on her bare hips, pulling her down and digging into her skin so hard it almost hurts. 

 

“Fuck, Scully, I’m gonna come,” he hisses, and she feels the inevitable crest as she passes the point of no return. 

 

They come almost in synchrony, their staccato breaths echoing in the quiet hotel room as they cling to one another, savoring each pulse of pleasure as they become shorter and further apart, and then finally stop altogether. 

 

“Sorry,” she breathes out, feeling responsible for this lapse, which happened so quickly. 

 

He chuckles and though she can’t see his smile, she can picture it. 

 

“I think I can find it in my heart to forgive you,” he says with a sarcastic, though tender tone. 

 

She moves to get off him, but he grabs her waist to stop her, then trails his fingers up to find her face. He kisses her sweetly for a few moments, so sweetly it almost feels like a goodbye. When he stops, she eases off him, making a face he can’t see when his fading erection slips out and a little rush of fluid follows. She feels around for her suitcase and then finds her way to the bathroom with one hand on the wall, turning on the light only after the door is closed behind her. 

 

She squeezes her eyes shut against the brightness, waiting for them to adjust until she can withstand a peek at herself in the mirror. Her hair is wild and sticking up in all directions, mascara smudged across her cheeks. Her fair skin is a map of his markings; teeth and nails, a hickey or two, and reddening half-moons on her hips where he gripped her. She smirks a little, taking enjoyment in a state she hasn’t found herself in in quite some time, one that her sister used to coarsely call “freshly fucked.” She finds and wets a washcloth to wipe between her legs and then puts on fresh panties and her pajamas. She washes her face, brushes her teeth, and finally makes her way back into the darkened bedroom, leaving her suitcase in the bathroom so she can easily access it in the morning. 

 

It’s so quiet and still she almost calls his name to be sure he’s still there, but as soon as she lays down in the bed he sidles up behind her, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her back against his chest. Part of her wonders at what point they will be able to flip the switch back to partners and friends, but this feels too nice for her to try and draw that line now, so she lets him hold her, and soon enough she drifts back to sleep. 




 

 

She blinks against the single beam of light that has somehow found its way through a tiny slit in the curtains and directly into her eyes. She can feel the warmth of Mulder’s body pressed against her, though his arm is no longer across her waist. She feels a sudden wave of embarrassment for what happened the night before. Not regret, necessarily, but vulnerability and exposure that she isn’t used to and isn’t quite sure how to navigate. 

 

She extricates herself from the bed slowly, looking back to see him lying prone with the majority of his body uncovered, clad only in his boxers. A sleep-induced erection tents the sheet over his lap and she has the fleeting thought of crawling back into bed with him, but shakes her head and pads quietly to the bathroom, plucking her bra and panties from their places scattered on the floor along the way. She showers, applies her makeup carefully, and dresses in jeans and a sweater for the trip home. Before opening the bathroom door, she takes several steadying breaths. It will be awkward, she knows this, but they just need to move forward and it will get easier. 

 

When she steps out, she’s surprised to find that he’s still sleeping, and relief washes over her at not having to face him in this room where everything happened. She finds the pen and paper on the desk and leaves him a note, then takes her things and heads down to the lobby for the complimentary breakfast the hotel offers. 




 

 

The room is eerily quiet, and Scully is gone, her side of the bed long since cold. He rises and checks the bathroom, finding every trace of her removed: her suitcase, her toiletries, the clothing they had shed the night before. Just as he’s starting to worry that she went home without him, he finds her note on the desk. 

 

I’m in the lobby, take your time, S

 

He’s not totally sure what to make of it, but he showers and dresses, then goes down to the lobby to check them out of their room. He doesn’t see her at first, but the lobby is large and has several small seating areas hidden around sweeping staircases and the sprawling bar. Finally he finds her nestled in an armchair with a cup of coffee and a magazine. He watches her for a moment before approaching, trying to reconcile the woman he made love to last night –his wife–with his partner waiting to fly home from a case as he’s seen her so many times before. Maybe it’s best that he let them be two separate people in his mind. 

 

“Hey, early bird,” he says as he walks toward her, and she startles but smiles when she sees him, and it seems genuine. 

 

“Hi, did you want to grab something to eat before we head to the airport?” she asks, and it all feels remarkably...unremarkable. 

 

“Nah,” he says with a noncommittal shake of his head, “we should probably get moving, flight leaves in an hour and a half. 

 

Perhaps because they have taken a cab to the airport so many times, waited in nearly every terminal in the country, boarded planes of every size and type, it helps them find normal again so easily. As they walk down the narrow aisle towards their seats, he waits for her to ask for the window, but she doesn’t. They eat their peanuts, drink their ginger ale, and somewhere over Missouri she slumps toward him, resting her head on his waiting shoulder. When he’s sure she’s asleep, he turns his head to press his nose into her hair, the smell of her shampoo now bringing with it new memories that make his chest ache. Can he really pretend that this weekend never happened?

 

She wakes just before they land. Luggage is collected, and farewells are bid at the taxi line like so many return flights before. Back at his apartment, he lays awake on his couch for a long time, staring vacantly at the ceiling and thinking about what it will mean to see her every day, and never again touch her like he did that night. 

 

Finally he falls asleep, but it’s fitful, and again, he has that dream. The one about the truck, and the park, and the little girl buried under the dirt with a heart-shaped hole cut out of her pajamas.




Chapter Text

Two months later

 

“Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life.”

 

“Yes, but it’s m-”

 

She meets the words he’s about to say with a questioning look, almost daring him to continue. Knowing better, he stops. They sit in uncomfortable silence for an agonizingly long time. 

 

When he got the call that she had been hospitalized in Philly, his initial response was, of course, worry. But as the details rolled out; the man she’d gone on a date with, the tattoo, the night she’d spent at his apartment and the subsequent attack, he felt confused, hurt and betrayed. She’s been distant and distracted for the past week, his repeated questioning regarding whether she’s okay met each time with “I’m fine.” While he has no right to lay claim to her, he can’t deny the sick feeling that wells up in his belly at the thought of her with another man. His frustration over not understanding what’s going on with her and why she’s pulling away has resulted in rude and derisive comments, ones he regrets the moment they leave his mouth. He just wants something from her; an explanation, a reaction, anything that will help quell this fear that she’s ramping up to the announcement that she’s leaving him, in more ways than one. He doesn’t know how to explain all this to her, because he can hardly understand it himself. 

 

“Scully, what and who you do is really none of my business,” he begins, his eyes on the desk in front of him. “But we made an agreement, a contingency plan predicated on the idea that we are in a relationship. If the type of situation arises in which we need to play the marriage card, so to speak, your extramarital dalliances may serve to undermine the facade. So all I’m saying,” he raises his eyes to meet hers, which are expressionless, her jaw set, “is that maybe you should do your due diligence before jumping into bed with every down-on-his-luck sap who feeds you a sob story about his recent divorce.” 

 

He hears the stream of air pouring from her nostrils. He sees the tears welling in her eyes. He hears the scrape of the chair against the floor as she stands, fists balled at her sides. He wishes he hadn’t said it. 

 

“Don’t worry about your precious contingency plan, Mulder,” she says in a cuttingly derisive tone. “Your marital bed remains untainted.”

 

He opens his mouth to speak, but she turns on her heel and marches out the door. She doesn’t bother to slam it, doesn’t bother to close it at all, and he listens to the click of her heels as she retreats down the hallway, even further away from him than she already was. 




 

 

She makes it to her car before the tears break loose, streaming quietly down her cheeks. She knew he’d be mad but she didn’t think he’d stoop low enough to slut shame her. The whole experience was strange and scary, and entirely not worth it. If she’d gotten laid out of the ordeal, it might have felt marginally worthwhile. But at the moment it had seemed like things were taking a turn towards the romantic, Ed had become irate and standoffish, showing her the bedroom and cutting their evening short. 

 

She’s felt lost and afraid since they crossed paths with Leonard Betts. The words he said to her in the back of that ambulance, the nosebleeds, the headaches. Something is wrong; she just knows it. Her doctor wasn’t able to see her for a full workup until next week and so she’s been trapped in a kind of limbo, unsure if her life is about to embark upon a steep decline that may result in its premature end. There is so much more she wants to do, to see, to experience. The most alive she’s felt in years was that weekend with Mulder in Vegas, and yet by definition, it was meaningless. She was as relieved as she was disappointed by how seamlessly they fell back into a platonic partnership, almost as though it had never happened. She’s forgotten how his lips felt against hers, and it makes her sad. What is the point of all this? She may never have the chance to know. 

 

She drives back to her apartment feeling solemn and agitated, and attempts to find joy in absolutely anything. A hot bath, a glass of wine, even her vibrator leaves her uninspired, unmotivated, unhappy. She starts a fire and sits on the floor in front of the hearth, staring blankly into the flames. It strikes her that she has never felt quite so alone as she does now, and she wonders who will care if she dies. Her mother, of course. Her brothers. Mulder may care, but at this moment he’s so angry with her, so disgusted, that it’s hard to imagine. 

 

Fresh tears are pooling in her eyes, blurring the lick of the flames, when she hears his knock. She ignores it, in part because she can’t stomach any more of his judgment today, and in part because she can’t find the will to get up off the floor. He knocks a few more times and then she hears his key in the lock. She begins to sob, a mix of relief and overwhelm because he won’t leave her alone. Because she really doesn’t want him to. She doesn’t turn around and soon enough he plops down beside her on the floor, draping his arm over her shoulder and pulling her against his chest. She cries against his T-shirt, ugly snot-filled wails that rattle her rib cage and dry out her throat. Finally, she pulls away from him and startles when she sees the spot of red where her face had been. She stands and runs into the bathroom, taking several minutes to staunch the flow and hoping he’ll still be there when she returns. When she re-enters the living room, he’s right where she left him. 

 

“Are you okay?” he asks, and she gathers that the question has several meanings. 

 

She sits down beside him on the floor, heaving a sigh and reaching for her abandoned wine glass to take a long gulp. 

 

“I’ve been having nosebleeds and headaches for a few weeks now,” she offers softly, eyes trained on the pattern of wood in the floorboards. 

 

“Is something wrong? Do you know why?” he asks with thinly veiled panic in his voice. 

 

“Leonard Betts said something to me, Mulder. In the back of the ambulance.” She meets his eye, working to keep her voice steady. “He said I have something he needs.”

 

His eyebrows pull together as he shakes his head gently. “That...that doesn’t mean anything, Scully. That doesn’t mean you're sick.”

 

“Maybe not. But given my symptoms, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor next week to do some tests, to be sure.”

 

“Do you think...are you concerned that it could be cancer?” he asks with unmistakable fear in his expression. 

 

She shrugs. “It’s possible. It could also be something else. Or it could be nothing.”

 

He looks away, his eyes scanning the room erratically before zeroing in on her again. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

Another shrug. “What was there to tell?”

 

“Is this why you’ve been acting strangely? Why you haven’t been yourself? Why you…” He knows well enough not to finish the sentence. 

 

She pulls in a deep breath. “Maybe. I just wonder sometimes what the point of all this is. What I’m doing with my life. And how I’ll feel about the way I’ve spent it if I find that I don’t have much time left.”

 

He looks down at the floor for a beat. 

 

“I’m sorry for what I said. It was uncalled for and unfair. I’m having a hard time understanding my own reaction to what happened to you,” he says regretfully, and she nods but doesn’t respond. “I guess the honest answer is that I felt betrayed, but I know that I have no right to feel that way. Regardless of the arrangement between us, you have every right to see other people.”

 

Confusion pulls at her features. How can they see other people when they aren’t seeing each other? At the same time, knowing that jealousy played a role in his response gives her some kind of satisfaction. If he doesn’t want her with someone else, does that mean that he wants her himself?

 

“I have no intention of seeing anyone, Mulder. I think that was enough to put me off men for at least a decade,” she jokes, and he lifts his head to smile at her. 

 

“I guess I should send Ed a gift basket then,” he quips, and she smiles and cringes simultaneously. “The, uh, the officer who wrote up the report said you beat the shit out of him,” he says with unmistakable pride in his voice, and she shrugs demurely. 

 

They turn back to the fire, sitting in contemplative silence for a bit, but a comfortable silence that is more akin to what they are used to. 

 

“Can I see it?” he asks suddenly, and she looks at him with a confused expression. “The tattoo,” he explains, and she sighs, then nods. 

 

Turning her back to him at an angle that will allow firelight to reach it, she lifts the back of her shirt. It’s just starting to dry out and peel a little, and she’s been applying unscented lotion to it liberally as directed. She jumps a little when she feels his fingertip against her skin, tracing the circle round and round several times. 

 

“Do you like it?” he asks softly, and for once, his voice is free of judgement. 

 

“I do, actually,” she replies. 

 

“I do, too,” he says, pulling her shirt back down to cover it. 

 

She turns back to face him, studying his expression in the low light. If he were more than just her coworker, if they were really together, would she feel less afraid of what she might find out from her doctor?

 

“Whatever it is, Scully, we’ll get through it, okay? We’ll figure it out,” he says so sincerely it makes her chest ache. 

 

And in that moment, she knows that the answer is no. 



Chapter Text

“So, um, what...uh, what exactly happened here, Scully?”

 

Eddie Van Blundht has just been taken into custody by the local PD, and he’s helping Scully clean up after the events of the evening–putting up the wine glasses, sweeping shards of splintered wood off the floor, but really just stalling. Though Scully is clearly beyond mortified and would probably like for him to leave, he needs to know what he walked in on. 

 

“What do you mean?” she asks, feigning ignorance as she dumps a dustpan full of bits of her front door in the trash can. 

 

“I mean...it looked to me like you were about to swap spit with our suspect. I’m curious as to how you found yourself in that situation.” He leans against the kitchen counter and crosses his arms, working very hard to appear casual and unperturbed. 

 

She sighs in frustration, setting the dustpan down. “Mulder...as far as I knew it was you sitting beside me on the couch,” she explains, avoiding eye contact. 

 

“Will you just do me a favor and walk me through things? Consider it part of the investigation if it makes you feel better. I just really need to know.”

 

She walks over and sits on the couch, leaning forward to cover her face with her hands so that her words are slightly muffled by her palms. 

 

“There was a knock at the door, and it was you. You had a bottle of wine and said you wanted to talk. So we talked for a while, and drank wine. And then...you, actually you, kicked my door down. I think you know the rest.” Her tone strikes him just a bit like a sullen teenager confessing to a rule they’ve broken, giving as little detail as possible. 

 

“What did you talk about?” he asks, working to keep the defensiveness he feels out of his voice.

 

She sits back with another frustrated sigh. “Nothing, Mulder. He asked me about high school and I ended up telling him some ridiculous story about my senior prom. It’s honestly embarrassing.”

 

“But you were going to kiss him. Or did you? Maybe I missed act one.”

 

She turns her head and levels him with an irritated glare. 

 

“Need I remind you again that I thought he was you ?”

 

“That doesn’t answer the question, Scully.”

 

“Jesus Christ, Mulder,” she snaps at him, now decidedly angry. “Yes, he was going to kiss me, and I was going to let him. No, he, or you, or who the hell ever, did not kiss me prior to that. But it didn’t seem all that far fetched, given the fact that we have kissed before, and you’ve been markedly flirtatious lately. So forgive me for misreading things, and also for being taken by that...mutant or whatever the hell he is. You realize he did this to four other women, right? I’m the victim in this situation and you’re acting like I…like I cheated on you or something!”

 

He stares at her for a beat, absorbing what she’s just said. 

 

“How have I been flirtatious?” he asks, and she scoffs. 

 

That is what stood out to you from what I just said?” she asks in a cutting tone. 

 

He shrugs and she rolls her eyes with another exasperated sigh, turning to look at the fire, which is slowly dying out. 

 

“You make these little comments, Mulder. Every time we agree on something or you like my theory or whatever. You say ‘marry me’ or, just yesterday, ‘should we be picking out china patterns?’ How the hell am I supposed to take that? Why do you do that?” 

 

“Well since we’re on the subject,” he retorts, ”I can’t help but notice how quickly you jump to make sure to set the record straight anytime someone asks if you’re my wife. Why do you do that ?” He’s only thinly veiling the fact that it hurts his feelings a little bit. Not that she denies it, he understands that she has to, but the level of insistence with which she does so.

 

“Husband and wife is a relationship, Mulder. A piece of paper does not make you my husband,” she answers with a resigned slump of her shoulders.  

 

Her anger is waning a bit, replaced with self-consciousness and uncertainty. He walks over to the couch and sits down beside her. 

 

“It’s just a joke, Scully. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable and I’ll stop saying things like that if it bothers you,” he says softly. What he doesn’t voice is the little thrill he gets each time the words leave his mouth. How often he wants to turn to the men who give her longing glances on the street and say that’s my wife . But he can’t, so he makes stupid jokes instead. 

 

She shakes her head, eyes still trained on the fire. 

 

“It doesn’t bother me, Mulder. I’m just not always sure where we stand, I guess.”

 

“Where would you like us to stand?” he asks tentatively. 

 

“I don’t know,” she answers quietly. 

 

“But if I kissed you, that would be okay?”

 

She chuffs a little self-deprecating laugh. 

 

“Apparently so,” she says flatly. They are quiet for a beat before she speaks again. “I don’t think things can or should be different between us, Mulder. That wouldn’t work and I think we both know that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it sometimes.”

 

He nods, studying the side of her face. “What happens in Vegas may not stay entirely in Vegas,” he says, and he doesn’t miss the tiny cringe that flashes over her features at the mention of that weekend. 

 

“Not entirely,” she agrees. 

 

There’s another silence, and he thinks about something else she said, about what she and Eddie talked about. He talks to Scully all the time, all day every day, about everything under the sun, or so he thought. But when he really considers the content of those conversations, the things he knows about her personal life always come up incidentally. He knows about her ex, Jack, because they ran into him while working a case. He knows that she was seeing someone when they first started working together because she mentioned him a couple times, but then suddenly stopped. He assumed they broke up, but he never asked. And maybe that’s the difference between him and Eddie. He is always available to hear anything Scully wants to tell him about herself, but he rarely asks. 

 

“I never thought you’d want to talk about things like that, about high school or college or personal stuff from the past,” he begins. “I mean outside of the academics of it. I guess I just thought those kinds of things were trivial to you, or too private,” he says with true remorse, because he’s inadvertently given her the impression that he doesn’t care. 

 

She turns to look at him, her eyebrows knit in something close to confusion. 

 

“I’m just a regular human person, Mulder,” she says softly, but with a hint of chastisement. “I had a first kiss and a first love and first heartbreak like everyone else. Just because I don’t bring it up doesn’t mean that it’s trivial. And I wouldn’t discuss those personal, private things with just anyone. But you aren’t just anyone.”

 

He gives her a shy smile, which she returns.

 

“How old were you when you lost your virginity?” he asks with a wag of his eyebrows. 

 

“Mulder!” she admonishes, but she’s laughing so he knows she’s not offended. She shakes her head and looks away. “Sixteen,” she answers plainly. 

 

“Really? That’s younger than I would have guessed,” he remarks. 

 

She shrugs, a small smile playing on her lips. “I did try very hard to be a good little Catholic girl, but I wasn’t always successful.”

 

“Now that is a story I need to hear,” he declares hopefully. 

 

“Sometime,” she answers, turning to him, “but not tonight.”

 

He nods in understanding, then stands and moves towards the door, or what’s left of it. She follows him, leaning against the doorframe as he steps into the hall. He considers her in her casual pants and sweater, her cheeks still a bit flushed from the wine. He can understand why Eddie came here tonight; it only took him working with Scully for half a day to want more than a work partnership. When he looks back on their first case, he identifies the same experience for himself, though he had the good sense not to act on it. Not then anyway. 

 

Acting on impulse, he steps towards her and stoops down a bit, resting one hand on her cheek and pressing his lips to hers. She sucks in a little breath of surprise, but then relaxes into it and reciprocates when he kisses her again. He pulls back as their tongues begin to brush against one another, knowing they shouldn’t take it any further. She quirks a surprised smile at him and he can’t help but grin. 

 

“Just in case anyone who looks like me tries to kiss you again, gotta make sure you have a baseline so you can spot the imposter,” he jokes, and she nods with a smirk. 

 

“Goodnight, Mulder,” she says softly, and he lifts his hand in a little wave before he turns and leaves her standing in her busted doorway. 




Chapter Text

Frohike hands him a set of tweezers with a fine point, and he gently plucks the microchip out of the petri dish, dropping it back into the metal tube where it emits a soft rattle. Byers helps him pour the rest of the deionized water back into the tube as well, and the stopper is re-inserted. 

 

“What are you gonna do?” Langly asks as Mulder grabs his coat from the back of a chair and makes for the exit. 

 

“I need to talk to Scully,” he says in reply, already halfway out the door.

 

He’s both exhilarated and terrified, because he knows she will object. There is no science, no logic, no research nor trials for her to rest upon, only blind faith and hope. While she is able to instill such things in the God she believes in, he knows without asking that she will be unwilling to do the same for this foreign bit of metal, a talisman that represents the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. To both of them. And yet he has to convince her, to make her believe that there’s a chance. His desperation sends sweat running down his back even in the late-autumn chill as he walks to his car. He sits heavily in the seat and prepares for what he must do. 

 

Seeing her in that ICU bed, the hollowness behind her eyes and the sallow pallor of her skin, struck a fear into his heart that he had, up until now, refused to acknowledge. That without a miracle she would die, that she would waste away until she leaves this earth, leaving him alone in a way he hadn’t known was possible before he met her. 

 

What will it mean to wake up each day and know that Scully no longer exists? How will he continue to breathe without the arch of her eyebrow, the twist of her mouth when she’s trying not to smile, the roll of her eyes at his preposterous declarations? Will he ever again hear the melody of her laugh, the real one that she hardly ever lets anyone hear? 

 

She’s so sick now, so hopeless that she no longer has the energy for laughter. He tries to remember the last time he heard it, and he can’t quite recall. Had he known it would be the last time, he would have committed it to memory, would have worked harder to make her laugh more often so he could bottle up the sound and never forget it. 

 

He remembers the way she looked at him when he surprised her on her birthday with a pink Sno Ball, her favorite guilty pleasure, and a single candle, the waitstaff at their local watering hole singing off key while she blushed and pretended to hate it. Why had he not made her feel special on every birthday? Why had he let himself forget so many times? She may not make it to her next one, and he feels sick with regret. Angry tears well in his eyes as he continues to sit in his car with the engine off.  

 

He recalls her shy insecurity that night in Vegas, her doubt that he wanted her, and he wishes he could go back. If he could do it all again, she’d never have the chance to wonder. She’d know, because he’d tell her. He’d savor every kiss, every brush of her skin against his and the sounds she made when he was closer to her than he’d ever been. Or, he realizes now, than he ever will be again. Will he consider himself a widower? The thought makes his stomach turn. 

 

Regret. There is so much to regret. So much he’s done wrong, or hasn’t done at all. Listened to her more often, been more considerate of her feelings and more respectful of her time. Told her how much she means to him, how much better his life is with her in it. Made her feel beautiful, feel wanted, feel loved. Because she is loved, so loved by him. And he’s never told her, not once. 

 

He wishes he’d told her a long time ago, when that love was one of friendship, of family, something platonic that wouldn’t further complicate things between them. Now, he’d be lying if he tried to tell her and claim it wasn’t more than that, because standing on the edge of death with her has forced him to come to terms with just how in love with her he is. It’s a love that’s inconvenient, inappropriate and unrequited, but it’s that love that will drive him to do what he’s about to, to convince her to re-implant this chip, because he cannot go on without her. He won’t. Wiping the tears from his cheeks, he starts the car and drives to the hospital for the second time that day. 

 

He is relieved to find her alone, sitting up and gazing out the window contemplatively. She turns at the sound of the door opening and quirks her head in confusion. 

 

“Mulder, what are you doing back here?” she asks, though she doesn’t look unhappy to see him. 

 

He sits on the bed near her hip, reaching for her hand and bringing it to his lips. He needs to touch her, to feel the warmth of her skin and know that she is still here. That there’s still time. 

 

“I need to talk to you about something important,” he says softly, steeling himself against her objections. 

 

“Did you change your mind?” she asks hopefully. “Will you say it was me who shot that man?”

 

He smiles at her and shakes his head. “I’m not going to do that, Scully. I told you that already.”

 

“Please let me do this for you, Mulder,” she implores, and he can tell this conversation is already sapping all her energy. “I won’t be here long enough for there to be a trial. It doesn’t matter what happens after I’m gone.”

 

“Don’t talk like that,” he says hoarsely, unable to withstand talking about her death as though it’s a foregone conclusion. “I haven’t given up, Scully. That’s why I’m here, actually. There’s something else we can try.”

 

Her eyebrows furrow in confusion, and he pulls the small metal vial from his pocket, setting it in her open palm.

 

“What’s this?” she asks curiously, turning it over to feel the liquid slip from one end to the other. 

 

“It’s a chip, identical to the one you had removed from your neck,” he says plainly. 

 

“Where did you get this?” she asks, her tone now much more skeptical. 

 

“That doesn’t matter, Scully. What matters is that I’ve been led to believe that removing the chip is what caused your cancer, and that returning it might be the cure.”

 

She lifts her eyes to his face, her expression incredulous and afraid. 

 

“Mulder, no. I am not putting that thing back in my body,” she says emphatically. 

 

He feels tears constrict his throat, in part because she’s responding exactly how he knew she would. His Scully, diehard skeptic, believer of science above all else. He loves exactly who she is, and yet the very thing he loves is what might kill her. 

 

“You have to, Scully. It’s our only option. It’s our only hope,” he pleads, his voice tight. 

 

“Based on what? Who told you that? Cancer man?” she retorts, and he drops his gaze from hers, which is answer enough. “Why on earth would you suddenly decide to trust that lying son of a bitch, Mulder? It’s more likely that putting this back will kill me faster. That’s probably his goal.”

 

He shakes his head. “I don’t believe that, Scully. There’s logic to it, that the cancer serves to kill the abductee once they remove the device that allows them to be monitored and tracked.”

 

“So you want me to be monitored by this thing?” she asks, holding up the vial. “You’re okay with them tracking me the rest of my life?”

 

He meets her gaze, letting her see the tears pooling in his eyes and the pebble of his chin. Letting her see how desperate he is. 

 

“I’d rather have you alive and tracked than dead,” he whispers. 

 

She shakes her head. “No, Mulder. This isn’t the answer you think it is. He’s leading you around by your nose, as usual. He’s taking advantage of your emotional state.”

 

“Scully,” he begins, pausing to swallow, to try and regain some composure. “You know how much I respect you, and how much I respect your autonomy. I would never want to do anything to or with you that you wouldn’t want for yourself.” 

 

Her expression shifts from exasperation to fear, but she doesn’t speak, waiting to hear what he has to say. 

 

“I understand why you’re hesitant,” he continues, taking her hand in his again. “I expected that you would be, but I had hoped that I could convince you to do this of your own volition. But, Scully, if you won’t ask your doctor to re-implant the chip, then when...if...if you become too sick to make your own medical decisions, I will ask him to do it.”

 

She shakes her head gently. “You can’t do that, Mulder. They won’t allow you to make that decision.”

 

He sits up a little straighter, pulling confidence and conviction into his voice to be sure she understands how serious he is. 

 

“They will, Scully. As your husband, I can make medical decisions for you if you aren’t capable of making them for yourself. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have to tell your mother and your brother about our arrangement. But this is a situation in which the consequence of revealing the fact that we are married is a better option than letting you die without at least trying. I’m sorry, Scully, but I have to try.”

 

“Mulder,” she admonishes, tears filling her eyes and running down her cheeks. “Please don’t do that. It would break my mother’s heart to learn that I kept that from her, and I’ll be too far gone to explain. Please don’t do that to her.”

 

He bites at his lower lip, trying to regain control of his emotions, swallowing down the crushing pain that is gripping his chest. 

 

“Please don’t make me do it,” he begs. 

 

The door opens and they turn to see Bill and Maggie, concerned expressions falling over their faces when they see how upset Scully is. 

 

“Dana, is something wrong?” Maggie asks, coming to the other side of the bed. 

 

“There’s a new treatment option I was just telling Dana about,” Mulder says, standing. “There’s something else we can try.”






He sits on his worn leather couch, holding a photo in one hand. It’s in a small frame now, after he noticed that the edges were becoming worn from over-handling. He looks at it often, a fact he’s never had cause to admit to her, because she’s never even asked to see it. She must know he has it, along with their marriage certificate, and yet she’s never inquired. When it arrived in the mail, he opened it without expectation, assuming it would look as awkward and unflattering as it felt at the time. The smile that stretched across his mouth when he saw it for the first time has continued to be his reaction each time he takes it out of his sock drawer, seeing the genuine smiles that plaster both their faces, her ring-clad hand resting on his chest. They look so happy, and he believes that they were. 

 

It’s a small consolation now, as he sits in waiting. Waiting for what, he doesn’t know. He named Blevins, he seems to be off the hook for his own crimes, both things that should bring him some sense of relief. But the only thing he really wants, really needs, is to know that Scully will be around to continue their quest alongside him. The more time that passes since she agreed to have the chip re-implanted, the more he is forced to come to terms with the fact that this photo of them may be all he has left of her. 

