Shadows of Winter
by Jaime Lyn
* And we're back to PG again. I know - darn, right? ;-)
Sated, Mulder laid on his back, hands cupping the back of his head.
The beam from the flashlight was steady, a dusty beacon bubbled on a darkened
ceiling. Scully lay on her back beside him, Knick's t-shirt draping
her breasts and bunched around her thighs. She was quiet, goose-bumped, tranquil.
One arm rested behind her head, the other on her stomach.
Once they'd finally disengaged from one another, both had been exhausted,
drained, and had simply flopped back onto the carpet. Scully had shivered,
and pulled her shirt back over her head. Mulder closed his eyes and
reveled in a pattern of sounds and textures - the fabric of Berber versus
the occasional burst of color behind his eyes: blue, red, green, yellow,
rough, soft, rough, soft.
Scully's tears had dried in tracks against her cheeks, but her eyes remained
open, unfocused, the pink around her irises evaporating into eggshell-white
as seconds stretched into minutes.
The house was silent, replete. Only the whistling of winter discontent
flitted through the walls: branches tapping stucco, wind hissing at trees,
snowflakes dueling. Time was ticking, warning them, prodding them.
But even if they wanted to leave - wanted to leave right now - there was
no way out. The roads would be blocked off, the lawn covered in thick,
white hills. Cold was closing in, contracting around the heart of November,
and soon they would have to go get William and move the party downstairs,
where a fireplace could promise warm flickers of heat.
"Scully, do you remember why you wrote your senior thesis?"
Scully turned to him, leaned over on her right side, braced herself on an
elbow. Her thick red hair fell over her shoulder like an un-tethered
drape. "My undergraduate paper?" she asked, her chin pressed into her
hand. "The one you flung at me like a false credential when we first met?"
"Hey now." Mulder raised an eyebrow. "There was no flinging involved."
Scully smiled. "Perhaps it was your distaste for me that gave the appearance
of flinging." Her free hand secreted towards him, drew swirls
over his knuckles, her lids heavy. "Why do you ask?"
"I don't know," said Mulder. "Einstein's Twin Paradox - it was the
first thing I wondered about you, after we worked on that first case together.
Why would such a staunch scientist choose one of Einstein’s most outlandish
theories as part of her graduation requirements?"
"Did you even bother to read it?" she asked, amused.
Her suspicious tone was so familiar that Mulder felt momentarily transported.
A quiet basement office, once a copying room, and then a storage closet,
and finally a joke to anyone who passed and saw his nameplate on the door.
Slides and files hanging off the desk, photos littering the floor, unfilled
expense reports sticking out the corners of drawers. Piles here, piles
there. The scent of fast food hamburgers, hot coffee, and ketchup.
An unwelcome, red-headed urchin, so green from inexperience it was frightening,
daring him to contradict her, arguing with him that nothing existed beyond
the realm of science: the answers are there, she insisted. You
just have to know where to look.
It took her a week to re-file the office, him another week to re-file it
back, and her a third week to clean it once last time: she left him post-it
notes in strategic places and threatened death if he dared rearrange anything
in a way that would create more work for her. The loopy swirls of her handwriting
coupled with the no-nonsense practicality of her messages made him smile;
he'd kept every single one of those post-its. He still had them, somewhere.
"I did read it," he insisted, opening his palm to her. Her fingertips traced
the lines in his skin.
When her eyebrow refused to back down, Mulder gave in and bit his lip, sheepish.
"Okay, I tried to read it. And I kind of got it. But I had no
idea why x equaled v and t equaled x - "
"Actually, I think I wrote that 'x' was a position in time, assuming that
time moved relative to any object in motion with a constant velocity of 'u'
- " She waved a hand as if lecturing - " 'U' being the constant velocity
of earth, for example - and that this was in fact equal to the constant x
times u, plus the constant of a second body, we'll say anything at motion
on earth - "
Mulder tapped her arm, jolting her. "Hey - braggart, you just lost
Scully frowned, seemingly confused as to why anyone would have problems understanding
the variables of physics. "Which part?" she asked.
"Everything after 'Actually,' " he answered. Scully smacked him on
"Well, seriously, then. What didn't you understand about it?"
Mulder turned on his side to face her, mirrored her posture. "I think
I just need a refresher course, Agent Scully. Explain to me how the
theory works in your expert opinion," he said. "Without forcing me
to dig out my Scully-to-laymens dictionary."
Scully tilted her head to one side, a few red hairs skirting into her face.
She swatted them over her shoulder, brushing her cheek with her knuckles.
