Cannibals and Chlorine: A Love Story

by Gina Rain

Title: Cannibals and Chlorine: A Love Story Author: Gina Rain (ginarain@aol.com)
Category: M/S UST
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Post One-Breath, Pre-Firewalker Summary: Mulder experiences separation anxiety. Disclaimer: Chris Carter and Fox own the x-files. Special Thanks: To Sybil for the lovely beta and for interrupting my casefile work with these challenges. She's working my fingers to the bone, I tell you. And I'm dedicating this one to Carol A., just because. Archive: Sure

I felt my throat tighten again.

In some ways, it was worse being without her now than when she was actually missing. It started with a vague sense of unease, which quickly progressed to a fullblown paranoia that could only be assuaged in one way.

It was time to practice some tough-love on myself. After all, Scully had every right to go for a swim.

Anyone who looked at her could tell she wasn't in the greatest physical shape since her return. She was pale and her movements were stiff. Her doctor had suggested swimming as a fairly painless way to help rebuild muscle tone. She only took his advice a half-hour ago.

It was--and is--important for her to feel in control. So, of course, she never told me how uncomfortable she was. But I knew. It was only her second day back in the office and she had arrived so early the coffee I had set up hadn't finished brewing when she walked in. That put her in running for employee-of-the-week but by eleven A.M. she was in pain, and I was playing my role as her non-intrusive partner and ignoring it.

I stood and paced.

The topic of the moment: the roles we choose to play in life. Digest and discuss. But I couldn't. All I could think of was how relieved I had been when I walked into her hospital room after she woke from her coma. She greeted me with that same sweet smile. But she remembered nothing. And when she does ...

I haven't heard the sounds of her easy laughter since her return. I haven't witnessed the boundless energy that was part and parcel of the tiny dynamo that took possession over part of my basement and my life. Perhaps they had already been sacrificed to what her body remembered but her mind could not.

As I passed by her side of the office, I saw a sudden movement on the floor. On second glance, nothing had moved. It had gleamed. The fluorescent lights in the room had hit a small gold earring at just the right angle and seemed to give off a small spark. It was the same tiny, businesslike hoop that Scully had worn that morning.

Scully was up in the recreational area. Wearing only one earring. Perhaps she had noticed its absence. Perhaps it was an item of great sentimental value and she was, even now, in the middle of a fevered search. I turned the earring over in my hand. A more ordinary piece of jewelry couldn't be found.

What to do? What to do?

The door made a hollow metallic sound when it swung closed behind me. The acoustics in the "pool room" were incredibly odd. I looked around and thought that I had missed Scully. No one seemed to be in the room or in the pool. But this time, real movement caught my attention. An ivory and black figure was swimming underwater. Scully's skin was so pale against the dark bathing suit and mandatory cap.

I shouldn't have come. I was encroaching on her welltreasured privacy and she might not be happy with the idea of me watching her at a moment like this. Women could get odd over men seeing them in bathing suits-- even those that had seen them in their underwear on another auspicious occasion. But I never did know when to just turn and walk away. I sat on the bench nearest the pool and watched her instead.

She was making me nervous. She had been swimming underwater for a while and every time I expected her to rise to the surface--she'd kick her feet and force her body down toward the bottom of the pool. Scully seemed to be a strong swimmer. She didn't appear to be in distress of any kind. She looked--incredible. This woman whose headstone had been engraved was alive and kicking and looking like some otherworldly sea goddess who drew her life-blood and oxygen from the lightly heated, highly chlorinated water of the FBI pool.

A black-capped head finally broke through the water and Scully took in huge, gasping breaths. She had her back to me as she pulled off her bathing cap--against FBI policy, by the way--and let her curling red hair fall free. A small coughing fit followed and I leaned forward wondering if I should offer any help.

She knew I was there. She felt it. She stopped coughing and slowly turned around. Her face colored lightly and, surprisingly, she swam from the middle of the pool to the side where I was sitting. She pulled herself up out of the water and sat by my feet-- leaning back on her elbows as if she were sunbathing.

"How long have you been here, Mulder?"

"Long enough to see a remarkable demonstration of the latest in breath control."

She smiled. "And here I thought you had come by to see if there were any busty agents you could ogle."

My eyes quickly scanned her body. I had not seen so much of it since our first case together. The view was still lovely. I watched as a bead of water took a high dive off the side of her face and landed on the creamy slope of her upper left breast. I don't think I took my eyes off it until it found an escape route inside her suit. She noticed and colored again. I knew she hated it but I loved the fact that her own body gave away a couple of secrets now and then.

