Desire is Suffering by Darwin

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Desire is Suffering by Darwin

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From: Dar1480 <>
Date: 28 Jan 1999 17:42:31 GMT
Subject: NEW: MSR NC-17 (1/4) Desire Is Suffering

Title: Desire Is Suffering

Author: Darwin

Summary: Scully makes a difficult decision which forever alters her life, her career, and her relationship with Mulder.

This vignette begins sometime during season five, and soon spins off into its own universe. I’ve tried to stay true to the characters as I could and references to episodes abound, but there’s nothing here I’d consider a spoiler. Though I think a `ship invading the show would be hard to write well, this is most definitely MSR, so if that’s not your bag then bail now. (As for what you can expect if you make the commitment to sample this long story, all I can say that there will be no spawn named “Walter” or “Missy.” In fact, there will be no Mulder / Scully progeny at all. And at no time will Mulder mutter the words “Call me Fox.” If these things come as a relief to you, read on.)

This story is rated NC-17 for consensual sexing type stuff, which I have to admit I got carried away with. So be warned, it that’s not your cup of tea, do not go there with me.

Disclaimer: These characters belong to 1013 Productions, Chris Carter, and to the actors who bring them to life. I’m borrowing them, and not for profit.

Feel free to archive this anywhere as long as my handle stays attached. I am a first time author (of fan-fic anyway — usually I need to get paid to write so this is most likely my last effort as well). I’ve been reading fanfic for about a year now and wanted to contribute. Incidentally, I like the short, steamy stuff best (as well as some of the longer “classics”) but since I was only gonna write one, it became a long, angst-ridden one that dealt conclusively with all that relationship stuff, blah blah blah. No X-Files here, though. Just the mushy stuff. And, of course, the blessed smut for which we are all grateful. (And if you don’t feel that way, stop reading now….) Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and I hope you enjoy my work as I have enjoyed yours.

— Darwin

~~~~~

Desire is Suffering 1/4

“It’s late,” Mulder said. “I’m going home,” He stretched his long frame and removed his suit jacket from the coat rack. “What about you?”

“No,” Scully said, sitting down at the desk and opening her briefcase. “I have a few things to finish up here.” Her voice sounded subdued, like she was afraid to really use it. He wondered what that was about. The case hadn’t gone well, but it hadn’t gone badly either. She’d been so moody lately. It really was unlike her.

“Can’t it wait?” he asked.

“Might as well finish up the paperwork,” she said. “So it doesn’t stack up.”

“You okay?” he asked, slinging his suit jacket over his shoulder and approaching her. He framed her face with his hand, brushed his thumb across her cheek. She hadn’t been herself in days, weeks even.

“Yes,” she said, not meeting his eyes, her voice tight.

“Really?” He wanted to drop down on one knee and lift her chin with his hand, to look her in the face and make her tell him what had her so sad. But he resisted this urge, like he usually managed to. The complicated system of fences and gates that tacitly governed their interactions were in place for a reason, and he had to trust her to maintain them, to know when it was a good idea to let him in and when to do so would be dangerous. He had to trust himself to know the same thing.

She cleared her throat and looked up at him. “I’m okay,” she said. “I’m getting a cold.”

He raised one skeptical eyebrow in her direction. “Okay, Scully. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said as he walked toward the door. “If you don’t need to take a sick day, that is. And I hope you don’t because we’ve got some creepiness in Indiana to investigate. I know you wouldn’t want to miss that. I have slides.”

“Sounds good.” Scully said, managing a smile he knew was for his benefit alone. “`Night Mulder.”

“`Night.”

~~~~~

Mulder showed up for work the next morning at seven am. He flipped on the fluorescent lights and they sputtered and buzzed to life. He put his briefcase on the desk and hung his overcoat on the rack.

Something in the office was different, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. The stuff on the bulletin boards rearranged? The desk in a slightly different place? Or was it just hotter than usual in there, with the air conditioning on the blink again? He shrugged and went to put on a pot of coffee, strong so Scully wouldn’t complain.

He had a case file in his briefcase about some a kids in Bloomington, fraternity boys who claimed that the mist over a cornfield where they went to party had taken on a form and spoken to them. He couldn’t tell if it was a prank, a mass hallucination as a result of some bad acid, or something else, something worth checking out. As he snapped open his briefcase to remove the file, he caught sight of an envelope tucked into his desk blotter. His name was penned on the front.

His birthday wasn’t for another month.

He opened the envelope, and a three page, handwritten letter fell out. Scully’s careful script. Mulder unfolded it and smoothed out the pages before he began to read.

Dear Mulder,

Writing you this letter has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve been composing it for a long while. Please trust that nothing contained in it is said lightly or without untold hours of consideration. You’re not going to like what follows. I only hope that you can come to accept and respect my decision.

I’ve requested a transfer. I can no longer work with you on the X-Files. AD Skinner has approved my request, and by the end of next week I’ll be reassigned, probably to Quantico, but possibly to Baltimore or even to Chicago.

My commitment to this quest that you began and I joined you on six years ago truth has cost me a great deal; my sister’s life, my ability to bear children, nearly my life and yours several times over. I know that abandoning our search for the truth now threatens to make all our sacrifices, mine and yours both, pointless. I’m familiar with this argument. I’ve recited it to myself many times in the past year, ever since the urge to dissolve our partnership has begun to well up in me on a regular basis.

And yet for all our trouble and sacrifice, I don’t feel any closer to the truths we seek than we were when we began. I joined the FBI to distinguish myself, Mulder, and in so doing accepted some risk to my personal safety. But remember that discussion we once had in the woods with those moth-men? The house always wins. These few men, our enemies, are the house, and we’ve already lost so much. What’s next, Mulder? My life? Yours? Either one of these outcomes seems inevitable, and I can accept neither one. I can no longer ignore how my death would impact my mother and brothers. And I can’t watch you die, Mulder, not even for something as important as our quest.

I know that you know this, but I need to tell you that I regret nothing, not one minute of the time I spent with you, either professionally or personally. I’ve seen things a scientist could spent ten lifetimes investigating, but I only have one, and it’s time for me to begin straining toward finding explanation for the seemingly inexplicable, explanations which I know exist. This will be my life’s work, Mulder. Please understand this, as I understand what drives you.

I’ve arranged to take two weeks of vacation time. When I return it will be to my new assignment. The few things I want to take with me I’ve already removed from the office. Please don’t try to find me right now, Mulder. My mind’s made up, and seeing you would only make it harder. In the future, I want always to be a resource for you in your work, which I know you must continue with. And I want to be a friend to you in your life. Please think of me this way, always.

Skinner has another partner picked out for you, someone fresh out of the academy whose shown an interest in the X-Files who he thinks you can work with. I’ve met him and I agree. I’d feel better knowing that you’ve got someone to listen to your corny, adolescent jokes. Don’t worry, I’ve warned him that he’ll have to endure your bad ties and worse humor. Please let him help you, Mulder. And please know that I go with a heavy heart.

—Scully

Mulder carefully folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. He tucked it into his shirt pocket. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his fingers over his face, pressing his knuckles into his eyes, and stayed like that for a few minutes. Then he got up abruptly and made his way up to Skinner’s office. He walked right in, as it was too early for his assistant to be at her desk.

“Agent Mulder,” Skinner said, without looking up, “I expected you this morning.”

Mulder settled into one of the leather chairs across from Skinner and just sat there for a minute, not saying anything. Skinner looked at him, then resumed his paperwork.

“Tell me sir,” Mulder said after a minute, “For all the times I’ve tried to quit and you’ve refused me, how could you accept this from her?” He held up the letter between two fingers. “Did you even try to talk her out of this?”

“I did,” Skinner said, putting down his pen. “At first. But she had something you didn’t ever have, Mulder.”

“What’s that?”

“Good reasons.”

“Namely? That she’s scared? Is that supposed to be good enough?”

“I imagine she explained herself to you in that letter,” Sknner said, picking up his pen again.

“It says, right here,” Mulder said, ripping open the letter, pointing to the applicable paragraph.

“I can’t hold her fear against her Mulder, and you shouldn’t either. You lose too much choking it down. You and I both know that.”

“Bullshit,” Mulder said.

“What else does it say in that letter, Mulder? What are you ignoring?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mulder said.

“Scully’s been a good agent. Courageous and loyal, and she’s paid the price. We were lucky to have her as long as we did. But she’s a scientist, Mulder. A doctor. She has other work to do. I’m sorry if you can’t see that. Agent Scully’s work here is done.”

“Not if I can help it,” Mulder said. “Where is she?”

“On vacation.”

“Where?”

Skinner picked up his pen and cast his glance down to the form in front of him.

“Where?”

“I don’t know,” he answered, not looking up. “But you’re on vacation too. You start back a week from today, with your new partner.”

“Who? Krycek?”

“No. Vincent Rhymes. He’s green, but he’s good. It’s the best offer you’ll get, Agent Mulder, so you better take it.”

“Like hell I will,” Mulder said.

“Agent Scully trained this guy.”

“Scully trained him? On the X-Files? How long has she known she was leaving?”

“Four months,” Skinner said quietly.

“Christ, Skinner. Why wasn’t I told?”

“Because we all suspected you’d react just the way that you have, Agent Mulder.”

“This is unbelievable,” Mulder said as he got up to leave. “Unacceptable.”

“You’d better try. You’ve got one week from today to accept it.” Skinner said as Mulder walked out the door.

~~~~~

Mulder’s chest ached. Sleep had been coming harder and last night was no exception. His whole body felt stiff from too many nights accumulated in motel beds or curled into airplane seats or falling asleep on his couch, he supposed. His eyes were dry and grainy from watching too much television, his stomach acidy from too much delivered pizza. Four days into his “vacation” and he had done little but sit at home and watch TV, his feet up, soiled laundry scattered around him. He had tried to go into the bureau to work, but Skinner had ordered him home and nixed any possibility of an expense-paid trip to Bloomington. He was on mandatory vacation time until he met up with his new partner. Whoopee.

And his chest ached. The pain didn’t radiate down his arms or to his jaw. He suffered no shortness of breath. So it wasn’t a heart attack. He smiled when he could almost hear Scully’s voice in his head quizzing him on his symptoms, then winced at the memory. The men in his lineage tended to live long when not put down by assassin’s bullets, and his cholesterol was fine. So what was it, besides a steady ache he couldn’t shake day or night? As he drifted in and out of sleep on the couch, he kept dreaming he was being attacked by a fat constrictor snake that only increased its warm, smooth grip as he struggled against it. He’d wake up and gasp for a first breath like his head had been held under water for a long time.

He was angry. Pissed. He wanted to find Scully and shake some better answers out of her. But, slumped in the stale air of his apartment, he knew, deep down, that he had felt it coming, or would have in he hadn’t been so self-involved all of the time. How long had anyone ever put up with him, after all? Her departure was past due, and Skinner was right. He was being selfish. Still, he fought the urge hourly to try to find her. And when, on the fifth day he couldn’t fight it any longer, he went to see her mother.

