Passion Fruit

by Lynn Saunders

Title: Passion Fruit
Author: Lynn Saunders
Rating: R
Classification: MSR, RST, Post-Ep for both Amor Fati and Millennium
Spoilers: through Millennium
Summary: There is no place she'd rather be. Feedback: Adored, re-read, printed out, and imortalized in a quality binder at Website: Distribution: Archive freely, but please drop me a line to let me know.
Date Completed: 2.16.2004

Dedication: To my BTS babies for the Readers' Day Challenge (element list at end). I love you all!

Special Thanks: To Carol and Sallie, my beloved beta team.

Disclaimer: Oops, not mine. Sorry.

Passion Fruit
by Lynn Saunders

"I saw things, Scully." He raises her hand shakily, placing it on the shorn hair at his temple. "In my mind."

Concerned, she eases him back against the hospital pillow. "It's alright. Try to get some rest."

"I heard things, too." He blinks at her groggily. "I could hear you."

A week later, standing in his doorway, she realizes what he means and wonders what he might have discovered in her.

He does not exaggerate his feelings for her. She is his constant. The only memories he is certain are real and true involve her.

Her fingers caress his face, lingering on his full bottom lip, a heavenly sensation. He should kiss her, but he hesitates, and the moment is gone. Even as she turns to leave, he is at peace.

In the evening, he is surprised to find her at his door once again, pizza box in hand. This is a rare occasion, to be sure.

They pretend to watch the news, watching each other instead. She laughs at three of his bad jokes, and he steals her pepperoni. They find "When Harry Met Sally" on AMC and settle in for the long haul. Halfway through, Scully rests her head on his shoulder. His arms encircle her easily, as if it is nothing new.

"I was lost without you," she says.

He takes his first deep breath in ages.

It's the little things that remind her she's hopelessly, completely in love with him. The way he smiles conspiratorially while sharing his insane theories and steals sips of her coffee when he knows she's looking. The way he touches her, warm fingers against the curve of her back offering up a challenge she desperately wants to accept. Ignoring his silent advances has proven to be the worst form of self-neglect, so she plays with his tie and buys suits with a slightly lower neckline, hoping to atone for lost time.

So much time has passed since her last relationship that she can barely remember the feel of it, of being high on love. She knows she once enjoyed the novelty of having a man to touch and kiss anytime, anyplace, simply because she wanted to. The idea is wonderful, but her memories are scattered and fuzzy, hard to piece together, as if they are parts of a dream or a past life.

She thinks about the men she has been involved with, wondering about the life she would have led if she had chosen to spend it with one of them. She shivers, thinking that she might have ended up in a stereotypical role, the younger woman, the home-wrecker. She hopes she walked away in time.

After Daniel, she slept on her sofa for six weeks.

After Diana, Mulder slept on his couch for six years.

Mulder is different, but she fits well with him. They are more alike than anyone suspects. Maybe they could work out the details as they go along.

Another car, another long drive home. They stop at a roadside diner because he wants french fries. "Greasy," he says. "The real thing."

The booth is small with bright red vinyl seats and a yellow checked table cloth. The salt and pepper shakers are tiny Holstein cows. Their drinks are served in large mason jars.

He makes fun of her for ordering water while he eats his fries three at a time. "Live a little, Scully."

She selects chocolate cake from the menu and eats it slowly in retaliation. He watches her, shaking his head, and gets his hand slapped when he tries to steal a forkful.

They enjoy a few minutes of companionable silence.

"What are you thinking?" she asks softly.

"I'm thinking... this is nice."

She looks around the small room. The palm tree wallpaper is peeling, and the gum-smacking teenage waitress is chatting with her boyfriend on the phone. The shake machine buzzes loudly for no apparent reason. Then, there's Mulder. He is slouched across from her, sleeves rolled and tie loosened. A good sixteen hours have passed since his morning shower and shave. His hair is rumpled, and his eyes are warm.

"It is," she agrees. There is no place she'd rather be.

Waiting for information in the Gunmen's lair is not an easy thing. Mulder has trouble sitting still, knowing he's surrounded by so many very expensive toys just waiting for a test drive.

The printer across the room is churning out page 327 of 1608, and it looks like he'll be here for awhile. He gets bored reading about the latest in android technology, so he turns to Frohike's computer for amusement.

The hard drive is full of folders with obscure names like 'lexeme' and 'toric.' Most are full of articles and reports. A few contain rough drafts of recently published conspiracy theories. He clicks through several, but nothing captures his attention. Finally, he selects a folder labeled 'recon' and almost chokes on his coffee when he sees that all of the file names begin with the same six letters. All are photos, some close up, some far away. There are a few random snapshots, but most are crime scene pictures. And each is an image of Scully.

"Damn it, Mulder. I can't leave you alone for one minute."

Frohike's voice startles him, but he regains his composure admirably. "What are these all about?"

