Title: Clinical Detachment
Author: Zuffy
Email: zuffynuffy@yahoo.com
Rating: NC-17, borderline
Category: MSR Spoilers: None in particular, well maybe one reference to Milagro
Keywords: MSR Summary: Scully's injury tests our agents' self-control
Written: August 1999
Archive: Yes, but keep my name and email on it, please
Disclaimer: How could anyone not know that Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and the X-Files are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox? I'm just giving them a workout. You know, keeping them in shape over the summer.

Clinical Detachment

"Oupf." Dana Scully grunted as she tumbled forward, hitting the asphalt pavement with her right hand extended. "Damn it," she muttered under her breath, aware that everyone within hearing distance had turned to watch her, now on her hands and knees, face hovering just above the hot surface of the road.

"Scully. Scully, are you all right?" Her partner hurried forward and crouched at her side, looking to both sides for coming traffic. She nodded slowly, "I'm fine, Mulder. I just tripped." ((Stupidly, she added to herself. Since when have I become so uncoordinated? I definitely need to work out more. Back to the gym as soon as we finish our cockamamie assignment in this god-forsaken place.))

"Are you sure? Any cuts? Bruises?"

She bit her lip to stop from blurting out her irritation. ((If I said I'm fine, I'm fine. Nothing I can't handle. After everything I've been through, after all.))

"Here, let me help." He put a hand around her waist to help her up.

"I'm really okay." She stepped forward from his arm and brushed the small bits of asphalt off her hand. A small rivulet of blood ran from the cut on her palm.

"Do we have some water in the car? I want to wash this off." As she turned her hand over and back, he hurried to open the trunk, watching her from the corner of his eye. Before she could grapple left-handed with the door, he rushed around to pull it open.

"Let me do this, Scully. I got a merit badge in first aid and I have to keep my skills up. Just sit down and let Doc Mulder take over." Crouching beside her again, he poured the water over her palm and dabbed gently at the cut with a gauze square. Water and blood dripped off her fingers onto the ground kicking up little puffs of dust.

"Mulder, you never got a merit badge in anything, except maybe in leaping to conclusions." His head, bent over her hand in concentration, nodded briefly at her remark. ((Thank God his hair has grown out again. The word 'barber' never used to frighten me before he found that cut-rate place in Arlington. Do they advertise 'bachelors only' or what?)) "Thanks, that feels better. You did learn somewhere."

He was fishing in the first aid kit now and pulled out a tube of antibiotic ointment. The flow of blood had slowed, and he dabbed the cut again, pulling up only a small spot of red. "It's from watching over your shoulder. I know lots of medical things."

"I do autopsies, Mulder. I'm afraid what you've seen isn't going to do you much clinical good." Her hand was cradled in his and he rubbed his thumb gently over her wrist as they waited for the bleeding to stop. His face colored, then he dabbed the spot one last time, and rubbed on the ointment. "There," he said. "Good as new." She smiled at his maternal words and raised her arm slightly.


"What's wrong?"

"That hurts. It hurts along there when I move." She rubbed the muscles of her lower arm, touched her elbow, and flexed her arm slightly.

"Like that?" His frown of concern returned. She loved and hated that look. It was impossible to feel invincible when he looked at her that way. "It's okay when I flex it, but when I rotate. Ow." She grabbed her arm protectively and swung herself into the car. "It's just bruised. Let's go."

He put the first-aid kit back in the trunk, slipped into the driver's seat, and started the car. "Are you sure? Could be broken."

"Nothing's broken. I'll be fine in a bit. Just a little shock to the system."


It wasn't fine. Mulder could tell as they drove along, but there was no way he was going to tell her that. She'd have to figure it out. On the edge of his vision, she was trying to rotate the arm, her face turned toward the offending limb, jaw set. He turned his eyes to the deserted road, telling himself that it was better not to look. She'd hate that. She always hated being hurt. So did he, but there were virtues in letting her run her hands over him, checking for injuries. Had he ever faked one? Not that he could remember, but he'd probably malingered once or twice, just to enjoy the sensation of her fingers caressing his forehead or smoothing his hair, probing and pressing, sending little tingles of pleasure to wash away the pain. <<Hey, I forgot to check for fever. Guess she wouldn't have bought that anyway. There, that was definitely a little gasp. She knows it's not supposed to feel that way. Now just how long before she agrees to an x-ray?>>

"You want to do another interview, Scully, or should we just call it a day? The next one is a little out of the way."

"That's fine. Let's do another one. The sooner we wrap these up the sooner we return to civilization."

"It's actually kind of pretty out here, Scully. Quiet. Wouldn't mind if we stayed an extra day or two." He smiled at her and her expression softened. Keep away from her injury. That was the key now.


