Clear-Sighted

by ML

September 12, 2004
Title: Clear Sighted
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com (feedback always welcome!) Distribution: Yes to Ephemeral and Gossamer, or if you've archived me before. If you haven't, please drop me a line and let me know, and leave headers, etc. attached. Thank you! Spoilers: Theef, maybe a little foreshadowing for the last eps of S7. Rating: NC17
Classification: Vignette
Summary: In the aftermath of the Peattie case, Scully and Mulder make some decisions.

Disclaimer: Who are these people? They just sort of sneaked onto the page when I wasn't looking. I don't have any control over them, and I certainly don't own them. No harm or gain intended by this story, just a little fun.

Many thanks to Carol for seeing what I could not!


Clear Sighted
by ML

Scully folded each piece of clothing carefully, placing it just so in the suitcase. She looked critically at her work and took a few things out again, folding them neatly on the bed and rearranging the contents of her case before replacing them. She closed her eyes and ran her hands over each item as she put it back. She could see them clearly from memory as much as from the feel of them. Soft cotton panties. The slight silk and lace roughness of her bras. Would she know what she was holding if she could only touch them and not see them?

What if she'd never regained her sight?

"Ready to go?" Mulder lounged in the doorway, tucking his phone back into his pocket.

"Almost." Scully quickly tucked a black silk camisole under the rest of her clothes, her previous meticulousness forgotten. How long had he been standing there? Had he watched her playing blind?

If Mulder noticed, he said nothing. "Skinner says hello."

Scully nodded, concentrating on her suitcase. "Has another case come up?"

"Nope," Mulder said, approaching the bed. "I told him we still had a few loose ends to tie up and we'd be back in a day or two."

"Do we have loose ends?" Scully asked. "I thought we were done here."

"Just a few things to see to," Mulder said.

"Oh." Scully finally looked up at him. His face was bland and unreadable. "Then why am I packing?"

"We're still checking out," Mulder said. His expression gave nothing away, but something in his eyes told her that he was up to something.

"Are you going to make me guess, Mulder?"

"That's part of the fun, Scully," Mulder said.

"For you, maybe," Scully muttered as she finished her packing and followed him out to the car.

Mulder felt more unnerved by the episode at the cabin than he let one, and more than Scully appeared to be. But in their long association, he knew that wasn't necessarily the case. She felt things deeply but seldom made her feelings obvious. In fact, she was less likely to break down in front of him now than she was earlier in their partnership. He missed that. He missed being allowed to offer her comfort.

He didn't really want her to break down. He wanted her to know that she could, and he'd be there for her. He'd had so many of his own crises recently, and she'd been the one to pick up the pieces for him. He wanted to reciprocate.

Scully wasn't sorry to spend another day in San Francisco. She suspected that Mulder had something up his sleeve, but she couldn't tell what. It could be a case, despite what he'd told her just now. Or it could be something else.

The "something else" had been on her mind lately. Emotionally, they were probably as comfortable with each other as they'd ever been. Yet something was still missing. They were in stasis, each waiting for a sign from the other. They'd exchanged a few heartfelt declarations, even a kiss, but nothing had changed.

Is he waiting for me or am I waiting for him? Scully wondered. Reluctant to come right out and ask, she thought she'd try some of Mulder's tactics. Maybe a few wellplaced innuendoes would give him the idea. If not, then she'd try something else. Anything but the direct approach, she thought ironically.

Before long they pulled up in front of an elegant apartment building.

Scully raised her eyebrows at Mulder.

"It's compliments of Dr. Wieder," Mulder said. "This is his `pied-a-terre'."

Her eyebrows couldn't go any higher than they already were. She waited until they were alone in the elevator to speak.

"Mulder, what's going on? I thought we were done with this case."

"We are. He offered the use of this place to us. He said he was prescribing two days of recuperation for you, and would call Skinner himself to tell him so."

She didn't think that this was the sign she'd been waiting for. This was Mulder taking care of his partner. That wasn't necessarily bad, but not what she'd expected, or, if she'd admit it, what she'd hoped.

Scully's lips thinned and her eyes narrowed. "We can't accept this, Mulder. It's not right."

"Why not?"

"What did you say to Dr. Wieder?" Scully asked suspiciously.

"Honestly, nothing at all. He thought of this on his own. He wouldn't take no for an answer. I thought we should accept his offer. Why? Is there something you need to get home to?"

"Well, there's work," she said.

To Scully's amazement, Mulder replied, "It'll keep. I agree with Dr. Wieder, you need some down time."

She bristled a little at this, as he thought she might. "I'm fine, Mulder."

"Yes, I know you are," Mulder said patiently. "I'm not trying to say you're unfit to work. We've both been through worse. But it takes a toll, Scully."

An unexpectedly personal reply from Mulder. He didn't admit to weakness any more easily than she. Their most recent trip to California still loomed large in her memory. Maybe he wanted this for himself as well, but couldn't say it. Well, she could take care of her partner, too.

"Consider it a thank you -- a reward for successful completion of the case," he added.

