Outside/Inside

by Oracle

Title: Outside/Inside
Author: Oracle
Classification: XRA
Rated: Strong R
Key Words: Mulder/Scully Romance
Spoilers: Third Season
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere. I don't see why I'd refuse.
Summary: The way you appear vs. The way you are

Comments: Massive thanks to my two fantastic betas, Lib and Jody, for all the help they gave me in editing and improving this story :)


"when you were here before
couldn't look you in the eye

you're just like an angel
your skin makes me cry

you float like a feather
in a beautiful world"

--Radiohead, 'Creep'


1.

This should be perfectly normal. Dinner, a dance and a kiss by her front door. Peter's mouth is hot, inviting, as his strong hands slide over her hips. He tastes of fine red wine.

Scully stands on tiptoe, her hands clasped behind his neck, her tongue playing along his lips. He kisses her tenderly, expertly, with just the right amount of tongue and restrained passion. Perhaps he's taking lessons.

"So, um...when can I see you again?" he asks when she pulls away.

There's a flash of lust in his blue eyes, and nothing more. A rough kind of attraction, a smug satisfaction, and she remembers they aren't even friends. She isn't disappointed. It's only the second date, after all. They've only known each other for three weeks.

She isn't disappointed.

"Next Friday?" she wonders, as he brushes a strand of hair from her flushed face.

Peter smiles, showing his strong white teeth, the laugh lines around his eyes. "Sure," he replies, giving her a peck on the cheek. "I'll call you."

"Sure," Scully says, returning his smile. "Talk to you soon."

She lets herself into her apartment as he walks away with a small wave, and her smile fades, her body droops and leans against the door as she closes it. She kicks off her heels and sinks onto the carpet, covering her face with her hands. Her eyes clog up with tears she refuses to shed.

She isn't disappointed. It's much worse than that.


It's Saturday night. Mulder goes out for the same reason he always does--he can't stand his silent apartment anymore. He's fed his fish, written a report and watched enough porno to numb his brain. There's nothing else.

So he goes to Casey's and sits at the bar. The Stones are on the jukebox, 'Paint it Black', and he chuckles.

After six drinks, he reeks of cigarettes, alcohol and some woman's cheap perfume. He leaves before he can do more than kiss her, but she slips her number into his pocket, still hopeful. He almost feels sorry for her.

He doesn't want to go home, but where else is there to go? There are no leads at the moment, nothing to chase. The Gunmen are lurking in Vegas, supposedly on top-secret "business", but probably at a Star Trek Convention.

Maybe he could just drive out of DC. Go sleep in a motel somewhere, in some dump of a town, and forget who he is for a while. But he can do that in the safety of his own apartment, if he really wants to.

So he heads back home, lies down on his couch and spends the night counting the cracks on his ceiling, listening to the fish tank gurgle.


Peter calls their office on Monday while Mulder is out buying lunch.

"Hey Dana," he says, his tone cheerful, warm, somehow practiced. Dull.

She suppresses a yawn. "Hi Peter," she replies, doodling on the side of Mulder's battered notebook. "How are you?"

"Oh, couldn't be better." She can almost hear his wide, shining smile. "I just brokered a deal with some clients in Taipei. The stakes were high, but it was worth it."

What does he do again? She racks her brain, recalling something about the stock market. "Sounds great, Peter."

"So, how about Friday?"

"I can definitely make it. What time?"

She waits for something smooth and debonair, and he delivers. "I'll pick you up at seven, sharp."

Just then Mulder bursts into the room, laden with plastic bags, napkins, sporks and two styrofoam coffee cups. "I got extra parmesan cheese," he announces proudly, dumping the goods on the desk in front of her before noticing she's on the phone.

"Oh," he mouths, as she puts a finger to her lips.

"So Peter, where are you taking me this time?" she says into the phone, sweetening her tone.

Mulder sits down, unwraps his plastic bowl of gnocchi and digs in, completely unconcerned.

"The Muttering Retreat," Peter replies, "it's a new place down on 12th Street. The Washington Post gave it five stars. A little rough around the edges, but it has fabulous seafood and a great wine list." He tries to make them sound like his own words, but he's obviously quoting the review.

