"Your tie is crooked."
She reaches for the flawless Trinity knot, silky folds of purple and black paisley woven into sophisticated submission with an expertise neither she, nor Mulder, ever cared to possess. Yes, the tier of this knot must have had decades of practice, she thinks. A sigh escapes between her lips, the soft nude pink of her MAC Angel framing the subtle release of regret. It should have been her who manipulated the fabric. She will learn, she decides. Her nimble fingers move the bound silk by millimeters until she is satisfied with it's placement.
"It's a pretty fancy knot for you, but I suppose the occasion warrants a little more high-brow appearance than you're used to."
She winks at him; Mulder has never been one for dressing to the nines. Neither is he a slob by anyone's definition. His suits, however, typically go from off-the-rack to on-the-body, with no alterations in between. For Mulder, buying a new suit is a mindless task. Unwanted FBI agents don't need fancy colors or fits. Black. Single breasted. Done. And being built a little larger than average allows him generous latitude with the longer cut pants and jackets, designed so as to be tailored accordingly by an average-framed buyer.
But today he's wearing her suit.
"...Mulder, I want us to go out. Really out. I want to go somewhere no one can get a table to. Where the menu is prepared daily, based on what's fresh at the local market, and it's never the same. A maitre d that pulls out my chair and lays a linen napkin in my lap. I want to get confused about which fork to use. I want wine and dessert and music and candles. I want a little black dress and stilettos. And I want to buy you a suit. A suit that's made for you. Tailored. With a double breasted waistcoat and Cap Toe Oxfords. And not black…"
When he smiled and kissed her lips, she expected him to scoff and offer to order pizza with more than just mushrooms and sausage. Instead, he took the keys from his back pocket and told her to lead the way to the "suit buying store, G-woman." Her disbelief lasted only seconds before she realized he was entirely serious. J.C. Lofton only took appointments, so she made a phone call. They could be seen at 4:15 that very afternoon; as luck would have it, another customer had cancelled just before she called. Kismet. If they left right then, they would make it to Ezme' in time for lunch.
They sat at her favorite table, and shared Dolma and bread with Muhammara. They sipped wine, held hands and watched the easy flow of passers-by, comfortable in the silence of simply being together. She enjoyed every second.
At Lofton's, Mulder waited patiently while she picked fabric, a rich charcoal cashmere blend she believed would fall across his broad shoulders beautifully. He stood on the pedestal as the tailor marked and measured, and if he felt even the slightest hint of tedium, he never showed. With every turn, he gave her his softest smile and an occasional wink. He could have given her grief about how close the charcoal was to black. About having to let the tailor get so close to his bits and pieces. About spinning like a music box ballerina as he was nipped and tucked and pinned. But he didn't. He gave of himself beyond what she could have hoped for. And she loved him all the more for his genuinely cheery disposition.
They would go across town, to Hugh & Crye, when they came to pick up his finished suit, she told him. The Logan would look amazing under the tailored double-breasted waistcoat. They could park in the garage near the Hoover, take the Metro and walk along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Maybe have lunch under a tree. It all sounded more pedestrian than they were used to, but she liked the idea very much. An outing in line with something normal, non-alien chasers might experience. Something different.
He would turn the tables on her weeks later, doing something so unlike anything he had ever done in the whole of their partnership. He surprised her the day they returned to Lofton's; he emerged from the dressing room wearing not only his tailored suit, but the Logan dress shirt, a tie with matching pocket square, and a brand new pair of cap toe Oxfords. She had been speechless. An excellent choice, the tailor had said to Mulder, with a wink and nod. Mulder had proffered a humble thank you without taking his eyes off her.
She smiles at the memory.
"I will never forget the day you actually took my breath away in this suit. You came out of that dressing room...I almost fainted, I swear. You were the most handsome man I'd ever seen. You still are. But it wasn't just the suit. It was this time you had taken to get to that moment. You paid attention. Remembered things. And then, the reservations, and the dress, and knowing my measurements. It was incredible. The way you made my dream come true. I don't know if I'll ever feel like I said 'thank you' enough."
She plays with the pocket square and slides her hand down the lapel of his jacket.
"I'm glad I have those memories. It would be a shame to live the life we have lived and not have something as wonderful as that to look back on."
Her eyes fall to the floor in front of him, then back to his solemn face, and she thinks of all the terrible things she's said to him in the past. Their separation was by far the worst thing she has ever been through with him. Worse than her abduction. Worse than Donnie Pfaster. Worse, even, than losing William.
"I'm so sorry, Mulder. For all the things you told me to never apologize again, I'm sorry. I know you have forgiven me, but I haven't been able to forgive myself. If I'm going to move forward, from this day on, I have to know I told you one more time."
As a tear slides down her cheek, she moves her hand to his face. He feels warm underneath the clammy regret of her palm; the sensation brings more tears. She realizes how much she depends on that warmth. His warmth. It is the blanket in which she folds herself when the world and all its atrocities creeps too close. It is a thing she finds little hope in ever living without.
"Excuse me for intruding, but everyone is ready."
Behind her, she hears the French door open and close softly. She can smell Skinner's cologne. She nods her head slowly and offers a quiet thanks. Brushing her hands down his jacket one last time, she smooths the lapels and breathes deeply.
"Well, I don't know about myself, but you look amazing. Absolutely dashing, Fox Mulder."
She kisses his cheek, her lips drinking in the feel of his skin as if water on Sahara sands. Another tear falls from her eye. She steps back, turning to face Skinner, and brushes her hands down her dress.
"I thought it fitting to wear this dress today, since he's in his suit. It's the best we've ever looked, wearing these get ups. And it's black. That's apropo, right? What do you think, Sir?"
"I think he is an exceptionally lucky man to have been able to walk with you on his arm all these years, Scully. I think he is damn proud to have you no matter what you are wearing."
A small sob escapes through her nervous laugh. She is almost overcome, but manages a weak but genuine smile of gratitude.
"Thank you for the present tense, Sir."
She turns to Mulder, silent and still, lying serenely in his satin-lined casket. As Skinner moves beside her, the funeral director comes through the doors.
"Shall I close the casket now, Mrs. Scully?"
One more kiss. A final goodbye.
"I love you, forever."
Skinner nods, the lid is lowered, and the portrait is moved into place. He escorts her to her seat as the doors are opened and Fox Mulder's mourners file in to pay their respects.