Rating: NC-17. Turnest away now, ye who are underage. You knoweth who you are.
Disclaimer: Aren't mine. Never will be. Do belong to CC, 1013 and Fox.
I sat quietly in the dark of a hospital room in Dayton. I had lost track of the time. All I knew was Mulder narrowly escaped death. Again.
He had yet to wake up. The explosion threw Mulder about fifteen feet, he hit his head against the concrete. He was wearing a wire, and I had to listen to the whole thing, helpless. Defenseless. I hated being defenseless.
He had a slight skull fracture and concussion. The x-rays looked good. Otherwise, except for a few burns and abrasions, he was no worse for wear.
Except, he should have woke up by now.
I settled back in the chair, draping my trench over my body as a blanket. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with him, fit my body to his and sleep. Erase the sounds of the explosion in my head. Replace it with the sound of his breathing. But I was still working. My vigil probably seemed strange enough to the other FBI agents involved, as I refused to leave tonight.
I'm a doctor, I had said. I want to be here when he wakes up. He's my partner.
Partner with a double meaning.
I rested my head against the chair. My mind raced over the last week, being in California. I stared at my left hand, my fourth finger where the wedding band had been. I had approached the assignment with mixed emotions, working undercover as a married couple. Being the first case back on the X-files had been difficult enough, without that added feature. And I tried keeping it as professional as possible.
It also gave me a glimpse into a life I refused to allow myself to think about. Being married to Mulder. It seemed cruel to pretend something you know you can never have. At least not at the moment. I spent the whole week being angry about it. Coupled with the creeping feeling we were being set up. Our relationship was something we jealously guarded, I wondered if the whole assignment was a test to see if things had changed, if we'd be caught in a compromising position. I pushed Mulder away from me all week, under the guise of professional behavior. I never told him why, but I figured he knew.
Dayton. This had been a fluke. We'd been traveling back from California, passing through Dayton when Skinner called us to assist on a hostage situation. The federal building was under threat, ex-employee had a bomb. Mulder tried to negotiate, and had done pretty well, getting him to agree to releasing most of the employees. There was only one fatality, when the bomber killed himself, taking a good part of the building with him. Mulder had almost gotten clear, if only he'd had another two minutes, he wouldn't be lying in this bed.
I closed my weary eyes, drawing my coat closer around me.
I snapped awake.
"Scully?' Mulder called again.
"Mulder, I'm right here," I said, throwing my coat off and rushing to the bed.
"Scully?" he repeated, his voice low and raspy. I checked his pupils, they were still dilated.
"Mulder, it's the cat that has nine lives, not the fox," I said with a smile, smoothing his hair back. How many times did he wake up in a hospital bed, with me hovering over him? I had a wave of deja vu. I had been here before.
He fluttered his eyelids and focused on me. Confusion set in across his features. He tried to talk, but his words came out garbled.
"Don't try to talk," I instructed. "I'm going to get the doctor."
I started to move off the bed, but his fingers grabbed the end of my jacket.
"Wh...Whu di you say?" he mumbled, it was hard to understand him.
"Doctor," I said, speaking louder. "I'm going to get the doctor."
His hand reached up to ear, his fingers tapping against it. As if trying to adjust something.
"Mulder?" I leaned in close.
Something was wrong, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up.
"I...can't...hear you, Scully."
"His tympatic membranes are torn. Could have been from the skull fracture, but most likely from the explosion," Doctor Wells said. Mulder was sitting up on the examination table, clad only in the thin hospital gown. Wells handed over the instrument to me, and I looked down Mulder's right ear.
The thin lining separating the ear canal and the middle ear was ruptured. I gently turned his head to the other side and looked at the left ear. Another tear, but this one wasn't nearly as bad.
I turned Mulder's head so we were almost nose to nose. Concern was across his features. He raised his eyebrows at me.
"Well?" he asked, shakily.
I glanced back at Wells, who was getting a book.
"Perforated eardrums," I replied, enunciating each word clearly so hopefully he could read my lips.
Mulder nodded mutely, gripping his hands to either side of the table. Although his exterior seemed calm, I knew he was not. I could see the tension in his arms and shoulders.
I moved away so Wells could hand him the book. Mulder read silently the description of the condition.
"He's experiencing ringing in the ears," I said, folding my arms. Wells and I walked a bit to the corner of the room. I hated talking about Mulder as if he wasn't there.
"That's not uncommon. He may even recover partial hearing soon. The tympatic membrane can spontaneously heal on its own, after a few weeks. But he will most likely need a patch, especially on the right ear. What we should be worried about is infection. You may see some drainage, blood or mucous," Doctor Wells said, making notes on Mulder's chart. "He's not in any pain."
