Title: Winter II: More Than Glass

Name: Branwell
Feedback welcome at
E-Mail: COMBS-BACHMANN@WORLDNET.ATT.NET

Date Finished: August 18, 1999

Rating: NC-17, Explicit Sex, Language

Category: Story
MSR: Mulder - Scully Romance
RST: Resolved Sexual Tension
A Angst

Archiving permission: Anyone may feel free to archive this. Just
keep my name with it. I will take care of archiving it at
Gossamer.

Disclaimer: Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and
Ten Thirteen productions created and own these characters. My
writing is for fun, not profit.

Thanks: I owe thanks, as always, to Pellinor's incomparable "Deep
Background." I would also like to thank Bugs for words of
encouragement and advice on music appreciation.

Spoilers: For "Paper Clip," "X-Files Fight the Future," "Pine
Bluff Variant" and "Triangle."

Time: Last week in December, 1999

Summary: Mulder and Scully find themselves dealing with the issue
they have successfully avoided for seven years---their exclusive
attachment to each other and their mutual physical attraction.
The beginning of the change in their relationship is depicted in
"Winter I."

____________________________________________

Prologue

"The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible....

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes...
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses."

from "Snow" by Louis MacNiece

Often their cases turned them inside-out emotionally. In spite of
this Mulder and Scully fell back into old patterns in Washington.
They were partners. It was safe. It was predictable. There
weren't any fireworks or roller coaster thrills, but it got the
job done.

Their delicately balanced relationship relied on a complex mesh
of permissible behaviors to keep it from falling apart and to
prevent its becoming closer. Sometimes both had the feeling of
being trapped helplessly in a web of their own construction. It
was supposed to support their work and friendship. Instead it
knotted them in place, maintaining forever the assured, clear
distance they had once determined would produce peak professional
results.

This web had taken some serious hits in recent years. Habit and
inertia concealed its weakened condition for longer than they had
a right to expect. When they looked back on it later, they
recognized the catalyst of its disintegration in the weather. But
they knew they could have done more to maintain the status quo.
It was as though their unconscious minds sensed a fleeting window
of opportunity and conspired to use it.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"Snow"
Winter II, More Than Glass, Chapter 1 of 4

The flurry of unusual activities during the week before Christmas
always threatened routine. This year extreme weather conditions
aggravated the situation. That Monday a blizzard dropped five
inches of snow on indignant Beltway dwellers, and then the
temperature dipped to zero a few hours before dawn. The snow
began falling again during rush hour. It was glorious and
hazardous.

As a rule, Mulder found it extremely inconvenient to take his car
in for regular maintenance. It was usually not well prepared for
changes in the weather. This time he'd just renewed his car
lease, picking up the new, already winterized model on the Friday
before. That was why Mulder's car started on Monday morning. For
once fate had smiled on him. He arrived at the office only an
hour later than usual.

His cell phone rang half an hour after his arrival.

"Hello, Mulder. It's me. Where are you?"

"Good morning sleepyhead. I'm at my desk. Are you going to
saunter in noonish?"

Her scornful "Ha!" carried perfectly through miles of icy air.

"Truly. I'm at work, and you're not," he said smugly.

"Your car started?" she asked in disbelief.

"It's because I follow the recommendations for proper
maintenance, Scully. Take it from me. Schedule those routine oil
changes and brake checks. Tune up and winterize before the first
freeze...."

She had never waited to find out how long he could go on in this
way if he were unchecked.

"It's not fuel line freeze up. I think it's a dead battery. I
tried calling AAA, but they're so busy I can't even get through.
They probably won't get here until late this afternoon. I might
as well take the day off."

There was a thoughtful pause.

"Look, why don't I come out and give you a jump? What would you
do for the guy who juiced up your battery on a frigid day?"

"Maybe I'd tell him which trash bin I used to get rid of some
stranger's videos I found in the file cabinet under XXX," Scully
returned coolly.

There was another short silence at his end. She imagined Mulder
conducting a quick search through the X drawer of their newly
enlarged filing system. It was only a joke. They were still
there.

"Why would I care about someone else's tapes?" he asked
innocently. "You'll have to do better than that. It'll probably
be an hour before I get there, so you've got time to think."

"Mulder it's not a good idea for you to drive back out in
this...."

"You slacker. You're ready to let any little thing keep you from
putting in your eight hours."

"Eight hours! I haven't worked less than a sixty hour week in
years!"

"See you in an hour. Have you got jumper cables?" Mulder
interjected at the last minute.

"Yes, but...."

He had already hung up.

Was she a slacker? Scully regretted the loss of her day off. A
snow day would have been like regaining a day of childhood. Life
didn't get much better than sitting at a frosted window to enjoy
enforced idleness with a cup of tea and a good book. Difficult
recoveries from illness and injury had long ago scoured away any
lingering pleasant associations with staying home sick. Snow days
remained enshrined in her memory as pure hedonism set in a world
of hushed, austere white beauty.

Trying not to feel sorry for herself, she went to her closet to
locate her heaviest gloves, hat, and boots. Collaborating with
Mulder on car repair could be a long, chilly task.

When Scully opened the door for him, Mulder gave her a goofy grin
and pointed to an imaginary ID on his overcoat.

"Good morning, ma'am. They call me the Energizer. I'm here to
service your car's battery and any other important batteries you
may own, such as those powering personal massage devices or...."

"Did you bring gloves?" Scully interrupted with a severe look.

"'This will be over before you know it,' as the bishop said to
the actress," Mulder replied dismissively. "I won't need gloves."

"I don't have any that would come close to fitting you," Scully
fretted. "And you don't have boots either."

"I saw your car was parked on the street. That's going to make
this a little tougher. Get the cables and ask whoever owns the
green MG if he can move it while we do this. I'm double-parked
right now. City services won't like it if I'm still there when
the plows come through again."

Of course this was going to be tougher than Mulder thought.
They'd just hit their first obstacle.

"That's Mr. Carey's car, and today he wouldn't spit on you if you
were on fire. He had a fight with his on-again, off-again
boyfriend last night, and right now it's off.

His apartment was two doors down from Scully's. "Shriveled old
queen" and "cold-assed slut" were two of the mildest epithets
she'd heard in the hall last night.

"Don't be so pessimistic. Weather disasters bring out the best in
people. We'll persuade him."

The door was answered by a handsome, slender man with a
distinguished touch of gray in his dark hair. His petulant
expression and puffy eyes detracted from the total effect of
unstudied chic.

"Good morning, Mr. Carey. I was hoping maybe you could move your
MG temporarily. My car battery is dead. We need to move my
partner's car into your space so we can jump start it."

Scully used her most soothing, conciliatory voice to no avail.

"Good morning. Ms. Scully, isn't it? No, it wouldn't be
convenient at all to move my car. I think I'm getting a virus,
and I don't plan to set foot outside. Besides, where would I move
it?"

His bored gaze moved up over Scully's head and became riveted on
Mulder, who stood behind her. Without taking his eyes off
Mulder's face he made a counter-suggestion.

"I'll tell you what, Ms. Scully. I'll give you my keys. Your
friend can stay here and have a cup of coffee with me. As a token
of good faith. You can find another parking spot and move the car
for me."

As Scully turned to Mulder with an interrogative look, he gave
his answer with an expressive lift of his own eyebrows.

"No thanks. I get uneasy without my partner to watch my back."

"Well, then, why don't you just stay home with your 'partner'
today and keep her company? I'm sure the two of you will think of
something to pass the time," Carey retorted as he shut the door.

"Mulder couldn't you have led him on long enough for me to move
his car?" Scully teased as they turned away.

"With my luck his ex would drop by and shoot me in a jealous fit
before you got back. We can work around it."

After a spirited discussion they decided that it was most
convenient to pull Mulder's car alongside Scully's with the front
right fender of his almost touching the front left fender of
hers. He left the back end of his car sticking out into the
street at an angle to allow enough room for Scully enter her car
on the driver's side.

Mulder went to work opening their respective hoods while Scully
freed the cables from their shrink wrap. The battery leads on her
car needed cleaning, so they were delayed while Scully returned
to her apartment for a rag. When they succeeded in getting the
alligator clips to grip, the charging proceeded smoothly.

She noticed that Mulder stuck his hands in his pockets at every
opportunity. His fingers were clumsy with the cold. It had to
hurt. He elected without comment to sit in his car while they let
her battery charge. Scully returned to her place to discard the
cleaning rag.

As she locked up her apartment she saw her neighbor's door fly
open. Carey dashed out, dressed suitably for a winter's night in
pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg. It was fifteen degrees in D.C.
now. Scully thought he might end up overheating in his fur coat,
fur hat and glossy, knee-high, leather boots

He hustled past her in the foyer. As he hurried through he was
yelling into the cell phone he carried.

"You moron. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep that baby
running? If you so much as breathe on the paint job I'll sue you
blind!"