So Peter, do you have an original thought in your head? "Oh, I think I've heard of it. Perfect."

"I'll see you then."

"I look forward to it," she purrs. Mulder doesn't even blink.

He only looks up when she puts down the phone, but his eyes betray nothing. Probably because there's nothing to betray, she thinks. Peter has called their office five times now, and Mulder hasn't said a word. He hasn't even asked who her boyfriend is, or how her boyfriend is. Come to think of it, he hasn't even mentioned Peter's name.

"Hey Mulder, you ever heard of 'The Muttering Retreat'?"

He raises his eyebrows, "As in, 'Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, the muttering retreats of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels, and sawdust restaurants with oyster shells: streets that follow like a tedious argument of insidious intent'?"

Mulder's voice is like slow honey and Scully can do nothing but stare at him, slack-jawed.

"Sorry," he says, dipping his head in embarrassment, probably thinking she doesn't know what he's raving about. "T.S. Eliot."

She swallows. "I know, I studied it in college."

When Mulder nods and turns his attention to paperwork, she realises she can't remember her original question.


Peter.

Peter is a sane, normal name, Mulder thinks. He's bouncing a basketball against his living room floor.

Peter, he thinks. It's a sturdy name, a successful name. Not the kind of name to surprise you, but then again, not the kind of name that makes you laugh. Not like other some other male names.

Of course, Peter's name has nothing to do with anything. Plenty of people are called Peter. Peter and Dana, they're both common names. Peter and Dana.

Mulder stops bouncing the ball and slumps onto his couch, contemplating defeat. It's Wednesday night and he still hasn't been able to dig up a case for the weekend.

He's been scouring the files alphabetically and is almost up to the Ys--yetis and vanishing circus yaks. So far, he hasn't found anything fruitful. He didn't think it would be this difficult. He isn't really interested in bringing down global conspiracies or saving the planet this weekend. He just wants to get Scully out of town.

From the first time he heard about Peter, he's been jealous. He's man enough to admit it, if only to himself. He's jealous, plain and simple.

Grimacing, he slams the basketball against the wall, rattling picture frames and making the computer teeter. Then he sinks further into the couch, putting his head in his hands.

Okay, so maybe it isn't plain and simple. Maybe it's of the heart-clenching, lung-tightening, stomach-wrenching variety, and it goes hand in hand with despair.

To be honest, he can't sleep, and he can hardly look at Scully.

It would seem melodramatic if he were someone else, looking down on himself. If he didn't have to feel like this.


2.

Scully tries to sleep on the plane, but it doesn't work. Mulder's bony elbow is wedged against her side, while his knee nudges her leg. He keeps making infuriating, adorable snuffling noises in his sleep, shifting around as though he's about to wake up.

She is cramped into the window seat beside his long awkward limbs, his crinkled shirt, his scent of aftershave, soap and sweat, and she can't stand another minute of it.

On the other hand, she doesn't think she can stand talking to him. Not right now. Not after watching him sleep for two hours, dwelling on his lips, his dark eyelashes.

She's trying not to think of Detective White or Bambi Berenbaum or God knows what woman he'd been planning to spend the weekend with.

The plane jolts.

"Scu -" he whispers on waking.

He stretches automatically, catching her chin with his wrist. It's happened before, after three years of long flights, but she can't help making a surprised noise, her hand flying to the sore spot.

Mulder beats her, his thumb smoothing over the flushed skin.

"Sorry," he says, leaning towards her in concern. "You okay?"

She nods, looking up to reassure him. But before she can catch his eye he has pulled away, edging out of her space. Getting as far from her as his seat will allow and turning his face aside.

"Sorry," he mutters again.

Message received, she thinks, biting her lip. Loud and clear.


The snow along the jogging trail is ankle-deep, pristine and pure white, except for the splatter of crimson blood across its surface. An unexpectedly beautiful image, like something from a gothic fairytale.

Beside it, a man's left hand lies in the snow, the wrist-stump torn into a mess of tangled veins, arteries and bone.

Mulder stands at the edge of the crime scene speaking to the officer in charge, Elizabeth Farrell. From her tense body language and tone, he can tell she's reached the end of her tether.