The brows above her blue eyes converged, and she looked wholly unconvinced
of his seriousness.
Mulder grinned. "Okay. So one person leaves the sphere of gravity
and makes a trip to Pluto, and then returns fourteen years later, except
he's younger... or can he actually return older? It's all about traveling
at the speed of light, right? Is that... am I close?"
Scully took a breath. "We'll start with general relativity," she said.
Mulder groaned into his arm, flopping back to the carpet.
Scully chucked, sideswiped him with the back of her calf. "You're the
one who asked me." Her toes tickled up and down the inside of his leg,
and she smiled a very naughty smile, adding, "Big baby."
Mulder peeked his head out from his arm, pressed a kiss to the outside of
her elbow. "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought it was recess." He waggled his
eyebrows. "Preach on, Sister Spooky." Another kiss at the arch
of her elbow.
At the very least, science lessons with Dr. Scully were much more productive
than science lessons in high school, especially since, in this class, fucking
the professor into bowlegged contentment was an acceptable excuse for forgetting
to do your homework.
Scully took a moment; her lips quirked, and Mulder couldn't be sure whether
she was trying not to laugh.
At last, she began, "Without getting too deeply into uniform gravitational
fields - " She paused a moment, as if waiting for more grumbling from
the class. When Mulder proved he could actually keep his mouth shut,
she continued, "Say you have two identically constructed clocks. You synchronize
them -date and time - and send one off in a spaceship, traveling at the speed
of light, while you keep the other here on Earth. Theoretically, since
both Earth and the spaceship travel at a constant speed, and since time is
a universal invariant, the same amount of time will pass for both Earth and
the spaceship, but the clock on the spaceship will register that less time
has passed, even though time has actually been a constant variable. It's
rate that fluctuates, since the speed of light is faster than the speed of
Mulder tugged on Scully's foot with his, his toes skirting her ankle.
She was hot when she was scientific. "Okay, I think... Yes, I get what
you're saying. But let's say I were to blast off in a ship to Pluto traveling
at - oh, ninety-nine percent the speed of light - would I notice the passing
of time as years or minutes? I mean... would my body recognize the
change, or force biological growth at a faster rate?"
"In scientific theory or psychological theory?"
Mulder shrugged. "In your theory," he said. "It was your thesis."
"Okay..." Scully exhaled a chuckle. "Special relativity generally
debunks the idea that I would be younger than you, since I was traveling
on Earth at the slower speed, and I couldn't feel the momentum - and since
you obviously had thrusters on your spaceship. As far as your other
question goes, biology shouldn't change just because velocity does."
Her toes ran the length of his leg, and the smile she sported dimpled her
"But the argument in your thesis had more to do with the bigger picture,"
Mulder said. "What an effect like that could mean in a more metaphysical
sense. If I'm remembering correctly - you said something about... parallel
The arch of Scully's foot played along the inside of Mulder's knee, her fingers
dancing, intertwined with his, along his palm. If Mulder didn't know any
better, he'd argue that she was flirting with him, dirty-talking him with
her science, arousing him in her own, intellectual, deranged strategy.
He certainly wouldn't put it past her. She hummed to herself, sing-songing,
"Close, but not close enough, P.I."
Mulder grinned, certain his jaw would break from stretching; Good God,
she was flirting with him.
"I argued that proper time would belong to you - you being the passenger
in the spaceship traveling at the speed of light, me being the one left behind
on Earth. My interpretation of time would be merely as an observer,
and in that case, I was perhaps traveling in the wrong gravitational loop."
Her cheeks reddened slightly, and she held their intertwined hands at eyelevel
as she spoke. "In other words, you would cease to exist in my gravitational
frame of reference because we'd be traveling in different loops. If
the speed of light was the law by which we judged actual time, then all other
life forms existing at a point less than that speed would be on other planes,
measured by other frames of reference."
"Parallel Universes," translated Mulder, satisfied with this conclusion.
Scully snorted. "You make it sound like something out of Heinlein."
"Nah." Mulder grinned. "Not Heinlein. Maybe Ray Bradbury, though.
You must have been one groovy nerd to hang out with in college, Scully."
Scully shook her head. "God, I was so young." She smiled, wistful.
Mulder brushed his finger across her cheek, understanding the sentiment.
Nine and a half years, three abductions, a pot of paranormal hodge-podge,
five gunshot wounds, a dozen alien encounters, a cancer, a baby, an adoption,
a death, a murder trial and a break from the law later, and she was not the
person she'd once been. And neither was he. But he rather liked
this person that she was now, just as he'd liked any incarnation of her throughout
"Mulder," she said. "Seriously. Why do you ask?"