~~~~~

Desire is Suffering 2/4

“Vinny.” Scully called out sharply when she saw Mulder’s partner in the hallway of the Hoover Building. He smiled at her and waved her over. She approached him and gave his arm a squeeze. “How’s it going?”

She’d been on her new assignment a month, at Quantico. She was in the building for the first time since then, to tie up some loose ends. She hadn’t seen or heard from Mulder at all. She hadn’t phoned, figuring he’d call her when he was ready. Hoping he would. So she was glad to see Rhymes alone.

“It’s going,” Rhymes said, “about like we thought it would. But he’s coming around. He actually didn’t try to ditch me yesterday. I stayed with him the whole day.”

“Hey.” Mulder said, coming out of the men’s room.

“Hey,” Rhymes said. Scully jumped as Mulder materialized, and instantly hoped he hadn’t noticed. She tried to wipe the startled look from her face, to disguise how her senses came to attention at the sound of his voice.

“Agent Scully,” he said, nodding in her direction. “Good to see you again.”

“Hey Mulder,” she said. She’d forgotten how much taller than her he was, as well as his habit of crowding her, bringing his face a few inches closer to hers than the distance his words seemed to require. Close enough that she could smell the starch on his shirt and his aftershave and another smell beneath them, sweet and slightly bitter, like orange peels. Her face grew hot in the crowded hallway, and she was able to meet Mulder’s eyes only fleetingly. She prayed for the moment to pass, wishing she’d ducked in the rest room when she’d seen Rhymes instead of calling out to him.

“Well,” Rhymes said, rubbing his hands together. “I’ll get the car. We have a thing we need to check out,” he said to Scully. “Meet me downstairs, Mulder?” he said. “Please?”

“Don’t worry, Rhymes,” he said, not taking his eyes from Scully’s face. “I’m going now.”

Mulder stepped carefully around Scully and started down the hall. Rhymes smiled lopsidedly at Scully and rested his hand on her elbow.

“Coming Rhymes?” Mulder asked, not turning around.

Rhymes gave Scully’s elbow an apologetic squeeze and jogged off in Mulder’s direction. Scully sighed and pushed into the women’s room. He’d be a good partner for Mulder. Rhymes had grown interested in the X-Files while at the academy, and he followed their work closely. As he neared graduation, he badgered enough people persistently enough that someone eventually contacted Skinner to see if an X-Files assignment would be possible for Rhymes. When Skinner brought it up to them, Mulder waved the idea away, a conversation he probably doesn’t even remember. But Scully had approached Skinner about it later that day. She took Rhymes’s interest as a sign, maybe even an opportunity. She left it up the fates. If the new recruit panned out, to do what she’d been needing to do for some time, to leave Mulder without leaving him alone.

Rhymes was not a scientist, but he was skeptical enough to keep Mulder on the right path. As she met with him whenever she could spare an hour or two or whenever Mulder took off without her, Scully grew confident that Rhymes would amply fill her shoes. He’d be smart and tactful and, most importantly when it came to dealing with Mulder, patient. She was glad to know that Mulder wasn’t rejecting him outright, gratified, even, that she’d made Mulder a match. She had joked with Skinner that Mulder was harder to find a mate for than that panda at the National Zoo. They’d be good together, she sensed, seeing them together for the first time. Which is what she hoped all along. So why, leaning over the sink in the bathroom of the Hoover building cooling her face with handfuls of water, did Scully feel so awful?

~~~~~

Two months passed, with Scully sinking into her new assignment, not bumping into Mulder again or hearing from him. Thanksgiving and Christmas crept up and then by, both of which Scully spent with her family. She was happy, she supposed. Relieved, at least. She missed the newness of every case, the excitement and stimulation, but not the endless hours spent in cars and airports or cramped on planes or having to be on-call twenty four-seven, ready to go on five minutes notice.

She lived her life, settled into the routine of it, and tried not to think in terms of doubts or regrets. Only once had she been sure leaving the X-Files had been the wrong decision, when her brother Bill had cornered her after Christmas dinner and went on and on about how glad he was that she’d decided to change her line of work. That night she’d flipped in her bed until dawn cracked the sky.

She liked working at the academy, teaching the recruits about the visceral results of the deadly force they were being trained and equipped to administer. They came through in waves of a dozen, and she’d take them through a full autopsy, start to finish: the Y incision, the weighing of the organs, and on down the list. At least one in each group usually fainted, with macho men tending to be the most susceptible.

She hadn’t quit to teach recruits, though. That spring she’d be traveling to several hospitals and med schools in search of a research position. She’d soon be leaving the Bureau, or at least that was the plan. Maybe things would be even easier once she was out of the DC area, further away from Mulder both in space and time. She was hoping for a job offer in LA and one in Boston to choose from.

The short, gray days of winter ran together. She went on two dates, one with someone she met at church, another with the son of her mother’s friend, someone she’d played with in a sandbox when they were kids, which they laughed about over sushi. Both men were kind and generous, and both seemed genuinely interested in getting to know her, in seeing her again. But she’s refused second dates with both of them. It wasn’t fair, the way she carefully measured each of them against Mulder, to them or to her. The one she’d tossed sand at came closer, having Mulder’s long spatulate fingers, but he lacked his parched wit. She wanted to meet someone who’d erase Mulder from her memory banks from the first minute, and fill her with himself. She figured she’d keep saying yes to dates now that she had the time, until this happened.

On the rare occasions that her cell phone rang, Scully always let a bubble of hope rise in her chest, which always deflated when it wasn’t Mulder’s voice on the end of the line, but usually some lab tech with the results of the pathology on some test she barely remembered ordering.

One day in February, after Scully had pulled the rubber sheet back up over the cadaver’s face and revived the recruit who had fainted by waving some smelling salts under his nose, after the group had filed out, still tittering, and the tech had wheeled the cadaver back to cold storage, Scully peeled off her gloves and leaned over the sink to wash her hands, awaiting the next group of recruits.

“I’ve got to hand it to you Scully,” she heard Mulder’s voice behind her. “For all the times I ditched you, you sure got me back. The ultimate ditch. The mother of all ditches.”

She turned off the faucet and smiled sadly, her back to him. She’d almost accepted that he didn’t want to see her again, refused her offer of friendship she’d been so explicit about in the letter. She’d almost been relieved. It would have made things simple, at least. She turned around to face him.

“Thanks Mulder,” she said. He paced the room in slow circles, his hands stuffed into his overcoat pockets.

“Hmmm?” he said.

“For not coming after me.”

“Never occurred to me.” He turned his back, still circling.

They were silent for a while, Scully leaning against the sink, her arms crossed. Mulder stopped in front of a mobile tray and began to pick up the shiny sterilized instruments sitting atop it. He held each up to the light and examined it, grimacing when one struck him as having particularly grisly potential.

She knew what he said wasn’t true. Her mother had told her how he had showed up on her doorstep five days after he would have gotten the note, looking wild and lost, pleading to know where she was. Scully never asked her mother to recount the specifics the conversation she had with Mulder that night; she only knew that by the time he’d left her house hours later, he had agreed not to look for her. Knowing that her partner had badly wanted to see her at a time that she’d been so desperate for him was too excruciating for Scully to contemplate.

“Still mad at me?” she said.

“Me?” he said, pressing his hand to his chest. “Mad?” Just because the only person I trusted in the world took off on me without so much as a ‘bye bye, Mulder’?” He held his hand up and waved at her.

“I left you that letter.” It sounded feeble, even to her.

“You could have told me, Scully. I would have tried to understand. I would have given you a proper good-bye, at least. Some balloons. A cake.”

As she smiled, her eyes filled with tears. If he was making jokes, that had to be a good sign. She couldn’t have told him, of course. His slightest resistance would have been too much for her to refuse, she was so ambivalent about dissolving their partnership. It had been hard enough. She knew what she needed to do when she wasn’t in the company of Mulder, but the minute she was, she didn’t remotely want to. Her throat was tight and she couldn’t have explained any of it even if she’d been able to talk, so she just looked at him, willing her tears not to spill over. She hoped some shred of their old telepathy remained in place.

Scully had spent those two weeks at a beach bungalow she’d rented on Sullivan’s Island, near where her family used to vacation when she was a child. She’d gone for lots of walks on the hard-packed beaches. Each time she saw a lone figure coming toward her, the body just a silhouette in the distance, she half-hoped as it grew closer she would begin to recognize Mulder’s gait, then to make out his features, and that it would, if fact, be Mulder. That he would have somehow found her, gotten her location out of her mother, though she’d been sworn to secrecy.

But in this daydream, Mulder wouldn’t have come to try to change her mind or to talk about the X-Files, to enlist her competent help or to flirt with her just enough to elicit her best work. He’d have come only because he couldn’t be without her. He’d pull her to his chest without speaking and they’d just stand there until the waves came in and washed around their ankles. Then they’d go inside and light a fire and drink the wine that somehow always magically appeared in daydreams. They’d make love before falling asleep in the bungalow’s soft bed that felt too big for her alone.

These little fantasies that featured Mulder embarrassed Scully, but they were hardly new to her. They’d sprung up almost as soon as she’d begun work with him. They had persisted, slowly gaining ground over the years as her prior relationships faded in importance and any concurrent ones became implausible. It wasn’t as though she thought he was some idealized version of himself, some kind of movie star; in fact Scully had a ringside seat for the all-too-human mistakes Mulder often blundered into. Plenty of the time, she was frustrated and annoyed with him. So mostly her musings puzzled her and made her uncomfortable. But the way Scully occasionally thought about Mulder before she went to sleep at night made her feel downright foolish.

Usually it began innocently, when Scully, insomnaical in some lumpy motel bed, began mulling over whatever case she and Mulder were currently working on, trying to see it from a new angle. She would visualize just how Mulder had looked that evening, running his hands through his hair across the table at dinner, say, reading over a case file, not aware she was watching him. He was so naked when he concentrated, his faults and his genius and the immense vulnerability that sprang up in the wake of his gullible nature all exposed for her to observe. Once Scully started thinking about him, she couldn’t chase the image of him from her mind and get back to the facts of the case. Soon, to Scully’s horror, she’d have forgotten the case completely and would be feeling flushed, her hands roaming her body.

She’d often envied Mulder his pornography, though she also found his habit distasteful. At least he had some outlet. She wished she could say the same for herself; perhaps if she could, she wouldn’t felt so jammed with the static of her desire for him. And yet how could she not have been attracted to him? He was the only person she ever spent any time with, and she was only human. And while Mulder wasn’t the kind of man, in the beginning, that she’d ever thought she’d date (the sulky, self-involved, incommunicative kind) she had to admit even then that his all-consuming passion was appealing. God knew he wasn’t bad looking, and she he only grew more attractive to her as she grew to respect and trust him, as she began to receive respect and trust from him, in turn.

And as Scully grew to trust Mulder above all others and to depend on him for most of her emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs, she longed for them to tend to each other physically as well, beyond preparing the occasional meal for one another. She believed that he was drawn to her too sometimes, the way she caught him looking at her, his eyes playing over her face, lingering on her lips as she spoke, usually when he was tired, his defenses down. But the work meant too much to him to risk it by getting involved with her. She knew that, and basically she felt the same way.

In her letter to Mulder, she’d come as close to the truth as she could. The more complete truth was that she feared her persistent and embarrassingly specific wishes where he was concerned stripped her of her concentration and clouded her judgment when it came to doing her job, and that this fact would perhaps eventually land one of them killed. And the desire to continue her work as a scientist that Scully catalogued in the letter? That indicated a professional restlessness she could only guess she’d be feeling if she hadn’t grown so inappropriately close to her partner.

As it was, she wanted only what he wanted; his passion to find Samantha and to expose the conspiracy had become hers; his success, failure, frustration, and pain she all felt just as immediately and intensely as he did, as she suspected he did hers. Partly this was because of what she’d lost to the same struggle, but their fate was so intertwined it was impossible to untangle all the allegiances and motivations. All of this added up to good basis for a marriage, not for a partnership in law enforcement. Besides which, being so close to Mulder and not being able to touch him amounted to a slow torture Scully could no longer endure daily.

When Scully studied Eastern religion in college, she learned that one of the tenets of Buddhism is “Desire is Suffering.” She didn’t understand what that meant at the time, but she filed that away for the day she might. By the time she fled to Sullivan’s Island, that day had come. She’d hoped the two weeks at the beach would wash Mulder from her consciousness ready her for the new path she had chosen. As it turned out, though, the slow pulse of the sea only intensified her need for him. The two weeks were interminable. Scully was bored and weepy in turns, then weepy she was bored and bored at being weepy. She stayed the whole two weeks, but was glad when it was over and she could return to her new job. Back in her life, she wrapped herself in a routine and awaited the day that Mulder no longer occurred to her frequently. Gradually, in the absence of her everyday contact with him, this was happening.

Until he was standing in front of her, still circling in that aimless, unnerving way he had. Neither of them had spoken for several minutes. She must have gotten something through to Mulder’s brain, though, because at least he had dropped the subject. Then he came up close to her where she still stood leaning against the sink, close enough to embrace her, but he left is hands in his pockets.

“You happy here, Dana?” His voice was gentle, a whisper, but he was taunting her. “This what you wanted?” he asked, swiveling his head around. “Bunch of dead guys?” He lifted his right hand out of his pocket hooked his index finger under the lapel of her lab coat, near her collarbone. “White coat?” His face was inches from hers.

“That’s not fair, Mulder.”

“Was it fair to leave me with this new guy, Scully? Training him first so that you could leave with a clear conscience? Is it fair that you’re here trying scrape ole’ Spooky off your shoe so that you can resume climbing the federal ladder of success? Is that fair? His breath blasted her face as he spoke rapidly. “Did you have fun at Club Med, Scully? Scuba? Cocktails? Enjoy yourself, Scully?” he said, his hands gripping her shoulders.

“You know I didn’t,” she said, bringing her hands to her face and wrenching away from him, tears leaking from her eyes as quickly as she could wipe them away. Mulder had succeeded in making her cry, if that’s what he’d come for. She dropped into a chair and buried her face in her hands.

“I know nothing.” he said.

When she looked up a few minutes later, Mulder was gone and a new class of trainees filled the doorway, murmuring nervously among themselves.