 

The house phone rings and he ignores it. Whatever and whoever it is, he’s done for the day. He has nothing left to give, not even to himself. His machine picks up, and he hears her voice over his own. 

 

“Pick up Mulder, it’s me,” she’s saying, and he scrambles to answer before the machine cuts her off. 

 

“Scully, I’m here. Are you okay?”

 

She chokes out a sob and his heart drops into his gut. This is it, the moment he will have to begin the slow march towards her death. He’s resolved not to be a coward about it; he will see her through every miserable moment until she takes her last breath. He closes his eyes. 

 

“It worked, Mulder,” she says around her tears. 

 

He stands abruptly, the framed photograph clattering to the floor. 

 

“What do you mean?” he asks, trying to push away the hope that is clambering to take up residence in his heart. “What worked?”

 

“I don’t know,” she keens, sniffing loudly. “The chip, the prayer, the treatment. Something worked. I just got the results of my most recent scan, and my cancer is in remission.”

 

He drops to his knees, a rush of adrenaline buzzing through each artery and vein, making him dizzy and sick with relief. 

 

“Oh my god. Oh my god. Are you sure?” he asks in disbelief. 

 

“Yes,” she squeaks out. 

 

“Scully, I-” he almost says it, almost tells her, because she is going to live. She is going to live, and she needs to know that he loves her. He can’t let her go on living and not know. But not over the phone, he needs to tell her in person. “I’m coming to the hospital, okay? I’ll be there in half an hour.”

 

“Okay, I’ll see you soon,” she says, and he can hear the smile in her voice. 

 

He hangs up and hurries out the door before he realizes he doesn’t have his keys, cell phone or wallet. He rushes back, then leaves and comes back again to get his coat. 

 

She is going to live. She is going to live. 

 

When he gets to the hospital, her mom and brother won’t leave her side, understandably. He never does get any time alone to tell her, and the moment passes. He’ll tell her another day, at a different time. Now that they have time to spare. 

 

Now that they have more time. 

 

Chapter Text

Her palm rests over Emily’s belly, rising and falling with her labored breaths. Emily’s sweat-damp hair is pressed against her forehead, evidence of the fever that has not abated since the day she was admitted. She wonders if this is how her mother felt when she was in the hospital with cancer, waiting for her daughter to die. Of all the experiences that may have come with motherhood, she did not anticipate that this would be one of the few she might actually have. Not first smile or first laugh, first steps or first words. Those belong to Roberta Sim, may she rest in peace. 

 

For Scully, there will be only lasts. Last bath, last diagnostic test, last good night, last breath. Had she prayed this into existence, all the nights she has begged God to make her a mother? His mysterious ways have never been more cruel. 

 

There may be hope for her to be a mother still. The ova Mulder recovered, sitting frozen and waiting for her appointment with the top reproductive endocrinologist in the DC area, Dr. Parenti. Is it possible that the first doctor was wrong, that they are, in fact, viable? She’s too afraid to hope right now, while she waits for Emily to die. 

 

Perhaps it’s her own audacity at believing she has a right to motherhood that has brought her to this moment. Fate may well continue to follow her on her journey, striking her down on each attempt to create life. Will she face miscarriage, still birth, infant death? If the tests should show that the ova are viable, will she dare even try? Put herself through more torment, more agony? And what about Mulder? Will she be able to summon the courage to ask him if he will supply the other half of the genetic material and, by doing so, drag him into her loss? Hasn’t she already done so now, asking him to come here? She could clearly see his immediate attachment to Emily. Her child. Maybe she could have been their child, if they’d played their secret card. 

 

Emily heaves a sputtering gasp, and Scully’s heart leaps into her throat. She sits up, looking at the monitors, which are beeping away steadily, her vitals unchanged. Pulling in a deep breath to settle her nerves, she lies back down, swiping some of the hair off Emily’s forehead and looking at her cherubic little cheeks, pink with fever. 

 

When she submitted her petition to adopt Emily, she didn’t bother trying to leverage her marital status; it never crossed her mind that she might need to. Emily is her biological child, it’s as simple as that. She hadn’t anticipated being told no, because how could they refuse her her own child? 

 

When Mulder arrived, she’d summoned the courage to ask him about re-petitioning to adopt as a married couple, but he was skeptical. He didn’t believe it would make a difference in the adoption and would serve only to expose them, though in retrospect perhaps he was still trying to protect her from the consequences he believes would befall her if she were to take legal custody of Emily. She felt angry in that moment; wasn’t that the entire reason they did it, to call upon such marital benefits in times of need? Or was this only meant to benefit him? It doesn’t matter now, because Emily is dying. Her final act as Emily’s mother was to sign off on a do not resuscitate order, so that she won’t continue to suffer. The most loving thing she can do for her child is to let her die. 

 

Four loud two-tone beeps sound from the monitors, and she holds her breath, waiting. The beeping stops, and she heaves a relieved sigh. She picks up Emily’s hand, studying her narrow fingernails. Missy had such dainty fingers, dancing like a web-weaving spider over her tarot cards or her crystals. If Emily had the chance to grow up, would she have been whimsical like Missy, or practical like Dana? Would she have been a great cook like Maggie? 

 

Scully wonders where the other half of Emily’s genetics come from. Is there a man out there, another abductee, who lost his ability to have children too? What would he think of this child created from the two of them? Would he have loved her, if only for a short time? She’s not sure which of them is luckier: her for knowing Emily at all, or him for not having to know what he’s losing. How strange to think that she has a child with this faceless man. The only man she can imagine sharing a child with she sent away so she could watch her daughter die alone. 

 

She wants to be less alone. How clear life suddenly becomes when you stand so close to losing it, close enough to feel its icy breath on the back of your neck. Stick a metal chip in that spot and you just might live to take another shot at it, to actually let people in this time, even at the risk of heartbreak. She’s trying to let Mulder in, to take down those last few walls she’s been hiding behind. Sometimes it works, and she finds herself dancing and laughing with him in the middle of a crowded bar. Other times, he leaves her stranded with wine and cheese for two, wondering what she’s doing wrong. 

 

She will keep being vulnerable, keep opening up when her instinct is telling her to close off, because she already knows that a life of absolute emotional safety is not worth leading. By protecting herself from hurt, she’s keeping herself from true joy, and she can see that now. She opened her heart to Emily and now she has the opportunity to be here, and to usher her out of this life, because she wasn’t able to be there to usher her into it. 

 

She thinks about what life will look like if she never has children, and a splintering pain flashes in her chest. Each of fifty more Christmases, fifty more birthdays, Easters and Thanksgivings, just Dana, no one else. It’s hard to imagine a partner, a husband. Of course she technically has both of those things, but not in the way she’d ever imagined. 

 

Nothing about her life is the way she’d ever imagined. 

 

She lifts Emily’s hand and places it gently on her own cheek, feeling her clammy palm stick to the skin. She whimpers and tries to calm a ragged breath that sputters from her lungs, her diaphragm fluttering with impending sobs. Her throat closes off, the tears rising to slip down her cheeks and into Emily’s already-wet hair, to dampen her tiny fingers. She lets go, hoping that Emily can feel her pain and her love as she chokes out wet, barking sobs, her nose running and her mouth slick. If these are Emily’s last moments on earth, let them be bathed in her grief, let there never be a doubt that she was wanted, that she was not a mistake. That even if her mother didn’t know she existed until now, she was loving her with the hope she held in her heart that she might ever have the chance to mother a child. That each ounce of love that has poured out in the form of tears since learning that not a single ova takes up residence in her body was destined for Emily, it belongs to her and no one can ever take that from either of them. 

 

The two-tone beeps start up again, and this time they don’t stop. She clings to Emily as the cacophony of monitors sounds off the drop in her blood pressure, the steep decline of her heart rate, the shut-down of her battered and broken body, created for the sole purpose of being destroyed. She cries for Emily, for Roberta, for herself, for every innocent person who was made to be a part of this when all they wanted to be was a child, a mother, a wife. The nurses rush into the room and she screams at them to get away, to leave Emily alone, to let her die in her mother’s arms, because that is all she has left to give her are two safe arms to die in. She wails, begs God for mercy though it is far too late for that. Far, far, too late. 

 

Everything is shrouded in cotton as she is administered a sedative, escorted to a room, delivered into two safe arms to live in. Mulder cradles her like a rag doll and kisses her cheeks a hundred times. He drives her to her brother’s where no one is home, because they are at the hospital welcoming Matthew, who was born today. 

 

Matthew is here, and Emily is dead, and she will have to get up tomorrow and keep on living, because there is so much life yet to live. She cannot squander it when Emily never even had a choice, never even had a chance. 




 

 

It hurts to look at her, but he makes himself look. He knew that it was not Emily in that coffin. He knew and yet he hoped Scully never would, that she might at the very least get to live with the comfort of a place to go and visit, of knowing Emily was given a proper, respectful burial. Now she stands gape-mouthed before a pile of sand, holding up the cross that she thought she had buried along with her daughter. Her shaking hands move to undo the clasp, to return it to her neck so she might hold onto this piece of Emily that he once considered a piece of her. He wore that cross on his own neck to feel closer to her once, and so he can understand why Scully wants this bit of Emily close to her heart now. 

 

He steps up behind her, taking the chain from her unsteady fingers and opening the clasp himself, looping it around her neck and fastening it into place. When he’s done, he wraps his arms around her shoulders and squeezes her, closing his eyes shut tight against his own emotions, because there is no room for those here. 

 

Each new bit of information regarding Scully’s odds of being a mother have driven a stake one strike further into his guilty heart. Finding her ova at that facility, telling her about them, finding Emily and learning what had been done with them. And now Emily is gone, and every single bit of this is because of him. No wonder Bill hates him; he'd hate any son of a bitch who brought all that on his sister. Except his sister is gone, and that’s why they’re caught up in this whole mess in the first place. He lost a sister. Scully has lost her sister, her health, and now her chance to be a mother. She deserved so much more than this. 

 

She turns within his arms, her eyes red-rimmed and forlorn. 

 

“Take me home, Mulder,” she says hoarsely, and he nods. 

 

They turn away from the casket that is not Emily, and he loops an arm around her shoulder, letting her lean into him heavily as they walk to the car. 

 

“You’re going to have to give me directions to get to Bill’s from here,” he says as he buckles his seatbelt, and she shakes her head gently, eyes on the dashboard. 

 

“I don’t want to go to Bill’s right now. Will you take me to your hotel?”

 

“Of course, whatever you need,” he answers, reaching over the console to take her hand. 

 

At the hotel, she uses the bathroom, removes her shoes and jacket, and then raids his mini bar, insisting he take the whiskey so she doesn’t have to drink alone. When she’s finished her drink, she lies down on the bed, giving him a pleading look. He climbs up beside her, face to face, and wraps her up in his arms, feeling the staccato shudder of her cries as she wets his T-shirt. He brushes his hands over her back, pets her hair, offers her whatever comfort he can muster knowing there is nothing he can do to make it better, not really. 

 

When the tears have subsided, when her sniffs are less frequent, she tips her face up to look at him. Her eyes are wet and the bluest he’s ever seen them, seemingly tinted by her sadness. She searches his face, her lips quivering, and then she pushes up and kisses him firmly. He’s so surprised he freezes, neither reciprocating nor discouraging it. She brings her hand to his cheek and kisses his frozen mouth again. 

 

“Please,” she breathes out against his lips, a desperate plea for something, anything else to feel but this. 

 

He kisses her back, her lips salty with the day’s tears and still contorted by her agony. He kisses her sweetly and then hungrily, forgetting for just a moment why they are kissing because it feels so good to kiss her again. When she grips his thickening cock through his slacks he startles, and remembers, and he puts his hand around her wrist and pulls it away. 

 

“Scully, you’re upset. I’m not going to take advantage of that. I can’t,” he pleads, hoping that she understands that it’s not that he doesn’t want her. He always wants her. 

 

She chokes out a sob, meeting his eye with such intense anguish it physically hurts to see. 

 

“Please. Please help me forget,” she begs, and he knows that to reject her now would be the worst way he could hurt her. 

 

He kisses her again, and doesn’t push her hand away when she touches him. He stifles his groans against his bicep, not wanting to make this about him but, god, has he missed her touch. It’s been just over a year since that weekend, and so many nights calling forth the memories with his dick in his hand. It feels too good, and he can’t let this be for him, it needs to be for her. 

 

He rolls onto his knees, hovering over her and kissing her cheeks and neck while pushing her sweater up her rib cage. She sits up long enough for him to remove it, then flicks open the front clasp on her bra. He dips his head to pull a nipple between his lips and she cries out, scraping her fingernails over his scalp as he flicks at her with his tongue. While his mouth works, his fingers wiggle the hem of her skirt further down her hips until he can strip it off, pausing briefly before also tugging her panties off and tossing them away. She drops her legs open and he is so certain that she wants this, he doesn’t stop to ask. Resting on his belly with his hands hooked around the tops of her thighs, he drags his tongue over her lips from bottom to top, tasting her slickness. Forgetting himself, he lets out a low moan, and she bucks into him. Encouraged, he doesn’t suppress his sounds of delight as he laps at her, insanely aroused by her clean muskiness and the pulse of her against his tongue when he hits just the right spot. He slips his middle finger inside, palm up, and drags it over her front wall, reading her reaction so he can find her G-spot. It doesn’t take long once he has all the right elements in place, his tongue flicking furiously up and down as she grips his finger like a vice and then comes so hard and so long he’s afraid she’s stopped breathing. 

 

Just as it’s subsiding, when he’s expecting that they are done, she reaches down to grasp his collar, pulling him back up to kiss her again. Her fingers dance urgently over his belt buckle, freeing his cock from his boxers before he has an opportunity to verify what’s happening. She strokes him firmly and he’s hard again in an instant, heeding her nonverbal cues to disrobe as she tugs at his shirt and pushes his pants further down his legs with her toes. Once fully nude, she wastes no time at all guiding him to her entrance and he has just barely enough self control to speak before thrusting into her. 

 

“Are you sure you want this?” he asks, his erection begging him not to be denied, pulsing with want for her. 

 

“Yes, please. God, I need you,” she begs and he feels a kick of guilt for all the times he’s fantasized about her begging him. They were never like this. This isn’t what he wanted. 

 

He does as she asks, entering slowly on the first stroke so she can adjust, and then doing exactly what he recalls she likes; slow, hard strokes, one leg tucked at his side. He dips his head to capture her nipple as he tries to think about baseball, about the weather report, airline food. As he tries to make her feel good for as long as he can, to let her take what she needs from him. 

 

“Look at me,” she says, and he lifts his head to see her face, which is so beautiful and so sad. He knows his own expression is probably not much better, as good as he feels. “Talk to me,” she asks, and he understands that it’s not just the physical release she is asking for, she doesn’t want to be alone, to feel alone. 

 

“You’re so beautiful,” he murmurs, peppering kisses all over her face, and she whimpers. “You feel so good,” he whispers against her neck, flicking her earlobe with his tongue, and she pulses once around him. “God, I love you,” he breathes into her ear, the truest thing he could possibly say. 

 

She cries out, digging her fingernails into his shoulder as she comes again, eyes open and looking right into his, and he follows her soon after. 

 

And she is not alone, she will never be alone. Not as long as he is alive will she ever be alone again. 

 

Chapter Text

They simply didn’t discuss it, and it turned out to be just as easy to pretend it hadn’t happened the second time as it was the first. They’d flown home from San Diego, Modell had escaped, and life went on. It was a moment of weakness, a temporary lapse in judgement; she was grief stricken and he would have done anything to bring her some solace. Because he loves her, as he said himself. Because each other is all they have. 

 

She considers this as she sits in her car under the cover of darkness, watching him. She’s as sure that it was Mulder on that tape with Haley as she is sure that he would never betray her like this. Well, as sure as she was . Now she doesn’t know what to believe. She tries to reconcile the version of Mulder who would put his life at risk by repeatedly exposing himself to Modell in order to get him off the streets with a version of Mulder who would knowingly participate in the use of biotoxins on innocent people. It just doesn’t make sense. And yet she has seen it with her own eyes, heard it with her own ears as he avoided her questions, lying by omission. To consider that she is married to that kind of person makes her sick, makes her wonder how well she knows herself if she thought she knew him that well the day she signed the papers. She trusted him enough to share this secret with him, but it turns out he has secrets of his own. 

 

Who will she be if she cannot trust Mulder? Who else could she possibly trust now, after all she’s seen, all she’s done?

 

She takes a sip of her tepid coffee, making a face at its burnt sugar taste. She rolls her neck from side to side and it emits soft pops until she holds it just where she needs the stretch. She’s tired, and emotionally drained, but she has to know. She has to know as soon as possible whether life as she knows it is coming to a screeching halt. 

 

Across the parking lot, a young couple leans against the hood of a cherry red Mustang, kissing slowly around broad smiles, so blissfully happy they can’t decide between smiling or kissing, so they do both. She is reminded of the Mustang she rented for her trip to Maine, and how Mulder read her statistics about the dangers of convertibles and talking on her cell phone while driving. She can’t help but smile a little at how incessantly he called her, fulfilling his own proclamation that they didn’t need time apart, and that, if anything, they should spend more time together outside of work. 

 

Her smile fades as she remembers why she’s here, the sting of betrayal thickening her throat and pricking at her eyes. How many moments like the one playing out on the cherry red Mustang has she missed for the sake of Mulder’s quest? Would she be married, for real, with children of her own, if she had never met him? Instead she sits in the dark, alone, barren, with nearly nothing to show for it. And that is something she can accept as worth it if Mulder is in her life, and by her side. Even if it’s only ever as her partner, her friend, and never anything more. He has always been worth it to her. 

 

Mulder exits the hotel room, and she ducks down, watching him walk up to a dark sedan that has just entered the parking lot. 

 

She needs to know. Because all they have is each other, and she doesn’t know how to continue on without half her heart. 





 



He is sitting in the middle of the couch, Scully perched on the coffee table before him, holding an ice pack against his swollen pinky finger. 

 

“They still need something from me, and I’m sensing there’s someone Haley trusts even less: the man giving him his orders. Someone I haven’t met yet. A guy named August Bremer.”

 

“And they broke your finger?” Scully asks, clarifying what she’s already inferred. 

 

“Yeah, that and held a can of the biotoxin within an inch of my face,” he says dryly, wincing as the ice pack shifts. 

 

Scully’s head snaps up, absorbing this information. “What?” she asks incredulously. “The same biotoxin used in the theater?”

 

“I assume so, or at least they wanted me to think that’s what it was,” he answers.

 

She stares at him while he studies the damage to his hand, moving his fingers experimentally. She’s seen what that biotoxin can do; how is he so nonchalant about this?

 

“Mulder, you can’t continue doing this,” she says, surprised to hear her voice come out thin and weak. 

 

He lifts his head to look at her with a confused pout. 

 

“What do you mean?”

 

She blinks against the tears rising under her eyes. She was planning on taking a stern approach, but her body is betraying her. 

 

“You have to get out of this before something even worse happens to you,” she warns, setting her jaw against a quivering lip. 

 

“I can’t just back out now, Scully. It’s not that simple. We’re never going to stop these people if I give up my spot on the inside,” he implores with a bit of irritation, because what she’s suggesting is ridiculous. And she knows it is, but she can’t stop herself. 

 

“Mulder,” she begins, but her voice catches and she stops, swallowing thickly. She drops her head, turning her damp eyes to the floor as she tries to collect herself. 

 

“Hey,” he says softly, scooting forward and tossing the ice pack on the coffee table before resting his palms on her shoulders. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

 

His touch wears away the last of her resolve and she folds against him, threading her arms around his rib cage and pressing her face into his neck. 

 

“These men won’t hesitate to kill you, Mulder,” she whimpers against his skin.

 

“I know, Scully, but that’s part of the job description,” he consoles her, rubbing his hands over her back, careful not to bump his broken finger. 

 

She squeezes him tighter, pressing her lips against his sternocleidomastoid muscle. She moves up to place a kiss on the curve of his jaw, and then another just under it, where his pulse flutters rapidly. Pulling away, she looks at his face; his lips are slightly parted, and he’s breathing heavily. They hold eye contact for a beat, and then she leans forward and kisses him on the mouth, her hands moving to the back of his neck. He reciprocates immediately, pushing his tongue into her mouth and reaching forward to grip the bottoms of her thighs. He pulls her into his lap, grunting a little as his broken finger protests. Once she has settled into him, the seam of her slacks pressed firmly against his growing erection, his broken finger is the furthest thing from his mind. 

 

She kisses him desperately, practically devouring his mouth as his hands pull at her blazer until it is free of her arms, and then go to work untucking her shirt from her pants. He slips his hands under it and spreads his palms over her ribcage as her fingers go to his belt buckle and he lets out a little hum, reaching behind her to unhook her bra. Before her shirt and bra have had a chance to make their way to the floor, his mouth is wrapped around her nipple and she is panting noisily as she pops his fly and shoves her hand under his boxers. He is as hard and warm as hot steel and she feels a rush between her legs. She whimpers as he moves to the other breast and flicks at the hardened bud. 

 

“Off, take these off,” she commands breathily, tugging at the waist of his pants, and he stands abruptly, sending her tumbling back onto the coffee table. 

 

Not giving him time to do the job himself, she grabs the fabric and drags it down his thighs, grasping at his cock like it’s a prize she’s calling dibs on. It would be so easy to slip him into her mouth right now as she sits before him like this; he’s inches away. But that’s not what she wants. It’s been five months since San Diego and despite her best attempts to quash it, she can’t deny the way her body craves him. 

 

He loops his hands under her arms, grunting as he again forgets his injury. He pulls her to her feet and stoops to kiss her as he undoes the button on her pants. His hands slip greedily under the fabric, cupping her ass cheeks and pulling her towards him. She steps on the hems of her slacks alternately, bending her knees until they fall down her legs, and then kicks off her shoes. He lifts her by the backs of her thighs and turns, laying her down roughly on the couch and moving to hover over her, pushing her legs apart with his knee as he drags his lips over her neck. He shifts his hips, letting out an exasperated groan as he realizes she still has her panties on, then grasps them at her hips and pulls so forcefully she can hear the fabric tear. Returning to his station, he drags the head of his cock back and forth over her slick lips a few times and then pauses, poised at her entrance. 

 

“You want this?” he asks, but his tone is cocky and lustful; he’s not asking for consent, he’s asking her to beg for it. 

 

“Yes,” she answers, shifting her hips up slightly, and he moves his away. 

 

“Tell me,” he directs her, teasing just the tip over her aching clit. 

 

“What? Come on, Mulder,” she whines, moving her hand to his ass cheek and attempting to pull him towards her. 

 

“Tell me why you came here and waited in the dark for me,” he says in a low tone, rocking against her but never entering. 

 

“I was worried about you,” she whispers. She brings a hand to her breast, both for her own pleasure and also to try and tease him into acquiescing. She sees his eyes dart down to take in the show, but he doesn’t give in. 

 

He dips his head and brings his lips to her ear, his breath hot as he brushes his tongue along the perimeter of her earlobe. She clenches her muscles as much as she can with her legs spread so wide, trying to find some semblance of relief. She wants him inside her desperately. 

 

“Did you come here for this?” he murmurs against her ear, and she suddenly wonders if she did. 

 

“No,” she replies, unsure whether it’s a lie. “I don’t know,” she adds, deciding to go with honesty.

 

“I think you do know. Tell me what you want.”

 

He’s thrusting softly against her, slipping just past her opening over and over and she wants to scream. 

 

“I want you,” she tries, fairly certain that isn’t what he’s asking for. 

 

“What do you want from me, Scully?” he growls, the scrape of his stubble against her neck the most delicious kind of pain. 

 

“Fuck, I want you to fuck me,” she begs. “Please.”

 

He pushes into her sharply, one hard stroke slamming the head of his cock against her cervix, and she cries out in relief. 

 

“Oh god, yes,” she moans, touching his hips to encourage him. 

 

He withdraws slowly and then thrusts forcefully back in, and her back arches off the couch. He quickens his pace, his labored breaths hot on her neck as he hammers a rhythm into her. 

 

“You like that?” he asks breathlessly. “Is this what you wanted?”

 

Her voice is a breathy staccato that reflects the tempo of his pounding. “Oh yes, oh god, oh, oh, baby, yes, this, is what, I wanted,” she whimpers. The way he’s talking to her is bringing her to the edge so quickly it’s like pouring gasoline on an open flame.

 

“Are you gonna come?” he asks, his voice pitching just a bit higher and she knows he’s close. “I wanna feel you come.”

 

She stills, savoring his words and his touch, the exact angle he’s driving into her, and then she’s there. Her voice breaks as she tells him that she’s coming, not because he can’t tell but because she knows he wants to hear her say it. He growls, his long, sharp thrusts devolving into a series of rapid fire pumps as he finds his own release. His thrusting slows and then finally stops, and they lie still with his head on her breast, panting and allowing their racing hearts to return to normal. 

 

After a time, Mulder props his chin on her sternum and looks up at her. 

 

“Did you call me baby?” he asks with a teasing tone, and she can tell he knows damn well what she said. 

 

“We need to set that finger,” she says in reply, giving his ass a couple get up taps. “Where’s your first aid kit?”





 



He walks slowly, painfully aware of the pistol aimed at his back, and the very small amount of time he likely has left on this planet. While he outwardly maintains the appearance of calm resignation, his mind races in search of a way out. Two men, both armed, versus one unarmed Mulder with a broken finger. His odds of escaping are south of zero, and panic starts to swell in his chest. 

 

He thinks of Scully, how angry she will be with him for not backing out when she asked him to. Perhaps, though, she won’t want to waste time being angry at a dead man. At least he kissed her one last time, gave her a good last memory of him, he hopes. His heart aches at the idea that in addition to all she’s already lost, she will ultimately lose him as well, making the entire effort summarily worthless, her years spent by his side wasted. Only a piece of shit like him could take a young woman with so much hope and promise and turn her into an abductee, a cancer survivor, a widow. He wishes they’d never met. 

 

But then he’d never have known the brilliant flash of her smile and the way her nose scrunches up when she’s embarrassed. The sound of her heels down the basement hallway and her requisite “Mulder, it’s me,” would never have taken up permanent residence in his ears. He would never have discovered that she giggles in her sleep and gets hiccups when she’s overtired. How could he possibly wish away all of that?

 

“Stop there. Down on your knees, hands behind your back.”

 

He gives Bremer a questioning look, begging one last time with his eyes that his life might be spared. Bremer won’t meet his eye and almost seems reticent, like he’s hiding something, but he grants no mercy. Mulder drops to his knees, the dirt floor of what was once likely a greenhouse giving way, and he has the fleeting thought that he’s grateful that he doesn’t have to spend his final moments kneeling on concrete or broken glass. Clasping his hands behind his back, he feels the splint Scully applied to his finger and wonders if she will ask to see him when he’s dead. If she will wonder if she could have saved him, had she been here to try. 

 

The hammer of the pistol gives a sharp click and his heart pounds so loudly in his ears it may drown out the sound of the bullet. He stares vacantly, summoning an image to his mind that seems worth being his final one; Scully across from him in the cramped booth of a shitty diner, biting her lip to keep from laughing as he tells her the worst jokes he knows. She’d had a terrible day and all he wanted was to make her happy. That’s all he’s ever wanted, since the day she showed up in that ICU bed, returned to him against all odds. 

 

Bang

 

He flinches, waiting for the pain, or the darkness, or numbness, or whatever lies in store. His ears ring and something drops to the ground in his periphery. The pain never comes, and the ringing subsides. And then Bremer is at his side, telling him to run away. Setting him free. 

 

He takes off over the hill, his lungs burning, his shoes filling with dirt as soft earth kicks up around him. He doesn’t know why Bremer didn’t kill him, but he’s not about to wait around to find out. 

 

Chapter Text

Seeing Diana again is oddly nostalgic; odd because nostalgia isn’t generally something he experiences. His past is, on the whole, so painful that most memories serve only to salt the wound, even the good ones. 

 

The happy memories of his childhood before Samantha was taken are tainted by knowing how much things would change after she was gone. His time at Oxford, the nights spent at the pub with friends who didn’t know anything about his sister or his family’s money, are overshadowed by Phoebe’s sadistic mind games and her ultimate rejection of him. Even his discovery of the X files, the pivotal moment that shaped his career, has felt tainted by Diana’s fair-weather affection for him and her sudden departure to Berlin, announced so casually he wondered if he’d imagined their entire intimate relationship. 

 

But when he lays eyes on her in the briefing room, he’s surprised to find that it doesn’t hurt anymore. It doesn’t matter how things ended between them because he came through it just fine, and her leaving led to Scully becoming his partner. Rather than an ending, which is how it felt at the time, it turned out to be a beginning of something new, something wonderful. He wouldn’t be where he is now, he wouldn’t have Scully and the X files, if not for Diana. He feels so much gratitude towards her for giving him what he didn’t know he needed, and he can’t wait for her to meet Scully. 