Scully emerged from her building to see Carey lurching hastily
through the deep snow on the walk. He had turned right and was
headed for his car. Scully heard a motor being gunned down the
street to her left. A pick-up truck going too fast for road
conditions was approaching their cars from behind. It swerved
sharply to miss Mulder's car, and then fishtailed all over the
street while the driver tried to straighten it. Within half a
block he managed to regain control. At the next intersection he
turned the vehicle around and gunned the motor again.

Carey had reached his MG by now and positioned himself
protectively in front of it. Scully could see Mulder leaving the
warmth of his own car reluctantly, making small calming motions
in the direction of the agitated Carey. Her idiot neighbor was
yelling obscenities and gesturing rudely at the pick-up. The
truck's motor revved again and Scully moved faster. This domestic
situation was accelerating unexpectedly toward tragedy.

Scully silently applauded Mulder's decision to try to walk Carey
away from the car instead of drawing his gun on the driver of the
truck. The two men were moving out into the street, away from the
threatened MG, when the truck driver revved his motor one last
time and shot forward. Mulder held Carey by the arm to prevent
his making any last-ditch attempts to put himself between his car
and disaster. Events didn't proceed as everyone expected.

Still yards away, Scully couldn't be sure of what happened. Maybe
the driver lost control, or maybe he intended to make the man,
rather than the car, his target from the beginning.

The truck changed course, going straight for Carey in the last
moments before impact. Mulder was right beside him. Both were
hemmed in from behind by Mulder's and Scully's cars. There was a
flurry of movement as Mulder reacted. He lunged sideways for the
street with Carey in tow. Scully pushed herself to the greatest
speed she could achieve in the dragging snow.

Then came the familiar noises of a road disaster. She heard the
burst of shattering windows, the shriek of folding, twisting
metal, the sharp cracking of fragmented fiberglass, and the bone
deep boom of tons of weight suddenly compacted to half its
original volume.

Her partner and Carey had disappeared from view as the crash
happened. What would she see in a few seconds when she rounded
the now hissing, clinking ruin?

"Mulder. Mulder, are you OK?" she called as she ran.

That was the charm that often kept her going through terror for
his life. Invoking someone's spirit aloud by name was powerful
magic. How Mulder would laugh if he could read her thoughts.
Don't let him be crushed between those masses of metal. She'd
settle for having him tossed free of the wreckage with a broken
bone. Not an important bone. No vertebrae. No spinal cord
injuries. She knew how to cut her deals with fate.

"Mulder!"

She flung herself onto her knees beside him in the slush of the
road. He was struggling for breath, but he was conscious and
looking at her.

"Can you hear me? Are you in pain? Can you move anything?"

Scully started her routine of a systematic series of light
touches designed to pinpoint injuries with her fingertips, or by
noting his reaction to the contact. She only got down to his
shoulders this time before he enclosed her hands in his and
brought the examination to a halt. That was a good sign.

"I can hear you. Even if you lower the volume a little. Your
neighbor must be heavier than he looks. I think I broke his fall.
Is he all right?" Mulder offered between gasps for air.

Then Scully turned her attention to the other men involved in the
accident. They stood ten feet away in a touching tableau of
reconciliation. The almost-murderer had struggled out from behind
his air bag and gone to his intended victim with open arms. Carey
appeared unscathed. He had landed on Mulder and had the extra
protection of his heavy outer clothing. Still he leaned
picturesquely on the other man and moaned about his bad knee. His
histrionic groans and the driver's melodramatic sobs made
Scully's trigger finger itch to perform. Those two fools had
almost gotten Mulder killed.

They had succeeding in totaling two perfectly good cars, and a
truck.

Mulder was sitting up now. His gaze followed hers to the slowly
chilling heaps of junk they would never drive again. The red and
black loops of battery cable still linked them.

"There's probably a metaphor there, somewhere. I don't even want
to think about it," Mulder said darkly.

Scully questioned the other two men briefly to determine if they
needed paramedics. Each begged her to call an ambulance for the
other, but neither appeared to have more than a few bumps and
bruises. She called the police and reconciled herself to a long
wait. The paperwork would be hideous in the weeks to come. Not
only would they have to deal with insurance, they'd have to
testify at the driver's trial for attempted homicide.

Mulder couldn't wait outside for the police. Icy water from the
slush soaked his pants, shoes and overcoat. He was shivering too
hard to protest effectively when she took him back to her
apartment and urged him into the bathroom for a hot shower.
Hoping they wouldn't be ruined, she tossed his slacks into the
dryer to tumble at a low heat. All she could do with the coat was
hang it in the utility room to drip.

Then she called the leasing company, shamelessly using her FBI
credentials to twist arms for quicker service. The accident rate
had dropped drastically as people went home or stayed there. More
snow and temperatures below ten degrees were predicted for the
evening. Tow trucks were finally becoming available. They would
send one and start paperwork for replacement cars.

When she returned to the scene of the accident she was surprised
to find the police had already arrived and taken down a terse
account of the incident from Carey and his now on-again
boyfriend.

"Good afternoon, officers. I witnessed the crime. I'm prepared to
make a statement," Scully informed them.

"What crime is that, ma'am?" the older of the two policemen asked
politely.

"Attempted homicide of course," Scully responded.

"I think you must be mistaken. Mr. Timms explained how he lost
control when he tried to avoid that double-parked vehicle. The
owner will be cited for a parking violation, but we don't call
that a crime."

"But I saw the driver stop and then start again. He sped up when
he got closer. There should be skid marks if he braked and...."

Scully looked at the slush in the streets and then at Carey. He
stuck his chin out defiantly at her accusing look. His MG still
sat pristine at the curbside. She wondered whether he'd be so
ready to forgive and forget if it had been mashed into oblivion
with the other vehicles.

"I'm sure Mr. Carey here wouldn't lie to us about an attempt on
his life. Let's just be thankful that no one was hurt," the other
policeman added.

"Here's my card. After you examine the evidence you can call me
for my statement," Scully suggested.

They smiled at her patronizingly and promised to call her the
minute they had a question. She didn't bother to speak to Carey
and Timms. Her furious glare spoke for her. After she left the
police would probably commiserate with her neighbor over his bad
luck at living in a building with such a crazed, paranoid woman.

As she trudged back to the foyer to await the tow truck she
wondered what kind of mood would seize Mulder in the aftermath of
their experience. It would be a stretch, but he might claim guilt
on some rarefied plane of superhuman expectations.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"Collateral and Incompatible"
Winter II, More Than Glass, Chapter 2 of 4

After their cars were loaded on the truck Scully returned to her
apartment. Mulder was in the kitchen, dressed in his slacks and
T-shirt. He studied the newspaper while munching steadily through
a stack of saltines. The pants didn't look too bad. At least they
hadn't shrunk.

"Carey told the police it was all accidental," she announced
tragically to Mulder.

"That didn't surprise you, did it? You saw how those two fell on
each other's necks as soon as it hit home that they could have
lost each other forever. Didn't a wise man once say that 'Love
means never having to say you're sorry?'" Mulder quoted
irreverently.

"Was it Elvis? Or was he the one who sang, 'Don't it always seem
to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.'"

On second thought Scully's attempted witticism didn't seem very
funny to her. Mulder looked as though he'd remembered something
very sad, but he said nothing.

"Shall I make some coffee?" Scully asked, mostly to fill up the
uncomfortable silence.

"Not on my account. I've already had a pot of coffee today,"
Mulder replied, while he scratched absently at the backs of his
hands.

"Don't scratch. You'll just make it worse."

"But they itch," he objected reasonably.

"You should have been wearing gloves. There's a tube of heavy
duty hand cream in the bathroom. I need it when I have to do a
lot of autopsies. All that hand washing. You know. Go put some
on."

Mulder left the kitchen when he saw she wasn't going to forget
and go away. On his departure Scully went to her bedroom, where
she exchanged her soggy-kneed pantsuit for a sweat suit. Just as
she shook her hair out she remembered what she should have told
Mulder.

She entered the hallway to see him emerging from the bathroom
with most of a tube of the moisturizer used by Norwegian
fisherman deposited on his palm

"Uh, oh. I was about to tell you. A little bit goes a long way.
It only takes a dab."

"Sorry. I'm not used to this stuff. I thought that little tube
must be a sample," Mulder apologized.

He began wringing his hands in an effort to work the greasy
coating into his skin. There was no visible effect. It looked as
if he had coated them with a liberal scoop of Crisco. Frowning he
sat on Scully's couch and rubbed his palms together.

"My hands are chapped too," Scully remarked.

"I'm afraid I emptied it," he admitted.

"Never mind. We'll share," Scully said with a sigh.

She pulled a hassock from in front of the easy chair and placed
it in front of him. Sitting on the hassock, she took one of his
hands between her own and rubbed some of the oily goo onto her
own palms.