"But he will recover his hearing," I said matter-of-factly, but relieved at knowing this was only temporary.
"Oh, I'm certain he will," Wells assured me. "He will need to see a specialist as soon as possible when you return to D.C. I can give you a referral and forward the records on to the FBI."
"Thank you," I said, looking over at Mulder.
He must have felt my eyes on him, he met my gaze. He rolled his eyes and motioned at the book.
"No Stones concert for me," he said, trying to make me smile.
It was funny how the senses work. Even though there was nothing wrong with Mulder's voice, he was finding it increasing difficult to talk. Without being able to hear his own words, it was hard to articulate and his speech was sounding stranger and stranger. He could not read my lips, except for a few words here and there. We had to improvise ways to communicate.
Despite his protests, I drove Mulder to the specialist. He shouldn't be driving, not until he got some hearing back. Suddenly having one sense missing was an adjustment. And knowing how Mulder rushed into things full force concerned me. I waited patiently while they ran various tests on him, checking everything. It was crucial he got his hearing back to a certain percentage, since as a field agent it was essential.
A.D. Skinner had seemed equally concerned when I met with him earlier, updating him on Mulder's health. I assured him the initial prognosis was good and reviewed the file with him. Mulder was resilient, nothing kept him down for long.
The specialist updated me and agreed to forward the test results in the afternoon. Mulder and I sat in a small deli near work. He reached for a napkin, wrote something and pushed it to me.
"I want to go back to work," I read out loud. I raised my eyebrow at him and shook my head. "No."
"Why?" he asked.
I grabbed the pen out of his fingers and wrote a response on the flip side of the napkin.
"Your ears need to heal. If you don't get better, the doctor is trying the patch on Monday. The patch won't be pleasant, so you want them to heal on their own," Mulder mouthed. He made a face at me and I tossed the pen back.
He grabbed another napkin and wrote some more. I finished the last bite of my sandwich and looked at the time. I had to get back soon. Frohike agreed to pick him up from here. He slid the napkin under my fingers.
"I feel fine. I'm not an invalid. I'd like to get back to work. I'd rather be with you," I read, voice tapering off to a small whisper. When I looked up, he was giving me his best "c'mon Scully" face.
My growing annoyance faded when I read the last words. Our relationship had been strained over the last couple weeks. I had had doubts, reservations, fears. We were trying to get back on track, working on both the X-files and our personal relationship. But I wanted him to rest.
I picked up the pen and wrote beneath his writing, then twisted it so he could see.
"You also have a concussion. I thought it would have knocked some sense into you," he read. Mulder mouthed the words, "Ha, ha."
He studied me, his hazel eyes watched my every movement. He reached across, fingers caressing mine as he removed the pen from my grasp. So small a movement, yet he made it seem very intimate. He wrote again, this time pausing before handing it to me.
"What are you so afraid of?" I stared at the words. I suddenly felt uncomfortable and lowered the napkin. His fingers grabbed the other side, trying to take it away from me. But I held on tightly.
"Mulder...." I said, our grips still firmly on the napkin. Tugging and pulling it in opposite directions. I was relieved to see Frohike walk in the deli. I could defer this until later.
"Hey there," Frohike said, sliding into the booth next to me. He was just a little too close to me, his arm brushing up against me. "Mulder, you son of a bitch. What happened now?"
Mulder looked over at me, Frohike talked so fast.
"Perforated eardrums," I said, gathering the written napkins up in my hand before Frohike could read them. I grabbed the last one from Mulder's hand, shoving it in my pocket.
"So you really can't hear me?" Frohike asked, scrunching his face up.
Mulder gestured at his ears, shaking his head.
"Oh. Four words," he said, holding up his stubby fingers. "Playboy. Channel. Closed. Captioned."
"Thanks Frohike," I said, slapping his arm so he'd move out of the booth. "That'll keep him occupied this afternoon. And out of trouble. I knew perversion has its uses."
I left Mulder, pausing only to wave good bye through the glass door. I knew he wasn't too happy with me. I walked briskly to the car, keeping my eyes straight ahead. I had to concentrate on work.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
It was almost time for me to go home, the afternoon passed quickly. I had an autopsy to do. I scrubbed down and changed back into my suit. Upon returning to our office, there was thin brown envelope laying on my desk. Mulder's results had come back. I reached for my trench coat and pulled it around my body. I had planned on stopping by the Gunmen's on my way home to pick him up. We could review the results after that. I reached into my pocket for my car keys, and found something soft instead.