 

 

She feels tension between them from the moment Mulder introduces her, like they share a secret they each vowed not to let her in on. Mulder is excitable, jumpy even, the way he might act introducing her to someone who is established in his field of interest, but she’s never heard of this woman. She has no idea what her area of expertise is or how Mulder knows her. 

 

The way he looks at Diana is entirely too familiar, entirely too much like the way he looks at her, and it gives her an uneasy feeling that she can’t quite name. In the car, she catches the surreptitious glances they give each other in the rear view mirror. 

 

The revelation that they have a history and worked together before her time on the X files somehow makes her feel stupid, like she’s just now realizing she’s only in act two of a play and overestimated her significance in the story. A naturally trusting person, she immediately finds Diana suspicious and untrustworthy, but it’s hard to know for sure if her feelings come from her read on Diana as a person, or her uneasiness over the established relationship she seems to have with Mulder. 

 

She can’t stop thinking about the nature of Mulder and Diana’s relationship. They’d investigated cases together, X files even; why has Mulder never mentioned her? She wants to ask him, but it feels petty and possessive. Regardless of the complicated nature of their relationship, he is her coworker, her partner, and her friend. She has no claim to him, and most certainly has no right to feelings about his past. To ask him, to risk that he might see the insecurity in her eyes, that he might know how much it bothers her, is too mortifying to go through with. If she were really his wife, she’d be justified in feeling this way. If he were really her husband, he’d be obligated to tell her what role this woman played in his life. But all they have is a piece of paper and an unsettling propensity to fall into bed together when emotions run high, and that is not enough to qualify her for jealousy.  

 

She wasn’t planning to ask the Gunmen. She had every intention of ignoring it and soldiering on like she always does, but when she’s standing there with Gibson’s brain scans lit up before them, something comes over her and she asks. The looks on their faces at her reaction, which she tries desperately to conceal, adds embarrassment to the wrenching betrayal that twists in her gut. Prior to this moment, she would have confidently said that she knew about all of Mulder’s past relationships, at least the serious ones. Thousands of hours spent driving, flying, and passing time in motel rooms gave them plenty of opportunity to share these stories, and after what happened with Eddie Van Blundht he’s taken a particular interest in getting to know who she was before he met her. 

 

On the drive back to the psychiatric facility, she steels herself against her own irrational emotions; it is not incumbent upon Mulder to share with her each past romantic partner he’s had. The fact that she feels threatened by Diana is juvenile and unproductive, and she vows to get over it, or past it, or whatever it is that she needs to do as long as this woman is around. She will not be the type of person who sees other women as competitors for the affection of men; that goes against her entire belief structure as a feminist and someone who wants to be taken seriously at work. 

 

Stepping out of her car in the hospital garage, she pulls in a deep breath and closes her eyes. She stands up straighter, shoulders back and chest out as her mother instructed. She will be the image of a poised, professional agent regardless of what emotions are burbling under the surface. Grabbing the file, she marches into the building. 

 

 




Diana takes his hand.

 

“Hey, I’m on your side,” she says softly, and he smiles at her because he sees exactly what she’s doing. 

 

He won’t lie; it feels good. After all she put him through, it gives him some satisfaction for her to come back here and try to re-assert her presence in his life, to care enough to try and stake her claim. He saw the way she eyed Scully up when he introduced them, and he can’t blame her. Diana is beautiful, but Scully is something else entirely. Though perhaps misplaced, he feels a sense of pride being able to show Diana that not only is he doing just fine, but he’s spending all his time with someone who is both gorgeous and extremely intelligent and capable. Diana was never one to feel threatened by other women, but he can tell that she feels threatened by Scully, and she doesn’t even know that their relationship isn’t strictly professional. There was a time in his life when he would have done anything to please Diana, to earn her affection, but he doesn’t feel that way anymore. He hopes they can be friends, but he doesn’t need her approval. 

 

“I know you are, but so is Scully,” he says tenderly, not aiming to hurt her feelings. He just wants to shut down this attempt to cast herself as his rightful partner, to paint Scully as a naysayer and an adversary. 

 

“Are you so sure about that?” Diana challenges, a smile still on her mouth but that cutting look in her eye he knows all too well. 

 

“I am, actually,” he says lightly, because he has nothing to prove. Even if Diana doesn’t like Scully, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t need her to. 

 

“Well, I hope you’re right, Fox. But I also hope that she won’t stand in the way of us working together, now that I’m back. There’s a lot we could accomplish.”

 

“I agree. I’m excited to have you back stateside,” he says, not missing the little glimmer of hope that crosses her face. “We obviously didn’t work very well as a couple, but we made a kickass team of investigators,” he adds, making his intentions, or lack thereof, clear. 

 

She drops his hand, bristling just a little, and he’s glad he said it. She opens her mouth to speak again, but his cell phone rings and cuts her off. She steps out into the hallway as he talks to Scully. 

 

“Hey, I need to go meet Scully at the Hoover Building,” he says as he joins her a few minutes later, tucking his cell back into his pocket. 

 

“Can I bum a ride?” Diana asks, “I need to go buy a car this weekend; I’ve been taking taxis everywhere and it’s not cheap.”

 

“Yeah, of course, let’s go.”




 

 

She sits for a long time in the bureau parking lot, gathering herself before she can go inside. She feels sick and nauseated, her mouth dry and her eyes watering. She has not fully shed a tear through sheer will alone, but they have gathered and she has blinked them away repeatedly. 

 

You’re my one in five billion he’d said to her so recently. He must have gotten it wrong. He must have meant two-hundred-seventy-six million, because she was only so special to him when Diana wasn’t in the continental United States. She was a stand-in, a placeholder for the person he really wanted, both as his partner and as his ...whatever it is they have. 

 

She wonders what he and Diana had, and if they still have it. Does Diana challenge all his theories like she does, or is she open and accepting? Does she laugh more readily at his cheesy jokes? Does he touch her lower back when they walk side by side?

 

She closes her eyes and breathes deeply through the tightness in her throat. She tries to shut it off, all the feelings, all the pain twisting in her gut. She can do this, she’s done it before. She’ll stuff it down into a deep corner of her mind where she keeps things she’s chosen not to think about; Pfaster, Duane Barry, Daniel, and now her feelings for Mulder. She never thought any part of him would belong in the dark place where those memories live, but she has to find a way forward. Why does this bother her so much? 

 

She knows why. Denial is one of her specialties, but it only gets you so far. She wouldn’t be this upset if they were only coworkers, only partners, only friends. She’s been able to put the thought out of her mind over and over, but she wouldn’t be so devastated if she weren’t in love with him, if she didn’t want more than a sham marriage and an occasional fuck. It’s inconvenient, and inappropriate, but it’s also undeniable by the way her chest is aching right now. Because she loves him, and he is directing his affection elsewhere, and it hurts so indescribably badly. 

 

Mulder’s car enters the lot and he parks just across the aisle from her. She waits, watching him unfurl himself from the driver’s seat. Her chin puckers as she takes in his long legs, his trim waist, the stoic set of his jaw. He looks every bit the part of an FBI agent; serious, focused, intimidating. But she knows him, truly knows his heart and the soft, vulnerable man underneath that exterior. At least she thought she did. She wonders if she will ever again feel his arms wrapped around her, press her cheek into his chest and breathe in his smell. 

 

He pauses by the trunk and seems to be waiting; did he see her? Is he waiting for her? Someone emerges from the passenger side and her stomach drops when she sees Diana join him, and they walk together into the building. She pulls in several shuddering breaths, trying so hard to quell the onslaught of tears that needs to wait until she can be alone in the privacy of her apartment. They disappear through the door and her only solace comes from the fact that his hand is nowhere near the small of her back. 




 

 

“I’ll catch up with you later,” he says as Diana steps out of the elevator on the third floor, continuing his own descent into the basement. 

 

When he enters the office, he finds it dark and wonders where Scully is. He flips on the lights, removes his coat, and sits down to check his email while he waits for her. She enters a few minutes later looking very buttoned up and stiff. 

 

“Hey, where were you?” he asks curiously.

 

She avoids his eye, removing her overcoat and then stalking across the room to set a file in front of him on the desktop. 

 

“Sorry, traffic. These are Gibson’s neurological tests, brain maps from an EEG,” she explains as he opens the file and leafs through its contents.

 

“Okay…” He flips through the papers but they mean nothing to him. He looks up and catches her with a bit of a pout on her mouth, which she quickly conceals with a tongue across her lip. “What am I looking at?”

 

“This area here,” she says as she leans over the desk to point at a bright spot on the brain map, “is within the temporal lobe. It’s an area that’s often called the ‘god module’. This part of the brain typically has little to no activity, and yet in Gibson it’s lighting up like a Christmas tree.”

 

His interest is piqued. “Have you seen this before?” 

 

“No,” she says in a measured tone. “I’ve neither seen nor read of anything like this before.” She lifts her eyes to meet his, and she almost seems to flinch. “To say it’s anomalous would be an understatement.”

 

He sits back in his chair, considering her. “This is big, right? This is a big deal?” He thinks he’s tracking what she’s saying, but her demeanor is confusingly stoic. 

 

“Yes,” she says with a sigh, “it’s a big deal. It could completely change our scientific understanding of brain activity, and of the capabilities of the human mind.”

 

He narrows his eyes at her. “But…?”

 

“But what?” she asks flatly. 

 

“I just...you're acting like it’s not a big deal. Are you okay?” he questions.

 

“I’m fine,” she answers mechanically. 

 

“Okay, we should call Diana down so she can take a look, you can explain it to her,” he says, picking up the phone on his desk. 

 

“Excuse me,” Scully says tightly, turning on her heel and striding out of the room, presumably to the bathroom. 

 

He watches after her, pausing for a moment before he returns the phone to its cradle, undialed. Something is definitely going on with her, he just has no idea what.




 

 

She plants her palms on the countertop in the bathroom, leaning heavy on her arms and pulling in several deep breaths. In through her nose, out through her mouth. In, out. In, out. She lifts her eyes to see her own reflection, frowning at the insecure, weak woman before her. 

 

Get it together she demands of herself. Ahab didn’t raise you to be so easily thrown out of sorts by a man .

 

She stands, running her hands over the front of her jacket, lifting her chin high. She is Ahab’s daughter, and she will go in that room, share her medical knowledge with her partner and the woman he’s about to choose over her, and get the job done. She will not have her dignity stripped away by some kind of love triangle. She makes eye contact with herself, nods resolutely, and strides out. 

 

When she arrives back in the office, she’s relieved to find that Diana isn’t there yet. Mulder is leaning back in his chair, one ankle resting on his knee, his elbows propped on the armrests and his fingers steepled under his chin. He levels his gaze on her, studying her with great interest. She tries to ignore him, standing awkwardly by the corner of his desk to wait. 

 

“What’s wrong?” he asks, and his tone tells her that he’s not going to let it drop easily. 

 

“Nothing,” she answers in a forced falsetto, working very hard to feign a casual demeanor. 

 

“Stop bullshitting me, Scully. What happened?” He’s sounding a bit irritated already. 

 

She feels her shoulders slump a little, her confident posture crumbling. “Can we please discuss this after Diana leaves?” she pleads, not needing to have her newly-minted nemesis waltz into the room during a private moment. 

 

“She’s not coming. I didn’t call her. So tell me what’s wrong,” he says levelly. 

 

She turns and sits gingerly in one of the two chairs facing the desk, shifting uncomfortably and deciding how to begin. She opens her mouth to speak but then shakes her head, looking at her lap in defeat. Mulder stands and walks around the desk, turning the other chair to face hers and sitting down before he grabs the legs of her chair and forcefully turns it so that she is facing him. He leans toward her with his elbows on his knees, searching her face. 

 

“Something happened,” he offers, giving her a place to start. 

 

She shakes her head again. This feels impossible. “I...it’s...it’s difficult for me to say, Mulder. My feelings are irrational, and I’m not sure I even have a right to feel them, much less express them,” she says softly, training her eyes on his darkly patterned tie, one of the less objectionable in his collection. 

 

“Scully, I assure you that whatever it is, you have every right,” he says softly. She shakes her head again, and he rests his palm on her knee, causing her to jump at the contact. “Talk to me,” he encourages her. 

 

“I, um...I was actually at the psych hospital when I called you earlier. In the parking garage,” she begins, and he quirks his head at her. 

 

“Why didn’t you come inside?” he asks. 

 

“I did. I came inside, but I saw you and Diana talking, and...it didn’t look like something I should interrupt,” she’s choosing her words carefully, keeping her tone measured. 

 

“What do you mean?” he questions, and he really does look confused. He doesn’t appear to be hiding anything. 

 

“You and Diana were more than just partners, weren’t you? More than colleagues?” she asks, lifting her chin just slightly to look at his face. 

 

A small flash of surprise flickers over his features, but only momentarily.

 

“We were, yes, for a time. A long time ago. How did you...who told you that?”

 

She dodges the question, dropping her eyes from his face to study the wrinkled skin of his knuckles where his hand is still perched on her knee. 

 

“I saw you holding hands, seemingly having somewhat of an intimate moment, so I left,” she finishes, her voice barely above a whisper. 

 

“You left because it upset you?” he clarifies. 

 

She looks away with a derisive little laugh at her own expense. 

 

“I realize it’s ridiculous; what you do in your free time is none of my concern. But logical or not, it did bother me, yes. It’s just something I’ll have to get used to.” 

 

“There’s nothing to get used to, Scully. Diana and I are ancient history. Whatever you saw, or thought you saw, it’s not reciprocated. I have no interest in rekindling anything with her.”

 

She bites her lip hard, but the tears don’t listen. They slip quietly down her cheeks and she tries to hide them behind the veil of her hair. 

 

“I don’t trust her, Mulder,” she says quietly. 

 

“You don’t trust her, or you feel threatened by her?” he asks, and there is just a hint of irritation in the question. 

 

“I don’t trust her, and...it was surprisingly difficult for me to see you with someone.”

 

“You mean with someone else,” he corrects. 

 

She swipes her hands quickly across her cheeks to clear away the tear tracks. 

 

“This is embarrassing, just...never mind. It’s not a big deal,” she says curtly, sitting up a bit taller. 

 

“It obviously is,” he says softly. “Maybe it’s my inner cave-man talking here, but knowing that you’re jealous is kind of a turn-on,” he says, with a slightly more playful tone. 

 

She smirks and shakes her head. “It’s not just that, Mulder. I’m not entirely sure that her loyalties lie where you think they do.”

 

“She’s never given me any reason not to trust her, Scully,” he answers, slipping from his chair and onto his knees on the floor in front of her. “It’s understandable that you wouldn't be inclined to like her right away, given our history, but I think if you can move past that you’ll find that she’s a solid agent.”

 

Both his hands rest on her knees now, sliding up the tops of her thighs. He scoots forward, pushing into the space between her legs. 

 

“I think you should be careful, Mulder. Don’t let your guard down,” she says breathily as he brings his hands to the buttons of her suit jacket, popping each one open slowly. 

 

He lifts his eyes to meet hers. “Except with you?”

 

They hold eye contact for a beat and he pushes her jacket off her shoulders. Pulling her arms free, she threads them around his neck and he brings his hands to her hips, pulling her forward forcefully so that the front of their bodies are flush. 

 

The phone rings and she jumps, leaning away from him. He sighs and moves over to pick up the receiver, setting it back down immediately to end the call. She stands, picking her jacket up off the chair and moving towards the coat rack by the door. 

 

“That’s probably Diana,” she says, summoning as much professionalism as she can manage as she reaches up to hang it. 

 

Suddenly Mulder is behind her, gripping her hips and pressing the length of his body against her back. 

 

“I don’t care,” he growls. “She can wait.”

 

His hands move to the waist of her pants, unbuttoning them. 

 

“Mulder, what are you doing?” she asks in a warning tone, but she doesn’t try to stop him. 

 

“I’m showing you,” he says as his fingers slip under her panties, down to where she knows he will find her slick and ready. 

 

“Showing me?” she asks, her voice catching as he pushes his middle finger inside. 

 

With his other hand he brushes the hair off her neck, bending to press his lips to the spot that she likes just behind her ear. 

 

“Showing you that you’re the only one I want,” he whispers against her ear, and she knows he can feel the resulting clench around his finger. 

 

Removing his hand, he turns her to face him, stepping forward and walking her back until her shoulder blades make contact with the wall next to the door. He kisses her, and then slowly drops to his knees at her feet, looking up with lustful adoration. He tugs at the waist of her pants, slipping them over her hips until they pool at the floor around her feet. She lifts one leg at a time and he plucks off her heels, leaving her in only her panties from the waist down. Her heart is hammering in her chest and she knows they should stop, but she can’t bring herself to say so. He presses his face into the skin of her belly, darting his tongue into her navel, and she sucks in air audibly. Trailing kisses down her stomach, he drags his lips over the lace covering her vulva, the wet warmth electrifying even through the fabric. She touches his head, gently running her fingers through his hair. 

 

He stands suddenly, hooking his hands around the backs of her thighs and lifting her up, to which she gives a surprised squeal. He presses her back into the wall and wraps her legs around his waist while her arms loop around his neck. He kisses her deeply, biting at her lips and humming in satisfaction, meanwhile his hands are somewhere beneath her. She can hear the jangle of his belt buckle and the slip of his zipper and feels a sudden surge of arousal; he’s going to fuck her right here in the office. 

 

“The door,” she breathes out, and he reaches over to push the lock into place before hooking his finger around the crotch of her panties and pulling it to the side. 

 

She waits, anticipation pricking at her skin like a live wire until she feels the hot press of his cock against her entrance. Once they are properly aligned, he brings his hands to her ass cheeks and pushes in with one long stroke that makes her cry out, a single sharp sound. He places his lips close to her ear, flicking at the lobe. 

 

“Shhhh, you have to be quiet,” he admonishes her, but she can hear how turned on he is just by his voice. 

 

He starts to move in long, delicious strokes, kissing her feverishly and digging his fingers into her flesh. Between the situation and the venue, and the sheer animal nature of fucking against a wall half-clothed, she feels feral and wanton, consumed by lust and need. 

 

Three soft raps sound at the door beside them and he stills. She puts her hands on his shoulders and pushes a little, signaling that he should put her down. 

 

“Fox?” Diana calls from the other side, and Scully looks at him with wild eyes. 

 

He starts stroking again, harder but still slow, holding eye contact as she bites her lip to keep from moaning. He brings his mouth back to her ear. 

 

“You are the only one I want, Scully. You understand?” he whispers, his voice stilted by his sudden, deep thrusts as he drives into her. 

 

There is another series of knocks. “Fox, are you in there?”

 

He quickens his pace, the soft slap of their skin potentially audible from the other side of the door. The idea simultaneously horrifies her and arouses her beyond belief, and she can feel the tingle of an orgasm building with each slip of his cock back inside. 

 

Diana tries the door, jiggling the handle as Mulder lifts one hand, shoving Scully’s shirt and bra up until one of her breasts breaks free. He moves his head down to pull the nipple into his mouth, sucking hard, and she feels the building, the approaching, reaching the point of no return. 

 

“Fox, I know you’re in there, I can hear you moving,” Diana says with an irritated tone, one that she’s sure has worked on him in the past, when Diana was the one calling the shots. 

 

But right now, it’s Scully that he’s buried inside of, her breast between his lips, her pussy exploding around him and making him come with a soft grunt, turning his legs to jello such that he wraps his arms around her waist, turning to lay her gently on the floor so he can continue to pump into her until he’s no longer hard enough to keep going. 

 

From the other side of the door, Diana scoffs and they hear the soft click of her heels as she retreats back down the hall. 

  

Mulder props up on his elbow, still cradled between her thighs, and smiles at her. 

 

“Do you believe me now?” he asks cheekily. 

 

“Yes,” she says, tugging her bra back down to cover herself, “but I still don’t trust her.”

 

Chapter Text

For a moment in time, it felt like he had it all. He had his files, he had his Scully, and he even had Diana back in his life in a way that felt positive and not painful. But, like all good things in Fox Mulder’s life, this, too, had come to an end. 

 

He still catches whiffs of the burnt smell of his office, the toxic charred stench of the destruction of his life’s work permanently plastered to the insides of his nostrils. The feeling of helplessness, the loss of control, is one that is unpleasantly familiar and a recurring theme in his life. Nothing good will ever last, all that you have will be taken from you, and in the end you will be alone, always alone. 

 

He was alone when Sam was taken, alone when his parents became distant and cold, alone when his every attempt at romance was met with manipulation or rejection. He thought he’d found something real with Diana, but she left him like everyone else. Her return had felt like a second chance to get it right as friends and colleagues, but learning that she had taken his place on the X files was a betrayal he’d never anticipated. Now he doesn’t know what to believe; she has an excuse for each misstep, an explanation for things that look one way but just might be another. He wants to trust her, to believe that she is still on his side and is protecting the files, simply because he so desperately needs someone in his corner.

 

And then there’s Scully. His better half, the yin to his yang, the one person he can always count on. The status of their relationship is undefinable, even to him. Is she his partner, his coworker, his friend, his lover, his wife? They never talk about it, allowing weeks or sometimes months to pass without any interaction more intimate than a hug, only to fall into each other’s arms some idle Tuesday night when the loneliness gets to be too much. 

 

He can only conclude that she is everything; all things one person can be to another, Scully is to him. The proclamation that you would go to the ends of the earth for someone had never been more true than they were as he drove that snow cat across a blanket of white, nothing to see but more snow in every direction. And they had shared an experience so profound, so validating of everything they’ve sought to know, it felt like dying and being born in the same moment. 

 

To hear her deny that it happened, to refuse to acknowledge it because she doesn’t have the kind of proof that feels real to her, is the worst kind of way she can hurt him, in front of the OPR panel, no less. And although he has had his moments of questioning Diana’s motives, Scully’s continued suspicion of her is exhausting. Now she’s standing before him claiming that Diana is manipulating him, that she’s only willing to validate his beliefs when no one is around to hear it. It feels like having a jealous girlfriend, which was initially arousing but has become irritating the longer it continues. What does she expect him to do? Turn his back on Diana, his only possible ally at the moment, so Scully doesn’t feel like her territory is being encroached on? If she won’t believe him, the least she can do is allow him access to someone who does.

 

“You’re asking me to make a choice?” he asks defiantly, unsure what he’ll do if she is. 




 



He’s shutting her out. This is exactly what she’s been afraid of all along, why her instincts immediately told her not to trust Diana. How quickly and easily Diana was able to turn him against her, to make her out to be his enemy. Her method, her science–something he so recently had claimed made him a whole person, kept him honest,– is suddenly offensive to him, so much so that he’s refusing to even look at it if it doesn’t say what he wants it to. How did they get here?

 

She’s been working diligently, desperately, to get the proof he needs. The proof they need, to show what Gibson really is, and what they potentially all are. Gibson said it himself, read aloud from her mind the truth that she wants to believe, but she’s afraid. Mulder sees her fear as weakness, denial, and betrayal. What he doesn’t understand is that that very fear is what drives her to find the answers in the science, the proof that has allowed them to continue their work, to sustain a solve rate that has let them fly under the radar for all these years. This has always been the way it is; he believes blindly, and she stands beside him with eyes wide open, collecting the facts to validate his belief. Why is he suddenly so hesitant to trust her? 

 

Trust. The very foundation of their partnership, their relationship. If he will not trust her, trust that she is on his side and will come through for him, what do they have? A piece of paper that binds them legally, but nothing more. She holds in her hands the proof, the data that lives within Gibson, the truth they have been seeking, and she is the one who found it. Not Diana, who he seems so willing to believe no matter how much her actions lie in contradiction to her words. 

 

When Scully is unwilling to make a public declaration of support for his theories because she needs time to prove them out, he sees it as a betrayal. When Diana does the same to protect her reputation, he believes that it’s because she’s protecting his files. It feels like he suddenly can’t see her anymore. As blinded as he is by his desperation, he can no longer see who she truly is and know that her need for scientific proof doesn’t mean that she doesn’t believe him. She knows that he loves her, in his own way. She knows that he would do anything for her, because he has. But he won’t trust her, and that is the worst kind of way he can hurt her. 

 

“I’m asking you to trust my judgement. To trust me,” she answers.




 

 

She’s handing him a folder, but he doesn’t want to see it. He won’t let her hide behind her science and deny him his own reality. Not anymore. 

 

“I can’t accept that. Not if it refutes what I know to be true,” he pleads, no longer willing to do this dance with her. Why can’t she just believe? In him, in the truth?

 

“Mulder, these are test results. DNA from the claw nail we found matching exactly the DNA from the virus you believe is extraterrestrial.”

 

His mind is suddenly reeling. He never needed proof, he knows what he saw, but to have it? It’s invaluable. To know that he and every other human on this planet holds alien DNA within them is more than he could have imagined or hoped for.

 

“So if that were true, that would mean that Gibson is in some part extraterrestrial,” he muses, adrenaline coursing through his veins. 

 

“It would mean that all of us are,” Scully answers in a measured tone, her eyes searching his face. 

 

He blinks slowly, revelations sinking into him like sunbeams. The DNA that allows Gibson to read their thoughts exists in him, right now. He’s held it this whole time, carried it with him even as he was searching for it. 

 

He turns from Scully and sits heavily, running his hands over his face.

 

“What do we do now?” he asks, not looking at her. Something so momentous feels like it should precipitate action, yet he has no idea what the action might be. 

 

“I don’t know,” she answers. “Find Gibson. Hopefully we’ll find him alive.”

 

He nods mutely, his mind leaping from one thing to the next as it catalogs this new information among that which he had previously stored. He’s quiet for a long time.

 

Scully. She found this. She did this for him, for them. And he’s just finished telling her that Diana has his back, and she doesn’t. He was running around with Diana while Scully was in the lab, finding the science. Finding the proof. He swivels in his chair to look at her. She’s somber, her expression carefully neutral, but he can see. He knows her well enough to see the hurt behind the set of her jaw, the dampness of her eyes. 

 

“Scully... shit . Scully, I’m sorry,” he says softly, and she averts her eyes, nodding tersely. 

 

He stands and approaches her. Resting his palms on her upper arms, he dips his head to try and meet her eye. Her bottom lip quivers and she sinks her teeth into it. She doesn’t trust him with her emotions, not right now. Not anymore. He wraps his arms around her shoulders and pulls her into his chest, feeling the shudder of her rib cage as she stifles a sob. 

 

“I’m sorry. I never should have doubted you. I don’t know why I did,” he murmurs contritely, and he really doesn’t know. 

 

She is stiff within his arms at first, but after a moment she relaxes, threading her arms around his waist. He holds her for a bit, rocking side to side ever so gently, and finally she lifts her head and rests her chin on his chest, looking up at him. 

 

“You’re an asshole. You know that, right?” she says with just enough humor in her voice that he knows they will be okay. 

 

He smiles down at her, affection swelling in his chest. He knows he doesn’t deserve the level of commitment she has to him, but he wants to be worthy of it. 

 

“I know, I’m sorry for that too,” he offers, and she closes her eyes and smiles. 

 

He leans down to place a kiss to the middle of her forehead, and as he pulls away she opens her eyes and pushes up on to her tiptoes, returning one softly to his lips. They separate, but she slips her hand into his, retaining one small point of contact. 

 

“Well, looks like we’re part of Kersh’s division now,” he says matter-of-factly. “I have a feeling we’re going to realize how much we took AD Skinner for granted.”

 

She sighs deeply, each of them accepting their fate, at least for now, knowing that it will be okay, because they still have each other. 






Chapter Text

“I love you.”

 

“Oh, brother.”

 

She turns on her heel and strides out of the room, leaving him dazed and blissful, despite the tenderness on his cheek. A few minutes later she returns, closing the door behind her before approaching his bed. With a small smile, she holds up an ice pack and then cradles it against his face with one hand while she runs her fingers through his hair with the other. 

 

“You scared me, Mulder,” she says softly, both irritation and tenderness in her voice. 

 

“I’m sorry,” he answers, gazing up at her as though seeing her for the first time. 

 

“I may be facing a disciplinary meeting when we get back to work,” she says dryly, and his eyes go big. 

 

“For what?”

 

“Well,” she begins, “let’s see. I essentially told Skinner to get his head out of his ass, threatened to kill Spender, didn’t report to Kersh’s office when directed to do so...oh and I kissed Skinner, but I’m not entirely sure he minded.”

She meets his eye and raises her brows to emphasize how out of character for her everything she just said was. 

 

“Lucky bastard,” Mulder deadpans, and she chuffs a little laugh. “That’s actually how I got this,” he says, gesturing to the ice pack. “I kissed you, and you punched me.”

 

She gives him a doubtful look. 

 

“I don’t recall punching you any of the times you’ve kissed me,” she offers, brushing her thumb across his temple. 

 

They look at each other for a beat, then she leans down and presses her lips to his. Not briefly, but not long enough for it to devolve into anything more than chaste. When she straightens up, he lifts his hands to cover his face in a defensive posture, and she laughs. 

 

“I do love you. You know that, right?” he says with so much conviction it makes her heart clutch in her chest. 

 

She smiles sweetly at him and nods. “I know.”

