Vox Series by Catwoman

Vox sereis cover

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Vox sereis cover

Vox
By Catwoman

Classification: V, A (for the most part SA), UST (sort of)
Keywords: Mulder/Scully UST (again, sort of)
Rating: PG (With a MAJOR Angst Warning.)

Disclaimer: The X-Files and all of its ilk do not belong to me, but to Chris Carter, 1013, Fox Television, and all of their ilk. I would never propose to assume that I do own Mulder and Scully; if I did, I would not be quite so unduly cruel to them. I mean, sure, I’m willing to do some pretty awful things to them to get a good plot line going, but to my thinking, Emily and all that has followed is simply unforgivable.

The song ‘Vox’, as quoted in this story, belongs to Sarah MacLachlan. I would not presume to own anything of hers either, simply because there are very few people on this earth who can presume to do any number of the beautiful things Sarah can do. The very last quote is from ‘Strange World’, also by Sarah.

Distribute: Please post to XF Fanfic, ATXC, and Gossamer.

Spoilers: The Emily arc, including ‘All Souls’. This story takes place directly after the events of ‘All Souls’.

WARNING: Mulder and Scully get sensitive with each other, if nothing else. If this repulses you, leave now.

OTHER WARNING: If you are not into angst, you will despise this story, and even if you are into angst, if you are at all like me, this story will scare you away from this degree of angst for a good long time. Just thought I’d warn you.

Note: This story’s been running around in my head since I first saw ‘All Souls’, and when I watched it again tonight I knew I had to write this down. See, as with many of this seasons angst-infested episodes, ‘All Souls’ made me feel physically sick, just because of the general unfairness of it all. We know from the episode that the events in the episode also made Scully sick, emotionally if nothing else. I would guess that Scully was haunted by the events of the episode, and will continue to be haunted by them, for quite some time afterward. Well, I think it’s about time Mulder sees what losing Emily has done to Scully, and what he’s doing to aggravate the hurt. And yes, I know that sounds suspiciously like the plot line to ‘Mother’, but I assure you, this is completely different, if the underlying sentiment is the same. This story is completely apart from the ‘Mother’ arc.

Dedication: This one’s dedicated to Marlie, who never knew her mother, and now lives with a mother who will never understand.

Other Dedication: This is also dedicated to Brandi, who agrees with me on the whole Emily issue.

Summary: Post-‘All Souls’—enough said.

*****

In the desert of my dreams I saw you there
And I’m walking towards the water steaming body cold and bare
But your words cut loose the fire and you left my soul to bleed
And the pain that’s in your truth’s deceiving me, has got me scared
Oh why?

*****

It seemed odd to retain the ability to stand when all other strength had left her body. It seemed logical that her knees would fail her, along with common sense and all other logistic instrumentation she’d ever possessed. But her knees remained strong, while her science remained gelatin, permeating the softer emotions of her mind like a wet and rusted yet achingly sharp knife.

Somehow, free of her mind, her body carried her out of the confessional and away from the priest’s confusing words and painfully objective viewpoint. Her feet, which to her limited thinking should have been as useless as her eyes which seemed unseeing, propelled her slowly but effectively out of the church and into her car. And she drove, with virtually no awareness that she was doing it, and by some miracle she not only survived the drive, but survived it smoothly, pulling up in front of her apartment building as she always did, each and every day of her mortal life. It all seemed too normal now. And beautifully mundane.

She even managed to get up the stairs, fit the right key into the lock, and make her way into her apartment, closing and locking the door behind herself as always. Her purse and shoes were left by the door, and her sweater made itself into a pile on the couch. Then, without warning, she was in the bedroom, and her dress and hose were on the bed, neatly folded by some stranger’s hands. Dimly her mind registered that she was mostly naked and that the air conditioning was blasting in her apartment; her skin was rising in goosebumps from a cold nothing that her heart felt. Through a haze, she watched herself pull on a pair of shorts, old cutoffs from jeans her mind remembered her body outgrowing years before. Then her hands, apart from her emotions somehow, slipped a shirt over her torso, leaving her not so naked but immensely more cold.

She found herself in the living room, again without warning, and sitting on the couch. She started to feel her eyesight clearing, or at least clearing enough so that she could tell where she was, and that she was sitting in her living room, and that she was staring into space. She saw her surroundings in a drunken stupor, her eyesight that of an astigmatic without glasses.

All senses seemed to have dissipated somehow without her knowledge. All except memory. She remembered everything. She remembered Emily. She remembered Mulder. She remembered the priest in the confessional. She remembered Father McCue. She remembered Father Gregory. She remembered the messengers.

She cried.

She didn’t notice it until the hot drops of moisture were running in small rivulets down her chest and arms, leaving tiny trails of ice where they passed. And then she was startled; it did not seem proper to cry: she had just cried for forty-five minutes in the confessional, and if that wasn’t bad enough, she was doing it again? Then her mind remembered, and her body started to sob, and she was left behind, shaking in the wind, wondering what was happening and why she was so disconnected.

Before her body had informed her of its intentions to move, she was lying curled up in a tiny ball of human woman in the corner of the couch. Her body was convulsing, rising in waves and crashing like thunder. Her mind was shaking with the force of her emotional storm, and some part of her, the part of her that remembered that she was a doctor, tried desperately to tell her that she was sobbing too hard; the stress was building up and she was forcing her body into overdrive. She was going to be sick.

Her mind in its entirety didn’t register this complaint, and her emotions didn’t care in the slightest. Her emotions were running the more terrifying moments of last week’s case through her mind in devastating slow motion and then sudden high speed, moving like an old early 20th century newsreel. She saw Emily lying underneath a cold green sheet on an autopsy table, her eyes awake and pleading. She saw the messenger girl, whose hot hand she had held in hers less than a moment before, frozen in an immortal pose of genuflection. She saw a man in black with four faces.

Abruptly, her body was moving again, running into the bathroom, leaning over the toilet. She was sick, and intensely so, her body trying desperately to vomit all of the vile memories that had accumulated without its permission. And as she leaned over, losing several days worth of nourishment to the cold porcelain of ancient and strange technology, she snapped back into herself, and realized where she was, and who she was, and what had happened, and what she’d done to herself. But it was too late. Body had taken over.

*****

Through your eyes the strains of battle like a brooding storm
You’re up and down these pristine velvet walls like focus never forms
My walls are getting wider and my eyes are drawn astray
I see you now a vague deception of a dying day
Oh why?

*****

Mulder felt sick. He had been feeling sick since four o’clock that morning, when he’d awakened from the harsh world of his nightmares to the even harsher world of his real life.

He’d dreamed of Emily.

He’d dreamed that Scully was alone on a plain of sand, bared and vulnerable to the biting winds. She walked through the sands aimlessly, unknowing and uncaring of where she was going; simply walking, walking and waiting, for all eternity. She’d stopped before eternity was over, however; she’d found the one thing that could make her stop, make her hesitate. A tiny golden cross, buried in the sand. She’d held it within her fingers, and that was when she’d faded away, her substance blowing away with the sharp winds, taking her from his view as suddenly as she’d entered. And then he was alone, but not alone. With Emily. He saw her on an autopsy table, covered in a pristine green sheet. Her eyes were wide and blue and Scully eyes, and they were frightened and begging him. But he didn’t know what she begged of him; he couldn’t hear her. And then abruptly it was dark, and he couldn’t see her, but he knew she was still there, crying out for his help. He’d lost his sense, but he could still feel the presence of the little girl.

Which was when he’d awoken, sitting up and panting in frustration, confusion and fear. He’d paced for several hours after that, resisting the urge to call Scully, but hadn’t been able to even remotely fathom what the dream might have meant.

The dream physically disgusted him, for some reason. The events of it were clearly frightening enough to make him feel sick and uneasy, which he did, but this feeling was different. It was a feeling of repulsion, not for the dream itself, but of something within the dream. He knew it wasn’t Emily, and he knew it wasn’t Scully. That left only himself. But why would he be disgusted with himself? Questions like this ran through his head throughout the day as he went about a normal Sunday afternoon, doing his laundry and tidying his apartment so that he could at the very least walk through it without killing himself, and finally settling in to do some paperwork on his computer. But the expense reports he was supposed to be working on held no interest for him whatsoever; the dream drove him. He wanted, *needed* to know what it meant.

So he paced some more, finally forcing himself to sit down on the couch and probe deeper into his memory, into his mind. Somewhere, he knew that his mind knew what the dream meant, because the dream was a product of his mind, and his mind was obviously trying to tell him something, or knowing wouldn’t have mattered so much to him.

He knew that the key was his loss of sense, in the dream. He had watched Scully disappear before his own eyes, and then when he’d been looking at Emily, his vision had blanked out entirely. His hearing had never seemed operative during the dream; it had been like watching an entire movie with the mute turned on. Somehow, that lack of hearing and loss of sight was important, or so his mind was telling him, and since the root of the dream was his mind he believed it.

Blind and deaf, he said to himself. Blind and deaf. Blind and deaf to…Emily. And Scully.

Blind and deaf to Scully, he wondered. The phrase made something click in his mind.

Blind and deaf to Scully! His mind shouted it at him abruptly, causing him to jump, startled by the intensity of conviction in his mind’s voice.

Blind and deaf to Scully, he asked his mind. What does it mean? Blind and deaf to Scully’s what? Scully’s feelings? Scully’s need? Or just Scully? Scully as a whole, as a human being…

A human being with…emotions.

A rapid stream of images flowed through his mind, of the way he’d treated her since Emily’s death. He was cold and unfeeling because he couldn’t see or hear her anymore; he was blind and deaf to Scully, and had been for many months.

Blind and deaf to Scully.

That was it, he realized, feeling a strange relief as he found that he’d discovered the answer to his dream’s puzzle. The dream was telling him that he was blind and deaf to Scully and to Emily, and that he’d…

He’d hurt them, he realized with a sudden flash of insight that left him trembling in its wake, a weaker, more humble man than before. He’d hurt Scully and her daughter’s memory very much, simply by ignoring, by brushing aside.