Mulder flipped through a year-old Sports Illustrated, trying not to look at his watch. <<She's been in the consulting room of this clinic for an hour. Looks like the injury is more serious than she said. Hope they're not doing anything drastic to her, it will put her off her feed.>> He pitched the magazine on the table and stretched out his legs, crossing his arms across his chest. They'd been having a good time out in western Colorado, driving around to isolated hamlets, tracking rumors of exotic animals smuggled from abroad for resale over the Internet. Not one of their heavier cases, maybe, but a chance to spend a lot of time in the car with Scully. He could watch her out of the corner of his eye and mostly she didn't even realize it. Besides, there was always a possibility that some of the smuggled animals might contain genetic information that would tie them into alien visits. He and Scully had been talking about that just before she fell. <<Arguing, actually. Arguing. That's probably what's going on right now. She's trying to talk them out of their diagnosis. Good luck, Mister ER Doctor.>> He closed his eyes and relaxed.


"Mulder. Mulder, let's go."

His eyes popped open. <<Did I really fall asleep?>> His partner's eyes had turned the color of storm clouds and her shoulders squared off in defiance. He'd seen agents with fifteen years of service back down from those shoulders, turn tail, and apply for a transfer. His eyes drifted down her arm, now encased from knuckles to biceps in a thick, white plaster cast. <<Oh-oh. End of the happy camping.>>

"A cast?"

"They think I tore a ligament and insisted on putting on this...this thing." She waved her left hand at it dismissively. "I tried to explain to them that the x-ray was ambiguous and the diagnosis entirely speculative. But they wouldn't let me leave without it." She swung the arm around. "Ow."

"I hope you didn't harm anyone back there with that thing."

"I was tempted, believe me." A tentative smile vanished quickly from her face. "I'll bet you anything that when we get home, real doctors are going to tell me that this is totally counterproductive."

"You want to go to Denver or someplace?"

"No. I *will manage. Let's just get this case over with and go home." <<Yup. End to the happy camping all right.>>


Mulder jogged from the office of the Happy-Go-Lucky Motel back to the car. Climbing into the driver's seat he shook two keys and grinned. "Your choice, Scully. You wanna sleep on the right or left."

"That's old, Mulder." She smiled as she took one of the keys. "But thanks for trying." ((How does Mulder always find these places? Frayed curtains, threadbare carpet, bedside lamp with a wire coming loose. Haven't any motels been built since the '50s?))

Mulder drove a little way down the row of rooms -- brown doors against the olive green siding, rusty air conditioners poking out just below the windows -- and pulled up in front of numbers 20 and 21. ((He's looking at me. He's trying to figure out how much help he can offer without driving me insane. I had to ask him to cut up my food at the restaurant. He'll probably remind me of it a hundred times when he wants to get to me.)) Just beyond the last room, the parking lot dissolved into scrubby baked ground where low-lying weeds had snagged plastic bags from the local market. ((No, he won't. He won't rub it in. Not this one. But I just need to take care of myself. I better get out before he decides to rush around and get my door.))

Mulder sat in the driver's seat fiddling with something on the dashboard until she had slammed her door, then he got out and took the bags from the trunk. They went to their rooms, adjoining as usual. Scully fumbled a little with her key, but kept at it until it turned. Mulder hesitated before entering his room.

"Scully. If you need any help, just call. OK?"

She nodded and closed her door behind her.


The knock came just minutes later. He walked over to the connecting door and opened it. Scully stood with her back to him.

"I need you to help."

He stared at her back. "You need me to...?"

She tugged at her sweater. <<Oh. Oh-oh.>>

"Sure. Let me do this." He gathered the lower edge of the silky black fabric in his hands and rubbed it furtively between his fingers. <<Soft. And delicate. A lot like she must feel.>> He gently pulled it up over her head, revealing the pale skin of her back with a small mole just below her shoulder and the faint white scarring where she'd had that tattoo removed. Then he helped peel it over the cast, trying not to let it catch on the rough edges. The movement of silk over hair released a whiff of the musky perfume she had started to wear a few weeks earlier.

"There you go." He handed her the sweater and started to close the door.



"I can't reach..." She gestured over her shoulder.

<<Her bra. Black. She can't reach the hooks. Geez.>> He wiped his hands on his shirt and carefully undid the clasp, trying not to touch her. As it came open, she hunched her shoulders forward a little to slide the straps down her arms.

"That it?" he asked, mesmerized by the view.

"Yeah. Thanks."

She threw him a little smile over her shoulder and closed the door. A minute later he heard the water running. <<Thin walls. What else is new with these places?>> The water stopped. He went back to his reading, trying to banish the memory of the way the bra clasp sprang apart revealing the long line of her backbone like the relief map of a forbidden continent. <<Purely a professional courtesy. She'd do the same for me. Sort of. I mean whatever might be the equivalent. Man, isn't there something on tv?>>

A few minutes later, another rap sounded on the door. Just her face showed through the narrow gap she had opened on her side.

"Mulder? Mulder, I can't wash my hair or bathe with this thing on." There was a long pause. "I can't ask anyone else. I want your complete clinical detachment."

