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Eyes Wide Open

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Eyes Wide Open
By Suzanne L. Feld
Rated PG-13

The first time it happened was in the second year we were partners, and to this day I remembered it like it was yesterday...

I came out of the bathroom to find Mulder sprawled across my queen-sized motel bed on his stomach, dressed only in a pair of grey and maroon sweatpants. He had the remote in hand and the picture on the TV was flipping so fast I couldn't recognize anything. “Ahem,” I said as I walked towards him, rubbing Vaseline Intensive Care lotion on my hands and glad that I hadn't decided to wear my avocado face mask tonight. “Wrong room, Clouseau.”

“Sherlock, I keep telling you,” he said, turning the TV off. “Give me some credit, huh? Going to bed already, Scully?”

“'Already'?” I raised a brow at him. “We've been up for over twenty hours and you say 'already'?”

He chuckled, stood, and pulled the covers down. Then, to my surprise, he crawled in and settled himself on his side against the wall facing me. Punching the pillow a few times before laying his head on it, he patted the mattress next to himself invitingly. “Okay, okay, bedtime for Bonzo.”

I stared at him. “You expect me to get into that bed with you?”

“I really just don't want to be alone tonight, Scully. Not after some of the things we saw, the evidence of alien intervention we came so close to getting. No funny stuff—just a warm comforting body next to me to help me sleep.” He looked over at me with sincere eyes, and I tried to ignore the broad shoulders and lightly furred, very masculine chest beneath them. “Why can't friends sleep in the same bed?”

“Because said friends are of the opposite sex,” I replied, but went over and sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. This was not something I'd ever thought about, and I wished I had more time to think about it now. This was only our second case after my return, and I'd noticed how clingy he tended to be recently. To help matters I was so tired it felt like my head was filled with cotton batting. Maybe this would help us both sleep; he knew damn well better than to try anything sexual with me, I was sure. And to be honest, it did sound rather nice. I turned my head and looked steadily at him. “You mean it, right, about no funny stuff? No sneaking a grope when I'm asleep?”

He raised one hand, first and second fingers together. “On my honor.”

“You weren't a Boy Scout,” I scoffed, standing to remove my robe and toss it to the foot of the bed; I was wearing a pair of light cotton pajamas that covered me well enough even if I wasn't wearing anything beneath them. I really did understand where he was coming from; after how close he'd come to being killed today I honestly didn't want to be alone either. “All right, just this once, and I'm holding you to being a gentleman.” I slid under the covers and reached up to turn off the light, but found myself laying very stiffly on my back, afraid to look over, listening to his breathing so close and already second-guessing this idea.

Then I felt his hand reach over, finding my forearm, and slide down to grasp my fingers gently with his, twining them together. “Goodnight, Scully,” he rasped in the dark, giving my hand a squeeze. He shifted a bit, I rolled on my side facing him with neither of us breaking the grip or touching anywhere else, and I dozed off with a smile on my face that I hoped he couldn't see in the dark.

That next morning we woke up with the alarm, each on our own side of the bed and not touching. He went back to his room to get ready, closing the connecting doors between our rooms without either of us saying a word. I figured that was the end of it.

Wrong.

The next time wasn't for a while, a good six or eight months. It was the night after the more-weird-than-usual case in Dudley, Arkansas, where I nearly became part of a town-wide cannibalistic ritual. That night I was sitting in my motel room, unable to sleep but not wanting to take a sedative in case I needed to wake during the night, when I heard a light knock at my door. This motel didn't have connecting doors so I picked up my gun before I went to see who it was, but of course there was the familiar evening-stubbled face beneath a mop of tousled dark mahogany hair.

“Mulder. To what do I owe this pleasure at twelve-thirty in the morning?” I said as I swung the door open, holding the gun down at my side. As usual in the evenings he was wearing a pair of sweats, a loose grey t-shirt, and sweat socks.

“Probably the same thought that had you ready for the worst when answering the door,” he said as he walked in, gesturing to the Sig in my hand. “Someone from the town who was involved in the cannibalism could still be after us, and I'd rather not consider that all by myself.”

He closed the door behind him as I walked over to the dresser and put my gun back in its holster. “So what can I do for you, Mul-”

I turned around to find him sprawled on my bed, holding and looking over the book I'd been trying unsuccessfully to read. “Carl Sagan?” he said, flipping through the pages of Pale Blue Dot. “I wouldn't have pegged you for a fan of his.”

“And why not?” I said, standing next to the bed with my arms folded. “He's a scientist and advocates skeptical inquiry, the popularization of science, and the scientific method.”

