He likes it when she comes over.
The way it feels unremarkable and rooted in ancient routine. Four feet dragging two-by-two past the threshold to his place. Occasionally hers, if it happened to be closer to moot-crime-scene #87,948 - after yet another long day of running amuck. Repeatedly chasing the intangible in order to get to something resemblant of palpable by-product.
For him, the chased-after, and seemingly forever elusive result would usually lie upon one night he might finally be able to sleep through. Dreamless.
For her, and even though he had never been entirely sure of the inner, secret workings of Scully’s mind - not counting the instances where she’d stand, leaning against one of those very thresholds, rolling her eyes at him - something she could hold over his head. Something in the shape of - though she’d never admit it then - an increasingly tender variation of “I told you so”.
If he’d have to presumptuously guess, though, which he would oftentimes indulge in, Mulder would guess that “a night Mulder might finally sleep through” had sporadically permeated the various - and he knows far more extensive - items that composed her list of attainable, palpable results.
And it feels like old times. Leaning together against the back of a worn-out three-seat couch whose cushions are irrevocably shaped into two very specific outlines. One that sinks far deeper into the creaky metal frame, thanks to his inability to drag himself to bed nine times out of ten. This, too: the drifting off in tandem to the faint buzz of an old television set. And the sound of Scully ’s pulse-like breathing swaying closer, then further, then closer again to his ear, to finally land on his shoulder.
Except, it isn’t like old times. Not really.
Scully doesn’t inherently follow him into their - his - house at the end of each humdrum day anymore. Doesn’t tiredly melt into the passenger seat of his car like it’s second-skin, while he merges what used to be a two-stop drive into a single one.
It takes resolute, patient coaxing most evenings. A suggestion, followed by a joke. An invitation that lights up the screen of her phone. Like they’re separated by miles and weather and sturdy walls, instead of standing a mere five inches apart. The pursing of her lips and tapping of her nails in concentrated indecision well within his eyeshot.
It hurts him every time, the anticipation of her reluctance. The one she’s careful not to show but that he can hear in the barely-there, unsure treading of her steps up to his porch. In the unending seconds that build up the interval between the final thump of her heels on creaking hard-wood, and the uneasy touch of her knuckles to his front door.
Mulder bears it all.
Bears the pain, dull against his ribcage as he types out another “Want to come over and have me inflict yet one more Twilight Zone masterpiece upon you as you doze off five minutes into it ?” and watches as the three little dots appear and vanish off the screen. Imagines her backspacing multiple excuses not to concede right away, before pressing send on a casual “sure, why not”. Like the alternative to it would be doing her laundry, or brushing her teeth.
Bears the look on her face as he opens the door. Her eyes that remind him of how much this actually isn’t like old times. The small shrug that accompanies the awkward sideways waving of her hand. Followed by a way-too-soft “hello”, which has staggeringly weaseled its way between them and replaced the “hellos” that so often consisted of him busting the door open. Mouths glued, limbs entangled. Trashing into the room and bumping into ill-arranged furniture that they’d never think to move into less dangerous positioning the next day.
Bears it because, underneath Scully’s nonchalance attempts at shifting and rearranging them back into friends, back into partners, back into just another way of spending a Friday night, there’s the occasional - and lately more frequently observed - lowering of her carefully crafted guard.
The resurfacing of her wants and intentions, which don’t differ much, if at all, from his own. That tells him she’s as happy to be there - shoulder against shoulder engulfed by a worn-out couch - as he is to have the tip of his right sneaker angled just so, in order to touch the side of her high-heeled boot on his coffee table.
And when it does happen. When time does eventually stop and becomes something only the two of them can purchase and own, twist and bend to their whim, it often happens like this:
Scully leans her weight even further against the back of the couch, like she’s too tired to move, and her hand accidentally falls somewhere on his body. Mulder wills his bones to freeze then, eyes glued to the tv set like he can’t miss a beat, and lets Scully’s fingers trail their way to her destination. The destination is usually his hand, which has been carefully and intentionally positioned over whichever knee is closest to her frame, so that she can get to it without much effort. His hand, which she then proceeds to ingeniously direct to where she wants it.
