MetaRomance by Nascent

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MetaRomance by Nascent

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From: Nascent II <>

Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2011 10:46:49 -0400

Subject: Submission: MetaRomance

Source: direct

Title – MetaRomance

Author – Nascent

E-Mail address –

Rating – R (language, adult situations)

Category – SAR

Spoilers – Fight the Future

Keywords – Mulder/Scully romance

Summary – All the missing scenes, from s2 through Fight the Future. Canon-friendly reinterpretation.

1998 Spooky’s Winner: Outstanding Author (2nd).

x X x


by Nascent ()

x X x

DISCLAIMER: If I owned Mulder and Scully, I wouldn’t be writing fanfic, because I’d be rich, like Chris Carter and 1013. No infringement is intended, and no profits were or will be made.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The concepts presented here are not entirely original; many have been discussed before. But their development for me grew out of conversations with several others, most notably Autumn, Charlotte, Dahlak, Flywoman, Jordan, Marguerite, Morgan, Stoy, and the JCLS. That doesn’t necessarily mean these wonderful folk actually AGREE with the following perspective, but I thank them all deeply for their discussions and their support. Thanks especially to Autumn, Charlotte and Marguerite for beta feedback.


Aug., 1998

Halfway through the Barnyard and I promised myself once that I would never write something like this, but then, CC also promised he’d never do a story on time travel. I don’t know; maybe I should’ve changed the author name to ‘Nascent-Lite.’


MetaRomance 2.0. Flows better, the point is clearer, and there’s some added stuff.

x X x

McMurdo Station

She’s sleeping now, still and peaceful, as collected in repose as she is when firing a gun. Me—I can’t get comfortable; I’m fidgeting and casting her glances that are alternatively stern and pleading, wishing she would wake. I have to settle for making noises—‘accidental’ scrapes of chair legs on tile, coughing, washing my hands again. Like some kind of fucking OCD case, as if I didn’t have something better to do. Of course, I don’t.

Neither patience nor indifference has ever been my strong suit, yet I always seem to end up bidding Blackwood. Maybe that’s why I’m always a trick or two short of my contract; too bad my partner—as always—takes the fall with me.

This little venture may have been an exception, and I think I’m antsier than usual because of it. After all, Scully’s safe, assuming no long-term damage was done (don’t even think about that), and I’ve seen irrefutable evidence that I haven’t been completely crazy all these years. Fractionally crazy, yes. But not completely. I’ve now stood face-to-face with something sentient, something resembling no human or even humanoid fossil. Bundle uncountable thousands of those creatures up in a flying saucer that makes Manhattan look like a cardboard movie model, and bang!—you should have my wet dream, minus Will Smith, right?

Or so you’d think. But the fact is, I don’t really know what I saw in there, and although this adventure has jump-started my idling faith, I still don’t have any real answers.

It’s been twelve hours, and I really want Scully to wake up. I should be sleeping myself, but a short nap was all I could manage. Besides, I was out cold on the ice for hours. Plenty of rest.

I never thought I’d actually be hot again, but here I am, stripping off my sweater. Why do we always seem to end up in

such freezing places when we go out for weather extremities? Just once, couldn’t we go somewhere…tropical?

And no, Florida doesn’t count.

I cross the room and press my palm against Scully’s forehead, after convincing myself I’m just checking to see if she’s warm too. I can’t really tell, but I peel back one blanket anyway. She doesn’t stir, much to my disappointment.

She’s curled on her right side, her lips slightly parted, an IV taped to the back of her left hand. Her cheeks and lips are scored with frostbite, and her hair threatens to consume the noncombustible military-issue pillow in tangled flames.

I should be used to this by now: this waiting, the nameless and faceless parade of identical hospital rooms and the nurses who tend them. But it’s not the kind of thing you want to get accustomed to. So I pace, and the hours crawl by, marked by the constant dripping of the sink in the corner of the room. I think I could’ve filled a gallon jug by now.

She’s been asleep since the McMurdo team brought us in—just sleeping now, not unconscious. They gave her some morphine, but Tylenol 3 was all I was good for. They’re not a medical station-just basic scientists trying to parse the seismology of a newly-formed ice crater. Still, I convinced them to package up some blood and urine samples in a doggie bag to go, and to take samples

for trace evidence of alien goo before they bathed her. I have little hope the labs back home will find anything definitive—we know that dance too well—but Scully will want to try. We’ll both want her to.

Usually they’d have kicked me out of her room by now, but this isn’t exactly a normal hospital. Hell, it’s not even a hospital. It’s a little superheated steel shack with one nurse on duty, and some military G.P. who smiled and nodded like I was some raving lunatic when I explained where my partner had been. After about four tries, I gave up, told him to call the fucking U.S. Geological Services and see how they explained that quake. He kept smiling and nodding like a fucking clownhead-on-a-stick. Story of my life.

Like I said, they haven’t tried to kick me out, though whether it’s because they think I’m crazy or because they assume I’m Scully’s lover I’m not sure. I’m certainly not disabusing them of either notion.

After all, I’ve been nearly everything imaginable to Scully, at one time or another. Including her lover, if you’d believe that.

Oh, sure, I can see you nodding and smiling too, don’t think I can’t. Don’t lay bets on hands you can’t call; I may play a shitty hand of bridge but I’m killer at poker. And you know you want to believe.

* * *

It started three years ago, just a week or so after she shot me, when we ran out of the Strughold Mining Company and played Hansel and Gretel in the woods until the black ops called off their hounds. We thought we’d won when we found the highway, an exit close at hand. In retrospect, it’s amazing—maybe too amazing—that the getaway was so clean. And oh, what sugar-coated shelter lay before us, but you know what they say: out of the frying pan. No dolce de leche on the menu that night.

We scraped together forty dollars between the two of us—if there was anything we agreed on it was that we couldn’t use an ATM or credit cards. With that paltry cash, we rented a room in a run-down West Virginia motel where the clerk gave us a look like he just knew we weren’t married. With growing impatience, I watched his internal struggle over whether to lecture us on the evils of fornication or take our money. Finally, cowering before Scully’s triple-dog-dare stare, he handed us a key.

