Artificial Starlight by Annie Sewell-Jennings

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Artificial Starlight by Annie Sewell-Jennings

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From: Auralissa <>

Date: 13 Dec 1998 05:47:41 GMT

Subject: NEW: “Artificial Starlight (1/2)” By: Annie Sewell-Jennings ARTIFICIAL STARLIGHT (1/2)

By: Annie Sewell-Jennings ()

DISCLAIMER: Well, you know the drill by now, I hope. The characters are Chris Carter’s babies, but I’m a baby-snatcher! ::gasp:: I hope he doesn’t catch me.

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully share thoughts on loneliness, light, and good Italian food.

CATEGORY: SR. A smidgen of angst.


KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance.

SPOILERS: US6, and I guess it’s post-“Triangle”. Goddamn, I love that episode. But there are only a few little references to it. 🙂

ARCHIVE: This story will be premiered on my website, sent to ATXC, and then shipped off to the lovely XAPEN.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Well, I’ll admit that I’ve been quiet recently.

It’s a little blend of writer’s block and website building. BTW, have you visited my site yet? You can find it over at But this is a nice little piece to ease me back into the whole writing world. I’ve got some more challenging pieces coming up anyway.

Thanks must go to Kristin Pohaski, Heather Stone, and Khyber. I love you all.

– ⭐ –


“You are the star tonight
Shining electric out of sight
And I eclipse the moon tonight
You’re out of sight”


– ⭐ –

Stuffed mushrooms, when done right, could be considered artwork.

Beautifully plump, steaming hot, and juicy when sliced in half so that the cheese unfurled like a rose in waiting. Delicious, zesty, melding the garlicky taste of the mushroom with the sharp tang of the mozzarella so that the finished result was resplendent in magnificent flavor.

A smile crept across her face, and she hummed low in the back of her throat as she speared another mushroom with her fork. Scully hadn’t had stuffed mushrooms in ages, and this one was incomparable with the others. It was in a class in and of itself, just right, not hot enough to burn the tongue but not cold enough so that the cheese lost its careful blend of flavors and aromas.

She hadn’t enjoyed food like this in ages, hadn’t really sat down and appreciated eating. Hadn’t experienced flavor. Hadn’t let it linger on her tongue just so that she could taste it.

Scully took another mushroom from the plate and looked across the table at Mulder. That delectable mouth of his was busy working on a pasta and shrimp dish, and she watched at the practiced way he gathered the angel-hair noodles up with his fork. It was always amusing to watch him eat, and she had been entertaining herself this way out of the corner of her eye all throughout dinner.

Funny, but she had never eaten Italian with Mulder before. Always Chinese, or barbecue, and a lot of pizza. Never something as intimate, as sensual. Nothing close to Italian food.

And he’d seemed quite surprised when she suggested that they find Italian for dinner tonight. Like she was challenging him.

Contesting him. And she was, in a manner of speaking. She was tired of eating wontons and talking business. It was a strain on her behalf to condescend to them both that they were nothing more than work partners, and they had nothing more on their minds than work. Scully had a few things on her mind. Like she wanted to know how he’d gotten that goddamn black eye.

Instead, she made him take her out for Italian after work.

Pennachio’s was a small, mild, fairly inexpensive Italian restaurant. Decorated simply, with the obligatory candlelit tables, the eatery possessed a quaint charm that won her over like smoky wine. The waiters were probably all college kids, handsome guys and friendly-looking girls, walking around bearing sensual-smelling bowls of spaghetti and alfredo. Mulder had picked a place that relied on different senses than sight. It was a place that was seductive in its smell. One sniff of a perfectly prepared pasta dish was enough to make her feel light and heady.

And in that tomato-and-garlic aroma, there was a little whiff of sexuality. A seduction that slumbered in all six senses.

She blinked a little through the candlelight, and watched him casually lean across the table with his fork to steal a mushroom with his fork. Sly, unsuspecting, as though he was a thief. When he curved his arm around the plant, she quickly poked at his exposed forearm with the end of her fork. “Ah,” she scolded, and he gave her an exaggerated pout. Scully could always tell when he was using it to get something and when he was genuinely hurt.

When he was hurt, the pout was tiny.

She still gave him one of her mushrooms, just because he was amusing.

Mulder did not eat delicately. He was a muncher, a chomper, and someone who had obviously been reprimanded a thousand times at the dinner table when he was a kid. But he ate with gusto, chewing every morsel and enjoying his food loudly. When he liked something, he made contented noises, not rude or vulgar ones, mind you, but rather deep and throaty ones. Mulder was not a quiet person, that was for sure.

