HOW I SLEPT WITH MY PARTNER
(WITHOUT REALLY TRYING) PART SIX (1/2)
By Jaime Lyn
All disclaimers and headers in part one
Mulder and Scully: On Figuring it Out
When You Have to Wait Outside
WHEN THE TAPE RECORDER RUNS OUT OF TAPE
AND MULDER RUNS OUT OF STEAM...
Georgetown Medical Center.
Jesus, I hate Georgetown Medical Center. How many fucking times have I been here? Right here?
I cross and re-cross my legs, fold my hands in my lap.
One of the Triage Admissions nurses--a young, blonde-haired, green-eyed woman-- passes by my chair and catches my eye. "Hey Agent Mulder," she says, grabbing some blue folders from a large plastic box mounted on the wall. She turns and bends to her knees to make gurgly faces and cooing noises at the baby. She smiles at Will, then at me and asks, "broken, shot, infected or poisoned?"
The nurse's name--I remember it now--is Kara. Nurse Kara. She's always at work in the E.R whenever I'm here, so I suppose she understands the hazards of a workaholic. She also knows Scully and I by name, which would almost be comedic if it weren't the epitome of pathetic.
"Probably infected," I say. "I think. I actually don't know."
"Ah, I see," says Nurse Kara, clutching the bundle of folders to her chest, "Well, that's why you're here, right? To find out?"
I nod without answering. I feel like a grounded grasshopper, like a metal spring trapped inside a tiny box. If someone doesn't let me out of here to see Scully soon, I'm going to start climbing the mountings of the waiting room TV.
Nurse Kara plays a brisk game of peek-aboo with the baby, her hands fluttering about her face as she adds, "I wouldn't worry, Agent Mulder. I'm sure Agent Scully's just fine. She always is. The two of you are like walking advertisements for the energizer battery."
I close my eyes for a second, consider yanking out my gun and firing at the ceiling to relieve the throbbing tension behind my eyes.
"Thank you," I mutter. Opening my eyes, I look up, picturing what the hospital bill would look like with 'concussion from falling plaster-board' on it. Okay, so maybe that's not such a good idea. But... the energizer battery? I don't even want to think about that one. Bad analogy. Terrible, in fact. It's a good thing that Skinner wasn't around to hear it--no matter how true it is.
"More holes than swiss cheese, both of you," Nurse Kara jokes--an attempt, I suppose, to make me laugh.
It doesn't work.
She ends the laugh with a long sigh, the folders hanging awkwardly in her hands. "Anyhow, bring that baby by more often, would ya? All of us at the main station think he's just darling." Her smile begins to fade.
I look down at William, who has fallen blissfully asleep in his carrier. His fists clenched, he purses his lips in and out as he his lids ripple with REM sleep. I can't help but wonder what it is he dreams about. If babies even dream at all. When is that moment, exactly, when dreams transform from feelings and sounds into concrete images? Does Will know who I am? Does he know who Scully is? Does he dream images of Scully and I into feelings of safety and warmth?
"Right," I say to Nurse Kara, although I'm not really looking at her. I touch one finger to Will's blue and green baby blanket, pulling it down from his chin. "Sleeping well?" I whisper to him.
When I DO look up to officially conclude the conversation, Nurse Kara has already gone, and I am left with nothing but the echo of her heels on light yellow tile.
Ah, alone again.
You know what? Scully and I should have frequent flyer miles for this place. One thousand more miles and we get our card stamped and a free saline IV. Thank you, Mr. Mulder, Ms. Scully, and please come again.
I glance around the room and lean back, crack my knuckles.
Pale yellow walls, over-stuffed yellow and white striped couches and a TV mounted in each corner serve as the majority of the formal waiting room’s less than impressive décor. A few impressionist paintings of ballerinas adorn the walls and in one corner, a make-shift play area with blocks, a rocking horse, a small train set and some baby dolls are scattered like debris. Not too personal, but definitely better than the standard ER waiting room down the hall.