Instinctually, I pulled it out. It was the napkin. I read it silently again. Over and over.
What are you so afraid of?
My thumb traced the edge of Mulder's handwriting.
What are you so afraid of?
I knew what he was asking, I couldn't avoid it forever.
What are you so afraid of?
It's complicated. There are rules, regulations, stipulations. All the excuses I'd been giving him for months. But those reasons were a thin veil hiding something else.
I closed my eyes, but I still saw the words. Damn him for being so up front.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Mulder was a stubborn man. It was one of the things that I admired about him. But it was also one of the things that infuriated me the most. He managed to circumvent me and talked with Skinner. Skinner permitted him to work in the office, half-days until his hearing was restored. He must have arranged it yesterday afternoon, keeping it a secret all night. I didn't suspect a thing until he came walking in the door this morning, wearing his know-it-all grin.
I merely shook my head. Had to give the man credit.
He was quiet, keeping to himself as he worked. The months away from the X-files, without Mulder's careful attention, had left them in disarray. Little or nothing had been done to recover the burned files, except what Mulder had done on his own. So he worked on them, and gave me my space. Every now and then, I'd looked at him, trying to suppress a grin. How can anyone so annoying be so appealing?
I glanced up at the corner of my laptop, at the mail icon. Not my FBI mail, but my personal mail. I double clicked. Mail from Foxhunt@nexus.com.
I glanced over at Mulder, absorbed in his work, cracking sunflower seeds.
I double clicked on it, reading quietly.
What are you wearing underneath that suit? Because I'm very curious. This office seems much smaller now, sharing it with you. I never had nearly this much trouble concentrating before. All I can think about is you.
I hit the reply button. Langly had provided us secured accounts, so the Gunmen could communicate with us by e-mail. I was Skepticsister@nexus.com. The name was courtesy of Frohike.
It's only smaller now because of my new desk. Keep your mind on your work, or I'm going to send you home.
Things were quiet for the next few minutes, before my mail chimed again. I turned around, raising an eyebrow in his direction. Mulder gave me an innocent look. I opened the mail.
Will you come home with me?
I felt my body warm at the connotation of those words. Illicit thoughts ran through my head, of what we could do instead of paperwork. I exhaled slowly, pushing those images away. I typed a short message back and forced myself to concentrate.
We are working.
Mulder cracked a few more sunflower seeds, his fingers tapping the keyboard. In a matter of seconds, I had a final mail.
I knew you'd say that....can't blame me for trying.
The ringing in his left ear stopped, which restored partial hearing. He was able to make out some sounds, which improved his speech. Knowing it was only temporary, Mulder's spirits were good. To appease me, he was even going home early as scheduled. When I came by in the evening, I found him dozing on his couch. Mulder looked so peaceful, lying on his back with one arm draped over his chest. I had brought some dinner, I carefully set it on the kitchen table. But my movements woke him.
"Scully?" he called out.
"You were expecting someone else?" I replied, unpacking the food.
He didn't hear me, but got up slowly and made his way over to the table. I had brought some pasta and salad. He inhaled the smells of garlic and tomato and patted his stomach.
"Thank you," he said. He made letters with his fingers. I. O. U.
"No. I. O. U.," I replied, smiling at him.
After dinner, I medicated his ears, cleaning them out good. I inserted a small bit of cotton in each for protection. I knew it was uncomfortable and he'd take them out when I wasn't around. Mulder was the worst patient.
There wasn't a lot of choices on television that were closed-captioned, but we settled on some foreign movie with subtitles. Mulder rested with his head on my lap, scrunched up on his side. Sometimes, words just weren't necessary with us. We'd always had this unspoken communication. A look. A touch. An understanding. He was so good at communicating with me, I always knew what he was thinking, feeling, experiencing. Even if I wasn't always open to it. Trust. He trusted me. He didn't guard his feelings like I did. Hide them. Deny them.
I kept running things over and over in my head that I barely noticed when the movie ended. Mulder turned around, so he was looking up at me. The back of his hand brushed the side of my face, longingly. Breaking my thoughts.
"Bath," he said.
"Bath?" I repeated, refocusing on him.
Mulder nodded, his eyes pleading with mine. He pointed at me, then himself. And mouthed the word again.
I shook my head. It wasn't a good idea. It sounded good, so good, but... Mulder sat up, bringing his face close to mine, challenging me.
"Why," he asked. "You're not working."
What are you so afraid of? my mind finished.
"Mulder," I warned, speaking loud enough so my voice echoed in the bathroom. I steadied his head on either side with my hands. "Ears. Don't get them wet."