Hurt Scully, his mind echoed. You hurt Scully.

His motto in life was ‘protect Scully.’ The only thing he truly wanted to achieve in life was to keep Scully from being hurt by him. He didn’t want to see her hurt, not by him…not by anything else either, but especially not by him.

You hurt Scully, his mind accused again, loudly. You hurt Scully!

You are hurting Scully, it whispered then, and he realized the import of the dream. He could fix it. He could do something. He could…

Help Scully.

The mantra ran through his head as he rummaged around the apartment, catching up his coat and shoes and keys in the process. Help Scully, help Scully, help Scully…

And he was gone.

*****

I fall into the water and once more I turn to you
And the crowds were standing staring faceless cutting off my view to you
They start to limply flail their bodies in a twisted mime
And I’m lost inside this tangled web in which I’m lain entwined
You’re gone and I’m lost inside this tangled web in which I’m lain entwined
Oh why?

*****

“Hey Scully?” he shouted a second time, wondering if she hadn’t heard him the first time. He knocked again, but she didn’t respond to that either. Feeling his temples pounding insistently that he’d been wrong, that he was paying, that she was hurt, he pushed the key into the lock and made his way into her apartment, closing and locking the door behind him. He put the keys in his coat pocket and slipped off his shoes and coat inside the doorway, intending to stay for awhile, whether or not she was home and whether or not she was asleep or not feeling like talking. He would wait. She waited for him all the time; he would wait for her now.

“Scully?” he called again, cautiously, more softly, in case she was asleep. If she was, he would allow her that peace. There was no answer. He made his way to the bedroom, but it was empty as the rest of the house seemed. Then he noticed that the bathroom door was mostly closed, open only by a sliver. That sliver was illuminated by bright light. Glancing once more around the apartment he stepped up to the bathroom door and knocked lightly, careful not to move the door at all.

“Scully?” he asked softly, but loudly enough so that his voice could be heard on the other side of the door.

Still no answer. Forcing himself to be brave, Mulder pushed open the door a little further, then a little further.

What he found made his heart drop into his shoes, grumbling on its way down that it would come back when he learned to keep a heart properly. His mind seared him with painful regret and guilt.

Scully was curled up in the corner of the bathroom, against the bathtub, her head resting against the cool tiles of the wall. Her eyes were closed and her mouth hanging slightly open, but she wasn’t asleep. He glanced over at the toilet and concluded that her body was simply giving her a brief respite from the toils of being immensely and painfully sick.

“Oh God, Scully,” he whispered, more to himself than to her, and she seemed to hear him because her eyes fluttered under their lids, but she didn’t respond other than that. By the look of her, she couldn’t respond in any more concrete way. Being careful, as though tipping the balance of the very air around them could make her worse, he knelt in front of her on the cold floor tiles, one hand instantly going out to touch her cheek. His knuckles grazed over her skin, his eyes taking in her limp form and memorizing so that he would be forced to see it in his nightmares enough times so that he would always remember.

At the feel of his touch, she abruptly moved, sitting up straight in a too-
sudden movement, her eyes flying widely open and staring straight at him. He wondered for a moment if he’d been wrong, if she hadn’t known he was there at all, but that doubt was proven unfounded when she hissed a strangled plea of, “Don’t touch me, Mulder,” at him. She’d known he was there; she’d just been hoping he’d leave her alone.

And then she was sick again. She was leaning over the toilet bowl, vomiting right in front of him. She couldn’t help it; he made her sick.

“Oh, Scully,” he whispered, his voice sounding unduly harsh in his ears. His hands reached for her again, balking at the remembrance of her fearful words. “Scully, please…”

She had a brief hesitation, and before he could think his hands were reaching out and smoothing her hair away from her face, and the sweat away from her brow. She tensed and shivered under his touch, and her body convulsed in preparation of another bout.

“Please, Scully, let me help you,” he whispered, coming up closer behind her, his hands gently resting on her shoulders now. “I know I’ve hurt you; please let me try and help you.”

She was silent, but something in the way she stopped trying to hold back her sickness, the way she was suddenly and violently sick and didn’t seem to want to hide it from him, told him that she was willing to let him try. She was always willing to let him try.

His hands reached for her face again, this time holding her hair away from her while she was sick, keeping her face free and her hair safe. When she finished, a moment later, one hand was still stroking gently through her hair, smoothing it, while the other smoothed over her forehead, gently pulling her back and away, into him. To his surprise, though perhaps in her weakness it should have been no surprise, she willingly leaned into him, letting herself rest against his warm and supportive frame. He slipped one arm around her waist, gently holding her to him, and the other hand reached out and flushed the toilet, then shuffled around on the countertop and finally came up with some toilet paper. He wiped her face tenderly, aware that she was for the most part out of it again, and couldn’t clean herself up.

He stayed still, cradling her against his chest, for a full ten minutes before she stirred faintly in his arms.

“Mulder…” she murmured, sounding almost groggy.

“I’m here, Scully,” he replied uselessly, dropping his head to be closer to her ear. She turned her head slightly against his chest, but her eyes remained closed. Her forehead scrunched in a tiny frown.

“Mulder…sorry…” she said, and cleared her throat abruptly, evidently annoyed with her voice’s lack of coherency.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Scully,” he assured her softly. “Not you. I’m the one who’s sorry.”

“But Mulder…” she began, already regaining her fully-functional, argumentative self.

“It’s okay, Scully,” he said, but somehow the phrase didn’t seem quite as useless as it sounded on his tongue. Whatever it was, it quieted her, and she waited a few moments more before she spoke again.

“I need to get out of here,” she whispered hoarsely, and cleared her throat again. “I don’t want to stay in this room.”

“Are you finished?” he asked her, and he felt her hesitate, and in his mind he pictured the physical checklist he was sure her doctor’s mind was going through.

“I think so,” she replied after a full moment. He noticed that despite her return to complete coherency, her body was still lifelessly limp in his arms.

He turned his arm awkwardly and slipped it under her arms, around her back, and then slipped the other arm under her bent legs. Then he moved to a kneeling position, being sure to keep her supported. Finally he moved onto his feet, still crouching, his arms still supporting her. Grunting to himself softly at the effort of doing so from such an awkward position, he started to lift her up. Abruptly, as with most of her motion since he’d arrived, she flailed in his arms, her eyes squeezing shut. She looked frightened.

“Don’t panic, Scully,” he whispered calmly in her ear, then kept his mouth there, as though his breathing might reassure her. “I’m just going to lift you up and get you out of here.”

“Mulder, you don’t have to do that,” she informed him with a frown, her eyes remaining closed even as she protested. “I’m sure I can…”

He chuckled in her ear.

“Walk? I don’t think so, Scully. You’re so weak you can barely move.”

He finished lifting her into his embrace and stood, being careful to shift her with him. She sighed something against his neck and her arms lethargically moved around his neck of their own accord.

He realized he’d called her weak, and wondered if she would punish him for it later by invoking her code of silence. He regretted saying it already, even if she never did anything about it. For all he knew, she hadn’t even heard him say anything.

“Mulder,” she half-groaned into his ear as he walked her out of the bathroom and towards the bedroom. He had decided that the best place for her in this state was in bed, with him carefully watching over her.

“Yeah Scully?” he answered casually, as though nothing was wrong. The concern in his voice couldn’t be hidden, however.

She simply repeated his name, this time in a bare whisper. “Mulder.”

He didn’t answer this time. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

He reached her empty queen-sized bed and shifted her again, supporting her fully with his arms so he could lower her onto the bed without jarring her too much. She started to protest again, this time verbally. Her face scrunched up and her mouth opened, but he spoke before she could get out whatever she wanted to say.

“I’m just putting you into bed now, Scully,” he informed her as though dictating instructions of some kind to her.

“Don’t leave,” was her immediate response, soft in tone but firm in conviction. Her eyes remained scrunched closed, but her intent was clear.

“I’m not leaving,” he said, trying to mask his surprise. He would have thought he was the last person she wanted around at this time. He only stayed because he felt his presence was necessary at this point.

“Then where are you?” she asked in something almost like a whine, as she lay limply on the bed before him, her eyes still tightly closed. He realized that she was referring to the fact that he wasn’t touching her anymore; she couldn’t feel him.

“Standing over you, Scully,” he replied, wondering why she wouldn’t open her eyes. He wondered if she was too frightened.

“I know that,” she said sourly. “But you’re not here.”

He blinked.

“You said you would help me,” she reminded him, her voice suddenly soft, as he heard it only rarely in their work together. “Help me.”

“I…was just going to go get you a glass of water,” he said, and it was the truth; it occurred to him that she might want to wash away the physical reminder of how sick she’d just been.

“Then get a glass of water,” she said reasonably, and he saw a finger on one of her hands twitch. “Keep talking to me.”

Blinking away surprise again, Mulder walked out of the room and into the kitchen, trying his best to obey her wishes as he did so.

“Scully, I’m really sorry,” he called out to her as he took a glass from the cupboard and the jug of filtered water from the fridge. “I realize I haven’t been the greatest partner lately, and I came over to try and make it right. I hadn’t realize just how far it had gone…I’m really sorry. I really do want to help you; I want to make up for being such an ass.”

He walked back into the bedroom holding the glass of cold water. She was still lying in the same spot, the exact same Scully-frown on her face.

“Here,” he said gently as he placed the glass down on the bedside table and moved up beside her. “I’m going to lift you a bit again, okay?”

She nodded just slightly, and feeling thoroughly encouraged, Mulder gently lifted her off the bed and placed her down again quite a bit over from where she’d been before. He slid into the place he’d just vacated, lying next to her.

“Scully, can you look at me?” he asked her quietly.

He waited, allowing her time, and gradually her frown faded. She was still for several long minutes after that before her eyes finally slid open, revealing a stunning pair of dark hazel orbs that rolled up and focused on him, staying there as if his sight was the oasis in her desert.

“Mulder,” she whispered again, seemingly needlessly. He smiled gently at her.

“What?” he asked carefully.

She shook her head a bit, eyes sliding shut for a few seconds, then opening again. When he’d gleaned that that was her only answer, he leaned over and picked up the water glass.

