Also it did not turn out to be the porn I was planning/expecting, but actually turned out better, I think. And there's plenty more porn to come, anyway. Have some kinky not-porn just for variety.
Title: Turn The World Over
Prompt: hand fetish
Summary: Fear of flying ends when you have the strength to leave the ground behind.
Spoilers: Pilot, Deep Throat, Lazarus, Roland, Firewalker, Irresistible
Rating: PG-13? I'm bad at rating anything that isn't hardcore fucking...
After Oregon, something happens to their fledgling partnership, something she can't explain and certainly never expected from 'Spooky' Mulder. She finds herself ashamed to have paid as much attention as she did to those rumors - Mulder is the very opposite of the chauvinistic Bureau average, he's usually good company, frighteningly intelligent, more driven than any agent she's ever worked with, and he has an absurd sense of humor that finds her throwing him tiny, laughing smiles more often than wanting to roll her eyes or kill him. Yes, he has no sense of personal safety and his ideas, his theories are completely wild, but she finds that she can't dismiss them when she has the very smallest grain of curiosity whispering he's crazy, he's certifiable, but what if he's even slightly right?
It's not what she's supposed to be doing as his partner and they both know it, but she finds it impossible to imagine doing anything else.
Their second flight together looks to be uneventful - they board the plane to Idaho on a mild Tuesday morning, a standard commercial flight, even if she is still wondering at Mulder's miraculous ability to get the 302 signed off that's letting them fly six hours across country to chase up what sounds suspiciously like a simple case of unpleasant military posturing and red tape. She almost wishes there were more to it; she could certainly use something to take her mind off the moment as she watches the flight attendant across the way buckle into her seat.
"Hey, Scully." She turns her head to find Mulder's palm flat out in front of her, one long finger making crop circles out of his complimentary peanuts and a handful of sunflower seeds. He flashes her a crazed grin. She shakes her head, feeling herself smile despite his idiocy.
The brief spot of turbulence hits somewhere over northern Wyoming - a cloud bank, or something equally innocuous, but enough to make the plane shudder briefly around them, and she grips the unyielding plastic armrest on instinct, hoping to God it won't last too long.
Sudden warmth covers her right hand and she jumps, wound tight enough that she's startled even though there is only one possible person it could be. Mulder's fingers, slightly curled, have come to rest lightly atop her own, his thumb a spot of pressure on the back of her hand. His palm isn't even touching her skin, but she can feel the heat radiating from him like something alien all the same.
He leans over a little, far enough that he can keep his voice a touch quieter than usual. "It's okay," he says, and she's closer to wanting to hit him now than any time he's cracked one of his terrible jokes.
She takes a deep breath. "I know that."
"You don't like flying, huh?"
"Actually I do." She's always loved seeing the country from up here, the pristine silence of it, the strangeness of distance. "Taking off, landing, crosswinds, turbulence, those are the parts I could happily do without." She clears her throat. The flight has smoothed out again, and she's back to not being able to even tell they're moving. "You can let go now."
He says nothing in reply to that, but his gaze stays evenly on hers as he slowly pulls his hand back.
When they buckle in for landing she catches him sliding his hand flat along his thigh, a blatant tell if she's ever seen one. Sure enough, as her stomach drops out from under her his fingertips land lightly on her knuckles, his palm making the briefest contact this time on the back of her wrist. She closes her eyes and prays for landing to be over.
She knows after that that he's making certain to book adjacent seats when he gets their flights, but she can't call him on it. It becomes just another part of his unique pre-flight ritual; stow carry-on in the overhead locker, unearth case files and designated in-flight entertainment - anything under a two hour jaunt and he doesn't usually bother to bring a book - snap on seatbelt, seeds within easy reach, put one hand over hers. Once or twice she tries to discourage him, purposefully occupying her hands with her latest reading material or starting early on her case notes - she doesn't need coddling like this, she's a grown woman and she's got her pride, and God knows what it looks like - no, no, she knows what it must look like - and she's perfectly aware that it's an irrational reaction that will pass as soon as they level off.
