Part III: An Anchor
It was as if time halted, and nothing else existed except the two of them in the deserted basement office. Their kisses were longer, more fervent, and neither seemed to want to stop it even though they were running out of oxygen. Scully reached between them and tried to undo his tie, but he was having none of it. His lips drifted to her collarbone, his tongue brushing against her necklace. She tangled her hands in his hair, closing her eyes as he settled himself against the crook of her neck.
The loud shrill of the phone tore at the silence. It was right next to Scully's ear; she started and pulled away from Mulder, who groaned in protest at her sudden movement. She gave him a look before she sat up and picked up the phone.
"Scully," she breathed into the phone, fighting to stabilize her voice as she ran a hand through her hair.
She tensed and shot Mulder another glare. Reality hit her full force with the icy voice of Assistant Director Kersh at the other end of the line. Mulder got up as she straightened up and sat on her desk again. He sat on the chair, keeping a safe distance, as if it was possible for the Assistant Director to see what they were up to. "Yes, Sir."
"What the hell are you doing down there?"
This was when she remembered their 9:00 meeting at the Kersh's office. She stole an anxious glance at Mulder, who seemed to remember the exact same thing. "Well Sir, I was…"
"Is agent Mulder there with you?" Kersh cut her off abruptly, impatiently.
"No, Sir, he's not," she replied quickly. She didn't mean to give the Assistant Director more reasons to go against Mulder; surely, he had enough.
"Well, whatever it is you're doing there, agent, I expect you to drop it and get here as you were required to do. I expect you to reach Mulder and I expect to see both of you no later than 15 minutes or you won't have an office to go back to, am I making myself clear?"
"Of course, Sir, I'll be right there." But she doubted he heard her; by the time she had said the last word, there was a dial tone on the other end of the line. She put the phone down slowly, and looked at Mulder. Sitting down, he was on her eye-level. "Please tell me you remembered the file we were supposed to hand in this morning."
He felt like laughing at her anxiety. There was something endearing about it. She seemed uncharacteristically disoriented and he liked it; especially he liked the fact he had something to do with it. He nodded, and went over the fetch the file from his desk. "I was just working on it before you got here."
She snatched the file from his hand and her eyes scanned it quickly before she signed her name at the bottom of the page. She hurried after him to the elevator. He slipped into his jacket as she hit the bottom of the sixth floor. Before he knew it, she was gaining closer to him. He found himself catching his breath by instinct, and felt incredibly stupid when she reached over to refasten the knot of his tie.
"It can't go on like this, Mulder," she said, almost whispered, straightening an invisible wrinkle on his jacket. Her head was reeling. His breath was hot against her neck, his eyes anything but drilling into her. She knew he was looking at her, waiting for an explanation. "I mean, last night. What was it for us? A one night stand, something for a longer term, what? We're partners," she said, looking up at him urgently. "Do we really want to sacrifice the last 7 years for – "
"I think you're missing an important point here," replied Mulder, taking the file from her hand. His fingers brushed against hers, making her gasp in spite of herself. She couldn't help but wonder if he did it on purpose. "I don't think we're sacrificing anything. On the contrary."
It sounded so simple. Too simple. "Mulder, you're my best friend," she said honestly. "I trust you with my life. I can tell you anything. I know you'll always be there for me, no matter what. I don't want to give it up."
"You're not," he replied. His thumb brushed against her cheek. "You're not giving anything up. I'm still your best friend. I'm not putting any pressure on you; we'll do it your way. But if you care to hear what I think… I think we should give it a chance."
There it was; that hint of skepticism he had come to know so well by now, a shadow that overpowered the blue of her eyes. He spotted it from miles. Unfortunately, this was when the elevator stopped. They moved away from one another instinctively, and he followed her down the hall. Her steps were determined, her heels clicking against the floor. He was having a hard time catching up with her, especially since his mind was completely elsewhere.
He grabbed her hand before she went into Kersh's office. She turned abruptly when she felt his fingers closing on hers. She glared at him silently, looking anxious again. The warning was clear in her eyes. He nodded and let go of her hand reluctantly. "Listen to me," he said seriously. "Let's go out for lunch later and talk about this. Let's finish off this thing with Kersh first, before they kick our asses. We'll talk about this later, okay?"
Scully nodded. For once, he was making sense. All that was left to hope was that Kersh would notice nothing.