“I brought you some water,” he informed her, holding up the glass. “Can you…”

She shook her head again, but this time she moved, forcing strength into her limbs as she slowly curled up, then curled her arms under her and lifted, supporting her top half above the bed. She pulled her legs up under herself and then righted herself, and she wobbled a bit but managed to stay kneeling, her eyes still focused on him. Awed by her degree of strength considering her complete lack of it mere seconds before, he handed her the water glass. She took careful sips of it, an old trick he recognized. Taking small sips gave her the nourishment of the drink, gave her throat the needed cleansing liquid, and didn’t upset her stomach in the process of either.

The process was immensely slow, but he didn’t notice. She finally handed the glass back to him, her cheeks showing a tiny bit of pink to indicate that she felt much better. He placed the glass on the night table and looked over at her. She was still staring at him.

“Are you okay?” he asked her softly.

She shook her head with a subtle vehemence, and carefully lowered herself to lie on the bed again. Her eyes slid shut and she let out a sigh of a breath.

“Are you going to be okay?” he revised his question, forcing himself not to be worried at her response. He couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t replied to such a question that she was fine. His hand reached out and tenderly stroked several loose tendrils of hair away from her face.

She didn’t answer, and his hand stayed on her face, gently tracing her cheekbones.

“Scully?” he asked after a moment.

“Mulder,” she replied, letting out another breath. She turned her face into the mattress, securing it from his touch. He pulled his hand back, watching her hide from him.

“You said you needed me here,” he said after allowing her some time.

“I do,” she replied in a voice muffled by the bedcovers underneath her mouth.

“Will you…” he trailed off his question as his hands carefully touched her shoulders and back, a gentle question in his touch. She nodded slowly and turned onto her back, and his hands carefully lifted her again, this time pulling her across to lie against him, partly over him, her head resting against his chest and his arms tightly around her waist. She acquiesced to the comfort hold silently, closing her eyes as she allowed her head to be pillowed by the gentle rise and fall of his breath beneath his chest. Her legs tangled with his and he tightened his arms around her middle.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, and his lips landed softly on the very edge of her forehead, near her hair. She shook her head silently, indicating that she didn’t want to hear it. She didn’t want his guilt.

“I’ve just been having nightmares,” she said finally, explaining her sickness.

“Me too,” he admitted with a small smile. “That’s what brought me here. But what made you so sick?”

“I went to confession this morning,” she said, and he was so startled he didn’t comment. “I told the priest about the messengers, and about Emily, and everything else that’s happened this week. When I came out I felt even worse than before, even if it was good to know that I’d shared my experience with someone.”

He didn’t question that experience; he knew he’d been foolish and lost the right to ask. She would tell him if and when she was ready; she might never tell him, simply because of his lack of trust in her on the case she spoke of.

“I was crying too hard,” she finished, and silenced completely. He thought of that, and the mental image was a painful one. Scully, sobbing so hard she made herself sick…another image to add to his nightmare gallery.

His arm closed a little tighter around her middle, the warmth of his flesh rubbing against her cool belly. Her shirt was draped over his arm; in the process of moving her, it had slid up so that his arms were against bare flesh. His head lowered and he buried his face in her soft hair.

“Sorry,” he whispered again, for his own sake.

“Are you?” she asked in return, startling him. Her voice took on a lower, harsher quality. “Why?”

He realized that she was letting him know that he wasn’t forgiven. She needed his help now and much as she hated it, she couldn’t deny it, but she wasn’t accepting his apology. She wasn’t forgiving him this time.

He felt his temples pounding again.

This time she wasn’t willing to let him try.

He’d lost his chance.

*****

We walk without a sound across a barren landscape
Your eyes are twisted down to a dew entrailed ground
We watch the stars as they slowly fade away and in the clearing sky I see
The cold stone face of morning setting in on me

*****

THE END-Oh man. So who’s even more depressed now?

 

—–

Wait
By Catwoman

Classification: V, A, UST
Keywords: Mulder/Scully UST
Rating: PG (With a MAJOR Angst Warning.)
Note: Second of four in the Vox series (i.e. sequel to ‘Vox’).

Wait
By Catwoman
<>

Disclaimer: They do not belong to me. They belong to that guy, his friends, and the TV station. And there you have it!

The songs ‘Wait’ and ‘Good Enough’, as quoted within this text, belong to Sarah McLachlan.

Distribute: Please post to XF Fanfic, ATXC, and Gossamer.

Spoilers: Everything up to and including ‘The End’, not to mention my story ‘Vox’. This series all takes place before the movie, however.

WARNING: Mulder/Scully angst/UST ahead!

Note: Please note this is the sequel to ‘Vox’, and that there will be two more stories in this series. All of them are relatively short. Meanwhile, you should probably have read ‘Vox’ before you read this one. I will also warn you: this series is not for the weak of heart. It is *extremely* angsty (even so far as to go past angsty and be sickening). Not all is well with our favorite dynamic duo.

Other Note: A very important part of this story was inspired by Jann Arden’s ‘Kitchen Window’ (if you’ve read the lyrics or heard the song, you’ll know which), so I give credit to her too.

Thanx: Thanx go to mylan for feedback on ‘Doll Parts’, and for book suggestions too…not to mention for being the first one to notice the Dragonriders reference. : )

Dedication: This story is dedicated to Shannon Brescher, whose feedback on ‘Vox’ solely inspired this sequel and the following ones. The particular conflict between forgiveness/non-forgiveness was her idea, and I give all credit due it to her.

The following quote is courtesy of Kin Hubbard:

Summary: Nobody ever forgets where a hatchet is buried. Sequel to ‘Vox’.

*****

Under a blackened sky
Far beyond the glaring streetlights
Sleeping on empty dreams
The vultures lie in wait

*****

The average honest human being will fight several internal conflicts per minute. Some conflicts take longer to resolve,—sometimes as long as a lifetime or longer, such as learning—and some conflicts are, or at least seem, harder than others, such as the conflict between loneliness and the need for seclusion, or forgiveness and the need to remain safe rather than sorry.

It was a hot summer’s night, and Scully was fighting the very two conflicts she was contemplating, all at the same time as changing the dishwasher’s load, doing her pots and pans, cleaning out the fridge, and wiping down the counters and her table.

She was unsure as to which conflict seemed worse at that particular moment.

Many long nights, particularly during her teen years and, perhaps even worse, in the last five years, Scully had contemplated her wretched loneliness and the possible logic of the times it chose to rear its ugly head, since most of the time, in her teen years and *especially* in the last five years, she’d felt an intense need to be alone most of the time, to get away from the life that went on outside her safe, warm little apartment—not that it seemed quite so safe and warm anymore.

It was only in the last five years…and perhaps not even that long—
perhaps more like the last two or three years…that she’d seriously considered the conflict between forgiveness and coldness, as she’d come to think of non-forgiveness. The ability to forgive was a virtue, as her mother had always said. Forgiveness was the beginning of the healing process. And yet…what of safety? In Scully’s once-safe, bubble-shelled world, emotion that could tear her apart as most emotion that required forgiveness did was not safe, because it hurt, and pain made her vulnerable, particularly pain of the emotional variety. Could she risk forgiving and becoming the flower raped by the wind again? Or was it safer to remain unforgiving and cold?

It had always seemed safer to remain unforgiving and cold.

She was so angry at her partner she could have bitten his tongue off. Well, not truly…but something symbolically similar.

Her coldness was perhaps a major contributing factor to his own, but that was no excuse for his constant mistreatment of her in the last year. There was no excuse for retaliation of that kind…that was merely stooping to levels.

All of their combined frustrations had appeared to come to a head almost a month ago, a week after what she’d come to call her ‘All Souls’ case. He’d come to her apartment, intent on seeking forgiveness, only to find her physically sick because she’d been so disgusted with herself, and so lonely without his support.

Needless to say, she had not forgiven him.

He’d tried her patience on all three of their major cases since then, and he tried her patience even more now that they were both on desk duty in the VCS bullpen, even though he’d seemed to be seeking her forgiveness openly once again since the fire had taken their office and the X-Files. He was quiet around her, looking at her from underneath shadowed, saddened eyes, never touching her for fear of sickening her. He didn’t talk to her unless she talked to him, unless it was an emergency.

When she talked to him, it was in cold, professional tones. She did not speak of personal matters, or even heed personal questions when they were occasionally directed her way. She did not meet his eyes when she spoke to him, instead holding her chin proudly high and keeping her eyes on a paper in her hands, as though it would always be more important than him. She did not touch him. She did not come to him for help. She treated him as though she had not known him as a friend and partner for five years, but instead as if she did not know him at all and did not like the smell of him.

She felt he’d earned it.

But of course she felt guilty for her presentation as well. It was childish, and more than that she wanted very badly to forgive and forget, to come running back to him and beg that they could both just forget the last two years *at least* had ever happened, and that they could go back to being work partners and being *good* work partners.

Maybe even to being friends.

The fact of the matter was that she was afraid. So afraid of being hurt again, of being hurt *more*, that she couldn’t allow herself to even once seriously consider forgiving him and taking him back, and apologizing for her own transgressions. To do so was to admit some kind of defeat, and she was afraid to do it.

Yet her heart continued to tell her, in varying pitches from whimpers to screams, that he deserved her forgiveness.

That she needed him in her life, and that she couldn’t have him unless she forgave him.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. The conflict was like a swinging pendulum clock, back and forth, one end to the other, steadily.

She realized she’d been standing motionless at her desk for close to an hour, staring out at the black revealed by her open window, the same window Duane Barry had burst through when he’d taken her.

In the past while, a neighborhood cat had been visiting her, collecting scraps of food from her. She had become accustomed to leaving the window open to let the cat in, and she would wait, every evening, for him to come so she could greet him enthusiastically. It had occurred to her once or twice that the cat had become her only friend in the world, and she looked forward to his visits as though they gave her life. It had also occurred to her that despite the fact that the whole thing seemed pretty pathetic, if the cat ever stopped coming, she would be devastated.

