There are nights, when Scully comes to his room, sits at the end of the bed, folding her legs underneath herself and ask questions about the case, poses ideas, doubts and theories. He turns down the volume on the tv and talks, or listens, or jokes, anything to keep the silence from scaring her away. He pretends he doesn't know she's afraid of nightmares waiting for her, when there's no one around to keep them at bay.
Her greatest weakness is inability to acknowledge weakness but he wants to help. He wants to help but is too scared to offer.
Sooner or later she's stretched across the foot of his bed, edge of comforter wrapped around her back, one arm folded like a pillow under her head. She falls asleep and Mulder watches over her.
Does he think it means anything? Not really, and it costs him nothing to give her what she needs. Formally it might mean something, technically they are working but there's no one there to care. No FBI regulation would force him to close the door between them, no office pretense of professionalism would keep him from her. In these ratty motels they are people trying to help each other, going through this together. Two edges of one blade, cutting their way through to the truth.
One night, after twelve hours in autopsy bay, she stumbled into his room and without thinking it through, he turned down the comforter on the free side of the double bed.
"Mulder, I," she trailed off, puzzled by his gesture.
"We both know you'll fall asleep in four minutes, might as well nap comfortably." He didn't pat the pillow, didn't even look at her directly, just turned down the volume on the TV.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have come, I have my own room," she said, averting her gaze, turning to leave.
"Scully, please, we’ll talk, just, " he hoped his words sounded innocent, "later."
She didn't turn to him, but she didn't leave either. "I won't tell anyone, if you don't."
A stalemate, if she’d leave, she'd be running away. If he’d insist, it would be forcing it, and there's no real reason for it. Mulder almost accepted the fact that he pushed too far, that she won't let him in tonight. She turned and left, through the doors between their rooms. He could hear the zipper on her suitcase, clank of heels on the floor, creak of mattress as she sat down to take off her pantyhose. How did he know that? Because she left the door open. He heard the water in the bathroom, the toilet flush. Was he a pervert by keeping track?
The bathroom door closed, and a second later, she was there, climbing into bed next to him, in her silk, navy blue pyjamas, eyes cast down waiting for comment. He had none.
"Give me ten minutes," she mumbled, hugging her pillow. Her pillow, how natural it felt to call it that. Her side, her pillow, her bedside lamp. Were those things always there? Just waiting to be claimed and properly named?
"Whatever you say," he agreed, looking through the autopsy reports she brought back with her, "now rest."
"Ten minutes," her tone was sleepy, body shifting under the covers, almost comfortably.
"Sleep Scully, you need it."
He kept watch over her for ten minutes, then the next, then another, reading, taking notes, listening to her breathing, slow and relaxed. Given the nature of the report it was quite remarkable that she could sleep so peacefully, this woman had the nerves of steel. They were both trained, but it took a special kind of person to take it in stride and Dana Scully was that person. After his time in the VCS he had nightmares for months, and yet, considering the fact that since they started working together the number of bodies he saw doubled, he also took it a lot better, more calmly. Maybe it was a control thing, maybe it was experience, or maybe it was her, letting him hide behind her professional gaze and steady hand. He had complete trust in her.
The clock showed 11:30pm when he finished with the report. Scully turned in her sleep, now curled on her side, facing him, her unruly hair falling across her cheek. Would she wake if he touched her? Would this tranquil moment fall apart like a house of cards, blown away by her gasp? Does it tickle, a little annoyance that would inevitably wake her, anyway? Would she wake if he watched her for a moment?
Switching the bedside lamp off, in a faint, blueish glow of the muted tv, he laid down next to her. Not overly cautiously but not abrupt, either. It’s the unnatural things that feel out of place, make us look up, a flash of movement in the corner of the eye, a gust of cold wind inside a warm house. Abandoning the report, he mirrored her pose and studied her features, trying to deduce the state of her mind from the arc of her brow, curve of lips, the tiniest frown. Little beauty mark over her lip distracted him, his Marilyn Monroe in scrubs. How long did she have these circles under her eyes, her naturally creamy complexion looked ashen, or maybe it was the light.
Her face was relaxed and calm, unguarded, but why did that make him feel like a thief in the night? Stealing the secret layout of freckles on her nose and cheeks, like a treasure map, like a map of stars. She’s so beautiful, his partner, that he could open an X file on how her smile can spontaneously combust all thought in any man’s mind. Her proud nose, majestic, royal, perfect in shape and form, a mountain range between two lakes of blue eyes.
Suddenly her long eyelashes fluttered, brow furrowed, he panicked. She’ll catch him breaking confidence, a creep with the face of her partner. Scully sighed heavily, eyes scanning the dreamscape unfolding under her eyelids. She’s dreaming, of what he wonders. What monster was hiding under his bed and chose to haunt her, instead of him tonight. Is it Pfaster? Memory of cancer, is it Emily, or Missy? Mulder cringed at how shamefully long that list had become.
Then a smile curled her lips, forehead smoothed and features softened, just as unexpected as was her frown, the dream seemed over. Lips parted to move soundlessly. Her breath didn’t reach far enough to warm his lips, but whatever it was she was saying amidst the dream, it wasn’t a scream nor a cry for help. A faint tug of the corner of her lips, was exactly what he wanted to investigate, gathering plenty of empirical evidence, personally.
“Muhh,” she sighed, shifting slightly, sinking deeper into the pillow, probably meaning her mother, “Mul-dehh.”