"This is the fifth appendage we've located over the past two weeks," she tells him, her voice iced with frustration. "The others were a nose, two eyes and a right hand. Each from the same man, whom we haven't yet identified. The coroner tells me these appendages were all ripped from him in a matter of seconds, while he was still alive."

Mulder knows this already, but he makes sure to nod politely and ask the requisite questions. "Do you think this might be the work of some kind of cult, or perhaps a bizarre suicide ritual?"

Officer Farrell eyes him like he's out of his mind. "Haven't you heard a damn thing I've said?" she snaps, her eyes sparking. "This man is missing his nose, his eyes and both his hands, and he may still be alive. It makes no sense whatsoever! I've been working this case for two weeks, and I've got nothing to show for it."

She's an attractive woman, anger suits her, and Mulder can't help sizing her up. He's only human. Svelte, five foot eight, with quick dark eyes. He finds himself momentarily entranced.

"Mulder." He turns to see Scully standing beside him, her face flushed from the cold, her dazzling hair tousled by the wind.

Two gorgeous women right next to me, he muses. Neither of whom would let me touch them with a ten-foot pole.

"Mulder, I think I've found something," says Scully, in a way that makes him pay attention suddenly. There's an odd inflection to her voice and a strange, hard look in her eye. A wall.

Mulder follows her over to the severed hand, wondering what he's done now. Maybe this case is really bothering her, but he doubts it. The crime is unusual and horrifying, but nothing compared to the worst they've seen.

She's probably just pissed off, Mulder thinks, because she's missing her date with Peter.


He tries to make the mood light-hearted over dinner, but isn't quite sure how. If not for him, she'd be at 'The Muttering Retreat' right now, probably holding hands with Peter over the table while feeding him little bits of grilled shrimp. Instead she's picking at a bowl of salad in possibly the seediest diner they've ever encountered. He's never seen her look so despondent.

"Hey Scully, doesn't this remind you of the 'Princess Bride'?"

"What does?" she asks absently, chasing a bit of celery with her fork.

"This case. The 'Princess Bride'. You know, the scene where Westley finally comes face to face with Prince Humperdinck--'To the pain means the first thing you lose will be your feet, below the ankles, then your hands at the wrists, next your nose...'" Mulder thinks he's doing a pretty reasonable impression, but she still isn't smiling. He masks his disappointment with a cough.

"Ah," she says. "Do you think that's what's going on here? Revenge of some kind--'to the pain'?"

He shrugs, picking at his food now. "Maybe. But I don't know, Scully. There has to be something special about this guy, to have survived the loss of these body parts. It does seem as though someone is testing him...seeing how long before he breaks. What do you think?"

She worries her lip, plucking at a napkin. "I think he must be hideous by now. Even if we were to find him, in time to save his life...would he want to spend the rest of days in that condition?"

"I think he'd be happy to be alive, after what he's gone through."

"I don't know, Mulder. What if you were so undesirable, so traumatised, that people could barely stand to be near you? Just think of the loneliness he would experience." She straightens and pushes her plate aside, her eyes taking on that hardness again. "This is such an extreme case of mutilation," she continues. "I don't think society would ever accept him."

His expression sharpens in disbelief, "Are you saying you don't think we should try to find him?"

"Of course not," she says calmly, stacking their plates for the waitress. "I only meant that if we do find him, it might be difficult to control him. And it may be impossible for him to accept his condition."


The motel walls are paper-thin.

Doesn't he realize? Scully wonders, pressing a pillow over her head, her hands clenched into white-knuckled fists. How can he not realize? How the hell can he not realize, damn it?!

It's worse tonight, for some reason, than any other night this has happened. She grits her teeth as the moans and wails from Mulder's television grow louder, and for a moment she wants to storm into his room and demand he turn it off, consequences and compromising positions be damned. But then she hears a woman cry, "do me, baby, harder", as a man starts grunting furiously, and she can't stand the thought of walking in to find Mulder...doing what he must be doing. She doesn't even want to knock on the door.

"Damn it," she groans, trying to burrow into the mattress.