"I re-read your thesis a few years ago," he said, tucking a long red curl
behind her ear. "When you were pregnant with William. I sat at
my computer and leafed through it, looking for something - I don't even know
what. I think I missed a lot of the technical stuff, but I got the
general idea, and I kept it out - you know, where I could reach it easily."
Scully cocked her head to one side. She whispered, "Why?"
"Oh, I don't know. Just because," he said, and now he was the one who
blushed. His thumb dropped to her shoulder, and then to her wrists.
"I think I was at a point in my life where I was trying to figure us out.
A lot was going on professionally and I - I wondered whether it was fate
or coincidence that I'd found you, and you found me - that we were partnered
together. If I could have known in the beginning that it would end
She nodded, her eyes unreadable. "And what did you come up with?"
"I thought - " He sighed. "I thought that maybe I had done something
to you, robbed you of something important. And that the reason you
believed in me was not because you wanted to, but because you had been forced
to by circumstance."
Scully inhaled sharply, her fingers squeezing his. "Mulder - "
He held up a hand. "It's okay," he whispered. "Just wait until
you hear the whole thing."
She nodded, silent.
"So I was sitting there, out of work, out of distractions, and reading your
thesis because I found it in my desk, and I was bored, and I thought - "
He smiled, covered her fingers with his. "It wasn't a matter of me
dragging you out into the thick of ludicrousness - you'd always wanted to
be there. You liked the ludicrousness. You wanted to believe
- or at least, I think you did, but you didn't want me to think you did.
You know? When I first met you, the curiosity was there. And
the drive was there. And in the end - " He raised a hand and
cupped her face with his thumb and index finger. "There could never
have been anyone else, or any other way for me. You were just...someone
I would have fallen in love with in any universe."
"Nice," said Scully.
"You like?" Mulder grinned, self-satisfied.
"All this from my senior thesis, Mulder?"
"Yeah, that." Mulder cocked an eyebrow. "Plus, you've got an
amazing ass. Cosmic, really."
A smile tugged at her lips, and she leaned closer, bridging the gap between
them with a sliver of shadow. Her eyes swam out of focus, her fingers
splayed wide over his cheek, tickling the cartilage of his ear. Her
mouth found his and tugged, searched, angled. Her tongue entered, and there
was a sudden merging, a crashing flash of desire. She was soft, and warm,
and breathing life into his lungs. Her red hair ran like smooth, gold
spun silk beneath his fingertips. She tasted like nine and a half years
of familiarity, and at least six lifetimes of tears, sweat, and loyalty.
When she pulled away, his eyes were still closed. "Impressive," she
murmured. She brushed his cheek with the back of her hand, and he opened
his eyes. "I think that was even better than your 'one in five billion' speech,
and that's really saying something, Mulder."
Mulder grinned, unabashedly giddy. "Yeah, well, I aim to please."
"Really?" Scully's eyebrow shot up. "If I recall correctly, I
was your 'one in five billion' because you wanted me to do an autopsy I didn't
plan on performing. And before that, when 'I completed you,' it was
because you wanted me to stop that pesky global conspiracy thing."
She clucked her tongue, rising to her feet. "Always something
with you, Mulder." Her lips were swollen, hair wild and tousled.
She looked ravished. "So what do you want from me this time?"
Mulder tapped her ankle, marveled at the stripes of darkness that flitted
over her. With a tilt of his chin, he said, "Woman, go make me a fire."
Scully rolled her eyes. "I'll be downstairs," she muttered. "You
can lay here like a lump if you want, but I don't feel like listening to
you complain all night about your ass contracting frost bite. So give me
a few minutes. Then I suggest you grab the Tater-Tot and meet me in the living
Scully folded her arms. "There are plenty of theories concerning time
dilation. I'll start with Galileo, move on to Newton - "
Mulder groaned, tossed an arm over his eyes.
Scully chuckled. "Get dressed," she ordered, and turned on her heels.
Mulder pulled himself to sitting, grasped her wrist before she could go any
further. His heart cracked out a wild, erratic drumbeat; he couldn't
explain the tension. That encroaching feeling took over, that powerful,
almost hallucinogenic thought that the walls were closing in on them.
Scully frowned, questioned him with squinted eyes.
"I love you," he whispered suddenly, looking her square in the eyes so there
could be no debate. "I mean it, Scully. I love you."
Scully nodded slowly. She hooked her fingers into his, squeezed, and
then let him go. "I know you do," she said.
And then she turned and walked into darkness, disappearing down the inky