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by Anne Hedonia

     Subject: Condensation (XF) R
     Date: Monday, December 02, 2002 12:53 AM

     TITLE: Condensation
     AUTHOR: Anne Hedonia
     RATING: Oh, let's say R. Sexual stuff and the f-word.
     SPOILERS: Not really.
     DISCLAIMERS: All together now!
     ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: July 27, 2001
     ARCHIVE away, just let me know where you do.
     FEEBACK: hell, yeah. Send it to

BETA THANKS: to FirePhile, who was so nice about me traumatizing the living hell out of her ;-) , and to the afore-mentioned Melody Clark.

KEYWORDS: DSR, Doggett/Scully, Mulder Angst, Scully Angst. Slightly off-canon - to borrow a phrase from Melody Clark, no baby on board.

Hey all -This is an XF fic I wrote ages ago, but which I've always wanted to post to this particular list; I've always felt it was the only thing I've written that actually fits the mood around here (perhaps it's the fic's massive angst level. <g>) Logically, posting this has got a bit going against it -it's the third of a trilogy and by now the X-Files feels very long ago and far away - but I've decided to kick logic out of it and just post, better late if ever.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW from the first two fics: While hiding out together from a rampaging Alien Bounty Hunter, Scully began a sexual relationship with Doggett. When the two returned, Mulder wasn't told, but he knew. There's been no direct confrontation about it...until now.

It's 1:31 am when Scully awakens and finds herself lost in warm bed and a dark room. She feels a flash of contentment when she realizes the reason. She looks over to see John Doggett, sleeping beside her, one arm thrown back over his head. The covers are low enough to show that he is bare-chested, but - she smiles - she knows he is barer than that.

She rolls over to watch him in this rare moment of true candor. He lays on his back, head lolled to face her, but doesn't snore - quite an unusual occurrence for a back-sleeper. His mouth hangs slightly open. She thinks back to when that mouth was kissing her, endlessly, after they landed here, straight from the shower. She thinks of the way its edges curled up shyly, and the sweet, softly rumbled words that left it.

She feels her still-damp hair, curly against her face, and smiles at the boyish disarray of John's pillow-styled 'do. It sticks together in little short locks, like he was trying to make shampoo horns. Her pleasantly-sore stomach muscles tell the tale of their Olympic shower sex earlier. She's going to be feeling this tomorrow, she thinks. She doesn't mind.

She's feeling the way neurotics and certain federal employees do when they're this happy: afraid. She's enjoying this moment, but feels sure she'll be punished for it. Afterglow for her is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it doesn't take long. She is distracted from the sound of John's soft breathing as she feels it. Suddenly... she knows.

She rises - also bare - and moves quietly about Doggett's room, scavenging for clothes to replace those she abandoned in another room. She dons a big t-shirt that falls to her knees, and wraps herself in a large, maroon-colored robe. She watches John closely for signs she is awakening him - she sees none.

Then, after a deep breath, she goes to the window.

She looks down into the yard and sees Mulder looking up at her. His eyes lock with hers the instant she's visible. Even from a second story window, the hurt and fury radiating from his face are easy to spot.

She turns away and considers a moment, though she knows she has no choice. She pads silently downstairs, and outside.

She is struck by the chilled air and the image of Mulder's tall silhouette, backlit by a streetlamp, standing in a pose that looks accusing even when his features can't be seen. Her adrenaline races as she approaches him. She swallows nervously. She wants to be brave for this, she wants to hold onto herself and her decision. She wants to come out of this in one piece. She is not the least bit confident that she will.

She finds his eyes are still locked with hers, as she gets nearer. She has the irrational feeling that his eyes have been on her since she left the window, somehow following her with x-ray vision through Doggett's house the entire time. His eyes are red-veined, she notes, accompanying a flush to his face and a wobble to his stance that can only come from a hard night's drinking. He displays them brazenly, as though they were badges of honor, decorations earned in war. He came here after a bout of self-torture, she thinks. A guilty wave passes over her. Well, perhaps a bit of my torture as well...

