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Glory Box

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She had an Australian friend back in med school, used to drink coffee with her in the break room late at night.  They’d talk Chemistry and Anatomy until their eyes could barely stay open.  But then other times, they’d just talk, about everything and about nothing, about home and about boys, about parents and about life.

Scully’d scoffed at the Australian tradition of a “glory box” when her friend described it—a chest of items procured for a woman’s future marriage. “How prehistoric!” she’d smirked, “Is there a blender in there? A vacuum cleaner?”  The two of them had laughed, proud to be women of the 80’s, so much more enlightened than their mothers.

….

It’s not the 80s anymore though, not even the 90s.  It’s the year 2000, and her younger med school self would probably look upon this new sleeker version with pride.  Modern-day Scully is independent, accomplished, a go-getter who doesn’t need anyone or anything but herself. 

Younger med-school Scully didn’t have a fucking clue.

She’s gone through two vacuum cleaners on her own since the 80s.

….

She thinks about glory boxes every so often.  Wonders how she’d fill hers.

She wishes she’d paid more attention when Melissa had rambled on about crystals, wishes she’d saved some of her collection when they’d gone through her things. “This one stimulates your heart chakra, Dana… Faith, love, commitment... Stop rolling your eyes and take one—I promise they work…”

She’d store Melissa’s crystals in her glory box.

Her parents’ big blue bible—with the giant family tree in the front, full of births and deaths and distant relatives.  She remembers sitting at her father’s feet, chubby fingers tracing the gold engravings on the cover, as he read about Noah or Moses, her mother’s head soft upon his shoulder.

She’d store that in there, too.

A forgotten negligee—lacy and night-sky black.  She’d bought it in hopes that someday… She doesn’t even know why she bought it, honestly. She’s never even removed the tags.  It’s tucked now in the bottom of her drawer, beneath piles of menswear pajamas.

She supposes she’d add that, too.

….

It’s not the marriage that’s appealing.  No, not really.  She used to want… well, she used to want a lot of things.  When she was twelve, she pored through her mother’s JCPenny’s and Sears catalogs, cut out pictures of brides and their attendants, had twelve-year-old dreams and made twelve-year-old plans.

She’s a long way from twelve years old now.

She’s a long way from lots of things she used to be.

….

He knocks on a Saturday evening, just as she’s settled down for dinner.  Naturally.  Bach floats from her speakers—she and ol’ Johannes sort of have a thing going on Saturday nights.  Her salad for one, her baked potato for one, and her wine for one sit waiting on her coffee table. 

Mulder has some sort of radar honed in on her heartrate, she’s decided.  As soon as she’s finally relaxed, he feels a buzz in his pocket.

“Go away,” she calls from the couch.  She plays games with herself, pretends she doesn’t want him. 

“Sorry, Scully,” he mumbles, already on his way in, “I should’ve called.”  He never calls before coming.  She doesn’t mind.

“Wine, Mulder?” she asks, going for broke, standing up and heading for the kitchen. 

“Sure…”  He never calls, and they never drink wine together.  But she’s in a mood tonight.

She has a set of nice wine glasses, bought them when she rented her first grown-up apartment years ago.  She can’t remember the last time she’s needed more than one.  That set of wine glasses—they’d go in her glory box, too.

She stands on her tiptoes to reach.  The glass she usually uses rarely makes it back into the cabinet, much less onto the upper shelf.  The tips of her fingers barely brush a crystal base, then nudge it further back.  Dammit.  She stretches a bit more, until oh, almost…

She’s met with a warmth against her back, his soft voice: “Here, let me.”

His hand rests briefly on the hollowed-out dip of her waist. Too briefly.  She sucks in a breath, but he’s gone.  She never meant to fall in love with him.

An extra plate, fork, and knife, and she meets him back at the couch, transfers half her dinner over to him.  He mumbles his thanks.  Why did he come here tonight?  She doesn’t ask and he doesn’t offer.  It’s an unspoken truth between them—this desire to be together.  If nobody admits to it, then it doesn’t exist. They’ve fooled themselves for seven years this way.

“Mind if I turn on the game?” he asks.  She sighs, turns off the CD player and hands him the remote. 

If there’s one thing her glory box wouldn’t include, it’s a remote control.

Yankees vs. Red Sox.  They watch mostly in silence, make it through two glasses of wine.  She feels loose and relaxed, maybe even a little bit punchy.  She has to admit he’s better company than Bach.  He probably smells better, too.  Mmmm.  She could handle some Saturday evening serenades by a Mr. Fox Mulder every so often. 

