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In the Night Season by Revely
From: Revely <> Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 18:22:13 GMT Subject: NEW: In The Night Season 1/3 by Revely
Title: In The Night Season
Spoilers: Through Closure, but nothing specific
Rating: Mild NC-17
Archive: Gossamer yes. All others, yes, but please let me know.
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to those wahoos and savages at 1013. No infringement is intended.
Author’s Notes: At End
Beta – Thanks: To Barbara D, ad infinitum. To Meredith-The-Great, for sweetness personified, and to Mec, for being my beta tie-breaker.
Feedback: Gives me something to do besides stare at the blank screen and that mocking cursor.
For: Lizzie, who asked for only one thing. Happy birthday!
~ i ~
In The Night Season by Revely
Scully’s wound, when it heals, will leave a scar that stretches like a smile. Right now, the cut is swollen, a red-lipped grin she examines under the fluorescent light of his bathroom. The EMT did a good job gluing it together, but there’s no way she won’t scar. The tender skin on the back of her hand is too white, too thin to escape permanent marking. One more to add to her collection, she supposes.
Occasionally she tries to count them all. She always starts with her feet, cataloging the harmless scars first: the chicken pox scar on her ankle, the knotty white line on her knee from a bike spill, a mean reciprocal BB shot on her thigh, evidence of an active life. She stops counting at five – the puckered ‘O’ of her abdominal gunshot wound. After that, they get less fun to recall. She’s never once made it to the back of her neck. Better to stop while you’re ahead, she believes, quit moving before you get hurt.
She’s not the queen of avoidance for nothing.
Not that her avoidance tactics always work – at least, not for long. Sooner or later she’s going to have to come out of the bathroom. She’s already been in here for ten minutes, and there’s not a whole lot left to check out. Her blouse, which she slipped off a few minutes ago in order to scrub out the blood and the soot, is drying over the radiator, and for a moment she briefly debates taking a shower. It seems a tad presumptuous, and besides all she has to put on are the clothes she’s wearing now, or Mulder’s red bathrobe that hangs on the back of the door. She tests it out, letting it pool around her feet and swallow her hands. It’s much too large to wear around his apartment without tripping on the excess length, still, she keeps it on for a moment and avoids looking in the mirror. The minute she catches sight of herself doing something so dumb she’ll become disgusted, and that’s the last feeling she needs tonight.
Bunching up the right sleeve above the elbow, she reaches for the medicine cabinet. There’s an extra toothbrush in there. She’d noticed it the year before one afternoon while rummaging around for a Band-Aid, and had felt startlingly and suddenly ill. Mulder had an extra toothbrush. But the box has never been opened, and checking on it has become a private ritual. The sight of the untampered cellophane gives her some small embarrassing pleasure, and she pulls it open and grabs his toothpaste before scouring her teeth and tongue, removing the taste of smoke.
It was the one thing she hated about cigarettes, and probably the only thing that kept her from taking up the addiction full time. After her fits of preteen rebellion in the backyard under the ash tree, she’d go immediately to the pantry and grab a few saltines. The gluey crackers and a cold soda washed her mouth clean and then she’d tiptoe back to bed, careful to avoid the squeaky floorboards outside her parents’ room.
Not that anything would have happened if they had heard her. She wasn’t the child they would have suspected of insubordination. Still, the covert operation of getting out and back in without waking anyone made her feel dangerous. Odd to think that in those days her life had felt exciting, pivotal – like walking a tightrope. Looking back, it was full of the mundane and banal concerns of every high school student, but she misses those times nonetheless. Now, when every move she makes seems ribbon-tied to global destruction and apocalyptic mayhem, she feels curiously bored.
For someone so daring, she spends a lot of time hiding out. With a sigh she takes off the robe and hangs it on the hook before retrieving her shirt from the heater and buttoning it up. When she opens the door, the kitchen is still empty, and she can tell from here that he still hasn’t turned on a light in the living room.
All evening she has been waiting for him to speak to her, but the silence is as thick as smoke, and nearly as suffocating. If he’s angry, she wishes he’d just say it and get it over with, but she’s not sure that’s it. Maybe he’s embarrassed, but if that’s the case, she doubts it would feel so outwardly directed. He might not be speaking, but she can feel his focus turned Scully-ward with so much force that she’s having a hard time concentrating.
She glances around the doorway. Sure enough, he’s still slumped on the couch, he hasn’t moved in the last half-hour. From the hallway she can see faint tracks through the soot on his face, left by sweat, or tears, or both.
His apartment smells like profoundly peaceful dust – like a library. Even the kitchen, with its overlay of coffee and the aroma of a thousand microwave dinners, can’t compete with it. She moves back toward his sink and begins filling it with hot soapy water, gathering the few dishes littered over the countertop and glancing at her watch: twenty minutes to go. She’s promised herself that she would stay for an hour, just to make sure that he was all right. After that she is leaving. There’s no reason to stay, really. He’s home. They’re safe. Just another day on the job. No reason to hang around. But she can’t escape the feeling that he needs something, wants to say something. She felt it the entire way home, as she stared at the road, keeping an eye on him in her peripheral vision. She had him only from the thighs down, since his seat was reclined and his arms folded over his chest and tucked around him like he was trying to hold body and soul together, but the lower part of him alone was enough to make her aware of his jagged edges. The humor of the situation doesn’t escape her – after seven years she can read his knees. There’s something pitiful about that.