<<Clinical detachment? To bathe you? Ask me something easier, Scully. Ask me to cut off an arm or a leg. Ask me to believe everything your science says. Ask me to team up with Smokey.>>

"Clinical detachment? Sure. I once got a merit badge in..."

"Right, Mulder. I don't want to know about it."


((Sure, she thought. Sure, like hell, sure. Still I'm not going to go around smelling. And the dust. I can *feel the dust in my hair. There's no choice really. I'll just maintain the clinical detachment for both of us. He'll know that. He won't have any choice.)) "Just wait two minutes, Mulder, then come in."


He watched the second hand of his watch sweep around twice, then walked into Scully's room and pushed open the door to her bathroom. The tub was screened by a plain muslin curtain, waterstained yellow at the bottom. The air felt a little humid and he thought he smelled a scent of jasmine.

"You in here?"

"Yes, I'm in the tub."

He squatted down alongside and contemplated the curtain for a moment. Placing his hands against the cloth, he grabbed her lightly through the fabric.

"Ack! Mulder, that curtain is mildewy."

"What am I supposed to do? This isn't clinical detachment. This is purdah."


"Yeah, I saw a documentary once about bathing in Iran. It was just like this."

"You did not. There is no such program."

"Sure there is. It was on one of my premium channels. You probably don't subscribe."

Silence. He thought he heard her sigh. "Okay, Mulder. You've made your point. Open the curtain."

He pulled it back, tugging a bit where the loops caught on a flaw in the curtain rod. Sitting before him was his partner, knees pulled up to her chest to secure a white washcloth against her breasts. Her cast rested on the edge of the tub next to him and she looked straight ahead. <<Why not just wear a swimsuit, Scully? I thought this might be fun, now I'm not so sure.>> He dipped his hand in the water and fished around, stroking her foot and thigh.

"What are you doing?" She finally turned to look at him.

"Looking for the soap." He gave her what he hoped was an innocent smile.

"It's right here." She reached over to the soap dish, grabbed the miniature bar of Ivory and dropped it into his hand.


Mulder unwrapped it slowly, and turned it over in his hand. "I dunno, Scully. I can't promise much in the way of results with this little bit of soap."

"I'm not that dirty. Let's just wrap this up quickly."

((I'm hot, dusty, smelly, sticky and frustrated as hell about this stupid cast. Three weeks. I'm going to have to figure out some other way of managing. We can't have bathtime every night. It would drive both of us insane.))

She pulled her knees a little more tightly against her body. ((So look. Go ahead. There's nothing to see.)) His eyes moved slowly over her, lingering where her hip entered the water. ((No, don't look at me that way. You promised.))


<<Testy, aren't we? Well, maybe you need more scrubbing than you think.>> He ripped a couple of trailing threads from the bathmat, then folded it and shifted to his knees.

"How about we start right here. This is probably a problem for you to reach." He lathered up his hands and began at her shoulders, slowly stroking them, drawing circles around her shoulder blades. Almost at once, Scully interrupted, "Better use the washcloth."

"You have the only one right there. Care to hand it over?"

She let out her breath. "No, I'll keep it. You go ahead."

<<Point for the visiting team.>> Focusing on her skin, he let his hands slip down her back then slowly wiggle upward. Up and down his hands moved, treating him to the feel of each ripple and curve in her back. <<How do women manage to be so smooth?>> Careful pressure along the backbone made her sit up straighter in surprise and he wondered exactly how ticklish she might be. He returned to her shoulders and began kneading the muscles, feeling her tenseness beneath his fingers.


((Ahhhh. That feels amazingly good. When was the last time someone really scrubbed my back? Rubbed every knot and muscle. Where did you learn to do that? I feel your strength and something gentler, too. Did you earn a merit badge in massage, Mulder? From whom? Never mind. ))

"Ummmm." ((Did I say that? God, detachment, detachment.))


<<Did I just hear that? I'm keeping *my* sounds to myself. Don't want to get the boot from Miss Detachment here. There, now that's my spot.>> His hands had slipped down to her lower back, right at the base of her spine where he always felt he could lay a hand to guide her and to mark off his claim to anyone who might be watching. <<Much better without the wool. I'm filing this under "m" for mine.>>


((That's where he always puts his hand. Never felt quite like that before.)) The circular massage radiated a little excitement up her trunk and her nipples tightened involuntarily. His hand slipped farther down to the top of her ass. "Mulder." She issued a little warning growl.

"Come on Scully, you really can't reach down here, can you? You gave me an assignment and I'm trying to be thorough." He leaned closer, his breath warming her ear. "If I do a good job, maybe you'll recommend me to your friends."

"If you do a good job, I'll never recommend you to my friends." ((God, did I really say that?)) Her face colored and she leaned forward to rest her forehead on her knees. ((Maybe he didn't hear me.))


