I don�t know how I�ve grown to need her so much. One minute we were just colleagues � our relationship strictly professional � with all the distance and boundaries that mark interactions between co-workers. The next minute, I don�t know what happened. On the surface, it�s not as if anything has changed. We�re still colleagues. We�re still professionals. We�re still hidden from each other by the boundaries imposed by the job. But beneath the surface, inside, something�s changed. And I�m not entirely sure what it is or whether it�s just my imagination playing tricks on me. It�s just that now � somehow � I need her in a way I�ve never needed anyone. Not even Mulder.
I�m not sure she even knows that. It�s not as if I�ve said anything to her about the way I feel. I can�t quite tell if she�s picked up on the way I turn to her for ideas, the way I listen intently to her tentatively stated theories, the way I look to her to be at my side when things seem to be falling apart around me. I think maybe she knows, but I can�t be sure she sees it as anything unremarkable. I don�t know whether she has the slightest idea how hard it is for me to open up to anyone � how hard it is for me to need anyone.
There�s that word again. Need. It�s such a simple word � four little letters, one tiny syllable. But it�s a frightening word, a powerful word. When we think of powerful four letter words, fuck or love are the ones that come to mind; they�re the ones we consider dangerous or difficult. But they�re so overused in our society that they�ve lost some of their potency. We use need all the time, but for trivial and mundane things. We say it when we really should be saying we want something � when we�re talking about things that really aren�t necessities. It�s as if we fear it, so we shy away from using it in a context where it means anything at all.
And we rarely say outright that we need another person, unless we�re talking about sex or lust. That most definitely isn�t the case here. Monica and I have barely crossed the line into friendship. We aren�t even close to being on a fast track to romance. She�s flirted with me. I�ve flirted back. But it�s never been anything that would raise an eyebrow or give anyone reason to gossip about us. She�s never made a secret of her bi-sexuality, but given her history with Follmer, I just assumed she was walking the � straight path.
Of course, I�ve got history with Mulder, and yet I�ve been questioning my sexuality, becoming slowly and painfully aware that I am attracted to women. That I�m attracted to Monica.
I can�t even figure out what started me down this lonely mental pathway. Usually, I don�t even think about things like this. I prefer to focus on the more concrete realities of daily life, or ponder abstract theories about things that don�t really affect me. Thinking about my emotions is not something I do on any regular basis. Hell, the term "emotionally repressed" has my picture next to it in the dictionary. I�ve been content to slide through most of my life without paying much attention to the idea of having a romantic partner. It�s always been easier that way, safer that way. I preoccupied myself with work, not letting myself think too much about having any other life. But there�s something about her that�s attracting me, piquing my interest in a way I can�t even explain to myself.
It�s the little things. The way her forehead creases when she�s worried, the way her deep brown eyes sparkle when she�s amused. Her rich, throaty laugh, the compassion in her heart, the way she puts people right at ease with a simple touch on the arm. It�s the way she followed John�s lead, even before she had a clue about where his quest would take her and what it would cost her. It�s the way she�s been there for me since the day William was born, her hands always unobtrusively helping to smooth the rough edges of my life.
I keep trying to tell myself that it�s not an attraction, that she�s just been a good friend to me. And it�s not exactly like I�ve had a whole lot of those in recent years. Even my family � except for mom � has become distant because they don�t understand why I don�t just settle down into a stable medical career, find a dependable husband, and create a placid, white-picket fence life for my son. So I keep telling myself that maybe it�s not attraction I feel for Monica. I keep telling myself that it�s just that I�ve forgotten what friendship is like, that I�ve forgotten what it�s like to be close to anyone other than Mulder.
But if that�s the case, then why do I notice the soft sway of her hips when she walks, the gentle curves of her breasts, the elegance and beauty of her long fingers? Why do I notice that she�s beautiful inside and out?
I�d like to keep lying to myself, but I can�t any more. Face it Dana, what you feel for Monica goes a lot deeper than friendship.
