TITLE: Valse Lente (1/1)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Anywhere
SPOILER WARNING: Through Milagro
RATING: PG-13
CONTENT STATEMENT: VRA
CLASSIFICATION: VRA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully UST
SUMMARY: Post-ep. Events immediately following Padgett's death and
beyond.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.

Valse Lente
By Shoshana

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~~~
It's been happening more often now. Ever since the first time she
invited me to sleep beside her. Ever since Padgett. It's a comfort,
an addiction to me. One I hope I'll never shake. It's infrequent,
but expected. Expected, but not demanded. Understood, but not
discussed. Comfortable, but not taken for granted. A tacit
agreement. An unspoken vow. I will take care of you, as you have
taken care of me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~

Scully was still shaking when the EMTs arrived that day. The
detectives were soon to follow. I told them to check the basement
for themselves, not ready to leave her side while she was being
checked over for injuries, vital signs being noted on a metal
clipboard, a barrage of questions thrown at her without end.

She pulled herself together, preternaturally, beyond any
transformation I had previously seen her pull off. Ten minutes ago
she had been hysterical, grasping for shoulders, digging nails into
my back, losing control, seeking it in the safety of my embrace.

I had thought her lost to me when I entered the room. The fear that
flashed across her face, that caused her to desperately claw at me,
was in equal measure to my own those scant seconds before she
revived. Her eyes flipped open, breath was inhaled, expelled, torn
from her bloody body, evidence that she still lived, still lived
beneath me.

Scully still shook as the medical people went about their business.
She had pulled herself together, but she was still trembling, still
affected by what I could only guess had happened. She submitted to
their ministrations, her medical training kicking into high gear,
welcoming lucidity, normality while being treated, as if she were any
other injured person, any other fallen human being.

The detective was back. He was familiar to me, I to him. He spared
me any good-natured ribbing this time, aware of Scully's distress,
aware that I would not be hovering over her still if I was not truly
concerned. He pulled me off to one side, told me what he had found
in the basement. It was as I had guessed, just requiring full
confirmation from the stoically serious man beside me.

I thanked him, I asked him if Scully could give her statement
tomorrow, if we could leave now and allow them to conduct their
forensic tests, without interference, without our presence.
Thankfully, he nodded yes, asked a few more questions about bullet
holes and blood and Padgett's apartment. I answered, one eye on him,
one on Scully, ready to whisk her away at the first indication that
hospitalization was unnecessary.

She'd lost some blood, but not enough to merit a transfusion. She
was in shock, but coming back to normal, a cheap, blue hospital
blanket thrown over her shoulders by the EMTs. They were done with
her and I joined her on the couch, taking her hand and asking her if
she wanted to go to her apartment now. She nodded yes, her eyes
telling me that she had had just about enough, that the excitement,
the personnel swirling around my apartment were making her dizzy,
past the point of exhaustion.

We grabbed her handbag, my wallet, my keys, reminding the detective
to lock up after combing over the crime scene. My neighbors stood in
rapt fascination, peering out their doors to see the F.B.I. agents
walk down the hallway towards the elevator, a short walk become
lengthy with their scrutiny.

Scully clung to my hand, eyes open and unfocused, content to be
guided along as if an attack of hysterical blindness had impaired
her. I opened the passenger side and helped her in, fastening the
seatbelt, trying to give her a wan smile, a gentle squeeze on the
shoulder before closing the door and rushing around to my side. I
drove the speed limit, my hands gripping the steering wheel like a
life preserver in a storm. I knew if we could just get her to her
own place, to her own bathroom, to her own bed, everything would be
fine, just fine.

She sat quietly, hands in her lap, staring out into traffic, an old
jacket of mine wrapped around her shoulders, dwarfing her, enveloping
her. We made eye contact just once, and I pulled my right hand off
the wheel to grasp hers, running my thumb over the inside of her
palm, giving what little comfort I could.

I only let go when we reached the apartment building, grabbing my
overnight bag from the trunk, opening the doors for her, leading her
up to the sanctuary of her own home. I locked the door behind us and
asked her if she wanted to shower right away, even though I knew what
her response would be. She retreated to the bathroom and I grabbed a
pair of jeans and a t-shirt from her bedroom, familiar with their
location after playing nurse to her last January. I knocked before
entering the steamy bathroom, set them on the sink, and for once
resisted the temptation to sneak a peek through translucent glass
doors.