The worst part of it is, she can feel a spark of arousal growing, heating inside her. Mulder must be sprawled on his bed right now. Naked, her mind supplies, naked and sweating, and more interested in porno than he could ever be in you. Tanned, naked, his muscles rippling as he works himself...

"Stop it," she hisses, climbing out of bed to stop her hands wandering with her thoughts.

A cold shower is the only way she'll get any sleep tonight, so she stumbles into the bathroom and flicks on the harsh fluorescent light. As she undresses she can't avoid glancing in the full-length mirror that hangs on the door.

She grimaces at her reflection. Every mole, freckle, scar and pimple is revealed, even the tiny, inexplicable blackhead at the top of her thigh. She hefts her breasts, wondering how they can be so small in comparison to her hips. An inventory of flaws runs through her head. Legs too short, skin too pallid, knees too bony, nipples too pink, nose too sharp.

Infuriated with herself, she steps into the shower and wrenches the water on.


The man's hand has elegant fingers and a chocolate mole beneath the thumb. Golden skin, smattered with fine dark hair. Smoothed nails. It would be a perfectly normal, healthy, attractive hand had it not been neatly ripped away from the wrist.

"I just keep expecting it to leap up and creep around," says Mulder, from his perch on the stainless steel bench behind her. "You know, like Thing in the 'Addams Family'?"

Scully resists the urge to pick up the hand and slap him with it. What is it with him today, anyway? Is he being more obnoxious than usual, or has sleep deprivation finally pushed her into hypersensitivity and shrewishness?

It's his fault I'm tired, she thinks bitterly. Stepping away from the gurney, she tugs off her mask and latex gloves with unnecessary force.

He slides off the bench and moves to stand beside her, crowding into her personal space. "So there wasn't anything unusual about the hand?"

"Well, the precision of the rip is unusual, given that the hand was pulled off the arm in a matter of seconds. It's almost as though..." She strides away from him to the sink, hoping he won't push the issue further.

"It's almost as though what?" he asks, following her.

She sighs, letting warm soapy water run over her hands as she prepares her answer. "As though he pulled off his own hand, Mulder. I'm not sure it would make sense, otherwise. Then again, I don't see how a man could tear off his own hand, or gouge out his own eyes for that matter."

"What if..." Mulder begins, and she almost groans aloud. Please, she thinks, no half-baked theories until I've had at least three cups of coffee. "What if," he continues, "this hand and the other appendages were somehow detachable?"

"Detachable?" She's not sure she needs to add an opposing argument. Surely the word speaks for itself.

"It isn't impossible, Scully. Certain species of lizard are able to lose their tails to escape from predators, and then regenerate new ones after the danger has passed."

Scully can see his mind whirring behind his eyes, which have already taken on an enthusiastic gleam. She wants to step on that gleam, to crush and twist it beneath a spike-heeled shoe. "Mulder, it is impossible," she says, with more ice than usual. "Human beings are not capable of regenerating body parts, let alone detaching them."

But he's already turned away from her, his eyes on the hand. "What I don't understand is...why would someone, if they had this capability, do this to themselves? Could it be a punishment? A ritual?"

"Mulder, you're jumping to conclusions," she snaps, folding her arms. "Does it really matter how or why he does it?"

That gets his attention, and he turns to stare at her now. His intensity is too much for her, and she feels like a specimen, a victim, an oddity. She feels like the hand on the gurney. She drops her eyes, listening as he takes a sharp breath and walks toward her.

"I..." he says, then, "Look, if we can figure out why and how he does it, we might be able to find him. Isn't that what we're here for?" His words start off angry, but by the end of his question they are soft, gentle. Concerned.

Scully nods, flushing slightly in embarrassment. "Mulder, I think..." she begins, but her cell phone cuts her off. "Sorry," she murmurs, meeting his eyes. He shrugs, his mouth half-curved in an 'it's okay' smile.

She takes out her phone and clicks it on, still looking at him. His eyes are luminous, she thinks. Kaleidoscopic.

"Scully," she manages, trying not to sound flustered.

"Hi Dana, it's Peter."