But she can't completely conceal the slight tension that grips her each time the plane picks up speed along the runway and Mulder, inexplicably, doesn't seem content to let her escape his support so easily. The one time when she dares turn to reprimand him, he's not even looking at her, just sitting there calmly with his head back, eyes closed and his hand stretched over to hold her gently by the wrist as they leave the ground.
After that she mostly leaves her hand exactly where it should be, on the armrest between them.
She's having the nightmare, the same one she's been having for weeks now. The cuffs are chafing her wrists, blood running down her arms where she's tried to escape, but she's trapped and alone and always handcuffed, Jack's cuffs, and Jack dead out of her reach, helpless, decomposing as she watches, the sickly smell of it making her retch and his flesh decays, down to bones, and still no one comes, still she's left here bruised and battered and dirty and utterly alone.
Except this time Mulder is here. Appearing out of the dingy shadows, crouching in front of her, reaching out, and the cuffs crumble to dust as his fingers slide up her wrists...
She opens her eyes. The flight is a classic red-eye and the cabin is mostly in darkness now; she can hear faint snores from the businessman across the aisle. The light is on above her head. Mulder looks like he's been reading and has given that up in favor of watching her carefully. His left hand is closed with incredible gentleness over her own, upside down, the tip of his index finger working slow circles on the inside of her wrist. She's surprised to feel her pulse already slowing, steadying, levelling out under his shockingly soft fingers.
He doesn't smile, or make some flippant remark, but he also doesn't stop. His voice, when he speaks, is the low tone he's taken to using just for her, and spilling over with sincerity. "You know I'll always come for you, don't you, Scully?"
His voice is hypnotic, his touch even more so. She can't do anything but nod. "I know."
She doesn't have that dream again.
The trip out to Seattle is horrendous. She can't believe it's practically the same route they took months ago, chasing a single unmarked truck across the country - that ride was smooth as butter, but this is nothing short of agonising. They strike the weather front head-on half an hour from landing, and she finds herself actually cursing when the pilot announces they're about to go into a holding pattern while a dozen flights before theirs try to land in the driving rain.
Mulder's hand is on hers even before the intercom goes silent. He squeezes tightly, obviously trying to show his silent support for the hell she's going through. She digs her fingers into the plastic underside of the armrest, studiously trying to ignore him. Mulder ignores her ignoring him in turn: more than that, he brings his other hand over and pries hers away from the hard plastic by the wrist, forcibly turns it over and sinks his fingers deep between hers. His palm connects against her own and for an instant she's weightless, tethered to the world only by Mulder's hand.
Her insistence that she's ready to work echoes unfairly around her head as she tries to breathe evenly. It's their first flight together again, but she doesn't feel very together. She doesn't feel good at all. Her head is aching and her heart feels heavy with every beat, as if it's going to make a break for it at any moment. Something that tastes horribly like bile is rising in her throat, but an attempt to stumble back toward the restroom is out of the question without emptying her stomach right here.
She isn't sure if it's some bizarre sense memory or just her body rebelling against her own stubbornness. Given that the result either way is wanting to throw up everything she's eaten for weeks, it hardly matters enough for her to think about.
She doesn't realise she's done it for minutes afterwards; only when the sound of a seatbelt snapping back pulls her out of her concentration does she recognise the warmth under her palm for what it is. Mid-flight, the armrest between them is pushed up and Mulder's case notes are spread out across the tray table and his lap - all but for one photograph, which is frozen calmly in the unmoving hand she's holding in a death grip by the wrist.
He leans out into the aisle as an attendant goes by, and his voice seems far away as he quietly asks, "Could we get some water, please?"
His skin is hot, smooth, the knob of his wrist an unyielding point in the dip of her palm, the fine hairs on his arm seeming almost pale against the tan he acquired while she was... gone... and has somehow stubbornly held onto. There's the faintest of old scars between his first and second knuckles; it's begging to be traced with a fingertip, but she can't move, can't dare to let go.