It was past midnight and he hadn’t come.

She sighed a soft lamentation to the strength of loneliness and pathos and rubbed at her lower back with both hands, stretching her vertebrae and yawning as she did so. Then she closed the window, undressed mechanically, and went to bed.

She did not sleep. She’d come to wonder if she would ever sleep again.

*****

Pressed up against the glass
I found myself wanting sympathy
But to be consumed again
Oh, I know would be the death of me

*****

Mulder noticed how tired Scully was immediately when she walked in that morning. To the average eye, he knew, she would appear as she always did; crisply, perfectly professional. Her make-up was perfect, her clothes were perfect; everything was in place. Even her smile and her white teeth and her twinkling eyes were perfect. Which meant only one thing to him: she was becoming a better actor.

There was a slight slump to her shoulders, a too-forward bend of her neck, a slackness of her cheekbones, a fidgeting in her fingers, a dry, nervous sorrow in her eyes behind the facade, a tenseness in the way she flitted her eyes around the room, bringing them to rest on him for a bare moment before she turned away, reddening slightly as though ashamed to have laid eyes on him.

Only he recognized these things, and only he knew that they meant, altogether, that she wasn’t sleeping, that she was dropping into an almost psychotic depression, that she probably wasn’t eating much, if anything, and that she was so lonely that she could barely look at herself in a mirror anymore.

He watched her carefully sit behind her desk, smoothly crossing her legs at the knee and resting her arms on the armrests for a brief moment before she picked up a report and started reading. He chewed absently on the end of the pencil in his hand, squinting slightly to himself as he watched her, observing as her neck straightened, her shoulders backed up about an inch, and her cheeks once again reddened slightly.

She was aware that he was watching her, analyzing her.

She lifted her head slowly, her dark hazel eyes meeting the harsher hazel of his. From behind their reading glasses and across five or six empty desks in between them, they looked at each other for a full moment, each catching a brief glimpse into the other’s secrets before it ended.

“Good morning, Mulder,” she said coolly, the same professional, cold tone she’d used for the two weeks they’d worked here. He noted her tiny concession; she’d used merely her usual name for him this time, rather than adding the ‘Agent’ in front of it as she had normally for weeks. He thought he preferred ‘Agent Mulder’ to ‘Mulder’ when she used that tone. His last name had never sounded so vile by itself.

“Good morning, Agent Scully,” he responded politely, and he noticed the brief flash of anger go across her eyes as it had every day during the past week, in which he’d taken up using her tricks against her, beginning with the ‘Agent’ in front of her name.

They did not speak again that day.

*****

And there is a love that’s inherently given
A kind of blindness offered to deceive
In that light of forbidden joy
Oh I know I won’t receive it

*****

That evening Scully decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood.

She didn’t get far.

She found the cat, her friendly cat, in a heap just down the block, dead. It hadn’t been cleaned up by sanitation yet. She supposed she’d better report it.

She stared at the body for a long time, estimating where his destination might have been before he’d died, apparently of natural causes. It appeared as though he’d been heading for her place.

Somehow the knowledge that he’d died on the way to see her made his death that much more painful.

Feeling sick to her stomach, Scully turned and went back home, and she was unable to face anything of the outside world for the rest of the night. She spent the evening curled up in a corner on her bed with a tub of dripping ice cream and a box of kleenex, alternating between eating and crying.

*****

You lay down beside me there
You were with me every waking hour
So close I could feel your breath

*****

This particular morning, the unseen shadows on Scully’s face were much more pronounced than usual, and nothing anyone did could make her lift even her usual fake smile, and nothing could hide the despair and anguish in her eyes. Mulder sat on the corner of his desk, watching her with concerned eyes this time. After about twenty seconds of watching her, it became too much, and he walked over to her desk, perching on it gently much as he had on his own foreign desk.

“Hey Scully,” he said softly, their old life in his voice. “How are you feeling?”

He’d noticed that she’d fought a flinch when he’d first approached, and when he spoke she looked up at him, eyes narrowing slightly in something akin to accusation.

“I’m fine,” she said crisply, as per usual.

He cleared his throat gently, glanced around, and slid off the desk, coming around to stand beside her. He leaned over her, bringing his mouth very close to her ear. She stopped, poised in waiting.

His words, spoken softly but coldly, froze her heart.

“Sure. Fine. Whatever.”

And with anger making his steps quicker, he stalked back across the bullpen to his desk, ignoring the eyes that followed him as the keen investigators all around him immediately picked up on his anger and frustration and traced it to its source. Scully dropped her eyes to her desktop, flushing red as she tried to ignore the eyes that now turned on her.

So many eyes. So much accusation.

So lonely.

*****

You know if I leave you now
It doesn’t mean that I love you any less
It’s just the state I’m in
I can’t be good to anyone else like this

*****

Over the weekend, Scully’s loneliness, and her thought’s dwelling on the death of the cat, were such that she pondered seriously getting another pet of her own. Maybe a cat, or maybe a dog, like Queequeg…but bigger. Something she could hug without it whining.

Eventually she saw reason and realized that she couldn’t have a big dog in her apartment; over a certain weight wasn’t aloud. She could have a cat, but she realized that if she allowed herself to do such an impulsive thing she’d regret it. She knew that if she suddenly was never alone, she wouldn’t be able to deal with it; she’d find that the cat might actually like her, and that would make her feel even more lonely and worthless.

After pets, she contemplated killing herself. That too went out with the backwater, for a variety of less interesting reasons. In the end she chose to buy a new movie. ‘As Good As It Gets.’ She watched it several times over the weekend, and cried every time because Jack Nicholson was psychotic and Helen Hunt wasn’t psychotic but both she and Mulder were psychotic so the movie didn’t help her with that situation at all.

It was the first time she admitted to herself that her weekend had been terrible, and when she wrote it briefly in her diary, her only words were, ‘This sucks.’

*****

When all we wanted was to dream
To have and to hold that precious little thing
Like every generation yields
The newborn hope unjaded by their years

*****

Monday morning, she kept running into Mulder for some odd reason probably to do with physics and how it was affected by the force of loneliness. They both seemed to be walking around more than usual, and they were always bumping into each other. She would glare at him and apologize while pretending not to mean it, and he would smile, baring his teeth just slightly and menacingly, and insist that really, it was his fault, while pretending not to want to strangle her.

An argument started up over specifics of criminal psychology between several of the members of the VCS who worked in Mulder and Scully’s area. Mulder joined almost immediately, and it wasn’t a bad argument; everyone was actually having fun learning more from each other’s opinions.

Then Scully stepped in.

She didn’t say anything. She merely stood to one side, arms folded tightly over her chest, observing from under hooded eyes, her glare all for Mulder.

Mulder ended up getting distracted by her, his warm gaze turning slowly to a darkened glare, glancing at her coolly every once in a while. Finally he asked, “Why don’t you give us your opinion, Agent Scully?”

He knew perfectly well that she had no idea what they were talking about; she knew little to nothing about criminal psychology, particularly not the specifics of the science.

Her snippy return remark prompted one from him, and to the surprise of the people around them, it progressed from there into an all out shouting-match; despite the fact that both of them managed to keep their voices to respectable levels, it could be called nothing less than that. The tone of their argument was enough to get most of the people around them sweating, some of them so badly they had to leave.

It ended with the two of them merely glaring at each other in silence, her with arms crossed, him with fists balled at his sides.

And then he threw out his arms in a desperate gesture and stared at her, despair in his eyes.

“What will it take to earn your forgiveness, Scully? I wanna know,” he almost cried it out, so desperate was the tone in his voice. She blinked in surprise, tilted her head at him and stared with wide eyes for a moment, then turned on her heel and walked away, as quickly as she could.

He watched her go, all hope in his face blowing away with the chill she left behind, his arms slowly dropping back to his sides as he stared after her, slumped. The people around him stood paralyzed, until finally one of them clapped his hands and shouted out that it was work time, and everyone hurriedly dispersed, glad for an excuse to do so. Mulder went back to his desk, put his head in his hands, and sat silently, paying no attention to anything that went on around him.

*****

Hey little girl would you like some candy
Your momma said it’s okay
The door is open come on outside
No I can’t come out today

*****

Scully paced around outside the J. Edgar Hoover building for a good ten minutes before she came to a decision as to the perfect thing to say to him, something that she knew would get her point across well. She stalked back into the building, jaw set and teeth gritted as she walked quickly and purposefully down the hall and into the VCS bullpen. Eyes followed her as she made her way across the room, coming to a full stop about four feet from Mulder’s desk.

“You know what it will take to earn my forgiveness, Mulder?” she sneered, openly hostile. Out of the corners of her eyes she watched a small crowd gather around the two of them, poised and watching. She watched Mulder’s head and eyes lift, surprise registering in the deep hazel as he watched her, flinching instantly at the sight of her anger.

“You know what I need? Of course you do,” she almost spat the words out of her mouth. She watched the sadness in his eyes grow exponentially. “You know perfectly well what it’ll take, Mulder.”

He shook his head just slightly, gazing at her.

“Please, Scully, tell me,” he almost whispered.

She swallowed, and he watched the tears on her eyelids strain not to fall down her cheeks. He watched the muscles in her jaw work, and her breath come quickly as she tried not to cry. She opened her mouth, baring the slightest sight of angry teeth as she tilted her head, her voice low and ominous.

“I want my dog back,” she said darkly, harshly, her tone barely controlled. For the second time that day, she turned on her heel and walked away, except this time she didn’t come back.

Mulder slumped back in his chair, mouth open as he stared after her.

He heard a soft murmur of, “What the hell was that all about?” in the background, and he cursed the fool. He knew exactly what it was about. He understood her meaning.

He understood perfectly.

And it meant he was screwed.

*****

It’s not the wind that cracked your shoulder And threw you to the ground
Who’s there that makes you so afraid
You’re shaken to the bone
You know I don’t understand
You deserve so much more than this

*****

THE END-Stay tuned for part three, ‘Ice.’

‘You saw it, you heard it…why can’t you feel it?’