~~~~~

Since she’d started her now job, Scully’d been dozing off around eleven p.m. every night, sleeping dreamlessly until six the next morning, not even needing an alarm to get up on time. She lay in bed for over an hour that night, though, too depressed to cry, her scene with Mulder playing over and over again against the backs of her eyes.

Soon, to make it go away, Scully was imagining that she was on a case again with Mulder, that she had never quit, that they were somewhere in the middle of Idaho chasing down a monster that, from all reports, looked suspiciously like a giant potato. Maybe, she thought, it would begin when he looked up at her from where he lay sprawled on a motel bed, still in his suit. And she, sitting at the desk across the room, would feel his eyes on her. Perhaps she would turn her head and meet his stare, his eyes darkening with desire as she held his gaze. Maybe he wouldn’t smile benignly and go back to his work, and neither would she, this time.

Sliding one hand down her belly and twining a finger it in the nest of her pubic hair, Scully imagined what it would be like if Mulder were to get up from the bed and walk over and stand behind her, gripping the desk on either side of her and leaning in, effectively trapping her where she sat. Would she stop him? Or would she put down her pen and try not to breathe as his breath played against her neck?

Scully traced the outline of her sensitive lips with the tip of her finger, spreading the wetness that began to gather at their inner edges as she imagined Mulder a dark presence behind her, planting a first, tentative kiss where her neck met her shoulder. If she were to tilt her head to allow him greater access to the flesh of her neck, would he take it? Yes, he would kiss her less gingerly, his evening stubble reddening her skin as a groan escaped from the back of his throat.

Scully spread her knees and dipped two fingers into her wetness. She made slow, firm circles around her clit as she imagined Mulder spinning the desk chair around and kneeling in front of her, his eyes level with hers, his fingers tracing her face as if memorizing her. She’d lace her hands behind Mulder’s neck as, slowly, one of his hands would fall to her breast. Soon he’d be teasing her stiff nipple through the fabric of her shirt.

As she thought of this, Scully pinched her own nipples with her free hand, one then the other. Mulder would drag a thumbnail against her breast, rasping the fabric. Then he would bring his lips to hers, unhurriedly, as she pulled one of her hands through his hair. He would run his tongue slowly over her lips until she parted them slightly, and he would explore her mouth, his tongue parrying with hers.

Scully ran her finger over her clit rapidly and fucked herself in hard, quick strokes with the middle finger of her other hand as she imagined Mulder caressing her tongue with his, his hands traveling up and down her back, her jaw hinging open to allow him to tongue her more deeply.

Next he would rest his hand on her leg and inch it up her thigh. She would let her legs fall open, and when her knee brushed against Mulder’s erection, she’d moan. She’d feel his smile against her mouth and he would find her reach her panties and lightly trace her swollen curves through the fabric. Then he’d begin to move against her, rubbing the underside of his cock against her knee through his pants, reaching into her panties and finding her clit.

“Jesus.” he’d rasp when he discovered how wet she was. He’d heard him say this word twice before in that exact way, once when she subdued and cuffed a resistant suspect twice her size, and another time at the firing range when she shot out the entire black heart of a target with a single clip.

She’d moan again and cup her hands on either side of Mulder’s face.

“Like that, Scully?” he’d ask, rolling her clit between his thumb and forefinger. “Is that what you like?” Hearing his voice would make her even wetter.

“Yeah,” she’d answer, as soon as she could gather the breath, “so much.”

He’d smile and cradle the back of her neck with his other hand, caress her jaw with his thumb, dip it into her mouth for her to suck on, then drag it down her chin and neck. She’d be clutching at his shirt sleeves as he rubbed her, gathering fists of fabric and releasing them.

Finally Scully came against her own hand as she imagined how Mulder would rub her slick clit with his thumb, how he would look into her eyes as she gasped and came.