But it was comforting to see him eat, and it was a nice change to watch him eat by candlelight rather than underneath an ugly, unflattering motel lamp.

The candlelight trembled for a moment, then danced and spun on the wick. It shone across his skin, and Scully let her mind drift as she allowed herself to stare unabashedly at the bronze warmth of Mulder’s golden skin. He looked resplendent in ravishing beauty, his summer tan not yet fading from his complexion, and the purples of his bruise were faded in the firelight. The candlelight brought out licks of copper in his dark hair.

Whimsically, she let her mind imagine what that fire would look like on his back. Mulder’s back was the subject of a thousand fantasies, with its tight muscles and slender length… And for another moment, she allowed herself the darker daydream of imagining him, lying on his side in her bed, vanilla candlelight playing patterns on his naked backside as she walked toward him…

“I ran a background check on Stevens,” he said, his words a little garbled by the pasta in his mouth. Still, he managed to snare her from her mild reverie and bring her back to earth, where there were real problems and real boundaries. “I don’t think that there’s going to be anything groundbreaking, but it’s good to look anyway. You never can tell.”

Absently, she nodded, her smile coming from far away. “Procedure and all,” she murmured, and he nodded, picking another mushroom from her plate and lathering it in the juices from the other mushrooms.

“I think that you should look into his wife’s death,” he suggested, his eyes constantly following her. God, if he didn’t stop staring at her all the time, as though his words were nothing when compared to what he was really thinking, then she would go mad. Completely insane. Trailing over her face, scanning over her features, it was like he was committing her to memory.

And it was infuriating. “It could save us some time if we know he has no motive for terrorism, and that could help us when we stand in front of OPR for re-evaluation.”

“Mm, how so?”

She was completely uninterested; Mulder knew that. He could tell in the way that she was glancing around at the tablecloth, the candle, the food that the waiters were serving. She wanted no part in the conversation, but she still wanted to be there.

Thoughtfully, he chewed the mushroom slower, and continued to talk. “Well, if we manage to save a little Bureau money and a little Bureau time, it would look good on our—”


Startled, he lifted his head, and looked dead into the eyes of Scully. Scully’s eyes had multiple faces, and each one carried a different power and potency. Now, her eyes were calm cerulean, fathomless and blue, and they were framed by dark, charcoal lashes. Thick, luxurious, but unyielding when it came to the gems they framed. When she spoke, her voice matched her eyes, and she was completely serious and still. “Let’s not talk about work tonight,” she said. He swallowed.

“But I thought —”

Scully raised her fork, the tines covered in a layer of cheese.

“Mulder.” It was all she had to say; his mouth was shut and he was silent. Lowering his eyes, he ceased, and she smiled, placing her fork on the edge of her plate. “I haven’t had Italian food in ages,” she said, and Mulder realized that it was time for their yearly bonding session. It was an annual affair, a conversation that took place between them that didn’t concern work and didn’t involve anybody but the two of them. Last year it had been in the woods in Florida, when she’d talked frankly and quietly about dying and Betty Rubble. The year before that, a park bench in Home, Pennsylvania, where they discussed children and motherhood.

And though he often wished that they talked more often, that they bonded and spoke to each other with greater ease, he was a little wary. Just because it was never certain what each talk would bring, and how guarded he would have to be. There were so many things that he wanted to tell Scully, and so many things that he wanted her to tell him, but there were some things that could not be told and some things that she probably didn’t want to know.

But she was just talking about Italian food, and he was overreacting. Big time.

Swallowing again, Mulder loosened his collar a little more and smiled personably at her. “Why haven’t you had Italian food?” he asked, and she sighed, her hair falling back from her face and lending light to her cheekbones. She had such interesting bones, high and proud, sharp and angular.

The way that she smiled made her eyes look dark and sapphire-like in the dim light. “Well, when I was in high school, I had Italian food with an older guy, a college boy who was trying to impress me so that I’d put out,” she said, her voice dry with the memory.

“And most of what he said was academic bullshit — Probably the same thing you said to girls when you were in college.” Mulder gave a little noise and a wave of his hands, as if to say “how ridiculous”. “Mm-hm, whatever, Mulder. Anyway, there was one thing of his that made sense — He said that Italian food should never be eaten alone.”

Softening, Mulder’s smirk turned into a wistful smile, a little sadder than their earlier teasing. “And you’ve been alone,” he quietly said, and she looked down at her empty plate.

“I don’t mind being alone, Mulder,” she said, her finger running over the fork. “It’s sometimes nice, to have all that time to yourself. Peaceful, even. Clarifying.”

