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Something's Different

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It made sense to Mulder. The case was in Virginia, he lived in Virginia. After it took Scully so long to get to Pittsfield that first morning, of course he’d asked her to stay with him. For the easier commute.

“We have to be on time,” he mumbled, arm slung over his eyes and enjoying too well the softness of his partner’s body.

“Hmm?” She was heavy and dozing, one palm flat against his chest, face in the pillows. He’d pressed the snooze twice already.

“Chuck,” he said. “We have to be on time, Chuck’s gonna be in the office.”

A grunt from her red head, and then she rolled to cover him like a blanket. “S’warm though.”

His arms came around her without hesitation, and he buried his face in her hair. “Yeah.”

He felt her lips pressing to his chest, then her teeth grazing, her tongue’s gentle flirtation. “But you don’t want to be late.”

Mulder groaned, hands slipping down her waist to her hips, which she wriggled obligingly. “Damn you, woman,” he said, and she laughed.

Despite a rushed simultaneous shower and on-the-go coffee, Chuck was already at Mulder’s desk when they arrived, perhaps conspicuously, in tandem. They both played it cool while Chuck took them through the image software: a solid object, not a specter—a momentary blur of purple and gold.

“You recognize these colors, Scully?”

She frowned at them for a moment, thinking, before realization set in. “Go team,” she said, and smirked at him.

Something passed between them—small and unnoticeable to most—but her faux grumpy skepticism, arms crossed over her chest, made him smile. It was the contrast, he thought, with her breathy sighs above him that morning, the surprised, gasping giggle when she came. Mulder flushed, then cleared his throat to cover it. “So,” he said. “What do you think?”

Scully pushed herself up from her chair. “I’ll requisition us a car? We’ll head back to Pittsfield?”

Mulder nodded. “Yeah, sounds good. Try not to get that shitty Civic again.”

She gave him a look and grabbed her bag from behind the desk.

When she’d left the room, Mulder turned to Chuck. “Hey, thanks for coming…” but he was stopped by the look on the man’s face, which was wry and smiling. “What?”

“What do you mean, what? You and Scully.”

Mulder cleared his throat again. “Me and Scully what?”

Chuck laughed, a true guffaw, and shook his head. “Come on, man. Fox. My friend. You and the spicy red-head have been dancing around the obvious for years. Last summer when you brought me that weird artifact, I had my suspicions, but from what I can see now, there’s no way you two aren’t a thing.”

Mulder chewed on the inside of his cheek and kept his face as blank as possible.

Chuck held his gaze. “So?”

“So what?” Mulder was feigning innocence, but he was faltering.

“So is it everything you thought it would be or what? You guys gonna settle down and make some spooky little babies, or is it just stress relief?”

The second question was like a hot zinger in Mulder’s gut, and he felt his mask cracking. He heaved a deep sigh and let his head fall back, eyes closed. How many friends did he have in this world anyway? Who was Chuck gonna tell? “It is most definitely not just stress relief, the spooky babies are TBD, and it’s… Jesus, it’s better than anything I could have hoped.”

Chuck was a good guy, a genuinely kind soul in the conspiratorial mess that was the rest of Mulder’s life. The bald man cracked a huge grin and smacked Mulder on the arm before leaning in to pack up his equipment.

“That’s good, my man. That’s just—“ he shook his head. “That’s really great. You guys deserve it, ya know? The shit you put up with, you need something good like that.” He stood, laptop bag in one hand, keys in the other. “Let me know if you need anything. You need some funky evidenced analyzed, I’m your guy. You need a babysitter this time next year, I can do that too.”

Mulder’s pulse did a double-beat at the thought. “You have kids?”

“Three. Monsters, all of ‘em,” Chuck said, but he was smiling. He raised the hand with keys and moved to the door. “Take care.”

“You too, Chuck.”

Mulder leaned back in his chair, propped a foot up on his desk, and let his chin rest in his hand, thinking. He and Scully were maybe more transparent than they’d thought, but then again, Chuck was an observant guy. Three kids. Married, Mulder presumed. He hadn’t known.

When Scully returned a few minutes later, she found him that way, head in his hand and lost in a small and hopeful domestic fantasy: little spookies on the mind.

“You ready?” She asked from the doorway.

Mulder nodded and stood up, grabbed his coat from the back of the chair. “Let’s get it on,” he said, and they walked out together.