CLASSIFICATION: V, MSR
SPOILERS: Je Souhaite
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; the X-Files belongs to CC, FOX, etc. Mulder and Scully belong to each other.
Notes: Just a little piece of fluff that's been sitting on my computer for entirely too long, begging to be finished.
I added a prequel to this story (Then Comes Marriage
), although both stories can stand alone.
* * * * *
It had been a long day. Scratch that--it had been a long week, and it wasn't even over yet. Scully sighed as she shouldered the door open and collapsed into the haven of her apartment. Without hesitation, she heeled off her shoes by the coat rack and luxuriously stretched her liberated toes.
The thud of another pair of shoes dropping alongside her own reminded her to correct the pronoun: THEIR apartment. After a scant three months of marriage, she was still getting used to the idea of a roommate. It's not that she wasn't already accustomed to Mulder's constant presence in her life, but until recently they had always maintained a separate space from each other. Now, it seemed, they shared *everything*--and on her less charitable days, that wasn't entirely appreciated.
Leaving her husband to his own devices, Scully made a beeline for the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. Traffic had been horrendous on the way home, and lunch seemed like ages ago, rendering her famished and irritable as they stumbled in the door later than usual. Gulping down a tall glass of water took the edge off, but she was still eager to get dinner cooked as soon as possible. At times like this, an extra pair of hands did indeed come in handy.
Having grabbed her apron from its hook on her way over to the refrigerator, Scully was busy tying it around her waist as she stood in the open doorway and surveyed the contents. Mulder must have finished off the spaghetti on one of his infamous late night raids, she realized. Yet another annoying revelation about her partner that emerged only after they had taken their vows. Of course, he blamed his nocturnal hunger pangs on the nighttime "workouts" that she often gave him. But the result was that she could no longer count on the contents of her refrigerator remaining the same from evening to morning, meaning that she could no longer plan with certainty the next evening's meal before going to bed, as she had been doing for years.
Once this frustration had yielded to more logical thoughts, Scully realized that the meager contents of the fridge offered nothing meal-worthy. She closed the door more forcefully than necessary, answered by the clattering protest of the glass jars that resided in the door's narrow shelves. It was at this moment that Mulder reemerged from the back hallway, now dressed in jeans and a well-worn t-shirt. She turned to him and opened her mouth, about to ask if he'd start the water boiling for the pasta; instead, she remained silent and baffled as he passed without glancing her way and collapsed onto the sofa, the TV clicking on almost at the same moment that his body hit the cushions.
Scully closed her eyes and counted to ten, trying her best to mute the red that she was seeing into a soft, fuzzy pink. No such luck.
Her voice was strained when she finally trusted herself to speak without exploding. She wasn't quite yelling, but she did have to compete with the volume of the television. "Would it put you out too much to help me with dinner?"
Mulder didn't bother to look at her but tossed back over his shoulder: "I don't feel like cooking tonight. Let's just order in."
Scully indulged in another deep sigh to ground herself before responding. "I do like to eat a home-cooked meal every now and then, you know. Not everyone enjoys living off of pizza and Chinese."
The obnoxious lights and sounds of the tube were finally extinguished as Mulder turned and opened his mouth to launch into his rebuttal. However, he halted when his eyes settled on her for the first time since they had entered the apartment. She made no effort to hide her exhaustion and frustration, which she was sure were written clearly all over her face. Whatever he saw there, it preempted his reply and spurred him into action.
Unfolding himself from the sofa, Mulder set down the remote and approached Scully where she stood in the indefinable space between the kitchen and the living room with her hands perched impatiently on her hips. Silently, she watched his approach, with eyes that could pierce Kevlar. Her glare softened slightly as she allowed him to gather up each of her hands in his own and hold them gently as he stood facing her.
He spoke to her softly but deliberately, with a determined gaze. "Tomorrow night, I will cook you dinner. But tonight, we're going to do things my way." She opened her mouth to argue, but he stilled her lips with a finger. "No pizza or Chinese, I promise. Now, go change into something more comfortable."
It was a statement that brooked no argument, no matter how tenderly delivered, but Scully was never one to take commands well from someone she considered an equal. Although she made no verbal objection, she challenged him with a look and a tilt of her head.
Mulder's eyes returned the challenge, although they, as usual, twinkled with something more lascivious. "Do I have to strip you down myself?"