Then she rolled onto her side and waited for her pulse and respiration to return to normal. She hugged a pillow to her chest, humiliated. In reality, Mulder didn’t want anything to do with her. As she tried to fall asleep, she let the fantasy play out, even though it smarted. In the motel bed, she would be drifting into a spent sleep next to Mulder’s long body, running her fingers over his chest, her leg thrown casually over his, his hand lost in her hair. Sometime later, she fell asleep.

~~~~~

Desire is Suffering 3/4

Scully got back to her apartment at seven am on a Monday three weeks later, after a weekend in Los Angeles, hopping off the red eye aboard which she’d slept horribly if at all. She had been interviewing for a job at Pepperdine. She was jet-lagged and her skin filmy and dry. It was hard for her to imagine she’d once averaged that much airtime in a week. She wanted to sink into a hot foamy tub and then take a nap. She was glad she arranged in advance to take a personal day. She set her overnight bag down by the front door and walked into her bedroom, beginning to raise her shirt over her midriff.

“Deja vu.” Mulder said, from a dark corner of her bedroom. “You always peel off your clothes the minute you get home, Scully?”

She let her shirt fall back over her stomach and stood in the middle of her bedroom and stared at Mulder.

“You’re wondering what I’m doing here. You’re probably about to toss me out. I would.”

“Okay,” Scully said, “Get out. Leave your key on the table.”

“Jeez,” Mulder said. “I was joking. When did you get so serious, Scully? Or should I ask with whom have you gotten so serious that you’re tramping in at this hour looking so… rumpled?”

“Good guess, Mulder,” Scully said, walking briskly into the kitchen, filling a glass with water and drinking it down.

“It doesn’t matter, none of my business,” he said, following close behind her.

“You scared me, Mulder. Scully said, putting down the glass. “I’m no longer accustomed to such routine breeches of my privacy.”

“You know, I’ve been rehearsing this for weeks, and it’s not going at all like it did in my head.”

“Rehearsing?”

“My apology,” he said. Scully stared at him.

“You know,” he said, “when I came to see you at work, it was to make nice. I’ve thought about it, Scully, and I can’t figure out why I acted like I did.”

It occurred to her she was starving. The last time she’d eaten had been lunch the day before. Scully pivoted and opened the fridge, stared into it as though maybe that was where all the answers were kept.

“You got anything to drink?” Mulder asked, looking over her shoulder into her fridge. “A man gets parched, sitting in the dark.”

“Mulder?” Scully said, turning her head around. “How long were you in my bedroom?”

“Twelve hours. No,” he said, jingling his watch and holding it up to his ear, “thirteen.”

“In the chair?”

“Yep. Well, I got up to use the john twice, but with the exception of that, in the chair.”

“Were you awake all night?”

“I’m not sure. I hope not.”

“Join the club,” she mumbled. She took out eggs and toast.

“Who-hoo Scully. Some night? He held up a hand to high five her, which she would have ignored even if her arms hadn’t been full.

“Some night.” she said.

She didn’t ask him if he wanted to stay for breakfast, she just made enough eggs and toast for the two of them. She kept handing him things that he ferried to the table: two place settings, a pot of jam, catsup and tobasco. They made small talk, like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. Which, she had to suppose for the moment, they were. They chatted easily about each other’s families and what they had done for the holidays. They even talked about X-Files without incident, him updating her about some cases they had worked on together. The conversation became slightly more charged when he inquired how work was going for her.

“Well,” she said, “dead bodies. There’s only so much you can say. It’s a little slow compared to what we did, but slow can be nice. And I have some other irons in the fire.”

When he asked her to elaborate, she talked a little bit about the research she hoped to begin working on and her plans to leave the Bureau. She was glad to dispel his misconception that her motivations for leaving the X-Files included her secret FBI ambitions. Though she would have rather let him go on thinking that than tell him her real secret ambition, she supposed, which was to get into his pants. As Mulder chatted about some MUFON gossip she barely cared about, she smiled slightly as that thought wormed through her head, wondered briefly what he’d do if she just blurted out just one secret true thing over breakfast: Mulder, once I start, I can’t stop thinking about your hands. She had to shake a smirk off her face as she stood to make more toast. When she sat back down, she asked him how Rhymes was.

“Totally inexperienced.” Mulder said. “But, all in all, a big help. He’s no Scully, but he’s basically working out.”

She smiled. “You call me when you need me,” she said quietly, her eyes on her plate.

“Scully,” Mulder said when he’d finished his food and rose to leave, covering his hand with hers. “Those were some good eggs.”

“Thanks,” she said.

When her phone rang a few days later, she was hugely relieved to hear Mulder launch into a description of unknown antigen that was jumping from chickens to farmers in a small South Dakota town, asking her if she’d ever heard of such a thing.

~~~~~

Through that spring, Scully continued working in an unofficial capacity on the X-Files, answering Mulder’s questions, keeping him on track by challenging him when he needed it, handling the dead bodies and other scientific evidence that inevitably turned up in the course of the work.

Scully didn’t exactly get the absence from Mulder and therefore relief she sought from her feelings, as they spoke nearly daily. He was still a central figure in her consciousness as well as in her life, but to a more comfortable degree. It was amazing how not staying in joining hotel rooms with someone on a regular basis could cut down on the number of impure thoughts you entertained about them. And since she wasn’t working in the field with him, she didn’t have worries that sprang up from that. For all of those reasons, she turned down a job in Pepperdine without a second thought when an offer came, and took a job at American University in DC that would begin in the fall. She’d give her notice at the bureau in mid-summer. Mulder looked as relieved as she’d ever seen him when she shared her decision with him.

One night she met Rhymes and Mulder at a restaurant after her pathology had helped them solve a tough case that had gotten a serial rapist put away. The three of them were heady with the victory. They laughed and ate ribs in a booth, Rhymes next to Scully, the two of them ganging up on Mulder, teasing him. Rhymes finished his beer in a long sip then ducked out.

“See you, Vinny,” Mulder said as he left, and Scully felt a pang at the ease in his voice. She was jealous, and wondered for the millionth time her life why her emotions didn’t make more damn sense, why she couldn’t bring them under the umbrella of reason. Mulder’s mood changed too, as soon as Rhymes was out the door. They sat silently for a few minutes, occasionally eyeing each other.

“Tell me something,” Mulder said finally, breaking the silence. “We’ve always put our trust in the truth, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you been totally honest with me Scully? About the reasons you left the X-Files?”

She hadn’t been prepared for that question. Dealing such matters in a forthright way wasn’t Mulder’s usual style.

“Why do you ask?” she said.

He’d shed completely the wise cracking self he’d been a minute before with Rhymes. He was suddenly nervous, slumped in the booth, shredding his cocktail napkin.

“I don’t know,” he said, and shrugged. “I’ve wondered that for a while. I talked to your mom after you left. She really helped me, Scully. She talked about how if you’re patient, if you can learn to be still, you begin to see things you wouldn’t see otherwise.

Scully smiled, slightly embarrassed. “My mother talks that way sometimes.”

“No,” Mulder said, shaking his head, “she’s great. I don’t know if you noticed this about me, Scully, but I tend to go around trying to force everything. That’s how I wander into so many ass-kickings, I see now. I’m not sure I’ve changed my style dramatically, but your mother gave me something to think about that night. And she helped me to turn a corner, after you left. And she said that maybe you hadn’t been able to tell the whole story in your letter.”

“Mostly I was. Do you suspect me of some specific duplicity, Mulder?”

“Not exactly,” he said. “It’s been for the best. Now the X-Files have three pairs of hands instead of two, and we have a whole new angle for attacking cases. We have more leverage, and we’re optimizing our separate strengths. You saw it would be that way.” He took a swig of his beer. “All I could sniff was betrayal.”

“You’ve often been betrayed,” Scully said. “Of course you’d see it that way.” He give her so much credit for foresight. She had no idea it would work out as well as it had; she’d just needed to go pretty desperately. She felt guilty and wanted to confess that, but didn’t want to open that can of worms, so she’d save it for her priest.

“I couldn’t have just let you go,” Mulder said. “You were right about that. My head would have understood, but…” his voice trailed off. He was shaking his head slowly, staring out into the middle of the room.

“But…?”

“I wouldn’t have had the stomach to do it, that’s all.”

Scully didn’t trust her voice so she sat silently across from him, fingering the lip of her wine glass.

“Anyway,” he said, waving his hand. “You said mostly.”

“What?”

“You said you were mostly honest, in the letter. What did you leave out?”

“The letter,” she said, and laughed ruefully. “I’m not sure I can tell you. Does it still matter?”

“Ah ha,” he said.

“Ah ha?”

“I think I know what it is.”

“Do you?” she asked. Her heart thudded.

“Yes,” he said, holding the s, making the word hiss. “I think my sparkling personality finally got to you Scully. The one that never lets me keep anyone around for very long.”

“Rhymes…” Scully interrupted.

“Rhymes,” Mulder said, “is a saint. And it won’t be too long before he’s out of here, too. You put up with me for five years, Scully, and that’s some kind of record. You should sue the FBI for hazard pay. I swear, I think if I found Samantha, she’d probably avoid me. ‘Sorry Fox,’ he said in a falsetto voice, ‘I’ve got to do my laundry tonight. Don’t you have any friends, Fox?’”

Scully smiled at his imitation.

“G’head Scully,” Mulder said, “Let me have it. I think it will be good for us. I was moody. Self-centered. I took you for granted.”

Scully burst out laughing.

“What?” Mulder said.

Scully got up from her seat in the booth and plopped down next to Mulder on his side. He sat up. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

“So you thought the think the thing I left out of the note was that you were annoying? Of course you were annoying, Mulder.” She brushed the hair from his forehead and kissed his cheek. “I’m going home.” As she stood she broke out into a fresh round of laughter and left him sitting in the booth.

When she left the restaurant she was smiling, but by the time she got home Scully was sad. He had such a self-assured exterior, but how easily his self-confidence could be rocked. It wasn’t as important to Mulder as it was to most people to be liked, and that was the beauty of him. But he needed her to like him, at least. She always forgot how fragile he was, how lonely at his center. Thinking about this reminded her how much she missed him day to day, the way he made every exchange an intimacy, how his calls and visits were often the highlight of her otherwise humdrum week, how things just seemed to matter more when he was in the room. Scully ran the tub for a round of hydrotherapy, sinking into the bubbles a few minutes later.

She might as well have dozed off, for how relaxed she soon was, but when she next fully conscious moment she was aware that someone was in her apartment, banging around in the kitchen. She hopped out of the tub and wrapped herself in her robe, moving quickly through the bedroom and scooping her gun from where it rested in its holster on her nightstand on the way to the living room.

She pivoted around and pointed her gun at Mulder’s head, which was in her kitchen.

“Woah,” he said holding out his hands. She lowered her gun breathed her hair out of her eyes.

“I knocked. I didn’t think you were home. I was leaving you a note.”

“It’s after eleven, Mulder. I just saw you. What are you doing here?”

“You left so fast,” he said. His eyes traveled the length of her body. “Were you in the shower?”

She pulled her robe more tightly around her.

“I thought of something I needed to ask you,” he said.

“It couldn’t wait?”

“I don’t know. I tried to phone but you didn’t answer. Your place was on my way home. I thought you’d be up.”

“What?” She said.

He took a step toward her. “Can I sit down? On your couch? Scully, we’re standing in your kitchen.”

“Sorry,” she said, “of course. Just give me a minute here, okay?”

“Take your time,” he said as she passed through the living room back into the bedroom. “I’ll polish the silver or something.”

Scully hastily brushed out her hair and went to pull her clothes back on, but they smelled like smoke from the bar. She pulled on a pair of jeans, a cotton pullover, and some thick socks, released the plug on the tub, and went back out into the living room.