But even if I admit it to myself, I don�t think I can admit it to her. Especially since the chances that a relationship could go anywhere are slim to none. I mean, I think she cares for me as more than a friend, but I�m also well aware that it could be wistful thinking on my part. I�ve never been as adept as most people at reading situations and people. And we still have to work together. Ok, so we don�t work together on a daily basis, but we spend a lot of time unraveling clues and cases. We work well together and I don�t want to put that at risk. We�re both professionals � and business and pleasure have never mixed.
Oh hell, I�m still lying to myself. I may as well face it � admit the truth to myself once and for all. The problem doesn�t have anything to do with whether either of us is straight or whether she cares about me in the same way I care about her. It doesn�t even have anything to do with whether pursuing a relationship other than friendship would ruin our ability to work together.
The problem is that I�m scared.
We�ve been working together for a year now, and I�ve seen the signals she gives me: the lingering looks, the little touches that last a bit longer than really necessary, the flirtatious banter. She�s come to my home anytime I�ve had a problem and needed someone�s help. It didn�t matter whether I called her at the crack of dawn or the dead of night; she came. She never asked why, never asked if there was someone else I could call. I never wanted anyone else. So I know, when I�m honest with myself, that she�s attracted to me just as I�m attracted to her.
And yet the knowledge that the attraction is reciprocal is not really what scares me, though that�s what I would have expected myself to be afraid of. And strangely enough, the fear�s not because she�s a woman, even though good Catholic girls are not supposed to sleep with other girls. And it�s also not stemming from some pre-emptive attempt to destroy a potential relationship before it starts in order to avoid the pain that I�d feel if things end badly. When I allow myself to think about the possibility of a relationship with Monica, the fear of the end doesn�t scare me. I don�t know that we�d last and I don�t know that this is true love everlasting. But I know Monica well enough to be certain that no matter what happened, she�d never hurt me. She protected me the night I gave birth to William � she put her own life at risk to protect me. I�m safe with her.
I suppose what I should be scared of is the danger of the job we do, the reaction of my family, the thousand and one very real pitfalls that line the path of any romance. But I�m not. I mean they do scare me � it�s just that for the first time they don�t scare me enough to prevent me from going after what I want. So then, why am I sitting at home alone on a Friday night, while William and my mom are visiting my brother, aching with thoughts of a beautiful and caring woman, and doing nothing at all about those thoughts? What is it that I�m really afraid of?
I�m scared because I need her so badly. I need her friendship, her respect, her trust, her quiet understanding. She centers me. She balances me. She�s been my anchor during one of the worst times of my life. And I need her.
Just the thought of losing her friendship by confessing my attraction to her makes my palms sweat and my heart rate triple. That�s what really scares me � the idea of losing the one person I need in this world.
It�s not like me to feel this way. I�ve been in relationships before and I�ve never � ever � needed anyone in quite this way. I thought for a while that I needed Mulder, but I didn�t, not really. I loved him; I cared for him; I relied on his strength and his insights to make sense of the unexplainable. But I didn�t need him like this. If I had, I wouldn�t have just let him go into hiding alone. I would have gone with him � walked away from everything here and followed him. It�s not like he�s the only one whose life is in danger � William and I are both targets. Purely from a practical, safety-oriented standpoint, I should have gone with him in the first place. It would have been Mulder who helped me through William�s birth. It would have been Mulder who debated philosophy with me at four in the morning when I couldn�t sleep. It would have been Mulder who brought me Starbucks cappuccino when I was tired from late night feedings. And it would have been Mulder who was always there with a shoulder massage or a quiet reassurance when my life seemed to be falling to pieces.
Instead, it was Monica.
I loved Mulder. I still love him. He�s my friend, the father of my child, and we�ve got the kind of shared history that creates a lifelong bond. But I�ve always kept a part of myself hidden from him, and he�s always kept secrets from me. He kept telling me that he trusted me, but he didn�t � not implicitly, anyhow. And I think I knew that instinctively long before I could admit it to myself. He lied to me and he kept things from me. And I did the same thing to him. We both insisted it was to "protect you". It wasn�t. It was that we couldn�t open ourselves that completely � not even to each other.