"How active was your imagination when you were a child, Mulder?"

Uh, oh. She wasn't going to ask me about my first water-related sex fantasy, was she?

"I guess average. Maybe slightly more than average."

"Well, I know you'll find this hard to believe--but mine was very active," she said.

I smiled down at her. She had one leg dangling over the edge of the pool--her foot playfully slapping the water.

"Little Dana was a closet dreamer?"

"Little Dana was a hell-raising adventuress. Ready to take on any situation and win. If we went berry picking--I was hunting for food for my poor, starving family who were unable to do it themselves because they were being held hostage by a band of marauding California cannibals. I'd pick berries and look for possible weapons at the same time."

"Type A personality, Scully."

"I guess so," she said quietly. "Mulder, I remember something."

I immediately reached out and touched her shoulder, bracing us both for whatever she may have to reveal.

"No, it's not what you think. I just remember having dreams of being adrift. Waiting. Everything seemed out of my control. Like I had absolutely no say in what was to happen to me. And, maybe the worst part was, I didn't seem to care. I came up here and started doing laps and that feeling returned. And I didn't like it. So--I guess I fell back on old habits. I returned to childhood for a moment. Became a highly skilled diver who could hold my breath for as long as I wanted and get out of danger if I needed to. Silly, isn't it?"

"Why? Because I busted you?"

"Well, yes. I guess so."

"Well, it's not silly at all. Even if I did catch you in the act. Anything that gives you back your sense of control is good. It's important. To you and to me."

She nodded in a distracted sort of way. She had her own thoughts to think, her own feelings to categorize and file away in her mind. But that was an "alone" activity--something that she probably couldn't stop herself from doing if she tried. Here, with me, she needed a break.

I pushed back the hair from the right side of her face and smiled.

"Agent Scully! Your ear is naked."

Her hand flew to her right ear and then her left. She began to look around for the missing earring.

"I must have dropped it in the pool," she said with a tinge of sadness.

Like the dreaded Copperfield, I pulled the earring out of my pocket, held it up in front of her face and reintroduced myself, "Fox Mulder. Jewelry Detective."

She laughed. It was an easy, genuine sound; a beautiful sound. She took the earring from my hand and put it on. Then she stood up. I did the same.

We stood there facing each other. She was looking down at her feet and it was hard not to just drink in the sight of her with a big grin on my face. It was hard not to collapse at her feet and beg her to never, ever leave me again. It was hard to bite back a kind of primal scream that kept building from a store of emotions I had been too frightened to even tap into.

"Thank you, Mulder. Not only for the earring but for hanging on to my cross and ... everything."

We were finally having our moment--the one we couldn't have with her mother and sister as witnesses.

She took a step forward and stopped. I reached out.

"Mulder, I'm going to get you all wet," she mumbled as I pulled her in for a huge hug. She snaked her arms under my open jacket and around my waist. I felt her wet breasts touch my chest first. Her bathing suit soaked through the thin material quickly.

"Thank you," I mumbled into her hair.

"For what?"

<For being alive. For coming back. For wearing defective earrings.>

She pulled away slightly, still awaiting an answer.

"For enhancing my reputation as a lady killer," I said as I put one hand on the small of her back and pulled her closer to me. My pants now matched my shirt. I felt her shiver in response.

I released her from my embrace. "You better get dressed. I don't want you catching a cold."

She smirked, "Mulder, that's not how ... "

"Yeah, yeah. I know. I know."

She winked at me and headed for the ladies locker room. I'd be heading for the men's in a moment to try and maneuver the hand dryer and blow my clothes dry. The lingering smell of chlorine would be with me all day. It would make me smile and cause my throat to tighten--in a good way.

And even if this throat constriction turned into a chronic problem, I had no need to worry. My doctor had come back. She'd come back home and returned to my side.

My doctor. My friend. My deep sea diving, berry picking, cannibal slayer.

My Scully.

the end

Author's Notes: I adore--absolutely adore--the last few minutes of One Breath when Mulder comes in that hospital room and is all shy and adorable. There is just NO WAY that the moment ended right there. Either he came sneaking in later or something had to have happened. Well, that's my take on it, anyway.

The challenge:
Any character returning home (using any definition of the word, "home.") Check.
Elements that must be included:
Finding or returning something that was lost (earrings--check)
Something moving that isn't really moving (earrings-- check)
Doing something you are not suppose to be doing - at work (daydreaming and ogling Scully--check) Something [someone] repeatedly going down - take that as you will (and I did--Scully diving down to the bottom of the pool--so, sue me. I have a pure mind;-)


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