I work my neck from side to side to try and loosen the muscles, but I can't seem to get thte angles right. Damn it. My neck is sore and my head is starting to hurt from staring at all this yellow paint. Yellow. Yellow fucking everywhere. I feel like I've been thrown into the middle of that story--what is it called? The Yellow Walpaper? If I have to sit here and stare at these walls I'm going to go insane. Insane, I tell you.
I'm sorry, Mr. Mulder, but you'll have to wait outside.
I close my eyes to try and relieve the ache. What the hell kind of thing is that to say to someone's partner? What if she's dying? What if there's something really wrong? Is her condition a giant secret or something? Am I not supposed to try and help her? I can't help but wonder about the hippocratic oath and doctor-patient confidentiality. It doesn't help anyone, does it? Not really. What a bunch of bullshit.
It's okay, Mulder. Really
Scully's voice in my head, her voice forever in my head. Pained, ecstatic, angry, playful--
I love you, Mulder. But get off my arm so I can get some sleep.
I love you, Mulder.
Seven years ago I never would have believed that Scully would utter those words to me. That anyone would utter them to me. After all, I was never THAT guy. Other men in the bureau were THAT guy. Those men had women up and down the block and they went and slept with their partners on the side. I didn't sleep with Scully. I didn't sleep with anyone. At the time, I barely even liked Scully. No. I was just the guy in the basement. The lonely, screwed up mother-fucker (I was actually called this by a witness during a murder investigation) who didn't care for marriage and didn't care about love, and only cared about diving headfirst into the truth.
Sad? Yes, it is. But do I regret any of it? No, actually. Not really. So what kind of person does that make me?
The same guy I was? A different guy? A different version of the same guy?
When I was in college I had a friend named Roy: Roy was one of those guys who never got the girl. All his life he'd been like me--a loner, an intellectual, a guy with a ten year plan. Roy wanted to be a police officer. He wanted to remain a batchelor, live in an old apartment, get laid once a week and eat donuts for breakfast every day for the rest of his life. Roy and I were going to start our own detective agency right after Roy's five year stint with the force. We were going to make a difference. While we fought injustice, I would use the agency to find my sister, who'd been abducted when she was eight, and Roy would use it find his father, who had left him at the age of three.
But right after college life began to change for Roy and I--as life often does when the years rush past. I ended up getting recruited by the bureau, which meant that I would have to pack up and leave for Quantico. Roy ended up leaving our friendship behind for the marines, who he said, "are the absolute shit, Fox. You should see em."
Roy and I parted company and the plan dissolved, along with everything else. He never wrote to me and I never tried to figure out where he was. I suppose I figured that if we truly were buddies, life-long ones that is, our paths would cross again and everything would be the same as it was.
Last month--for the first time in nearly twenty years-- I ran into Roy at the Stop-N-Save by Scully’s apartment. Of all places for Roy to show up, a block away from my partner's house was not the one I'd imagined. Maybe I just figured that this type of meeting would be too easy. Tennesse, Texas, Arkansas, these were acceptable places for me to see an old college buddy like Roy. But for Roy to have been living ten minutes away from me without my knowledge of it...
I don't know. That just wasn't right somehow.
So there I was, fishing around the snack aisle for some Pringles when I saw the guy: Roy was thinner and more muscular than I remembered him, and his dark hair was combed over a bald spot on the top of his head. His arm was wrapped around a short, homely looking woman who had a box of Stayfree Maxis under one arm, and his leg was being used as a footstool for a very tiny, brown-haired young girl.
My mouth half opened, I dropped a bag of chips by accident as I squinted at Roy and tried to figure out how I knew him. I mean, I recognized him almost entirely, but at the same time I didn't recognize him at all. In my mind, Roy was a batchelor. He was a heavy set guy. Roy wasn't this family man standing in front of me--Roy wasn't married, and Roy couldn't be living anywhere near me--- which meant that Roy couldn't be Roy, but instead had to be someone else. So in that case, what was this tingle in the back of my brain? I went over my mental rolodex one by one: Skinner, Doggett, Reyes, Langley, Byers, Frohike, Joe from basketball, Abe from basketball, Chris from basketball, John from basketball...
