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Bone Deep

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Passing headlights flicker through the windshield of the darkened car as Scully peeks over at Mulder in the driver's seat, shucking another sunflower seed from its shell with expert precision. She does this now: uninhibitedly stares when he’s not looking. He’s as wildly beautiful and internally wired as the muffled rave music humming through the metal frame of their Ford Taurus. 

Scully can’t help but hum her appreciation at the sight in return. 

“Think he’ll show?” Mulder muses, and she knows he can feel her gaze trail from his stubbled jaw to his salt-coated lips, then down to his bouncing knee. 

“Maybe.” She turns to study the ink black streets of DC for their suspect instead of the troubled eyes and ever-fading smile lines on her partner’s face. One busty brunette, a viral bee, and a gunshot wound later will do that to a man who wears guilt like his badge. 

“Kersh and his stakeouts,” he mutters hotly, and she finds herself leaning into the warmth of his ardor. 

She’ll never admit it, but there’s this pull. This insistent need for him that feeds a part of her starving self when she’s without him. Like crackling electricity beneath her skin, just waiting to make that connection again. Enduring months of being banned to the bullpen has wreaked a different kind of havoc on their partnership - in her heart - than she’s ever anticipated. Scully hadn’t known how hungry she was for Mulder’s sole attention until she had to unwillingly share her portion with another.

She chides herself, blinking hard, trying to erase the evocative images seared into her mind: his gentle hand on her back, his sculpted arms, his beautiful mouth, the memory of how it almost touched hers last summer... As a doctor and a Catholic, she recommends against spending six years of self-indulgence on a Fox, only for a poisonous snake in the basement to slither her way through their files of Eden.

And as a woman in love, she’s done it anyway.

Scully sighs and tamps down the poison brewing within her chest. It's a tangible thing, venom tinted an envious green she refuses to label as anything but personal.  

“Well,” she retorts, hellbent on ignoring her thoughts, “Better than background checks and big piles of manure.”

He grins. “Now that was bullshit.”

“Mm,” she smirks back. “That it was.” 

“This asshole had to pick a night the Knicks were playing to show his face after a week of mindless chit chat through wiretap,” Mulder grunts. “Figures.”

Scully shakes her head, amused. “I could be indignant for you, Mulder, but I’d rather catch the guy now and move on.”

His eyes scan hers. “Move on to what, Scully?”

She leans away from him, shifting in her seat, studying the ink stain on her blouse from the morning’s paperwork “Maybe… maybe you should be asking yourself that question.”


Her mouth is suddenly dry. “There’s more to life than the files we don’t have, Mulder.”

She watches him stiffen, so she looks out the window again before he can see within her eyes exactly what kind of life he can have if he truly wants it. 

“Like getting out of the car?” he mumbles, referring to their conversation on the useless romp through the Nevada desert months ago. 


He’s nodding, fingers tapping anxiously along the steering wheel. “Scully, I know we- shit! There he is!”

“What?” Her head snaps up, squinting ahead from the side of the street where their surveillance car is parked. 

“He’s got a backpack with him. Someone must’ve spooked him before he made the drop,” Mulder huffs. The DC PD is aware of the stakeout tonight and it wouldn’t shock her if one of them got antsy and wanted to play hero. “He’s on the run!”

Before she can react, Mulder does so first, flinging the door open, unholstering his gun, shooting off through the mist like a bullet without her. 

“Mul- dammit!” Scully bolts out of the passenger seat, hand gripping her sidearm as she runs around the corner as fast as her leather boots can carry her. Her eyes adjust under the flashing neon lights just in time to see Mulder disappearing around the building of the dance club, his black jacket billowing around him like Batman. “Shit...” 

Her gait slows enough to hear the sound of glass breaking through the cacophony of music, followed by a thud off to her right. She should call for backup but it may not arrive in time. Her eyes narrow as she creeps through the maze of a darkened alleyway, weapon extended, heart hammering against her ribs. 