Narrowing her eyes at him, she pulled away and stomped off (as dramatically as she could in stocking-feet), yelling back over her shoulder, "I want something with vegetables--and potatoes don't count!"
When she returned from the bedroom a few minutes later, Mulder was still on the phone finishing the order. She replaced the apron on its hook as he hung up, then stood by to await further instructions.
Mulder gave her new ensemble of sweats and his old Oxford t-shirt a once-over and then put away the phone book as he addressed her. "You know, if your shoulders weren't so tense, you might actually look relaxed."
"So, what'd you order?"
By his Cheshire cat grin, she could almost anticipate the answer. "Dinner." Her glare was back, but he only snickered at her as he walked over and placed a hand on each shoulder, turning her toward the couch and gently pushing her in that direction. She went reluctantly, but it was mostly for show: she couldn't give in *too* easily.
When they reached the sofa, Scully just stood and waited for the next direction. Obligingly, Mulder turned her back toward the piece of furniture and then placed pressure on her shoulders until she dropped down onto the cushions. Once she was seated, he scooped up her ankles to place her sock-clad feet on the coffee table. The only problem was, they wouldn't reach. With a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth, he held her ankles in one hand while freeing the other to reach over and pull the table a few inches closer until her heels could finally touch the wood. She leveled her best laser look to silence any of the short jokes that were sure to be dancing on the tip of his tongue, but he skillfully avoided eye contact--and wisely kept his peace.
Having satisfactorily arranged her in a couch potato pose, Mulder then ceremoniously handed her the remote as though it were her scepter, and he took his place at her side while she activated the box and began her pursuit of worthy programming. It didn't take long for her to grow disgusted with the options. Leaving it on CNN, she sighed and slapped the remote down on his thigh. "There's nothing on. This is why I don't feel the need to rush over to the TV when we get home from work."
Trying for a different option, Mulder lifted the remote and pushed the play button for the VCR. Scully looked over at him questioningly, and he just shrugged in response, suggesting that he didn't know what was in there. As the ever-ironic FBI warning popped up on the screen, she tossed at him: "I'm not really in the mood for one of your videos right now."
"Actually, I've always found them to be a helpful way to unwind after a stressful day."
Scully was about to fire back, intending to wipe the smug grin off his face, when the music started and names began to appear on the screen. By the second credit, she recognized the film and decided it would be a more effective volley than her reply.
Mulder, however, didn't catch on right away but watched with a furrowed brow until the title finally emerged: "Steel Magnolias." He groaned and then rolled his eyes to look over at Scully, now sporting a wicked grin. He just deadpanned, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?"
She chuckled. "Actually, I did, but it was sometime last week. I wanted to see how long it would take you to find it."
She watched with amusement as he deliberated his options, wondering how much of the movie he would endure. After a long moment, he had clearly made his decision; he tossed the remote onto the coffee table and then wrapped his arm around her shoulders to settle in for the duration. He did not submit without protest, however. "You do realize I'm going to make fun of this the whole way through."
She just smirked at him. "Not for my sake, I hope. I'm not really that attached to it. The only reason I have it is because Mom bought it for me."
After only a couple of snarky remarks toward the beginning, and a lot of laughter at the humor, Mulder was clearly engrossed in the story--so much so that he actually jumped when the door buzzer sounded to announce the arrival of their dinner. He quickly reached over to pause the tape--leaving them with a beautiful freeze frame of a dissected armadillo--before going to retrieve his wallet and their food.
Since Mulder had never filled her in on his order, Scully was quite curious to see what was contained in the large, brown paper bag that he carried over to the dining room table. Whatever it was, it smelled heavenly, and Scully's tummy rumbled in anticipation.
Content to let him serve her, she sat back and closed her eyes, savoring the aromas wafting in from the kitchen. She thought she could discern the tang of tomato sauce, but she was trusting Mulder that he had ordered something other than pizza.
The sounds of silverware stocking up plates subsided, and Scully opened her eyes just as her husband approached with two plates full of food. She eyed one covetously and was glad to see it was the meal designated as hers. Half the plate was covered with a delectable-looking linguini, and the other half was piled high with salad. She looked up to see Mulder awaiting her reaction and didn't realize she was grinning until he grinned back.
Scully dove into her food, happy to finally appease her demanding stomach. After another trip to the kitchen, Mulder returned with two glasses of white wine and set one down in front of her on the coffee table. A moment later, he pushed "play," and the room was filled with the sounds from the speakers and the clinking of forks against plates.
