DISCLAIMER – Not mine. I make no money. Reviews are my only payment.
I stare in to the mirror, my refection vaguely distorted by the lingering condensation on the glass, the usually sharp, well-defined lines of my face turned bleary, non-descript.
The shower has done nothing to ease either my aching body or my aching heart, and even though my skin is suffused with a rosy glow from the heat, I am still cold, shivering like a day old infant ripped from its mother's comforting embrace.
The woman who stares back at me is not the woman I know. She has changed irrevocably, never to be the same again, sullied, cheapened by a single act of vengeance.
Today, I killed a man in cold blood; took away his life almost on a whim. I watched him squirm, saw the fear in his face as he realized what I was about to do. And I revelled in the power I had over him, rejoiced as I applied pressure to the trigger, the sound of my partner's voice coming at me from far outside myself as I watched the bullet tear in to Donnie Pfaster's flesh.
And just for a second it had felt so right so just.
But the feeling was fleeting, quickly replaced by a spreading numbness as Mulder reached me and gently loosened the gun from my grasp.
I couldn't speak, could barely stand to look him in the eye as it slowly dawned on me that he had seen everything. He had seen his stoic by-the-book partner lose control in a way I had vowed never to do.
And yet he hadn't flinched; he had simply taken control as he always did, speaking soft words of reassurance as he helped me through the next few hours.
I had packed a bag under his ever watchful eye, knowing I had to leave the apartment to allow the forensics team to do their work but at the same time not wanting to go; knowing that when I returned, things would never be the same again.
I wanted to stay, to roll up my sleeves and scrub every inch of that monster from my home, from my soul.
Mulder had wanted to take me back to his place, to allow him to take care of me, to make amends for not being there for me - for allowing Pfaster to get to me once again. He didn't say as much of course, but his expressive hazel eyes eloquently begged me to please let him do this.
Of course I refused him.
Directed him instead to drop me at the nearest Motel. He opened his mouth just once to argue, but something in my face caused him to abruptly shut it again as he nodded sadly, knowing that nothing he said would change my mind. And all the while my heart was screaming out to just let him take me away, away to the only place I might find some semblance of peace. Wanting so much to step in to his strong embrace and let him soothe away the tears that prickled at my eyelids like a thousand needles.
Instead, I had simply turned away from him like I always did. Feeling my walls go up as surely as if I had been armed, not with a gun, but with bricks and mortar, filling in the cracks as they appeared.
I had felt my resolve weaken as he had stood beside me watching me trying to make my shaking hands co-operate sufficiently to unlock the door leading in to the tiny cinder block motel room that was to be my home for the next few days.
Finally, he had put one warm hand gently on the nape of my neck, whilst the other had taken the key from me and deftly succeeded where I had failed.
"You shouldn't be alone right now."
He had spoken the words with such gentleness, a final attempt to break through my walls, and I had so nearly crumbled, wanting nothing more than to cling to him and never let him go, to breath in the scent of him that so often invaded my dreams.
"I'm fine Mulder."
Of course I was. Wasn't I always? Seven years of sharing everything with this man except my emotions. How many times had I said those words to him? How many times had I lied?
Just like I had lied then.
He had dropped his hand away, leaving me feeling bereft once more. The connection between us broken, shattered in to a million pieces by the utterance of three little words, just as I had known it would.
And of course he had left.
Just as I had wanted him to.
Because once again, I had pushed him away.
How many more times would he allow me to do that before he stopped caring?
Right now, I don't have the strength, either physical or emotional to question it. I stand here, shivering, rapidly cooling water beading my skin and wonder instead just what the hell I'm doing.
Why am I like this? Why can't I for once admit that I need him?
The face of the woman I used to know, crumples before me, her eyes filling with unshed tears as she slowly traces a finger along the misty glass of the mirror, lingering on the livid purple bruise just above her cheekbone. Another bruise to add to the multitudes already etched on to her heart.
So many injuries over the years, but the physical challenges are the easy ones, easily healed, easily forgotten.
The real pain comes from inside.
Seeing the first tear finally escape its confines, I angrily swipe at my image with the palm of my hand, obliterating the delicate patterns forged by the steam filling the small room, and turn away from all that I see.
Out of sight out of mind
If only that were true.
