SUMMARY: When three lives intersect, a triangle is formed.
PAIRINGS: Scully/Skinner, Mulder/Scully
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.
DATE POSTED: August 1998
WORD COUNT: 2,109 for this part
Two voices in a dark bedroom, slowly sliding into a sleepy meter.
"Are you tired?"
He is lying on his side, fingers lazily counting the bumps of her vertebrae, dazed at the contact. Her closeness. She exhales a small sigh, not one of melancholy or dissatisfaction, but a thoughtful sigh. In the blackness of the night, as rain spatters against the glass of the windows, he smiles.
Love is a rare thing, Mulder. Use it wisely. Stop wasting time.
Those words echoed through his mind in a loop, over and over again into infinity. Skinner's deep voice saying the words, the voice he employed when giving a reprimand or an order.
Love is a rare thing.
Traffic was obnoxiously jammed on a Saturday night in the city. Seemingly everyone in the outlying areas had decided on that rainy summer night to come into Georgetown for dinner or a drink, but he wasn't heading there for entertainment.
Use it wisely.
Skinner's face was grave and still as he gave his unsolicited advice to Mulder, eyes inexpressive behind his metal-rimmed glasses. Still, Mulder heard those three short, clipped sentences and immediately knew the whole back-story. He even suspected he know when it had begun, during that terrible time in Little Rock.
Stop wasting time.
Mulder slammed his hand on the steering wheel, cursing under his breath at the driver of the moving truck who was taking his own sweet time pulling out of a parking space.
He attempted to form a mental picture of the two of them, Skinner and Scully, alone together, and found it impossible. He believed it, yes, he knew it to be true now, he just couldn't see it. Denial again, he told himself, and hit the gas as the truck finally moved ahead.
Little Rock. A cold rain fell for eight days straight and everything constantly felt damp and moldy. The hotel's sheets, though freshly laundered, never seemed quite dry, nor did his clothes.
It had been one of the bad days. Scully spent the afternoon performing an autopsy on the latest victim, with blue eyes and blond curls. She walked out of the autopsy bay, wearing her blood-spattered scrubs, looking hollow and defeated. Mulder was leaning against the institutional green wall when she emerged, waiting for her.
Scully stopped and faced him from the other wall. Her head lifted to meet his eyes. "Strangled, beaten and raped, just like the others. Five years old." Turning on her heel, she briskly continued to down the hall to shower and change.
They caught a quick dinner together at a Chinese restaurant near the Holiday Inn, but neither felt much like eating or talking. Words have finally failed us, he thought. We can't even hear each other through the high whine of pain ringing in our ears.
He realized, with a deep ache, that he and Scully had never been so far apart.
I want to give her what she needs, he thought, as he poked at his plate of ginger chicken with the chopsticks. I want to laugh with her, take her dancing, to bring her flowers I swiped from someone else's yard just to see her smile of delight. I want to be able to go home with her and shut the door, leaving the horror behind in the hall for a night.
But I can't. I'm too tired. These days I barely have the strength for myself, let alone her.
Back at the hotel, they paused at her door. "Well, I'm off to bed," she said, not making eye contact, but instead staring over his shoulder at the wall behind.
"Will you be able to sleep tonight?" he asked, remembering equally terrible nights in the past when they attempted to dull the pain with cheesy cable movies and perhaps a beer or two from the mini bar. That was before her cancer, before Emily, before his sister, before the bridge at Skyland Mountain. Before they lost one another to grief.
Scully looked up, suddenly seeming years older than thirty-four. "No, I won't sleep tonight," she said and went into her room, definitively closing the door behind her.
In his own room down the hall, he sat on the edge of the bed and pressed his face into his hands. I've failed her, he thought, she needed my comfort and once again I failed her.
Standing under the sharp needles of the shower, it hit him with finality. I love her, he thought. He wondered why he had been unable to see it before this night. She was on her deathbed, Mulder, he said to himself, her life literally draining out of her body and still you couldn't recognize that elemental fact. Call it my love dyslexia, he thought, I always get it wrong.
Mulder stepped out of the bathroom and wondered he should go to her, attempt to snap out of his own pain and comfort her. No, he sighed, tonight he just didn't have the strength.
He vowed to change everything, starting tomorrow.
Of course, nothing much did change.
Months later, fidgeting in his car, still stuck in traffic, he understood the mistake he made that night in Arkansas. Scully found her comfort; she found a scrap of salvation to which she could cling, just not with him. With Skinner.
Skinner gave him a gift with those words, a slap in the face to bring Mulder around to action, bring him out of his self-induced coma. God, he admires Skinner for that kind of courage and nobility. He didn't have to say those words, to lay himself bare like that.
Scully, what is it about you that brings two grown men to their knees? Is it your clear eyes that still remain innocent and hopeful after all you've seen and done in our company? Your low, musical voice that promises riches we can't even imagine? Your unswerving, dogged loyalty?
