Chapter 9: In Tructina
In trutina mentis dubia
lascivus amor et pudicitia.
Sed eligo quod video,
collum iugo praebeo;
ad iugum tam suave transeo.
*translation link in endnotes
8:00 a. m.
They woke together Sunday morning, relaxed, truly rested. Scully wrapped a bathrobe around herself and padded out to the sitting room to find a phone book. She had begun flipping through it when Mulder trailed out of the bedroom to find her.
Mulder looked, curious. “Looking for something specific?”
“Churches,” she answered.
He sat down next to her and put his hand on the phone book. “I’ve got it covered, but we’ll need to hit the road soon.”
She looked at him curiously. “Covered?”
He grinned. “Remember Chinatown? There’s this old cathedral there... we passed it last time we were in San Francisco. I remember they had service times posted on the door. If we leave early, we can make the last service of the day.”
She smiled. “But Chinatown... Is that wise?”
He shrugged. “We look really different. And it’s been a couple of years. But I know that it’s important to you, and it’s really an amazing building.”
“I’m touched that you thought of it.”
His reaction was surprising. “Your religion is important to you. I envy you your faith... and I’m not about to be the one makes it more difficult for you to meet your obligations. I may not fully understand why you believe as you do, but I’m not going to undermine you.”
She inhaled, felt tears spring to her eyes, bit her lips and closed her eyes. Some tension she didn’t even know she had, relaxed. She dropped her head, struggling a little to get control, and he put his arm around her, tipped her chin up to look at him. “You okay?”
She smiled, wiped at her eyes. “I’m fine. No really, I’m okay, I just... it caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting...”
“That I’d take your faith seriously? After the distance you’ve come supporting my faith, even when you couldn’t follow it yourself? After what you’ve been through? Now?” He picked up her hand, kissed it. “I want you well, and happy, and I know that your faith is part of what will help you get to that place. I don’t want to get in the way of that. It’s why I’m here. It’s why I’m with you, whatever it takes.”
At that, she leaned into his shoulder, tears running down her face. He kissed her forehead, kissed the tears, saying, “shhhh” gently as he wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.
He frowned over her head as he held her, thinking of how close they’d come to crossing the line. That line. How likely it was that it could, would happen again before this was finished. Being responsible for Dana Scully committing mortal sin was not his idea of starting off on the right foot, whatever his own beliefs, or lack thereof, and the problem started bouncing slowly around his brain. *I don’t want to be fodder for her next confession, or the one after that. Not more than I am already.*
He gave her a last squeeze. “Let’s get ready.”
She nodded, shook it off, and stood up. “Shower?” she asked. He nodded.
The process was not quite as clinical as it had been the past few times. They touched more, met each other’s eyes more. It was... comfortable.
The moment they crossed from Oregon into California was sharply visible in the change of the vegetation and landscape. Tall pines gave way to shorter shrubs, mountains to rolling hills, and although spring was touching everything with rich verdure, the vegetation was less green, the underbrush less dense. The road was not interesting enough to keep Mulder’s attention, but just curvy enough to be dangerous. “Sally,” he said, “Talk to me about faith.”
She laughed. “Can you be more specific, Martin, dear?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, let’s look at it from the Harrod perspective. Sally Harrod is Catholic?”
Scully blinked. “Let me look at the papers that Gwynne gave us, I’d like to check...”
Leaving his left hand on the wheel, he reached his right arm back and fished the black backpack from behind her seat.
She took it, opened it, pulled out a lightweight plastic document box, unlocked it. “Let’s see... Visa, work permit, birth certificates, passports, hmm. Ah! Marriage certificate. No, that’s the legal document. Ah! It looks like we were married in the Catholic church.” She picked up a church certificate, found a clipped set of papers behind it. She started laughing. “Apparently Gwynne has a sense of humor.” She leafed through it. “Looks like a set of leaflets and worksheets... I see. You’re listed in here as ‘Baptized Episcopalian.’”
He shot her a glance. “How the hell would she know that?”
She blinked. “Really?”
“Yeah, Mom did it, apparently, when I was tiny. My father was not religious at all, didn’t exactly approve of it. Mom wasn’t very religious, but she did have me baptized and we did do Christmas and whatnot, although in a very secular way. I think Dad’s family was Jewish, but they wouldn’t talk about it after the war. Our churchgoing was primarily a political expediency, and none of us did much after Samantha was taken.”
She held his hand, he squeezed it back. “So yeah, I’ve been baptized, but I don’t remember it, and it was never a significant part of my life.”
She read the top sheet. “This might make useful reading. It’s about managing interfaith marriage. Might help you play the part...” She flipped through the other paper in the bundle. “Yeah. This is definitely required reading. She’s got worksheets here that describe ‘our’ answers to a variety of questions that a pre-marriage course might ask.”