He tilted his head, as though he could catch her in a more willing position if only he could change his face in the candlelight. “But,” he murmured, “being alone is different from loneliness… Isn’t it?”

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a couple sitting at another table. A young woman in a flowered dress, filmy and romantic, patterned with dark irises and ivy, sat with a young man with light hair and a smile that was meant for her and her alone. She was sitting close to him, drinking white wine, and his hand slipped under the table so that only Scully could see it.

Gently, adoringly, his hand cupped the young woman’s calf, then inched up underneath her beautiful dress so that he could caress her kneecap. Just like that, so simply and yet so meaningfully, this young man found a way to worship her. And the way that the young woman smiled at him, so low and deep and rich with kinship… She worshipped him, too. A mutual religion.

“Yes,” she whispered, her eyes still caught on the young man’s hand, “loneliness is different.”

He deeply inhaled, and bowed his head. It was then, watching the broken lines of his shoulders, that Scully saw something in him that she hadn’t seen before. He was quite possibly one of the saddest creatures she’d ever laid eyes on, and that he meant it when he told her he loved her. And she might have broken his heart when she did not reciprocate his feelings right away.

“Are you lonely, Scully?” he asked, his voice nothing more than a soft breath, and she wanted to reach for him and brush her fingers over his bruised face. That bruised face that was suspiciously similar to the mark of a fist.

“I think…” She sighed. This conversation was turning depressing, and the taste of divine mushrooms was growing stale on her tongue. “I think that I can be lonely, once in a while.”

Mulder lifted his head at that, and a slow, cynical smile touched his lips.

“Scully, loneliness isn’t something that’s occasional,” he said.

“It’s something that’s constantly there, something that follows you around so that happiness is the visitor rather than the normal. Loneliness is a—” He stopped suddenly, and sighed loudly. “This isn’t right.”

She cut her eyes away, and turned her face aside. Her profile was starkly drawn out, sharply etched in fire, but there was a warmth on her face that still made her seem accessible. It was so rare to feel that way with Scully. Mulder always wanted to open his heart up to her, but times when he felt that she could pour her feelings out to him were few and far between. “What is right, Mulder?” she asked, her voice soft. “When will it ever be right?”

“It’s right now,” he whispered, trying to recapture their earlier intimacy. “I think it’s right now, but…” His voice softened, and Scully turned her face back to look at him. He was watching her again, always watching her. For the past week, his eyes had never left her face, and she was starting to wonder what it was about her that was so goddamned captivating that he couldn’t tear his attention away from her for just one minute. Why he was always glued to her face. Ever since he came back with that godforsaken bruise…

And she had started thinking about Italian dinner ever since that bruise had appeared, and he’d told her he loved her. Good God, the Bermuda triangle was something you couldn’t escape from after all, because neither one of them was able to shake the aftermath of Mulder’s little vacation. If only she could get up the nerve to ask him why the hell he had a bruise on the side of his face, all of her worries could be eased.

Or if only that bruise didn’t look like a goddamn fist

Exhaling tightly through her teeth, Scully licked her lips. “Just how lonely are you, Mulder?” she asked. “How lonely can two people who see each other day in and day out be? We’re constantly together, but…”

“We’re always apart,” he finished, and she nodded.

“Yes. Exactly.”

Mulder sighed and dropped his head back down to the bowl of pasta and shrimp that he’d abandoned in exchange for this frustrating talk with his partner. With a renewed hunger, he started eating again, but his mind was far from the cooled noodles and shellfish. The side of his face hurt again, and he knew that he should take another aspirin for it. The swelling was slowly going down, but it didn’t detract from the surprise he’d had of the power in Scully’s punch. Well, it wasn’t the real Scully, but there was no contest that the two shared equal spunk and equal bite when it came to fighting and dignity. He’d insulted that red-dressed glam girl version of Scully with his kiss, and she’d let him known that he wasn’t welcome when she slugged him. He should have been put off after that, but it was so perfectly Scully.

What made it fitting was the kiss itself. Because after a moment of struggle, she’d yielded to him, slid her tongue inside of his mouth and began to reciprocate with that fiery passion that Mulder had fallen in love with years ago. And he’d known it, he had felt that blissful rapture “Scully” had briefly experienced, and that was why she’d had to hit him.

Because Scully would not let her dignity be compromised.

Would not sacrifice one shred of respect.

Because of this, Mulder wondered if they were always going to be caught dancing around certain details of conversation, always sharing lives and experiences but never secrets, and always caught in his hallway or in the Bermuda Triangle, waltzing around something as simple as a kiss.

