Chapter 7: Ordinary Town
When they woke, the room was still nearly pitch black, heavy draperies and a deeply foggy Oregon coast morning conspiring to keep the light out. Mulder woke first, finding Scully in the exact position they’d gone to sleep in. He gently disentangled himself, and she opened her eyes just long enough to register him pulling the heaviest layer of curtain back, smiled, and curled herself back up to steal a few more minutes.
He showered alone, quickly, automatically returning the little implant after brushing it, and his teeth, then tossed on glasses, sweats and sneakers. Barely remembering to grab a room key, he heaved the heavy doors open and jogged down the steps and across the parking lot to the lobby. Cookies, pastries, hot chocolate and coffee... he begged a pretty tray off the receptionist and assembled an assortment to take back up to the room. The receptionist cooed over his thoughtfulness, offered him a can of “real whipped cream” for the cocoa (and winked as she handed it over), called him romantic, and he retreated, embarrassed, walking carefully to avoid spilling.
When he arrived, Scully was still lying in bed, but awake, handheld open, scribbling actively. He smiled. “Luuuuucy! I’m HOOOOME.”
She sat up, blankets up to her armpits to cover her chest, and sniffed appreciatively. “Do I smell chocolate and coffee?”
He grinned, and held up the red can of spray whipped cream.
“Oooo!” She exclaimed, crossed her legs and patted the bed in front of her.
With a flourish, he set the tray down and lifted the two napkins he’d used to cover the food. He lay one across her lap, and then poured half the contents of one cup into an empty cup, filled it with half the contents of a second cup, and topped it off with whipped cream and a grand flourish. “Look! Instant mocha!”
She grinned. “I think I love you,” she said, taking the cup from him.
“Only think?” he asked. “Maybe this will solidify things for you.”
He removed a plate cover to reveal warm chocolate chip cookies, scones, and muffins.
She nodded. “Yep, definitely love.”
She sipped the mocha, getting whipped cream on her nose. He laughed, shifted the tray to the dresser, sat down next to her, and used a finger to wipe her nose off.
“So, Sally, do we have anything specific today?” He grabbed a cookie.
“Mmm. Nope. Lounge around, be tourists, enjoy the facilities. Tomorrow we can go to Ashland, see a play.... I think they have Midsummer playing tomorrow evening... or we can head down to Brookings on 101, down by the California border, stay at a bed and breakfast owned by a friend of Gwynne’s described as, to quote exactly, ‘A wee bit eccentric.’”
“Shakespeare, or an eccentric bed and breakfast. How eccentric?” He looked completely undecided.
“Well, I asked. And Gwynne said that the owner has a cleanliness fetish.”
He looked puzzled. “And why is that bad?”
“Well... she loves her friend dearly, but Gwynne said the proprietor has three cans of lysol in every bathroom, and no tubs because they are unsanitary.” Scully emphasized “no tubs” and Mulder took the hint.
“Are there tubs in Ashland?” he asked.
She chuckled. “We can do a bed and breakfast there, or get a suite at one of the local hotels, and yeah, I think one has a spa.”
“Well, that settles it, then, doesn’t it?” He took a bite of cookie, and sipped his mocha.
She nodded. “By the way, thank you for bringing up coffee. Is there butter for the scones?”
“But of course.”
She found, a bit later, that showering alone felt strange. She reached around and felt the small of her back, all was still adhered tightly. Her hair had been braided since the previous morning, and aside from a rough bit at the back from... She blushed, thinking about it. *Must have been more wine than I thought.* She smiled to herself, wine or no, the look on his face was not something she’d soon forget. She took her braid out, washed, found that combing was not too hard with conditioner. She took advantage of the privacy to relieve some of the tension that felt like it was trying to tie her ovaries together around her vagina, and emerged from the shower feeling more human than she’d felt in a very, very long time.