"I'm not sure I'd call it entirely successful," Scully said. "No one came out of it unscathed."

"I know, Scully. Nan Wieder and her father are dead, despite our best efforts. Dr. Wieder has that to deal with as well as the underlying cause of their deaths. But we saved him, and I think he's a decent man, and a good doctor. And we saved his daughter. That's something to be happy about."

It was a decent outcome, better than some of their cases, but Mulder was happiest because Scully seemed to have escaped permanent injury. Happy, and amazed that she hadn't immediately claimed it was hysterical blindness or some other perfectly rational scientific explanation.

"You're right, Mulder," Scully said. Another amazement. "I guess I should look on the bright side." Her expression and tone belied her words, and Mulder wished he could do something to change that.

Scully reflected that this was one of the few cases lately during which Mulder had sustained no injuries, definitely a plus. Viewed in that light, the outcome was better than she could have expected, really. She couldn't be ecstatic, but she could deal.

"Okay," she said as the elevator doors opened.

"Okay?" Mulder asked, surprised. He'd expected more of an argument. "Really?"

Scully could see how happy her answer had made him.

"Dr. Wieder didn't really call Skinner, did he?" she asked as Mulder unlocked the door.

"No, but he did offer. I told him I'd accept his offer on condition that he take his daughter and leave town for a while -- sort of a `physician, heal thyself' trip."

"Very thoughtful, Mulder," she said. "And not a bad idea, really. Do you know where he planned to go?"

"Washington, DC," Mulder replied.

"You're not serious."

"Sure. I gave them your apartment keys," Mulder said. Scully's face was so dismayed he had to laugh. "Just kidding, Scully." After a moment, he added, "I gave them mine."

Scully did laugh at that. "A very fair trade, I'm sure."

Mulder opened the door and let Scully enter first.

The apartment was larger than she'd expected to see. A `pied-a-terre' called to mind a studio or one-bedroom, used only when work or fatigue prevented the doctor from driving across the Golden Gate to his home. This apartment would have housed his family comfortably, if not as spaciously as their home.

There were defined spaces for the living and dining room but both opened onto the kitchen to give the place an open feel. It was obviously used for entertaining from time to time. Scully was glad to note that there were two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. They were both tastefully, if rather impersonally, furnished.

The only place that showed who lived there was a small alcove that evidently served the doctor as his office, filled with a massive rolltop desk. There was a picture of the family on the upper shelf, a duplicate of the one Peattie had cut up at the house. Scully felt a fresh pang of sadness for the doctor.

They stood awkwardly in the living room. The apartment was very quiet. Not even faint traffic noises reached them. Scully tried to think of something to say while avoiding Mulder's eyes.

On the counter, she spied a note imprinted with Dr. Wieder's name welcoming them and encouraging them to make themselves at home. Mulder read the note over her shoulder, his proximity making her a little uneasy, though when he moved away she felt disappointed rather than relieved.

Mulder inspected the refrigerator. "Hey Scully, want to eat in or out?" He opened the door for her inspection. Beer, wine, soft drinks, cheeses and fresh fruits awaited them. On the counter was a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.

"I don't think we should stay here," Scully said.

Silence while Mulder tried to work out what she meant. Was it the place, or the idea of spending time alone with him?

"Okay," he said, though his expression said otherwise. "Where would you like to go?" <Please don't say the airport, Scully. I don't think I can do this any more.>

"I don't think we should stay here at all," she said. "I don't feel right about it."

"Why?" Mulder asked, still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but doing his best not to second-guess her.

Scully gestured around, unable to say it. Her eyes rested on the family photograph.

Mulder's eyes followed hers. He got it. "Yeah," he agreed. "Let's leave a note for the good doctor, and we'll go somewhere else."

"Somewhere else" proved problematical. It wasn't exactly high tourist season, but San Francisco was a popular destination, and not knowing the city well made it all the more challenging. They rejected the big hotels or anything in the city center out of hand. They could see some small motor courts but they looked even seedier than their usual accommodations.

The more they drove around, the more unnerved Scully got. Though she didn't generally believe in signs, the day hadn't started out well and didn't seem to be improving.

"We're running out of city," she said lightly. "If we keep going this way, we'll end up in the Bay."

"Have a little faith, Scully," Mulder said as he nosed the car down another impossibly steep hill.

"Maybe we should just go home," she said softly, reluctantly. No wonder they never got anywhere. It was road block after road block.

Mulder's jaw had a set look to it. "No, Scully. You need this. I need this."

There is was again, Mulder admitting he needed a little down time. She tried to keep it light. "So we're going to relax, dammit, like it or not?"

"Something like that," Mulder concentrated on the traffic. It was getting on toward rush hour. This was worse than Boston. At least most of the streets were level there.

"Time was you had to be pried out of the office with a crowbar," Scully commented, trying not to wince as they narrowly avoided a cable car.

"Well, maybe I've changed."

Scully put a cool hand on Mulder's forehead and he resisted the impulse to close his eyes and lean into her touch. But he didn't dare take his eyes off the road.