 

She almost says it back, but there is a knock at the door before a nurse enters to check his vitals. 




 

 

She’s just changed into her pajamas when she hears the knock at the door. Mulder is waiting on the other side in sweats and a hooded sweatshirt, looking a little sheepish. 

 

“Sorry, looks like you’re headed to bed,” he says contritely, and she steps aside to usher him in. 

 

“No, it’s okay. I’m not really tired. Is everything okay?”

 

He stands awkwardly by her dining room table, his hands stuffed in his pockets. 

 

“Do you, uh, does anything seem weird to you at your apartment? Since we got back from Nevada, I mean.” 

 

He looks around curiously, but for what she has no idea. 

 

“How do you mean?” she asks, following his gaze around the room. “Do you want to sit?”

 

They sit on opposite ends of her sofa, him facing straight ahead while she leans against the armrest, legs stretched out in front of her. 

 

“This is going to sound weird,” he begins, and she cocks an eyebrow at him that indicates that what he says almost always sounds weird. “When I got back to my apartment, things were…different. Like someone had been there. I almost thought I had the wrong place.”

 

“Different how?” she asks, resting her elbow on the back of the couch and propping her head on her fist. 

 

“Well, it’s clean, for one. And…I have a bed now.”

 

She blinks at him, her eyebrows furrowed, but doesn’t say anything. 

 

“I feel like something happened that I can’t remember,” he continues, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

 

She nods and considers retrieving the fused coins she found in her desk, but that’s only going to deepen his confusion. 

 

“Maybe the Gunmen are messing with you?” she offers helpfully, and he bobs his head in acknowledgement that it’s possible. 

 

She can’t bring herself to admit that she also feels off, like a memory is bubbling in the back of her brain that she can’t quite recall. 

 

“Do you really want all that?” he asks, and she tilts her head in confusion. 

 

“Want all what?”

 

“The house, the kids, the dog…the husband?” His tone is vulnerable and maybe a little insecure. She knows he doesn’t mean a husband like he is. A real one. 

 

She pulls in a deep breath and shrugs, giving him a sympathetic little smile. 

 

“Sometimes I think I do. Other times that sounds boring as hell,” she says matter of factly, and she is rewarded with a broad smile. 

 

He reaches out and closes his fist around the ball of one of her feet, giving it a little squeeze. 

 

“If you did, I’d understand,” he says, not meeting her eye. 

 

If you love something, let it go , she thinks. That’s what he’s trying to do. She jabs the toes of her other foot into the side of his thigh. 

 

“You trying to get rid of me, G-man?” she asks playfully. 

 

He looks at her, a sad smile on his lips, and shakes his head gently. “Not a chance.”

 

She scoots down a little so her head is on the arm rest and deposits her feet in his lap. Obediently, he picks one up and begins pushing his thumbs firmly into her arches. She hums and closes her eyes. 

 

“Maybe we could just do more normal-people things,” she says after a beat, and his hands still. She opens her eyes to find him staring at her intently, waiting to hear more. “See movies, go to museums. Normal people stuff,” she elaborates with a shrug. 

 

“You wanna do that with me?” he asks, and she registers the surprise in his tone. 

 

She nods and smiles at him, and then jiggles her foot so he’ll start rubbing it again. 




 

 

“The Bermuda Triangle,” he says, turning the VHS over in his hands. 

 

Scully pauses on unwrapping her own gift, setting the tube-shaped package on the coffee table. 

 

“Have you seen it?” she asks, trying to read his expression. 

 

He shakes his head softly, reading over the back cover. 

 

“1978, a veritable classic,” he says, then turns to her and smiles. 

 

“It’s a little bit of a joke gift,” she offers sheepishly, “I saw it at the used bookstore and I thought of you.”

 

His smile broadens at the idea of her thinking about him when he’s not right in front of her. 

 

“I love it, thank you,” he says sincerely. “Did you know that certain types of freshwater eels travel to the Bermuda Triangle, presumably to breed, though scientists have yet to identify any genitalia or reproductive organs on the creatures? No one can figure out how they reproduce.”

 

“I didn’t know that,” she replies with genuine interest. “Seems curious for an animal with such a phallic aesthetic to be lacking a phallus.”

 

He chuckles and then juts his chin out at the gift still sitting partially opened on the table. “Your turn.”

 

She picks it up and peels the rest of the wrapping off to reveal a paper tube, sealed at both ends. It’s light, and when she shakes it it feels and sounds empty. Eyeing him skeptically, she punctures one end with her fingernail and creates an opening big enough to pull out the contents: several pieces of card stock with a sheet of notebook paper wrapped around them. 

 

“Read the note first,” he says a little nervously. 

 

She unfolds it and reads it quickly to herself:

 

I, Fox William Mulder, do solemnly swear not to drag Dana Katherine Scully out of town for any shenanigans, quick trips, or nice visits to the forest that will conflict with the dates of any of the contents herein, by penalty of a (second) gunshot wound inflicted by the sharpest shooter in the FBI.

 

She smiles, glancing at him briefly before looking through the other pieces of paper. 

 

Tickets. They’re all tickets in sets of two. Movie passes, museum exhibits, musicals, plays, concerts. Caravaggio’s Taking of the Christ: Saints and Sinners in Baroque Painting , Cabaret , Eleanor: An American Love Story , Woodstock 99 . The more she sees the wider her eyes grow. There are probably multiple thousands of dollars worth of tickets in her lap. 

 

“Mulder, this is…it’s too much,” she looks up at him and he shrugs. 

 

“I think that probably represents only a small portion of all the ‘normal people’ stuff you’ve missed over the years because of me, but consider it a combination Christmas, anniversary and birthday present if it makes you feel better. And I’m not expecting to take the second ticket, either. You can take whoever you want. I’m sure your mom would love to go to Woodstock.”

 

She gives him an incredulous look paired with a small smile, then goes back to reading through all the dates and venues, all the normal life experiences that have just been dropped in her lap. 

 

“I think maybe your gift was better than mine,” she offers dryly, a little self conscious. 

 

“You’ve already given me so much, Scully. More than I could ever hope for. More than I deserve,” he says earnestly. 

 

She sets the tickets on the coffee table and scoots over so she’s close beside him, then wraps her arms around his ribcage and rests her head on his shoulder.

 

“Thank you,” she says quietly, hiding the tears that are brimming in her eyes against his jacket. 

 

“Merry Christmas, Scully.” 

Chapter Text

“Back again so soon?” asks the woman at the front desk of the hotel with feigned enthusiasm. 

 

“We weren’t able to fly out due to the weather. Any chance you still have rooms available?” Scully asks hopefully. 

 

“Like I said when that cow fell on your boyfriend’s room, we’re all full because of the reunion. The room you checked out of earlier is still open, though. Haven’t even cleaned it yet.”

 

“He’s not...fine. We’ll take it.”

 

They get settled back in the room, the wet towels from their showers that morning still piled on the floor of the bathroom. Scully sighs heavily, digging through her bag in search of pajamas. 

 

“Not all is lost, Scully,” Mulder says with a cheerful tone, pulling a tall amber bottle out of his bag, “I pilfered this from the reunion.”

 

“Mystery tequila? Are you really gonna drink that?” she asks dubiously, locating cotton shorts and a T shirt. 

 

“Yes we are,” he answers, setting the bottle on the dresser while he loosens his tie. “It’s alcohol, Scully. It’s self-sanitizing.”

 

“Is that how that works?” she retorts, keeping her eyes on his face as he shucks off his dress shirt and pulls his undershirt over his head. 

 

He looks at her for a moment, as though considering something, and then starts unbuttoning his slacks. She makes a face at his brazenness and walks past him into the bathroom to change.

 

                       ***

 

“Did you ever go to your reunion? The ten year, I guess?” Mulder asks from his spot slouched down in the armchair, head resting on its back while his feet are propped on the bed. 

 

Scully is lying across the middle of the mattress, facing him with her head propped up on her hand. 

 

“No, I don’t think I was tracked down with an invitation, not that I’d have gone if I’d gotten one,” she replies with a thick tongue.

 

He lifts his head to look at her all stretched out and bare legged, cheeks pink from the tequila and her makeup mostly worn away. She looks beautiful like this, casual and unrefined. This is how he likes his Scully best. 

 

“What were you like in high school, Scully?” he asks, hoping desperately that she’ll play along. 

 

She lifts her eyebrows. “What do you think?” she asks flatly, and he knows what she’s getting at. 

 

“Once a nerd, always a nerd?” he guesses, and she nods with a shrug. “Did you date?”

 

She screws up her mouth before answering. “...no,” she finally says, but he can tell she’s withholding something. 

 

“What does that mean?” he asks with a grin, and she can’t contain the smile that stretches across her mouth, lubricated by alcohol. 

 

“I mean...define date ,” she says, avoiding eye contact. 

 

“Ahhh,” he says knowingly, “I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down. What they say about Catholic girls is true then?”

 

He barely gets the sentence out before a pillow comes flying at his head. He catches it mid-air, then stands and flops onto the bed next to her on his back, stuffing the pillow under his head. 

 

“What were you like in high school, Mulder?” she asks, her eyes dancing over his profile. 

 

He turns his head to look at her. “Well, being a nerd was kind of cool in my neck of the woods, so that wasn’t an issue. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I did “date” quite a bit,” he says, using air quotes for emphasis. “Apparently having a tragic story about your kid sister being abducted is attractive to seventeen year old girls.”

 

“I think that may extend beyond seventeen year old girls,” she retorts, and he makes an exaggerated face of shock. 

 

“What are you saying, Agent Scully? You find my trauma attractive?”

 

“Not your trauma, no,” she answers, keeping her tone light and playful. 

 

He rolls onto his side to face her, the pillow wedged under his armpit as a prop. 

 

“So, tell me more about the scandals of high school Dana Scully,” he requests eagerly. 

 

“Mulder, no,” she replies with a somber shake of her head, but a smirk on her lips. 

 

“Come on,” he goads, poking his index finger into her hip, “I won’t judge you if you slept with half the football team.”

 

“Okay, I did NOT sleep with anyone on the football team, to be clear, but I will need another drink before I can tolerate this line of questioning,” she says, sitting up and retrieving the bottle of tequila. 

 

She returns to sit cross-legged beside him, her knees almost touching his belly. They take alternating swigs off the bottle, grimacing as they pass it back and forth. 

 

                       ***

 

“IN the science lab? Like out in the open in the classroom?” he asks incredulously, and she waves her hands dismissively in front of her. 

 

“No, no. It wasn’t as exposed as it sounds. For one, the lights were off, and for three, we were behind one of the...the counter things. No one would have seen anything if they hadn’t come into the room.”

 

“But they did,” he encourages her to continue. 

 

“They did, and they turned the lights on but I was too...focused on the task at hand, and I didn’t realize it right away. And this guy, Andrew, he was tapping on the top of my head.” She reaches over and taps her fingers rapidly on the top of Mulder’s skull, “and I just thought he was...you know, touching my head, so I kept swatting his hand away.” She starts giggling, covering her face with one hand as she continues. “And he’s saying ‘Dana, Dana, stop,’ and...” She’s laughing so hard that she can’t catch her breath, and he watches her with a huge grin on his face as she wipes tears from the corners of her eyes. “And I lifted my head and said...” She falls to her side on the bed, wheezing with laughter. “I said… ‘do you want a blow job or not, Andrew?’ And I look up and my science teacher is standing there…” she covers her face with both her hands, her entire body shaking as she’s overcome with hysterical laughter. “And she’s a nun, of course,” she eeks out. 

 

She can’t talk anymore, and just lets it overtake her as he watches on with delight, never having seen her like this before. It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen in his life. She clutches her sides and laughs so hard she stops making noise, silently shuddering. Eventually, she calms down enough to draw in a deep breath. She is now on her back next to him, while he’s still on his side. 

 

“Did you get in trouble?” he asks. 

 

She speaks with her eyes on the ceiling, a far away smile on her mouth. 

 

“Nope,” she answers, “I begged Sister Mary Xavier not to tell my father, and she agreed after I said I’d sign up to tutor some freshmen and spend about ten hours in the confessional.”

 

“That’s quite the story, Scully. I wouldn’t have guessed that you were so… adventurous,” he says cautiously, not wanting to offend her. 

 

“Well, there’s something to be said for being young and stupid,” she counters. “And while Sister Mary Xavier kept her mouth shut, Andrew most certainly did not. Having a reputation wasn’t something I enjoyed, so I made different choices after that experience.”

 

He nods knowingly. “Having a reputation is certainly something I can empathize with.”

 

“Yes, I know,” she replies with a playful tone, “I’ve heard about it in the ladies room.” She’s still looking at the ceiling. 

 

He waits for her to elaborate, and when she doesn’t say anything he brushes his hand over her forearm. She turns her head to look at him with expectant eyebrows. 

 

“What have you heard, exactly?” he questions, knowing full well that a few stories got around in the early nineties, but not realizing Scully had heard any of them. 

 

“Oh, just that you’ve slept with every AD’s secretary and half the new recruits,” she says plainly. 

 

“That’s not even remotely true,” he defends.

 

“Never said it was. I don’t hear that as much these days, that was mostly early in our partnership. Now I just overhear rumors about us when they don’t realize I’m in the bathroom. And every now and then the more brazen agents will flat out ask me if you’re any good in bed.” 

 

Her tone is measured, factual. Meanwhile, he feels his cock stir a little at the mention of them having sex. 

 

“Was that before or after you were qualified to answer the question?” he asks carefully, unsure if she’ll bristle at the acknowledgement of their sexual relationship, which they never discuss. 

 

She runs her tongue over her bottom lip and blinks once. 

 

“Both,” she finally answers. 

 

“And what did you say?” His heart is thrumming steadily, his head buzzing with tequila. He’s never wanted her to answer one of his unnecessary questions more in his life. 

 

She furrows her eyebrows and gives him a doubtful look. 

 

“I didn’t dignify the question with a response,” she says as if it’s the obvious answer. “Usually I just ignore them and leave.”

 

He decides to just go for it. They're both tipsy, so he can blame his blatant boundary crossing on the booze. 

 

“What would you say if you did answer the question?”

 

A slow smile blooms on her mouth, finishing in a wide, toothy grin, her glassy eyes nearly closing. 

 

“Are you asking me if you’re good in bed, Mulder?” Far from offended, she seems to be absolutely delighted by the question. 

 

He feels his cheeks warm, insecurity softening his formerly growing erection. He can’t bring himself to answer, so he rolls onto his back, clasping his hands over his stomach. 

 

“I would think the answer to that is fairly obvious,” she says beside him, and he turns his head so he can see her face. She’s not mocking him. 

 

“How’s that?”

 

“Well...I certainly didn’t fake it,” she says, and now she’s just a little bit self-conscious as well. At least they’re on level ground. 

 

He smiles at her and she returns it. “Glad to hear it.”

 

“I’m sorry I can’t make any positive contributions to your reputation, but I have my own to watch out for,” she offers, and he nods in acceptance. 

 

She rolls to her side so that the front of her torso is tucked against the side of his. The contact sends a little jolt down his body and he’s suddenly very aware that he won’t be able to hide if he gets hard. He’s not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. She rests her palm on his chest, propping herself up with her elbow. 

 

“So the secretaries...how much truth is there to that?” she asks, now that they’ve crossed the boundary anyway. 

 

“Not much. When I was a new recruit I didn’t have the greatest professional boundaries, but nothing like that has happened since at least...ninety one, Maybe? Long time ago. I have no idea how the rumor has survived this long.”

 

“I’m pretty sure it’s just a bit of wishful thinking,” she says with a smirk. 

 

He understands what she’s saying, but he can’t resist trying to get her to say it more explicitly. 

 

“What do you mean?” he asks with feigned ignorance. 

 

“I mean,” she answers, sliding her hand down from his chest to his stomach, stopping when her hand meets with his own, which are still resting on his belly. “That they want to believe the rumors are true, because that might mean they have a chance.”

 

“A chance at what?”

 

She looks at him, and the expression on her face is familiar in a way that sends blood rushing to his cock. She leans down and presses her mouth to his, sliding her tongue against his bottom lip. Without breaking the kiss, she lifts away enough to speak. 

 

“You’re a very handsome man, Mulder.”

 

He brings one hand to the back of her head, deepening the kiss and lapping at her tongue. She leans hard into him, draping her leg over his, and suddenly her hand on his belly is grabbing at his hardening dick over his sweatpants. He hums loudly, arching his pelvis towards her. She hitches her leg over his hip and slides up so that she’s straddling him, continuing their kisses while she grinds against his lap. They kiss sloppily and rub against each other like horny teenagers for a while, and then she starts shimmying lower and lower, until finally she’s too far from his face for their lips to connect. He opens his eyes and looks at her, confusion furrowing his brow. 

 

When she hooks her fingers under the waistband of his sweats and starts tugging, he gulps. She moves quickly, either because she’s eager or she’s afraid she’ll change her mind, he doesn’t know. But then she glances up at him briefly and wraps her lips around the head of his cock, and his eyes close as his head drops back onto the bed. He feels like he’s on another planet, the warm slip of her mouth up and down his shaft better than any blow job he can ever remember getting. Is it because she’s better at it, or just because it’s her? He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care. When her small hand cups his balls and squeezes, he’s suddenly so close it’s nearly inevitable. 

 

“Jesus, if you keep doing that I’m gonna come,” he warns her, and the hum that vibrates in her throat feels too good; he can’t hold back anymore. 

 

He tries to pull away, or push her away, but she grips his hips and moves faster. He sits right on the edge for a long time, and it feels so fucking good he thinks he might pass out. Finally he’s coming, a low moan escaping his throat, and he chances a look down at her. She’s got her eyes on him, maybe has the whole time, and they hold eye contact as he spurts down her throat. When he’s spent, he drops his head back again, his chest heaving. 

 

She crawls up to lay beside him on her stomach, looking at her hands as she picks at her fingernails. He’s afraid she might be embarrassed or regret having done it. He tugs his pants back over his hips and rolls to his side to face her. Putting one hand on the hip that is further from him, he pulls her onto her side so that her back is pressed against his chest. 

 

“Just so you know,” he says as he slides his hand down her belly and slips it under the waistband of her shorts, “if anyone asks me in the men’s room if you’re any good at giving head, I might not be able to resist responding in the affirmative.”

 

She laughs softly and moves her leg aside, allowing him access to touch her. His eyes go big when he feels how wet she is, practically dripping. 

 

“This is from...doing that? To me?” he asks, cursing refractory periods for existing and preventing him from getting hard again. 

 

She sighs as he slides his finger over her slick lips, looping around her clit but not touching it. 

 

“You know what they say,” she answers breathily, “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Her breath hitches as he makes one pass over her swollen bud. 

 

“Mmmhmm,” he agrees, bringing his lips to her neck and pushing his middle finger inside. 

 

She arches into him, her ass pressing against his spent dick something he can’t resist pushing back against. He reaches deep, dragging his finger against her front wall and pressing the heel of his hand firmly against her clit. He watches with fascination as she slips her hand under her shirt and pinches at her nipples, only now realizing that they’ve left the lights on through all of this. Her breath is quickening, her little whimpers growing increasingly frantic until she suddenly freezes, mouth hanging open. She stays still for a moment, and then one long, soft moan escapes her lips and he feels her grip tight around his finger before she collapses in a series of throbs, each growing a bit weaker than the last. He continues to stroke her insides, only stopping when she touches his arm and says “enough.”

 

Withdrawing his hand from her shorts, he stands and flips the lights off, then returns to the bed where she’s scooted up to lay on the pillows. He resumes his position spooned up behind her, draping his arm over her waist and pulling her tightly against his chest. He places a soft kiss to her cheek and she sighs. 

 

“Night, Scully,” he says in a near whisper, then closes his eyes. 

 

He’s just about to drift off when she speaks. 

 

“Sheila asked me if we’d ever kissed,” she says suddenly, and he works to orient himself to the statement. 

 

“Oh? What did you say?” he asks.

 

“I said no.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I don’t know. I guess it just feels too...private. Like it’s just for us to know.”

 

He nods in the dark, because he understands. He wasn’t honest with Holman either, though he hadn’t given much consideration to why. He gives her a squeeze, and she threads her fingers through his where they rest on her belly. 

 

“Good night, Mulder.”




 

 

“Slow down there, speed racer,” he says as he jogs down the hall to catch up to her. “You’re supposed to be taking it easy.”

 

“I’m walking down a hall, Mulder, not running a marathon,” she retorts with just a bit of irritation. She knows he’s probably right.

 

They arrive in front of her apartment door and she digs around for her keys, wincing as she twists in just the wrong way and it pulls at her wound. 

 

“I got it,” he says with a worried look, pulling out his own keys and fitting the one for her apartment into the lock. 

 

She makes her way slowly inside, the familiar smell of her apartment after an extended absence greeting her. That kind of smell, the one that can almost make you feel like an intruder, is one she encounters so often it’s become just another flavor of home. She knows that the ten days she spent in the hospital are short for an abdominal gunshot wound, and tries to be grateful for her inexplicably speedy recovery instead of irritated over the souring takeout she’ll need to toss from the refrigerator. 

 

“I changed your sheets, if you’d like to rest for a bit,” Mulder says as he carries her bag into the bedroom. “They aren’t exactly hospital corners but I did my best.”

 

She follows him into her room, watching as he opens the bag and removes her toiletry kit, returning it to the bathroom before he dumps her dirty clothes into the hamper. It feels oddly domestic, but pleasantly so. 

 

“I’m not tired,” she says as she makes her way gingerly to the kitchen, bracing her hand against the counter while she pulls the refrigerator door open to lessen the engagement of her core muscles. 

 

Expecting to see the leftover Indian food and wilting lettuce she knows she left there, she instead finds new groceries; yogurt, strawberries, bagels and cream cheese. The real stuff, not even the low fat version that she normally subjects herself to. She closes the fridge and looks over at Mulder, who’s carrying the laundry basket to the closet and starting a load of wash. She feels a little swell of affection at his fussing, something she’d normally find overbearing and infantilizing. 

 

“You hungry?”  he asks as he emerges from the hallway, and she shakes her head with a soft smile. 

 

She walks to the couch and he makes it to her in three long strides, holding out his hands to help her sit, knowing that changing positions is still quite painful. 

 

“Do you want to lie down?”

 

“Nah, too hard to get back up,” she says good naturedly, and he sits down carefully beside her, moving his arm to the back of the couch when she leans into him. 

 

She rests her hand palm-up on his thigh, and he threads his fingers through hers. They sit in comfortable silence for a bit, lazily stroking thumbs over thumbs, brushing pinkies along index fingers. The casual contact is a comfort that’s become routine as of late. 

 

“I never got a chance to ask you how it was having a different partner,” he says as he runs the pad of his index finger over the tip of each of her fingernails one by one. 

 

She smiles to herself, knowing he can’t see her face. He’s seeking reassurance, and she’s more than willing to give it. 

 

“It was strange, and frustrating most of the time. It was clear that he didn’t trust me, and I certainly didn’t trust him. I suppose it just reinforced for me how much I trust you, and I probably take that for granted too often.”

 

She doesn’t need to see his face, because she can feel his smile radiate through his whole body. 

 

“Right back atcha, sister,” he says, draping his arm over her shoulder to give her a little squeeze. “You didn’t teach him our secret handshake, did you?” he adds with feigned concern. 

 

“Of course not,” she insists, “it’s far too complex for such a feeble mind.”

 

They are quiet for a moment, and she lets herself relax into the warm comfort of his shoulder under her cheek. 

 

“Trust aside,” she begins again, “I think I’d prefer a partner who doesn’t shoot me, should I be forced to work with anyone else again in the future. I’ll have to put that request in to Kersh.”

 

“I don’t know,” he replies, turning his head to press his nose into her hair, “sometimes partners who shoot you are the best partners in the world.”



Chapter Text

“Because it is personal, Mulder. Because without the FBI, personal interest is all that I have. And if you take that away then there is no reason for me to continue.”

 

She turns from him, opening the multiple locks on the door with impressive speed before she stalks out in a huff. The clang of the slamming door echoes in the room, and Mulder turns to his friends. They’ve been watching the whole exchange with unease, caught in an argument that felt a little too intimate for an audience, and are now casting him expectant expressions. 

 

“Thanks for your support, guys,” he remarks sarcastically. “Should I take this to mean you’re switching sides? Are you Scully’s friends now?”

 

Frohike scowls at him. “If you’re going to keep your head crammed this far up your ass then yeah, probably,” he says with a surprising amount of vitriol. 

 

Mulder visibly recoils, looking to Langly and Byers and finding that they each mirror Frohike’s attitude, which is none too happy with him. 

 

“Are you serious?” he asks incredulously. “You take her side in this? You guys know Diana. You know she’s a friend to the X-files.”

 

“I know she had you wrapped around her finger when you two were a thing,” Langly says chidingly. “Seems like she still does.”

 

Mulder’s mouth hangs open a moment, unable to fathom this unexpected deviation in loyalty. He heaves a sigh, sets his jaw, and nods resolutely. 

 

“Got it,” he says flatly, then turns to leave. 

 

“Mulder,” Byers calls out just as he reaches the door. 

 

Mulder turns back to look at them lined up shoulder to shoulder like a little oddball army. 

 

“You’re making the wrong choice,” Byers cautions, and Mulder shakes his head at them before walking out into the graying quiet of dusk. 

 

Dropping heavily into the driver’s seat of his car, he slams the door closed more forcefully than is necessary, just for the release of slamming it. Anger seethes beneath his skin, heaves in his chest, and thrums in his jaw until it aches. Why is everyone making this out to be a choice he’s making, that he’s choosing Diana over Scully, or that his allegiances aren’t where they should be? This is about the files, and it always has been. It’s about the truth. 

 

He takes out his cell phone, punching the speed dial with angry jabs and chewing on his lip while it rings. 

 

“Scully.”

 

“Where are you?” he asks, and he knows his tone is unnecessarily short, but he doesn’t care.

 

She hesitates, and he wonders if she’s going to hang up on him. “I’m headed back to work,” she finally answers, but her tone is guarded and cagey. 

 

“To do what?” 

 

Again, she doesn’t answer right away. He can feel her distrust, her reluctance to include him in their work. A wash of sadness floods through him, extinguishing the anger. 

 

“Scully...please talk to me,” he says much more softly, and he can hear her sigh on the other end of the line. 

 

“Can you meet me at my apartment in twenty minutes?” she asks, and while he’s relieved that she wants to see him, her tone is still too formal and business-like. Still not ready to trust him. 

 

“Okay, I’ll see you soon,” he answers before ending the call. He drops his head back onto the headrest. 

 

It comes down to a matter of trust. I guess it always has.

 

They’ve been here before, and Scully insisted then that she wasn’t asking him to choose, that she was only asking him to trust her. But now she is asking him to trust her belief that Diana isn’t who she says she is, and isn’t that essentially the same thing? Instead of moving forward, they just keep circling around this topic of Diana, and it’s exhausting. 

 

He starts the car and heads towards Georgetown, ready to go to battle with the one person he’d never imagined would become his enemy. 




 

 

She leaves the door unlocked and waits for him in the armchair that faces the entryway. She works to remain calm, not to let her emotions cloud her composure. She tries to be who she normally is in their relationship: the rational one. 

 

She can suddenly understand how it must feel for him when she isn’t able to accept things that seem plainly obvious. When she’s reluctant to believe, even with compelling evidence. She tries to put herself in his shoes, which are really her own so much of the time. What makes her hesitant to believe, and what would she need in order to do so? The tables are so entirely turned that she will take on the role of the psychologist, questioning his motives and what drives them. How can she get inside his head, so that she might guide him out of it?

 

His knock isn’t the angry one she was expecting, and she calls for him to come in hoping that he’ll have had some time to think. Perhaps she’ll get to speak to her partner rather than this irrational man she doesn’t know. He approaches cautiously, taking the seat on the end of the couch closest to her and perching near the edge, not bothering with trying to get comfortable. He rests his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands together and staring at them like he might find the answers there. 

 

“I’m at a loss, Mulder,” she begins gently, and he lifts his head to look at her. “I don’t understand why, with all that I’ve shown you and all you’ve seen with your own eyes, you can’t even entertain the idea that Diana might not be who you think she is.”

 

He scoffs, and she can see him going right back into a defensive posture. She scoots forward until her knee touches his, trying to ground him here, to keep him with her. 

 

“Help me understand,” she pleads. “What is it that you need in order to believe what I’m saying?”

 

He stands, bumping her leg aside in the process, and stalks over to the fireplace. 

 

“That’s exactly it, Scully!” he shouts. “You’re ready to go to any length to make her out to be the bad guy. What is it you need in order to believe what I’m saying?”

 

She moves to stand near him, her attempts at a reasonable approach thwarted by his anger. 

 

“There is nothing you can do or say that will make me trust that woman, Mulder. I’m as sure that she is untrustworthy as I am of any other irrefutable fact. The sky is blue, grass is green, and Diana Fowley is working with the very men you seek to bring to justice.” She tries to keep her voice level, to remain calm. Her fingernails dig into her palms, cycling her anger inward only for it to loop back through the same circuit again. She can see the twitch of Mulder’s jaw as he avoids looking at her, moments away from exploding. “You’ve accused me of making this personal, Mulder, but it’s you who is letting your personal interest cloud your judgement here, not me.”