It was a dingy room that looked like it’d been furnished by half-a-dozen garage sales—purple and orange floral bedspread, dark red carpet, green curtains. The sink and toilet bowl were rimmed with rust stains reminiscent of dried blood, and the shower was a dreary plastic closet with barely enough room for a person and a bottle of shampoo.

Even back then, Scully and I were veritable connoisseurs of hourly-rate motels, but this topped the scale. I remember her expression exactly—her lips pursed together, the arched eyebrow, the way her eyes dragged across the room to rest briefly on the single bed.

“Well,” she said, “you get what you pay for.”

I brought in my bag—Scully’d had no time to pack—and dropped it on the floor next to the dresser. “I’m gonna shower,” I told her. I think it’d been at least three days.

“Thank God,” she muttered, and I shot her a grin, grateful that humor was still within our grasp. At least, I thought it was a joke—it’s always best to give Scully the benefit of the doubt, in my experience.

She left to scrounge up whatever dinner $8.63 would buy for two, and I shucked off my clothes, stuffing them into a dresser drawer. I had grown used to the equine odor of my skin and sweat, but after the much-anticipated act of bathing reset my olfactory nerves, there was no telling what I’d think of my shirt.

The shower was less like a shower than like being dribbled on by a panting dachshund, but it was fucking heaven nonetheless. I scrubbed at my limbs until I was red all over and the water started to run cold. Finally, raw and sore but clean, I stepped out and wrapped myself in a towel.

Scully wasn’t back yet, so with a grimace I tugged back on my grimy trousers, then, fearing the company of my mind alone for even another twenty minutes, I flipped on the television. The only channel with a passable ratio of picture to static was PBS. It was some nature documentary, or maybe it was a play; I don’t really remember.

I was starting to get edgy, trying not to imagine my partner bound and gagged in the trunk of some government fleet vehicle (isn’t it nice when your nightmares have real-life photos to go with them?), but at last Scully returned with food.

“There’s a diner up the road a bit,” she told me, brandishing the paper bag across the bed. “Might be a good place to meet up with Skinner.”

I took the bag, rummaged through its contents. A ham sandwich and a turkey one, both wrapped in Saran wrap and probably made two days ago. A bag of potato chips and a half-gallon of fruit punch. “Did you call him?” I asked her, seizing the ham.

She gave me a funny look. “Of course not. I wanted to ask you first. Are you sure we can trust him?”

I shrugged; at the time I wasn’t that sure at all. “I don’t think we have a choice,” I told her, as she poured the punch into the mottled courtesy glasses on the dresser. “He’s our safest link to them.”

She nodded. “That’s what I figured. Okay. I’ll call him and set it up.”

“Don’t use your cell,” I warned, and she shot me her ‘I’m-not-an-idiot’ glare.

While she made the call, I wolfed down half my sandwich and a few handfuls of potato chips. I felt like a schoolboy in the cafeteria, and for a moment could pretend the acid reflux in my belly was just my autonomic nervous system watching out for bullies.

Maybe it was.

These men—these men who chain us like dogs and then let the leash run so long we forget it’s there, only to snap it back when we’re least expecting, leaving our throats bruised and our voices raw—these men are schoolyard bullies disguised in suits. They enjoy their power over me as much as and in the same way as they enjoy their power over the world, though for the latter they can assign pretty motives of human salvation. They can call it the lesser evil, and sometimes I think they even used to get brownie points in Scully’s book for that—she’s driven by awareness of right and wrong, good and evil. I don’t pretend to know the difference—though I’ll trust her judgment when it comes down to it. If she asks me to, anyway. Perhaps this is what’s always divided us: she’s all about the ideals but I only want the facts—the truth. Who’s the believer; who’s the skeptic?

On the phone with Skinner, Scully handled the arrangements with her usual no-nonsense crispness, the facade so complete even I couldn’t’ve guessed she’d just found a file with her name on it buried in a mining shaft, then been chased through tunnels and forest by faceless men in black. She can do that. She’s never doubted what side she’s on, and it gives her moral authority when others would succumb to the role of victim. I don’t know how she does it, but I love her for it.

“He’s meeting us at ten o’clock,” she told me after hanging up. I held out a sandwich for her.

We ate in silence, looking at the television without really watching it. She consumed her sandwich in neat, tiny bites, ate each potato chip one at a time. Years together have taught me that Scully is nothing if not precise.

So when she tipped her head back and downed the whole glass of punch in a single swallow, then surged off the bed and shut off the television with a violent collision of her hand against the old-fashioned push knob, I started to get nervous.

Without apology, she sat down in the room’s single chair, facing away from me. She perched her chin on tented hands and the ensuing silence sucked the air from the room.

I swallowed, knowing I was supposed to do or say something, but I’d lost the script. So I confined my actions to cleaning up the remains of our meal, moving like a mouse. I hoped it would buy me some time and I wouldn’t have to start the conversation.

It worked, but not in the way I might’ve liked. “Mulder,” she said as I was dusting potato chip crumbs off my hands over the trashcan. There was the slightest quiver in the way she said my name, and that scared the hell out of me.

“Yeah?” I asked, a little more warily than I meant. She didn’t seem to notice.

“What are we going to do?”

I froze. This was not what I needed from her right now. In all our years together, I don’t think she’s ever said that to me except that one night. Maybe she has, but only with biting sarcasm, and that she actually meant it that night jarred

something inside of me, shuffling my internal organs around and leaving them out of place. I didn’t know what else to say, so I settled on: “Get some sleep, I imagine.”

“My sister’s dying, Mulder. I don’t need your flippancy tonight.”

Well, hell. For once, neither of us was what the other needed. That should’ve clued me in to what a bad idea the rest of the evening was; I should have apologized, patted her shoulder and curled up on the floor to sleep. But as Scully’s told me at least once before: profiler though I am, standing too close is apt to blind me.