The sound knocked him breathless, this breathy rendition of his name. Never before had he heard something so deep; not from lovers nor friends, and not from family. It was a frequency, that resonated within the deepest parts of him. His deepest sense of self rang like a bell, in the lonely tower of his heart.
Mulder studied her face again, trying to give meaning to it, some context. Was she calling him, admonishing him, teasing him? There was so much color in her tone when she was awake, that he could puzzle whole sentences from the way she spoke his name. She looked fluid in motionlessness, the tension gone from her shoulders, and her face? It wasn’t joy, it was something more, contentment. Her fingers twitched on the pillow, searching for purchase, missing something she wanted. The faint crease returned, small but threatening, palm moved a fraction and he realised, she was searching for him. When amidst rubble of whatever case they were working, her fingers sometimes did find his, but were they allowed to touch like this? Her frown deepened asking a question, a question he dared to ask himself. Should I answer? Was I imagining it? The four inches of space between his pillow and hers, felt like a chasm, a pilgrimage, a fork in the road he took, a road to her.
Slowly, steadily, he slipped two fingers into her hand. She didn’t wake, her palm closed and her features relaxed. It’s subconscious, he told himself, some repressed fear born out of responsibility for each other, we’re partners. Her lips twitched again the moment he thought that, a small huff of air, fraction of a chuckle. Scully didn’t talk in her sleep, not often, so he didn’t count on anything else from her, but this, whatever it was she was dreaming about, was something she enjoyed and he was a part of it. He and his hand, in hers. That was a good dream. Before Mulder fell asleep, her hand covered his completely, their fingers loosely twined.
Unnoticed, the tv died, plunging the room into darkness, into a mild mid-July night on the east coast of the US. If Mulder wasn’t so focused on the woman beside him, he’d hear a faint echo of waves crashing against the shore and screams of seagulls circling around fishing boats.
He had no illusions, it wasn’t a big thing. A small indiscretion, an accident between close friends with years of practice in invading each other’s space. A medical doctor and a psychologist could explain it to themselves in their own watertight ways. But the truth was, when she moved, he followed, when he shifted, she held on.
The next morning, when Scully woke up, he had already let go of her, leaving only a vague, dreamlike memory of strong arms wrapped around her. She didn't realise then, that his limbs, now scattered between sheets and pillows, were waiting, ready to take her back, like a cocoon. Like Thumbelina and her nocturnal flower.
“Mulder, are there ants on your side of the bed or is something else bothering you?” He kept tossing and turning behind her, jostling her each time he moved.
“No to the first, to the second, I'll be diplomatic and tell you it's none of your concern”
The first time they were expected to pretend to be together, she kicked him out, drawing a line they did not cross for some time. Then it happened, a few times, without the need to pretend they were something they were obviously not. Their peculiar friendship somehow evolved to allow sharing a bed on occasion, without guilt or expectations. They were able to move past these small indiscretions, however it didn’t mean the nights went by unnoticed. They both kept something for themselves each morning, a warm memory, peace of mind at least until first coffee. That’s why there was more surprise than scorn in her tone when she turned to face him.
“What is your problem?”
“I can't seem to find my place”
It was true, the case left him with a sense of unease, frustration with local law enforcement, especially one female officer who couldn’t resist cornering him, everything that day seemed to have sworn against him.
“You wanna switch sides?” Scully gave up pretenses and decided to take control of the situation.
“No, it won't help, and this is my side by the way” why did they had to share a bed tonight? The way this day aligned he might suspect something would spoil even that.
“So?” Her tone made it clear that an explanation was required.
The problem was, that these nights were never scheduled, it was something they felt they needed and did, as required.
Now, like that first night, as if on command, the magic was gone. He knew what would help him, but wasn’t sure how she’d take it. Something so obvious in the darkness, under her expectant gaze became trivial, laughable, almost shameful secret, a guilty pleasure.
“Forget it, you'll laugh if I tell you” it was as unexpected an answer as it was insulting, for Scully that is.
Mulder got up and looked for his pants, there was no point in making her night sleepless, or worse creating a precedent, a failed attempt to taint the experience. He’d make something up for the manager, some doghouse-BS, the way he felt he might even pull off some believable face.
“Try me” she didn’t budge, concern starting to creep in slowly, erratic Mulder always meant trouble for both of them.
“I'll ask the manager if he has a cot I could borrow”
“Mulder! Don't be ridiculous, get back here” great, just what she needed, more gossip. Posing as a vacationing couple wasn’t her idea of a dream assignment, but it was their assignment and they couldn’t just throw away their cover.
“No, it's okay Scully, otherwise neither of us will get any sleep and instead of catching the bad guy, we'll kill each other”
“Mulder, I don't get it” he was so eager back in the Falls, when they first went undercover “we slept like this before, tell me what's wrong so we can work it out”
“Don't ask me about it, please” I want to hold you, otherwise this doesn’t feel right.
“Mulder, it's me, you know you can tell me anything” her eyes were pleading, she knelt in the middle of the bed, the nightshirt fitting her part, the same navy blue silk he remembered, totally different cut.
“I can't sleep in a bed this big” close enough, and true enough, big beds always reminded him he had no one to share them with.
“Because I lose orientation and end up on the floor” it did happen, a few times, when they stayed in motels it was 7 parts disorientation, 3 parts a slippery mattress.