The wine is getting to her.

She teases him, roots for Boston instead of New York just to be ornery, nudges her toes beneath his thigh without thinking.

“You’re as bad as Samantha, Scully,” he says, shoving her feet away. “She was always a Red Sox fan.”  It stings for a minute, how short he is with her. She gets up, grabs another bottle of wine and flops back down.  Pours herself a glass but doesn’t offer him one.  She’s always been prone to pouting while tipsy. 

He notices finally, during a commercial break, reaches his arm over and chuffs her shoulder with his fist. “Geez, I was just kidding.”  Geez, Scully, stop acting like my little kid sister.  Can’t you take a joke? 

She wonders if—back in 1993—if she’d made another choice, whether she’d be picking out bridesmaids dresses right now.  Deciding between blush pink or dusty rose, maybe even daring to go with fuchsia… The thought makes her gag. 

He comments on a play, a double or triple something-or-other.  She’s not even paying attention to the game anymore.  The wine’s making her tingly.  His forearm as he tenses in anticipation of the next batter is thick and ridiculous.  She wants him much too desperately for her own good.  She thinks about that forearm, laid across her pelvis, his fingers slick and disappearing inside her.  When a soft groan seeps from her throat, she disguises it quickly as a cough.

“Y’okay there, partner?” he asks, patting her on the back and chuckling, eyes still trained on the game.

She gulps a mouthful of wine, unbuttons the top two buttons of her cardigan.  Her skin is damp and needy.  Kid sister her ass. 

“Mulder, why did you come here tonight?” she asks suddenly. 

“I don’t know,” he says, glancing across at her.  “Bored I guess.  The guys are running some sort of top secret chatroom tonight.  Sorry, I… Do you want me to leave?”  His eyes drop to the shadowed V of her cleavage then dart back up while he swallows.

She ignores his question, arching her back slightly, feeling bratty and just a bit bold.  “Why don’t you ever call?  You show up, assume I’ll be here.  Why?”

“Look, I’m obviously imposing. Let me just…”  He lifts from the sofa, but she yanks him back down with a hand gripped around that damn, stupid forearm.

“Why?” she demands.  He licks his lips, and her nipples tighten against the cups of her bra. 

He’s flustered, not quite sure how to take this new, demanding version of his partner.  She’s not quite sure either.  “I… I don’t know.  I mean, you’re Scully.  You’re always here when I need you.  You’re just… well, you’re Scully.”

Partner.  Buddy.  Kid sister.  Scully. For the first time since meeting him, she looks upon her surname with distaste. 

“Forget it, Mulder.”  She lets him go, leans back against the cushions, closes her eyes.  Tells her little college-aged counterpart to take a good, long look at the fierce, independent self of her future.  Just what you always imagined, huh, Dana?

She’s not even Dana anymore.  She’s a sidekick, an ever-reliable, always-there-for-him sidekick.  Not male, not female, not Dana, just Scully.  Beats getting married at twenty-one, glory box in tow, though, doesn’t it?  She’s just drunk enough to chuckle at her little private joke. 

He settles back in, glancing warily at her but obviously glad to be let off the hook.  She knows she confuses him. Hell, she confuses herself. 

She looks at his jawline and imagines running her tongue along the length of it.  Wonders whether he’d even notice.  Do sidekicks do things like that?  Or do they just exist, collecting bits and pieces and packing them away in a box for some imaginary future that’ll probably never come?

Ed. He’d noticed.  He’d noticed so much she’d been sore the next morning.  Deliciously sore.  It’s almost laughable—the only bolster she’s had to her femininity over the last several years landed her in the hospital.

Her wine glass touches her lips and she remembers a midnight kiss.  It had been soft, unexpected.  He hasn’t brought it up since.  The same way he hasn’t brought up that long-ago almost-kiss in his hallway.  Is she really that easily forgotten?  She ignores the fact that she hasn’t brought them up either.

The Yankees score a run.  Mulder jumps, and so does her wine—all over her chest and down the front of her cardigan. 

“Jee-zus, Mulder!” she yelps, leaning forward to prevent a mess on her couch.  He’s up immediately, grabbing for the paper towels, kneeling in front of her to help sop up the mess, apologizing and apologizing and apologizing. 

