TENDER IS THE NIGHT
By Char Chaffin
MSR, Vignette, Angst
Missing scenes for "Sein Und Zeit" and "Closure" Dedication: To the Seafarers and Truthseekers who still believe...
Summary: 'All this time she thought it was the love of one friend for another...'
"Tender is the Night"
When she answers the door that morning and looks into the eyes of her superior, she knows exactly what he's thinking. There isn't an inch of him that doesn't scream professionalism and yet she knows. His voice is the same as always; a little gruff yet with an underlying sheen of concern - but she knows.
She supposes she looks rumpled enough to have slept in a bed instead of curled up on the sofa. She knows her clothes are wrinkled and her hair a mess, most of her makeup gone. She's heavy-eyed, exhausted, and all of this has to show on her face. Her voice is huskier, even to her own ears. She probably looks - and sounds - as if she's been fucked senseless. She'd have bet money that thought is now bouncing around in her AD's brain as he stares at her. She would not have been a bit surprised if he'd verbalized said thought to her - very professionally, of course. She could just imagine it: 'Well, Agent, looks as if you've spent the night productively, getting thoroughly planked by your partner...'
"How's he doing?"
The voice is concerned and not at all suspicious. She blinks, for one second taken aback. Of course AD Skinner wouldn't have said any such thing as what she's thinking. Of course he's worried, wanting to offer support at a needful time. All of her protective hackles, rising in anticipation of possible defense, immediately smooth out and ease off. She almost smiles in gratitude but instead keeps her expression somber; almost thanks him for not stating his perception. Instead she answers truthfully.
"It's been a hard night for him."
She slept on the sofa because Mulder needed the bed rest. She kept silent yet separate vigil because both of them were running on an overload of emotion, albeit for very different reasons - and she didn't want either of them to make a tactical error they'd regret later on, after the grief and worry and anger had spent itself out. Her best friend was in pain. The kindest thing she could do for him was to stay close in case he needed her... but to let him have his space and his solitary time. Sooner or later he'd need to lean on her and she'd be ready with that shoulder. In the meantime, he'd asked to be alone and she'd respected his request.
She lay on her side on the worn, comfortable sofa, his thick wool blanket around her shoulders, and had dozed in and out all night. She'd awakened often and had listened for noise in the bedroom next door; any sounds of distress, nightmares or sobbing. There was none. If Mulder grieved hard, he did it silently. Scully could understand and respect that ability, for she herself grieved in much the same fashion.
She worried constantly throughout the night and as daylight brightens the living room, finds herself still worried. He's so very alone; in a world where the majority of people have someone related to them, Mulder is truly a solitary man. His father had been an only child and his mother's only sibling - a sister - has already passed away. As far as Scully knows, his aunt had never married and had never produced any children. If there are any Mulders left in this world, they certainly aren't beating a path to his door. He is the last, it would seem.
The very thought makes Scully unbearably sad, and for that alone she curled up into his blanket on his sofa in the dark and cried for him.
For all of her past family losses, still she has family left. She has people who share her blood and who love her. She has a few aunts and an uncle. She has cousins. The Scully family isn't as large as it used to be but the operative word here is 'family.' Scully has always felt blessed, fortunate. How she wishes Mulder could have the same comfort in his life.
Yes, she knows he has her. Forever, he'll have her. She would never stop being a friend, never stop caring about him; never give him up as a partner. If she wants more from him she keeps it wellhidden in her heart - perhaps even from herself - and remains satisfied with what they mean to each other right now, this moment. She's told herself there might be some sort of a future for them, but now isn't it. There are still too many battles to be fought and far too many questions that need answering. It may not be her choice but it's her decision. And his.
Scully had accepted it as she lay in the dark and wiped tears from her eyes. She didn't like it, but she accepted it.
In the morning, with Mulder holding steady, arrangements are made for the agents and their AD to fly to Sacramento and meet with the LaPierres. Later in the day even Skinner can tell the visit has taken a great toll on Mulder's energy and heart. Somehow it doesn't surprise Scully when he requests removal from the case. But she's very worried; this is the first time Mulder has asked to be removed from a case, X-File or otherwise. Still, she can't blame him. The proof of his despair is in his body language, his voice, his eyes. It breaks her heart to see him this way.
She finds herself so angry at Harold Piller that she cannot even maintain objectivity around him. Trying to talk sense to Mulder proves more difficult after he and Piller find what they both argue is evidence at April Air Force Base. Piller is pushing him, leading him, but Mulder doesn't seem to see it that way.