<<Whoa! Did she really say that? Must have. She's hiding her face.>> He scooped up some water and drizzled it over her shoulder. Once. Twice. Three times. Now both hands were in the water, rubbing along the sides of her hips. <<Oops. Soap's slipped away. Not that I care.>> Bringing his hands out of the water, he traced lightly up her sides under her arms, up and down, memorizing the curve of her waist and letting his fingertips sweep over the outer roundness of her breasts. <<Like to live dangerously? Just keep that up.>> He couldn't resist. <<One more time. >>


"Just about done here, Scully. Shall I get a mirror so you can check quality work?"


She smiled a little, and rubbed her left hand across the back of her neck. "That's just fine, Mulder, thanks a lot. I think, I can handle..."

He had shifted himself over to his right and lifted her foot out of the water. "Looks like this foot could use a little washing action. It was awfully dusty out there, all that grit kicking up into your shoes. Where's that soap?" He groped around and before she could say anything, he pulled it up out of the water. "There we go. Now let's just take care of all that nasty grime." Slowly he massaged her foot, pressing his thumbs to the ball and rubbing slowly.

"I think I can manage to wash my feet."

"Not like this. Just lean back a little. I can be trusted with your *feet, can't I?"

((I'm not sure you can, Mulder.)) Still, she shifted her hips so she could lean against the back of the tub, keeping the damp washcloth pulled over her chest. ((This is a ridiculous case. There's nothing to make it an X-File. Why did it come to us? Why did Mulder agree so quickly to go trekking off to the farthest boondocks where even the doctors are locked in the nineteenth century? We've been driving around for days, trying to talk to hermits about animals that don't exist. So far we haven't come up with enough to make a credible report. How many more names does he have in that notebook of his anyway?))

She came to with a start. His hands were on her leg, slowly moving up and down the calf, now rubbing the knee. He was looking down with intense concentration. ((Is all that energy going into detachment? I wasn't sure he could do it. Now this is a pleasant surprise.)) She leaned back again, just as his hands moved past her knee and slowly advanced up her thigh. He kneaded the back of her leg, then slid his hand around to stroke her strong inner thighs. His hand moved upward, fingers reaching out and pulling back in a hypnotic rhythm. Her breathing was getting quick and shallow. She stared at him. He continued to focus on his labors, but she could see that his breath was quickening, too. "Mulder? Mulder?"


<<I think that's my name.>> He was focusing hard on her thigh, inching up, intensely aware of how close he was to the reddish-brown hair at her crotch, just visible through the soapy water.


<<Dammit it *is my name.>> "Ummm, yes, Scully?"

"Maybe the other *foot*."

<<I don't like the way she said foot. Still, I aim to please. Not much soap left here. Hope we have enough to finish the job. Still some important work to be done, if...>> He washed her left leg more quickly, daring just a quick run up the thigh. <<She's smiling. Must have done all right on that one.>>

"Thank you, Mulder."

"Not quite done yet, Scully." He was back at her side again, looking down into the blue of her eyes. He wished he could read the emotions she was surely trying to organize in some rational manner. She glanced away and pulled the edge of the washcloth a little higher.

"How so?"

"You can't really wash your left side with your arm like that."

He slid his hand across her back, and slowly stroked her left side, up under her arm and down past her waist. He shifted onto his left hip to be able to reach farther and outlined the edge of her breast. His fingers pressed gently and it felt like the blood was rushing through her veins. "This isn't working so well. Let me try this angle."

The small square of terry still concealed her chest. He held his breath as he slowly slid his soapy hand under the cloth and spread it across her breast. "There, that's better."

<<That look of shock. Is she going to stop me? No, I think she's enjoying this in spite of herself.>> Round and round he circled it, then cupped it in his hand, spreading his fingers across and squeezing gently. He rubbed his thumb around the nipple, by now raised and hard. He ran the palm of his hand over it lightly, the tantalizing feeling reaching his groin immediately.

<<I can't believe she's letting me do this.>> He dropped his lips to her shoulder and kissed it, then kissed again slightly higher, working his way to her neck, and she tipped her head to make room for him. As his hand slid across to stroke her right breast, he met her lips, slowly first and then with passion returned, mouths slightly open, inhaling each other's breaths. Did it ever feel so good to breathe? "I think my breasts are clean now." She pulled back from him but the expression on her face was dizzy, dazed.

"Yeah, I guess they are. His hand slipped down her stomach, feeling the folds in her abdomen as she sat forward. His finger circled into her navel and, slowly, tentatively lower into the curls between her legs. She did not pull back from the kiss, now renewed, so he pushed further, finding quickly the spot he wanted, stroking it gently. She shuddered as he reached his goal and pressed her tongue into his mouth.