“Nice socks,” Mulder said when she emerged from the bedroom and sat down on the other end of the couch from him. “Are they mine?”

“Would you like something to drink?”

“You trying to get me drunk, Scully?”

“Mulder.” Scully said, sinking down at the other end of the couch, “Couldn’t your jokes have waited ‘till morning?”

“Yes, sorry. Of course. Which reminds me of why I came over to bother you at this hour. You never said what you omitted from the letter.”

“What?”

“You said there was something you didn’t tell me when you ditched me. You listened to my guess, you laughed at my guess, and you took off. You never actually said what it was.”

“Damn,” she said “I though I got away with it, too.”

Mulder was looking at his hands, smiling.

“If it wasn’t that I’m a pain in the ass, what was it?”

“You know what?” Scully said, “I want something to drink.” She was stalling for time, seeing that any possible safe avenues out of this conversation were in the process of closing themselves off. He wouldn’t leave, she knew, until he had an answer. At least not happily. She drizzled some brandy into each of two snifters. It wasn’t that she was above lying to him, it was just that she could think of nothing.

“You really need to know?” she asked, sitting in the chair across from where he sat on the couch after handing him a glass.

“The truth,” he said, nodding solemnly.

“Okay. The truth. I guess I owe you that,” Scully said. “The truth, Mulder, is the opposite of your guess.”

“Hmmm. A riddle. You quit because I thought you were a pain in the ass? Of course you’re a pain in the ass, Scully.” He was smiling. She tried to make herself small, leaning out over her knees and taking a sip of her brandy. She was suddenly cold.

And then she watched as what she was trying to say to Mulder sunk in. The smile left his face and he looked at her, squinting.

He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it, took a sip of his brandy, swirled it around so it coated the sides of the glass and took another sip. “Really?” he asked, his voice cracking, tilting his head at her.

Scully covered her face with her hands. “Yeah.”

“Huh. I mean, that makes sense. But me? I mean, look at you. For real?”

“Now you know, Mulder. Could we just not talk about it? Ever again? Please?”

“Yeah. I mean, I’m just surprised. Glad, I mean.”

“I guess I’d like to be alone now,” Scully said.

Mulder put his brandy on the coffee table and stood up as if to leave, then sat down again. “So you quit because you liked me too much? I’ll never mention after tonight, but I have to leave here clear on this. And that was the problem?”

“One of the problems. The one I left out of the note.”

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “Along with the others.”

“And it wasn’t that I liked you too much, but that I liked you too much in a specific way you’re not supposed to like your partner. I mean I’m mostly over it now. But I was worried my feelings was interfering with the work. I needed some space from you. And to even discuss those feelings with you Mulder, well, it would have violated about a dozen bureau policies.” Scully was folded over in the chair, rocking as she spoke, looking everywhere but at Mulder.

Mulder’s head snapped up. “When did we care about rules?”

“There are good reasons for those guidelines, Mulder.”

“You’re right,” he said, “I know.”

Scully’s face felt hot. The brandy wasn’t helping calm her nerves like she hoped it would. She needed Mulder gone. She handed him his jacket and picked him up by the sleeve while he still had that dumb look on his face, before he had time to fully absorb any more of what she’d told him. She pushed him in the direction of the door, hoping they hadn’t hired anyone else out at Pepperdine yet. She’d call over there in the morning.

Mulder walked in front of Scully, her hand prodding the middle of his back to keep him moving. When they got to the door, he turned to face her. Pressing his back against the jam, he prevented her from turning the deadbolt and showing him out.

“I’m just thinking out loud here, Scully,” he said. “But you know what I think I would have done if you’d run this problem by me while you were still partners?”

“No,” she said, sighing, trying to gather her patience.

“I think,” he whispered, raising his right hand to stroke her face, “something like this.” He leaned in and brought his lips close to hers, then kissed her mouth slowly and soundly. “Yeah,” he said after he had rocked back on his heels and opened his eyes, “that’s about right.” Then he turned around and let himself out.

Scully finished her own brandy and then the one Mulder’d barely touched. She refused to wonder what anything meant as she slipped into her silk pajamas and climbed into bed, running her fingers over her lips where his lips had been lightly. She was trying to hold onto that one brief wave of sensation, Mulder’s achingly soft mouth and his aftershave and the taste of the brandy all colliding to fill her horizon with a momentary roar as he listed toward her, receding as he fell away.

Then he didn’t call her for two weeks. She’d been convinced that the whole evening was another fantasy of hers, an hallucination, a hoax. Except that if it hadn’t happened, she would have heard from him, she was sure.

~~~~~

The day after Mulder had that confusing, beautiful moment with Scully at her apartment, he was called to New Mexico with Rhymes on an X-File. The twenty or so Navajo code talkers who had been remembering the contents of the Defense Department tape that catalogued the governments cover-up of knowledge of certain secrets each began to come down with a strep virus. At first, it looked a lot like mononucleosis, but they kept getting sicker and sicker, until they began to die. Mulder and Rhymes stayed in New Mexico two weeks, trying to untangle it all, Mulder feeling more and more humiliated as each code talker died, some young and healthy, parents and children at their bedsides. He had been to six memorial services and twice as many sickrooms. Finally all that was left to do was go back to Washington. He hadn’t called Scully, though she would have been helpful on the case. He didn’t know why.

An hour after he got back to his apartment and his cell phone rang, he wasn’t surprised when it was Scully.

“Hey, Scully,” he said. “I meant to call. I’ve been really busy with this case. I just got back.”

“I know,” she said. “I’ve been getting updates from Rhymes.”

Rhymes. Mulder made a mental note to have a talk with that kid.

“I was worried about you,” Scully said.

“Didn’t your boyfriend keep you company?” he asked. He didn’t know why he said it. Partly to hurt her, partly because he wondered if it was true. After all, where had she been that night he sat in her bedroom? It had occurred to him to ask, but he never worked up the courage to hear the answer. She had moved on, but he was stuck in the rot and death and corruption of the X-Files. He was still living it. He would be mean to her, then.

Scully let out a slow sigh. “I don’t have a boyfriend, Mulder,” she said. “I don’t even have a cat.”

“I don’t care,” he said, relieved.

“You know what, Mulder? You may not like me much right now. You may still harbor all kinds of resentment against me. You’re probably frustrated by the work and afraid of any one of a thousand things,” she said. “and you might even miss me. But you have no right to talk to me that way.”

He ached across the span of his chest as his phone went dead.

He was such an asshole. She’d made herself vulnerable to him and he was a total asshole in return. (Good work, slick.)

Still, he had no idea what to do with the information Scully had given him that night, the last time he saw her; he honestly hadn’t been fishing for that type of confession. So it surprised him. Confounded him. Confused him. Aroused him.

Of course he’d known from the very start that he’d like have Scully, in that specific way you’re not supposed to have your partner, as she so euphemistically and adorably put it that night.. She was— well— she was Scully. But he never dared to act on his desires other than in his fantasies— he kept his feelings for her as well as his speculations about hers for him tucked deep inside him, somewhere below his diaphragm— there was just too much at stake. Starting with, she was his only friend, and if he lost her because she wasn’t interested or because she was and it turned out he was a bad boyfriend (of course you are, you schmuck!), then what was he left with?

Second, if he were to kiss Scully and get naked with Scully, and eat leisurely, weekend breakfasts with Scully, if they were to give into that, then the rest of it wouldn’t matter any more, he feared. He couldn’t see himself caring as much what happened to Samantha or what his father died for or the conspiracy or any of it if he had Scully to come home to. To let anything else in, to let it matter at all, would be to give up.

Lastly and most importantly, he was terrified. His loved ones tended to die and / or disappear in bad ways. And if something were to happen to Scully, he would never forgive himself if he thought that his being her lover had anything to do with her commitment to the work and to him. As it was, their attachment made him nervous. Sometimes, when he was just enjoying her platonic company, he got a sick feeling like he was running up a huge bill at a restaurant he didn’t have the means to pay.

It had to be her choice to do the work, free and clear of personal attachments, or he felt too responsible. He felt responsible anyway, and sometimes used to hope she would just ditch him. But when she did, of course, it felt like a death. And now that he knew the reason was because she liked him too much, of all things (one of the reasons, you self-important bastard!), he just felt worse. And he also felt like the next time he was alone with her, knowing how she felt about him (or used to feel, she said herself she’s over you, you arrogant prick!), he didn’t know if he would be able to stop himself from kissing her again.

~~~~~

Later that night he called her at home. “Scully?” he said, “I’m an asshole.”

“Keep talkin’” she said.

“Doesn’t’ that about say it all?” he said. They were silent for a minute.

“Mulder, when I was a junior in high school a boy I liked, my lab partner in advanced biology, Robby Stinson, asked me to the junior prom.

“Do you still have the corsage pressed between the pages of your memory book Scully?” Mulder said.

“I’m telling you a story to illustrate a point, Mulder, so pipe down. I didn’t really date much at that point. In fact, in that way high school is a lot like my life right now. But Robby was smart and studious and cute with a gap-toothed smile. I’d had a secret crush on him all year.”

“I’m not getting your point, Scully.”

“So you can imagine my surprise, when, a few days after he asked me, I heard Vicki Weston talking in the girls bathroom about how Robby Stinson had asked her to the prom.”

“Ouch,” Mulder said. “What happened?”

“I presented him with this infromation, fully expecting him to explain away the contradiction rationally, to clear up the misunderstanding.”

“Uh-oh. What’d he say?”

“He looked at his shoes and confessed that he’d just blurted out an invitation to her when she brushed up against him at the lockers.”

“Oh no!” Mulder said. “Big tits?”

“Vicki was a C student who went on to distinguish herself by dropping out of cosmetology school because the psychology class was too hard. Huge tits. And frankly Mulder, though she was nice enough, she was easy. Even then. And I couldn’t believe someone as smart as Robby could be so stupid and insensitive.”

“Heh heh.”

“Anyway, the work was never the same after that. He claimed to have scarlet fever the week we were due to present our experiment at the state science fair. Pickeled frogs suffered from our strained relationship, Mulder. And the cat we tried to dissect. I can’t even talk about the cat.”

“Does this story have an uplifting ending Scully? Because I was depressed when I called you, but this conversation is making me suicidal.”