I was trying to wash his hair and share the bath with him. I sat behind him, my legs underneath his arms. It was a good thing Mulder had a large tub, or else we wouldn't fit. Not with his tall frame taking up most of the space.
I carefully lathered his hair, avoiding his ears. I ran my fingernails down his back, enjoying the feel of his skin on mine. My pale hands contrasted against his tanned back. He moaned softly.
He held the ends of a towel over his ears as I rinsed his hair slowly. I titled his head back, pouring cupfuls of water over it. Steam rose off our bodies. The mirror was completely fogged over. Mulder liked hot baths or showers. I took the towel and worked it over his head, drying it as best as I could.
When I finished, I pulled him against me, his head resting on my left shoulder, my cheek against the side of his face. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, holding tightly. My legs were around his waist, crossing at the ankles on his thighs. His fingers caressed my inner calves.
I closed my eyes, enjoying the warmth, his body, the water. I knew it was getting late, I should be leaving by nine o'clock. Only on the weekend did I allow myself the pleasure of staying all night. This was so dangerous. So far, our bath had been chaste enough, with Mulder's wandering hands kept under control. But, I knew he was having the same thoughts I was. If he would just turn around. The shower wall had a ledge. The sink. Or his bed, just a few steps away.
He had left his watch on the edge of the sink, and it beeped twice, signaling the top of the hour. I sighed deeply, with regret. I disengaged from Mulder, trying to push his body off mine.
"Nine. I have to go," I said sadly, brushing a hand down his back. He leaned forward so I could pull my legs free. I maneuvered around him, Mulder shifted to the back of the tub, and I stood between his legs, water dripping off my body. I reached up for the dry towel draped over the rack, above Mulder's head. I froze when I felt his hands on my legs, holding me in place. My heart raced as his fingers worked up my inner thighs, moving my legs apart.
"Mulder," I breathed. I knew he couldn't hear me. He had sat up, his face just inches from my sex. Mulder looked up at me, licking his bottom lip. His thumb pressed up into my clitoris, touching the spot of nerves, sensitive already from my thoughts. I gripped the towel rack, to steady myself. I closed my eyes, my head reeling as his lips replaced his thumb.
His tongue worked small circles against me, his hands reached across the back of my thighs, to my buttocks. Holding me in place. I know I should have stopped this. But I couldn't. I threw my head back, moaning uncontrollably under his ministrations. It felt so good, pleasure building with the tension. I pressed harder against his mouth, seeking more. His fingers brushed against me as well, I didn't know what to concentrate on.
I bit my lip, I was so close. My body hummed and pulsed into a frantic pace, climbing higher and higher until finally I came, splintering off into waves of pleasure. I knew he could feel me against his tongue, the pulsing. I moaned, my eyes were tightly shut.
Mulder moved beneath me, gently guiding me backwards. His body slid against mine, sloshing the water everywhere when he stood up. I opened my eyes and looked up at him. My skin was flushed all over. He took my face in his hands, kissing me thoroughly. I tasted myself on his tongue. Evidence of what he had done to me.
He reached back for the towel, wrapping me in it. He kissed me again. He brought his hand up to my clavicle and traced a heart and then the letter "u".
My heart pounded in my head, I found it hard to breathe. My lips sought his, and I kissed him hard. Hard enough to release the emotions swelling inside. After our mouths parted, I stepped back, holding the towel around me. It grew silent and awkward, we stared at each other.
"I have to go, Mulder. I'm sorry," I said, stepping out of the tub.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
"As you know, new procedures are now in place for reporting and documenting. The new on-line system will be installed over the next two weeks," Skinner said, pointing to the screen. We were sitting in a small briefing room, with about ten other agents.
Mulder sat a few chairs away from me. I watched him periodically, trying to pay attention to Skinner. My eyes grew transfixed on a thin line of bloody fluid running down his neck. His right ear started to discharge.
I got up slowly, not wanting to disturb the meeting. But my movements drew attention. I leaned in close to Mulder, fumbling through my pockets for something, anything to stop the blood.
"Mulder, your ear," I said quietly.
He reached up and saw the blood on his fingertips. "Shit."
"Is something wrong, Agent Mulder?" Skinner called out, hands on his hips.
"His ear is bleeding, sir," I replied. Agent Cange passed me a handkerchief, which I folded into a thick rectangle.
"Shoulda stayed off the firing range," Mulder said out loud, grinning at Skinner. I pressed the handkerchief to his ear. The other agents looked over at Mulder, some smiling at his joke.