“I don’t know, Scully,” I sighed, crossing the room to her chair. “What we saw tonight….we’re so close…. Everything I feared is being confirmed.”

I’ll never forget her next words; in a way they still hurt more than anything she has ever said to me. “Everything you feared, or everything you hoped?”

It took me a minute to parse what she meant, and when I did all rationalizations went out the window. I wanted to snarl, Fuck you. I wanted to slam my fist against something and maybe it wouldn’t be just the wall. I wanted to grab her face in my hands so she couldn’t look anywhere but into my eyes and make her understand that I did not want this, that I was not some exercise for her psychological reductionism, that wanting to believe was not the same as wanting to wallow. To wallow in my pain, Samantha’s pain, or Scully’s pain.

With tremendous effort, I dug my nails into my palms and answered her in a voice barely above a whisper. “You don’t think it was about aliens.”

Incredulity and disappointment leaked into my voice, and I realized that, without meaning to, I’d turned the tables, put her on the defensive. I wasn’t even sorry.

But then she sighed—a long, sad sigh that bore the weight of a loss only I could understand. She twisted around to look at me, and when her naked vulnerability, soft and pliable in her usually titanium-etched features, extinguished my anger.

“I don’t know what I think right now,” she answered. “My world has been turned upside down, Mulder. The only thing I know for certain is that my sister is lying in a hospital because of this. She could be dead, for all I know. And it was supposed to be me.”

Melissa Scully. Soon to be the next victim claimed by my quest.

“I’m so sorry, Scully.” My throat itched now, husking my voice. I reached out to clasp her shoulder, and she covered my hand with hers. Her fingers were cold. Alarmingly cold.

“I know, Mulder,” she said, locking my gaze. She let that sink in, then continued. “But again…what are we going to do? Have you thought about it at all?”

I gave a one-shouldered shrug; that she should even ask still unbalanced me. “Well,” I said, trying to keep any hint of ‘flippancy’ out of my voice, “I guess we keep going. When we tell Skinner what’s on that tape, I think he’ll help us from the inside. We’re so close….we can find out who’s behind this and expose them.”

Scully pulled away from me in slow-motion and stood to face me fully. Though she’d barely moved, it was as if she was suddenly standing a thousand miles away. “Mulder, we have nothing,” she said, biting off the words. I knew then that, in her eyes, I’d finally crossed the line between passion and stubbornness. “They’re trying to kill us, and it won’t take them long to succeed. We’re fugitives. We have no access, no jobs, no money, no—no rights, nothing.” The last word had teeth all its own.

“We have each other.”

The words were hanging between us before I could stop them, quiet but oh-so-loud in the ensuing silence.

I watched her eyes go slightly wider, saw her jaw clench.

“It’s not enough,” she said tightly, pleading with her eyes for me to understand. “It’s just not enough.”

Ah, Scully. So easy to forget that you were more than I ever expected to have, and while you never quite expected me either, it’s just not the same kind of expectation.

My legs couldn’t hold the rest of me anymore, so I sank down into the chair she had vacated and ran a hand through my hair. Despair sprouts easily, like weeds in my brain, and I so often forget that the flowers must be carefully cultivated.

I felt rather than heard her as she sighed. She stepped around behind me to rest her hands on mbar shoulders, kneading gently, her thumbs drawing hard circles against the base of my neck. I wanted to shrug off her pity, her attempt to apologize for these needs of hers which I couldn’t fulfill, but—and perhaps she knew this—her touch was too addictive, too comforting.

So I leaned my head back against her belly, closing my eyes to divert the tears that threatened at her unmerited kindness. One escaped anyway, and I prayed she wouldn’t see, but of course she did, and she leaned down (impulsively, I think) to kiss it.

Dana Scully’s kisses can soothe like the sound of a cool, trickling fountain or burn like a hot, crackling bonfire, but I didn’t know that then, so I didn’t know how to make the distinction. It was the first time she’d ever kissed me, the first time that either of us had crossed that subtle boundary.

Not the boundary between tenderness and passion, mind you. It could have stopped there, a kiss between the dear friends we were and are. I could feel her all around me—her hands on my shoulders, her belly and breasts pressed against my head, and her lips on my skin. Her hair was tickling my neck and splitting atoms in my spine, and I could see the edge we were standing on, the long, blind fall for which we were poised. Even though we stood still this side of it.

I reached up unthinking to cup one cheek in my palm, pressing her face firmly against my own. She leaned into this bizarre caress with her head, and I don’t know how it happened or whose fault it really was, but moments later her lips and mine were inexplicably enmeshed.

Later, I’d ask her (half-teasing) who started it, and she’d shrug and snap, “Must be an X-File.” But at that moment I think that the kiss was all either of us knew existed in the world. It was neither comforting nor caring; but fiery, intense, and it threatened to engulf me. Or anchor me. But sometimes I’m not sure I’d know the difference.

I didn’t really care then, and she didn’t seem to either. We were twisting in each other’s arms, trying to gain better access. I stood, turning on a fluid axis, trying hard not to break this contact, my hands framing her face. Her lips were so soft, her mouth so warm, her breasts, straining against my chest, more corporeal than anything I had ever believed in.

I had to stoop to reach her, and it took only a second for me to lose patience with this, which was fine because she was already pulling me back onto the bed and so I steadied her with my hands and arms. I stretched out above her, kissing her until it felt like I was moving from the inside out instead of the other way around.

I could feel her breathing, and it was possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. Which, as Scully would not hesitate to remind me, is saying a fucking lot.

When she broke away from my mouth, I almost groaned in protest, but then her lips firmly assaulted the base of my throat. I arched my head back and felt my unfathomable craving adjust to accommodate this new touch. Almost instantly rock hard against her thigh, I actually did moan a little, moving my hands down to the swell of her breasts, gingerly stroking, squeezing, half-afraid she’d slap me and half-afraid she wouldn’t. She didn’t.