"She's hot." Noting the way his friend bristles, Frohike is quick to amend. "Relax, big guy. We're not stalking Scully. We just happened to intercept a few files."

"But there are over 20 pictures here. It must've taken awhile to find these... accidentally," Mulder chides, adding air quotes to the last word for emphasis.

"Not really. It's a Lone Gunmen special ops mission. As I told the guys, we're collecting 'em for you."

Mulder looks genuinely confused. "Why?"

Frohike clicks on the first icon, and the picture unfolds. Scully crouches beside a victim but is looking up at something outside of the frame. "We wanted to give you concrete evidence. This is the way she looks at you, even when you're arguing over a stiff." He pauses for effect. "So do something about it, already."

Her heels pound on the wet pavement, a sickening slapping sound. The Kevlar weighs her down as she sprints through the darkness.

Two shots ring out, then a third. She imagines she hears a body crumpling to the ground, but that is impossible. She is too far away. She's always too far away.

She whips around the corner into a narrow alley. It smells of piss and old newspapers. She tastes blood on her tongue, for she has bitten into it. At the far end of the alley, she sees him, sprawled on the pavement, lit by a single flickering street lamp. His arm is slung across his neck at an odd angle, broken, the white of his dress shirt sleeve contrasting the bloom of crimson at his temple. His eyes are open, staring up into the starless sky, unseeing.

She tries to run to him, but she seems fixed in place. Suddenly, a team of agents materializes and swarms into the alley, led by a tall, thin figure. Fowley, she realizes, emotions swirling. The other woman touches Mulder, brushes his hair away from his forehead and kisses him tenderly. Sudden rage gives Scully the power to move forward, and she rushes to his side.

Fowley rises to meet her. "The situation is under control, Agent Scully."

"I need to see him."

"But you aren't what he needs anymore."

Scully notices for the first time the simple gold band on Mulder's ring finger. Realization dawns, twisting her inside out. Speechless, she stares as his wedding ring gleams rhythmically in the flickering lamplight.

She awakens, startled, hot tears streaming down her cheeks. She licks them from the corner of her mouth, salty like the blood in her dream. Her racing heart slows, yet the feeling of stomach-dropping fear remains.

Irritated, she slides out of bed and wanders to the kitchen. She fills the tea pot and puts it on to heat, her mind racing. She wants to reach out to him, call him, touch him. She wants to crawl into bed with him and sleep a thousand years, curled around his strong body that radiates heat and energy and smells like home.

She is finally tired of being alone, she decides as she sips her cup of chamomile in her too-quiet apartment.

Missy told her once that everyone forms at least one unbreakable attachment in their lifetime. Each person has someone that they would do anything for. Mulder is her unbreakable attachment. She will open her door to him at any time, under any circumstance, after any amount of separation, no questions asked. Always.

She feels ridiculous, being jealous of a dead woman, yet her darkest fear is that Diana held this special place in Mulder's heart. The hurts of the past year still sting from time to time.

She wants answers badly, the way she wants him.

She has to get out of the house, so she pulls on a pair of worn jeans and the black sweater she wore to work before slinging on her trench coat, snatching up her car keys, and locking the door behind her. She returns briefly to retrieve her badge and gun, wondering how she became so paranoid that she doesn't leave the house without them anymore.

Each week, she has shown up at his door bearing some sort of offering. First the pizza, then a CD, ice cream and chocolate sauce, a bag of sunflower seeds, cookies straight from her mother's oven, a stuffed goldfish that 'reminded her of him.' Yesterday, she brought an anthology of Norse folk tales, which he read aloud to her because he knows she likes to watch.

He isn't sure why he expects her again tonight, but he is surprised when her knock still hasn't sounded at a quarter to eleven. Resigned, he pads barefoot to the door, checking the peephole and throwing the deadbolt.

Lost in her thoughts, she wanders the neat aisles of a corner market, wondering about the other people who are out at this hour.

When she sees the ripe, red display, gleaming under the fluorescent grocery store lights, she knows what she is supposed to do. She's not sure if she believes in fate, but the fruit calls out to her. She selects several fat apples from the bottom of the pile and makes her way to the front of the store, where the bored clerk regards her strangely. She suspects not many people venture out on a gloomy winter night just to buy an armful of fruit, but the clumsy weight of the crinkled paper bag is comforting to her hyperactive fingers as she walks down the street to her car.

She needn't worry that he'll be asleep, she tells herself as she maneuvers through the darkened streets. He is always ready for her.

At her knock, he opens the door with an amused expression, but says nothing as she walks in under his arm and makes her way to his kitchen.

She might be crazy enough to eat apples with him at one o'clock in the morning, but she isn't so crazy that she doesn't wash them first. She admires the way Mulder's now-prominent crow's feet crinkle as he smiles, his long fingers playing tag with hers in the warm water.