"Do you need to leave?" Skinner asked, motioning to both of us.
"Momentarily, sir," I said, keeping my professional distance from Mulder.
We exited the room, heading back to our office. I had kept some supplies in my desk for him. I shut the door behind us, he sat down on his desk.
"Another white shirt ruined," he said, tilting his head.
I pulled the swabs and ointment from my drawer, standing in the space between his legs.
"Well, I told you not to get your ears wet." I cleaned his ear gently.
Mulder grinned wickedly and whispered softly. "You got them wet, not me."
"Mulder," I warned. The door to our office wasn't locked. My face flushed red at his comment. I turned the conversation back to his ear. "You need to go back to the doctor."
"I have a doctor," he replied. His fingers touched my stomach, just beneath my breasts. I moved away from him. "You. You're my doctor."
"Mulder, I am working," I said sharply, enunciating each word. He had done this same thing to me in California. Touching me, teasing me. "And so are you. Don't forget that."
"You don't let me forget that," he said sharply, words stinging.
"Well, one of us has to. I told you, Mulder. I have to keep it professional here, I can't be switching back and forth all day," I hissed. "We agreed."
"No," he said standing up and staring me down. "You laid down those rules, Scully. Not me. I've been professional with you on each and every case. When we are alone, we're alone. Yet you've been pushing me away. I'm sick and tired of you worrying that I'm going to screw this up. I thought you trusted me."
Mulder grabbed his coat and left, slamming the door. I stood in the middle of our office, folding my arms.
What are you so afraid of?
Those damn words kept echoing in my head, demanding an answer.
It was cold outside as I walked to the reflection pool. Once you got to know Mulder, his habits were predictable. When he needed to think, he'd come to this bench. Right in front of the Washington Monument. I made my way up the path, and I saw Mulder sitting there, hunched over against the wind.
I came up from behind, unsure of how to approach him. I placed a hand on his shoulder gingerly.
"Your ears, Mulder. You need to get inside," I said, leaning into his left side. He had flipped up the collar of his trench, but I knew it offered little protection. He had left the cotton inside the right ear.
"Aren't you afraid of being seen with me? It's working hours, you know," he mumbled.
I deserved that. I walked around, standing in front of him. I crouched down, so we were face to face.
"I am afraid, Mulder," I said, speaking as clearly as I could. "It's hard. Separating our lives. This scares me. We are playing a dangerous game, they are watching us closer than ever."
"Scares me too, Scully. I've been worried nonstop that we'll be discovered. I understand why you feel that way. But our personal time includes week nights, lunches, mornings when we are not on assignment. It's time I could be spending with you. Last night, you let me in. You trusted me enough to let me love you, but then you backed away," Mulder said, staring into my eyes.
"I don't trust myself, Mulder. When I'm with you, I feel out of control. It happens so fast, all you have to do is touch me. Or say something to me," I replied. "Your behavior isn't the one that will give it away. It's mine."
"You're afraid you'll be the one," Mulder concluded, nodding in understanding.
"Yes. I've always been in control. And now, I'm not," I said, wrapping my coat tighter at the neck. "There are high expectations of my professional demeanor. If I start deviating too much, I'm sure I'll arouse suspicions."
"Scully, I don't stop loving you just because we are working," he said.
"I don't stop loving you either, Mulder. But you get right in my head, and start suggesting things or touching me," I started, feeling my face flushing. "You always threw innuendoes at me, but now they mean something different. I just defensively push it away, like I did before."
"You don't have to, Scully. Just give me an explanation. Let me know what's going on," Mulder said, touching my shoulder. "I'll try to back off, during the week. Sometimes I feel like I barely see you, the real you. Without the professional demeanor."
I stood up, stretching my legs out. I sat by Mulder, on the left side. I huddled closer, taking a chance that no one was watching. "Our work is so important to us both, Mulder. I didn't want to jeopardize it. But I don't want to jeopardize us, either."
"It's never going to be easy," he said, leaning in. "But we don't have to make it harder."
"Come back to the office, Mulder. You have to get out of the cold," I said, standing up and pulling him by the sleeve. "Although, you should have gone home by now."
"Shit," he said, turning to me. "Skinner."
"Took care of him. Don't worry. He knows you have a procedure scheduled for Monday. Although, you will have to attend another training session."
"Great," he said, walking slowly in the direction of the Hoover Building. "My hearing restored and I get to hear Skinner."
"By my watch, it's only about four hours to the weekend," I said, gripping his arm tighter. I smiled up at him. "Meet you back at your place? Around 6:00 p.m.?"
"I'll be there," he said, smiling down at me.