But by lunchtime, they both lost any hope for getting out. Unfortunately Kersh was not in a forgiving mood. Well, was he ever? It almost made them miss the time in which they were under Skinner's supervision. Now Kersh had given them extra paperwork for the one they were already assigned, with a pressing deadline of 5PM that afternoon along with the threat never to be late to an appointment with him again unless they wanted to find themselves out of the Bureau.
Time crawled. They only stopped their work in order to refill their coffee supply. They hardly even spoke. There was nothing to talk about. Mulder was working on his computer, and Scully had her own pile of files on which she had to give her medical opinion.
After what felt like ages, Mulder raised his eyes from his computer screen. He had no idea what time it was, but he didn't care. He tossed the file he had just finished with unto the "done" pile and took off his glasses with a weary sigh. "I can't go on like this," he practically whined. "Let's go, let's get out of here."
Scully looked up from the other end of the office, looking as exhausted and as desperate as he felt. "Mulder, we're supposed to hand it all in by 5. Now I don't know how you're doing there but I'm not even halfway through it all, and I'm not going anywhere until I am."
He smirked. Now that was Scully he knew, ever the perfectionist, and so damn right. But there was this sharp pain at the back of his head that wasn't letting him go for over an hour now, and it was getting worse. He desperately needed some caffeine, or sugar; preferably both. "Okay, here's an idea," he said, getting up. "You'll stay here with your reports, and I'll get us some lunch. Any preferences?"
She shook her head hesitantly. "Mulder, I really don't think – "
"Scully, aren't you hungry?"
"Starving," she admitted, a grin curling on her lips in spite of herself. "But we've still got plenty of work to do."
"Well I don't care," Mulder announced, rolling down the sleeves of his dress shirt. "I have a splitting headache and I'm not intending to starve to death because of Kersh's paperwork," he declared, putting his jacket back on. "So what are we having?"
She smiled. That "we" had a whole new meaning now. "Whatever, I really don't mind."
"I'll be right back then," he said, retuning her smile, before he turned to go. Only when the sound of his footsteps faded down the hall, she turned her attention back to the file she had been working on, but she couldn't keep herself focused on it. It was so silly she felt like kicking herself. He left literally minutes ago and yet, she missed him. It was pathetic.
It wasn't difficult to stir her thoughts away from the work she had to do for Kersh. For now, she got away from the need to settle things right with Mulder, but knowing him, she knew he wouldn't let it go that easily. She wondered what she'd say. She let her feelings take hold on her, she actually told him she loved him… but what could she do? She was only trying to stop him from saying it to her, knowing she wouldn't be able to handle hearing him say that.
She had no reasonable explanation regarding the previous night. Or maybe she had? She didn't know. She had to shove him off right there and then, when she woke up on his sofa, but she didn't.
They had dozens of other similar opportunities, years before, and she was always stronger than giving in to what she really wanted. She forced herself never to think of him as a lover, repressed any illusion, any hope she had about the slightest possibility of a romantic involvement with him, knowing far well it would do no good to their partnership.
And now? She touched her cheek, where he laid his thumb only hours ago. Why was now different than all those other times in the past?
Because it was different.
Because they were different people than they had been 7 years ago. Because their relationship was so intense they could practically read each other's minds. They spent far too many hours together than necessary. She knew they were a source for never-ending gossip in the Bureau due to that fact. She knew people were whispering behind their backs, stories about Mr. And Mrs. Spooky. She didn't give a damn; she knew Mulder didn't, too. It was strange how they managed to turn the awkwardness of the situation into a hilarious joke after all these years of working together.
She sighed and leaned her head against her arm. It was always there, this spark between them, this inevitable attraction. At first she was amazed by how he allowed himself to flirt with her shamelessly at any given opportunity, and always managed to get away with him somehow because she was too paralyzed to answer back. With time she learned to play his game, to reply his innuendos with witty backfires of her own whenever she felt he was slightly off his limits.
But when did she allow herself to go beyond her limits?
There was no time to ponder over that, though, for a faint clinging noise from down the hall notified her that Mulder was on his way back. She sat up straight again and fetched the file she had previously put aside just when Mulder reentered the office. There was this small smile against his lips now, but he didn't seem aware of it. It made her want to smile too.
She'd have enough time to do some thinking later, when she was home. For now… she just wanted to get the day over with.
