February 2018

Scully looked in the mirror, smoothing down the dress she wore, and she smiled. It was a frivolous purchase but it seemed to be calling to her.

The smart house, Alan's place, was close to a few restaurants and some little shops she had enjoyed discovering. One shop in particular, was one she could imagine Missy dragging her into, as they walked past it together.

For a couple of weeks now, she had glanced at the dress in the window and smiled even as she rolled her eyes, wondering who, besides her sister, would wear something like it.

"Well, I guess now we know," she murmured to herself, sighing and then chuckling softly. "I can almost hear you laughing too, Missy. I hope you're enjoying this." Shaking her head, she looked at her reflection again, spinning around to look at the dress from all sides.

It was navy blue, about mid-calf length, with long capped sleeves. The v-neckline came together with a round pearl button at its point. The print of the dress, though, that was what had drawn her into the store.

There were stars of white and yellow, swirling galaxies, Saturn and Mars scattered sporadically throughout, and shooting stars. It was certainly not anything she would have chosen in the past and even now she was second guessing choosing it tonight, but it was too late to change now.

"Well, we'll see what he thinks," she whispered as she smoothed her hair down and slipped on her shoes. Grabbing her long coat, keys and phone, she walked out of the bedroom.

As she waited for Mulder, she put on her coat, buttoning it to the top, trying to hide as much of the dress as possible, wanting to keep it a surprise. Smiling as she finished, her stomach felt full of butterflies.

It was silly, she knew, but it felt like before and she was loving it. Dates, late night phone calls, a couple of movie nights that had led to them making out on the couch before clothes had been removed from eager bodies. The words whispered in her ears, the familiar feel and scent of his body, the way he stared at her, it made her feel tingly and happy. So very happy. And yet...

A knock sounded and she jumped, startled out of her thoughts. Walking to the door, she opened it, finding Mulder looking at his phone and frowning.

"Everything okay?" she asked, stepping aside to let him enter. He looked up and his frown turned to a smile.

"It is now," he said, shutting off his phone and slipping it into his coat pocket. Leaning down, he kissed her cheek and the smell of his cologne made her nearly groan. God, he smelled so good.

"There isn't a problem is there?" she asked and he shook his head.

"Not unless you count getting older and needing to schedule an eye exam as a problem," he chuckled and she grinned. "You ready?" She nodded and he placed his hand on the small of her back, leading her out of the house. She closed the door and set the alarm as they walked to his car.

Hooking her arm through his, she smiled as she took a deep breath of fresh air. "What's the plan for dinner tonight?"

"Ah, now that would be telling," he said, raising a finger.

"Which would be why I asked," she laughed, stopping at the car and waited as he unlocked and opened the door. "I just don't want to think I got dressed and made up for a dinner at some burger joint." His eyes met hers and she smiled, showing him she was teasing.

God knows how many dives they ate at over the years, dressed up or dressed down, she did not care, as long as he was with her. He shook his head as he opened the door and she sat down. Closing the door, he walked around and got in beside her.

"Not a burger joint, but still not telling," he replied. "You're not the only one who made an effort, you know." He started the car and she nodded.

Oh, she knew.

He was wearing dark jeans and a white button down shirt under his coat. His hair was styled, a bit scuff on his face, and God, he smelled good.

Pretty sure you already thought that, she said to herself, smiling as she knew she would be thinking it many times.

"Okay, I'll stop asking; let you keep your secret," she said and he nodded once, his face serious, and she laughed softly.

They fell into a comfortable silence as she watched the lights of the city passing by. Her thoughts returning to how this felt like before, she heard him clear his throat, and she turned to look at him.

His eyes were on the road, with not even a glance her way, but she saw he was driving with one hand. The other was lying between their seats, palm up, and fingers twitching slowly. Again, those butterflies took flight in her stomach as she took the hand that was not demanding, but lying in wait, should she choose to take it. He said nothing, but sighed deeply and lightly squeezed her fingers.

"So not a burger joint. Can I guess?" she teased again and he shrugged.

"You can do whatever you like, doesn't mean I will answer," he answered, running his thumb across her hand. She smiled and nodded, licking her lips.