I had been too embarrassed to seek out underclothes, the thought of
rifling through her underwear drawers seemed blasphemous,
inappropriate. I puttered about the kitchen, plugging in her
favorite electric teakettle, getting out some cinammon spice tea that
I knew she'd like. I surveyed the refrigerator, evaluating whether
its contents would suffice till tomorrow and found that she was well-
stocked for now, our case having been conducted so close to home.

So close to home. Too close to home. What had happened? Would I
ask her tonight, or wait till tomorrow, when she spilled her guts to
the accommodating detective who had graciously postponed the angst of
that particular interview... I filled her English country house
teapot and placed it on a tray with two large mugs, the tea bags on
the side. She rarely bothered with loose tea, and I didn't even know
where her teaball was, having only seen it once, when I bought her
that black currant stuff that she loves so much.

I went to the bathroom, grabbing my bag on the way, ascertained she
was still occupied in her bedroom, and stripped and took a shower to
rid myself of all the blood on my own clothes and body. It was funny
how we never had to explain these things to one another anymore.
We'd been in so many predicaments requiring disposal of bloody or
contaminated clothing, followed by cleansing showers, it never needed
to be articulated, spelled out, that we both would use whatever
facilities were available at the time.

Her shower felt like heaven. It was so intimate, so infused with
her fragrance, I felt unconscionably woozy, intoxicated with her
scent, guilty as hell that I could bask in such pleasure while she
waited for me, needed me beside her. I hurried myself along,
absolving my guilt by taking a condensed version of my daily twenty
minute ritual. The older I got, the more time was spent encouraging
stiff, recalcitrant muscles to become limber, pliant, ready for the
morning or evening or whenever I was heading out on another
unpredictable adventure.

And our experience with Padgett had been totally unpredictable. Who
would have thought that Scully would end up getting cozy with her
stalker, sipping coffee from mismatched mugs at the end of his bed?
Who could have predicted the pain in her eyes when I unwarrantedly
questioned whether sections of the novel had been a priori, before
the fact, or not? How could I have been so uncouth, so stupid, to
imagine her with that asshole, in his bed, in his arms? Was I so
jealous of any man who made the moves on her that I had to insult her
intelligence, her dignity with my smart mouth remarks? I was going
to have to make amends. Somehow, and soon.

I dressed, combed my crappy haircut one more time, and strode
briskly to the living room, where Scully sat on the couch, sipping
tea and watching CNN. Thank God our little incident never made it to
the news tonight. Though I fully expected it to be investigated by
some savvy journalist in the area looking for an inflammatory story.
There had been a few stories in the local papers, but now that the
case would be 'officially' closed, it might attract God knows how
many curious gawkers. We would use the back entrance tomorrow,
avoiding paparazzi who hung around the station house door, eyes
pealed for mafioso, hookers, or unlucky public servants, just doing
their job.

We sat in silence. Funny how there was so little to be said now.
Needed to be said now. We were both exhausted, she more than I, and
I knew we would crash before too long. I managed to ask her if she
was hungry. She was. She smiled at the way I was doting on her and
told me what to order. I could have made her something from the
kitchen, but she saw my tired eyes and opted for convenience.

Twenty minutes later, Chinese food arrived and we ate happily,
quietly discussing our meal and other outstanding ones in the past,
relieved that we could settle on a topic of conversation having
nothing to do with novels, blood loss, or imaginary psychic surgeons.
We cleaned up the damage and Scully found some rarely used brandy,
pouring each of us a wine glass full. She claimed it would help her
sleep. I knew she hoped it would help her forget.

After a half hour of boring television, she was ready for bed and
she silently searched her linen closet for a blanket. The hide-a- bed
was always made up anymore. So many times I crashed there, too tired
to make it home after driving for miles to get back to D.C. And I
had stayed there for a week after her trip to New York, just long
enough for her to get back to her normal routine. We never discussed
this level of familiarity in our relationship. I was there when she
needed me, she was there when I needed her.