A long, silent time passes between them, as Mulder's glare cuts into her. Finally he speaks, his words tight and angry.

"Come home."

Scully looks at her bare feet, trying to control both her guilt and her irritation at his arrogance. "What makes you think you have a monopoly on home?" she asks quietly.

He gets angrier. "Don't fuck with me."

"Oh, and you're not fucking with me?"

"What did I do?" he challenges. "Point to even one thing I did that would make you want to..." He nods upward at the house, spits his words. " this."

She glares at him, says with her look that he is out of line. He relaxes and backs off, his eyes rolling. It's just like you Mulder, she thinks, to declare an impossible standard, by which you will prove someone wrong. And yet when you do, we all believe you. She shakes her head. Mulder can do to perception what The Amazing Maleeni does to spoons.

His anger regathers itself in his pursed, angry lips. "I haven't done anything wrong." His voice cracks slightly.

No, she thinks, you haven't done anything differently. You've lived exactly by the standard I once agreed to, the standard we set up almost eight years ago. And today that is exactly the problem.

"Mulder, certainly you should be able to understand that the surface appearance of things doesn't always equal their sum total."

She looks at him evenly. He steps back, swaying a little, his anger burning white-hot. She can see his brain flailing feverishly for something different he can say, something that will let him control the situation. But there is so little he can say that they both don't already know by heart.

He looks her up and down, takes in the oversized robe, sees the hint of a USMC t-shirt underneath. She watches his mouth pull downward in a maudlin frown, and feels his torture at seeing her come out of another man's house in this state of dress. A drunkard's Archie Bunker-like belligerence quickly wells up in him.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" he demands softly.

Her cheeks flush. She is angry at the manipulation, and looks at him squarely: <If this is hard to look at, then you only have yourself to blame,> she thinks. The instant the thought is completed, Mulder recoils slightly, as though physically struck.

Beneath the current state of his body, Scully can feel the presence of the real Mulder - the Mulder she's always known - throbbing strongly between them, as though through her very veins. The pain he feels is bequeathed to her, as always, causing the familiar ache in the back of her throat, the ache all through her that she has felt in Mulder's presence many times...the ache that she is consciously trying to leave behind with her move toward Doggett.

She doesn't like being bullied. She determines that she will move toward Doggett again.

Mulder senses it. Before she can take one step, he moves toward her suddenly in an extravagant show of pain. He swallows a small cry as he takes her face in his hands, rests his forehead against hers, his whole body shaking with emotion. Scully is alarmed at the sudden closeness - a liberty taken without warning - but the hurt she feels from him is so great, she's stopped in her tracks by it, pinned like a butterfly. So much time together, she thinks, so much between us that is being thrown aside like nothing. She's not sure if the thought is his or hers, but an instant later she knows it doesn't matter - wherever it came from, it's true. She feels the remorse of it, the flagrant, inexcusable waste. Her face twists with tears and anger at herself, then even more anger at him. Before she's even aware of it, she's put her hands to his cheeks, cradling him gently. She can feel the satisfaction it gives him, his almost smug reaction as he wins this little point.

"Scuh-leeee..." is all he says, a low quiet whimper. Even that is unneeded, overkill hammering the point at her.

She marvels at his hold on her, at this bond, even as she fights its undertow. It's like they share the same body, as though she stands in his skin. She vaguely remembers a movie fact from 20 years ago, and thinks that it's like she's Elliott, and he's E.T. She sighs wearily as the thought intrudes. <Please>, she thinks dimly, <no more E.T.'s...>

She opens her eyes to gaze at his long lashes, at his endearingly misshapen nose, at his full lips pressed together to hold back weeping, crushed till their voluptuousness is lost and they're almost white. Of course he is not without his sweetness, his innocence...his beauty. His misplaced gestures of affection and care have the charm of a boy who has not yet learned what adults need, and the snarky humor of a man who knows his limitations.

But, Scully thinks...he is not a boy. And he can not forever be given the forgiveness accorded one. Not at her expense, anyway.