The light in the bedroom is muted, curtains tightly drawn against the outside world. A small, inadequate desk light throws out a weak glow that only really brightens the area immediately around it.
But that's fine.
My head hurts - stress induced, the doctor inside me supplies helpfully - and I am afraid that to turn on more lights will make the pounding inside my skull intensify to a point I will be forced to acknowledge it fully.
For now, it is simply another cross to bear.
I deserve it. Call it penance.
I have no idea what the time is right now. Time stopped for me when I pulled that trigger. But I am tired and to crawl under the covers and go to sleep has an undeniable appeal.
But I fight the urge for a short while. Even turn on the TV, try to lose myself in the trials and tribulations of the characters who live their lives within that little square box, and for a scant few minutes I actually succeed. I stop thinking.
And then the scene before me changes.
Stupid really, the interior of a church fills the screen.
I make it to the bathroom just in time before I lose the last remnants of my hastily consumed dinner down the sink, trying to control my breathing as I retch and retch, soon bringing up nothing but acrid tasting bile, and then nothing at all.
But still my hands grip the slick porcelain as my body is wracked with painful spasms, no longer in my control, I feel the tears streaming down my face as I wait for it to subside.
I'd forgotten just how much throwing up really hurts and I feel something below my rib cage tear through the strain.
I haven't thrown up like this since I was first diagnosed with cancer, but somehow this is worse. Back then, the nausea was something to be tolerated; a direct result of the drugs being pumped in to me to prolong my life.
This is as a result of something evil.
And the knowledge I have brought it on myself makes it a thousand times more painful.
Finally, the spasms are replaced by the sound of gasping as I try to breath and cry at the same time. My freshly washed hair hangs around my face, the honeysuckle scent mingling with the acrid stench below me and I straighten up abruptly.
The sudden shift makes my now pounding head spin, and my legs cease to be co-operative, buckling suddenly to deposit me in an ungainly heap on the cold tile beneath me.
I don't try to move. Pressing my uninjured cheek against the floor I revel in the delicious coldness that replaces the heat in my body.
I close my eyes, and mercifully see no images behind them as I am dragged away from conscious thought.
I hear his voice from far away, unsure as to whether I am imagining it.
I've imagined him so many times in my dreams, always disappointed when I open my eyes to find myself alone and I refuse to acknowledge that this time is any different.
"Scully wake up. You're freezing."
Freezing? I'm not cold. A little uncomfortable sure. This damn bed is as hard as stone and about as giving to my tired muscles.
And then I remember, I am not in a bed.
Normal people sleep in beds. I sleep on bathroom floors in low budget motel rooms.
The realization is enough to force my eyes open, blinking them rapidly as I focus on the figure above me. He is silhouetted by the harsh glare of the fluorescent strip light, but shadowed or not, I would recognize that profile anywhere.
He shouldn't be here.
Go 'way Mulder. I'm trying to sleep.
"Scully, wake up...I have something to show you."
I try to ignore him and fail miserably as usual. Mulder is impossible to ignore, I learned that early on in our partnership.
The last vestiges of sleep fall away as I shake my head irritably and drag myself up in to a sitting position, a frown furrowing my brow as I realize he isn't beside me anymore.
"In here Scully. You won't believe it."
His voice sounds weird, strained, like he is forcing the words out, and suddenly, my senses are on full alert as I command myself to stand. My muscles ache from a combination of fatigue and from forcing them to stay confined in the small space I had chosen for sleep.
I obediently follow his voice in to the bedroom to find him standing in the corner beside the TV that still played happily to itself, oblivious to the fact that no one was there to watch.
What is it Mulder? What do you want? I'm tired and...
The words die in my throat as he grins at me.
Mulder never grins, at least not like this.
I must be tired, because the expression on his face seems...
I almost laugh out loud at the word that popped unbidden in to my mind.
Evil? Mulder doesn't have an evil bone in his body.
But something is wrong. Very wrong...and suddenly my heart stops. I actually feel it cease it's steady rhythm in my chest and for long seconds I feel like it's never going to start up again.
Because the man facing me isn't my partner.
I take a step backwards, colliding hard with the bathroom door I can't remember closing behind me, frantically feeling along the wood for the handle, Instinctively needing to put something solid between us. My terror intensifies as I realize that my fumbling is in vain. My fingers trail along the surface. A surface hard and cold and bare.
