feedback: tlynnfic [at] gmail.com
Category: MSR, UST
Spoilers: post-ep for ‘Irresistible’
Disclaimer: Not mine, never have been, never will be.
Special thanks to Amal Nahurriyeh for the last-minute beta and help with a title. You are awesome.
Originally posted at xf_santa and written for the fantabulous ninamazing.
It takes some people mere seconds to realize they’re in love, others a whole lifetime. It took Fox Mulder two years, eight months, and one week.
It had snuck up on him, love. He’d become accustomed to his solitude, in both his private and professional life, had gotten used to relying on himself and being accountable to and for no one. Partners came and went and there was no reason to suspect Dana Scully would be any different. But different she was. She and beliefs differed from his own, she joined his quest and their lives, personal and professional, intertwined. He often feared that he and the work have jaded her, perhaps changed her natural instinct to trust in others. He trusted no one but her and when he wasn’t looking, the partnership and friendship that were based on such deep-seated trust and respect grew into love. He’d been too distracted to realize when it happened exactly, most recently with alien fetuses, gunned down informants, impromptu trips to Puerto Rico, and alien abductions. He’d been too guilt-stricken and terrified to realize it when They took her, then too relieved when she was returned. But it wasn’t until last night, as he held her in the foyer of a strange house, her small body shaking as she wept against him, that it hit him. She’d never been so emotionally open to him, not when she’d been taken hostage by Jack Willis/Warren Dupre, not when her father died, and not after her recent abduction. It started as compassion, unable to imagine the horror she’d experienced at the hands of Donnie Pfaster, transitioned into a unyielding sense of overprotection, complete the absurd vow to never let her leave his sight again, and quietly settled into the overwhelming, head-spinning, breathtaking awareness that he was in love with her.
Now, with nearly twenty-four hours to become accustomed to the feeling, he smiles. Even as he sits on the floor in the hallway outside her front door, his back already protesting what will surely be a long, sleepless night.
* * *
A combination of statements, a short trip (despite her protests) to the emergency room, too much paperwork, and flight delays ensured their late return home. The sun had already sunk below the horizon when they reached his car in the long-term parking lot. She’d been silent for most of the trip back, assuring him that she was fine whenever he inquired. He’d spoken to Skinner earlier in the day, relaying to her that they had an 8 a.m. meeting with him the next morning as well as their boss’ relief that she was okay. He stole more than one glance at her as he maneuvered through traffic, noticing the circles under her eyes, and hoped she’d be able to get more than the restless sleep he watched her endure on the plane.
He insisted on walking her up to her apartment, ignored the look of irritation that passed across her face as he carried her bags for her.
“Maybe I should stay,” he heard himself say to her once they were inside.
She tried to mask her shock at his statement, but exhaustion had slowed her wits. She blinked rapidly and he mouth opened, but no sound came out.
“I mean–just in case–I just thought–”
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” she said, saving him from stumbling over his words even further. She closed the gap between them and laid her hand on his arm.
“But thank you,” she said.
She promised she’d call if she needed anything and declined his offer to pick her up in the morning. He didn’t know how to tell her he wanted to stay more for his own sense of well-being than for hers; he knew she’d be okay, but wanted to be there so he could see it with his own eyes. He had already decided his sleeping on her couch and therefore blocking any would-be intruders, necrophiliacs or otherwise, was completely warranted. At least for tonight. But the speed with which she ushered him out and closed her door to him assured him that she disagreed. He listened with minor satisfaction as she secured the lock and deadbolt.
He knew it was unnecessary, attributed it partly to his own exhaustion, knew it was an example of romantic chivalry at it’s worst, but found himself setting up camp outside her doorway anyway. He’d leave early in the morning, before she woke up, with plenty of time to go home, shower, and change before heading to work. Besides, he knew she’d kick his ass if she caught him.
* * *
He jerks awake at the sound of her voice and it takes a few moments before he realizes where he is. He’s still seated on the floor in the hallway and he looks to his left to see Scully in her bathrobe, confusion evident in her expression, bent over, and arm still outstretched to retrieve the newspaper at her door. He mentally curses the delivery person for not waking him and winces, muscles stiff and sore, as he stands.
“Morning, Scully,” he says sheepishly.
She picks the paper up and clutches it to her chest as she straightens, her eyes taking in his crumpled form. He braces himself for her onslaught of anger, all the while taking in ever detail of her appearance from her wet hair to her pink skin to the way her robe clung to her still-damp skin. She studies him, unspeaking, long enough to make him uncomfortable.
“Do you want breakfast?” she finally asks.
She doesn’t wait for his answer, instead turns and goes back into her apartment, leaving the door open for him to follow. He does and closes the door behind him. She’s in the kitchen, rummaging through her cupboards.
“Coffee?” she asks, her back to him.
“Sure,” he responds, his eyes fixed on the patch of bare skin revealed by the loose collar of her robe.
He can see the back of her neck through the wet strands of her hair and part of her left shoulder, the pale skin there marred by a large, colorful bruise. The scrape on her chin was nothing compared to this and he wondered how many more were covering her body. He’d been attracted to her long before he fell in love with her, had often wondered what it would be like to touch, taste, and smell her, to know what sounds she’d make as he pushed inside of her. He had pictured the body under those suits and trench coats to be strong yet small, with curves in all the right places and his fantasies about her evolved with his feelings, became less about what it would be like to fuck her and more about what it would be like to worship her. To think of her tumbling down a flight of stairs, to imagine her slight frame slamming into the hardwood over and over, to see what it did to her, makes him sick to his stomach.
“You don’t need to protect me,” she says, breaking the heavy silence.
She turns to face him and any trace of the broken woman he held in his arms the other night was gone. Her strength will never cease to amaze him.
“I know that,” he says, nodding towards another visible bruise along the line of her clavicle. ” I just need to know that you’re okay. Are you? Really?”
“Yes,” she says, glancing down to her injuries for a brief moment before pulling her robe closed. “I am.”
He nods his head and she pivots back around, going back to her search for coffee grounds. He decides to can’t resist the urge and walks up to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders in a light embrace. He feels her jump in surprise, but then she relaxes and turns against him, her arms encircling his waist and her head rests against his chest.
“Thank you for finding me,” she says.
She looks up and her lips curve into a smile. He could kiss her then, would like nothing more, and for a fleeting moment thinks he sees something in her eyes that says she’d welcome that kiss. Caught up in that moment, he leans in and presses his mouth against hers. The frantic beating of his heart against his chest nearly distracts him from how warm and soft her lips and the way she’s kissing him back. His hands begin to roam down the silky length of her back, but she pulls away quickly, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. She looks stunned and her eyes avoid him as she composes herself, smoothing her hair and adjusting her robe. He can practically see each brick of her emotional wall rebuilding, blocking him out, even as he can still feel the sensation of her body pressed against him. His groin aches against his jeans.
“Scully, I’m sorry,” he interrupts quickly.
“No,” she says firmly, looking up at him. “Don’t be. Please.”
An awkward silence fills the space between them.
“I should get home and change,” he says finally. “Thanks for the offer of breakfast, though.”
“Sure,” she says, obviously still flustered. “See you at the office?”
The time isn’t right for her, that much is clear, and maybe it never will be. He’s a believer, though, and some things are worth believing in no matter how bad the odds are. And the flush of her cheeks makes him think the odds might be more in his favor than not.
“Yeah,” he says. “I’ll bring bagels if you bring coffee.”
She gives him a small smile, and he knows unequivocally that he’ll wait for her, however long it takes.
“Deal,” she says.