Five weeks ago he had spent several minutes with that very hand dipped into the loosened collar of her shirt. Rolling and flicking her nipples until she came, quietly. With only him and a concentrated black-and-white Rod Sterling to witness to the languid, content sigh that escaped her barely parted lips.
Last Thursday she’d allowed his fingers access to explore the warm gap between her thighs. Two pads diligently rubbing back and forth over thick dark blue material that Mulder had ended up resenting more than he resented the FBI and all their secrets. More than he resented the United States government itself.
But tonight… tonight is different.
Tonight Scully’s there, but she’s not methodically lego’ed into her assigned shape on the couch. Because she is methodic about it. About adhering to her space while he silently finds his own, about not touching him until she can’t not touch him anymore.
Tonight there was no need for an invitation from him and there has been no need to turn on the TV and create false pretenses . Tonight she’s followed him home without any verbal agreement. Tonight her head has been leaning against his shoulder for the past - he ventures a furtive glance at his watch, again - twenty-two minutes. And if he’s not dreaming it, her upper lip has been pushing further and further into the crook of his neck.
He can't pinpoint the exact reason for the subtle yet meaning-heavy change.
It could be that they're both more exhausted than usual. Saving the world from a mastermind plan to keep everyone alive in an artificially crafted world, is no simple task. Though perhaps it's not so much about the actual exhaustion, or the brunt weight of the work. Or the fact that just a couple days ago they were being shot at, handcuffed, and made to run for their lives while trying their best not to trip up on each other's feet.
Maybe it's a combination of all of the above. Allied with the fact that in spite of it all, it is still each other's - Mulder and Scully, Scully and Mulder - feet they're trying to be mindful of.
Or maybe - and boy, does he want to believe - she's just missed him as much as he's missed her. Because God, he has missed her.
Mulder’s afraid to speak. Like he might break a spell too fragile if he does. His heart is pounding in his chest so loud, though, he suspects it might eventually deafen him. So when he feels the tip of Scully’s nose finally nudge the hard line of his jaw, he risks a tentative: “ Scully …"
“Touch me, Mulder.”
At first he’s not certain of having heard it. Her voice so low and breathy it sounds like it’s coming from beyond. From a time when he distinctly remembers her voicing that same plea. Though a somehow much quieter sound, and excruciatingly devoid of hope.
A plea he couldn’t answer then, wouldn’t answer, because he wasn’t listening - hadn’t been listening, for months.
“... and we don’t… and you don’t touch me anymore. You don’t touch me, Mulder.”
His face had scowled and he'd scoffed, like an idiot, like hers was a ludicrous accusation. Like he’d just touched her the night before, when he knew, just as well as she did, that they hadn’t made love in weeks. Hadn't so much as wrapped his arms around her in a proper, all enveloping bear hug, for even longer than that.
He remembers his beard was especially prickly that day. Like thistle or barbed wire, or the cunning ends of unkempt juniper bush. He had learned it in the way she wouldn’t touch it anymore. Wouldn’t ineptly reach out for his chin in the murk that was their bedroom at six-minutes-til-dawn. Her fingers routinely finding the bridge of his nose, or narrowly missing one of his eyes before she’d succeed at locating the base of his chin so she could smack a good morning kiss square onto sleep-dewey lips.
He learned it, too, in the way the tips of his fingers seemed to burn with paper-thin cuts as he absent-mindedly palmed his own cheek. Watching Scully bathed in 7.42pm twilight, hair cascading like a carmine-waterfall over her left cheek.
Her eyes avoided him. Seemingly bewitched by the dining table he’d built for their home when he could still will his hands to do things like build dining tables. And brush soft tendrils of carmine waterfall-hair off of Scully’s face, and touch her, and touch her, and touch her.
She'd spoken again, and he had desperately wanted to listen. It’s just that he more desperately wanted to tear apart the suitcase that lingered menacingly at her feet. Its contents like daggers precisely pointed at the only part of him that could still feel. The part of him that still lived simply because it lived for her.
“ Scully …” he'd said.