“Federal Agent, come out with your hands up,” she announces. 

Suddenly, a large man with a bald head covered in tattoos she recognizes from photos jumps out ahead of her and flees, tossing the bag of evidence the bureau has been searching for for weeks into the nearest dumpster. 

“Ricky Ronson!” Scully hollers as the suspect sprints off in the opposite direction, hopping over trash littered along the cement. “FBI! Stop!” she commands, trailing closely behind. “Stop or I’ll shoot!” 

The suspect slows as she jogs up to him, gun poised to the center mass of his stalwart chest, the winter wind freezing the sheen of sweat stippling her forehead. Her body is still healing from Ritter’s mishap just six weeks ago and running is a struggle at times. One she refuses to acknowledge until after the fact, lest Mulder notice and glue himself to her hip.

“Turn around,” Scully demands. “You’re under arrest. Hands behind your head.”

Ronson tosses back his tatted head and cackles like a hyena before slowly turning his back on her. “Yer a tough lil bitch with that gun, ain’t ya?” he sneers, the dim light at the end of the alley illuminating the rot on his front teeth. 

“Shut up!” Scully stalks toward him while holstering her weapon and fists the back of his jacket, shoving the front of him against the brick building with as much force as her lithe frame can muster. She grasps onto one of his thick wrists and orders, “Hands up, palms to the wall, and don’t move!” 


They both flinch at the panic in her partner's voice echoing loudly through the streets. Scully’s fiery hair dances around her head on a gust of wind like flickering flames in the darkness, obscuring her vision just long enough for the suspect to react. 

Ronson seizes the opportunity to resist arrest and bounces his meaty arm back into her ribs, his sharp elbow hitting her healing wound like a bullseye. Scully grunts, shocked, just before he spins around to quickly knee her in the gut for good measure. She barely resists the urge to jackknife under the blinding pain, only stumbling briefly before landing a swift kick to the inside of his knee, buckling it with the pointed edge of her three inch boots.

“Fuck!” he cries as she slams his writhing body into the wall once again - mercilessly this time, her blood buzzing with adrenaline. His wails echo through the alleyway, no doubt alerting Mulder of their exact location.

“I said,” she hisses, pinning his left forearm to the base of his spine as she snags her handcuffs from her jacket, “Don’t move.”

“Fuck you, Red!” Ronson spits while his face is smashed along the brick, wincing as he attempts to bare weight on his dislocated knee.

“It didn’t end well for the last man who called me that,” she quips as she snaps the metal cuff around one of his sweaty wrists. “So I suggest you use your right to remain silent.” Ronson’s ragged breathing is shaky with pain as she reads him his rights. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law…”

“Oh yeah,” he retorts, gyrating his hips. “Talk dirty to me baby.” 

“Shut the hell up!” Scully shoves her boney elbow between his shoulder blades and harshly twists his other arm behind his back to cuff that one too. “Mulder!” she shouts, knowing if he lands one more blow to her abdomen, she will be the one needing a medic tonight.

“Whatcha gonna do, shoot me in the ass if I don’t?”

“Don’t tempt me,” she seethes as she pats him down. 

“Go ahead then - I dare you!”

“Scully?” Mulder yells. “Where are you?”

“Mulder, I’ve got him!” His footfalls slapping the wet pavement cut through the music and she hears him calling out for backup over his handheld radio they were both given for the stakeout. “Down here!”

Her arms are shaking now with the effort to keep the six foot man’s head and hips flush against the wall by the time Mulder emerges from the darkness, flashlight flicking from Ronson’s snarling face to her fierce one. 

“Jesus!” Mulder pockets his Maglite and Sig as he rushes over to assist her, yanking on Ronson’s cuffs with one hand and gently squeezing her shoulder with the other. She gasps as her chest expands to speak. “Scully? You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Scully brushes him off and cradles her side, breath hitching as the adrenaline keeping her upright begins to wane. “He resisted.”