These were all the people I knew, and none of them fit the description.
Finally, Roy looked up and caught my eye. He squinted for a moment--same as me--until I suppose it finally dawned on him. He realized the connection.
"Fox Mulder!" Roy exclaimed, and he nudged the woman with the maxis to step forward with him. A second later, a filled, wobbly shopping cart emerged from around the corner with a slightly older looking young girl attached to it.
"What's taking so long, Dad?" the older girl said to Roy, and she stopped the cart short in the middle of the aisle.
"Hold your horses," Roy said to her, then he turned to me and extended his hand.
I blinked and shook my head. What in the hell, I thought...
And then it dawned on me.
"Roy Watkins," I said, and tried on a smile.
Roy introduced the woman to me as Barbara—his wife of ten years. From behind Roy’s leg poked the dark head of a shy, five-year-old girl named Rhonda, and from behind the shopping cart stepped an older, similarly dark haired girl who removed her headphones long enough to introduce herself as Kirsten. In front of Kirsten rested a full cart of Cereal, Campbell’s Soup, milk, eggs and all that “responsible food.” Barbara dropped the box of maxis into the cart with her left hand and shook with her right.
“Nice to meet you, Fox,” she said.
"Likewise," I said.
"So where you been all these years?" Roy asked.
"Oh, around," I said. I couldn't help but stare at little Rhonda and her chubby little cheeks. Rhonda really was just adorable: those big blue eyes and shiny dark bangs that parted in the middle. Looking at her made me think of William, and of Scully, and how none of us had ever pushed a cart down the aisle together.
The elder girl--Kirsten, grabbed a box of cookies off the shelf and tossed them into the cart. Roy reached down and plucked the box out of the cart without looking. He placed the box back on the shelf and grinned at me. Kirsten made a face and walked away.
"So you live around here?" I asked, trying to distract myself from dwelling on the shortcomings of my relationship with Scully.
"Yeah," Roy said. "Got a job instructing at the local college. Marines paid for my education so I decided to milk it for all it was worth. Got my PH.D in physics. Barbara here was my lab partner." Roy nudged her affectionately with his elbow and she giggled.
"You must've been brave to put up with this one," Barbara said, and Roy gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"Yeah," I said, forcing a smile. "Roy was really something back in the day."
I sighed to myself. Suddenly, my potato chip run seemed very insignifigant, and I felt like the world's biggest loser. Was Scully out of milk? I wondered. Were there enough diapers, eggs? And why hadn't I even asked her when I left? Why didn't I bother?
Because you never ask, my brain easily supplied. You never do the shopping with her. You never take her out. You never do anything with her as a family. You never publicly acknowledge what, personally, you acknowlegded to her and to yourself months ago. And for that matter--neither does she. And this makes the both of you happy? Why?
“Did the married thing,” Roy said, smiling at Barbara. “I like her. I think I might keep her. You married, buddy?”
I thought about saying yes. Truly, I did. I pictured Scully sitting in bed, reading to William from 'Moby Dick,' her eyes lighting up with every other passage. I thought about the toys in the living room, the make-up on my bathroom counter, the latest issue of Cosmo that Scully's mother had brought over but that neither Scully nor I had touched. I thought about how nervous I felt every time I saw that issue of Cosmo sitting on the table beside my case briefs and my newspaper.
This is real, the girly magazine seemed to scream. This it it. Either you commit or you get out. You see me? You see me lying here on the table with your latest issue of the 'Lone Gunmen?' This is man and woman together. This is the trap. I represent everything that you're afraid of. Admit it, you stupid male.
“No, I'm not married,” I finally said, staring at little Rhonda as she ran in spirals around her father’s leg. “I think I missed that train.”
Roy hummed to himself. "Yeah, you always were the loner," he said. "But at least you're still with the FBI. You get to be a G-man for a living. Nothing wrong with that."
"Yeah," I said, staring down at the full cart of groceries: milk, eggs, tea...Was this what families did? Shop together? Compromise on what bread to buy? I cleared my throat. "FBI's going well."
