All I have is all I need
And it all comes down to you and me
How far away this world becomes
In the harbor of each other's arms
All I Have -- Beth Nielsen Chapman
I lean against the bedroom door and let greedy eyes devour him. It's not the first time I've indulged myself in this somewhat guilty pleasure. I'm vividly reminded of an early morning more than eight months ago when I stood in another bedroom, splashes of moonlight illuminating the man I'd finally taken into my bed as absolutely as I'd taken him into my heart. Smooth curve of a shoulder. Dark lashes against a flushed cheek. Soft whispers of breath, deep and even. Only the relentlessly ticking clock and the unavoidable need for a shower and clean clothes had pried me away from that sweet contemplation.
The figure in this bed is a pale shadow of that man. Smooth curves have become sharp angles; the flush of color bleached milky white. The body I'd come to know so intimately, mapping each freckle and scar as beloved territory, now bears the brutal marks of tortures I can't begin to imagine. And the spirit...
His sojourn in the grave has carved marks in his soul just as cruel as those etched in his flesh.
And I don't know how to heal them...
I sigh and wander back into the kitchen, removing the bag from my cup of tea and lowering myself into a chair. Decaffeinated, of course. I've been keeping a list, so that some day this child will appreciate all the little luxuries I gave up for him. Or her. With all I know of this baby, the detailed testing I've insisted on, I've chosen to prolong this one area of mystery that Mulder and I will eventually uncover together.
What's on the list? Caffeine, of course. Sounds simple until you consider that omitting one ingredient means denying myself the nirvana of freshly brewed coffee when I'm bleary-eyed from fatigue; icy-cold Diet Coke for an internal thermostat permanently set at 105 degrees; and truffles for my sweet tooth when nothing but chocolate will do.
High heels. I finally had to concede that my expanding belly hopelessly impeded my sense of balance--and caused excruciating backaches.
Sleeping on my stomach. Not only because it's medically unwise, but for a simpler, less complicated reason--it's impossible to sleep on a beach ball.
Donna Karan suits. Jogs through the park. Painting my toenails.
All the little luxuries I once cherished mean nothing when weighed against the life growing within me. A miracle. An answered prayer.
More than one of your prayers have been answered.
I let my eyes slip shut, rolling my head in an attempt to loosen tense muscles in my neck. A miracle, but not of the shiny, flawless variety reserved for television evangelists and movies of the week. It's impossible to celebrate the tickle of his breath on my cheek, the warmth of his hand on my belly, and that endearing, crooked grin without acknowledging the flinch that accompanies an unexpected touch, a voice raspy from screams, and eyes dark with bitter memories. This miracle is tarnished and dented, the edges rough enough to draw blood.
Not what I envisioned, perhaps, but then life seldom is. When I entered the FBI, ambitious, idealistic, and so new I practically squeaked, I never dreamed I'd wind up in the basement with "Spooky" Mulder. My lofty plans to distinguish myself certainly didn't include little green men, shadow conspiracies, and a partner whose obstinacy is only exceeded by his brilliance.
And they certainly didn't include falling in love with him.
The once piping-hot tea tastes cold and metallic on my tongue. Halfway to the microwave I hear it--a harsh gasp, the sound a drowning man might make upon finally breaking the water's surface. I know what comes next. Dropping the mug onto the counter, I head for the bedroom with as much haste as my ungainly body can muster.
It's always the same. Initially silent and eerily still but for the tremors that race through his body. No moans or whimpers. No thrashing limbs. It's as if invisible bonds restrain him, pinning him to the bed. The shivering intensifies until the mattress literally vibrates from its violence. Abruptly his eyes fly open wide, windows to inconceivable horrors. He sucks in a single, desperate gulp of air...
How many times have I heard my name pass Mulder's lips? A thousand? A million? Anger, impatience, fear. Laughter, sorrow, seduction. Seven years together as partners, friends and then lovers, and I thought I'd heard my name colored with every conceivable emotion. But this...
It erupts from the deepest, darkest corner of his soul. A place of hopelessness. Of endless torment and the taste of dirt and tears. A desolate plea for salvation that never fails to put tears in my eyes and a knife in my heart.
Unanswered then, but not now.
"I'm here, Mulder. I'm right here, and you're safe." I ease myself down to perch on the edge of the bed.
I don't touch him right away. I made that mistake the first time, the simple brush of my fingers across his cheek nearly rendering him catatonic with terror. Instead, I talk to him, weaving a steady, soothing pattern of words that eventually leads him to home. To safety. To me.
He finds his way back quickly tonight. His eyelids flutter, dark lashes fanning his pale cheek like butterfly wings, and comprehension seeps into his gaze. Blankness melts into relief so profound it twists the knife in my already aching heart. It's the cue I've been waiting for.
