I donít know how Iíve grown to need her so much. One minute we were just colleagues Ė our relationship strictly professional Ė with all the distance and boundaries that mark interactions between co-workers. The next minute, I donít know what happened. On the surface, itís not as if anything has changed. Weíre still colleagues. Weíre still professionals. Weíre still hidden from each other by the boundaries imposed by the job. But beneath the surface, inside, somethingís changed. And Iím not entirely sure what it is or whether itís just my imagination playing tricks on me. Itís just that now Ė somehow Ė I need her in a way Iíve never needed anyone. Not even Mulder.
Iím not sure she even knows that. Itís not as if Iíve said anything to her about the way I feel. I canít quite tell if sheís 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 canít be sure she sees it as anything unremarkable. I donít know whether she has the slightest idea how hard it is for me to open up to anyone Ö how hard it is for me to need anyone.
Thereís that word again. Need. Itís such a simple word Ė four little letters, one tiny syllable. But itís a frightening word, a powerful word. When we think of powerful four letter words, fuck or love are the ones that come to mind; theyíre the ones we consider dangerous or difficult. But theyíre so overused in our society that theyíve 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 Ö when weíre talking about things that really arenít necessities. Itís 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 weíre talking about sex or lust. That most definitely isnít the case here. Monica and I have barely crossed the line into friendship. We arenít even close to being on a fast track to romance. Sheís flirted with me. Iíve flirted back. But itís never been anything that would raise an eyebrow or give anyone reason to gossip about us. Sheís never made a secret of her bi-sexuality, but given her history with Follmer, I just assumed she was walking the Ö straight path.
Of course, Iíve got history with Mulder, and yet Iíve been questioning my sexuality, becoming slowly and painfully aware that I am attracted to women. That Iím attracted to Monica.
I canít even figure out what started me down this lonely mental pathway. Usually, I donít 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 donít 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. Iíve been content to slide through most of my life without paying much attention to the idea of having a romantic partner. Itís 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 thereís something about her thatís attracting me, piquing my interest in a way I canít even explain to myself.
Itís the little things. The way her forehead creases when sheís worried, the way her deep brown eyes sparkle when sheís 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. Itís the way she followed Johnís lead, even before she had a clue about where his quest would take her and what it would cost her. Itís the way sheís 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 itís not an attraction, that sheís just been a good friend to me. And itís not exactly like Iíve had a whole lot of those in recent years. Even my family Ė except for mom Ė has become distant because they donít understand why I donít 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 itís not attraction I feel for Monica. I keep telling myself that itís just that Iíve forgotten what friendship is like, that Iíve forgotten what itís like to be close to anyone other than Mulder.
But if thatís 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 sheís beautiful inside and out?
Iíd like to keep lying to myself, but I canít 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 donít 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 Iím also well aware that it could be wistful thinking on my part. Iíve never been as adept as most people at reading situations and people. And we still have to work together. Ok, so we donít work together on a daily basis, but we spend a lot of time unraveling clues and cases. We work well together and I donít want to put that at risk. Weíre both professionals Ö and business and pleasure have never mixed.
Oh hell, Iím still lying to myself. I may as well face it Ė admit the truth to myself once and for all. The problem doesnít 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 doesnít even have anything to do with whether pursuing a relationship other than friendship would ruin our ability to work together.
The problem is that Iím scared.
Weíve been working together for a year now, and Iíve seen the signals she gives me: the lingering looks, the little touches that last a bit longer than really necessary, the flirtatious banter. Sheís come to my home anytime Iíve had a problem and needed someoneís help. It didnít 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 Iím honest with myself, that sheís attracted to me just as Iím attracted to her.
And yet the knowledge that the attraction is reciprocal is not really what scares me, though thatís what I would have expected myself to be afraid of. And strangely enough, the fearís not because sheís a woman, even though good Catholic girls are not supposed to sleep with other girls. And itís also not stemming from some pre-emptive attempt to destroy a potential relationship before it starts in order to avoid the pain that Iíd feel if things end badly. When I allow myself to think about the possibility of a relationship with Monica, the fear of the end doesnít scare me. I donít know that weíd last and I donít know that this is true love everlasting. But I know Monica well enough to be certain that no matter what happened, sheíd never hurt me. She protected me the night I gave birth to William Ė she put her own life at risk to protect me. Iím 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 Iím not. I mean they do scare me Ö itís just that for the first time they donít 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 Iím really afraid of?