Wouldn’t a normal person simply ask what is bothering him? She feels sure they would, but she’s given herself up for lost when it comes to normality. She is far from normal. They are making such a wide arc around the status quo that she’s sure they’ll never find their way back. Once upon a time they might have made it, she thinks. Surely there have been times when taking a step in their relationship was the obvious thing to do.
The first time she’d decreed things were going to change was right after Mulder returned from the dead. After New Mexico, and Melissa, and Mulder’s father’s death, it seemed like the perfect time. They were attracted to one another, right? And they were adults, perfectly capable of keeping a personal relationship separate from their professional one. She came to the decision soon after they returned, strode to the phone with every good intention of declaring all of that to him, then got choked up on the semantics. She ended up slamming the phone down twice before she finished dialing his number, like a gawky fifteen-year-old trying to ask the high school golden boy to a Sadie Hawkin’s Dance. It was too humiliating for words. She was so enraged at her own ridiculous and profoundly out of character behavior that she knocked herself right out of the mood and spent the rest of the evening glaring at herself whenever she passed her reflection.
So the urge to risk their relationship is a recurring one; she has it about four times a year – once every season – with approximately the same regularity that she gets migraines, and she has grown accustomed to both.
All of her previous resolutions have been thwarted by fate: location, happenstance, or a sudden shift in mood. Just this past autumn she made it as far as knocking on his front door, but he hadn’t been home, so she drove to her mother’s and ate homemade meatloaf and drank sweet tea and chatted about the good old days until her resolve dissolved like sugar in hot water.
She loses a button off her shirt as she searches under the sink for dishwashing liquid. It pops free and makes a beeline for the door, rolling out to the entryway as though beckoning her to follow. Scully watches it go. In the silence, the muted whirl of plastic on wood is amplified tenfold. She might as well have shattered a window.
She sighs. This is just the latest shot fired in the clothing war she’s been waging for a few months now.
It was subtle at first: a missing button, a jacket that fit a little snugly, but it has now passed the point of rational explanation. Her clothes, for reasons she would rather not consider, have begun to shrink. In the beginning she’d assumed she was gaining weight. When her scale continued to assure her otherwise, she’d hoped that her upper-body conditioning was reshaping her, but that’s not the case either; she looks exactly the same. Lately, getting dressed for work is a battle. This morning, she’d had to try on four different shirts to find one that didn’t leave her cleavage completely exposed, and still she is bordering on positively indecent. Even her jackets, which used to swallow her, are stretched across her breasts, earning her lascivious looks from the men in the office. With the exception of Mulder, that is. He hasn’t uttered a word about her wanton apparel, not one single suggestive remark. Nonetheless, she feels him watching her. It might be her imagination, but her clothes seem to get tighter when he’s anywhere in the vicinity, as if they were disappearing by the force of his will. Ordinarily, she might be angry over this new phenomenon, but she doesn’t exactly have the right to throw stones. Though his clothes don’t appear to be shrinking, they are mysteriously turning up in her apartment.
Earlier in the week she put in a load of white laundry and came back to find all of her underwear and bras dyed pink. Fishing around in the washer she pulled out a pair of his red cotton boxers. Twice now she’s reached for her bathrobe in the closet and come up with his black leather jacket. She has begun to get nervous when making her bed, because almost every morning without fail she finds one of his soft gray T-shirts lurking under a pillow or the blanket. Occasionally it is still warm, as though she has stolen it right off his back.
She’s considered confronting him about this problem, but it seems pointless. His silence has dictated hers, and after five months of denial she wouldn’t know how to begin to introduce the subject. They have quietly learned how to deal with it. When he found her red suit jacket with the black velvet collar hanging in his closet, he just brought it to the office and hung it on the coat rack without a word. The more private things: his red boxers, her silk pajamas and green-tea body lotion, these things they place in a bag and leave on the desk chairs. Except for the two pairs of thigh-highs she washed out at her place that had vanished from the shower curtain rod. Those reappeared a week later when Mulder found them in his top desk drawer. He’d reached in for something, then muttered, “uh…Scully…heads up,” before balling them up and pitching them to her. If there is anyone watching them, she thinks, they’ve got more than enough evidence to back up the claim of an intimate relationship.
From the living room Scully hears a lamp switch on. She waits for a moment but there’s not another sound. Ten minutes to go, she notes. To pass the time, she idly swishes a glass around in the soapy water with her uninjured hand, reminiscing.
“That man has spirits moving around him, ” Melissa said once, poking her thumbs into pieces of Valentine’s Day candy and scrutinizing the filling.
“Missy, please.” She’d used her ‘spare me’ tone of voice. “He’s got a lot of guilt, and a lot of pain, but ‘spirits’ might be going a bit overboard, don’t you think?”
“Whatever you say, little sister. I’m just telling you what I see. Take it or leave it.”
“And what about me? I suppose I have these ‘spirits’ around me too?”
Missy had made a face and pulled her finger out of a chocolate, wiping a smear of strawberry nougat on the tablecloth.
“No. No, you have…” she framed her hands around Scully’s face as though composing a snapshot, “a lot of…space around you.”
“Great. Perfect. That’s fitting. He gets spirits and I get space. Why am I not surprised?”