He smiled. “Keep me awake, read me the questions. It will help me bone up for the final exam.”
She gave him a funny look, and then started. “Has either of you been married before?”
He laughed. “No, but I used to wear a wedding ring at work to avoid unwanted attention.”
She looked at him with a peculiar expression on her face. “Mulder, that’s weird.” She paused, then answered the question on the page. ”‘No’ for me, too, and that’s what she put here. Good thing, too, because it’s the single biggest barrier to marrying in the Catholic church... having been divorced.”
He nodded. “Next?”
“How do each of you feel about your respective faiths? How do you feel about your future spouse’s faith?”
“Indifferent to mine, curious about yours, glad you have your faith.”
She hesitated. “I wish you could feel what faith gives me. But your religious path is yours, and I’m not going to come knocking on your door with a bible and asking you about the Lord.”
He laughed. “Damn. Because you already have the suits. What did she write?”
“Oh, something pretty close to that. Let’s see. Do you feel comfortable with leading young children on a religious path, or do you prefer that they come to religion on their own terms when they are older?”
“I don’t feel very competent to do the leading, and I don’t feel like I have a right to dictate someone else’s religious path... how about you?”
She pursed her lips. “I would want a child of mine baptized, and I would bring a child of mine to church with me, were I so lucky as to have one... the rituals are something best learned young. But if my child decided on another path, I would not hold it against them.” She read Gwynne’s take on Martin and Sally’s answers. “She wrote something a little more conservative than that, but pretty similar.”
“How many questions are there on that thing, Sally?”
She laughed. “How long is California?”
It took them another hour and a half to read through all the questions. The last sheets in the clipped packet were a signed declaration from Sally Harrod that she would do everything in her power to baptize and raise her children Catholic, a signed class completion form, and improbably, a wedding picture. Scully blinked, squinted, blinked again. “How did she do that?” She held the picture up, and Mulder glanced at it.
“I think someone was busy while we were on all those planes...the picture of me looks like one that was taken a year or so before I met you, only I’m not sure how they made the editing that seamless.” He shrugged.
She laughed. “Come to think of it, it looks like one taken of me around that time, but the hair is crazy, and that was NOT what I was wearing...”
He glanced again. “In the real version of that picture, I was hugging my mom for the camera.”
She squinted at the picture. “I think that’s the house in Victoria. I want to know which one of them managed to put this together...”
He shrugged. “Sarah, probably. But I’m betting the boys got her the pictures after we left.”
“It just feels funny looking at a picture that I know for a fact never happened that way.” She turned the picture over. “On August 28, 1993, Sally Dane married Martin Harrod at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Victoria, BC.”
“Just think. You get the pretty picture of a wedding, but you don’t have to plan it. I had college friends who actually went berserk, planning weddings.” He waved a hand in the air. “Totally crazy. Ended up locked in a loony bin, wedding never happened. The stress got them.”
She chuckled. “Planning a big white fluffy wedding was something I dreamed about when I was six. Now it seems like way too much effort. Mom and Dad got married pretty young, it wasn’t a huge splashy thing, but she said that after the wedding, the event seemed much less important than being married to my dad, that if she’d had to, she would have put on a burlap sack and married him in a barnyard just to be married to him. I would rather focus on a marriage than a wedding, especially since Dad is gone, and can’t walk me down the aisle.”
“A barnyard, eh?” he asked.
She slipped the picture back into the box. “What about you?”
“A wedding? I never really expected anyone would put up with me long enough to bother getting married. And boys don’t really fantasize about weddings. After Mom and Dad divorced, I mostly put the idea out of my mind.”
“Mostly?” she asked.
“There have been a few times in the past couple years where it’s crossed my mind.” He kept his eyes glued to the road. “Not the whole wedding nonsense, but the idea of being that close to someone.” He hesitated. “To you.”
She blushed. “And what do you think so far?”
He let out a single laugh. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve worked harder to tear walls down than to build them up. You keep surprising me.”
“Really. And how do I do that?”
“By letting me in. By accepting what I offer. By making me want to tear the walls down faster. By making it easy to imagine living long enough to grow old with you. I feel like my soul is more whole now than it has ever been since 1973.”
Taking his hand, she said softly, “Pull over.”
He did, pulling off the shoulder as far as he could. She opened the door and got out; he climbed out and made his way to her side of the car. She blinked back tears and said, “I’m sorry. I just have to kiss you now.”
A passing car honked, but they ignored it. It was not until the third car honked that they separated, laughing.
She slid back around the car and into the driver’s seat while he climbed in on the passenger side.
They’d been driving for about 10 minutes when he said, “How does your faith fit in with how far we almost went the other night?”
She blushed scarlet, then answered, “Easier to ask forgiveness...”
He frowned, “A little flip?”