“Why do you think I sleep on the couch, I've got something to lean on and no one can come up to me from behind” this was true as well, as pathetic as it might sound.
“So it’s an anxiety thing?” the tension was leaving her posture, her shoulders relaxing.
“I guess you might say that” he reached for his hoodie,
“No, Mulder, please” Scully reached for his hand, trying to stop him “we don't need that cot”
“It's the only way” I don’t know how will I sleep in this room otherwise.
“Wait. Can we try something first?” She had an idea, she owed it to the case to at least try it.
“Scully” Why do you do this to me, can’t you see I’m losing my mind?
“Please, come back to bed" I never thought I will say that to him.
There was a moment of hesitation as he stood in his pj’s studying the sweatshirt.
"Okay, what do you have in mind”
"Open the window first" she ordered, scooting back to her side.
"But it's cold"
"It's not that cold, and besides, best temperature for sleeping is 65 F"
“Now I know why your apartment is always so cold" he said, climbing back to bed, like she wanted.
"Your's colder, now lay down like you usually do, on your side"
"I tried this, it doesn't work"
"It will" there was an ounce of thrill in her plan. He laid down, as ordered, facing away from her, but she didn’t mind, actually it was part of her plan. Mulder was a solid 6ft, 170 pounds of a man with broad shoulders, but that didn’t stop her from scooting up and hugging them from behind.
“What are you doing?” He asked when he felt her warm breasts pressed against his upper back and a slender arm first tucking him in then resting along his side.
"Shhh, relax" He felt her breath on his cheek instead of the nape of his neck, so she must have been watching him from above.
"Agent Scully” there was a hint of a smile on his face, this was the sweetest thing she’d done for him in a while.
“I'm not here, you're on your couch, now try to sleep” he felt her slow her breathing to match his through pressure of her decidedly female body against his. The sensation was stirring his instincts, but it was more calming, to have her close like this than imagining it.
“As I recall my couch doesn't hug me” this felt more like them, he almost forgot they were on assignment.
“Too close?” Her grip loosened and he felt cold air creep back around him, that’s what he got for being a smartass.
“NO, no, stay, I like it” he leaned after her, a swift glance over his shoulder, palm covering hers in a gesture of panic and she came back. Her arm back around him felt easier this time, they both stoped fighting it. They found their rhythm, eyes growing heavy but still fighting sleep.
“Shhhh, close your eyes” her finger traced his cheek like a whisper.
“You gonna hypnotize me?” Humor dies last?
“If I have to” between them, yes, apparently.
“No need, your breathing already does that” she reached to his bedside lamp, switched it off and her hand came back to it's place.
“Don't be a jerk, I'm trying to help” her voice was even softer in the darkness.
“Sorry, you're doing great”
“How do you usually cope?”
“Usually we have single beds, and if not, I tend to kick around sheets and deal with sleeping less.”
“Why did I never notice this?
“Because I don't sleep much in general”
He shifted, rolling onto his back when she made room. She was leaning against him, her body effectively stretched along his side, his arm was bent under his head. If anyone caught them, they would find a perfect charade. A fleeting thought crossed Mulder’s mind, something Deep Throat once told him, the best place to hide a lie is between two truths, it made him smile.
Gently running her fingers over his brow and temple, Scully’s eyes adjusted to the dim light from the pool behind the floor to ceiling windows.
She never did this, studied his face uninjured and untroubled. She couldn’t remember all the scrapes, scratches, cuts and bruises she watched from the moment he got them to the moment they healed and vanished from his strong, handsome features. Too many times she watched over him in hospital rooms, listening to monitors and dripping IV’s instead of waves and wind in the palm trees, felt his heartbeat, strong and rhythmic and his warmth comforting not sick and feverish. Right now, he looked like he might start to purr, and she was strangely tickled by that. It was ages since she had a man underneath her palms looking like that.
“Is this helping?” She kept her voice hushed not to pull him back from the edge of sleep.
“Yeah” Mulder breathed without opening his eyes “just, your hand, keep doing it” he turned his face towards her and her fingers slipped into his hair, delicate and fine, smooth as silk and cool as water.
“Like this?” Combing her fingers through his tresses she realized he cut them a little shorter these days, a little spiker than when they first met. Her thumb circled the edge of his earlobe on her way back and he sighed one last time. His breath evened out and he gave up. Fox Mulder fell asleep in her arms.
She watched the midnight shade on his cheek, shadows playing with moonshine on his full, parted lips. Long lashes hiding the depths of hazel green eyes, caressing sharp cheek bones, the last stage on her path.
She knew Mulder didn’t think himself handsome, his nose, he couldn’t see past it to see she wanted to give him eskimo kisses each time he leaned in closer. But this was her chance, this one time, she let herself close her eyes, lean over him and holding her breath, circle the tip of his nose with the tip of hers, just once, too afraid to tickle and wake him, or worse get caught and explain herself. It was her silent goodnight before she laid down as well. Resting her head on his shoulder, she let her eyelids drop and sleep take her.
Rocked by gentle swell and fall of his chest, the last thing she remembered were Mulder’s arms gently closing around her. A vague sensation, a dreamlike weight, the weight of a dream of butterfly wings on her back.
It began innocent, he brushed a strand of hair from her cheek, ever so gently, careful not to disturb her light sleep.
