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He wakes to her mouth on his abdomen, just below his belly button. She’s bedheaded and perfect, the sheet wrapped around her like a dress. She is his Greek goddess and he her supplicant.

Except she’s the one on her knees working lower, lower, lower.

“Good morning,” she murmurs to his hipbone.

“Hi,” he manages, reaching for her hand, her shoulder, any part he can reach.

“Happy birthday.” Her breath is hot on his eager flesh, hotter still when she swallows him down.

His back arches from the mattress and he calls to God. It’s already the best birthday he’s ever had.

“Mulder, no.” She gazes down at him through a curtain of hair and bites her lip. “It’s your birthday. You don’t have to—”

He runs a finger along her swollen slit, gently parting her. She’s dripping for him, sweet and rich and hot. So altruistic, his Scully. So selfless.

His hands find her hips and he tugs her down closer. There is no better feeling than being trapped between her thighs.

“But Scul-ly. This is my favorite treat.”

He licks her once, long and slow, his eyes locked with hers. She whimpers and trembles and nods her head. Happy birthday to him.

It’s ten thirty before they stumble from bed, weak-kneed and sticky, and almost eleven thirty before they make it out of the shower. Her fingertips are pruney and he kisses each one while she laughs.

“Come on,” she says. “Get dressed.”

She drops her towel and he can’t help himself. He’s another year older, but he’s never felt younger than he does with her. He corners her against the dresser and kisses her neck.

It’s after noon before they make it out the door.

She takes him to Merle’s, the all-day-breakfast diner by her apartment. She hates Merle’s, hates that there’s nothing that isn’t fried in grease, hates that the only bread options are white and thick white, that the closest thing to a vegetable is ketchup.

But she takes him and doesn’t complain. Doesn’t so much as wrinkle her nose at her fried egg and drippy home fries. Just rubs her foot along the inside of his calf beneath the table and smiles her little self-satisfied Scully smile.

“Is it good?” she asks, leaning her chin on her fist and watching him mop yolk off his plate with a biscuit.

She’s in his sweater, oatmeal-colored and cable knit. It keeps trying to slide off one shoulder and she has to roll up the sleeves. Her hair is soft from their shower, her face clean and open and so obviously happy it almost hurts to look at her.

“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, Scully, it’s really good.”

For his eighth birthday, his grandmother gave him a telescope. He set it up in front of his bedroom window and spent every night of the next six months kneeling in front of it, hoping to see an astronaut. He never did, but the excitement of gazing up into the vast inky darkness, spotting flashes of light and new-to-him celestial bodies, was fresh every time.

He can’t remember the last time he looked up just to look, and he wonders if she knows it. If that’s why she brought him here, tucked her little hand into his and reclined beside him. Pointed up and said, “Tell me about that one.”

They’re the only two in the planetarium this afternoon, so he doesn’t feel too bad about talking over the recorded spiel. Doesn’t feel too bad about drawing her closer to sit half in his lap. Doesn’t feel bad at all about making up lies just to hear her little snort.

“That one,” he says, curling a hand around her hip, “is Maruvius Prime, home of Marvin the Martian.”

“Hmm, I thought he was from Mars,” she whispers, soft like there’s somebody to disturb.

He kisses her temple. “A common misconception.”

“Well, then.” She settles into his embrace. “Feel free to set the record straight.”

“Ah, Miss Scully. I thought you’d never ask.”

He sets the record every way but straight, and her laughter is the biggest planet of all.

She buys him a hat (The Sky Is Not The Limit!) in the gift shop and doesn’t complain when he puts it on her head instead, pulls it down over her eyes by the bill and kisses her right there on the sidewalk.  

“Wanna go see a movie?” she asks, straightening the cap and falling in step beside him. Her hand in his is warm and dry. When was the last time she let him hold it in public? When was the last time they went out as Mulder and Scully, people, not Mulder and Scully, agents? “I hear they’re doing monster movies on E Street. Bride of FrankensteinThe Blob…”

“Be still, my heart. You really know how to woo a guy, don’t you?”

She squeezes his fingers and smiles. “That a yes?”

“That’s a yes, Scully. I absolutely want to see The Blob with you.”

She leans into him and wears that silly hat all the way to the theatre. It—like the oatmeal-colored sweater with the too-long sleeves, like all bedsheets everywhere—looks better on her.

There’s a not insignificant part of him that expects the theatre to catch fire. Or for some madman with a gun to stand up and start taking hostages. Or for the actual Blob to burst through the doors and consume everything in its wake.

Because Fox Mulder doesn’t have days like this. Fox Mulder doesn’t get woken up by the most amazing woman in the world, get to spend hours playing in her luscious body, get taken to breakfast and planetariums and the movies where said most amazing woman not only concedes to buttered popcorn, but to Red Vines, too.

So as much as he loves The Blob, and as much as he really loves watching The Blob with Scully, he spends most of the movie in tense anticipation, waiting for the other shoe. Waiting for the thing that confirms, ah, yep, this really is your life, Foxy, old pal. Here’s some pain to be sure.

But it doesn’t come. The only things that come are the credits and Scully’s breath on his neck, asking if he wants to stay for The Fly or if he’s ready to go home. Her hand on his thigh, scratching gently through his jeans, makes the decision easy.

“Do you want your present now?” She’s propped against his headboard, breasts bare and milky in the glow of his bedside lamp. He gazes up at her from where he’s been dozing in her lap, full of takeout Italian and her wine-sweetened lips.

