The first time it happened, she didn’t think much of it. He came over to drop her and her brand-new dog off after the case with the supposedly lizard man and then stayed for a while; they had a drink while Mulder and the dog made friends with each other.
It was his idea to call the dog Daggoo because of the story the lizard man had told him, and she just couldn’t ignore the huge coincidence of another Moby Dick character making an appearance in her life, even if through someone else’s dog, a dog that could very well be the one Mulder was petting contently.
Mulder left a couple of hours later, and she was surprised to realize that she felt the happiest she had felt in months, maybe even years. What did that mean, exactly? It was the wine, she told herself. It was easier to ignore it if she blamed it on the wine.
The second time he showed up, he came unannounced - although not unwelcomed - on a Saturday morning, with the excuse that he was just around the block and decided to say hi. She asked why he was just around the block when his house was a 30-minute ride away, but he changed the subject and started playing with the dog.
Seeing Mulder play with Daggoo like that was refreshing, and the feelings she had been trying to ignore came back all of a sudden. She decided not to think about those feelings when Mulder left - many hours later than what his usual visits lasted - or when she dreamed about him that night. Ignoring was best for the time being.
The third time he came by was on their rare day off the bureau, and she wasn’t even surprised anymore. She thought she knew what this was all about — Mulder was too lonely in that little house of his and the prospect of a pet had been drawing him to her place. Maybe she should consider getting him a pet as well.
“You really like him, don’t you?” She said, as Mulder rubbed the dog’s belly and the dog closed his eyes in pleasure.
She sat beside Mulder on the floor, noticing that Daggoo didn’t even look her way. Why would he anyway? He was too busy reveling in Mulder’s touch, and she knew exactly how that felt. She sighed to try and ignore the sudden tingling she felt in her lower belly.
“I’ve never been a fan of dogs or any other pets except fish,” he answered.
“And why is that?”
“They die too soon. They make you love them, and then they leave.”
The tingling she felt now was more like a knife in her gut because she couldn’t ignore the fact that, in a way, she was just like the pets he had tried to avoid his entire life. But ignoring was what she did best, so she tried to drive this conversation into a different direction.
“Well, but isn’t it better to have loved and lost than never having loved at all?”
She smiled because she got a chuckle out of him, her intention all along. She also tried to ignore the fact that she was always trying to make him laugh these days.
“Do I really have to sit here and hear you recite cliché poetry to me?”
“You don’t have to, but here you are...”
She smiled and shrugged, then threw her head back to get her hair out of the way. His enamored look wasn’t lost on her and, although her first reaction since they started working together again was always to ignore everything that could throw them back into something she wasn’t sure they were ready for yet, this time she held his gaze, trying to search in his eyes for an answer to her yet unspoken - and even unthought - questions.
Mulder licked his lips and then averted his gaze to Daggoo, who had turned on his side and was now trying to get Mulder’s attention back by biting his hand softly. She really couldn’t compete with this dog.
“I’m going to leave you two alone while I do my laundry.”
She got ready to stand up, but Mulder’s hand went straight to her thigh, softly squeezing it as if he still did that every day, as if that intimate gesture still belonged in their life. She tried to ignore the sound of her own heart beating in her ears, but this she couldn’t do.
“Can’t laundry wait?” He asked. “Stay with us for a while. He likes you too, you know.”
Mulder’s own puppy eyes were the hardest to ignore, and for a second she wondered why she had gotten a dog when he acted so much like one sometimes.
“Are you sure I’m not in the way of your fun? I mean, Daggoo doesn’t even seem to notice I’m here.”
His hand hadn’t left her thigh and he was now absentmindedly tracing small circles over her jeans, but his eyes were back at the dog. She wondered if he had noticed at all what he was doing to her.
“Oh, but he does, Scully. He notices you, and I can tell he wants you here as much as I do.”
She allowed herself to smile at his confession, but she was thankful he hadn’t looked back at her to see her face. She could feel it burning.
He eventually removed his hand from her thigh to scratch the dog’s ear, and she just watched for a moment or two, allowing herself to feel that this could be the best thing to happen in her life right now. Comfort and normalcy felt better than she liked to admit.
Then suddenly Daggoo got tired of all the scratching and rubbing and started running around the living room, looking for something they soon saw in his mouth. The dog threw the ball at Mulder’s feet, inviting him to play. Mulder threw the ball for him to catch and he and Scully watched as the dog searched for it and then brought it back, throwing the ball at Scully’s feet this time.
“That’s so nice of you to remember I exist. Thank you, Daggoo.”