She didn’t answer for a little bit. Then she said, “It doesn’t. But I’m not sure how strong I am to resist the temptation, and what it takes to make it “not fornication”... Isn’t possible. Not now, not when it’s the most pressing.”
He looked out the window. “What if it was?”
She glanced at him. “What do you mean?”
“If you could, if we could... would you marry me?” It surprised him, that those words could be formed by his mouth, be heard in the air between them.
She blinked. The car swerved a little, and she jerked it back into line and focused on the road with a death grip on the steering wheel.
“Is that a question, or a proposal?” she finally responded.
He noticed at that point that he had twisted a pinch of fabric from his pants into a point, and forced himself to let go.
“Is that an answer, or an evasion?” he said.
Now his head hurt. “Answer, evasion...”
“Yes.” She was smiling now. “If it was possible, I think I would.”
He felt an adrenaline rush surge out to his fingertips, and wondered why he was still breathing. *Most of the highest level sports events are decided in hundredths of a second. And my life is standing on its head in the space of one word.*
“Really? Crazy crusade and bachelor neuroses included?” He wondered what was controlling his mouth, as his brain seemed to have disconnected completely.
She laughed outright. “Especially those.”
He stretched, tried to shake the buzzing sensation out of his hands, finally gave up and reached over to rest his hand on her shoulder. The buzzing turned into a pleasant hum. His face started to ache and he realized that he was grinning like a fool. He risked a glance over at Scully, who had her gaze fixed on the stretch of highway ahead, but high color in her face and a smile twitching at her lips. He found his hand straying up to her cheek.
“How long *is* California, anyway?”
She looked at a mile marker, and answered, “Too long by half. But we’re about 3 hours from San Francisco, and it’s only 11.”
He reclined his seat, and reached his left arm over to rest next to her. “Let me know when you need a break.”
She dropped her hand down around the steering wheel so that her arm was touching his, and kept driving.
Most states in the union can be crossed back to front, top to bottom, in under six hours. California is enormous. From the California border to San Diego on I-5, nearly 12 hours at freeway speeds, and that is only if one doesn’t get stuck in traffic in LA, or stop in San Francisco, and almost everyone stops in San Francisco, because Sacramento is just so dull by comparison, and driving the length of California in one sitting is for clown cars full of college students and the foolhardy. The drive is, for the most part, like watching paint dry. If one wants view, one goes down 101. But that takes much longer. If one is lucky, there has been rain and a tint of green runs along the ground. More often than not, it is simply grayish green bushes on an unrelieved dun buff of dry grass. The drive from Redding to 505 bypassing Sacramento to Interstate 80 is a mostly flat, occasionally hilly, but always blah stretch of farmland and random industrial districts broken only by the occasional strip mall. It is much preferable to fly into San Francisco, and then, by night, when the endless suburbs and urban offshoots of central California spread out like a carpet of stars and Christmas lights as far as the eye can see. Thus one can actually enjoy not just the city itself, but the trip to it. Driving to San Francisco from anyplace else from I-5, is, by very nature, boring.
Heading south, the drive was bland until they passed Interstate 780. Mulder was driving, Scully asleep, when they reached the first bridge. Both had been there before, on a case, and for Scully, a year at Berkeley early in her college career. If not for the sheer immensity of the town, the anonymity of it, they would not have dared. But San Francisco is irresistible, and it would have been a crime to not stop.
He woke her up with a hand on her knee. “Psst. Water.”
She sat up, corrected the seat angle, and blinked. “We’re there? I thought I was going to die of old age first.”
He grinned. “Not long now. Did I tell you I booked a hotel room?”
She smiled. “Nope. I figured we’d find room in the inn somewhere in town, on a Sunday night.”
“The Ritz. They were all within $50 of each other, and all astronomically expensive, so I thought, why not? No suite this time, but it’s a block from the church.”
She shook her head. “Good thing Gwynne is footing the bill... Skinner would flip.”
Valet parking. It was 3 in the afternoon, most of the last half hour of driving had been in a single mile of road less than two miles from their destination, and they were eager to get out of the car. He slung the backpack and the garment bag over one shoulder, she grabbed the fanny sack, and they registered quickly.
The room was surprisingly large for a downtown hotel. No spa tub, but what seemed like an acre of floor space next to the king size bed. They had been holding hands almost nonstop since they’d gotten out of the car, and as the door closed behind them and he set the bags down on the stool at the foot of the bed, she put her hand on his shoulder. He turned, looked at her, cupped her face in his hands, and kissed her until her knees started to give way. There was no rush to drop clothes, they kissed until the room was spinning, sat down on the bed and just looked at each other.
She started to laugh. “You’re making me dizzy.”
He asked, “Why did we wait so long to do this?”
She ticked off on her fingers, “Job. Alien Government conspiracy. Abductions. Chickenshit cowardice. The real question is, why now?”
