|PROLOGUE||PART 1||PART 2||PART 3||PART 4||PART 5||PART 6|
AMONG THE RUINS
Part 3: She Is Me
The next time Mulder awoke, it was to the sound of a siren wailing, a Doppler-whine streaming down the street in front of the apartment building that startled his eyes open, his grip around Scully tightening like an instinct.
No, it wasn’t a raid. There would be no more raids. This was an ordinary tragedy, the ghost of it drifting through the city as the sound retreated into nothingness.
He had become immune to the tragedies. They were stacked like bricks, a wall around a part of him that he opened only to Scully now, and only then sometimes. Looking down at her asleep in his arms, a scant few hours from their most recent lovemaking, the playfulness of their earlier exchanges eluded him. Instead, memories crowded in, a mass of them, washing through his body and forcing the faint ache and tingle of pleasure out.
The day Maggie had wept when Charlie did not come home. Scully’s face, the way it was split by anguish and anger for days afterward from watching her mother’s tears.
He’d never seen her more determined than after that, the way her face had set into a hard patina of grief, resigned to the struggle that was ahead of them.
No. He had seen that look of grief before.
He thought of their earlier conversations, the trading of stories of times they’d wanted one another, sought refuge in the other’s body.
And he remembered the time he’d wanted nothing more than to give that refuge to her, to push everything else away.
He looked down at her sleeping in his arms, the story coming to him. He wondered for a moment if he should wake her to tell her, but decided against it.
This was a story he would not share with anyone but himself. If they were to remember the nights of wanting, this was a night he would remember alone.
The moon hung like a bulb on a cord outside the window. He watched it, and let the memories come.
* * *
She’d said she was going home, and she’d left him there in the hallway of the hospital, her confession of the apparition in the bathroom while she’d mopped at the blood the cancer had pushed from her a heavy shroud across his shoulders.
Death had visited her, and from the resigned way she’d turned from him, going off to her apartment alone, she seemed to have let it in.
Anger had coursed through him as he stood there, feeling emptier than he had in his life, lonely as a church without graves.
He’d gone to the door and watched her sit in the car for a long while, her head jerking up from where it had slumped against the steering wheel once, as if in surprise. Then she’d started the car and headed off into the maze of streets.
Awhile later, the strange case closed, he’d climbed into his own car and headed into the same streets into the night.
Home then, his coat on the rack, he’d tossed his tie and jacket onto the floor by the door, unbuttoned his shirt, gone to the fridge for the solitary beer that sat on the empty shelves. The light from the appliance was the only bit of it in the whole house except for the slats that came through the window, the blinds half closed like tired eyes. When he sat on the couch, the light sliced his legs, glinting off the bottle in his lap.
He sat still for a long time, barely breathing.
She was slipping away from him.
It was as though she were passing through some invisible door, vanishing, becoming gauzy and insubstantial. Her body was already growing thinner, the set around her eyes darker, her skin more pale. He’d watched it for all those long weeks in the basement office, looked away dutifully, quickly, every time she caught him staring from across the room.
Her eyes were always pleading when she looked at him before he turned away. Don’t look at me, they said to him, clear as any voice. Don’t see what you see.
He knew she thought he saw her as weak, or at the very least weakening. If only she knew what he thought about when he saw her. What he had seen since nearly the first day they’d met.
Sitting there with his beer, he’d taken a long drink and closed his eyes. The tears had started, held in check like hers as she’d left the hospital, emotion coming out of its stiff clothes.
She was slipping away from him. But how to bring her back? He let his thoughts open, seeking the answer...
In his mind he was at her apartment door. He would let himself in with the key he’d been given. The room he entered would be dark, he knew. She would have gone straight to bed to flee what she had seen, what she feared.
He would find her on the bed, curled in moonlight beneath the sheets. She slept soundly. It would take a lot to wake her. Certainly he wouldn’t have to worry about the sound of his clothes being shed, the gentle sounds of them on the carpet as he stripped down to nothing and made his way to the side of the bed.
He would watch her breathing for a long time, memorizing it. Then the first kiss on her hairline, traveling the contours of her face with his lips until she drew in a breath and opened her eyes.
In his mind, she was not surprised to see him there. There was no protest at his presence, his nakedness. It was how he’d always come to her before, only now she could see it.
She slept on one side of the bed, as though leaving the other side free for...something. Death had moved in, littering the floor with his dark, invisible things.
Mulder was there to take his place.