“Well, my brother Bill made sure Robby had a black eye for the prom, if you count that.”

“I’ve met your brother,” he said, “and I don’t.”

“I didn’t either. The point is, Mulder, that I’ve learned something since high school. And we’ve been through too much to wind up awkward, inept, and hostile with each other because of one chaste, little kiss given and reciprocated to express an infinitely complex range of emotions. Frankly, Mulder, I’ve been on the other end of hotter kisses from my six-year-old nephew. So get over it.”

“Scully?” Mulder said after a pause.

“What?”

“Will you go the prom with me?”

“Didn’t I just say I’d learned something since high school?”

~~~~~

They talked every night after that, Mulder working sixteen hour days tracing down every possible lead on the Navajo case, pushing too hard, riding this new partner, evading Skinner who was leaning on him to wrap up the case. Late at night he would call Scully to get the results of the lab work she’d performed that day and to update her on the case. Usually, nothing was new.

Some nights he wound up telling her over the phone how hard it had been to watch the same men who nursed him back to health in the desert die, and without having any rites to perform against it. He confessed to her how superfluous and useless he felt. “At least,” he told her, “they could have been angry at me for being the one to bring this thing down on them, but they weren’t. And I can’t turn up a damn thing.”

She would quiet him, encourage him, assure him it wasn’t his fault. Whatever he needed. It was a new dynamic for them. In the past, he didn’t bring up such issues with her, and even if he had, she would have been too close to the case herself to talk about them with such clarity and compassion. He felt slightly dirty, that he had been so bad to her and still she was there for him to lean on when he needed her. Where her faith in him came from, he couldn’t guess. It astounded him. He made a mental note not to be a creep or to dash off to a skin flick the next time she needed his support on something.

One night around eleven called her to see if the pathology was in from the latest body she’d autopsied. It was, and it showed nothing more or less than the rest. “Sorry,” she said. “I wish I could be of more help on this one. Where are you?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Connecticut and 53rd. Driving around in the rain. I’m out of leads, Scully,” Mulder said. “Whoever is responsible for these deaths— and I have a feeling I know who that is— is covering their tracks completely. The last code talker will die tomorrow if he didn’t die tonight, and I’ve done everything I know how to do. I just don’t have any idea what do next.”

“Come over,” she said.

He pulled the phone from his ear and looked at it for a split second before pressing it back against his head. He hadn’t misinterpreted what he’d heard in the low rasp of her voice. It was longing.

“You sure?” He said, “It’s late.”

“I’m sure.” she said.

~~~~~

Desire is Suffering 4/4

And so he drove to Scully’s house. He kept waiting for the voice in the back of his head to kick in, the one warning him not to touch her because everything he touched turned to shit or ashes. When it did, it was less insistent than usual, and he was able to tune it out. “La la la la la,” he sang, like he and Samantha had done when teasing each other, each drowning out the other’s voice. What did it know, after all, that Scully didn’t?

Scully opened the door for him said they said shy hellos, their eyes not quite meeting. She was wearing some silky, purple pajamas, nothing lacy or plunging, just regular pajamas you’d wear in front of your mother. He didn’t know if she’d changed into those for his arrival, or if she hadn’t had time to change out of them. He didn’t really care. She looked wonderful. The way she had to cuff the bottoms twice to keep them from dragging on the floor broke his heart. She took his raincoat from him almost formally and hung it in the closet. They walked into her living room and stood there facing each other, a few feet apart.

“Can I get you something? Something to drink?” she asked.

He shrugged and smiled. “No.” he said.

The room was lit dimly by the end table lamp. Rain sheeted against the windows outside. They looked at each other as the moment stretched on until at the same instant the refrigerator kicked in and they each took two steps forward and walked into each other’s arms. He clasped her to his chest fiercely and her arms snaked around his waist, inside of his suit jacket. He felt relieved she hadn’t reneged on the promise her voice held over the phone, pretended she’d invited him over for some warm milk and another pep talk. Because this is what he had come for, her soft body pressed against his without reservation, her head sideways against his chest, his chin resting on his head. Her hair smelled like peaches and he burrowed his face in it, driving the smell of failing bodies from the back of his throat for the first time in weeks.

They stood like that, rocking together almost imperceptibly for longer than he would have thought he could stand, until their breathing had slowed and matched and the apartment had grown quiet. At that moment, Mulder was completely relaxed for the first time in he didn’t know how long, maybe since he’d gotten that letter from Scully so many months before. Maybe since way before that, since he was twelve and he still had a little sister around to bug him.

Finally, Mulder brought a hand around her and lifted her chin with his index finer. Moving slowly, he planted lingering kisses on her forehead and her temple, her cheek and her jaw. God, he was tired. And she felt so good, so sweet, tilting her head and craning her neck so that he could drop kisses against the underside of her jaw, her breath dancing against his cheek, her skin soft and dense beneath his lips, so unlike his own.

He breathed into her ear for a long second. “You want this, Scully?” he whispered.

“Yes.” She said. He needed to hear that. He captured her earlobe in his mouth and nursed it gently, a moan escaping Scully’s throat when he pulled it taut with his lips and then released it. He kissed along the edge of her ear like he’d done with her jaw, nipping lightly at the sensitive skin, then running his tongue along the curve of her ear and darting it in and out of the opening.

“God, Mulder.” she said.

“What?” he said, smiling. The fact that her voice was hoarse both amused and aroused him.

“If you don’t stop that I’m gonna’ come before you kiss me.” He laughed and rested his forehead against hers, looking into her eyes.

“Scully,” he said, “what makes you think I plan to kiss you?”

She bit her lower lip and ran her hands up over his chest and pushed his suit jacket over his shoulders, not breaking eye contact with him. He shrugged it off and let it drop to the floor.

“Just a hunch,” she said, stepping back from him fractionally, loosening his tie and puling it free from the collar, unbuttoning the top two buttons of his shirt then standing on her tip toes to bring her lips to rest against his neck, inhaling deeply before tasting the thin skin there. When Scully’s hands went to the back of his neck and caressed him there while she kissed the hollow below his neck where his collarbones met, Mulder realized just how thoroughly hard he was. He was relieved Scully and he were no longer joined at the waist, that she’d given him a little breathing room, so to speak.

“Can we sit down?” he asked, his voice an octave higher than usual, “on the couch, maybe?”

“What’s the matter, Mulder?” Scully said, letting her eyes travel down the length of his body before making eye contact with him again. “Shy?” She brought her body closer to his, and he gasped as she swayed her stomach against his erection.

“Christ, Scully,” he said, taking her face roughly between his hands as he pressed against her shamelessly. “I knew making love to you was going to be sweet. I just never guessed you were so goddamn hot.” It was true and he was glad he told her so. That was Scully, always drawing on reserves he had no idea she possessed.

She smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said.

“Good,” he said, nodding and swallowing. “it is one.”

He kissed her. Simply at first, each kiss feathery and brief, self-contained. Her fingers were traveling up and down his back, then her hands came to rest at the base of his spine. Soon their kisses grew slower and deeper until her full lips caressing his languidly and she took his bottom lip between hers and pulled like he’d done with her earlobe.

Finally her mouth opened under his, and he slipped his tongue in and slowly moved it side to side, letting his tongue mingle with Scully’s and explore the smooth, slick terrain of her mouth. Without even realizing he was doing so, not breaking from their kissing, Mulder had reached down and was pulling her body toward him as he pressed his hips rhythmically against her belly, so warm and soft. Not seeming to mind at all, she was pressing into him too, grinding against his thigh. Slowly but surely, they began to make their way around the coffee table in short steps, kissing, her backing him up while undoing his shirt buttons, running her hands over his chest. “Couch,” Scully mumbled, her mouth barely breaking from his to let the words out, “leverage.”

“You’re always thinking about Physics, aren’t you Scully?” Mulder said.

With this they broke away from each other. Mulder doubled over to laugh and to catch his breath, his hands on his knees like after a particularly taxing run, his sides aching. Scully had collapsed backward onto the couch, laughing also.

“You know,” Mulder said, lifting his head up to look at her, still doubled over. “We got all night, Scully. All week or all year, if we need it. We don’t have to rush this.”

“God, you’re right,” she said. “What’s come over us?”

He straightened up, still chuckling, and went into the kitchen and got himself a glass of water. When he had settled in a few feet to the left of Scully on the couch, he had downed half of it. He handed it to her and she took a long sip before handing it back to him.

“This doesn’t feel real to me,” she said, tucking her hair behind her ears. The same thought had occurred to him as he filled the glass with water. This was actually happening. This was Scully.

“Yeah,” he said, leaning back on the couch. “I know what you mean. Her lips were wet and swollen, and he had to put down the urge to lunge across the couch at her.

“Why tonight, do you think?” she said.

“You asked me to come over, he said, taking her hand. “Like that.”

“Funny thing about that, Mulder,” she said. “When you told me you didn’t know what to do next and I opened my mouth, I swear it was to say ‘go home, get some rest.’ I was as surprised as you by what came out.”

He shrugged. “Tonight is as good a night as any night, I guess,” he said, sliding across the couch and putting his arms around her. “Of course, if I’d have known you were such a panty thing, I’d have made my move years ago.”

She opened her mouth to reply, so he leaned down and silenced her with a kiss. She acquiesced, letting her hands move drift across Mulder’s chest, until she seized a plug of his chest hair between her fingers and twisted it, hard.

“Owwwww-uncle,” Mulder said, turning away from her. They both laughed until their laughter tapered off. They looked at each other for a long time, hands caressing each other’s necks and faces, until Scully’s eyes finally filled with tears.

“What is it?” he asked, hugging her tightly to him, kissing her hair.

“I don’t know,” she said into his chest. “I’m just happy. And sorry. And I miss you.”

“Hey, I’m here,” he said, rocking her, running his hands up and down her back. “It’s okay,” he said. “You don’t have to say anything, Scully.”

She curled into his chest and he leaned back, put his feet on the coffee table, one hand behind his neck one arm around Scully, and they sat like that for a while, quiet, Scully’s tears drying on his chest.

He was so relaxed, sitting there. It had been so long since he’d slept well. He kicked his shoes off and stretched his legs out under the coffee table.