“Tell you what. How about I spring for a bottle of spirits, you call your sexy haunted partner over to share and we’ll see if he can’t help you clear up some of your ‘space’ issues, Day.”
“You’re a riot. And quit eating all the caramels.”
She lets the water out of the sink and it slurps down the drain with such a ferocious gulp that she feels the muscles in her neck tighten. What she really needs, she decides, is a stiff drink, but all she finds in Mulder’s fridge is a half-gallon of milk, various aged condiments and a grocer’s bag full of tangerines. The fruit takes her a bit by surprise. Mulder is not a “five a day” type of man, and then she remembers. “Vitamin C, Mulder,” she’d told him the week before as he’d coughed and wheezed germs over her shoulder. “I can’t handle another cold this year. Start getting some Vitamin C in your diet.” Apparently he’s taken her advice.
She drags out the bag and begins peeling one for herself, comforted by the displacement activity. Before long, she has amassed a small pile of rind. Peeling the skin off the fruit reminds her of her adolescence. In junior high, after two summers of bloody fingers, she finally conquered her nail biting habit with the help of a clear, bitter nail polish. When she soon began picking at her cuticles, her mom told her that you never got rid of a tic like that – you simply adopted another one, and the pronoucement has turned out to be true. This summer, while applying lip balm for the tenth time in one afternoon, Scully realized that she licked her lips too much. A new habit. She concentrated on quitting all autumn, and lately she has noticed that she has stopped buying lip balm and is instead shredding napkins in restaurants, and tearing tissues to confetti.
Scully glances at her watch, bags the tangerines and puts them back into the refrigerator. She decides to bring some of the fruit they left in the car over tomorrow and fill up his fridge, then walks into the living room to face her partner.
“Mulder, if you don’t need anything I’m going to head home.”
The muscles in her legs are twitching, as if she’s just run five miles uphill instead of merely walking from the kitchen. She feels so jittery waiting for him to respond that she leans up against the wall, feigning casualness. Underneath her back, the wall feels grainy.
Mulder rises from the couch, the careful, self-possessed unfolding of a tall man to his full height. Every time Scully has had occasion to watch him get out of a car it has stirred something in her. No matter what the situation, her desire is born again when he moves from chairs.
He doesn’t say a word, just nods at her and studies the floor. She makes a quick retreat into the hallway and down to the elevator, conscious of some part of him following her.
“Go home,” she tells the air around her, but he remains, getting into the car with her. She sits behind the wheel, but he seems to take up the rest of the empty space.
She is halfway home when she realizes.
Staring at a sign over the Quickie Mart, taking in the monstrous price of gas, it hits her, and she takes her foot off the pedal and makes a wild right turn into the parking lot to catch her breath. Fear. He was not angry with her, he was afraid.
She should have known that expression, but truth be told she hadn’t been looking that hard. She’s spent a lot of time avoiding looking Mulder in the eye in the last few months, half-afraid of what she’ll see if she does, and half-afraid of what she won’t. They’ve begun saying things to one another that they never got the nerve to mention before. “You’re my touchstone,” he said. Maybe it wasn’t as odd to hear the words from his lips – he had made hallway declarations before, after all – but mirroring the sentiment back to him from her own mouth, that was a surprise. She is shocking herself a lot these days. Half the time she spends with Mulder she’s trying to keep her hands off him. Normally, it is he who invades her personal space, but since he took the initiative on New Year’s he hasn’t touched her nearly as much, and she has found that it’s all she can do to keep her hands from straightening his tie, or smoothing his jacket over his shoulders. Her hands seem possessed by someone else these days, someone named Vixen, or Bunny, or…God forbid, Bambi. They are not Dana hands (as far as she can remember) and they’re certainly not Scully hands.
If she can accuse him of having a plan, she thinks this would be it. Your ball, Scully, he seems to be saying. Your turn to make a move. It is almost irritating how patiently he is waiting. The lines in his face she has grown so accustomed to over the years of their partnership are smoothing out. After all this time, Mulder has found a certain measure of closure, and why this scares her, exactly, is one more item on a long list of feelings she hesitates to explore. For the first time in her life, she thinks she truly understands the term ‘inertia’.
At the Quickie Mart, an elderly couple is shuffling across the slippery sidewalk, feeling each step with the intense care of the fearful and fragile. That’s her, she thinks, that’s them. She and Mulder. They feel out each step in their relationship with trepidation and trembling. Glaciers move faster than they do. Couples who married in the year she and Mulder became partners now have children starting kindergarten. And now, just as he has stopped being scared and is letting her take the lead, her own fear is threatening to consume her.
Angrily, Scully pulls the cuffs of her shrinking shirt down to her wrists and stares at the icy parking lot for a long moment, before starting the ignition and pulling onto the road, heading back in the direction she came.
Desire, she thinks, is the Achilles Heel of Fear.
She was eating grapes and making vague threats when he slammed on the brakes and sent the car into a slow spin. Without thinking, she flung her arm out in front of him, only to collide with his arm, which he’d thrown out to brace her.
“Mulder, watch out!” she cried, a few seconds too late. By the time the words escaped her lips they had turned a full circle on the ice and the deer had made it to the other side of the road.
The car moved like an old drunk, staggering sideways until it bumped against the guard rail and stopped.
