Most of the time he feels like he’s drowning. Like he’s standing at the bottom of the ocean and the pressure is causing his ribcage to crack, his lungs to compress. He feels the waves demolishing him piece by piece, paving the pathway to his centre. Each fracture rings in his ears; a twisted symphony that is only a prelude to the inevitable implosion of his heart. He pictures himself shriveling up into nothing but a ball of mass, dropped upon the sand where the man once stood. He’ll become discarded garbage, floating along the current until he reaches his final resting place wrapped around a turtle’s neck, bringing it the same suffocation he had himself endured.
Mulder thinks about dying a lot. He thinks about it a lot less when she’s in the room.
Sometimes she calls him at three in the morning. He’s always awake.
She’s barely clicked the phone back into the receiver when the gentle rapping on the door starts.
“Come in,” she calls.
He has a key. He was just being polite.
The door creaks open, the light from the hall flooding her living room.
He enters timidly. She’s standing in the middle of the floor in lilac silk pyjamas. The only light is that which is being reflected back at him from her sea blue eyes.
“Is everything alright, Scully?” Mulder asks, concerned. He was typically the one to reach out to her in the middle the night. In fact, he was toying with the idea of dialing her number and fabricating some excuse about needing her urgent help on a case just when his phone had started ringing.
Scully laughs and looks down at her feet. “Is it that hard to believe that I just wanted to see you?” She speaks softly, a little flustered by the honesty of her words.
He smiles. That big, dopey smile that makes her stomach pirouette. “It’s three o'clock, Scully,” he says through his grin. “You couldn’t wait until morning?” He raises an eyebrow as if to say "desperate much?"
“Shut up, Mulder,” she says, rolling her eyes to hide her embarrassment. “Could you try not to enjoy my mortification quite so much?”
He takes small steps forward, inching across the hardwood. “Which definition of ‘mortification’ did you mean?”
Scully looks puzzled. "I wasn't aware there was more than one."
“But of course you, Doctor Dana Scully, re-writer of Einstein himself, must know that mortification, as well as meaning humiliation or shame, can also be defined as the action of subduing one’s bodily desires.”
She half-sighs, half-laughs, placing her hands on her hips in exasperation.
"If you meant the latter definition, I’d say you failed at mortification, Scully.“ He gestures to himself, as if he is Exhibit A.
"Is that supposed to be suave?” She asks. "Teaching me homonyms?" They’re only a foot apart now.
“You don’t think I’m suave?” Mulder asks, pretending to be hurt.
“I think you’d make an incredibly seductive thesaurus.”
“So you admit you intended to be seduced.”
Now he's right in her space. He leans forward to eliminate the height difference between them, bringing their eyes to the same level. Staring her down. It's a challenge. He lifts his eyebrows in silent questioning. "I dare you," his eyes say.
Without thinking much at all, Scully accepts the challenge.
She wraps her arm around his neck, pulling him to her. She presses her lips to his fervently. It's no longer an issue of want, it's one of need. Needed to see him. Need to feel him.
It was a heat of the moment thing the first time it happened, but it was clear that it had been a long time coming for the both of them. She had seen the way he looked at her. Felt it in his words. Yet she let it lie for so long a time. For seven years she ignored the way her heart leapt whenever he said her name. But she wouldn't allow the tension between them to build itself so high again. She needed this. Urgently.
As she kisses him, she finds herself thinking of the wind on the sea, pushing on a sail, moving a vessel from Point A to Point B. Only this boat is damaged, the sail unmoving, left at the mercy of the breeze. Somehow, the Captain is at peace with this. Contented to be pulled wherever the sky will take him, for the horizon is so beautiful when dawn arrives.
"I knew you had a crush on me," he mumbles against her lips.
"Just kiss me, Mulder," she answers back, feeling the wind pushing her to him, more powerfully than ever before.
He doesn’t hear her enter the office. He’s got his chair turned around, his back to the door. Suddenly, he feels her arms draped over him, her hands clasping together in front of his chest like a necklace. She rests her head on his shoulder. He turns towards her. “Hey,” he says softly. Breathlessly.
“Hey,” she echoes back. “Sorry to disturb you. You look like you were lost in thought.” She buries her face in the crook of his neck as she speaks, lips grazing his skin as they move.
“I was, kinda. But it’s alright.” Now that you're here.
