She was in the kitchen fixing eggs when he emerged from the shower. She managed to keep her eyes on his face. He was sorry to see the robe, but knew his memories were firmly in place.
He cleaned the kitchen while she showered and dressed. Then they packed a picnic at his suggestion and he took her to Samantha's favorite spot. It was too late in the season to swim, but he pointed out places they had played and relived memories for her. It was the first time she could remember him talking about his sister with a smile on his face. It was a beautiful sight.
It came to her that he hadn't spoken of these events, possibly hadn't thought of them in over twenty-five years. Her own smile grew and she allowed him to pull her to her feet to check out a tree where they had carved words. "Butt munch?" She had to laugh.
"Yeah, she called me that. Typical brother/sister stuff."
"What did you do to earn a name like that?"
"Acted like a butt." He shrugged.
She nodded, "I can see that." He tried to look outraged, but couldn't pull it off in light of her smile.
When they got hungry they fed each other the sandwiches and fruit, then he cuddled her against him as she asked embarrassing questions about his adolescence. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day with both of them relaxed and comfortable in each other's company.
When they got back to the cabin, they unloaded their supplies then Mulder headed for the back door. “I’m gonna cut some more wood for tonight, we went through a lot yesterday. Wanna watch?” He waggled his eyebrows at her.
“Thanks, I’ll pass. You go on and ripple without me this time. I’m going to marinate the steaks and get the potatoes on.”
“You’re missing a treat.”
“Right, I’ll survive. Go.”
He turned to look back at her as he left. She was a lot better than yesterday, much more relaxed and together. And her smile was genuine this time.
He looked up at the movement and saw her approaching him with a glass of ice tea. He wiped his brow and stood, appreciating the view.
“Don’t you think that’s enough Mulder?”
He looked down at the stack he’d made. “Yeah,” he grinned, “I got into the zone.”
She brushed off the block and sat watching him drink, then took a sip from her own glass.
“You don’t trust me with wine?”
“You’re using an axe.” She responded dryly.
“You’re just jealous.” He handed her back the tea glass and began stacking the wood to carry inside.
She said it so quietly he wasn’t sure he’d heard her. He looked up to find her watching him. Instead of speaking, he nodded and turned toward the house with his armful of wood. She held the door for him and when he went for a second load, checked on their meal.
She watched him arrange the wood for the fire and when he was finished, sank down onto the couch and looked up at him. Without preamble she spoke. “Did you ever see Modell as a monster?”
“I never saw him as anything else Scully.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. Physically, did you ever visualize him as less than human, evil?” He sat beside her, not certain yet what she was asking.
After a moment she shook her head, “I’m sorry, it . . . “ She started to rise from the couch, but he put his hand on her arm, stopping her.
“What happened? Before I got there? Did he hurt you?” He asked it quietly but his whole body was screaming for the answer.
“Not, not like you mean. He didn’t . . . touch . . . me. Although I knew that was coming.” She trembled slightly and he moved closer to her. She looked down at her hands then, clasped in her lap. “I saw him change in front of me. Mulder, I know it’s not possible. I couldn’t have seen what I thought I saw, but . . . “
“Talk to me Scully.” He placed his own hand over hers.
“I saw his face, it had, it had scales and . . . and horns. I was looking at a demon.” She shook slightly as though to dislodge the vision.
“Scully, maybe you did see that.”
“What?” She looked up startled.
“The man was less than human. What he did, what turned him on - he was a demon. Maybe . . . maybe he was obsessed with you because you could see that in him. Most people didn’t, maybe his victims, maybe only the person that could defeat him, you.”
She blinked, he hadn’t laughed at her words. Of course Mulder would never laugh at her fears, but it had seemed so real. It had happened the first time as well. She had seen the evil in him. That was one of the reasons for her breakdown when Mulder had finally gotten to her after her first encounter with Donnie Pfaster. She faced criminals all the time, but true evil was rare, even in her job.
“Did I defeat him Mulder?”
