Fox Mulder’s Guide to Falling (and Staying) in Love with Your Partner
For author’s note and story description, see the first chapter!
It’s the little things, he’s decided, that he likes most about her.
It’s the way the she greeted him this morning when he picked her up for their drive to check out a case in Connecticut, coffee in hand. She knows exactly how he takes it, how much room to leave and, subsequently, how much milk to add. The temperature he prefers. And as she slid into the car, handing over a travel mug, one that resides in her apartment specifically for him, a gratifying smile accompanied her.
Her smile is contagious, he has no doubt about it. The way her plump pink lips curl slightly at the corners. And when, on the rare occasions, he catches a glimpse of her teeth, stark white in contrast to the color they hide behind, he loses cognitive function. He melts. She doesn’t smile enough, which, in retrospect, is better for his sanity. But lately, she has been smiling more. He hopes, selfishly, that she smiles for no reason other than she simply likes this journey that they’re on, whatever it may be. That they simply spend time together.
It’s the face she makes when she’s reading a map, absorbed. Her posture is perfectly square in the passenger seat. So much concentration etched in the subtle wrinkles that fall above her brow. The tip of her tongue grazing the expanse of her lips. Her delicate fingers, fingers that pull triggers and make Y-incisions and fold over each other in prayer and occasionally tangle with his, tracing the lines of the highways as she follows the pattern of their route.
It’s the way she fidgets with the cross around her neck. Especially when she’s hunched over files that are spread on a motel bed. It’s as if she uses her cross to help her focus, to recenter her thoughts. She touches her cross, and he thinks she comes back to reality. And he likes that her faith wavers at times; it makes her more human.
It’s the rhythm they fall into as soon as they take their places in the car. She had complained recently about not getting to drive more often, and he, regrettably, made a comment at the expense of her height. But if he’s being honest, he likes when he drives and she rides next to him. There’s something about their ability to navigate like this. It’s familiar, like they’ve been doing it their whole lives.
It’s the way she says his name. “Mulder.” He’s heard it thousands of times, but never quite like how she says it. It’s why she’s the only one who calls him “Mulder” on a regular basis. He had told her that everyone called him Mulder, but truthfully, he was fine with “Fox.” Until he met her. Until she said “Agent Mulder” and eventually just “Mulder” enough that his name coming from her lips was like a breath of fresh air. A whisper of a prayer into the wind. It’s significance meant only for him. She says his name, and he feels whole.
And her mind. Oh, her mind deserves its own category of likeness. The way she spits paragraphs of medical jargon at him. The way she challenges and attempts to invalidate his theories with her sophisticated vocabulary. Sometimes he thinks he can actually see the logic of her brain, the wheels turning, the path it takes to substantiate her conclusions. Her mind is intoxicating. And he wants to know every inch of it.
He wonders what keeps her here, in this car right beside him. If it’s the same thing that’s keeping him here. For him, it’s more that just a quest for a missing sister, the proof of an alien civilization. It is something that he never expected. Since her, it is now more than the need for unrelenting justice and virtue, authentication of a government conspiracy. No, most importantly, their journey has become about finding themselves through finding each other.
He also wonders if his fondness of her is obvious. He knows that he doesn’t tell her enough, if at all, just how much he appreciates having her in his life. How their partnership, friendship, whatever it is, has given him new meaning. He thinks of the lives they’ve lost, the amount of times they’ve almost lost each other.
Just recently, he turned a gun so quickly on himself, yet held back with everything he had to protect her. He saw how shaken she was, by the ease of which he didn’t hesitate pulling the trigger on himself, the precision of which he had placed the gun at his temple, ensuring that had there been a bullet in that chamber, there would be no chance for survival. The single tear that escaped her lid, her anguished plea for him to fight the mind control. It was if something inside him clicked. The potential that he could mean as much to her as she does to him. And later, he knew by the desperate grasp of her hand in his at the bedside of their latest demon that he had miscalculated how much the notion of his death could affect her.
He’s done everything in his power to make sure she doesn’t know the depths of his feelings for her. He wonders if she can see right through him anyway.
He takes a mental picture of her as they cross over into New York, more than halfway through their drive, surrounded by the waters below the George Washington Bridge. He could see her in New York, the hustle and bustle of big-city life, constantly encompassed by civilization. A life she would thrive in, and one where he would suffocate. But he doesn’t really want her to be here, if it means he won’t be able to see her every day.
He loves her, of that he knows for certain. But he will never voice it. He vows to never let that love become lust, to never be in love with her. Because having only just a part of her is better than having none of her.
So he lets the tires of the car continue to spin, and he dreads the moment they have to stop.