This has to be a nightmare.
He isn't really here,
I have to wake up.
I squeeze my eyes shut and start to count.
"Open your eyes Dana. Look at me. Look at what you did to me."
Oh God...I feel him close to me. I can smell him.
I cry out as fingers curl around my arm, bruising the tender flesh beneath and I can't deny it any longer. Despite what my rational scientists mind is telling me, the pain is real.
This is real
I open my eyes, my vision blurry from the pain still being inflicted from his steel grip and I find myself looking deep in to his eyes, like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
He holds up his free hand, palm outwards and it glistens wetly in the light of the single lamp I left illuminated.
And then I realize that it is covered in blood. His blood. Blood I spilled.
I shake my head from side to side, denying even now what in my heart I know to be true.
No .I killed you. This isn't real...
He seems to find this vaguely amusing, and just for a moment, the sound of his laughter assails my senses, replaced almost immediately with the feel of his free hand enveloping my face, his fingers pressing cruelly in to the bruised flesh beneath. Worse though, is the cloying stench of his blood, smeared now on to my own skin. It attacks every part of me, and I feel my stomach somersault, the bile rising once again to burn my throat.
He has come to kill me. To finish what he started, and I am powerless to prevent him.
And then, abruptly, he releases me and steps away.
"I have a gift for you, Girly girl. Something to remember me by when I'm gone."
I stand there stupidly, unsure as to how to react. There is no threat in his voice now, and inexplicably, this only frightens me more.
I flinch as he once more raises his hand, holding my breath as I wait for the inevitable, an inevitable that never comes as I realize he is pointing toward the bed.
A box sits upon it, roughly the size and shape of an old fashioned hat box, tied up with wide velvet ribbon.
And I have never been more sure of anything in my life than I am at this moment. I do not want or need to see the contents of that box.
"Aren't you going to open it? I went to such trouble on your behalf to get you something you really wanted."
I shake my head numbly. I am crying now. I'm not sure when I started. I don't think I really care anymore.
He shrugs nonchalantly and heads past me, making for the bed.
I know what he is going to do, and once more I clamp my eyes shut.
I hear a rustling sound. Tissue paper I think, maybe plastic. I can't be sure.
He is close to me again, the knowledge of this is enough for me to almost give in to reflex and open my eyes again.
The reflex is stronger than the mantra I am chanting, though and against my will my eyes snap open.
Like a manifestation of my worst nightmare, my partner's once beautiful hazel eyes stare back at me, fixed in a startled look of horror, rolled back up in to his head.
His thick, dark hair has been cut jaggedly in places, reminding me suddenly of that ridiculous buzz cut he adopted after our incarceration in Antarctica.
Joining the army, Mulder?
Why? Does the thought of me in fatigues turn you on Scully?
And then I start to scream.
I am still screaming when someone grips my shoulders.
No Please, no more, I can't take anymore
"Scully...sssssshhhhhhhhh it's ok."
and still I scream, the sound terrifying in its sheer volume. I can't stop. It's like something inside of me has snapped, finally succumbed to the pressure that has been building for so long.
The hands are pulling me in to sitting position, clawing at the thin material of my oversize T-shirt in an effort to manipulate my body. Still gripped by the nightmare I resist with all the strength and determination my lithe 5' 3" body allows me, lashing out blindly, feeling one of my fingernails connect with soft, pliable skin.
"Jesus Scully...wake up."
The naked fear in his voice is enough to make me do just that, and slowly, painfully slowly, I become aware of where I am. The scream dies in my throat, only to be replaced with a drawn out cry, so anguished in its delivery that for a second I have no idea of its origin.
And suddenly, out of the darkness, he is there, in front of me, on his knees, arms straight out before him, gripping my shoulders.
I wonder suddenly if he is really there at all, whether he will suddenly dissolve before me in to the form of Donnie Pfaster, whether this is just another cruel trick of my tortured mind.
Then I allow myself to really look at him and I know for sure that this is real.
My lips refuse to co-operate, but as always he understands my need and for once I allow him to gather me to him, clinging on to him as though for life itself. I feel his hands on my back, in my hair, hear his whispered words of assurance as I finally let go and weep on his strong shoulder.
