Author: rac
Title: Soul Faults and Heart Tremors
Pairing: M/Sk, Scully/other inference
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: No spoilers

Summary: Scully faces upheaval when she finds out about Mulder and Skinner.

Notes: I was having a Scully moment today, I guess. I think this is the result of watching one too many eps where Scully faces all challenges to her delineated view of life with rigid and stiff fingers grasping into the face of the cliff, unable to let go and experience change without fear. I've wanted an ep for a long time that finally allows her to be *graceful*, if not fully welcoming, in the face of such change. CC, people *do* grow occasionally in six years! Thanks, Elizabeth, for quick and enthusiastic beta.

Feedback: rac@enook.net
Webpage: [archivist's note: website address given by author is no longer valid]


Soul Faults and Heart Tremors
(c) rac / December 1999

The sound of Elvis declaring he'd have a "blue Christmas without you" rolled through the bar. With more than a hundred people jammed into the cozy place, at times their loud chatter drowned out all but the music's rhythm and bass. Bodies swayed in time to the beat while multi-colored lights strung around the room kaleidoscoped off and on in intricate rhythms, giving the scene an acid-inspired air of unreality.

She took a sip of her wine spritzer, contemplated it, then tilted it up, draining it completely. Scully eyed Skinner's glass of scotch, abandoned for now and sweating in a small pool of condensation, and took advantage of his lapse. She picked it up and took a healthy swallow before setting it back down in the middle of the water. God knows, Skinner wouldn't miss anything. He was too busy.

Her eyes tracked to where he stood on the jammed dance floor, swaying in a muted approximation of dancing. Who would have ever thought? Who?

Certainly not her. Some investigator she was.

Scully leaned on her elbow, cheek in hand, and watched the two men out on the floor together. It was...it was...it was damn weird to admit, but they looked good together. Both tall, both handsome in their individual ways, but it wasn't just that. It was that indefinable *something* that set them apart. The spark of energy that crackled when they looked unguardedly at each other.

It was damned embarrassing to admit, but watching them at their love play made her panties wet.

How long had she known about them? Six weeks. Six weeks since Mulder had dropped his little bomb, and it seemed the world as Scully knew it had twisted and shifted under her feet since then. Her partner, the person with whom she was closest in the world, the man she'd been trying to determine if she was in love with, her best friend--*Mulder*--told her he had a lover. Another man. Not only another man, but their boss. Skinner. *Her* boss. A man she had to interact with professionally everyday. Knowing he was sleeping with her partner. Was having sex with her partner. With Mulder.

Two men in a tub. Rub-a-dub-dub.

Her mind had frozen up for a week or so, overloaded trying to compute and process the situation. How could she have missed it? How could they have kept their sexual proclivities hidden for any length of time?

How could she have been contemplating a relationship with Mulder, with her best friend, while he'd been sleeping with another person? With a man. With Skinner.

She'd been so wrong. So blind. She missed all the cues.

After a week of fixating on that, the inevitable question surfaced.

If she'd been so wrong, so blind about that, what else in her life had she been incapable of seeing?

And that thought had occupied her mind for the last month.

The song changed and Johnny Mathis crooned "give me your love for Christmas" to the crowd. People came and went on the dance floor, but Mulder and Skinner stayed right where they were. Nuzzling now, Skinner smiled and said something in Mulder's ear.

Scully reached blindly for the scotch again, taking another healthy swallow, this time not bothering to return it but holding on to it for dear life as she watched, fascinated with the way the two men were playing with each other.

Two days before Christmas and here she sat, at a holiday party in a gay bar in Washington D.C.. With her partner and her boss. Maybe not exactly *with* them, Scully amended, watching them cuddle together in ways she never had imagined either man capable of doing, and doing so *publicly*.

Scully's idea of reality fractured just a bit more. After more than five years assigned to the X files with Mulder, she should have been better prepared for this. After everything she'd seen and experienced, whether or not she believed in each experience, this situation should have been just one more blip on the guiding radar of her life.