Was this really happening? Of course, I’d have to have been blind to have never idly imagined this, but contrary to popular expectations, I’d never exactly fantasized about it. It’s so difficult to explain what Scully is to me—a partner and friend, certainly—but she has played, at different times, so many other roles in my life (some fair, others not), that it would be impossible for me to actually fantasize about her. To cast her in a seductive, fleshly role…I could hold her in my mind like that for about three seconds before some other face of Scully complicated the vision: Scully as friend, partner, sister, mother, advocate or, on rare occasion, impediment.

But the solid reality of her body beneath mine here and now was more intoxicating than it could ever have been had I dreamt of it and longed for it all my life.

Her hands joined mine, dancing with my fumbling fingers to help unbutton her blouse. I slid my hand inside her shirt and cupped her breast, sliding my thumb firmly over her erect nipple. Scully gasped. Scully gasped.

I kissed the hollow of the throat, moved lower to the smooth skin between her breasts, teasing and tasting. Her fingers dug furrows in my scalp, and her hips moved against mine as she arched her back like an unabashed feline. I brought my hands together to unfasten the clasp of her bra, but before I undid it, I knew, I remembered. I looked up at her, needing some kind of permission, needing to know she wasn’t just playing along. Needing…

She looked down her chin at me, her cheeks flushed, her hair matted above her head where she’d slid down the mattress. I had never seen anything or anyone so beautiful. She smiled—faintly, tenderly—as if to reassure me, and I think I breathed her name in almost-prayer, as if she’d blessed me.

We didn’t stop to talk about it. We both knew that if we did we might have to stop altogether, and neither of us wanted that. Who knows, though, there was a chance we would have reasonably decided this was a wholly proper activity—after all, people without professions can hardly have the need for a professional relationship.

Our lovemaking was like a fugue—point and counterpoint, each of us playing a different melody which, when joined together, sang perfect, complex harmony. Our languorous exploration of one another’s bodies became not-so-langourous, and then the tempo slowed and we recapitulated by unspoken agreement; we both wanted to start all over. I almost asked her to put her clothes back on so I could undress her again.

When at last she whispered that she wanted me inside her, I thought I might die. Sexist boys at the Academy may have nicknamed her “Ice Queen” (yes, I knew that) but my dear, rigid Scully was anything but ice, and to this day I am secretly, brutally proud that I know what they don’t.

Hot and firmly clenched around me, her legs wrapped around my waist, I pounded into her. She did not scream, but she did say my name when she came, and that alone was enough to make me lose myself inside her, shuddering and groaning into the curve of her neck like a teenaged boy. In that moment, Dana Scully was my universe, and I thought I might never find my way out of her.

Not that I particularly wanted to.

Afterwards, we didn’t speak, just clung together as if we each feared falling. After an eternity measured in synchronized breaths, I rolled onto my side, and she turned away from me, pressing her back and hips against me. I wrapped myself around her, burying my face in her hair, and we made silent vows that we would escape the nameless, faceless Them.

“We’re gonna get through this,” she whispered fiercely, no longer asking me what we were going to do. I don’t think I have ever loved anyone more than I loved Scully in that moment. (Even Scully.)

But when she whispered, “I love you,” I couldn’t bring myself to answer her, not with her prior words—“It’s not enough”—still echoing off the walls. If I had answered her, if I had made the requisite reply, we would have been speaking entirely different languages. What she meant and what I meant were worlds apart.

So I did the cowardly thing; I feigned sleep. She never called me on it, but I’d bet my entire video collection and my goldfish that she knew. Maybe that’s why we’ve never said those words since.

We didn’t discuss it in the morning—just dressed and went to meet Skinner. I understand why she insisted on dealing with the DAT tape, returning to the fold like good little sheep—and in retrospect she was absolutely right. But at the time, the anger balled up inside me like a fiery fist, and again I heard her say, “It’s not enough.”

But then Melissa was dead, and the tape was gone anyway, and suddenly it hardly mattered anymore.

She invited me to the funeral, but I didn’t go. I sat on my couch while she sat in a pew, unified in posture if nothing else. I was afraid to go, afraid that my own pain and guilt would bring only additional burdens to bear. Ironically, it was Melissa herself who convinced me to join the funeral party at the cemetery. The dead woman’s words were still bouncing off these walls: “She needs you.”

I didn’t think she did. After all, I was not enough. She still had not shed a single tear in front of me, though I knew she had wept. I was not what she needed.

But I went nonetheless, and something in my face must have convinced the small crowd at the graveside that I was more important than I really was, because they—ex-hippies and old ladies and ex-boyfriends—parted like the Red Sea, moving me forward before I’d realized I’d taken a step. I found myself two feet behind the only two living female Scullys.

I don’t know how she knew I was there—if I made some sound or if she only heard the cadence of my breath, but she reached her hand back without looking. I swallowed and took it, wrapping her cool, small palm in my own, and she pulled me toward her.

“….thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

I closed the distance between us in a single step. She leaned back against me but never turned her head, and that’s how I knew she was crying. I put my arms around her waist.

“…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

I could feel her breathing in sync with all those around me, those who knew the words and the ritual, but she wasn’t speaking.

Only when it was over did she look at me, and now her eyes were red but dry. She wet her lips as if to speak, but then her

mother began softly sobbing beside us. Scully bowed her head against my chest for a moment, then she slipped out of my grasp and turned to comfort her mother. I went back to the car and waited, but she never came to find me. She got in the car with her mom and they drove off.

Four days was all the mourning my partner permitted herself, and I didn’t see her all that time. She didn’t return my first call, so I didn’t call again. Then it was back to the basement, efficient, solid and hardened. Like us.

We said not a word about that night in West Virginia. I worried a little that we hadn’t used a condom, but she never said anything, so I assumed everything was fine. Of course, everything was not fine, but neither she nor I knew that, not then.

* * *

We didn’t talk about that night for months. We left it buried in that mineshaft, as if, like the torture inflicted on all the bearers of the names on those files, it had happened to other people. In a way, I began to think maybe it had.