“What were you thinking about?” Her warm breath tickles his skin. He suppresses a shiver.
He thinks of waking up with her pressed to his side, her arms wrapped around his torso. “You awake?” he whispers. She mumbles unintelligibly. Her hair brushes against his cheek. He sighs.
“About you," he says. "About us.” He lifts his arm, reaching over hers where they wrap around him, and twirls a piece of her fiery hair around his pointer finger.
She laughs quietly, airy and gentle as a summer breeze, and it sends him spinning, his heartstrings clinking melodically like a wind-chime in August.
He stares at the top of her head, wondering if the wind has the power to bring people together if they were never really meant to be.
“I don’t mean to alarm you Scully,” he says. Pauses for a moment. “But I’m madly in love with you.”
She starts. And then he hears her inhale, slow and shaky. She holds the breath. Holds it. Holds it.
And lets it out.
The air against his skin full of... relief, maybe.
She unclasps her hands and rests them on the back of the chair. Slowly, she turns Mulder around in his seat. As soon as she's in view, his eyes lock onto hers. When he faces her, she places her palms flat against either of his cheeks and leans down towards him, still maintaining their gaze, and softly touches her lips to his.
Every time she kisses him, he swears he’s never been kissed before. Not like this. Not so carefully. So gently. It’s not possible.
After a moment, their lips move apart. Timidly. Slow like a fracture. Webbing further and further until eventually, they break completely.
“I guess we have more in common than I thought,” she says. "I love you too," she means.
Yeah, he thinks. I guess we do.
She lies on her stomach, head propped up between her hands.
He traces constellations along her bare spine with the tip of his finger.
“This one’s Orion,” he says, drawing a line from her shoulder blade all the way to the small of her back, then adding many shorter, interconnecting lines all branching off from the longest.
“The Hunter,” she replies.
“That’s right,” he says. “Can you guess this one?”
He draws with both hands now, creating one loop with each pointer and leading the resulting lines down to meet in a “V” shape.
“I’m not sure,” she says. “But it seems familiar.”
“I’ll give you a hint," he says. "It’s a fish. Or rather, fish, plural.”
“Well that's not a hint, that's a dead giveaway. It's Pisces.”
“Hit the nail on the head, Scully.”
“That’s my sign you know. I’m a Pisces.”
“Are you?” He feigns disbelief. “I wouldn’t know, since I’m still unsure of your exact date of birth.”
She turns her head to him and fists a clump of the pillow lying beside her. She smacks him in the side of the temple with it, laughing. He closes his eyes and smiles, lets out a breath. One filled with awe. Amazement at her. He tilts his head down bashfully. His hair is ruffled from the blow. He laughs too, and then opens his eyes and looks up at her, keeping his chin down.
God she is in love with him. She's only just started to realize it. She can tell, from the look in his eyes, that he is in love with her too, but that he's known it for a long time. She wonders how long. How long he questioned whether his feelings would be reciprocated. She knows how much it must've torn him apart, not knowing, doubting, and she wants to make that up to him. Needs to.
Lying there in his bed, everything is softer than usual. A haze has fallen over them and everything is blurred in soft light. It's certainly softer than the bickering and yelling and screaming. Softer than his willingness, his readiness to sacrifice himself for her within a moment's notice. No, this is the best show of affection she could ask for. It's what she dreamed about when she was thirteen and thought she was in love with the cute guy in her math class. It's perfect. It’s the way he doesn’t seem to notice that if they wanted to be on time for work that she should’ve left his apartment an hour ago, or the way he gently brushes a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, never letting his eyes leave hers, or the way he takes her cold hand in his warm one and presses it to his lips like it’s something he needs to protect. It's everything.
She stares deep into his pupils, sure she’s seeing the most honest, fragile version of him he’s allowed anyone else to see. “I’ve never loved someone like this before, Mulder,” she says. “It’s you. You’re the one.”
His smile changes to an expression soaked in raw emotion. Filled with surprise, and passion, and joy through and through. His lip quivers. A tear rolls down his cheek. And then another.
And then they’re holding each other, not caring much for anything that might be going on above the sheets under which they lie and outside the enclosure of Mulder’s bedroom walls.
Everything else is background noise at this point. The siege upon them has been near constant for years and yet now, their castle stands undisturbed. Undisturbable.
Completely silent. Stronger than ever.