Disclaimer: Chris Carter and all the grand high Mucky Mucks own The X-Files of course, all I own is more merchandise than I should admit to owning. *grin* No copyright infringement is intended and no money was made from this. Any similarity to any other story but my own is a coincidence.
Title: Trading Yesterday
Genre: The X-Files; MSR
Rating: PG; rated for general content
Timeline: Between the end of the series and before IWTB; right after they move into the house in Virginia
Author's Notes: Ahh, the ubiquitous author's note... *grin* So, they(M&S) seemed a bit more open in the movie(ie Scully does say she loves Mulder) so I had that in mind as I wrote this fic.
"World as it is, what's strong and separate falters.
All I do at piling stone on stone apart
from you is roofless around nothing.
Till we kiss..."
Most Like an Arch this Marriage
-by John Ciardi
Fox kicked his shoes off and stretched out over the bed with a quiet carelessness, heedless of how his feet pulled at the carefully made corners. Then, before she could catch him in the act, he stole the pillows from Dana's side and added them to his own so that he could prop himself up against the headboard; the better to watch his former partner as she moved about the bathroom.
Her precise and graceful movements were blurred with a kind of rare, contented weariness that Mulder couldn't help but admire, and perhaps even envy a little. Unobserved, he took the moment to do exactly that, his hooded eyes watching her with an avid sort of intensity that belied his otherwise casual state.
"You know, Mulder, your razor is unpacked now," Dana offered in a gently pointed tone as she flipped off the light in the bathroom and made her way to the bed, guided only by the shadowed glow of sunset drifting in through the gauzy curtains.
He smiled a little to himself and ran a quick hand over his darkly stubbled cheeks.
"I was thinking a beard..."
Dana's mild look interrupted him. "A scratchy beard..."
"A manly and distinguished beard," Fox countered with an almost playful grin.
"Mulder..." Dana sighed, but made no other comment as she settled herself on the end of the bed. She set her brush down next to her leg and reached up to fumble with the deceptively simple chignon that she had wrapped her long hair up into for her first day at, Our Lady of Sorrows. Her tired fingers slipped over the smoothness of the kanzashi that kept her hair bound, and she swore lightly under her breath.
"Here," Fox offered, sitting up and scooting behind his ex-partner. "Let me..."
"Mulder, I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself," she protested mildly, still tripping her fingers over the elegantly functional kanzashi.
"I'm sure you can," he agreed, laying his own hands over hers lightly. Gently, he lifted them up from her hair and guided them quietly to her sides. "And I'm not suggesting that you need help, Scully," Fox explained. "I'm just saying that I'd like to help," he added softly.
His fingers caressed hers almost unconsciously before he slid them away, silently willing her to keep her hands resting on the bed where he had placed them.
"Let me..." Mulder repeated, quietly urging her to surrender just the smallest bit.
Encouraged by her slow, slight nod, he made his own attempt at releasing the golden red curls and strands. Carefully, he eased the kanzashi loose with gentle fingers and brushed tendrils of her hair free, his touch lingering as it drifted down the warm skin of her neck.
"You know," he drawled, deftly picking back up the previous thread of their conversation. "It seems only fair that since you grew your hair out, that I..." Fox began to suggest before pausing lightly.
Even without seeing it clearly, he knew that Dana had one elegant eyebrow arched and it made him smile to himself. He chuckled almost too softly for her to hear, even as close as he was. "Okay, okay," he gave in simply. "No beard," he said in surrender. "At least, not until winter. I hear that winters in this part of Virginia can get terribly cold, and you wouldn't want a man getting hypothermia or anything would you?"
"Mulder, I seriously doubt that being clean-shaven, even during a cold north Virginian winter, would be cause enough for you to go into hypothermia," she replied in a tone striving to be deadpan and quietly failing at the task.
"But do you really want to take the risk, Agent Scully? As much as I trust your medical expertise..."
Fox trailed off as he realized what he had said.
He was suddenly at loss and trapped in the moment, feeling the unexpected sting of his words echo between them.
"It's fine," she replied quietly, her voice slipping into something like apathy. "Forget it," Dana continued, though Fox wasn't sure which she was telling him to forget, the comment, or what they had lost. Unfortunately, he wasn't entirely certain that he could do either any more than she could.
"I'm fine," she added for good measure, reaching for the brush resting near her thigh, pausing when Mulder slid his hand over hers.
"Let me, Scully," he echoed.
She hesitated a moment, before slipping her own hand free and letting Fox grasp the brush instead. His fingers curled around the antique handle, worn smooth by softer hands than his own. For a minute, he let his hand adjust to the unfamiliar weight and shape, then gently, he lay the bristles along the strands of Dana's hair. He felt her stiffen ever so slightly.
"Relax..." he murmured. "Trust me," he added, the words tasting almost strange on his lips when applied to something so seemingly trivial as brushing hair. "Trust me, Scully," he repeated, whispering to make the words fit.
"You don't have to do this, Mulder. I told you, I'm fine... really."
"I know you are, Scully. But..." his words fell into silence as he suddenly found himself at a loss to express himself.
So much between them had always gone unspoken, so much so, that words had almost seemed unnecessary, but suddenly, it seemed terribly important that he say just the right thing... that he say it. It seemed so important of a sudden, that Fox was abruptly afraid to say anything at all, for fear of getting the words somehow wrong.
He took a deep breath.