The afternoon was half over. There was no way they were going to
reach their offices today. Scully felt unusually relaxed and
occupied herself pleasantly with thoughts of the Christmas
presents she had already purchased. The perfect present for
Charlie and his family was already on its way. The frigate model
Bill wanted and a silk scarf for Tara had already been wrapped in
red foil. Did she have enough of the blue and silver paper for
her mother's presents? Yes, there was an extra roll in that big
shopping bag with the bucket of Legos for Matthew. Her Christmas
shopping was under control for once.

With no shopping to worry about she could appreciate the snow
filled city for its aesthetic value.

She let her thoughts wander from the season and become absorbed
in the shape and feel of Mulder's hands. She took his other hand
in hers and again transferred some of the moisturizer directly to
her own small, strong fingers and the now smooth, blue-veined
backs of her hands.

Mulder had large, muscular hands. That was why he was good at
handling a basketball, though they didn't remind her of an
athlete's hands. His fingers were long and elegant looking. They
could have been designed for the keyboard of a grand piano. He'd
be able to span well over an octave with each. She didn't know if
he could play.

There were no calluses on the insides of his knuckles, but there
was a subtle roughness to the skin of his fingers and palms. She
tilted her head consideringly as she gently scraped a short
fingernail along the inside of his index finger to figure out the
source of the friction. It must be nothing more than the lines
and whorls of his skin, slightly coarsened by harsh soaps, cold
weather, and dry, heated air.

Tenderly tracing the little finger on his left hand with the pad
of her index finger, she rejoiced in its apparent strength and
normal function. An imbecilic vigilante group called the New
Spartans had broken it in deliberate torture when Mulder went
undercover among them. It was months after the incident when she
finally heard the full story.

They were working in a ratty little motel room in Kansas, adding
up tons of fertilizer and dividing by cultivated acres, hoping
the result agreed with the reported bushels of grain. He let slip
a joking reference to militia hazing rituals and she persisted
until she finally got the details. They sent her to the bathroom
where she cried, her unseemly noise covered by the rush of
running water. Mulder probably wouldn't tell her if it still hurt
sometimes, but the injury didn't seem to hamper him.

Placing both his palms on her bent knees, she brought her head
down closer to examine the backs of his hands. The hair was fine,
and light in color, almost invisible. Their labors out in the
bitter weather had reddened and painfully chapped the skin. It
wasn't going to help to rub any more lotion into the area now.
Time would take care of the healing. She moved her fingers up to
his wrists. Scully puzzled over the way his wrists managed to be
both large and delicate in appearance. Good bone structure, she
concluded. He had thicker, straight brown hair on his arms. It
felt silky to her fingertips as her movements extended to his
muscular forearms in her efforts to massage the last of the
oiliness into his skin.

"Did you ever take piano lessons?" she asked, drawing her hands
up and down in long, meandering patterns from his elbows to his
wrists.

When he didn't answer she looked up to see if he had drifted off
to sleep in the warmth and comfort of the indoors.

She was dismayed to see him sitting with his head thrown back,
his eyes closed, and his face drawn into sharp lines that
eloquently expressed pain or grief.

"Mulder, is something hurting you?" she exclaimed.

He opened his eyes and attempted a grin. The effect was spoiled
by the wetness that spiked his lashes.

"You're killing me here, Scully."

He managed the statement with only one betraying sharp intake of
breath. The hopeless longing that remained in his face silenced
her snappy comeback questioning his lately discovered frailty. If
he hadn't opened his eyes... or if she hadn't asked to share the
wealth of glycerin he applied by mistake...or if she'd called
Kim's voicemail and told her she was taking the day off instead
of alerting Mulder to her car trouble... or if Mulder told her to
keep calling the AAA instead of trying to help... it wouldn't
have happened then. Maybe it never would have happened.

As it happened, he opened his eyes, and Scully asked herself why
longing had to be hopeless. They loved each other. Why did they
have to suffer apart? For she suffered too, when she allowed the
yearning for Mulder to reach the surface of her consciousness.
There were a multitude of good reasons to stop short of passion,
but at this moment she couldn't recall a single one of them.
Hadn't they both lost enough to appease the cruelest, most
bloodthirsty god conceivable?

Her hands had continued their unintentionally teasing motions.
From his expression she might as well have been dragging a length
of barbed wire across his body. It wasn't fair. What could be so
terrible about giving in to a pull that had become as relentless
and irresistible as gravity?

She didn't have to say anything, did she? If she showed him how
she felt, Mulder would understand. The words were so hard for
someone like her to say. Facts and figures found glib utterance
but her emotions.... She'd always been better at demonstrating
deep emotions with actions rather than words.

She placed both hands on his chest and tipped her head back in
what she hoped was an inviting posture. Mulder was quicker than
she expected in reacting to her body language. His eyes widened
in disbelief momentarily, and then he closed them again as he
reached for her. She wondered if he was afraid it would turn out
to be a dream when he opened them. He could prolong the illusion
by keeping them shut. In the meantime, he would make the most of
it.

From that point on Scully felt as she imagined Pecos Bill did
when he succeeded in lassoing a Texas twister.

Mulder grasped her behind the shoulders and pulled her into an
embrace so tight she could hardly breathe. She found she didn't
care. His arms enclosed her and overlapped behind her back.
Scully managed to work her own arms free from their entrapment
between their bodies. She wanted to feel his whole self against
her. With her hands anchored on his back, she molded herself
against him and achieved the contact she desired.

He shared her enthusiasm for maximum contact. Scully wasn't
sitting on the hassock anymore. Mulder had suspended her against
his own body, her legs bearing only a little of her weight. They
were bent to keep her head on a level with his as he sat on the
couch. He wouldn't be able to sustain the effort of holding her
up for long, but he ignored this fact. Instead he began kissing
her as though they need never move again.

Beginning with soft brushes of his half-open mouth across hers,
he quickly increased the force and rapidity of his movements
until they were almost bruising. It was Scully who took them to
the next level of intimacy. She moved her tongue into his mouth
deliberately, slowing their pace toward complete insanity by a
fraction of a percent. Mulder took advantage of her preemption of
the kissing initiative to apply himself in other areas.

His left arm held Scully in place for slow, deep kisses. His
right lifted her legs and turned her until she sat on his lap.
Then he slid his right hand under her sweat shirt and sports bra
to learn the shape and texture of her breasts. He allowed her to
explore the recesses of his mouth at her own speed.

Their melting kisses and the delicate pinches he was giving to
her nipples created a hot, aching weight in Scully's pelvis. She
felt Mulder's erection under the tops of her thighs. When she
shifted restlessly, thinking about what would come next, Mulder
sensed the progression and swiftly forced his own tongue into her
mouth. The movement met Scully's anticipation of penetration so
effectively that she was startled into a moan. This seemed to
spur him on to increasingly aggressive kissing and almost painful
nips to her breasts, until he had her whimpering. Finally he had
to pull away from her mouth in order to pick her up and arrange
her the way he wanted her on the couch.

Scully knew that as he lifted her he would have to open his eyes
to balance their combined weight. She waited for the reassurance
of that glimpse into his thoughts. His silent, single-minded
concentration was beginning to alarm her a little.

The look in his eyes didn't give the comfort she craved. They
were fixed on her, but opaque with lust and unreachable. Under
their gaze she found her own eyes closing, shrinking away from
the ferocity in his.

Mulder placed her with her back braced against the back of the
couch. He laid the length of his body alongside hers, his broad
shoulders forming a barrier that effectively blocked out the rest
of the world. She felt protected and invaded all at once. She
knew Mulder would put his body between hers and danger. He
appeared unconcerned about any limits between the two of them
that she might still expect him to recognize.

He darted his hands inside her pants and gripped her naked
buttocks, using his purchase to grind her pelvis against his
hardened penis. Still not content with their position, he
maneuvered her right leg over his thigh. Now firmly between her
legs, he drove her into the couch so forcefully she thought they
might not get to the point of undressing before it was moot. His
tongue dominated her mouth decisively while she gasped with the
impact of his thrusts. Then, with a groan, he rolled back and let
her legs fall together. He yanked her sweat pants and underpants
down to her ankles in one rapid movement. Her shirt and bra were
over her head seconds later.

Things were going so fast that Scully felt panic start to rise.
She'd conveyed her willingness to kiss him. To Mulder that seemed
to mean that everything was allowed. It wasn't as though she
wanted to stop him, or to be presented with a series of written
consent forms for her signature as their activities changed. It
was just that when she made the first move she'd assumed they
would proceed in a series of gradual explorations. She expected
Mulder to ease each step with little jokes, affectionate
arguments, maybe even compliments. This was like finding herself
midway through the trial run of the Screamin' Demon Roller
Coaster, wondering if the emergency brakes would work at need.

She longed for some assurance that her wishes counted. But she
wondered what would be worse. Asking him to stop and finding that
he wouldn't? Or not asking him to stop and not knowing if he
would? It was better to leave the question unasked than to get an
answer she couldn't live with. There was no retracing the steps
they had already taken. The only way out now was through.

He found no evidence of unwillingness when he inserted an
experimental finger between her legs. She was wet and slick. Her
muscles tightened around him instinctively. Mulder got up to take
off his trousers and shorts. He left his T-shirt on.