Scully paces the small confines of her motel room, rubbing at the headache brewing at her temples, occasionally glancing at the connecting door between her room and Mulder's. They need to meet with Piller tomorrow; he doesn't know Scully is here. Not that her presence will necessarily make any difference, except to perhaps send a message to Piller that she's looking out for her partner and friend.
She blows out a frustrating breath. It's hard not to like Piller, or to feel sorry for him. The man is undoubtedly in pain, grieving heavily for his son and trying to find any way he can to hold onto the hope that he'll find his boy alive. Scully understands the pain of losing a child, all too well. Of course she feels for the distraught man. She also feels fiercely protective of Mulder's emotional condition, his heart. He's been damaged enough by the years of searching and the myriad of additional loss that was spurred by Samantha's disappearance. She won't stand idly by and let more damage happen at the hands of Harold Piller... or anyone else.
Tomorrow they'll confront Piller with what she's been able to find out about him. She can only hope it will help Mulder hold onto his objectivity. He needs closure badly, but she knows this isn't the way for him to get it.
Scully snaps off the lamp on the bedside table and walks slowly over to the connecting door, opening it further and standing for a moment staring at her partner, asleep on his side facing her. The drapes are pushed wide and there's enough moonlight coming in through the window for her to see how young he looks when he's sleeping, how vulnerable. She knows when he's asleep the lines of his face even out and the stubble on his cheeks and chin provides a sensual contrast to that youthful vulnerability. It's one of the things she loves about him. As soon as the thought hits her, Scully grabs at the door for balance and support.
She's in love with Mulder. All this time she thought it was the love of one friend for another... but it's more than that. It's being in love and that makes all the difference in the world. Tears fill her eyes and one slowly rolls down her pale cheek. How could this feeling be anything else? It's been growing slowly and steadily, sneaking up when she wasn't looking, overtaking her heart when she least expected it - and somehow needed it most.
Scully leans her head against the door frame and watches Mulder, smiling slightly, thinking about all of the times in their past that she felt her heart clench in his presence and thought it was for nothing more than friendship. How his smile would make her want to hug him, and she could never quite understand why. How the rumble of his voice in her ear - whether in person or on the phone - could send a shiver up her spine even in a warm room. How she looked for excuses to hang out with him on the weekends when she could have been visiting her mother...
How every man she'd met over the years paled in comparison to Fox Mulder, and why she'd refused their offers of dinner or a movie - or a romance. Because they didn't have thick, silky brown hair and river-clear hazel eyes. Because their lips didn't form a perfect pout and their teeth didn't flash white in a wide, sweet smile. Because their bodies were not long and lean, wide-shouldered and muscular, elegant in jeans or in expensive Armani. Because their hands didn't feel warm and comforting on the small of her back... not that she'd have let them place a palm in that particular spot. It had always been reserved for Mulder.
It's taken her long enough to figure it all out, but now that she has...
Scully drifts back to her bed and turns down the covers, grinning like a fool, eyes brimming with emotion. Now isn't the time to let him know how she feels. But soon...
They sit at a table in a small cafe and both fight back tears as Mulder reads words in a diary written by his sister, years and years ago when she was young and living in her own private hell. His voice is rough with pain and he blinks hard as he reads, trying to clear his vision enough to continue. Beside him, Scully listens with a heart that absolutely aches for him. Without a doubt she knows Mulder would have given anything to have been able to take his sister's place, to have saved her from such torture. She knows this is killing him.
"Then it just stops." His voice has rumbled into silence and he's looking down at the diary, swallowing hard, blinking again. Blinking back tears. Scully has hold of his hand and she's splintering inside for him, a crack in her soul for each tear he's forcing down. Her proud, idealistic partner, the other half of her whole... breaking up from within. She can't stand to see him like this.
"Let's get out of here." Her voice is low and husky; her hand is warm on his. Her love wants to encompass him, keep him safe; make him whole and happy again. She wants to go and find these men who destroyed an innocent young girl; she wants to rip their hearts out for what they did. She wants to bring Samantha back, bring her back so that she might live a normal life with the brother who's never forgotten her and never stopped loving her. She wants to see Mulder smile again, a real smile with no sadness, no resignation, no worry and no regret.