She thinks of a future with him, an endless repeat of the past. She thinks of its bulldozer quality, the mighty sweep of the machinery run by Mulder's personality. She thinks of never once choosing where she wants to go, or when she can get out of the car. She thinks that if he traps her now, with his body's pull and his passion and his need, it will be harder to resist the next time she wants to go. Given enough tries, she will weaken until she can never get free, and she will watch her life go by unlived, in little daydreams of what her will would have chosen, had she chosen her own will.

She knows what she has to do, and she almost sobs at how his emotions will punish the both of them. All because of a decision to care for herself.

He's talking again, murmuring a soft stream of despondent whispers. "How, Scully, how? How could you do this? I don't understand, I don't understand at all..."

She feels like an alcoholic in a liquor store, someone dimly remembering his last meeting as blind need throbs in his temples. She pulls away, forcibly, seeing Mulder's eyes turn suddenly bereft.

"You said it yourself," she says softly, dreading his reaction. "There has to be an end to this."

He stares at her, wild-eyed. He'd somehow never meant that it be without him. But how could it not? The panic coming off of him is hot, a wildfire scorching through her. It refutes her decision and begs for its opposite. His face is everything it's ever been in the past when he was begging her, and more.

Scully can hardly bear the burden of his emotions pressing down her resolve. She thinks that it may be impossible to resist all this from him. His will may be more powerful than she ever imagined. She wonders if it's likely that the thing that now feels so wrong for her might nevertheless be what happens.

And then she feels something else.

In a moment of purest amazement, she feels it wash over her, warm and iron solid and comforting. She feels strength.

She feels it coming from behind her, and slightly to the left.

It's coming from him.

She is breathless and astonished with a new awareness, the realization of a nexus she had not figured on, had not trusted to exist...but yet it does. Already.

And then she sees Mulder.

His eyes look past her, wide with unwanted realization. They drift to her in disbelief, and tears spring to them, flowing quietly and freely.

Scully reflects on a truth that she has long known: In Mulder's world, if events don't go the way he wants them to, he fights them, forces them. But only if he believes that what he's forcing to happen will bring out The Truth. The Truth is his only God. If he discovers that the truth of a situation is something other than what he wants, he'll concede it.

She watches him fight this one concession with every fiber of his being.

His hurt is no longer aimed at her. She realizes in surprise that it's not even aimed at John. His hurt and disbelief is aimed at something bigger than all of them. He looks away from her, gazes helplessly at the ground. "What did I do?" he whispers hoarsely.

Scully turns to see Doggett behind her, knows exactly where he is, and not just from watching Mulder. She sees him standing loose-limbed, yet alert, eyes focused yet unstrained, muscles fluid yet primed to pounce if need be. His brow is furrowed with wariness - he is the statue of David, in bare feet and pajama bottoms and a white Hanes tee. She smiles, teary at the thought, overwhelmed by all that is transpiring. He doesn't really feel a danger here, she can tell, but it doesn't completely quell his anxiety. His eyes alight on her, and she thinks of how thankful she is to have his strength behind her, and how grateful she is for the distance he allows her.

She turns back to Mulder, empathy filling her eyes. He can't take it from her. He turns away, aimless with grief. She approaches him carefully, reaches to grasp his arm gently. He jerks away from her, fighting off a new outpouring of tears.

"I know it will take a long time to settle this," she says, almost inaudibly. "But we will get through it." She raises her eyes to him, beseeching him just a little. "We get through everything, remember?"

Her lip trembles. He cannot face her, is too intent with choking back sobs. She has to get away from him.

She walks back toward Doggett, past him and up his front steps. His jaw clenches slightly when he sees her face, but he refrains from touching her as she passes - a wise move, a kindness to Mulder, another point in his favor. Behind her, she can sense Doggett and Mulder sharing a look, male animals facing off - one of the animals withholding a death blow from the weakened other - before he turns to accompany her.