“I don’t know Scully. The body is dead; I wish I could say the evil was as well. But Donnie Pfaster won’t be raping and mutilating any more women. That is a victory. You have to see it as such."
“Do you see Modell’s death as a victory?”
He looked away for a moment, then back to her. “He left scars, deep ones. But you’re alive, so yes it was a victory.”
After a moment, when she was able to speak, "That's what makes it a victory? That I'm alive?"
"You know it is, Scully. I saw you lying in that pool of blood, dead at your own hand and I couldn't stop you. But if you hadn't stopped me . . . Scully, I was aiming at the exact same spot on her head - your head." He looked away for a minute, "Skinner saw that. Remember, he asked me to stay after you left." Mulder gave a rueful chuckle. "He wanted to congratulate me on a job well done." He gave a harsh laugh then. "They both played me for all they were worth. I nearly lost you twice to them. Yes, your life is a victory for me."
Her hand was trembling as it caressed his face and she blinked back tears. He closed his eyes and pressed his face into her hand. "I love you Scully."
Her hand was gone as though burnt. His eyes flew open. Oh god, he'd said that out loud.
Her eyes were wide and he couldn't read her expression. "Scully, I - "
"Not now. Mulder, not now, please." She rose and moved to the kitchen, avoiding his eyes. He was as scared as he ever remembered being. What the hell had he done?
He managed to make it to his feet and headed outside to light the grill. He wasn't sure he should. She would probably want to leave immediately, but she didn't stop him. He didn't return inside, he couldn't face her yet, so he watched the coals and kept his mind blank.
Finally he forced himself inside to get the steaks. She had them ready for him though she didn't say anything.
He didn't try to speak either, just taking the food. He wasn't sure he could eat, but he was going to try. When he returned, she had the table set and the rest of the meal ready. He put the steaks on the table and watched her fill the glasses with tea.
"Go ahead and sit Mulder." He nodded and did as she instructed. He put the steak he had cooked especially as she liked it on her plate and took the other for himself.
The food was good, he wished he could do justice to it, but the fear was still too sharp. The same seemed true of her, and after several bites she lay her fork down.
"What did you mean?" He looked up warily. "When you said . . . "
"When I said I love you." She nodded. He put down his own utensils. "That I love you, Scully. I didn't mean to say it out loud, I'd kept it in this long." Her eyes widened. "I slipped once, but you assumed I was drugged. You didn't want to hear, and I let it go."
She started to rise but he caught her hand. "I don't want to let it go again Scully."
"You don't love me Mulder. You don't. This is just a reaction to the case and . . . and the memories we brought up about Modell."
He shook his head, "No Scully, that's just why I'm able to talk about it. I love you, I have for a long time." He released her hand then, "I wish that didn't scare you so." He took a deep breath. "I can take you back to your mother's house. We can just put everything in the refrigerator and I can clean up tomorrow."
"It . . . it would be late. I don't, I don't think either of us should be driving."
"That's it, you're just dismissing . . . "
"No! No, I'm not . . . I'm not." She turned from the look of defeat on his face. He didn't love her; he felt guilty about her, the Modell thing. That's all this was. She headed into the bedroom then without another word.
He sat for a long time, staring at nothing.
When the ice in his tea was completely melted he rose from the table. He though about throwing the meal in the garbage, but instead shoved both plates in the fridge and made his way to the couch.
An interminable time later he heard the door open and felt her approach him. He didn't turn, didn't look away from the fire. She sat on the coffee table, facing him but not looking at him.
"Mulder, you're not in love with me. We're both caught up - "
"Scully." He turned to her finally. "Don't tell me what I feel. This didn't happen a couple of days ago. I've loved you for years. Hell, I'm not even sure anymore where I end and you begin. I'm used to you not feeling the same way. I live with that every day, but don't tell me how I feel." He rose then and moved toward the fire, leaning on the mantle, staring into the flames. He sighed deeply; this was not something they should have ever gotten into.
"Damn it Scully, I feel like we're two halves of one - "
"Stop it! Just . . . just stop it."
