They’re twisted in a tangle of sheets, having stopped long enough to check on Isaac one last time before falling into bed together without more than a word between them. There are too many missed kisses, touches, so much left to remember.
His hands are hot and rough, hers are nimble, and their lovemaking is familiar and bittersweet in the flickering candlelight.
It’s been too long, too much has happened in between. He reminds himself to slow down, to savor this, but his mouth runs desperate against her throat, her lips, her breasts.
He remembers her with his fingertips, memorizing every tactile curve, every murmured, breathless encouragement. He traces the bullet-shaped scar at her navel with his tongue, dipping down to the three soft, shimmering ridges along the base of her abdomen, the last vestiges of the child she once carried in her womb.
He embeds himself in her the way she’s embedded in him, like a million tiny splinters left under his skin. Her hand unfurls against the headboard, bracing herself as she arches to meet him again and again, and he kisses the porcelain curve of her arm, admires the delicate tips of her naked fingers. They’re splayed, etching a damp print into the bed, every whorl and crevice a tattoo on the faded wood, and he thinks he has never seen anything so erotic.
Even as the world crumbles around them, when she gasps and cries his name into the darkness, for a moment there is nothing but blessed light.
She dozes on his shoulder, feeling every second of the last several days. There’s an unnamed ache deep within her soul, and a more recognizable ache in her body.
When she closes her eyes, she can almost make herself believe this was a terrible dream. The world as they know it is gone, but nothing has changed in this bed, in this room, in this place they call home. Nothing, at least, except them.
As if to remind her, a hollow moan echoes from the downstairs bedroom, followed by a cough. Scully is immediately transported back to the hospital, to Isaac’s bedside, holding his frail, dying hand as he retches up the virus that sought to kill him. She moves to sit up, instinct telling her to go to him, but Mulder is already reaching for his clothes.
“I’ll check on him,” he murmurs against her ear, planting a soft kiss on the lobe before turning away. The sudden absence of his warmth against her skin leaves her chilled. By the time her breath settles, Mulder is back.
“Gave him some water. He’s fine,” he reassures her, though his eyes carry the same vacant fear as her own. He wipes at his face before easing himself into bed and wrapping his arms around her, nestling his chin on the top of her head. “Kid’s going to need a bigger therapy fund, Scully.”
She snorts in agreement, deciding not to mention the fact that therapists are in short supply. The quiet settles around them until his voice rumbles in her ear.
“Do you think he remembers?”
“His first year. With you.”
“It’s not likely…he was too young. But I’ve shared memories with him.”
“You have?” he asks, drawing back with curiosity.
She nods, distant. “When he first came to us, when he had a nightmare and couldn’t sleep, I’d sit with him.”
“Oh.” He pauses, absorbing this, his breath stirring the hair at her temples. She nestles into him, lips pressed against a spot just above his breastbone.
“What are you thinking?” she yawns softly into his skin.
“Mm. I was thinking…I wish I could share those memories.”
He lets this linger, unsure if he wants her memories, or wants memories to share; it’s a nice thought, but an impossibility both ways.
Moments pass, and he nudges her again. “Scully?”
“Do you believe it?”
Her voice is drowsy. “Believe what?”
“That he’s meant to save the world.”
She shifts against him, tensing, a ripple of unrest passing between them. “Does it matter now?”
“It does to me.”
She takes a deep, shuddering breath. “I believe…I believe in him,” she whispers.
“That’s not what I asked,” he says, his lips grazing the soft, rounded curve of one bare, milky white shoulder.
She turns away, pulls the blanket up to her chin, a weak defense. “Mulder—”
He raises himself up on one elbow, soft and questioning. “Why is it so hard for you to accept? With everything you’ve seen—”
“Because I’ve seen them,” she says, tears threatening, “I’ve seen what will happen to those people, all those…those poor people. I’ve seen what he’s up against, Mulder, and I can’t let him…he’s just a boy, for God’s sake. I can’t lose him again.”
He pulls her as close as he possibly can without crushing her, until their skin melds in all the places their bodies meet, hips and hands a ground wire from the stars to the earth. “We’re not going to lose him, Scully.”
“But we are,” she whispers, voice raw. “We already have. Because if I believe it…if it’s true…then he was never ours to begin with.”
APRIL 5, 2015
Words were exhausted hours ago, but neither can sleep. Now dawn is creeping over the horizon, and Scully thinks the sun has never looked so bloody.