“He also believes that aliens probably exist somewhere in the universe,” Mulder said, grinning up at me. “And did you know he's an atheist?”

“Agnostic,” I corrected, sitting at the foot of the bed. “He once said, regarding atheism, 'An atheist has to know a lot more than I know'.”

“Maybe I should listen to him and start calling myself an agnostic,” Mulder said, using the front part of the dust jacket as a bookmark to save my place and setting the book on the nightstand. “Mind if I take the outside tonight? I drank a Coke before I came over here.”

For a moment I blanked, then it dawned on me. “You're sleeping here tonight?” I said, raising one eyebrow. “Nothing like asking, Mulder.”

He shrugged, rolling over and off the bed and standing near me. “Unless you don't want me to.”
“I didn't say that. I just rather you'd ask than assume. No one likes to be taken for granted,” I pointed out. “Not even armed federal agents.”

He grinned. “In that case, do you mind sharing your bed with me in a totally platonic way tonight? With me on the outside this time so I don't have to climb over you to use the bathroom as I'm sure I will?”

He had a point; this bed had a solid wooden footboard that jutted up a good 2-3 inches and was pushed up against the wall. Luckily it, too, was a queen like last time and had plenty of room for us both. “Yes, yes you may,” I said as I crawled in, not having bothered to put on my robe when I got up to answer the door. “But if you snore I'm booting you back to your own bed.”

“I didn't snore last time, did I?” he said, sitting on the edge of the bed and taking off his sweat socks, then pulling his t-shirt over his head and tossing it in a nearby chair. As he laid back I wondered if he even owned a pair of pajamas and if he did, if he ever wore the tops.

“Nope, but it's fair warning,” I said, rolling over onto my right side towards the wall out of habit. Before I could roll back after realizing my movement could be taken as a rejection—which I didn't mean it as—he had turned off the light and snuggled up to me back-to-back. Our shoulders were touching, my bottom in the small of his back and his curving beneath me.

I froze, not sure what to do, then he said, “This is nice, Scully. Can we stay like this?”

Mentally I shrugged to myself. It did feel nice, and there was nothing even vaguely sexual about how we were laying. Missy and I had often slept like this when we'd shared a bed. I yawned, already starting to doze, and mumbled an affirmative as I slipped away from consciousness. If he got up in the night to use the bathroom I didn't know about it; I slept like the proverbial rock.

When the alarm woke us I was on my back and Mulder on his side facing me, our hands entwined, our bodies not touching. He smiled at me sleepily and squeezed my hand before getting up, helping me across the bed before letting go. When he went back to his room without another word I wondered when the next time would be.

 

I found out a few months later. Although I'd tried to hide it from him, Mulder knew I was upset about Clyde Bruckman's suicide; despite myself and our brief acquaintance I'd gotten rather attached to the old man. We could have flown out of St. Paul the night he died, but agreed to stay one more night. And that night I went to him for the first, but certainly not the last, time.

After we got back to the motel I soaked in a long hot bath without washing my hair, changed into pajamas and belted my robe tightly around my waist, then grabbed my present book and bottle of Evian water and went to knock on the connecting door between our rooms without even thinking about it. Much.

He opened it and smiled down at me. As always, he was in the ubiquitous sweats and a loose t-shirt, big feet bare on the industrial-brown carpet. “Scully. Coming over for a slumber party?”

“Unless you have other plans,” I said as I walked into his room. We were staying in a Holiday Inn Express, much nicer than our usual digs but nowhere near as nice as the hotel they'd had Bruckman at. Figured. As I'd hoped, Mulder had a king-sized bed just like the one in my room with nightstands on both sides.

“Nope—they don't get Showtime After Dark here,” he said, wagging his eyebrows as I went over and set my book and water bottle on the nightstand closest to the bathroom and then threw back the covers. “Just make yourself comfortable, why don't you, Scully.”

I paused about to climb in. “You don't want me here? The only time we can share a bed is when you need to?”

“Well, no, but like you said... it's nice to be asked.”

I was instantly contrite and more than a little annoyed with myself because he was absolutely right. “I'm sorry, Mulder, I've been really distracted tonight. Do you mind?”

He came over and gave me a brief one-armed hug before moving away towards the bathroom. “Of course not, and I'm glad you came. Back in a few.”

I turned on the bedside lamp and got comfortable, and was deep in my book by the time he came out. “What are you reading this time?”

I showed him the cover: A Century of Mathematical Meetings: Published in connection with the 100th annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society.