All the paths, all the choices, if they ever chose wrong would they be here right now, sharing a blanket under the light of his fish tank? Technically she’s the one covered, and he’s only watching, but it was his blanket, his sofa, his shoulder she rested her head upon lightly.
Her shapely, stocking-clad feet on the coffee table spoke volumes of the pretenses they let fall away, lost and forgotten whilst running through dark warehouses, thick forests, hospital corridors and God-only-knows what other forsaken roads their lives seemed to follow these days.
The whole weekend fell away as well, his trip to England, her trip to enlightenment, all he could feel was the jet-lag and thousands of miles his soul still had to travel. She’s the beacon, that the rest of his soul will use to find him. If he could keep her close, just for one night, the sooner he’d be back to his whole self. Is that what coming home should feel like?
The moment he put the kettle on the stove, fished out mugs and teabags, listening to her recount her encounter, he felt his anchor drag along seabed.
Now her breathing hums in his ear again, like a wave kissing the shore. ‘Would she agree to stay the night?’ he thought ‘never here, why do we never do it at home?’
Scully stirred, her head rolling away from him as she sank a little deeper into the cushions, freeing him to stand up.
Don’t be greedy, be kind. Sheets first, then ask.
Careful not to jostle her too much, he left her sleeping, went to the bedroom and stripped the bed without much fuss. Housekeeping wasn’t his strongest side, but this he could do because it was something he liked. Keeping the linens fresh made it easier to sleep, not letting any bad thoughts linger between them, he believed bad dreams died in temperatures over 90C.
After the waterbed incident he took time to pick a good mattress, soft pillows, nice comforter. He followed his instincts, feeling the textures, trying to guess what would make him feel like he had a place there. A safe place where he could rest. After a few weeks he didn’t need to imagine her sleeping behind him, on her side, right there next to him.
He cracked the windows open, the air smelled of rain, thunder rolled in the distance, the storm getting impatient.
He changed into pj’s, brushed his teeth, and looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. He’d be lying if he’d say his heart wasn’t racing. This whole time he thought he could take it in stride. They’ve done it before, nothing special. It’s late, he won’t kick her out, he wouldn’t do it before, he won’t do it now. And why would he, they were both adults, nothing’s going to happen, unless they want it to. It’s Scully, it’s one night, a night like many before, eight, to be exact. Eight nights they shared a bed, and nothing happened, no lightning struck. There was that incident with a cow, but that was before they shared a bed, laughing at the absurdity of it, despite their argument about circumstances and possibilities. To this day he couldn’t help but smile every time he thought about that night.
And besides, she could always say no.
Mulder left the bedside lamp on and went to the living room, squashing the cold thought. Sleepy Scully could be persuaded sometimes. He sat next to her and ran one gentle finger down her cheek. She stirred but her eyes didn’t open.
“Scully” he said softly putting more heart into it “you wanna come to bed?”
“Huhmm” she frowned a little, was it because he woke her or because of what he had said?
“Scully?” He didn’t think how his hand rested on her thigh, but it seemed to bring her back. She moved her feet of the table and tucking them under herself, she curled up in his lap. Like a baby cat.
“Come to bed Scully” he said softly, running a gentle hand over her arm “I can carry you if you want” he added with a hint of a chuckle that made her sit up.
Groggy, hooded eyed Scully, with messy hair, twisted blazer and legs tangled in a blanket was something he rarely saw. To see her nod and try to untwist the blazer was even more rare, so he helped her out.
“Come on, let’s get you more comfortable” the moment she felt his hands on her she surrendered. Mulder pulled her arms out of the sleeves, untangled the blanket, and before he finished she was coherent enough to stand up and speak.
“Can I borrow a toothbrush?”
“There’s a new one in the cabinet” he said handing her a t-shirt he brought for her as a nightshirt.
He heard the bathroom door close and went to the kitchen for a glass of water, gathering the mugs while at it. The fridge hummed gently, he added milk to his shopping list, next to coffee, apples and cereal, and went back to the bedroom, leaving the glass on her side as the water in the bathroom was turned off. She came out just as he sat down on the bed.
The shirt hung loosely on her small shoulders, sleeves reached her elbows, the hem fell half way down her thighs. She left her folded clothes on a chair and sat where he turned down the comforter for her. Mulder turned off the light.
He laid down next to her, expecting she’d curl up and fall asleep the moment her head touched the pillow, but she did not. She turned on her side to face him and feeling that this was the way to do it tonight, he followed her lead. They looked at each other across six inches of Egyptian cotton and hypoallergenic pillows.
“You no longer fall out of beds?” she whispered.
“Not from my own” Mulder chuckled softly “but you’ll catch me if I do, promise?”
He meant it as a joke, his usual brand of tease and banter, but she closed the distance and wrapped her arm around him under the blanket.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got you”
Her face now less than an inch from his, he could smell toothpaste on her breath, her lips so close he could feel each syllable vibrate. Suddenly sleep was the last thing on his mind, and he felt that she felt it. Her knee touched his and on pure instinct, he shifted, making room for her. She was in his arms, awake and willing, all feminine softness he knew but didn’t dare touch.
“You’ve got me” he whispered, tucking a lock of hair hair behind her ear, his forehead against hers, waiting.
Mulder closed his eyes standing at the gates, wondering, the warmth on his lips, was it heaven or hell?
A soft brush of the tip of her nose, her breath burning his lips, a knock on heaven’s door.