It was while she watched his almost grimly determined actions
that Scully's misgivings were fully realized. Mulder kept his
face carefully impassive, averting it slightly as he removed his
clothing. He took no joy in this swift journey to sexual release.
There was something he didn't want her to see in his face. When
he turned back to her his features might as well have been cut in
ice for all the emotion they revealed.

Her heart stuttered in its rapid beating. Had Mulder had been so
warped and beaten down by the traumas in his life that he
couldn't feel normal delight in love and sex? Did his catharsis
have to come alone after watching a sordid movie, or with the aid
of an anonymous voice that permitted sex without connection?
Perhaps the pain she had seen in his face was his regret over his
own limitations, not his thwarted longing for her.

This was turning into one of the nightmare scenarios of her
imagination. Always before she had heeded her fear of making
herself vulnerable, of giving up control. She had told herself
that Mulder wasn't capable of mature, unselfish love. In his
emotional confusion he might take her invitation to him as a
weakness, to be exploited and scorned. Today she gambled that he
had changed---that they now shared the same feelings. It had been
a serious miscalculation on her part.

Mulder tugged her flat on the couch and sprawled his half-nude
body over hers. His erection pressed hot and rigid against the
cool skin of her thighs. The weight of his hips and legs
descended in a sinuous motion onto her lower body as though he
expected her legs to part. He must have forgotten that her pants
still bound her feet. He didn't appear to notice that she
achieved only a small angle of openness between her thighs by
pulling her feet up towards her body. It would be enough to allow
him to enter her. No further adjustments were required. There was
no sign that he missed them when she let her arms drop from his
shoulders to lie passively at her sides.

Loneliness possessed Scully at the moment when her closeness to
Mulder should have been at its greatest. Sorrow defeated her last
remnant of self-control. Two slow, silent tears slid from the
corners of her eyes, across her temples, and into her hair.

It didn't matter. Mulder's eyes were closed again. His mouth
moved frantically from one breast to the other, biting and
sucking so hard she knew the skin would be marked with broken
blood vessels. After a moment's thought he squeezed her breasts
together and managed to pull both nipples into his mouth at the
same time. They responded to his stimulation automatically with
hardened peaks. But it hurt.

Then Mulder looked up briefly and caught sight of her face.

"I'm sorry. I'll be more careful. Was I too rough?" he mumbled
from her chest, his panting breath loud in her ears.

Her answer came in the form of a mournful wail. As soon as she
had voiced it, she understood how childish it might sound, and
wished she could take it back.

"No, that's not it. Mulder, why aren't you happy?"

Shut up, she berated herself. Did you think having a girlfriend
was going to fix everything for him? How incredibly na´ve to
think your love can make up for all the shit that's happened in
his life. He does the best he can. You started it. Let him take
what he needs. Worry about your own feelings after he leaves. And
for God's sake, stop crying.

Above her Mulder's entire body tensed, his arms quivering with
the effort of containment. The muscles in his jaws bunched as he
finally stared into her eyes. Then he drew a long breath and put
his right leg down on the floor. He eased off the couch into a
kneeling position beside Scully. His hands were safely clasped
together on the cushion in front of him. He fixed his eyes on
them as though to keep them under strict supervision.

"I'm sorry," he began in a raw, exposed voice. "I thought it
would be enough. I mean, I didn't think. You were offering me a
mercy fuck, and it was the best offer I was going to get from
you. So I took it. I hadn't counted on how... lonely it would
feel. I couldn't make the loneliness go away. I was hurting you,
wasn't I?" he finished abjectly.

Scully looked at his bent head and understood all too well.
They'd both paid a high price because she shirked the plain
expression of her heart's desire. Her throat tightened with a
panicky fear that it was too late now. Too late to mend the
misunderstanding without doing so much damage that nothing would
ever be right again.

"I know you tried. But your pity isn't enough. To make me happy,"
he said sadly.

She couldn't imagine what an effort it took for him to reveal
himself so simply. She had compared his emotional maturity to
hers and found his wanting. How unforgivably arrogant she was.

"I'm sorry, Mulder," she whispered shamefacedly.

"It's not your fault. Don't be sorry for being kind. I know you
meant well," he continued.

He was trying to make her feel better now. Wait until he found
out she didn't deserve to be comforted.

"No, I'm sorry you didn't understand what I was offering. It
wasn't pity. I know I'm not good at coming right out and saying
how I feel, but I thought it was clear. I have special feelings
for you."

Her face grew warm as Mulder looked up at her in bafflement.

"Scully, I don't think you're trying to confuse me, but....I know
you don't offer sex to cheer up casual acquaintances. I don't
doubt you care about me." His lips stretched into a parody of a
smile. "I must have looked pretty desperate."

"I care about you more than anyone else," she clarified, ducking
her head in embarrassment.

"I've already made an ass of myself today. Don't get me to say
words for you and then make me listen while you water them down
into 'You're my best friend.'"

A wary tone was creeping into his voice. Scully was afraid to
look at him. She sat forward on the couch and put her arms around
his neck. A miserable wave of guilt engulfed her as he cringed
slightly away from her naked embrace.

"I love you too," she said in a tiny voice, her mouth right up to
his ear.

He froze into stillness at her words. Then she felt him start
trembling. He stopped pulling away from her and pressed his face
against her neck.

"I thought...I thought you'd know I wouldn't offer myself except
for love," she tried to explain.

"Anybody else would have known," he answered. "But why is it so
hard for you to say that?"

"I might ask you the same thing, Mulder."

He leaned back and removed her hands from his shoulders.

"I know why I can't say it. It's because I'm not as much of a
human being as I thought I was. I should have known how you felt.
I'm useless when it comes to emotional connections."

He rose to his feet. Scully scanned the far end of the room to
avoid seeing his nakedness. She wished there was a way for her to
be instantly dressed without acknowledging her own nudity.
Perhaps Mulder sensed her discomfort. He handed her clothes to
her, and turned his back while he dressed himself.

When they faced each other again Mulder stood in front of her
like a schoolboy before the principal. "I'm sorry I put you
through that. I thought if I could shut out thinking and feeling,
let the physical part take over, I wouldn't mind about you not
loving me back. If I'd known.... But maybe it wouldn't have made
any difference.

"People say I'm not all there, and they're right, even if it's
not quite the way they mean. Believe me, I know what they say. It
started when we were all too little to put things into
politically correct words. My mother had her problems, and she
passed them on.

"I amaze people with the most sensitive portraits of serial
killers, and then I don't notice when my partner loves me. I
watch myself sabotage any chance of success I get in my personal
or professional life as though I were watching some stupid
stranger. I'm much worse than peg-legged."

"A psychologist might say you're trying to punish yourself,"
Scully said, knowing how inadequate the textbook explanation
sounded.

"What do those asshole theorists know?" he inquired.

"I'm not going to hit you or yell at you," she warned him.

"It would probably make me feel better," he acknowledged. "But it
would be too much to expect. OK, I guess I've ruined everything.
As usual. You'll never know how much...."

He spun around and walked over to the window. Opening the drapes
turned into a long business. Afterwards he stared outside in
silence for a minute or two. The snow had stopped but the sky
hung low with the threat of more. This would be the shortest day
of the year. Already the wintery afternoon drew in. Against the
dim whiteness Scully saw his shoulders bowed in an attitude of
defeat. He pulled the drapes shut again before he turned back to
face her.

"I can't give up forever and leave you alone until I ask. Don't
worry. I'll leave you alone after I ask. You did say you love me.
I love you too. That's something, but I know how... difficult I
am. Do you think I'm hopeless, Scully?"

His voice finally cracked on the question.

Scully found it easy to picture him as a boy, noticed only when
he did the wrong thing. Wondering every day if the few words his
parents threw at him were the whole truth. You're a lot of
trouble, so messy, too nosy, such a smart-aleck, a worthless
daydreamer, not a good enough brother to look out for your
sister. You're hopeless.

If she said yes, he'd probably believe her. If she said no, he
probably wouldn't. Maybe the real question to her was "Am I worth
the effort?"

He couldn't stop talking while he watched her for a response.

"You're the only reason I've come as far as I have toward being a
decent person. But I've got no right to expect you to give more.
I've hurt you over and over again. When I think what I've already
cost you...."

Scully leaned forward to grab his hand and draw him toward the
couch.

"Hush, ssshhh. Just stop for a minute. It's not you that
experimented on unwilling people. You didn't hire the person who
shot Melissa. You didn't take me to the Antarctic to die. You
brought me back to live.

"You're taking all the blame. I took the easy way out and it
ended up hurting both of us. I came in past your defenses like
a... like a Stealth Fighter. It's no wonder you didn't read me
clearly. I left it to you to take the risk of saying things out
loud. I'm ashamed of that."

"That doesn't add up to much in the competition for most injuries
inflicted, Scully," he answered with an unhappy smile.

"This isn't a contest. You have to forgive and move on if you
want to keep love in your heart."