“Ugh! The back of a cereal box is better reading than that!” he said with clear disgust, bouncing onto his side of the bed as he shucked the shirt. “Stick with Sagan, Scully, he's at least entertaining no matter how dry the subject matter is.”

I harrumphed at him. “And what are you reading, Mulder?” I asked, having seen a paperback on the other bedside table but unable to make out what it was.

“The original H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds,” he informed me loftily. “The Gunmen got it for me, and a couple of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originals as well.”

I studied the age-darkened, water-marked, and falling-apart paperback he handed me. “More likely they picked up an old box of books somewhere and gave you the ones they didn't want,” I pointed out, knowing they'd done that before. “Why do you keep letting them shunt their junk off on you?”

“This is not junk,” he said, turning onto his stomach and stuffing a pillow under his chest, the paperback open on the bed in front of him. “It's an issue from the 1950s, when sci-fi was really hot.”

“Well, it is better than that Whitley Streiber supposed-real-life alien-invasion thing I saw at your apartment last week,” I said as I settled my glasses more comfortably on my nose. I noted that he wasn't wearing his and that they were nowhere in sight. “At least Wells is marketed as fiction.”

He didn't reply, apparently absorbed in the book and I let it go. Some time later I heard a gentle snore and looked over to see him with his forehead resting on the open book, arms relaxed under the pillow, sound asleep. I got up and gently slipped the book out from beneath him, turned off the lamp on his side, then climbed in on my side, turned out the light, and laid down on my side facing him a few inches away. I could just feel his body heat beneath the covers. This really was nice, if certainly frowned on by our superiors. But I knew we weren't doing anything wrong, just sharing comfort on some of our tougher cases while on the road. We didn't seem to need it at home, just away, and that worked fine for me.

I awoke slowly pressed against a strong, warm male body. Though this was far from the first time, it had been a while and I lay still until I could figure out what was going on. I opened my eyes to early morning dimness and very quickly realized that I was snuggled up to my still-sleeping partner, laying on my right side with one arm across his warm, bare chest, my left thigh laid over his, thankfully nowhere near his groin. He had one arm under my neck and around my shoulders holding me close to him with my head on his shoulder, his soft breath stirring the top of my head. He appeared to be asleep and I slowly began to move away, but he held me closer and mumbled into my hair, “Don't move yet, Scully, this is really nice.”

I froze, hesitating. This was definitely farther than I'd ever intended to go, and wasn't really comfortable with this level of intimacy between us. On the other hand it really did feel good, I had to admit to myself as I relaxed against him. I pulled my arm back and put my hand under my cheek palm-down; his chest hair was tickling my nose. We lay that way for a few more minutes before he heaved a sigh and said in a groggy voice, “I guess we have to get up eventually since our flight's at noon, but I could stay like this forever.”

“Yeah, at least until you need your morning coffee,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “Speaking of...”

He yawned and let go of me, stretching as I rolled away. “Amazing how we ended up cuddled together in the middle of this great big bed,” he grinned at me as I shrugged into my robe and gathered up my things. “And when we sleep in the smaller ones we're barely touching.”

“We have to stop this, Mulder,” I said, pausing before the connecting door. “If we get caught they could separate us. You know as well as I do that this is definitely against regulations.”

He shrugged, sitting back against the headboard with the covers pooled around his waist. As much as I tried not to, I couldn't help but notice the strong masculinity of his long torso, not too hairy or muscular but clearly well-toned with an athlete's long, lean muscles. “It's not like we spend every night together,” he pointed out. “And who honestly cares? If they really wanted to separate us, Scully, they have plenty of other excuses to do it.”

I had to grudgingly agree and went into my room, closing the door. Still, I didn't like how we woke up cuddled together the way we had and didn't think it was a good idea for us to share a bed again. I resolved to tell him that the next time it came up, and to stay away from his bed for good from now on.

 

That resolve only lasted a few weeks. The case of Amy Jacobs' kidnapping that resulted in Lucy Householder's death caused some friction between us, but we were comfortable with each other again as we drove back to the motel after our final visit to the halfway house where Lucy had lived. Mulder was clearly saddened and while I didn't quite understand the depth of his emotion for someone he barely knew, I empathized with him when I thought of how I'd felt about Bruckman.

I had thought Mulder might come to my bed the night before, but when he didn't show up I fell asleep waiting to talk to him. Tonight I simply didn't have the heart to refuse him when he knocked on my door at almost midnight and when he walked in I just put my arms around him and held him, as he did me. We stood that way for a time, then I stepped back and said, “Are you going to stay here tonight, Mulder?”