"You don't feel feverish. Did Skinner threaten you?"

"Nope, this was all my own idea," he said. "I have to confess, I told the doctor we were going to stick around for a few days and that's when he offered me the place. It seemed like a good idea at the time." It seemed like a better idea now, he thought, but didn't say. He'd already lured Scully into one haunted house, and that hadn't ended up very well.

"It was," Scully said. "It still is. So let's get busy and get relaxing, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am, Captain Scully. Must be your Naval upbringing."

"You leave my navel out of this, Mulder," Scully shot back. Mulder was so surprised he couldn't think of a thing to say. Luckily at the moment, a sign appeared.

"Hotel to starboard, Scully," he said.

"That's port, Mulder." She could see a vacancy sign a half block away.

"Cover me." He jumped out of the car and Scully slid over to take the wheel. There was no place to park but by the time she'd circled the block Mulder was back on the sidewalk.

"We have a parking pass for the garage over there," he said. "We're in Tourist Central, Scully. Within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf, I'm told, among other exciting attractions."

"How convenient," Scully said as she parked the car. "And we do have rooms?"

"It's sort of good news/bad news," he said, getting their bags out of the car. "They have a vacancy, but it's only one room. One bed and a fold-out couch."

"We've had to share a room before," Scully said. She would not think about how this could be different.

"Yeah, but --" How could he put this? Oh hell, he might as well say what he felt. "I'd rather it was by choice than by necessity," he said.

"I won't make you share the bed with me if you don't want to," Scully said sweetly, taking her bags from Mulder and heading for the elevator.

The hotel was small and the decor looked recently updated. Their room was nice enough. Overall, it was a cut above the usual FBI approved accommodations.

Showing no hesitation at all, Mulder flopped down on the bed and flipped on the TV, simultaneously sorting through the brochures left on the bedside table.

"Hey Scully, there's a Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum nearby."

"Isn't that a little `been there, done that' for us?" Scully asked, emerging from her inspection of the bathroom, which sadly had no bathtub. "I'd rather go find some dinner. How does a walk-away crab cocktail sound?"

"A little scary," Mulder said. "Certainly worthy of Ripley's."

Scully grinned. "I have a better idea. Let's go to Little Italy."

"Tired of San Francisco already?"

"No, it's here in --" she started to explain, and then stopped and glared at him.

"Want to change first?" Mulder asked. They still wore their suits.

"Into what? I didn't bring any casual clothes. I wasn't expecting to take a vacation," Scully said.

"Yeah, hadn't thought about that," Mulder said. "Maybe later I'll buy you a tee shirt from Ripley's."

"Only if they have a Flukeman one."

They took a cab at Scully's suggestion. "We'll never find a parking place within walking distance," she said.

They were on their own time now, and she should be able to relax. She couldn't just turn off her brain, though. She continued to ruminate on the case as they rode to North Beach.

"It's the arrogance of the healer," she said. "The healer is always right. I meant it when I said I might make the same call that Dr. Wieder did. `First, do no harm'. Sometimes the treatment does more harm than good. But was the right decision made in this case? If you aren't the one there, if you aren't the one making the assessment, is it fair to judge the one who did?"

"I think it's one of those things that we can't know," said Mulder. "There's a chance Peattie might have been able to save his daughter, but she'd have died long before he could have gotten to her."

"And if she hadn't left home at all, she'd likely not have been in an accident," Scully mused. "Do you believe in fate, Mulder?"

"I believe in everything, Scully," Mulder said with a smile. "You know that."

"Do you have to believe in magic for the magic to work?" Scully thought of her blindness. She hadn't known what Peattie was doing at the time. Or was the suggestion of danger enough? Had he somehow tapped into her fears? She didn't want to think of herself as that malleable, but the alternative...

"Scully," Mulder said, "stop thinking about it."

"So now you're a mind reader?" Scully asked.

"No, I just know my partner really, really well."

"Speaking of arrogance..." Scully said with a small smile. "Though I guess I can be tarred with that same brush."

"Only when I first met you," Mulder said. "'The answers are out there. You just have to know where to look.' Do you still think so?"

"Yes," Scully said without hesitation. "But maybe I've got different ideas about where `out there' the answers are."

"Oh be still, my heart," Mulder said, laying a hand on his chest.

At Scully's request, the taxi let them off near Green Street and Columbus. Mulder paid off the driver and she caught at his hand as he turned back toward her. Their fingers curled together as though this was an everyday occurrence for them.

Despite her misgivings, spending some personal time with Mulder made her happy. Maybe she was still experiencing the euphoria of having escaped death or serious injury, but it was more than that.

Even though it was early spring and the air was misty, the temperatures were mild and many other people were walking along, choosing amongst the many taverns and restaurants beckoning them with lights, warmth, and music. It was like being at a street party. Under other circumstances she might find the cacophony and the neon lights distracting but tonight she reveled in them. All of her senses seemed heightened. She was alive, Mulder was alive, and they were together.