“It gets so damn dark down here…”

—–

Ice
By Catwoman

Date Finished: November 22nd, 1998 (Long live JFK!)
Classification: V, A, UST
Keywords: Mulder/Scully UST
Rating: PG-13 (bit of sexual suggestion, some language, emotional violence)
Note: Sequel to ‘Vox’ and ‘Wait’-i.e. MAJOR ANGST WARNING!!!!!

Ice
By Catwoman
<>

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully and anyone else you may or may not recognize probably do not belong to me. Chances are they belong to Chris Carter, Fox, and 1013, but you might want to ask them to be sure…some of the things they’re doing lately, I’m not so sure they want them anymore.

The song ‘Ice’ also does not belong to me. It belongs to the beautiful and talented Sarah McLachlan (I don’t CARE what the critics say).

Distribute: Please do not post to either Gossamer or ATXC. I will do that myself. Please do post to XF Fanfic, if possible.

Spoilers: Everything up to and including ‘The End’ but not the movie. This is before that. You should probably read the first two stories in this series before you read this one, too.

WARNING: MSR construction ahead!

Note: This is the third story in the Vox series. The first two are ‘Vox’ and ‘Wait’ respectively, and it would be a VERY good idea if you read those two before you read this one, for the sake of understanding what’s going on.

Other Note: Basically Mulder and Scully are just going to spend this entire story just bitching and moaning at each other angrily. If you’re not into that sort of thing, back out now. I’m warning you—MAJOR ANGST!!!

Thanx: To the X-Anarchy Pen mailing list, which is totally wicked, no matter what that silly person who flamed them awhile ago says. XAPEN RULES!!!

Dedication: To Galia and Lili. Just because. <g> And to everyone who wrote or spoke to me requesting that I hurry along with this story; Mel and Marlie come to mind especially. : ) Thanx for the support, girls!

Summary: Sequel to ‘Vox’ and ‘Wait’. “In contrast to revenge, which is the natural, automatic reaction to transgression and which, because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated, the act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action.”—Hannah Arendt.

*****

The only comfort is the moving of the river
You enter into me, a lie upon your lips
Offer what you can
I’ll take all that I can get
Only a fool’s here to stay

*****

Before his twelfth year, Fox Mulder had been generally a gentle soul. After that he had, at his very basis, been an angry man, or at least that was how he perceived himself. He always seemed to be angry at something. At himself, at Sam, at his parents, at life in general, and in recent years, the most common one had been Scully. She was the most obvious target of his frustration both because she was the closest to him and because she was the first in a long time to deliberately try and frustrate him…and succeed.

In the last few months, the bitterness between them had merely fed his anger, causing him to parry back her tricks, childish as they may have been.

This day they had fought in front of almost the entire Violent Crimes Section. Surely a joint CIA-FBI board was currently meeting to decide exactly what to do with what appeared to be the two most *volatile* agents working for the Bureau.

Either that, or maybe Skinner was arranging to have them both sent to the nut house.

Either way, Mulder took it for a fact that he didn’t have much time to patch things up with Scully. And the fact that they were probably going to get in big trouble with the Bureau for blowing up at each other on Bureau time was not the biggest of his concerns, particularly as far as time went.

He was afraid that either he or Scully, or both, would snap.

He was afraid one or both of them already had.

He didn’t want to lose her. His actions had been spiteful, as hers had been. But he didn’t truly want to push her away. His spite had nothing to do with any hatred, or even any particular anger with her. It was more because he was so damn frustrated, in any number of ways. For years he’d held in a number of feelings for her, most of them centering around a dangerous mix of desire and anger, and he’d hardly ever let any of them show through to any serious degree.

Their fight today had put his feelings out on display, and she’d trampled them, merely by placing her own feelings out beside them.

They hurt each other just by being in the same room together these days, and he didn’t want that.

Forgiveness seemed like a distant promise of goodness and right, but the distance was great and the terrain rough.

He didn’t want to fight with her, but he knew he’d have to to get her back. Her remark about his lax treatment of her emotions—“I want my dog back,” had been her exact words, but he knew her meaning—had hit hard, and he knew that he had treated her that way, and that, though she had tried so hard not to, she had been the same with him.

Five years was a lot of water accumulating, and the bridge was about to break.

He couldn’t let it end. Not like that.

Not without a fight.

*****

I think you worried for me then
The subtle ways that I’d give in
But I know you liked the show

*****

Scully had been pacing in her apartment since she’d first come in the door, back and forth, chewing on her fingers, her eyes staring hard into a space no other eyes could possibly see. At first she’d blubbered, much to her own personal embarrassment, even though there was no one around to see. She couldn’t believe she’d almost cried in front of Mulder, and she couldn’t believe she had the audacity to cry when she left his side.

She couldn’t believe she would have the lack of respect for herself to cry when she realized how horrible she’d been and felt guilty for it.

Now she was merely pacing, jaw locked in a tight position, lips pursed in anger. Whereas at first she’d wondered if she’d been too harsh, she now thought she’d been too lenient. She should have ripped him apart, for all the anger she felt.

She still wanted to. She had a feeling he wanted to have it out with her, too.

But she couldn’t call him at the office. She couldn’t contact him now. It would look horrible in front of her colleagues.

If she had any left when Skinner found out the degree of unprofessional behavior that had gone on between herself and Mulder in the VCS bullpen earlier that day.

So she simmered, pacing, waiting. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

She wanted to yell and scream, but she knew the neighbors would probably automatically call the police, assuming she’d been kidnapped by aliens or something.

She wanted to throw things, but she didn’t want to break anything because she knew she’d break herself.

She wanted to cry until she made herself sick, like after the case with the four messenger girls, but she found she had no reserves of sadness or pain left; merely anger.

She wanted to deliberately tear herself up inside and go crazy, but she knew that wouldn’t solve anything either.

So she was stuck in this one place, with this one problem. Pacing. Always moving, always changing. Breathing, not thinking, not contemplating. Anguishing. Never allowing sorrow.

Far too calm. She knew she’d end up destroying something, probably herself, if she continued to let this anger grow.

But she couldn’t stop. She was beyond addiction or even need.

She was so close to hate she was afraid of herself.

*****

Tied down to this bed of shame
You tried to move around the pain
But oh, your soul is anchored

*****

“Hey Mulder, Skinner wants to see you, pronto,” some faceless agent said as Mulder continued to sit at his desk in silent contemplation.

At those words, Mulder came to a split decision, and was instantly on his feet, pulling on his jacket.

When the agent saw that Mulder was heading out of the bullpen, he called after him, “Hey Mulder, did you hear what I said?”

“Not now,” Mulder growled, continuing to walk away. He tossed back over his shoulder as he got on the elevator, “Tell Skinner he can wait. There are more important things.”

“Holy shit,” another agent commented as the doors closed behind Mulder. “I do believe he’s going to go fuck her.”

There was a general air of amusement about that comment for several moments before the chatter returned to more on-topic discussions.

*****

I don’t like your tragic sighs
As if your god has passed you by
Well hey fool, that’s your deception

*****

He didn’t knock. He used his own key, slipping through the door quietly into the darkness of her apartment. One small reading lamp was on in the living room, casting warped shadows across everything the night touched, but other than that, the falling of evening had darkened all. The lithe, cat-like figure of Scully was perched on the arm of her sofa, at the far end, in the least light. By the way her eyes gleamed at him, two pools of onyx anger out of a sea of black denial and hatred, he guessed she had expected him.

The red of her hair was like fire in the lamplight, and he took it to be an omen.

“I don’t remember inviting you in,” she said lowly in greeting.

“You didn’t,” Mulder agreed, locking the door behind himself, and making a show of the bolt turning in the lock to let her know that he was sealing them in together and that he wasn’t turning back until something happened. “Frankly, it doesn’t matter.”

“So you have a right to invade my privacy simply because it’s convenient for you,” she said, tilting her head. Her eyes narrowed. He focused on them, aware of how angry his own eyes must have looked. He could see the way his eyes pierced hers; could feel it in the way hers pierced him.

“Letting myself in without knocking has nothing to do with convenience,” he said, narrowing his own eyes in return. “But I’m here because the convenience—yours and mine—to continue to be simply angry and not deal with it has become not only tiresome, but destructive.”

“I wasn’t aware that it was not an intended destructive process in the first place,” she said nonchalantly, lifting her chin slightly.

“It was,” he parried. “It’s become worse. It’s become more than a fight. It’s become a war, and I don’t want to lose.”

“Well, how marvelously selfish of you,” she sneered.

“I’m selfish?” he sputtered, a malicious grin crossing his face as he took a step towards her. He saw that the movement jarred her, if only slightly. “And who began this fight?”

“You did. You pushed me way too far; I’ve dealt with your mocking for years. I can’t deal with it as a permanent affect, and it had become so in the last year.”

“If I mocked you it wasn’t deliberate. If I was spiteful, it was in retaliation of your own coldness.”

“And so the cycle turns in on itself,” she snapped, finally rising to her feet.

“Exactly. But I offered an ending, when you made yourself sick with pain and loneliness. I asked forgiveness. You didn’t accept, for the sake of bitterness and pride, and you’re calling me selfish?”

“It’s because you only see yourself, and never me, that I’m so cold. Do you remember that case awhile ago with Marty Glenn? I’m like her, in a way. I hate the way you see me.”

“Just because you’re blind to the way I feel about you doesn’t mean you can claim it’s my fault,” he countered, and she hesitated for a breath before her return shot.

“I’m blind?”

“To so many things.”

“Name them.”

“My feelings. Yourself.”

“Myself?”

“That’s your biggest problem, yes.”

“And what exactly don’t I see about myself?”

He chuckled suddenly, and he caught her faint frown before her stone-cold mask was back in place.

“Let me count the ways, Scully! You’re not a perfect person; you can’t always be cold and professional and unemotional. You’re a human being with sins and blessings, and most of all, emotions. Jesus, you could afford to show them once in awhile. You can’t see that hiding them is what’s destroying you, what’s blinding you; that’s what’s really making you so cold and bitter. You think I mock you because you mock yourself. Everything I do reflects that.”