“Endogenous depression.” if déjà vu could be a sound, he had the distinct notion this was déjà-heard. But he hadn’t been listening, so he had asked:
“That’s what I think - no, what I am certain to be the accurate diagnosis. Your diagnosis, Mulder. Endogenous depression.”
“Gesundheit, Scully .”
And the moment she had looked up at him, face torn like he’d just physically bruised her with his callousness and boorish German accent, he had wished he'd wiped the boyish grin off his face and taken it back. Not just the ill-timed joke, but all of it. All of the past seven, eight months of nothingness he’d had to offer her.
Still, he had stupidly waited for her to laugh. For at least one corner of her mouth to turn up. But Scully had stopped laughing. She’d stopped smiling. Long before that moment.
And if he thinks, really thinks hard and not-so-long about it, that day had not been the first day she’d left at dawn without running her knuckles across his beard. Without pressing her lips to his before leaving their bed.
Tonight, she doesn’t have to ask him to touch her again. Though his senses are foggy and his ears might deceive him, her mouth is too close to ignore, her breath too sweet not to taste.
He worries is face is unkept, like it had been the day she left. He wants to apologize, make her a promise. But the way her hand returns to it, again and again, in slow but meaningful brushes as she lets out something akin to a purr through his kiss, tells him perhaps he doesn’t have to .
The kiss that was tender in its birth grows full-bodied and possessing now. Scully moves to easily straddle him, and although he’s decided to let her dictate the pace - lest he’d scare her like a deer back into the dense forest he’s found it so grueling to capture her from - Mulder’s hands find their place at her hips . His touch as possessive as her lips are covetous, surrounding his mouth and threatening honey-sweet injury.
Her second plea comes through in even breathier sounds. Though this time they come unmistkably intertwined with shallow, rushed gasps he can’t decide are being expelled from her lungs or from his own.
He blinks, and his unmade bed, with its wrinkled cotton sheets bearing marks of erratic sleep, is absorbing Scully’s scent off of her splayed red hair and her naked back. Whose bones he drills further onto the mattress by pressing his lips to the hollow of her throat and the deliciously grainy tips of her breasts.
Mulder knows her body well. Knows it from those endless hours he’s spent exploring it, pleasuring it. Claiming every nook and crevice in that brief yet long interval when the world went quiet and Scully would come home to him smelling of a strangely alluring mix of antiseptic and his favorite perfume. Of human life as opposed to human death. When the knuckles of her fingers would be tense from holding patients’ hands and charts, and not the grip of a gun.
In the dark, from right under the careful yet inexact figure-eight motion of his hips, Scully whispers “I love you”. And tears prick his eyes, because even though he knows he doesn’t deserve to hear it, doesn’t deserve her to feel it still, he’s relieved her love for him hasn’t been filed away in a cabinet. Abandoned and orphaned in some dark office basement, marked with an x for “extinguishable.”
She says “I love you, Mulder”, and their abdomens collide like magnets.
She says “I love you”, and he laces his fingers through hers like they were never apart. Spreads her arms out across the mattress like angel wings, and kisses an oath into her open mouth.
He says “so much, Scully . I love you so much” and feels her hands carve a promise into his shoulder blades as he pushes into her one last time. The intense blow of it all breaking off a burning kiss that leaves strands of maroon hair clinging to her lips.
It feels familiar. In the way a single ray of sunlight might feel after a week-long deluge and impervious gray skies. Lying quietly, spine-to-sternum, in a bed that smells like love.
Scully’s phone lights up on the floor next to the bed and Mulder smiles a roguish smile as he feels the mattress release much of her weight as she reaches for it. An even wider grin, as the bed ebbs and rocks to the laughter that ensues. Unrestrained and untethered, and straight from her lungs.
Scully's laughter, sewing up his wounds in the shadows, fixing everything in him that hurts, inch by inch.
The reply to his cheeky and covert “Tonight was fun, can I see you again?” comes in the shape of both a loud ping - because he’s not used to turning off his phone at night anymore - and an extended view of Scully ’s calendar for the foreseeable month.
With a yawn that betrays both contentment and cocksureness, he selects an all-day slot for the following day. Toggles “repeat: every day”, and sends back a blood pact.