It was part of our jobs, to take care of one another, to trust that
the other one would be there when we woke up in a hospital bed, when
we needed some extra help at home. She stopped asking her mother to
take care of her long ago, preferring to worry her less by divulging
fewer of the details of her wounds, her physical limitations of the
day. She never had to lie to me, disguise the what and why and how
of her situation, so she yielded to my concern, let me take care of
her, within limitations. As soon as she felt well enough, I was out
the door, grateful that she was better, grateful that she had allowed
me to hang around as long as she had. I was thankful that I just had
her alive, still ready to take on the world when she was fully
recovered.

I was asleep within minutes, no insomnia tonight. Exhaustion acted
like a drug, loosening me up, relaxing the kinks in my psyche that so
often kept me alert at night. I must have slept several hours before
I heard her screaming. I raced into the bedroom and found her awake,
but disturbed, heart racing, eyes still fearful, still apprehensive.
I held her tight to my chest, stroking her flannel-covered back,
swaying gently, whispering that it was all right, that the nightmare
was over, that I was there for her now.

She calmed, got up to use the john, and I was on my way back to the
couch, when I felt my t-shirt being tugged on. I turned around and
she grabbed my hand, pulling me down the hallway, back to her
bedroom. I protested, weakly, and she smiled, and told me that she
just needed someone to sleep next to, 'so don't get any ideas,' and
'don't hog the covers goddammit.'

Feeling awkward, but somehow delirious with love, I settled next to
her, close enough to hold her, but not really qualify as snuggling.
She seemed satisfied with that, and she gathered my hand into her own
and whispered goodnight. I knew that more had happened here than
just solace after a bad dream. She had invited me closer to her than
ever before, and she knew that I would not misinterpret the gesture.

She had no secrets from me now. She wanted me in her life. She
wanted me in her bed. She was asking for time, time to get used to
this rising tide of intimacy between us. I had felt our relationship
shifting slowly during the Padgett case; despite our acrid
disagreements, despite our sharp remarks, despite my asinine accusal.
 

We were right together, we were in love with one another. She had
been hiding it for so long, that she was incapable of expressing it
conventionally. The momentum of this case had knocked her down,
forced her to reveal herself to me, and then only shyly, slowly. She
trusted me, trusted that I would raise her back up, bring her beyond
just mere existence, just slogging along from day to day, just
trudging from one empty hotel room to the next, just barreling down
all those lonely highways that never seemed to end.

I gathered up all that trust, that love she was offering me and held
it close to my heart, close to the depth of my soul. Padgett had
thought to win her heart, win her love, through flattery, through
interpreting every movement she made, relying on outward appearances
to predict her behavior. But I have always known that Scully's
actions cannot be prognosticated.

She's not a character from a novel, driven by her creator's thoughts
and desires. She's impossible to interpret, predict from mere
observation. And if she's unreadable, it doesn't mean that's she's
lonely, unhappy, unfulfilled inside. She's hidden a lot from me, but
I have always known that she knows her own mind, that she has
strength within, and would never torment herself, cut herself off
from the world as Padgett had.

She lives in this world, not a fanciful tale from the pen of an
insecure novelist. She is capable of growth, change, capable of
dealing with whatever comes her way. She's done that for thirty- five
years of her life and I hope I'll be with her for as many years as we
have left. Sooner or later, we would have gotten to this point, this
milestone in our relationship.

I believed that, and was waiting and watching. Maybe I screwed up
by waiting too long, by not making my affections more explicit.
Maybe I hadn't learned much since she got that tattoo in
Philadelphia, maybe I was as much of a cad as I sometimes saw myself
to be. Or maybe, there was no way to predict Scully, to anticipate
her actions, her emotions,
as Padgett had tried. Maybe things just happened for no discernible
reason, no definable quirk of fate. Whatever had occurred, I was at
long last permitted to rest easy that night, beside Scully's soft and
gentle soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~
It happens all the time now. We steal into each other's rooms at
night, on the road, at home. There have been slow, gradual changes,
sometimes imperceptible from one night to the next. Just a bit
closer, a hand here, a nuzzle there. Tonight we are closer than
ever. I am wrapped possessively around her, she reaches back and
caresses my thigh, I bury my face in her silken hair. We are biding
our time, prolonging our nocturnal waltz. I don't believe there are
too many more steps left to this dance, before the tempo quickens...
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~~~

fin

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