Biting his lip, Mulder stabbed a lone shrimp in his pasta bowl, and sighed. She was equally quiet, all because one shred of conversation with delicate subject matter had surfaced. That easy repartee that usually flowed between them was gone, and Mulder had no idea what to say next. He folded his napkin on the table, and stood up. When he knew that Scully was staring at him with that utterly intriguing look on her face, eyebrow arched and head tilted to the side, he looked down at her and tossed a halfway smile in her direction.

“I need to get some air,” he said, which she knew was the Mulder equivalent to an engraved invitation. At least when it came to her. Sometimes, his informality was flattering, and other times it bothered her. Tonight, she was alright with it.

“I’ll go with you,” she said, and dropped her napkin on her chair. But before she walked out, she looked down at the chair to find the discarded cranberry napkin out of the corner of her eye.

When they first were seated, the napkins were folded into intricate, delicate swans, and now she had used it and left it messed and dirty. Then she realized that she was starting to read way too much into things as useless and trifling as dinner napkins, and refused to entertain any further notions regarding the cloth swans.

Even if, deep inside, she thought that the simple fact that she was even bothering to look for signs in the first place was significant.

Scully sighed and strode in front of Mulder, her determination to get away from the cozy, candlelit atmosphere carrying her out with greater speed. Thus, she was the first to see the veranda first, and she was the one who first witnessed it.

But Mulder was the first one of the two to gasp.

– ⭐ –


Mulder had first started frequenting the restaurant in early June, and had discovered the lovely veranda on perhaps his second or third visit. In the summertime, it bloomed with a broad variety of different brilliantly colored flora and fauna, and the smell had been sweet enough to balance the sensuality of the Italian food. During the summer, it had been lit with citronella candles in a wide range of colors and scents to ward off Washington’s swarms of mosquitoes. The small candles had provided enough light to cast deeper lights on the pastel petals of the roses, the lilacs, and the boughs of rich, luxurious wisteria.

The scene that met his eyes now was far different from the impressive splendor of the well-tended flowers.

Willows and oaks wavered and twisted their branches in the mildly chilled breeze, the Spanish moss billowing like fine, ghostly lace. Wreathed around the branches, through the moss and the reddening leaves, were strings and strings of electric lights, golden and glowing as though a galaxy had erupted in the middle of the restaurant. As the breeze lifted and tossed the fragile gray moss around, the strings of lights twinkling and winking like a small solar system. The lights were everywhere, twining through the trees, careening through the flowerbeds, crowning the heads of the small cherubs in the marble fountain in the center of the veranda. The entire outdoors was radiant with the purity of the light, and the silvery moonlight caressed the water in the fountain like fingers.

Amidst this splendor, Scully stood, and she was what made the scene breathtaking.

She didn’t just look enchanting, she looked enchanted, and that had to make up at least two thirds of her appeal. The lights played in her hair, lighting the red and gold as though she was a flame herself. The reflections of thousands of tiny lights flashed inside of her eyes, and her skin glowed luminously with the touch of starlight.

He stayed in the shadows and watched her, quietly blending into the embrace of Spanish moss and maple leaves, lips parted and eyes focused on her and her alone. Mulder had often been told that he was a driven, attentive individual, but that his attentions were rarely focused on anything other than his work.

The accusations were true; he was a workaholic and he was not good with people, but there were times and moments when he could let all of her energies and all of his thoughts settle on Scully.

He didn’t allow those brief pauses to happen very often though, and for damn good reason — those moments were highly addictive, and with every little period of time that he lost himself in her, he usually came out loving her even more.

So instead, he watched her for a moment, temporarily smitten, and waited for something to come and break the spell.

She walked through the layers of electric lights until she sat herself down on a marble bench, sucking in her breath at the chill of the stone. The wind was just cold enough to nip at her face, and Scully covered her cheeks with her hands in a vain attempt to warm them up. The smell of rigatoni wafted to her nose, and she felt her stomach give a contented sigh instead of a demanding rumble. This restaurant, which had first seduced her with its lovely charm, was absolutely divine. She would have to concede later on that Mulder had good taste in… Where was Mulder?

“Mulder?” she asked, and he walked over to where she sat on the bench, his hair wild from the wind and his eyes an equally untamed shade of gold-brown. He sat down next to her on the bench, and smiled at her briefly before letting his face fall back to its usual noncommittal stare. She sighed. “Alright, I admit it — You picked a winner.”

He threw up his hands and flashed his eyes at her. “You see, Scully, all you gotta do is trust my instincts once in a while,”

he said, and she quirked her mouth at him in a move that he’d taught her.

