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That night his dreams are uncharacteristically quiet. He can’t make out any recognizable forms within them, only abstract shapes; blobs of colour and heat. Tastes and smells. The taste of her lips. The smell of her perfume. Lilac. He is enveloped by a smooth, rich darkness. Tranquility. Slow, even breathing, as if in tandem with another set of lungs. Lazily, the dream fades out until all he can feel is black and white static.

The tickling of a cool breeze wakes him. He rolls from his back to his side. “Hey Scully,” Mulder says groggily. “Did you open the window?” He receives no reply. She must still be asleep. “Scully,” he persists, reaching his hand across to where she is lying to prod her awake.

His eyes fly open. Nothing there. Only the ghost of a body remains, the imprint of her head on the pillow still visible. He scans the room, the dim light of an overcast sky filtering in through half-open blinds. Her clothes are gone. Her bag too.

Mulder moves himself to a sitting position and lets his head fall back against the wall with a thud. He sighs as he rubs the sleep from his eyes.

Fuck.

She left. In the middle of the night.

Walk of shame.

Fuck.

Maybe he had dreamed it all.

The way she entered his bedroom as if floating an inch above the floor, each step gliding towards him with a tangible conviction he had only seen before in times of crisis, when it was crucial that a goal was met. The way she hung over him and how when he asked her what was wrong she replied only with “thank you.”

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Over and over until he was sure he had broken her.

“For what?” Mulder had asked, taking her hovering face in his hands.

Everything,” she said as she pressed her lips to his.

The moving of one hand to the small of her back, pulling her to him. Her movement to straddle him, like mist rolling in, weightless and all-encompassing. Helping her slide her sweater over her head. Fumbling with the clasp of her bra. The kisses she trailed down his neck and across his chest seeming to vapourize immediately, rising to the ceiling and falling back down around them like October fog. All boundaries that had existed been them had vanished. Nothing else seemed to matter.

“You never stopped looking for me,” she said.

She smelled like a flower, the sweat accumulating on her brow like morning dew.

“You never stopped looking for a cure for me,” she said.

I love you, he thought as he arched into her touch.

“You’ve always been my friend,” she said. “And so much more. You’re my family, Mulder.”

She lifted her hand, Mulder’s fingers laced within her own, and placed a kiss on the back of his palm.

“Thank you,” she whispered against his skin.

He cried out.

“Thank you.”

It couldn’t have been a dream. It was far too vivid. And yet it left blurry streaks all across his brain.

Why would she materialize in his room, speaking of all the things he’d done for her, giving him her thanks in a close whisper, only to disappear as if their rendezvous had been nothing more than a one night stand?

Unless that’s exactly what it had been.

Thousands of scenarios play out in his head, all at once, each with their own motif. Her guilt. Her disgust. Her regret.

Regret.

That one word flashes in front of Mulder’s eyes again and again.

He pictures her waking in his bed and panicking, running. Knowing their professional relationship would be damaged beyond repair but fleeing anyways. Knowing that seven years of camaraderie had been ruined in one night. Knowing she’d risked her career for a meaningless hookup.

Maybe she’d hidden a flask in her purse, chugged it after Mulder had gone to bed, and made the choice to sleep with him in a drunken stupor, sobering up in the wee hours of the night and making a break for it before she had to deal with the consequences.

That didn’t seem like something Scully would do. But neither did crawling on top of him in the dead of night with no invitation.

A terrifying thought crosses Mulder’s mind. Finally, he seems to find a conceivable explanation, but one that chills him to the bone. Worse than tarnished human-resources. Worse than Scully under-the-influence. What if she simply felt she owed it to him; owed him some sort of payoff for consistently risking himself for her? It would explain the repeated “thank you”s.

Oh god. She felt indebted to him. She could see that he desired her and thought that all he wanted was her body.

“Fuck!” Mulder shouts.

He has to call her, has to talk to her.

Mulder sluggishly climbs out of bed and walks to the phone on his desk. His finger hovers over the numbers, shaking. Deep breath in, deep breath out. He dials. His heart threatens to burst out of its cavity and crash through the closed window as he waits for her to pick up, the dial-tone growing ever more grating with each passing second.

It’s about to go to voicemail when he hears the familiar “Hello?”