She smiled as she threw the ball a lot farther than Mulder had and observed as the dog searched for it, finally finding it under the cupboard. When she looked back at Mulder, his eyes were on her, the same way they had been before, as if profiling her. He did that a lot when they were together, but she hadn’t seen that look in such a long time she had almost forgotten how it made her feel.
“Are you going to tell me what’s on your mind or will I have to guess?” She asked, surprising even herself.
Daggoo barked and Mulder threw the ball again, but this time it went so far it probably reached her bedroom. She took it as a sign that he had something to say.
“I would let you guess, but I doubt Daggoo would give us enough time to make it fun.”
He chuckled before continuing.
“Back at the animal shelter you said something that got me thinking. I know things between us have changed, and I know I’m not as good a company as a dog, but I’m always here to hold your grudges for you. And when I say ‘always’, I really mean it.”
She nodded, touched by his words and wishing she had something of her own to say that wouldn’t sound like repressed guilt. She somehow knew they were past this point, that even though they never really talked about it, he had forgiven her or at least accepted her reasons for having left; but still, whenever he spoke like this, it reinforced her thoughts that maybe she should have fought harder because that’s what he would have done if he had been in her shoes. Or maybe not. There was no way any of them could know. It was why words sometimes had a hard time forming in her brain and leaving her mouth, it was why ignoring became second nature to her.
But words like the ones he had just spoken also reminded her that it was never too late to make a change, that there was still time and space for them.
She looked at her own hands on her lap, thinking of how to respond to this accordingly. She lacked the words, but were they really necessary?
Oh, God, you really sound like a cliché machine today, Dana.
She was glad Mulder wasn’t inside her head to hear this one.
She looked at him again and found concerned eyes looking back at her, showing that he was probably thinking he had gone too far and crossed lines he shouldn’t have yet, concerned eyes that were about to become surprised eyes if she knew him well enough. She almost smiled at her own thoughts, but instead she broke the distance between them and pressed her lips to his, softly, slowly, no more than a chaste peck, but a lingering one. It reminded her of their real first kiss a thousand lives ago, especially when she pulled back and found the surprised eyes that she had predicted looking back at her. The only difference between her prediction and reality was that his eyes also seemed to be smiling now, much like her own did when he kissed her the first time.
She had pulled away, but not completely. Her face was still close to his, the closest it had been in nearly two years, just waiting. For what exactly, she didn’t know. All she knew was that she had missed this closeness, this chemistry that was able to stop time that only they had. Could he feel time stopping too? Maybe he had always felt it, maybe it was what he really meant when he said they had lost nine minutes and she could only understand it now.
She felt his thumb brush her cheek slowly as he examined her face, and she wondered how his hand had gotten there without her noticing. His lips were slightly parted, as if taking it all in, as if wondering what she was thinking. Then he smiled sheepishly at her, almost awkwardly.
“This feels like the first time.”
He tittered, but his eyes were still glued on hers.
“I think our first kiss was a bit more awkward than this.”
“I just honestly remember my heart trying to jump out of my chest, especially when you smiled at me afterwards.”
“And I just remember thinking, ‘what the hell took us so long?’”
“And what are you thinking now?”
“Nothing too far from that, to be honest.”
Apparently, it was the right answer because his hand slowly made its way from her cheek to her neck, and the shiver it sent down her spine almost made her gasp. His eyes seemed to be asking a question, one to which she had the perfect answer. She nodded ever so slightly, and his lips were suddenly on hers again, softly imprinting themselves onto her mouth before her tongue darted out to meet his halfway.
A lot is said about first kisses, but very little is said about first kisses after a long, long time apart. The first ones feel like discovery; the latter like coming home. And Mulder would always be her home, no matter how much she tried to deny it, ignore it, or how long they stayed apart. He was the home she never wanted to leave. Not again.
Would he laugh if she said yet another cliché out loud?
It didn’t matter, though, because clichés were all she could think about as his mouth explored hers, going to familiar places, causing familiar feelings, igniting a familiar and yet completely new fire inside of her. Knowing each other’s mouth so well didn’t make anything less exciting, quite the contrary. Knowing exactly what to do with your tongue or with your teeth was a skill that only got perfected with time, and Mulder had certainly become a pro at it.
If she had to use words to describe this moment, she would describe it as the time-stopping kiss that brought them back together, a kiss that was only broken because a tongue that didn’t belong to neither Mulder nor Scully entered the game and licked their faces enthusiastically.
They both laughed as the dog barked happily.
“I think your dog approves,” Mulder said as he reluctantly pulled away and tried to clean his face with his hands.
“My dog? It seems like he’s your dog by now.”
Mulder frowned, apparently surprised, but he let her continue.
“Admit it. The only reason you’ve been coming here so often is to see him.”