“Are you okay?” Mulder asked as he unhooked his seatbelt.
Scully glanced out her window and looked at the guardrail. It was the only thing separating them from a fall into a snowy ravine. She nodded.
Mulder opened his car door and got out. Scully slid out his side after him and they stood staring at the icy blacktop and at the group of deer who had bounded right in front of them. Even from this distance Scully could count nine. Overhead, a blanket of birds shrieked and dodged from one corner of the sky to another with frantic sweeps.
“What’s going on?” When she spoke, the cloud of vapor from her mouth was so dense it almost obscured her view. Wait, that wasn’t possible. It wasn’t her breath. Turning, she looked over the car and into the cluster of trees. Between the bare branches she made out a faint glow in the darkening sky. A thin cloud of smoke moved up the ravine and trailed across the highway in wisps.
“Fire.” Mulder’s voice sent a shiver down her spine. He had a peculiar way of inflecting that one word with so much dread that her heart swelled with pity for him. He hated fire so much.
“Where do you think it’s coming from?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Let’s get back in the car and make sure it’s been reported.”
Mulder let her slide back in the car first, and then pulled them cautiously onto the highway again. It was just their luck to run across something like this when they had been having such a good time. The case in Ogden, Virginia turned out to be a dud, but the trip had one perk – namely that their contact, Judith Tyler, owned a fruit market and had loaded them down with free strawberries, pineapples and pears before they left, assuring them that, sure, she had little in the way of concrete proof to back up her story, but she was definitely being visited by aliens from another planet. She swore they broke into her market every few weeks and took everything from the unripened avacados in the stockroom to the bags of banana chips near the check-out line. After tasting her first plum, Scully decided she didn’t blame them. You probably couldn’t get fruit this ripe on Reticula, she’d told Mulder. Especially in February, he’d agreed.
Lulled by fructose and the pleasant hum of the car heater, she’d even agreed to play ‘Riddle Riddle Riddle Marie’ with Mulder on the ride home. Playing the game with her colorblind partner was one of the easier wins she took in their relationship. Particularly when the sky was a sharp winter white, and the trees looked black and defenseless against the bright snow and ice. It wasn’t exactly a feast for the eyes. She’d been stuck on his “I see something and the color is green,” clue for a full five minutes when the deer ran out in front of them. The car’s bland beige interior and her own full investigation of the contents of everything from the lint on the floormats to the contents of the glovebox had prompted her to remind him (in a voice she generally reserved for her small nephews and the feeble-minded) that the rules of the game stated that the object had to be in plain sight, to say nothing of the fact that he was red/green colorblind, and just what kind of trick was he playing? He’d just smiled, made a two-point spit shot with his plum pit into the brown paper bag at her feet, and told her to guess again. Now they were silent, their game forgotten as they both scanned the countryside.
“Up there, Mulder. Is that a house?” Scully gestured out her window. To their right, a narrow road staked with a county marker snaked between two hills. Between the skeleton trees she could make out a chimney and roofline. Mulder pulled off the highway and began maneuvering the car down the icy road carefully. Wisps of smoke stroked the sides of the automobile and wafted through the vents. Scully crinkled her nose.
“Where do you think it’s coming from?” she asked.
Mulder shook his head and coughed. “I don’t know. I don’t see anything burning. What I do know is that I don’t want to take a curve in this road and come face to face with a forest fire and not be able to get out on this road fast enough. I think we should head back out, phone the police and call it quits.”
Call it quits. The man who never opted for the cautious choice had finally decided to be sensible. His apprehension made Scully feel fearless and invincible. She wondered if that happened to him when she made careful suggestions.
“Just a little more, Mulder.” she said. “Let’s at least go around the next curve and make sure it’s not that house burning.”
“I hate to state the obvious, Scully, but this is redneck country. It could just be some old guy burning garbage illegally.”
“With all this smoke?”
She smiled. “You sound like me.”
“I know. Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse?”
“I hope not. I’ve seen enough of the apocalypse for one year, thank you.”
The road wound around another hill. The countryside was nearly empty, with the exception of two small trailers that looked like they’d been dropped from heaven to perch precariously on the side of a hill. The smoke thickened as they crossed a small country bridge and rounded a curve. Mulder stopped abruptly and they both jerked against their seatbelts and stared at the sight in front of them. Straight ahead, a fire raged over two hills, moving toward the house they had seen from the road. Scully moved into action first. Opening her door, she zipped her coat against the biting wind and slid out of the car.
“What are you doing?” Mulder asked. The horror on his face at the first glimpse of the fire became stark panic when he saw that she was getting out of the car.
“I’m going to run up and make sure nobody is in the house. That side isn’t burning yet, see?”
Mulder lunged across the seat and grabbed the edge of her coat. “That’s crazy. It’s too dangerous, Scully. Stay here and we’ll call for help and wait. If you get caught up there there’s no way down.”
She glanced up at the blaze. In the night it crackled and hummed around them, blowing smoke like demon’s breath toward heaven.
“Mulder we can’t just sit here and wait. What if there’s somebody home? Listen to me, I’ll be fine. I’ll run up, ring the bell and if I don’t get an answer I’ll come right back down.” Before he had a chance to answer, she shut the door and began running up the gravel drive. The February wind wasn’t helping matters much. Halfway up the driveway the current changed and began blowing a warm, acrid breeze toward her. She turned and realized she could no longer see their car, but she heard her partner shouting.