It wasn't, and that confused and made Scully more uncomfortable than anything else. She'd made excuses to her mother and brother, citing work and prior commitments when they'd asked her to come to California once again for the holidays. Scully remembered the last time she'd traveled to California for the Christmas holidays: the emotional confusion, the upheaval in her life with Emily...and the burden of her family's incomprehension and limited ability to empathize.

She couldn't do that again, didn't want to struggle with her inner demons while keeping a smile pasted to her face and having to pretend everything was peachy in her world.

Her world wasn't peachy. Her world was...unraveling. Yes, unraveled, that described it perfectly. Deconstructed. Maybe the past five years had already done the damage, already undermined the structure of her reality, and all it took to finish the job was *one...more...push*.

She swallowed the last of Skinner's scotch and frowned at the empty glass. This was no time to run dry, pondering such weighty and important things. Thoughts like these needed plenty of lubrication to facilitate their progress through her mind.

I do need another, Scully decided.

Taking her decision and her glass up to the bar, she sat down on an empty seat and waited for the bartender to make his way down to her end. I'm not drunk, Scully assured herself. Just...relaxed. Very relaxed, she acknowledged.

She was jostled from behind, nearly shoved off her perch on the stool by two large men so intent on each other they didn't even acknowledge Scully's existence.

Love is in the air, she thought, sighing.

"They couldn't see you through the haze surrounding them."

A low feminine voice, clipped and cultured, came from her left. Scully swiveled in her seat to find a very tall, forty-ish woman with short, black hair sitting next to her. A faint smile crinkled the edges of her alert, black eyes.

"The haze?"

"The red haze of love and lust that fogged the air around them and blinded their eyes." This time the woman's smile glinted white in the blinking lights.

Scully glanced over to where the couple now stood next to the bar. "Ah. *That* haze. Yes, I think you're right." A rueful smile curved her own mouth. "Although I think that seems to be the standard here this evening."

"Too true. Whoever said that women are the emotional sex obviously had a penis and no objectivity at all."

Scully laughed out loud at the woman's dry humor, sharing a moment of female bonding. The bartender arrived just then, cutting short any more pithy observations on the male sex. She ordered another scotch on the rocks, and the other woman asked for a dry martini.

"Are you here alone?" The other woman's question brought Scully's gaze back from where Mulder and Skinner still danced.

"No," Scully said, "I'm with a friend. Friends," she corrected herself, not yet used to thinking of Skinner in a role other than simply her boss.

"Ah, I see." The woman gathered up her drink and left a healthy tip for the bartender. "Have a nice evening, then."

Scully smiled and watched the woman make her way back to a noisy, eclectic group at a large table in the corner. Mulder suddenly disengaged from Skinner's arms and they abandoned the dance floor, heading back to their table. Scully paid for the drink and went to meet them.

"Hey, Scully, I didn't know you drank scotch." Mulder peered at her drink as she walked up.

"Normally, no. But I, uh, got thirsty and finished off yours, sir--"

"Walter," Skinner corrected gently. "We're not working."

"Yes, s--Walter. Here. I stole your drink, so I replaced it."

"Thanks, Scully." Skinner's eyes strayed to the back of the room. "I'll be right back."

Mulder grinned at her as his lover walked off. "His eyes were turning yellow. Told me he'd piss in his pants if he didn't find the bathroom."

"Mulder!" Scully wasn't sure if she would ever get used to this...this...intimacy that existed between the three of them now. "I think that's more information than I needed to know."

"Scully, are you blushing? Looks good with your red hair." Before she could protest, he hauled her up from her chair. "Come on, G-woman, dance with me."

Mulder pulled her out onto the dance floor and enfolded her in his arms. A modern jazz rendition of "The Christmas Song" was playing, and they swung into a slow step. With her head on level with Mulder's chest, her face was buried in the soft cashmere of his sweater. She could smell Skinner's musky cologne mixed in with Mulder's own crisp, clean scent, an oddly pleasing and satisfying combination. It was both strange and nice to be dancing in Mulder's embrace; all the odd tension that had colored much of their relations in the past did not exist any more. No more worrying and wondering if what they shared was going to turn into something else, if it *should* turn into something else. The pressure was off. Scully snuggled closer into his warmth, freely enjoying the feel of someone's arms around her.