He blots the towel onto the wine-slick skin of her upper chest and she stills, holding her breath, as he begins to venture lower.  He pauses then pulls away, flustered.  “Go,” he mumbles, “I’ll deal with the mess here.” Their eyes hold for a beat, two, before he continues. “Go change, Scully.”

In her bedroom, she sways, alcohol flooding through her veins.  Go change, he said.  Into who? Who does he want her to be?  She knows he didn’t mean it that way, but sometimes…  Who does she want to be?  A flushed young bride pulling treasured items from her glory box?  Or a hard-as-nails FBI agent, reliable and proficient, answering only to herself? 

She strips off her wet clothes, fills the sink with water in order to let them soak. With her hands on the counter, she braces herself, meets her own eyes in the mirror. Sometimes she doesn’t recognize herself anymore.  The wine in her system doesn’t help.

Back in the bedroom, she pulls open a drawer. She’d meant to grab a Tshirt, but at the sight of her pajamas, she says fuck it and grabs a pair of those instead. Like he’d care anyway.  Like he’d even notice what she’s wearing. 

He’d notice, and she knows it. 

Christ, what’s wrong with her?  Hasn’t she worked her ass off all these years so that men won’t notice what she’s wearing?  So that she’ll be seen as an equal regardless of gender?   Mulder respects her, he values her friendship.  She has no right to want more. 

But she does. 

She doesn’t want to be just a partner, a sidekick.  She wants more.  She wants a reason to open that glory box, to allow herself the pleasure of those things, regardless of whether she chose fuchsia or pink, regardless of whether she had a damn wedding at all.

Slowly, without allowing herself to think, she shifts aside the pajamas and reaches for what she knows is there, what she’s known was there for the last several years.  Lacy, black.  She pretended when she bought it that it had no purpose, no intended target.  She was lying.  She bought it for him.  Only as she’s clipping off the tags does she allow herself to admit it.

Don’t think, don’t think

As she slips the lingerie over her head, his voice carries from the other room.  Her cheeks immediately flush.  She pauses, almost reconsiders—don’t think, don’t think— but then catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. 

God.

God. 

She’s never considered herself overly attractive.  Attractive enough.  There was a time she focused on her looks—tried new makeup, new hairstyles, had fun with her femininity.  Since the cancer though…  Well, since the cancer, her main focus has just been on staying healthy.  She’s perfected her beauty routine enough that she barely has to think about it, barely has to deliberate while choosing her clothing, barely glances in the mirror while fixing her hair. 

God though.

When’s the last time she really looked at herself?  She’s strong, healthy—she knows that.  But she’s also—God—she’s beautiful.  More than just wine-drunk beautiful, more than just professional-and-polished beautiful, but honest-to-goodness beautiful.  It shocks her. 

Her hands smooth over the sheer fabric that covers her abdomen, they slide up to cup her lace-encased breasts. 

This is the woman that Ed Jerse knew. 

This is the woman she wants Mulder to know.  Hell, this is the woman she wants to know, too.

She skims her fingertips back down her body, slowly, delighting in its curves and crevices, delighting in the fact that such a beautiful shell can house such a strong and capable mind.

“Hey Scully, I think I’ll head ou—“ 

He stands there, half-in, half-out out of her bedroom door, mouth agape and stunned look on his face as she turns.  She gasps, her immediate instinct to cover herself, to grab for the robe hanging just an arm’s length away.

Her fingers are already grazing the terrycloth when he stops her. “No!” he says quickly.  She pauses.  “Don’t… don’t cover yourself… Scully, Christ…” One arm still clasped across her front, she stares at him, heart beating wildly in her chest.  He looks at her, transfixed, with a tenderness to his expression that leaves her weak.  But there’s also arousal, there’s heat.  The look on his face tells her he’s not just seeing her as his partner, his faithful companion.  He’s seeing her as a woman. 

She sucks in a shaky breath.  The weight of his gaze settles in, and her arms fall softly to her sides.  She swears she can feel the path his eyes take as they flow down her body.  Her neck, shoulders, then lower, lingering at her breasts, his tongue appearing briefly at the corner of his mouth. He drifts lower, to the curve of her hips, to the shadow just slightly hidden from his view, onto her legs…

But then, soon as he appeared, he’s backing away, shaking his head and turning to retreat.  “I… I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “I’m sorry, Scully.  That was inappropriate... I’m sorry…”  When her mind finally catches up with his words, he’s already gone.  She stands there, dazed, legs trembling beneath her.