The next thing he knew Scully was kissing his chest. She had undone the last two buttons that held his shirt on and spread it, exposing his abdomen. She was moving her lips over his ribs and he yawned. Then she was kissing and biting him lightly. It felt pleasant, but he was groggy. Finally she took one of his nipples in her mouth and ran her tongue over it as it grew taut. This got his full attention. As he scooted back on the couch she threw her leg over his and she was straddling him across the thighs, her legs pinning him to the couch, her weight resting his knees.

“Hi,” he said.

“One minute I’m hot, the next you’re asleep?” she said. “So that’s how it’s going to be with you, Mulder?”

“Asleep?”

“For an hour.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I got up, did some chores, flossed, called my boyfriend.”

Mulder noticed that his suit coat and tie were hung over a kitchen chair. The glass he’d put on the coffee table was gone. “Did I say sorry about that boyfriend crack?’ he asked.

“You putz,” she said, leaning in and kissing him. “Like I have time for a boyfriend with you calling me every two minutes.”

“Sorry. I haven’t slept well lately.”

That’s OK. You were actually kind of cute, drooling like that. I barely had the heart to wake you.”

“Glad you did,” he said. Running his hands up under her shirt in the back, unhooking her bra deftly.

“Mulder.” she said, surprised.

“Fair’s fair,” he said, motioning to his bare chest.

“OK then,” she said, and she pushed his shirt over his shoulders, letting it drop behind him.

“OK then,” he said, and he began to unbutton her pajama top, catching her eye in case she wanted to stop him. She seemed tentative suddenly, her eyes downcast, but she reached out and caressed his face as his hands worked on her buttons, then she moved her hands over his bare shoulders and down his arms till they were holding his wrists lightly by the time he had the last button undone. As her shirt flapped open, she let go of Mulder’s hands and slipped out of it. This left her bra, which was in place, though unhooked in the back. It was a plain white underwire bra, silky with a little bit of lace near the top; just what he’d always imagined she wore beneath her suits. Her chest had constellations of freckles like her nose and cheeks in the summer, he noted with satisfaction. Mulder caught Scully’s eye again and held it as he traced her collarbones outward with his fingertips. He carried the straps aside and down her arms. The bra fell away.

Her breasts stole his breath from him. They were full and round and topped by pale pink nipples. He just took them in, not moving to touch them for a minute, hardly believing he could be that lucky.

“You’re perfect,” Mulder said, looking up at her for a second before returning he gaze to her breasts in front of him. “I hope you know that.”

Scully smiled shyly and toyed with the hair on the back of his neck. He reached his hands around to her back and cupped her shoulder blades with his palms and brought her to him as he leaned forward and kissed Scully’s breastbone. He buried his face lower, between her breasts and shook his head no, feeling her soft skin caress each of his cheeks in turn. He ran his lips around Scully’s right breast, never breaking contact, circling the nipple slowly. He pressed more firmly on her shoulder blades as he took her nipple in his mouth and she inhaled sharply when he flicked his tongue over it, felt it harden like a kernel between his teeth. Then he sucked the nipple in and out of his mouth wetly, keeping his tongue soft.

“Oh that’s so sweet, Mulder,” Scully breathed, somewhere above his head.

He stayed on task, only peripherally aware of her response because he was so entranced with her body before him, the body that hand been before him for years that he hand never seen. He slid his right hand around and cupped her left breast, so soft, kneading the flesh before teasing the nipple with his thumb. Then he switched, tending to her right breast with his left hand while he administered to her left with his mouth. Scully began rock her hips slightly against his knees.

“Mulder,” Scully said, “you’re driving me crazy.”

“Hmmm?” he said, looking up at her face for the first time in what felt like hours.

“Watch me,” she said, pushing back from him.

He obeyed, and sitting back against the couch letting his hands fall to his sides. She arched her back and drew up above him, still straddling his thighs. She moved her hands over her breasts, pinched her own nipples. He began to understand.

“Do you touch yourself like that when you think of me, Scully?”

“Yes,” she said, her eyes flashing at him.

His cock jumped like a fish. He rested his hand on it and pressed himself through his pants.

“Then what do you do?” He asked. “Show me.”

She ran her hand down her stomach and it disappeared beneath the elastic waistband of her pajama pants. And she fell forward, toward him, but caught and braced herself against the back of the couch with her other arm. She was close he could smell her sex, but he didn’t move toward her. He could see the motion between her legs as the tendons in her forearm contracted rhythmically. Her breath was coming hot and fast, and she was looking away from him.

He reached out and edged her pants down just far enough so that he could better see her hand working under her damp panties out of which her pubic hair curled, reaching into her cleft, pleasuring herself.

“Look at me,” he said when he couldn’t watch her any longer without taking action of his own. She did.

He unbuttoned and unzipped his pants, holding her eyes as he did so. He worked his pants and his boxers far enough down his hips far enough that he could easily draw out his erection, and held his cock loosely in his right fist. When he squeezed his fingers around it, Scully looked down and gasped.

“Do you know what I do when I think of you Scully?” He asked.

She shook her head.

He bean to work his hand over his cock, sliding it up and down the length slowly, running his thumb over the tip, watching Scully’s face as she watched him, her eyes huge, her mouth a tight O, her hand moving more rapidly in her pants. She was fucking herself with her fingers now, he could tell by the way her breasts jiggled with each thrust, her ragged breaths reaching his face.

He reached out with his left hand and pulled her hand out of her pants and guided her two glistening fingers into his mouth. She tasted so sweet, like corn grown by the ocean, a smell he’d always sensed faintly around her now that he could identify. She fucked his mouth with her fingers like she somehow knew he wanted her to, pulling them out as fast as he could suck them in as he worked his cock with his hand. He reached his hand into her panties from the side and swiped some of her juice, of which he knew there was plenty to go around, and smeared it on the head of his cock so that his hand moved more easily over his shaft.

“Hey,” she said, falling forward, laughing. His hand fell away from his lap, but Scully’s bare breasts at last against his chest and her silky pants brushing against his erection more than made up for the sensation.

“You always have to outdo me, Mulder?” She asked.

He smiled, wearily. Then she was kissing him, using her leverage, holding his head between her hands. She tongued him deeply, tasting herself in his mouth, he guessed. His hands cupped her ass, guided her gently as she raised and lowered herself against his hard penis, teasing him, hovering above him. He could almost feel her wet folds and her taut clit through the thin layers of fabric that kept them apart.

“Time to lose the pants?” He asked, only when he couldn’t stand it any longer. He thought he might go off like a geyser between them, and that would be embarrassing. He wanted badly to be inside her.

“Meet me in my bed in five minutes?” she said.

“Deal.”

They separated and took different routes to the bedroom, her going via the kitchen and starting the dishwasher, making sure the place was locked. Like it was any other night, which in a way it was. Mulder hung his shirt by his jacket and tie and used the bathroom, having to stand over the toilet for several minutes before he was able to empty his bladder. He left the light on and the door ajar so he could see Scully as he made love to her. The thought alone made his stomach flip. He met Scully next to her bed and they both stepped out of their pants matter of factly threw them over a chair in a way that he liked.

He enfolded her in a hug like their first one of the evening, only this time he enjoyed the feel of her naked against him, her pubic hair brushing against his thigh, her breasts impossibly soft against his abdomen, her breath ruffling the hair on his chest.

“You feel good,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m looking forward to more, Mulder, making love with you, or curling up next to you and going to sleep.” It was really late, and she hadn’t even had a nap.

He smiled, kissed her hair, held her more tightly. “You don’t have to choose. We can even do the second one first.” He felt her smile tiredly against his chest.

They crawled into the bed, and once under the covers he gathered her into his arms. They were silent for several minutes, kissing occasionally, exploring each other’s bodies unambituously. His fingers found and lingered over the tattoo on the small of her back. Ah-ha, there it was. He could tell it was circular, but didn’t know what form it took. He wanted to ask her, but didn’t want to risk the moment, so he decided he’d sneak a peek at it in the morning light and bring it up with her another time. He’d come to love the thought of her tattoo; just knowing it was there always reminded him not to take her for granted. And the thought of her stretched out on the table getting inked was more than a little bit erotic to Mulder. Meanwhile, Scully’s hands found his smooth scar tissue where he’d taken a bullet in the thigh, where she shot him herself in the shoulder. They laughed a little as her fingers played over that one, then they went back to kissing quietly.

“Scully?” he said, running his hand from her thigh to her waist and back again.

“Hmm?”

“Isn’t it amazing the way we wear our lives on our bodies?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“I mean, you’re beautiful. Not because you look like some model, but because you’re Scully. Because you’re you. That’s all.”

“Mulder. Stop. I’ll cry again.”

“Please let me say this…” he said.

“What is it?” she said, looking into his face, her brow knit with concern.

He stared at her and opened his mouth several times to talk, but nothing came out. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s what you do, Mulder, not what you say.”

He nodded, letting it go for the moment. Still he felt pressure below his throat, gathering in his chest, that he desperately wanted to relieve. He settled for leaning on his elbow over her body which lay flat against the bed, letting his right hand play down her torso from her neck to her knees and back again, very lightly. Though her eyes were closed, he could tell she was alert to his every touch. He ran his fingertips over her stomach and thighs and hips and breasts, exploring the angles and planes of her body, tracing lines lightly over her gooseflesh. He trailed his hand down and back up her length, rubbing his palm over her thighs, but he avoided the thatch of her pubic hair for several torturous minutes. Scully’s eyes were still closed, but she was breathing more rapidly than she had been a minute before and had let her legs fall open slightly. He was smirking; he’d always loved teasing her. Their heady arousal fogged the room. When he finally drew his fingers lightly through her pubic hair, she moaned and spread her legs further apart. He didn’t relent. He wanted her to talk to him.

“Do you want me to touch you, Scully?” he whispered into her ear, letting his hand come to rest on her stomach.

“Yes,” she said in a gravely voice.

“Where?”

“She let out an exasperated breath, but didn’t open her eyes. “You know where.”

“Tell me.”

“Please,” she said.

“Where?” he whispered.

“Touch my clit, Mulder.” she said. “Please. Now.”