And all the while he rocks me gently, giving me what I need.
I have no idea how long we remain there. My only conscious thought is that he is with me. I don't question the hows or the whys. They will come later.
I cry like I've never cried before, purging my battered body of its inner demons, until all that is left are dry, wracking sobs that make my chest ache.
And still he holds me.
Seemingly unwilling to let me go for a second, until finally his soft voice reaches me once more.
"C'mon Scully. Let's get you out of here. You're ice cold."
His words trigger a wave of trembling in me as I become conscious for the first time of just how cold the floor beneath me really is.
"Can you stand?"
I nod shakily against his shoulder, but my confidence is misplaced. Mulder helps me to my feet, relaxing his grip slightly as we both reach a standing position, and without him to prop me up, my knees once more begin to buckle. Before I can fall though he wraps one arm around my waist and another under my knees, hoisting me easily in to his arms as though I weigh no more than a feather.
Suddenly conscious that I am clad in nothing more substantial than thin cotton I squirm in his arms, embarrassment flooding my features with hot colour.
Blushing. The curse of the red head.
Stupid really. Mulder has seen me buck naked before now. I know that, but this is different somehow. More intimate
"Mulder...there's no need...I'm Fi..."
"Don't Scully. Please."
I realize that I have said the wrong thing and I feel him tense as he waits for me to argue.
But not this time. This time I won't push him away, and he nods, satisfied as I drop my head to rest on his shoulder.
I am still shivering despite the warmth I am stealing from him, and it comes as no surprise when he heads for the Queen size bed, still holding me whilst somehow managing to pull back the sheets and blankets covering it.
Instead of depositing me under them though, he sits carefully on the edge of the mattress, sliding his arm out from under my legs so that I end up perched on his knee, my body curled foetal position against him and then I feel his hand on my hair again, his fingers ever so softly teasing out the tangled strands. Hair I never bothered to comb after my shower.
"Want to tell me what's going on with you Scully?"
He slips the question in casually, without warning, carefully working on my hair at the same time, as though that is taking up his entire attention, and his enquiry in to my precarious state of mind is a mere trifle to pass the time whilst he frees the strands from the tangles that bind them together.
I feel him pause momentarily in his ministrations though, as without warning, another shudder courses through my body. I feel the goose bumps rise up on my exposed skin as I remember the cold grey eyes of Pfaster as he came at me.
Inhuman eyes; windows to a soul that did not belong on this earth. I will never forget those eyes if I live to be a hundred years old.
My throat closes up on me once again, and, not trusting myself to speak, I simply shake my head, praying that he won't push the issue.
Later Mulder I promise with my mind.
Maybe he hears me, I don't know, but he falls silent once more.
And I lay my head more firmly against his chest, breathing in the scent of him, a combination of the light cologne he wears and his own unique male muskiness.
The scent of Mulder.
For the first time all day, I begin to feel something akin to peace as I listen to the steady beat of his heart directly beneath my ear.
That, coupled with the gentle stroking of his fingers in my hair, along my arm, is lulling me to sleep. My eyelids grow heavy, and I don't even attempt to fight it as exhaustion washes over me.
I should feel awkward, lying as I am in my partners comforting embrace, and maybe in different circumstances I would.
But I need this. I need him to be here. And I know that in allowing him to heal me, I am in a sense also healing him.
And then, I finally fall in to dreamless sleep.
My first conscious thought on awakening is that Mulders arms are no longer around me. And despite my best intentions I feel bereft, incomplete somehow.
He is still in the room though, of that I am certain.
I feel his presence, feel him watching me; watching over me.
Right on cue, I hear his voice from across the room
"Hey, look who's awake."
Blinking sleepily, I automatically follow the sound of his voice and my gaze settles on my partner, stretched out on a chair far too small to comfortably accommodate his lanky frame.
I realize immediately why he has chosen it, and not it's larger, more comfortable counterpart.
From his vantage point, he is able to keep an eye on me while I sleep whilst still following the football game that is playing out on the small screen TV beside him.
The other chair would have given him a clear view of the TV but not much else.
I stare fuzzily at the game, trying to determine the players by their colours before dismissing the notion as being irrelevant.
"You've been out for hours. How are you feeling?"