Mulder was reading a newspaper on the couch when she emerged. She’d followed Joe’s advice and massaged a bit of silicone anti-frizz goop through her curls, and it seemed to be working. So her hair was loose, and she did not intend to ask him to braid it for the moment. The glasses no longer bugged her nose, as long as she didn’t think about them.
He looked up over his paper and his glasses and smiled. “Do I still need your attention on my beard?” he asked, tipping his head up and to the side for her perusal.
She looked, then came closer. “Actually, not really. I think if you weren’t shaving the outline, it would just look scruffy, but I think it will do, today.”
He smiled absently, continued reading.
“Martin,” she said.
He didn’t look up.
“You know, don’t you, Martin,” she said, laughing, “It occurs to me that you call me ‘Sally’ all the time, and I always respond... but I don’t use your name nearly enough...”
At that, he looked up. “Need something, Sally?”
She shook her head. “Just trying to get my head around it.”
He folded the newspaper and put it away. “Anything in particular?”
She shrugged. “It just seems strange to not be rushing somewhere.”
She laughed. “Not really. More ‘at loose ends.’”
He nodded at her still-damp hair. “I can see that. Want me to braid it for you?”
She shook her head. “Thought I’d see how it worked down.”
There was a long pause, almost awkward.
He shook himself. “Hey, we’re on vacation. Let’s vacate.”
“Do you even know how to take a vacation?” she asked, laughing.
He ignored that, and got to his feet.
She looked around the room, and realized suddenly that their clothes were no longer scattered. “Martin, did you clean this morning? Thank you!”
He chuckled. “See, now, I’m a good husband....”
She eyed him suspiciously. “That’s funny, because you were a good bachelor, too.”
They collected the most essential of their odd gear—no point in leaving that for a cleaning lady to question—and left to investigate the town.
It took very little exploring for them to head back to the hotel to ask the lobby staff what people did in Yachats.
“There are more hotels than houses here,” Scully said to the hotel clerk.
The young woman at the counter laughed, and said, “Yeah, most people head up to Newport to visit Keiko or head south to the sea lion caves.”
They settled on the aquarium.
A winding drive, where the speed limit changed without apparent reason from 55 to much slower frequently enough that the 20 or so miles actually took about 40 minutes, took them up the coastline on 101 to the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
They wandered the exhibits together for hours, ending in the underground viewing chamber to watch Keiko swim in his large pool. A perky guide explained that Keiko was doing well, and that there were hopes to move him to a sea pen in the coming months.
After they were done, they headed across a tremendously long bridge spanning Newport Bay, to eat clam chowder out of bread bowls at a local restaurant.
It was easier, almost, being out and about, putting on the act, than it was face to face in the privacy of a hotel room. She elbowed him a few times when he got cutesy, but mostly it was just surprisingly simple. They found their way to beach and by the early evening, they stopped back at the hotel to clean up. Asking at the front desk, they got a recommendation to wander down the path to another hotel’s restaurant... moderately fancy, though the clerk allowed as how in Oregon one could get away with casual in almost any restaurant in the state.
Mulder looked at Scully, hair windblown from the beach, she inclined her head, and they went back to the hotel room to change.
Almost all of their clothes had been either bought on the marathon plane journey or found in the closets in Victoria. Two full rolling duffles and a garment bag had come already packed, found in the car when they arrived in Yachats. Someone in the Victoria group had been a good judge of size and cut. Scully found a simple dress, sleeveless, black, ballet flats. Mulder in a dark sport coat and slacks, no tie, not quite his usual suit, the cut was all different, but the effect was appropriate. Even warm wool coats, not as tailored as either was used to, but serviceable and appropriate nonetheless. The necklace he’d given her sparkled.
She frowned at her hair, rummaged in one of the bags, twisted it up into a knot at the back of her neck, fastened with a black clip. It made a heavy weight at the back of her neck.
He considered her for a long moment, almost unrecognizable... the outfit begged for the glasses to be gone, for her lips to be the more familiar color, but the dress made up for a lot.