"Didn't mean to abandon you earlier, Scully. It's just...we don't often get out and have the opportunity to be together like this, you know?" Mulder's soft voice was apologetic.

"Oh, no, Mulder," Scully pulled back and looked up at his familiar, puckish face. "Don't apologize. I understand completely."

"Yeah, I know you do, Scully. I just want you to know how much I appreciate it, your acceptance of us. You're my best friend, Scully. Things just wouldn't be the same without you around."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully's throat tightened. She ran a hand down his face, feeling smooth, recently shaved skin under her fingers. /Double whisker burn must be a bitch/, she smiled to herself. "You're my best friend, too, Mulder." She reached up and they shared a gentle kiss before he enfolded her back in his arms.

Sighing, Scully wondered how she could ever have mistaken the warmth of their friendship and the gentle love they'd developed as a love of passion. Mulder was her best friend, like a beloved brother; she could cuddle into him and feel no physical response other than happiness. Which was exactly the way it should be, she decided.

They danced as the music changed from one song to another, and eventually, Skinner arrived.

"Mind if I cut in?" his deep voice rumbled in her ear.

Scully smiled a brilliant smile at him. "Please do." She went from one pair of arms to another with no fuss.

Skinner's embrace felt very different than Mulder's. Where Mulder was lean and lanky with a runner's physique, Skinner had the body of a weight lifter. His upper body was broader, more muscular. The slightly sweet musk scent he wore was stronger, and she could smell the smoky odor of scotch on his breath. He held her less closely, but no less firmly.

"I wanted to say thank you, Scully, for supporting Mulder and me without question. I know our revelation knocked you for a loop."

Skinner's eyes were nearly black in the dim lighting, undisguised by his glasses. Scully could see concern in them. Oddly, it made her relax even more.

"I'm fine, s--Walter." She smiled. "Old habits...hard to break."

He smiled at her, a gentle, tentative smile. It reminded her of his smile when he'd visited her in the hospital after they discovered her cancer had reversed itself. For a large man with such strength and determination, she fancied it revealed the truth of his softer side.

"Scully...I've been wanting to speak to you. I wanted you to know I'll do everything in my power to protect Fox, protect *us*, from any harm. When I told you there was more I could have done over the years to help...they'll be no more holding back anymore, Scully. I can't. I've admitted it--he's my life now. I can't think of anything more important to me."

Skinner's sweet, intent declaration had Scully rigidly determined not to let fall the tears that threatened. "Oh, s--Walter." For the second time that night, she laid a hand on a smoothly shaven cheek. "I told you before that I didn't think there was any more you could have done for us under any of the circumstances." Her mouth curled up in a small grin. "But it's nice to know that now you can use your, uh...bedroom influence to help keep Mulder reined in."

Skinner's eyes widened and he gave a bark of surprised laughter.

"I'm serious," Scully said over his laughter. "Whatever you can do, use it. Otherwise, he's a loose cannon, and neither of us want to go back to that!"

He pulled her close for the first time during their dancing, and she laid her head against his chest. "Your wish is my command, Scully." His voice reverberated against her ear. "That's one assignment that will be very satisfying to follow."

She blushed, and they both chuckled again as their eyes met, Scully only slightly embarrassed at the level of intimacy between them. She was getting used to it now. Maybe a tilted world would one day be normal.

They danced to a few more songs, then left to rejoin Mulder at the table. With the party now in full swing, laughter and good cheer and music were all at raucous levels. It wasn't conducive for much talking. After a few minutes of yelling over the noise, Scully waved the men back to the floor to take advantage of the opportunity to dance together. She watched them for a while, feeling mellow and relaxed and at peace.

At peace. It was true, she did feel at peace, and not simply because of the alcohol she'd imbibed. This peace went deeper. It rested in her bones, in the very fabric of her being. Scully knew she was exactly where she wanted to be, with the people she most wanted to be with. No wrestling with her conscience, no guilty feelings or sense of fear. Just...peace. Blessed, blessed peace.

