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Waiting


some people breathe for others. others are merely waiting for release.


_____________________________________________________________

It must have been the gray sky.
Below, the equally gray sea churned disconsolately, idly slamming against the shore in quiet rebellion for being fluid and in a constant state of unrest rather than solid and at peace.
Fox Mulder watched from the bay window, leaving the rapidly cooling paper cup of coffee untouched in front of him. Every so often, he touched it, the grainy half-warmth disarming him. He would pick it up, then change his mind, and set it back down hastily. For now, the thin wafting scent of ground coffee beans and suggestion of white sugar, mingled with the drowsy coffeehouse talk, were sufficient in keeping him awake. At least, until she got there.
If she got there.
He turned to the window again. The sea answered him, crashing violently against the shore.
Then, a small shadow fell across the window and his hand. He smiled, a tiny burst of white-gold sunshine and radiance in the darkness.
"You're late," he simply said, without turning around. The crumbling wave gently receded.
When he didn't get the hurried, logical explanation he was expecting, he turned around.
To see the waitress staring at him in ever so slight consternation.
The smile faded as rapidly as it had come. The wave returned to the shore, battering it as angrily as it did before.
"Um... sir?" she managed to squeak out under his scrutinizing glare. Her flashing name tag read "Tiffanie" in flowery youthful letters. At the sight of its unassuming innocence, he eased up, and realized that her small, lacquered hand was half resting on the cup of coffee he had ordered nearly 2 hours ago. He checked his watch. 8:14 PM. He waved his hand at her, surprisingly graceful.
"Leave it," he mumbled. "I'm waiting for someone."
When she was gone, he sat back again, back into the sea.
Closing his eyes, he could only see one image- the tiny image of her, cradling a cup of herbal tea, her knees drawn up as close to her body as they could go. He remembered reading somewhere about the animalistic instinct to draw the body as close together as possible when in fear, to make the surface area that could be hurt much smaller and harder to get at. Funny, how it rarely seemed to work.