They wandered down the path together, less than a quarter mile in twilight and evening fog heavy on the shoreline. They could barely see the water, the world in a wash of grey blue and fading light. The Adobe resort was a wall of warm lights and glass a little way from the path, they picked their way through to the parking lot on the lee side of the hotel to the front door, and they were ushered directly to a table for two overlooking the ocean. The restaurant was almost completely empty of customers: just a few elderly couples across the room. A man played a piano with reasonable skill, not so loud that they couldn’t hear each other, but loud enough that they couldn’t hear anyone else.
Over calamari appetizers and a microbrew sampler the waiter recommended, she finally found herself slipping out of the easy playacting of the day, and said abruptly, “Have you thought about what we’re doing, I mean really doing?”
He almost choked on the calamari he was eating. He took a fortifying swig of the darkest sampler glass. *You mean the part where we’re running away together into the sunset, the part where we’re trampling down the walls we’ve put up, or the part where we’re diving into the serpent’s nest? Or the part where the act seems more honest than who we’ve been in our real lives?* He tried to figure out the right answer, failed, and resorted to an odd hand-wave to encourage her to speak, since obviously his mouth was not going to comply.
She watched him, then said, “The part where you and I are going to persuade the enemy to let us adopt a child. What if they do?”
*Oh. That. That’s the easy part.* He found an IPA on the sampler tray, and drained it. “We take the child to safety. Maybe you keep it. Maybe it’s one of yours, and you get a second chance. That’s the point, is it not?”
“And then what?” She picked up a calamari ring, dipped it in garlic aoili, ate it.
“And then we rip the bastards inside out and find out what the hell they’re hiding.” He signaled for the waiter, ordered scotch on the rocks.
She raised an eyebrow at him, ordered an amaretto and cream, and waited until the waiter disappeared to answer. “What’s the baby doing while we’re off gunning down bad guys? And what if the baby is another experiment gone wrong?”
“We can agree that we need to stop them, get whatever children are in danger out and to safety...right?” He threaded three rings of calamari onto the handle of a spoon, and spun them around.
“Yes.” She stopped then, noticing the waiter coming back from the lounge with their drinks.
As the waiter walked away, Mulder covered her hand with his. “Let’s just deal with it when it comes. We have no idea what we are going to find when we get down there. If I think about this too much, I can’t be who I need to be and do what we need to do.”
She sipped the sweet drink, a surprisingly large glass with less ice than she expected, felt the alcohol almost immediately. Finally she nodded, pressed her lips together, took a deep breath, and pushed herself back into character.
He could see the moment she slipped back into “Sally”, her posture shifted, the worry stopped pulling at her mouth, she actually smiled. He felt his whole body relax, maybe the scotch, maybe the relief of seeing her push the worry away and be in the moment with him. *All Martin has to worry about is that his wife just lost a baby, and that he’s diving into a new research project. None of this save the fucking world from Our Government or aliens or both crap. The past year has been so fucking impossible for both of us.* He pushed that thought down and took another sip of scotch and savored the burn that seemed to run out to his fingertips.
Dinner arrived. He had a pasta dish oddly named after the hotel they were staying in, she had wild salmon baked on an alder plank. He asked the waiter about the pasta. The waiter just laughed and explained that the chef was friends with the staff of the other hotel, and that they passed enough business (and recipes) back and forth that some cross pollenization tended to happen.
It was some of the best food they’d had in quite a long time. Scully found herself in rapturous delight over the carrots of all things, drizzled with a smoky orange oil, cooked just enough to be tender and bright. The salmon was simple and delightful. They traded bites, laughing, and the food disappeared quickly.
Mulder found himself telling her about college, in veiled terms, about antics he’d forgotten about long ago, just to see her laugh. When the waiter came with a desert tray, he ignored her protests and ordered her a brownie sundae. “Sally, you know the doctor told you to gain a few pounds.” *Too damn thin since the fucking cancer*. He took a bite himself, then offered a spoonful to her.