He didn’t make her wait any longer. He dragged two fingers inside of slick folds. She gasped and spread her legs wide as his fingers found her there where she was hot and waiting for him, where she had been waiting so long for him. His touch was tentative at first as he circled her clit gingerly, but he gained confidence as she bucked her hips into his hand and moaned. Soon he was rubbing her thoroughly, sliding his fingers through her wetness over her clit in a regular rhythm that seemed to please her. He leaned down and took her breasts in his mouth the way she liked as he continued to massage her with his hand. When she was breathless, he tucked two fingers inside her.

“Oh Mulder,” she said, her eyes flying open. She began to squirm under him, her whole body tense. The way she almost whimpered his name played painfully against the taut strings inside him. He kept firm pressure on her clit with his thumb while he fucked her with his fingers, moving them swiftly and smoothly in and out of her opening.

She held his head between her hands, gazed into his face. God, she was so tight and wet he wanted to sink his cock into her right then, but he was loving the way she was responding to his hand. He had found the way she liked to be touched, he didn’t plan to stop until she came. Scully grew shy as she grew close to orgasm, though, throwing her head to the side, biting her lip.

“Look at me, Scully” Mulder said, lowering his face inches from hers so that he could breathe in her hot exhales. “Let me see you come.”

And she did, her eyes wild and bright on his, softening by degrees as she rocked and came in warm wet circles against his hand, until her eyes were smoky and heavy lidded and she buried her face in his shoulder, spent.

He was rubbing and kissing her hair. “That was gorgeous, Scully. Can we do that again?” She pinched him and laughed once, still breathing heavily. He couldn’t stop smiling. He had completely forgotten about his own pleasure, she was so expressive and sensual. He wrapped her in a tight hug and they rocked each other for long, slow minutes.

“Fuck me, Mulder” she said into his ear as soon as she had regained her breath. “Please.” She reached down and pulled his hips closer to her own.

He rolled on top of her. She felt so warm and soft and good beneath him that she nearly overloaded his senses. He kissed her deeply and quickly grew hard against her. He wanted to fuck her. At that moment, it seemed like all he had ever really wanted to do. “You sure?” he said.

In response, she spread her legs and reached down and took him in her hand. She rubbed the head of his penis against her parted labia before tucking him into her easily, as relaxed and wet as she was. He gritted his teeth and groaned, closed his eyes as she wrapped her legs around his waist so that he sank into her completely, more nerves endings firing at once than he could process. As he began to move he got dizzy, so he slowed his thrusts, seeking an easy rhythm he would be able to maintain.

When he opened his eyes again and saw Scully beneath him, her heart shaped face, her eyelashes closed against her cheek and shining like wheat, her perfect mouth, something deep inside him to give way. This was Scully? It didn’t seem possible, but at the same time it felt inevitable, that he would eventually end one of his nights like this, leaning into her, his weight on his forearms, his face next to hers, the two of them breathing the same air.

Like a compress bandage that had been binding his chest was unwinding, Mulder began to feel like he could finally breathe as he moved inside her, for the first time in a long time. He went slowly, pulling his cock almost all the way out of her before thrusting it in again deliberately, tenderly. “You’re so pretty” he whispered, tucking her hair behind her ears with his fingertips, kissing her cheeks, her nose. He doubted she’d heard it often enough. She smiled at him, almost sadly he thought. His chest was loosening up, the pain giving way to a warm, liquid feeling. He went slowly, but wished he could preserve this moment or at least stretch it like taffy. In its intensity, it blotted out the pain and violence and wasted time that had come before, and put off the danger and confusion that were sure to follow.

They began to move more urgently against each other, their hips audibly colliding, their fucking faster and less constrained, gathering its own momentum. She pulled his head down and cried out when he nipped and sucked at her neck. He didn’t know how much longer he could hold on. He felt things welling up inside him he couldn’t tamp down.

“I love you baby,” he muttered into her hair. “You know that?”

It was more than a confession; it was an incantation, a charm, a prayer.

“Yes,” she said, holding his face between her hands, making him look at her. She rubbed away the tears he hadn’t even realized were leaking from the corners of his eyes with her thumbs. “I know.”

“I need you to know that,” he said and fucked her harder, taking the cross from her necklace in his mouth. Cold and metallic, it tumbled across his tongue, and he held it in his mouth before he let it drop, warmed, back onto her chest. It was the only truth that mattered just then, Scully so open beneath him, her white chest birdlike, heaving. The truth was between them in the blood-tinged darkness and in the tunnel that seemed to go on forever inside of her. And being inside her, saying those words to her, felt so correct that he was awash in relief. He had accomplished at least one of the things he was brought to earth to do in his lifetime: to love Scully. It was like a math problem that had been stumping him for years had suddenly come clear, the gleaming answer seeming so simple, having been there all the time.

“I know everything, Mulder,” she whispered. “It’s okay. I want you to come inside me. Just let it go.”

He looked at her— Really?— and she answered affirmatively without saying anything.

He stroked into her until he couldn’t hold onto it any longer, and he came, clutching her as he gasped her name, leaning into her, feeding her.

~~~~~

Epilogue: 5/4. See part one for info.

Scully slept lightly for what was left of that night, wandering fitfully between the planes of sleep and wakefulness, opening her eyes every few hours convinced that she had dreamed a particularly vivid and disorienting dream, expecting to find herself alone each time. And each time she reached our her arms to Mulder she was immensely relieved to find him next to her, giving off warm breath like a loaf of fresh baked bread.

Once near the end of the inky night she rolled on top of him, straddled him, and sunk down on his erection before she was fully awake. She laced her fingers through his and rode him until she came fast and hard, then rode him some more until he came just as forcefully, crying out in a cracked voice as he filled her body again with his warm seed. As he softened inside her she slid from his hips and they muttered nearly incoherent words of love to one another as they fell, limbs tangled, back to sleep.

~~~~~

Scully woke up abruptly for good at nine-thirty. In the solid morning light that worked its ways in around the blinds, Mulder was quite real, still sleeping soundly next to her in bed, even snoring lightly. She pushed some hair from his brow, kissed his forehead and threw her feet on the floor. Scully tied her robe around her and made her way to the kitchen to start some coffee.

As it brewed, she went into the bathroom and regarded herself in the medicine cabinet mirror, smiling slightly, surveying the damage. Her face and neck were red from where Mulder’s stiff, two-day beard had abraded her skin. Her hair was wild. She had a love bite just above her left clavicle she only vaguely remembered getting, the color and shape of a strawberry. She could feel the muscles through her arms and torso protest as she splashed water on her face.

And she was late for work. An anxious knot caught in her gut as the thought hit her. Life just didn’t stop because she had gotten some. Her smile widened at this thought, but anxiety settled in her stomach and worked on her as she filled a mug with coffee and sunk into one of the chairs at her dining room table. She was unsure whether or not to call in sick to work; she had accrued many more sick days than she would ever use as she would be leaving the Bureau in less than a month, but she felt hesitant about using one, almost inexplicably. She considered showering and slipping into a smart suit and sneaking off to work without waking Mulder.

She realized that she was a little bit nervous about confronting Mulder by the morning light. Would he regret it? Feel guilty? Had she- well -taken advantage of him when he was feeling down? Everything had felt so right the night before, but suddenly she was unsteady. Was he in her bed right now, feigning sleep, trying to avoid the morning-after awkwardness? Had he changed his mind about the whole thing ? Was he, just at this moment, trying to think of a nice way to tell her?

Traditionally when Mulder suffered a bout of the Mulder-jerks, Scully blew it off easily. But she knew, sitting there huddling around her mug of coffee, that this morning if cold-Mulder or mean-Mulder or distracted-Mulder were to emerge from her bedroom, it would crush her. And she’d spent her life to that point trying to avoid feeling that vulnerable if she could at all help it. She’d trusted Mulder with her life countless times, but her heart and her body and her dignity were another matter entirely. Scully was so lost in her fretting she didn’t hear Mulder’s footfalls behind her and so his arms were encircling her and his kisses were on the back of her neck before she had completely snapped out of her daze.

“Got some of that for me?” he asked, taking the seat next to her, pointing to her coffee cup.

He was wearing just his boxers and the same soft, stupid grin she’d noticed on her own face earlier that morning. His hair was even more messed up than hers; in fact he resembled a hedgehog who’d stuck a fork in an electrical socket. All the fear that had built up in Scully washed away, for the moment at least.

“I need to call Skinner and told him I was taking the day off,” Mulder said, padding into the kitchen to pouring himself some coffee.

“What do you think he’ll say?”

“He’ll say good riddance. He’ll say take two weeks,” Mulder said, kissing Scully on the lips before sitting down again. “I don’t want to take the liberty assuming you can take a day off, Scully, but I was hoping, if you didn’t have anything pressing going on, you’d consider spending the day with me. You know, for old time’s sake.”

“Old time’s sake, huh? That makes me nervous. Just what would we be doing today, Mulder, if I consent to this plan?”

“By my count, Scully, there are lots of things we haven’t done yet. Take your pick.”

She blushed and looked into her coffee, shaking her head.

“Ah-ha,” Mulder said, “she’s a little shy in the morning. I’ll make a note of that.”

“We’ll see,” Scully said. She stood up and took Mulder by the hand and led him back toward her bed. He complied, taking a final swig of his coffee before letting himself be pulled away. She was hungry for warm cinnamon buns straight from the oven, but she needed more Mulder first.

He settled himself again in bed as they each called in sick to work. Scully hung up and turned around to face Mulder, sliding her robe from her shoulders and tossing it over the chair where their pants still hung. She was naked when she climbed into bed, and his eyes were huge and dark and all over her. Mulder. Her lover. Unbelievable.

“Agent Scully,” Mulder said when she was pressed against him, “you seem to have a suffered a subdural hemotoma, commonly referred to in junior high vernacular as a hickey.” He was tracing its outline against the tender flesh of her neck with his index finger.

“Yes,” she said, “I noticed that. How do you suppose that got there?”

“Dunno,” he said. His lips were brushing her ear and he was whispering so low and close that a current ran through her body each time he spoke. “Guess we’ll have to open an X-File.”

“Later, Mulder,” she said, her voice rough again with desire, “it can wait.”

~~~~~

That’s all. Hope you liked it. Comments welcome to my e-mail: — Darwin

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