Her living room was warm and cozy now that the fire was on. Scully was curled on her sofa, a quilt wrapped around her shoulders, a book in her lap. She left the office hours ago; she was never as happy to go back home as she did that afternoon. It felt as if the day lasted forever. She and Mulder managed to hand in everything on time, but they still had a lot of work at their office. It was about 7 when they called it a day eventually, leaving each in his own car, hardly saying two words for one another. They were exhausted. None of them saw the need to continue the conversation they had started hours ago while on the elevator. It waited 7 years, surely it could wait a little longer, Scully told herself while driving home.
A long bubble bath was just what she needed. She laid her head back, slowly relaxing, thinking of absolutely nothing except for the heat of the scented water. She had enough work for one day, and she refused to think of anything work-related. However, soon she realized she wasn't quite keeping her word, for Mulder was all she could think about. Those moments in their office before Kersh's call, their brief conversation in the elevator, and soon enough she'd have to give him her answer; surely he wouldn't want to leave things as they were.
Wrapping a bathrobe around her, she settled on her sofa with tea and a novel she had meant to finish for ages. She hadn't even had dinner yet, but she wasn't that hungry. As she was leafing through her book, she realized she wasn't really reading. She was too tired to concentrate, and the small letters swam in front of her eyes. She yawned. It really was a long day.
The phone rang, giving her an excuse to toss the book aside. "Hello?"
"What are you wearing?"
She smiled. So typical. "Why?"
His voice was like velvet. An involuntary shiver went through her. "I stepped out of the shower a while ago. I still have my bathrobe on."
"Where are you, Mulder?" she asked, amused.
"I… was wondering if you'll want to have some pizza."
Coming from the guy who got them fried chicken for lunch, she couldn't help but giggle. "Aren't you sick with junk food yet, Mulder? Don't you think it's time you'll start having real food?"
"Maybe," he contemplated. "So, d'you want some pizza or don't you?"
"Hmm… sure, what did you have in mind?"
"Some pepper… tomatoes… mushrooms… extra cheese…"
She closed her eyes, suddenly hungry. She would sell her soul for a pizza, and he knew it damn well. "That sounds really good."
"Smells good, too."
And then when it had dawned on her. "Mulder, that's really mean of you, to call in a pizza and then call to tell me about it while you're eating it all by yourself."
"I wasn't gonna eat it all myself, I called because I wanted to share it with you."
She laughed softly and glanced at the window. "Well I'm sorry to disappoint you but it's raining cats and dogs out. There's no way I'm leaving my apartment now even if it's for a pizza, Mulder, sorry."
"Are you sure?"
"Well you'd better check then; someone might have dropped a pizza by your doorstep."
He laughed softly. "Open the door, Scully, it's freezing out here."
When everything clicked together, she jumped off the sofa and hurried to open the door. And indeed, there was Mulder, just placing his cell phone back in his pocket, balancing a big pizza box in his other hand. She could see water dripping from his coat. She gave him an astounded look. "Mulder, what the hell?"
"I was bored," he said defensively, as if that was a good enough excuse. "I thought you might want some company."
"So you brought pizza so you could bribe your way in?"
He smiled coyly, his hazel eyes sparkling. "It worked, didn't it?"
She mock groaned as she pulled him in and shut the door behind him. Silently, she took his coat and hung him at the bathroom. It was soaked.
Mulder was making himself at home without even being asked in. When she got back into the living room he was already settled comfortably in front of the fire. She smiled in spite of herself. "I don't remember asking you to sit down, Mulder. If you're half as soaked as your coat, you're going to ruin my sofa." He snorted, but didn't reply. She shrugged and went into the kitchen, thinking she'd make him some tea to get him warm. But she wasn't able to hold that thought for long. Just as she reached out to fetch the kettle, two strong arms were wrapped around her waist. She should have known.
Smiling to herself, she turned to face him. He had her trapped again, between himself and the counter. "Leave it," he softly commanded. She complied, placing the kettle back on the counter the best she could without looking away from him. She was practically holding her breath. His hands were toying with the knot at the front of her bathrobe, but he didn't try to untie it. He seemed to have other plans in mind; well she thought he did because he had that little grin that always meant he was up to something.
And indeed, a few seconds later, his hands gently slid from the knot of the bathrobe to its front. He let his fingers drift from the material to her skin, caressing her collarbone and neck. She threw her head back out of instinct, closing her eyes. When he next spoke, his lips were grazing her ear, his breath soft and warm against her neck. "So, we didn't get a chance to finish that talk we had today."
