The X-iles

Alteration Finds

Sweeney Todd Review
NonEssential and NonExistent's NonsEnse
Push's Pad
Xtreme Unction's Labor of Love
Sacred Heart's Ambry
Satchie's "On the Safe Side"
Site Correspondence
Aye, There's the Rum


By Xtreme Unction

RATING: NC-17 for violence and sexual themes

DISCLAIMER: This work was for love, not for profit. It is intended as a homage, not an infringement.

SPOILERS: Irresistible

NOTES: This was written for the After the Fact "Irresistible" challenge.
After the Fact is archived here: Thanks to Lisa (truthwebothknow) for the most unusual beta. There were so many points in this story at which she suggested Mulder get naked. *g*

DEDICATED: To Obfuscate2000 and Obfusc8er. Thanks for the company.

The soft sounds of her breath ripple through the air, like waves on the surface of a lake of dreams.

She is finally asleep.

"I'm fine, Mulder. I just need to shower and get some rest," she told me in the car earlier. I didn't believe her for an instant. Her words sounded watery, hollow, and held no conviction.

As soon as we got back to the motel, I gave her my room and told her I would book the one next door for myself. Using the lame excuse that I needed to pick stuff up off the floor, I entered first and thoroughly searched every nook and cranny with my weapon drawn.

I was just here this morning, and Pfaster was already locked up, but I didn't want to take any chances.

Her luggage was already in my room. I had it delivered from the police impound lot, where it had remained locked in the trunk of her rental car. My own bags were neatly packed and in the corner by the adjoining room's door. So much for my lame excuse. If she noticed, she didn't say anything. I promised to move them as soon as I had the second room's key.

It took me all of three minutes to get to the front desk, sign the credit card forms, grab the key, and hurry back to her room, but it felt like an eternity. One hundred eighty seconds was far too long to leave her alone. "She's a goddamn federal agent, Mulder. She fought off an attacker twice her size and strength. And she'll kick your ass for thinking this way," I muttered to myself. Nevertheless, I couldn't stop the anxious pounding of my heart, until I had her safely in my sight again.

Standing outside the closed bathroom door, I rested my forehead against the wood and tried to catch my breath. I could hear the shower running. It wasn't enough. I wanted to see her, to make sure she was safe, but I didn't dare invade her privacy. Instead, I called out, "Scully, are you in there?"

"Yes. Yes. I'm fine." Her voice was soft and hesitant, barely audible above the roar of the shower. "That was fast," she added. She was crying, I could tell.

"Are you sure you're okay, Scully?" I called out, in a slight panic. I was fighting the urge to burst in there - to hell with respecting boundaries. My hands shook with an undefined tremor. I couldn't let her see that. I had to be strong for her. A rock in the turbulent ocean of her distress.

"I'm fine, Mulder." My name came out on a sob. I closed my eyes as the sound of her tears rent my heart. She wasn't fine, not by a long shot.

I couldn't stand it. I opened the door a crack and said, "I'm coming in. Something's wrong and I know it."

No reply.

"Scully?" I waited a few seconds before I pushed open the door. My eyes frantically scanned for her silhouette behind the shower curtain. There was none.

My heart raced in a sudden, overpowering fear. She was gone. Where was she? Oh, God. I grabbed the shower curtain and ripped it aside. Then I saw her. She was sitting in the middle of the tub. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, and her arms were wrapped protectively around herself as she rocked back and forth under the scalding hot spray.

Her skin was raw from the searing heat of the water and from her overly vigorous scrubbing, in an attempt to eradicate the stench of fear-filled stigma only she could smell. She looked like a small child, hair wet and bedraggled, frightened out of her wits.

I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding; the lightheadedness I felt that instant nearly pulled my legs from under me. I staggered as I reached over to turn off the shower, but when my hands touched the knobs, she whimpered in fear. I froze.

"Scully, what is it?" I whispered. She didn't look up. In a flash, I had a chilling epiphany. I saw Pfaster leaning over to adjust the water temperature in the bath he was running for her. And I felt her terror at that moment.

Stupid, stupid, I berated myself. I am so stupid.

I left the water running and climbed in the bath - fully clothed, shoes and all - and did my best to protect her from the blisteringly hot water. Kneeling down in front of her, I closed my eyes to give whatever small measure of privacy I could and begged, "Look at me, Scully. I'm not him."

She wouldn't look at me.

"Please..." I felt my voice crack with unshed tears as I added, "You're safe now, I promise you."