He looked down at me, his dark eyes inscrutable and expression somber as he nodded. “That's what I came to ask you. I'd like to, Scully, but I don't want to cause any problems between us or make you uncomfortable. I know you didn't like how we woke up the last time so I've stayed away.”

There was hope for this man yet. I shrugged, turning towards the bed. “I guess it's not like we woke up after the fact,” I said, now feeling a bit uncomfortable with the situation and afraid I'd said too much.

“You mean after bumping uglies in our sleep,” he clarified, still standing where I'd left him and watching me.

I turned to look back at him again, meeting his eyes despite my uneasiness. We had to get this out and I knew it no matter how uncomfortable it was. “Yes, that's what I mean,” I said slowly. “Do you think that's a possibility?”

His eyebrows went up and then he smiled, breaking the tension. “I highly doubt it for a number of reasons, the main one being that at least one of us would have to wake up enough to get the pertinent parts undressed or it wouldn't work right.”

“You have a point,” I said, sitting on the edge of the bed. I mulled it over for a few minutes, then looked at him again. “You're welcome to stay here if you'd like, Mulder, and I'll hold you to your promise of no funny business if we do end up cuddled together again.”

“You've got a deal, Scully. Keep my side warm, I'll be right back.”

We dozed off back-to-back again, and this time I woke up to the alarm with him curled around me. He rolled away quickly, but we both knew what I'd felt pressing against my bottom although neither of us said anything. What the hell, we were both adults and I knew it wasn't something he could control during the night.

It was nearly a year before we shared a bed again, though it was a close thing several times. I think we both knew that we were playing with fire sleeping together even platonically, and without discussing it we didn't do it again for some time. The case in Home, Pennsylvania was close but I resisted the impulse, especially when I ruminated on our talk outside the courthouse. But just a few weeks later I was abducted by Gerry Schnauz, and that night when I tapped on Mulder's door he didn't look the least bit surprised nor did he say a word about asking when I climbed into his motel bed uninvited.

That night we were restless; neither of us could sleep well and we both kept waking up during the night, moving around, cuddling together, and dozing back off. There was some conversation, most of which I don't remember, but it was comforting enough that we both managed to get some sleep near dawn. Our sleeping together continued to be platonic even if more physical.

The next time was, to both our surprise I'm sure, at my apartment. The night after I showed Mulder my X-rays and told him about the inoperable cancer he turned up at my door, and we fell asleep on my couch while talking. I woke just long enough to get him up, then we both undressed to underclothes and crawled into my bed. When I awoke he was curled around me again, sound asleep with a morning erection that made me want to roll over and grab him, but I knew that this was not the time more than ever. It could just be a mercy fuck or before-you-die thing and I didn't want that with him; we meant far more to each other. Moving away from his warm skin was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, but as always I managed to do it no matter how much I didn't want to. I swore that I'd never share a bed with him again in anything less than full pajamas, and for years I did stick to that.

 

We spent the night together both on the road and at my place a few times over the next year or so, but it wasn't until the case in Oak Brook, IL that things came to a head. The night after we returned I found myself standing outside Mulder's door with a bottle of wine and my overnight bag and paused before knocking. Having seen him lying in that hospital bed in restraints had been horrible, and when he'd called me his one in five billion it had done something in the vicinity of my heart that I really didn't want to think about. And being here ready to share a bed with him—platonically or not--probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world to be doing right now, but I couldn't help it as my hand lifted and knocked.

It had, however, never occurred to me that Mulder didn't in fact have a bed; he slept on the couch those nights that he did sleep, he confessed to me. I was momentarily nonplussed and highly embarrassed as I stood in his foyer holding my overnight bag, and everything came to a head when he asked if we could just go to my place to sleep.

“Okay, Mulder, this has gone far enough. I don't know how you roped me into this madness, but it stops here and now.” I told him angrily as I turned to stomp back to to the door. “We are not sleeping together, platonic or otherwise, ever again. I must have been cr--”

His arm reached in front of me and slammed the door shut before I'd gotten it open more than a few inches, tearing the knob from my grasp; I later found that he'd broken two of my fingernails. “What in the hell is going on with you, Scully?” he asked, looking far too reasonable as I turned to glare up at him. “Why is the fact that I don't have a bed making you so angry?”

“Because I feel like you've been, um, been using me,” I stammered out, standing my ground though he was far too close to me.

“And you haven't been using me just as much?” he glared back as he loomed over me, no longer reasonable but clearly angry, one hand still on the door, his arm going over my shoulder as he stepped closer. “Who climbed into whose bed that last time in Chaney?”