She was on her back, her hands on his chest as he leaned over her, undressing her slowly. He pulled the covers back and removed the last of her clothes, hiding nothing. When he eased into the bed beside her, his body ready for her, he always imagined the perfect fit of them, how she would turn to him, her leg hitching up to his waist, her arms around his neck.
Their breath mingled in kisses and half-spoken words against the other’s lips. Her breasts were pale and soft beneath his hands, the curve of her waist made for his palm, her hip a welcome mound beneath his hand. Her fingers moved through the scant hair on his chest, her nails grazing his abdomen on their way down....
He took another long draught of his beer on the couch, leaned back into the cushions. The tears fell freely now, his erection against the heel of his hand. He’d refused to heed it.
Then he would push inside her, her thighs clenching him, her fingers pressing into his back. He would feel her breath against his ear, the murmur of his name.
In his mind she was bathed in a darkness too thick to penetrate. And he was inside her, beginning to move, filling her again and again, pushing the darkness out. Pushing her death out -- her resignation to it, her pain.
He would cure her with his body. In his imaginings that night, he’d been sure that what he felt for her could do it, could overcome anything. It had sustained him, this wanting. How could it not sustain her if he allowed her to feel it?
Sleep had begun to overtake him on the couch, the beer slack in his hand, his body’s need for her fed from what he saw behind his closed eyes as he drifted.
When she came, she had no breath, her teeth against his throat. She felt alive beneath him, pulsing. When he came, his face against hers and his mouth open on a cry, his body filled hers with something like light.
* * *
The moon blurred around the edges as he stared at it, blinking furiously. Scully shifted in his embrace, turned and woke, looking up into his eyes, the set of his face.
“Don’t,” she said softly, reaching up to cup his cheek.
His lips found her forehead. “I’m sorry,” he murmured against her. “I won’t.”
She nodded, her eyes half closed. “Sleep for awhile longer,” she whispered. “And dream. We can dream now, you know. Everything’s in front of us. And everything’s behind us, too.” She kissed his mouth softly.
“All right,” he said, and settled down against her back again, his arms around her.
He counted her slow breaths. Ten. Twenty. Then he, too, was asleep.
Scully found herself wakeful in the hours before dawn.
She'd been aware of Mulder's own earlier insomnia, in a dreamy, half-conscious sort of way, but she'd remained still and silent, knowing by some basic instinct that he needed to work through whatever was bothering him on his own. At last he'd seemed to relax a bit, and she'd turned and calmed him with a few words.
But now, more than an hour later, Scully herself was lying in bed staring at the ceiling, sleepless.
She didn't know with certainty what had been keeping Mulder awake, but she could guess. Even after all these years, after everything they'd been through and all they'd done with and for each other, her ... oh, my ... her *husband's* capacity for self-doubt and guilt never ceased to amaze her.
She shifted restlessly amongst the bedclothes, trying once more to get comfortable, but then Mulder mumbled something in his sleep, and she stilled again. He needed his sleep. Not only because of the catharsis he'd apparently just experienced, but also because they would both need to be at the top of their game as they faced the challenges that still lay ahead.
Well, if she was going to be awake, she might as well be doing something constructive. Moving carefully so as not to disturb Mulder, Scully slipped out of bed. Groping around in the gray of early morning, she located her robe, slipped it on, and stepped out of the bedroom, then moved down the hall to the living room.
For a moment or two she paused by the picture window, staring out at the scene before her. But this time, the darkened cityscape failed to hold her attention, as her thoughts turned once more back to Mulder. After all the horrible events of the past year, she'd promised herself that she would never again take him for granted, that she would never allow herself to forget his importance in her life. She'd spent too many months and years in denial of her need for him, and she'd vowed that it would not happen again.
But now she wondered if perhaps she'd failed in another way. In finally opening herself to Mulder, and allowing him to care for her in the way he'd clearly always wanted, she was afraid that perhaps she'd neglected her reciprocal duty to see to *his* needs. And she now felt a stab of guilt over her decision to lay still in his arms, feigning sleep, while her perfect other wrestled with his sorrows alone. She shouldn't have done that.
Well, there was no undoing it. The only thing she could do, now, was to do as she'd told Mulder -- look to the future, and try to learn how to dream again.
And she knew just how she wanted to start. She'd tried something like this once before, long ago, but it hadn't worked out as she'd planned. Now, however, there was no uncertainty left between them, and no extraneous influences to distract them. Scully smiled to herself as she turned and headed for the kitchen. What she had in mind was a small thing, and in and of itself would mean little, but it was a start.
Even the longest journeys begin with a single step.
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Go to Part 4: "COMING CLEAN" by mimic117