This could have easily become an X File.
Whenever she lured him into taking a bath with her (granted, there was not that much convincing involved), it was not until he was completely submerged that he wondered how on earth he'd once again let her do this. She had cast some sort of a dark spell upon him, he used to tell her, and she gave him a look as if there was something only she had known. But who was he kidding? It was the best kind of spell. The bubbles were like small, flower-scented clouds, floating on the surface. Her skin was like ivory in the dim light. Her hair, the color of a flame and the longest he'd ever seen it, was tucked safely away on the crown of her head. He dipped a sponge in water before letting it rest against her shoulder blades. She shivered involuntarily on first contact, then hummed contentedly as he moved it in small circles, pressing his lips to her skin every now and again.
He let go of the sponge, replacing it with his fingers. She squirmed a little at the different sensation, but then giggled softly and eased into his touch. He drew random shapes at first – a cloud, a heart, an alien, her name and then his. Then his fingers began to move out of their own accord almost, spelling out two words – Marry Me. Somewhere in the middle of it he felt her freeze, as if waiting to see if this was going where she thought this was going. He leaned forward to leave a kiss on the scar at the back of her neck, a question mark of sorts, suddenly anxious. It wasn't something he'd planned on doing, but at the same time, now that the question was out, he knew it had been long overdue. Although neither of them spoke yet, the air around them suddenly felt different, charged with something he couldn't quite define. He thought he should probably say something, explain himself, tell her to just forget it, that he didn't mean –
She turned to face him, their gazes locking. Her face gave nothing away. She reached for his hand, disturbing the calm of the water, the turmoil of his thoughts. Once she was sure she got his attention, she lowered her eyes to their now joined hands, and he let his eyes follow. Spreading his palm gently, she let her fingers brush against his skin before tracing a pattern – a word, he realized. He was holding his breath as she slowly spelt Yes.
"Really?" he whispered, and the word sounded like a shout in the quiet room. She lifted her gaze to his again and nodded. Her sealed expression broke into a smile; her eyes were gleaming, maybe with tears.
He opened his eyes and shook his head as if that was enough to leave the memory behind, but it was no use. It lingered in every corner of the house they once shared, especially in the bathroom, where the tub stood deserted and unused since she'd been gone. He remembered the elation of the moment. The only time he'd ever felt such pure bliss before was while holding his son for the first time. When she told him she'd marry him, he felt absolutely invincible. He had considered that moment a turning point, only its nature turned out to be completely different than he'd thought.
It had been three years since she left. On the one hand, he'd barely noticed the time fly, but on the other, he felt every single day of it. He didn't resent her for leaving – in hindsight, he considered it his wakeup call. But in the beginning, this seemed exactly what he had needed. He was craving silence. Her ongoing criticism irritated him to no end. She insisted he was depressed and prescribed all sorts of pills he would ignore just to spite her. He became distant and withdrawn; he just wanted her to stop getting on his case. He spent more and more time in his study, to better avoid the sadness and disappointment and judgment in her eyes. After she left, she would drop by for a visit every now and again at first, but he couldn't find the energy within him to even care, and at some point, as if she'd sensed his animosity, those visits stopped too.
He should have known by now to be careful what he wished for – it wasn't until she was gone that the silence suddenly became unbearable. It echoed from every wall. He felt as if he'd completely lost himself, overwhelmed by loneliness as he was. When it got to a point where he couldn't remember which day it was or when was the last time he ate or shaved or did laundry, it was as if an alarm went off in his head. He realized he should get his shit together. He took the meds she had prescribed, started working out again, took walks in the woods. It was a work in progress, but he could feel himself getting better. It wasn't until he dared texting her, several months later, that he felt he was slowly starting to find himself again. In all this time, he hadn't changed his cell phone number, a record for him. Even when they fell out of touch, in his darkest moments, it felt important that she'd be able to reach him, had she wanted to.
It was a strange day – meeting her on the busy street in DC, and everything that followed. Some of it felt like an out of body experience. The subtle compliment disguised as a sarcastic remark about the good leaving the house had done her didn't do her justice – he'd forgotten how gorgeous she looked in a sharp outfit and high heels; it actually took his breath away when he first laid eyes on her. It didn't take him long to notice she wasn't wearing her ring, but he couldn't bring himself to resent her or confront her – he wasn't wearing his either, and he couldn't even tell himself why. Nonetheless, of all the things to ponder over – the possible return of the X Files, a global conspiracy so enormous it was mind-blowing – the thing he couldn't stop thinking about was the way this guy O'Malley was looking at her. He was clearly interested, and even if she remained as no-nonsense and professional as ever, there was clearly a spark there.
Seeing the way O'Malley was taken with her stirred something inside him. As embarrassing as it was to admit, the presence of another man, younger and more charismatic, had disrupted the dynamic that had become second nature to him. Absurdly enough, it made old insecurities resurface, which was probably why he'd acted like an obnoxious jerk, calling her Dana for the sole purpose of irking her, putting her on the spot in a way he knew she disliked. He knew that his behavior was idiotic, but it was as though he had no control over it.
Mostly what it did, though, was making him realize he had taken her for granted for a long time now. He'd forgotten how to vie for her attention, how to fight for her, because for so long, he simply didn't have to. But now, he could feel it like a tidal wave, a new sense of purpose taking over. It had been a while since he'd last felt so invigorated, and not just about the possibility of the X Files taking center stage again. Awful first impression aside, he was a better person with her around – it had always been the case. He was determined to prove it to her, remind her how good they were together in every possible sense. For the first time since forever, he felt his lips curl in a smile. It had been too long since he'd proved her wrong.
His cell phone chirped with a new text message, making him jump with a start. He grabbed it, hoping it would be her, only to groan in dismay as the screen lit up with Tad O'Malley's name. I want to show you something. Can I pick you up in twenty? Only after sending his affirmative reply, he remembered O'Malley didn't even know where he lived. He reached for his phone again, then thought better of it and lay it aside. Let him figure it out himself if he was so clever, he thought smugly, and rose in search of his jacket.
He looked around the house as if for the first time, taking in the clutter of case files and news clippings and sunflower seeds. He could barely remember what the space looked like before, when she was still living there, but it was all a question of scraping the surface. It was all still underneath, waiting to be uncovered. The past few years felt like a blur, but now it was as if a fog was slowly being lifted. He was beginning to feel like his old self again.
There was a change coming; he could almost sense it. Things could be well again. If he played his cards right, he just might win her back. He thought back of his gentle threat to her when she first called. Don't pretend I'm going alone. He could feel resolve warming his very bones. It felt as if he'd finally found the answer to a question he didn't even know he'd been asking.
He was tired of being alone.