Requiem for a House Plant
Written for @leiascully‘s XFWritingChallenge: cultivation.
She told him once that if house plants were members of the syndicate he could save them from colonization single-handedly. It’s true. He kills them with abandon, aloe vera, spider plants, rubber plants, you name it, they wilt and brown and fade.
“I think you care too much,” she says, laughing as he bins the latest casualty. “Your empathy is overwhelming at times and these plants are sensitive.”
He knows he’s pouting. “You said this one was impossible to kill. We were only away four days.”
“Perhaps we should get you a high maintenance plant. Your perversity should provide it with amazingly high survival odds.”
“You’re pretty smug for someone who let three of my fish die not so very long ago, Scully.”
“They were old. And the air in your apartment is always so…”
He looks up then, waiting for the word she’s going to choose. An earlier version of Scully wouldn’t have hesitated.
“Dry?” she says, trying it out on her tongue.
He can take that. “They were in the bloom of youth, Scully. You just forgot to feed them, and you didn’t even have the decency to admit it.”
She folds her arms. Her fall-back defensive posture. He’s waiting for the eyebrow and the lip pressing. And then he’ll lay himself open for her acerbic tongue.
“You did ditch me. Again,” she starts. She juts out her chin, licks her lips. Here we go, he thinks. He says, she says. He’s ready, though. Their banter has been freer recently, flirtier. She smiles more. He loves it.
But her shoulders drop and her hand falls to her hip. Her fingers squeeze the bone through her skirt. “You’re right, Mulder,” she says, her voice rasping. “I should have told you. And I am sorry about your plant.”
Her hair falls in front of her face and for a moment, Mulder is confused. Is she serious or is she playing him? He waits a beat. She lifts her head and sniffs. She’s crying. She pulls at the ends of her jacket and then rubs a finger under her nose.
“God, Mulder. I don’t know why I’m being so silly about this. It’s a plant.”
He moves towards her, grazing her shoulders and upper arms. “What’s wrong, Scully? You’re scaring me.”
“It’s nothing. Nothing, really. I just feel a bit down. It’s the travel, probably. Too much time cooped up in cars and airplane cabins. I’ll be fine.”
He nods and breathes out. In his chest, relief mixes with uncertainty. She has always been private; is still private now, even with the change in their lives. Their years together, the things that have happened to them, to her, he can’t help but fear she’s hiding something. Not just from him, but hiding the truth of a matter from herself. Not deliberately. He knows she likes to weigh and measure before drawing a conclusion.
He bends to kiss her cheek and she pulls him closer, pressing her mouth to his. The newness of their relationship makes moments like these, where she hasn’t been able to prepare, all the more special.
Intensity isn’t anywhere near close to describing what he feels when she opens herself up to him. Unlike his luck with plants, he likes to think that she has bloomed under his care. She is roots and leaves and buds and flowers.
They deepen their kiss and when they pull apart, they are both breathless and flushed.
She smiles up at him, surprised perhaps by the ferocity of her need. She’s like that, Scully. She sometimes forgets that she is as human as the next woman. Perhaps she has spent too much time detecting, detaching and dissecting to remember.
She blows out a hoarse breath and wipes away the customary single tear with the heel of her hand. “I’m really out of sorts. I think it must be nearly that time of the month, Mulder. I’m sorry.”
He grips her shoulders. “Hey, never apologise for doing that, Scully. Kissing you, being with you like this, it’s like nothing I ever expected but everything I always knew.”
Fresh tears spill and she collapses against him. He rubs the back of her head.
“I…I’m not saying this right, but whatever this audit throws up tomorrow, I just want you to know that with or without the X-Files, we’ll go on. We’ve grown too much to waste it now.”