He laughed. “Because sleeping half naked next to you for the next two months without being able to kiss you like I meant it would drive me even crazier than I already am.”
She kissed him again, this time they ended up lying on the bed, with her half on top of him. He suddenly looked at his watch. “It’s four already,” he said, breaking contact.
She rolled away and unzipped the garment bag. A simple skirt and fitted jacket in cream linen, a plum colored blouse underneath, and when she investigated the bottom of the bag, even a hat. She smiled. Appropriate, not what she was used to wearing, but the jacket just fitted enough to flatter and for church on a Sunday in Lent, it was appropriate enough. Her hair had been down all day, she twisted it up at the back of her neck, clipped it, and put the hat on top.
Mulder took more time than usual sorting through his options in the bag. She finally said, “What are you looking for?”
He shook himself and settled on the same jacket he’d worn to dinner in Yachats. “Sorry. I think I was looking for a blue shirt and my usual suit.”
She laughed. “I think that’s several thousand miles away. That one will be fine for church.”
He gave a half smile. *Maybe another day. It will do, but it’s not what I’d choose.* But he said nothing and simply got dressed.
At 4:30, they walked down the street to the Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral. She smiled as she walked through the door, touched the holy water, signed herself. He whispered, “Should I?”
She shook her head, took his hand, and they filed in.
The service was led by a priest who looked to be in his 50’s. The form was the familiar mass, done in plain English. Mulder found himself listening, watching Scully as the service progressed. When the Eucharist was offered, she went forward alone, and Mulder noticed while kneeling, hands folded, back at the pew, that the priest did a double take when Scully came up. *ut oh*
Scully took the host with a smile, then turned and came back to the pew. She knelt back down, close enough that her shoulder brushed against him, leaned over and said, “I think I’ve seen the priest before.”
He leaned down and whispered almost soundlessly, “I think he’s seen you before too. We’ll have to talk to him afterwards.”
A little old lady nearby glared at them, and they bowed their heads silently.
After the service, Scully drifted over to the stations to avoid the bustle near the door where the priest stood. Mulder followed, and held her hand. The church was almost empty when the priest came over to where she was standing. “Dana? I barely recognized you.” He put a hand on her shoulder, and she gave a thin smile.
Mulder spoke up, “Father, could I talk to you in private for a moment? We are traveling and opportunities for confession have been scarce.”
Scully startled. *Mulder? Confession?* She tried to cover her shock.
The priest turned to Mulder and offered a hand. “I’m Father John. Have we met?”
Scully answered, “Father John, he’s with me. I’d be happy to introduce you in private.”
Mulder shifted awkwardly. “Actually, love, I was hoping to talk to the good Father, alone, first. Something is weighing on my soul.
She looked at him, perplexed. He didn’t blink. Finally she gestured and said, “I’ll just walk the stations until you’re done.”
Father John led Mulder to a small room behind the confessionals. Mulder said, “I need to ask a favor of you.”
The priest looked him up and down and said, “First, could you tell me why Dana is acting so strange?”
Mulder laughed. “How long has it been since you’ve seen her?”
Father John shrugged. “Twelve years? Maybe more? Her father and I served together.”
Mulder sighed. “Did you know that she’d gone into the FBI?”
Father John looked surprised. “I thought she was going to be a doctor?”
“She is, she was, she’s a forensic pathologist for the FBI. And my partner. We’re going undercover. Which is why she wasn’t willing to tell you my name in public. I’m Fox Mulder, and we have to keep this absolutely private for the next couple months.”
Father John laughed. “I thought I remembered blue eyes. And sharp vision. Undercover, eh?”
“It’s the most important assignment we’ve ever done. For more than just professional reasons.” Mulder took a deep breath. “I need you to marry us.”
Father John frowned. “I cannot perform a holy sacrament for the sake of an undercover assignment.”
Mulder shook his head. “The assignment is a reason for timing, not intent. But I am hoping you can do this for Dana’s sake. She won’t ask herself, she doesn’t think it’s possible. But it’s important, and it’s urgent, and I’m hoping you can help us.”
“Can you tell me why you are in a hurry?” Father John sat down at a desk, and Mulder noticed for the first time the books lining the walls, stained glass, a large book mounted in glass. *Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.*
“We are in a situation... because of circumstances that have been forced on us, that have put us in temptation’s way. I’ve known for a couple of years now that I was in love with her, that I had no desire or will to partner with anyone else, but we have not acted on those feelings until recently. Things have changed between us, and it is becoming obvious that without a tremendous effort of will, we will soon find ourselves in a situation which violates some of the rules of your faith. I do not want to be the one who pulls her away that which is so important to her.”
“Temptation... Have you acted on this temptation?”
Mulder shook his head. “We almost... and I stopped it. Twice.”
