“Well, even if it is her, Mulder, what would she be doing with Mussolini?”
“Or Richard Nixon, for that matter. I don’t know. Except that they’re both men who got all the power they ever wished for and then lost it.”
Scully sighs. Why can’t this just, for once, be a scientific discovery unadulterated by the paranormal? Is that really asking so much?
“Look, as far as this woman is concerned, we haven’t got anything to go on that isn’t based on speculation or conjecture. But in the other room, I have honest-to-God physical proof of something extraordinary. Something completely unprecedented. So can we just… Is it so terrible that I’d like to enjoy this rare victory, on its own merits, without having to drag something supernatural and unverifiable into it?”
“Hey, I’m not trying to rain on your parade here, I promise,” he says, holding up his hands. “I just think that the explanation for Anson Stokes’s condition is going to turn out to be a little less quantifiable than you’re hoping for.”
The thing is, she doesn’t even care about explaining it, yet. It could take weeks or months of study, and she wouldn’t mind at all. This afternoon has been amazing. She can't remember the last time she had this much fun on a case.
“Can I ask a favor, Mulder?”
He sits back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “Shoot.”
“Is it possible that I could just have this for one night? No alien explanations, or answers derived from folk tales. No witch doctors or voodoo curses, no theories about non-corporeal entities or other spectral phenomena. In fact, until the Harvard medical team has had a chance to weigh in on things tomorrow morning, can we just agree to not try to solve the mystery of the invisible man at all? Please?”
“Damn, Scully, you know I love it when you talk dirty,” he says, before shaking his head and chuckling. “All right. We can table it for tonight.”
The thing of it is, he's certain that this “mystery woman” is some sort of jinniyah. There is no doubt in his mind that she is the one responsible for Jay Gilmore's mouth, as well as Anson Stokes’s yacht and subsequent invisibility. He is equally sure, however, that there is no reason he can't accommodate Scully’s request and let it go for tonight. He hasn’t seen her this excited about a case since… he can’t even remember when. So he decides there’s absolutely no harm in letting her enjoy the moment while she can.
It turns out to be a good decision.
Despite the growing frequency with which they have found themselves spending the night together in their off-hours, they have continued to maintain separate rooms on assignment. Scully tends to need more sleep than he does, and Mulder’s preference is still to stay up late studying case files and going over his notes. He is therefore surprised by the knock on his door a little before midnight.
She’s standing outside his room with a sheepish grin and a bottle of wine. “I’m too excited to sleep.”
She’s utterly adorable, and he can’t help grinning. “Agent Scully, is this a booty call?”
“No! I just… I thought maybe a glass of wine might help me sleep, and I thought maybe you’d want one too, and--”
“I’m kidding,” he says, chuckling. “Come on in.”
For half a second, he almost feels bad for her. She’s going to be so disappointed when this all turns out to have a very unscientific explanation. But, he figures, that disappointment is going to come regardless, and besides, she’s not going to listen to anything he might say to try and convince her of the truth right now. Better to leave it alone like he said he would. Let her enjoy the moment while it lasts.
She sets the bottle down on the dresser and pulls a corkscrew out of the pocket of the suit jacket she’s already draped over a chair. He goes to fetch plastic cups from the bathroom, coming back to find her bent over with the bottle between her knees, the patented “Dana Scully wine-opening method” in full effect. (He will never not find that both incredibly endearing and a little bit hilarious.) The cork pops out and, triumphant, she holds the bottle out toward him, then fills the cups when he brings them closer.
Once they’re sitting beside each other on the end of the bed, Mulder taps his drink against hers, the thud of plastic against plastic far less satisfying than the clink of glass on glass, but it’ll have to do. “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” she says in return, excited energy still radiating off her. He can tell she'd rather be up, pacing, by the way her foot twitches while she takes a sip of her wine.
“You know,” he says casually, “if you’ve got energy to burn, I might have a suggestion.”
She smiles, knowingly and a bit ruefully. “Mulder, it’s nearly midnight, and we’re on assignment. And anyway, I told you I didn’t come over here for that.”
“Ah,” he says, holding up a finger. “While I certainly wouldn’t turn you down if you were to change your mind, that’s not what I was going to suggest.”
“I didn’t bring gym clothes on this trip, either.”
He chuckles into his drink. “Also not it.”
A little crinkle appears between her eyebrows as she tries to puzzle it out. “Well? What, then?”
He lets the moment hang just a bit, deliberately taking a long swallow of wine while taking in the full picture of her. He is almost positive she’s not wearing a bra under that t-shirt, and her hair is still slightly damp from the shower she must have taken a while ago. The smudges of yellow powder on her face have long since been washed away, but even if they hadn’t been, she would still be the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.
His mind helpfully leaps ahead, supplying image after image of Scully taking him up on the suggestion he hasn’t even uttered yet, head thrown back against the pillow, eyes squeezed shut, bottom lip caught between her teeth. To say he finds the idea appealing would be the understatement of the year.
