By Any Other Name
by Sandrine Shaw

He calls her 'Ann', or 'Annie' sometimes, because 'Samantha' is the innocent, terrified little girl Fox Mulder has devoted his life to looking for, and that's as far from the woman he knows as it gets. He doesn't call her 'Mulder' either, because that particular form of addressing will always be reserved to her brother in his head.

'Ann' is a good name. Strong, sharp. It suits her. The way he says it when he's angry, or frustrated, or whenever he means business, sounds like a whiplash. Urgent. Hard. Unyielding. It reflects on him as much as he does on her. In war, there's no time for pleasantries, for pretty pet names and soft endearments.

It doesn't matter that he thinks the name itself is ugly and old-fashioned. Doesn't matter that he knows she hates it, either. 'Ann' is all she is, then, just like he's 'Alex'.

'Annie' is for the times when they are alone. For the moments of quietness, rare as they are. It's a brush of lips against her forehead, a whisper of affection, almost a caress, which he delivers with uncharacteristic tenderness; and it makes her smile, because it shows that he cares. Not that she needs assurance; the number of times when he risked his life to save her has made the point more than the use of an endearment ever can. But sometimes, just now and then, it's good to hear it.

And so, when it's just the two of them and there's no imminent danger, she's 'Annie'. Annie, who - unlike Ann - laughs a lot, who's softer and less confident and calls him 'Sasha'.

It's like he has those little boxes where he puts her in, depending on the situation. Samantha, the lost little lamb. Ann, the ruthless fighter of the resistance. Annie, the caring friend. Like the name will make out who she is, and how she's to behave, and - perhaps, more importantly - how he has to act around her.

When they make love, he never says her name at all. He is not a quiet lover, far from it, but he cannot bring himself to associate the warm, pliant body under his that aches into his touch with any of the images he created of her. This woman is no more Ann than it is Samantha, and it could never be his Annie. Samantha is innocence, Ann is toughness, Annie is comfort. None of them is passion. But this, this is.

His hand holds her wrist above her head as he pushes into her. "Mine," he whispers, in place of a name, because only this one incarnation of her truly is.

She doesn't tell him that he's wrong. That she's Samantha Ann Mulder. All of her. And that she's always his, no matter what personae he attributes to her. She has never cared much about semantics. Whether you call something execution or mercy killing doesn't make the victim less dead. Whether he calls her Annie or Mulder doesn't make her less herself; and it does not make her less his either.

"Mine," he breathes; and she smiles.