“I’m fine, Mulder. Call for help,” she yelled back, but the hiss and crack of the fire seemed to swallow her words. Jogging a few more steps, she abandoned the driveway and took out over the yard. Six aged oak trees ringed the house, hanging their long arms out over the porch and nearly brushing the roof in one place. If the fire traveled to these trees, the house was a loss in a matter of minutes. Before Scully had time to bend over and cough at the onslaught of smoke, the fire had devoured the first tree like kindling. She watched as a second ignited like a matchstick, then she began to run. Faster toward the porch she moved, blinking tears from her irritated eyes. Finally she made it, slamming her foot down on the first step just as the first oak tree came crashing down onto the roof. The house shook for a moment, and then was still. Scully yanked open the storm door and was nearly knocked over as a woman bolted from the interior.
“Help!” the woman cried. She was wearing only a pair of sweatpants and a thin T-shirt, and her lips were a garish blue in the firelight.
“Are you okay?” Scully asked over the roar of the flames. The woman nodded as she grabbed Scully by the arm.
“This is my granddaddy’s house. I’ve been all though it and I can’t find him. He ain’t hardly ever home but I didn’t want to leave without checking.”
“Are you sure he’s not here?”
“I yelled and yelled. I live in a trailer out back and it’s already gone and I looked all over the first floor but I heard the crash and didn’t want to go upstairs.”
Scully began unfastening her coat, and she slid it around the woman’s shoulders. “Go!” she said, pointing to the area of yard she had come up on. “My partner’s down on the road. Hurry. I’ll take another look around the house.”
The woman gave a horrified glance at the side of the porch, which was already being licked by orange flames. “I’ll wait for you,” she whispered.
“No,” Scully shouted, giving the woman a shove toward the steps, “I’m fine, I’ll be right behind you, go right now.”
She didn’t wait for the woman to answer, just bolted inside, letting the storm door slam behind her. The house was dark, except for the fevered glow that shone in the east windows. Scully realized she didn’t know the home owner’s name. “Is anybody home?” she yelled, as she ran from room to room. Down a long hallway she saw the wooden banister of a staircase, and she took the steps two at a time to the top. The fallen tree on the roof was already burning into the house. Smoke and a lack of light meant that Scully had to nearly feel her way around. She wished she’d taken the flashlight out of her coat pocket before giving it away. With only one room left to check, Scully began to feel the heat of the fire from overhead. Hellfire and brimstone from heaven, she thought.
The large front bedroom was empty. Two large windows gave her a full view of the burning hill and over the smoke down to where she knew the road was. With a shudder and a moan, the porch roof under the window suddenly gave out. Scully watched as heaps of burning wood fell away from the brick facing and collapsed onto the cold ground. Under the rubble someone was scrabbling to get out. Someone in her coat. Scully could see that the hem was already ringed with fire.
Don’t run. The silent mantra began to build up until it burst forth from her mouth. “Don’t run!” she screamed, pounding on the glass. But it was too late. Panicked, the woman began trying to unfasten the coat, but the flame traveled right up the back, and began tasting her hair. Fire danced along the collar and she began running furiously for the road. Through the smoke, Through the smoke, Scully watched, horrified, as the flames engulfed her. Roll! Scully ordered mentally, as though she could psychically control the woman’s behavior.
Scully bolted down the stairs. In the living room she used a chair to break out a window, and jumped to the hard ground, gouging the top of her hand on the broken glass as she leapt. In the distance, she heard the screams of sirens, but other than that, there was nothing but the sound of fire. It crackled and hissed with laughter. Scully pulled her shirt up over her mouth to block the smoke, and ran for the driveway, wiping her bloody hand on her blouse as she went.
The smoke thinned out as she reached the bottom of the hill. Firetrucks and police cars were still making the journey down the icy road, but already the blue and red lights lit up the air around her. Peering above her shirt collar, she saw Mulder, cradling a stump in his arms and running toward the sirens.
No, it wasn’t a stump, it was the woman, Scully realized. She was no longer burning, but she was as black as coal. As black as the coat she had borrowed.
She watched as he stopped running and walked over to an embankment of snow that rimmed the road, carefully laying the woman down on top of it. Scully ran over toward them, stopping for a moment when Mulder raised his eyes to hers. She stood still. Tears tracked down his face and fell from his chin, dropping onto the woman’s coat. His gaze was hurt, accusatory. He didn’t blink, just stared at her as though he expected to look right through her. Scully couldn’t move. She seemed to be frozen in her partner’s gaze. What on wrong?
Two EMTs ran directly to Mulder, shoving him out of the way as they began ministering to the woman. A police officer jogged up beside Mulder and began firing questions. He didn’t answer, just sat on the snowbank with cinders floating in the air around him like the devil’s snow. The cop turned to follow his gaze and beckoned to Scully.
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
Mulder blinked, looking confused. Scully shook her head, finally moving from her place.
“I’m fine,” she answered, walking towards them. Mulder bent over and rested his head in his palms as she approached. Then, without a word, he got up and moved to the passenger’s side of their car. He got in and reclined the seat until they couldn’t see him.
“We’re going to need him for questioning,” the cop said as they watched him go.