Father John looked at Mulder more closely. Was silent for a full minute. Then, “Tell me about your faith, son.”
He looked down. “I have faith in her. I...” he searched for the word, “envy her the deep faith she holds. She believes where I can only look in, nose pressed against the glass, wishing I could find that fundamental faith. I have watched her return to her faith, and have seen the peace it has given her, and I would not want to do anything in this world to take that peace from her. We came so close... I stopped it because I did not want to lead her away from that faith she holds so dear.” *It is enough I may but call her mine.*
“And your children together? She will be required to pledge to do all in her power to baptize and raise her children in the Catholic faith. Can you support her in that?”
“It was taken from her, her ability to have children. She had cancer... If by some grace or miracle a child came into her life, how could I stand between that child and the faith she holds dear?”
“Into her life. If you marry you will cleave unto each other and be one flesh. It will not be her life or yours alone, but both of yours together, one life.”
Mulder swallowed, echoed, “Our life.” *Oh my God* warred in his head with *yes.*
“Have you ever been baptized?” The priest picked up a small, well-worn bible from his desk, stroked his thumb against the worn gold edging on the pages.
Mulder chuckled. “My mother was Christian in an abstract way, my father Jewish, but only a little bit. I was baptized, we celebrated holidays in a secular way, she occasionally took me to church on Easter, but it was never anything anyone in my family took seriously.”
“What was your mother’s specific religion, the one I’m assuming you were baptized in?”
Father John looked at him. Considered. Seemed to come to a decision. “That would make things easier. I need to talk to Dana.”
Mulder smiled. “Give me a minute... I’ll bring her in.” *Am I actually going to pull this off?*
The priest watched through the barely open door, as Mulder found Scully deep in thought, standing in front of the last station. Father John smiled as he watched Mulder go down on one knee, as he saw Dana’s brow knit, her lips quiver, her head cock in puzzlement. He could see her lips form the word “how”, and then “yes” and then a smile he hadn’t seen in 12, no, it must have been 14 years as she drew her partner to his feet and threw her arms around his neck. That was what confirmed it for him, he decided later, the smile.
When he knelt in front of her, Scully knew instantly something was up. She wasn’t exactly surprised when he asked her to marry him, she was surprised when he asked her to marry him now. She was a little dazed as she followed him into Father John’s office.
The priest was waiting inside the door. He clasped her hand, and said, “Come, come with me, and we will make short work; For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone/Till holy church incorporate two in one.”
At that, she laughed until a tear ran down her cheek. “Father John, I had no idea you were such a sa..romantic. But *that* play... heavens, I hope it isn’t apropos.”
He smiled. “My dear child, your swain here has come in begging a rushed marriage. How could I resist?”
Mulder said, “Rushed all depends on your perspective. There’s been an office pool for at least three years, probably four.”
She looked at him with a raised eyebrow and a look of amusement. “Really? I thought it started 3 months after we started working together.”
Father John smiled, and said, “How is your father, by the way, child? I haven’t seen him since you were a teenager.”
A sad look crossed her face. “Dad had a heart attack several years ago. I still can’t quite believe he’s gone.”
The priest looked genuinely moved. “I am sorry, Dana. I know how close you two were.” He reached out and held her hand for a moment. “Your mother?”
She smiled. “Mom is alive and well. She lives not too far from me, normally I see her frequently, especially since Missy... Melissa died.” She faltered.
He looked shocked. “How? She was so young!”
Scully closed her eyes. “She was murdered. Someone mistook her for me. People connected to the reason we’re dressed like this, and why no one must know we are here.”
Father John looked at her, at Mulder, felt for a moment a tiny glimpse of depth of grief they must have shared in the past few years. *Time for a little joy.* “As long as you promise me that when you resurface, you will do what you need to do to make your bond public, I think we can keep this quite private, now.”
He continued. “I need to ask a few questions before we go forward. Fox and I have had quite the discussion already. Dana, you know that marrying someone outside the faith can have pitfalls, especially where children are concerned.” The priest saw pain in her eyes, and continued, “I understand that you have had some medical trials that you have been told have left you barren.”
He smiled. “Unless your ovaries were removed completely...” She shook her head, and he continued, “I’m not quite sure how any doctor can be sure of that, and even if they are, God has his ways, and I am sure that if you are meant to have children, you will. Which means the question stands.”
She answered, “We have talked about it, and if I understand correctly, Mulder is comfortable with our children being baptized in the church.”
The priest blinked at her use of his last name. “Do you not call him Fox, child?”
Mulder laughed. “I asked her not to.”
Father John looked bemused, then continued. “That is what he told me. But that is not the only pitfall. We are commanded to do a number of things, and if your belief is true, it will always be a sadness to you that he does not walk the path you believe leads to salvation.”