************************************

When a body sensed cold, its natural instinct was to preserve as much heat to the chest as possible. This being the case, the more expendable parts of the body were forced to sacrifice their warmth. The first were always the hands and the feet. Tucking her feet underneath her, and cradling the almost hot mug of tea in her hands, Dana Scully fought the urge to nestle against her partner on her couch, sharing body warmth. Instead, with the healing vapors of the herbal tea floating up into her eyes, slightly blurring her vision, she rested her cheek as lightly as possible on his shoulder, and was happy at the tiny heat she felt radiating from his body. She didn't glance up to catch his grin.
"Why don't you just turn the heater up?" he asked, laying one hand intangibly on her hair.
She took it as a refusal to the subtlety she had just shown him, and jerked her head up. When she did, the tea spilt lightly onto her hand, and she winced in pain, before replying with the usual nonchalant banter,
"Heating costs money. Money requires work absent of a certain unmentionable new assistant director."
Impulse struck, a rare sluggish moment, and he used one hand to gently massage where she'd burned herself with the tea, and the other to pull her head back down onto his shoulder. At this invitation, she snuggled against him slightly, and he smiled.
His brow crinkled a bit as he processed her last statement.
"I could always pay for it, you know...."
Even at his gentle, playful tone, her head went up. First, he noticed the sudden absence of a warmth he had become used to all too quickly. Then, he noticed the glare in her eyes, and maybe a suggestion of tears.
"I'm a big girl, Mulder. I can take care of myself, you know."
"Even when you're freezing your ass off in the middle of your apartment?"
She smiled, a tiny mysterious smile still tinged with hurt.
"ESPECIALLY when I'm freezing my ass off in the middle of my apartment."
She sighed, leaning her head back onto his shoulder, and he could have screamed in relief.
"I don't want to talk about it anymore, Mulder."
His hand lingered, ghost-light on her forearm, drawing a delicate line of intimacy. She shivered at the touch, and he took it as an excuse to lay the hand there, real and flesh and blood, and rubbed briefly. When her eyes closed briefly, he whispered, "Then what do you want to talk about? Why did you ask me here, Scully?"
Her eyes opened briefly, locking into his, before closing again. They both hated rhetorical questions.
"Do you ever wonder, Mulder?"
Outside, the weather was momentarily still.
"About what, Scully?"
Then a wind rustled at the window, beating tree branches against it.
"Everything," she murmured, in a way that told him that it was anything but. In her voice, in her stance, he saw a tiny crack in her armor. Was she opening up to him, or simply too tired to keep him away anymore?
He decided to take the plunge anyway.
"I wonder about you, Scully."
At this her eyes snapped open, and he could feel the momentary stiffening of her small body.
"I wonder about you, too, Mulder," she answered, finally.
The wind howled. If he concentrated hard enough, he could almost hear the sound of dancing leaf skeletons whirling intangible outside her window. She wasn't getting away that easily.
"No, you don't," he said.
She looked up to him. First there was confusion in her eyes. Then there was fear.
"I know myself almost as well as you do, Scully," he began, pulling her tighter so that she couldn't block the words out, "But why don't I know you?"
As tight as his grip was, she wriggled out of it, and stood up away from him, face flushed slightly.
"This isn't funny, Mulder," she said.
A few of the leaves scattered blindly against the window frame. One stuck fast, then blew away as rapidly as its brothers and sisters.
"You do know me. Don't tell me that 6 years has been nothing to you," she protested.
"Maybe it has," he said.
The cup slid out of her hands, and shattered on the floor. The tea, what was left of it, slashed messily through the surrounding carpet, staining the dark pink so intensely it made him think of blood.
She didn't seem to notice that it had slipped. Instead she stared at him.
"6 years, Scully. 6 years, and what do I know? I know your name. I know that you like bee pollen with your yogurt. I know that you love your family. I know that you have a strong set of values. I know that you're a scientist. I know that you loved your daughter. But all in all, those are things that any sort of person could see. I don't know who you are exactly, what you think inside, because you never let me. I've bared everything inside me to you. You've never offered me the same luxury. Maybe these 6 years have been nothing at all."
She could only stare. God, those eyes. The wind whispered against the window frame. It pulled back, then hit full force. The window rattled.
"Maybe you're right," she said.
A dull sharp ache pinched his chest. This was supposed to be the part where she denied the truth and made it all better. This wasn't the way it happened in poetry and light.
Guess real life ended a little differently sometimes.
He struggled violently, fishing into the dark sea of his thoughts, searching for any bit of lure that could bring her back.
"But just because we wasted those last 6 years doesn't mean we'll have to waste the rest of our lives," he said, and instantly hated the words. He thought quickly. Where words failed him, perhaps other tactics would not. He reached for her, grasping her hands. They were icy, and her breathing was shallow. He didn't know if it was because of him or the cold.
He lifted her hand towards him, intending to pull it against his cheek, but she detoured instead, the iciness of her hand shrieking against the inner warmth of his neck.
"Talk to me, Scully," he said. He felt as if he'd said those words too many times, so many that they had lost all meaning they may have once carried.
Outside, the wind began to subside.
Inside, she did something else.
She pressed one cold kiss to the top of his forehead, and pulled her hand away.
"This is the way you deal with things, isn't it, Mulder? Pull up words and chop them up until it doesn't hurt anymore. You call it psychology. I call it murder."
"I use the words because sometimes, with you, they're the only thing I can use."
"No," she whispered, "You could kill me with your touch, too."
"That goes two-fold," he replied, putting his arms around her hesitantly then burying his face in her waist. She was warm there.
"So do the words." She resisted the stagnant desire to run her fingers through his hair, in even the most delicate of motions.
"So we're walking a double edged blade?" He looked up.
"Don't we always?"
She sighed now, and gently untangled his arms from her waist.
"It's a little late to find out now, isn't it?"
He looked up in alarm, as she pushed him away from her, softly.
"Just because it's murder doesn't mean it's bad for you, Scully."
Her eyes flashed.
"Just because it's good for me doesn't mean I like it."
"But I wouldn't know that, would I?"
Her eyes softened. He could glimpse tears there again.
"No," she said, "No, you wouldn't."
"But I want to," he said, taking her hand again. She looked down at it.
"Tell me I will, Scully," he said.
Why did she have to look at him like that, an anguished pitying glimpse, when he said that?
The wind had subsided now, leaving them in an eerie silence. He could hear the soft rustle of his clothes when he shifted towards her, as she retreated into the kitchen.
Perhaps this had been the wrong sort of tactic to use with her. He hastily wrapped it away, calling out to her.
"Hey Scully?"
She relaxed visibly at his light tone, absent of the pain he had injected into his voice before.
"Yeah Mulder?"
"Do you remember that time I got stuck in the Bermuda Triangle?"
His tone remained light, but she tensed up again.
"How could I forget?"
She tried matching his tone, trying to keep out of his sight, washing old dishes noisily. When she heard no reply, she turned, hoping to find a glimpse of him...
Only to find him right behind her, watching her warily. How had he moved so quickly without her noticing? The surprise faded. It wasn't as if she had been paying close attention anyway.
He didn't reach out to touch her. Instead, he continued to watch her. Then he spoke.
"Did you believe me when I told you that I love you?"
A tremor ran through her body, electric cold through the already present chill of her kitchen. Her eyes remained on his, lips parted slightly as if to speak. Then they closed as she exhaled gently. He reached out now, taking her by the wrist. Her neck moved back at the touch of his warm hand, lips closing as he pulled himself closer.
"Did you believe me, Scully?" he whispered.
"Yes..." she finally murmured back, "I did."
He was so close to her now that she could hear the way he breathed for her.
She forgot about the cold outside, the blistering wind, and gave in to his body heat.
It was beautiful, but did not last long, when he broke the kiss between them, ignoring her soft cry of protest. She was suddenly aware of the cold again, though he still lingered on her lips.
She could hear the way he breathed for her now, and it made her feel beautiful.
That was when she realized, almost in consternation, why he had broken the kiss.
He had always breathed for her.
Had she ever truly breathed for him?
Was he waiting for her to breathe for him?
Or was he merely waiting for release from her, as she was from him?
The kitchen seemed too small now, and she burst free from it, looking for any route of escape. He tried to catch her wrist, but she freed herself from his grasp, stopping, and looking him in the eye.
"Is this the way you imagined it, Mulder?" she whispered, "Is this what you were waiting for?"
"No," he whispered back, trying in vain to lure her back towards him. "I was waiting for you."
Was it pleading in his voice, or angry defeat? She didn't know.
When she said nothing, he finally drew back from her, the distance between them becoming safe and oblivious.
"Maybe I should go," he said, straightening up. In his voice the angry elitist attitude had returned- it was the voice he used only when she pushed him away. She realized with a start how often she had heard that voice.
She replied in her own cool voice, "Maybe you should."
He almost jerked, then turned around, starting through the door.
Before he could leave, she called out softly, "Mulder?"
He turned around slowly.
Her eyes could not meet his, but only because it looked as if she were contemplating something.
"Would you wait for me?"
"Always," he whispered.
"Tomorrow, at the coffee shop, then."
Numbed, and even more confused, he nodded.
The coffee shop?
Then he gently shut the door behind him. Outside, his fingers began to tingle from the cold.
Inside, Scully sank slowly to the floor beside the stain of spilled tea, seeing it for the first time. She sat unmoving, staring at it, until finally, she drew her knees up to her chest as far as they could go, and hugged so tightly that she bruised.