He sat down on the couch at a careful distance from her.

"Is that your answer? Are you saying we're not going to let it
end here?"

She could hear cautious optimism in his voice. It gave his
reserved words an unexpectedly buoyant tone.

"It's not for me to decide alone. We both have to agree."

"I can't give up, Scully. No matter how often I find out I don't
have what it takes. I love you too much to stop trying."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"Fire"
Winter II, More Than Glass, Chapter 3 of 4

He looked at her so hungrily that Scully moved backward a little
farther, afraid he might believe she'd issued another blank check
on her affections. Shaking herself mentally, she tried to apply
the lessons of experience. Be explicit, she reminded herself.

"I don't think my nerves are up to lovemaking again today. Let's
just sit together."

Mulder nodded attentively at her words, suggesting that maybe he
had learned from experience too. He was wise enough to sit still
and allow her to determine their proximity.

Sliding closer, Scully settled up against him and welcomed his
arm behind her back. She leaned her head on his shoulder and
enjoyed the comfort of his warm solidity. They fit so well,
accommodating each other unthinkingly with small adjustments in
posture and position. There was peace to be found here when they
understood each other, she thought. Someday they would work their
relationship out.

She remembered the possessive way Mulder embraced her at every
opportunity when they went undercover in Arcadia. It had annoyed
her at the time. The tantalizing contact tempted her to an
inappropriate response. Perhaps he fantasized that they were
truly husband and wife, as he had accused her of doing. Her long-
suffering brusqueness must have hurt him. There would never be an
end if they tried to count up the ways they had given each other
pain.

Apparently Mulder didn't entirely agree that bygones should be
bygones.

"Scully," he said softly, while taking her right hand in his.
"Why did you ignore me after I told you I loved you in the
hospital last year?"

"You were delusional. I couldn't hold you accountable for what
you said under those conditions."

"No, it was pharmaceutical courage," he sighed.

"I told you once that I loved you. Do you remember? It was when
you were hurt in that cave-in," Scully reminded him.

Mulder looked thoughtful.

"No, I guess I was too far gone. It wouldn't count anyway. You
thought I was dying," he finished triumphantly.

"I thought I was going to die too. That's why it counts extra.
There's a reason the law gives special weight to deathbed
confessions," Scully insisted.

"What about the summer before? Why didn't you ever say anything
about what we almost did in the hallway before the bee stung
you?" Mulder challenged her.

"You mean that wasn't a dream?" she blurted out, with a look of
utter shock.

He laughed a little.

"My God, we're pitiful, Scully. Anthropologists have more success
using hand signals to talk to apes than we've had with each
other."

"I wish I knew the sign language to ask for a kiss," he mused a
few minutes later.

He let go of her hand and pointed to his cheek, puckering up his
lips jokingly. Scully lightheartedly reached up to kiss him. She
found her mouth wandering down from his slightly raspy jaw to his
soft lips. When contact was made she couldn't seem to help
herself from pressing them a little, and raising her hand to
gauge the roughness of his five o'clock shadow.

Mulder reached his own hand out to her cheek and stroked it
softly. When she didn't object he kissed her back, barely
touching the outline of her lips with the tip of his tongue. She
remembered how good his kisses tasted, how delicious the inside
of his mouth felt. Surely kissing fell within the limits she was
setting on further activities.

"Only kissing, OK?" she breathed warningly against his cheek.

She felt his head bob in agreement.

Scully tentatively ran her own tongue over his lips. His mouth
opened to her while he put his right arm around her. She wasn't
worried. This felt different from before. It was going to go this
far and no farther.

Thorough kissing required several minutes of silence.

Finally Mulder drew back with a shaky breath, and gave a quick
tweak of adjustment to his trousers.

"Uh, Scully, do you want to try again?"

"No. I don't want us to do anything we'll regret. We've waited
this long. It won't kill us to wait a little longer. I don't want
any unpleasant surprises."

"Yes. You know you can't always... Some things aren't under
conscious control."

"Our voluntary actions are under our control. We're still too
stressed. We might hurt each other again."

"OK. But you know, it relieves stress when you...."

He went silent at the sight of her compressed lips and
disbelieving stare.

Where did he get the nerve to push for more from her today, she
wondered? On the other hand, if there was one thing experience
should have taught her, it was that there was no keeping Mulder
down for long. She had to suppress a chuckle when she registered
the prominence of his erection and appreciated her own unintended
pun.

Scully watched him wriggle uneasily as he tried to arrange
himself comfortably within the constraints of his clothing. An
unaccustomed sense of power over Mulder swept over her. It was
her presence that made him react this way. In spite of her
knowledge that power corrupts she gave in to a petty, tyrannical
impulse. Without conscious thought her hand reached out and
stroked the bulge currently interfering with the fit of his
pants. Would she make the problem worse? The possibility
shouldn't please and excite her, but it did.

He stopped moving and looked astonished. Then his eyes rolled up
and he pitched forward off the couch, collapsing in a heap on the
floor. His body jerked several times, as if in a seizure. When it
ended he was on his back, eyes shut and face peacefully composed.

"Oh no!" she exclaimed, "Mulder, what's wrong?" She'd never
forgive herself if she missed evidence of a serious injury
earlier that day.

She knelt beside him and lifted one of his eyelids. The pupil
contracted normally and he spoke to her in a faint, pathetic
voice.

"Nothing's wrong except that I'll be dead within minutes. Didn't
you ever hear about blue balls, Scully? I thought a doctor would
know better than to touch a man that way and then leave him
hanging."

Scully's last minute attempt to substitute a forbidding
expression for a hysterical laugh ended in a snort.

"Bill gave me the facts on that fairy tale when I was thirteen.
Don't worry. The fatality rate is statistically insignificant."

"Don't you get it Scully? Bill lied to you because he wanted all
your boyfriends dead."

Scully knew that her participation in this bantering was playing
right into his hands---literally. While she sat back and tried to
think of a good comeback, he reached out and gave her thigh an
affectionate pat.

"How about a kiss before I die?" Mulder asked weakly, holding up
pleading arms.

His posture and words reminded Scully too much of the first and
only kiss they had shared before today. It happened months ago,
and at the time he did lie close to death. He said he didn't
remember it.

She stretched herself out on top of him. The kiss she gave was
the one she had regretted never sharing when it seemed to be too
late. When she finally withdrew her tongue she rested her head in
the curve between his head and shoulder. Nothing had ever felt as
good to her lips as his warm, tender skin.

"I think you just forfeited the keynote speaker position at the
'Love Can Wait' rally," Mulder observed, as he tightened his hold
on her.

"Love did wait, Mulder. It almost waited until it was too late."

"I know, I know," he murmured into her hair.

Then there were no more words for a while, as they gave their
full attention to more kissing. After several minutes of
increasingly heated play with their tongues, Scully transferred
her attentions to Mulder's strong, smooth neck, licking and
nipping his skin until they were both breathing very quickly. His
hands fastened on her hips and repeatedly slid her body several
inches up and down the length of his own. He lifted his own hips
to add to the friction on his clothed erection.

Then he halted their rubbing motion, remaining quite still until
Scully looked at him.

"I want to kiss you some more," he announced.

She nodded thoughtlessly. It wasn't until he started changing
their relative positions that she understood what he really
meant.

Mulder sat up, bringing Scully with him. He started pulling her
shirt off once more but noticed the doubt in her face. He let his
hands fall to his sides.

"Is it all right if I look at you and kiss you? I'll stop when
you want to."

She hesitated, but he had shown the capacity to stop when asked.
She nodded wordlessly.

This time the process of undressing was premeditated enough to
embarrass her a little. She removed her own shirt and bra.
Mulder's frown when he saw her small breasts exposed once more
added to her uncertainty. She couldn't imagine what he had been
expecting. It wasn't as though she'd deceived him with a
Wonderbra all those years.

"I did some damage earlier," Mulder said contritely. "I didn't
mean to be so rough. They must hurt."

The skin was mottled red in places, and both breasts had a few
pale purple bruises. He kissed each one in turn, but was alert to
Scully's involuntary flinching when he tried to roll his tongue
around a nipple.

"Another time," he said regretfully. "I'm so sorry Scully."

Then his face so plainly expressed the dawning of a brilliant
idea that Scully could almost see a light bulb flash on over his
head.

"Let's get back on the couch," he suggested, helping her to her
feet as he spoke. "Lie down, get comfortable."

When she was lying down he drew her feet up into his lap and took
her socks off.

He took a foot in each hand. Moving from her ankles to her toes,
he pressed every inch gently with his fingers. Then he started
stroking her feet with small caresses. He made the separation of
each toe from its fellows for special attention feel blissfully
sensual.

"Oooh, that's wonderful," Scully sighed in satisfaction.

Minutes later he was briefly distracted by the little toe on her
left foot.

"Scully, what's going on with your toe?"

"Hmmm? What do you mean? It's fine."

"You've got a toenail again. I thought the nail bed was gone."