She looked at the floor for a moment. “I do not know if we will be together after we die. I hope... But I would be with him while we live, and trust that he will find his own way to grace. I know the strength, kindness, and goodness in him... I think in many ways he helps me stay stronger in my faith than I would be without him.”
“And of course... this is permanent. If I do this here, today, you two will be one until death.”
She simply nodded. *Like we weren’t already...*
She looked over at Mulder. A ripple passed between them, assent. The priest saw, and the decision crystallized.
He laughed, threw up his hands to shoo them out, and said, “Go. I need to make a phone call to the bishop, and get a couple witnesses in here.”
They looked at each other. “Witnesses?” The fear was palpable.
The priest looked stern. “From the Paulists who work here, I think. Two monks. They will not spread tales. Shoo. Go over to the park. Get some fresh air. I’ll leave the door unlocked for you. If you have something in your heart to confess, we should do that first.”
Dismissed, they walked out of his office.
When they returned to the church half an hour later, it was not two Paulists sitting in the front pews, but the Archbishop himself, and a middle aged woman Father John introduced as the church receptionist.
Father John met them at the front of the church. “I had to get a special dispensation from the bishop for you. And permission from Father McCue.”
Scully blanched. “He’ll tell my mother...”
Father John laughed. “No, he won’t. And before you panic, I managed to communicate to him what I needed without actually using your names. I could hear him smiling.”
Scully still looked alarmed. “Father... Are you sure?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Are you? Because I’m tossing protocol to the wind and ignoring the fact that you have nothing resembling a marriage license. Meet me halfway.”
Mulder looked at the two witnesses. “Any special reason the Archbishop is gracing us with his presence?”
Father John smiled. “Since he had to give his approval for an interchurch marriage, and Louise had to find me the forms, I figured it would keep things... as close to the chest as possible. Also, I think he wanted to see you two for himself.” He handed Scully a small sheaf of papers, purple mimeograph, and said, “If you will look those over, pick one. We’ll get started as soon as you’re ready. He looked at their hands. “Oh, and if those are the rings you want to use, you should hand them to me now.”
She looked down at the papers. Vows. *Oh.*
The only Catholic weddings she had ever seen had been two hour affairs with full mass and all the bells and whistles. That one could actually go from start to finish and end up married in the church in 10 minutes had not occurred to her. That it would be Mulder’s idea... It passed in a blur. She heard herself say, “I do.” Heard the words come from Mulder. Her arms felt leaden. Then she remembered to take a breath, tried to hear the words, finally just settled on trying to stay upright. Her knees didn’t give way until Mulder was kissing her, but then it was okay, because he held her up.
He felt her slipping, and his arm tightened around her. He put his mouth next to her ear and whispered, “Stay with me.”
She nodded into his neck, fount her footing, looked back at the priest, who wore an amused smile.
“Now we just have one more thing. Louise?”
The woman came up, held out an ornate certificate, filled out with their names, put it on the pulpit. They signed, then she held out another one, this one less ornate, typed, a carbon copy form. They signed that too, then Scully felt her brain reconnect, and asked, “Can you hold this, not send it on, until I call and let you know it’s okay?”
Louise looked at the Archbishop, who gave a small nod.
Mulder took the certificate after the witnesses had signed it, and slipped it carefully into the plastic case in the black backpack. Scully felt feeling slowly creep back into her fingertips.
Mulder looked at her, at the rings on their fingers that suddenly felt like they meant something real, and the enormity of it settled over him, left him breathless, until one word percolated through, bounced around, and settled in to stay. *Mine.* Then another. *Hers.*
He swayed a little, felt Scully’s arm snake around his waist. Louise noticed, and said, “Father, are you done with them? I suspect they need food; the groom here is looking wobbly.”
The Archbishop, who’d said very little, snorted. “John, let these poor people go find sustenance. It is a feast day, after all.”
Father John laughed, and waved them out the door. On the way out, Mulder shook his hand, slipping several hundred dollar bills to him as they walked out the door.
Back at the hotel, they found themselves sitting at the little round table, holding hands but not looking at each other. After a few minutes, Mulder picked up the black hotel book, and flipped through to the room service menu. He put it in front of Scully, who just pointed her finger at a menu item without really seeming to read it. He looked, shook his head, and ordered for both of them. When he hung up, she said, thoughtfully, “Did we just do what I think we just did?”
He laughed. “You mean the part where I took your hand in marriage for the second time in less than a week?”
She tilted her head to one side. “Yeah. That.”
He grinned. “We sure did.”
She smiled absently. “I thought so, but I couldn’t be sure.”
They were still sitting like that when room service brought their meal up 45 minutes later. Mulder over tipped, Scully just stared at the food. “Mulder, we just got married.”
He put a finger over his lips. “Martin.”
She looked over at him. Sighed. “Right.”
He speared some pasta, fed it to her.
She chewed, swallowed, then said, “Married?”