"Glad to hear it, Buddy," Roy said.
I imagined that Roy must have spent more than his fair share of time in doctor’s offices—the ones that dripped with toys, paintings of ducks in the rain, and “girly magazines"--like the Cosmo that sat on my coffee table. I wondered whether this idea bothered Roy, or whether he had been forced to read Cosmo to pass the time. I thought he might have—or else he must have. In my head I had a picture of all the waiting men—normal looking guys who flipped through “girly magazines” to divert their attention: How to prepare a ten minute meal. How to be with your friends without alienating yourself from your man.
Jesus Christ, I thought. What in the hell is wrong with me?
What was it that these men in waiting rooms knew that I didn't? Why didn't the girly magazine scare them the way it scared me? How did Roy manage the domestic thing without going crazy? Why did I feel so trapped, so stuck within a circular pattern that I could never seem to escape?
That day at the Stop N Save, I had a terrifying epiphany. I realized that I wasn’t a boy in college anymore, and neither was I an agent of the X Files. I was just a man who had long ago decided that he didn’t need the girl, or the baby, or doctor’s office with the ducks on the wall.
Somewhere along the journey of truth seeking, ghost hunting, vampire killing, alien tracking and gun-toting with the FBI, I missed getting used to seeing a “girly magazine” on my coffee table. I missed marrying the girl. I missed sitting with the girl in the doctor’s office, watching the girl disappear behind swinging doors, and waiting for the girl with the latest issue of Cosmo in my hands. I missed Sunday food shopping with a full cart of groceries. I missed all the normal things that most people do and cherish, just for the blissful normality and familiarity of it all.
I didn’t think I wanted or cared about such things, but ever since I'd found out about Scully's pregnancy I'd started feeling differently about my life. At first it was just a tingling in my brain--the idea that I should see her more, stay at her apartment longer. Then William was born and it was like everything I had ever done before his birth was a prelude. My life's direction had changed. Instead of my search for the truth being paramount, my son and my ex-partner were paramount. I felt shifted and lost in a way I never would have contemplated five years earlier. And that shift scared the shit out of me.
Then: I had my work. I had Scully, my partner.
Now: I have a son. I have Scully, the woman in my life that I can’t live without.
I have toys that litter the apartment I share with her—dolls and cars and rubber duckies that never fail to topple off the bathroom counter.
I have the latest issue of Cosmo sitting on my lap--unopened, a baby carrier at my feet, and I’ve never been so terrified of my future in my whole life. Damn it. I can't think anymore. Why are all these hospital waiting rooms yellow? All this fucking yellow, driving me crazy.
Quit being melodramatic, Scully would say. And she'd roll her eyes.
God, Scully. What's going on with you?
All Scully ever asked of her world was that it repay her for the faith she put in it. All she ever asked of life was honesty, decency, a fair shot at happiness. Perhaps when she was a young girl she dreamed of the perfect man, the perfect house—the Brady Bunch existence. I wonder if, as she grew older, Scully gradually made the decision that she wanted to live her life differently than the way she’d dreamed it. Or if she just woke up one day and decided that things had changed during the night. That no, she would not be like other girls. She would join the FBI. She would put all other things aside. Is it even possible to make a brisk decision in that way?
Or maybe it wasn’t a decision she made alone. Maybe Scully had wanted the Brady Bunch family all along and I just got in the way. I stopped her. I beat ideas of paranoia into her head.
I wonder… did she ever pick up her mother's issue of Cosmo and wonder “what if?” What if I left the X Files and got married, had two kids, sewed costumes for Halloween and baked cakes on Christmas? What if I had done all the cookie-cutter things that other girls did? What would my life be like now?
To be honest, I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on in Scully’s head when she pauses outside the windows of bridal boutiques—when she presses her finger to the glass for a split second before she turns away. I don’t know what Scully longs for in that part of herself she keeps hidden from me—especially since she refuses to marry me. I don’t know. We have yet to come to terms with marriage. We have yet to wind our way down that unknown path. Maybe we never will. Maybe I will never be Roy with the cart full of groceries.