“Scully, it’s me,” he says, his breath catching in his throat.

“Oh, Mulder. Hi.” Scully sounds surprised. Mulder realizes then that it’s only eight in the morning on a Saturday. He probably woke her up, assuming she resumed her sleep when she returned home. Now he seems desperate. Very, very desperate. But to be completely fair, he is.

“Scully, I- I need to talk to you.” He begins to pace as far as the phone cord will allow him to go.

“Okay,” she says, expectantly. “Go ahead.”

“No, we need to talk in person,” Mulder says, cautiously. “About last night.”

“Oh,” Scully says. The line goes silent for a moment. “Alright.”

“Can I come over?”

“Yeah. Yes, of course.”

He hangs up.

Forty minutes later and Mulder’s standing outside of her apartment, wringing his hands tirelessly. When Scully opens the door, she’s just as radiant as she was the evening before. Although Mulder spots something troubling behind her eyes. Worry. Fear.

“Come in,” she says. She leads him inside and stops in the middle of the living room floor. “So...”

“So,” he repeats back.

And suddenly, they’re both speaking.

“You don’t owe anything to me, Scully,” Mulder says.

“I’m sorry I left without saying goodbye,” Scully says.

“What?” They both say.

“What do you mean, I don’t owe you anything?” she asks, seemingly alarmed, her brows furrowing.

“The whole event just seemed very... Out of the blue,” Mulder says, scratching his head. “I just thought-”

“You thought I reciprocated your feelings out of what? Guilt?” She looks puzzled, astounded even. She moves towards him. “Mulder, I thought you knew me better than that.” She strokes the side of his face and the warmth of her hand sets his cheek ablaze. He feels as if a weight has been lifted, but still, he’s confused.

“Why’d you leave?” His voice is quiet and strangled.

Scully is silent for a moment. “I was afraid. Afraid I’d ruined our friendship. Ruined any chance of us having a normal relationship. Whatever shape that relationship may take.” She sighs, ashamed. “Mulder, I practically pounced on you.”

“Scully-”

She waves her hands around her. “It was pretty bold to make the assumption that-”

“I didn’t stop you, did I?” Mulder interjects. Scully stops dead in her tracks. He stares down at her. “Dana. Not to be too blunt here, but you have seen the way I look at you, right? How I’ve always looked at you?” Like you are the North Star, always guiding me home.

“I think I forced myself to believe that’s how you look at everyone,” she says.

“It’s not.”

“I know.”

“Don’t you remember a few years back when I tried to kiss you? Or on New Year’s, when I did kiss you? Those were more than friendly gestures.”

“Of course I remember,” she says, sending a chill up his spine. Does she think about those moments often?

“So then why would you...” Mulder trails off.

“I don’t know,” she says, releasing all of the air from her lungs. “Look, Mulder, I think we’re both looking for reasons to deny what happened. But the reasons just aren’t there. We slept together, and I don’t regret it. Do you?”

“Are you kidding?” Mulder laughs. “Scully, I’ve had a crush on you since Day One. I don’t regret last night. Not one minute.”

She looks up at him with a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. “You amaze me,” she says, simply.

His heart flutters. Slowly, he leans down and kisses her. Softly, and in no rush. He feels her lean into it, tying her arms like a necklace behind his head. He wraps his arms around her waist, pushing forward, intensifying the kiss.

Scully mumbles unintelligibly against his lips. He pulls away with a popping sound. “What was that?”

“Oh, nothing,” Scully says. “Just something about how charming you are.”

Mulder smiles, a big toothy smile. “Are we really gonna do this again?”

“I mean, if you don’t want to...” She shrugs and turns to walk away, but her wrist gets caught in Mulder’s grasp.

“No, no! I want to,” he says frantically.

Scully smiles slyly. “I scared you there, didn’t I? For a second, you were afraid.”

Mulder laughs. “Me? I’m an FBI Agent. I’m not afraid of anything.”

“Okay, tough guy,” she says. “Come on.” She begins walking, her wrist still clasped, leading the way. “I think we might be falling into a pattern here,” she says as they enter the bedroom.

“I sure hope so,” Mulder says, kissing her again: not for the first time, and not for the last.