“Ah, is that so,” she said, leaning in a little so that her nose teased his. Any tension that had previously popped up in the restaurant was pushed back into the shadows.

“Face it, Scully, you should trust my judgment more often,” he pointed out, and she made a face in his direction, pulling away from him once again so that they sat on opposite sides of the cold bench. Mulder hoped that his ass didn’t freeze right off if they were going to sit out there for the rest of the night.

She turned her head to give him a wry look, her eyebrows arched and her mouth twisted into a smirk. “Who knows, Mulder? Next time, it could be… Burger King.”

He smirked back at her; he could give as good as she could. “I’m a first-class man, Scully,” he defended. “McDonald’s.”

She rolled her eyes to hide her smile, and he craned his neck forward in hopes that he could catch her. Seeing a secret about Scully was difficult at times, but he could do it once in a while. Little things, like she had small freckles across the bridge of her nose and that her favorite flavor of ice cream was raspberry sorbet. Scully was a very interesting breed of woman, and she was a woman who was filled with more secret longings and desires than the average female.

He caught right now that she thought he was funny.

Scully looked out at the stars twinkling above the canopy of electric lights and gossamer cobwebs that glimmered with moisture, and sighed. When she returned her gaze back to Mulder, she found his profile outlined by the soft moonlight, that strong, bold nose and soft, sensual lower lip prominent and traced in silver. Nothing marred his face except for the bruise on his cheek, just swollen enough to be distinguishable.

“How did you do it?” she asked him, her voice soft.

Startled, he turned his face to hers and met her inquisitive eyes. “Huh?” he asked, confused. But Scully quickly cleared up her question by nodding her head in his direction, and then lightly brushing her fingers over the sensitive bruise on his face. The bruise that he’d gotten by kissing a Scully that existed only on a cruise liner in World War II. “Oh…” He cleared his throat, and turned away from her fingers. “I, um, I don’t remember,” he muttered. “Maybe I got knocked in the head when the boat wrecked. According to your theory as to how I got so fucked-up, head injuries are nothing to me, anyway.”

But she narrowed her eyes and looked at the bruise more closely.

Though they were difficult to see in the dark, the fading finger marks were still apparent. And the fingers were small, not broad… Her pathology training taught her that. To keep a close eye out for evidence, for anything that could point to the murderer. And male fingers were definitely different from female ones.

Completely perplexed now, she furrowed her brow. “Mulder, though the doctor did ascertain that a board must have hit you and caused your concussion, there were other bruises on your body that couldn’t be accounted for, like bruises to your ribs and, well, that black eye.” She sighed. “And though the doctor didn’t say it, because I don’t think that he wanted to believe it, the bruise on your face has fingers.”

His throat turned dry, and his eyes widened briefly before he shut them. That was all that she needed to know. Mulder was hiding something, something big. Narrowing her eyes, she watched him exhale long and slow, and then watched his shoulders slump.

“Mulder?” she asked, prompting him to answer her, and he took his cue.

“I know you don’t believe my account of what happened on the Queen Anne,” he said, his voice low and reluctant. “But the bruises on my ribcage came from when the Nazis beat me up, and the bruise on my face is…” He sighed. “I kissed you.”

She didn’t hesitate before she smirked. “Mulder, I think that I would have remembered that,” she said, and he heard the laughter in her voice even if all she was doing was grinning at him. “Now tell me the real reason.”

But his eyes were deadly serious, and he repeated himself. “I kissed you. It wasn’t you exactly, but a version of you on the Queen Anne. Spender was a Nazi, the cigarette-smoking man was a Nazi, Skinner was a Nazi who spied for the Americans, and you were… Well, you were you.” As if that was all the reason in the world he needed to give for kissing her. “And I kissed you.” He swallowed. “And you hit me afterward, smacked me right in… The kisser.” His lame sense of humor wasn’t going to save him now, and his attempt at lightening the situation had been halfhearted.

Scully had always prided herself on being a master at maintenance. She could keep up facades, keep up stories and cover her tracks beautifully. And she was true to form at Mulder’s revelation. She did believe him this time, for some odd reason, because it explained everything. The way that he’d been gentler to her recently, his softly serious confession of love, and, most of all, that fist-shaped bruise that had been bothering her ever since he’d shown up to work with it. The harsh fluorescent light of the FBI halls couldn’t conceal the truth.

She was utterly calm about the entire thing though. Inside, her stomach was turning flip-flops. Her brain feebly attempted to come up with a thousand logical reasons, but nothing could speak better than the bruise and Mulder’s behavior. She couldn’t ignore the hard reality of it.

“Was it worth it?” she asked, and he darted his eyes up to her face. Serenely, she asked this question, and he knew that he didn’t have any other option but to answer honestly.