They passed a long line of people waiting to get into Club Fugazi. Scully tugged on Mulder's hand and made him look at the poster outside, depicting a woman with an outsized hat, decorated with the skyline of the city. "Beach Blanket Babylon," the poster proclaimed.

Mulder looked at Scully, looked at the line to get in, and back at the poster, shaking his head. "Sounds too much like the Ice Capades to me," he said, pulling Scully away.

"You're safe, Mulder, it's likely sold out," she said. "But next time the revue comes to DC, I'll take you. You need to be open to new experiences."

"If I go, and I'm not saying I would, you'd owe me," Mulder said with a leer. "What'll you give me if I say yes?"

"What do you want?" Scully asked. They stood facing each other in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at each other. "Or are you going to make me guess?"

After a moment, Mulder leaned forward. He whispered in her ear, "I'll let you surprise me." He stayed right where he was for a long moment, his breath warming her ear. All she had to do was turn a little...

"Excuse me, are you in line?" a woman asked at her other shoulder.

"No!" Mulder said emphatically, and pulled a laughing Scully down the sidewalk.

Scully led them to a restaurant she remembered from her student days. It was busy but they only had to wait a few minutes for a table upstairs. From their vantage point they could see all of Green Street and the wider vista of city skyline beyond that.

"You like it here," Mulder said, watching her gaze on the street scene below.

Scully nodded. "It's an exciting city. I went to school in Berkeley, just across the Bay. I could have ended up working with Dr. Wieder, but I went to Georgetown instead." She shook her head. No more thinking about it, she told herself sternly. She went on. "Lots of history here, though not as old as back East. Do you know, San Francisco used to be called `Baghdad by the Bay'?"

"No, but I've heard of Carol Doda," he said.

"Why am I not surprised?" Scully rolled her eyes. "You probably also know that San Francisco has one of the few employee-owned strip clubs."

"I thought knowing arcane facts about places was my department," Mulder said, impressed.

"I have to give you a run for your money once in a while," she said.

"Oh you do, Scully," he said. "You do."

Mulder blanched when the antipasti plate appeared with marinated calimari, and he refused to eat the tentacle Scully offered him. "Think of it as revenge," she said, but he'd have none of it.

They shared a bottle of wine and shared bites of their entrees. They talked about everything but work. She'd been afraid they'd have nothing to talk about. It was different, but nice.

Diners came and went at other tables, but they lingered on. Scully ordered cannoli for dessert.

Watching Scully eat the cannoli was a tantalizing experience. First she picked it up with her fingers and licked the creamy marscapone spilling out of one end, then took a delicate nibble of the crisp shell. She closed her eyes and licked her lips after the first mouthful. Mulder thought he'd go insane watching her. She continued to alternate licks and bites until the pastry was gone, then licked her fingertips.

There was another cannoli on the plate, God help him. Scully offered it to him.

He shook his head. "You have it," he said, clearing his throat. "I'll just enjoy the view."

She looked at him with mischief in her eyes. Teasing Mulder was very enjoyable. "I don't know what's better: anticipating that taste, or tasting it."

He wasn't sure either, but he really hoped he was going to find out. If he was reading her right, the signs pointed to yes.

It was all too good. She'd heard it said that one ate with one's eyes as much as with taste and smell, and Mulder's enjoyment of her enjoyment added a new dimension for her. She started to pick up the pastry, but set it back down and turned to him. "Mulder, if you had to give up one of your senses, which one would you choose?" she asked.

Once again, Scully surprised him. Her question was totally unexpected under the current circumstances. But if Scully was now ready to talk, he would listen. Hadn't he wanted this, for Scully to turn to him? He took her question as seriously as it was meant.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I don't even want to imagine a situation where I'd have to. Maybe it's best that we aren't usually given a choice."

"No, really," she said. "I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Obviously, I wouldn't choose to lose any of my senses, but if I was forced to, I think that it might be sight."

"Why?" Mulder asked. He tried to put himself in Scully's shoes. Not to be able to see her face, to watch the changes in her eyes...no. He couldn't make that choice.

"You can hear subtleties in people's voices that aren't always apparent in their appearance," she said. "Remember what Gibson said about people saying one thing and thinking another? That's true of faces and voices, too."

"Yeah, I can understand that," Mulder conceded. "What about touch? Or sense of smell or taste? If you're talking about still being able to function, and in a way that most people wouldn't know you were impaired, those might be better choices."

"I'm not talking so much about impairment as what I'd be able to live without," she said. "I'm sure you've read the studies about babies who've not done well developmentally due to lack of contact with their mothers or other human touch. I think it's true for adults too. I'm thinking more about the quality of life than the functions of life. If I couldn't see, I wouldn't be able to do the job I do now, but I'd still be able to read, and write, and do a lot of other things. I think I'd still be able to enjoy life."

"I think there's a difference between never having experienced touch -- giving and receiving -- and losing the ability, same as other senses," Mulder replied.

"Are you saying you don't miss what you've never had?" Scully asked.

"No, not at all. I think that they're both equally bad, though for different reasons. As to losing something you've had and how that affects you, I think you can choose, to a certain extent."