I didn�t even figure it out until after he went into hiding. It�s the beauty of hindsight. In those first awful months after his abduction, when Agent Doggett and I were partners, my whole focus was on what had happened to him. We searched desperately for any clue, and I was in denial. I wanted him back, couldn�t bear to lose someone who meant so much to me. It didn�t matter how much finding him cost me. And I was genuinely happy when he came back. Of all the people in my daily life, he was the one who knew me best. And then, it became clear that he couldn�t stay here, that he was in danger. He had to leave. It was to protect me, but mostly it was to protect himself. And I believed that it was how things had to be, that it was the only way he would be safe. I ignored the hurt that welled up inside when it became clear that he wouldn�t even tell me where he was going. I was the one person he kept saying he trusted. But he wouldn�t trust me with that. And it hurt. But I buried my feelings, kept a tight lid on my thoughts, and tried to keep on as though everything was still ok.
I�m not really sure when my thoughts and feelings changed � I don�t even know when I started really looking at them, rather than shoving them away when they got uncomfortable. But I know why. It was because of her � because of Monica. Something about her reached inside my soul and touched me. And it opened my eyes to what love and need were all about. It sounds corny and I feel like a blithering idiot for even thinking something so sappy, but it�s true. She�s been here for me � never once running away no matter how hard things got. And her quiet, caring presence made me see just what had been missing before.
In a strange way, I�m glad I need her, as scary as it may be to feel that way. That feeling has filled a hole in my heart that I didn�t even know was there. But, at the same time, I sometimes wish I was still clueless and in denial. Because then, no matter how empty I was inside, I wouldn�t be so scared.
And I know I should get up off the couch and stop letting my mind wander down such melancholy pathways. I should watch television or listen to music � anything to keep me from thinking so damn much. I always tend to think too much, but I�m usually analyzing something other than my own feelings. I should get up and take a walk � anything to help chase these thoughts out of my brain. Especially since I know with a sudden, disturbing clarity that I�m going to take the coward�s way out and do absolutely nothing about my feelings for Monica. I�m going to act as though nothing has changed and hope to God that her friendship will be enough. I hate to admit it to myself, but I�m going to let my fear triumph over my need.
If it weren�t so painful to contemplate, I�d find that last thought incredibly ironic.
I hear the metallic buzz of the doorbell and try not to yelp in surprise. Glancing at the clock, I see that it�s now 10:30 at night. With mom out of town, I wasn�t expecting anyone to drop by. And it�s not exactly like I get a whole lot of visitors during the more � social � hours of the day. Given my current, somewhat depressed, mood, I�m tempted to ignore the irritating summons. But I�ve been too well schooled in politeness to pretend that I�m not home when I am.
I slide my slippers onto my feet and pad towards the door. Stretching up, I peer through the tiny peephole, looking at the distorted face on the other side of my door. My heart leaps into my throat when I recognize Monica�s familiar features, and my hands fumble to undo the locks and bolts. I can�t come up with a single good reason why she�s on my doorstep, though my imagination is coming up with several catastrophic explanations for her sudden appearance. I fling the door open and ask what�s wrong. She doesn�t say a word, just steps inside and pushes the door shut behind her. I swallow uncomfortably as she stares at me, a look of profound concentration on her face. It almost feels like she�s trying to read my mind, and I don�t know that I like it.
Abruptly, she breaks eye contact and moves away. I find myself trailing behind her as she walks over to my couch. And when she plops down on the cushions with a thud, folding her hands in her lap and staring at them as though her life depended on it, I settle myself next to her. Despite the fact that her very presence sends a flush of awareness through my body, I make sure to leave a little space between us, though we�re close enough to touch. She continues staring at her hands, her hair cascading down to hide her expression, and I feel worry rise up to form a lump in the back of my throat. I don�t have the slightest idea what to say or do. I�ve seen her confused; I�ve seen her upset; I�ve seen her worried. I�ve never seen her like this. It scares me.
As if she�s made some difficult decision, she looks up, sighs deeply, and turns to face me. The look in her eyes takes my breath away. If I was uncertain before as to how she felt about me, I�m not now. It�s clear that the attraction is not just a fantasized figment of my imagination. Her eyes are dark with care and desire, her features twisted in a look of intense longing. No one has ever looked at me that way. It warms me and soothes away some of the fear that�s been keeping me paralyzed.