 

He deflates a little, meeting her eye with a questioning look. Something about what she just said reached him. She steps closer and takes his hand, tries again to connect. 

 

“I know she’s hurt you before, Mulder,” she pleads. “I don’t understand why you’re so willing to give her a chance to do it again.”

 

“Diana is...she’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goal,” he starts with a more measured tone, looking down at their clasped hands. “I believe that her goal here is to protect the X-files and uncover the same conspiracy that we have sought the answers to. Her methods may be unconventional to you, they may not be tidy and easy to explain, but I have to believe that her motives are pure.”

 

“What if they’re not, Mulder?” she asks, giving his hand a squeeze. 

 

“What if they are?” he counters, shaking her hand loose. “You aren’t willing to do what you’re asking me to, Scully. You haven’t even given her a chance.”

 

She closes her eyes and takes a steadying breath. 

 

“I have, Mulder,” she replies, opening her eyes to see a pained expression on his face. She knows him well enough to see the fear underneath it. “I have tried, though it may not look like it to you.”

 

He swallows. “And?”

 

“And I come up with the same result each time. She’s not acting in your best interest, or that of the files. If she’s helping you, as you claim she is, then why does she continue to thwart our investigation?”

 

He opens his mouth to speak and she grabs his hand again, cutting him off. 

 

“I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to offer a hundred excuses, because that’s what she’s offering you. But will you please, just for your own safety, keep your eyes open? I understand that you don’t want to believe that she’d betray you, but you’re so closed off to the idea that you’re not seeing the full picture.” He shakes his head, ready to offer a rebuttal. “I’m not asking you to believe that she’s your enemy, but can you at least see her actions through a more neutral lens, rather than one that justifies everything she does? Just for a little bit, consider the possibility that she is doing what’s best for herself, not you. You might see things a bit differently if you can open your mind to the possibility.”

 

He shoots her a look and she can’t help but smile a little. 

 

“I realize the irony in me saying that to you. But Mulder, when we met, you didn’t trust me, right? Not at first?”

 

“Not at first, no,” he answers softly. 

 

“You don’t trust people easily. They have to earn it. I had to earn it. The least you can do is make her earn it too.”

 

He gives her that exasperated look again. “She did , Scully, a long time ago.”

 

“Yes, and then she abandoned you. It seems fair that she should have to earn it back, doesn’t it?” she says flatly. 

 

He releases her hand and moves to the couch, sitting heavily. Leaning his head back, he rubs his hands over his face. She walks over and sits sideways on the cushion beside him, facing him. He lifts his head and looks at her with the saddest eyes she’s seen in a long time. 

 

“It is personal, Mulder. I care about the X-files, but I also care about you. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” She can feel the tightness in her throat that signals impending tears, and tries to quell them. 

 

“I know,” he answers softly, then extends his arm to loop it around her shoulders and pulls her into a hug. “I’ll try, okay? I’ll keep my eyes open.”

 

“Thank you,” she says against his chest.




 

 

He sits on the jagged gravel that fills the spaces between the railroad ties, Scully’s wrecked car a few feet away from him. She’s on the phone with AD Skinner, trying to get him to come pick them up without providing any context. They both knew without discussing it that it’s a request she is more likely to get traction on; Skinner has never tried all that hard to mask his clear preference for one of his former agents over the other. 

 

He wonders what’s happening at El Rico Air Force Base, what’s happening to Diana. He did as Scully asked. He went to her apartment with his eyes wide open. He wasn’t expecting to meet CGB Spender there, and what the man shared is more than Mulder can even begin to wrap his mind around. The idea that his father sacrificed Samantha makes him nauseous, and he refuses to believe it. Why, after all the lies that chain smoking bastard has told, would he start giving weight to his claims now? 

 

He’d had a lot of time to think about it while he waited for Diana to return to her apartment. This alleged escape hatch, this chance to be reunited with his sister and save himself; it sounded too good to be true. If he really thought it was all that Spender claimed it to be, he’d have to get Scully to go as well, but she would never even consider it. Scully would never align with the other side, even to save her own life. 

 

But what about Diana? Would she abandon humanity to save herself? Isn’t that what Scully had been saying about her all along? He’d been given a way to find out, by way of that slip of paper CGB placed in his hand. 

 

He’d watched Diana carefully as she entered her apartment, as he told her what had happened and what he knew. As he offered her the opportunity to run for the hills alongside the cowards who got them into this mess. He saw the flickers of fear in her eyes as he questioned her loyalty; is this what Scully has seen in her all along? Was it there, and he just didn’t want to see it? 

 

If Diana really knew him, if she was really as invested in his cause as she claimed, she would have refused. She would have fought until the last possible moment, like he intends to do. Like he knows Scully will. But she’d accepted it, and she’d kissed him. The kiss was an unexpected surprise, and just as unexpected was how empty it felt. Whatever connection they’d had before, it was gone. Whoever Diana was before, she isn’t that person anymore. Does that mean she’s his enemy? He’s not entirely sure, and he may never be. Scully was right about one thing, and it’s that Diana will do whatever she needs to to save herself, the rest of the world be damned. 

 

He stands, moving to inspect the damage to Scully’s car as he hears her now calling emergency services to the base, just in case something of interest really did happen there. For all he knows it was a trap set solely for him, but they won’t know until they have a look themselves. He sees headlights approaching alongside the tracks. 

 

“This is him.”




 

 

The smell of burnt flesh hangs heavily in the air, bringing forth memories of autopsy bays and plane crashes of cases past, and the stink of Ruskin Dam. Lights from the fire trucks and ambulances flicker yellow and red against the high ceiling of the hangar, making it feel just a bit like they’re in a nightclub instead of the site of a mass execution. She sits shoulder to shoulder with Mulder near the wall, casting sideways glances at him intermittently. She knows he’d told Diana to meet him here, and is sure he’s thinking that one of the charred corpses being photographed by the CSI team is hers, just as she thinks that one of them is Cassandra. She can’t bring herself to ask what happened at Diana’s apartment, to risk sounding like she doesn’t care that Diana is dead. Her feelings about the woman aside, no one should have to see a person they’ve cared for burnt up like that, not even someone as traitorous as Agent Fowley. 

 

“I’m just glad you weren’t here, Mulder. That you didn’t make it in time,” she offers, and it’s genuine. Her stomach goes into knots considering that Mulder could have been among the charred remains. 

 

He shakes his head ruefully. “I wouldn’t have been here, Scully. I never planned to be.”

 

“What do you mean?” she asks, confusion furrowing her brow. 

 

He looks at her, and she’s stricken by the pain and resignation in his eyes. 

 

“I figured it was some kind of trap, or set up, considering the messenger. I just needed to know...I needed to know if Diana would take the deal. If she would save herself, given the opportunity. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she did. I’m betting you aren’t.”

 

She sighs heavily and slides her arm across his shoulders, offering comfort but not a response. There is no value in an I told you so

 

“Fox,” someone calls, and they look up to see Diana walking towards them. She is very much alive and clearly unscathed, not so much as a scuff on her designer boots. 

 

Scully flinches in anticipation of Mulder leaping up to greet her, to be relieved that she’s okay, and removes her hand from his back. To her pleasant surprise, he straightens up a little but doesn’t move. 

 

“Diana,” he says with only a hint of relief. There’s more skepticism in his voice than she’s ever heard him direct towards Diana. “Where have you been?”

 

“I ran into some traffic on the way. What happened here?” she asks, and Scully studies Mulder’s reaction, the way his eyes narrow. 

 

“I left your apartment two hours ago,” he remarks coolly. “Must have been some serious traffic.”

 

Diana glances between him and Scully, calculating her next move. 

 

“I didn’t see your car here, Fox. Can I give you a ride home?”

 

“No, thanks. I’m all set,” Mulder answers, fixing a vacant stare on her. 

 

“Alright,” Diana says with feigned casualness, though it’s clear to see she’s frazzled. “We’ll talk soon, okay?”

 

“Goodbye, Diana,” Mulder answers, and Diana bobs her head awkwardly before turning to leave. 

 

Scully studies the side of his face, considering how to ask a million questions, unsure if now is the right time. Before she can find the right words for any of them, Mulder looks at her and speaks. 

 

“I don’t know for sure who her allegiance is to, Scully. Maybe it’s just to herself, or maybe it’s worse than that. But I’m keeping my eyes open, okay? I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you.”

 

She brings her hand back to rest on his shoulder and gives him a reassuring squeeze. 

 

“It’s okay, Mulder. I understand.”

 

“You shouldn’t, Scully,” he says with some irritation. “You don’t need to make excuses for me. I was hypocritical and endangered both of our safety. You said it yourself. I told you to trust no one and yet trusted Diana without question. I was an asshole.”

 

“Okay,” she replies gently. “I will concede that you were an asshole.” A small smile quirks at the corners of his mouth. “But if you being an asshole were a dealbreaker, we would have been partners for about fifteen minutes. Maybe not even that long,” she quips, returning his smile. 

 

He loops his arm around her waist, tugging her closer so their sides are pressed together in a makeshift hug. She rests her head against his shoulder and he sets his chin on the crown of her head. 

 

“Thanks for putting up with me, G-woman.”

 

Looking beyond the flashing lights of a row of squad cars, she can see Diana talking with Skinner and a group of others, her arms crossed over her chest. The group disperses and Diana turns to look over to where she’d left them a few minutes earlier. While Scully can’t see her face clearly, she levels her very best glare in that direction, and hopes that Diana can feel it. 



Chapter Text

She pulls the door of the minivan shut - now there’s a vehicle she never thought she’d be driving - and plants her hands on the wheel at ten and two. She sits in the driveway for a moment, pulling a deep breath in through her nose and blowing it out slowly between puckered lips. The early morning sun catches on the diamond that adorns her left ring finger and she closes her eyes briefly - it’s all just a lot to manage. 

 

When they’d flown in the day before their undercover assignment was set to start, Mulder wasted no time diving head first into his role as Rob Petrie. Her heart had nearly dropped through the floor when she answered his knock at the adjoining door between their rooms and found him down on one knee on the other side, the diamond ring perched between his fingers. Before she had time to react, he’d laughed and stood up, grabbing her hand and slipping the ring onto her finger. The muscle memory of that moment in Vegas over two years ago sent a little flush of adrenaline through her body and she didn’t speak, unsure if she would be able to form coherent words. Mulder had watched her with interest as she inspected it, digging around in his jeans pocket for something. 

 

“It’s a cubic zirconia,” he said as though admitting a secret. “Someday I’ll get ya a real one.”

 

She snapped her eyes up to meet his, to try and gauge whether he was making a joke, and found him holding his hand before her, two gold rings resting in his open palm. She recalled at that moment that she’d taken her ring off when they were on the flight home from Vegas, feeling like it should be gone before they landed back in reality but unsure what to do with it. Mulder, seeing her contemplation, had offered to take it for her, saying he’d hold onto them “just in case.”

 

“Are these...our rings?” she asked, taking the smaller one and stacking it on top of the engagement ring already on her finger.

 

“That they are. Who knew they’d get a second lease on life, eh?” He put his own ring on and there was something so casual and natural about the gesture, like he’d done it a hundred times. “Not to split hairs, but the wedding band is supposed to go first, then the engagement ring,” he’d added, then smiled at her sheepishly. 

 

She smirked at his apparent vast knowledge of wedding ring etiquette and took the rings off, putting them back on in the proper order. 

 

“Alright,” he said with a single clap of his hands. “We better get going. We have a reservation to make.”

 

“A reservation?” she asked in confusion. “What for?”

 

“Well, I might not be in the running for husband of the year anytime soon, but Rob Petrie would never forget his wife’s birthday.”

 

She was wholly unable to fight off the smile that stretched across her mouth in response. She’d grown accustomed to not taking Mulder’s complete inattention to special occasions personally, but knowing that he hadn’t forgotten that it was her birthday still warmed her heart. The dinner had felt borderline romantic, and she hadn’t minded it one bit.

 

She starts the ignition, pulling out onto Autumn Terrace and making her way into San Diego to check in with the local field office and make use of San Diego Police Department’s forensics lab. She’s happy for the opportunity to get out of the house; Mulder’s behavior all weekend has been disorienting to say the least. 

 

The frequent physical contact, the pet names and regular reminders of their marital status; it’s not because it bothers her that she finds it unnerving, quite the opposite. It feels so easy, so natural to be close to him and interact with him that way. To return his casual flirtations, to allow and reciprocate his kisses, even to invite him into her bed is almost something she could let herself justify as part of the assignment. Seeing how simple it would be to lapse into that everyday love is terrifying, because she knows that backing out of it would be insurmountably hard. So she has rebuffed his attempts at affection, rolled her eyes at his quips, and relegated him to the couch in an attempt to keep that last little boundary in place. What was a brick wall when she met him is now looking more like fishing line strung between rotting fence posts, but it’s still there. At least for now. 




 

 

Six p.m. rolls around and she’s slouched down in one of the dozen or so well-worn chairs that line the back wall of the police station. The clerk at the forensics lab had warned her that their team was “very thorough, to the point of being slow” but she’d insisted on waiting. That was five hours ago, and she’s now read over the case notes at least twenty times, combed through every magazine on the rack at least twice (including some interesting, if dubious, tips on “how to blow your man’s mind in bed”), and consumed more shitty coffee than one should probably ingest in a week. She’s about ready to ask the clerk one more time how much longer it will be when someone calls her name. 

 

“Agent Scully?”

 

She looks up to see a tall, slim man with light brown hair parted messily down the middle standing several feet away. He’s wearing a navy blue suit with a white shirt and a dark green tie, and his smile feels familiar in a way she needs right now. 

 

“Detective Kresge,” she says, returning a smile of her own as she straightens up in her seat. 

 

He approaches and takes the chair beside her, curiosity coloring his features. 

 

“What brings you out west, Scully FBI?” he asks, and she can feel him thinking about her reason for meeting him when she was here before. About Emily. “Are you visiting your brother?”

 

“No, actually, I’m working a case. I’m just here to take advantage of your forensics lab to analyze a substance we found,” she replies, pushing her hair behind her ear and noticing that his eyes follow the movement. 

 

“Well shit, you could be here all night waiting for that,” he remarks flatly, and she makes a face. 

 

“Seems like it. Should I give up and just come back tomorrow?”

 

“Gimme five, I’ll see if I can put a little fire under ‘em,” he says with a wag of his eyebrows before he stands and disappears into the back of the station. He returns only three minutes later, smiling triumphantly. “I might owe Mindy about twenty favors, but they assured me they’d have it all ready by nine at the very latest.”

 

“Nine?” she says with a grimace. “That’s another three hours. I think I might die from boredom between now and then. You don’t have any novels lying around do you?”

 

He smiles at her again, and she remembers thinking when she met him that if not for the horrible situation she’d been in at the time, she might have found him cute. 

 

“Probably not any that you’d be interested in, but how about I take you to dinner instead. Have you eaten?”

 

She hasn’t, and she’s certifiably starving, but something about it feels inappropriate. Maybe it's the way he’s looking at her, but she’s afraid that if she accepts, she’ll find herself on a date. 

 

“Um, yeah that would be great. I just need to call my husband first, if that’s all right.” The words feel foreign on her tongue, but also a little thrilling. 

 

His eyebrows lift in surprise, and he immediately looks at her hand, nodding in understanding. 

 

“You’re married.” He says. It’s a statement, not a question. 

 

She nods, pulling her cell phone out and hitting the speed dial. 

 

“Mulder.”

 

“Hey, it’s me,” she says, leaving off his name. Kresge wanders over to the water cooler, offering a facade of privacy though he can certainly hear everything she says.

 

“Hey, I was starting to wonder where you were. I thought we agreed you were going to cook me dinner in nothing but an apron and your highest heels.”

 

She smiles, but doesn’t give him the satisfaction of a laugh. 

 

“And I thought I told you I didn’t bring my highest heels,” she retorts, glancing over at Kresge. He’s standing in front of the windows that look out onto the street, feigning interest in the passing cars. 

 

“Damn. Maybe some other time?”

 

“May-be. Hey, I’m still waiting on the lab results for the substance we found on the fan and the dog. They said they could have it ready by nine, so I’m going to wait. I’ll be home late.”

 

“Home, huh?” he returns, and she can hear the smile in his voice. 

 

“You know what I mean,” she chastises, but she feels the heat rising to her cheeks. 

 

“All right. I’ll wait up for you.”

 

“Easy to accomplish when you never go to sleep before 2:00 a.m.,” she says sarcastically, and he chuckles. 

 

“I’m trying to be considerate here, and you’re blowing my cover,” he complains, and now it’s her turn to chuckle. 

 

“I’ll see you later,” she says softly. 

 

“Bye, honeybunch,” he coos.

 

“Bye, poopyhead,” she replies, barely containing her laughter. 

 

She puts her phone back in her pocket and stands, joining Kresge by the window. 

 

“Ready?” she asks.

 

“Sure, yeah,” he says, turning and motioning towards the door. “Do you, uh...do you always tell your husband the details of the cases you’re working? Sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop. Small station,” he says with a little grimace. 

 

“Oh,” she replies, realizing how odd that must have sounded. “Yeah, I do. I tell him everything,” she answers honestly, and Kresge makes a surprised face and nods.

 

“I’ll drive,” she says, walking towards the van. 




 

 

“Well, once we start a forensic excavation our cover’s blown,” she points out to a very excitable Mulder. 

 

It’s after 11:00 p.m., and he’s ranting about the Klines being buried under the house. 

 

“A forensic excavation, yes. But digging a hole for a pool, maybe not,” he counters, hopping up to sit on the counter. 

 

“Sounds like you’re a man with a plan,” she replies, leaning against the counter opposite him. 

 

He nods. “Are you hungry? I ordered a pizza earlier. There are leftovers in the fridge if you want ‘em.”

 

“No, I’m okay. I actually ran into Detective Kresge at the police station while I was waiting for the test results, and we had dinner.”

 

She studies him carefully, the slight narrowing of his eyes and the shift of his chin. 

 

“Kresge, huh? What’s he got going on? Married? Three kids and one on the way?” His attempt to feign a casual tone doesn’t work very well. 

 

“No,” she says simply. “He’s single, no kids.”

 

“Hm,” is Mulder’s only response, but she can see the gears working in his head. 

 

“Anyway, the lab was taking forever but John was able to hurry things along a little, otherwise I’d be driving back into the city tomorrow,” she continues. 

 

“John?” Mulder asks. 

 

“Mhm, John Kresge,” she replies. 

 

“So you’re on a first name basis now?” he questions with just a touch of derision. 

 

She bites her lip to suppress a smile. 

 

“I might be on a first name basis with you if you’d allow me to call you by your first name, Fox,” she retorts, and he grimaces. 

 

She turns her back to him, flipping through the test results from the lab before tucking them back inside the shopping bag she’d used to conceal them. Behind her, she can hear the slap of Mulder’s feet against the linoleum as he jumps down from the counter. Suddenly he’s right behind her, his mouth close to her ear and the heat of his body radiating against her back. 

 

“Just don’t forget who you’re coming home to, Laura,” he says before delivering a firm slap squarely in the middle of her ass cheek. 

 

She startles and lets out a surprised squeak, turning her head to throw him an incredulous look as he strides out of the room, not looking back. 




 

 

She’s lying in bed, wide awake. Wide, wide, awake. The kind of awake that leaves you certain that sleep will be impossible unless you introduce drugs into the mix. 

 

She can’t stop thinking about Mulder’s blatant jealousy over her having dinner with John Kresge. What it means. She can’t stop thinking about the fact that she knows damn well what it means, but that it’s too overwhelming to consider, much less talk about. She can’t stop thinking about her ova, sitting frozen back in Washington and waiting for their opportunity to grow. Can’t stop thinking about the question she’s been meaning to ask him, but has found reasons not to, over and over again. 

 

She holds her breath and strains her ears, trying to hear him and tell whether he’s awake downstairs. She wills him to have a reason to come up, prays and wishes, uses the power of suggestion that he should pop in for some reason. She opens the bedroom door, uses the bathroom so he’ll know she’s up, “accidentally” turns the hallway light on for a moment. The house is as still as a painted ship, not the huff of a breath nor the crack of a sunflower seed audible, only the hum of the refrigerator and the tick tock of the grandfather clock that was part of the staging furniture the bureau sent over. 

 

She stands, flicking on the bedside lamp and studying herself in the full length mirror propped up in the corner of the room, none of the furniture ever destined to be hung or secured during their stay. Her cotton nightgown is decidedly frumpy, but felt the most appropriate of all the clothing they’d outfitted Laura Petrie with. She moves to the top drawer of the dresser, pushing her service weapon to the side and rifling through the alternate options. There’s a slip, a pink bra and panty set, and a light green silk nightgown. 

 

Leaving the bedroom door open, she pulls the cotton nightgown off over her head and lingers for a moment in just her blue cotton panties, begging fate that Mulder might choose just the wrong time to meander up here. No such luck, so she slips the silk nightgown over her head and turns back to the mirror again. The color is quite complementary to her complexion and hugs her curves in all the right places, and she smiles at herself in satisfaction. Then, letting herself believe that it’s void of thought or intention, she leaves the bedroom.

 

Trailing her fingertips along the banister, she makes her way downstairs with softly padding feet, not announcing her arrival to each room. When she finds herself at the doorway of the den that Mulder has made into his bedroom, she stands stock still and listens for the sound of his breath. After a time he sniffs, and she knows he isn’t sleeping. She walks gingerly around the far end of the couch, stopping near his hip and trying to make out his face in the dim light from the street lamp leaking in between the blinds. She can see the shine of his open eyes disappear intermittently as he blinks, and then he lifts his arm and wordlessly opens his blanket for her; an invitation. She sits first, then lies in the slim margin available between Mulder and the edge of the cushion. It’s enough space for her small frame, but not so much that the entire length of his body isn’t firmly pressed against her back. He pulls the blanket back down over them both and drapes his arm over her waist, pulling her close. 

 

She sighs deeply, contentment washing through her like the tide, and finally starts to relax, calmed by his presence and proximity. The foggy wash of sleepiness is just beginning to descend over her when she feels something firm against her ass cheek, the very one that Mulder had smacked not two hours ago. 

 

“Mulder?” she questions without context.

 

He heaves a sigh that presses his chest firmly against her back, air streaming out of his nose upon exhale and tickling the crown of her head. 

 

“Sorry,” he replies, “you smell really good.”

 

A smile curls the corners of her mouth.

 

“What do I smell like?” she asks.

 

He bends his neck to press his nose into her hair, inhaling deeply. Next he shimmies down just a little, his growing erection grazing over her ass in the process, until he can brush the tip of his nose along the side of her neck and sniff her dramatically. She giggles a little, until he stops with his lips just behind her ear. 

 

“Like you,” he says, then presses a soft kiss to the skin there. 

 

She is unable to suppress the contented hum that vibrates in her chest at the contact, wrapping her hand around his where it rests on her belly and dragging it up to settle between her breasts. He flexes his hips gently, groaning a little at the friction and she knows he’s just waiting for her go-ahead. 

 

She releases his hand and turns within his arms, coming nose to nose with him as she arrives at her final destination. His hand finds her hip and she feels the impatient flutter of his fingertips against her skin through the nightgown. She lifts the hand that is not pinned beneath her and touches his jaw, trailing her fingers along his stubbled cheek until she feels the soft smoothness of his lips, and brings her own to join them. He kisses her eagerly, gripping the flesh of her hip and thrusting against the vacant space between their bodies. She brushes her toes along his calf, forcing her foot between his legs before her knee follows, then her thigh, and then she can feel the heat of his balls against her skin through his boxers and his stiff cock poking her hip bone. Permission granted, he slips his hand back to cup her ass, tugging her towards him for more contact. His hand moves lower to sneak under the hem of her nightgown and plays at the edge of her panties, his fingers exploring while his tongue does the same. She is suddenly so overwhelmed with the need to have him inside her that her mind starts racing through possible ways to make it happen. Realizing she’s over complicating it, she stuffs her hand down the front of his boxers and grasps him firmly, pumping in long, slow strokes while he moans into her open mouth. She withdraws her hand and shifts up so that most of her body is off the couch, propped up by her arm. 

 

“Lie on your back,” she directs him, and he complies. 

 

Hooking her fingers under the waist of his boxers, she tugs them down his legs and maneuvers them over his large feet before draping them over the back of the couch. She stands and moves her hands up under her nightgown, but he is faster and wants to take part. He sits upright suddenly and plants his feet on the floor, his palms running up the sides of her thighs and resting on her bare hips. 

 

“Let me,” he asks, and she drops her hands away, allowing him to drag her panties down her legs slowly, the damp gusset leaving a trail of moisture along its path. 

 

When they’ve fallen to the floor at her feet, she steps out of them and moves forward, gathering her nightgown around her waist before she lowers herself into his lap, a knee settling on the couch on either side of his hips. He runs his palms over her bare skin, breathing heavily in anticipation. She slides forward until the length of him presses against her body and then she rocks her pelvis softly, teasing him just a little. 

 

“I want you,” he whines, pulling at her as if to move her to where he needs her most. 

 

“I can tell,” she whispers against his neck, planting wet kisses from his ear to his shoulder. 

 

“Do you want me?” he asks, and the self-doubt in his voice breaks her heart. 

 

She lifts her head, cupping his jaw in both hands and brushing her lips over his softly. 

 

“Yes,” she says against his mouth, “so much.”

 

She kisses him as she lifts her hips, and he finds his way to her entrance without any hands to direct him. She lowers herself slowly, absorbing each delicious inch while she sucks on his lower lip. When they are fully joined, he grabs the hem of her nightgown and pulls it up, passing it over her head when she lifts her arms without the need of instruction. His fingertips against her nipples are rough and wonderful, little jolts going straight to her clit when he pinches in just the right way. She laps at his tongue as she begins to move up and down in short strokes, their bodies flush and rubbing against each other in a million perfect places. Their languid pace picks up rhythm, his head dipping to pull a rosy nipple between his teeth moving right along with them as she bobs up and down. He bites down a little and she cries out, the sharp sound seeming to set him alight as he starts to thrust up into her from underneath. 

 

The muted slap of their skin keeps time with the seconds of the grandfather clock, the stillness of the house barely disturbed by their joining. Her head lolls around, lost in the sensations and happy to stay right in this moment for eternity. As though needing her closer, Mulder grabs her face and brings it down to his, kissing her firmly as he shoves one hand between them until his middle finger is planted right on her aching clit. She whimpers into his mouth, steadying herself with her hands on his shoulders as he drives into her, paired with small tight circles of his finger. 

 

“Oh god,” she moans into his mouth, the flush of her approaching orgasm spreading from her toes up her legs. “Oh god, yes.”

 

He growls, pumping faster, breathing hard as a slick of sweat beads up along his upper back. 

 

“Oh, don’t stop, oh god, don’t stop,” she pleads, and she’s so, so close. 

 

“Fuck,” he groans, “you feel so good.”

 

Her breath catches, her body going rigid as it overtakes her. 

 

“God, I love you,” he professes against the skin of her neck. 

 

“I- oh god, I’m coming,” she breathes out, and he clutches her to his chest, tangling them tightly together as they both fall apart. 

 

A writhing mass of damp skin and panting breath, soft moans and spasming muscles on a couch that will be returned to the Rent A Center when this case is over, they melt into one another until it’s not clear where one ends and the other begins. After a time, their hearts are no longer pounding and their breath is no longer heaving. His fading erection is still tucked firmly inside of her, not enough space for it to shrink away even when she sits up a little, her hands resting on his shoulders. 

 

He brushes the hair from her face, searching her features in the dim light, and she can sense that he has something to say. She lifts her eyebrows expectantly and even if he can’t see them, he can feel her openness to whatever it is. 

 

“I didn’t like that you had dinner with Kresge,” he admits, which isn’t a surprise to her. 

 

“Why?” she asks for the sheer pleasure of hearing the answer. 

 

“I guess I just want you all to myself,” he replies, but without any possessiveness in his tone. 

 

She kisses him softly, keeping her lips against his as she speaks again. 

 

“You do have me all to yourself, Mulder.”

 

She can’t see, but can feel, his smile against her mouth. 

 

Chapter Text

It’s a full minute before he can calm her down enough to take a look at her injuries. Her gasping sobs, the fingernails clawing at his back - she’s scaring the shit out of him, but she’s alive. That’s better than he’d feared upon walking into his apartment and finding her blood-soaked and motionless on the floor. 

 

“Let me see,” he pleads, peeling her arms from around his neck, trying to create enough space between them to pinpoint the source of the blood. Each time he pulls back, she draws closer, and he can’t stop thinking that the way her heart is pounding she’s going to bleed out before he can do anything about it. 