Sirens wail in the background as Mulder jerks the suspect off the wall, ready to pull him into the street. 

“Oh yeah?” Ronson jeers. “Kiss my ass, bitch, you fucked up my-” His rant is cut short by Mulder gripping the back of his neck and banging the side of his face against the brick with a sickening crack

“What did you say, you sonofabitch?” Mulder roars, his eyes feral as he grabs Ronson’s arms and throws him to the cement. “I don’t think I heard you right!”

“Mulder,” Scully warns as their backup arrives. “He’s not worth it.”

“But you are,” he urges. With a knee shoved deep into the man’s spine, Mulder leans down and whispers something sharply into Ronson’s ear, making him squirm as two DC police rush into the alley. 

While the officers call in the arrest and the ambulance arrives, Mulder fumes, pacing with eyes narrowed on Ronson whimpering in the dirt. Scully quickly explains how the suspect had fled and she and Mulder were separated. By the time she utters her last word, she’s breathless, her legs wobbly. 

“Scully, shit. I’m sorry,” Mulder apologizes, concerned eyes scanning her from head to toe. 

“What happened to you back there?” Mulder rarely loses a suspect on foot but she might’ve known why if she’d witnessed it herself.

“He juked me out and backtracked,” he scoffs. “I should’ve waited.”

“No, you were faster,” she argues. She’s not upset that her impulsive partner chased after a fleeing suspect, only that they weren’t able to do so together. 

He leans in, his face just an inch from hers. “Did he hurt you?”

Scully turns away, biting her lip, trying not to show just how badly her torso is throbbing, but it’s all Mulder needs to see to know the truth. 

“That motherfu-”

“Mulder,” her hand grasps his wrist. “We got him. Let the PD take care of the rest.”

You got him, partner,” he says proudly as he hovers over her, his fingers twitching to touch her. She’s not the only one to notice. A paramedic wrapping Ronson’s knee catches her eye, silently asking if she needs her assistance as well. Scully shakes her head, denying the woman’s offer. 

She can feel the burn of the officer’s stares, so she quickly gathers herself, straightening her spine, and addresses them directly. “Ronson tossed a bag in one of those dumpsters down there.” Scully points towards the three metal bins layered with years worth of filth. “I think it’s safe to assume it’s the evidence we’ve been looking for.”

“Yes, ma’am.” A young officer eagerly makes his way over to search. 

She takes shallow breaths, trying to disguise the mounting pain. Mulder notices of course and holds her close, palming her back and rubbing it tenderly. She can’t even be aggravated with his blatant show of affection at a scene when it feels so good.

“Make sure you tack on resisting arrest and assault of a Federal Agent to his list of charges,” Mulder says loud enough for Ronson to hear over the thrumming techno music as he’s being shoved into the back of a police cruiser. “Piece of shit,” he adds in disdain. 

“Mulder,” Scully tsks and slowly slips from his embrace to hunch over out of sight of the bustling scene. “Let’s get out of here.”

“What happened?” he frets, unwilling to let it go. She doesn’t have to look at him to know his eyes are blazing. 

“He resisted, Mulder,” she snaps, the pain overriding her patience. “It’s over. I just need to check my stitches.”

“I can help.”

“Not here,” she says through clenched teeth. 

“Let’s get the medics over here then. We can-”

“No, Mulder. I just want to go home.” 

“Fine.” He scrubs a hand down his face, nearly as frustrated as she. “Okay.”

Scully sighs in relief, her warm breath misting upward. “Thank you.”

“And I’m coming with you.”

She balks. “Excuse me?” 

“Dammit, Scully, it’s your first post-op assignment and look at you. Don’t be stubborn.”

“Please.” Scully rolls her eyes. She’d laugh if it wouldn’t take her breath away. “You’re one to talk.” 

