Title: De Novo
Feedback: Always welcome, always appreciated; send to tlynnfic [at] gmail.com
Distribution: Also welcomed — just let me know so I can come visit
Rating: R, just to be safe
Keywords: Angst, UST/MSR
Spoilers: Post-‘Never Again’
Summary: “He wanted more than pictures. He needed more. He needed to see it on her for himself.”
Disclaimer: They belong to Chris Carter, 1013, Fox, and the disgustingly talented actors who portray them, not me
Thanks: To my good friend Robin for the beta, even through her PC troubles. And Circe for housing my fic at her lovely site: http://tlynn.invidiosa.com
Author’s notes: at end
* * *
The anger coursed through his veins. It propelled him forward, lifted each foot and pumped each knee with remarkable ease. He’d always enjoyed running, the solitude of it, the sound of his shoes hitting the pavement in a rhythmic beat, the opportunity to observe the world around him at his own leisure. Tonight was different, the sounds and sights around him blurring from recognition, any sense of solitude bitterly invaded by an assault of mental images, imagined scenarios and endless questions.
He couldn’t escape, no matter how fast he ran.
He’d read her report, but, of course, such details were nowhere to be found within its pages. He’d read that she’d met Ed Jerse in the tattoo parlor and that he’d given her his card. He read that he took her back to the same parlor for her own pursuit and that she’d taken him home after. Then he read that she’d stayed the night and opened his door to police officers the following morning. Details were missing, he felt. The absence of explanation screamed out at him from the pages, its cries irrepressible amidst the concise completeness of her account.
He abruptly stopped his strides and pulled over from the sidewalk to an illuminated streetlamp. His chest heaved with labored gasps, each exhalation as acute as the inhalation preceding it. He leaned over, placing his hands on his knees for support, and he bent his head down until he could catch his breath. Each muscle in his body twitched from overexertion, the sensation almost unnatural despite knowledge of the contrary.
He’d seen the pictures, too. He’d seen Ed Jerse’s face, seen the man who’d slammed his partner’s head against a wall, knocking her unconscious. He’d seen the disquiet look in his eyes, the restlessness that still brewed despite his “removal” of the source. He’d seen a picture of her as well, of the permanent reminder of all that had transpired; the ourobus, simultaneously self-sustaining and self-destructive, was a stark contrast against her body and was still healing on the expanse of her skin.
He wanted more than pictures. He needed more. He needed to see it on her for himself. He’d hoped for the chance while she was in the hospital, but found he couldn’t progress past mere pleasantries and assurances when he saw her. He couldn’t help the sarcasm that spewed from his mouth this morning either. The quiet demeanor she’d presented throughout spoke volumes of her embarrassment and he took advantage of it to make sure she knew just how upset he was; he knew he was being as asshole, but words leapt from his mouth before he had a chance to think about them. He was anticipating an apology of some sort when she finally spoke, an explanation to assuage any confusion he had about her actions.
‘Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life.’
The words hit him square in the chest. She wouldn’t be letting him win this round. ‘Yes, but it’s m…’ he’d tried to say. But the words that so freely flowed just seconds before vanished as her eyes questioned him. It was battle he had no right to enter in to, let alone a chance of winning. But neither seemed able to let it go and they’d spent the remainder of the day steeped in uncomfortable silences. More than once she’d been turned away from him as she pushed papers and he couldn’t help but let his eyes drift to the spot on her lower back where, beneath layers of wool and silk, he’d read the tattoo had been placed.
He needed to see it.
He glanced at his watch and quickly jogged back home.
* * *
Sheets tangled at her feet, she felt herself float in and out of sleep.
She blinked rapidly, tongue darting out to taste the salty condensation that had gathered in the indentation of her upper lip. The pads of her fingertips registered the body hovering over her as they raked up and down in opposite time with its movements. But images were hazy, as if through a thick fog, blurring details and, in turn, amplifying sound; she heard deep breaths alternating with restrained cries and recognized them as her own. It was all so familiar. The realization washed over her slowly, as her hand lifted to rest atop the dark head that rocked back and forth next to her. She knew she was dreaming, knew she didn’t want to be dreaming about this, but the sensations were real enough to keep her where she was. She felt the burn of a new tattoo as her body rasped against the sheets. She tightened her grip, grabbing a fistful of hair between her fingers as his movements increased; she was close, so close. He jerked his head up at the force and her eyes met…
‘Mulder…’ she breathed.
She startled awake, her pulse racing and her brow sweating. She sat up slowly, slightly disoriented, and pushed her hair back from her face, flinching as her fingers brushed over the bruise on her forehead. Her head ached.
She pulled the covers back and reached for the robe she’d left at the foot of the bed, pulling it on as her feet hit the floor. The essence of the dream lingered and she shook her head in an effort to rid herself of it. Resolutely ignored was the dull throb centered deep between her legs as she stood and walked out of the room.
The dreams about him weren’t new, despite the lengths she took to push him out of her mind, but to have a scenario based in reality, one she could slip him into without any effort was intense, more so than she would have realized. She couldn’t escape him, even in sleep. He’d looked so smug that morning, his eyes again telling her exactly how careless he felt she’d been. She hated the sense of relief she felt despite it, though, preferring it to his near refusal to meet her eyes in the hospital the night before. Bad attention was better than no attention, wasn’t it? She chided herself for her weakness and resented him for it.