“Oh, is that it,” she said incredulously.

“Isn’t it? Dispute me. Go ahead. I’m waiting.”

She paused, but didn’t say anything.

“You can’t blame this on me,” she said finally, her voice a fraction quieter than before.

“And I’m not!” he exclaimed. “Jesus Christ, Scully, is that what
you think I’m trying to do? I’m trying to make you see what this
is doing to us! Sure, I’ve been cold, and spiteful, and in general an asshole! I’ve been that way for years! I hate it too, believe me! But it’s not *my* fault. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s not my fault, and it’s not your fault, but it is our fault, and we can only fix it together.”

“What makes you think I want to fix anything?” she said instantly, sounding resentful.

Something that looked like a smile flitted briefly across his features.

“Every expression on your face makes me think that. Every buried emotion I see surfacing in your eyes. Hell, everything in the world makes me think you want to fix this as much as I do. I know it to be a fact. When and if you and I end, it won’t be like this. Not in anger and hatred and spite.”

“What exactly do you and I have to end?” she asked, and he knew she was testing him.

“We both know what it is,” he said, and she saw something distinctly resentful light in the snarky smile on his own lips. She could tell he was chastising himself inwardly for some old stupidity. “We just can’t talk about it, that’s all.”

“Then let’s talk about something similar,” she said, throwing a bone.

“Friendship,” he said simply, sincerity finally completely gracing his face. “No matter how little we still know about each other, we have always had a beautiful friendship. I can’t explain it, because we have very little in common when it comes to the things friends usually find appealing about each other. But it’s there. And partnership, Scully. No one can deny that we work well together.”

She didn’t deny either claim.

He waited; he felt it was time for a little silence. He watched her eyes turn away from him, focusing somewhere in the darkness.

“How do you suppose we could ever fix this?” she said finally, her voice just above a whisper, but in no way soft. “God, Mulder, I’m so angry at you that I think at this point I might just be happier never seeing you again.”

He truly did smile that time.

“And I’ve felt like strangling you several times in the last while,” he replied, sounding vaguely amused. “See, we’re talking it out now.”

He thought he saw her join him in his smile for a moment, but her face was obscured by the darkness.

His smile disappeared as he allowed the silence to sink in again, and this time he knew the loneliness in the sound hit her.

“Tell me you really don’t ever want to see me again,” he whispered.

She tensed, and he saw the shock pass over her face, as though she’d believed he’d ignore her expression of emotion.

She took in a deep breath, and let it out quickly, her words coming out in a whispery burst along with it.

“Of course I don’t mean that,” she said, then shook her head, her hands coming up to hold it, clutching. “I’m so confused, Mulder. How did it get so confusing.”

“I’d tell you how it got so confusing for me, but I don’t think it would help you much,” he said with a faint shrug.

“Tell me anyway,” she requested, half turning towards him as her hands dropped.

“Okay. The truth?” When she nodded, he went on. “It got really complicated for me when I realized how easy it would be for me to fall in love with you.”

When she was silent, he felt the need to explain further.

“It seemed like a trap, and the natural instinct is to push against it.”

“I know,” she said finally, a whispered response to his last statement. “I guess it was the same for me. The whole thing…
the whole partnership…it’s just seemed so easy to become totally wrapped up in you and the work. The cause. So easy to be consumed. It is a trap. It’s natural, it’s inevitable. It’s difficult to think of not having a choice.”

“There’s always a choice. You taught me that,” he informed her, and she smiled for a second before wiping it away with her hand over her mouth.

“There is always a choice. But when one of them is the wrong choice, it feels like entrapment.”

“I agree,” he said, and finally feeling comfortable enough to do so, he dropped into her armchair, taking off his jacket before he did so.

“But it’s so much more than…” she found she couldn’t say the words.

“Romance,” he provided, sneering a little bit on the term to show he understood her hesitation.

“Yes. So much more than that. That’s what’s important.”

“I guess it depends on which one of us you’re asking. It’s all important as life and death to me,” he said, dropping his eyes for a moment.

“Which is why you knew that I would want to fight for this too,” she said, dropping her head and rubbing her neck with one hand. “Mulder, would it mean anything to you if I said I was sorry?”

“Of course. It’s a start. I’m sorry too.”

“I meant everything I said to you today. I also know that I shouldn’t have said them in such a manner. They’re things I should have taken up with you years ago, when they first started happening. I might have prevented this had I done that.”

“My fault too, don’t forget,” he said, smiling lopsidedly.

“We can work this out, can’t we?” she commented suddenly, lifting her head. He saw in her eyes that she was surprised by her own revelation.

“Yes. We do work out. Even when we hate each other, you and I always work out, Scully.”

“And maybe that’s what I resent,” she said, glancing at him briefly. “Sometimes I wonder whether I’m the luckiest woman in the world, or just cursed.”

“I wonder the same things, I assure you. It’s very hard to keep perspective in such a situation,” he agreed.

“Mulder?” she asked.

“Yeah?”

“Have we just forgiven each other?”

He blinked, thinking about it.

“I think we have,” he said, smiling.

She breathed a soft sigh of relief.

“No more fighting,” he said quietly, serious again. “If there’s resentment, I want it out in the open. We’ll work everything out, and we’re going to do it right.”

“And we’ll know when it’s right?” she asked, intending it as a joke, but he took it seriously.

“We know,” he said confidently, nodding. She glanced at him, intrigued by the present tense in his words.

They waited in silence for so long that he thought perhaps it was his cue to leave, but gradually he got the feeling that Scully was content with his company, so he sat. They waited together.

Silence.

*****

Your angels speak in jilted tongues
The serpent’s tail has come undone
You have no strength to squander

*****

“Mulder, there’s something I’d like to show to you,” Scully said, slowly standing, stretching as she did so. His eyes lifted to watch her immediately, curious. She walked over towards him and gestured, indicating that he should stand up. He hustled to his feet and waited in front of her, watching as she turned her back to him and reached back to lift her shirt. “I don’t believe you’ve ever seen it.”

Her tattoo. The cold eyes of the snake stared back at him as he took it in, amazed by several things at once. The quality of the work was incredible, for one. Two, he still couldn’t reconcile his Scully with a tattooed woman, so he’d told himself not to believe it until he saw it, and here it was. And three, it seemed a very odd symbol for Scully to have chosen, granting the possibility that she could, in fact, have planned to get a tattoo.

“Touch it,” she said, and he was startled, but he stepped closer and brushed two fingers across the snake’s spine. He almost jumped back. The sensation of touching Scully’s skin had always been incredible, but it was odd and electric with the strangely colored Ouroboros guarding it. “It seems almost preternaturally cold, doesn’t it?”

He smiled and leaned over slightly to make a wry comment in her ear.

“Who are you and what have you done with Scully?”

She chuckled, but she was totally serious as she again reached behind herself, with only one hand, and grabbed his hand. She brought it back to the tattoo, and guided his fingers, making him trace the circular motion of the snake.

It was painful for him. It felt like a violation of Scully’s rights, and something about the snake seemed to ward him off.

“I got it to mark a time in my life that was lower than any other I’d ever known,” she explained. “I was in a very bad time then, Mulder. I was feeling ill, and having strange dreams. Looking back, and keeping in mind your advice about how dreams are answers to questions we haven’t learned how to ask yet, it occurs to me now that unconsciously or maybe even subconsciously, I was aware of my cancer even before Leonard Betts, which was my first indication…you may not have realized that.”

“When I saw you at the hospital those few days after, I put two and two together,” he returned, his voice lowered. She knew there was something angry and distinctly sexual about the snake that inhabited her lower back, and she knew that Mulder felt it. She could feel acceptance coming into his warm fingers; she felt them starting to move over the tattoo
on their own, without the aid of her hand. She kept her fingers wrapped around his hand anyway.

“Anyway, it’s because I was having such a tough time that I was so horrible to you. I felt trapped. By my body, by my life, and by the people in my life. That’s also why I slept with Ed Jerse, another thing which you may have figured out by putting two and two together.”

“Yes,” he agreed, and she shivered as she felt his breath touch her neck.

“I had this tattoo put on my back because it was a challenge to myself. A challenge to complete the cycle and stop the endless one step forward and two steps back. It made me feel like I could feel anger, and love, and everything else and not feel ashamed about it. I only felt that for the one night, but it was what I needed at the time. It didn’t last, but I’m not sorry I did it. But do you understand what I’m trying to tell you, Mulder?”

“Freedom,” he managed, because he couldn’t think of any other way to explain it.

“Exactly. It’s a symbol of my freedom. The problem—the endless cycle—is that I don’t have my freedom anymore without being with you. That snake was a quiet yell because I
felt trapped at first, but now it’s become my way of yelling that I don’t want it to be a trap anymore.”

His thumb roughly traced the outline of the snake and she jerked gently, her fingers squeezing his hand.

“But I don’t know how to do that,” she finished quietly, dropping her head as she felt his other hand come up and settle carefully but intimately on her hip. She felt the change in air behind herself as he knelt behind her and placed his lips softly over the snake, a kiss so gentle she barely felt it, but so electric she felt the shock pass through her body as a tangible entity; something separate, with a life of its own.

“So you’re telling me that freedom and forgiveness are the same thing,” he said as he stood again. Her shirt dropped down over the snake as his hands retreated. She felt cold without him, but she knew where the line had been drawn, knew how dangerous it was.

“Yes,” she nodded.

“We can free ourselves,” he said, and she heard the wry smile in his voice. “But only by sacrificing some measure of personal freedom. Isn’t that ironic?”

“Painfully so,” she agreed, nodding as she turned to face him. “But forgiveness is the first step and we’ve taken it.”

“I’d say we’ve also taken the second,” he said, then left the statement open for interpretation. He gave her a brief smile, picked up his jacket, and pulled it on. “Scully…seriously, let’s never fight like this again. It’s exhausting.”

She chuckled, nodding agreement.

“I should go,” he said, backing towards the door, then gradually turning to let himself out.

“Mulder,” she said quickly, before her chance was over.