"You mean, glass half-empty or half-full? Scully asked. "That's a bit of an over-simplification, but I guess it works. It's not what life throws at you, but how you deal with it."

"Exactly," Mulder said. "I think you've been thinking about this more than just recently."

"I think about it a lot," Scully confessed. "Do you remember once I asked you if you'd ever thought about dying?" Mulder nodded. "When I was ill, I had to reconcile myself to loss. I did lose my sense of smell and taste for a while. I feared I'd lose my sight and other senses as well. I tried to reconcile myself to that. I tried to bargain. You know, `I can live without smelling or tasting my food if'...well, you get the picture."

He did. He also saw the evening rapidly going south and he had no clue how to rescue it. This was an important conversation for Scully, and he didn't want to belittle it. He recognized that talking about it at all was a big step. He'd missed the opportunity before, he wasn't going to miss it again.

"But losing your sight wasn't anything you could plan for," he said gently.

Scully shook her head. "How could I? I barely believed that Peattie could do what he did. And until you showed me the poppet, I had no idea. It happened so fast..."

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," he said. He closed his eyes and replayed the moment he arrived at the cabin. So many times he'd barely gotten there in time. He never thought much about losing a part of himself, except where Scully was concerned.

"It wasn't your fault, Mulder," she said softly. "Never believe that I think that."

"Losing you is losing a part of myself," he said. "I've always seen it that way, almost from the beginning. Anything else is negotiable."

Scully closed her eyes briefly and she uttered a quiet, pained, "Mulder..."

"It's okay," he said. "I just don't ever want to go a day without seeing you, or talking to you, or touching you. The best days are when I get to do all of them." He smiled at her. "When you talk about losing a part of yourself, and I apply it to my own situation, it's how I think about it. In terms of not being able to touch you, or hear you, or see you."

He reached for her hand. "I don't think I could give up any of those," he said, and raised her fingers to his lips.

"That's what I meant, too," she said, surprising the hell out of him. "I thought about what it would be like to never see you again -- but the thought of not being able to hear you or touch you is much worse." She took his hand in both of hers and held it to her cheek. "If I was supposed to learn something from this case, maybe that's what I learned."

They looked at each other without speaking. Finally, Mulder said, "Let's take that last cannoli to go."

There were several cabs along the street waiting for fares. Mulder approached the first one in line.

"You want the tour?" The driver asked. "San Francisco by Night?"

Mulder looked to Scully. "You want to?" She nodded. She was not delaying the inevitable; she wanted to enjoy the feeling of anticipation a while longer.

It started out innocently enough. The driver took them to all the fabled areas: The Barbary Coast, Haight-Ashbury, Lombard Street, the Castro. He had something to say about all of them, a practiced patter. But his passengers were more interested in sights of a more personal nature.

They'd just been holding hands. Scully occasionally leaned across Mulder to point something out. He drank in her scent and brushed his lips against her cheek as she sat back again. She smiled up at him, smoothing the hair at his temple. He cupped her cheek, letting his thumb caress her lips. She leaned into his hand, closing her eyes for a moment. He took the opportunity to brush her lips with his.

The view outside the windows was forgotten as they discovered more interesting territory.

The honking of the cab's horn broke the spell. Scully looked up, dazzled by the lights of Fisherman's Wharf. They were at a standstill, waiting with other cars for the lights to change. Shoals of pedestrians surged around the cars.

Scully leaned forward to tell the driver, "We want to get out here."

"You don't want the rest of the tour?" he asked.

"No, but we'll pay for the whole thing," Mulder chimed in.

The driver shook his head. He'd noticed they weren't paying much attention to him anyway, or the sights he'd pointed out to them. He shrugged. They'd been better behaved than some of his passengers.

"We're within walking distance of our hotel," Scully said.

"You didn't stop for Ripley's?" Mulder teased.

"No, I wanted to show you something else," Scully said. She tugged him toward the water.

A lot had changed since her last visit, but after a little walking they found what she'd hoped for: an unobstructed view of the Bay.

In the distance, the Golden Gate spanned the dark water to the twinkling lights of the shore beyond. A big ocean liner slid slowly past, on its way under the bridge and to the wider sea beyond.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she asked.

"Beautiful," he agreed, but he was looking at Scully. The lights reflected in her eyes as she gazed up at him and smiled. He had to kiss her again.

"I think it's time to go back to the hotel," she said huskily when he released her.

It took a little while to walk back through the crowds and confusion of the Wharf. Mulder kept close by her, his steadying hand keeping her close. They didn't speak.

They were quiet in the elevator, too. Mulder didn't try to guess what Scully was thinking and feeling. The way she clutched his hand told him that her feelings approximated his: anticipation, mixed with trepidation.

Mulder's hands fumbled a little with the key card. Scully's hand steadied him and at last the door opened.

They stepped in, and the door closed behind them with a soft whoosh and a click, and they were alone together.

The light from outside was the only illumination in the room. Mulder took a few steps away from Scully to turn the bedside light on. It didn't work. Even the little bedside clock was dark.

