A/N – I was trying to fit the flashbacks in Per Manum into a reasonable timeline within previous XF seasons, and this oneshot came to be. I aimed for angst, but it came out fluffier than I intended. Specific allusions to War of the Coprophages, Christmas Carol, Triangle, Arcadia, The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati, Millennium, En Ami, Chimera, All Things, Per Manum and Trust No1. Feedback is always welcome.
Disclaimer – They're not mine, I'm just playing.
One Normal Weekend
The room is wrapped with darkness, broken occasionally by a streetlight or the moon, invading through the swaying curtains. Their lips slowly unlock, but in every other way – body and soul – they remain joined. He looks down at her and smiles – boyishly, sheepishly – before leaning down to place another kiss against her lips, slowly pulling out of her. They don't speak as their lips detach again, just gaze at one another with weariness, with content, with love yet spoken. She rests her thumb on his bottom lip and he presses his lips to it before he lies back, then on his side, facing her.
"We should have done this years ago," he says and she chuckles, for it has become somewhat of a private joke ever since their partnership has taken this new turn, not two weeks before. Since then they've always spent nights at his apartment, for no particular reason. This is the first night he's spending at her place.
"I don't think we were ready for this years ago," she replies, blushing faintly. This is all so new yet; it will take a while to get used to.
"Speak for yourself," he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively at her and she giggles despite herself.
"Is that so, Mr. I wouldn't want this to come between us?" she teases him. It was an awkward moment, but its memory makes her smile now. He looked so flustered that day. It's hard to believe it happened only several months ago.
"That's completely different circumstances," he protests. "Besides, if I told you then I knew of a more effective way of getting you pregnant, you would have slapped me."
"I would never!" she pretends to be horrified, playing along.
He knows she doesn't share his recollection of their kiss on board of Queen Anne, and the slap that followed. He can still hear it ringing in his ears. He shakes the memory away. "So what changed your mind?"
"You kissed me on New Year," she replies, smiling softly, "and the world didn't end."
"It most certainly didn't," he agrees, leaning over to kiss her again. He feels her smile against his lips as she kisses him back.
"And… something that cigarette smoking bastard said to me when I went on a ride with him."
He tenses, and she has expected him to. "What did he say?"
"He said that I was willing to die for you, but I would never allow myself to love you," she says, almost whispers, as she peeks at him. She knows he still resents her for going with the Cancer Man without telling him. They barely speak of that ordeal. But the old man's words have touched her; they haunt her still. She thinks of them often, especially since the nature of their partnership has shifted.
He doesn't say anything for a moment. Then he frowns, but there's a smile evident at the corners of his hazel eyes. "Please tell me I don't owe this to that scum."
"No," she assures him, reaching out to touch his cheek. "He only made me see things more clearly, that's all."
She shakes her head; he can tell the subject makes her uncomfortable, and so he doesn't press her. He opens his arms a bit and she scoots closer, leaning her head against his chest. He places his chin against the top of her head and closes his eyes. Even the sound of their breathing is in perfect sync. He is drawn deeper and deeper into slumber when she speaks again.
"I want you to stay with me."
He laughs softly and drops a kiss into her hair. "I wasn't going to go anywhere," he assures her. "It sounds like it's raining again and I'm far too comfortable to move." His voice is husky, on the verge between sleep and wakefulness.
She looks up at him, and her gaze is imploring. "I didn't mean now," she says. "I want you to spend the weekend here with me."
For a moment he's speechless. She is the one who set the ground rules the day after their first night together. Work would remain strictly that; they would maintain their current sleeping arrangement while away on a case. At the time he's made fun of her businesslike, no-nonsense approach, but he respects her for setting such boundaries. He knows she's simply trying to hold on to her job; possibly more than that, she is anxious to keep him from getting in deeper trouble than he already is.
Which is exactly why her request catches him off guard.
"I thought you wanted to take things slow," he tells her.
"I still do. I just… it doesn't mean you have to sneak out before sunrise. This is not what it's about. Not for me, anyway." She averts her gaze as though her own words embarrass her. A moment later her eyes meet his. "I just want us to have one normal weekend together. To feel what it's like."
"To be normal? I think it'll take more than a weekend, Scully."
But she ignores his supposed indifference. She is a woman on a mission. "When was the last time you read a book from cover to cover, or watched a movie, or completed the Times crossword?"