She caught his lip as he caught hers, the softest petals of roses had nothing on her. They let go only enough to find each other again, and the moment she caught his lower lip, he knew it wasn’t a dream or a scheme, it wasn’t a friendly brush of her lips on New Year's Eve. This was a true lovers' kiss.
He breathed in, diving into her mouth with a bold sweep of his tongue, and she was there with him, hot and sweet and welcoming. His fingers in her hair pulling her in, their bodies twining, her leg around his hip, arms around him, holding on, holding him. The world started spinning, he broke the kiss gasping, but she pulled him back in, her tongue invading his mouth, taking no prisoners, marking her ground, wrestling for power, climbing on top. She was fierce, determined and smart, Scully dug her knee into the mattress and flipped them, he didn’t fight her, didn't even try.
His hands, now free from fear of crushing her underneath him, closed around her breasts, hard peaks under cotton calling to him, to feel her warm, silky-smooth skin. Fingers under her shirt, yes forever her shirt, the moment he crossed the line of cotton and skin, her hands slid down, forcing him to pause, making him give in.
She sat up, kneeling, her thighs spread wide over the evidence of his need, and, in what he later learned to be her favorite way of torturing him, she slipped her hands under his tee, grasping his sides, and balancing the thin line between tickle and touch, she climbed. Thumbs circled his nipples like two switches, telling him to arch his back and lift his arms so that she could peel the shirt of him, the Slave Of Her Hands.
Without a shred of doubt in her eyes, sparing a moment to enjoy what she found, Scully crossed her arms and grasping the hem of her tee she pulled it up, face disappearing inside as her breast greeted him, pushed out, rounded, peaked and proud. The shirt landed at the foot of the bed, his arms reaching for her.
“C’mere” he said, and the moment his fingers touched her bare back, she felt wings spring from underneath them, lifting her up. She was carefree, she was weightless, like Thumbelina in her Prince’s arms.
for a little more explicit epilogue to chapter 3 head over to "Thumbelina's Wedding Night"
“Can” she hesitated “can I stay?”
She didn’t ask if he wanted to be alone, she didn’t ask if he wanted her to stay. It wasn’t his choice anymore. They weren’t just his choice.
How do you start again? How do you pick up, when you thought the love of your life was dead? How you can look him in the eye, when you know you buried him alive, even if then you thought him dead. A honest mistake? He won’t look at her, he won’t touch her. The guilt is filling her throat with vomit. Forgive me, forgive me. I failed you, I gave up on you, I didn’t listen to your voice inside my heart.
“I’m having trouble processing” Mulder never looked down, he never looked afraid, he does now “I don’t know where I fit in”
“You have questions” she took a step closer, trying to bridge the gap and to be honest, the baby was squirming and straining her back. She sat down in the corner of the sofa, not too close, but close enough. Small steps.
When he was in the hospital the relief of having him back was overwhelming, but now it was time, time to set their world right again.
“What am I, Scully?” His voice was low, the blunt honesty took her by surprise, cutting straight to the core of her fear “what am I, you said Billy Miles turned into this thing… what guarantee do we have it won’t happen to me?”
“From all the tests we did, we can safely assume we flushed the virus out of your system, your body was restored…”
“But you can’t say that about my mind, or my soul” bitter, his words, his tone, this wasn’t her Mulder.
“When I was gone” she said stroking her belly “you never had any doubt, if the person who came back, was actually me, even though we knew each other for a little more than a year, how did you know?”
“I…” his voice hitched, the fact that she was so straightforward took him by surprise as well, shock therapy “you weren’t dead for three months”
“Neither were you apparently” don’t say those words, I beg you “I was gone, we still don’t know how I came back, I had traces of branched DNA in my blood, and I was in a coma for weeks, how did you know, it was me?”
“I just knew”
“So do I, Mulder” she smiled a little “so do I”
Was it her warm tone, was it her words? He took of his jacket and sat down on the opposite end of the couch, it wasn’t perfect, but it was progress.
“Do you want to talk about what you remember?” She tried to be as gentle as possible, but he shook his head ‘no’.
“I’m scared Scully” he said instead, hiding his face in his hands “I’m scared to remember”
The urge to hold him was overwhelming, but she fought it down.
Mulder rubbed his cheeks, the wounds there healing fast but still clearly visible, a dreadful reminder of what was done to him.
“I feel” he paused searching for words “unclean, like they did those things and I don’t know what’s inside me anymore, and it frightens me” she needed to touch him, but she didn’t, she let him talk.
“I’m afraid I’ll hurt you” his gaze was fixed on the floor, voice shaking “what if they put some switch inside me, and it’s only waiting to be flipped and I’ll do something” the words started flowing, he held his head in his hands, elbows propped up on knees “hurt someone, only to wake up and take the blame for it”
She couldn’t stay away no more. She moved closer, kneelt on the couch and hugged his shoulders, trying to gently pull him into her arms. But he froze for a moment, just that, just a moment, but the cold was enough to curdle blood in her arms.
The thought he might push her away congealed and threatened to start it’s way to her heart, spreading like poison... and then he sobbed, long painful sobs shaking his body and thawing their hearts. He gave up, fell into her arms, his face hidden in her chest so deep, she could feel tears soaking through her shirt, his hands clutching at fistfuls of sleeves, searching for his place and finding it… taken.