“This wasn’t my present?” he asks, drawing a circle around her soft nipple.

“Hmm, your other present.”

“Scully.” He flattens his hand over her left breast. It is the weight of everything good in his life. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”

She smooths his hair back from his forehead, scrapes her nails along his scalp. “I wanted to,” she says. “It’s your birthday. Let me up.”

He shifts to the side and she slips from bed, wiggling her naked behind more than strictly necessary on her way to the living room.

The things she does for him. He can hardly stand it. She deserves to be shaking her ass for someone who can give her so much more than he can. If he wasn’t such a selfish son of a bitch, maybe he’d tell her that.

A minute later, she returns with a small package wrapped in gold foil and climbs back under the covers with him.

“Here.” She thrusts the package into his hands and tucks the sheet up under her armpits. He wants to tug it back down, already misses the rosy peaks of her breasts, but he recognizes the posture. Defensive. Nervous.

He weighs the gift in his hand, turns it over, examines the deftly-folded wrapping. It’s a videotape. He recognizes the size, the feel. Why would she be nervous about a videotape?

“Go on,” she says, bumping her shoulder to his. “Open it.”

The paper tears away easily and he tosses it overboard to join the mess of clothes on the floor before focusing on the thing in his hands. He stares at it for a minute, confused. Then he bursts out laughing.

Superstars of the Super Bowl? You shouldn’t have.” He kisses her pinked cheek. “Thank you.”

Does she remember him giving her this same tape all those years ago? Probably not. She’d just come back from…wherever they took her. He doesn’t like to think about it. She’d probably been too tired and anxious. She’d probably even forgotten to take the tape home with her. But still. What are the odds.

“Mulder, I know it's—”

“Perfect, Scully, really. I appreciate it. A guy can never have enough football.”

He sets it on the nightstand and reaches for her, kisses her shoulder, her collarbone. She could have given him an empty box and he would have been this happy, he’s certain.

“Are you gonna—”

“What?” He raises up to look at her, rubs a lock of her hair between his fingers. “You wanna watch it now? We can watch it now.”

She bites her lip and he can see her thinking. Football or sex, Scully. What’ll it be?

“No,” she says after a minute. “No, that’s alright.”

“You sure?” He moves like he’s going to get out of bed just so she’ll cling tighter, draw him back down.

“C'mon, Mulder.” Her mouth finds his jaw and makes a home there. “Your other present’s getting cold.”

The next morning, she leaves after breakfast. She has dry cleaning to pick up, a bathroom to clean, a mother to call. He understands, of course, but he feels a little letdown all the same when the door clicks and he’s left alone with his fish and his thoughts and his half-finished coffee. Birthday over. Back to real life.

He stretches out on the couch, flips channels for a while, wonders how long he should wait before he’s allowed to call her. Feels a little pathetic for wanting to call her already. The scent of her shampoo hasn’t even dissipated from the bathroom.

Maybe there’s a pickup game at the park. It’s been a while since he’s had a free Sunday to shoot hoops with the guys, and it would be nice to get out for a little bit. Get some fresh air. Stop thinking about Scully in his sweater, in his space hat, in his bed at two am, asking him if he had a good birthday.

He changes clothes and is digging for his sneakers beneath the bed when he bumps into the nightstand. The tape clatters to the floor and slides free of its paper sleeve. A piece of folded notebook paper pokes out from inside.  

Mulder scoops everything up and sits on the edge of the bed to unfold the paper. Scully’s neat, tight script greets him and he smiles. Then he reads what she’s written and loses all of the air in his lungs.

M—

You gave me this when I came back. I never told you, but those were some of the hardest nights I’ve ever had. I had dreams, saw faces. I slept very little. I wanted to call you, Mulder, every single night. Just to hear your voice, to know I was okay. But I was afraid—of myself, of what you would think of me, of how much I was hurting. I watched this tape instead, every night for nearly two months. The noise helped me sleep.

Things eventually returned to normal, but I kept it anyway. It became a source of comfort for me, a way to maintain the distance between us and still feel close to you.

I’d like you to have it back now. No video could ever compare to what you’ve given me these last few months. I hope you know that.

Yours,

S.

He reads the note again, again, again until he’s confident he could recite it by heart. He can see her so clearly. Her darkened apartment, her hollow eyes, the glow of her TV. The bend of her body, pulled in on itself. Needing him. Needing his comfort.

And he had comforted her. Miraculously, he had. Maybe not in the way he had wanted to. Not in the way he had spent so many sleepless nights—were they her sleepless nights too?—imagining. But he had.

He traces her words with his fingertips, feels them in his chest. No video could ever compare to what you’ve given me these last few months. What he’s given her. What he’s given her?

God, Scully.

He’s dizzy, lightheaded with the enormity of it. She’s never said those three words to him, the ones they’ve been dancing around for a while now, but she might as well have. What she’s saying—what she means.

He scrambles for the phone. Forget basketball. Forget giving her space. She’s his number one speed dial, has been for years, and he wishes there was a number better than one. A number to express how unbelievably fucking lucky he is.

She answers on the first ring, says “Mulder” like she was expecting him.

“Thank you,” he blurts. “God, I—thank you.”

She breathes. In, out. It rattles over the phone line. “You found the note?”

He nods even though she can’t see him. “You’re not going to regret this. I promise you’re not. I’m gonna—Scully, I’m gonna take such good care of you.”

“Oh, Mulder. Don’t you get it?” Her voice is amused, soft, his favorite sound in the entire world. “You already do.”