That year, our third one together—it was the hardest time in our partnership, the end of the honeymoon, so to speak. Every

innuendo invoked a possible hidden meaning; every time I came into her hotel room to find a file or borrow her computer, I could see the question in her eyes as she drew cautiously away. The tension spilled over into our investigations, and suddenly we were trapped in an escalating positive feedback loop, like when you keep winning extra marbles on the pinball machine and feel obligated to play even though you want to go home.

I honestly don’t know why we never sucked it up and talked about it, but then, we never really talk about anything, even today, so I’m not surprised. I think that at first there was the grief and the shock, and by the time we both moved past that (as much as one ever can), so much time had passed that it wasn’t like I could just lean over and kiss her one day. Besides, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to, and she sure as hell didn’t seem interested either. Mutual admiration had soured to mutual exasperation of the worst kind—the kind necessity won’t let you escape.

By the time Lucy Householder rolled around, the question of our relationship was moot: I’d’ve sooner slept with Walter Skinner. There, Scully’s stubborn refusal to hear me, her insistence that our victim was our suspect…well. Let’s just say that it’s funny how you can live your life knowing you’d willingly die for a person, never doubting her loyalty to you, and yet still have to restrain yourself from strangling her nearly every waking moment.

But at least the feeling was mutual.

Kevin Kryder, Comity, Bambi Berenbaum—these were all just drops in the bucket and nothing was water under the bridge. When our belief systems went head to head over the sensitive territory of Scully’s abduction, we retreated even further from each other, if that were possible. It would take a whole year and visit to poor Penny Northern for me to realize exactly what opportunities we may have missed by not listening to each other when Scully came back from Allentown and I ran off to chase a train.

Robert Modell and his cruel game of Russian roulette might have been more of a blessing than I ever gave him credit for: he finally induced us to talk.

The night I’d almost killed her, she drove me home and insisted on coming inside. She fidgeted uselessly on the computer and then in the kitchen, avoiding me for almost half an hour but clearly loathe to leave, and I have to admit, I didn’t want her to go. Finally she brought me a glass of hot tea with honey, and we sat side by side on my couch and didn’t speak.

“I know you wouldn’t have killed me, Mulder,” she said after a long time.

I closed my eyes. “I don’t,” I whispered, and she scooted closer to me, put her small hand on my knee.

“Hey,” she said softly, quirking her lip, “just because you’ve wanted to once or twice doesn’t mean you’d ever do it.”

“That’s not funny,” I told her, and meant it, but I seized her hand before she could withdraw it, squeezing it tight.

“No,” she agreed, maybe sadly.

I closed my eyes, picturing her face again as she watched me over the barrel of a gun. I heard Modell’s words in my head again: “Mulder, yes,” then Scully’s insistence that I was stronger. I wasn’t sure then, and I’m not sure now. She was willing to believe in me, and I wanted more than anything to be worthy of that faith, but the truth is if she hadn’t pulled that alarm, she’d probably be dead now. And so, Q.E.D., would I.

I considered telling her all this (though she surely must know it), but of course I did not. I need Scully’s pity like I need a hole in the head. And as Scully would be quick to remind me, I’ve already had the latter.

“You don’t have to stay, Scully,” I said finally. “I’ll be okay.”

Now I really did want her to leave, so I could make myself a scotch instead of this goddamn tea, so I could sprawl across my couch and drown out the VCR in my brain with the one that requires an AC outlet.

But Scully had made up her mind. We were going to Talk.

Normal women would’ve started off the conversation with a sigh and a rhetorical question, like, ‘why do we do this to each other?’ or ‘why do we close ourselves off like this?’ or, God forbid, ‘you know I love you, don’t you?’

So when Scully said, “Do you regret it?” and we both knew exactly what she meant, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to laugh or cry.

I wanted to say ‘no,’ but after the six months we’d just been through, how could I?

“Of course I do,” I said, and winced when she did. “No,” I added quickly, “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that it’s affected our relationship in ways that I don’t like.”

“I know,” she agreed. “It made sense at the time, but in retrospect, it was a bad idea.”

“At the time,” I said, wanting to be clear, “it was a very good idea.”

I heard her low chuckle, and I rubbed the back of her hand with my thumb.

After a pause, I said, “Why haven’t you asked me this before tonight?”

She shrugged. “Why didn’t you ask me?”

I considered that for a long time, not really sure of the answer. I think I told her the truth. “Well….there was Melissa, and then when you never said anything I assumed it had been just a moment of adrenaline, something you were ashamed of.” Hell, she’s ashamed to cry in front of me, why wouldn’t I think she was ashamed to come in front of me?

She leaned back into the couch, and I could feel her studying my profile. “Mulder, nothing with you is ever ‘just’ anything,” she said solemnly. “And I’m not ashamed….”

She trailed off as if there was more, but she didn’t continue. Back to me.

Licking my lips, I asked, “Does that mean that you wanted it to continue?”

Scully considered. “I don’t think it would work,” she said slowly, and I silently noted that she had dodged the question. “I…we spend so much time together, have so much of our lives invested in what we do…I just think I need some kind of space.”

I nodded slowly; I already knew that. I am not unaware of my proclivity to consume.

“I know it sounds cliche, but there’s a wisdom to it,” she continued. She was looking at her hands, her hair hiding her face. I had to strain to hear her. “I don’t want to risk what we have—or what we have had.”

“Hell,” I said huskily, turning toward the window, unable to stop the words. “Guess I already risked that enough by waving a gun in your face, huh?”

“Mulder.” She said my name firmly, then released my hand to bring hers up to the back of my neck, combing my hair gently with her fingertips. I wanted to yell at her, to swat her away, to reject this, but instead (and somewhat to my horror), I found myself leaning into her, bending my head down toward her shoulder as her arms slid easily around me. I squeezed my eyes shut against the tears, but she probably recognized the hitch in my breathing. This was oh-so-apropo—she’s talking about needing space and I’m falling into her arms and hating both of us every minute.

As I said before, Dana Scully’s love and mine are two completely different planets. Galaxies.