A fresh wave of sobbs rolled through him; still their embrace felt awkward, new and uncertain. She could feel it in his back, how he tried to avoid the baby, her belly between them a huge question mark. He clutched at her shoulders instead, and she cried with him, feeling every inch of this awkwardness like thorns piercing her arms, it felt horrible, she had to do something.
With a deep breath she freed one arm, making him lose balance and fall heavy on her as his breath hitched, startled. She didn’t let go. ‘Sorry baby’ she thought, ‘we have to help your dad’. She shifted, fingers twining in his hair, arm around his shoulders, rubbing his back, and Mulder surrendered. Letting her hold him, he found his place finally, a little sideways, a little cramped, but it was still there, her voice in his ear was like water, washing out the glacier that gripped them.
“Shhhh, it’s okay” she crooned “it’s okay, you’re okay, you’re safe, we’re all safe now”
Scully let the tears roll down her cheeks, his pain flowing through her, beginning the process of healing.
Mulder started to calm down, with each breath his shoulders shook less under her palms. She risked pressing a kiss to the closest place she could find, the crook of of his neck, the spot behind his ear. He still smelled like Mulder, his hair still felt like silk, his arms were still too big for her and that too felt like him.
She knew it will take time to heal the damage, this wasn’t over, far from it, but she was here with him, she didn’t let him push her away and it was her first small victory.
The silence was no longer empty, the orange light of the sunset felt warmer, and calmer. The baby took that moment to stretch, pushing against her skin almost exactly where Mulder’s arm rested, around the spot where her waist once used to be. He jumped, his arm flying sideways, as if burned, his face one of total surprise.
Scully burst out a small, but genuine laugh, she almost forgot how nice it felt to be so surprised. He kept looking at her belly, his hand frozen away from it, uncertain what should happen now.
She wanted to laugh, a real belly laugh, but only dared to chuckle as Mulder gave her an uncertain look, already pulling back. The baby stretched again and she quickly grabbed his palm and pressed it to the spot, smiling. His eyes went wide and the expression on his face changed from one of terror to pure awe.
“Mulder, meet your son”
He asked her to stay and in return she didn’t ask him to join her in the shower, giving him this few minutes alone he certainly needed.
She changed the sheets for him that morning. The memory of the scent of his fabric softener was still there for reference, just like the scent of her, a little different now, but still unmistakable; her soap, her shampoo and a drop of Chanel, just for him because only he came close enough to catch it.
He sat on the bed, feeling the pillows. The bedside table was dusted, even in that one spot behind the lamp he always missed only to notice it when he went to bed too lazy to fix it, eventually leaving it for another day to clean. He smiled seeing the familiar scratches on the bedpost where she handcuffed him one crazy night, when they both had one drink to many and too much time on their hands. The book he left behind when he went back to Oregon with Skinner, was still there, waiting on a shelf under the the table. He looked inside the drawer, the same junk, pen, book of puzzles, three expired condoms he had no idea how they got there. He took the condoms and threw them away, he should clean out the table when he cleaned the waterbed mess.
The kitchen looked lived in, not at all as he left it, meaning fridge empty, mugs in the sink, dishrag hung over the stove handle. Now it looked clean and used, plates and mugs on the drier from their dinner, fresh can of ground coffee, just for him, she gave up caffeine because of the baby. A shopping list held with a Nessie magnet on the fridge, apples, vegetables and ice cream, pen’s in the drawer. He took it and added ‘sunflower seeds’.
When he came back to the bedroom she was folding her clothes, changed into his tee and a pair of her own pj’s pants.
“I…” she started shyly, the look on her face a little guilty “I came to sleep here”
“Good” he stepped closer wrapping his arms around her “my fish get lonely” that earned him a hug and a giggle as she looked up and he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. She wasn’t scared and he tried to draw strength from it, her trust in him was all he had at the moment.
He let her go, and as he went to open the window, Scully climbed into bed, curled on her side and drew the sheet back for him, turning of the lights. He didn’t climb over her to his side accompanied by squeals and giggles like he used to in another lifetime, but circled the bed and laid down facing her. Not far, not close enough, but there was warmth in her eyes, even if he didn’t touch her.
“Sleep Mulder, you’re home” she said softly, running the back of her hand down his healing cheek “you’re safe, sleep”
“Scully?” He said closing his eyes, hand brushing her belly under the covers “how did this happen?”
He heard a soft chuckle but her hand never stoped tracing his features.
“Well, when mommy and daddy love each other very much” she said in her dreamy, bedtime story voice “and have crazy, unbridled sex on the couch, or in bed,” she felt him smile, ”or the back seat of a car,” she added moving closer, so his hand rested surely against her side, “miracles happen.”
“I guess you’re right,” he let himself pull her into his arms, her belly, her waist, her arms and her thighs, feeling her warmth, their warmth, her’s and their child’s.
“Sleep Mulder, you’re safe now,” her hand moved to his back as he hid his face in her breast, “everything’s gonna’ be alright.”
Her voice was soft, like butterfly wings hiding him from monsters up high, and in her arms, he felt safe for the first time in months.
Mulder woke her up few hours later, tossing restlessly, white knuckles gripping the sheets. Panting and digging his heels into the mattress, he was sleep-running.
“Scuuhhh” he shifted, moaning “SCUhhh” this time louder
“SCULLAYYY” he screamed and she caught his hand before he could strike her.
