“Tell me something I don’t know.”
They are lounging on her couch, full of vegetable lo mein and half paying attention to what’s playing on the television. Goosebumps raise in the wake of his finger, tracing patterns over the skin of her shoulder.
She starts a bit at his voice, looking up from where her head rests on his thighs, and then promptly rises and moves off the couch.
“Don’t go.” He says, grabbing at her to try to stop her but she slithers out of his grasp and in the direction of the kitchen.
“I’ll be right back. Just need to get some visual aids.”
They had started this up some time ago. Back when they had still been feeling each other out, weary, but drawn together by a momentum that was unexplainable and disorienting to the both of them.
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
It’s been so long that neither can remember who said it first. The words are spoken infrequently and at random. Sometimes during a quiet afternoon in the office, sometimes during weekend phone calls, and sometimes in diners, three hours into their drive from the airport to whatever small town is being plagued by supernatural entities that week.
More often than not, he would give a spirited narration of the lore of some obscure cryptid that roams the American landscape and she would rattle off the findings of the most interesting study in whatever medical journal she had just finished, speaking excitedly about the implications it had on the world of science. Sharing parts of themselves, sharing their passions, without revealing too much. Interesting but safe conversations.
Every once and a while, they would let slip something more personal. Small things, never anything too shocking, but personal nonetheless. Scully told him about the scar on her left knee.
“I got it at recess one day in third grade. We were playing tag, and the biggest boy in the grade, Jimmy, was it. When he tagged me, he was still halfway running and sent me flying with the force. I fell knee first, ripped my tights, it was literally a bloody mess. I wanted to cry so bad, but I held it in, especially after I saw how sorry Jimmy was. I didn’t want him to feel worse about it, I knew he didn’t mean to hurt me. The nurse school nurse gave me a gumball after I went to get patched up, so it wasn’t all bad.”
Mulder told her about the short space of time when he had nightmares about the tooth fairy.
“When my first tooth was wobbling and about to fall out, my mom just said that the tooth fairy comes for your teeth at night and leaves money. She didn’t clarify that the fairy wouldn’t take all my teeth at once, so I was terrified that I would wake up with a pixie hovering beside my bed with a pair of pliers.”
Now, he listens to her rummaging through cabinets, curious and excited at what she could be bringing to show him. He can only imagine what she has hidden here, a space that is imprinted with her presence in every nook and cranny. He frequently does.
She reappears next to him as quickly as she left.
“I’ve never told you what my favorite snack is.” Her hands are hidden behind her back and the sly grin she is giving him makes him giddy.
“If you have got yogurt behind you Scully, I already know.”
“Hush.” One hand appears, carrying a pack of graham crackers.
“I don’t know if this a step up or down from the yogurt.” He says.
The other hand emerges. A tub of frosting, vanilla with multi-colored sprinkles encased in the lid.
He can’t stop his eyebrows from flying up his forehead.
“Dana Kathrine Scully. You eat frosting?” His voice turns into a scandalized hiss by the end of the sentence, hand flying up to hold his chest in mock surprise. She rolls her eyes but can’t hold back the smirk caused by his theatrics.
“Only sometimes.” She takes her place back on the couch, wedging herself into his side and handing him the tub of frosting to hold.
“How did you even think of this combination of foods?” He watches as she tears open the pack of crackers, pulling one out. She holds it out to him and snaps it in half along the marked lines once he grabs the other end.
“We would make fake gingerbread houses at Christmastime with graham crackers and frosting and candy. Mom would give us reviews on each house then we would eat as much as we could and try not to get sick to our stomachs.” She scoops up a dollop of frosting on a cracker, chuckling. “It didn’t always work out. Charlie blew chunks every other year.”
“To think, this whole time I thought the best thing you ate was non-fat Tofutti rice dreamsicles.” He jokes.
The aluminum crinkles as she cracks open the lid and dips the frosting covered cracker in, picking up a few star-shaped sprinkles.
“I like to get the ones with sprinkles because it reminds me of the candy we used to decorate the houses with. I always made sure to put a Twizzler scarf around the neck of my marshmallow snowman. Actually, we all had something special that we did each year. Kind of like a signature. Mine was the snowman. It always had a Sno Cap top hat to go with the scarf and pretzels for arms.”
Hand under her chin to catch crumbs, she lifts the biscuit to her mouth to take a bite. He swoops in to steal it, teeth clicking, but she bats him away playfully. Her tongue sneaks out to lick the spot of frosting that ends up on the corner of her lip.
“Melissa would always make a tree by covering an ice cream cone in green frosting with a yellow gumdrop on top for a star. Charlie would have a wreath made of a green gummy lifesaver. And Bill would crush up candy canes to pave the path to his front door like cobblestone.”
Listening to her talk about her family is something he always enjoys deeply, because of the way she opens up, dropping all the usual earmarks of her stoic disposition. Every part of her would soften, eyes shining with happiness, lips upturned gently, posture loose and relaxed and comfortable. A feeling of contentment rolls through his chest watching her relay the details of this childhood holiday tradition.
“And really, me saying that mom judged our houses is a bit of a stretch. She would just tell us what her favorite part of each house was and then give us all ten out of ten so we wouldn’t have hurt feelings. But Bill still always got butthurt about not winning.”
His eyes are still focused on her but being so caught up in the story and his thoughts he fails to notice her hand moving back to the frosting, one finger dipping in to swipe at the sugary spread.
“You got something just there…” She says, spreading the frosting in a strip from his top lip down, tugging on the flesh of his bottom lip at the end of her journey. His eyes connect with hers just before she leans in.
Their mouths meet halfway, sticky and sweet and sloppy and messy. His mind reels overwhelmed by the honeyed taste of frosting that is made even sweeter by the taste of her lips. The confection soon disappears, cleared away between the slip of their tongues.
Pulling back, they smile at each other softly until she sighs and tucks her head under his chin. He thinks that maybe, he would like to live in this moment forever, cocooned in the bubble of warmth that they have created.