Amanda Wilde (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Mulder, after.
Mulder's shoelace broke just as they crested the third hill. "Damn!" he muttered as his shoe went flying off behind him. He pulled up short, cursed again, turned, stalked back. The ground was still wet from the early morning rain and moisture wicked into his sock.
The Nike had conveniently landed next to a broad stump just off the path. Mulder plunked himself down on it, brushed dead leaves and stems from the bottom of his now wet sock, picked up and then glared pointedly at his shoe.
"What happened?" She had jogged back, was bouncing from foot to foot, her ponytail swaying easily from shoulder to shoulder. Her hair hadn't been this long since. . .since they'd first met, now that he considered it. He liked it long, this long, longer even, though no one had ever asked.
He pulled the cord through the loops quickly and set about restringing it. "Threw a shoe."
She tilted her head to one side. "Hope I won't have to shoot you." Playful, he'd have thought, if he didn't know it was just the expression that went with bedside manner. He was getting used to that look, but slowly so. "Break anything?"
He pulled tight on the ends of the restrung lace, and it snapped in his hands. "Just the lace. Again. Hell."
"Guess they dried out while you were gone. Here." She pulled a lace from her jacket pocket, dangled it in front of his face. As if he were a cat. A kitten, maybe.
"Thanks." He kicked off his shoe, started the unlacing again. "That's handy."
She frowned. "Handy?"
"That you carry around extra laces." He smiled, hoping it looked genuine, made his comment sound off- hand.
"Oh." She nodded, shrugged. "I had a lace break on me a while back. Running right around here, in fact. A hundred and twenty dollar Reebok flew straight into the pond over there - " she pointed " - so I carry a spare, now. I have for a while."
"Have you?" Mulder laced the shoe quickly, efficiently. His coordination was almost what it had once been. "And look," he said, standing with his heel down, toes pointed up. "Exactly the right colour and length, too. Exactly right."
"Exactly right." She nodded, but there was a question in there, a layer or two down.
"Exactly right," he confirmed. He tugged his sweatshirt back into place, wiped damp stump-dust from his backside. "I'm lucky to have you."
"Remember that." She smiled, sounded relieved.
"I will," he assured her, returning to the path. "I certainly will."
There was a flyer from a pizza place with a new two- for-one deal, one from a dry cleaner announcing its grand opening, a Sharper Image catalogue addressed to him, and a postcard in the mailbox. She tucked everything but the postcard under her arm, handed the postcard to Mulder, and patted down her pockets one- handed, in search of keys.
"That from the boys?" She struggled, as always, with the finicky lock on the inside door.
"Uh huh," he answered, reaching for the door, swinging it wide for her. "Fourth one in two weeks."
She slipped under his arm and into the lobby. "Where this time?"
"Barrow, Alaska." He caught himself sighing, but it was too late to care. "Of all places."
She pushed the elevator call button and stretched her empty hand out to him. "Of all places?"
He frowned down at her hand, shook his head, looked up, watched the numbers light one by one. "It's just. . . Alaska is just. . . it's so far. Why Alaska?"
"Maybe it says?" She tucked her hand in her pocket, ignoring his slight, or not registering it at all. "We've been there. It's not that far. This is why we have airplanes. What would you like for lunch?"
He turned the postcard over, read the scrawl on the back, or tried. Frohike's handwriting was like Frohike - all cramped and scratchy, too much information packed into too tight a space. Might as well have been runes, he thought, hieroglyphs, petroglyphs. Might as well be Greek, Farsi, Toltec, Reticulan. He couldn't read it. It probably said nothing more than 'Scenery is here, wish you were beautiful', anyway. What did postcards ever really say?
He shrugged. "They hardly ever left DC."
"Hardly ever 'leave', you mean?"
He nodded slowly. "Of course I do. I just...I just forget, you know?"
"I know. It's easy to forget."
A frown creased his brow. It wasn't easy to forget. He had to work at it, make a constant effort, and usually a failing one.
She held her hand out to him again, wriggled her fingers. "Don't make me ask, Mulder."
How could she do that, threaten with no shift of expression, promise with no change in inflection?
"Sorry." His fingers meshed with hers and he smiled his apology. "Sorry. I was just thinking. Or not thinking. Or something."
She gave his fingers a gentle squeeze. "What have I told you about that?"
"Thinking won't help?"
"No, it won't." She smiled. "What do you want for lunch?"
The elevator dinged its arrival.
She made tuna sandwiches and warmed left-over cream of broccoli soup for lunch. He'd told her he liked both, at some point, and now it seemed like that was all they had.
"Dessert?" she asked as she cleared his bowl and spoon and glass and napkin and loaded the dishwasher.
"I don't know." He stood, stretched, and crossed to the fridge. "Maybe."
She tilted her head, eyed him strangely. "I can get you anything you want. I'm up already."
"I know." He leaned, one hand on the open door, one hand against the freezer. "I'm not an invalid. And you're busy."
"These are soup bowls." She lifted and shut the dishwasher door. "This is not brain surgery."
"Did you ever perform brain surgery?" A yellow ceramic bowl on the middle shelf held three picture- perfect peaches. "When you were in med school, I mean?"