“Yeah, and I’m saying you’re hurt.”

She feels overwhelmed and exposed. “I didn’t know you had a medical degree, Doctor.” 

“Assume I’ve received one by way of osmosis from spending six years with the best,” he teases. “And feel free to call me Dr. Mulder anytime.”

She huffs, secretly grateful for his playful quips. But then her eyes narrow at another blue wave of law enforcement officers closing in, and she refuses to stand here to drown in their judgmental undertow. “Take me home, Mulder.”

He purses his pouty lips and concedes. 



Scully gingerly makes her way into her bathroom, peeling off her jacket and tossing it over the ledge of the bathtub. Her fingertips wisp across the cotton of her shirt, prodding carefully, testing for active bleeding. She sighs in relief when she finds none.

She fumbles through the medicine cabinet above the sink in search of the hand mirror she uses in order to get a clear look at the slow dissolving stitches. A sharp pang radiating from her ribcage down to her hip takes her breath away before she can reach it. 

“Dammit.” She slams the cabinet shut. “Dammit to hell.”

Mulder’s somber energy shift the entire twenty minute ride here has not helped her current mood. It isn’t his fault she’s hurting and she knows he’d do anything to take her pain away, but as she unbuttons her blouse to reveal a bruise on her hip already blooming like an orchid, Scully realizes the deep throbbing ache within is not only from her current injury. 

It’s her heart that’s bruised, too.

She hears his hesitant steps shuffle outside the bathroom door and she braces her hands on the lip of the sink. She smells him before she sees him, that daily dose of Mulder-scent announcing his presence. Her tongue darts out to suck her bottom lip between her teeth, tamping down the urge to lock eyes with him through the mirror.

“You okay?” His soft tone unsettles her, bringing forth a deep-seated desire to bury her face into his neck and admit she hasn’t been okay since the day her lips narrowly missed his. “Scully?”

“You can go.” Her voice is shaky. “It’s okay, my wound isn’t bleeding.”

He steps closer and her breath hitches. “That’s not what I asked.”

“Mulder,” she says, dismissive. “It’s fine, you can go home now, okay?”

Two more steps and he’s at her side. The hard planes of his chest touching her shoulder; his warm hand covering hers white-knuckling the sink; the steadfast beat of his heart humming through her bones like a comforting salve affecting her in ways that both calm and frighten her. 

This is the self-indulgence she wants in life.

And like a drug, she knows she shouldn’t. 

“But are you okay?” he presses. 

“God.” Tears sting in the corner of her eyes. He smells of sunflower seeds and winter pine and he won’t fucking leave. If she blinks, her emotions will fall like a steady stream from the faucet. “Can you please just...” Her eyes drag up to meet his and the vulnerability there is striking. “I don’t know what you want me to tell you.”

He squeezes her palm. “The truth.

“Mulder. I’m fine.” 

He clenches his teeth, the strong muscle of his jaw bulging in protest. “Just let me help you, Scully,” he pleads. “Please.”

The desperation lancing through his voice weakens her resolve. She wants him here, just a breath away. Even if here is the last place he should be. The informal atmosphere of her bathroom swelling with raw, repressed feelings is a dangerous place to linger in. 

“Please,” he repeats. His slender fingers wrap around her wrist and she sighs, content. Yes, she wants him here, with her, especially because it is the last place he should be and the one place she’ll continue to want him. 

And it scares her as much as Ritter’s bullet had when it entered her.

“Okay,” she whispers. The comfort of his presence is a simple pleasure she has fought valiantly against yearning for years. But the thought of hot steel ripping through her center and claiming half her lifeblood tends to cast aside such a contrived notion that she ever can. “Thank you.”

He sheds his jacket and sets his phone on the sink’s ceramic ledge. She turns into him as he crouches down to look and he gasps, “Oh, Scully…” 

He’s never seen her bullet wound unbandaged before. Certainly not with fresh bruising. Only the slight outline of taped gauze under form-fitting work shirts and an occasional whiff of antibacterial cream has been a daily reminder of her brush with death as they work side by side within the bullpen. 