She sputtered briefly, then let him feed her. Toward the end, she reached out and plucked the cherry from the side of the little silver dish, pulled the stem out, and held the cherry out to him between two fingers. He grinned and let his tongue linger between her fingers as he took the fruit, just for the joy of watching her react to the feel of his mouth on her fingers. The thought that he’d had too much, that they’d both had too much to drink slid around in his head. He shrugged it off and picked up his scotch, which was not as empty as he’d expected it to be, and tossed it back as he called for a check.
The walk back to the hotel demonstrated in spades that the waiter had refilled his scotch at least once, and that Scully’s amaretto had been far more amaretto than cream, and that meant close to 4 ounces from the size of her glass. *Fucking damn good that we aren’t under surveillance yet. No fucking judgment left.* He’d had just enough to drink that his brain felt like it was more along for the ride than an active participant, but he had enough sense left that he COULD think rationally, he simply couldn’t act on thinking rationally.
Scully was clearly very tipsy, damn close to drunk, and she was leaning heavily on his arm as they stumbled back to their hotel. She pulled the clip out of her hair, shook it out, and pulled her glasses off as they got into the hotel room.
She went immediately to the bathroom, washed her face and took the disposable contacts out, too much wind and sand. Shedding her clothing, she walked out of the bathroom naked, to find him standing right outside the bathroom door, clearly waiting for her. “I was just going to get a bathrobe,” she started, but he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder, put a hand on her chin, looked into her now-blue eyes.
With the glasses gone, the blue eyes, no lipstick, it really didn’t matter how long her hair was. She was Scully, standing naked and feral in front of him. Freckles dotted her cheeks, her hair hung in waves, not curls, and he wasn’t really sure when he stopped looking at her and started kissing her, but she didn’t seem to mind, and the part of his brain that was still capable of rational thought was soon swamped and gone by the combination of the endorphin rush and alcohol.
He shed his clothing, with her help, and still kissing they stumbled down the hallway to the sitting room, where he hit the fireplace switch and they found their way to the couch, which seemed like an awfully good idea since her knees had stopped existing and his back was starting to go from bending over to reach her mouth.
She sat on his lap, straddling his knees, which conveniently put her at the perfect height. He found himself making a study of the feel of her mouth, his hands running idly up and down her back. Finally her mouth left his and she kissed her way over to his ear and then sucked on his earlobe. Something electric shot directly down to his penis and he groaned. *I’m pretty sure this isn’t something we have to practice for going undercover.* The thought rambled improbably in his head and then drowned for lack of air, and he found himself raking his teeth lightly across her shoulder.
It was when her hand dropped down to find his cock that the warning bells actually managed to break through. He kissed her briefly, dropped his hand down to hers, and took it off his penis. He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “Scully, love, there is nothing in this world that I would rather do right now, but not when we are drunk.”
He was shocked at how fast her demeanor changed. She leaned forward, and whispered back, crystal clear, not slurred even a little, “I’m not so drunk that I don’t know what I’m doing.”
*Oh.* He stared at her as she stood up and went to find a bathrobe. Without stumbling or wavering a bit. *Oh.* Then he uselessly volunteered, “I think I am.”
But she’d already disappeared into the bedroom.
Scully found herself abruptly, ridiculously tired. She wanted pajamas and her own bed and a good novel and fifteen hours of sleep all at once. She wanted short, easy hair and her own fucking makeup and to not have to wonder what was real and what was fake and to go back to the comfortable fucking lie already. She rummaged in the luggage, stole a pair of Martin Harrod’s knit boxers and an oversized t-shirt, and climbed into bed.
She heard him come into the room a few minutes later, and debated whether or not to let him know she was awake. She felt him sit on the bed in front of her.
“I know you’re awake,” he said.