It wasn’t easy to regain control with her hands in my hair and on my back—kindnesses of that sort paradoxically bring me closer to tears—but I did manage at last to regain my dignity and pull away from her. “Go on home, Scully,” I told her. “It’s late.”

She shook her head, her hand still on my arm. “I’d rather stay here,” she said, “if you don’t mind.”

My confusion must’ve registered on my face because she added quickly, “Not like that.”

So I cleared off the bed for her and thus began a long-standing tradition. I can’t remember how many times Scully has spent the night at my place—usually in the other room, but once or twice on the couch with me. She’s done it when I’m recovering from the latest hospital stay, or after I’ve done something stupid like getting holes drilled in my head. She did it the night they shot Diana. I think she does it partly just to remind me she’s not going anywhere, even after I’ve done something colossally stupid like let John Roche escape. I know that, partly, it’s just to keep an eye on me, which annoys me, but I can admit she has good reason. I’d like to tell myself it’s partly for her own comfort as well, but I can’t really believe that. Not after the cancer, not after Emily.

Since it was the first time, though, that night there were no patterns to follow, and so when I crept into my long-unused bed beside her in the middle of the night (both my judgment and my sense of dignity are consistently weakened around three in the morning), she was wary but she let me hold her. I wound my fingers in her hair, splayed my hand across her belly, staking my claim. She stiffened, but she covered my hand with her own.

“Mulder?” Scully whispered, and I understood the question.

“Don’t worry,” I whispered back, my breath causing her hair to float around my face and tickle my chin. “I’m not trying anything. You could kick my ass, anyway.”

She snorted softly. “Don’t forget it.”

I knew I had to give some sort of explanation. After a moment, I settled for: “I fucked up today, Scully.” I think we both knew that was the end of the matter.

At least twenty minutes passed, and from her breathing I thought she’d gone back to sleep, but I should’ve known better. Never assume anything about Scully.

“What about you, Mulder?” she said. “Did you want it to continue?”

Unthinkingly I pressed my lips to her temple, then drew away. “I’ve thought about that,” I said. “But, you know, I can think of a lot of good reasons not to do it, and I can’t think of a single good reason to do it.”

I was thankful that she didn’t make me elaborate on the reasons not to change: then I might’ve had to finally confess my aborted attempt to manage a working and sexual relationship with Diana, not to mention my dysfunctional tendency to look for a sister or a whore in every woman and a father or a Claudius of Denmark in every man (yes, I have a degree in psychology, thank you very much).

Instead, she just said, “I think that’s a valid way to look at it,” and I wasn’t sure I liked that reply much better. But then she stretched up to kiss me, and, as I told you before, Dana Scully’s kisses either burn or soothe, and this one did not burn. I slept very well that night.

Things were good for a long time after that—well, things are never good, but between us, at least, we worked more smoothly and were more glad of each other’s presence than ever before. Eventually, we were even able to joke about that long-ago night several times (okay, twice). Anyway, I joked about it. That’s when I teased her, asking who started it, and she snapped, “Must

be an X-File.” And then there was the other time, after Eddie van Blundht-with-an-‘h.’

“I thought we had an agreement,” I’d said lightly to her, when we were finally alone.

She’d narrowed her eyes at me. “I thought you’d started it,” she pointed out, a sharp edge to her voice.

Okay, so maybe we weren’t exactly joking.

I repeat, though: after Modell I thought things were right between us. Sure, suddenly it was her turn to pull a gun on me again, but it only happened (perversely) because of how much she trusted me, right?

Then my mother was in the hospital and I discovered the bee colony—I don’t think I could have digested those revelations without Scully and come out still acceptably sane. I thought she’d started to believe me when we encountered Melissa Riedel-Ephesian; at least, I’ll never forget how tenderly she told me she “wouldn’t change a day.” When I returned from Tunguska, the sight of her in that Congressional hall was all the homecoming I could have ever imagined, and I knew without question then that we were in this together to the end. So, lovers or not, what difference did it make? Really?

John Lee Roche—if anything could have ended our partnership, that would have been it. There is no justification for my actions, but Scully knew the excuse, the reason. She understood that I had to know. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for the mistakes I made that horrible weekend, but Scully’s tacit forgiveness was all the redemption I needed.

What I’m saying is, I thought all was well between us.

But then she ended up in the hospital with a fucking tattoo. When I went to pick her up, and asked snidely if I could see it or was it too low for decency? she actually told me to “fuck off.” Dana Scully told me to fuck off. I didn’t know what the hell was going on; I felt like my dependable, cherished partner had been replaced by some ill-judging adolescent in permanent need of Midol. She never even told me what happened, though I read the police report and I don’t think she lied. I can fill in the blanks.

Well, fair enough. It’s not as if I’ve exactly been ‘faithful’ to our sexless relationship either. Honestly, Scully, if you wanted to prove you could leave me, couldn’t you have at least found a way to do it without stupidly risking your life?

Of course, I know what she’d say to that: “Not everything is about you, Mulder.”

Doesn’t she get it? Everything about her is by default also about me—we surrendered that independence ages ago. I think she knows that, though it grates her to admit it.

What a lovely sentiment that is. Maybe this is what she means when she says she needs ‘space.’

But I can forgive too, and cancer really does a number on your priorities.

Scully says that my quest is a personal crusade, that my obsession is no different from a white whale. She is familiar

with the struggle to bring meaning to the events of our lives, and I think that, despite her support, she harbors a suspicion that it’s self-aggrandizing to label my quest “truth” when it’s really about my sister. I don’t know, maybe she’s right. Her science tells her that terrible things can happen for no reason at all, and though she may secretly believe that about my life, she has trouble reconciling it with her own.

Maybe that’s why Scully rediscovered religion. Me, I can’t stomach anything as easy as that.

I know, if I said that to her, she’d cock one eyebrow and say, “No, you go in for the little grey men and global conspiracies. Much harder.”

Or anyway, she would’ve said that a few years ago. Back when she told me, oh-so-wisely, “I’ve heard the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers.”

