SUMMARY: When three lives intersect, a triangle is formed.
PAIRINGS: Scully/Skinner, Mulder/Scully
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.
DATE POSTED: August 1998
WORD COUNT: 1,861 for this part
She is lying on her back on the floor of the living room, surrounded by candles. There are enough of them lit for it to feel like a vigil, a seance. Perhaps it is.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, she says to herself, trying to obtain some small comfort from the well-worn maxim. She desperately wants to believe some good will come of this.
Through the open windows she hears crickets chirping and cars rumbling past. Off in the distance there is the merest reverberation of thunder, a summer storm brewing in nearby Virginia. The room seems alive with static electricity; when she briefly sits up to change the CD from Mahler to Chopin, her hair crackles as it lifts from the rug. She can feel the charge running up her limbs, setting her on edge. She's on the cusp of something big tonight.
She realizes she's been in her bathrobe all day long, like some addled 1950s housewife zonked on Valium and cheap wine. She's the woman who feels ashamed when she sits down to breakfast, alone at home, anything less than fully dressed for the day. The by-product of a father in the military, she muses.
This is serious, she thinks, her arms stretched over her head. I'm sprawled out on the floor in my robe and slippers, waiting.
Waiting for what? She isn't sure. Some answers, she guesses. Something solid which she can grasp in her hands.
It was so tempting, she understands. The love of a good, honorable man. Skinner is loyal to a fault, a man who clearly comprehends the difference between right and wrong, who not only sees the black and white of a situation, but all the variegated shades of gray that lie between.
A dark night in yet another hotel room, this time in Little Rock. She huddled on the bed, trying to forget the delicate blond curls of the boy she'd autopsied that day. So many bodies, too many innocents lost to the hands of a madman. She'd had enough. Then Skinner came and rescued her in a way.
She hates being rescued; she's her own woman, beholden to no man, but he walked in, bringing into the claustrophobic hotel room his aura of confidence and security and for once she reached out for the safety. The safety of his arms and his mouth. The power he had to make her forget the ugliness she'd witnessed and smile.
Still, for her it was love in black and white. Brilliant, sharply defined emotion, but she wants to love in color. She wants the full palette of lush, bright colors before her. She's been through too much, denied herself too many times, to settle for less.
The night before was wonderful in a way, a comfortable, easy night of making paella in the cozy confines of her home. There was a moment, though, when she glanced over at Skinner, intently deveining jumbo shrimp, and realized the basic unfairness of the situation. He thought they were
building to something, a fusion of two souls into one, and she was taking it simply one day, one night, at a time. Interesting conversation, an underlying respect and affection, fantastic earth-shattering times together in bed. When she attempted to look forward one year to see their future together, there was only a hazy gray blur before her eyes.
You have to stop this, she thought, and the wooden spoon she was holding dropped to the linoleum floor with a clatter. You'll kill him if you let this continue.
Never did she promise him anything, she reminds herself, trying to rid herself of the sour taste of guilt. She sees Skinner's face fall as she told him it was over, the way his solid body suddenly seemed to slump. It is an image that will always remain with her, chasing her with the other demons.
The living room flashes with white lightning and she sits up in surprise. The storm has arrived. Time to be a woman and face the undeniable truth, strip away the layers of denial shrouding her.
Melissa once jokingly called her Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. She's never been overly comfortable with introspection, with questioning the desires of her own heart. Now is the time to do just that. It's now or never.
She knows what turned the proverbial tide. Two nights ago Mulder came over, bearing a pepperoni pizza, a six-pack of good English ale, and a box full of expense reports they had to tally for a Budget Committee meeting. It had been a long time since he'd been over to her apartment, and she
furiously cleaned the place to eliminate all traces of Skinner's presence. She turned the ringer off the phone and the volume down on the answering machine. More lying by omission, she darkly thought at the time.
Halfway through the evening, as she and Mulder good-naturedly argued over some missing motel receipts, she noticed they were back to a comfort level they hadn't achieved in nearly a year. She understood that somehow they had gotten past the pain that had eroded the foundation of their friendship and again they were Mulder and Scully, sniping, teasing and flirting like days of old. They even smiled at each other. Relief washed over her skin, relief that once again the tenuous bond between them had returned.