"Is it far?"

"Hm… not so much so."

"Is it that sushi place I told you about?"

"That automated place? No. I'm still not sure about it, so it's not my choice for a date. When you get to pick, you go ahead and go nuts."

"Oh, I will."

"Good."

Silence fell again and she smiled, happiness once more bubbling up inside of her. She took a deep breath and glanced at him, looking at his profile. He was so handsome. He always had been, and even more so now as he had aged. His jawline, his nose-even though she knew he would disagree, and that full bottom lip; they all drove her to distraction.

"Just a few more minutes now," he said quietly and she hummed, lost in a memory of slow dancing in their living room and the way his fingers felt as they skimmed across her back.

They made a left turn and arrived at an Italian restaurant, the parking lot nearly full. Pulling up to the valet, he put the car in park and opened his door, as a young man opened hers.

"Hello, ma'am, pleasure to have you with us this evening," he said kindly, reaching for her hand, of which she gave him with a smile.

"Thank you."

"Of course."

Mulder came around and she raised an eyebrow as the car was driven away. "Valet and a nearly full parking lot… it must be a popular place," she remarked, reaching for his arm.

"Well, I suppose, though I don't know much about it, except it's kind of a special night," he answered, opening the door and allowing her to enter first.

"What's special about it? Ohhh…" she breathed in as they walked further into the waiting area of the restaurant.

The room was nearly dark, with the main light coming from the projected stars that were covering the walls and even the floors. Small candles flickered softly, creating a tranquil atmosphere, as soft music played.

"What? What is this?" she asked breathily and he cleared his throat.

"I… well, I promised you a date and I failed to deliver on that promise. Though I will continue to insist the stakeout counts, and it was very romantic, at least by my way of thinking. But it wasn't what I had in mind, not really," he said with a smile. "I heard one of the women at work mentioning the evening plans for this restaurant and I asked her more about it and well…" He shrugged and she smiled happily, stepping closer to him and taking his hands into her own.

"This is wonderful, thank you."

"Romantic enough this time?" he teased, and she nodded as she squeezed his hands.

"More than enough." Rising up, she kissed him lightly, before stepping back and smiling.

"Good. Let's check our coats and I'll tell the hostess we're here."

Coat. Her dress.

Oh, how fitting that it was tonight that she decided to wear it. Stepping to the coat check, he removed his and walked away, telling her he would be back. She unbuttoned hers and handed it to the attendant, taking their claim ticket. Turning around, she took a deep breath and smoothed down her dress.

She walked up behind Mulder as he nodded at the hostess and stepped back from the podium. Turning around, he stopped short, staring at her dress. As he took the few steps toward her, any nervousness she had felt, instantly disappeared at his happy expression.

"What is this?" he asked softly, putting a hand on her arm and rubbing the fabric between his fingers.

"I got it at a little shop by my place," she explained, watching as his eyes traveled over the designs on the dress. "It's not something that I would normally choose-"

"No shit."

She laughed and nodded. "It seemed to have been calling to me, and so I bought it and decided to wear it tonight. Now, here we are in this beautiful starlit restaurant. I'd say it was more than fated."

"Hmm…" he hummed, looking into her eyes, his own dark as they dropped to her mouth. She bit her lip unconsciously as her breathing quickened. "I like it. A lot."

"Mulder, party of two?" the hostess called out, but neither of them moved as they continued staring at one another.

"Right here," he answered, his hand running down her arm to her wrist and letting go. "We're right here." He put his hand on her back and led her into the room, following the hostess to the table he had reserved.

The restaurant was even more beautiful once they were inside. The stars were slowly moving, as though the room itself was rotating and stars were even shooting across the room at intervals.

As they sat down and were handed the menus, Scully continued to look around with a smile, amazed at the lengths he went to for this date. Not that he had skimped on ideas for fun in the past, but it was more things he wanted to do or was interested in exploring. She looked at him, imagining him speaking to some woman at work and inquiring about the restaurant. He hardly spoke to anyone if he could help it. She sighed and shook her head happily.

It was like before, but this time, it was so much better. He was better.