 

She finally lets him lay her back down, and he gently pops open the buttons on her blouse, noting that it’s not torn or damaged at all. When he peels the sticky fabric away from the skin of her belly, he doesn’t see any injuries. Rolling her to her side, he checks her back and sees more blood-smeared but unharmed skin. Satisfied that she’s physically okay, he scoops her up off the floor and sits back, pulling her into his lap. She grabs fistfuls of his sweater, shaking violently and struggling to get control of her breath. He rocks her gently, smoothing his blood-stained hands over her hair and face, shushing her softly. 

 

“You’re okay. I’ve got you, you’re okay,” he reassures her, hoping that he’s not telling lies. 

 

Her sobs are slowing to whimpers when the police arrive, followed closely by EMS; his neighbors probably have them on speed dial at this point, as often as gunfire or other questionable noises can be heard from apartment forty-two. As Mulder turns to tell the officers that they are both FBI agents, Scully starts to scramble away from him in a panic, pulling her open blouse closed and distancing herself from her partner, whose lap she certainly should not be sitting in. He grabs her arm and tries to pull her back to him, the panicked look she gives him confirming his suspicions. 

 

“It’s okay, Scully, it doesn’t matter,” he says softly, but she shakes her head and settles on the floor beside him instead, allowing him to drape his arm over her shoulder. 

 

The EMTs check her and confirm what he’d already determined; there is no identifiable source of the blood. She has no wounds, no punctures, or even abrasions. They both know as samples are collected for analysis that the tests will show that the blood is hers, and yet there is no answer for how it exited her body. Not any that she’s willing to accept, anyway. Her clothes are bagged as evidence. They are exchanged for one of Mulder’s T-shirts and a pair of basketball shorts that fit her like capri pants and have to be cinched with a rubber band so they don’t slide down her tiny hips. 

 

It’s hours before the last of the crime scene photos are taken, the last witness statements are given, and the door is locked behind the last officer. Looking at her curled into a corner of the couch, her neck splotched like a watercolor painting, he gets to the work of making things okay again. It’s not something he ever hoped to be an expert at, and yet he’s done it so many times it almost feels routine. 

 

“Hey,” he says softly, cringing when she startles at his hand on her forearm. “Let’s get you in the shower.” 

 

He leads her into the bathroom with a hand on her back, switching on the water to let it get hot before he grabs a clean towel from the linen closet. She removes his borrowed clothes, frowning at the red stains around the collar of his white shirt as she hands it to him wordlessly. He leaves her, tossing the clothes into the hamper and quickly stripping his bed to put on clean sheets. It’s fairly late and she’s so exhausted, he’s hoping that he can convince her to stay. As he tugs on the last corner of the fitted sheet, he hears a sound from the bathroom and freezes, listening. He hears it again, a sharp breath, a stifled sob, and he rushes in to check on her. 

 

“Scully, are you okay?” he asks, trying to keep the panic out of his voice. 

 

“Yeah,” she croaks, but he knows she’s not. 

 

He pulls his own blood-stained shirt and sweater over his head, stripping off his jeans and boxers before he opens the shower curtain a crack and peeks behind it. She has her back to him with her arms crossed in an X over her chest, and she’s shaking as though the stream of water were made of ice. He pulls the curtain wider and steps in, moving close and wrapping his arms over hers so that her back is pressed against his chest. She relaxes a bit under his touch, but along with it, her cries resume in earnest, racking sobs reverberating through her tiny frame. Loosening his grip, he touches her shoulders and turns her to face him, searching her for the answer to what she needs. 

 

“There’s so much blood,” she whispers, and he understands. 

 

“Close your eyes,” he says, and then goes about washing it all away. 

 

He turns her body to direct the spray towards each blood-caked patch of skin as needed, gently wiping with a washcloth to remove the more stubborn spots. He lifts her arms one by one, washes her hair, and checks every hidden crevice twice to be sure he hasn’t left any trace behind. When the water runs clear, he cradles her face in his hand and gently swipes down each cheek, wiping away the tracks of mascara stained tears. Satisfied that there’s nothing left to see, he kisses her softly on the mouth and she opens her eyes. 

 

“All clean,” he says with a soft smile, and she leans heavily against him, her wet cheek cool against his chest. 

 

“Thank you,” she replies quietly. 

 

They stand like that for a while until the water starts to cool, and then he releases her, turning the knob up a bit higher. 

 

“You’re about to run out of hot water,” he says, stepping back towards the end of the tub, “I’m going to make you something to eat, okay? You can grab whatever clothes you want to wear.”

 

She nods, and he gets out, barely drying off before he throws on clean clothes and then works quickly to finish making the bed. In the living room, he carefully lays some old blankets over the blood-stained floorboards where he found her and takes a quick look around for anything else that he should cover or put away before she comes out. Satisfied that all the obvious triggers have been removed, he hurries into the kitchen to find something to eat, resolving that if she refuses to stay here, he’ll insist on going back to her apartment with her. 




 

 

The water starts to cool again, and she turns it up all the way, quickly warming her body before she shuts it off and steps out. Mulder has left a clean towel on the counter by the sink and she smiles a little at his thoughtfulness, a pained kind of smile. 

 

This is entirely her fault, and she’s so ashamed. Padgett was right about one thing he wrote in his book; she was trying to get Mulder’s attention. But not for the reasons on the page, not to get him to see her in some certain way; Mulder sees her more clearly than anyone else on this planet ever has, and maybe ever will. 

 

She just wanted him to want her, to initiate something that she can’t bring herself to initiate. The way he’d reacted to learning she had dinner with Kresge, his jealousy and possessiveness, she wanted that feeling again. Was that really why she’d knocked on Padgett’s door? There’s no other explanation. She certainly wasn’t attracted to Padgett, or intrigued by him in the way he seemed to think. He was nothing more than a tool, a way to make Mulder feel threatened so he’d come to claim her again. The fact that she chose to endanger her safety and their investigation over simply telling Mulder what she wanted from him is as embarrassing as it is scary. Will it always be this way between them? Will one always chase as the other evades, playing guessing games and sending subtle cues that can’t be picked up on, or will they someday arrive on the same page? 

 

Loneliness is a choice. 

 

Is she choosing loneliness by refusing to let herself love Mulder, all because she’s afraid? And afraid of what? Too many things to name: rejection, failure, judgement, vulnerability. It’s easy to rest on the fact that it’s against bureau policy, but in truth it wouldn’t be hard to hide. That’s the easiest answer, but not the honest one. There are a whole lot of options between whatever it is they’re doing now and actually being a couple, but she hasn’t been able to so much as entertain the idea of any of them. 

 

She tucks the towel under her arms and rifles through Mulder’s dresser, searching for clothes that won’t completely drown her. Picking through his sock drawer, she touches something hard and wraps her fingers around it, pulling out a framed photograph. She gasps audibly when she sees it, turning quickly towards the open bedroom door to confirm that he didn’t hear her. She traces her fingers over the glass, a lump forming in her throat at the full, beaming smiles on their mouths and her hand planted firmly on his chest. Her memories of that day feel like scenes from a movie that she saw rather than experienced, and she’s surprised by how genuinely happy they both look. She wonders why Mulder has never shown this to her, and how often he looks at it himself. The ache that already resided in her chest grows more persistent, begging her to release herself from this torment. And she wants to, but she doesn’t know how. Replacing the photo exactly how she found it, she slips into a pair of his boxers and his Knicks T-shirt, pausing to pull in a lungful of his smell before tugging it over her head. 

 

She pads out into the living room, immediately spotting the blankets that cover the bloodstained floor and walking carefully around them into the kitchen. Mulder is standing at the stove, a dish towel flung over his shoulder and a spatula in one hand. He turns as he hears her enter, smiling that impish smile that always makes her heart skip a beat, and she walks determinedly towards him. 

 

“I’m making grilled cheese, I hope that’s sufficient-” he begins, but stops when she threads her arms around his waist, gripping him tightly and burrowing her head under the crook of his chin. “Hey,” he says softly, wrapping his free arm across her back, “you okay?”

 

“I Iove you,” she says tightly against his chest. “I love you, and I’m sorry I’ve never told you.”

 

He freezes for a split second, and she wonders if it was the wrong choice. He sets the spatula down on the counter and pulls away from her a little, putting his hand on her chin and tilting her face up to look at him. She wants to run away, to hide, to never have to see the look on his face. But he waits until her eyes meet his, and she doesn’t find anything there except love shining right back at her. She feels her chin pucker as relief washes over her. 

 

“I know,” he says with the softest little smile on his mouth. “Even if you weren’t ready to tell me yet, I knew.”

 

He stoops a little and she reciprocates by pushing up onto her toes, the kiss sweet and comforting in the best kind of way, in exactly the way she needs. Suddenly he startles a little and pulls away.

 

 “Shit!” he exclaims, grabbing the spatula and flipping over the sandwich to reveal that the bottom is black and burnt. 

 

He gives her a sarcastic glare and shakes his head, and she can’t help but laugh. 

 

New, un-burnt sandwiches are cooked and eaten, an extra toothbrush is dug out from under the sink, and while they don’t discuss it, she crawls into bed beside him as the clock reads nearly 1 a.m. Something feels a little bit lighter, a little bit different, though it’s hard to say exactly what. Mulder pulls her close, nearly nose to nose, with her leg threaded between his and his arm draped over her waist. She recalls him telling their neighbors in Arcadia that they’d slept “curled up like little baby cats” and smiles to herself in the darkened room. 

 

“What?” he asks, either sensing or seeing her smile. 

 

“Nothing,” she says with a sigh, resting her forehead against his. 

 

“So, what now?” he asks, and she pulls away a little. 

 

“What now, what?” she asks. 

 

“Well,” he begins, clearly choosing his words carefully, “maybe I read too many fairy tales as a kid, but I think when two people love each other they’re supposed to live happily ever after or something.”

 

“Mulder…” she isn’t quite sure how to finish what she’s trying to say. 

 

“I’m not trying to push you or rush you, Scully. I understand that we can’t just come out and be together like normal people can, because of the work. But I don’t always understand why, even in situations where there’s no risk, you’re still so reluctant to be seen together. Some DC cops seeing me holding you isn’t the end of the world.” His tone is soft, and he brushes his fingertips over her arm lightly as he speaks, but she can feel the frustration behind his words. “I guess I just don’t understand what you want. And I don’t know how to meet your needs if I can’t figure out what they are.”

 

She heaves a sigh. “Bold of you to assume that I know what I want,” she says with some levity, and he chuckles. “I just don’t think I can put a label on it, Mulder. There are so many expectations that come along with that and I don’t see how they can fit inside the bizarre life we already have.”

 

“Okay,” he replies, “labels and logic aside, what do you want?”

 

“I...I don’t want to be with anyone else. And I don’t want you to be with anyone else,” she offers hesitantly.

 

She feels him nodding. “I kind of thought that was a given, but good to say so explicitly,” he confirms. 

 

“And I want...closeness, like this,” she continues, brushing her fingers over his back. 

 

“Okay,” he replies, pulling her a little closer. He’s quiet for a beat. “What about sex?”

 

She chuckles. “Yeah, sex would be nice,” she says with a smile in her voice. 

 

“Thank god,” he exclaims with a relieved sigh. 

 

“Maybe not right now, though. I’m really tired,” she adds, her final words distorted by a yawn. 

 

“Understandable, it’s been a weird day,” he agrees, and they fall quiet. 

 

“Hey Scully,” he speaks just as she feels herself begin to drift off.

 

“Hm?”

 

“I love you.”

 

She trails her hand up his shoulder to find his face in the dark, kissing him firmly. 

 

“I love you too.”




 

 

There is a loud thump, followed by a prolonged scrape. That’s what wakes him, the asshole upstairs who seems to have a daily ritual of rearranging his furniture. Given, he probably doesn't appreciate the frequency of gunfire from the unit below, but it’s not nearly as frequent as the thumping. He stretches, his limbs cracking as he shakes the sleep from his muscles. It’s only when he rotates his neck side to side that he realizes, or more accurately remembers, that Scully is still here. 

 

A smile stretches across his mouth. She’s never slept over before, not the whole night through, and it feels meaningful. Her back is to him, the slope of her waist in his Knicks T-shirt revealed just above the blanket that’s draped over her hip. His flagging morning erection finds a second wind, inspired by the idea of something he hasn’t experienced in well over a decade: morning sex. Of course, she’s been through something harrowing just last night, so it would be thoughtless of him to assume she’s interested. Still, he can’t help but hope. 

 

He scoots across the mattress and snuggles up behind her, carefully keeping his pelvis away from her backside, and loops his arm over her waist. Her breathing is deep and even, still very much asleep, and he takes some time to enjoy the softness of her body and her sleep-warm smell. She doesn’t stir, and the longer he lies there the more drowsy he becomes, eventually drifting back to sleep himself. 

 

“Mmmmm,” she hums, shifting her hips. 

 

His eyes shoot open; how much time has passed? He has no idea, but now his hard-on is pressed right against her ass and she is wriggling back against him in earnest. He tightens his grip on her waist and she grabs his hand, threading it up under her shirt, his shirt, and placing it directly on top of her breast. That seems like a pretty clear green light. He presses his lips against the side of her neck, dropping little kisses from her shoulder to her ear as she sighs and whimpers. 

 

“Hi,” he whispers as he nips at her earlobe. 

 

“Hi,” she replies breathily. 

 

“How are you feeling?” he asks, wanting to be sure she’s really up to this. 

 

“Like I want you to take your pants off,” she answers, and he groans. 

 

He slips his boxers down his hips, kicking them off his feet, and then brings his hands to the set she’s wearing, dipping his fingers under the waistband. 

 

“These too?” he asks, though he’s already pushing them slowly down her hips. 

 

“Seems prudent,” she replies, reaching behind her back to grasp his cock and give it half a dozen slow pumps. 

 

He gets them as far as her knees before she takes over, scissoring her legs until she can kick them over the side of the bed. He scoots closer to her, aligning them just so, and then waits. While he licks and nips her neck and shoulder, she hooks her top ankle behind his knee and reaches between her legs. His hips shift impatiently, anticipating, until he feels the tips of her fingers touch the head of his cock. He stills while she shifts a bit, arching her back to get the angle right before she presses him against her opening and he routes inside. He lets out a long, low moan. She is hot and wet and unbelievably tight, and it takes all his self control not to slam into her. She reaches one hand back and grabs his ass, squeezing it before she gives him a tap, almost like a giddy-up, and he begins a slow rhythm of deep thrusts. He returns the hand that isn’t pinned beneath him to her breast, squeezing and pinching in tandem with his thrusts, and she whimpers a little in the most delicious way. Her one hand still on his ass, she surreptitiously brings the other up to touch between her legs and he slams his eyes shut, overwhelmed by the visual. 

 

“Jesus fuck,” he groans, waiting until the feeling passes before he dares to look again. 

 

He wishes he could see exactly what she’s doing, more than just slivers of her arm moving, but he doesn’t want to make her self conscious or prevent her from being able to finish, so he doesn’t try to see. Instead he brings his lips to her ear, making sure she knows how much he likes it. 

 

“You feel so good,” he whispers, feeling her fingers intermittently bump against his shaft as he moves in and out. “You have no idea how much that turns me on, you touching yourself.”

 

He feels her clench around him, and knows his words of reassurance are having an impact. He can’t resist picking up his pace, but notices that she’s doing the same right along with him, the motion of her arm becoming frantic. Knowing he can’t hold out much longer, he pulls her earlobe between his teeth and rolls her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, and is rewarded with her sucking in a huge breath and holding it, going rigid in his arms. Her muscles contract firmly around him and it sends him over the edge, thankfully right along with her. 

 

She’s markedly quiet in the morning, he observes, less vocal without the cover of darkness, though her orgasm seems to go on for eternity, longer than his erection can last. When he slips out of her, he reaches down and pushes two fingers inside, pressing them firmly against her front wall while she whimpers and continues to throb as he applies pressure. Her fluttering moans suddenly grow more frantic and she clamps her hand around his forearm as another, smaller orgasm erupts around his fingers. Finally, she tugs on his hand, declaring “that’s enough.”

 

They lay there, spent and sticky, catching their breaths for a long while. Eventually she rolls onto her back and smiles sweetly at him. 

 

“Good morning,” she says, and he nods. 

 

“Indeed,” he answers, smiling back. “Coffee?”

 

“Coffee, shower, breakfast, toothbrush,” she lists off, “not necessarily in that order. I need to go home and get some clothes. Can’t go gallivanting around town in your underwear.”

 

He shrugs. “Agree to disagree. Will you have breakfast with me before you go? I think you can safely do that in my underwear.”

 

She nods. “Deal.”




 

 

She studies him over her coffee cup as he sops up syrup with his last bites of pancake, his dining room table having a rare opportunity to host a meal. There will never be a perfect time, she knows, because she’s been waiting for it for nearly two years and it hasn’t come. Dr. Parenti told her time was not something she had the luxury of, that she should start as soon as possible, but life seems to keep getting in her way. She’d be about to ask before she became sick or injured, or before Mulder did. Diana arrived in her life and she felt too unsure, too fragile to risk the rejection of him saying no. Then she’d been shot and needed time to recover; it’s always something, and there will always be something. But she can’t wait forever. 

 

When she’d first considered it, things were not nearly as complicated between them as they are now, and she’s not sure if that makes it better or worse. Is the risk greater, if he says no? Will it hurt more, or less? And what if it works? Before, she could have distanced herself enough to allow him the opportunity to opt out of being involved, but now? It’s hard to imagine such a clear boundary. And yet, she has to ask. There is no alternative, it’s him or no one. She’s known it from the moment she learned the ova existed. 

 

“What are you thinking about?” he asks suddenly, and she realizes she was staring. 

 

She wants to lie and say nothing, but he’s opened the door and she may as well step through. 

 

“I was thinking about the ova you found. My ova,” she says, studying her coffee mug. It’s ceramic, red with a green rim and she suddenly wonders where he got it. 

 

“Oh?” he asks, his interest piqued. “What about them?”

 

“You know that I had them looked at by another doctor, after you told me about their existence,” she says, and he nods gravely, the guilt apparent in his eyes. “The doctor I saw, Dr. Parenti, said there was a decent chance I could get pregnant. That they might be viable.”

 

He sets his fork down, regarding her with shock. “When was this?” he asks. 

 

“Shortly after Emily died.”

 

His eyebrows lift. “And did you...did you try?”

 

She shakes her head. “Not yet.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, our lifestyle isn’t exactly conducive to fertility treatment. But also, I would need to find a sperm donor for the other half of the genetic material, and...I guess I’ve been putting that off.” She picks up her fork and pushes the remains of her own pancakes around on her plate. 

 

“Don’t you just look through a folder or something? I guess I don’t know too much about how that works, but I figured you just find a guy who looks like...whatever you want your kid to look like.”

 

She nods, pulling in a deep breath. 

 

“Yes, that’s what I’d do if I wanted to use an anonymous donor. But I don’t want to use an anonymous donor.” 

 

She can almost feel the moment he makes the connection, when he infers where this is headed. It’s like the air is sucked out of the room, and her heart jumps before it starts racing. 

 

“Oh,” he says flatly, and she can’t bring herself to look at him. 

 

“It’s okay to say no, Mulder. It’s a lot to ask. I just don’t think I could do it if it was anyone else. Anyone but you.”

 

She steals a glance at him and he’s somewhat shell-shocked, expressionless with his eyes trained on her fork as she moves it around on her plate. She stands and he startles, sitting up ramrod straight and regarding her with a panicked expression. 

 

“Are you leaving?” he asks with a worried tone. 

 

“I need to get home. It’s fine, you can just take some time to think about it if you need to. You don’t need to answer now, or at all. I’m sorry if I’ve put you in an awkward position,” she rambles as she collects her things, realizing too late that she has no shoes to wear and making her way to the door barefoot. She hears the scrape of his chair behind her as he stands, and just as she’s pulling the door open, he puts his hand on her wrist. She looks up at him and he searches her face with his eyes. 

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to...it’s a lot of new information for me. I just need a minute to wrap my head around it,” he says softly. “Are we okay?”

 

She forces her lips into a smile that she knows won’t reflect in her eyes. “Of course,” she replies, then accepts the two quick kisses he places on her mouth. “Talk to you tomorrow,” she says, then hurries off down the hall. 

 

Standing in the elevator shoeless, in his boxers and T-Shirt with no coat, she is reminded of what her classmates called “the walk of shame,” only she’s not ashamed of having slept with him or stayed the night. She hopes that she won’t ultimately feel shame and embarrassment for having asked him for something greater than he’s willing to give, and putting him in the position of having to say no. 

 

Chapter Text

“What a horrifically cruel thing to say,” Mulder admonishes her, gape mouthed. 

 

“What are you talking about?” she questions incredulously, eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“The child has done nothing to you, hasn’t even arrived earthside and had the opportunity to steal your sleep and stink up your apartment, and you’re wishing them a life of disfigurement and ridicule. Heartless.”

 

A facetious smile creeps over her mouth and she rolls her eyes at him, though it’s hard to say whether he can see it in the ambient light that seeps into the dugout from the outfield. They sit side by side on the child-sized bench, his feet propped up on the half-wall in front of them that she didn’t dare try to reach for fear of falling short, quite literally, and looking foolish. 

 

“You’re being very dramatic,” she chastises. 

 

“Easy for you to say, you have a perfect nose,” he counters, reaching out with a sunflower-salty index finger and bopping the tip of her nose.

 

“There’s no such thing as a perfect nose,” she retorts, “and I happen to like yours.”

 

“Stockholm syndrome,” he says flatly, casting her a sideways glance as he pops another seed in his mouth. “You’ve been looking at my face for too long, you’re starting to overly identify with it, see good things that aren’t there. Next you’re going to tell me that you find my overbite charming.”

 

She doesn’t respond and he looks over at her, finding a sheepish smile on her face. 

 

“You’re kidding,” he says in disbelief. 

 

“You’re so full of shit, Mulder. Are you fishing for compliments? You know you’re good looking,” she replies, glad that the dim lighting will hide the pink rising to her cheeks. 

 

He turns to her again, lifting his eyebrows expectantly. “Go on,” he urges, and she slaps his arm. 

 

“You’re the one who wanted to play this game, anyway,” she grumbles, “and all you’ve done is criticize my selections. Why don’t you answer your own question?”

 

“Easy,” he says flippantly, “I hope they look exactly like you.”

 

Exactly like me? Why?” she asks in disbelief. 

 

He casts her a doubtful look, as though he’s confused about why she’s missing the obvious answer. 

 

“Because you’re perfect,” he says plainly, and this time she rolls her eyes and blushes at the same time. 

 

“That is entirely false,” she objects, and he laughs at her. “I drive you completely insane, Mulder. I know with absolute certainty that you do not think I’m perfect.”

 

In her own discomfort with his flattery, she dips her fingers into the bag of sunflower seeds that’s nestled between them on the bench and pops a few in her mouth. 

 

“Alright, then let me clarify,” he continues, “you’re physically perfect.”

 

She scoffs. 

 

“I’m ridiculously short,” she retorts.

 

“Adorable,” he counters. 

 

“My complexion is more corpse-like than life-like.”

 

“Alabaster, porcelain: the stuff of literature.”

 

“I have no bustline to speak of.”

 

“All you need’s a handful, and you’ve got a great ass.”

 

“Mulder!” she chastises with a laugh. 

 

They fall quiet for a moment, looking out over the empty field. The pitching machine sits right where the young boy had left it when he hurried home at dusk, a bucket of balls on the ground adjacent. 

 

“The odds aren’t all that high. It’s probably better not to theorize too much anyway,” she says with preemptive defeat. 

 

He picks up the bag of seeds and scoots closer, draping his arm over her shoulder. 

 

“Don’t count yourself out before you’ve had a chance to get in the game, Scully,” he says softly. “You have to hold out some hope that it’ll work.”

 

She pulls in a big breath and lets it out forcefully, leaning into him a little. “I’m too afraid to hope,” she says in a small voice. “Hoping might make it harder if it doesn’t work.”

 

He presses his lips to the crown of her head, holding them there while he takes a couple breaths. 

 

“I’ll just have to hope for both of us, then,” he finally says, his words dampened by her scalp. 

 

A swell of emotion tightens her throat, and she doesn’t speak. He’s been achingly sweet and kind to her since agreeing to be her sperm donor, or to try and have a baby together, or whatever it is they’re doing. Even this impromptu batting lesson, which she could easily argue was more for him than her, is emblematic of his sincere attempts at the closeness she’d requested. 

 

“But for the record,” he continues, breaking the tension, “what I’ll be hoping for is a tiny little red-haired blue eyed baby with an expansive vocabulary and a steady scalpel-hand.”

 

She laughs, slipping her hand over to rest on top of his thigh. 

 

“That sounds horrifying,” she jokes, giving his leg a squeeze. 

 

“Eh, we’ve seen worse,” he replies dryly. 

 

She leans her head back to rest on his arm, looking up at the silhouette of his profile. 

 

“You’re a very beautiful man, Mulder,” she says sincerely. “You know that, right?”

 

She can see a shift in the outline of his face and knows he’s smiling, even if he doesn’t let on. 

 

“Stockholm syndrome, Scully,” he declares, turning his head so that their faces are inches apart. “I’ve brainwashed you.”

 

“Well, I won’t argue with that,” she replies, touching the back of his neck and pulling him into a kiss. 

 

When their lips part he stands, holding his hands out to her. She takes them and he pulls her up, wrapping her in an embrace. Resting her chin on his chest, she looks up at him. 

 

“You’re a very handsome captor; who could blame me?”



Chapter Text

She squints against the early afternoon sun as they are wheeled side-by-side through the hospital doors. As a doctor, she understands why discharged patients should exit via wheelchair, but as a patient, she finds it obnoxious and a little bit embarrassing. She feels fine, surprisingly so, and looking over at Mulder he seems quite fine as well. The damage done to their soft tissue by the digestive enzyme was minimal, perhaps due to how many layers of clothing they each had on. They were lucky, even the doctor said as much. 

 

Rising from their chairs and wishing the nursing staff a good day, they traverse the parking lot to find Mulder’s car, and he drives them to Georgetown without discussion. Scully watches the scenery zip past outside her window, remembering the overwhelming sense of awe she had felt at seeing that extraterrestrial in Mulder’s apartment. The memory is fading already, and she grasps at it like grains of sand slipping through her fingers. Were the tips of its fingers bulbous, or is that just from sci-fi movies? It doesn’t really matter; it wasn’t real, after all. She still wants to hold on to it. 

 

Mulder follows her into her apartment, carrying her bag in one hand while the other rests on the small of her back. It’s such a familiar gesture that she doesn't notice it most of the time, but every now and then she becomes aware of it, smiling to herself at how good it feels. Familiar and yet different, because things between them are very different now. No longer waiting impatiently for the next time that he feels inspired to kiss her, or that she works up the courage to cross their adjoining doors and crawl into his bed, they now share affection freely - so long as it’s behind closed doors. She’s growing so accustomed to the steady beat of his heart under her ear as she falls asleep that on the nights they remain in their own beds, she finds that she doesn’t sleep well. 

 

Sleep in her own bed sounds delightful right now, and so she changes into cotton shorts and a T-shirt, lifting her eyebrows and cocking her head towards the bed in wordless invitation to Mulder. 

 

“To sleep,” she clarifies, too tired for anything else. 

 

He strips down to his boxers and undershirt and they crawl under the covers, her head finding its rightful spot on his chest as she drapes one leg over his. She sighs a deep, contented sigh, relishing in the warmth of his body and the smell of his skin. Quickly, she begins to drift off. 

 

The trill of the phone jolts her back to consciousness and she jerks within Mulder’s arms. He’s already reaching for the cordless phone that’s sitting on the bedside table, answering as though he lives here.

 

“Hello?”

 

He listens to the voice on the other end of the line, and she watches his face as his eyes grow wide before he sits up, causing her to fall away from him onto the mattress. 

 

“Are you sure?” he questions, casting her a shocked glance. 

 

“What is it?” she whispers, sitting up and holding her ear near the phone, trying to hear. 

 

“I’m going to have you talk to Dana now,” Mulder says to the caller, then holds the phone out to her with a stricken expression. 

 

She feels a knot forming in her belly and takes the phone from him. Pressing it to her ear, she says a little prayer. 

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hello, Dana? This is Dr. Roberts. We’ve just gotten the results of your bloodwork and I needed to call you right away.”

 

“Is something wrong?” she questions, glancing over to Mulder to see that a small smile is forming on his lips. She’s more confused than ever. 

 

“No, nothing is wrong, but we did do a full workup on you and that includes testing for various diseases and medical conditions. Including a pregnancy test.”

 

There is a slight ringing in her ears, and a flush of adrenaline as her heart begins to race. 

 

“Okay,” she responds, unsure what else to say. 

 

“Congratulations are in order, Dana. You’re pregnant. About ten weeks, based on your HcG levels.”

 

Her mouth hangs open but she can’t seem to find words. She looks over at Mulder and his smirk is now a full, toothy smile. 

 

“Are you sure?” she finally says. 

 

“Oh yes, very sure. You’ll want to make an appointment with your OBGYN soon, okay?”

 

“O-Okay,” she stammers. 

 

“Do you have any questions for me?” 