He said, “Yep.”
She said. “Oh. That was your idea, right?”
He looked at her, a question in his eyes.
She smiled, finally. “What a good idea.”
Getting into bed an hour later was more awkward than it had been since that first night, in the Houston Airport. They seemed to be circling warily, the easy touch they’d found that morning gone in a haze of momentousness. Finally they settled in, lying face to face on their sides, looking at each other, not touching. They’d both found themselves climbing into bed wearing underwear, neither knew why. Mulder reached a hand up, held it palm out, facing her. She reached her hand up and spread her fingers against his. He twined his fingers down between hers, brought their hands to his mouth, kissed her fingers gently, one at a time. She closed her eyes, smiled a small smile, drew his hand back to her mouth and returned the kiss. He whispered, “Find your way back to me.”
She closed her eyes and rolled on her back, fingers still entwined with his, brought his hand across her body until he found himself shifting his whole body closer to her, up against her. He disentangled his fingers from hers, stroked her cheek. “I love you, you know.” The words came quietly, he felt the shape of them as he made the sounds, and then felt her hand on the back of his neck.
He followed the pressure of her hand pulling him toward her, found her mouth, kissed her, and felt things snap back into place, the awkwardness slipping away as if it had never been. *Finding religion in her kiss* and he remembered then to breathe.
Her bra came off by mutual assent, and he held it up like a trophy for a moment, then flung it across the room. He found himself smiling into her belly as the thought, *presents are more fun when you get to unwrap them* showed up out of nowhere and then disappeared into the heat between them.
She watched him as he straddled her legs, laughed as he kissed her belly, then gasped as he worked his way upward, finally centering with his tongue flicking over her nipple, his other hand lightly circling her skin until it caught the other nipple and teased it firm. He smiled as the two points of contact arched her back. He stayed like that, just so, for a few minutes, then used his free hand to stroke from her fingertips up to her shoulder, from her ribs to her hip, and then slid his hand under her panties to find her damp, smiled again, and found that point and sent her over the edge. Her body was still humming with energy when he sat up and pulled her panties down, flinging them in the direction the bra had gone. She lay there, naked below him, breath still ragged.
She opened her eyes, looked at him. “If you don’t take those boxers off right now, I might just have to find a gun.” She looked pointedly at where he was tenting.
He widened his eyes in mock surprise. “Yes, ma’am.”
She sat up as he slid the boxers over his feet and off, reached for him. Reached for... *Oh sweet Jesus.*
He felt her hand on him, felt her push at him until he lay down, and she smiled as, still holding his cock, *Oh holy Mary, mother of * she started with her tongue on his earlobe and worked down. *Totam tibi subdo me, dulcissime,* as her tongue traced circles around the tip of him. When he felt her take him entirely into her mouth, he reached down and put pressure at the base of his cock to stop himself from losing it right then and there. *I’d heard about Catholic schoolgirls, but Jesus...*
She stopped, feeling his reaction, and sat up. She shifted, straddled him, exactly as she had done before, not taking him in, just with her labia pressed against his penis, waiting a moment, then shifting so she could kiss him. He found his hips were rocking, shifted, felt her lift up, and held her hips for a moment, keeping her there, poised, touching... he shifted a tiny bit and things suddenly lined up. She felt it too, her eyes widening, looking down at him, something flashed between them, she nodded, and he shifted his hips upward, feeling himself slide slowly home, releasing her hips and gasping at the miracle of it.
The noise she made as he slid into her wrote itself into his cells, something between a sigh and a moan, and as he found himself deep in her, he wanted to just stay there feeling that moment, hearing that sound, until he died. But she was moving, arching, he could feel her wrapping around him, muscles shifting, and he watched as she leaned down, clung to him, then remembered to bring his hands up, to stroke her back. He realized then that his chest was getting wetter by the moment, and that she was shaking, *crying?* and he said, his voice sounding harsh and far away, “Are you okay?”
He felt her nod, grind her pelvis against him, and he started to move, slowly, feeling the slip and friction as he slid out, then in, and then out almost completely, then in all the way. No rhythm, a simple savoring of the feeling of them joined, his arms holding her so tight, her body against his, her head on his chest as he shifted inside her. He felt her reach down, felt her fingers trace around the place where they joined, feeling as he moved, and he found a slow rhythm.
She whispered, “Is it real?” He kissed her hair, nodded against her head. She picked her head up, looked at him, smiled, tightened around him, and started to match his movements, away, then together. He reached up, put his fingers against her lips, she kissed them, then leaned down to find his mouth.
He wrapped one arm around her and used the other to roll them over together, still joined. She stayed with him, and he leaned back so that he could slid his own hand between them, resting a finger on her clitoris while he moved faster, in and out. He could feel the shift that happened around him as she got close to the edge again, kept the exact motion for a minute, another, then suddenly she arched, cried out, and he went faster until his own orgasm followed closely behind, shuddering and spasming for longer than he thought possible, collapsing against her.