"Scully?" His voice is gentle. Psychologist Mulder. He may not practice, but she's never had any doubt he could make a private fortune with that coaxing voice alone. "Are you okay? Come on, talk to me."
She shakes her head. Opening her mouth is not a good idea. He sighs and brushes his fingers over the back of her hand. She can't control her reaction; she shudders violently and instantly he spreads his hand flat across her own in response and presses down, and her hand is trapped firmly between warm, living Mulder-skin.
He shifts around; she looks up and his shoulder is against the back of the seat, his body twisted towards her, case notes haphazardly tucked away in favor of the pile of their hands resting in his lap.
"Breathe," he says softly. He presses her hand a little harder, slow and insistent. "Breathe in for me, Scully."
She sucks in a breath - it rattles in her chest, but it's almost worth it for the thankful warmth in his eyes. "Breathe out," he says then, and his hand relaxes atop hers, and she lets it out, just the way he asks. "Breathe in," and a slow but definite pressure on her hand; "And out," and the pressure relaxes. Over and over, until she realises he's stopped talking and she's just breathing in response to the simple, slow, careful pressure of his palm, up and down, rising and falling, the measured cadence of it holding her focus like nothing else she can imagine.
He's watching her. Watching her face as he guides the breath in and out of her body, and his expression is...
"Better?" he murmurs, and she nods. She isn't sure she dares speak.
"Want some water?"
She shakes her head. He's still keeping to that even movement; she thinks if he stops, if he takes his hand away, she might not be able to breathe at all. He nods slowly, as if - somehow - he understands that. She doesn't think she'd be all that surprised if he did.
"Try and get some sleep," he tells her. Only a gentle suggestion, she knows, but right at this moment she can't find the energy to do anything but what he asks. She closes her eyes.
When they fly back thirty-eight days later, she feels fine.
It comes as a shock that traversing the country without Mulder is suddenly, inexplicably lonely in ways she would never have thought of. She spends hours in the air trying to reconcile her words to Karen Kosseff with her insistent desire for the familiar warmth of his hand over hers, wordless but omnipresent.
I don't want him to feel like he has to protect me. But she does. She wants him to feel like that, somewhere deep down, deeper than she would ever bring herself to go with actual words, than she would ever admit to anyone, she wants that depth of connection between them. And she knows if she dares to give him even the slightest sign, she has it.
It's been a lot of months since she had to fly without him. Landing in Minneapolis seems to take forever.
She blinks out of her distracted stupor to find Mulder standing in front of her, with her laptop case slung over his shoulder alongside his own bag. The airport seat is hard metal and a large section of her thigh, one of the few parts of her body not developing into one large interconnected bruise, has gone numb where she's been sitting for so long.
"They just called us," he says, and reaches down for her briefcase. She snaps out of her stillness to grab it before he can reach. He gives her a look, but lets it go. Still, she doesn't miss the fact that he lets her board first, even though she's walking at half her normal pace, her legs still stiff and her knee swollen from a nasty twist during her trip down Pfaster's darkened staircase.
He's booked seats near the back of the plane, next to the window. He takes her briefcase out of her hand as she reaches their row, firmly enough that she can't protest without making what would seem like a ridiculous scene. In truth, she isn't sure she could reach up high enough to open the locker anyway.
She's still trying to find a comfortable position when Mulder slides in beside her. His walkman and a bag of seeds are deposited with nonchalant normalcy on the empty third seat beside him, along with a bottle of Evian she doesn't recall seeing him pick up. No one comes to take the seat before the plane starts to move; she entertains the brief thought that Mulder might have booked all three, just to give them some space.
Just to keep any strangers from getting too close to her.
His hand closes over hers and without thinking, without thought, she flinches away. She looks at him. He isn't even surprised, she can see it in his face, as if he knows. His voice is gentle. "Scully?"
"I'm fine," she says, tone stiffer than her body feels. He sighs.
"I've never seen you less 'fine'."