“I knew he hurt you.” His fingers grip her undamaged hip as a choked sob escapes his throat. This glaring moment reminds her that she may have made him a whole person, but that does not mean he isn’t broken.

“Mul-” He falls to his knees, melting into her, enveloping her in his arms. “Mulder,” she moans - not just from the sheer pleasure of being held, but because he is the one doing it. And she knows, maybe always has, that no one else can truly hold her the way Mulder can.

Despite the pain, a flutter stirs low in her belly at the raw display of emotion he’s expressing. Emotion for her.

He sucks in his bottom lip as it quivers, gnawing on it. An involuntary urge to kiss it, to soothe his own pain tingles across her mouth. She pushes it away instead when she sees how his eidetic mind is currently rewinding to the moment he found out she was shot, her life hanging by a thread, likely foolishly blaming himself once again for not protecting her. 

She cups his chin with one hand as his head lays along her navel and brushes his bottom lip with her thumb. He sighs as his cheek nuzzles her palm, grounding himself, and she can practically feel his mind fastforwarding back to the present. 

Private feelings had crept into their professional partnership years ago and she wonders if she should push Mulder away now and out the door - tell him not to come back until it’s only her he trusts again. But she can’t, can never. It’s become personal. He is personal and she loves him. God, she loves him so much she can feel the ache for him deep in her veins, pulsing like an angry wound on a cold winter's day, just waiting for warm, sweet relief. 

Fox Mulder is bone deep. 

She should be relieved to know she has internal proof that what Fellig had said about love having an expiration date is wrong. That love - their kind of love - will last forever. Instead, the knot of uncertainty coils tighter in her gut.

Scully can almost feel her dirty little secret seep from her eyes into his. The tension is as thick as the scar tissue on the soft curve of her skin.

She reaches over and flicks off the light. The moonlight beaming through the window is more than enough now. Being under Mulder’s scrutinizing gaze while her inner wounds are just as exposed as her outer ones is too much to withstand beneath probing fluorescence. She can only pray for a time when she’ll allow him to look at her like this in the light of day.

“See? I’m okay, just bruised.” Her chin quivers as his fingertips whisper across her red, puckered flesh. She cradles his forehead rocking along her hip, fingernails raking through his windblown hair, the stubble of his five o’clock shadow pricking the unmarred side of her. Her eyes and belly flutter under his warm embrace as she clings to this moment of illicit intimacy just as desperately as he does. “I’m fine.”

“It’s okay if you’re not,” he murmurs what feels like minutes later. 

“I am,” she rasps, eyes squeezing shut at the half-truth, clutching him closer. Physically, she’s fine. But emotionally… 

Her ribs rise and fall in time with his thumb caressing the bare flesh of her spine. She feels him nod against her, his plush lips grazing her skin. It’s the pull again, tugging incessantly, and he feels it too. Something loosens inside her then, unfurls. Her heart yearns for more. 

“Scully, can I…” His head lifts from her abdomen, chin perched upon her ribcage, staring up into her soul. “Do you need me to stay tonight?”


“Want,” he corrects. His eyes are black holes shimmering in the dark, beckoning her in, and she’s tempted. Always tempted. “Do you want me to stay, just… for tonight to...?”

There’s so much she wants from him. Maybe too much. But him staying - him existing under the same roof as her - even for a night, is the most attainable of them all. 

Her voice catches in her throat and she raises two fingers to her mouth, swallowing traitorous tears within the shadows.

Maybe this is enough. Maybe for now, loving his temporary presence on her couch instead of loving him forever within her bed is enough. Maybe this is all of Mulder she will get: his comfort - when she allows it, and her love for him etched endlessly within her marrow.