“Yes,” he murmured, his voice low and intimate, and her heart did a cartwheel in time to her stomach’s acrobatics. She halfexpected the strings of gold lights around them to start blinking bright red warning signs, because Mulder had told her that it had been worth it to kiss her. That was nothing but trouble. And she was going to add to the trouble by continuing the conversation.

Something in the air told her not to waste her only opportunity.

Something that reminded her of nights eating dinner alone with vanilla candles blazing around her in an effort to provide her with company, and nights of sleeping alone with nothing but a quilt to embrace and a pillow to lean on. She had been alone for countless days and countless nights, all because of silent lips and a chaste heart.

He was shocked, no, he was stunned. Stunned into silence. And while he fumbled for words, he found himself growing closer to her, by inches and by centimeters, all from this dazed perspective of watching himself. Like he was outside of his body, watching with the distance of the seductive starlight. Loneliness edged him closer, urged him toward her body, and his hands itched for her skin. He could see the shallowness of her breathing, knew that she was coming closer to him to, her head tilting up to catch his words, and the slender length of her throat was preternaturally luminescent.

She licked her lower lip, which made his mouth turn hot and anticipatory, like something that had never happened before was going to happen again. She inched closer to him, her hand whispering against his, the warmth of her thigh touching his carefully.

Then the door opened, and Mulder jerked his head away from hers, standing up stiffly and hoping to God that the meager taste of arousal he’d felt was nothing serious enough to give away the fact that he’d been about to romance his partner. But no one was there except for a blond young man and a young brunette in a frothy dress wreathed with irises and ivy walked out, their eyes innocent and focused only on each other. He watched them walk to the fountain and then sit down in an embrace, their lips having already found each other in the short way down to the seat.

Sighing, Mulder closed his eyes and walked forward, his hands on his hips and his body in as much turmoil as the rest of him. He was very well aware of what he had been preparing for with his partner. As always he had been ready to further things with her, and fate had stepped in to tear them away from each other again.

Mulder ran his hands over his face roughly, trying to snap his body out of the state of desire it was in, that breathless feeling of needing, and he couldn’t look at Scully and see her reaction. Either she would be disappointed or she would be furious, ready to bruise the other side of his slandered face.

And with the interruption of this kiss came the inevitable embarrassment, as though the interruption was meant to be. As though he shouldn’t have even tried in the first place.

And all the while, the electric lights played on her face; he didn’t have to look at her to know that she was beautiful. She was a goddess caught in his shoddily constructed shrine, and no matter what he did, he would always be forced to gaze at her through artificial starlight, never being able to touch her in the middle of an actual aurora.

Licking his lips, he kept his back to her as he spoke. “Do you believe me?” he asked. She sighed, always the same question. It was tedious to give him the same stale confession of eternal trust, of constant faith, of how she would never doubt him as a person. “About what happened to me on the Queen Anne — Do you believe me?”

Instead, she cleared her throat. “After having witnessed the state of the ship while I was on board, I would have to say no,”

she admitted. “The ballroom was full of cobwebs, there certainly wasn’t anybody on board, needless to say anyone who resembled me and had a hell of a right hook.” She tried to lighten the situation. “Besides, Mulder, you know just as well as I do that my left’s better.” Mulder almost laughed at the irony of her words, and it almost pulled him up.

Then her voice shifted from analytical to confidential. “But I’ll give you this,” she said, “it would explain the bruise.” When he turned around, she jerked her head away, and Mulder was startled to realize that she’d been staring at him the entire time. He usually hated to know that somebody was watching him. It had always made him nervous, as though they had learned something about him that he was completely unaware of. And judging from the look on Scully’s face, she had done just that.

Slowly, cautiously, he approached her, and took his seat next to her again. This interrupted kiss made them more cautious, made them more aware of each other. Scully swallowed hard, her hands shaking just a little in her lap as she saw the intense olive in Mulder’s eyes. All the strings of stars seemed to form little speckles of gold in his eyes, right around the pupils, and that same ripple of arousal that had shimmered throughout her body resurfaced again. Her thighs tingled with anticipation of something that she would probably never experience with him, and when his hand brushed against hers, she knew that her desire was becoming overwhelming.

He cupped her hand in his loosely, and she forced her eyes away from his face, dragging them down to their hands. Hers, small and white, and his, large and copper. Odd that such a contradiction in shape and size should look so beautiful together. She felt him briefly caress the back of her hand with his thumb, and the brief glimpse of his adoration of her made her loosen inside. When Mulder was like this, intimacy beyond words, then it was almost impossible to keep anything from him.