He fell silent again; she was in no shape to hear it.
Then suddenly she was charging him, her fists pounding on his chest where he'd turned when he heard her approach. He was too stunned to attempt to defend himself, just allowing the assault. He deserved it anyway.
Just as suddenly she was sobbing against his chest. His arms went around her, supporting her. She couldn't gain any control, so after a moment he slipped an arm under her knees and carried her to the sofa. After a short hesitation he seated himself and held her in his lap. He wasn't sure she noticed.
When she could get her breath, he handed her some tissues but didn't release her. "This is insane."
"Scully, I'm Spooky Mulder. No one's ever accused me of sanity."
She looked at him a moment, then away. "I don't want you to love me Mulder. I can't, I can't handle it. Mulder, I've never been in love, I don't know - "
He kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I even brought this up. Now isn't the time. The talking about our monsters, holding you in my arms last night." Scully pulled away slightly then. "Sorry. Just try to relax." To his relief she did. They sat watching the fire in silence.
He'd been wrong to reveal so much. It had just slipped out. This was the very reason he didn't spend much off-duty time with her. He could put it aside during the day, at work, on a case. But when it just the two of them he remembered she was a woman.
She seemed more in a trance than resting or sleeping. He just sat there, not willing to disturb the peacefulness of this time together.
He must have drifted off himself because the jerking of her body away from him woke him. “What? What’s wrong?”
“You have no right to grope me!”
What? Oh shit, he’d been asleep. With her in his arms, what had he done? His face must have shown his confusion.
"So what," She snapped at him. "You want to just go in the bedroom and do it?" She was on her feet now, away from him.
He sat up then, facing her. "The short answer - yes." Her eyes widened. "Yes, I want to take you in there and make love to you until you scream. I want to feel you around me and under me and over me and beside me. I want to look at you and touch you and taste you." He closed his eyes then to block out the sight of her shock. He let his head fall back against the couch. "Damn it."
"You're . . . you're serious."
He didn't open his eyes. "The eunuch in me is tired Scully. I'm tired of everyone we meet on the street or on a case assuming we're a couple. Then I have to explain we're not together. And I hate it. It sticks in my throat now. It gets worse every time."
"Mulder, look at me." He sighed and opened his eyes. She cringed inwardly at the look of defeat in his eyes. "I . . . I believe you."
"What does that mean?"
"It means you . . . you love me. It's not just . . . just what we've been through together."
That didn't relieve his tension.
"You believe me, that I love you."
That didn't seem to make him happy. What else should she say?
"That's it? You believe me?" He looked away and she seemed to shrink from him. "Fine, good. Why don't you go on to bed Scully?"
She moved away from him and he tried to hide the flinch. Instead of leaving the room she sat on the far end of the couch, whether to be closer to the fire or just to be farther from him, he wasn't sure.
"Have you ever been in love before?" She asked quietly.
"What? No, not like this."
"What about Phoebe, Diana?"
"I've been in lust a few times, yeah. But not in love." She looked away from him at those words.
"I haven't Mulder. I guess I thought I was a couple of times. But it . . . with Alan things just blew up, literally."
Alan? Who the hell was he and why had she never mentioned him? No, not now, she was still talking.
"With Jack, it just kind of faded away. People get hurt, people that aren't even involved can . . . I don't believe in being in love anymore, for me anyway."
"Who hurt you this much Scully? Why haven't you ever told me any of this?"
"No one hurt me Mulder. I just don't think I have it in me to . . . to love, to love a man the way they should be loved. I don't want to hurt you by being less than - "
"Bullshit. You are the most loving, compassionate woman I know. You can't love me. You don't want me to love you. I scare you to death. Fine, I'll keep my distance. I won't push you. I guess you’re not the first person I’ve frightened out of my life. But don't try to spare my feelings with this, this drivel."
He shoved himself up from the couch then and grabbed his jacket. "Where, where are you going?"
"For a walk."