"Your waiter will be here soon. Have a wonderful evening," the hostess said with a bright smile and walked away.

Mulder looked at Scully and grinned, then glanced around the room. "A Night Under the Stars," he murmured. "And there you sit in that dress." He shook his head and stared at her, his eyes desirous.

How would she ever make it through dinner without straddling him and kissing the life out of him?

When he asked how she enjoyed the date as they returned to her house, she was not quite sure what to say to him. The atmosphere was breathtaking, the food was delicious, and the wine… well, it could have been extremely expensive or the cheapest bottle and she would not have known the difference.

What she enjoyed most, however, was the sound of his laughter, the way he twirled his pasta onto his fork to share a bite with her, and his eyes on hers as he listened to every word she said.

"I enjoyed the date very much," she whispered, butterflies settling in her stomach again. "Almost as good as staking out a crazy man in a parking garage. Although the dessert at the restaurant was much better."

"The Panna Cotta was better than that Goop-O jello thing we never ate? How very strange…" he teased and she smiled.

"It was wonderful, I really loved it. Thank you," she said and he nodded, his eyes on the road.

The drive home seemed quicker than the drive to the restaurant, especially as she was not sure he would come in or, if he did, if he would stay over. She wanted him to, but was hesitant to demand anything neither of them was completely ready to face.

He pulled up to the house and stopped the car, putting it in park and turning off the engine. Looking at her, he smiled and she searched his face, hating this feeling of uncertainty, but also loving the happy feelings of this new journey they were taking.

"Do… do you want to come in?" she asked quietly. His gaze traveled her face and then he touched her cheek gently with his fingertips, his thumb grazing her chin.

"I feel I need to repeat myself: do you even know me?" he asked and she smiled. Leaning forward, he kissed her lightly, his lips impossibly soft. Pulling back, she smiled and opened the door, stepping out of the car.

Walking to the front door, she keyed in the code and turned off the alarm. She heard Mulder sighing behind her and knew what was coming.

"Why is your house so much nicer than mine?" he asked with another deep sigh and she looked at him as she always did and then rolled her eyes.

They took off their coats and laid them on a dining room chair. Staring at one another, it was seconds before they were kissing, his arms around her waist as they stumbled blindly down the hall to her bedroom.

Bouncing into a wall, he broke from her, cursing loudly as she laughed. "What the hell is this wall doing here?" he demanded, rubbing at his back even as she reached to unbutton his shirt.

"I would say, holding up the house, but that seems too easy," she giggled and he huffed out a laugh, shaking his head.

"I'd say I walked right into that one," he deadpanned and she snorted, falling into him, her shoulders shaking with laughter. He held her waist and walked them more carefully to her room. "Mission accomplished. Further catastrophe averted." She laughed again and together they undressed, kissing and touching as they made it to the bed.

God, he made her feel so hot and needy. How did he do that? How had he always done that? From the very beginning, his smile and excitement were contagious. Falling in love with him was simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing she ever did, and here she was, doing it all over again.

Completely aware and welcoming it.

His mouth was leaving a trail of fire across her flesh. She arched into him as he took a nipple between his lips and bit lightly as he pinched and rolled the other with his fingers. Her legs wrapped around him as he moved over her. She could feel him and she wondered again how she had gone so long without being with him in this way.

He slid inside her and she exhaled, their joining stealing the oxygen from her body. She stared at him, seeing the way she felt reflected in his eyes.

Whole and complete.

He began to move slowly and it felt incredible, but she wanted more, needed it. She looked at him and he saw the hunger in her eyes, increasing the speed and power of his thrusts.

Yes, that was it. It was perfect, she thought, her fingers digging into his shoulders as he went faster.

"Perfect. Yes, it is," he panted and she realized she had spoken out loud.

"Oh, Mulder," she cried, and he fuzed his mouth to hers, any further cries swallowed, matching his thrusts, as she reached the crest of the most wonderful of peaks.

He slowed for a few seconds and then he drove into her, breaking from their kiss to shout out her name as he too reached that peak. A few thrusts more and he collapsed onto her, both of them spent and sated.