"Tell me a story, Mulder."

Four shiny red apples sit before them, lined up with military precision on the coffee table. She selects the largest and offers it to him.

"From our book?" He smiles, remembering her eyes on him the night before.

"No, just... tell me. Tell me anything."

He turns the apple over in his hands thoughtfully, his thumb caressing the planes and curves. It really is beautiful, when he thinks about it.

"In many cultures," he begins, picking up the small paring knife she brought from the kitchen, "the apple is an erotic symbol."

She raises an eyebrow, but says nothing, watching him peel the apple instead. The sharp blade slices easily through the plump fruit, a crisp, wet sound. He carefully avoids her gaze.

"There is evidence that the tradition of throwing rice at weddings evolved from an ancient custom in which apples were thrown near new brides to ignite sexual desire and promote fertility."

He cuts a slice of the apple and offers it to her, balanced between his thumb and the flat of the knife. The fruit feels sticky in his fingers.

"The newlyweds might also share an apple in celebration of their union. As a gift, an apple represented the giver's eagerness to begin a romantic relationship."

She looks at him quizzically, accepting the fruit and watching as he slices a section for himself. The room is too quiet, so she turns to their old stand-by, the innuendo-laced one-liner. She's getting better and better at dishing them out.

"Are you propositioning me?"

He looks directly into her eyes for the first time since he began the history lesson. 'The question is,' his expression seems to say, 'are you?'

She doesn't have an answer to that.

Late in the evening, her cell phone chirps from her mother's kitchen table. Matthew, who had been happily playing with his peanut butter and jelly snack, squeals in delight and reaches with sticky fingers for the prize. He captures it easily, pressing several of the buttons and shouting "hewoo" before Scully can wrestle the phone away.

"Scully," she answers with a laugh, distracting the pouting toddler with her keys.

"Taking hostages, I see."

She watches her peanut butter-covered nephew shake the keys gleefully and toss them to the floor. "Actually, I think it might be the other way around. I'm on baby sitting detail. We're having PB&J."

"Scully, I'm shocked that you would give a child sugar at this hour."

She smiles to herself, bending to pick up the keys. "Yes, well, he'll be coming down from the high on Tara and Bill's shift. I've still got wrapping to do."

"Ah." He pauses. "So... I have a surprise for you."

"Mulder, if this is about a haunted house, I'm hanging up now."

This earns her a chuckle. "No, not at all. It should be arriving... now." The doorbell sounds right on cue. "Now, Miss Scully, what do we have behind door number one?"

"Am I sure I want to find out?" she asks, hoisting Matthew into her arms and making her way to the door.

"I promise it's completely safe to look. I'll give you a call in the morning. Merry Christmas, Scully."

She can hear his smile. "Merry Christmas."

She opens the door to find a small, neat basket at her feet. Tucked inside the cloth covering are several ripe, red apples and a small card that reads, "Just returning the sentiment."

He watches his fish dart to and fro in their liquid world. The large one pauses to look at him through the sealed glass before moving on to gulp several of the brightly colored flakes floating all around. He really should feed them on a more regular schedule.

He wonders what the fish think of him. Do they view him as some sort of benevolent deity that bestows gifts of food and clean water at random?

He thinks about basketball at the rec center, the fried chicken he ate for dinner, and cold case files. But, mostly he thinks about Scully. Is she curled up in front of her mother's colorful Christmas tree, slicing an apple and thinking of him?

He longs for a holiday he can spend with her. They get so little down time together. He'll take her out for her birthday, he promises himself. It's a shame Mardi Gras won't be in February this year. He imagines them driving down to New Orleans in one of the convertibles Scully loves to rent, joining the mass of couples picnicking on colorful woven blankets, Scully toying with her bright green beads and sipping a margarita. The air would swirl around them, smelling of tequila and expensive cigars, and they would be free.

By the time the rest of the family returns from their last-minute shopping trip, Matthew has passed out on the sofa. Tara carefully scoops him up and carries him upstairs to bed. In the kitchen, Scully quickly wraps a few stray presents and helps her mother put away the groceries. Maggie pauses when she sees the basket of apples.

"Mulder sent them," Scully explains. "Do you think there's enough for a pie?"

Bill eyes the gift, then turns to his sister. "He sent apples?"

Scully simply nods. She can't tell Bill it's quite possibly the most exciting gift she has ever received. Actually, the present seems downright naughty, when she thinks about it.

She changes into her pajamas and brushes her teeth, thinking about him. In her room, she removes the note from its hiding place in the side pocket of her bag.

Just returning the sentiment. Oh, God.

Deep in the night, she dreams of making love to Mulder in the bedroom of her tiny college apartment. It is mid-summer and the overhead fan is on, cooling their sweat-slick bodies. They rise and fall in her old twin bed with no headboard and risers underneath, his t-shirt muting the light from the bedside lamp. The dream is all sensation, full-color, and she awakens before dawn, breathless and trembling.