Yellow fucking walls and this damn issue of Cosmo in my lap.
At least Will's asleep.
I can’t even open the magazine. It's like if I open it, I'm giving in to this trap. I don't even know what kind of trap. Just a trap.
I can’t even sit still.
When is Scully coming back out?
When can we get the hell out of here?
Where the hell do I go from here?
FLASHING BACK INTO MULDER'S BRAIN
(WATCH YOUR STEP... MESSY IN HERE)
One Week After William’s Birth
“I suppose you have to get going now,” she said. It wasn’t meant as a question.
Scully faced me from across the room, her back to the bassinette, her hands folded over her chest in that way she folded them when she was nervous.
“Yeah,” I said, and I stuffed my hands into my pockets. I didn’t know where else to put them. Scully’s lips were still dark red and puffy from having been good and properly kissed. Her cheeks were still flushed. I still didn’t know what to do with my fucking hands.
“It’s getting late,” she added, as if that would explain everything.
“Yeah,” I agreed, as all speech seemed to have alluded me.
Scully finally took a step forward, her hand waving as if in explanation of her behavior. “I want to thank you,” she whispered, keeping careful not to wake the baby she’d just put down to sleep. “I mean—for coming over here to see how we were. That’s—thank you…Mulder. It’s more than—“
“You would’ve expected.”
We stared at each other, the light from the street side lamp casting a faint glow into the room. Because she stood at a forty-five degree angle from the window, half of Scully seemed blanketed by shadow—just as she always seemed to be.
Cerebrally, Scully wasn’t much of a conundrum. After eight years I understood the way she thought and reasoned, even if I didn’t always understand the ‘why’ behind it. I knew how she liked her coffee, what her favorite lunch choice was. I knew what time she woke in the morning and I knew what time she preferred to go to sleep. I even knew what pencils she liked to buy.
Romantically, Scully was as big a mystery as she had ever been. I didn’t know how she liked to be kissed. I didn’t know what side of the bed she slept on—if she even had a side—or whether she’d just prefer to sleep alone. I didn’t know if that look in her eyes was love, or if it was just a supreme sense of pity for a man who had sorely misjudged the situation.
Scully swallowed and stared at her feet, breaking the eye contact. “Better than I would have…”
“Hoped?” I offered.
“Something like that,” she said. "I figured you wouldn't have..." She wrung her hands, her blue eyes darting in all directions but the direction of my face. "I don't know."
Both my eyebrows raised. Had I really been cold to Scully during her pregnancy? Did she honestly think I wouldn't have wanted to see my own child? The idea that I had made Scully defensive in this manner shot chills up and down my back.
“You didn’t think I’d stop by?” I asked.
“I wanted you to.”
"That's not what I asked."
The air felt hot, musty. My hands felt sweaty. I didn't shoot a reply immediately, just breathed her in: That honeysuckle scent seemed to drench the room, and her steady, lonely looking blue gaze pierced right through me. Scully's slender hands figeted with the hem of her silk top. Her thick red hair was lightly tousled and her full, pink lips parted slightly to take a deep breath. God, I wanted her. I wanted to kiss away the lonliness and dissolve the hurt. I knew I couldn't do it entirely, but I wanted to try. Didn't she know that I wanted to try?
“So you thought about it?” I asked.
Scully stared at me as if I had smoked myself retarded. “Of course I thought about it, Mulder.”
With that in mind, I decided that something needed to be done about the awkwardness. For one thing, this wasn't how the evening was supposed to end. Not at all. I had planned on declaring my real feelings, kissing her, pulling her tight, and announcing my desire to be with her for as long as she would allow me.
So far I had only gotten halfway.
And for another thing, I was starting to chicken out. Big time chicken out.
"You hoped I would come by," I said.
"I never hope for anything," Scully responded, her steel gaze becoming less and less steelly as the conversation turned more and more emotional. "I thought about it, yes. But I figured you would do what you wanted. Hoping for one particular outcome wouldn't have brought you here any faster. Neither would it have prevented you from stopping by."