“MULDER!” Her grip was firm and her tone commanding “Mulder! It’s me, you’re home”
He looked at her blindly, eyes frantic at first, but saw her finally, and with a gut wrenching sob hid his face in her arms, clutching at her like a drowning man to a lifeline. She held him tightly.
“It’s okay, you’re home” she crooned as he sobbed like a child “you’re safe, we’re safe, I’ve got you”
She stroked his back and ran fingers through his hair until he calmed down.
“I’ve got you” she whispered “I’ve got you”
For more Mulder dealing with PTSD go to "A Buzzing Sound"
The boy slept nestled between them on her bed in the soft, warm light from her bedside lamp.
Mulder ran one finger down his cheek, as soft and delicate as his mother’s kiss. Little fingers curled into tiny fists, holding them by their heartstring. He felt as if his entire existence, the point and meaning of it could be closed in this one pixie-sized hand. They couldn’t stop looking at the child, sparing nothing more than a glance for each other, but even that felt softer somehow, deeper, meaningful to a new degree.
Scully gave Will her pinky finger to hold, new kind of tenderness filling her expression and, taking his sleeping son as his only witness, Mulder blurted out quietly.
“Will you marry me?”
“Mulder” her tone was one of indulgence and mild exasperation.
“I mean it” he insisted, trying to look unafraid that she might not take him seriously “I want to stay and wake up with you, instead of thinking if I will see you today, I want you to push me out of bed because it’s my turn to check on him, I want you to call me because we’re out of milk” his resolve wavered “I don’t want to stand outside that door waiting to be let in”
“You have keys since 1993, you’ve practically moved in”
“You know what I mean” he needed her to understand, how other people do this? Was she really that averse to the idea of marriage? “These past three months, I know it wasn’t easy, for either of us, and I could say that I wouldn’t have made it without you, but it’s much more than that.” His eyes rested on the sleeping baby “you saw the state I was in when I came back, and I pulled a couple of stupid stunts since then, but that was because I didn’t know what to keep from my old life. It’s you, and him, that gave me new purpose, I let myself believe I’m not alone anymore, that there are people depending on me.”
“I don’t want you to change too much” she said with a smile.
“I wanted it all, right away, and it was stupid to rush” he rested his head on the pillow and looked up at her “and you indulge me too much sometimes, you’ve changed”
“We both changed”
“Why don’t you call me out on my BS anymore?”
“Because I realized it lasts longer when you come to those conclusions on your own”
“Is there a reason why you won’t marry me?”
“I didn’t say I won’t”
“You didn’t say you will, either”
“I’m thinking about it”
“What?” She laughed softly as he rolled over onto his back, covering eyes with his forearm.
“I expected something more romantic”
“Did you come prepared?” She asked of hand, getting up and moving Will to his bassinet. When she turned around Mulder was playing with a small, black box.
“You mean this?”
That made her stop, that was new for him. But on second thought, was it? His early morning slideshows, his ready theories, he always had a ticket ready for her when they went out of town for a case. Even when he ditched her to do something extremely stupid, he usually left her with some kind of clue how to find him or what he was doing. Usually. When it came to the two of them doing something together, he usually did come prepared. And this was something they were definitely about to do together.
Mulder read her surprise and got up, kissing her cheek as he passed her on his way to the bathroom.
“I’ll give you a moment to think about it” he said leaving the box on the dresser.
“You’re staying, right?” she said, trying to hide her doubt.
“Yes, tonight” he said without looking back.
There it was, that time-specific answer. What about tomorrow? If she’d say no, would she be saying no to their present arrangement? It didn’t feel like ultimatum, but even Mulder had his pride, didn't he?
Did she think about marriage? Maybe, once or twice, when she saw the couples in Falls of Arcadia.
They didn’t have friends who invited them to fancy dinner parties and the last time she went to something like that was before she even met him. Dear God, that sounded terrible, for the past 9 years, she lived without really having a life, having Mulder turned out to be more than enough. If she did hang out with friends, it was with him and the Gunmen and it was never fancy, at least not in the widely understood sense of the word. Usually it was Frohike’s cooking or their favorite pizza, and arguing over satellite pictures of the coast of Bermuda or nitpicking at the scientific inaccuracies of sci-fi tv shows, sharing popcorn and beer. That was her these days, it was always her, the science geek, the career woman, feeling out of place between mothers and wives and dolphin-safe tuna sandwiches.
She remembered thinking, how fake it felt, how not-them, Mulder in pink polo shirts and she in knit blazers, the stiff atmosphere and CC&R’s. He mocked them shamelessly, looking confident and relaxed, but she couldn’t pretend, she couldn’t fake them. It felt wrong, not only to pretend to be married, but pretend to be these people, Rob and Laura ‘like-the-dish’ Petrie, their total opposites. Maybe if they would be a pair of quirky high school teachers she could pull it off, but to stomach fake-Mulder fake-loving fake-her, that was just wrong. That went beyond her skill-set.
The second undercover assignment as a couple was easier, because they already knew how to be close, she had that to lean on when she had to keep their cover, one layer of lies less and she felt confident enough to make it work. And that first night at the hotel was, to this day, one of her warmest memories of the two of them, together.
And who said they really needed to get married? Their two days old son was sleeping bundled up in his tiny bed and she never even thought she should look for someone other than Mulder to be his dad.