I simply shrug non-comittally in response, because the truth is, at this precise moment in time, I don't really know.
"What time is it?"
"Late. You should eat something."
I feel my eyebrows raise, almost against my will.
Aahhhhhhhhh Typical Mulder. I know how his mind works at times like this.
Scully sleep, Scully eat, Scully talk.
He doesn't usually deviate much from his game plan.
Unfortunately for him though, I have a much more pressing need.
Wrinkling my nose like a kindergartener I drop my gaze to the crumpled T-shirt I am still wearing. I can still smell the fear that drenched me earlier, manifested now in unpleasantly dried in sweat.
"I need a shower"
Mulder crosses one leg languidly across the other, hazel eyes twinkling suddenly at me from across the room.
"Need me in there to help at all Scully?"
I almost laugh at this typical Mulder quip, but the truth is, that there is nothing I would like more than to reach out my hand to him and lead him in to the small room with me.
It's a fantasy I have played out in my mind a thousand times.
But a fantasy is unfortunately all it is.
"I think I can manage just fine by myself thanks." I assure him as I swing my legs over the side of the bed, heading for the bathroom. Mulders voice follows me inside.
"Hey...if you change your mind..."
My third shower of the day is wonderful. After washing and shampooing, I simply lean against the tile, the jets of hot water turned up high drumming against my neck and shoulders as effective as any massage I have ever had and slowly, slowly, I feel the tensions of the day disappearing from me.
This evening in my apartment, the nightmare that found me lying in a crumpled heap on this very floor, all now seem so very long ago.
And while I know I will have to deal with them at some point, for now I can place them at the back of my mind.
Harder to forget though, is the memory of Mulder cradling me in his arms after I collapsed against him, and despite the hot water, I shiver as I remember how it felt to be held so close to him, feeling his hands on me, his warm breath tickling my cheek as he gave whispered assurances that everything was okay. That I was okay.
I close my eyes against the visions inside my head.
To think like this is dangerous.
And yet, I acknowledge, even if only to myself, that I love him, am in love with him.
I have been for as long as I can remember.
I can't imagine a time in my life when I haven't loved him.
He feels the same way. I know that just as I know that the sun will rise to greet another dawn tomorrow. I see it in the way he looks at me, feel it in his touch, hear it in his voice.
But at the same time, we both know that to succumb to that knowledge would only spell disaster for both of us.
Mulder and I have chosen to walk a dangerous path, and while we walk that path holding tightly to one another, we know that ours is a love that can never be.
Our choices were made so long ago, our paths forged by unseen hands, and we are destined to walk those paths for the rest of our lives.
Nothing else matters.
We do not have the luxury of living normal lives.
I realized that early on in our partnership.
Despite this realization though, I feel the tears that rush to my eyes as I once more mourn for all that can never be, and angrily I swipe them away.
These are dangerous thoughts to be having right now. My emotions are still raw. Too close to the surface, and I am afraid that I might betray myself.
Clamping down on myself, I turn the faucet to off with a quick savage flick of my wrist and step out of the cubicle, reaching out blindly through the steam as I search for the Motel towel.
And then I freeze as realization hits me.
I neglected to bring a change of clothes in to the bathroom with me, and my favourite blue flannel pyjamas are still sat atop the bed where I threw them earlier. To retrieve them I will have to step out of this room, with only a woefully inadequate low budget motel towel covering me as I negotiate my partner to reach them.
I don't normally display such modesty around a man, who, let's face it, has dragged me half naked through the frozen wastes of Antarctica.
But that was different. For one thing I was half unconscious throughout the experience.
And then there was the shower incident, kindly provided by Diana Fowley, because the wall separating us offered no protection since my 6' 2" partner could see right over it.
But he didn't see anything right?
Yeah right I believe that in my dreams.
The bathroom is not heated, and I am beginning to shiver as the steam around me rapidly disappears, replaced instead with the cool air from the air con unit set high upon the wall.
And my subconscious makes the decision for me as I reach for the door handle.
After all, it's not like I'm naked or anything.
The minute I step out the door, I realize my fears have been for nothing. Mulder has abandoned his position by the TV and is now stretched out atop the bed.
And even though I know it is foolhardy, I allow myself a minute or two to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes.
I love to watch my partner sleep.