Floored by this, I folded my arms across my chest.. "That's a terrible way to appoach a situation, Scully," I said. I was beginning to feel offended, burned even, by her words. What in the world did she mean? That she tried never to hope for something when I was around, or she tried never to hope at all? Neither prospect said much for the state of our relationship.
Scully's chin turned upwards, and she stared down her nose at me. "What do you know about it?" she asked, although her voice was anything but argumentative.
I sighed and shook my head. I can right this, I thought. I can make this better. She thinks I don't understand, that I don't know how she feels. But I do. I can show her just how much. If only I can make my feet move two fucking feet across the room--
“Look, I don't claim to know where you're coming from with this, but I DO know that it's okay to hope for what you want,” I managed, trying a few steps forward. My feet felt like blocks of wood but I kept on going. “I know it’s hard sometimes...really I know. But maybe hope is stronger than fear... of the...the unknown... I know you have that faith, Scully. Where would you and I be right now if not for simple faith? Where would that baby be?”
I didn’t know where this was going. I didn’t even know what I wanted outside of a smile from Scully, or at least an acknowledgment from her that THEY hadn't won this time. THEY hadn't beaten us. By believing in each other, by coming together, Scully and I had finally found a way to overcome the shadow men, to shine over the monsters and all the hate. We had truth and we had William and we had love. Christ, we had so much love. Didn't she know that?
Scully took a deep breath and grasped the corner of her bedpost, ran her hands up and down along the wood. She swallowed and offered part of herself in words: “Every time I hope for something it disappears. I can't do it anymore.”
Oh, I thought. Oh God.
I remembered Scully’s father, the daughter she’d loved for such a short time—and lost in just as short a time. I remembered Melissa, whose red hair was so close to Scully’s color, and whose life had been halted by a bullet to the head. I wondered whether Scully and her sister had ever giggled together under the covers over boys or over Christmas presents. Melissa’s life, Emily’s life….
So much had been stolen from both of us. So many lives had been lost in the face of the truth, or what we thought was the truth. There were times when I’d seen Scully collapse, or give in, or just stare out the window and say nothing, her fingers pressed to the sill. I’d wonder what she was dreaming during those times—if she was dreaming at all.
Scully bit her lip but said nothing.
I moved closer and closer to her, watched the muscles of her jaw work beneath her skin.
“Not everything disappears,” I said, and finally I was close enough to touch her chin and raise it so that we were eye to eye.
“I want to believe that,” she said, her tone low. “But I think I’ve forgotten how…All this... hurt..." Her voice trembled and stopped.
I frowned, searched her large, sad blue eyes. “Don’t say that,” I said, running my thumb over her cheekbone. “Didn't you hear? Believing is like Jell-o. Just look at me. There’s always room...” I trailed off when I realized Scully wasn’t going to smile. Not even a little bit. Her gaze dropped to the floor and she exhaled slowly.
“What if there isn’t room?”
I shook my head, furrowed my brow. “I don't understa--"
Scully sucked in air, grasped my elbow and looked at me again. “I've forgotten how to feel this way,” she said. She swallowed and ushered me closer, as if the walls had ears and she was afraid of anyone knowing what she was about to say. “I’m having trouble… I’m afraid of wanting… this time with you. I don’t know if I can even want something anymore without looking over my shoulder, wondering if it’ll be taken from me the very second I obtain it. This--” She placed a hand on my chest and ran it slowly down my shirt until her arm fell back to her side, "--It's the ultimate hope. The achilles heel of hoping. What if this is taken from me? What if something happens to you? I can't give in to that hope and then watch it disappear. I can't."
I closed my eyes, feeling as a similar pain pricking invisible holes through my veins. “Scully, I’m sorry for everythi—“
“No.” She sighed. “Don't. It’s not your fault.”