"Oh," she says. Her eyes ache suddenly, her stomach clenching. She turns away from Mulder to hide her glistening eyes. She smiles to change her tone of voice. "Hi Peter."

She doesn't watch as Mulder's eyes dull and his mouth hardens. She doesn't notice when he ducks his head, turning and striding out of the room.


3.

"He was picked up by a patrol car on Route 24, after stumbling out of the woods and collapsing in the snow." Farrell is clearly shaken, her voice strained with nerves. When she gives Mulder the file, her hand quavers. "This is all we have so far...standard photographs and fingerprinting. Neither of which match anything on the databases."

"In what condition was he found?" asks Scully.

"Conscious, but completely unresponsive. However, he was medically sound."

Scully cocks an eyebrow, "But by the time he arrived at the station, his ear was missing?"

Farrell blanches, glancing down. "Not missing," she says. "He was holding it in his hand. There was a rupture on the side of his face and a considerable amount of blood -"

Mulder peers through the one-sided glass at the man in the interrogation room. "It seems to have healed now."

The man is beatific. There is no other word for him. He is flawlessly handsome, in the Michelangelo's 'David' sense. Chiselled, full-lipped, with startling green eyes and jet-black hair.

He is also muttering quietly to himself, his mouth twisted, his incredible eyes tainted by insanity. On the left side of his face is a small hole, smooth as the inside of a seashell, where his ear used to be.

"Has he spoken to anyone beside himself?" asks Mulder, stepping closer to the glass.

"We haven't tried communicating with him yet, although we did notice that he didn't speak to the paramedics who tended his ear. We've called a practicing psychiatrist but she can't make it here until tomorrow." Farrell pauses for a moment, casting her eyes to the floor in seeming embarrassment. "Look," she says, "if it's all right with the two of you, I'd rather that you conducted the initial questioning and took a statement."

"We'd be happy to," says Mulder, offering Farrell a reassuring smile.

She gives him a wide, genuine grin back, transforming anxiety and fatigue into beauty, before she walks out of the room. Mulder keeps his eyes on her until the door clicks shut, his lips still quirked.

From the corner of his eye, he catches Scully giving him a hard stare.


Scully opts to take notes from a chair in the corner, while Mulder asks the questions. He sits in front of the man, his hands folded on the table in a non-threatening manner, his expression completely benign. The man does not even glance at him.

"I'm Agent Mulder and this is my partner, Agent Scully," Mulder begins. "We're with the FBI and we'd like to ask you a few questions. Can you tell us your name?"

"It's not right...not right, not right..." the man mutters, "...just not right...what's wrong...something isn't right..."

"What isn't right?"

"Jim, it isn't right...got to tear it off...you're not right, Jim ...hate it...hate it all...it isn't right...it isn't right..." the man's eyes roll and shift as he speaks, his body shaking.

Mulder frowns in concentration, leaning forward slightly. "Jim? Is that your name?"

"You stop it, you stop complaining, Jim..."

"Jim, why do you hurt yourself?"

"It isn't right...stop it, stop it. You're wrong..."

"Does someone make you do this? Did someone do this to you?" Mulder is careful to keep his voice serene, completely composed. "You know Jim, you can tell me anything. I won't hurt you. I just want to listen. Talk to me, and I'll listen."

Abruptly, Jim shifts to stare at Mulder, whispering, "I don't know ...I don't know, they hurt me, I don't know..." before he wraps his arms around himself, squeezing his eyes closed.

"Jim?"

"You know...it will be so easy...this only has to happen three times...you'll be the best...you'll like that, Jim...I promise, I won't hurt you...something isn't right...I'll fix it for you... you'll be perfect..."


// From Ancient Greek sculptures and Renaissance paintings, to anti-wrinkle cream and the Parisian catwalk, to plastic surgery and genetic engineering, our species has been constantly searching for the perfect human form. What began as a means to attract mates soon developed into an art form, and has now become a complex scientific study. Inhumane experiments appear to be the next step in this obsession with aesthetics.//

Scully pauses her fingers on the keyboard, wondering if she's gone too far. Her disgust with the experiments inflicted upon this man, Jim, is affecting her reason. But she wants someone to know, damn it, just how angry she is.