Well, we got answers, didn’t we, Scully? Kritschgau was full of them. They gave you your cancer to make me believe. How about that, huh? Your life, the price of my arrogant foolishness.

I appreciated that she told me, that she didn’t pull that punch. I was surprised that she didn’t follow me home that night, crash in my bed as is her wont. But I can understand that she was preoccupied.

Yet another reason to think she never spent those nights with me for her own comfort—the only time she did that in all the months she fought that disease, was after David Cassandra and the ketamine. And never once during that demon-chase did she suggest that maybe, just maybe, there were more urgent concerns at the moment than Samantha.

Sometimes I resent her martyrdom, until I realize that it’s not a ploy; it’s genuine.

I knew how important her strength was to her. So much more now than three years earlier, when Donnie Pfaster tore through her facade—these days it’d take something much stronger. But I didn’t fully get it then. I didn’t know she wouldn’t forgive either of us if she broke.

I suspected that she was using her strength, trying to protect me from her disease, that she’d embraced her role as my anchor so completely that she could never let me be hers, afraid that if she did we’d sink together.

But maybe I just missed the boat. Maybe I didn’t pick up on her cues, maybe she just knew I couldn’t give her the answers she wanted. I hope to God her silence wasn’t because she blamed me.

I certainly did enough of that for both of us. That night, after Kritschgau, I sat on my couch and seriously—you’ll never know how seriously—considered eating my gun.

You may not want to know this, Scully, but you saved me then too. That night the only thing that kept my finger off that trigger was the knowledge of what it would do to you.


Even without Scott Ostelhoff’s intervention, I wouldn’t have left this world that night, though I probably would’ve just waited for Scully to go and skipped along after (note: if you’ve ever resented having to follow me, Scully, that would not have been the way to demonstrate it).

But we hatched our plan and played our cards: I was dead for twenty-four hours and together we got what we needed. I found the cure and she found the proof. There could be no question now—the shadow men had known all along. I no longer needed little grey men to explain the disappearance of my sister, and somehow the alternative—that human beings could have wrought this—was much more terrifying. No wonder I’d wanted to believe all those years.

I went to tell her that I’d seen Samantha (or anyway, her latest incarnation), and Scully was asleep. The only other time in my life I’ve felt as lost was the night the doctors said would be her last, three-and-a-half years earlier. Here I was, needing her to direct me, to be my strength, to anchor me in this

hurricane of revelations, and the sudden reality that she was the dying one, that she barely had enough strength for herself much less me, stabbed into my gut like a seppukku blade.

Yet it is strangely comforting to know that, when I have to, I can still slug it out with the best of ‘em. Blevins unmasked and Skinner restored to good graces, I returned to the hospital to find my partner sitting upright in the company of her mother and dear brother Bill. When I entered, her face lit up like a beacon, and for that one second, all was right with my world.

Ma Scully quickly dragged Bill outside “for coffee,” and when Bill actually smiled at me I knew the news was good. I sat down on the bed beside her and she took my hand and said the word: “Remission,” and then there was nothing I could do but wrap my arms around her as far as they would go. My head dropped to her shoulder and she hugged me back, stroking my shoulders and my hair as I tried to remember how to breathe.

“Oh, Scully,” I whispered, maybe more than once.

She wouldn’t let go of me until I’d told her about the hearing, and finally she pulled back enough that I could see her face, smiling proudly. I thought about telling her about Samantha then, but I couldn’t bear to scare away this happiness, so instead I kissed her.

And I don’t mean just a peck on the cheek. I kissed her for all I was worth, and she allayed any fears I might’ve had by kissing back for all she was worth, which is a helluva lot more—and this kiss burned.

She tasted like a campfire on a cool September night: smoky and yellow-orange. All the antiseptic pale blue of the sterile hospital walls was gone, leaving only Dana Scully. We kissed for what felt like hours, and I wanted still more.

When my hands slid down to her breasts she let me touch for a minute, but then gently pushed them to her waist. Still, she kept on kissing me, until our lips were swollen and we had to break apart. She leaned forward then, her face nuzzled against my neck, and I slid my arms around her, stroking her back with shuddering breaths.

Bill and Margaret came back not much later, and we never did talk about Sam, because in the bigger picture of her—our—quasi-triumph, it hardly mattered.

Scully was alive.

I thought we had an understanding then, but maybe we didn’t, because when she showed up in that Florida hotel room with wine and cheese it was me who fairly bolted. No. We were not going to let this fuck us over again. (Though I have to admit I was a little disappointed that it didn’t rain sleeping bags.)

But it didn’t matter after all. Christmastime came and the revelations brought by Emily Sims drove a new wedge between us. I had to tell her I’d known of her infertility, even as this daughter-of-her-body left the world. “I was trying to protect you,” I said, as if that should be good enough for her.

That didn’t stop her from nearly ripping me a new asshole a few weeks later, when in an unexpected shouting match in the Lariat du jour she demanded to know what else I’d been hiding from her, and how I’d had the nerve to make her feel like shit over a goddamn ghostgirl at the New Horizon Psychiatric Center nearly a year earlier.

“How could you not tell me that?” she cried. “How dare you keep something like that from me? Are we working together or am I working for you? And even if you think I am, you had no right to keep something about my own body from me!”

She was correct, of course, and I felt miserable, but how the hell could I tell her the rest after that? Oh, by the way, Scully, since you asked, there are in fact more Emilys running around out there. And, also, you know how I asked if you’d treat her if you could? I was just curious ‘cause, you know, I had the treatment in my pocket.

Yeah. That’d go over real fucking well.

Emily was when I started to realize she really might leave me someday, and I’m such a two-bit coward I couldn’t even tell her these truths, afraid it would urge her out the door. I still haven’t told her. Jesus.

I’m not sure what she felt when Emily died. I have my guesses, but, like I said before: never assume anything with Scully. Anyway, she wasn’t talking to me about it. And though she did let me hold her hand on the way back from the funeral, I never saw her cry.