"Keep it up, and we never will," she laughed nervously, gasping when he trailed kisses to her collarbone. This was wrong. They shouldn't be doing that. But how could it be wrong when it felt so damn right?
As if he could sense her hesitations, he brought his hands to the sides of her face and drew her closer for a kiss. There was nothing gentle about this kiss, either. It was fierce, and determined; he clearly knew what he wanted. And the craziest thing was that this was what she wanted too. But she was so confused. She kissed him back out of instinct. Before she realized, they were on her sofa again, kissing fervently. Her bathrobe was someplace on the floor between the kitchen to the living room, forgotten; so were most of Mulder's clothes.
"Hold on a second, Mulder, stop," she breathed suddenly.
"What?" he asked softly, his lips inches from hers. She wanted to say something but couldn't, not when his face was so close to hers. For the millionth time that day she asked herself how the hell they got there, how was it possible that he was really – "Dana?" his voice shook her off her reverie, his thumb brushing her cheek.
She felt him tense on top of her. His hand froze against her face. "I'm sorry," he said, sounding panicked. "I thought that you… we…"
She laughed softly. He could be so dense at times. "Not here," she said enigmatically. He didn't seem to get it. She smiled mysteriously and got up, gently tugging at his arm and leading the way to her bedroom.
She didn't know what time it was, but she didn't care. Outside it was still pouring with rain, but she was warm and cozy, cuddling against Mulder. By the way his chest was slowly rising and falling, she assumed he drifted to sleep too. He had one arm buried in her hair. His other arm was draped over her waist, his fingers drawing slow circles around the tattoo on her lower back.
"Are you awake?" he asked huskily.
"Yeah," she murmured, but her eyes were drifting to a close on their own accord. "Why?"
"I just… I remembered something you said this morning in the office," he said hesitantly.
Her mind was hazy. She could hardly remember her name at the moment. "What did I say?"
"That you loved me."
She hoped he didn't hear her gasp. God, she totally forgot about that part of the day. It felt as if it happened ages ago, not that morning. "Oh, that."
"Somehow I hoped you missed it," she said, half smiling.
"Yeah, right," he smirked, and then gently nudged her side. "Well, do you? Or did you just say it to shut me up?"
He was teasing; that much was clear from his tone. And yet she hated to think he'd think that the possibility existed. She looked up at him seriously. "Mulder, do you really think I would stand 7 years of little green men, vampires, invisible men and other mutants instead of running away screaming when given the chance if I didn't love you?"
"Fair point," he replied after a moment, smiling coyly.
She leaned down and placed a soft kiss against his lips. He kissed her back, but he was obviously distracted. "What's the matter?" she murmured, slowly pulling away.
"I don't understand you. How could you stay after everything we've been through, everything you've lost…"
Melissa. Emily. Motherhood. Shadows of future and past, things she had or would never have. And yet… "I did stay though, didn't I?"
"I'm so glad you did," he said, so quietly she had to strain to hear it. It was a rare thing between them, this burst of emotions. Confessions were not something they were used to. Words weren't necessary, in their case. Besides, it was easier to keep things unsaid. Safer. "You know, there were times, especially in the beginning, when I was telling myself things could have been so much easier without you. But then at some point I sort of came to realize that it was easy. And it was only easy because you were there with me. You're like my anchor."
"And you're mine," she smiled, brushing her thumb over his lips. He pressed his lips to it, returning her smile. It was as if they were sharing a secret, and in some way, they were.
"Come on, let's just go to sleep," he said then, as if he could tell she was exhausted. She didn't need further encouragement. He reached over to turn the lamp off, and then pulled the covers tighter around the two of them. He fell asleep faster than she expected him to. She was so tired it was ridiculous, and yet she couldn't fall asleep. Her mind was too occupied; too much had happened in such a short time. It felt as if her life changed overnight, and in a way, it did. In one night she and Mulder turned from partners to lovers. Who would have thought?
No one, with a little luck. She hoped Kersh and the rest of them would never know about this turn in their relationship. No matter what Mulder said, she had a feeling they hadn't yet gotten a real taste of what these men in black were capable of.
And in spite of these thoughts, there was this optimism sipping through her as she closed her eyes. They would be okay. They were together – that was the only thing that mattered. They'd last as long as they had each other. And with that thought she finally let herself drift into slumber in Mulder's arms. Her partner, her friend, her anchor.