A moment later he tried to roll off of her, to give her air, but she wrapped her arms around him and wouldn’t let him. She lay there, feeling his weight on her, then carefully let him roll them together, still joined as his body relaxed. She relaxed against his chest, still straddling him, and her body shook. It took him a moment to realize that she was laughing. “Care to share the joke, love?”
She looked up, still chuckling, then shook her head. “I love you. That’s all.”
He smiled. “Good. Otherwise we made a terrible mistake this afternoon.”
She smiled back. “Somehow I don’t think so.” She put her head back down on his chest, and they stayed that way until they drifted off to sleep, still connected.
She woke from an insanely hot dream to find that he’d regained an erection still inside her, had started moving in his sleep. She shifted the tiniest bit to be able to see his face, eyes closed, a tiny relaxed smile playing across his mouth. She felt him move under her and stayed very still, letting him move, closing her eyes and savoring the feel. It went on for a while, his hands sliding up and around her.
He woke to find himself almost on the verge of orgasm, felt her body still against him, reached up and lifted the hair covering her face to find her eyes open, her mouth smiling. “Were you going to wake me?” he asked, stilling his body.
She looked at him, sitting up a little. “Nope. You seemed to be doing just fine asleep. I was curious to see how far you would go..”
He looked down at the place where they joined, glad that they’d not bothered to turn off the light before falling asleep. “Most of the way. Even I can’t sleep through an orgasm.” *Studying me, doc?*
She chuckled, then said, “Could we change positions? I don’t want to stop, but I’m getting a cramp in my leg.”
He nodded. “Turn around.”
She looked at him, a little puzzled, but turned carefully, pivoting around him gently. He brought his knees up, pulled her back toward him. She laughed, but then relaxed as he shifted, leaned, and they ended up spooned, still connected.
She looked back at him. “Neat trick.”
He nodded into her shoulder, then started moving again, cock deep inside, hand on her clit, hand on her breast, until he felt her orgasm build, crest, and dissipate. He slowed, hands still, hips still moving, found himself studying every place then connected. He whispered in her ear, “Want me to stop?”
She shook her head. “Never.”
He pulled back, almost out, then pushed in very deliberately, all the way, and then slowly out again until she pushed back against him to bring him back in. He teased for a while that way, until he needed to move, faster until his own orgasm shook and he clung to her as it subsided.
She disentangled herself regretfully, turned, kissed him, and climbed out of the bed to go into the large bathroom. Walking wasn’t painful, but she could feel that she’d been using different muscles than she was used to. The light seemed harsh and bright, she turned the shower on, turned the light off, and let herself sink to the floor of the shower in the dark as the warm water rushed over her. *I married Fox Mulder today.* The thought seemed ridiculous, but she closed her eyes and felt the body memory of him entering her, of the feel of making love to him, and decided that ridiculous was not a terrible place to be. The word *husband* circled and landed and took off again in surprise, like a strange bird in her mind. *I am married to him. He married me. We are married.* The previous week, the playacting at being Sally and Martin, the travel, the breaking of boundaries, seemed distant. Something the priest had said, when she was so overwhelmed that she could not do more than file it away and answer when required, crept through. *Everything in your life up to this point is before. Now you start the after. You will never again be who you were, now you are joined.* That thought settled around her, stayed. And then, *Mom is going to kill me.* At that, she chuckled.
The door of the shower opened, the spray shifted a little, and she felt rather than saw him climb in, find her on the floor, and sit down, knees touching knees. Before he could ask, she said, “I’m just processing. I’m okay.”
She could feel him relax, and she stood up, shifted the spray again, and then finding his hands with her shoulders, climbed into his lap, straddling him, resting her head against his shoulder as the water poured down. He rested his head against hers, and said, “Wife.” He sounded almost puzzled.
She laughed. “I know. Feels so strange, doesn’t it?”
He smiled against her ear. “Good strange. Something-happening-that-isn’t-kicking-me-in-the-teeth strange. Something I wouldn’t have dared to dream about a week ago, two weeks ago.” He stopped, then said, voice strained, “God, when I went up to that bridge, there was someone burned with hair just like yours, and I thought... “ His arms around her were holding so tightly, and his voice shook. “I was so relieved to see you alive, I just wanted to scoop you up and take you away from all of it, from the danger, the pain. And now we’re going to the heart of it, and I don’t really care, because right now, here, in this moment, I have you in my arms and in my heart and whatever else happens, this right here, they can never take away.”
She kissed his face, stroked his head, hugged him with her whole body. Then she stood up, turned the water off.
A few minutes later they were back in bed, spooned, and sleep came quickly.
~Continue to Chapter 10