“Scully?” he returned, half turning back towards her.

She swallowed, gathering her courage.

“I don’t want you to leave,” she whispered, and listened as the cold silence of the room grew deafening.

*****

Hours pass
Days pass
Time stands still
Light gets dark And darkness fills my secret heart
Forbidden…

*****

THE END-Well, for now, anyway. <g> Stay tuned for the last in this series, ‘Red’.

—–

Red
By Catwoman

Date Finished: November 25th, 1998
Classification: V, A, MSR
Keywords: Mulder/Scully Romance
Rating: NC-17 (graphic sexual situations, language)
Note: Sequel to ‘Vox’, ‘Wait’, and ‘Ice’.

Red
By Catwoman
<>

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully are NOT MINE!!! GET OVER IT!!!

The songs ‘Ice’ and ‘Red’ belong to Sarah McLachlan and Treble Charger respectively.

Distribute: Please do not post to either Gossamer or ATXC. Please do post to XF Fanfic, if possible.

Spoilers: Everything up to and including ‘The End’, but before the movie (and the new season, of course).

WARNING: MSR construction ahead!

Note: This is the fourth story in a series that includes the stories ‘Vox’, ‘Wait’, and ‘Ice’ in that order. This *should* be the final installment, though I can never promise anything. <g> Anyway, you really should read those first three before this one, to understand what’s happening…especially since this one continues on directly from the last one (just as ‘Ice’ continued on directly from ‘Wait’).

Thanx: Thanx go out to Ravenwind, who offered to edit if I ever need it, which I think is really nice. : )

Dedication: This is dedicated to myself, because I’ve had some major problems writing NC-17 lately, and I’m damn glad I pulled this off. <g> (Hey, I didn’t say I pulled it off *well*…)

Summary: Sequel to ‘Vox’, ‘Wait’, and ‘Ice’. “Their errors have been weighed and found to have been dust in the balance; if their sins were as scarlet, they are now white as snow: they have been washed in the blood of the mediator and the redeemer, Time.”—Percy Bysshe Shelley

*****

Vision starts to crawl when I’m near
And the evening waits
While you get caught up to your own mistakes
Made up of different lines
I wouldn’t want to keep in my mind

*****

He stopped at the doorknob, feeling the room and the temperature freeze around him. She…didn’t want him to leave?

Then she wanted him to stay.

The time and temperature of life came back to him and to the room in a rush of heat. He felt it flush his skin to an almost feverish pitch, causing a sudden sweat that was cold on his palms.

He turned his eyes back to her slowly. She stood with her arms folded over her chest, her stance casual as she watched him for reaction. The faint pink in her cheeks told him she was not oblivious to the ramifications of her statement, simple as it had been. The heat in her eyes told him she knew exactly what she was doing.

“Are you sure that’s a…good idea?” he asked, and the tone in his voice made it clear that he was concerned about any regrets she might have, not his own.

She sighed softly and dropped her eyes again, her hand slipping back under the waistline of her jeans, covering the snake. He saw the motion for what it was.

Control.

Despite the fact that they’d been at blows with each other just over an hour before, it was clear that this was not a split second decision.

Hell, he knew that.

It had been five fucking long years coming.

“Freedom, Mulder,” she said, a whispered reminder of their conversation of moments before. He could still feel the sting on the pads of his fingers where he’d touched the angry snake.

“Time, Scully,” he reminded her, and she smiled.

“It’s been time for far too long already,” she said, shaking her head. “Far too long. Too long a wait.”

He was smiling as he said, “And you don’t think the wait makes it better?”

“Better than what?” she challenged, lifting her eyes again. He laughed out loud.

“Touché,” he acknowledged, dipping his chin. “I suppose if we’ve never tried…this…we don’t know whether it’s better with the wait or not.”

He hesitated briefly.

“But what if it’s better to wait for emotional purposes…I mean, we were dangerously close to hating each other today, Scully. And now…”

He trailed off, lifting his hands in a gesture of surrender. He could see the understanding in her eyes rather than resentment, and it was such a heavenly, beautiful relief after the spiteful, angry deliberate misunderstanding moments before.

“Mulder…we can go on for years waiting for ‘the right time.’ I don’t believe it exists. There’s always someone or something that’s unstable. I guess that’s just life. We’re both unstable people, but we’re sure of this.”

She looked at him as she said this, a slight question in her eyes, as though asking if she was in fact the only one so sure.

“We are,” he agreed, giving her a lopsided grin. “Then why has it taken so long?”

She shrugged.

“Does it matter *now*?” she asked.

He considered, then shook his head.

“No,” he said quietly. “Not in the slightest.”

She nodded, sensing the sudden seriousness between them and quieting the humor in her eyes.

“Is there any way other than awkwardness to do this?” she whispered finally, returning a smile similar to his own half-sided grin.

“No,” he said again. “I don’t think so.”

“Then let’s make the most of this awkward moment,” she said, but she didn’t make the first move. He’d had a feeling that despite everything, she couldn’t.

He sat down on her couch, feeling the awkwardness she spoke of in every movement of his clumsy limbs. She watched him, her eyes sharp and hawk-like, as he tried to get comfortable and motioned for her to join him with just a slight movement of his hand. She hesitated for a second, then slowly walked over and sat down next to him, curling up her legs beside herself.

“Okay?” he asked her softly. He felt it was a question that needed to be asked, despite everything.

“Okay,” she agreed quietly, meeting his eyes unflinchingly.

“Okay,” he repeated, draping his arm around her shoulders. When she glanced at him, he wiggled his eyebrows rakishly and she smiled suddenly and he watched her force the smile away out of habit. He touched her bottom lip with the fingers of his free hand, opening her mouth slightly.

“Don’t stop smiling,” he said, feeling a tiny grin on his own lips.

The smile that touched her lips was soft, small, almost regretful.

“I think I’ve forgotten how to smile,” she whispered, shaking her head, dropping it towards his welcoming shoulder. She rested her forehead against his shoulder, turning her body towards him. Her hands were still held firmly together in her lap, not touching him.

“You haven’t forgotten how to smile,” he assured her, touching her lips again, which only made her smile wider. “You’re just a little out of practice. You’re so beautiful, Scully, but you’re luminous when you smile.”

He listened to the jagged sound of her breath stopping in her throat, her lips stilling.

He realized that he’d never really complimented her before, or at least not in so obvious a fashion.

“Thank you, Mulder,” she said, her voice quiet and raw and surprised, but grateful. “It means a lot to me that you think I’m beautiful.”

“I don’t think that,” he said, truly grinning. “It’s not one of my twisted theories, Scully. I know that. It’s a fact of life. I have a set of definitions in my mind based on experiences in my life. Look up beautiful, or pure, or strong, and there’s your picture…eyebrow raised, of course.”

She laughed—actually laughed—at that one, which pleased him to no end.

“See, you haven’t forgotten,” he repeated, his tone softening again as his arm tightened around her.

“Oh, Mulder,” she whispered, and it seemed such an unlikely thing for her to say that he almost missed the chance at being surprised out of his wits when she turned into him and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face closer, towards the centre of his chest.

She looked awkwardly twisted, but she felt wonderful in his arms. He realized his hands were moving over her of their own volition, softly caressing her back, as though trying to reassure her more than himself though his motivations were almost entirely self-centred. He needed the touch, to ground him.

“How could I have been so angry at you, only to be so in love with you now?” she whispered into the skin of his neck as her head moved, her lips grazing his Adam’s apple. He shivered slightly, his hands splaying and tightening on her back. She shifted with his movement, squirming under the warmth of his fingers. He was so much larger than her that his hands covered large expanses of her back, and the feeling was ominous in a strangely pleasing way.

It was his turn to catch his breath in surprise and wonder.

“Was it wrong for me to admit that to you just now?” she wondered aloud, feeling the sudden tension in his body.

“Of course not,” he whispered as his breath left his lungs in a rush. “I’m…just startled, that’s all. That you did admit it, I mean. Of course we’ve been talking about this all night…but neither of us has actually said anything until now.”

He felt her smile in the slight curve of her lips against his skin.

“Do you love me more at certain times?” he asked her, because of the nature of her original question.

“Yes, I suppose. But never less. So my love isn’t conditional, if that’s what you’re asking,” she said, shifting again, coming a little closer, pressing up against his side.

“I’m not sure if you wanted an answer to your question, but I’ll try anyway,” he said, brushing his lips over her temple. “We’ve lived with a love-hate relationship for longer than I think either of us would care to admit, Scully. The anger…it comes even more naturally than this, unfortunately. Because anger…anger’s okay to display sometimes, but love…it’s always seemed so important to hide, and God help me, but I can’t for the life of me think why, now.”

“It was easier that way. It was just a cop-out, that’s all,” she said, easily summing it up where his logic failed him with the feel of her slender form pressed against his side.

“It is easier. But so damned lonely,” he said, and she chuckled.

“Alone, as ever,” she said softly, solemnly but with traces of relieved mirth.

“As ever,” he agreed, shaking his head. “Oh well. At least we’re safe in the knowledge that we’ve both been stupid, not just one of us.”

She smiled and snuggled into him—he couldn’t call it anything *but* a snuggle—and they let the silence drop around them again, shielding them and holding them like a security blanket, warm but icy with tension.

In the wake of the unbroken silence, Scully became restless. He felt it in the way her muscles twitched slightly against him. And then, suddenly, her leg was sliding over his lap, and she was moving over, straddling him, her hands on his shoulders, and he couldn’t breathe, watching her with heated eyes as her eyes remained turned down, focused somewhere within as she fidgeted her entire body, making herself fit into him. When she touched his rapidly forming erection, she gasped softly, stopping the sound by gently biting her lip, her eyes making a tiny rolling gesture on her face.

“Are you ready for this?” he asked her breathlessly, because he knew if she stayed where she was there would be no turning back after the next few seconds.

“As ever,” she repeated, and he smirked and reached forward, pecking her under the chin. She let out a quick breath, lifting her chin as his lips touched her neck, giving him access without reservation, which seemed so incredible to him. Vulnerability was Scully’s biggest idea of a crime of emotion, and yet she bared her neck, the most vulnerable part of the human body, to him with complete and utter trust.

