AFTERMATH
Katriena Knights

For the third time that week, Mulder woke with Scully in bed next to him. He still wasn't used to it. She lay curled up on his spare pillow, more than her half of the comforter twisted around her small self. No wonder he'd been dreaming about Antarctica.

Not that he was complaining. He'd had more sex in the last week than he'd had the previous ten years. Which was pathetic if you thought about it. But it wasn't just the sex. It was this--her curled up in his bed with her red hair still mussed from what his hands had done to it eight hours ago, a sleep-smile curving her full lips. Just her.

He didn't want to question it. But as the days went by, bringing him more happiness than he'd ever known or ever felt he deserved, he knew he would have to eventually.

For now he tightened his arm around her, feeling her awaken as his lips brushed her ear. It was Saturday, so for once they didn't have to rush to get to the office. She took his hand in hers and set it on her breast. He didn't need much more of a hint than that.

#

Later she lay facing him, still smiling, and he brushed her hair out of her eyes. He studied her face, memorizing it, though all its shapes and its hundred freckles were etched in his brain a thousand times over.

"Why?" he said finally.

She looked up at him, her face soft with recent satiation. "Why what?"

"Why now? Seven years and we never even came close to this. What changed?"

She frowned a little. "Why are you questioning it, Mulder?"

"I don't know. I just-- I feel like there's a piece of the puzzle missing."

She sat up, and his heart twinged when she gathered the covers over her breasts, closing him off. "Does everything have to be a mystery with you, Mulder?"

She stripped the sheet off him on her way to the bathroom, wrapping it around her. He lay back in the pillow and wondered what the hell he was doing to himself.

#

When he joined her in the kitchen she was eating a container of yogurt, one of six she'd put in his fridge earlier in the week, obviously in anticipation of waking up there more than once. He wondered if she'd take the rest of them home now.

He retrieved a half-empty box of cereal from a shelf. "I'm sorry," he said.

Studiously, she continued to eat the yogurt, half a spoonful at a time. He poured milk on his cereal and sat at the table, mind racing. There had to be some way to patch this up. He could stand losing her as a lover, but if he lost her as a partner he might as well get out his gun and shoot himself.

"Do you know how long I've wanted to sleep with you, Mulder?" she said suddenly.

He shrugged. There was absolutely no right way to answer that question, not with her as prickly as she was right now. He wondered what was wrong.

"When did we meet?" she went on.

"Ninety-two?"

"It started about three days after that."

"Wow. That soon."

She cocked an eyebrow at him. The expression relieved him. Whatever had angered her had apparently faded. "You're surprised?"

"I was about two days, twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes ahead of you, is all."

"Well, you're a guy."

She scraped out the last of the yogurt and he took the moment to pay attention to his cereal before it got soggy. When he looked up she had her back to the sink and was looking at him, her expression unreadable.

"So why didn't you, back then?" he ventured.

"We work together. It wouldn't have been right."

"We still work together."

She nodded. "It was more than that."

He watched as she crossed his kitchen, sitting in the chair across from him. "You have no idea what it's like being a woman in the Bureau. Every second, you have to prove yourself. I had an instructor who gave me no end of crap because he insisted I'd never pass the shooting tests. My hands were too small, he said, and I was too little to have enough strength to pull the trigger fast enough. That was the least of it, too. I mean, the jokes about having an itchy trigger finger during your time of the month, about bursting into tears at a crime scene." She shook her head. "I got respect at the Academy, but I had to earn it. I worked hard, Mulder. And in the end there were still too damn many male agents who didn't want to be partnered with a woman."

She paused, looking at her hands. "Then I met you. You questioned my science, you questioned my skepticism, but never once did you question my ability to do the job. From the moment I walked into that dingy office of yours, we were on equal footing. You can't know how much that meant to me."

He just nodded, not wanting to interrupt. His mind cast back to their first meeting. She'd been so fresh and innocent then, her straitlaced scientific outlook not yet sullied by the inexplicable. He'd seen her less as a woman and more as an adversary at that point, someone who'd been sent to discredit everything he'd built in the X-Files division. It hadn't stopped him from being overwhelmingly attracted, though. But, like she'd said, he was a guy.