She has experienced first hand the degradation and violation of experiments performed against her will. Who knows what was done to her, and to others like her? And who knows what atrocities, all in the name of 'improving the human race', have been committed over the centuries by faceless, heartless butchers like Victor Klemper?

Then again, there's nothing wrong with anti-wrinkle cream.

//Of course// she types, //some concern about appearance is perfectly normal and healthy. But every person, at some stage in their life, is forced to decide how far they will go to make themselves conventionally beautiful and alter their natural state. For some, it ends with plucked eyebrows, a haircut and mascara, but for others it extends to tummy tucks, nose jobs and facelifts. And for still others, it seems that nothing is ever enough//

There's a knock at the connecting door.

"I'm decent, Mulder," she calls.

He strides in, still wearing his trench coat, and flops onto the bed.

"How do you think Jim escaped?" he ponders, staring at the ceiling. "He doesn't seem capable of punching his way out of a paper bag, let alone a highly secure scientific facility."

"Maybe someone took pity on him and let him out. Even in a place like that, there must be one person with at least an ounce of human sensibility." She spins her chair to face Mulder, who rolls onto his side. "What I don't understand is, how did he survive alone in the wilderness for so long, gradually shedding and regrowing his body parts?"

"Maybe his physical perfection isn't only skin-deep, Scully."

"Maybe he was reduced to an animal-like state and his instincts kicked in, enabling him to hunt and forage for food while he was incapable of higher-consciousness."

"You know, Scully," says Mulder, propping his head up on an elbow, "there are a lot of maybes here."

"Well, I don't think we'll ever know exactly what happened or who to blame, unless Jim is able to recover awareness after years of intense psychiatric treatment."

"Or unless we can somehow find the facility where he was held -"

A cell phone rings.

"Must be you," Mulder mutters, closing his eyes.

She checks her phone and shakes her head at him, "It's you."

He gives a soft noise of surprise, sitting up and pulling out his trilling phone.

"Mulder...oh, hi..." He looks at Scully, mouthing 'Officer Farrell'.

She nods, tight-lipped, expecting as much.

"Sure, Elizabeth...yes, the corner of Primrose and Maple? Sure..."

So it's Elizabeth now, is it? The conventional beauty herself.

Scully saves her report and closes her laptop lid with a satisfying snap, just as Mulder clicks off the phone.

He clears his throat, standing up. "Hey Scully, I'm going to... Elizabeth, er...she asked me out to dinner."

She expects him to leave after that but he waits for a moment, as though asking permission. She wonders why.

"Have fun, Mulder." She gives him a reassuring smile, but can't meet his eyes.


4.

11:43 pm

Mulder hasn't returned.

Scully watches the digital clock beside her bed, counting the flashes until the numbers change. 11:44.

She wonders what he'll sound like, making love to another woman. Real and raw, so different to the videos from the night before through the paper-thin walls.

If she could get to sleep now, then maybe tomorrow she could pretend he hadn't...

Or, at least, she wouldn't have to listen.

But she can't sleep. It hurts to keep her eyes open, but it hurts more when she closes them.

She's debating whether to get a cab to the airport when a car pulls up outside, headlights flashing a white-gold arc through the curtains. She holds her breath.

One car door snaps shut.


Mulder's breath billows into the frozen air. He tucks his hands under his arms, stumbling from the car to the pavement, then to his motel room door. He leans against it for a moment, catching his breath while trying not to puke. His throat burns with bourbon, ice and cheap lipstick.

It takes a minute for his shuddering hand to fit the key into the lock, and he accidentally-on-purpose slams the door behind him. He hopes it woke Scully because he's decided to have a little talk with her. Nothing serious. Just a chat.

He shrugs out of his trench coat, letting it puddle at his feet before he staggers over to the connecting door.

"Hey, Scully," he calls, hitting it ineffectually with the flat of his palm. "Hey, Scully, it's me. I wanna talk to you, okay? Scully?"

"Mulder?" Her sheets rustle as she gets out of bed, her voice softened by fatigue.

"Please, Scully. Let me in, just for one second. Just one second, okay?"