With a delicious tenderness, he lifted their hands and brought her palm to rest on his face. Startled, she sucked in her breath, feeling the smoothness of Mulder’s skin against hers. He’d shaved before dinner; Mulder always had a good shadow of beard by this time of day. But he was soft to touch, fresh and clean, and she wanted nothing than to press her own cheek against his and stay there for the rest of her life. Existing cheek to cheek with Mulder wouldn’t be a horrible life at all. Delicately, he closed his fingers around hers, making a loose fist with her hand.

Scully suddenly realized what he was doing, and she positioned her fist against the bruise on his cheek just enough.

It was a perfect match.

She turned her gaze up from the bruise on Mulder’s face to his eyes, and his gaze was intense, fervent, driven. It was that same look that he got when he was trying to persuade her, trying to convince her. Her fist was his evidence this time around, and this time, there was little Scully could do to dissuade him.

“See, Scully?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper, but all she could feel was the soft, tender cheek against her palm, and Mulder’s skin was the most delicious of textures. All she saw was the flash of gold on his skin, the flames of a thousand tiny bulbs lighting his skin to a rich, burnished copper, and how her hand was a slender porcelain palm caressing that gold. The slow build between her legs and down her thighs was beginning to build, and she swore that she felt a low throb at the center of her desire.

All without a kiss.

Lightheaded, Scully lifted her eyes from their hands and locked gazes with Mulder. The rays of gold were starting to be consumed by his dilated pupils, but the disappearing honey was compensated by the thick, sooty lashes that fell across his gaze. Bedroom eyes. His mouth was slightly parted, and the luxury of his lower lip glistened pearly pink in the night, and Scully felt enchanted, bewitched, by the entire evening. She’d fallen under its spell, whether it was Mulder’s fingertips or the strings of stars that canopied them.

The cause didn’t matter, anyway.

She closed her eyes, leaned her head forward, and she heard his breath catch in his throat. “Okay,” she murmured, and that was all she said before she brushed her mouth against his. A tremor ran down her spine at the feel of his soft, silken mouth under hers, and it shot straight down to where she was hungering and wanting more and more with every thought and feeling. Just one brush of mouth and mouth, and Scully was lost.

All thought and feeling, all hesitation, disappeared, and Mulder grazed her mouth with his in an equally wispy kiss, as light and feathery as gossamer. Just one whisper of a passionate kiss was all it took to make him feel drunken with sensuality, and his chest started to burn with want for her. Smoky kisses and feathery brushes of his palm against her shoulder would not sate that smoldering blaze, and Mulder covered her mouth with his this time.

The tempo increased; her fingertips curled on his face until she was tracing his jaw with the backs of her knuckles and his palm was shakily travelling down her spine, clutching her close to him. She caught his lower lip between her teeth and used the bare tip of her tongue to outline it, and Mulder shuddered against her. He carefully traced the teardrop of her upper lip with his own tongue, and felt the way that her hand stiffened against his skin. Tremors and shivers ran through the both of them, and the kiss hadn’t even been taken past the shimmering play it was in now. Mulder’s other hand slowly rested against her hip, and he started to draw circles on her hipbone. Scully knew then that she would not be able to make through the rest of the night without falling prey to this craving for him, and the knowledge made her clit throb and ache with need.

When she put her other hand on his knee and started to inch her way toward his demanding erection, Mulder finally deepened the kiss, and she almost cried out into his mouth. Slow, culminating bliss was truly the most tempting of ecstasies, and Scully had never experienced such pleasure from nothing other than a passionately filmy kiss. His hand fled her hipbone, and though the absence of his knowing fingers made her want to wail, the way that he could cover her entire face with just one palm was the most arousing thing she’d ever experienced. Her back started to arch a little toward him, and she blindly kissed him back, her tongue darting in and out of his mouth with slow precision.

Shakily, she moved her hand down from his face and cupped his elbow with it, directing his hand from her back and toward her breast, where the silk was rasping against the erect nipples and begging for the touch of Mulder’s delectable touch. Her entire body was rippling with arousal, and the dampness on her thighs was driving her mad. All from one kiss, just one kiss, and her closed eyelids fluttered at the potential between them, Sheer potential.

Just when she thought that she could never experience greater pleasure, Mulder’s thumb reached around her face and found the soft hollow of her jaw. It was her hot spot, her pleasure zone, when a man touched her just before her earlobe or kissed that spot as light as a feather. She couldn’t help it; her hips undulated and her legs parted just a little. Her knee started to quiver; her clit twitched in anticipation. Nothing could satisfy her now, not when Mulder was building her up with a painfully poignant kiss and a circle on the hollow of her jaw.