Sure you have, she thinks about saying. You've seen me puke my guts out in a dark field. You've seen me hit the floor with a bullet half an inch from my heart. You've seen me all but dead, in a coma with my eyes taped shut, you've seen me on a respirator not even breathing for myself. But she can't say any of those things because she knows that in every way he's looking at her right now, he's absolutely right.
They'll be taking off any minute now. She aches all over. Her wrists are red and raw from fighting against the ties that held her - was it only yesterday? There was a time before the sick-sweet scent of bath oil, the bruises, the lurking chill under her skin, but it's as if normality is closed behind an iron door, hidden from her view.
And then Mulder lays his hand silently on the armrest between them: palm up, his fingers lightly spread, and she finds herself drawn to the lines of his wrist, the strong swell of his thenar muscle, the length of the heart line softly creasing his palm. Slow motion takes over as she watches her own fingertips hover and then touch, feather light, low on his wrist before sliding along the length of tendons, over the heel and into the valley of his palm. His fingers extend slowly as her own line up along them and slide up, from root to tip, and then he turns his wrist just so very slightly and her fingers slip between his as they leave the ground.
Ten minutes into the flight, he's made no move toward his walkman, or any other indication that he plans to let go of her hand, perhaps ever.
"Mulder," she says quietly. He turns his head to look at her.
"You okay?" He doesn't even sound as if he's sitting here holding her hand. She swallows around the sudden tightness in her throat. I'm fine is on her tongue, a reflex, a complete and foolish lie.
His voice is deliberately low enough not to carry, though he doesn't move toward her at all. "You want me to let go?"
"No." God, no. No. The idea is suddenly, worryingly frightening. To not have some anchor to his presence, some physical connector to keep her from floating away into the darkness waiting just behind him, waiting to swallow her up. She can't do it. The lights are going down around them as people settle in and she's alone with him, with no defence but his presence, no pretence of professionalism to cling to, and suddenly she's back in that moment of his arms around her, his pure and solid strength the only thing holding her up. She thinks it's the only thing that's held her up for the past twenty-four hours.
But still Mulder's tone is easy, even. "Okay. No problem." His thumb moves along the side of her own and back again, the slowest of caresses. "I'll always come for you, Scully. I wouldn't stop until I found you. I promise you that."
"I know. I know." She doesn't want to cry again - she's lost count of how many times it's almost come over her, after that house, the car ride back, the hospital, giving her statement, the nightmares that brought him running - but she's going to. She can feel the thickness of it welling up in her throat, the hot sting in her eyes. She hates it.
He reaches across with his free hand and brushes the lightest of touches down her cheek. She can feel the trail of his fingers, soft lines of heat burning the chill from her skin, even as his hand drops away. "I've got you," he says softly. His fingers go to rest across the back of her wrist. "I'm right here. Get some sleep."
She can't tell him that she's afraid to do just that. At the very least, closing her eyes holds in the tears.
Afraid or not, she sleeps: she knows this because she wakes up in darkness with Mulder's face inches from hers, his grip on her hand painful in its intensity. He's twisted almost into her seat and his other palm is like a sea of heat across the side of her face, his thumb pressed gently to her lips, softly stroking. And he's talking to her, quiet nonsense she doesn't understand; "Shh, Scully, shh, it's all right, I've got you, you're safe now, shh, quiet, it's okay," over and over, variations on a theme it takes whole minutes for her to grasp.
The tears she's tried so hard to keep in check while she's awake are running unheeded down her face, diverted along Mulder's fingers to wet her lips with the taste of salt. Her throat feels hot, as if she's physically ill and not just broken into a dozen pieces. She's had the nightmare again, a second time, third if she admits the near-reality of it. She can feel the chill shock of the bathwater, the filthy touch of fingers in her hair, a sick mockery of gentleness - the knife running along her skin, the bite of cold metal above her knuckles -
Mulder's thumb stills against her lips and presses harder, quieting her sudden attempt to scream. Even through her confusion, his voice sounds hoarse and drips pain. "Shhhh. Shhh, Scully, you're safe now, shh, just relax. Shh. I'm here. I've got you, I found you, I'm here, it's all right now. It's just me, okay? It's just me. I want you to relax, shh, just relax now, I've got you. It's all right."