Scully shook her head, her tone firmer this time. "I'm not playing this game with you, Mulder. If you want to blame something, then blame the years of faceless liars, all the injustices, the months we spent apart. Blame the cigarette smoking man for all I care, just don't blame--"
Scully stopped speaking. The silence finally broke us and we drank each other in, saying with our eyes what we were too afraid to put into words.
'This isn't our fault.'
The words floated in the air above us like the breeze, although neither of us seemed to know what to do with it. If the only thing holding us back now was the thought of "what if," then I realized we would never get anywhere. We'd lived with "what if" for years, during every case, during every day we spent at work. We'd gone into much more dangerous situations with "what if" hanging over our heads like a funeral song, and "what if" had never held us back before. That "what if" should hold us back after we'd come so far in spite of it was... well, it was staggering.
"You're afraid," I said.
"Not any more than you," Scully lobbied back.
“I don’t want you to be afraid—“
“It’s not you I’m afraid of, Mulder.”
My lips parted, we were so close I could nearly breathe in her exhaled air. "Yes, it is," I whispered. "It's me and everything else."
For whatever it was worth, I was going to try my damndest to give her something concrete.
“Nobody touches this,” I interrupted, punctuating every word with a space. "This--" I touched my hand to the spot below her left shoulder, ran one finger down until it stopped an inch above her left breast. "--is something that will always be inside of you, whether or not you choose to explore it. And I will always be there, even if you doubt me, or don't want to believe me. That baby and I will be there and nothing touches that. Nothing."
Scully was silent. Neither of us moved towards each other or away.
“Nothing,” I repeated for emphasis.
Scully pressed her hand to my cheek. “Prove it to me,” she said, her voice low. My lingering hand trailed up to her shoulder and rested there, almost awkwardly. I could feel her hand on my face shaking, even if only a little bit.
For a second that seemed to last longer than a year, Scully’s mouth hovered over mine. Her hands drifted down to my chest. “Prove it to me…” One kiss: soft and short, her blue eyes fluttering closed and her voice breaking. “I'll prove it to you if you'll prove it to…”
I could feel the tip of her nose glide against my cheekbone as we moved. Her lips slightly dry—wet by mine, opened and closed deliberately until darkness evaporated, and shadows disappeared, and only Scully and I were left in the wake of the dismantling of the Universe. Her arms were warm, her neck soft. Her thick red hair—that familiar honeysuckle scent. She tasted like raspberry-herb tea.
“I always—“ My lower lip over hers, I tried a smile. “I always have to show you proof, don’t I?”
“Mmm,” was all Scully said. And then her hand was sifting through my hair, her mouth warm on my cheek. “The truth is something you have to work for, Mulder.” She pressed a kiss to my jawline. My eyes still closed, all I could do was feel her lips along the side of my face. “Haven’t I—“ another kiss, “—taught you anything?”
“Oh yeah,” I murmured, cupping her cheek with my hand to move her lips back to mine, “you’re a very wise woman.”
“I am, aren’t I?” she murmured.
The long, gentle kiss that followed filled us both with promise, Scully’s hands going tight around my neck. When she finally pulled her mouth away and we opened our eyes, my gaze drifted down to her reddened cheeks, her pink, swollen lips. The corners of her mouth were turned up in a mischievous smile. Ah--I thought, finally a smile. I'd been waiting for what seemed like forever for that smile.
"Something concrete," she said softly, like a benediction, and touched my hairline. "I feel it... "
I smiled, not knowing what else to do or say. "Yeah," I managed.
“Well,” Scully said, her grin stretching, her tone signalling that all the melancholy was to be put away for now. “We’re still here.”
I nodded. “That we are.”
“And I don’t see any brain-sucking aliens anywhere—“ Scully craned her neck as if to search behind me. “So that must mean we’re in the clear.”
I grinned like the world’s biggest village idiot. “Guess so.”
Scully cleared her throat, her cheeks growing redder by the second. “Out of curiosity, Mulder, how long have you wanted—“
“Seven years, three months, eight days and four hours.”
More silence, followed by Scully’s raised, left eyebrow. She blinked a few times and nodded mutely. After a time, she managed, “Ah,” and blinked a few more times.