Scully glanced down at the woman in the snowbank and then back toward the car.
“I can tell you all you need to know.”
~ iii ~
She doesn’t bother knocking, just takes out her key and lets herself in. The tangy scent of citrus fruit still permeates the dark entryway, and she gropes for the light switch. To her surprise, the living room is empty. She had expected him to still be sitting on the couch.
From downstairs Scully can hear Mr. DiPaolo, a music history teacher from the university, playing his violin. It is a mournful, melancholy piece that she can feel more than hear. It vibrates right up through the wooden floor, making the bones in her feet buzz when she slips out of her shoes, picks them up, and walks toward the bedroom. Stopping at the closed door, she sits on the arm of the couch, feeling the music thread up through her toes and into her head.
She took violin lessons for nearly a year when she was eleven, but had to quit when they moved. It was for the best, she reasoned at the time. There were moments when her teacher, the only son of an immigrant Russian Jew, played some of his favorite pieces for her and she had felt emotion swelling so strongly around in her heart that it scared her. To this day, there are certain notes played on a violin that are so sad, so pure – like the tears of angels – that she can hardly bear to listen to them. She is thankful that the tune Mr. DiPaolo is playing now, thankfully, is low enough that she can’t quite make out the full melody.
Scully comes out of her reverie with a startled blink. What exactly is she doing here? She wishes she knew. During the drive back over was concerned with only one thing: telling Mulder that she knew. She knew he had seen the woman, dressed in her coat, flail around on fire at the top of a smoky hill. She knew he had believed it to be her. The vision of it – of him cradling the burnt woman in his arms and running toward the sirens – would stay with her until her last day, and she feels the overwhelming need to apologize. It doesn’t make sense, really. She doesn’t have anything to apologize for, except, just maybe, ignoring what she is afraid to see, and she fears there are no words for that mea-culpa.
The deep air of expectancy she has felt all night seems to be growing exponentially. It is now as jagged as the edge of a tin-can, and it cuts the space around her as she stands up and reaches for his bedroom door, opening it only a few inches before the fierce pounding of her own heart makes her stop and lean against the doorjamb. The only light coming into the room filters through the venetian blinds, spilling in across the bottom of the bed, tiger-striping his dark jeans. She watches, waits, but he doesn’t move and his eyes stay shut.
One cautious step into the room is all it takes for her to realize he is deeply asleep. He is lying on top of the covers, one long-fingered hand gripping the side of the bed and the other thrown over his bare abdomen. It is at times like this, when he is resting and vulnerable, that she feels a fierce tenderness flood her chest. When he is awake, no matter what the situation, she is almost incapable of imagining him gone. It seems impossible that she will ever have to be without him. He is too vital, too alive when he is awake for her to fathom the possibility. She believes in him the way she used to believe in the tooth fairy: against logic, and based only on past evidence.
She makes her way toward the window, stopping in the light, hoping that her shadow will wake him up. But he doesn’t stir. She’s going to have to either say his name or touch him – both equally frightening options. She takes a moment to watch him unnoticed. His bare feet are splayed outward, and the cuffs of his jeans are still damp from his run through the snow. Watching his bare feet, she bends to pull her socks off, letting them drop without a sound onto the floor. Though the sound of the music is hardly audible in here, she still feels it under her.
Gently, she lowers herself to the side of the bed and reaches out to wake him, but that is unnecessary. As soon as the mattress dips under her weight, Mulder startles and sits up. She reaches out to stop him from crashing into her and he grabs her wrist in a vice-grip. Her shoes drop with a thunk to the floor.
“It’s just me,” she assures him. He drops her arm and closes his eyes, releasing a shaky breath.
“It’s just me,” she says again. Now that he is awake, she is tongue tied. She can’t remember what she is here to say, much less how to phrase it. Clearing her throat, she glances back toward the bedroom door, wondering how best to get back out of the room without looking ridiculous.
Sitting up, he is only a few inches from her, and she can still See the faint tracks through the soot on his jawline. The sight of them seems to ignite her intellect once again, and she remembers what she came to say.
“I’m sorry.” It is perhaps unfair of her not to look at him, but she focuses on the glass of water on his bedside table, gathering her courage and her words carefully.
“I didn’t realize that…I just…I gave my coat to the woman in the house.” She stumbles over an explanation, feeling his gaze on her face. Still, he says nothing, and she fills the void with more words.
“I’m sorry if you thought it was me, Mulder.” Saying his name calms her down, and she looks up at him in the half-light from the window. Opening his mouth, he prepares to answer her, but all that comes out is a gravelly note. He coughs and shakes his head before taking a long gulp from the water on the table. She watches the muscles in his throat and forces her own swallow.
What was she thinking? She can’t do it. She isn’t capable of whatever it is going to take to get them past this impassable speed bump in their relationship, and it’s obvious that he is not making another move until she does.
Mulder puts the glass back on the table and looks at her. Into her. Have some mercy on me here, she thinks. He is silent, but one corner of his mouth twists up a notch and she shakes her head slightly and looks down at the floor, wondering if he knows exactly what is wrong.
His lost voice seems to be the only vestige of his earlier dark mood. The grievous aftermath of her supposed death is not a new experience for either of them, and she wonders if he is getting used to it. Certainly she is becoming accustomed to dealing with him in that situation. She has years of experience stored up.