His knuckles are pressing hard points into her chest, just below her collarbone: it hits her as her head starts to clear that she's holding both her hands against herself, fingers curled in tight and aching with a sharp phantom pain that feels nothing like the bruises. Mulder's arm is twisted awkwardly but he's obviously made no move to pull away from her, or restrain her unconscious impulse to protect herself from -
She shudders, backing away from the memory. "Mulder...?"
It isn't a smile, but she sees relief open up in his eyes. "Hey." His voice is soft. "You back with me there, partner?"
She tries to let go, to move her arms: she can't. It hurts even to try, as if her muscles have turned to ice in her sleep. A nod is all she can manage to control. "Mulder," she says again, and this time his name is at least slightly level on her tongue. "Where..." God, her throat hurts. "Where are we?"
"Somewhere over Toledo, I think." He slides his thumb away, to rest gently at the corner of her mouth. "Take a few deep breaths, it'll help."
"I can't move," she whispers, silently horrified to hear her own terror laid so bare, and he shakes his head as if he's not even surprised.
"It's okay. Just take your time. Nowhere we need to be for a while." He reaches up and works his fingers between their palms and slowly, slowly, no loss of contact at all, transfers her grip from his right hand to his left. "I'm just gonna put my arm around you, okay, Scully?"
She manages another nod. He twists carefully, every movement clearly telegraphed, and somehow she doesn't flinch even when she can't see his arm as it comes to rest across her shoulders and slides down, gently drawing her away from the seat and closer to him. The familiar feel of his body hits her like a wall of solid warmth all along her side; he shifts a little further over, ignoring the paltry gap between their seats so that his thigh is an equal patch of warmth against hers. She can feel herself start to relax, so very slowly, muscles thawing one by one as he holds her until somehow, however long later, she's leaning into him, too, boneless and exhausted.
Mulder's lips quirk just slightly as he tips his head to look at her. "Better?"
She can feel herself almost smile as she nods. It feels strange, out of place. "Thank you."
"No problem." And then he raises her hand slowly, carefully, holding her gaze, up to his lips. She shivers, feeling the tension ratchet up instantly beneath her skin.
"Shh." Now their clasped hands are held against his chest in turn; she can feel the warmth through his shirt, against the back of her hand. She doesn't know what he wants her to do.
"I ever tell you how much your hands amaze me?"
Fear rockets down her spine. Oh, God, no, not this. "Don't-"
"Shh." There's a tender authority in his voice now. "Put your head down, just relax."
She turns her face against his shoulder, and there seems nothing useless about trying to hide from him in his own embrace. She clenches her free hand in her lap, enough that her nails dig sharply into her palm. Can't he hear how her voice is breaking? "Don't, please, Mulder, don't..."
"You have incredible hands, Scully." He rubs his thumb slowly, slowly, along the length of her index finger. "Sometimes I get completely distracted by listening to how fast you type. How do you do that? You even do it properly. Fingers on the right keys and everything. What's your wpm, anyway, sixty, seventy?"
"Seventy-two," she whispers. The light cotton of his shirt grazes her lips as she says it.
"Wow. I can barely hit fifty on a good day."
"I know." She doesn't often see him at a keyboard - Mulder prefers to take notes in his head, of course, and he has a predilection even worse than her own for writing up reports alone late at night, whether it be in the office or at home.
"How'd you learn? No one types properly without being taught by some uppity schoolmarm. Don't tell me you had lofty dreams to be a secretary when you were growing up."
She feels her lips twist of their own accord into another tiny smile. "No."
"Parents think you needed a backup plan in case medical school didn't work out?"
"No, nothing like that." Her father never considered she'd do anything else but medical school. Her mother was usually more worried about Missy's lack of academic interest to be all that concerned about the studious daughter, at least when it came to education.
