Time passes in moments. Moments which, rushing past, define the path
of a life, just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely
do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen,
to consider whether the path we take in life is our own making, or simply
one into which we drift with eyes closed. But what if we could stop,
pause to take stop of each precious moment before it passes, might we then
see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life, and seeing those
choices, choose another path?
". . . how many different lives would we be leading if we made different choices. We don't know."
I looked at him, fighting to keep my tired eyes open, judging the sincerity in his face and relieved by it. "What if there was only one choice, and all the other ones were wrong, and there were signs along the way to pay attention to?"
He considered it, his brow wrinkling in concentration. He could be a smartass, but he knew when I needed to be taken seriously. "Then all the choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn and we wouldn't be sitting here together…"
And on the familiar cadences of his voice, I drifted away.
It was well into the night when I woke. Mulder had pulled a blanket over me and had apparently gone to bed, for I was alone on the black leather couch. Moonlight fell in through the window and the fishtank gurgled a mesmerizing song.
I'd slept hard, and hadn't even known when he left me. The thought settled over me, warm as the wool blanket he'd tucked around me. Suddenly so many things seemed so excruciatingly clear.
I had trusted this man for seven years with my life. There was nothing I wouldn't do for him, or he for me. Nothing I wouldn't pass into his care without a second though.
Except that one little thing.
It made no sense. It had taken me this long to realize it made no sense. Now a scattered collection of pieces had fallen together--a collection of moments--and the clarity the pattern brought was almost painful.
I drew the blanket closer under my chin. It smelled of him, of his skin, his aftershave. He lay not ten feet away from me, separated only by a wall.
I still had my shoes on; I kicked them off and stood, letting the blanket slide into a lumpy pile on the couch. Many of those moments had transpired on this couch. I thought suddenly of him weeping after his mother's death, coming to pieces without reservation in my arms. I blinked back tears. It had been a gift of sorts.
My feet silent in nylons, I padded toward his bedroom. The door was ajar and a stream of moonlight lay on the floor just outside. Or maybe it wasn't moonlight. Maybe it was just a streetlight. It didn't matter.
I pushed the door open and slipped in. The light, whatever its source, lay gentle on his sleeping face. In a soft and silent part of my heart I finally let the walls come down and showed myself the truth.
I loved him. I had loved him for a long time.
I stood looking at him for many of those precious moments, feeling them collect like perfect pearls on a string. He breathed slowly, his soft mouth a little open, his eyes dancing under his lids.
I took a step closer, then another, then I went to my knees next to the bed. Gently, I touched his face, let the backs of my fingers curl against his cheek where evening stubble grew rough and dark.
"Mulder," I whispered gently, then, little more than a breath, "Fox."
His eyes fluttered open, his brows drawing in as he squinted blearily up at me. "Scully? What's wrong?"
I touched his lips. "Nothing's wrong. I just . . . I need to talk."
His expression puzzled, he pushed himself up to a sitting position. The comforter fell away from his bare chest. I found my gaze caught in the shapes of it, the flattened curves and the soft hair. Nothing I hadn't seen before, but tonight it all seemed so different.
He pushed his hands through his hair in an apparently futile attempt to wake himself up. "I'm listening."
He looked very much like he wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but he sat there looking at me, bleary but expectant. Tears sprang up again and I swallowed them, unable to form words.
I touched him instead. I set my hand against his chest and slipped my fingers through the hair that dusted his body, feeling his warmth and his breath and the soft music of his heartbeat. Never, ever, had I touched him that way before. I'd touched him as a friend, as a doctor, but not like this. This was a lover's touch and it made every molecule in my body sing.
"His hand came up to cover mine. "Scully . . ."
I looked into his face and saw the confusion there. But his hand still held mind, there, against his heart.
"Did you ever think, Mulder, that after everything we've been through, we deserve a little happiness?" His eyes were fully awake now, his attention riveted to me as I stammered on. "And if that means being something we never though of being, should that matter?"
He lowered his head a little, his expression deadly serious. "Scully, are you drunk?"
I laughed, sort of. It was half sob, half a cathartic release of pure terror. I choked on it a moment, putting my face against his hand that still held mind against his chest.
"No," I managed. "I don't think I've ever been more clear-headed in my life."
His other hand came up, his fingers combing into my hair, cradling my head. His voice came, gentle; "Good."
I felt his lips on my hair then and I collapsed into him, weak with
relief. Strong arms lifted me from where I knelt on the floor and he
rolled me across him, laughing.
When I was next to him in the bed, though, he sobered.
"Is that what God told you in that courtyard?"
"Too bad. I was hoping you'd given me a really good reason to believe in God."
He kissed me then, a kiss like nothing we'd ever shared before, a kiss like seven years of unrequited need. Then he rolled me over, and under him, and the dance began.
