“You’ll come in, right? Stay awhile?”
Her eyes are wide as a fawn’s when she asks him, lower lip dangerously close to a pout.
And Mulder isn’t sure whether he deserves to come home, whether it’s really his place to intrude. But, butter-soft as he is from having her clutching his arm in Lamaze, he can’t deny her anything.
“Like you need to ask,” is all he says, feeling for all the world like a liar, extending a hand to help her out of the car. His little lady, clumsy and verdant in the third trimester, more deserving than ever of all the chivalry he has to offer.
It’s been a long day, and the trek from his car to her apartment alone takes it out of her. Seeing her panting softly as they make their way down the hallway, he has half a mind to scoop her up and carry her, bridal style, over the threshold.
Only the nagging reminder that it’s her home first, her baby, her miracle, keeps him from following through.
At eight and a half months, Scully is round as ripe fruit, a constant furrow in her brow from the lower back pain. When he rests his hand there to guide her inside, the implicit possessiveness means something, the way he’s always wanted it to.
On the couch, now, she’s all knit wool and ginger, warm and biting, bursting with life. If he were to touch her, he thinks she’d give off sparks. He makes her tea, looks again and again at her neck twisted, chin tucked over the top of the couch. Big, sweet eyes, a precise little nose. The dreamy smile on her pretty mouth.
As he comes over with one of her many thrift store mugs, he bends, gives her a chaste kiss. Watches her blossom like the orange flowers on the ceramic, blinking up at him sleepily. And, sure enough, sparks.
“Come sit,” she says.
She giggles, tugs at his sleeve like a kid. Forgives the splash of chamomile on the floor. When he drapes himself beside her, she curls up against him, pulls his arm around her shoulders.
“Bossy,” he informs her, and she scrunches up her nose, still smiling.
Taking the mug out of his hands, she sips delicately, and makes a content noise in the back of her throat.
The warmth of the moment is all-encompassing, like cherry pie and sunshine. Mulder kisses her forehead, and she sighs, and it’s all so close to perfect that he starts to worry that it isn’t even real. It’s post-traumatic stress, the psychology student in him insists. As Scully would say, his central nervous system jolting into a sympathetic state due to associations of safety with impending danger.
But the fact remains that if there were any way to lull him into complacency with visions, it would be by showing him this.
The woman he loves nestled against him, deliriously pleased from the child she’s finally carrying, neither of them something he deserves to care for or to keep. The world made, for now, a better place, and her to share it with.
“You want somethin’ to eat?” He asks, unsure whether he’s trying to take care of her or looking for an excuse to escape from the pervasive purr of happiness.
“Somethin’ else to drink?”
“Mulder!” She exclaims, laughter in her voice.
Practically glowing, she wriggles closer, lays her folded legs against his thigh, belly fitted just right between them. Like a promise, he thinks. A promise that she’d kept in his absence, bright and green as day, slowly filling her up.
“Just wanna make you happy,” he mutters, squeezing her with his arm.
If nothing else, he owes her the futures she’s dreamed about, even if he can’t acknowledge that he’s dreamed about them, too.
“You do make me happy,” she says. Stretches out her neck to bump a kiss against his jaw. “You don’t even have to do anything special, Mulder.”
“Okay,” he concedes, dropping another kiss at her hairline. “Whatever you say."
“You know, Mulder,” she murmurs, letting out a little sigh.
“All I've ever wanted,” she continues, her voice soft but bell-clear. “Was to coax you into letting yourself love and be loved.”
As always, she says it so simply that it steals his breath away. Her surety is like vertigo, the reorientation of his perspective. Eyes fluttering shut, he gives himself a moment, and then another. Lets the dust settle on the new order of the world.
Maybe they hadn’t made their promises out loud, but that doesn’t mean they hadn’t made them.
As she sips at her tea again, cheeks peachy pink, he lays his palm across the swell of her belly. The baby kicks a lot, he knows. He’s heard it from Scully. She swears that the kid runs marathons in there some nights, a little man on a mission, like he’s looking for something.
He’s yet to feel it, though. The kicking. Even though he’s moved hesitantly back into her life and her bed, touched the bump as frequently as he can.
“No adventuring tonight, huh,” he jokes, rubbing the curve gently.
“He’s taking some time off,” she says, lips pursed, glancing up at him sidelong to catch his chuckle of approval.
“Maybe he just doesn’t trust me yet,” Mulder shrugs.
“Of course he does,” Scully says, not even allowing his words to hang in the air for a moment before disagreeing. “He’s a part of me.”
He swallows thickly, tucks his chin atop her head. In the peaceful quiet, the steam from her tea and the spice of her perfume start to soothe his worries away like wrinkles in cotton.
“He never kicks when you’re around,” she muses. Her belly button is defined under his thumb, even through her sweater. “I think it’s because he knows that there’s nothing missing.”
When his eyes fill, he buries his nose in her sweet-smelling hair and wills the moisture away, though he knows she’d understand. There’s no room for tears, not in this little pocket of safety she’s built for them so painstakingly.
They’re nobody, here, except for what they are to each other. No doubt that the bun in the oven is their handwork alone, dough worked and molded lovingly, her small frame tucked against his chest and her little hands between his own. No danger lurking on the other side of the door.
“Nothing else to look for,” he whispers, out loud.
And she nods, her palm joining his on her belly.