Category: V, A
Spoilers: Per Manum
Summary: Everything that’s left of her broken dreams is standing at the counter, returning her smile.
The apartment is shrouded in gray when she returns, the last of her hopes printed on an appointment summary in her coat pocket. Upon seeing her face, he wishes he’d thought to turn on a light, so she wouldn’t have to come home to more darkness, his slumbering form on the couch not enough to fill this newfound emptiness.
“It didn’t take, did it?”
Disappointment shines in her eyes. Forehead to forehead, he waits until her breathing is calm to offer something more substantial than a promise, but the warmth of her skin under his fingers disarms him, gives him pause.
His hands cradle her face as their lips touch for only the second time, her arms wind around his neck like an anchor, pulling him down into her sorrowful sea.
Dr. Parenti’s delivery was kind, but she felt the news like a gunshot. It’s worse than Emily, this intangible loss. Failure hasn’t washed away the image of a young girl with auburn hair and almond eyes, or a boy with a shy, quirked smile.
She loves them, the ghosts of her unborn children and all they represented: The intimacy of family life, ringing laughter and a mantle lined with photographs.
A child’s cry cutting through the night, hushed lullabies and the love-drunk smell of a downy newborn head.
Saturday morning cartoons followed by pancakes and bacon, spilled milk and syrup-sticky fingers.
The stillness of reality plays a harsh contrast to her imagination as she listens to the silence of what could have been.
He wants to punch a hole through her pristine apartment wall. He wants to hunt down the faceless men who did this to her and kill them with his bare hands, until he’s bloody and sore and near death himself. He wants to run, to put miles and years between them, until his bad luck can’t touch her any more.
Sometimes he wishes he’d never followed when she tried to resign from the Bureau, that he wasn’t so chickenshit as to ask her to stay after paying the price for her loyalty several times over.
He’d signed away his rights, but the thing that makes his face burn and his stomach clench with shame, is that he’d wanted this for himself as much as her. Selfish bastard, he thinks. Still a chickenshit.
So he steels himself, grits his teeth and holds her until she pulls away. He takes her hand, leads her to the couch, offers to make tea.
He’ll stay, because he doesn’t have the courage to let her go.
He’ll stay, because he doesn’t have the right to mourn what was never his to lose.
Mulder is opening cupboards, running water. Sleeves rolled to the elbows, he washes the dishes and waits for the kettle, then swipes at his forehead, leaving a trail of suds across one cheek. The sight brings an unexpected smile to her lips.
Her heart sinks with the enormity of her grief and the weight of too many unspoken words. Everything that’s left of her broken dreams is standing at the counter, returning her smile.
He settles on the opposite end of the couch, letting the mug warm his hands. She stares into hers for a few minutes before taking a slow sip, closing her eyes. When she opens them, she’s looking at him with an expression he’s seen only once before in real life, and too many times to count in recent fantasy.
“I love you.”
He blinks. His mouth must hang open, because she’s smiling at him now, a sad, tired smile.
“Don’t look so surprised,” she murmurs, hiding what’s left of her pride in her cup.
“What would you have done?” she asks. If it had worked, she doesn’t have to say.
“I’d have asked you on a date.”
She pauses to steady her cup on the coffee table, the tea sloshing in her startled hands. “A date?”
“You know—nice clothes, awkward conversation, an expensive wine list, at one of those places that mixes the salad dressing while you watch.”
“Really,” he returns, ducking his head.
“You’d ask your newly impregnated, platonic friend and colleague on an honest-to-goodness date.”
His smile is embarrassed enough to be convincing. “Yeah. I, uh…I thought…if I could give you…give you that…”
He stops, frowns. Her throat is tight when she finally breaks the silence. “Give me what?”
The tea goes cold before he can answer.
He wakes with a sore neck and Scully’s nose pressed into his hip, a throw tangled around her shoulders. The Late Late Show plays in the background, casting muted shadows on the walls.
She stirs when he stretches, blinking up at him from beneath sleep-addled lashes, as if seeing him for the first time. He wonders if this is what it’s like to hold a newborn; heart filled to bursting with terrifying awe.
“I’m here,” he murmurs, stroking the hair from her temple. “Sorry I woke you.”
“Mmph,” she says, her breath warming his abdomen through his t-shirt. “S’OK. I should get up, anyway.”
He nods in agreement, drawing his thumb gently along the plane of her cheek, but neither of them move for a long time.
She emerges from the bathroom just as he’s finished washing the mugs. Bare feet peek out from oversized silk pajamas, and she surprises herself, wrapping her arms around his waist before she can lose her nerve.
“I’ll stay, if you want,” he murmurs, and she loves him for offering so she doesn’t have to ask.
She loves him for so many reasons. Someday she’ll count the ways, line them up, and tuck them away; programmed, categorized, and easily referenced.
“I’d like that,” she says instead, words muffled by the thrum of his heart.
She fits perfectly in the circle of his arms, the way he always imagined she would. He times his breathing to the rise and fall of her chest and whispers a blessing into her hair.
“I wanted more for you, Scully.”
Her arms tighten around him, but she doesn’t answer.
He holds what little hope is shared between them, and prays that it’s enough.