She tells him to get some sleep. She wishes she were brave enough to also tell him to get that sleep in her bed, in her arms. Instead she lets him go to his room and she goes to hers. She prepares for bed but her mind is so full of Mulder that if asked her name at that very moment she'd most likely fumble for the correct response. She brushes her teeth, washes her face; dons a set of cotton pajamas. She slips into bed and curls on her side, wrapping herself around the extra pillow, wishing it were Mulder. It takes her a long time to fall asleep.
Scully stands in front of her partner and stares at him while he looks up into a starry night sky and tells her he's fine; tells her he's free. She's not sure what happened but somehow he's managed to find the closure he's so badly needed. There's a smile in his eyes she's never seen before and a relaxing of his entire body that tells her he's finally releasing his grief. She knows he'll miss his sister for the rest of his life, and love her just as long. But he's letting go, and she's so thankful.
When he reaches out for her hand and pulls her closer, she goes, silently. They have never needed words to communicate, not really... and now is a good example of that particular phenomena. Mulder wraps her in his arms and Scully lets her body mesh with his, arms encircling his waist, face pressed into his chest. She inhales warm cotton and warmer skin, feeling beneath her lips the living bone and muscle and essence of the man she'd gladly die for. He rests a cheek on her hair and they remain bonded together in the silence of that clear starry night. She'd gladly remain here forever, if she could. She'd crawl inside his body and never come out... if she could.
"Let's go. Back to the motel. We'll leave in the morning; is that all right with you?" His voice is rough with emotion, but calm.
Scully nods and wipes at her eyes, clearing away a few final tears. She smiles up at him and the grin he gives her in return is the one she's been waiting to see. Already her heart feels lighter, freer... and she really hopes his does as well. They link fingers and walk to their car, climbing in and buckling up. In the back seat Harold Piller sits with a closed-off expression on his face and tear-streaks down his cheeks. Scully would like to offer him some measure of comfort but there really isn't anything she can say that he wants to hear. He will have to find a way to deal with his own pain; she and Mulder have already started to work with theirs.
The drive back to the motel is made in silence, and Scully keeps herself grounded to Mulder, holding his free hand, lending him support and receiving it right back.
They stand in the middle of her motel room and they're still holding fast to one another. Scully had unlocked the door and Mulder had followed her in, locking up behind them. She'd turned into his embrace without bothering to remove her jacket; he'd opened his arms and caught her close.
Heart to heart they stand, absorbing each other. She raises her face to his just as he leans in, and the first kiss happens as naturally as can be, as easy as touching mouth to mouth and tongue to tongue. Warm and open, oddly familiar, seeking and gentle, with an underlying urgency that calls to both of them. Yesterday it wasn't right and they were not ready, but tonight they are. Tonight they need to connect, to affirm, to just be more than partners and friends.
Tonight just might be their time to become lovers. Another kind of closure, that's what it must be. It's all right. She'll gladly take it, and judging by the feel of him as he presses against her body, it's more than acceptable to him...
"I love you." The words are whisper-soft, rife with truth and uttered into her mouth as he rubs his lips against hers. They melt on her tongue, sweeter than candy and more nourishing than lifegiving water. The words make her smile, a phrase she'd secretly prayed, for all this time, that she'd hear once more. From Mulder - only from him. It was all she'd ever needed, she knows that now.
"I love you back." Spoken in a trembling, breathy voice that she barely recognizes as her own, Scully curls her arms around his neck and pulls him closer, standing on tiptoes to reach that full, pouting mouth. It belongs to her, now. Everything that makes this man who he is, all that comprises Fox William Mulder... it's all hers now. Hers to love. Hers to protect. Hers to adore and hers to fight for, die for.
"Mine." She doesn't realize she's said the word aloud until she feels the way his chest vibrates against her as he chuckles. Leaning back, Scully catches the delight etched on his face, reflected in his eyes. There's that full, happy grin, with all those lovely white teeth sparkling at her. There's that soft glow in his river-clear eyes. There's the look of a man in love, standing in a warm bedroom with his woman in his arms and the beginning of a long night of loving, closing in on them behind a securely-locked door - if they so choose to pursue it. There it is... as tender as the night outside their window. All she has to do is reach out at the same time he does, and touch, hold... give.
She does. Willingly. Gladly.
Final note: I suppose I could have taken this into a love scene, but it just felt right to end it this way. Many readers feel it started with "All Things", and others think that this two-part ep was their first time together. Whatever you prefer to be that defining episode, I do hope you enjoyed these missing scenes!
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