It’s not long before Mulder unwinds himself from around her to sit at the edge of the bed, which creaks and protests with the movement.
“Mulder? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he sighs, intent on something outside her line of vision. “Just a sec.”
He limps to the closet, shuffling around at the back of the top shelf, where they keep the extra blankets. She frowns. “We packed the last quilt, Mulder, I put them in the car last night.”
He doesn’t respond, pulling a box from the top shelf, brushing the dust off as he brings it back to the bed.
Ahh. That, she thinks, and her breath hitches at the hard memories. She winces as he opens the cover, setting it down, and half the contents slide out onto the bed.
Damnit. This is not the time.
“Mulder?” she sighs, sitting up, her hand coming to rest on one of the many pieces of ephemera now spread before her; a photograph, one of the few taken prior to their leave from the FBI.
Mulder is still rifling through the papers, so she leans forward and brings the photo closer, studying it while she waits for him to explain why he’s chosen this moment to dig into their arduous history.
They stand together outside a building somewhere in D.C. She can’t remember the case, but she’s holding a file, focused on something within. Mulder is beside her, close enough that his hands are out of sight, probably resting at her elbow, maybe her back. If she closes her eyes, she can imagine the gentle pressure of his fingertips against her body, how the slightest touch through layers of clothing sparked against her skin, making her feel warm and cherished in his company.
It takes her breath, this simple picture of their time together, long before they became They. It had taken years for her to see it, to acknowledge their relationship for what it was, and even now it creeps up on her, catches her off guard. Tears prick at her eyes and she wipes them away.
One good thing in a box of so many rotten ones, but she’d forgotten how good even the worst times could be.
What strikes her, what she’d never noticed before, is the way he’s looking at her—as though the world around them had already ended and she was the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
She blinks back more tears and glances up to find him looking at her with the same liquid expression. She’s drawn to his eyes, their hazel depth, the way his Adam’s apple bobs at his throat as he swallows, and the ache of her affection goes straight to her core.
She thinks of hours ago, the way he’d kissed her and moved inside her, feeling as though she’d recovered some missing piece of herself, the way it always feels when she’s with him.
She thinks of their son, sleeping fitfully in his bed, and has to wipe away fresh tears. Mulder doesn’t seem to notice, intent as he is on a soft black shape in his hands. His voice is raw when he finally speaks.
“So…I bought these a while ago. And…I never found the right time to ask you…now I guess it doesn’t mean much in light of the current situation but I thought…well, you know,” he fumbles.
She blinks, unable to follow him to the recesses of his mind. “Ask me what?”
No response; he looks to the floor, to the ceiling, lets out a deep, shaky breath. The contents of the bag fall out into one hand, something small and twinkling dimly in the candlelight. He’s holding whatever it is as if hypnotized, staring at his palm, brow furrowed, before she finally reaches over to gently tug at his fingers, pulling him closer for a better look.
The bands, gold rings, don’t register for what they are, and she stares at them, puzzled. There are two resting in the crease of his palm, one small and one large. He’s looking at her expectantly, biting his lip the way he does when he’s nervous.
“Mulder?” her voice lilts upward, half question, half warning.
He swallows, giving her a hesitant, lopsided smile. “It’s not exactly a proposal. More like…an acknowledgement. I’d get down on one knee, but I might not be able to get back up,” he says, the joke betraying his lingering nerves.
The tears are back, making hot tracks down her cheeks, but she doesn’t speak. The answer is in her eyes, in the way her jaw trembles, the way she reaches out, knowing exactly where to find him. There is no spoken, “Yes,” no, “I do,” because it’s become apparent, much to Mulder’s relief, that the answer has been waiting for him all along.
She’ll say yes.
The ring slips onto her finger despite his clumsy hands, a perfect fit, and he is surprised at how quickly and confidently she returns the favor. The band is warm, and it fits along the tender skin as though it has always been there.
Then she’s kissing him, pulling him down, down, into the nest of blankets. The kiss lasts forever, and when she finally pulls away, breathless, he murmurs the first thing that comes to mind against her willing, open mouth.
“Til the end of the world?”
Her eyes shine, reminded of the first kiss they shared so many years ago, and he sees himself reflected there, his permanent home. He tucks his chin into the crook of her neck, breathing her in, and her response resonates in his soul.
“Til the end of the world,” she agrees, sighing against the nape of his neck. “The end of the world, and after.”