((Why am I letting you stroke my body this way? Because it's you? Why am I following along with your pretext? It's just a pretext, Mulder. We both know that. Do I need you to caress me as much as you seem to want to touch? Wait, wait, I can't let go. One of us has to keep a foot in reality. We can't go down that other road. You know that. Our goal is too important. We'll combust. We'll lose ourselves in the dance. This is just a hormonal response, isn't it? The old prehistoric biology kicking in. Genes fighting for survival, little brutes who do not understand time, place, purpose, mission, infertility. Infertility. Your lips on mine. Soft. Tentative. Your pheromones seeking to overwhelm my rational analysis. Your breath in my mouth. Inhaled. Savored. Your finger in my secret place. My tongue in your mouth. Stop!))

Suddenly, she pulled back. Had he hurt her? Somehow he didn't think hurt was the reason for her reaction. "Mulder, we shouldn't be doing this."

"I left 'should' behind a long time ago."

"You promised me."

"I was a fool." He reached his free hand around the back of her head and lifted her hair to kiss her. His other hand remained pressed against her labia. "Mulder, where are you going?"

"I think I'm moving from want to need, Scully. What about you?"

He felt her hand on top of his. "Mulder, stop it. We can't do this."

"We can if we choose to."

"No. We're partners, not...not more. You promised me detachment."

"I can't. You can't expect me not to be aroused by you. You can't imagine that I can run my hands over the woman I love and not want her." He trailed his hand down her leg and looked away.

"Well, then don't touch me. That will solve the problem. I have to maintain the detachment for both of us, I guess. "

"You weren't so detached a minute ago."

"I am now. We can't become lovers. Just...put it away." She almost swallowed the last words and looked down into the cloudy bath water.


"I don't know. Repress it."

"It doesn't work that way for me."

"We can't, Mulder. You know that." She still refused to look at him.

"Maybe I don't." He rose.

She grabbed her washcloth from the water and pulled it back, inadequately, across her chest. She struggled to stand and realized with annoyance, that there was no way she could maintain a bit of modesty and stand up at the same time. Not with her right arm out of action. "Help me, please." Her mumble was low, almost inaudible.


"Help me. Help me stand up."

"You told me to keep my hands off."

"Well, I just need a little help. OK? Just keep it clean."

"I was keeping it clean. Everything I did was clean, Scully. It was loving. Don't you know how to deal with that? Or is it *me* you object to?"

"Mulder, stop."

He stood back, arms crossed, watching her for a minute, almost content to see her struggle. <<You want to be on your own, you can be on your own. You don't want my love OR help. You never have.>> He glared at her, then caught his own angry reflection in the mirror. <<This gets me nowhere.>> He sighed and grabbed her under the shoulder and helped her rise. She stood, no longer bothering with the pretense of the washcloth.

"You can leave now. Thank you for your assistance."

He glared once more and she heard the bathroom door slam, then its echo as he returned to his room. "We can't, Mulder," she whispered.


Half an hour later, a hesitant knock and her voice through the door. "Mulder, are you there? I need another favor."

He muted the sound on the baseball game. <<Another favor. Boy, this must be taking a lot out of her.>>

"Sorry, I'm all out of detachment," he shouted.

"No, I just need... Do you have a clean t-shirt?"


"My pajama shirt won't go on over this cast. I haven't got anything else."

<<You could sleep nude.>> The thought stopped him and the image of her naked in the tub rushed back into his mind. He wasn't going to say it.

"Unfortunately they're all used. I forgot about the laundromat after your fall. You'll be ok. You're alone." <<Maybe I put a little too much stress on alone.>>

He turned the sound back on. There was the knock again.

"Mulder. I want to talk with you."

"Well, come in and talk."

"I haven't got anything to wear."

He sighed. It was a reasonable request. He took off his Knicks shirt. "Open the door."

She opened it a crack and he handed her the shirt. "I've just had it on for a couple hours. It's the best I can do."

She nodded and closed the door. ((OK, he's in a funk. That's to be expected. Still, now he understands, even if he doesn't like it. We can't simply do what we want. Doesn't he realize I tell myself that, too? Over and over.)) She pulled the shirt slowly over the cast, then over her head and finally pushed her left arm through the sleeve. It was warm from him. The intimacy of it surprised her. It smelled like him, too. All those times when he stood too close to her or hung over her shoulder or pulled her into a hug. It smelled like the time she feared he was dead and then he suddenly appeared in the Senate hearing room. She ran her hands down over her hips and opened the door.

Mulder was sitting on the bed, shirtless, wearing only boxers. ((Oh. How could I forget he'd be undressed?)) She walked slowly across the tweedy brown carpet, worn down by the door and again just next to the bed. Eyes down, she sat on the edge, facing away from him.

"Mulder, I'm sorry, but we forgot something." ((Please be kind, Mulder. Please just help me.))

<<Forgot something? I haven't forgotten anything. Not a moment of it. Especially not the end.>>

She lifted her arm, holding a bottle of shampoo. "We didn't wash my hair."

