He learned to read at three—Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon, his chubby fingers trailing across the pages. “Judy can pat the bunny, now YOU pat the bunny,” he practiced for the day the baby would emerge from his mother’s belly.
When Samantha grew older, he’d make her giggle by reciting lyrical lullaby-lines as quickly as possible, “goodnightstarsgoodnightairgoodnightnoiseseverywhere,” transforming them from a soothing melody to a silly burst of childhood laughter.
In grade school, his teacher drilled the class in speed-reading. Sentences projected onto a screen for mere seconds before flipping to the next, and while his classmates groaned at the speed and sheer torture of it, he found the task easy. Fun even. The way the letters swirled in the air, then locked tightly in his brain, as he readied himself for the next round.
There was so much to learn in the world, and he was hungry for it all. He couldn’t consume things quickly enough. He took to skimming books, or reading Cliff’s Notes, when there was too much on his plate, when his desire for learning outweighed the hours in the day. His brain worked in overdrive, needing more more more, throughout high school and college, and on into grad school.
He discovered women then— really discovered—beyond just a quick kiss or grope beneath the bleachers of the gym. He applied his thirst for knowledge to that element of his life as well, moving through women and relationships as quickly as he’d read through Goodnight Moon so many years ago, never stopping long enough to appreciate the melody of the words or the beauty of the verses.
Even his longer-lasting relationships had a quickened pace to them. Phoebe and Diana were demanding—with everything, and that included intimacy. Sex with them was on THEIR time, at THEIR pace, without a lot of fanfare, which suited him for the moment, since he’d never thought to desire anything but.
He’d never stopped long enough to realize that something could possibly be missing.
Until she dropped into his life, in that precise, deliberate way she has about her. Meticulous, cautious, nothing rushed or hurried about it. Dana Scully does not skim, she does not speed-read, she deliberately pores over every word placed before her. And you can be damn sure she values the hell out of the beautifully-cadenced prose of Goodnight Moon.
The reeling pace of his existence halted the minute she stepped foot into the basement. The escalator beneath him jolted to a stop and his hands reached for the rubber of the rail to hold himself steady.
Though he may not have asked for it, she forced him to slow down. To take the steps one at a time. To exhaust all possible explanations before barreling onto the next opportunity.
And he was fascinated by that, by her. That this small spark of a woman could possibly have something to teach him. That the blue depths of her eyes perhaps held secrets greater than all the books he’d ever read.
He studied her, in a way he’d never taken the time to study a woman, to study anything, really. Gone was his desire to consume and devour and take in everything within reach, as quickly and ferociously as possible. Instead, he began understanding the beauty of taking one’s time, of turning something inside out, tilting it backwards and forwards, until its complete splendor was fully appreciated.
And there was much splendor to appreciate in Dana Scully. From the arch of her brow (more elegant than the domed cathedrals he’d visited in Rome) to the curve of her hip (more graceful than the hourglass his mother kept on the mantle), she was a treasure to be cherished, a novel to be savored.
The walls of his apartment were witness to how much he savored her, gasping her name late into the night, after hours upon hours of restraint. Sometimes he’d phone her, hoping her voice would be enough to appease him, but his cock stiffening in his hands while they spoke proved his intentions otherwise.
The black leather of his couch captured the moans that slipped from his throat. It held them, ferreting them away until some distant day in the future, when her own cries may join to match his own.
Seven years. For seven years, he learned from her. Learned to smell the flowers (Paul can smell the flowers. Now YOU smell the flowers) instead of grabbing the whole bunch at once. Learned to appreciate the quiet (goodnight to the old lady whispering hush) instead of filling it with meaningless words.
He’d never known the absolute pleasure, the unbearable pain, of yearning for someone in the way he yearned for her. Even his quest for Samantha, her girlish giggles still echoing in his mind, couldn’t compete with the desire he held for his partner.
Unlike his past experiences with women, names flashing for seconds on a screen, just long enough for a quick fuck before flipping onto the next, he longed to pore over Scully’s pages for hours, days, a lifetime. He knew he’d never gain his fill of even her most insignificant details.