Mulder ran away, faking a smile when in reality he was trembling inside. The fear she might say ‘no’ was melting his resolve fast. He had tonight, whatever she said, he wasn’t going anywhere, but what about tomorrow? Why it was so easy for everyone else? You take your girl out to dinner, you get on one knee, she says yes shedding one happy tear, the crowd cheers and there, it’s official, you’re hers for all the world to see. He really should’ve think this through, ask her out, she probably wanted it that way, like serious people, like adults. Stupid, stupid what if he insulted her, what if she thinks he’s taking her for granted by being too casual about it. What if she’s remembering all the times he did something stupid or reckless, all the stunts that would make a mother cringe. What if he disqualified himself as a parent.
When he came back from the not-quite-dead, she made it perfectly clear that, be it by some miracle of God or science, he was the boy’s biological father. But biological parentage and fatherhood didn’t have to necessarily mean the same thing.
She took care of him, helped him pull himself together, but it felt like something she’d do for him regardless. She was still his friend, and lover, but they never actually discussed their future together.
That was it, they should really talk about it, before he assumed. He could almost hear her in his head
'You know what happens when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me’
Yes, they should talk about it first.
When he came back from the bathroom, the light in the bedroom was already out, only faint blueish moonlight betrayed her, already tucked in. The floor creaked as it always did when he tried to be quiet, but she wasn’t asleep.
“Mulder stop lurking and come to bed” she said quietly “I’m not kicking you out if that’s what you’re afraid of”
He chuckled rounding the bed and climbing in. He expected it to feel awkward, he kinda had some idea what to do if it did, but it wasn’t. She turned to him and snugged under his arm, as if nothing happened, as if she forgot about the whole thing.
“Scully?” She hummed against his chest the way she always did when she was half way gone “you wanna talk about it?” He wasn’t sure if he could sleep without knowing.
“Not exactly” she mumbled, wrapping her arm around his chest.
She hooked one leg cautiously over his thigh, looking for her old place, but winced before she could settle into his side with her cheek on his shoulder. Restlessly, she moved away from him, just a little, but enough to feel the cold air creep in.
‘That’s it’ Mulder thought, she was telling herself she shouldn’t be so close, shouldn’t lead him on, give him false hope. Only her head rested now on his shoulder, her hands folded between them, like a gate closing the road. He could still feel her, but there was room for fear now between them. She sighed heavily when he tucked the sheet around her, mostly to keep her warm, but also to keep her warmth to himself, as long as possible.
“They tell you to sleep while the baby sleeps” she mumbled “but no one said it’ll feel so weird not to feel him inside you”
Mulder chuckled, remembering how just two days ago she complained about the baby kicking and not giving her even an hour of sleep.
“C’mere” she took his hand and rolled over to her other side, pulling him with her. Snuggled into his arms, now wrapped gently around her, her backside nestled into his hips, her back to his chest, Scully finally calmed down, as did he. Feeling her whole, her breathing, her warmth, her scent, she felt like home.
“Better?” He asked, kissing softly her shoulder and neck.
“Infinitely” she breathed, already fading.
He felt her breathing grow deep and even, body sinking heavily into his arms, leaning on him, his hand tucked under her cheek.
From the first night she slept in the foot of his bed, from the first night she slept next to him, from the first night she slept in his bed, all the beginnings, the new chapters in the story of the two of them, this one was the most beautiful, the happiest.
The baby whimpered making him jump. Startled, he tried to get up, but she stopped him squeezing his hand.
“Wait, he’ll settle” and a few seconds later the baby was silent, asleep again.
“How did you know?”
“You do that, too” she mumbled, pressing her lips to his knuckles.
“What?” That made him curious.
“Squirm, mumble something then fall back asleep” she shifted slightly, casually grinding her backside against him, all sleepy breathy voice and languid moves, relaxed and open. Only in the darkness of their bedroom she was like this, and her moves didn’t go unnoticed. He grew stiff against her and pulled her closer making her chuckle and wince at the same time.
“Behave” he heard her smile, but she winced again as she tried to tease him some more.
“Easy” he tried to soothe her, kissing her earlobe “this isn’t going anywhere”
Tracing her ear with the tip of his nose he asked softly “How long?”
“Six, maybe eight weeks, usually” she snuggled closer, a mixed signal if he ever saw one, but it was a reflex to lock his arms around her
“Don’t squeeze me, my breasts hurt” she protested without malice and Mulder caught himself, loosening his grip immediately.
“Sorry” he apologized.
“How are you feeling, besides that” he never asked her, he’d know if he’d ask, he was such an ass.
“Sore, but happy” she breathed, her tone telling him the conversation was over.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps, Mulder” she reminded him, and he didn’t say anything else, just kissed her cheek softly.
“Mulder?” She tried to turn to look at him over her shoulder one ast time.
“I will” she breathed, her lips half an inch from his “I will marry you.”
He forgot how to speak, all he could do, was pull her lips to his. Did the kiss last nine seconds or nine minutes, they didn’t know, but when they broke apart, the world was never again like before.
“And you’re moving in” she finished, turning in his arms, back to where they started, her back to his front, arms gently resting around her.
They fell asleep, safe, loved and cherished, ready to share the love with their little boy who slept peacefully in his crib.
When Will woke her later that night, she found a small, diamond ring around her finger and Mulder sprawled on the bed behind her. His limbs scattered between sheets and pillows, ready to take her back and fold around her like petals of a nocturnal flower.
For more Dad!Mulder go to "The Truth Of Us"