Scully's consciousness touches briefly back on Mulder's; the pain he's feeling is unthinkable. The farther away she walks, the less it hurts her. She steels herself to her own heartlessness and keeps going.

Safely behind his closed front door, Doggett watches through the window to track Mulder's crooked, meandering journey away from them. Scully is relieved to realize he didn't drive here, and hopes he will hail another cab to take him home. When Doggett tells her he's rounded the corner, she already knows.

The loss is like that of a limb. One amputated for a reason, but still...she knows she will feel the phantom tickles for a very long time.

She feels Doggett's hand sliding across her shoulder. His touch is effortless at first, then she can feel his brain kick in, causing him to doubt and his hand to tense and recede.

She turns back to him, watches his uncertainty, sees him search her face for signs of conflict. Though still shaken, she feels for him. After an encounter like that, she reflects, it's natural to wonder where her loyalties have fallen, at least for the moment. She wonders herself. Her brain has to remind her feelings what she decided was true, back when she wasn't under siege. She feels no faith in her own ability to do the right thing, feels weakened and fragile. She pointedly takes John's hand and holds it to her cheek.

He relaxes, with a gentle smile, takes her tenderly by the back of the neck and pulls her into a protective embrace. Scully's arms enclose him and she feels all her armor fall away, her breath coming in quiet sobs as she lets it all go. She squeezes the shelter of him and breathes it all into his warm hard chest, where it disappears.

She can feel his confusion. She guesses that he's aware of the connection he feels, but not the fact that she feels it too.

"What happened out there?" he asks finally, and she can tell that he's asking not just to assure her safety, but because he doesn't understand.

Scully pauses a moment, phrasing her answer. "I'm learning to say goodbye," she says.

He looks down at her - it's not the answer to the question he was asking, but a moment later his smile blooms quietly and she knows that he's happier with the answer he's seeing. His breath comes out in a few quiet pants through his nose, giving voice to something between a laugh and a sob. He cups her face roughly, kisses her soundly, rests his forehead against hers.

"What is it?" she chuckles.

He sighs. "You mean it."

Happy tears well up, hot in her eyes. "How many more times am I going to have to tell you?" she teases.

"I'll never get tired of hearin' it," he vows. "I'll admit...I still can't believe it."

His quick blue eyes are shining at her, the contents of his soul on display in them. She tastes one of her own cold tears a second before she arches her mouth upward to taste his lips.

"Believe it," she whispers.

He melts into her. She savors the flush that runs up her body as his hands invade his borrowed clothing to touch her. She backs them both up across the entry hall, pulling John down with her to lay wantonly along the stairs. They settle there as John pulls away with a small gasp. He looks down at her, breathing heavily, a distinctly male grin spreading slowly across his face.

"You ever watch the movie 'Risky Business'?" he inquires huskily, clearly inflamed by the possibilities.

"No," she says. She feels her sense of self returning, and is suddenly fiery with her own power. "Show me what happens."

It is even later into the night now. She is dwelling in the wee, wee hours, wrapped snugly in a lover's embrace.

She is half-asleep, her mind drifting pleasantly with recent memories, mind pictures that surge every time she breathes in and tightens his warm, heavy arms around her, inhales his smell. She can remember the sensation of moving hands on her body, movement and tension within her body, feral looks on his face that made her thrill and want to cry.

Again, out of habit, she is dimly afraid that something will ruin this peace. Her mind drifts to less-than-pleasant feelings as well, but she shuts them in a mental cabinet, for now. She will not ignore them, but they are for bringing out later.

A second later, she feels it: a far-away tug of pain along the nexus she and Mulder share, like the pulling of a fish on a line.

This time she is not afraid. She is calm in the knowledge that she does not have to answer it, not every time he calls, certainly not right now. It is up to him to heal.

She is stripping away what she does not want around her, leaving only what's essential. She is condensing her life. It feels exhausting, ruthless and cleansing, like the thrill after a hard run.

She snuggles closer to her choice, and drifts to sleep.


     "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you
     miserable."  -- unknown

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Anne Hedonia

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