“Yes. Stay.” She doesn’t say anything else. She can’t, and they both know she doesn’t have to. It’s one of the many reasons she loves him. Him, and no one else.

And she hates herself for just how much. 

At that, Scully steps back and away from a pliant Mulder literally kneeling at her feet. 

“I- sorry. Uh,” he stands slowly as she collects herself, clearing his throat as he moves past her. “Let me get you some ice. Make some tea?”

“That’s okay, thanks anyway.” Scully wraps her unbuttoned blouse tightly around her waist. He’s already given her a taste of what she needs. “But Mulder?”


“What did you say, in the alley?” She bites her lip when he lowers his head. He knows what’s coming. “To Ronson, when you…”

“Yeah, um...” He scratches his neck, nervous or ashamed, she isn’t sure. “I told him the last man who hurt my partner only lived because of his badge. But he might not be so lucky.” 

A smirk tugs at his mouth. Proud, it is then. She shakes her head and gives him a smirk in return. Yet there’s a pregnant pause drifting through the mint-green room, heavy with weight of words unsaid. 

Mulder’s brow creases. “Scully?” 

“Yes?” The expression painted on his face under the astral glow of the moon sucks the air from her lungs: longing. She knows it well because it’s the same one she sees when she looks in the mirror. 

“About what you said before... about getting out of the car…” 

She can’t breathe, can’t even blink, and suddenly she’s terrified what might spill from his lips. Maybe it’s something she’s not ready to hear. Her heart races as he stumbles over his next words, raking a hand through his hair; stalling. And finally, she exhales. He’s not ready to say it, either.

“Blankets are in the hall closet,” she interrupts, relieved and disappointed in the same breath. “And your pillow…” His pillow. He has a pillow. She swallows around the lump in throat, not daring enough to meet his gaze again.

“I know. I’m going.” He hesitates in her doorway for a moment, as if he hopes she’ll stop him. She cannot allow him back over the threshold. Cannot allow him to hold her as she sleeps the way her loneliness is begging. 

Then, as if he’s heard her thoughts, he turns and walks out of the room, gently closing the door behind him.

Scully takes a moment to mourn their loss of opportunity while washing two pain pills down with a glass of water. She eyes the closed door before she’s ready to amble her way into her bedroom when she hears it: Mulder’s phone vibrating behind her breaks her hardened stare on the doorknob. Her silent plea for it to turn under his tentative touch from the other side now broken. 

Her stomach sinks and she tells herself not to look at it. She needs no visual confirmation of who her intuition is telling her is on the other end. 

Venom building within her chest rises again.

She closes her eyes, nose burning with unshed frustration, and flees the space still pulsing with brazen indulgence. 

Bereft, Scully slowly changes into silk pajamas, only wincing once, and curls herself into a ball on her bed built for two. She stares at her bedroom door, pining for something dangerous with a man she knows she shouldn’t, and can’t help but wonder if he is staring and pining right back. 

She hugs the spare pillow tight to her chest and squeezes her eyes shut.

He is here, she reminds herself. Her Mulder, just feet away. And tonight, she hopes they will sleep peacefully for a change. Both basking in the comforting sounds of each other’s steady breathing. Both of them, safe. Both of them, alive. 

Both together, whether they’re out of the car or in.



Two hours later, a sleepless Mulder tiptoes into Scully’s inner sanctum, just to watch the reassuring rise and fall of her chest. He grabs the small chair in the corner he’d sat in once and pushes it flush to her bedside. His heart clenches as he boldly brushes a strand of cinnamon hair behind her ear, keeping vigil. 

He’s stupidly in love with her and scared shitless to ever tell her again unless she’s ready to believe it. So for now, he covers her tiny hand wrapped around her pillow with his own and finally lets sleep claim him. 

When the sun rises, it’s only Mulder’s scent, his lingering touch, and his pillow laid upon a folded blanket that remains, until the next night he’s allowed to stay.