"I guess you're just gifted, then, huh?" His thumb is still stroking up and down her finger, catching lightly over each knuckle on every sweep. "I never see you wear nail polish," he says softly, and for a moment she can't breathe, the images are so bright in her head - bright red, the bright blood red sheen of polished nails torn away at the beds, rough edges and sticky with blood.
He rests the pad of his thumb lightly on her fingernail. "Why don't you?"
"I don't know." She experimented when she hit puberty, stealing Missy's make up and secretly fearing Ahab would notice the wild color at her fingertips when she passed the greens at dinner; off and on again until college when it became more effort than it was worth, her hands too often hidden in latex gloves and poking around in body cavities. The most she owns is a bottle of clear polish, and she can't remember the last time she had to replace it.
"I guess it would be a little frivolous for the morgue," he says with a lightness in his tone she doesn't feel. "You could, though, you know. But I kind of like your nails like this." His finger slides to the tip of her own, lifts it gently and rubs back and forth, her fingernail drawing a faint channel into his skin. "Simple, but elegant. Strong. Like you."
The tremors running through her call him a bare-faced liar. She bites her lip not to make the sounds that want to escape her throat. What does he want from her, for God's sake, what does he want from this?
"It's okay, Scully." His lips are right up against her hairline. His breath is warm, so warm. He turns his hand so that their palms align, his fingers still wrapped around her own, and strokes his thumb down the front of her index finger. "It's all right. I promise. You trust me, don't you?"
"Yes." The tears have dried tight tracks down her face now, invisible paths just waiting for the next round sitting tight in her throat. "Of course I do, you know I do, Mulder, I just... please don't do this to me..."
"You want me to stop?" His thumb is rubbing the tiniest of circles at the base of her finger. She imagines she can almost feel his thumbprint, the uniqueness of him, working its way under her skin.
"Yes. No..." Maybe if she knew what it is he's doing to her. "I don't know."
"Try and relax." He shifts a little, gathering her closer with his other arm, and his palm squeezes gently against her waist. "I would never hurt you, Scully."
"I know. I know that." How can she not? It's like saying the sky is blue, to say something like that. Obvious. Unequivocal fact.
"I know you do. I believe that. Now we just need to make sure your body believes it." His thumb is still making those infinitesimal circles, but moving now, a slow and gentle massage across her palm. "When did you do your first autopsy, Scully?"
"What?" He's switching tracks on her too fast, she can't keep her head clear enough to follow. "Uh... I don't know. On my own, or in class?" He doesn't answer, and she has to dredge the back of her mind for an answer. "Um, eighty-nine, I think... maybe nineteen ninety. I'm not sure."
"Must've been weird, doing that on your own."
"The first few times, yeah, I guess." It's been long enough that the memory is faded, like old paper left too long in the sun.
"I had my doubts, you know, when I first saw your file. I've never had much to do with pathologists before, even on the VCU. Before we went out to Bellefleur I'd never seen anyone conduct an autopsy, let alone a pretty female agent under five three with next to no field experience. And I'd definitely never watched anyone do the kind of work I see you doing with these hands of yours." He makes a quiet sound that if it is a laugh, is only at himself. "It's ridiculous how little I thought of you, thinking back on it."
She suddenly adores him, with an astounding, fierce completeness, for admitting that. "Thank you," she whispers, and he chuckles warmly again.
"For admitting I occasionally fall prey to my own shallow chauvinistic impulses? You're welcome."
"For letting me change your opinion of me." She can't count how rare it is, this odd, intimate bond they have - grown strong through everything they've been through together, yes, but there since the very beginning, since Mulder for some unknown, impossible reason managed to see past her gender and her naivete, opened up on a rainy night in Oregon and let her inside his world. Too many male agents would never be capable of that - and she equally can't imagine who else she'd be able to do this with, to accept his help, his comfort, after fighting against it so hard for so long. Who else would continue to offer it, except Mulder.
"You change my opinion of you every day," he says softly. "I hope you never stop."