He was hungry, not only for her skin, but for her story. For anything that would disrupt the maddeningly slow pace they’d set for themselves so many years ago. He appreciated the lessons she’d taught him, but savoring does not require one to stand completely still. Even the greatest novels are meant to be read, one magnificent word at a time.
It had gotten to the point where single words were no longer enough. A few words here, a few words there, phrases parceled out only every few weeks were driving him slowly mad. He wanted entire paragraphs. He wanted fucking chapters of her.
She promised to be the most amazing thing he’d ever read.
It was a dark and blissful night when she finally opened her pages to him.
The moon hung low and full in the sky, and, as he always did on nights like this, he recalled those repetitious words from his childhood (goodnight mooooon). He drew out the sound in his mind, reminding himself to slow down, to cherish each precious syllable of her body.
He hovered above her, taking in her milky white skin, her crisp, clean pages. Her quickened breaths smelled like fresh ink. She was the novel he’d waited seven years to read, full of twists and turns and peaks and valleys. And soft, soft flesh that flushed pink across her chest.
It was so hard to take his time, so hard not to flip ahead and spoil himself with her ending. But Dana Scully was so much more than a conclusion. She was a beginning, a middle, and an end, and he planned to exhaust himself learning her every detail.
He started at her left shoulder, at the once upon a time of her body, circling his tongue around the skin, then sliding it further to the right to dip between the tendons of her neck, into the perfectly-defined hollows of her clavicle. She tilted her head for him, baring her throat as she sighed, and he’d never seen a piece of flesh more greedy for his touch.
He took his time, careful not to rush, wary of missing even a single word. Her more sumptuous places his lips visited twice, and some even three, four times. He was especially diligent with a sweet little spot above the swell of her right breast, one that made her whimper and squirm, and he bookmarked it in his mind to find again later.
Her arms limp along her sides were parentheses, and within their curves was the purest form of poetry—trembling breasts and softly angled hips and a small, flat belly so enticing his breath caught in his throat at the sight. How could she be so gorgeous? He could hardly comprehend her being here, laid open before him, murmuring his name, arching her back in invitation of his touch.
Her nipples were hard, aching, by the time he made his way to her breasts. He made special note of their plummy color, their rose petal texture. She moaned recklessly beneath him, begging, and when he sucked the quivering tips into the cavern of his mouth, the clench of her hands in his hair made his cock swell.
Her body writhed beneath him as his fingertips read the braille of her goosebumped pelvis, as his lips found each freckled period, each comma-ed scar that blemished her skin. She was exquisite, she was divine, she was the only thing he could ever imagine touching again.
His name floated desperately from the ‘o’ of her lips, and he surged against the sweet cream of her thigh. He hated to mar her, to smudge her with his fingerprints, but the rock of her hips and the grip of her fists were becoming much too insistent to ignore.
She spread herself open for him, beckoning, thrusting her hips forward to meet him. His body tucked itself inside her with such ease, he was staggered by it. And when she began to move, he was beyond staggered. There were tears on her cheeks as they turned that final page, and when he tried to kiss them away, his own fell down to meet them.
She was wet, she was tight, and soon she was pleading for more. More more more, oh my God, more. And though he understood the merits of savoring, of taking his time, he was quickly losing the fight. The taste of her nipples under his tongue, the grind of her hips against his own, the squeeze of her legs around his waist—she was thoroughly engulfing him.
With lips against her mouth and hair gathered between his fingers, he gave himself over to her. She sucked him inside, and together, their bodies fell apart at the binding—spilling words, phrases, entire chapters, each more poetic than the last, each more full of love than he could possibly fathom.
And afterwards, she folded him into her arms and wrapped herself so tightly around him, he wondered how he’d ever existed without her. She took him and she pressed him between her clean, white pages. He was her orchid, her violet, the flower she dried in order to never forget. If only he could stay there forever.
Laying his head against her breast, he looked out the window. If he squinted precisely enough, he was sure he could see the cow jumping over the moon.
Then he murmured, in a slow, deliberate, sing-song voice, “Goodnight stars… Goodnight air…”
Her melodic alto joined him, “Goodnight noises everywhere…”