"It started to grow back at the end of the summer. Don't ask me.
The doctor must have been wrong." she answered drowsily.

He nodded contentedly and continued kneading her foot. Shadows
filled the room as the winter afternoon came to a close. Pearly
light from the reflected snow made the outside much brighter than
the inside. It was a cool light, and the room took on a slight
chill as the day ended.

By the time Mulder had gone over each foot three times, Scully
was half asleep, her arms crossed protectively over her bare
breasts. He ran a finger lightly along the sole of each foot
until she opened her eyes.

"I'm going to turn on a light," he warned her, reaching for the
lamp by the couch as he spoke. Why don't you take those sweat
pants off, Scully?" he suggested, his eyes roving to her crotch.
"You'd be more comfortable."

She went from semi-conscious to cautious in seconds. Evidently
the foot rub was only part one of his idea.

"Just kissing, Scully. I promise," he reassured her, seeing her
worried look.

"I've never done that. It's too... personal."

"It's personal, I'll grant you that. But it isn't sex. Didn't you
get the insert to our handbook from the executive branch? It's
official. It's classified as a friendly greeting somewhere
between a handshake and an air kiss."

While he diverted her with his devil's dictionary Mulder had
started removing her pants. Scully knew she was being gotten
around. When exactly had the boundary been crossed? She found it
difficult to concentrate on the time line of recent events. It
was possible she herself had done something to precipitate them
back into a situation where things were getting out of control.
Now her defenses were down, she was thoroughly aroused, and she
was curious.

This time Mulder got both pants and underwear all the way off.
Scully felt herself flush hot pink as he spread her legs and
looked with pleased anticipation at what lay between. But she
didn't move to stop him. He lowered himself to the floor where he
knelt once more. Then his head descended to her middle and he
began working his way down.

Her first reaction was high-pitched laughter. The scrape of his
scratchy chin and the little bites he gave her stomach tickled
her into fits. Mulder gave no sign that her giggles disconcerted
him. Perhaps he knew, as she did, that the laughter came as much
from nerves as ticklishness. It gave her a release from the
intense anxiety that gripped her as she allowed him past this
last barrier.

His whiskers pulled at her curls a little as he moved downward.
She reached for his head. Instead of pushing him away as her
reflexes dictated, she restricted herself to running her fingers
lightly through his thick, brushy hair. When his tongue opened
her outer folds she bit her own tongue to hold back an appeal for
him to stop. The emotional and sensory assault threatened to
overwhelm her, but she didn't want to be afraid.

Then his mouth fastened on her clitoris. The giggles subsided
into sighs of pleasure. His thumbs stroked her in the hollows on
the inside of her legs, leaving his fingers to rest on the tops
of her thighs. They caressed the line where her limbs and torso
joined. Under this easy touch she felt her hip joints relax and
give more than she believed possible. She opened herself as
widely as she could to his kisses.

He lied though. It wasn't kissing. It was alchemy. It heated her
insides into a molten liquid and refined them into golden
sensations. The crucible of her body felt too small to contain
the pressure. If something didn't give she was going to come
right out of her skin.

There was no denying this was going all Mulder's way after all.
What was that story about the cold night when the nomad let his
camel put its nose in the tent? Bit by bit the camel insinuated
its whole body into the tent, and the man was crowded out. But
she shouldn't think about noses, because that made her think of
what Mulder's nose and hot mouth were doing to her right now. And
that made her unable to think.

He had buried his face in her. His nose rubbed her clitoris
whenever he moved his head, and he frequently moved his head to
probe deeper inside her with his tongue. At the intervals when he
rose up to breathe he ran his forefinger around her slippery
opening.

Nothing about her body was hidden from him any more. Her helpless
squirming and moaning must have revealed as much about her state
of mind as he was learning about her anatomy. Yet she wasn't
frightened any more. This awareness of revealing herself to him
made her feel exhilarated and free, not weak and defenseless.

Her control was disappearing as quickly as her inhibitions. If
she didn't stop things now the decision would be taken away from
her by her own body's reactions. It would be so easy to give in
and shatter into a million atoms of mindless pleasure. But that
wasn't her. She had to choose.

She took a handful of Mulder's disheveled hair and gave it a firm
tug.

"Stop. Please stop now."

It took a minute for him to comprehend her, but he did stop.

"Don't you like it?" he asked, with a bewildered look.

She maintained the steady traction on his hair until his face was
up near hers. This was important. It wasn't easy for her to say
it, and she wanted to be sure that he heard it properly.

"I love you, Mulder. Please make love to me."

His wet face crumpled, and for one awful moment she was afraid he
was going to cry. Then he fumbled for his T-shirt, awkwardly
pulling it over his head. He used it to wipe his face dry, an
action that allowed him to hide from her view a little longer.
When he emerged the only emotion visible was the happiness that
shone from his eyes.

She started to unbuckle his belt, but he stopped her and held out
his arms.

"Let me carry you to the bedroom, Scully."

She wrapped her arms around his neck and almost burst into tears
herself.

Mulder transported her with ease and tender care. He sat her on
the bed and stood beside her while she undressed him as slowly
and maddeningly as she dared. Scully allowed herself the pleasure
of skimming his long limbs and torso with her fingers during the
removal of his remaining clothes. He was being too good to object
to the delay, but she could almost feel him shake with passionate
urgency. When she finally took his stiff penis and firmly
tightened sac into her hands he responded with a satisfying
shiver of excitement and an exclamation.

"Unnnh. No. Don't. I'm only one degree from the boiling point
already."

Scully grinned wickedly and squeezed him once more. Then she lay
down and opened her legs and arms.

Mulder supported himself over her on his knees and one hand,
while the other hand stroked her vaginal folds. His fingers found
her juicily ready for penetration. She pushed herself against
him, hungry for more contact.

"I don't think we need more foreplay," she said, emphasizing her
words with a twitch of her hips.

He started pressing the tip of his penis against her opening. It
had been a long time. At first her muscles closed involuntarily
against him. She had to concentrate, reminding herself to relax
and accept his body with her own. He was patient, using her short
cycles of tension and release to work his way into her. It wasn't
until he was fully inside and beginning to move that his
difficulty began.

Scully felt his hesitation before he spoke.

"This feels too good, Scully. I can't move or I'll come."

"It's OK. Don't worry about it. We'll learn how to pace things
later. I didn't expect it to be perfect the first time."

"I'd be an idiot to promise perfect, but I hope I can do better
than half a minute. Let's try this."

He pulled Scully to him and turned them over together so that she
lay on top, his penis now plunged even deeper inside her. For a
long moment he closed his eyes and lay very still.

"Give me a second. Don't move yet."

Flattened quietly against his chest, Scully was asking herself if
she was ready to play this part so early in their intimacy.

"I'm not used to this. I'm not good at it," she whispered in his
ear.

"From my point of view, how bad can you be?" he remarked with a
smile. "Don't worry. Have some fun."

Mulder lifted her torso with his hands and forearms and
encouraged her to fold her legs up on each side of him for
leverage. Then he used his hands on her hips to increase the
energy of her motion---up and down, backward and forward. In this
position it was easy for her lean so that all the right spots got
contact. Scully devoted herself to exploring the possibilities.
She discovered that she could make Mulder gasp and clutch at her
by raising her buttocks at a certain angle. He gave her a
reproachful glance and started sliding a thumb over her clitoris,
sending quivers of delight through her whole body.

Suddenly she'd reached the turning point once again. Mulder
looked up at her anxiously when she stopped moving.

"Please," he said softly. "Please."

Scully made her decision. She looked back at him and let him see
the trust in her eyes. If he wished he could watch her surrender
her control to the passion he had ignited. Her reward was a
joyous smile, unlike any she had ever seen on his face before.

Scully found herself moving faster, but less smoothly, driving
herself down so hard she worried briefly about hurting Mulder.
His hands only urged her to more furious movement. She was greedy
for sensation. Grinding her crotch on his pelvic bone tested the
firing limits of her synapses. Every neuron carried an overload
of pleasure.

She leaned forward and brushed her breasts across Mulder's mouth,
crushing the nipples against his lips when he resisted tasting
them.

"Please," she appealed to him. "Please."

Mulder opened his mouth and sucked each breast in turn with
complete abandon. If there was pain she didn't feel it. She felt
only ecstasy, and it sent her into rapture beyond recall. The
pattern of her movement degenerated into uncontrolled wriggles.
After a few more uneven surges over Mulder, she collapsed on him.

Before her contractions had ceased he rolled up under her and
flipped them lengthwise on the bed. His thrusting had the rough
vigor of a long restrained need unleashed. Under the impacts her
body started to move in increments toward the bottom of the bed.
He hooked her under her knees with the insides of his elbows,
raising her legs and bracing her bottom against his pounding. The
explosive power of his movements reminded her of his earlier
wildness. Now that she was in the wildness with him it no longer
scared her. Under his driving rhythm she swiftly climbed back up
to another peak of arousal. When the orgasm took her she clung
and thrashed and cried out with the intensity.