In her current state his honesty is breathtaking; she closes her eyes and leans into him so that she doesn't have to look as she reaches down and covers his free hand, still warm on her waist, with her own. His lips brush her hairline again; no words, but the faintest ghost of a kiss. She tips her head up, seeking, and when her gaze slides into line with his, he smiles and gently lifts her hand up to his lips for the second time. This time when the terror grips her and she shivers she can feel something else beneath it, something very much less than fear.
"Incredible," he says, that same soft tone. She can feel the caress of his breath between her fingers. "Would you let me..."
"Yes." She doesn't care what he's asking. Still she feels herself gasp as his lips press against the pad of her index finger, and she thinks blindly that he must have touched every millimeter of skin there, by now, one way or another. "Oh God, Mulder..."
"Shh." He's back to that gentle authoritative focus again. "I want to do this. Can I do this?"
"Yes." She's shaking. He kisses his way down her finger and up the next, slow and methodical and gentle, each finger in turn and back again, taking so much time that she can't believe how focused he seems. When his lips are working their way up her thumb, she dares let her touch drift against his cheek in return; he turns his head and drops it slowly, still trying to hold her gaze, until his mouth is pressed deeply into her palm. She can feel the tears stinging in her throat again. "I was so scared," she whispers, broken by his tenderness, and he bestows another soft kiss as if in answer.
"Shh, I know. I know." His lips roam over her palm, as if he's mapping every line, every pore of her. "You're still scared, aren't you?"
"Terrified," she whispers. Her voice refuses to rise, and anyway she can't bear for anyone else to possibly hear her open her soul to him. "Mulder, I saw myself... in those pictures, on the autopsy table... and when he... it felt like I should have known, all along..."
He kisses the inside of her wrist. She can feel her own pulse hammering against the pressure of his lips. "You had no way of knowing. No one did. You couldn't have done anything differently." Another kiss. Her hand is cradled between his cheek and his palm, her fingers lying open and relaxed in the wake of his mouth. She can feel the light dusting of stubble along his jaw, evidence that he's as exhausted as she is. "I wish we could have. I wish you'd never had to go through that." His voice is soft, sincere, so very tender. "And I know you were scared, I know it hurts, but you did so well, Scully."
"It doesn't feel that way."
"I know that, too." He leans close, then, so close that his forehead settles comfortably against hers. "You can cry," he murmurs, and she can only just restrain a choked sob as the tears spill over and slide down her face. "It's okay to cry," he says, a solemn promise to make her believe, to somehow undo a lifetime of self-conditioning, and she bites her lip and tries to nod. Maybe it is, here, right now, in the dark ten thousand feet above Ohio with Mulder holding her. Maybe it is okay.
So she does, as silently as she can, but openly, pressing her forehead to his as Mulder strokes her waist lightly through her t-shirt and holds the curve of her wrist against his lips. He doesn't speak, doesn't try to be soothing, does nothing else but hold her until she's cried herself out - utterly, completely, the way she hasn't since it happened - and her eyes slip closed with exhaustion.
"I don't want to sleep again," she whispers. She's so tired, she's lost track of how long they have left until they land, but she just can't bear to have the nightmare again.
"I'll keep you awake." She feels him turn his head without breaking their contact, sliding his lips back up to her palm. That quiet sense of something, that not-fear itches down her spine, soft and hot, and she feels herself smile faintly and this time it doesn't feel quite so strange.
"Mm. You will if you keep doing that."
That same something shines in his eyes; he nuzzles into her palm, stubble grazing her skin. "You like that, Scully?"
She lets her fingertips finally stray from their passive acceptance of his attention to rub his cheek in answer. He grins: she can feel it against the heel of her palm. She does it again, more confident this time, and teasing him slips out as naturally as breath. "You like that, Mulder?"
"I don't think I should have to tell you this, but yeah." His voice is like rough silk. Definitely not teasing. "Why wouldn't I like it when you touch me?"
