Very Early or Very Late

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Summary: Mulder gives Scully a belated birthday present…again
Originally posted in Jan 2001

Author: Circe Invidiosa
Rating: PG
Classification: MSR
Spoilers: references to The Unnatural, all things, Rain King, Per Manum flashback scenes (at least, what I read about them), stuff we only learn about in season 8; occurs sometime between all
things and Requiem
Disclaimer: I make no claims on the characters or the show. They are property of Fox.
Archiving: yours for the asking
Acknowledgement: as always, thanks to Carol A for the beta.

Mulder placed the box on the coffee table in front of Scully. It was nicely wrapped. She was sure he hadn’t done it himself. She couldn’t imagine him having the patience.

“What’s this, Mulder?” she asked as her fingers touched the curled ribbon that spilled out from under the bow.

“What does it look like?” he asked in reply as he sat down beside her on his couch.

She rolled her eyes with some impatience. “Well, it looks like a present, but what’s it for? What’s the occasion?”

He sat back with crossed arms and said, “It was around this time last year I gave you a birthday present.”

“So you’re making your tardiness an annual thing?” she asked.

“What happened to ‘it’s the thought that counts’?

Her fingers pulled a strip of ribbon taut and released it allowing it to spring back. “My point is your thoughts are late for the second year in a row. And before that where were they?”

He gave her an indignant look. “I still prefer to think I was early…Give me a break, Scully. I’ve remembered before.”

She looked back at him with a smirk. “Sporadically…”

“Jeez, Scully. Do you want the gift or not? I can take it back if you’re going to be ungrateful.” He started to make a grab for the box.

She smiled and pulled the box to her lap protectively. “Forget it. It’s mine now.”

“Are you going to open it?” he asked with impatience.

“I’m admiring the wrapping.”

“Fine. Take your time.” He got up and started to clear the dishes off the coffee table.

“Did you wrap it?” she asked as he moved to the kitchen.

“As far as you need to know,” he replied from the kitchen.

She couldn’t suppress a giggle. “Can I shake it?”

“Sure. Knock yourself out,” he said, reappearing. He placed two mugs on the coffee table and returned to his place beside her on the couch.

Scully couldn’t help smiling. She picked up the box and held it close to her ear. She gave it a slight jiggle. The contents slid around with a soft thud against the inside walls of the box.
It was heavier on one side and that weight shifted as she shook the box.

“Can I have a hint?” she asked.

He asked in return, “A hint? Okay…” Her eyebrow raised in anticipation as Mulder leaned in to whisper in her ear, “Open

She laughed again. She couldn’t help herself. He should give her gifts everyday.

She started to pick at the edges of the tape that held the paper on the box. She slowly peeled the tape off and folded back the paper.

Mulder nearly jumped off the edge of the couch watching her painstakingly unwrap the present. “Scully, don’t you know how to open a present? You’re taking the joy out of it! You have to
rip the paper!”

“Mulder, the paper is lovely and can be reused. Haven’t you heard of recycling?”

“There’s more to the present than the paper, Scully. The paper isn’t the point…”

She looked at him as he argued with her. Without averting her gaze from him, she pulled the corner of paper she had just freed across the box making a loud tearing sound. “Happy?” she

“More than you know,” he replied, smiling.

Scully pulled the rest of the paper off and examined the box. It could have held anything. It was bigger than an ordinary shirt box. She shook it again.

She was flattered if not delighted that he had thought of her like this. That he would think of her outside the context of work. That he would try to think of something she may want or need. She broke the strip of tape that held the box shut with a mix of anticipation and anxiety.

She lifted the lid. She found herself presented with confusion. Her hand moved across the light blue terry cloth contained in the box. She looked at him finally. His face only revealed his
anticipation of her next question or statement of fact.

At last, she asked for a second time, “Mulder, what is this?”

He answered by repeating, “What does it look like?”

“A bathrobe.”