His broken face in the hallway, three years ago, as she strode towards the elevator… His smile, three months ago, as they stood beneath the dropping ball… His eyes just now, dark and hungry, as he lingered at her bedroom door…

No. This can’t just be another unspoken, forgotten thing between them.  Not another oh-so-close-but-not-quite-there.  No.  Not now that they’ve come this far.  Not after she’s opened that damn proverbial glory box.  The thought of stepping backwards just isn’t an option anymore.

She rushes into the living room, anxious to catch him before his getaway. 

His hand is already on the doorknob.  “Mulder, wait!”  She sounds desperate. She is desperate.  He pauses, then stops, resting his forehead against the doorframe.  She’s never wanted a man the way she wants this one. 

“Mulder, look at me.” Look at me the way you did just now, like I’m more than just a back-up plan on a Saturday night.  Like I’m beautiful.  Like I’m everything.

His shoulders tense. “Please don’t ask me to do that, Scully.” His voice is quiet and muffled, but she feels him as though he were right beside her.  “You don’t understand,” he continues, pained.  “I can’t… I can’t just look.”  His knuckles are white against the brass of the doorknob.

“I’m not…,” she murmurs, taking a step forward.  And another and another. He’s completely still. She’s right behind him now, can feel his body heat against her skin.  It makes her ache.  “Mulder, who’s asking you to just look?” she whispers, laying her hand on the small of his back.

There’s a shudder that runs straight through his whole body then. She feels the vibration in her fingers, in her palm.  She feels the vibrations in her clit.  Does he understand what she’s telling him?  Does he understand that she can’t just pretend they don’t feel this, not anymore?

The baseball game still plays in the background.  Yankees are ahead and she wonders whether she’ll ever be able to look at those navy and white jerseys again without thinking of wine and about glory boxes, about black lace and the way she feels tonight.

“I tried not to want you,” he says quietly.  She understands.  Oh, does she understand.  He’s still facing the door.

“I know you did,” she murmurs, “I tried, too.” She trails her fingertips over his ribs, then follows them around, sliding them up his sternum, smoothing them over his chest.  He takes a shuddering breath.  He’s so tall, so broad, but so vulnerable, too.  She leans forward, lays her cheek against the warmth of his back. If she were quiet, she’s sure she could hear his heart beat.  

“The way you looked at me in there…,” she whispers.  She places her lips between his shoulder blades, kisses him there through the soft cotton of his shirt.  “Mulder, I want you to feel those things…” She keeps going, keeps kissing him, trying with her lips against his back to let him know just how much she loves him. “I don’t want to pretend anymore…”  She presses a palm over his heart in order to feel its thrum.  

She’s about to gently coax him around but he turns on his own, gripping her by the shoulders.  He’s not rough—no, Mulder could never be rough with her.  But he’s strong and he’s sure, and the undeniable passion in his eyes threatens to make her knees buckle.  

“Scully,” he breathes.

Her breaths turn ragged.  The electricity in the air makes her tremble.  “I want more,” she whispers.

He nods, almost imperceptibly, and then he’s descending, his face drawing closer, until his lips just barely graze her own.  Oh God.  His breath is hot, humid.  Her heart hammers in her chest.  She arches her neck, reaching for him, and he does it again, there for an instant but then gone. The barest moan escapes her lips.  It’s torture.  “Please, Mulder,” she breathes.   

Finally.  He cradles the back of her skull and he kisses her.  Hard.  And it’s divine.  Oh God, it’s divine.  He kisses her the way she’s always imagined he’d kiss her, with passion and with heat, with teeth and with tongue. He tastes like the wine they shared at dinner, and as she snakes up her arms to pull him closer, she can’t imagine going through life without this, without knowing how it feels to kiss Fox Mulder, late in her doorway on a Saturday night.  

She gasps for air as he explores her jawline, nibbling and tonguing his way down her throat.  He’s meticulously thorough, and for once, she fully appreciates it.  Gaining momentum, he drops to his knees, pressing his lips to her abdomen. Her hands land on his shoulders for balance while his mouth slides hot and wet across the netted fabric covering her belly.  “Oh God,” she breathes.

“Tried not to see you this way…,” he mumbles.  His saliva soaks through to her skin, and she fists her fingers in his hair. “Tried to be professional…”  His hands find her rear and knead until she gasps.  “…but you’re so damn beautiful, Scully…”  His teeth scrape along the ridge of her hipbone, and she starts to feel dizzy.