That night was the first and only time I ever crept up to her bed. I don’t know what drove me there, whether it was some misguided attempt to keep back her nightmares like she has defended me from mine, or whether it was only for my comfort that I sought her out. The little girl’s death hurt me too, in a way I could not define. I knew that if she had kept that child, my life would have to change. I would have had to either give Scully up or become a father, and while the first would kill me, the second might kill someone else. And yet…there had been something about it, something as attractive as the center of a vortex.

I tiptoed up the stairs of Bill and Tara’s home, was chagrined to see the light under her door. I tapped softly and entered without waiting for permission.

Imagine my surprise to see Tara Scully there, pacing back and forth across the floor, bouncing little Matthew on her shoulder. His crib was in the corner; I’d forgotten they were sharing a room.

I wanted to demand to know how Tara could be so insensitive, but Scully was seated on the edge of the bed in her grey silk pajamas, watching the new mother with a faint smile on her face that held no jealousy or sorrow. Her smile faded when she looked at me, and, excusing herself, she followed me back down to the living room. She eyed the bunched-up blankets on the couch suspiciously, as if they might be hiding something.

“Can’t sleep?” she asked me, and I shook my head.

“Couch is too soft. You?”

“Matthew’s only a few days old,” she explained, as if that answered the question. “He doesn’t sleep through the night.”

“Scully—” I began, but she held up her hand to cut me off.

“Don’t, Mulder. Really. If you want me to sit with you, fine, but I really don’t want to talk.”

Well, who could turn down a cordial offer like that? “No,” I said, sighing. “No. It’s okay, Scully. Go back upstairs.”

She did, and I lay awake on the couch for hours, until I heard her creep back down. I closed my eyes and kept very still. She settled into the chair near my head and I could hear her breathing. Then I really did fall asleep, or at least into that almost-sleep where dreams are lucid. I think she kissed me softly before she went back to bed, but it might’ve been my imagination.

Months passed and we finally were forced to confront the changes of heart we’d both been working around. Scully plays a really poor believer—wavery and a little embarrassed—and I imagine my skeptic is just as false a role for me. After the events at Fort Wiekamp, after Scully almost lost her life over that goddamn chip again, I felt like a fucking MPD case. I didn’t know who I was; when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t recognize myself.

See, when I believed in the aliens, I was sure. When I did not believe in the aliens, I was still sure. Then, though, I simply wasn’t sure of anything at all. And I know some people can take that, but some people are not me. Thank God Scully and I were actually over the rocks by then, more or less. At least there’s that constant in my life. There’s something deeply reassuring about knowing that someone has seen the best and the worst of you and hasn’t left yet: that’s as close to constant as you can get.

I got excited over Gibson Praise, and she did too. Finally, we were on the same page, acknowledging that we wanted the same thing. Answers, not truth, and that boy promised them. Then they—the nameless, faceless They—tore the rug out from under our feet and poof! no more X-Files.

It was so easy I can’t help but wonder why they haven’t done it a thousand times before. Someone wants me to go somewhere, but that same someone wants to make sure it’s hard for me. And so, after showing us gigantic beehives and alluring fossils, they simultaneously dangled the carrot and wielded the stick by kidnapping Scully.

I followed their breadcrumb trail, I danced like a marionette to their demanding tunes. I chased after my partner, and I don’t know if I was meant to find her or not, but Jesus, here we are.

But where is here?

We know everything and yet we know nothing.

* * *

I realize that her eyes are open, that she has been watching me from her hospital bed for some time. She meets my gaze and smiles—that beautiful, full-lipped smile that I’ve so rarely seen. “Mulder,” she says.

Despite myself I remember exactly how she said my name when she came, and I feel a twitching response in my groin. But I’ve had lots of practice at ignoring that.

I go to her, perch on the mattress in the curve of her hips, so that she’s half-curled around me. “Good morning, Sunshine.” I wink, and she snorts unattractively.

“I’ve been awake a long time,” she replies. “Where the hell were you?”

I jerk my head at my vacated chair. “Thinking,” I say.

“About what?” she persists through her frostbite-cracked lips.

I sigh, considering a sarcastic remark but instead seeking refuge in the enigmatic. “That ‘Whoever reflects on four things, it were better he had never been born: that which is above, that which is below, that which is before, and that which is after.’”

A normal woman would’ve remarked on how depressing that is, or thought of some intellectual reply, but Scully just scrunches up her face for a moment and then says, “The Talmud, right?”

With Scully, never assume. A thought comes to my mind and I say it instantly, what I probably should have said that night three years ago. “I love you, Scully.”

Her bright blue eyes regard me seriously but her smile doesn’t fade. She puts her hand on my back. “I know,” she answers, and I am surprised to actually believe that she does. “But it’s still nice to hear you say it.”

We may not speak the same language, but we comprehend each other pretty well, I guess. I bend down to kiss her cheek, gently so as not to rub the raw skin.

When I pull away, she locks my gaze in hers and says, “I saw the ship.”

I nod slowly, understanding how heavily that sentence weighs in the air between us.

Suddenly, as if suddenly recalling a memory, her forehead creases, and she says my name again, more severely this time. “Mulder.”

I’m distracted by the play of her hair through my fingers. “Mmmm?” I ask.

“You weren’t really going to kiss me to get me to stay, were you?”

I am vaguely embarrassed that she remembers. “I told you, Scully,” I say. “Never without a reason.”

She frowns. “Is that a ‘yes?’”

“No,” I say, and oddly she seems satisfied with that; at least, she smiles. But in her eyes I can read something deeper. Our

five-year dance isn’t over yet.

I change the subject. “Don’t you want to know where we are?”

“You mean Antarctica?” she says. “The ends of the earth?” At my look, she explains: “The crew who brought us in told me. You were out cold.” She catches her unconscious pun and smirks.

“When am I getting out of here, Mulder?” she asks. “We have work to do.”

* * *

I told you I play a mean hand of poker. But you want to believe I’m holding the flush I claim, don’t you? Hell, I want to believe me too. And that’s okay—some bluffs aren’t worth calling.

* * *


Finished 08/30/98


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