She had paused, gathering her thoughts, and Mulder knew she was about to hit the meat of her story. "What would it have said about me," she said slowly, "if I'd jumped into bed with my partner right away? You respected me, and I didn't want to do or say anything to change that."

"I still respect you."

"I know. And you probably would have even then. But it didn't seem so clear-cut to me seven years ago. Back then I still thought this was just a job, and you were just a co-worker." She stopped. "Why do you need to know this, Mulder?"

"I don't. I just hoped you'd tell me."

"I'm not sure I should."

"It's okay, Scully. Never mind. I don't need to know."

She smiled a little. "No. I know you too well. If I don't tell you the truth, it'll drive you crazy and then who knows what'll happen." Her hand slipped across the table to touch his. "This is too important to me to lose it over this."

He turned his hand to tangle his fingers with hers, and listened.

#

There had been two things, she said. Two moments. He'd sent her for information from a woman who studied crop circles, and there Scully had heard a story. A small story, insignificant to some, but one that had spoken deeply to her.

"She was in a relationship, and she was afraid to tell anyone because she was afraid of what people would think. It was tearing her up. Finally she found the courage to tell the truth about how she felt about this other woman, and about who she was. And that made me think about something someone else told me, before that. I just decided it was time for me to tell the truth. At least to you, and to myself."

Her hand still lay in his, and he squeezed it a little. "What was the other thing?"

She pressed her lips together. "Spender."

Mulder blinked at her, not understanding. "Who?"

"Spender. C.G.B. Spender. Cancer Man."

The hair on the back of Mulder's neck stood up just at the mention of the man. "What the hell does he have to do with us?"

Scully was looking at her hand in his, and the set of her mouth told him she was steeling herself for something. Suddenly he wished he wasn't such a hardass about telling the truth. Maybe this truth he didn't want to know. God knew there were other truths about Spender he could have gone the rest of his life without.

But it was too late; Scully was talking again, her voice soft but firm, her fingers tightening around his. He couldn't bring himself to respond, couldn't make himself comfort her while she spilled whatever she was about to spill.

"When I went with him, when he told me about the microchip, he said something to me. He was . . . analyzing me, I guess. He said I was drawn to powerful men." She stopped.

The silence went on a breath too long. "And?" Mulder prodded. Her fingers had loosened a little and he had a sudden urge to pull his hand away, but he held still. Too still.

"He said . . ." She closed her eyes. "He said to me, 'You'd give your life for Mulder, but you won't allow yourself to love him.' It made me angry. It made me angrier when I realized he was right."

Mulder's whole body felt numb. He opened his mouth but nothing came out.

Scully was still talking. "Then when I saw Daniel again, I realized I'd been squandering something precious. Something I just had to reach out and take--"

She broke off, looking up at Mulder. He pulled his hand away from hers, staring at the table. "So I owe all this--" He gestured toward her vaguely. "--in some way or another, to Cancer Man."

"No, Mulder--"

He stood. Nothing looked right to him anymore, not her pleading face, not her small hands laying palm-down on the table.

"Mulder, please--"

But he had already grabbed his jacket and was heading for the door.

"I gotta go. I'll-- I don't know. I gotta go."

#

He walked for a long time, not sure what he felt, or how he should respond. It shouldn't matter what had brought Scully to his bed, into his heart, but it did. If it had just been the woman's story. Or even the time she'd spent with Daniel--that he'd once been her lover didn't bother him. But Spender--

It was as if everything that had happened to him over the past week, everything beautiful and good that Scully had offered him, was just another move in Cancer Man's elaborate game. He felt used. He hated Spender for spoiling this for him. That bastard had ruined so much of his life already. It wasn't fair that his nicotine-stained fingers should be poking around with this, as well.

He stopped, not sure exactly where he was, and leaned against the brick wall of some anonymous apartment building. His mind kept flashing back to last night, the night before, Scully over him and under him, he above her, beside her, inside her, the smell of her skin and the soft flush in her face that told him she was about to fall over the edge. This piece of knowledge didn't change that. Didn't change the preciousness of it, the beauty.