Put like that, it sounds a ridiculous question. She swallows slowly. Her fingers don't seem to want to stop moving on his skin. "I can't say I ever really thought about it."
"Liar," he says, and this time he is teasing, if only for just a moment. "I told you; you have the most incredible hands. I don't think you know what you could do to me..." He clears his throat and it sounds loud enough for the entire flight to hear. "Or what you're doing to me right now," he adds, with rough honest heat, and the look in his eyes, the sound of those words is indescribable - it's as if he's reached out to somewhere private and unknown and drawn down all the personal power she thought she'd lost, thought had been torn to pieces and snatched away, and handed it back to her on a silver platter. As if he's kept it safe for her, knowing she would need it.
Against all the monsters of the world, there is Mulder. The man with the absurd sense of humor, the crazy theories, the maddening inability not to parcel out facts like cookie crumbs just to play with her mind, the utter lack of consideration for due process or danger, not to mention his own skin. Intelligent and driven, yes, and paranoid, as well, but still open and caring and forthright to a fault. The man they sent her to spy on, who knew that from the very beginning and has only ever been vastly amused by it.
She does not know, right in this moment, how she could ever have thought the monsters might stand a chance.
"Scully," he says, softer again, almost afraid, and this time she presses her thumb to his lips. She doesn't want him talking now. She wants to touch him, put her hands on him, make him feel what he's given her and what it means and how much it's come to matter to her, this strange, amazing thing alive between them.
She doesn't have to move at all; just slide her thumb away, tip her chin up and her lips are on his. And thank God, he doesn't object, try and back away, pull out any sign of over-protective courteousness - he melts into it, and she's lost in discovering his mouth. Soft. Hot. Wet. Incredible. God, so incredible... She can't imagine she's actually doing this, has actually kissed Fox Mulder - in the back of a plane for no reason but to kiss him, because she wants to, because this is how he's somehow against insane odds made her feel, because finally kissing him is good and right and even though she's never dared before, somehow beautifully normal.
And it is good. It's very, very good. It's everything she could have hoped for and so much more, even - especially - when he finally slips two fingers between her lips and his, separates them just by the smallest of margins, and she can see from the look burning in his eyes that it's only because he desperately needs to breathe.
She laughs, softly, unable to help it. Mulder runs every day, swims twice a week when they're at home and has the lung capacity to rival a professional athlete, and he's run out of air just kissing her for thirty seconds.
He grins broadly, wildly, like she's never seen. She smiles and kisses his fingers, rubs her thumb lightly across his bottom lip.
"You like that, Mulder?"
He chuckles, a deep quiet sound from low in his chest. "Yeah. You?"
"Yeah." She can't think logically of how they got here; it's as if this moment is somewhere that exists apart from the rest of the world, without any open path to reach it. They were never going to take the normal route to this, she thinks, and somehow that feels only right, as well.
And then Mulder nudges her thumb away and leans back in to her mouth, and the lights come up around them as the intercom begins to chime. Mulder makes a quiet, frustrated sound. She wishes fervently that they could just fly forever.
They rearrange quietly as the rest of the plane comes back to life around them. He steals a caress across her knuckles as she tugs her belt out from between them: she lets her hand drift close enough to stroke his wrist as he clicks his own into place. Mulder pulls the armrest down and she lays her hand on it, and now he wraps his arm around hers from elbow to wrist and laces their fingers together. He squeezes her hand tightly as they descend; she can feel the play of tendons along his forearm as he leans toward her.
"Let me come home with you. I can come back and pick up my car before work on Monday."
She doesn't argue with that, or with the fact that when they're off the plane and in the parking lot, he takes her keys, or that he holds her hand on the drive home, or that he keeps her up for nearly another hour watching bad movies because he knows she doesn't want to close her eyes. When she wakes gasping in the early hours, he's there, and his grasp is gentle around her wrists as he kisses each finger over again, over and over again, every inch of her hands, over and over and over until she falls back to sleep.
The next time they fly, she leaves the armrest up between them and reaches over to take his hand.