When Scully’s hand brushed his erection, he pulsed and almost consumed her there, on that park bench. Instead, he managed to twine his leg in hers, and kissed her deeper, with a growing hunger that would never be satisfied in just a kiss. He needed her, knew her, wanted her. All underneath a veil of stars and bulbs, and all while the cool breeze brushed her hair onto his cheek. All while her fingers kept darting closer to his cock, all while she was there and real around him. All while she sighed instead of moaning when he reached a hand out to her breast and touched the top of it, wanting to feel her hot skin instead of cool silk.

When she slid a finger up the length of him, he moaned out loud, and they broke away in a frenzy. Panting, out of breath, they looked at each other. Scully admired his kiss-swollen mouth, and Mulder lusted after her untamed vermilion locks. “Mulder,” Scully whispered, and he nodded.

They both knew that this kiss had been worth it.

A trickle of laughter from the young couple behind them suddenly reminded Scully where she was, and she quickly withdrew from Mulder, flashing him a quick smile to reassure him that she wasn’t withdrawing because of him. The look on his face was stunning; his mouth was as pink as a rose and plush from their kiss, and his eyes carried the most delectable look about them.

Starry-eyed, she could honestly say that about him.

Slowly, questioningly, his hand reached out, and his fingertips brushed against her knuckles, tracing the delicate bones in a chaste kiss of skin. Wistfully, she turned her hand over so that he could sketch absently on the canvas of her palm, and he drew long, obscure shapes that made her skin tingle like violet lightning. Scully let her fingers caress the lightly callused heel of his hand, and his fingers trailed down to the soft, tender pulse of her wrist. But when he grazed his thumb across her wristbone, she slowly withdrew, reluctance allowing her to drift away from his hand and trail down the length of his palm, her touch wispy and longing. But she still withdrew, still let his hand go, and their fingertips met and lingered for a moment.

Electricity rippled between them, and they remained in that brief, cautious contact. All questions were answered, and he nodded slowly, a sad smile on his face.

They would each be going home alone that night.

Unwillingly, he stood up, and their hands dropped. “I’ll pay tonight,” she said, and his heart clenched at the whisper in her voice. Their decision was hard, but it was appropriate. Time, they both needed time. Every action between them required it.

“I’ll make sure to tip the waiter well.” And that brought a smile to both their faces.

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate it,” Mulder said, and there was a little smile in his voice as well as tugging on the corner of his mouth. The hesitation in his step, in the bare shuffle of his feet, made her heart ache. There was nothing in the world that she wanted more than to be with him, but…

His voice was painful to listen to. “Come home with me,” he whispered. They were quite possibly the most romantic words she’d ever heard him say.

“No,” she murmured. Mulder had known the answer from the beginning, from the moment that her fingers slid down his palm, but he needed to hear her say it. Needed to know that she was certain. He nodded, bowed his head, and then felt her hand slide around his. Surprised, he looked back to her, and saw a sureness in her eyes. “Not tonight.”

Not tonight.

A smile curled his lips, and he squeezed her hand. “Okay,” he murmured. “Good night.” He leaned in to kiss her, and Scully smiled at the old-fashioned gesture. But then, he passed her cheek and placed a soft, wispy kiss on the hollow of her jaw. The same place that had driven her mad before. The chaste, gentlemanly act was suddenly turned into something sensual, something primal, and she shivered at it. Just another small promise of another night, in the near future.

When he withdrew, there was a light in his eyes that she couldn’t deny, and she touched his side. “Good night,” she breathed, and he nodded. Slowly, he turned and started to walk out of the veranda.

Scully watched him go, and she exhaled softly. She turned her back to the doorway and looked up, past the blanket of electric lights and toward the heavens.

All her life with Mulder, she’d been existing underneath a canopy of artificial starlight, a veil of intimacy so divine that she had thought she could be content with seeing the electric gold reflected in his eyes for the duration of her life. She managed to convince herself that all she needed was to see him, no matter what illuminated his skin or ignited his passion. But beyond the wrappings of synthetic stars were a million galaxies, planets and auroras and supernovas. Just within her grasp. Just beyond the strings of electric lights.

Tonight, when they had kissed, they’d been a part of the cosmos.

From the cashier’s counter, Mulder looked back to the garden to make sure that she didn’t see him footing the bill. Instead, he saw her reach over to an azalea bush laced with lights and twist off one small bulb. Secretively, she placed the bulb in her coat pocket, and the entire string of lights flickered once before dying out.

Mulder smiled to himself and left.

– ⭐ –

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