"Does it need it?" <<Scully, you have got to be crazy.>>

She nodded, then added redundantly. "I'm afraid it does. It was pretty dusty out there." She stood up from the bed. "Can we use your bathroom? My towels are wet."

<<Maybe my towels are wet, too, Scully. Think of that? And did you ever think that my room might be out of cold water? Did *that* occur to you? But you want the game on your terms, I guess I can play now that I understand. I've just never aimed for a scoreless tie before, that's all.>>

He snorted a little as he breathed out. "I have a shower, not a tub. You'll have to stick your arm through the door." Still looking away, she nodded. Her shoulders hunched up with tension as he continued in his acid tone, "So let me get this straight. I am going to wash your hair while you get my last semi-clean t-shirt soaked because I can't be trusted."

She put the shampoo down on the night stand and pulled her left arm down through the sleeve, then lifted the rest of the shirt over her head. It hung from her right arm, just above the cast. He sat staring at her naked back.

<<Why are you doing this to me? Put the shirt back on, I'm sorry I said anything.>> His eyes settled on that spot, his spot, on her lower back and he wanted to reach out and kiss it softly. Then his glance dipped lower, admiring the curves of her hips and ass that he had traced under the water. He wanted to touch her again. To feel his fingers slip inside her panties and push them down her legs. To glide across her smooth pale skin and knead her muscles. To slide his hands around to her stomach and pull her back against his mouth. He wanted...he wanted her to go back to her room if she required detachment.

"Mulder? Help me out here." She shook her arm to indicate the shirt.

He got up and gently lifted the sleeve around the cast. "Ok, go get in the shower. Call me when you're ready."

((How many minutes can this take, after all? If we move quickly, I'll be back in my room before either of us really realizes I'm naked. Not like in the tub. Rats. There's only one way to stand in this shower.)) She turned around a couple times before concluding that if the cast was going to stay dry, she would have to stand with her back to the shower, facing the door, facing Mulder, so her arm could stick out of the enclosure. ((Why? Why did he have to bring trust into it?)) She turned on the water. ((Yow! Too cold.)) A little nudge to the left. She jumped away a little. ((Too hot. Just my luck this is one of those precision controls. One spot, one micron wide gets you the right temperature.)) She cursed the whole enterprise and settled on a setting just a little cooler than she wanted.

"Now," she shouted.

She saw his form through the frosted glass door: darkness on top, then his face blurred as though he were making a confidential confession on tv, then a long stretch of flesh -- he hadn't put on another shirt -- and below that blue. ((Looks like he's wearing jeans now. Good. Good sign.))

He put the shampoo down on the sink and tried to size up the situation. Her cast was sticking out the half-closed door, and he could make her out well enough to see that she was facing him. Water was splashing onto the scuffed linoleum. "Scully, you're splashing up my bathroom."

"Sorry, I tried adjusting. It's the best I can do."

He looked at the cast again and at her fingers, flexing slightly, probably involuntarily. <<It's heavy holding it like that. I ought to be merciful and get this over with. *One* of us ought to be merciful.>> He opened the door and the spray hit him at once.

"Geez, Scully. I'm going to get soaked. Can't you fix that thing?"

She reached up to tug at the showerhead and he admired the way her breast moved as she lifted her arm. Firm. Round. Tempting. Did the nipple harden a little under his gaze or was he imagining that? He chewed on his lip as he watched. His eyes slid down to the site of his earlier transgression. <<You can't ask me not to look. You can't ask me not to be human.>>

"This thing must be rusted into place. Can't budge it, sorry." She glanced back at him, noticing where his eyes rested in the split second before he turned back to her face. ((Guilty, Mulder. Don't even try to deny it.))

Water beaded on his chest. The front of his jeans had already darkened from the spray. Her eyes lingered just there at the zipper, taking in the unmistakable sign of his desire. ((He's watching me absorb this. He's enjoying himself, I know he is.)) Her voice was slightly rough when she managed to sputter, "Shut the door. This isn't going to work."

She leaned against the white tiles. ((How can I do this? Just his gaze is too much, loaded with the memory of his touch, stroking and warming. Ow, this thing is heavy.)) Her arm sagged a bit through the door and Mulder caught it, taking the weight of it from her. ((He can be so sweet when he chooses. Why does he have to be a jerk other times?))

"Any more smart ideas in there?"

((Like right now. Thank you for reminding me that I have a problem. My hair is soaked. There's no alternative to washing it. I'm not going around with muddy hair.))

<<So, what's the plan, Scully? You tell me. This is your problem. I'm not going to take any more initiatives here. You know where I stand. You don't want that, then all right. But please don't make the hurt worse. Don't pretend it isn't there. I felt your lips press back against mine. I felt you shudder.>> He put his hand under her forearm. <<This is a heavy thing. Old-fashioned. Take your time, I'll hold it up.>>

"Any more smart ideas in there?"