In sleep his handsome face relaxes, taking on an almost boyish naivety that I simply don't get the pleasure of seeing during the course of our normal lives together. No conspiracies, no betrayals, no hurt. Just Mulder.
How he should look
In many ways, he has been cheated out of so much, and while he is without a doubt, the most handsome man I have ever seen, every line on his skin has been etched from blood and tears and pain.
It's a pain he carries round with him every day of his life.
A pain I stopped trying to heal a long time ago.
A few strands of his dark brown hair have fallen over his forehead and I can't resist gently brushing them away, settling them once more where they belong, my fingertips trailing the length of his face..
I have no idea what possesses me to do what I do next.
Holding my breath, I bend over my slumbering partner, closing my eyes tightly as my lips make just the gentlest contact with his smooth, warm skin. Careful not to wake him I remain there, savouring the moment.
I've kissed him like this before of course, but those times have always been in response to a need to comfort, to reassure.
This kiss is a stolen kiss.
A kiss just for me.
Allowing me to say all the things to him I need to.
Sentiments I keep locked away inside myself that I would give anything for him to hear.
I am also aware of the risk I am taking by even doing this, and reluctantly I pull away, opening my eyes and feeling them widen in the horrified realization the Mulder is staring straight back at me.
He's awake. He's been awake the whole time.
"Trying to turn me in to a frog Scully?"
I don't answer him, feeling the burning humiliation flooding my cheeks as one hand instinctively grips the edge of my towel tightly. I feel like I am about to disintegrate before him, the sound of my increased heartbeat reverberating in my ears.
All I can think about is my need to escape, and I take one stumbling step backwards.
In response, Mulder sits up and curls his long fingers around the wrist of my free hand. His grip is loose and if I wanted to I could easily shake him off.
But I don't. Because he opens his mouth to speak, pleading at me with his eyes.
The word is whispered, barely intelligible, and something in my heart shatters as I hear the painful yearning in his tone, and I can't, can't walk away from him; at least not like this.
Instead, I allow him to pull me back toward him, easing me down until I am seated, barely an inch away from him on the bed. I shiver as he releases his hold on me, sliding his hand up my arm and tracing a finger the length of my collar bone.
The sensation is electric and I feel a line of goose bumps break out to follow in his wake and I know, that I have to stop this now, while I still can.
He realizes my intention, and the words die on my lips as he presses the errant finger against them, and I am suddenly struck by the realization that I don't want him to stop, that this is exactly what I need right now.
I finally turn my head, locking my eyes with his and I realize that we can't lie to each other any longer.
Almost against my will I inch closer to him, dipping my head until I am right there in front of him, and I do what I have wanted to do for so long.
The kiss is innocent, chaste almost, not unlike the night not so long ago when, at the stroke of midnight, Mulder allowed his barriers to come down.
My hands snake up to cup his face, deepening the kiss, moistening his beautiful lower lip with my tongue before gently pulling it in to my mouth, and I am lost in the feeling of him and he groans as I open my mouth, allowing him entry and I feel his tongue slide in to greet mine, breath mingled as we explore what has up until now been forbidden fruit.
He tastes just like I always imagined him to; a delicious combination of citrus and peppermint. I know this taste as though it is a part of me, and I can't get enough of him.
I run my tongue along the hard ridges of his teeth, the velvet softness of his cheeks and tremble as he slowly draws his lips from mine and gently nibbles a path down my neck.
My hands are in his hair, teasing, burrowing, holding on to him as though he might, at any moment, disappear as he has done so many times in my dreams.
The reality of it though hits me like a bullet as his hands go around my back, loosening the excuse for a towel I still wear, so it falls forward, leaving my back exposed.
He seems content to languidly explore every inch of me, but I need more, so much more than he is giving me right now.
Closing my eyes, I reach around and grasp his wrist, sliding his hand along my ribcage, settling it atop my aching breast and his eyes widen as the towel slips even further, exposing me.
"Oh God Scully..."
And he suddenly backs away, pulling my hand with him and bringing it to his lips where he kisses it gently, settling his hazel eyes on me which at that moment are a confusion of arousal, sorrow and concern.
"We can't do this. Not now. Not like this..."
His voice is barely audible, but the softness, the respect in his tone is lost on me as each word slams in to me just as though he has raised his palm and delivered each one with a stinging slap to my face.