She thought about it. "Not that I recall."
"But brain surgery - it's the sort of thing you'd recall, isn't it? It's the sort of thing I'd recall, if I were doing it. I think. Hey, weren't there some plums in here?"
"Uh huh." She joined him at the fridge, swung the white door wider, pulled open the crisper. "Plums, see?"
"Plums. Right. Could have sworn they were in that bowl this morning." He grabbed one, and another, handed her the larger of the two, the rounder. "Where did the plums come from?"
"The plum factory?" She turned the dishwasher on and walked out to the living room.
"I don't remember buying them." He sat next to her on the couch, bit into his plum, all juice and sweetness. "I don't remember shopping."
"You didn't." She bit into the deep purple globe, then swept a fat drop of juice from her bottom lip with her tongue. He watched, mesmerized, just as he knew he was supposed to. It was mesmerizing, after all. "I assisted with brain surgery. I was a student and I assisted. Does that count?"
He took another bite, chewed, nodded. "That counts. These are good. Did you get them at the fruit market on Fifth?"
"Probably." She watched him eat, then frowned. "You're thinking again, Mulder. Stop."
"You gonna tell me thinking won't help again?"
A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "Thinking won't help again." She yawned. "How about a nap?"
"A real nap, or the kind where we don't sleep at all?"
He wanted it to sound like a tease. It didn't.
She rose slowly, began unbuttoning her shirt. "Your call." She smiled sweetly, continued unhurriedly, deliberately. "You know where to find me when you decide." She draped the shirt over the arm chair, drifted out of the room.
Yes, he knew where to find her. Exactly where to find her.
He put the plum pit on the coffee table next to the postcard. 'Scenery is here,' he thought, exhaling loudly and dry-scrubbing his face. 'Wherever 'here' is.'
Her shirt arched invitingly across the back of the chair, promising him unnamed and unnamable things, none ever asked for, all his for the taking, now.
Thinking wouldn't help now, either.
He rose and followed her path, tried to forget.
They were tucked under her quilt after, her head on his chest, her breathing slow and easy. He stroked her hair, a slow, steady motion, and watched as feeble raindrops battered the window without conviction. They didn't want to come in anymore than he wanted to get out, but they kept trying.
"I smell wood burning," she rumbled against his chest. Snagging a corner of the quilt, she pulled it tighter around them, tucked it under her chin. "Stop thinking. Sleep."
"I remembered this quilt." He plucked at the fabric. "On the ship. I remembered it."
"Don't start this again, Mulder." Her warm breath sighed across his neck. "Please, please don't start this again. We both know what your doctors said about concussion and retrograde amnesia and. . ."
"I imagined crawling under it. Like this. Feeling safe and warm and. . ." He didn't know what else to say.
She was silent a long moment. "Do you?"
"I'd close my eyes and see this bed, this quilt," - he tugged - "these big blue patches covering us. Kept me going, thinking I'd get back to this, someday."
"And you did," she whispered. "You made it back."
He lifted his arm from her shoulder, tucked his hand beneath his pillow. "Only, when I remembered the quilt, I remembered it all blue and white and a half dozen shades of grey."
She pushed herself off his chest, sat up and folded her arms beneath her bare breasts.
"I remembered it grey, because I saw it grey. No red or green or fuchsia -" he pointed - "or whatever the hell this colour is." He was telling the truth now, so he couldn't look at her, whoever she was, couldn't call her 'Scully', though he knew he was supposed to. "I saw grey and I remembered grey and I imagined grey. Blue patches, wide, white empty spaces, and miles of grey. And now, suddenly, miraculously, it's. . . "
"I think that's called loden. Or sage, maybe. Fuchsia's a reddish pink, like. . ." she looked around, ". . . like nothing in this room, in fact. But there must be something in the apartment that's. . ."
"Don't bother." He shook his head, then turned and looked at her. Even when she was this close, it was hard to tell. "I suppose now that I've said something, the colour vision will go away too, hmm?"
She pulled the quilt up to her neck, then brushed her mussed bangs back from her forehead, the way he'd always pictured she would. She shook her head, then shrugged, then sighed. "We don't know how your colour vision was restored in the first place, Mulder. So yes, it's possible that, with time, your ability to see colour will . . .what?"
"What do you want from me?"
She acted surprised. "What?"
"There must be something. Some reason. You must want something."
She looked like she was going to cry, which was all wrong. She should be getting angry by this time, furious, which only proved his point. "I don't want anything from you, Mulder," she whispered. "I want you well, and happy, and safe, and with me, but I don't want anything from you."
He watched as she bit her lip, as her chin quivered. Tears brimmed in her eyes, and maybe, maybe what she said was true. She'd done nothing but try to make him happy, try to make him feel loved and safe. Sometimes, he did feel that way.
Maybe she had no choice, either. Maybe she was as trapped here as he was.
Without realizing he was doing so, he raised his arm, inviting her back. He swallowed. "I'm sorry."
She nodded, eased herself into the crook of his arm. "I know." A tear splashed against his chest, and another.
"I just miss her. I can't help it. I miss her."
"I know, Mulder." She nodded slowly, her breath hitching. "I know. She misses you, too."
Thanks for reading!