<<I bet she didn't like that. Hmmm. She looked when the door was open. See, Dr. Scully, you're no purer than anyone else. Yeah, that's it. Maybe she's just kidding herself about what she wants. Give yourself a break, Miss Clinical Detachment. Life doesn't go on forever. Correction. This bath goes on forever. This must be the longest bath-hairwash marathon in history. The creepy guy at the reception desk is going to come pounding on the door any minute now for all the water we're using. Never mind, take your time. Figure it out. There's only one solution, but it's not coming from me.>>

He looked down at the puddle spreading across the floor. <<I guess I should have picked up the bath towels. Somebody is not going to be pleased. Come on now. It isn't that hard. Is there more than one choice? Geez, what if she decides to shave her head? She's just contrary enough to do it. That would be a real loss.>>

((I suppose I could shave my head. God, I'm losing my mind. I am not shaving my head. There is a simple solution. Mulder understands what demeanor I expect. We are grown people. We have seen each other's bodies before. We are partners. Friends. We can handle this in a mature way. Simple. He will step in, pour shampoo in his hand, lather up my head, run his hand through my hair to rinse it, slide his hand down my back, pull me against him, press...this is not going to work.)) Silence. Gloom.

Gloom. Silence.

Scully sighed to herself. ((If we let it happen just once, no one would know. It would just be momentary insanity. We'd close the door on it.)) She sneaked a peek at her partner who appeared to be looking at something on the floor. ((Who am I kidding?)) She lifted her foot to rub it. ((God, I'm getting all wrinkled. My skin. His skin. There, that's it. There *is* a way out. Why didn't I see it?))

<<If she would only let it happen, it might be the breakthrough. We wouldn't have to pretend any more. *She* couldn't pretend any more. At least I think she's been pretending. She had those fantasies. The ones that guy--what was his name? Philip? Phil? Frank? I've repressed *that* all right--that he was writing about. She denied it, but she's a bad liar. Maybe they weren't about him, that's all. Right. All right.>>



"You're going to have to come in here with me."

"OK." He let go of her arm and it dropped. "Sorry. Forgot to warn you."

"It's ok. Thanks for holding it."

He turned away from her and start to unzip his jeans. ((No, no, no, no, no.)) "Mulder, you don't have to get undressed. Just come in like that." ((Sorry, I didn't mean to sound panicked.))

"I am not getting my jeans soaked in the shower. Be reasonable." They slid to the floor.

<<Leave them on? Little Miss Rationality is losing it. What's a little nudity between repressed best friends?>>

Mulder finished undressing, opened the door, and stepped in. <<That's right. Keep your eyes focused on my face. That way I won't know what you're thinking. Cozy in here, not that I'm complaining. Where's the shampoo?>>

He opened the door and stepped back across the bathroom to grab the shampoo from the sink. She blinked as he turned around. <<Caught you, Dana Scully. Did you like what you saw? Well, I'm got going to fuss around with little washcloth disguises if that's what you're thinking. This is the honest-to-God truth.>>

<<OK, shampoo. We're all business here. I unscrew the cap and pour it into my hand. Sorry. Can't help looking. They're in my line of vision. They look good in a sweater, they look better like this. They feel even better than they look. Ooops. Can't think about it. I've got enough of a physical reaction already.>>

((Ok, Mulder. Enough gawking. Wash already. Don't just stand there with your hand full of shampoo. You know where my hair is. That hair. The hair you are allowed to wash. Oh.)) "Here, I'll hold the bottle." She put out her hand and he passed it to her. She wasn't expecting the outside to be so slippery; it slid right out of her hand. They both looked down at the green liquid slowly glubbing down the drain. And at other things in the way.

((Oh, my, that's nice. Impressive. All because of me? I didn't mean to look. I'm turning beet red. I can feel it. I can't look at his face. I can't keep looking *there*.))

<<There, Scully. Look as long as you want. You've seen erections before. What do you think? Is that appreciation? Regret? Worry? It's simply a fact. You've taught me to respect facts. You want to bend over and pick up the bottle yourself? Get a closer look? A taste? Don't worry. I'll put you out of your misery.>>

He wiped the shampoo quickly on her hair. "Let me get that."

<<Nice scenery down here. Did she say which hair she wanted washed? Wait. That's how I got in trouble last time.>>

"Your feet are clean. I did a good job if I say so myself." <<But they're getting wrinkled. Guess we can't stay here forever. I'll just screw the top on nice and slowly while I enjoy the view a little longer. She'd kill me, even for a quick touch. If I could just graze my lips quickly against her stomach. Nope, not worth the risk. I'll just get a little leverage by putting my hand back there against *my spot. There, that bump wasn't so bad, was it, my dear?>>

"Sorry," he breathed, letting go. <<Her eyes are closed. Is that a good sign or bad?>>