"Just let me do this for you..." Fox found himself half asking, half coaxing the woman sitting in front of him at the edge of the bed. "Please..." he murmured, hesitated. "Dana," he added, her name feeling exotic and profoundly intimate, even now, even after all that they had been through.
He felt her respond, stiffening a little before slowly, ever so slowly, forcing herself to relax. She nodded, and Mulder began to slide the brush through her hair, working his way gently through soft curls and tangles.
She took a deep breath. "Mulder just... just forget it."
He ignore her.
"Scully you've given up so much... so much for me... because of me..."
She sighed. "Mulder I didn't do it for you," she said as if confessing. "It's never been for you."
Fox couldn't help but stiffen even though he knew Scully must have felt it, and it was the last thing he wanted to do, afraid that it would say a wealth of things best left unsaid.
Dana took another deep breath. "It's never been for you, Mulder. It's always been for us," she practically whispered, uncertain as she tried to put into words what had always been unspoken between them. "It's always been about us..." she added quietly, as if her lips and tongue were hesitant to form the words.
Fox's hands stilled, the brush held unheeded in his grip. He had the feeling that if he moved even an inch, he would miss something, that somehow, he had to listen with his whole body.
"Just..." she murmured finally after several heavy moments. Then her breath suddenly rushed from her in a deep sigh. "Just us..."
Fox waited, but when it seemed like Dana had nothing further to say, he began to slowly brush her hair once more. Moments passed, and the only sound was the quiet rush of their breathing and the soothing rhythm of Mulder's brush strokes. More than once, Fox opened his mouth to say something, but each time the heavy stillness stopped him.
"I have lost... things..." Dana said softly, suddenly, her voice nearly smothered beneath the very weight of the air. "Even things that I never really knew I wanted."
Mulder lowered the brush and quieted his breath, almost holding it in his need to catch every word.
"I've lost..." she said before hesitating, letting the silence build between heartbeats. "I've lost almost everything," she continued quietly. "All my certainties... the life I'd built for myself... the things I thought I wanted..."
Again, a muffled silence punctuated by their heartbeats fell between them. Fox set the brush aside and shifted uncomfortably behind Dana. Suddenly, she reached blindly for his hand. Surprised, for a moment, all Mulder could do was stare in bemused fascination at their entwined fingers. Then, with exquisite tenderness he began to brush his thumb over Scully's soft skin.
"Dana," he whispered in something approaching awe.
The slide of his thumb against her hand grew bolder.
"Dana," he murmured again, rolling his tongue over the almost rare sweetness of saying her name.
Gently, he scooted back on the bed, taking her with him in a moment of languid seduction. She followed, her back still to him and her arm stretched behind her. When they finally reached the headboard, Dana twisted, keeping her hand in Mulder's, even as she carefully settled herself in his lap.
She met his golden hazel eyes with a heady mix of determined fearlessness and quiet love before taking a deep breath.
"I don't want this..." Dana murmured, squeezing Fox's hand gently. "What's between us," she continued. "To be about what we've lost; what we've given up."
She brushed her lips softly against his.
"It has to be about more than that," Dana insisted, shifting her weight to more comfortably straddle his hips."It is about more than that."
"It is..." Fox agreed quietly.
"I chose this Mulder. I chose you. And any regrets I may feel..." she shrugged ever so slightly. "Well, I chose those too..." Dana slipped her hand free of his and set it alongside her other one, open palmed on his chest. She took a moment to measure his steady heartbeat beneath her fingertips before taking a deep breath.
"And I want you to chose me. Chose me, and this new life, regrets and all Mulder, because it's about us... in the end, it's just about us..."
He watched her carefully for a moment before slowly sliding his hands into her long hair, his thumbs brushing against the delicate curve of her ears as he cradled her face.
"Okay," he replied simply.
Fox brought her lips to his own, gently guiding her closer.
"But Scully, you have to know..." he whispered, brushing his lips against hers. "It's never really been a choice for me."
Mulder gave her a small crooked smile as he watched her raise a familiar questioning eyebrow.
"Scully.." Fox murmured, drawing out her name, rolling it over his tongue with an almost physical sense of pleasure. "You're my touchstone... my sunlight in the darkness... I..."
He paused before taking a deep breath and bringing his lips up to her ear.
"I love you, Dana..." Fox whispered, his voice shaken rough with the truth of it.
Scully shivered softly as his voice trembled against her skin.
"I know..." She whispered.
Mulder leaned back so he could meet her eyes.
"But is it enough?" He asked quietly and sincerely, twining his fingers tenderly through her hair.
"Is it for you?" She countered, her voice nearly as quiet as his.
Fox suddenly gave her another small smile. "Scully..."
He pulled her close once more, brushing his lips over hers and catching her breath with his own. "It's because of you that I still have hope, even now...especially now," Mulder murmured. "I just need you..." he added before letting his lips played over hers, subtle and persuasive.
"I want to believe; I do, but..." she sighed when they finally took a moment to catch their breaths.
"How can I convince you of the truth, Scully?"
"Show me?" She suggested, sliding her hands up his chest and over his shoulders.
"Everyday if I have to," Fox assured her as he gently twined his fingers further into the soft tendrils of her hair, drawing her as close as he could.
"Everyday?" Dana asked, unable to hide a small smile.
"Each and every," he repeated with his own smile before suddenly kissing her as if it were the most important thing in the entire universe for him to do...