“Look, Scully, the fraternization rule, by definition, doesn’t apply if you’re by yourself.”
The crinkle becomes a full-blown furrow. “I don’t follow.”
“I’m saying… there’s nothing in the FBI code of conduct that prevents you from, you know, burning off a little excess energy on your own. In your own room. Which is, I might point out, one very thin wall away from my room.” Understanding dawns in her eyes, and before she can open her mouth to protest, he continues. “I’m not trying to kick you out of here or anything. I’m just saying, you seem to think that it’s important to play by the rules, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of one of the best sleep aids biology has to offer.”
“Mulder, if I were that concerned about the rules, I wouldn’t be in here drinking wine with you. It’s just that it’s late, and… well, sometimes that’s not as effective a sleep aid for me as it is for you.”
It’s hard to imagine that being the case, even though she has mentioned it before. Seems grossly unfair.
“But it's not that it never works, right? I mean, it might help.”
She gives a non-committal hum as she takes another sip.
“Just think about it,” he continues, adding silently, because I sure am, and it's hot as hell. “Could be fun.”
He’s lost count of how many cheap motels with paper-thin walls they’ve stayed in over the years. He has heard just about every noise imaginable coming from other rooms, and yet there’s still some primitive, lizard-brain part of his mind that lights up in neon at the thought of hearing her through the walls.
“I don’t know. Mostly I’d just like to finish my drink and try to relax.”
He already has a definite plan in mind for his own eventual relaxation tonight -- now that his mind has started down this path, the end result is all but inevitable -- but he gives up on trying to convince her to do the same.
“All right, well then I have another idea.” Downing the rest of his wine, he sets the cup aside and angles his body toward her. He motions for her to turn as well, so she’ll be in front of him, facing away. “C’mon, I’ll rub your shoulders.”
She blinks at him. “Really?”
“Of course. A little red wine, a little shoulder massage, you’ll be nodding off right here before you know it.”
“Well, thanks. That sounds… that sounds amazing, actually.”
She turns, offering him her back, and he sets to work, fingers kneading muscles still tense with excited anticipation. (He was right about the lack of bra, he’s pleased to note.) She sighs, leaning into the contact, and when he finds a particularly tender spot at the edge of her shoulder blade, she lets out a noise that sounds downright sexual. It sends a jolt directly to his groin, and what was already a gentle stirring evolves rapidly into something far more insistent. He presses both thumbs into her shoulder and is rewarded with an encore. His eyes fall closed, and his imagination immediately conjures up alternate imagery to go with the sounds she’s making.
“God, Mulder, that feels so good.”
He has to bite back a whimper.
Redoubling his efforts, he moves his hands from her shoulders to her lower back, knuckling the muscles there until she’s almost writhing. His fingertips knead alongside her spine, back up to the base of her neck and the back of her head, and his breath hitches when she lets out a low moan. He’s honestly not trying to turn her on -- he’s more than turned on enough for both of them -- but if that happens to be a side effect of his ministrations, he certainly won’t complain.
“You like that?” he can’t help asking, even though it comes out sounding far breathier than he intended.
She doesn’t seem to notice. “Mmm, yeah. I should ask you to do this for me more often.”
He wants to tell her where he would rather be using his fingers on her, but he curbs the impulse, letting himself get lost again instead in the exploration of her back muscles and in her corresponding vocal accompaniment. It is maybe the most unintentionally erotic thing he’s ever done.
“Oh, damn,” she says, and he opens his eyes, his hands hovering above her shoulders. “It’s 12:30. I really ought to go. Thank you, though. That was… I needed that, thanks.”
Without another word, she stands up, finishing the last of her wine and tossing the cup in the garbage can. He’s a little chagrined at the suddenness of it, but he’s also desperate to relieve the tension between his legs.
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t get up and see you to the door?” Her gaze drops to his lap, where the effect of his wandering mind is unavoidably evident. She raises an eyebrow, and he shrugs. “I shouldn’t think it would be a surprise anymore that you have this effect on me.”
“That’s all me, huh?” There’s a glint in her eye he’s having trouble interpreting as anything other than arousal. “And when I go back to my room, you’re going to…?”
He nods slowly, holding her gaze. “One hundred percent yes, on both counts.”
A nearly-imperceptible shiver runs through her. “Right. Well, um, I guess I’ll leave you to it. Good night, Mulder.”
“Good night, Scully. I hope you’re able to get to sleep.”
“Yeah, thanks. Me too.”
Once the door closes behind her, he heaves a deep sigh, then gets up to go brush his teeth, unable to keep from palming himself through his pajama pants, just a little. He’s just come out of the bathroom and settled back into bed, and he’s reaching over to switch off the light when he hears a muffled moan coming from the other side of the wall. He pauses, listening, hoping. When he hears another one, Mulder grins.
It doesn’t take long before he’s sending answering sounds of his own through the wall right back at her.