From where she stood by the door, Scully found the wall switch and the bedside light came on. The numbers on the clock remained dark. Mulder picked up the clock and shook it gently.

"We don't have to be anywhere tomorrow, do we?" Scully asked.

"No," Mulder said.

"Then don't worry about the clock. It's not important." She hadn't moved from the door.

Mulder stood up. Broken or not, the clock wasn't going to help with his timing, which he felt he'd blown somehow. Maybe they'd needed the city to work its magic to be more at ease with each other. Maybe Scully had just been delaying the moment when she turned him down. If he could just touch her, he'd be able to figure it out. He wanted to touch her but somehow couldn't make that step toward her.

Scully watched Mulder. He'd been confident, even bold, in the cab and while they stood watching the water. What was going on in his head now? Didn't he have any idea how she felt, what she was waiting for? She sat on the couch and kicked off her shoes, never taking her eyes off him.

Mulder just stood there, watching her. She was looking at him intently. Her eyes sparkled in the light, a deeper blue than he'd ever seen them. The silence stretched between them.

"What are you doing, Scully?" he finally asked.

"I'm undressing you with my eyes," she said.

Mulder grinned, relieved at the unexpected but welcome answer. "You can touch me, you know," he said. "I'd like it if you touched me."

She shook her head. "Not yet. I want to see you. Let me see you."

"As you wish," he murmured. "I can feel my tie loosening already." He raised his fingers to the knot and pulled it down, the whisper of silk loud in his ears, though not as loud as his pounding pulse. He could feel his whole body thrumming with Scully's intent stare.

"Keep going, G-Man," she whispered.

He'd never undressed so slowly and deliberately in front of anyone before. Keeping his eyes locked on hers, Mulder slid the tie from around his neck and began to unbutton his shirt. Scully licked her lips and he felt a surge of lust, ready to rip the rest of his clothes off and lunge at her. Nonetheless, he kept himself in check, knowing that if this little display was turning him on, it had to be doing the same thing for her. He hoped so, anyway.

He pulled his shirt loose from his trousers and let it hang open as he unbuckled his belt and slid it off, letting it drop to the floor.

Scully could barely tear her eyes away from the smoky depths of Mulder's, but she wanted to see all of him. She let her gaze drift down, admiring the way his lips pursed as he concentrated on unbuttoning his trousers without looking. She could see his muscled torso through the thin cotton of his undershirt. She watched him slide his pants down past his hips and then let them drop to the floor. He wore ordinary boxers, but what was beneath them was anything but ordinary. She could see the bulge of his erection even with the loose boxers in the way.

They were really going to do this. There wouldn't be any interruptions, not this time. No one knew where they were, she was sure of it. She licked her lips again.

Mulder watched her rapt gaze as it traveled down his body. He was as taut as a wire, feeling the blood thrum from his heart downward. He could hardly wait for his turn, but in the meantime he enjoyed watching Scully watch him. Her breathing was starting to come in shorter bursts, and she kept licking her lips. He couldn't wait to lick them himself, among other things.

He shrugged his shirt off his shoulders and threw it on the couch. He stepped out of his pants and shoes, grateful that he'd been wearing loafers. Now, he was sure, he looked like one of those mannequins in the men's underwear department: tee shirt, boxers, and socks. He grinned at the ridiculousness of it. Socks weren't sexy, and they weren't easy to take off standing up. A sudden thought struck him.

He sauntered toward the couch where Scully sat entranced, and planted one foot next to her. "Take `em off for me?" he asked in a throaty voice. Maybe he'd get her to do a bit more, too.

Scully raised an eyebrow at him but smiled. She grasped his calf and pulled his foot onto her thigh. She ran her fingers around the top of his sock, easing it down slowly, letting her fingers tickle his leg as she did so.

Had he thought that socks weren't sexy? He was rapidly changing his mind.

She gotten to his ankle now and he had to raise his foot for her to take the sock the rest of the way off. As she did so, she ran one fingernail down the sole of his foot, from heel to toe.

He shivered, and felt a fresh surge of desire.

She repeated the performance with his other foot and he was about ready to explode. He backed away from her and pulled at the hem of his tee shirt, pulling it off by inches the way Scully had taken off his socks. A glance at her told him it was having its effect on her -- her eyes were half closed in a sultry look he'd never seen before. Her hands rested on her thighs but her fingers were clenching and unclenching.

He started to ease down his boxers, but Scully stopped him. "I think it's your turn to watch," she said demurely.

He shook his head. "I'd rather do the honors, if you'll let me," he said. He held his hand out to her and she stood up.

"But first --" he murmured, tilting her chin up. He kissed her very softly, letting his lips caress hers. He ran his tongue over them, and though she invited him further, he pulled back. "Just a taste for now," he said, and bent to his task.

It surprised him that his fingers were trembling as they eased her jacket from her shoulders. He ran his hands from her shoulders down her arms and lifted her hands to his lips, kissing each one first on the back, then the palm, then the pulse points on her wrists. He heard her soft intake of breath at each touch. He removed her watch and set it on the nightstand. His hands grasped her waist, running fingers around the band to find the side zipper of her skirt and ease it slowly down. It fell with a whoosh to her feet.