He keeps listening as he speaks, hearing her small feet pad across the thin carpet, moving towards the door. When she pulls it open he teeters forward, nearly falling face first into the room.

He looks up and sees Scully glowering at him, her arms crossed defensively across her chest. Her hair is mussed into punk rock chic and she's wearing strawberry-colored flannel pajamas. Her serious expression suddenly makes him laugh.

She isn't amused. "Have you been drinking, Mulder?"

"What..." he begins then starts chuckling again, lurching past her into the room. "What makes you say that?" he finally gets out, slumping into a chair, grinning at her.

Scully bites her lip and turns away.

"Mulder," she whispers, "you smell like perfume."

Frightened by her clipped tone and chipped-diamond eyes, he stands and staggers over, feeling like he's scuba diving across the room. When he puts a hand on her shoulder, she bats it away.

"I think you should leave, right now," she says, her voice hushed as though the words are painful. As though her lungs are filling with blood.

"Just let me tell you something."

She faces him but doesn't look at his face. "Go on, Mulder. Tell me about your date."

He shakes his head, moving closer, speaking right into her ear. "The date only lasted an hour, Scully. When I told her I wasn't interested, she didn't stick around. So I went to a bar."

Scully sucks in a breath. "Look Mulder, I don't really want to -"

"Listen, damn it," he hisses, gripping her shoulders. She doesn't flinch. "You know, I never used to drink, not before Comity. I never used to go to bars. You wanna know why I've started, Scully?"

"Not particularly."

He brushes his lips over hers.

She still doesn't move, standing stiff and upright as a porcelain doll.

His muscles clench with anger, but even drunk he would never hurt her. Instead the anger segues to pain, and tears start, rolling out of his eyes before he can blink them away.

"Don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about," he whispers, kissing her earlobe now. "Don't lie to me."

Scully finally reacts, stepping away from him. "You know I'd never -" her voice is gritty and hard at the same time.

"So tell me the truth. Tell me you don't want me. Go on."

"Mulder, I don't know what you're talking about."

He lunges forward and kisses her again, this time harder, longer, his tongue flicking out to taste her. She refuses to kiss him back, so he peppers his lips over her cheekbones, her eyelids, her jawline, until he hears her breathing change. His mouth moves lower, planting kisses across her neck, as his hands slide through her hair. Finally, her chin tilts to give him access.

"Just tell me to stop and I'll leave," he murmurs, rubbing his stubbled chin across the base of her throat. "C'mon, Scully. Tell me to get the hell out and I will."


He's drunk, Scully tells herself. He doesn't know what he's doing.

But she's wanted this for too long and she can't stop herself. She pulls his lips from her neck and latches her mouth to his, licking his tongue like an ice cream cone, crushing her body against him. His moans reverberate from the soles of her feet to the tips of her ears.

When she tastes bitter alcohol and another woman on his lips, she doesn't stop. When he backs her into a wall, she doesn't stop. When he hooks her legs around his waist and drives himself against her, she doesn't stop.

Her lips swell and ache, her body burning under his hands, but she doesn't stop.

Her cell phone rings.

The sound shocks her out of it, an electric surge, and she pushes Mulder away. Panting, he can't find the words to protest, just gasping and gaping at her. He turns to lean against the wall, watching her with dilated eyes as she takes the phone from the nightstand.

"Scully." She sounds like a phone sex operator.

"Oh hi, Dana. I hope I didn't wake you. I'm in Hong Kong, brokering a deal...did I get the time difference right?"

"Peter, I -"

Wondering what to say, what to do, she turns to Mulder. But he's already at the connecting door, his hand on the knob.

"I'm sorry, Peter," she says, "I have to go."

She clicks off the phone and walks over to Mulder, putting a hand on his back.

"Don't," he says, resting his forehead against the door. "You know how I feel now. I'd better go."

"No. You've had your say, Mulder. Now I get to have mine."

"Christ, Scully," he replies miserably. "I already know about Peter. Don't make this any harder for me."

She stands on tiptoes, craning her neck to kiss the top of his spine. He relaxes slightly under her touch, so she loops her arms around his waist, holding him close.