We watched each other’s mouths and smiled. Scully bit her lip as if embarassed.
Finally, I couldn’t help it.
Just thinking about the fact that I had actually said what I thought I just said, that I could actually say something so incredibly stupid…. Oh Good Lord. And she was still here?
A millisecond later we were both laughing, our foreheads pressed together, until the amusement just seemed to die away.
I was the first to break the glow in the air.
But somehow, she knew what I was thinking before I could say it.
“You have to go,” she said, and closed her eyes again.
I ran my hand down the back of Scully’s head, fingering individual strands of hair as I pulled away from her. “Yeah,” I said, backing away.
Scully just looked at me, one hand wrapped around her middle, the other cupping the cross at the base of her neck. She seemed chilled, even beneath her silk pajamas and her silk robe.
“Stay,” she said, looking straight into my eyes.
Such a simple request, yet it was filled with so many complicated overtures.
“You need your rest,” I managed, knowing fully that it was the weakest thing I could come up with even as I said it.
“Stay,” she repeated, her voice growing softer, as if her resolve was weakening.
“Not tonight,” I said. “But I will. I promise, Scully.”
“You will.” She sounded deflated.
“I need… YOU need… to process this. And we both need some rest.”
“I’ll be by in the morning,” I said, forcing a smile as I backed out of the doorway. “The morning, I promise.” I nearly tripped over a folding chair as I crept backwards past the dresser. “And I can put together the play-pen. The one with all the um,” I waved my arms around like a numbskull, “the bear thingies on it.”
Scully sighed an exasperated sigh, her head shaking the way it shook when we drove to Memphis for a case and I asked her to try on the Priscilla bee-hive wig. Not on your life, you kook, that head-shake said.
“Good night, Mulder,” she said, a slight twinkling breaking through the disappointment in her eyes.
“Good night,” I answered, a wide grin on my face as I backed five paces directly into the wall by the door and hit with a thud.
Scully bit her lip, her eyes widened, and she covered her mouth with her hand. I groaned and ran my hand over the back of my head. Oh yeah, I thought. That’s going to leave a mark.
“Easy cowboy,” Scully threw at me, then she turned on her heels and made her way towards the bed.
BACK TO THE PRESENT:
Nurse Kara walks by again and waves at me. She winks and crosses her fingers for me, as if that will make everything okay. Oh, if only it could.
I should have proposed to Scully that first night I kissed her. She would have said yes then. She would have smiled and maybe cried a little, and wrapped her arms around me and said yes, yes, Mulder, I'll marry you. Tonight, tomorrow, next week, I don't care---
Or maybe all that shit is just in my head. Maybe Scully never had any intention of marrying me because she knew I never had any intention of marrying her.
I think Scully knew this would happen. We'd end up right here, at this hospital or another hospital, because one or both of us would fuck up. I would dive recklessly into a case, or else Scully would--Lord knows she's proven through the years that she's capable, and Will would be left without parents. I suppose she figures if we keep in not-legal she still has an out. She can head for the hills and seek out that Cosmo, family grocery-shopping life she secretly wants. The one I would never be able to offer her. After all, I'm certainly not Roy in the Stop-N-Save with the wife and kids, am I?
Was that what Scully's mother was trying to tell her when she dropped off the magazine? Dana, get up off your ass and find a real man to raise that grandson of mine. Lord knows Fox isn't equipped to settle down and somebody's got to.
I run my left hand raggedly through my hair, exhaling slowly through an opened mouth. There's never any right or wrong when it comes to loving someone. There just isn't. There are only shades of gray, shades of joy and hurt and anger and you can never be sure which you're going to step into next.
With a sigh I glance at William, who's still asleep--thank God, and oblivious to the inner workings of his confused father. "You would be better off," I say to him, and I glance again about the pastel-yellow painted room. Fucking yellow. I will never be able to look at the color yellow again. Never.
I touch a few fingers to the baby's satiny, baby-powder sweet head, memorizing the exact texture, burning the feel of his soft skin on my brain. "You will be better off," I amend.