"You're giving me too much credit if you think I've ever managed to complete the Times crossword, Scully."
"Well, when was the last time you tried?" she presses him, unrelenting.
"So… you want us to complete the crossword together? I'm not sure if that's supposed to turn me on." He presses his lips to the crook of her neck and a soft sound escapes her. "Hmm. I think it actually does."
"Stop trying to distract me," she giggles, and gently shoves him off. "I'm serious, Mulder. When last time you had real food? The last time anyone cooked you dinner?"
"Actually, that happened not too long ago."
He cringes, remembering his recent case in Bethany, Vermont, and how it ended. He knows she won't appreciate him reminiscing any further; she was stuck in a stakeout at the time. While she ended up solving the case on her own, she still resented him for ditching her, though through no fault of his own.
For the moment, though, she doesn't even question his statement. "Please? I know you keep an overnight bag in your car."
"What, you want me to go and get it right now?" he asks, looking horrified by the idea of leaving her warm bed.
"No, you can get it in the morning," she replies, beaming with satisfaction at her small victory.
"Wow, I knew it," he says, staring at her in feigned awe.
"You really do just want to play house."
They stay in bed until late morning, and sheepishly admit to one another they haven't indulged in such luxury since their teens; certainly not during their FBI training or in their line of job. It's easy enough to get used to – dangerously easy. Rain still pounds against the windows as they doze off or tell each other stories, random odds and trivialities.
It's amazing how much there's still to uncover. They've known each other for a bit over seven years, but in actuality, they know very little about one another. He learns about her childhood fear of clowns, and she gets to hear the extended version of his scary encounter with a praying mantis. It's as entertaining as the version she has heard several years back.
At some point the rain ceases and they decide it's about time they get up. They go grocery shopping in a supermarket that is forty minutes away from her apartment. She teases him, saying his paranoia has been rubbing off on her, but she's secretly appreciating the gesture all the same. The farther they go from the center of town, the smaller the chance of running into someone they both know.
She's set up a list of necessities along the way and they stick to it – mostly. Every now and again he adds something extra to the cart. She knows what he's trying to do, but she can't resist him, and so she pretends to look away.
Back at her place, they spend the majority of the afternoon in the kitchen. He is half dismayed, half amused, to find out she's expecting him to take an active part in the cooking. He finds himself helping to get the chicken ready and cutting potatoes and yams and vegetables. She asks him to put some music on and he chooses an Elvis CD he has given her a few Christmases back. She sways to the mellow sounds as she works; every now and again he pulls her into his arms for an impromptu dance around her kitchen.
Once the chicken is in the oven, she excuses herself and goes to take a shower. He turns off the music and reaches for the television remote, sprawling on the sofa. Nothing catches his interest, so he keeps CNN on and closes his eyes. He finds that he's enormously enjoying himself, secretly admitting that she's been right. It has been ages since he has had a normal weekend. He can't remember the last time he's felt so relaxed. It's so warm and cozy inside her apartment; his eyelids are slowly drooping.
This is how she finds him when she steps out of the shower; fast asleep on her sofa with the television still on. She checks on the oven – still another hour or so to go – and then she makes her way back to the sofa. He seems well out of it, so out of it that he doesn't even notice when she hovers over him and brushes her lips against his throat.
It's another moment before he moans softly, then another before his hands come to rest on her waist. He frowns as if something is wrong, and slowly opens his eyes. "I had dreams like this once," he murmurs sleepily as his eyes meet hers.
"About me kissing you awake?"
"Yes, but I actually didn't mean these right now." His fingers brush against her black sweatpants. "You're wearing sweats. And a tee shirt. I must still be dreaming." She hits his chest gently before sitting up. "What? I didn't even know you owned sweats."
"Whatever, Mulder, I just caught you dozing off." She says it like it's a dirty word.
"No, you didn't, I shut my eyes for five seconds."
"Right," she smiles. The word is dripping with skepticism.
He sits up and runs a hand through his hair. He resists the urge to yawn; he doesn't want to give her the satisfaction of teasing him further. "Is dinner ready yet?"
"No, not yet."
He tugs at her hand as he lies back down, pulling her beside him. He leans his chin against her shoulder, breathing her in. She's content to just lie there with his arms around her, her back pressed against his chest, but there's something inside her, this nagging desire to know.
"So, umm, what changed your mind? About this?"