*****************************

Tiffanie finished turning over the last of the chairs in the room, turning her gaze once again to the man still sitting by the window. Then her gaze settled on the coffeehouse clock. 1:23 in the morning. She still didn't know why she bothered to work late shifts like this. Finally, she walked up to the man again, who remained gazing out the window to the angry sea.
"I'm sorry sir," she said, as gently as she could. The man looked almost haggard, turning his eyes up to her. Sometime earlier the light had disappeared from them.
She took a deep breath, then continued.
"We're closing now... whoever you're waiting for obviously isn't coming."
He stared at her so long that at first she thought he hadn't heard her. Then he exhaled, sliding his lanky form forward, his hands folding around the cup of coffee he had ordered and never drank.
He looked up at her again, as if slowly processing the words. Then a tiny, dead, spark came into his eyes, as if he had come to an awful resolution.
"You're right," he said.
He stood, almost drunkenly, as if he could not keep himself upright. An odd sort of pity, the kind that came without understanding, washed out of Tiffanie as she watched the man stumble towards the exit.
She picked up the cup of coffee and dumped it into the trashcan, and mopped the table thoroughly. Then she stopped, looking at where the man had sat, and looked out the window. The sea crashed angrily into the shoreline. She looked back at where he had sat, gently touching the chair with her fingertips. It was still warm from his body heat.
Who had he been waiting for? Was it so important to him?
She sighed, turning away, going on to mop the rest of the tables- when she caught a glimpse of a figure outside.
Outside, the man stood, as if wondering whether or not he should continue to wait.
Then, apparently, he made his decision, walking slowly away in release.
As he did, she caught sight of another figure finally emerging, a smaller figure with a brush of red hair. The redhead caught his hand, as he turned, looking at her. First he could only stare at her. No words passed between them, only a fumble of eyes locking and falling into each other. Then a smile broke out on his face, the light returning with it. He reached his hand up to brush against her hair, then bring her close into a kiss.
Tiffanie turned around gently. They were entitled to their privacy.
Then she looked back out the bay window he had been sitting beside.
The sea had stopped churning in the moonlight, and lulled gently under her sight.
She closed the window, and pulled on her coat to leave. The two figures outside remained tight in their embrace.
She looked up at the gray sky above, catching a few stars through the clouds.
Tiffanie smiled.

The man outside had been waiting for the woman in his arms.

Perhaps that same woman had merely been waiting for release.

 

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