Rather than make her stand in pantyhose and shoes, he rolled the hose down past her hips and sat her on the bed, trying to mimic what she'd done for him. The pantyhose weren't cooperative at all.

Scully giggled softly. "Don't fight them," she said. "Just pull and don't worry about tearing them."

"I think these are a really good argument for returning to hose and garters," Mulder said.

"You would think so," Scully said. "Maybe for your birthday." She was finding it hard to breathe with Mulder's hands on her legs. Very odd phenomenon. She should study it more in depth sometime.

"Now there's something to look forward to," he said. "Though I'm more into instant gratification at the moment."

"Then hurry up, Mulder," she said breathlessly.

He grinned up at her. "I'm already gratified. I'm just trying to keep it mutual," he said. He pulled her shoes off, massaging her feet, then pulled the pantyhose off the rest of the way with a flourish and a toss over his shoulder. Keeping her seated on the bed, he ran his hands under her shirt and coaxed her arms up as he gathered the shirt up to pull over her head.

Now they were even, down to the underwear, with all the boring bits out of the way.

As he'd suspected all along, Scully was stunning. She'd chosen to wear a dark bra and lacy panty set, and her pale skin looked luminous. In the dim light of the bedroom, he couldn't be sure of the color. Was it black? Purple?

"What do you call this color, Scully?" he asked, running his finger along the top of the cup.

"Deep Midnight, I think," she answered breathlessly, watching his finger. <I'm not sure I can stand much more of this,> she thought wildly.

"My new favorite color," he said. "Though flesh is pretty nice, too." He continued to run his finger just under the edge of her bra.

How could he still talk when it was all she could do to breathe? It wasn't fair.

She put her hand over his. "Mulder," she said. "Come here." She scooted back on the bed and patted the spot beside her.

Playtime must be over. Scully had spoken. Thank God. He scrambled up on the bed beside her, and leaned into her ready mouth.

In a second, they were lying side by side, kissing like there'd be no tomorrow. Mulder kissed her eyelids, her cheeks, nibbled on her ears, then took liberties with her mouth. Scully returned the favor, her hands roaming over his back, burrowing under his boxers to grip his ass. She wrapped her legs around him and pushed up against his pulsing cock, which had the effect of gasoline on a fire. He rolled her over in a flash and pinned her to the bed, hips pushing urgently against her as his tongue plunged more deeply into her mouth.

They pulled apart, gasping for breath. Mulder ran his hands through Scully's hair and kissed her more gently. Her lips felt even softer than before. She brushed her fingers over his face, looking up at him with such tenderness. "I can't believe this," she said.

"That's my Scully," he said teasingly. "Always looking for proof."

"What, did you expect this to happen?" she asked.

"The only thing I expect from you is that you'll keep surprising me," he said. "But I hoped, yeah. I wanted to believe."

"That's proof enough for me," Scully said. "That, and the physical evidence." She reached between them and snaked a hand under his boxers. His cock pulsed in welcome.

Mulder drew a sharp breath and closed his eyes, his throat working convulsively. She'd finally rendered him speechless. That was a technique that could come in handy.

She eased his boxers the rest of the way down, hindered by the fact that he had his hands on her breasts, trying to remove the last articles of her clothing at the same time. "Get up a minute," she urged Mulder.

He groaned. "You're not gonna make me sleep on the sofa, are you? I was just getting comfortable," he whined.

"Don't be silly. I want to turn the bed down," she said. "I bet the sheets feel better than the bedspread."

Together they turned the bedclothes down and got in. They lay side by side, suddenly awkward again.

Mulder turned to Scully. "So what to you want to do now?" he asked with a lopsided smile.

"Mulder," she said, "shut up and kiss me."

"I like a woman who knows what she wants," he said. He pulled her closer but instead of taking her lips with his, he began a meandering trail from below her ear to the side of her throat, to her shoulder and collarbone, and then to the slope of her breast. He got the reaction he wanted when he closed his mouth over her nipple. He gave both breasts equal time, Scully's soft gasps and whispered encouragement egging him on. Her hands were everywhere on him, light touches and the occasional tickling drag of a nail in a sensitive spot: over his own nipples, along his ribs, just above his buttocks. He was about ready to drill a hole in the bed.

In retaliation he let his fingers do some walking of their own and he meandered down her side, over her hip, to the apex of her thighs. He teased the curls there, finally letting one finger drift inside. He was rewarded by a new sound from Scully. He'd call it a mew but she'd likely deck him if he did. No more fooling around, he decided. Pulling her leg over his hip, he took her hand and placed it back on his cock to help him guide himself inside.

Contact. "I haven't words," was the last coherent thought he had for a long, long time.

Scully kept her eyes open with an effort. The feel of Mulder sliding into her was almost more than she could bear, but she wanted to see him, to see the look on his face and confirm that he felt the same way.

