Silence settled like a heavy blanket over the basement office. Both knew what Mulder had been about to confess, but neither felt ready to deal with it. Scully fingered his name plate, unable to meet his gaze and acknowledge his place in her life.
It was HER life, yes, but still… he took that much of a part in it, had for four years, that he was right: it was his life, too. Even as she thought about it, irritation and frustration took over. She had always considered herself a fairly independent individual, but since Mulder had stepped into her life – actually it had been the other way around – she had difficulty separating herself from his personality. Maybe her little expedition to Philadelphia had been her desperate attempt to prove to him and herself that she still WAS that independent woman, whom she had been four and a half years ago.
No need to mention that she had failed. This only frustrated her more. She had wanted to sleep with Ed Jerse, to prove that Mulder wasn't her life. But apart from one frantic kiss, nothing had happened. She had backed out at the last moment, because she just couldn't do it. And now Mulder was pissed, because she had gotten herself into the kind of dangerous situation he probably thought he could protect her from. That she hadn't slept with Jerse he knew, it was in the report.
Mulder pushed out of his chair and stood. The sudden motion and noise startled her from her thoughts. Scully looked up at him but he didn't meet her gaze. He just gathered his keys and crossed the office towards the door, where he hesitated, opened the door and hesitated again. Finally he sighed, turned around and looked at her. She held his gaze.
"Scully, I'm sorry…" he said. When she frowned he added. "For making you feel like you had to do whatever you were doing in Philadelphia."
He turned to go.
Scully stood, setting the nameplate back onto the desk. "Mulder… I… regret what happened. I won't apologize for the reason, but maybe I could have gone… bungee-jumping instead."
Mulders lips twitched at her vain attempt at humor. He turned back around and looked at her, then closed the door again and slowly sat down in one of the chairs before the desk. The desk. Mulder considered kicking it, but he knew he should just kick himself. It was all his fault and he knew it. But she seemed in talking mood and he wanted to hear everything she was willing to share with him.
Scully watched him for a moment and then sat back down next to him. She took her time, adjusting her skirt, contemplating her fingernails, and Mulder just sat there, watching her. When she looked up her face was serious, and a little bit sad.
"I guess I just wanted to feel independent again. My whole life seems to revolve around you and the X-Files these days and it frightened me. It still frightens me." She stopped, took a shaky breath and he wanted so badly to touch her, reassure her – and himself – that it was okay and they would overcome it. But maybe that was exactly which made her feel cornered, with no way out.
"And I can still taste him – I know it's only in my head but it's there."
Scully scowled, as if willing the memories to vanish, but they wouldn't. Every time she licked her lips or drank – or anything! – she was reminded of Jerse kissing her.
"Scully…" Mulder began, unsure of what he was going to say.
She looked at him with agony in her eyes. "I just want to forget him! Forget I ever met him, forget him kissing me, forget me kissing back."
Mulder softly, carefully took one of her hands in his. "Scully, you know you will never completely forget, but give yourself some time. The memory will blur and fade and someday you won't have to think of it anymore."
She suddenly felt tears burning at the back of her eyes. She managed a shaky "thanks" and touched her lips with the fingers of her free hand, unconsciously. Mulder caught the movement and grabbed for that hand, too. She realized her own action then, sighed and gave him a weak smile.
Scully squeezed his hands gratefully and stood slowly, crossing the office to retrieve her coat and went for the door. With her hand on the doorknob she stopped again.
"You know, I just wish I didn't have to think of him kissing me all the time, it makes me sick." She looked back over her shoulder when she heard him standing and watched as he crossed the room in three strides and came to stand very close to her. He watched her closely for a few seconds before slowly raising his hand to her cheek, stroking softly. Mulder bent towards her slowly – agonizingly so – giving her time to react, to pull away, to slap him, anything. He kept his eyes locked on hers watching for any sign of hesitance or refusal, but she just looked right back, a bit astonished maybe, because she surely had to have realized what he was about to do.
At the very last moment before their lips touched, both their eyes fluttered closed. He just pressed his lips lightly to hers until he felt her shift and grab at his shirt. His other hand went to the back of her neck, supporting her head because she had to tilt it up so hard in order to meet him halfway. He hardly noticed her lips parting but when he did, he almost lost it.
Scully felt him trembling when she opened her lips. Her knees barely supported her but she didn't care, completely trusting him to steady her if she fell. Gone were any thoughts of Jerse or that godforsaken city. Her heart thudded so hard and her head was empty except for the impulses Mulder was sending through her nervous system.
Who had she been trying to kid? He was her life.
When they slowly pulled apart – somehow at the same moment – he looked into her eyes tenderly and whispered:
"Just think of me instead."