“I’m hurt that you’d think I’d come here for the dog and not for you.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Mulder, before I got the dog, I was lucky if I saw you outside of work twice a month. Now I’ve seen you three times in a week!”
Mulder sighed and shook his head.
“What other excuse could I use? There’s nothing of mine here I could pretend to have forgotten; there’s nothing of yours at home that I could come rushing to bring you because you’d urgently need it. I couldn’t just come by and say that I’ve been missing you more than usual, which is weird when you think about it because we see each other every day now.”
“You could,” she simply said.
It was almost as if she could see his thoughts stop altogether, his mind going totally blank as he took her words in.
She intertwined her right hand with his left and looked at their fingers fitting perfectly together for a while.
“I’ve been missing you a lot more than usual, too.”
She looked into his eyes again and smiled as a sigh of relief escaped him, but neither of them said anything.
Instead, she laid her head on his shoulder the way she liked to do sometimes, and together they watched Daggoo as he apparently gave up on his toys after being neglected by the humans and decided sleeping was his best option for now. She smiled as she thought about how crazy love could be, about how quickly it could make you feel like your life didn’t make any sense without the object of your affection anymore. It was crazy that she loved this dog so much already and it made her think about what Mulder said earlier.
“Why were the fish different for you?”
She looked at him again as she asked, but he didn’t look at her as he shrugged and answered.
“They only required food and clean water, which was all I could offer. Love was not part of the deal, so they couldn’t hurt me, nor I could hurt them. I’ve never been good at this love thing, as you may have realized.”
His chuckle was stuck in his throat, as if it didn’t have enough strength to get out. She touched his face and brought his attention back to her.
“All I’ve realized is that, if I were a pet, I’d gladly choose you out of all the human beings at my disposal. I mean, just look at Daggoo! There’s no better confirmation than that!”
She smiled cheerfully and was glad to see Mulder chuckled.
“You’re actually great at this love thing, Mulder, and I’m sorry if the world has made you believe otherwise. I’m sorry I made you believe otherwise.”
He turned his head a little so his lips could meet her palm. He lingered there for a while and then looked at her again, as if considering what to say next. She found herself feeling on the edge of her seat waiting for his reply.
“You know, Scully, it’s really hard for me to try and take it slow when you say things like that.”
She smiled fondly because she found it endearing that he wanted to take it slow, to make sure they were both on the same page before moving forward.
She rested her head back on his shoulder and he leaned his own onto hers. It was almost as if nothing had ever changed in their lives and they were still 10 years back in the past, sitting together in their unremarkable house, except back then they didn’t have a dog.
This gave her an idea.
“You know, Mulder,” she said, almost as if she were thinking aloud, “we could share custody of Daggoo for a while, if you want. I can bring him to your place on the weekends and see if he adapts; you can come here a few times after work during the week just in case he misses you too much. You know, just to see how things go.”
“Will there be sleepovers?”
“There can be…If Daggoo wants that, of course.”
“Oh yes, of course. Daggoo is the main subject of this conversation after all.”
She chuckled. After a few moments of silence, Mulder spoke again.
“And what happens in case all that moving back and forth doesn’t work?”
“Well, then Daggoo will clearly have to choose one of us. Or maybe he’ll find a way of having us both together in the same place all the time.”
“Maybe it’s been his real plan all along.”
She smiled contently as Mulder laced their fingers together. She realized now this was the same feeling she had had when they first started dating, the same feeling she had always had on their quiet mornings in the ordinary house, the same feeling she had had just a week ago and that she had blamed on a glass of wine. Happiness. Plain and simple happiness.
She sighed contently at the thought that maybe her life was getting back on track and allowed her free hand to roam up his arm slowly, feeling the goosebumps her fingertips caused on his skin.
He sighed deeply as her fingers stopped at his shoulder and went down his chest slowly, until they reached his wrist and made their way up again. She could say she was doing this absentmindedly, but she knew exactly what she was doing. It was inevitable when he was this close.
A warning came out of his mouth.
“Yeah, I know, it’s too soon. I’m sorry.”
“That’s actually the opposite of what I was going to say.”
“What happened to taking it slow?”
“It went down the drain the moment you compared yourself to a pet.”
He kissed the top of her head as she laughed.
She repeated the movement as she thought about her actions and then bit her lower lip as he looked at her out of the corner of his eye.
“You know, you doing that reminds me of another first time…” he said.
She nodded, smiling, then she closed her eyes as the memories flooded her brain.
“It’s almost like I can feel it right now.”
She was about to open her eyes again when she felt Mulder’s breath closer, so she decided to keep them shut. His lips made contact with her neck slowly.