There were few surprises, yet it was all new. I'd seen him naked before, but through a doctor's eyes. Now I looked at him the way a woman lets her eyes devour the man she loves, and watched his body respond. And when his gentle exploration turned to rough, hungry passion, I let myself go to pieces in his arms, utterly, and without reservation.
I left him in the morning. I wasn't sure why, except it seemed prudent for at least one of us to get to the office on time, and he slept through the blaring of the radio alarm.
Looking at myself in the mirror, tidying my hair, I didn't look any different. I felt different, though. Something inside me had opened up like a flower, its delicate petals turning to the gentle sun.
I collected my jacket from the foot of his bed and felt my face soften as I looked at him, lying there in the tangle of bedsheets. I would eat my breakfast alone, taking the time to think, to savor the memory. And when he got to the office, I would be ready. Because everything was different now--and yet, in every way that mattered, profoundly and beautifully the same.
I woke alone. Not that that hadn't happened every single day of my miserable life, but today I'd hoped for more.
I rolled over and she wasn't there. I swallowed hard and wondered why.
I needed a shower and a shave but instead I threw on a suit and headed out the door. It was late; maybe that was why she'd left. Maybe she was even now at work, covering my ass. God knew she'd gotten good at that over the years.
I picked up a latte on the way, in lieu of breakfast. One for her, too, in case she needed it. At work no one spared me a second glance as I barreled down the hallways. They'd gotten used to me coming in looking like shit warmed over.
Then I stood in front of that door, and I was afraid to open it.
My door, the basement door with the plastic nameplate on it that said, "Fox Mulder, Special Agent." Yep, that was me. My door. My office.
"Jesus," I said to myself. "Just open the damn door."
Maybe she wasn't there.
But she was, sitting in her usual place, looking over a file and sipping a latte. Damn. So much for my own offering. She looked up and gave me a bright grin that should have made me feel better.
"Hey," she said.
I stared at her. God help me, I couldn't think of anything except what she looked like naked. Mutely I held out her coffee.
She giggled. Actually giggled. And lifted her coffee cup. "I've got one already."
"Hazelnut?" I managed.
I cleared my throat and sat down at my desk, arranging the two cups of coffee in front of me. I tried not to look at her because my eyes kept going to her chest, following the line of the ubiquitous gold necklace down into her cleavage. There were breasts under there. Pretty, perky ones. I'd seen them before, but I'd never touched them before last night. Or had them in my mouth. I could barely see straight, and there were still so many questions.
Why did you leave?
She sat there grinning at me.
"You know," I ventured, "I had the weirdest damn dream last night."
She laughed again and then her eyes met mine and she sobered. "I'm sorry I sneaked out this morning. I didn't want to wake you up."
Not quite enough for relief. Not quite enough to let go of the huge wad of doubt that filled my chest, making it hard to breathe.
"That was it? You just didn't want to wake me up? Because you could have woke me up. I mean, it was time to go to work, right? Or did you cut out before that?" I instantly regretted the edge in my voice, but the words and the tone they'd been spoken in were gone now, bouncing around the room.
Her face changed a little and she blinked. "I'm sorry. I never thought . . . I had no intention of hurting you."
"Why did you leave?"
She shrugged, looking at her hands. "I wanted some time by myself. To think."
"To think about what a stupid mistake you made?"
Her face jerked, as if I'd slapped her. "God, Mulder, is that what you think?"
I shook my head, feeling the doubt melt inside me. "It wasn't a mistake for me." Tears brimmed in her eyes and I felt like an asshole. "I'm sorry. It's just . . . you were gone, and--" I stopped the next words, then reminded myself she was more than acquainted with the secret, girly side of me. "It scared me."
She smiled a little and reached across the desk to touch my face. "I wanted to think about what happened, yes. About how perfect it was. I wanted to savor the moment."
"You could have savored it with me."
"Then neither one of us would have made it to work."
And she was back, with that grin I so rarely saw, and she leaned
across the desk and kissed me softly. She grasped my hand, squeezing
As she drew away, her hand still holding mine, my attention slid down again, following the gold chain. "You know, I've always had this fantasy."
"About doing it on this desk."
She laughed. "Maybe later."
We sat there for a time--moments, hours, it was hard to tell--hands clasped as she looked at me with the kind of unadulterated tenderness I'd never thought to see directed at me, from a woman's eyes. Then the office door opened, and a familiar voice broke the spell.
"I knew I kept you two in the basement for a reason."
Well, I'd known it would happen. I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. Like, six-and-a-half years ago. But there was no mistaking the way they'd been looking at each other when I'd come downstairs to pass on their next case. They'd be doing it on the desk before lunchtime.
I could reprimand them. An FBI office--in the basement or not--was no place for fornication. But what was the point?
Besides, it would be a petty thing to do. And if anybody in this world deserved a little happiness, it was those two.