Later, they abandoned the project and popped a copy of Rear Window in her VCR. Lulled by the late hour and the two beers in her system, she fell asleep on the couch next to Mulder. When she woke, she noticed the dazzling hues of the sunset, visible through the open blinds. Her head was
resting on Mulder's shoulder, their legs touching under the blue crocheted afghan. Gently, so as not to wake him, she disentangled from him and stared at his sleeping form, peaceful for once.
He was the key. Mulder was the reason why she couldn't give herself fully to Skinner. She stifled a gasp at the realization, wondering why she had been unable, unwilling, to see the obvious before her. Skinner wasn't her man, Mulder was. He always had been, in a way.
I don't want this, she thought, muscles tensing. I have the love of a good, kind man who will never hurt me, never let me down.
But can you give him your love? She sighed. She wanted to, she wanted that more than all the riches in the world, more than she wanted the truth, but she realized that wanting something does not necessarily mean it would happen.
All she wanted was for it to be easy. Skinner loving her, she loving Skinner.
She got up off the couch and headed for the bedroom, not daring to look at the man dreaming on her couch. Sliding between her flowered sheets she wondered, now how did my simple life become such a damn soap opera?
The summer storm has arrived in earnest, rain pelting the windowpanes with a steady drumming. The candles flicker in the breeze, casting an eerie effect to the room, shadows dancing on the walls. The tropical scent of rain overpowers the more delicate smell of vanilla and beeswax and she breathes deeply, filling herself with the uniquely heady scent of a thunderstorm.
This is the perfect night to make love, two bodies mingled in the flashes of lightning, rocking together in cadence to the falling rain. She imagines his mouth on her, sliding across her nipples, greedy fingers touching her most secret places. It's so easy to picture, too easy to feel his muscular back under her hands, to smell his skin, to feel the stubble of his cheeks scraping against her own, to taste his tongue in her mouth, faintly sweet.
It's not Skinner she envisions in her bed on this rainy night, it's Mulder. Mulder moving against her, heated skin against skin. Against her, on her, in her. Her gasp as he slides in her and fills her warm center, their mutual cries of pleasure as the pressure builds. Her hands gripping his
shoulders as he drives into her, the two of them together at last. Making love.
It saddens her to think that she has had sex before, wonderful, passionate sex, but she never has truly made love to a man. She's given her body, and never regretted a moment of it, but never her heart, her soul.
She longs for it.
Does Mulder imagine this, too? Somehow, she knows he does, that he has mapped her body in his mind's eye, imagined the pleasure they would create together.
Her hand slides under the cotton of her bathrobe and she is not surprised to find herself wet. Congratulations, Mulder, she thinks with a smile, you've managed to arouse me from miles away. It doesn't take much effort to climax there on the floor, her own imagination becoming more three-dimensional with each stroke of her fingers. Over the thunder and the chords of Chopin, she comes with a long cry and then her phantom Mulder slips away, leaving her shaken and satisfied on the rug. Alone.
She sits up, feeling strangely ashamed of her fantasy and wondering if Mulder truly wants her as much as she wants him. No, she shakes her head, he does. Now that she finally can see clearly, she knows this to be true. She always did, somehow.
Oh Cleopatra, what have you done?
In the bedroom she washes her face and hands and brushes her teeth. She doesn't want to look at her own face in the mirror. This morning she broke a heart, and she cannot bear to see that woman staring back at her.
Skinner will survive, she tells herself defensively, he's a strong man, full of all sorts of internal resources. It will be difficult, dealing with him on a professional basis, but that's what she gets for sleeping with the boss. They'll get through this, one way or another. They're adults.
And Mulder, what to do about him? She moves back into the living room and lies on the couch, staring at the rainy windows. She doesn't know, but suddenly she feels happy. Happy for finally discovering her own heart. Took you long enough, she hears Melissa tell her. She nods her head. Yes, it certainly did.
A knock at the door startles her. She knows that knock all too well. Gathering her robe around her and trying to smooth her messy hair, she moves toward the door, feeling like she's walking underwater.
She flings the door open and sees Mulder; drops of rain glistening on his trench coat and hair. Swiftly, he moves forward, lunging for her and they are suddenly enmeshed in a kiss so fierce and hard, she wonders if she'll ever catch her breath.
Mulder pulls away and looks intently at her, breathing hard. She can't quite read the expression on his face. "Why didn't you tell me?" he says in a hoarse voice.
She finds it difficult to recover the power of speech after that kiss. "Let's talk," she says, and leads him into her apartment.