“Then the most logical conclusion is that it is a bathrobe. Remember Occam’s Razor, Scully?”

“Mulder, I am the last person to whom you need to quote Occam’s Razor. I have a bathrobe…”

He interrupted, “There’s more…”

Scully gave him a momentary look of more confusion. She picked up the lapels of the robe. It was softer and thicker than she expected. She pulled it to her chest. Inside the fold of the robe lay several bottles and a thin plastic package. She picked up the bottles. They were her brand of shampoo, the shower gel she used, and her favourite bath oil. She picked up the plastic tube. It was a brand new toothbrush.

“What’s going on, Mulder?

He seemed to ignore the question. “The robe might be a bit big. I noticed your robe at home was a size bigger than normal and I got the same size as that. I thought blue might be nice…bring
out your eyes, you know? You can exchange it if you want another colour, or size, or style. I won’t be offended.”

“I have all these things already.”

He slid closer to her on the couch. He said quietly, “I know you have them already Scully, but you don’t have them here.”

“What are you saying, Mulder?”

He looked at her. He reached over and touched her hair, stroking it from her face. He said, “Stay.”

“What?” she asked incredulously.

“I want you to stay. For a whole night. Not until you think I’ve fallen asleep and you think you can escape. I want to see you in the morning…I’m trying to take away your excuses for leaving. All you need is a change of clothes, which I know you have in your car…”

She looked at him stunned. Her mouth opened, but she said nothing. She couldn’t think of how to respond.

He took her hand and said, “I don’t want this to be relationship of convenience. I want you to want to be here with me. I don’t want you to be here because…”

She interrupted, “When has our relationship ever been convenient?” There was annoyance in her voice.

“Scully, I’m not trying to make this into an argument. I’m trying to tell you what I want.”

“We’ve spent the whole night together before…”

“At your place. I assume because you can’t exactly leave your own home in the middle of the night. And how often have we been there? Twice? You have never spent a whole night here.”

She couldn’t argue with him. It was true. Since that first night they finally gave into each other, she hadn’t spent a full evening in his bed. She would inevitably wake up, if she fell asleep at all, and would try to steal away. Sometimes she had woken him, but he said nothing to her, letting her go. She pretended not to notice he was awake. But the last time at his place, their eyes met in the dark and neither of them could deny what was happening. She left anyway.

That was days ago. Neither of them broached the subject. Neither was sure if the other was angry, but they continued to work together in the manner they always had. A pressing case kept them from being able to invite each other to spend the evening until tonight.

She sat now, not knowing what he wanted to hear. He spoke again more gently, “Remember you asked me why don’t I ever sit still? Well, I’m asking you now. Scully, after this much time, being partners, being friends, I want this to mean something. I don’t want this to be because we couldn’t find anyone else. I don’t want this to be simply because we were there.”

She looked at him thoughtfully. She remembered when she asked him that question. It was just as he left for England. They were both annoyed with one another. Then within two days of him being gone, her life went back to the past, and then was propelled into the future with his return.

He continued, “We’ve been through too much together. I need you too much to ruin our friendship, so I want to make sure we’re going in the same direction for the same reasons.”

Any anger or irritation that was in her eyes had faded. His words touched her deeply. She kissed the back of his hand. She chuckled and said, “We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”

He nodded, but asked, “What do you mean?”

“Just that after everything we’ve been through, after seven years, the fact that we trust no one else, and yet, we still can’t say the simple things without a confrontation. We can’t read each other’s minds and figure out what the other wants and needs.”

“You’re losing me here, Scully…”

“You want to know why I leave. I’m scared. It’s pretty simple.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“That you just feel sorry for me.”

He stared at her a long moment before he finally spoke, “Hold on. You think we’re sleeping together out of pity?”

She nodded. He turned away from her and snorted in disbelief. She started to stare at her hands and continued, “I just didn’t want to see the regret when you woke up. I didn’t want to see it register for even a second…”

“Scully, how could you think I would regret this?”