He arrived at her apartment and miracle of miracles, found a parking spot down the block. Pulling into the space, he turned of the engine and just sat there, listening to the rain drumming on the roof of the car.
Just one night ago, he sat in the elegant serenity of Scully's apartment, admiring the way she had created for herself a retreat from the chaos of her professional life. There was nothing in the rooms to indicate she was a FBI agent, no files or papers cluttering up her space like his place. When he went home at the end of the day, everything surrounding him reminded him of his quest, of his responsibility to find the truth for Samantha.
He and Scully sat at her dining room table, gnawing on pizza and trying to sort out their expense reports, yet he felt happily removed from the horrors of the journey. The Neville Brothers were singing somewhere in the background and a carefully arranged vase of irises sat on the table, calming him with their appearance of normality, of a life unblemished by darkness. This is my home, he thought, as he reached for another report from the stack. This is where I come to find peace.
The irony that he hadn't been there in months did not escape him.
Scully seemed different that night, stripped of her hard edges, the brittle pain that sometimes seemed to emanate from her body in waves. Face scrubbed free of makeup, her hair in a ponytail, she looked as soft and young as she had the first day she had marched into his office. Mulder looked up at her and smiled and she actually smiled back, teeth and all. He wanted to weep with relief; perhaps things would be right again after all.
Much later, he woke up on her couch, slumped over with his head on the armrest. He felt a weight pressing on his body and found it was Scully, asleep. The intimacy of the moment made his skin tingle. Her head rested on his shoulder and he could smell her clean hair and the faintest whiff of almonds. Perhaps the soap she used?
He had the sudden urge to pick her up and carry her to the bedroom, to lay down with her, not for sex, but just to feel her close. Hear her breathing and feel her back against his chest, rising and falling. Sighing, he realized the impossibility of that course of action. Scully would certainty wake up and kick his sorry, pathetic ass all the way back to Alexandria.
Scully, do you ever wake in the middle of the night and want me, too?
Do you awaken disappointed because it was all merely a dream?
How do you taste, Scully?
Stealthily, he inched his way to a sitting position and moved her so her head flopped down onto the mound of pillows on the other end of the couch. She mumbled a little, but her breathing remained even and deep. After a few agonizing minutes of waiting to see if she'd wake up, he crouched over Scully's sleeping body and ran his index finger along her jawline. She didn't stir.
In the dark of her living room, he stole the kiss he had long dreamed of, but hadn't the courage to give. The merest brush of his lips against hers, tentative and brief. Scully didn't move under his lips, but it was still sweet. Sleeping Beauty, he thought. Does that make me the Handsome Prince? If only it were a fairy tale.
He stretched out his cramped legs and curled up as best as he could on the other end of the couch, falling asleep with a faint smile on his face. It took that little.
It's time to face the music, he thought in the car, and steeled himself for the moment. Mulder stepped outside the car and lifted his face to the rain, letting the water run over him in rivulets. A baptism, he thought, now I am clean. Time for my life to start anew.
With a determined step, he made his way to Scully's building.
Two voices in a dark bedroom, passion abated for the moment.
Her voice is soft. "Mulder, I'm sorry."
He pulls his face away from her hair. "Don't be sorry. Don't regret it." He wonders when he became so mature.
"We just, we just need to try to be good to one another," she says. "Stop the games, the one-upmanship, work
His fingers find the still-hardened tips of her breasts and circle, mind still reeling in amazement, in relief. "I think we work together pretty well."
This prompts a throaty chuckle from her.
He has to ask this question, just once. Once he knows, he can put it behind him. "Scully, did you love him?"
She abruptly rolls over and brings her face close to his. "I wanted to," she pauses for a second, thinking. "I tried so hard to conjure it up, but it just wouldn't come."
"Skinner is a good man," he whispers, flinching a little at the name.
Scully nods her head. "He did a generous thing for you tonight, for us."
"It's so like him." The man once sold his soul to the closest thing to the devil on earth to save Scully. "He loves you, doesn't he?"
She says nothing, but runs her hands though Mulder's hair, eliciting sparks in the darkness, bright flashes of crackling light. We're magnetically charged, he thinks, positive and negative, cleaved together by our opposition. Now that we've gotten so close, nothing can pull us apart.
He's shocked at how hopeful he sounds.
Finally, Scully speaks. "Mulder, the only thing that matters is that I love you."
He smiles at her words. She loves him, figure that one out. It's going to take a lifetime of trying, but he plans on deserving her love.
Slowly this time, they begin again. If the first time they were together was a conflagration of two bodies igniting for the first time, this is a slow, controlled burn. Scully straddles his body and they move together with precise restraint, both sighing in mutual pleasure. This time he is able to be aware of the nuances of their lovemaking, the soft sounds she makes as she takes him into her, the brush of her pubic hair against his, the utter completeness of joining with her.
This, too, is a baptism, a confession. Scully has absolved him of his sins, and he of hers. Now they are truly washed clean and can try to start a new life.
In the darkness of the bedroom, two voices become one as they cry out in joy.