His words barely came through to her.

"I can't stop," he warned her, grimacing with the effort of
speech.

"Don't try," she gasped.

He made one final push into her and held her hips immobile. They
were so still she felt the wave of contractions in his penis as
he passed the limits of his own control.

At the slackening of his shoulder and back muscles Scully pulled
him down beside her. They exchanged long, sweet kisses and
incoherent words of love and desire while he softened inside her.
Then Mulder dragged himself upright and helped her sit up.

"Let's get under the covers," he suggested, crawling up to the
head of the bed and pulling the spread and sheet down. He
retrieved the pillows from the floor on opposite sides of the bed
and turned off the bedside lamp.

They fit well together in the bed, her head nestled against his
shoulder, one of her hands resting on the soft hair of his chest.
It was very dark in the room now, with only the suggestion of a
glow from the sparkling white landscape outside.

"Was it like you expected, Scully?" he murmured sleepily.

"I guess not. It was perfect," she managed to answer from the
edge of unconsciousness.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
"Rich"
Winter II, More Than Glass, Chapter 4 of 4

Scully woke up alone in the dark. It was one o'clock in the
morning by the digital clock. She felt around in the bed beside
her and damned Mulder under her breath. They should have wakened
together in a tangle of dampness and warm, sticky limbs.

Touch before words, even before eye contact, would have been her
choice.

She switched on the bedside lamp. He was gone.

Would he reject her for witnessing his need? Was he laughing at
her for her weakness in needing him?

Apprehension twisted her insides into a queasy knot. She'd been
right the first time. No, it was the second time. They should
have waited and scheduled a "Talk" before things went this far.
Then they'd have known where they were.

As she headed for the bathroom she remembered the day her mother
had cornered her in her room and tried to give her a "Talk." They
were both relieved to the point of giddiness when Dana was able
to reassure her mother that she already knew all the answers. She
was sixteen at the time.

The biology had been easy, but she hadn't had a clue about the
complexity of the emotions. She spent more years than she cared
to think about having her immaturity and ignorance exploited.
Then she simply buried that part of her life. The loss of her
fertility set a headstone on the grave. Besides, Mulder had
already shown her that the problems of one woman didn't amount to
a hill of beans in a world on the brink of a planetary holocaust.

Now they'd risked everything by trespassing on dangerous
territory, no retreat planned, and Mulder hadn't stuck around to
help arrange transport for the wounded. She went to the closet
for a robe. It was just possible he'd left a note in the living
room. Teena probably enforced strict rules about writing thank
you notes. "Fuck you very much. Regards, Mulder."

Maybe he'd taken a cab home. Tomorrow he'd pretend nothing
happened. Or perhaps he headed for the Lone Gunmen's place. They
could be drooling over his play-by-play of the day's events right
now. He shoots! He scores! Or was he trudging through the snow to
some lonely, God forsaken spot with a soul full of guilt and
scary thoughts about atonement?

She knew he couldn't always protect her from the dangers that
surrounded them. He could have been here to save her from
herself.

Scully found him sitting on her couch in the dark, watching
television with the sound off.

He looked up instantly when she entered the room. His face wore a
seriously neutral look as he tried to read her expression by the
light of the screen. Then a hesitant, hopeful smile flashed
across his features and he held out his arms silently.

She let him pull her into his lap. He nuzzled her hair and neck
as she sank gratefully against him. Her own satiny robe didn't
offer much insulation. The warmth of his bare body and the
blanket he was wrapped in enveloped her like a heat wave.

"Mulder, what have we done?"

"We've sailed through the easy part of becoming lovers with
flying colors. I'm warning you though, from here on in it'll get
tricky," he said lightly.

"Easy! Nothing's ever been easy with you. I guess it never will
be."

"Don't think I don't know what an awful excuse for a lover I am."

"But you were wonderful. It was wonderful. I never thought the
first time I could . . . you know."

Scully raised her head and surprised a look of pride on his face.
He tried unsuccessfully to suppress it.

"I didn't mean that way. Although I don't suppose you'd call what
happened earlier a shining example of technique."

"That was a misunderstanding. I understand how conflicted you
felt," she reassured him.

"Hmm. You think it was that simple? I woke up an hour ago. You
were sleeping next to me like a baby---as trustfully as if we'd
slept together for years. I know your feelings for me didn't
happen overnight. I started thinking. I think part of me knew
perfectly well how you felt before you said a word. What if I was
just being a bastard to drive you away? I had to make sure I got
what I deserved---rejection."

"No wonder you can't sleep at night," she sighed. "Well, why
didn't you finish the job? Why did you stop?"

"You mean when you asked me why I wasn't happy while I more or
less savaged you? I guess there are limits even to my
selfishness."

He rocked her gently while her hands smoothed his absurdly
disordered hair.

"Do you forgive me for leaving you to guess what was going on?"
she asked softly.

"Yes. In the future, try to signal me if there's important news.
I'm good if I have something to work with. Evocative words cut
out of a newspaper. Cryptic phrases written on the mirror in
lipstick."

"You too," she said in his ear.

When she daringly flicked her tongue into it to emphasize the
words he shook with a tremor that made her jump.

"Is that a signal requesting a flying trip to the bedroom?
Because that's how it comes through."

"Sorry. I was being silly."

"Silly isn't a sin, Scully," Mulder said against her neck. He
gave every sibilance a breathy emphasis. "Silly has
possibilities."

She took his hand and moved it from the inside of her thigh to
the outside. The "Talk" wasn't over yet.

"Are you watching 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame?'"

"Yes, one of the classics. That's Charles Laughton under the
makeup."

"Poor outcast. Birth injuries with some idiopathic facial
anomalies. Sometimes midwives would have 'accidents' with
congenitally deformed children. A dwarf wouldn't be so powerfully
built. That combination would have been enough to make people
afraid and suspicious back then."

"Nowadays they'd just give him a basement office," Mulder
suggested.

"And send a na´ve gypsy girl to keep an eye on him," Scully
added.

"She'd make him a whole person and . . . ."

"They'd be happy," she completed his thought.

"You know they changed the ending of the novel for the movie. In
the movie Quasimodo rescues Esmerelda from the evil Frollo and
kills him. Esmerelda falls in and out of love with the handsome
but worthless Captain Phoebus. She decides she loves the poet
Gringoire, and Quasimodo is left with his gargoyles."

Scully felt Mulder's grip on her become firmer before he went on
speaking.

"In the novel Captain Phoebus barely notices while Frollo
tortures and hangs Esmerelda. Quasimodo kills Frollo and
disappears. The last chapter is set years later. It tells about
the discovery of two skeletons entwined in the charnel pit of the
execution place. One was of a young woman who'd been hanged and
the other was a man with a skeletal deformity. The excavators
couldn't tell how he died. Hugo called that chapter 'Quasimodo's
Wedding.'"

With her head on his shoulder Scully could hear Mulder's throat
working hard at swallowing by the end of this recital. The image
meant something more to him than a scene in a novel.

"It's a romantic idea," Scully ventured doubtfully.

"Romantic horseshit. Do you realize how close that comes to my
real life? How often I almost ended up clutching your dead body,
knowing I could never tell you what you were to me? Me holding
your corpse the only goddam union we'd ever have. It would have
just stopped me. Like hitting a brick wall at eighty miles per
hour. They might as well shovel the dirt over both of us."

"I hope you wouldn't do anything crazy now if something happened
to me," Scully chided.

She regretted her prim comment instantly. For a minute Mulder's
throat worked again and his breath caught painfully. He pressed
his face into her hair and tightened his embrace even more. Then
his breathing evened out and his answer followed smoothly.

"Of course not. I'd take a few days off, join a Grieving Partners
support group, maybe beat a drum in the forest. Then I'd castrate
myself and catch the nearest comet to the Level Above Human."

"Oh, Mulder you're . . . . " She stopped herself before she
called him hopeless. "Incorrigible. I saw the Disney version of
'Hunchback' with my godson. In the cartoon Quasimodo has these
three weird buddies who happen to be gargoyles. He saves
Esmerelda and Frollo gets killed by his own hateful nature. Then
Esmerelda and Phoebus . . . ."

Scully's cheerful summary trailed off as she thought about the
ending.

". . .ride off into the sunset. So even in Disneyland the Quasi-
human doesn't get the girl," Mulder observed wryly.

They were distracted by the sound of a scuffle outside Scully's
front door.

"Get away from the door. They're asleep. Anyway we don't know if
he's there."

They recognized Mr. Carey's voice. There was a smothered laugh,
and they heard the voice of a younger man.

"Leo, it tickles when you grab me like that. Yeah, we were too
busy to notice if he left."

A louder, deeper laugh followed.

"You kept me busy. Anything could have happened outside my place
and we wouldn't have noticed."

"You could be right. He might have headed for home before she
could get her claws into him. That look she gave us while the
police were there. Brrrrrr! She could freeze a guy's nuts off
through Polar 10 briefs. I'd want to see her hands at all times
if I was going to get naked in front of her."