She shrugged. “Well, what about you, you think we’re only together because we don’t have the time or inclination to find anyone better. You make it sound like we made a pact: ‘if I’m not married by the time I’m forty…'”

“Hey, I’m almost there…” He couldn’t resist interrupting.

She rolled her eyes and continued, “Well, how can you think that? God, Mulder, would I have asked you to father a child with me if I felt like that, if I didn’t want some sort of life with you? Do you think I asked you out of convenience? If I didn’t want to be with you how could I ask you to give me that much of your life?”


Mulder was a taken aback. They hadn’t spoken about the IVF since the last failed effort. He never brought it up. He didn’t want to pain her any more than she had been. And he couldn’t deal with his own disappointment. When she had asked him to be the father, he could see how much it took for her to do so. He thought she was embarrassed, almost humiliated to ask. He agreed earnestly. He felt like it was the least he could do after all that was taken from her because of her loyalty to him. And if it worked, he’d be tied to her forever through their child. She would always have something of him no matter what happened to him.

He would never admit to himself that his illness was a motivation for his enthusiasm to make her a mother. He wouldn’t admit it because he refused to believe whatsoever that he couldn’t be cured and spend the rest of his days raising a child with her. That’s why he wouldn’t tell her. It was why he now wanted to make a fuller commitment to her. And by now he had convinced himself that it was better and easier to deal with Scully’s anger than Scully’s grief.

She resumed her lecture. “Remember that case last year where you believed that weatherman was controlling the town’s weather? Do you remember his heart’s desire, Sheila?”

He nodded and she continued, “I ended up telling her that the best relationships are based in friendship…that one day a switch is flipped and you realize that this person who was your friend is suddenly the only person you can imagine the rest of your life with. I believe that. But maybe in my case, it wasn’t just one day but a few years. Maybe we didn’t fall head over heals for one another but somewhere along the way I knew I couldn’t live without you.”

He smiled at her remembering that silly couple. He wondered if people looked at them the same way. Holman implied as much. He thought aloud, “You’re right, we are quite a pair.”

He reached out to her and hugged her. He held her for a long while, just cherishing her in his arms, before he kissed her forehead, and released her. He asked, “Why would you think I would pity you and regret being with you?”

She turned away this time, not wanting to face him as she explained, “I don’t know, Mulder…I’ve tried to work things out in my head. I tried to plan for every scenario. My own insecurities played upon me and I may have projected. I’m afraid I’m not what you want or need. That first night, I had just passed a crossroads in my life and I finally, consciously left my past firmly in the past. I’ve been afraid that you felt sorry for me when I reached out to you and that it’s been easier to go on like this than to hurt my feelings. I didn’t want you to finally tell me that this was a mistake…”

Before she could finish speaking, he took a hold of her shoulders and turned her to face him. He pushed some hair back around her ear and then traced along her jaw line until he held her chin. “You are exactly what I want and what I need. And it may have taken seven years of trying to figure it out, but I can’t be happier or more grateful that we got to where we are now. The only regrets I have are that it took me so long, and that I acted in a manner that could make you think that I wouldn’t want this. Don’t you think for a second that this is a mistake.”

Tears involuntarily filled her eyes and a smile stretched across her face. He almost didn’t want to kiss her but just stare at that smile for the rest of the evening. But he gave in.


Narrow rows of sunlight blazed through the slits between the blinds creating a striped pattern across the bed and his face. He blinked his eyes open and squinted at the daylight. He looked at his alarm clock as if the sunlight wasn’t enough evidence to prove it was morning. He was startled to hear stirring behind him and a small groan. She was still there. He felt her warm arm slip under his own arm and wrap around his chest. As he caught her hand and pulled it up to his lips to kiss her fingers, he felt her kiss his shoulder blade. His eyes closed with warm blissful drowsiness and a smile spread across his face. Quite a pair indeed, he thought before drifting back into sleep.