Iím scared because I need her so badly. I need her friendship, her respect, her trust, her quiet understanding. She centers me. She balances me. Sheís 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. Thatís what really scares me Ö the idea of losing the one person I need in this world.
Itís not like me to feel this way. Iíve been in relationships before and Iíve never Ė ever Ė needed anyone in quite this way. I thought for a while that I needed Mulder, but I didnít, 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 didnít need him like this. If I had, I wouldnít have just let him go into hiding alone. I would have gone with him Ė walked away from everything here and followed him. Itís not like heís the only one whose life is in danger Ö 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 Williamís birth. It would have been Mulder who debated philosophy with me at four in the morning when I couldnít 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. Heís my friend, the father of my child, and weíve got the kind of shared history that creates a lifelong bond. But Iíve always kept a part of myself hidden from him, and heís always kept secrets from me. He kept telling me that he trusted me, but he didnít Ė 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 wasnít. It was that we couldnít open ourselves that completely Ö not even to each other.
I didnít even figure it out until after he went into hiding. Itís 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, couldnít bear to lose someone who meant so much to me. It didnít 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 couldnít 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 wouldnít even tell me where he was going. I was the one person he kept saying he trusted. But he wouldnít 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.
Iím not really sure when my thoughts and feelings changed Ė I donít 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 Ö 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 itís true. Sheís been here for me Ė 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, Iím 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 didnít 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 wouldnít 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 Ė anything to keep me from thinking so damn much. I always tend to think too much, but Iím usually analyzing something other than my own feelings. I should get up and take a walk Ö anything to help chase these thoughts out of my brain. Especially since I know with a sudden, disturbing clarity that Iím going to take the cowardís way out and do absolutely nothing about my feelings for Monica. Iím 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 Iím going to let my fear triumph over my need.
If it werenít so painful to contemplate, Iíd 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 itís now 10:30 at night. With mom out of town, I wasnít expecting anyone to drop by. And itís not exactly like I get a whole lot of visitors during the more Ö social Ö hours of the day. Given my current, somewhat depressed, mood, Iím tempted to ignore the irritating summons. But Iíve been too well schooled in politeness to pretend that Iím 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 Monicaís familiar features, and my hands fumble to undo the locks and bolts. I canít come up with a single good reason why sheís on my doorstep, though my imagination is coming up with several catastrophic explanations for her sudden appearance. I fling the door open and ask whatís wrong. She doesnít 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 sheís trying to read my mind, and I donít 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 weíre 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 donít have the slightest idea what to say or do. Iíve seen her confused; Iíve seen her upset; Iíve seen her worried. Iíve never seen her like this. It scares me.
As if sheís 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, Iím not now. Itís 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 thatís been keeping me paralyzed.
I used to laugh when people said they didnít 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 Ö need.
I canít 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. Itís not what I expected, and itís terrifying Ö 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 itís just that Iíve spent so much time thinking about my feelings that I canít pull away from this woman, especially now that Iíve realized how much I care for her. And in the end, it doesnít matter what the reason is Ö it just matters that Monica Reyes is kissing me and Iím kissing her back.
I reach up, my fingers lightly brushing the hair away from her temple, and Iím vaguely aware that my hand is shaking. Iím not even sure if itís 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. Itís 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 Iíve come home.
Long moments later, I pull back, my breath coming hard. Itís 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, Iíd say itís 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. Sheís so beautiful, so vibrant. And I almost canít believe that sheís here. Itís not that this is entirely out of the blue; no matter what Iíve been telling myself, weíve both known for months that thereís an attraction. But Ö how Ö what Ö I mean Ö why? Why tonight? Why did she show up at my door tonight Ö the one night I was able to even think about being with her?
I donít want to break the moment, donít 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. Itís like her very touch is soothing away doubts and fears I havenít even figured out yet. Itís like her very presence makes me whole. Iím 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 Ö I need you, Dana. I donít mean just Ö sexually Ö but Ö in every way Ö" 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 Ö"
She breaks off and I understand everything sheís not saying. I donít understand her psychic gifts Ö I donít think even she understands them. But sheís shown herself to be empathic before, and it makes sense to me that she picked up on the tone Ė if not the exact content Ė of my feelings. Sheís always had an uncanny sense of timing, and tonight is no exception. It should scare me. It doesnít.
I swallow hard and then make the one confession I wasnít sure I could ever make to anyone but myself. "I need you too, Monica."
And then thereís 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. Iím 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 Ö I give in to my need.