She held him close, her heart racing. As he lay against her, she closed her eyes, feeling his own heart racing; echoing her own as though she carried two hearts within her chest. They were not in sync, but seemed to be answering the other, calling out to its mate.

Words were not needed. The silent language of touch spoken instead as she softly ran her fingers up and down his back and he placed his lips to her throat and sighed.

A tick of the clock down the hall was heard as they lay quietly, each content to simply be. Breathing deeply, she lightly scratched, her fingers running opposite directions, up and down his back, causing him to seethe. She smiled and continued with her light touch.

"Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art— Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night and watching, with eternal lids apart," Mulder murmured against her throat, breaking the silence. "Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite, The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth's human shores, Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors— No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable."

He moved, kissing her neck, collarbone, between her breasts, then kissed each one, before he lay down, his head at her breast. "Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast, to feel for ever its soft fall and swell, awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever—or else swoon to death."

"Jesus, Mulder," she breathed, her body responding immediately to the words of the Keats poem and the timbre of his voice. He could turn her into putty so easily, and he knew it. He knew exactly what he was doing to her.

His hand trailed down her body, down to where she wanted it most, trembling in anticipation. He again recited the poem, his fingers matching the tempo of his words. Three times he repeated it before she crashed over the edge once more, breathing hard as he kissed her neck, his fingers continuing to move gently.

"Mulder," she breathed again, and he raised his head to kiss her softly on the lips. He moved, lying on his back and pulling her to his side, wrapping her in his arms.

Her body still humming with pleasure, she snuggled closer to him.

"Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast, to feel for ever its soft fall and swell, awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever—or else swoon to death," he whispered and she felt tears in her eyes.

He stroked her hair and she sniffled, holding him tighter, too many thoughts crowding inside her head. Pushing them away, she closed her eyes, focusing on the rise and fall of his chest, and the feel of his arms around her.

When she woke early the next morning, he was gone. Reaching for the pillow he had slept on, she breathed in his scent with a deep sigh. She missed waking beside him, his body warm and soft, and a cool Mulder scented pillow was a poor substitute.

Sighing again, she got out of bed and used the bathroom, took a shower, and dressed for the day even though she had no plans. Walking barefoot down the hall to make some coffee, she stopped at the doorway of the kitchen and turned around.

Smiling, she walked to the front door and touched a white star sticker that had been placed there. Inside of it, in Mulder's scrawl, were words that made her ache:

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath.

Removing it carefully from the door, she held it in her hands as she walked back to her bedroom. Taking out a journal she had been writing in for a while, she stuck it to the inside front cover, smoothing it down gently with her fingers. As she stared at it, the words on the opposite page, from her first entry, caught her eye:

January 2016

Seeing him again was like taking a breath of air I didn't know I was lacking. As though I'd been drawing short breaths to sustain myself, and seeing him has expanded my ability to once again breathe deeply. How he would thoroughly enjoy hearing that… likening himself to the air I need in order to survive. No doubt I would be serenaded to some song buried deep in that amazing memory of his, like files stored in a drawer, ready to be called upon at a moment's notice.

Looking at the star sticker and at her own words again, she shook her head and smiled. "It's goddamn spooky," she whispered.

Closing the journal, she placed it back in her dresser drawer, planning to show him one day what disgusting romantic saps they were, as much as they may deny it.

Well, me anyway, she thought with a laugh, walking back to the kitchen. Mulder was and always would be a romantic, she had known that since she first met him.

Humming under her breath, she made coffee and some toast, smiling uncontrollably as she thought of last night and how they were finally on the right path. Finding her phone, she looked up more information about the automated sushi place for her date night choice.

Sending the information to Mulder, along with some sushi emojis and smiley faces, she finished her toast and drained her coffee. Her phone beeped with a message and she laughed as she opened it. He sent a gif of a robot preparing food followed by ten question marks, and then one of a Dalek with the word EXTERMINATE written at the bottom.

Shaking her head, she set her phone down. Washing her dishes and wiping down the counter, she thought of him and his overactive imagination, and she smiled.

It was just sushi after all, what could possibly go wrong?