A crack of thunder tore through the dream. In flooded the fear, and he couldn’t quite recall where his mind had just been. He responded as he usually did. No movement. Eyes closed. Allowing the dream to naturally resurface.
He was in his childhood home. There had been shadows. He was following them. But then...but then...
Another lightning flash and rumble outside and Mulder lost the train of thought. He sighed. Probably didn't matter anyway. It was surely just more of the same. Fox Mulder hadn't had a decent night's sleep in over thirty years, why should tonight be any different?
Then he moved to turn on the bedside lamp, and a dull weigh on his arm stopped him. His eyes snapped open, the rush of memories were so great.
Tonight had been very different, though, hadn't it?
Light streaked through the window, trailing over her auburn hair. Her head on his pillow, bare back to his chest. Fingers curled sleep-slacked around his hand, laying between her breasts. Her breaths rose and fell like waves.
Mulder felt tension crawling up his shoulders. It was hard to stay so still as a storm raged, both outside and in. The dream itself was fading, but the feelings it summoned were old and strong and clutched like a vice.
Unable to take it any longer, he carefully extracted himself from her grasp to sneak out from the covers. She shifted slightly, but otherwise stayed under sleep's spell. He watched for a moment, in awe and envy.
In the cool of the living room, he snapped on every light. Fed his fish. Tossed the take-out clutter into the trash. Turned the TV on mute and, after finding nothing of interest, let the talking heads mime away. On the couch his mind whirled and turned in the usual ways. Eventually he pulled his laptop out from under the coffee table to follow the night's stream of consciousness. His heartbeat slowed. The fear faded. The normalcy set in.
What set him off this time was the trill of his phone. He sworeand scrambled to answer.
He let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding, glancing back at the wall dividing them. “Never expected to be relieved to learn the call was coming from inside the apartment.”
“You left your cellphone on the nightstand. I figured you didn't go far.”
“Sorry. I tried to be quiet.”
Mulder flipped the TV off. Closed and stored the laptop. Leaned back into the couch. The mood shifted. Became familiar in all the other ways now.
“Did you know that the Egyptians believed that dreams were oracles given by gods?”
“Answers to questions we haven't yet figured out how to ask? You've maybe mentioned it once or twice.”
“I wonder what the Egyptians with all the nightmares thought. If they ever grew tired of always drawing the short straw.” Mulder turned to watch the rain splatter haphazardly down the window glass. “If they ever felt like they were cursed.”
There was a moment of silence while she read between the lines. “Why didn't you wake me?”
“I didn't want to bother you.”
“That's never stopped you before.”
He could tell she was expecting him to laugh, but he didn't. “It's different when you're here.”
The next time she spoke, the playful tone in her voice was gone. “How?”
“I can see how peaceful you are when you sleep.” Mulder tried to think of how to elaborate and explain, but all he could think of to add was, “I don't want to curse you, too.”
He could hear the rustle of blankets as she shifted position. He closed his eyes, the way he had countless other nights, listening to her existence on the other end of the line. Imagining what it would be like to be there next to her. His pulse quickened. Those blankets were his blankets. The images came more vividly now.
“You know the Egyptians also believed in inducing dreams. Some temples had special 'dream beds' on which they would lay and hope to dream of advice, or healing.”
Hope was a nice word. He hadn’t thought about it in a while. “I’m not so sure I sprung for one of those special beds, Scully.”
“I don’t think it was the bed, so much as the intention, that was key.” After a beat, her playful tone returned to add, “Though purchasing a bed was unarguably a step in the right direction.”
Mulder’s brows couldn’t help but waggle. “On that, I think, we agree.”
“Come back to bed.”
He hung up and sauntered back into the bedroom. His eyes were no longer adjusted to the darkness, but as soon as he was close, he felt Scully's hands guide him. Pulling him down into her former space. Her chest to his back now. Her arm wrapped around him, her palm over his heart. Both of his hands clutched hers, desperate to keep her protection there.
Her lips kissed his temple. Then the top of his head. The nape of his neck. He shivered and felt her hold on a little tighter.
The next time Mulder woke, the storm was gone.