It made him want to cry, made him bite his lip to hold the feeling in because he couldn’t spoil this with foolish displays of misery and relief.

She moved in his lap, her hands gripping his shoulders to steady herself. Just once, a smooth motion against his erection, pushing herself over it, hardening it further and making her bite her lip harder and him groan into the skin of her neck.

“Scully,” he whispered softly, feeling the tiny tremors rippling through her body, her racing pulse against his lips. “Look at me.”

Sighing softly, she dropped her eyes to his. He nuzzled into her, his lips at the corner of her mouth, and her eyes slid closed. He felt his following.

“I love you,” he whispered against her mouth, then kissed her. She moaned, quiet but raw, more at his words than the feel of his lips against hers for the first time, dipping her tongue into his mouth, shivering at the exquisite feel of their first truly intimate touch.

The kiss grew deeper, more frantic, her nails digging into his neck, his hands holding her neck steady to plunge his tongue farther. Lips pulling at each other, tongues fighting desperately.

When they finally broke she whispered a halted, “Oh God,” feeling the urge to move against him again, to relieve the continually rising pressure in her belly and lower.

“We waited far too long for this,” he agreed hoarsely, pulling her back for another quicker, passionate kiss. “Quick, Scully, the bedroom…before we cop out again.”

She nodded, her movements stilted, and lifted herself off of him, pulling away but dropping her hands to take his and pull him up after her. He chased her, his arm sneaking around her, his hand flattening against her belly, almost tripping her up which made her hiss at him and catch his lips.

They finally made it, both frantically trying to undress each other on the way. His jacket was lost, and his shoes, and his shirt was entirely unbuttoned. Her blouse was halfway undone, hanging open, exposing the curves of her breasts, making his breath come in quick, ragged jerks. Inside the bedroom, Mulder shut the door, as though by doing so he could keep the entire world at bay while they performed this one act. As though their pasts couldn’t come back to haunt them if they were finally utterly alone together.

It was dark but neither of them wanted any lights. The light from the window was enough as his fingers fumbled with the buttons of her blouse, and her hands steadied him, her voice soothing in his ear, telling him to relax a little even as her hands dropped and her fingers smoothly undid the button and zipper of his pants. She slid her blouse off her shoulders while he took off his pants and tossed them away, and she worked on her own jeans as he worked at the clasp of her bra, swearing suddenly but quietly as he couldn’t make it work with his jittery fingers. She chuckled lowly and helped him with that too, and it slid off, joining the blouse on the floor. Her jeans soon followed, and then her panties.

They stood before each other, finally totally naked, and suddenly neither of them was in any great rush.

She was staring, first at the size of his erection, then at the beauty of the rest of him, exposed in the moonlight. She had, of course, seen him naked several times, but in the cold confines of the medical field. This was different. His skin glowed with the prospect of their sex, and he looked positively radiant with the strength of his desire.

He wasn’t staring, but instead simply looking. Alternating between watching her look at him, and running his eyes over her pale skin, stretched evenly across her slender, small body. She was so small. In the flesh and only in the flesh, she looked even smaller than usual, and much more vulnerable, despite the fact that she didn’t seem ashamed or embarrassed by her nudity, instead standing as she normally would, arms calmly at her sides, though her fingers were half curled into fists. He knew it was a restraining gesture, as was her teeth on her bottom lip as she continued to rake him over with her eyes.

He loved the fact that she was so small against him. It seemed so much easier to enfold her, to treasure her, that way. But he wondered briefly if their size difference would be painful for her…or for him, for that matter.

“Do I pass?” he asked finally, as he felt the first beginnings of embarrassment at how long her eyes had remained on his skin, moving over every curve in his musculature, as though memorizing.

Her cheeks colored slightly as her eyes flickered to his, surprised by his interruption, surprised that she’d let herself linger so long.

“God, you’re beautiful,” she whispered, with a vigorous passion in her voice that told him she wasn’t remotely making it up. It was just her automatic response, and it was more than he could have hoped for.

He felt a change in his own eyes as the connection between them deepened, felt himself weakening again, on the verge of crying.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, when he saw the realization in her eyes.

“It’s okay,” she said, finally reaching up one hand, flattening it against his chest, over his heart. Her eyes never left his. “I understand. I feel it too.”

To stop himself from weeping, he reached down and closed his mouth over hers again, a slower version of their earlier touches. The hot pain of the ache that the sudden slowness caused combined with the pleasure/pain of the gentleness in his lips made her blood suddenly boil, changing her so quickly that she gasped and clutched him, her fingers tight on his arms, startling him. He backed away from her, looking concerned until he saw the way her nipples had tightened, the look of pain on her face.

“Jesus,” she muttered, and he chuckled.

“If it’s any consolation, I’ve never felt this way either,” he said, and dropped his head to nip at her shoulder, his hands on her hips. She kept her hands on his arms, her fingers squeezing his biceps as her eyes closed, her mouth opening as she allowed every impulse in her body to focus on the feel of his mouth against her fevered skin.

“God, I love you,” she whispered as his lips moved up her neck, behind her ear.

He tried to embrace her, but when her nipples brushed his chest, she tensed and moaned softly, more with pain than anything else.

“Sorry,” he said almost sheepishly, leaning down to kiss the space over her heart before he brushed his lips gradually over the curve of her right breast, taking his time before his tongue circled her nipple.

“Oh, God,” she hissed again, more vehemently this time. She gripped his shoulders. “I don’t think I can take this.”

He grinned and wrapped his mouth around her, tugging gently. She gasped an oath and rolled her head on her neck, twitching in his arms, which tightened around her. When he attempted to pay the same attention to her other breast, she buckled, losing her balance, her knees failing her. He caught her by the small of her back with one hand, the other hand flattening between her shoulder blades, holding her steady as she allowed herself to rock forward against him, wrapping her arms around his waist, burying her face in his chest.

“God, I love you,” she said again, and he felt the smile on her lips. “I love you. I love you. I can’t say it enough. I love you.”

“It does feel good to be able to say it instead of skirting around it, doesn’t it?” he agreed.

Her lips brushed his chest, finally touching over his own nipples, and he tensed as she had, his hands moving back to her hips.

“Be careful. If I fall, I don’t think you can catch me,” he said softly into her ear, and she smiled and nodded, moving up to kiss his neck and then whisper into his ear, “Then let’s stop standing.”

He chuckled and followed her into the bed.

“Mulder,” she said as he crawled up her body, his eyes intent on her face.

“Scully?” he asked, tilting his head and halting to listen to her.

“I honestly don’t want anything more than this tonight,” she said, and he realized what she meant and nodded.

“Are you sure?” he asked quietly, finding himself more solemn at the prospect of ending all of this playful seduction. It awed him to imagine.

“Absolutely,” she said, meeting his eyes without reserve, holding out her arms to him.

He moved up and into them, letting out a deep-held breath as her arms wrapped around him, holding him close to her for a moment before he lifted himself on his hands, steadied himself, and adjusted himself between her legs, which spread and locked around him.

“You don’t want a …” he tried to ask, but her fingertips brushed over his lips.

“No,” she shook her head. “No need.”

That saddened him, but he pushed the thought away and lifted his eyes back to hers. She was waiting, encouraging, needing. He held her eyes steadily as he pushed slowly, gradually inside her. A shudder built up within her as he did so, and she was breathing raggedly by the time he was all the way in, touching her as deeply as he could while they were both still, trying to hold himself steady inside her but having trouble simply not letting go.

He watched her for a moment to make sure she was all right, but he heard no pain in her breath. So he started to move. She held him as he did so, and after a little while, she caught on to his rhythm and joined him, meeting him with each stroke, wrapping her legs around his, holding him steady as best she could while she splintered and fell apart, trying to hold his eyes as she started to gasp, then moan. Finally her eyes fell away and his slid closed, but when he felt her coming closer, he opened his eyes again and watched her, watched the incredible reaction in her as she lost control. She felt his eyes on her and opened hers, meeting his gaze, though near delirious.

She gripped his shoulders and let out a choked sob of a sound as she came, so suddenly it was painful, contracting against him, her muscles closing around him, pulling him in further even as she instinctively curled about him outwardly, her arms holding him closer.

He too sobbed softly when he joined her seconds later, first pumping then easing himself into her until it was over. He collapsed against her and she accepted him freely, holding him tightly, her cheek against the top of his head, her breath rasping in the suddenly quiet air around them.

“Maybe we *should* fight more often,” he cracked when he could finally speak, and she choked on a laugh and slapped him lightly on the shoulder.

“I love you,” he amended, giving her one of his puppy dog looks as he lifted his head, meeting her eyes, once again clear and reasonable.

“That’s better,” she agreed, smiling. “Mulder, that was…”

He lifted a finger to her lips, brushing softly, hushing her even as his lips made a soft shushing sound.

“Don’t say anything,” he whispered. “Just leave it as it is. Just here, between us. Let it linger.”

She smiled a little wider and kissed his forehead, her hand against the back of his neck.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, closing her eyes.

“I know,” he said, remembering their fight in sudden clarity, frightening himself. “Me too.”

“Let’s not ever forget this,” she said, opening her eyes and looking at him piercingly. “Let’s not ever try to pretend that this didn’t happen so we can go on with our safe, easy, professional lives. Promise me that when we wake up in the morning, everything will be just as it is now.”

“I promise,” he whispered, surprised to find that a single tear, out of so many that had been waiting all evening, dropped out of his eye and rolled down between her breasts, disappearing into her skin.

“So do I,” she agreed, kissing his temple and then just holding him, as tightly as she could. She didn’t ever want to let him know, but she knew that it was inevitable, as all things in life are inevitable.

But she knew that they would always be forgiven to each other, and that meant they would always touch some part of each other.

They would always be free, now.

*****

The ice is thin, come on dive in
Underneath my lucid skin
The cold is lost, forgotten

*****

THE END-hope you enjoyed it!

‘I was first struck by the absence of time…’

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