She’d taken a step out of line, the one she had drawn herself or the one he had drawn for her, she didn’t know anymore, and found herself in a state of uncertainty. She’d steeped herself in the recklessness and let her adrenaline guide her along the way, surprising even herself at the lengths she’d go to prove her life was her own. If nothing else, the attention she didn’t know she craved so severely was worth the final outcome. It invigorated her, even if it wasn’t from the source she longed for, and reminded her of her options. She would be damned if he was going to take that away from her no matter how indignant he felt he had the right to be.
She had just passed the threshold of the kitchen, flipped the light on and allowed her eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness, when the knock sounded. She furrowed her brow and tightened her robe as she carefully walked over to the door. Irrational as it was, the brief image of her would-be-killer standing in her hallway flashed through her mind and a small panic rose inside, only to be quickly, and gratefully, dampened with a look through the peephole.
“Mulder, what are you doing here?” she asked as she opened the door.
“Can I come in?” he responded.
She opened the door further in an invitation and he brushed past her into the living room and watched her as she closed the door behind him.
“You’re awake,” he remarked. “It can’t be too late.”
“If you’re here about that case in Arlington, I told you I’d–”
“How’s your head?” he interrupted.
“It hurts,” she sighed. “And I’m tired, Mulder. So again, what are you doing here?”
“How’s your back?” he asked then, gaze intent on her.
The area of skin emblazoned with her tattoo tingled at his words as if it had been listening and waiting for the acknowledgment, then a phantom burn mimicking that which she felt in her dream as he stroked in and out of her.
The blush was slight, but unmistakable on her cheeks.
* * *
He saw her flush.
He couldn’t ask those questions. He didn’t think he could hear the answers if he did. He could imagine himself covering his ears and squeezing his eyes shut as she said ‘yes’ to all of them. He suddenly felt supremely possessive of her.
“Can I see it?”
Silence. He watched the wheels turn in her head, trying to figure out his motive, her eyes never breaking from his. She seemed as eager to oblige as to throw him out of her apartment. Several long beats passed before finally, almost hesitantly, she turned until her back faced him.
She took her robe off first, dropping it to the floor, the light creeping in from the kitchen casting long shadows around her as she moved. His eyes darted to watch her hands reach around to the hem of her silk pajama top and carefully bunch the smooth material in her fingers. She held it there for a moment.
“It’s still healing, of course,” she said.
“Of course,” he agreed.
Slowly she lifted her hands up her back, taking the shirt with them and revealed herself.
* * *
She shivered. Perhaps it was because of the cool air against her bare skin. Or perhaps because of his unexpectedly close proximity. He was just behind her now, his voice a low rumble in her ear.
“May I?” he asked.
He crouched down until eye level with the small of her back. She felt his scrutiny of her marked flesh and remembered the last time she’d been in this position, just a few years ago, years that now felt like a lifetime ago. Her fear then had been of unknown abductions and the fantastic theories behind them. The scenario may have changed, but her fear was just as palpable now.
He crowded her as best he could from his position. She felt soft puffs of his breath whispering against her, warming her skin. She startled as he placed a finger against her, just above the snake’s head and traced a circle around the perimeter of the design. His touch was light against her, tickling her receptors and causing each hair on her body to stand on end. She shuddered again.
“It’s beautiful,” he said, his voice low, but firm.
She heard the rustle of him rising again, her senses both grateful and mournful of his withdrawal. She released her shirt and let it glide back down to spill over the curve of her hip before turning to him again. His eyes were dark, but not threatening, and the question she’d seen in them earlier that day was gone, something resembling curiosity there now.
“Did it hurt?” he asked.
“Do you regret it?”
She considered the question, for her its meaning rife with layers she had no intention of delving into anytime soon. She wouldn’t let herself contemplate the possibility it had just as much significance for him.
He challenged her for a moment, his eyes boring into her, before nodding his acceptance. She didn’t move to follow him as he walked to the door and opened it to leave.
“See you in the morning?” he asked, one last glance thrown her way.
“It is morning,” she reminded him. “12:30 in the morning to be exact.”
“So it is,” he said, one corner of his mouth lifted for a crooked grin, softening his face. “See you later today then?”
The man was infectious. She smiled softly and nodded.
“See you later, yes.”
Relief was shared as they each retreated back their neighboring comfort zones, self-sustaining and self-destroying, unable, for now, to break through and meet halfway.
“Good,” he said and stepped out into the hallway. “Goodnight, Scully.” He pulled the door to a close.
* * *
Notes: Dana Scully and Ed Jerse: did they or didn’t they? I like to think they did, obviously, despite being the devout ‘shipper that I am. I secretly delighted in seeing the struggle between she and Mulder in that final scene, especially with the events to come, events that would have made it all insignificant, forgettable even, were it not for the tattoo. Ah, that tattoo. The act itself perhaps wasn’t what we would have expected from our favorite female agent, but I think her choice of design spoke volumes.
“De novo” is Latin for “anew”.