I sensed the moment she opened her eyes. A second later, I opened mine. In the darkness of her dilated pupils, I could see my reflection: white dress shirt, loosened tie, pale worried face, and dark hair. I was completely drenched. The steam rising from the hot water hitting my back was reflecting the dim overhead lights, creating a golden halo-like nimbus around my head. I saw her eyes widen in wonder. Her gasp as soft as a baby's breath.

She reached out a hand to touch the diaphanous light crowning me, and then dropped her hand down to cup my cheek. I didn't understand what was happening. I still don't. But the look of hope and relief on her face was enough to break my resolute external facade. Tears rolled down my face, matching her own.

* * *

"Mulder, will you do me a favor?" She finally asked in a low voice, long moments later.

I looked up in surprise. "Anything, Scully. Anything." My knees were aching from kneeling so long in this position, my back was burning from the heat of the shower, and my gun, still in its leather holster at my side, was digging painfully into my ribs. I didn't care. I would suffer anything for her.

"Will you wash my hair for me?"

I stared at her, dumbfounded at the request, before making my mouth work into some semblance of an answer. "Sure."

"Help me up," she said.

My knees cracked like an old man's and water squished out of my
leather shoes as I stood up. I held out my hands for her to grasp, turning my head away as she rose.

"It's a little late for chivalry," she quipped, noticing my belated attempt to be a gentleman.

"It's never too late," I mumbled in reply, as I unholstered my weapon and set it down on a dry surface.

She handed me a bottle of shampoo and turned around.

And so it was that I found myself standing in the steamy shower, fully dressed and drenched to the bone, gently lathering my partner's hair with vanilla-scented shampoo.

Dimly, in the back of my mind, I was aware of her strong back, narrow waist and flared hips, completely bared to me. I was sure the sight of her smooth, firm buttocks, glistening wet under the shower, would give me many a restless night, but all of this faded into the background. It was inconsequential by comparison to the greater secret she had revealed to me.

I recognized the cathartic value of this act, and was humbled by her trust. It moved me to tears again - this time in great heaving sobs. She turned around upon hearing them and hugged me tightly in silence.

The water continued to beat down upon me, like a hot, stinging rain in the desert: it was welcome, no matter how much it hurt.

All of a sudden, it seemed she realized I was completely dressed in the middle of the running shower. "Damn it. That was one of your few ties I actually liked," she mocked as she brushed shampoo lather off the ruined designer silk. We both smiled for the first time in what seemed like ages.

I reached behind me to adjust the water temperature. When it was tolerable, I shifted both of our bodies around so that her head was under the spray. Gently, I rinsed off the shampoo while holding her cheek against my chest. Her naked breasts were crushed against me as well - a fact I was trying valiantly to ignore. I tried to keep her lower body from making direct contact with mine. Among other things, I didn't want my belt buckle digging into her tender skin. And I didn't want to do anything
to jeopardize the tenuous bond of mutual healing we had just formed.

For a few minutes, we were mesmerized by the elemental sound of running water easing the nightmare away. Then she pulled her arms out from around my waist to grab the conditioner, and handed it to me wordlessly. Scully took the lead in turning us back around again. I remained locked in her embrace, as I slowly combed the conditioner through her hair with my fingers.

"I can't lose you again." I whispered softly onto her forehead, "I don't think my heart could bear it. The last time nearly killed me, Scully, but this was worse because I knew..."

"Shhhh, Mulder." She rubbed my back in slow barely pressured circles that spoke volumes. "No matter what happens, even if I die, you will never lose me."

My hands stilled and my breathing ceased. Her words shook me to the core. I let them wash over me like sanctifying grace.

She was humming a soft tune. As I massaged her scalp, I couldn't actually hear her, but I could feel the resonation in my fingertips. I wasn't sure, but it sounded like a lullaby. Something comforting, like my mother used to hum to me as a child.

I realized, at that very moment, that I was sunk. For the first time in my life, I was in love. Not the shallow, temporary kind which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. No, this was something unlike anything I've ever felt before - something that made Shakespeare's words take on new meaning, as if my eyes had suddenly been opened.

Sadly, for reasons too complex to explain, I was in love with the one woman I can never have.

Heedless, my heart took a shallow dive into a great abyss. Hope was a little flame in my psyche that refused to die.

* * *

From my vantage point now, standing in the doorway of our adjoining motel rooms and keeping watch over her as she sleeps, I can see the contrast between the stark white cotton sheets and her luxurious red hair. Hair so soft and fragrant, that I ache just thinking about it.