 

“I don’t- no I don’t think so. Thank you, Dr. Roberts.”

 

She ends the call and lets the phone drop into her lap, staring at it in disbelief. She lifts her head to look at Mulder, who is beaming at her like an idiot. 

 

“Scully...it worked,” he says in a voice rich with emotion, reaching over to take her hands and bring them to his lips, kissing the backs of her knuckles. “It worked,” he repeats, his voice cracking. 

 

“But how, Mulder? The egg transfer was weeks ago. I had a blood test after fourteen days and it was negative.” 

 

She flashes on that afternoon and the surprisingly emotional reaction she’d had to the news. She thought she’d prepared herself well, knowing that the odds were low, and yet hearing that it had failed was like a punch in the gut. Mulder sat with her for hours while she cried, then chastised herself for crying, then cried some more. They planned to try again next month. 

 

“It’s a miracle,” he says simply, as though that is explanation enough. 

 

“No, Mulder,” she insists. “This doesn’t make sense.”

 

“Scully,” he implores, scooting closer to wrap his arms around her waist, “you’re going to have a baby. We are going to have a baby.”

 

He kisses her, but his lips find hers lifeless and non reciprocating. He pulls back, looking at her quizzically. 

 

“You’re not happy?” he asks, his voice a bit wounded. 

 

She shakes her head solemnly. “It’s not that I’m not happy, Mulder. This doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible.”

 

“You’re just in shock,” he offers. “After all we’ve just been through, it’s a lot to absorb.”

 

“Mulder…” she starts again, bringing her fingers to her temples. “I had a negative blood test. I had my period.”

 

“Aren’t there women who have what they think is a period, but are still pregnant? I’ve read about that,” he says, frustration growing in his voice. 

 

“Yes, but…Mulder, how did your car get to the hospital?” she asks, growing suspicious. 

 

He shrugs. “Maybe the Gunmen dropped it off.”

 

“You don’t think it’s odd that you don’t know? And why don’t we have any marks on our skin, chemical burns from the acid in the digestive fluid?” She grows more insistent, and he grows more frustrated. 

 

“The doctor said we were lucky, we weren’t underground very long,” he retorts. 

 

She shakes her head, looking around her bedroom. The pictures on the wall pitch and tilt as though melting. She looks back to Mulder and he is distorted, yellowing and disintegrating before her. She closes her eyes against the image, the world fading to black behind her eyelids. 

 

Beep...beep...beep...beep.

 

She hears the sounds of the monitors and smells the disinfectant before she opens her eyes to confirm her location. Lifting her hand to rub it over her face, she winces at the pain and pulls back to see her skin mottled and raw, even her palm. She turns her head slowly to the side, the skin of her neck pulling painfully in the process, until she can see Mulder in his own bed a few feet away. His lips are moving soundlessly, perhaps still lost in the dream. In the hallucination. Tears begin to pool in her eyes at the cruelty of it, and they sting as they slip down her cheeks. Finally, Mulder’s eyes crack open. She watches him squint and cringe, orienting himself to his environment. She watches him realize. He slowly turns his head to face her, meeting her eye with matching agony. 

 

“It wasn’t real,” he says plainly, his voice hoarse. 

 

She can feel her chin pebble, his image becoming blurry behind new tears. 

 

“No, it wasn’t.”

 

Chapter Text

He drops to the ground, clutching his head. God, the ringing. It’s the worst it’s been yet, grating on his ear drums like an out of control dog whistle, the frequency seeming to crack into the space between his brain and skull. Someone steps over him and he strains to see who, opens his mouth to ask for help, but the visual input makes the ringing worse and the only sound he can make is a cry of agony. Hours pass, or maybe only minutes, and it mercifully begins to soften to something almost bearable. He fumbles at his jeans pocket, producing his cell phone and trying to get his eyes to focus enough to locate speed dial number one, to call upon his constant savior for help. Every time he cracks his lids open the frequency picks up slightly, so he works by feel, tracing the keys with his fingers and holding one down. A new ringing sound emits softly from the speaker and he feels preemptive relief; it will be okay soon. 

 

“Hello?”

 

“Scully, please, I need help,” he groans, the sound of his own voice grating to his ears. 

 

“Fox? Where are you?”

 

“Wh- Scully?”

 

“This is Diana, Fox. Are you hurt?”

 

Fuck. He must have dialed four by mistake. 

 

“No, I...Yes, I need Scully, she’s in New Mexico, can you call her?” he pleads, and he feels like he could cry. 

 

“Where are you, Fox?”

 

“I’m at American University, in a stairwell. I don’t know exactly where.”

 

“I’m coming to get you, Fox. Stay where you are.”

 

“Can you call Scu-”

 

Click . The line goes dead. He’s about to try again, to try and reach Scully, but a new wave of sound seems to emanate from the base of his skull, and everything goes black. 




 



He feels like shit warmed over. Better than he did, but that’s not saying much. The ringing has subsided and left in its place a persistent ache, as though his brain is being held in a vice grip. Every muscle in his body is sore from holding tension, his neck aching and stiff. The Tylenol Diana gave him doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect, and he wishes Scully were here with him instead. 

 

Well, he does and he doesn’t. He knows that no one can care for him like Scully does, but her steadfast refusal to so much as entertain the idea that this thing, this rubbing or whatever the hell it is, might be extraterrestrial is aggravating. Can’t she see the effect it’s having on him? If she could spend five minutes in his brain she just might understand. At the same time, her unrelenting search for proof often brings forth the evidence needed to back his theories. He knows he should be patient and trust her, and she’ll come through. She always does. 

 

He closes his eyes and tries to rest, sleep feeling impossible with the way his head is aching, and hears Diana re-enter the room. While he’s grateful that she came to his rescue, he wishes she’d just leave. She’s not doing anything at this point that he can’t do for himself, and he resents the way she struts around his apartment like it’s still half hers. She’s been puttering around tidying things, straightening his books and tossing laundry in the hamper. She had moved to clear away the coffee mugs he and Scully left on their respective sides of the bed the other morning and he wanted to tell her to leave his shit alone, that he left the mugs there on purpose because it reminds him of Scully’s sleep-rumpled face as she reads a novel beside him. Instead he just grumbled “leave it, Diana,” and she did. 

 

The blankets shift, and he feels the brush of smooth skin against his thigh. His eyes pop open to find Diana slipping into the bed beside him in her bra and panties, a sultry expression on her face. 

 

“What the fuck are you doing?” he spits out, sitting up and backing away from her. The sudden change in uprightness sets off a tightening of the vice on his brain, and he winces. 

 

“It’s okay, Fox. I’m going to take care of you,” she replies, reaching out to trail her fingers along his forearm. 

 

“I don’t need you to take care of me, Diana, and definitely not like that,” he retorts, shaking his arm free of her grip. 

 

The ringing is picking back up again, clouding his thoughts. He hears the voices, several of them, and one of them sounds like Diana. When he looks over at her, closing one eye to block out some of the light, her mouth isn’t moving. 

 

“Come on, Fox. I know what you need. I know you,” she says softly, scooting closer. 

 

Just let it happen. You’ll remember why we‘re good together. I need you on my side. We can survive this if we work together. 

 

“What? Survive what?” he asks, backing further towards the edge of the bed. 

 

Diana gives him a quizzical look. “You need someone on your side, Fox. Someone who understands.”

 

“Scully. I need Scully,” he says desperately, the ringing returning to a pitch that will render him immobile. 

 

He will kill you, Fox. He’ll kill us both if he needs to. The only way to survive is to play their game

 

“I don’t want to play games!” he shouts. “Just...just shut the fuck up and get Scully. Please, Diana. Please get Scully back on the phone.”

 

God, what is it with that woman? You must be fucking her, the way you dote on her. She doesn’t understand you, Fox. Not like I do.  

 

“Shut the fuck up!” he screams, raising his voice loudly enough that he can hear it over the ringing. 

 

“I didn’t say anything, Fox. Are you alright?” Her expression is starting to hold real concern. 

 

Jesus, is this what’s supposed to happen? They said it would be bad. I thought he’d be vegetative, not violent

 

He pushes away from her further, tumbling over the edge of the bed and landing hard on the floor. The pitch of the ringing is unbearable again, and he squeezes his eyes shut tight and screams, unable to hear it over the noise in his own head. 




 

It’s the ultimate prison. He can hear; he can understand everything. He’s aware of what’s happening around him, and what the people that come and go from his room are saying, even what never makes it from their brains to their lips. 

 

It took a bit for him to understand it, to interpret the ambient words rattling around in the room as the thoughts of the people tending to him. 

 

What a waste of a good-looking man , he’d heard clear as a bell in the nurse’s voice while she leaned across him, her lips still. If he possessed any control over his physical form, he may have laughed when she checked his catheter and thought, wow, serious waste.  

 

He heard Skinner lament the impossible position he was in, mulling over ways to get out from under Krycek’s thumb with his life intact, and he understood that his boss would never willingly betray him.

 

Please, please, let him be okay .

 

He knew she was coming long before he could see her, before he could hear her voice as she got a status update from his doctor and made her case for entry into his room. He heard her prepare the words to inform them that she is his wife, and her relief when it wasn’t necessary. Had his eyes been able to produce tears, they would have cried at her self-flagellation and agony, feeling like she hadn’t done enough. 

 

“I know you can hear me. If you can just give me some sign. I want you to know where I’ve been, what I found.”

 

Oh god, he looks awful. I’m so sorry I wasn’t here, Mulder. I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you, or believe you. I was wrong, and maybe if I’d listened sooner you wouldn't be here like this now. 

 

“I think that if you knew, you might find a way to hold on. I need you to hold on.”

 

Please don’t leave me. I can’t do this without you. I need you to be okay. I love you, please be okay. Please stay with me. 

 

Her fingers wrap around his, and he wills his hand to squeeze back, to give her a sign, but it stubbornly refuses. 

 

“Mulder, please. Please hold on.”

 

I love you. I love you. I love you so much. Please be okay. 

 

She leans down and presses her soft lips to his, which he knows are dry and limp. He begs his lips to kiss her back. They don’t. 




 

 

Reality fades in and out. Or at least that’s what it feels like, but he’s not sure which part is real. Is it the home and life with Diana and his sister, or the room with bright light and Diana peering down at him over a surgical mask? The details run together, as do the voices. Diana. Smoking man. Samantha. Deep Throat. Scully? Where is Scully?

 

God, what have I done to you? 

 

“My wife, I need my wife,” he tries to tell them, but it comes out all garbled. 

 

“Talk to him, Diana. Make his dreams a little sweeter. It keeps him calm.”

 

Cool fingertips brush over his cheek, but they’re the wrong ones. “Yes, Fox, I’m here,” Diana coos.

 

Is Diana his wife? That shouldn’t be right, but here she is. 

 

“He said you were coming.” His sister’s embrace. Why does it feel foreign, empty?

 

The boy on the beach again. He’s always building. What is he trying to build?

 

“Your patient’s come out - Mulder’s awake.”

 

Does he see me? Will he know it was me? I’m sorry, Fox. I’m so sorry. Fuck, I can’t watch this. 

 

“We’ve been over this, he’s dead. Diana’s dead...and Scully.”

 

Scully? Where is Scully, where did she go? SCULLY!

 

She’s here. But she’s angry. So angry. I’m sorry I forgot about you, Scully. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how I forgot. 

 

“Get up, Mulder. Get up and fight the fight.”

 

The bright lights again, but all the men are gone. Diana is gone. His Scully is here. She’s not angry anymore, she’s sad. So, so sad. Who made you so sad, Scully?

 

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

 

Oh god, please. Please get up. I can’t carry you. Please don’t die. I need you. God, help me. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 

 

“No one can do it but you, Mulder. Mulder, help me. Please, Mulder.”

 

The tear clinging to her lashes drops onto his cheekbone like a bucket of cold water. Here, here is real. This is the real place, with Scully. This is the place he needs to be. 

 

“You...help...me.”




 

 

“Chrissakes, Mulder, will you please get back in bed?”

 

She stands from her spot on the couch, setting the book she was reading on the coffee table.

 

“Scully, I feel a hundred times better. Can’t I just lay out here instead of laying in there?”

 

It’s true that he feels a hundred times better, but given how awful he felt before that’s still relatively bad. But there’s no TV in the bedroom, and there’s no Scully. What was the point of surviving if he can’t watch shitty movies and smell her hair, preferably at the same time.

 

She lets out a defeated little sigh and acquiesces, moving to take his arm as he walks the five steps to the couch. Unnecessary, but he appreciates the sentiment. Once he is seated, she retakes her spot near the armrest and he goes about lowering himself slowly so he can rest his head in her lap. After some minor adjustments and a couple carefully concealed winces, he is on his back with his neck draped over her thigh, looking up at her adoring face. Heaven. 

 

“Comfy?” she asks, tracing her fingers over his eyebrows and down the ridge of his nose, her typical playground on top of his head being unavailable. 

 

“Very,” he replies with a contented sigh, closing his eyes. 

 

She continues to pepper him with little touches, sliding her fingers along his bicep and traversing the edge of his jaw with a nail. It feels so nice, and he shifts his hips as the contentment finds its way to his lap. 

 

“Down, boy,” she says with a stern, yet playful tone. “You’re not even close to being well enough for that.”

 

He pushes his bottom lip into a pout that blossoms into a smile. 

 

Her gentle caresses continue, and he thinks he might just fall asleep like this. Then her hand stills on his forearm and he opens his eyes to see her giving him a contemplative look. 

 

“Hm?” he asks. 

 

“This really doesn’t matter, but I was just curious. How did Diana end up at your apartment? She said you called her…”

 

There’s a lingering insecurity there, but it doesn’t bother him anymore. He covers her hand with his. 

 

“I did, but by accident. Misdial.”

 

She nods softly, seemingly satisfied with that answer. Suddenly her expression changes. 

 

“Shit,” she says softly, carefully leaning forward to retrieve her cell phone from the coffee table. 

 

“What?”

 

“I have a hair appointment tomorrow, I need to cancel it within twenty four hours or they’ll charge me.”

 

“Why do you need to cancel it?”

 

“I don’t want to leave you alone that long,” she answers, flipping her phone open and scrolling through the address book. 

 

He reaches up and takes the phone from her hands, snapping it closed and setting it back on the table. 

 

“I’m fine. Go get your hair done. I don’t want you to miss anything else because of me,” he says regretfully.

 

“Mulder...it’s okay,” she answers softly, knowing what he’s referring to. 

 

“It’s not, Scully. I know you pumped yourself full of hormones in preparation and I know how that messes with your emotions and everything else. I’m sorry we missed the transfer.”

 

“It’s not your fault,” she insists, carefully resting her palm on the top of his head. “There’s always next month.”

 

“It’s the last one, right?”

 

She nods somberly. He wishes he could still hear what she’s thinking. He considers telling her, but she probably wouldn’t believe him, and even if she did she’d likely find it to be an invasion of privacy. He tries to recall the sound of her voice, her thoughts, and the way she begged for his life to be spared. Knowing just how much he means to her is concurrently amazing and terrifying. It’s so much responsibility, to be loved that much. 

 

“So, what are you gonna do to your hair?” he asks, changing the subject. 

 

“I don’t know, what do you think I should do? Do you like it shorter or longer?” Her tone takes on a lighter quality that makes him feel safe. 

 

He slowly pushes himself up into a sitting position, then scoots close to her and threads his arm behind her back.

 

“I just like it,” he says simply, placing a kiss to the skin in front of her ear. “Long, short, mullet, mohawk. You can’t go wrong with me.”

 

“Mullet? I have half a mind to put you to the test on that, but I don’t think I can walk around with a mullet just to prove you wrong,” she replies with a smirk, kissing his lips softly. 

 

“If you think I wouldn’t still be insanely attracted to you if you had a mullet, you’re the one who’s wrong, Scully.” 

 

He kisses her back, slipping his tongue out to taste her lips. Coffee and something sweet. Jam? He gives her another lick. 

 

“Mulder,” she admonishes, her words distorted against his mouth. 

 

“I feel fine,” he insists, kissing her again. 

 

She puts her palm on his chest and pushes him away gently. 

 

“Maybe fine enough for kissing, but I think we both know that’s not all you have in mind.”

 

He shrugs with a guilty expression. 

 

“Wanna watch a movie? Your pick,” she offers with a soft smile. 

 

“Wow, so all I had to do to get to pick the movie was have botched brain surgery? I would have done it years ago had I known,” he replies, watching her backside intently as she goes to the TV and pulls open his VHS cabinet. 

 

“Live it up, G-man,” she says, then turns to look coyly at him over her shoulder. “It won’t happen again. Not on my watch.”



Chapter Text

“We’ve been cordially invited to the Gunmen’s for New Years Eve,” Mulder informs her over his morning coffee, his feet propped up on the desk. “It’s gonna be a total nerd fest, good people watching.”

 

“Sounds interesting. I’m surprised you’re willing to forfeit a New Years’ kiss,” Scully replies nonchalantly, flipping through the pages of a new case file. 

 

“Who says I’m going to forfeit it?” he questions with a puzzled expression. 

 

Scully darts her eyes up to him briefly, to gage whether he’s being facetious, then lets them fall back to the paper with a small smirk on her lips. 

 

“Well, far be it from me to stand in your way of locking lips with the reigning Dungeons and Dragons champion.”

 

His jaw hangs with irritated exasperation.

 

“Seriously? The Gunmen’s on New Year's Eve is too scandalous for you? No one from the bureau will be there.”

 

“It doesn’t matter who’s there, Mulder. Will there be humans? With eyes? Then it’s not happening. Sorry.”

 

“What do you think will happen if someone sees us kiss? The Gunmen aren’t stupid, they’ve assumed we’ve been doing it for years.” 

 

“You mean they’ve known?” she retorts. 

 

“Whatever. Don’t dodge the question,” he snaps back, but he’s not angry. He genuinely doesn’t understand. 

 

“I don’t know, Mulder, it just seems...risky,” she explains with a defeated sigh.

 

“I assure you the world will not end if you kiss me in front of other people,” he replies. 

 

“It’s supposed to end at the Millenium anyway, so I suppose if it does we won’t know whether to attribute it to the kiss or the apocalypse,” she says with a shrug, and for once he’s the one to roll his eyes. 

 

They never do make it to the Gunmen’s. By the time the zombies have been wrangled and their wounds have been tended to, they’ve only got a few minutes left until the year two thousand and are far too exhausted to socialize. And after Mulder leans over to kiss her softly at the stroke of midnight and prove to her that the world will not end, all she wants to do is go home with him and sleep. 




 

 

“Are we old?”

 

He rolls onto his side to look at her with furrowed brows.

 

“What?”

 

“Are we old? I felt a hundred walking around that high school,” she laments, eyes on the ceiling. 

 

“No? Age is relative. We’re old compared to a ten year old but young compared to an eighty year old,” he offers. 

 

She rolls onto her side to face him, her expression open and vulnerable in the dim light emanating from the bedside clock. 

 

“Lord knows I’d never want to be seventeen again, but being around all those cute little high school girls made me feel old and frumpy.”

 

“You’re pretty cute yourself, G-woman,” he says softly, running his index finger down the bridge of her nose. 

 

She smiles, but it fades quickly. 

 

“I know you noticed those young girls, Mulder. You don’t have to pretend you didn’t,” she says self-consciously, looking at his chin. 

 

“What? You mean that girl at the station? She looked at me, I looked back. I’m not even sure she can legally vote, Scully,” he defends, and she rolls her eyes. “Hey,” he says to get her attention, waiting until she looks him in the eye before he speaks again. “You are, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life. The idea that I would be interested in anyone else is so absurd to me it’s almost comical. Okay?”

 

She nods softly, pushing her mouth into a small smile. 

 

“Now before you start getting any ideas about those strapping young men with average-sized noses, come over here, and let me show you why you’re not interested in anyone else,” he says as he loops his arm over her waist and pulls her close. 

 

This time, her smile is real. 




 

 

“Sorry you didn’t make it home by sunset,” he laments as he lowers himself into the passenger seat of the car. 

 

“It’s okay,” she replies in an upbeat tone as she slides the driver's seat forward in synchrony with him sliding his seat back. “It was an interesting case. How’s your ass, by the way?”

 

He gives her a wry smile. “About as good as my arm. But in better news, I think my pants finally dried about an hour ago.”

 

“Well,” she begins, turning in her seat to face him, “it’s getting a little late to fly out today, and word on the street is that the Cubs play the Mets at 7:00.”

 

She throws him a playful look, eyebrows raised in invitation. He blinks at her as a surprised smile slowly blooms on his mouth.

 

The weather is fair, and Scully looks adorable in the oversized Mets T-shirt he’d insisted on buying her that she’s neatly tucked into her jeans. They eat hot dogs and drink beer, and when the Kiss Cam starts spotlighting couples in the crowd, she excuses herself to the bathroom. At the end of the game, which was a narrow win for the Cubs, the stadium lights are cut and a fireworks show is set off from second base. He slings an arm around her, testing the waters, and is pleasantly surprised when she doesn’t shrug him off. Sensing her eyes on him, he looks over and finds her upturned face inches from his, highlighted in flashes by the erupting explosives. Hints of blue and red flicker over her skin, and he leans forward to place a chaste kiss to her lips. 

 

As soon as the lights come back up, she shimmies out from under his arm, looking self-consciously around them as though she expects to see someone she knows. Even still, he can’t help feeling like the luckiest man in the world. 

 

Chapter Text

They don’t talk about it until the next day. There are wounds to be tended to, statements to be given, bags to be packed, and then the matter of sleeping. Sleep doesn’t come easily to a person who has just killed someone in cold blood, nor to someone who saw the look of detached resignation in her eyes while she did it. And so they put food in their bodies, shower away the blood, and lie awake quietly for a long time. A very, very long time. 

 

In the morning, they sit on his green leather couch like shoes nested in the box, each with their back against their respective arm rest and their legs outstretched alongside each other. They are quiet, steaming mugs of coffee in hand and discarded plates of eggs and toast on the coffee table. 

 

Studying the darkening bruises on her face, he thinks back to the first day on this case and how he’d begged her to stay behind, to stay far away from Donnie Pfaster. She was so fragile, even then, though she worked hard to mask it. He knows how important it is that he not let the vulnerability she allows him to see in private inform how he treats her at work, and so he hadn’t mentioned the egg transfer. He wonders now if maybe that would have made a difference, if she would have changed her mind and gone back to DC if he’d reminded her that not two days prior she was a heap of agony on her living room floor after learning that the last transfer wasn’t successful. The steely cut of her eyes as she insisted on staying told him it wasn’t the right move, so he kept his mouth shut.

 

“I suppose I should count myself lucky that the last transfer didn’t work,” she says suddenly, as though reading his mind. “I think losing a pregnancy would be harder than never achieving one at all.”

 

He thinks to himself that if it had worked, she wouldn’t have been there. He wouldn’t have let her within two states of Pfaster if she were pregnant. But there is no benefit in pointing that out, so he lets her have it. 

 

“True,” he responds half-heartedly. “That’s a bit of a silver lining, I guess.” He watches her for an indication that this is a line of conversation she wishes to continue, but she’s gazing dreamily out the window at the rain that has just begun to wet the glass. “How do you feel?”

 

She shrugs, slowly bringing her eyes over to meet his. “My back hurts like a bitch, and my head is throbbing, but unfortunately, I’ve been worse.”

 

He nods knowingly, trying not to call to mind her many other close brushes with death. “Aside from physically, how are you feeling about...what happened?”

 

He doesn’t know what words to use. How are you feeling about murdering someone? How are you feeling about shooting a suspect that I had fully under control? How are you feeling about taking a murderer off the street?

 

She pulls in a deep breath and lets it out slowly, then takes a sip from her mug. He bites his lip to stave off a smile at the idea that the mug has become “hers” at this point. He suspects she likes it because it’s small and fits in her hands well. Or maybe it’s because the colors have a decidedly Christmas vibe. But now is not the time to talk about coffee mugs. 

 

“I feel...pretty okay, actually,” she finally says as though surprised by her own answer. “I keep thinking about what he did to those women, and the legal system already failed to keep him behind bars once. The only way to prevent him from taking more lives was the death penalty, and that’s what he got, maybe just not in the way I’d imagined. And whether that was driven by God or something more sinister…I guess I’ll never know. Either way, it’s for the best.”

 

He reaches out to wrap his hand around the ball of her foot and gives it a reassuring squeeze. She knows he doesn’t judge her, so he doesn’t bother saying so. 

 

“Sounds like it’ll be at least a few days before your apartment is accessible again, and Skinner’s forbidden you from going back to work until next week,” he remarks in an easy tone, redirecting the conversation. “What do you wanna do?”

 

“Are you not going into work?” she questions. 

 

“I would, but apparently if one of us is at work, the other one can’t seem to stay away, so Skinner also forbade me from darkening the door of the Hoover Building,” he replies with a touch of pride. 

 

She knows it’s true; if he were at work, he’d end up calling her ten times a day, and inevitably she’d end up going down there. The word inseparable comes to mind, and she almost smiles at the thought. But then she remembers a book on codependency Missy had handed her when she became obsessed with her college boyfriend and she pauses to consider whether their relationship has veered outside the bounds of healthy, but that’s a question for another day. 

 

“I guess we can just hang around then,” she replies good naturedly. “See what shakes out,” she finishes with a small smile, using one of his catchphrases. 

 

He smiles back at her and nods. “See what shakes out.”

 

Tuesday, they order Indian food for lunch and have a movie marathon. After watching her wince and gasp in pain a dozen times, he finally convinces her to take one of the painkillers he has left over from his zombie encounter on New Years Eve, and then spends the evening showering her with compliments and declarations of affection while she’s too high to mind. 

 

Wednesday, she points out his overflowing laundry hamper and orders him to transport it to the basement. They spend hours minding the wash and dry cycles, and she folds his T-shirts into perfectly crisp little squares. He leaves her to bring a clean load up to his apartment, and when he returns she’s perched on top of the washing machine reading a book. He steps into the space between her knees, plucking the book from her hands and setting it on the adjacent dryer so he can kiss her. When the spin cycle kicks on, she hums and pulls him closer and he laughs, claiming he knew there was a reason she wanted to do laundry. Later, as he’s putting away his neatly paired socks, he spots their wedding photo. He takes it out and props it up on top of the dresser. 

 

Thursday, she gives herself a manicure on his couch. When he asks why she doesn’t go get her nails done she says that she doesn’t like to go there with bruises on her face; she doesn’t like the pitying looks the nail technicians give her. He watches with interest as she pushes back and trims her cuticles, cuts and files her nails, then paints them a nude color. When she’s done, she holds out her hand in request of his, then gives him a manicure too (minus the polish). 

 

Half past eight, there’s a knock at the door and he gives her a sheepish look as he remembers that it’s poker night with The Gunmen and he forgot to cancel. She doesn’t mind, and even plays with them, cleaning house but refusing to keep any of her winnings. When the gunmen leave near 11:00 pm, they cast each other knowing glances when Scully doesn’t follow them out the door. 

 

Friday, the fridge and cupboards are bare and Scully makes her first trip outside the apartment to accompany him to the grocery store. They smirk at each other while he puts junk in the cart and she returns it to the shelf over and over. 

 

She cooks him lasagna for dinner, and rolls her eyes when he claims it’s the best thing he’s ever eaten. After her shower, she traipses out into the living room naked and climbs into his lap on the couch. Warning him not to touch her back, she gently rides him while they kiss slowly, and she realizes that she’d never really identified with the term making love until she was with him. 

 

Saturday, it’s time for her to return home. She packs her things, leaving behind her toothbrush and a change of clothes. As she passes by his dresser, she stops and picks up the photograph, tracing her finger lightly over the place where her hand rests on his chest. She tucks it back into his sock drawer and meets him near the front door. They are quiet on the drive back to Georgetown. When they’re a few turns away from her apartment, he reaches across the console and takes her hand. 

 

The inside of her apartment is cold and smells like bleach. The rug from her living room floor is missing, and her bedroom looks bare without the mirror and shelf that were destroyed during the struggle. She walks slowly from room to room, noticing what’s gone or moved, but the cleaners did a good job. There’s no speck of blood, no leftover broken item. Hopefully no ghosts. 

 

She walks him to the door, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up as she faces the reality of being alone here. She wants to ask him to stay, but she’s already asked so much. He stops at the threshold and turns to look at her with a pained expression. Something hangs between them, something expectant and desperate. Scared and lonely. Maybe he doesn’t want to be alone any more than she does. Maybe for reasons beyond fear and anxiety, but that too is a question for another day. 

 

“Would it be okay if I stay tonight? I don’t think I’ll sleep if I don’t. I’ll just worry about you,” he says apologetically, and she lets out a shuddering sigh. 

 

“Yes,” she replies. Maybe a little too quickly. “You can stay.”

 

Chapter Text

Pain and anger tear at her heart. She wants to hurt someone, to seek retribution for the hurt that has been caused to this beautiful man in her arms who is consumed with grief. She feels culpable, having had to first deliver the news of his mother’s death, and then break Mulder’s heart for a second time by confirming that she took her own life. That she chose to leave him orphaned and alone, the last in a family stricken by tragedy. His shredding cries steal her breath, his fury scares her, and she can’t help him. She can’t make it okay. 