Once she was full of food and wine, Scully found herself sated and drifting in and out of consciousness while she curled into the warmth of her husband's side. During one of her more lucid moments, she let her eyes drift over their mess on the coffee table, a haphazard array of dirty plates, glasses, and the containers Mulder had brought over to serve seconds. She found herself dreaming her own version of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," watching on while plates and cups dipped into a bubbly sink and washed themselves, when she was brought back to awareness by an arm tightening around her shoulders and a quiet gasp from above her head.
Scully pulled back to look up at Mulder, then followed his engrossed gaze to the screen. She recognized the scene. Jackson had just come home to a screaming baby and found his wife collapsed on the ground. Shelby now lay in a hospital bed, kept alive only by machines. Scully immediately regretted having put in the tape. It had been so long since she had watched the movie that she had forgotten the sad turn of events by the end--and how close it hit to home. She thought about reaching over for the remote and stopping the tape before it went any further but was too caught up with the scene herself to put an end to it.
As the beep of the heart monitor slowed and stilled, Scully heard a sniffle next to her and looked up to find Mulder swiping at his eyes.
"You've never actually seen this before, have you?" she asked gently.
He just shook his head, his eyes not meeting hers.
"Do you want to turn it off?"
He watched silently for a moment. "Is there a happy ending?" He looked down at her then, the twinkle returning to his eye.
He turned back to the movie with a slight smile. "Then I think we should stick it out."
She overlooked his "we," since her eyes were still dry, and went back to watching the screen.
"You tell anyone I cried during this movie, and I'm filing for divorce."
She rolled her eyes. "Don't worry, Mulder, your secret's safe with me."
It didn't take long before he was laughing again. When the credits started to roll, Scully sighed and pulled away from him to begin cleaning up their mess. His hand soon settled on hers to still her motions.
"Let me take care of that." Scully looked up at him, his expression eager to please, and gratefully yielded the work. She stood and stretched, taking a look at the clock.
"Okay. I need to throw in a load of laundry anyway."
Mulder sounded slightly exasperated when he replied. "Scully, don't worry about it. I just want you to relax tonight."
She addressed him over her shoulder as she crossed toward the bedroom. "Mulder, I'm on my last pair of clean underwear. Just because you choose to ignore things like cooking and cleaning doesn't mean that they magically take care of themselves."
"Sure they do. It's all done by these magical little elves called 'wives.'"
She halted in the bedroom doorway and glared at him. "I am so going to hurt you for that one."
He waggled his eyebrows. "I'm counting on it."
Since there was nothing convenient to throw at him, she settled for just ignoring the comment and continuing through the doorway.
When Scully exited the room a few minutes later with a bundle of laundry in her arms, she could hear the soft clang of dishes filtering from the kitchen. She headed down the hallway and opened the closet doors that hid the washer and dryer.
Her mind drifted, to nothing in particular, as she went through the motions of filling the machine with soapy water and sorting through the whites while she tossed them in, careful not to add anything too delicate to this load. She was rethinking a pair of satin panties when she felt a breeze graze her hair and glimpsed the flash of fabric whizzing in front of her down into the water. It was a pair of Mulder's boxers.
"He shoots; he scores!"
Scully turned around to make a comment, but the remark was quickly forgotten when she caught sight of her husband. He was standing a few feet away, buck naked from the waist down.
He responded to her look with a grin that said he was all too proud of himself. "What? You weren't the only one running low. At least I'll have a clean pair for tomorrow."
She said nothing, just shook her head with a smile and returned to her laundry. She was about to throw the last item in the machine when a pair of arms wrapped around her from behind.
His warm breath tickled her ear. "Better yet, we could skip the laundry and both go commando."
Scully dropped the pair of socks into the water and closed the lid just as the agitation cycle started. "Unfortunately, the only clean suits I have are skirts, so I don't really think that's an option."
"Ooh, Scully, that ranks right up there in my top ten fantasies. Throw in a garter belt, and it'll make the top three." He let a hand wander up her thigh to illustrate where his mind was heading, and she half-heartedly slapped it away, instead grabbing hold of both his hands to link her fingers with his and wrap his arms tightly around her waist. She let her eyes fall closed and leaned back into his secure weight.