After Linda Bowman pushed him to witness her suicide, she’d taken him back to her apartment and put him to bed on her couch. She discovered, that night, that distress and emotional upheaval caused very obvious physical changes in him.
Mulder is not the same man he was then, she realizes. He is not as easily broken. The old Mulder would have pushed the envelope, she thinks, but this one, he seems perfectly content to wait for her to take her turn, put her emotions on the line. Not that his patience is easy – it doesn’t feel easy. Every move she makes is scrutinized, and even when he is halfway across town she feels his attention on her like a peeping Tom.
He moves, sliding off the bed past her and standing up in the light. Startled, she begins to rise too, but he stops her with a hand on her shoulder. His thumb breaches the border of her shirt, and the tip of it rests for a moment over the nervous pulse in her neck. She feels the pressure of his hand even after he leaves the room, and stares at her bare feet until she hears him returning.
He must realize she is watching his approach from the corner of her eye, because he hands her the bowl of tangerines she peeled earlier and crawls onto the bed again. He settles in the same place as before, several inches too close to her for easy breathing. Wordlessly, he hands her a piece of fruit and she turns it over in her hand a few times. Objects standing still tend to remain still, she thinks. There is no way to put this plan into motion. Maybe if he were in need of comfort, but not now. He’s fine.
“I’m going to go,” she says, standing up and dropping the tangerine back into the bowl. Mulder stares at her, wide-eyed. She avoids his gaze.
“I just wanted to tell you I was sorry. I’ll see you Monday.”
She is out of the room and nearly to the door when she realizes she forgot her shoes and socks. Despair boils up in her chest and she stalks back toward the bedroom, stopping short when she sees him. He is sitting on the end of the bed, leaning his elbows wearily on his knees. He doesn’t look up as she returns.
It is the line in his shoulders that pushes her.
Stooped over, his head drooping down as he studies the floor, she suddenly sees the disappointment. It is etched in the muscles of his neck and in the hopeless posture. She curses her cowardice.
A body in motion, she thinks. She walks toward him until she is sure he can see her bare feet. Gently, she drops to the ground in front of him, kneeling in between his legs. Surprised, he raises his head and meets her eye.
“I forgot something,” she whispers. Her heart, still rushing in her ears, sets up a beat in time to the music she feels from downstairs. She moves with it, slow, deliberate, adagio movements, first her arms around his waist, then a long lean in toward the bow of his mouth, which she plays with her own lips. He is stunned, silent at her unexpected intro. She expects, at the least, the sound of a chorus of angels, but is satisfied with the pure, perfect pitch that reverberates through her.
She pulls away from his mouth and rests her forehead on his shoulder, surprised at her own trembling. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, she thinks. Prays. She whispers into his collarbone. She can almost see the words travel up his skin and into his ear.
“Is it your turn now, Mulder?”
His shiver at the sound of her voice is gratifying. Her nerves, she notes, have calmed, though that might be because the lust she is feeling is crowding her so much she simply doesn’t have room for fear. Still, he hasn’t spoken, and he hasn’t moved, two very good reasons for her to either stop now and run away, or take her chances and continue. The goosebumps under her hands convince her to advance.
Scraping her nails lightly around his ribs, she centers them in the middle of his chest and pushes herself back to look at him. Desire-drugged eyes meet hers, and there is something else, something around the rims that resembles the look she sees in her own mirror. Here we are, she thinks, two people so afraid to hope in each other we’re burning up inside. The voice in his eyes is so clear that tears well up in her throat, and she returns her head to his shoulder. For endless seconds she doesn’t move, and then, curiously, she opens her mouth to suck lightly on the V of his collarbone. She has wanted to do that for years. He tastes like salt and cinders.
Barely has that thought registered when she finds herself being dragged up in his arms. The world moves around her and she is under him now, feeling the mattress beneath her and his mouth latched on to her neck as if to make up for lost time.
“Thank God,” she whispers to the ceiling. He might have laughed, but she can’t be sure, because his hands are moving under her shirt and stroking along her sides and she fears her judgement might be a little clouded. It’s probably the smoke, she decides. His lips scald the tender skin he uncovers as he unfastens what is left of her buttons.
“Scully,” he finally manages to rasp, nuzzling his face against hers. The rough stubble along his jaw sends sparks racing down her bones and into her toes, which she wriggles against the sheets in ecstasy.
“Hmmmmm,” is all she is capable of. This time, she is certain of the chuckle, and he pulls his welcome weight off of her and traces a finger from her lower lip to the center of her breasts. She manages another breathless, “mmmm” before he closes the open sides of her blouse and uses them to tug her to an upright position.
He is laying on his side, his head propped up on his hand when she sits up beside him. She turns to give him a look.
“Yes?” she asks dryly, trying to keep herself from lunging at him. The look in his eyes is enough to singe the clothes right off her. The man could single-handedly burn dross off solid gold with that gaze. She feels her bones melting right into the bed and she would be glad to continue, if only he would start touching her again.