I used to laugh when people said they didn�t need words to know what someone else was feeling. Now, I know exactly what they meant. Her face is telling the same story as my thoughts: attraction, care, fear � need.
I can�t see what she reads on my face, but my feelings must be bared to her because she leans forward, her hand gently cupping the back of my neck, and kisses me. Her lips are soft, their touch tentative as they move ever so slightly against mine. It�s not what I expected, and it�s terrifying � and it feels so utterly right. I can taste the faint mint flavor of toothpaste as I kiss her back, my lips seeking out the soft warmth of hers. I never act on impulses like this, but something about her supporting hand on the back of my neck is making my normal inhibitions dissipate like mist. Or maybe it�s just that I�ve spent so much time thinking about my feelings that I can�t pull away from this woman, especially now that I�ve realized how much I care for her. And in the end, it doesn�t matter what the reason is � it just matters that Monica Reyes is kissing me and I�m kissing her back.
I reach up, my fingers lightly brushing the hair away from her temple, and I�m vaguely aware that my hand is shaking. I�m not even sure if it�s from pent-up desire or from nervousness. Maybe both. I open my mouth against hers, feeling the warm wetness of her tongue slide out to taste my lips. It�s heaven, I decide in an instant, butterflies fluttering in the pit of my stomach. Her fingers tighten on the back of my neck, pulling me closer, her tongue just barely teasing my lips. My own hand curls to the back of her neck, aware only of the heat rushing through my body and the way her touch makes me feel like I�ve come home.
Long moments later, I pull back, my breath coming hard. It�s amazing that such a simple, almost chaste kiss has the blood singing in my veins and the heat building in my center. And from the dark sheen of desire in her eyes and the pink glow on her cheekbones, I�d say it�s clear that the feeling is mutual.
My fingers caress her neck slowly as I just look at her, my lips still warm and tingling from the kiss. She�s so beautiful, so vibrant. And I almost can�t believe that she�s here. It�s not that this is entirely out of the blue; no matter what I�ve been telling myself, we�ve both known for months that there�s an attraction. But � how � what � I mean � why? Why tonight? Why did she show up at my door tonight � the one night I was able to even think about being with her?
I don�t want to break the moment, don�t want to interrupt the soft flutter of her fingers against my skin, but I open my mouth to ask the question anyhow. Information is like air for me, and even now, with heat and passion building in me, I still want to know why. Before I can utter a single syllable, her free hand rises, thumb stroking against my cheekbone, and the words catch in my throat. It�s like her very touch is soothing away doubts and fears I haven�t even figured out yet. It�s like her very presence makes me whole. I�m still scared, no two ways about it, because vulnerability and opening myself up to anyone have never come easily. But her presence makes me feel safe enough to be vulnerable. And the fear is smaller now, slinking away at the compassion and understanding in her eyes.
"I � I need you, Dana. I don�t mean just � sexually � but � in every way �" Her voice trails off and I feel my heart melt with the beauty of knowing that this is as important and meaningful to her as it is to me. "And I had a feeling that tonight �"
She breaks off and I understand everything she�s not saying. I don�t understand her psychic gifts � I don�t think even she understands them. But she�s shown herself to be empathic before, and it makes sense to me that she picked up on the tone � if not the exact content � of my feelings. She�s always had an uncanny sense of timing, and tonight is no exception. It should scare me. It doesn�t.
I swallow hard and then make the one confession I wasn�t sure I could ever make to anyone but myself. "I need you too, Monica."
And then there�s no time for more words as her mouth seeks mine again. I shiver with excitement as her hands slowly move down my sides. I taste the sweetness of her mouth, my tongue exploring the warm depths, drinking in her soft, aroused groan. Deliberately opening myself to her, I place my hands on her shoulders, allowing her hands unfettered access to my body, to those places I keep hidden, to my secrets.
She presses me back into the pillows and my hands slide down her back as hers glide gently under my shirt, her fingers cool against the bare skin of my stomach. Her mouth is warm against mine, our lips moving almost desperately to deepen the kiss. I�m barely aware of the low groan in my throat as her agile fingers rub over my breasts. Losing myself in her, I give in to my desire � I give in to my need.