He does indeed call in the morning. "Watch the sunrise with me," he says.

Carefully, she creeps down the stairs and out onto her mother's porch. It's freezing, and she snuggles into the quilt wrapped around her shoulders, careful not to drop the phone. In the east, the sky is ablaze, the rising sun sending explosions of red and orange out to greet her.

"It's going to be a gorgeous day."

"Mmm," he agrees. "Have you gotten any interesting presents yet?"

She laughs. "A few. Mulder, who in the world delivered apples for you on Christmas Eve?"

"Santa, of course."


"What? It was an important gift. I had to make sure it was delivered in style."

Together, they watch as the sun slips over the horizon and the world around them wakes.

"What are you thinking?"

She watches her breath puff in the cold morning air, considering her answer. "I'm wondering what happens next, for us."

"So am I."

"Easy does it, Mulder," she warns, taking his bag away from him and slinging it over her shoulder. "I'm your personal bellhop until you're all patched up."

He sighs and nods, but insists on pushing the elevator button with his good hand. "What about turndown service?"

She eyes his reflection in the metal doors. "Don't push your luck."

The elevator opens with a ding, and they trudge inside looking every bit as tired as they are. Scully leans against the back wall, eyes closed. She briefly considers the possibility of making out with Mulder in the elevator, pushing him back into a corner and taking her time. Yet when she opens her eyes she remembers the sling on his arm and his slight limp. Not a good idea.

Her lips still tingle. For a first kiss, it wasn't that bad. But, it wasn't quite what she imagined a first kiss with Mulder would be. It was sweet and gentle. She was hoping for something more... substantial. Still, progress is progress.

At his door, she fishes the keys out of his back pocket, enjoying it way too much for her own good. She coaxes his creaky door open and drops his bag into the closest chair. He eases onto the couch and turns on the television. Sci-Fi is running a 'Twilight Zone' marathon.

She hesitates in the living room doorway, unsure of what to do. "Do you need anything?"

He smiles. "Nah, I'll be okay. I promise to keep the sling on as long as I can stand it."

"You know what I like." She drops his keys onto the coffee table and turns to go.

"Hey," he says, holding out his hand as she turns to face him. "Come over here."

Warily, she approaches the couch and sits beside him. "Mulder, you need to get some rest."

"I will, I will." He pauses. "Just sit with me for awhile."

She cannot refuse this man, with his heavy-lidded gaze and slightly stubbled jaw. So, she stays.

He awakens in the night, sprawled on his leather couch, Scully snuggled under his good arm, cheek against his chest. Her features glow, flashing eerily in the light of the television. He reaches for the remote and presses the power button, plunging the apartment into darkness. Gently, he kisses her forehead and pulls his Navajo blanket down around them to block out the chill.

He refuses to send her home. He hopes, just maybe, she's already there.

It happens, unexpectedly, on a Wednesday. She is at his door at seven o'clock as promised, but they never make it to dinner. He brushes flakes of snow from her shoulders, she looks at him in just the right way, and they are done for.

He marks her neck with his lips as she rises above him, panting with the thrill of it. Her nipples brush against his bare chest rhythmically. She licks her lips, her nerves running hot and cold. What this man does to her defies belief, but it isn't a dream. It is real and wet and so, so perfect.

Today, they make time to eat lunch together. She saves their window seats in a bustling deli while he braves the line for sandwiches.

Outside, a helium balloon bounces precariously in the grasp of its young owner. The wind is strong, the boy isn't paying attention, and Scully knows what is going to happen.

Oblivious to the drama unfolding across the street, Mulder makes his way through the lunch-hour crowd with their food.

"Heads up," he warns.

She catches the apple easily, smiling at him. Lately, there have been apples everywhere. He leaves them for her, inconspicuous reminders on her bedside table, in her car, on his desk at work. Two days ago, she found apple Jolly Ranchers in her lingerie drawer.

She can't tell him to stop or let him know that it ruffles her feathers ever so slightly. After all these years, she secretly enjoys being stirred up. She has smiled more in the past week than any other time he can remember. He catches her staring again, but these days she doesn't have to pretend he's imagining things.

The vendor on the street corner is pushing newspapers. Cars stop and go with the changing street light. The boy's balloon slips away and up into the sky, becoming a tiny green dot before disappearing altogether. All around, the world is rushing by, yet they take a moment to sit too close together in the small deli, quietly discussing case notes. More now than ever before, there is no place she'd rather be.

BTS Readers' Day Challenge Elements:
1. bed risers - check
2. Mardi Gras - check
3. Sallie's "That" - check
4. Frohike with a folder of Scully candids he has to explain - check
5. A helium balloon - check

Yea, all of them! I had a great time.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Lynn Saunders