How long had it taken her to get this far? Maybe everything she'd been through had been for that purpose, to whittle her soul down to only what was important. What was it that Gibson Praise had said to her? *Some people care what others think, some people don't...you don't care.*

/No, I make up my own mind, thank God. Even if my decisions are fear-based, they're still mine./

The guys were dancing wildly to a fast-paced version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". Scully laughed out loud at their lack of inhibitions, their naturalness. How shockingly wonderful it was. How rare and precious.

Feeling generous, she gathered up their glasses and trekked through the throng to the bar for refills.

"Having fun?" The woman from before smiled at her as she waited for her own refill.

Scully smiled back. "Yes. My friends, whom I love very much, are in love with each other, and all's right with the world." She laughed at the sound of that. At the wonder of it.

"It's nice even being on the fringes of a passionate love, isn't it? It's as if you get bathed in any spill-over."

Scully stopped and looked carefully at the woman. "Yes. Yes, that's it exactly. I'd not thought of it like that, but...yes."

"I speak from experience. Long experience."

The woman's face was compelling; too strong to be considered classically beautiful, but startling, eye-catching. Black brows winged over eyes just as dark. Her long face found its elegance in striking cheekbones. Dominating all was the lushest pair of lips Scully had ever seen.

Scully's mouth opened before she thought. "Are those lips natural, or did you have collagen injections?" She blinked, disbelief that she'd actually asked that of a stranger flushing her cheeks a rosy red.

The woman hesitated, then laughed, watching Scully blush. "They're real enough. I used to hate them when I was young, I always got horribly teased by the other kids for my fat lips." She shrugged. "Now they're all the rage. Guess I have the last laugh."

Scully nodded, appalled at her breech of etiquette.

"Judith Fletcher." The woman held out her hand.

"Dana Scully." Dana took the woman's hand, surprised at how warm and firm and soft it felt, all at once. At how much she liked this woman, whom she'd only just met and really didn't know. Shocked at how much she wanted to lean closer to her and let Judith keep caressing her hand with soft fingers. At how much she wanted to feel those lips-

Scully gasped a strangled sound and pulled her hand from Judith's.

Oh my. Scully's mind froze.

"Dana. What a lovely name."

Not again. Scully felt the tremors, reached out a hand and held on to the edge of the bar with white knuckles.

"I'd really like to buy you a drink, but you already bought your own."

Scully felt her world begin to shake around the edges as compelling black eyes searched her own bright blue.

"Since your friends are occupied," Judith pointed to the dance floor, "and my friends are occupied, it might be nice to go somewhere sane and *quiet* where we can talk, get to know one another." Judith lifted a long-fingered hand and stroked the back of her hand down Scully's immobile face. "Dana? What do you think?"

Inside, Scully heard a rending sound, a guttural shriek, and the world was knocked permanently off its course. It spun merrily away on its new path, and all Scully could do was hang on for the ride.

"Dana?" A note of hesitancy crept into Judith's voice.

Scully refocused back on Judith's face, on her warm, black eyes. "Yes," she said, surprised and scared and excited at her own answer. Her own desires. She glanced down at Judith's lush, red lips and allowed herself just the smallest fantasy of her tongue tracing along their edges before fear had her stop. Her body flushed with heat, her heart pounded. "Yes, I'd like that very much."

Judith took Scully's hand and looked down at it, smoothing her own over Scully's smaller fingers before raising it to her mouth and placing a feather-light kiss on the center of her palm. Scully felt it from her head to her toes, and a warm gush of liquid heat flooded her pants. She nearly slid off her feet to the floor in a molten puddle of nerves.

"Good," Judith agreed. "I'd like it very much, also."

Scully wondered how much her world view could stretch and change, how many new ideas about life and self it could accommodate, before it reached its limit. She looked at Mulder and Skinner, who were both watching her from the dance floor. They had identical frowns on their faces as they took in the interplay between Judith and her.

Perversely, she ignored her own fear and reached up to draw a finger over Judith's full lower lip, feeling the soft, damp cushion of it. Maybe it was time she shook up their lives a little, too.

She leaned in close to Judith. "Let's go. I know just the place."

--the end--