She'd never seen such an expression on his face before. It was beyond joy. It was beyond anything she could put into words. As if she'd never truly seen him before.

"Look at me," she whispered. His eyes flew open. He braced his elbows on the pillow and cradled her face in his hands and looked, really looked at her, while their bodies moved together and apart, together and apart. He hid nothing from her.

She would never forget this, never. If she lost her sight again, this was the image she would forever see, and she was grateful.

She felt the dampness of something on her face -- her sweat? Mulder's? -- but wouldn't let go of Mulder to brush it away.

Mulder's fingers did it for her. He kissed her and rubbed his cheek on hers. "You're crying. Are you okay?"

She couldn't be crying. Why should she cry? She shook her head. "No, I'm not crying," she said.

"You are," he insisted gently, slowing his movements to brush the hair away from her face and kiss her gently.

"Just let it go, Scully," he said, dropping his little kisses all over her. He stayed still, resting his weight on his elbows. She could feel him throbbing inside her. She could feel him, see him, taste and touch him, but she knew the connection was there, even without the evidence of her senses. It had been there for a long time, maybe from the first moment they'd met. It had taken this last act for her to truly understand that.

She kissed him back, and gripped him closer outside and in.

Mulder shuddered with the effort of keeping still. He concentrated on offering Scully what she needed. He almost withdrew but she gripped him more tightly. "I'm okay," she said. "I've just been so afraid for so long. But I'm not afraid any more," she said, kissing him back. "I won't ever lose this."

"No, you won't," Mulder assured her. "Never." He eased back slowly, and pushed just as slowly back in, rewarded by Scully's moan of encouragement, her hands gripping his shoulders, pulling him into her embrace.

"This is one of the best days," he gritted out. "Not the only day. I plan on more," he panted with the effort of moving slowly. Very soon his body would take charge. He could feel himself starting to lose control...

"Me too," Scully said, urging him with her hips and hands to move faster, harder. He obeyed her and the imperatives of his own body, thrusting more urgently into her.

Later, he was sure that their senses had merged at that moment. The sensations were all-encompassing and he realized, as Scully had, that their connection was much more than physical, whether together or apart, now and always. We live inside each other, he thought, or heard Scully say, just before she gave herself up, expanded into him and engulfed him, too. He wasn't sure who came first, or if it was simultaneous; and it didn't matter. They felt it together, regardless.

x-x-x-x

The clock still wasn't functioning the next morning. Outside, the light was pearly with fog. It muted the morning sounds and gave her the illusion that the world consisted only of this room and what it contained.

Mulder still slept flat out beside her, lying on his stomach with his face half-buried in the pillow beside hers. One arm draped across her stomach as she lay on her back and contemplated everything that had happened the night before.

A shrill sound broke the stillness. Someone's phone. Mulder's or hers? Mulder stirred and muttered something.

It was hers, vibrating on the dresser where she'd placed it the night before. "Scully," she said, her voice sounding unnaturally loud.

Mulder sat up, entranced by the sight of a naked Scully talking on her cell phone. All she needed was high heels to complete a fantasy.

"Yes sir," she was saying. "First thing tomorrow morning."

Oh no. Mulder rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "Vacation over so soon?" he asked.

"I'm afraid so. Skinner needs us back tomorrow."

"I knew it was too good to be true," he groaned. "Guess I should've let Wieder make that call."

Scully sat on the bed. "It's okay. We got one day, anyway."

"I always knew you were a glass half-full person," Mulder said. "Come here a minute."

Scully crawled into his arms and he kissed her, combing his fingers through her hair. "I think I understand that song Tony Bennett sings now," he said.

"Are you leaving your heart here?" Scully asked, rubbing her hand along his arm to his chest and back again.

"Uh uh," he said, laying one warm hand over her left breast. "I found it here. And I'll never lose it again." Who knew he could be so sappy and sentimental? He'd blame the sight of Scully with that cannoli the night before. Though at the time he hadn't thought it was his heart that had been affected.

"Me either," Scully said. "We don't have to report until tomorrow morning. I want more than a half-full glass."

"Yeah," said Mulder, "let's work on being `glass-full-tooverflowing' kind of people."

"I love the way your mind works," Scully said, pulling him down for another long kiss.

"How about the way my body works?" he asked.

"That, too," she said. "But I may need some more evidence."

"Happy to oblige, Agent Scully," Mulder said with a grin.

end.

This was a challenge fic posed, oh so long ago on BtS by Ms. Sallie. Here are the elements:

  1. M/S first time (bonus for slow undressing scene) - check
  2. "You do keep me guessing" or "I'll always keep you guessing" or a reference to the phrase - check
  3. phone call from Skinner or Kersh - check
  4. TV (broken, working, showing movie or not) - check
  5. A watch or clock that has stopped working - check
  6. lacy underwear (Scully) - check
  7. magic - check
  8. a celebration - check
  9. sharing a meal/something edible - check

Hope you enjoyed it! I'd be delighted to hear from you: msnsc21@aol.com

You may find many of my stories at Circe Invidiosa's: www.invidiosa.com/ml/index.html


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