 

Looking at Teena Mulder grey and still on the autopsy table, she had bitten her lip so hard it drew blood, just to hurt something. Never had so much anger flowed through her fingers into a body she autopsied. She could have given him answers, could have given him peace, but instead she left him with even more questions. How could a mother do this to her child? And that was before Scully even knew about the cryptic voicemail. It would have been easier for him to have been left with nothing. 

 

Had she been a mother, she would have told her children the truth. She wouldn’t have tried to shield them from their own realities, wouldn’t have shut them out. But she isn’t a mother, and never will be. This was the only mother Mulder had and she hurt him. She probably didn’t mean to, but she did, and that will be her legacy. Every memory he has of her is painful, at least to Scully’s understanding. 

 

His sobs are slowing, staggering breaths grabbing at his lungs every now and then. She pets his hair, strokes his back, kisses his tear-stained cheeks and murmurs words of comfort against his ears. She knows what it means to lose a parent, in particular one you had a challenging relationship with. 

 

But while she may always wonder if her father was proud of her, Mulder is left to wonder if his mother held on the tip of her tongue the answer to the question that has shaped his life. If she sat back and watched him turn the world upside down in search of a truth that she held right in her hand, if only she’d bothered to share it with him. Why have children at all, only to torture them this way?

 

Disentangling herself from his limbs, she stands and tugs on his hands, encouraging him to move off of the wooden chair that served as his grief altar. He complies, allowing her to lead him into his bedroom as though she were the pied piper, not questioning the destination but following with implicit trust. He stands at the foot of the bed while she undresses him, his eyes swollen and beseeching. He doesn’t know what he needs, but he’s hoping that she does. When he’s in only his boxers, she wraps her arms around his waist and rests her head on his chest, grounding him here with her. 

 

“I’m alone, Scully. I’m the last,” he says softly, his voice hoarse from tears. 

 

She squeezes her eyes shut tight, pushing aside her own feelings so that she can be strong for him. Lifting her head, she rests her chin on his chest and looks up at his face in the dim light leaking in from the living room. 

 

“You’re not alone, Mulder.”

 

He heaves a sigh and she releases him, guiding him to lie down in the bed. She tucks the blankets around his body and kisses his forehead, the motherly gesture equally stoking and soothing the pain in their hearts. The motherless and the childless, yet another weight rested upon the yin and yang that defines them. 

 

“Please don’t leave,” he says with panic as she moves to stand. 

 

She sits again, a hand resting steadily on his chest. “I’m not going anywhere, Mulder. I just need to make a phone call, I’ll be right back.”

 


 

He clings to her in his sleep. Though he’s prone to cuddling, this is more of a death-grip, legs entwined and arms wrapped around and hearts beating so close they start to sync. 

 

Sometime in the night, he wakes with a start and sits up gasping, the memory of his nightmare already gone and replaced with the one he is living. She soothes him with words and touch, counts out the rate of his heartbeat until it finds a healthy cadence, and tries to lull him back to sleep. He is fitful, restlessly changing positions until they are face to face. 

 

His lips seek her out, desperate kisses that beg for relief, for something else to feel. She obliges him, letting him touch and taste, giving pleasure while he takes what he needs from her body. She remembers after Emily, how badly she wanted to escape for the briefest window of time, and how he’d been there with her, and for her. She touches him reverently, speaks to him words of love and desire, lets him take as much time as he needs before the rush of endorphins will fade and reality descends upon him again. 

 

He devolves into sobs as soon as his orgasm subsides, and she holds him as he apologizes, assuring him it’s okay. She tells him she loves him again and again, making up for so many times she didn’t say it. Perhaps she was saving them all up, stockpiling for this moment where he would need it most. When he would feel more alone than he ever has, and she would be here to tell him that he will never be alone, not as long as she is alive on this earth will he ever be alone. 




 

 

“Well, then you’d better book three.”

 

She glares at Skinner with nothing short of contempt, surprised to find that the hulking man starts to shift uncomfortably under her gaze, breaking eye contact. 

 

“This is highly inappropriate, sir,” she continues in a low tone. “Agent Mulder is bereft, he’s not fit for duty.”

 

“I understand that, Agent Scully. This isn’t a directive. He can refuse.”

 

She scoffs derisively. 

 

“You know he won’t. Isn’t that why you came here?”

 

He doesn’t answer, just shifts his jaw defiantly. She turns and leaves him standing just outside the open door, finding Mulder in his bedroom packing a bag. 

 

“Mulder, you don’t have to do this,” she pleads softly, hearing Skinner on the phone in the foyer, calling the airline to add another ticket to his booking. 

 

“I know I don’t have to,” he replies without looking at her, stalking back and forth from his dresser to the bed. “I want to.”

 

“Mulder, you’ve been through so much in the last twenty four hours,” she tries, grabbing his hand to still him. 

 

He sighs, stepping close to wrap her in an embrace. The bedroom door is open and she can hear Skinner’s voice in the next room, but she doesn’t push him away. 

 

“I know you’re worried about me,” he says quietly, his breath hot against the crown of her head. “And nothing sounds better than spending the day in bed with you. But the LaPierres need my help, and my mom will still be dead whether I go out there or not.”

 

She lets out a long defeated sigh, deflating in his arms. 

 

“Hopefully I at least have time to go home and shower,” she laments, “I stink.”

 

He pushes his nose into her hair, then the crook of her neck, making her giggle.

 

“You smell good to me,” he says in a sultry voice that makes her knees weak. 

 

“Agents,” Skinner calls from the living room, “flight leaves in an hour.”




 

 

I’m free .

 

His words echo in her mind over and over as she lies awake, staring at the ceiling of his motel room. 

 

I’m free.

 

His melancholy took on a lighter quality after their visit to the ER nurse’s home, after whatever he saw in the woods. As long as she’s known him, he's been a melancholic man, searching and lonely, always missing something. He is still that man, but no longer searching in the same way; he seems to have found what he was looking for. 

 

It’s not entirely clear to her what it is that he found, what answer satisfied his need to know what became of his sister, but she can feel the lightness in him, the weight that has lifted. He’s even sleeping more soundly, the rush of his breath deeper and more even than she’s heard it before. And she’s happy for him, she truly is. 

 

I’m free. 

 

What now, she wonders. What will drive them forward, what are they moving towards? He’s no longer looking for Samantha; his quest has effectively been resolved. 

 

I’m sorry, Dana. The egg transfer wasn’t successful. If you’d like to explore using a donor egg, that is always an option.   

 

What is she moving towards? It had been easy to adopt Mulder’s quest as her own. It was a cause she believed in, an answer she wanted as well. But the resolution? That belongs only to him. The solace she feels lies only in knowing that he is no longer tortured by the need for answers. But her own ache, her own unresolved pain, remains raw and tender. 

 

She moves her palm to rest low on her belly, over the place where her ovaries lie, scraped clean of the hundreds of thousands of potential lives that had resided there since her birth. She does not believe that a woman’s purpose in life is to bear children, to mother, to proliferate. She never intended to define herself as a mother, and yet knowing that she will never be one makes her feel untethered and directionless. What mark will she leave on this world? she wonders. 

 

I’m free

 

What would freedom mean for her? Freedom to have the career, the marriage, the family she’d always envisioned for herself? Her career, though abnormal, is the one upon which she’s staked her claim. Her marriage, though unconventional, is with the only man she wants. Her family is...unattainable. A closed door, a dead end, a foregone conclusion. She doesn’t feel trapped, and yet she doesn’t quite feel free, either. 

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

 

The other path, the other life, has brought her here. She cannot go back, take the well worn path of being a doctor, a typical wife, a mother. Even if she could, would she want to? Would she give up all she’s seen, would she give up Mulder? The road less traveled becomes less and less defined the further along you get. You lose sight of the path, you forge a new trail, you make your own way. 

 

You get lost. 

 

She turns on her side to look at his face, so peaceful in the soft light. A swell of emotion fills her chest, and she reaches out to touch his arm, to feel something solid and real. 

 

I’m free.  

 

She’s made her choices, she’s chosen her path, and now she must find her way. She must find the unseen destination that lies beyond this, the resolution she must be moving towards. Perhaps it’s just around the next bend, or perhaps it’s still woefully far away. Mulder never gave up, and he found his freedom. She never gave up on him, and now she can only hope that she will find her own. 

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. 





Chapter Text

He nods curtly to The Gunmen as they file out the door and cast uncomfortable glances between him and Scully. Frohike pauses at the threshold, looking up at him pensively, deciding whether to say what’s on his mind. 

 

“Go easy on her, eh?” he finally forces out, and Mulder pulls in a deep breath, looking away. 

 

He locks the deadbolt and walks slowly towards the living room, hands stuffed in his pockets and his head hung. He wants to be angry, but more than anything he’s hurt. She lied to him, and for the worst possible reason. Of anyone, Scully knows what value the truth holds for him. He feels betrayed and double crossed, like he doesn’t even know her. 

 

She’s been a little off lately. He can’t pinpoint exactly when it started or what preceded it, but it’s clear that she’s grappling with something. One day she’ll be playful and flirtatious, and the next distant and contemplative for no reason that he can identify. He’s been waiting for the right time to ask her about it, but then...this? He can’t imagine what she could possibly say that would justify running off with their greatest adversary, the person responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them. 

 

“Mulder…” she begins, but her words catch and she stops, perched on the edge of the couch with her eyes on the floor. 

 

He leans against the doorframe, chewing his lip as he decides how to ask. Where to begin. 

 

“Help me understand why you did this,” he requests, his voice flat as he works to stay calm. 

 

She takes a deep, shuddering breath. 

 

“I thought it was an opportunity to be a part of something...something good-” she offers, and he shakes his head, cutting her off despite his best attempts. 

 

“Something good could never come from that man,” he spits out. “You know that as well as I do. How could you do something so incredibly stupid?”

 

He sees her flinch at his vitriol and he tries to stop. He knows his anger won’t help. But god, she hurt him. He needs her to know how much this hurts. 

 

He moves from his station, crossing the room and shoving the coffee table aside with his foot. Kneeling on the floor in front of her, he takes her chin in his hand and forces her to meet his eye. 

 

“What the hell were you thinking?” he says in a harsh whisper, tears thickening his throat. “You could have been killed. Do you know what that would do to me?”

 

Her eyes are wet and remorseful, her chin quivering, but she doesn’t speak. 

 

“Do you?!” he repeats, much more loudly, and she chokes out a sob. 

 

“I’m sorry,” she says softly, turning her head to break free of his grasp. 

 

He heaves a sigh, getting up from the floor and then sitting heavily beside her on the couch. Being sorry doesn’t make it okay. Being sorry doesn’t explain why it happened in the first place. They are quiet for long, agonizing moments, and he can feel so many thoughts running through her mind that she won’t let past her lips. 

 

“Whatever it is, I need you to tell me,” he says, eyes trained on the wall opposite. 

 

She sniffs, tries to take a deep breath that turns into more of a gasp as her tears disrupt it, and then slumps against the back of the couch. 

 

“Do you ever think about what legacy you’ll leave behind when you’re gone?” she asks softly, and he turns to give her an irritated glare. Does she really think she can just change the subject? Her eyes are red and watery, and so incredibly mournful. “Because I do, lately. I think about it a lot.”

 

He leans back to mirror her posture, his anger waning in light of her contrition. He shrugs noncommittally. 

 

“Sometimes. But I assume my work will be my legacy, for better or for worse.”

 

“And that’s enough for you?” she asks very genuinely. 

 

He considers this for a moment. 

 

“Yes, I think so. Though there’s a lot more I hope to do with whatever time I have left.”

 

She nods and closes her eyes, and he thinks maybe that’s all she has to say. But then she starts speaking, her eyes still closed against him. 

 

“I’ve never given it much thought, what legacy I might leave. But since the final egg transfer, since it failed…” She pauses and opens her eyes, swallowing hard. “Now that I know that I will never be a mother, I suddenly wonder what I’ll leave behind. I guess I took for granted that my legacy would be my children. But there will be no children, and…” She closes her eyes again, tears slipping down her cheeks and her mouth pulled into a pained grimace. “I thought it was an opportunity to do something good, Mulder. A chance to leave a legacy. And I realize now how selfish that was, and foolish.”

 

He scoots closer to her on the couch, looping his arm around her shoulders. He rests his cheek on top of her head, letting out the final dredges of anger with a dramatic sigh. 

 

“I know you’d never do something like this if it weren’t for what you thought were good reasons. I can’t tell you how to feel, Scully, but I can tell you that you’ve done so much good for so many people just in the years I’ve known you. You’ve touched people’s lives in ways they’ll never forget, mine included. And I think that legacy, while maybe not the one you hoped to leave, it’s a very noble one.”

 

She doesn’t respond, just cries quietly under his cheek. 

 

“What I’m having a hard time with is how he was able to convince you of any of this. You’re the most skeptical person I know; why did you believe him?”

 

“Everything checked out, Mulder. There was an office, evidence, proof. It was all there, I can show you.”

 

“Okay, then show me. Let’s go.”





 



The sun is just beginning to climb over the horizon, the soft pink sky making the frost coated sidewalk sparkle like microscopic gems. She walks quickly, her sneakers emitting a hollow sound against the pavement that seems loud in the pre-dawn quiet. As she rounds the corner into the park she strikes out into a run, welcoming the way the crisp air burns her lungs and stings her ears. 

 

The counselor she spoke to had said that the loss of fertility should be regarded as any other loss. That knowing she will never bear children is like a death, in so many ways. One she should allow herself to grieve in order to accept it. 

 

She’s spent so much time placing blame. On Duane Barry, on the men who took her, on herself. She’s wondered which choice was the one that set in motion the path that led to the loss of her ova, and fantasized about going back to change it. She’s hated herself, for caring so much about this particular aspect of her life, for not having been strong enough to escape, for not having been weak enough to die. She’s denied, she’s been angry, she’s bargained and she’s cried so many tears. In the end, she cannot change it, but she can choose not to let it ruin her life. 

 

She’s found her rhythm now, her legs numb to the cold and her breath even as she slowly increases her pace. She doesn’t want to resent her body anymore for the one thing it couldn’t do. 

 

No, her body will never grow a child. She will never be struck with wonder as she feels the first flutter of a kick. She will never watch her belly expand to impossible proportions, or lament the width of her swollen feet. She will never have a contraction steal her breath, or push with every ounce of strength she can muster, or dissolve with relief when she hears that first cry. She will never create life, or pass on her red hair and short stature. These things, her body cannot do.

 

But her body loved a child, for a short time. Her arms held Emily in her final hours and let her leave this world with comfort. Her hands have healed, they’ve given answers and closure to people in pain by allowing her to do her work. Her legs have propelled her forward, as they are now along this path, across the country and around the world. This body has loved and been loved; it’s been a source of comfort to Mulder, a vessel for her sharp mind, a pillar of strength. Her body is so strong. It survived long hours in medical school and residency, hunched over autopsy tables and desks and books for as long as it took to get the job done. This body was ravaged and stolen from and left for dead, and this body survived. It beat cancer. It survived a gunshot wound. It survived Pfaster, twice. 

 

She pushes harder, runs as fast as her legs can handle until her lungs heave and her eyes water. She runs and she tells her body that it’s okay, that she accepts it for what it can do. She forgives it for what it can’t. Her legacy will be that of a survivor, and a healer, and a strong Scully woman who never gave up. 

 

And that legacy, while maybe not the one she had hoped to leave, is one she can be proud of. It’s one she can accept. 




Chapter Text

When he attended Oxford, he would sometimes drive over to Portishead Beach on weekends or school holidays. He missed the briny smell of the ocean and the shriek of the gulls, and the soft lap of the waves against the shore echoing in his ears. He couldn’t accurately call it homesickness, because it wasn’t Martha’s Vineyard he craved, but the vastness of the sea. Much like considering how insignificant you are in an infinite universe, standing near the ocean reminded him that he is but a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things, and this could sometimes be a comfort when the weight of the world grew heavy on his shoulders. He spent so many hours walking the rocky beaches and staring out over the water, allowing his eyes to lose focus until he could imagine that the land on the other side of Bristol Channel wasn’t there. Looking back on his time there, he sees Portishead Beach as a sacred space that kept him tethered to who he really is, and who he wanted to be. It grounded him. 

 

He sits now on a large piece of driftwood drug in by the tide, the whipping wind sneaking in around the collar of his jacket and roaring against his ears in little bursts. He takes off his shoes and socks and feels the cold stones press into the soles of his feet like marbles. He grounds himself to the Earth.

 

He wanted to bring Scully here. Crop circles were a convenient excuse, and on the FBI’s dime, but it was Portishead that called him back to the UK. He wanted to share this place with her, to introduce the person who grounds him to the place that once served the same role. He wanted to see her bare toes nestled in amongst the pebbles and hear her laugh carried over the breeze. 

 

He wanted to ask her what it would take for her to really be with him, really be his wife. 

 

In the time since losing his mother and understanding what happened to Samantha, he feels more at peace than he has in a long time, maybe ever. He’s unsure if something has changed in Scully, or if he’s only now freed up the space in his mind that allows him to see her turmoil. Her behavior as of late scares him because it’s familiar. The last time she was this distracted, this disengaged from their work, she ended up in the hospital with a new tattoo. Then it had been the fear of a truth she hadn’t yet confirmed, that she had cancer, that took her to that place where he could not follow. It had been the realization that her life wasn’t what she’d hoped it would be. He can’t help but wonder if she’s having that same realization again, and he’d be lying to himself if he claimed it didn’t hurt. 

 

He wants to be enough for her, because she is so much more than enough for him. All the mental and emotional energy that had gone into looking for Samantha since he was twelve years old has sought a new outlet, and found its place in loving Dana Katherine Scully. He could write odes to the way she smells fresh from slumber, the timbre of her laugh, the pout of her mouth when she’s concentrating. He could burrow into the space between her shoulder and neck and live there happily for all of eternity. He could spend every Saturday morning for the rest of his life doing the New York Times crossword with her and it would never be enough. 

 

But she’d asked him to stay still, and he’d run off anyway. There will always be some part of him that’s impulsive and reckless, there will always be a drive to learn and know and search. Even if what he’s searching for isn’t the answers to his own reality, there is always more to know, and to see, and experience. If it’s a choice between that searching life and Scully, he’ll choose her, but he wishes he didn’t have to. He wishes that it could be a journey they share. 

 

He stands, brushing the finer pebbles from the seat of his pants and collecting his shoes. He walks barefoot back to his rental car, welcoming the way the sharper rocks jab at his tender insoles. Life is a rich tapestry of pain and joy, he knows this much is true. And, knowing himself, he won’t be able to rest until he knows whether it will ever be more than this, whether he will ever be enough for her. 

 

He’s got an eight and a half hour flight to figure out how to ask her, again, to be his wife. 





 



Something pulls her from sleep and she sits up, cringing at the ache in her neck. She must have fallen asleep, she observes, and Mulder draped a blanket over her. The bedroom door is open and light pours out from his bedside lamp, so she knows he’s still awake. He’d never leave her out here like this. 

 

She stretches, rolling her neck around to release the tension caused by her odd sleeping position. She tries to recall exactly where the conversation left off. Something about fate, she thinks, and smiles to herself at how unlikely it all seems. Dana Scully, waxing poetic about fate having brought her from a military brat shooting BB guns with her brothers to a doctor, an FBI agent, and a woman who is head over heels in love with a man who is nothing like the husband she’d imagined herself having. 

 

Daniel was everything she thought she wanted, aside from the fact that he was already married. A physician. A stoic, practical man who does what is logical and proven. Stable, predictable and safe. And here he’s walked back into her life with that one little complication removed. 

 

The life she didn’t choose, offering her a second chance to take it. 

 

She was surprised as anyone to find that it was no longer what she wanted. She realized in that moment just how much she’s changed. And then the second realization that even as she has morphed and grown with each new experience, each harrowing discovery, she never bothered to stop and consider whether she still even wanted the final destination that she’s been helplessly watching fade into the distance all these years. Perhaps she was so busy looking back that she never turned around to see what was right in front of her. 

 

Mulder. With all his eccentricities and demons. A wonderfully flawed man who drives her crazy and makes her happier than she’d ever imagined was possible. 

 

She wouldn’t trade a thousand cookie-cutter lives with Daniel for one night ghost-busting with Mulder, arguing over ectoplasm and the existence of an afterlife. Right under her nose, the life she’d come to resent has become the only one she would ever want. She’d just never stopped long enough to notice. There are a million reasons it shouldn’t make sense, and yet it’s somehow the only thing that does. 

 

She stands, discarding the scratchy wool blanket, her stockinged feet padding quietly into his bedroom. He’s just finishing making the bed, tucking the comforter under the bottom edge when he turns and sees her. 

 

“Hey, sleepyhead,” he says with affectionate eyes. “Come on in, the water’s fine. Fresh sheets,” he adds with a pat to the crisp blue pillowcase. 

 

She crosses the room wordlessly, threading her arms around his waist and resting her head against his chest. He envelopes her in a hug, brushing his nose over the crown of her head before placing a kiss there. She pulls in a deep breath and lets it out in a contented sigh, sinking further into the warmth of his body, her safest place. She tries to remember a time before she had a home here, and she finds that she doesn’t want to. 

 

“You okay?” he asks softly, giving her a light squeeze. 

 

“Yes,” she replies. “I’m really, really, okay.”

 

“That’s good,” he says with a smile in his voice. “There’s something I wanted to talk to you about, but you conked out on me. Did you get a second wind?”

 

She lifts her head, resting her chin on his chest and looking up at his face. His messy hair, the stubble coming in on his cheeks, that mouth that torments her one moment and takes her to heaven the next. Where would she ever want to look but into these eyes?

 

“Something like that,” she replies softly, and he quirks a curious smile. “I don’t want to be afraid anymore, Mulder,” she continues, emotion pitted painfully in her chest. Love, excitement, nervousness, fear. She’s trying to ignore that last one this time. 

 

“You’re the bravest person I know, Scully,” he argues gently. “You’re not afraid of anything.”

 

“I am,” she insists, her voice wavering. “I’m so afraid, Mulder. Of this. Of us. Of trying. Of failing. But I want to do it anyway.”

 

His expression changes, something cautiously hopeful furrowing his brow, parting his lips. 

 

“What do you want to do?” he asks gently. 

 

“Be with you. And not as some backup plan or place holder. I don’t want to look up in another ten years and realize I threw away something great because I was afraid of what people would think, or whether it was the right choice. I don’t know what the right choice is, but I know that this is the life I want. It’s the one I choose. Maybe it’s the one I was meant to have.”

 

His eyes are wet, but his lips are curled into a pained little smile. He opens his mouth to speak but then closes it again, chewing his lip in contemplation. Finally, he brings his hands to her face, cupping her jaw gently and placing the softest kiss on her lips. He pulls away a little and kisses her nose, then her forehead, finishing with a kiss just in front of her ear before he whispers, “Thank you for choosing me.”

 

“Thank you for waiting for me,” she whispers back, and he chuckles a little. 

 

Stooping, he wraps his arms around her hips and lifts her, carrying her to the bed as she giggles. He sets her down softly, switching off the lamp and then climbing on top of the blankets beside her. He trails his fingers along the hem of her shirt, dipping just underneath to tease at the smooth skin of her belly. 

 

“I would have waited forever, you know,” he offers as he drags his eyes up her torso, resting on her mouth. 

 

“I know,” she replies, reaching up to touch his neck and pull him down to kiss her. 

 

There’s something so soft and safe in his kiss, something new. Maybe the change isn’t in him at all, maybe it’s in her. He kisses her whisper-soft along her jaw, her clavicle, his breath a warm tickle against her ear. His touch is reverent, delicate as he moves to unhook her skirt, peeling it down her hips before he does the same to her pantyhose. With each scrap of fabric, he clears the final remnants of the walls she built around herself so many years ago, the ones he started to chip away at the first day she met him. His fingertips sliding up her rib cage pull off her defenses, along with her shirt. He unhooks her bra and she takes in a fuller breath, inhaling his familiar smell and finally letting it become a part of her lungs. His lips follow her panties down to the place where they fall away from her feet, trailing kisses back up her legs and the insides of her thighs. 

 

He stops and looks at her there, his eyes dancing over her vulva in the streetlamp haze, a longing look on his face. He sighs and bends to kiss the seam of her thigh, her belly, her breasts. He pushes his face into the crook of her neck and whimpers, “I love you.”

 

“Show me,” she tells him, her own voice tight. It suddenly feels like their first time. 

 

He makes his way back down her body, lapping and licking and kissing each place along the way. He stands briefly to quickly disrobe, and then presses his face into the nexus of her. The sweet slip of his tongue, his silken hair between her fingertips, his contented hums and moans as he devours her, push every thought, worry, and fear out of her mind as she exists only here with him, only in this moment. He grabs her hands, threading his fingers between hers and pushing them hard into the bed as he takes her over the edge. Before she has begun the descent back down he is inside of her. He cradles her legs at his sides such that his cock brushes up against her front wall on each upstroke, prolonging her orgasm enough that they end up coming together, passing the baton of release from one to the other.

 

Breath still heaving, he tows her up to the head of the bed and pulls back the blankets, tucking her underneath and disappearing long enough to retrieve a glass of water and a towel for her to clean up with. She accepts both gratefully, and then curls against his side. She relishes the feel of his thigh planted firmly between her legs, the dampness of their joining radiating against his quadricep something that is prone to making him frisky in the morning. She rests her ear against his pectoral, lulled by the rush of his breath and the thrum of his heart. Rain begins to wet the window and she snuggles closer, for warmth and for comfort. For love and for acceptance. For everything she’s denied herself, and him, for the last time. 



 





He wakes to a knock at the door and sits up, confused and disoriented. It’s dark and dreary outside, and a look at the bedside clock shows that it’s after 11:00 am. Scully’s side of the bed is long since cold and he frowns a little. Perhaps he’d imagined all that. 

 

He stands, and is searching for his boxers when he hears the front door open. He pauses momentarily with surprise before calling out, “Hello?”

 

“Hey,” she replies jovially, appearing in his bedroom doorway with a smile. 

 

He startles and reflexively covers his genitals with his hands, to which her smile broadens. 

 

“You got all that?” she asks with a playful dart of her eyes down to his groin and back. “Looks like you might need another hand,” she observes. 

 

He laughs and drops his arms to his sides, moving across the room to wrap his naked frame around hers, which is clad in jeans and a sweater. 

 

“Where’d you go?” he asks softly, kissing her neck to save her from his morning breath. 

 

“Just home to shower. You were so jet-lagged I thought you might want to sleep in a little,” she replies, leaning into him. 

 

“I was surprised to see how late it is,” he remarks, turning his head towards the window. “It looks like midnight out there.”

 

“It’s a bit wet,” she agrees, “but I thought we might go get breakfast. Or brunch, as it were. You aren’t due back in the office until tomorrow, and I decided I’m playing hooky today,” she adds playfully. 

 

“Sounds great, give me fifteen minutes.”

 

It’s an ordinary place, one they’ve been to many times. They serve ordinary breakfast foods: pancakes and waffles, bacon and sausage, eggs and hashbrowns. The people there are ordinary ones you’d expect to see at a diner: tired truckers, families with small children, delinquent teenagers. There’s nothing ordinary, though, about the way that Scully grabs his hand as they walk from the car to the front doors of the diner. There’s nothing ordinary about the fact that she slides into the booth beside him, instead of taking her typical spot across the table. 

 

He smiles at her in a kind of cautious, curious way. It’s best not to guess with Scully, he’s learned. There are bound to be rules he’s expected to play by. 

 

“So what’s the catch, Ms. Scully? Should I dust off those old gold rings, or what?”

 

She screws up her mouth thoughtfully, and it’s clear that she’s making it up as she goes along. A level playing field for once. 

 

“I don’t think so. Not because I don’t want to, but I think as long as we work together it would be best to keep that particular detail under the rose, if you will.”

 

He nods, starting to wonder if anything has actually changed, or if it’s more about the philosophy than the function. But then she leans into him and presses her lips against his, right here in this ordinary diner on an ordinary Tuesday that just became anything but ordinary. He kisses her back, chastely but with so much feeling, never having imagined how good it would feel to be accepted by her like this. To be seen, not to be hidden. Spooky Mulder, who no one ever wanted, is wanted by her, the most incredible creature he’s ever discovered. 

 

“Ahem .”

 

He smiles against her mouth and looks up, expecting to find an impatient waitress standing by their table, but instead he sees Maggie Scully with an amused smirk on her face. He leans away from Scully a little, cursing every god he’s ever heard of that the one time Scully kisses him in public they’re caught. 

 

“Hi Mom,” Scully says with a smile. “Thanks for coming.”

 

He gives Scully an incredulous look as Maggie slides into the other side of the booth, eyeing them curiously. Scully lays her hand over his on the table top and gives him a reassuring squeeze, then turns to her mother. 

 

“Mulder and I have something we need to tell you,” she begins. “Something we probably should have told you a long time ago.”

 

END