Because he doesn't want me; because whatever drove him to instigate this has somehow passed and I am suddenly mortified that I even allowed it to get this far, that I allowed him to go so far; I killed a man tonight. Took away his life in cold blood and instead of getting down on my bended fucking knees and asking forgiveness, I am allowing my partner, my best friend, to put his hands all over me and even worse, I am allowing myself to enjoy it.
No wonder Mulder can't bring himself to keep touching me; I am unworthy of him, perhaps unworthy of anyone and right now I am shaking with a combination of shame, regret and a burning humiliation that causes me to stumble backwards even as I snatch my hands from him and clutch the towel against myself.
"I think you need to leave Mulder."
I can't look at him now and I turn before he can witness the tears that begin streaming down my face, snatching up my earlier forgotten pyjamas as I escape to the bathroom, slamming the door behind me before I collapse to the floor for the second time that evening, wishing that I could just sink through it and never have to face him again. Because I know him and I know he won't leave me like this; that he will wait all night if necessary for me to exit this room, to affirm that I am okay, that we are okay and while a part of me wishes he wouldn't, the part of me that is terrified to be alone right now is praying that I am right, that he will stay. I can't say for sure how long I remain there in a crumpled, sobbing mess, but slowly I am faced with the realisation that the floor is no less unforgiving than it was earlier and I feel myself begin to shiver against the harsh cold of the tile. It's enough to bring me slowly to my feet, gritting my teeth against the sudden wave of dizziness that thankfully passes fairly quickly, allowing me to dress myself in the soft flannel warmth of the pyjamas. And then I clean my teeth, fighting back the tears once more as I replace the taste of Mulder with the far more benign taste of spearmint. It's enough to almost make me unravel once again, but I slam a lid down on my emotions, refusing to let him see me break down once more.
I am unsurprised to see him still there when I finally open the door. In fact he hasn't moved an inch other than the fact his head is now bowed, eyes on the floor, defeat and uncertainty radiating off him.
"I'm okay." I manage, my voice sounding weak and brittle and far away somehow. "I'm sorry Mulder...I shouldn't ha..."
But I don't get a chance to finish before he is on his feet, reaching me in just a few short strides before he pulls me roughly against his chest, encircling me with his strong arms, holding me there, denying me an escape.
"Don't say it. Don't you dare apologise Scully."
His words are sharp, harsh almost, but the way he drops his lips to the crown of my head belies his tone. And then, slowly he slides the palms of his hands up my back, across my shoulders and tracks them upwards until he is cradling my face, forcing me to finally meet his eyes.
"Because I'm not sorry" he continues, his eyes intense, dark green and gold as he holds my gaze in his. "But we can't make this about what happened today in your apartment. We can't make this about him."
And deep down I know he is right. That absolution can never come at the expense of what we share, of what we can be, that if tonight, we had answered the need that has burned inside us both for so long, the memory would forever be tainted by the evil that had sought to destroy me; a man intent on capturing me, of raping me, of killing me and then carrying out his last sick, twisted defilement of me before leaving me for my partner to find.
The realisation brings a wave of fresh trembling that even with Mulder right beside me I just can't seem to still and I bury my face in his chest, wrapping my arms around his waist even as he pulls me tighter against him, letting me ride it out, holding on to me just as he always does.
"Please don't leave...please stay with me..."
I am appalled at how fragile I feel, ashamed of my vulnerability, wanting to be strong but not knowing how and I am terrified that he will refuse, that he will simply drop another kiss on my forehead and then he will be gone, leaving me to face this alone, penance for all the times I have pushed him away.
I'm fine Mulder.
But of course he does none of those things. He just holds me even tighter, his muffled voice slicing a path right through my desperate fear.
"I'm not going anywhere. It's okay."
And even though it isn't, right at that moment I know that okay will come...eventually.
End of part one
Notes – This will be a series of three. Each one will deal with the Mulder/Scully relationship as they become closer. Hope you enjoyed it. Please review if you did – oh and in case you are wondering, Mulder knew she was having trouble because he took the next door room without her knowledge. I mean, you didn't think he'd just leave her there right? ;)
PS – to those of you following 'Painting by numbers' chapter 8 is almost finished and should be posted tomorrow night.