“Mulder…,” his name slips out on a moan. The feel of his tongue is almost too much to bear.  His fingers slide down to cup the backs of her thighs, and he draws her forward, his hot breath so close to where she aches for him that she can hardly breathe.  It’s suddenly all too much.  Her knees give out, and she collapses, tumbling them both to the floor.

They’re a tangled knot of hungry limbs, but he unties them, leans against her wall then tugs her into his lap.  “Christ, Scully,” he breathes, fingers running through her hair.  His lips slide from her temple down her cheek, then around to nuzzle at her ear.  “I’ve wanted this for so long...” 

“We both have…,” she murmurs, arching her neck back.  He’s surrounding her, he’s everywhere.  His hands roam over her body while his mouth assaults her nape. She’s always known it would be like this with him—deliciously overwhelming.  She tugs at his shirt, desperate to get at his skin.  

Hot, smooth.  His skin is like candy to her fingers.  She wants to get her mouth on it, but before she has the chance, he’s got her rear in his palms and is pulling her even closer.  She gasps.  He’s right there against her. Hard.  She grinds her hips without thinking, and the most gorgeous groan rips from his throat.  Oh, this is going to be good.

“Scully,” he pants, and the sound is so perfect, she realizes she’ll never be satisfied without him again.  Who needs a box full of mementoes when the real thing is so damn sublime?

His fingers find her breasts, and even through the fabric of the negligee, she’s left breathless.  More, she needs more.  She arches her back, offering herself to him, hoping he’ll decipher her request.  He does, of course he does.  With his palm pressed to her back, he takes her into his mouth.  He sucks in mouthfuls of lace and satin and desperate pink skin, until she’s sighing his name and tugging the lingerie over her head.  More, more, more.   He complies.  She twines her fingers through his hair just as his tongue finds her nipple. 

“Yes, like that, Mulder, God, like that…” His mouth was never intended for blabbing about aliens.  No, it was intended for this. For making her feel like this.

But soon this isn’t enough.  Soon this only makes her want more. She already sees it becoming a theme, this desire for more.  She’s gone too many years without him.  She’ll never gain her fill.  He’s nipping at her skin now, getting frantic.  He feels it, too.  She tugs him back up to her mouth, murmurs his name, whispers the word “now” softly against his lips.  

He growls in agreement.  Now.

Remaining clothing hastily removed, they pause, look into one another’s eyes.  Their chests still heave with arousal, but there’s a calm there, too, a feeling of peace.  “You’re everything,” she breathes, and kisses him slowly on the lips.  He tells her with his tongue she’s everything, too.

Together, they watch as he disappears inside her.  It’s an amazing thing, seeing him fill her body like that.  It brings tears to her eyes.  What’s even more amazing though, is when they begin to move.  He thrusts and she rolls, and she never could have thought two people could fit together so precisely.  They kiss as they fuck, can’t get enough of each other’s mouths, only breaking apart for a frantic moan or a desperate whimper.  For him gasping, “Christ, Scully, you’re so…” or for her hissing, “Jesus, Mulder, yes.”

It’s a surprise when she comes, a wonderful one.  She collapses, face tucked beneath his chin, while her body pulses and pulses around him.  “Scully, oh Scully,” he murmurs, and then suddenly he’s right there, too, gripping her by the hips and gasping for air, his neck arched back so beautifully she has no option but to lick it.  He’s beautiful. 

She’s beautiful, too, she remembers.

They slump to the floor afterwards, boneless and spent.  He curls around her body on her entryway rug.  They kiss and they touch and they nuzzle.  They revel in the afterglow of seven years’ worth of waiting.

Soon though, practicality and the desire for a soft, warm bed slip in.  “C’mon, Mulder,” she says, pulling him up. “This carpet is filthy.  Come to the bedroom…”

“I’m buying you a new vacuum cleaner tomorrow…,” he grumbles, and she smiles.  She’s a beautiful woman, independent and able to take care of herself, but honestly, her current vacuum cleaner is terrible.

This man beside her—he’s broken but brilliant, scattered but with the most beautiful soul.  College-aged Dana would have balked at the thought of him.  He’s nothing she wanted back then.  But now?  Now, he’s all she could ever need, he’s everything.  And everything is much too big to be stashed away in a glory box.

Especially one with a new vacuum cleaner inside.