I slowly stretch out my hand, fingers grazing a lock of hair on his forehead before skimming down to cup his cheek. For a moment his eyes slip shut and he leans into my touch.
Barely a whisper, uttered with the reverence of a prayer. I sweep my thumb across his cheekbone, bypassing the already-fading scars Mulder sardonically calls "stretch marks." The uneven hitch of his breathing smoothes, the shivering tapers off. For a moment nothing exists but the warm silk of his skin and the mingling of our breath as his respiration gradually slows to keep pace with mine.
All too soon the respite ends. Mulder tenses and withdraws; long fingers curl gently around my wrist to tug my hand from his face. Lips twisting in a self-deprecating smirk, he manages to tuck raw emotions safely out of sight.
"Well, if your neighbors weren't aware I'd returned from the dead before, they are now."
"Olivia will be thrilled. She once confided in me that you have a nice ass."
Mulder looks intrigued. "Olivia--is that the cute blonde with the short skirts in 33?"
"No, it's the 74-year-old with the cane in 36." I purse my lips but the smug grin gets away from me anyway.
"Just my luck."
Silence springs up between us, and some of the shadows creep back into Mulder's eyes. He rubs his chest, palm brushing back and forth over the scar concealed by his soft gray tee shirt. It's unconscious, a kind of nervous habit that crops up when his mood turns dark and introspective.
"Give yourself time, Mulder."
His gaze darts to my face and his eyes narrow. "I can't afford any more time, Scully. While I spent six months in hell the rest of the world marched on without me."
The unspoken accusation is plain--you went on without me. From Mulder's perspective my new partner has stolen his work; this baby, his place in my heart.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In my head, I'm able to understand his confusion, his aloofness, even his sense of betrayal. The physical wounds from his ordeal, terrible as they may be, pale when compared to the spiritual. Scars not graced with the miraculous healing of his flesh. Able to fade, perhaps, but never disappear.
My heart, however, is not so resilient. And I have my own scars.
The joy of my unexpected pregnancy turned bittersweet by the absence of the one person I longed to share it with. Days of fruitless searching, forced to partner with a man I feared would attempt to replace Mulder, not find him. Nights filled with the most intense loneliness I've ever known and doubts that Mulder would ever return to know his child. And through it all, the ruthless fear that the life within me was not a miraculous gift, but a carefully engineered experiment.
And then he did return, but not as I'd hoped. A cold, broken shell of the man I loved, dumped in a field like yesterday's trash. I'd held him in my arms and wept, oblivious to Skinner and the other agents.
On the day we buried him, I left half of my soul in that grave.
Mulder studies my face with eyes now soft and filled with remorse. He props two pillows against the headboard and leans back, drawing me down until I'm stretched beside him, head on his chest and one arm thrown loosely across his stomach. Soft lips brush my forehead and fingers card through my hair.
"I'm sorry. I know none of this has been easy for you."
The rhythmic heartbeat under my ear drives back the painful memories and fills me with peace. "I thought I'd lost you."
"So did I."
A long silence. I'm surprised when he continues, his voice low and hesitant.
"You were my safe place, Scully. My one reason to hang on when all I wanted to do was let go."
I struggle to speak around the boulder in my throat, tightening my embrace when the words simply won't come.
"I'd imagine I was here with you, in this bed. The feel of your skin against mine. The smell of your hair..." Mulder's fingers falter and when he resumes speaking his voice is rough with unshed tears.
"After a while...it got harder and harder to remember. Your name was all I had left, and I was so afraid they'd take that, too."
I tip my head until I can see his face. "And there was a time when I thought this baby was the only part of you I'd ever hold in my arms. But here you are."
Mulder's hand skims across my belly and his teeth sink into his lower lip. "I've never been what anyone would consider a poster boy for emotional stability, even before all this. Now, I... I just want you to know that if you've changed your mind, if you're worried about the baby..."
My fingers, followed by my lips, silence his sincere, noble, and completely ridiculous offer. The kiss is a connection--both a reminder of what was and a promise of what will be--but passion lurks around the edges, and we part breathless.
Mulder rests his forehead against mine and one corner of his mouth turns up. "I'll take that as a 'no.'"
"Good call." I pull back so that he can see my face, read the gravity in my eyes. "I will always want you to be a part of our lives, Mulder." The smile trembles on my lips. "Consider it a universal invariant."
He pulls me back against him, but not before I see it in his eyes--a light I'd feared quenched forever. "I hope you know what you're doing. These days I don't have much to offer either of you."
I lift one shoulder, basking in the warmth of his body, the security of his scent. "That's all right. As long as you're here, it's all I need."
The silence between us now is comfortable, content. Eventually, the fingers in my hair falter, then still; the rise and fall of his chest slows and deepens.
He sleeps. And now, so can I.
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