"I figured that if I didn't hurry the hell up, Frohike will end up succeeding where I failed."
He's anticipating the kick she's about to aim for his shins and wraps his leg around hers, laughing softly. "I guess it's like you said. I wasn't ready to admit to myself before that there's more to us than partnership. Until the day you came to tell me about Diana, about her murder. I should have said something that day, but I couldn't bring myself to. And then a few weeks later I almost did it again. You asked me to father your child and I…"
She rolls over so she can face him and their eyes meet. She knows that tortured expression. She shakes her head in attempted protest, but he doesn't acknowledges it as he sits up abruptly, looking away from her. She sits up as well and reaches for his hand. He doesn't try to pull his hand away, and a moment later he turns to face her.
"I'm sorry it didn't work, Scully. I'm sorry I couldn't give you what you wanted. You've been through so much because of me, you've lost so much for my cause, and that was the least I could – "
She places a finger against his lips and he stops talking at once. "I don't want you to ever think that. This is not your fault. I went through with it knowing full well it might not work."
"You're having to go through with it in the first place is my fault, Scully."
"I don't want to talk about all this today," she says. Her eyes are intent, imploring. He seems to want to object, but she shakes her head before he manages to speak. "I don't. Everything happens for a reason, Mulder. Maybe there was a reason it didn't work."
"Do you really believe that, or are you telling yourself that so it would hurt less?"
"No, I think I actually do believe that. Maybe I'm not meant to be a single mother. This isn't the first time I'm faced with the complications of this status, with its meaning. Besides, I think neither of us really considered the consequences, had it worked."
"Scully, you're the most thorough person I know. There's no way you would have done it if you haven't thought this through."
"Unless I was so blinded by my desperation to get this done that it clouded my judgment. Say it did work, Mulder. We weren't… together then." She says it slowly, as if the concept is still unbelievable to her. "It might not have come between us as you feared, but it could have been strange. Would you have taken any part in this child's life? Should I have expected you to? Did I even have a right to?"
"Maybe if it did work, I'd come to my senses much sooner."
"What do you mean by that?"
"That maybe… we could raise it together."
She doesn't say anything for a moment. When she eyes him next, it's with curiosity. "Do you want to be a father, Mulder? I mean, at this point of your life. Is this something you've ever considered?"
"I think I haven't given it much thought, not as much as you have, but this – us – put a new spin on things, for me. And maybe it's a possibility I wouldn't have dismissed under certain circumstances."
His words overwhelm her, but she tries not to let it show. Instead, she smiles at him. "You would make a good father, Mulder."
He laughs, but the sound is tormented rather than amused. "I think this is what scares me most about the possibility having kids," he says quietly. The raw emotion in his eyes catches her off guard. "The possibility… that I might become him."
"Oh, Mulder," she reaches out and lays a hand against his cheek. "You're not your father. You'll never become your father."
"For the skeptic that you are, you put quite a lot of faith in me, Scully," he tries to laugh it off, but she can see that her words touch him.
"I do. I would never have asked you to do that for me if I wasn't absolutely sure that was the case."
"Well, where things stand now, we might never know."
"Maybe we will. You did say last night that you knew of a more effective way of getting me pregnant."
His smile seems more genuine now; it fills her with relief. "Scully, are you coming on to me?"
"I told you last night that we weren't ready before. Maybe the same is true for me becoming a mother. But there's no point looking back, looking for someone to blame. Besides, you did give me something else I wanted."
"One normal weekend," she replies, and the darkness fades ever so slightly as she smiles. "That's good enough for me."
He leans over to kiss her. They lay back down, and he holds her to his chest. They say nothing for a moment. A male reporter on the news is droning on and on about a robbery of a candy store in downtown Seattle, but he might as well speak another language. She feels herself drifting into slumber. Their breathing is in perfect sync again.
"The chicken needs another hour in the oven," she murmurs; "Wake me up if I fall asleep."
"Okay," he says, but he sounds rather sleepy himself.
She smiles and closes her eyes, training her ears on the steady sound of his breathing until it's the only sound that surrounds her. This is why when he sighs deeply, the motion shakes her awake. "What's wrong?" she asks, opening her eyes reluctantly.
"I just realized something."
"Going back to work on Monday is going to be a bitch."
She chuckles and closes her eyes. The shadow of a smile still lingers on her lips as she falls deeper into sleep.
At least in some matters, they still see eye to eye.