Didn't change the fact that he loved her.

He was being an idiot. He walked a little farther, found a street sign to orient himself, and headed for home.

#

She was still there, wiping out his sink with a dishrag and some Comet he'd forgotten he owned. She looked up as he came in.

"Hey," he said, shrugging out of his jacket.

She didn't answer, only gave him a small, vague smile and turned her attention back to the sink. He'd never seen it so clean.

"Scully, I'm sorry."

"You understand now why I didn't want to tell you."

"Yes." He came up behind her, put his arms around her, his chin on her head. "There's something I haven't told you. About Cancer Man."

She turned in his embrace, craning her neck to look up at him. He stepped away a little so she could meet his gaze more easily. Her face held a question. "Last year, when I was . . . ill. He told me things." Well, told perhaps wasn't the right word. Much of what Mulder had learned he'd read from Spender's mind. "I learned things. About myself, about my sister. About him."

Scully's face had scrunched up in concern. "What things?"

Mulder closed his eyes. He'd faced this down a thousand times over the last year, but it still made him sick to think about it. "Cancer Man--Spender--and my mother--" He broke off. Her hand moved along his arm, easing him. He wondered if she realized she was doing it. "My father--"

"It's okay, Mulder. You can tell me." Her hand tightened on his arm, steadying him. "You can tell me anything."

"The man I thought was my father. Bill Mulder. He wasn't my biological father."

Scully's brows shot up as the implications hit home. "What are you saying, Mulder?"

"Spender is my father."

"Oh, my God."

"Yeah." He said it slowly, drawling it out, and felt her back away from him.

"Are you sure?"

"No one could lie to me then. You know that. It's how I knew Diana had never loved me, no matter what she said, and that you--" He stopped. They weren't ready for those words yet.

But she nodded. "And that I did." She was closer to him again, and she lifted her hand to brush the back of it against his cheek. "What about Samantha?"

"I don't know. It's possible."

"Mulder--" She stopped. There wasn't really much to say, he supposed. "When I was first assigned to work with you, he was there. He was involved somehow in assigning me as your partner. And later, during the second part of the Tooms case, when Skinner reamed me out for not following protocol. He was there then, too."

"Do you think that means something?"

"I don't know. Maybe they put us together for a reason."

"They partnered you with me because they were trying to shut me down." He shook his head. "Nothing else matters. No matter how it came about, what I feel is real. Please don't . . . please don't back away from me now."

"No. No, I won't." As if to punctuate her point, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him, a gentle brush of her lips against his. As she eased back down he took her shoulders, pushing her back just a little.

"What you said about respect. I do understand. Because you took me seriously, too. Not very many people did, especially back then. They just threw me in the basement and called me 'Spooky' behind my back. You were different."

"I saw things the others didn't."

"But you never closed yourself off to them, no matter how hard it was for you to rationalize it." He ran a hand up and down her arm. "It's why I never tried to cross all those lines and walls you kept putting up."

"Yeah, I got good at that." She pressed her face against his chest. "There were reasons for those lines and walls. There were reasons I didn't let this happen before."

He cradled her head in one hand. The sadness in her voice hurt him. "Why?"

"It was so hard, knowing that we could never . . . that I could never have your baby." Her voice broke a little and he waited, still, for her to collect herself. Then he bent his head, setting his lips against her hair.

"I'm so sorry, Scully."

"I had to come to terms with that . . . first."

He put both arms around her and just held her. He could say nothing to that, couldn't change it or make it better. The knowledge it was his fault hung heavy.

She shifted, nestling herself more snugly against him. "Just promise me one thing, Mulder."

"Anything."

"Promise me you won't start smoking. Some people thing the proclivity's genetic, you know."

He smiled, relieved. "Let's go back to bed."

She cocked her eyebrow. "Already? Are you sure you can handle that?"

"Forget the sex, Scully. I need to sleep."

She laughed, a hand slipping down his stomach, then lower. "I'd like to see you try."

END.