*Goddamned unspoken communication,* she thought. She opened her eyes, to find the only light in the room was the lamp next to the bed. She looked up at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She just looked at him.
“I don’t know...” He trailed off.
Frustrated, she sat up. “There are a lot of things I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know how much of this is real to you. I don’t know who I was kissing back there. I don’t know who YOU were kissing back there.” She sat up. “But I do know that not knowing is making me kind of crazy, and that I’ve either had too much to drink or not enough.”
He looked down, then up again. “Who do you want to have been kissing?” The question seemed all wrong, not what he really wanted to know. She frowned at him. He tried again. “Dana...”
“Goddamn it, Mulder. If you don’t know by now...”
“Know what, Scully?” he shot back. “That I’ve been fucking in love with you from the damn minute you walked into my office back in ‘92? Know that if I ever acted on it that it could destroy your fucking career, not to mention be classifiable by our employer as sexual harassment? Know that if I let them know how much you mean to me, I might lose you again, and that it WOULD destroy me? Know that going undercover with you means that all that is just about pointless now and that it is the damn best and worst thing in the world to be this close to you and to not be able to simply bury myself in you?”
*Oh god, did I just say that out loud?*
Her mouth went dry and she forgot to breathe. “Oh.”
Then, inanely, “I wouldn’t sue.” Which made him laugh, and then she was laughing, and he climbed in behind her and held her close. Sleep came quickly.
March 7, 1998
As usual for her, when the alcohol was completely metabolized she woke up tired but restless, and padded out to the sitting room to draw a bath. The wind whipped trails of droplets across the windows and she could hear both the roar of the wind and the roar of the surf intermingling. She stepped out into the icy wind on the balcony, and gasped as the fierce wind whipped salt water into her face, through the thin shirt and boxers. *Now I’m awake.*
She couldn’t stand it for long, and went back in, stripping and climbing into the filling tub. No bubbles, no jets, just steaming water carrying heat into her bones.
She turned the water off when it was up to her chin, and rested in the water, floating with her nose barely above the waterline. Mulder’s confession, thinking about, was only surprising because he’d said it out loud. She’d know how he felt about her for she didn’t know how long, but long enough that *mulder loves scully loves mulder* had been a fact of life like air, not something you talked about, just something that was. One of life’s inconvenient blessings, something they’d been able to Not Talk About because they both knew the score. But someone had changed the script, thrown a new piece into the mix, and she found herself wanting to do more than mouth the words. *I would let you bury yourself in me if I didn’t think you’d be digging your grave.* This was a pretty minefield they’d manage to fling themselves into, and every damn time they touched, it felt like a damn pressure switch.
She felt him looking at her. She wasn’t quite sure when he had gotten up, but she felt the moment he came silently into the room, stopping at the end of the hall, just looking. *Dear God in heaven, please let me find my way through.*
She could hear through the water that he was talking to her, but not what he was saying. She surfaced a little and said, mildly, “You sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.”
“I said, ‘Would you mind some company in there?’”
She opened her eyes, and found him standing next to the tub platform, arms folded on the edge of the tub, leaning. She smiled, and he climbed in, resting opposite her on the other end of the tub. She closed her eyes but left her ears above water.
“I think I’m not drunk anymore.”
Whatever she thought he might say, that wasn’t it. “I always wake up a bit when the alcohol leaves my system,” she said.
“What I said...”
*Ah. There it is.* She sat up, opened her eyes, looked at him, and the words came out clearer than her thoughts. “Mulder, I know. I have known for a long long time. All of it. Including why neither of us ever said it out loud. And if you backpedal right now, I might just have to kill you. Because the rules are changing, have changed, and now it needs to be said.” He started to say something, but she put her hand lightly on his lips. “I have no clue how long I’ve been in love with you, but I do know that right now, saying the words is going to give us a hell of an advantage over the next couple months, because it means that we won’t be driving ourselves crazy when we have to say “I love you” to maintain the cover. This whole fucking thing is crazy and if not questioning who you are when you tell me you love me can keep me from going crazy, then I really don’t care what the hell it changes when this is all over.”