She let me dry it for her. I stood there, still fully dressed in my soaking clothes, as I wrapped her in a thick terry cloth bathrobe and towel-dried her tresses. Then, she leaned over the sink and let me blow-dry her hair from the roots up. Our positions - her hips resting against the counter, her legs parted, her torso leaning forward, and me standing behind her with my hips mere inches from her behind - it was almost unbearably suggestive. God, I wanted her so much.

But I couldn't. I knew that I couldn't make a single move, not even the barest hint of a sign that I wanted to push the hem of her robe up, and grasp her gorgeous hips. Nor that I wanted to watch her face in the mirror, as her eyes glazed over in ecstasy. And especially not that I wanted to watch her lips part, and her head fall back as I made her come. I wanted, I wanted - but I did nothing. I love her and need her too much to risk doing anything.

Instead, I bit the inside of my cheek and bore the temptation like a saint. But even now, looking down at my hands in the dark, I remember the feel of my fingers combing through her hair, and groan with a desire so fierce I can barely stand it.

I really try not to think of her this way. She's my partner and I respect her. I try very hard not to notice how singularly beautiful she is every day. But in a world full of utilitarian, starched motel-quality sheets, it's hard not to notice Scully lying there.

Pfaster certainly noticed.

My fists curl at my sides in barely controlled rage, the muscles in my arms and back flexing in an effort to repress action. God help me. Every time I remember the crime scene, I want to go down to the station and beat him into a bloody pulp. I want to smash his face in, and watch the blood, saliva and teeth dribble out of his pain-slackened mouth.

If I broke every bone in his body, then went back to break them all again, it still wouldn't be enough to assuage this pyroclastic anger. How dare he hurt Scully? How dare he lay one finger on her, just because he found her pretty - as if it was his birthright to pluck her like a delicate flower and tear off her petals for his own amusement? "She loves me...she loves me not," I whispered in horror, thinking of what Pfaster had planned to do to Scully's fingernails. My heart twisted painfully.

How dare he touch her, when I love her so much, want her so much, and yet cannot even brush up against her, for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of our relationship?

* * *

I really should have killed him.

Pacing now, I am stalking through my empty hotel room like a madman.

"It would have been a justifiable shooting, clean as a whistle by any law enforcement review standard, Agent Mulder." I tell myself this while cracking the knuckles of my fingers.

Plus, I would probably have done the world a favor. What if he ever gets out? What if he has the money to hire the best criminal defense team, and is acquitted on a legal technicality? What if the forces of evil conspire to set him free?

When we stormed in and found him straddling Scully - straddling her after he bound and gagged her - with the intent to kill in his eyes, I felt my trigger finger relax out of a malice I didn't know I possessed. My blood literally ran cold. How fucking dare he? I couldn't just kill him - not when he deserved to suffer intensely for a very long time.

Sparing his life was my only lawful means of vengeance. I didn't resist the urge to kill him because I'm a good cop: Quite the opposite. I know he hates women, but even more than that, I know he fears men. My profile was confirmed when I saw him cower like a frightened little animal as soon as all the men appeared. What better fate for him than to be locked away for life in the company of nothing but criminal-minded men? I can't believe I am thinking this, but I hope he is beaten and raped
everyday in prison. He deserves nothing less.

I turn around suddenly, shaking my head in an effort to banish the darkness of my thoughts. I have never felt such hatred for another human being before. Bloodlust runs through my veins like fire, tearing me apart at the seams. I feel myself shaking with a fierce hunger for retribution.

"You're losing it, Mulder," I scold myself. I'm no Freudian, but I recognize displacement when I see it. This irrational anger is not so much about Pfaster as it is about my own self-loathing.

I hope I never live to regret my decision not to shoot him when I had the chance. For one split-second, I have the horrible premonition of his escape from prison years from now, only to come after Scully, to finish what he started. I would never forgive myself if that happened. I can't even bear to think about it. The thought is so ugly that I shove it deep, deep down into my subconscious and resolve never to let it resurface.

The barest hint of a feminine sigh puts a halt to the downward spiral of my thoughts. I turn to look at her through the doorway, still lying peacefully in slumber. My breath hitches at the sight of her and my anger morphs seamlessly into fresh tears, obscuring her image.

In the end, this is all that matters: she's safe now. I resolve to take comfort in that fact, as I grab a pillow and a blanket out of the closet. I settle on the floor near her bed and try to sleep.

Eventually, the soft sounds of my breath mingle with hers, as they ripple through the air like waves on the surface of a lake of dreams.

* * *

Sonnet 116
By William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

* * *