“We could try and replicate it, if you wanted...”
He kissed her throat and she couldn’t prevent a small moan from leaving her mouth before she spoke.
“It wouldn’t be an exact replica, though. Our first kiss and our first night together happened on different days, remember?” she said in a low tone, her voice already too hoarse for her to control anything.
She found herself moving her neck to give him better access, an opportunity he gladly took by running the tip of his tongue along one of her veins slowly in-between kisses.
“How stupid were we back then?” He whispered, as he reached her ear lobe.
“On a scale from 1 to 10, I would say 100.”
He giggled softly, capturing her lips with his teeth slightly and then letting go again.
“I know you have laundry to do, though, so…” he continued, then kissed her chin.
He was teasing, she knew it, but he was also just giving her time to decide if they were going anywhere with this or not, to see if she thought they were ready. She had no question about where her body stood in all of this, but her heart… no, that was another lie she was telling herself. She somehow knew this time they were on the same page. Her heart was as ready as it would ever be.
She opened her eyes, hoping she didn’t look or sound as desperate as she felt.
“Laundry can wait,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck one at a time and pulling him a little closer, “Besides, I’ve learned that ignoring things doesn’t make them go away, so I’d better not ignore this too.”
She brought him down with her as she lay down on her back, locking eyes with him as she accommodated him better between her legs.
“Here?” He asked softly, as if making sure she realized their first time after separating was going to happen on her living room floor.
“Are you afraid we’re going to scar our dog for life?”
“I don’t know, Scully. I have some pretty vivid images of my parents myself and I don’t want anyone else to go through that experience.”
She giggled, then bit his bottom lip softly.
“Also,” he said, tracing the length of her jawline with his index finger, “it’s good to hear you say ‘our’ again.”
“Mine, yours, ours… Good things come in threes.”
“Wow, Scully, is that also the third cliché you’ve used since I said hi to you this morning?”
“If you don’t count the ones in my head, then possibly.”
He laughed, but his mouth quickly made its way to the length of the V in her shirt.
“You know what I’m really willing to find out right now?” He asked, as his path of kisses reached her breastbone.
“What else comes in threes…”
She would have giggled, but he kissed her fully then, taking her lips into his mouth as if they were the best thing he had ever tasted. If that was indeed what he was thinking, then the feeling was mutual.
And then it just happened.
She would say this specific first time was also time-stopping, but it was so much more than that. This time it was like neither time nor space existed, only their glued bodies in ecstasy in a reunion that gave her three orgasms and simultaneously proved her right and satisfied Mulder’s curiosity about what other good things could come in threes.
Later, when their clothes were back on their bodies and they were sitting quietly on the couch, she petted Daggoo’s head on her lap and realized that there really was no better name for the dog. Daggoo, the harpooner, used his harpoon to kill whales; Daggoo, the dog, used his harpoon to pull her and Mulder out of the dark waters in which they had been drowning for far too long. It was a cheesy analysis, when she thought of it, but it also kind of made sense.
“Thank you,” she murmured, and Daggoo licked her hand in response, as if saying ‘you’re welcome’.
“Are you thanking the dog or me?” Mulder asked curiously.
“Both,” she answered, but her eyes were still on Daggoo.
“Can I just say, ‘you’re welcome’ or do I have to lick your hand, too?”
She laughed as Mulder pretended to go for her hand but then went back up and kissed her cheek instead.
“About what you proposed earlier,” he continued, “I think sharing custody of Daggoo will do us good.”
“It’s settled then.”
He nodded, and the way he was looking at her could make her heart spontaneously combust.
“Look at us, being the biggest cliché of them all,” he said as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
She arched an eyebrow.
“I think we are as far from being a cliché as we could ever be, Mulder. Nothing about our lives has ever been common.”
“Well, maybe not in general, but right now we are. I mean, right now we are the kind of couple people would want to write about.”
“I tried taking it slow, but you didn’t let me. We could always take a step back, though. Your choice.”
“Nah, I’m totally fine with clichés.”
“So am I.”
He gave her a peck on the lips and then turned his eyes to the television again, as they continued to watch the random movie that was airing at that time and that was surprisingly similar to their current situation.
They started putting their plan in motion that same week, paying more visits to each other than they usually did - all in the name of Daggoo’s wellbeing, of course.
And then, one day, they simply realized all the back and forth had stopped, that Scully’s things were basically all back into their ordinary, unremarkable house, and that her apartment only held the unimportant furniture she had never needed in the first place.
It was an uncommon way of moving back in, that was for sure, but sometimes things that were out of the ordinary were just as good as clichés.
Scully and Mulder were living proof of that.