He raised his hands to her head and spread the shampoo across her hair, over the top and then down the sides. He ran his fingers upward from her neck, pulling her hair into the lather. Slowly at first, then more vigorously, he smoothed the hair back from her face as her ran his fingers through it again and again. She tipped her head forward and he rubbed two fingers just below the hairline in back and massaged the little round knob at the top of her spine. A stream of water tickled against his right side, then disappeared. There it was again, more insistent. No, wait. There was no mistaking her touch. She had braced her hand against him. He tipped her head to her left and ran his fingers through her hair, watching the bubbles slowly flow down to her shoulder, her breast, her stomach. The water sprinkled on her face. She looked fresh and clean. Tentatively, he let his finger follow some of the bubbles down her arm and then others down her chest. The pressure of her hand increased and slid around toward his back, the top of his ass, pulling him against her. <<We can stay this way forever, as far as I'm concerned.>>

((The water's off. He turned the water off. I could have stayed here forever.)) She sighed and let out a breath, suddenly conscious that her left hand had strayed around to the top of his ass. His erection rested against her stomach. She opened her eyes and looked up at him. ((Have his eyes always been that dark?)) He barely seemed to be breathing. Her own breaths were short and shallow.

He stepped out first and gave her his hand. ((We made it, she told herself. Not detached, exactly, but we made it through a shower. Together. Naked.)) Her foot squished against the sodden bath mat and she looked around in surprise at his waterlogged bathroom. How long had they been in there? He was holding out something to her, something small and white. A towel.

"That's a hand towel. I need..." She followed his gaze to the bath towels, heaped in the corner and soaking up water.

"That's it?" she said poking at the cloth suspended from his hand. He nodded, trying to look solemn. First he positioned the towel horizontally, then vertically against her. She giggled. "That's *it*? For the two of us? Mulder! You're hopeless."

He looked around and picked up a dry washcloth by its corner. Another giggle, then a laugh. Then she threw her head back and gave in to the ridiculous.

He stared at her for a second, then began to laugh himself. <<Let go, Scully. That's right, just let go. When was the last time you laughed like that? When was the last time you let yourself see the humor in absurdity? Let go. When did we last laugh together like this? Let me hear you happy.>> She leaned forward against him, until her laughter trailed off into hiccups.

"No, look, Scully. This is going to work just fine."

He took the towel and dabbed the top of her cast and up her right shoulder. She took it from him and swabbed his chin, giggling at the way a drop of water hung from his nose. He took it back and rubbed it over her hair, reaching around with both arms to squeeze out the ends, then drizzling his hands down her back. That brought another round of giggles and she squirmed against him to escape his teasing fingers. She felt his reaction to her body rubbing against his and slowly pulled the towel from his hands. They froze, looking into each other's eyes. With his right hand, he slid his thumbnail up her side, exciting a little shriek. She pushed his shoulders, forcing him to back out of the bathroom and she followed, dabbing at him with the now damp terry, while he parried her with open hands. In a quick swipe, he took the towel back from her and flicked it, but she ducked out of the way. He moved in and drew a circle around her breasts with it, first the left and then the right. He handed it to her and she made a drama out of drying his thigh. He pulled it gently from her hands, stretched it across her back and pulled her close. She put out her hand and he returned it to her. She looked straight into his eyes, her own eyes sparkling, and draped it over his erection. He put his hand on her wrist. "That part doesn't want to be dry."

She dangled the towel in front of him. "Well then, this little item has ended its usefulness." She dropped it on the floor.

"How will we dry off without it?" he asked.

She licked a drop off his nipple.

"You do that, Scully, the water will boil away in a second."

She licked the other side.

<<What happened to 'can't,' Dana Scully? What changed your mind? No, don't say. I don't need to know. You in my arms. Responding. Leading. Willing to enjoy me, too. That's all I need. That's enough.>>

She pushed him back gently onto the bed and he pulled her onto his lap. She rested her cast on his shoulder and pressed her forehead to his.

"Scully, we're going to get the bed wet."

She pulled back and tried to look serious but he saw the smile break loose from her eyes. "Yeah, I know." And she brought her lips to his.


A few days later, back at the office.

He sat at his desk whistling and shooting rubber bands across the room. The door opened and he snapped to, leaning over the laptop with an air of concentration. He looked up, "Hi, Scully. See your doctor?"

She nodded and closed the door.

"Where's your cast?"

"Just as I thought. I didn't need a cast. It's a cracked bone. Dr. Benton said the injury will heal more quickly with moderate use." She flexed her arm cautiously.

"Gee, I guess you should follow your instincts more often."

She smiled and gathered up a sheaf of files in her left arm. "I've got a meeting with the forensic lab staff. See you later."

"Hey, Scully."


"Sorry you had to wear that cast for nothing."

She paused at the door and looked back at him. "It wasn't for nothing, Mulder."

He smiled as the door closed behind her and shot a rubber band at her retreating footsteps.


Another story called Journey picks up about three months after the end of Clinical Detachment. *Journey is a work in progress... so be warned and encouraged. ~Zuffy