"Don't. Mulder don't leave, not now."
He turned to look at her, not bothering to put the jacket down. "I really need some space right now Scully."
She didn't speak again as she watched him leave the cabin. She sat numb until she realized she was beginning to tremble. She couldn't love him, she couldn't! She would only be hurt again, he was her friend, she could count on him and she didn't have to reveal too much.
What haven't you already revealed to that man?
The thought came from nowhere. Well? What doesn't he know about you? He's seen you after chemo, he held you when your daughter died, he tracked you down in the Antarctic and pulled you naked from some insane machine. He didn't even care that you had these lunatic ideas about demons. You do love him you stupid fool. You just didn't recognize it because . . . because this time he loves you too. Not like Alan, not like Jack, he really does care about you. It's not just sex - that should be damned obvious after all this time. Tonight was the first time he'd ever mentioned sex to her.
That caused the trembling to increase. He wanted her. He wanted her as a woman. As damaged as she was and he wanted her?
He's damaged too.
Where the hell were these thoughts coming from? Yes, he was damaged but it was different with him.
She picked up the ashtray from the coffee table at that and hurled it toward the fireplace. The sound of the glass falling to the hearth left her cold.
She didn't deserve a man like Mulder. A man who didn't judge her, just accepting her with all of her baggage. Hell, a man who took the blame for so much of her baggage.
He loved her. He wanted her. And she had let him just walk out! She had chased him away. How angry was he? Where was he? She was on her feet now, where was he?
She was out the door, she had to find him. It was dark and she wasn't familiar with the area. It didn't matter, he was out here and she had to find him.
She stumbled again. Why hadn't she thought to grab a flashlight? She was near the lake now; there was a trail here somewhere. Where was that tree, the one they had carved on? It shouldn't be too far.
The noise made her pause. What was it? Was someone else out here with Mulder?
"Is that you girly girl?"
She froze, Pfaster? No, he was dead. She had killed him. She had killed him, but had she killed the evil? The demon? Dana, come on. That was . . . the man was dead. He was not out here in the woods. Mulder isn't in danger from some . . . some, oh god!
She was running now, tripping and stumbling. Where was he? Where was Mulder? There! The tree, wasn't that the tree with 'butt munch' carved into it? "Mulder!"
Something stirred, then moved at the base of the tree. She stopped, it wasn't Pfaster. Pfaster was dead. She watched the figure rise unable to move.
She thought her knees would give way for a second, then she threw herself into his arms. "I love you. Mulder, I love you."
He held her as she continued to shake. "What happened? You . . . are you okay?"
She shook her head. "No. I'm scared to death."
"Scully, what?" His grip on her tightened.
"I love you and that scares me. I don't know if I can . . . Mulder, what happens now?"
"I, I don't know. Let's get you inside, you're freezing." He took off his jacket and draped it around her shoulders. "Come on."
She didn’t speak on the way back; her teeth were shattering too much even if she had known what to say. He kept his arm firmly around her and led her to the hearth, sitting her on the stone and taking over the task of warming her.
“Mulder, I meant what I said.”
“Scully - “
“No. When you walked out, I realized it was too late. I couldn’t hide from it any more. I didn’t want it and I don’t know how to handle it, but there it is. I’m in love with you. I’ll probably make a mess of it.”
“I don’t see how you could make a bigger mess of it than I have, Scully.”
She smiled at him then, but it faded, “When I was out looking for you, I heard him. I heard Donnie’s voice. I thought he might be out there, after you.”
He pulled her into his lap then. “And you came to help me anyway, even though he’s your worst monster. See why I love you?”
She sighed and sank into his embrace. She had a lot to learn, about this man, about loving, about accepting him in areas that had always been off limits. Thank goodness it was Mulder she was going to be learning on.
She looked up at him and after a tiny hesitation pulled his lips down to her. She could see the surprise on his face for an instant before her eyes closed. His lips took possession of her then and she felt his tongue, seeking admittance. She granted it gladly.
Yes, this man could teach her a lot.