She is nervously wondering if he is perhaps too calm, too in control for his own good, when she notices that the hairs on his arms are standing straight at attention, and now that she has some perspective, that isn’t the only thing raised in salute. The sleeves of her shirt are so tight, Mulder has to raise himself up and peels it down her arms before going for her bra strap. She stops breathing when he gently pushes her back down on the pillows. With her head raised, she watches him taste his way down from her neck, but she slams her eyes shut the instant his mouth closes over her breast. Tiny sparks shoot behind her eyes and she threads her hands through his hair. She’s not sure how many times she’s dreamed of this – too many to count – but all dreams pale in comparison to the feel of his tongue moving over her.
His hands are fumbling with the zipper of her pants when her wanton feeling disappears, replaced with an awed desire that burns right through the center of her body. She tugs Mulder back up to her mouth, hoping to tell him what she is feeling by braille.
Slowly, he lifts himself off her and off the bed. She watches as he sheds the rest of his clothes, and then pulls her up alongside him. She presses herself against him for one long second, before letting him slide her slacks and panties down her legs and onto the floor.
Lying down on his bed, she holds out her hand to him. He lingers for a moment, taking in the sight of her, laid out like a burnt offering to some pagan fire god. She watches him watching her. The light falls behind him, outlining him in gold. If I am the sacrifice for this, she thinks as he moves toward her, I go to the fire gladly.
He covers her body with his, supporting his weight on his arms. There are a thousand and one things she wants to tell him as he begins kissing her, things she has wanted to say for years. But they will have to keep, since all spoken language has left her. All she feels now is a primitive language – a primal heat that seethes in her belly like the sun in the center of the universe.
The feel of his hipbones against hers is staggering. They both stop moving and break their lip contact when it happens, staring at one another, breathing in each other’s breath. She is suddenly besotted with his bone structure. Sliding her hands over each sharp vertebra, she moves to trace his ribs. They expand under her palms as he takes deep, shuddering breaths. She presses her hands over them gently, feeling how hard they are, blessed protection for the heart that lies behind them – so soft, so easily bruised.
And then, slowly, carefully, he moves to enter her. She slides her hands down over the curve of his ass, pulling him as far inside her as she can. She is vibrating around him, she wouldn’t be surprised if they were levitating right off the bed. Scully curves one arm over her head and grips the headboard, moving her other down to feel where they become one another.
Mulder’s thrusting grows more urgent and he moans her name into her neck. From downstairs, she swears she can hear the music getting louder downstairs, though she can’t make out a tune. Curving her leg up over him she completes their perfect treble clef as he slides one arm under the small of her back, increasing his acute angle in a way that makes her toss her head back and forth on the pillow.
Drawn as tight as a bow, she feels stretched and ready to break. Her control shatters and she lets out a low keen as her muscles clench and release like sobs, wracking her body like a tide pounding on the shore. Above her, Mulder’s own control is slipping, she can feel it in the line of his back even with her eyes closed. She feels her breath begin to even out as his grows more fervent. He stretches above her and then, as she closes her mouth around the line of his jaw, he explodes inside her like a roman candle, streaking her world with bright stars.
After, he is careful not to crush her. She smiles into his neck as he maneuvers them onto their sides, facing one another. Her leg is still thrown over his hip, though it slides up to his waist when he burrows down so that his face is buried between her breasts. She rolls her eyes indulgently and threads her fingers through his hair, pulling him even closer as he brings the blanket up over them. From this angle, her scar smiles smugly at her.
Then, in the sanctuary silence of the room she remembers something.
“In the car, earlier. I see something and the color is green? What was that?”
She feels the curve of his mouth against her skin, but he doesn’t answer.
“Mulder,” she warns, tightening her arms around his head, and her leg around his waist, crushing him to her. He chuckles and nips at her breast sleepily.
“Clover,” he mutters.
She stops for a moment, thinking.
“There was no clover in that car, Mulder.” She has every intention of whacking him on the back, but instead her hand caresses his hair and shoulder. She is fast losing will-power, that much is certain.
“Just wanted to keep you guessing,” he mumbles.
Around the window blind, the night is beginning to lighten, gilding the corners of the room. Mulder’s eyelashes trail along her chest as he blinks drowsily. Bodies at rest, she thinks, watching his self-satisfied smile. Her lips curve in imitation as she watches him fall asleep.
In this way she waits for the coming of the morning.
~ END ~
This fic is the answer to three challenges: 1. A highly-deserved birthday fic for my friend Lizzie, who asked only that I resolve the UST. I once swore that I would never write smut, but frankly, I owe Lizzie – she’s my Bournville supplier. <g> 2. A challenge from Mec, who filled up our time crawling along a snowy US 64 in February by “suggesting” that I write a story involving a forest fire, a Scully nervous habit, and M&S making love to violin music. And… 3. An OBSSE homework assignment that asked us to explain why Scully has only two shirts, one of which doesn’t fit. I’m afraid I took some creative liberties with this part, and I have a feeling I’m so far off the mark that I won’t be getting any tic-tacs. Ah well, c’est la vie. (On a re-check of the story though, I discovered that I used the work ‘autumn’ twice. I wonder if that counts for anything? <vbg>)
If this story has any redeeming value whatsoever, the credit goes to Barbara D and Meredith, who patted me on the head, kicked me in the backside and cleaned up my boo-boos like good caretakers. Fierce hugs of gratitude to both of you ladies. And thanks also to Mecca, who cast the final vote on any beta disparities.
I’ll admit that I’m nervous about this one. In fact, the word ‘terrified’ might be more appropriate. Feedback gratefully received at
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