Scully was grateful for the dim light. Her face was burning with
the double embarrassment of being insulted and having a witness
to the insult.

"Do you think she's attractive Ricky?" Carey's voice asked with
forced casualness.

"You know I don't want women. It was just theoretical. But I'd
like to shake his hand. If he hadn't pulled you out of the way I
might have . . . killed you."

There were gasps and hiccuping sounds for a minute.

"Don't cry again. Why don't you hand me that bottle? You don't
really want any more, do you?"

"There isn't much left. Here's to the mysterious man in the black
overcoat!"

There were renewed sounds of a scuffle.

"There, look what you made me do! It's going to smell like a
crummy bar out here for days. I have to live here you know, and
get along with the neighbors."

"If you bought the premium brand for me it'd smell like a high-
class club. OK, OK. I won't knock. You said they're in police
work. Do you think he'd like it if I sent a Man-in-Blue Stripper
to his office to sing a gratitude-gram?

Mulder was trying to maintain an impassive look, but Scully read
his concern. She sympathized. If anything could further brand him
as a pariah at work, it would probably be getting paged to the
lobby of the Hoover Building to receive the attentions of a same
sex stripper.

"Well what if he's straight, or not out? Let's talk about it
tomorrow," Carey suggested. "Remember, he might be mad at you.
You wrecked his car, whether you meant to or not."

The voices faded.

"Oh Christ, I almost forgot. My truck! How am I going to get to
work . . . ."

Footsteps receded down the hallway, and the sound of a door
closing ended the conversation.

"Scully, Carey doesn't know where you work does he?"

"No, no. He wouldn't try anything like that anyway. He's just
humoring Ricky."

Their thoughts had been forcibly turned to thoughts of morning
and work.

"What are we going to do about work tomorrow?" Scully finally
said.

"What do you want to do?"

"We'll have to be professional at work. No touching, or
discussions about our private lives. Or fighting about personal
issues."

"What makes you think we'll fight?"

"Be serious, Mulder."

"Maybe it'll snow so hard tonight we'll have another snow day."

"They only predicted an inch."

Scully kissed his cheek and started to push herself off Mulder
and the couch.

"Where are you going?"

"To check for snow," she replied.

She went to the window and drew the drapes wide. Mulder got
up too and turned off the TV. He came up behind her until she
could see their dim double reflection against the dark glass.

"This looks hopeful. It's coming down fast," Mulder observed.

The snow outside billowed in a froth of white against the black
night.

Mulder held his hand out to the window pane. "It must be zero out
there. Nothing between us and zero but a pane of glass. I can
hardly feel the cold."

"These are double panes with a layer of argon gas between to
resist heat transference," Scully observed practically.

"Offer me a three year payment plan with no interest and you may
have a sale."

"Maybe I could supplement my salary with commissions."

They watched the hypnotic whirl of the snowflakes for several
minutes without speaking. Scully leaned back against Mulder's
warmth. He held the blanket around them both. When he spoke low
and deep the sound of his voice came to her through her bones.

"Scully, you know I'm going to hurt you again. I don't even know
if I can do this. Just, please . . . don't give up on me. Because
there's so much at stake."

"You know I'm not a quitter. Some people even call me stubborn,"
she assured him with a knowing chuckle.

Mulder didn't seize the opportunity for a teasing insult.

"No, you're not a quitter. But this last year sometimes, watching
you . . . it was like looking out that window and seeing you out
there, slowly freezing to death. It was like glass between us. We
could see each other, but we couldn't connect. I didn't know how
to invite you in, but if I didn't you'd stand there until your
flame just guttered out.

"I understood how much I needed you, Scully. But I started to
think that you needed me too. Even if you didn't love me. That
there was no one but me to rescue you. No one else you trusted
enough to turn to for shelter. No one else who could offer you a
place out of the cold. I thought maybe I could love enough for
both of us.

"But it scared me shitless. If I failed---and I always end up
failing---what would happen to you? I was too afraid to try. Then
this afternoon . . . My perfect opportunity. And I forgot
everything but my own need and loneliness. When I realized what
I'd done it was like waking up to find a nightmare come true.
What should have been simple and sweet . . . ."

Scully felt him shudder.

"'Simple and sweet.' Does that really describe us?" she asked

He gave a relieved laugh at her response.

"Tell me I'm full of it and you don't depend on me that much. I
know I lack perspective sometimes. This time I'd like to be
proven wrong. I feel like my life doesn't belong to me anymore.
If I took a foolish chance and lost, or decided I, um, just
couldn't take it anymore, it would be like, well, like causing
your death at the same time," he ended wonderingly, as though the
concept had just entered his mind.

Scully answered him quietly after a long pause.

"You told me how you felt when you thought I would die. Didn't
you ever ask yourself how it felt to almost lose you?"

"I knew you'd be sorry. But you'd get over it," he asserted.

"It used to be an indescribable feeling. Then I found out what to
compare it to. How to make someone comprehend. When I thought you
were dead or dying it was like having the living heart ripped out
of my chest while I watched and fought and almost died of the
fear itself. Don't you understand? I love you. I felt the same
way as you. We were going to our graves with nothing of our love
said or shown. It was killing me inside."

"That means you think I should feel guilty about taking
unnecessary risks, don't you? You think I should feel accountable
to you for my life."

Scully nodded, too frightened by the extremity of the emotions
she'd already bared to him to add more words.

Instead she turned around and wrapped her arms around his middle.
She was still inside the blanket. Her head rested on the
fuzziness of his chest. It made a perfect pillow.

"Would we be happier if we were like Ricky and Leo?" Mulder
questioned.

"They're not guilty of letting their feelings fester in silence,
are they? Which one do you want to be?" she asked, overjoyed at
changing the subject.

"Leo of course, so I can wear furs, and drive a sports car."

"So I get to have a pick-up and a drinking problem. Sounds fair
to me," Scully observed.

"You know someday Leo's going to knock on your door looking like
an illustration from a monograph on domestic violence."

"Do you think that's where openness always leads, Mulder? To
hurting someone?"

"No," he answered slowly. "But how do you let go of just the
right amount of control?"

"I guess you experiment until you find out what works."

Mulder began caressing her above the neckline of her robe. He
could encircle much of her neck with one hand. She closed her
eyes and stretched under his touch, showing her enjoyment of the
sensation.

"I'm getting signals again. Do you read mine?" Mulder asked
softly.

Scully felt stirring on the smooth, glossy material covering her
stomach. Mulder was erect again. He let it stay between them
without pressing for more. But he didn't pull away and neither
did she.

"Let's go back to bed," he said.

His low-pitched murmur sent a thrill from her head to her groin
instantaneously. Logical thought suddenly became more
challenging.

"OK."

They started an awkward walk toward the bedroom, still linked by
the blanket.

"Scully. Was I really good? Tell me the truth," he demanded,
clearly confident of an affirmative answer.

Scully unwound herself from him and the blanket in one smooth
twist. She stood in the bedroom doorway, effectively blocking it
with her extended arms. A little shrug opened her robe at the top
enough to show off the swell of her breasts.

"You were so good I don't think we should risk repeating it. It
might be an anti-climax, you know? I think we should let today
stand as a unique experience. Someday when we're old and feeble
we can take out the memory, turn it over in our minds, remember
how special it was . . . ."

Mulder threw off the blanket but remained stationary in the light
coming from the bedroom. She tried to focus on his face, but her
gaze kept straying downward to where his penis stood at parade
attention. He eyed her like a cat preparing to pounce on a small
catnip toy dangled just out of his reach. Suddenly Scully felt
that staying on her feet took too much strength. Almost as though
he sensed her reaction, Mulder chose that moment to make his
move.

With lithe, athletic grace he took her upper arms in his hands,
waltzed her through the door and brought the backs of her legs up
against the edge of the bed. She fell across the mattress
unresisting and he followed her down. Still clasping her arms he
lowered his head to start worrying with his teeth at the bow on
the belt of her robe. It was undone in seconds. His head came up
next to hers with an end of the belt still in his mouth. He
dropped it and explained.

"Sorry, it's all a blur to me. I don't understand it. You know
how good my memory usually is. We'll just have to keep trying
until I have a clear picture."

The wind picked up at three o'clock and brought five more inches
of snow into the D.C. area. The next morning the radio alarm in
Scully's room featured an announcer who implored his listeners in
the heart-rending style of a heroine begging for postponement of
the mortgage payment.

"Stay off the roads and stay indoors. If it is absolutely
necessary to go out wear gloves and a hat that covers the ears.
Don't rub snow on frostbite."

Mulder and Scully were convinced. It was much too dangerous to
venture outside the apartment. They devoted themselves to solving
the mystery of Mulder's inexplicable memory lapses. It was
impossible to predict how many times they would have to re-create
the circumstances and test various hypotheses. A lifetime might
not be long enough to reach a conclusion.

End of "Winter II: More Than Glass"