"I don't know Peter. I don't love Peter. And sure, he's an attractive guy, but I don't really want him. I just wanted someone to want me."

Mulder laughs softly. "Oh come on, Scully. I've wanted you for a long time."

She can't believe he's saying these things. Her throat closes over with tears and she chokes them back.

"Scully?"

"I don't understand. I've seen you look at other women, Mulder. Don't make me list them. I just...I know what you like in a woman."

He chuffs a laugh this time, turning in her arms so he can gather her against him. "What do you mean 'what I like in a woman'?" he whispers, kissing the curve of her ear. "As in, the simple lust I feel when I see a tall, leggy, busty woman? Scully, most heterosexual men would perk up at the sight."

"Mmm," she replies, as he nips beneath her chin. She can hardly remember what they're talking about. "Are you sobering up, Mulder?"

"Mmm-hmm."

He moves up to her mouth and kisses her, kisses her, kisses her.

"I didn't want you from day one," he says, at some point between the door and the bed. "At first I didn't even find you attractive. You were so tiny, you were wearing that horrible tweed jacket, and you'd been sent to spy on me."

Sitting on the bed, he pulls her onto his lap so she's straddling him and starts unbuttoning her pajama top, licking along her collarbone until she giggles and moans.

"It crept up on me slowly," he continues, as she covers his neck with kisses and bites, her hands sliding under his black T-shirt. "I don't really know when I...oh God, Scully." She grinds against him, then kneels and tugs the T-shirt over his head. He uses the opportunity to slide his hands over her breasts, slowly caressing her flushed flesh while stroking her nipples with his tongue.

She climbs off him and he groans, dark eyes scorching her as she shimmies out of her pajama bottoms, then slowly peels her panties down her legs.

Standing before him, naked, she flashes to the night before, when she was looking in the mirror.

What is he thinking? What does he see?

Mulder's hands settle on her hips and pull her forward until she's standing between his legs.

"Scully, you're beautiful," he whispers, his fingers spanning her waist. He rests his head beneath her breasts, shallow breaths tickling her belly.

Then he starts kissing her, all over her abdomen, open-mouthed, with smooth, steady strokes of his tongue. He spins her around so he can do her lower back just as thoroughly, while his arms encircle her and his hands slide down to tease her centre. She arches into his fingers, hissing, as he stands behind her and presses her back to his chest, sliding two fingers inside her.

"Mulder," she moans, unable to believe it, the fact of him touching her like this. His body is hard and hot against her, and his fingers, three now, are smooth and hot within. He groans in time to her whimpers as he pumps in and out, in and out.

"I thought I didn't stand a chance...that you wouldn't go near me..." he murmurs, rubbing his whole body against her, even his nose against the top of her head. "I thought you thought I'd fucked up too many times, Scully, or that I was just too fucked up." She likes the way he says 'fucked up'. She likes the way he says her name, with the inflection in the middle, the rasp at the end.

He finds the right spot inside her, his thumbs stroking her clit, and she twists, gasping, the pleasure screwdriving into her brain. She jerks her hips down onto his hands, once, twice, three times, and then it happens, spreading through her nerve endings, along her spine. Conflagration.

When she can see again, she's lying on the bed in front of Mulder, watching as he divests himself of pants, boxers and socks. She can hardly breathe, her hips pressing and undulating against the mattress. He crawls over her, then licks, licks, licks her neck until she pulls him higher, wrapping her legs around his waist and holding onto his ass for dear life.

"Scully...um...do we need something?"

She tugs on his ass and draws blood from her bitten lip. "I'm on the pill."

He freezes, flinching as though she's struck him, and she realizes what he must think.

"It's for period pain, okay?" she says, rolling her eyes at him. "Honestly, Mulder, did you really think I -"

He pushes inside, pinning her with his eyes as though he's challenging her to say more. She can't even breathe.

It's slow, hot, sweet. Minutes pass and she doesn't know how all of him fits, but he does, somehow. She can't believe the noises he's making. The noises she's making.

Neither of them last long. She goes first, lighting up in a flash and then burning down as he lets himself follow her.

"It isn't about the way you look," he says quietly in her ear, just before they fall asleep. "It's about the way you look to me."


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