He kissed the fingers resting on his lips, then brought his hand up to her hand, guiding her hand down and away. “I don’t want to hurt you, hurt your career...”
“Shhhh.” She shook her head. “I’ve been kidnapped, had my memory screwed with more than once, had my body damaged, my future children stolen, been hospitalized more times than I care to count, and the only thing right now that makes any of that worth it is you. Not the damn job.” *When I am in bed with you, with my legs wrapped around you and my lips on your neck, I know I’ve already said, “Yes,” to a question neither of us have asked.*
He leaned forward to kiss her. She put a finger on his lips, whispered, “Just so long as you know that it is because I want to, not because I have to.”
He smiled. “I know, Scully. I do know.”
She woke, as she had the past few nights, finding his hands on her. But there was a difference... She’d fallen asleep with one of his arms under her head, and both hands were moving lightly over her skin, a feather touch that seemed to be asking her to wake up. He was not grinding against her in his sleep, but as his left hand trailed from her shoulder to her elbow and down to her hip, she realized that he was awake, and trying to wake her up as gently as he possibly could.
“Mmmm,” she purred, stretching against him, into his touch.
She could feel him smile against her neck, as his hands continued to brush softly over her skin. Now that he knew she was awake, the touch shifted, and he started drawing little circles on her hip, on her shoulder with the other hand, his arm underneath her wrapping tightly around her. She started to turn, but he put his hand on her hip, holding her in place. “Shhh,” he said, and ran his tongue along her ear.
She inhaled sharply, breathing faster as his left hand traced a slow, swirling path from her hip down along her groin until his fingers were brushing against her pubic hair. His right arm shifted, and he brushed a finger almost casually across her nipple. She gasped.
She could feel him chuckling silently against her back, but his hands continued to work, centering in, this hand cupping her breast, thumb on her nipple while that hand... *oh sweet Jesus* and his fingertips rested in her pubic hair, and both hands went absolutely still.
She shifted then, legs parting slightly, pushed her pelvis forward a tiny bit, *permission.*
A kiss on her neck, then left hand moving again, one finger gently working down between, in, and she gasped as he found her clitoris. He found her almost dry, withdrew his finger, moistened it, returned to start scribing small circles on her clit with the ball of his finger.
He seemed to be studying her responses to his touch with an investigator’s eye. She did not have to move much, or make more than a soft gasp for him to know when he’d found that spot. His touch was light enough to feel her labia minora flare, firm enough to find that cord of the clitoral body, she found herself torn between the response and her automatic categorizing of the anatomy he was touching. When his touch settled into a tiny pattern, his other hand began to work her nipple, and she stopped being able to categorize her sensation at all.
She found herself at a plateau, tingling running like electricity between her nipple, her clit, her fingers and toes, her body pushing against his hands, writhing away, looking at the cliff but not going over, until his mouth found her earlobe again and flung her over the edge of the cliff into orgasm.
He felt her body arch, taut, and felt her pulse under his fingertips, whispering incoherent nonsense into her ears, keeping up the movement until she cried out, then just stopping without moving away. He felt her relax into him, breath coming even now, slowing into a whispered thanks as the last shuddering waves finally stopped.
He smiled, then, and shifted back a little to let her roll onto her back. She reached out and tapped the light on to look up at him as his left hand lay still, cupping her but not stimulating. She reached up to his face, ran her fingertips across his cheek, pulled him down for a kiss. When she reached over to encourage him to move over her, he stopped her with a whispered, “No.”
She looked at him, questioning, and he just smiled and said quietly, “That was for you.” She looked pointedly down at his erection, and he laughed. “Not important. Go back to sleep.”
And she did feel sleepy, at that. He stayed awake for a long time, watching her sleep in the soft lamplight.
~Continue to Chapter 8