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adjustment period

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She’s still getting used to this. It’s been so long since she’s had to factor someone else into her routine. Since she’s had to ask What time are you getting up? before setting her alarm.

Since she’s had a man in her bathroom shaving over her sink, towel knotted around his shower-damp hips, disrupting her schedule.

It’s six forty-five. She’s used to getting in the shower at six thirty. Forty-five minutes to get ready, twenty minutes for breakfast, twenty minutes to commute. An extra five minutes of buffer, just in case. It’s a perfect system. It’s been her system for over seven years.

But now it’s six forty-five and she’s still in her pajamas. (Which aren’t, as they used to be, actual pajamas. Another thing she’s getting used to: foregoing silk and satin for whatever t-shirt she stripped off of him at the end of the night. Sometimes not even that.)

His pajamas are on her bathmat, a sweatpants-boxer-shorts Rorschach test. What do you see, Dana? She sees: ten minutes for breakfast, twenty for commute. No buffer. His blue-green body wash next to her honey pear soap. His-and-hers washcloths, toothbrushes, his side of the bed, his end table, his stack of books with his glasses on top.

He’s invaded, she realizes. Although is it really an invasion if she gave him the key, the drawer, the empty shelf in her medicine cabinet? It’s been so long that she’s forgotten what this feels like, trial-run cohabitating. If that is indeed what they’re doing.

She leans against the doorway, just out of sight, and watches him watch himself. Tries to imagine the shape of him molded around the shape of her. One closet: ties and high heels. One bookshelf: Jose Chung and Gray’s Anatomy. His fish tank and her desk. Her throw pillows and his couch. Their bathtub and their bed.

It’s easy. So easy it’s almost scary. She sees matching addresses in their personnel files and has to press her fingers to her mouth to hide her smile from herself.

A few feet away, Mulder rinses his razor, tilts his head to get at the curve of his jaw. She tilts her head, too. This could be your life, Dana. Did you ever imagine?

Did she? Parts, maybe. The sex, perhaps. She might have been able to imagine that from the way he looked at her, even in those early days. The way he stood too close, crowded her wherever they went. The way she crackled and sparked around him.

She could have imagined—did imagine, many times, on many lonely nights—the way they would have given in to the urge in some anonymous motel, ran each other ragged and never mentioned it again. So different from how it actually happened, fumbling and giggly in his big, mysterious bed.

But it’s this she never dared to imagine. This, him. His long toes curling against her cool bathroom tile. His leather jacket in her coat closet. The way he held her last night, stroked her hair as she lay in his lap, sleepy and full of the frozen pizza he’d put in the oven as soon as they got home.

A life with Fox Mulder. A life with Fox Mulder. Not just conspiracies and danger, but laundry days. Crosswords in bed. Baseball in the background while she blowdries her hair. A hundred little everyday moments between kissing him good morning and fucking him good night.

She remembers one of the first times she went to his apartment, back when they were still new and uncertain with each other. He’d had nothing in his fridge but expired milk and two hot dogs leaking juice out of their plastic casing. There had been water rings on his coffee table, sneakers tossed haphazard on the floor, a basketball taking up residence in an armchair like his only, lonely friend.

The stack of files on his desk, neat and orderly, had told her everything she needed to know. It was nothing else matters in an Oregon hotel room. It was don’t get your hopes up in the privacy of her heart.

This wasn’t a man who would go on grocery runs and change the water filter, who would go home early on a Friday night to eat cookie dough from the freezer and play penny poker on the living room floor.

And yet. Here he is. Six forty-nine and making her late, taking up her bathroom like he owns it, like he’s always been here. Taking the neat, compartmentalized spaces she’s offered and asking for more, carving out more, until the lines between this is mine and this is yours begin to blur.

She shifts against the doorframe and he finally notices her. There is shaving cream caught in his sideburns when he grins.

“G'morning, Miss Scully.” He taps his razor against the sink basin and turns back to the mirror. “Gimme just a minute and I’ll be out of your way.”

Something wells in her then, something fierce and hot and desperate that propels her forward into the bathroom. She wraps her arms around his waist and nuzzles her face into the sweet, humid dip between his shoulder blades. He grunts happily when she squeezes him, presses her mouth to his spine and speaks directly to his nervous system.

“Don’t you dare.”