"I'd prefer not to pull a 'Basic Instinct' move on Skinner at our 9 a.m. meeting."
"Yeah, well, I bet that's in his top ten fantasies, too."
She chuckled softly. If only their boss knew how often they found amusement at his expense.
Mulder began nuzzling her neck, adding a kiss or playful bite here and there, heading for her earlobe. "Come to bed. You can give me that punishment you promised."
She sighed. "It's too early for bed. Besides, I need to wait until this load is done so I can throw it in the dryer."
Mulder released his grasp and turned her in his arms. "Then why don't you let me draw you a bubble bath?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Is that your subtle way of saying I stink?" she joked.
But he didn't take the bait. "No, I'm saying that you're too tense tonight. I'm trying to get you to relax. Just take it easy for a while."
His kiss silenced her protest. "Tell you what, *I'm* going to go draw a bath. And if you're not in the bathroom in ten minutes, I may just have to make use of all those bubbles myself."
She tried to give him a look of exasperation, but her smile was winning out. He continued: "So, I'd appreciate it if you'd join me, because I would look awfully silly taking a bubble bath alone."
"You look pretty silly right now, running around without any pants on."
"Didn't I tell you? It's Half-Nudist Day. You're overdressed." He glanced over her body, as though considering the options. "I think you should take off the top half."
He reached for the hem of her shirt, but she twisted out his grasp, laughing as she broke free, and put a few paces between them. "All right! I give in. You draw the bath, and I'll meet you there in a few minutes."
"Promise?" He was giving her that little boy pout, the one he knew she couldn't resist.
"Yes, Mulder, I promise," she replied in an indulgent tone.
Twenty minutes later, they were snuggled up together in the warm, soapy water. Mulder was drawing a sponge over her skin in languid, meandering strokes, and Scully let herself melt at his touch. Her eyes were closed, and her hands rested on his bent knees protruding from the water.
"So, Mulder, what's with you tonight?"
"What's 'with me'?"
"Why are you trying so hard to get me to relax?" she clarified.
He was quiet for a moment, but the sponge continued to trace patterns over her skin.
"It's just, you work so hard all day, I don't want you to feel like you have to come home and work all night, too. Just take some time for yourself."
"This is what I do, Mulder. I come home, I cook my own food, I make sure I have something clean to wear to work the next day. I do the dishes. I pay my bills. It's what I've been doing for years, and I don't see the need to change all that just because the living conditions have changed. Besides, now there's twice as much that needs to be done."
The sponge stopped. "That's just the point, Scully. I'm not trying to give you more work to do. I've been taking care of myself for a long time, and I intend to keep on doing it. In fact, I'd like to add you to my list."
She paused a moment to interpret his words. "You feel the need to take care of me?"
He must have heard an edge to her voice. "Not the way you mean it. But, yes, I do want to take care of my wife. Just like I'm doing right now." He softly kissed her temple.
"Then why shouldn't I feel the same way?" She could sense his inquisitive look and pulled away slightly to turn and meet his eyes. "I understand what you're saying, and I appreciate that you don't want me to feel obligated to pick up after you--and believe me, I do expect you to carry your own weight around here. But I don't consider it a burden to throw in some of your laundry with mine, or to cook dinner for two instead of one. I *like* taking care of you, just the same as you like taking care of me. But the point is, those things won't happen unless someone does them."
He gently pulled her back until she was once more resting in his embrace. "Well, I have been known to wait a day too long to do laundry. But then again, I don't have a problem with free-balling it."
"I don't particularly have a problem with that either, especially when you bend over the file cabinet."
He leaned down to look into her face. "Have you been checking out my ass, Scully?"
She looked up at him innocently. "No more than you've been checking out mine."
"Wow, that much, huh?" He abandoned the sponge to let his hands take over the wandering.
She arched her back and tried her best not to purr, knowing he'd never let her live it down. But she wasn't quite done with the conversation yet. "I think what it comes down to is that you and I have a different perception of what needs to be done around the house."
He answered distractedly, "Yeah, guess we'll have to work on that."
"Yeah," she sighed as he began nipping at her jaw. If there was anything else she intended to say, it had completely fled her mind.
Somewhere in the background, the washing machine buzzed its completion. But the sound was drowned out by more urgent noises: the soft splashes of water, the gentle sighs and moans.
The laundry could wait.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Read the sequel: Then Comes Baby
Send feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org