please im begging you do the i love you prompt 24. for msr. "without really meaning it"
In Catholic Church, they’d told her lying was a sin worth six Hail Marys. But now, now she is the one who commands that others fall to their knees. Hands up. I’m armed.
She decides to test it out, just to see how it tastes. The love thing. The lying thing. He’s different than They’d said. Smarter. Unexpectedly kind in a way that makes her suspect it is bone deep, like you’d have to break it out of him. She is not cruel, but she has always loved a challenge. Loved memorizing the way bones grow back after they’re shattered.
She tells him at a gas station, leaned back against a blue car that has seen too much sun and bites at her skin. They are on their way to Paris, Texas and his stupid manila file had said something about killer cows. Three months ago she’d let him fuck her on his couch, which was part of the plan, and now she’s telling him this, which isn’t.
“I love you, you know.”
She hopes he doesn’t. They’ve known each other thirteen months. Two weeks ago she’d told him she had a date and had come back smelling like cigarettes and there’d been no jealousy, no anger in the way he held her hips that night.
He spills gas all over the cement, his eyes flicking up to hers. Oh, she thinks. Oh, god. She looks at the gas as the sharp sweet smell hits her. It leaks towards her shoes. He smiles, worries his lip for a moment then lets it out in full. He smiles. At a gas station outside Paris, Texas. As a kid she’d liked romance novels. She’d been a stickler for a happy ending.
She watches the gasoline spill. Thinks: Oh, now you’ve done it. She wishes for a cigarette. Wishes to drop an ash, a match, a spark and boom, all up in smoke.
He says “Scully” in that soft, pleading way she’s used to hearing from the opposite side of his bed or the desk in his office. She hates that it means something more than what she is. The way he says her name is a whole different lifetime strung up in syllables. He says it again, shaking his head like he can’t believe her (but he smiles, smiles) as he hangs up the gas nozzle. And then he kisses her soft (softer than ever before in this three month one night stand) against the biting blue car. She keeps her hands at her sides so as not to feel the sureness in him. But he is kind, bone-deep, unbreakably so, and so he does not say it back. If she loved him, she thinks, that would be a reason for it. If.
It was just an experiment, she tells herself as she pushes him gently away, spews some nonsense about being on a case and lets herself blush in a way she hopes he thinks is from some positive emotion. Just an experiment. She has always been curious. She will not say it again.
A year later, and she is remembering what her mother used to say about cats and curiosity, and she is thinking death would be a nice alternative to the inhuman stasis in which she’d found herself. A year in which she’d begun responding to Their questions about him with an uncanny defensiveness. Defense. When she’s the enemy. A year in which they’d taken her, just for the thrill of it, and when she’d come back to him her body had learned the nature of its owner and betrayed her. When she’d opened her eyes in the hospital, she could still feel the phantom touch of him holding her hand. She’d curled her fingers around the feeling like a stolen thing.
And then, weeks later, panicking with him above her on his couch (Oh my god, what did they do to me, crying. And his voice like a mantra: You’re okay, okay, okay) and somehow still falling asleep, fully clothed, in his arms. Three months of one night stands becoming a year of mornings. Sometimes she wakes up in his bed and he follows her like a puppy into the bathroom while she brushes her teeth. With him leaning against the door frame, talking about solipsism, and her foaming at the mouth, the only face she ever recognizes in the mirror is his.
Did you still tell a lie if now it’s the truth? Transfiguration, transmutation, genetic mutation. Adaptation. No, strike that. This is no longer about survival. She’d like to ask her priest about old lies. She has so much to confess.
“I love you,” she tells him, but just once, just once for real this time because, goddamn it, he’s gone and made her a fucking believer. Just once, because it is so much harder to watch him smile, to watch the kind, unbroken bones of his ribs rise and fall under her fingers, and tell him the truth. The truth which is that she loves, loves, loves him. The truth which is that he should not love her. The truth which is that she should leave him but she can’t and that’s not because she loves him at all.
The truth which is that in Med school, she’d never quite gotten past the improbability that skeletons could be repaired after they’d been broken.
“Love you, Scully,” he says, smile unmoving as he drifts off to sleep. Whole lifetimes strung up in syllables. Kind, unbreakable ribs expand slowly. Love you, he says, and means it. And she breaks her own heart, her own arm, her own legs so she can’t leave him. She cannot fathom how she’ll ever fit herself back together.