Though I've never believed that violence is the first or best answer, I did grow up with a bullying older brother and knew how to handle this type of physical situation. I promptly stomped on his bare toes and when he whirled away with a shout of pain, yanked the door open and hurried home.

We didn't talk about it, but we also didn't sleep together for nearly a year.

 

The almost-kiss in the hallway and his rescuing me in Antarctica changed a lot between us, but not the basics of deep friendship and respect that the previous five years had built. When he crawled into my bed and held me close in the base hospital in Alaska where we laid over for a few days so I could be checked out further, I only cuddled close and held him in return; for once no words were needed between us.

 

When his motel room was destroyed in Kroner, Kansas I knew exactly what was going to happen that night. Despite my complaints to the motel management, it certainly did. We didn't even set up the rollaway that the manager had brought over, just got ready for bed and crawled in together like an old married couple. He spooned around me and we dozed off; I woke up with us laying side by side on our backs with his arm under my head and our bodies touching from shoulder to ankle. I turned on my side away from him and he again curled around me, not waking up, and I lay there watching the room grow light and reveling in the feeling of his hard, strong body against mine.

But that day ended up being a dealbreaker; between seeing Sheila kiss Mulder and my confession to her in the ladies' room, I knew I was getting in too deep. Though I couldn't bring myself to ask him to move to the rollaway bed, I stayed up reading long after he'd settled down to sleep and when I did, I made sure to stay well on my side. To my relief, I woke alone with Mulder already up and about. I did some serious thinking while in the shower and vowed not to share a bed with him in any way again until I sorted my feelings out. Mulder and I getting romantically involved was one of the worst ideas ever on many levels, and I wanted to take it slow and think our way through this before one of our innocent sleepovers ended up with us doing the naked pretzel despite ourselves, as Mulder so poetically put it.

 

When I was finally allowed to travel home from New York after Ritter shot Alfred Fellig and I, my mother and Mulder took me to her house where I stayed for the next two weeks. Despite the length of the drive to Maryland he came by every evening after work to keep me up-to-date and just visit. Though we never said a word about it, I knew we both missed our sleepovers and were impatient to resume them; I missed his presence at night too much to care about what I'd been thinking in Kansas.

The day Mulder took me back to my apartment we celebrated by stopping to get our favorite take-out Italian and when we finished eating, he surprised me with a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream. I was still being careful about my health and only had a spoonful, but it was the thought that meant everything to me. I was so looking forward to sleeping next to him that night that when he put his coat on after cleaning up after dinner, I wasn't sure what was going on.

“Stepping out for an after-dinner smoke, Mulder?”

He turned to me. “Well, no, but it's getting late and I don't want to keep you up.”

I frowned. “I thought you'd stay here tonight.”

He looked at me uncertainly. “Will that... are you okay with it? I'm afraid I'll bump you and hurt you in my sleep.”

“If I thought that was a possibility I wouldn't have suggested it,” I said, getting up carefully from the couch and walking over to him. Tugging on the sleeve of his bomber jacket I added, “I do have a queen-sized bed as you well know. There's enough room that we don't even have to touch if you don't want to.”

“I thought that was your problem,” he leered at me, shrugging out of the jacket. But I could see the relief beneath his clowning. Then his face went serious again, his eyes widening slightly. “Uh, Scully, I didn't bring anything to sleep in.”

I considered this for a moment. “You certainly won't fit in anything of mine. Sleeping in your underwear is fine—as long as you're wearing some. I know you go commando upon occasion.”

“First I forget the sleeping bag, then I wear underwear—I've got to quit blowing these chances,” he grinned at me, following as I headed for the bedroom even though it was barely ten o'clock. And, as I'd suspected, there was no pain in his presence that night or any other until Diana's appearance in our lives threw everything to shit.

 

The assignment at the Falls of Arcadia came when I was still very sore at him about the whole Diana thing and irritated to the point where I barely wanted to see him, never mind deal with his smart-ass crap. The first night I locked myself into the master bedroom shortly after we bid good-bye to the nosy neighbors and didn't hear a thing from him all night.

When I walked out of the bathroom in my avocado face mask the next evening he clearly knew we weren't sharing a bed that night, but still had to try it. Knowing we could have cuddled up in relative safety without fear of discovery or repercussion, which wasn't the case in a motel, kept me awake more than I liked.

The next night, however, I simply could not resist. Although we'd experienced much worse than that smelly tulpa in our many odd cases over the years and neither of us were really traumatized, I simply missed him sleeping beside me. When he walked into the guest bedroom—where we'd relocated Command Central since the master bedroom was trashed--to use my laptop, I was laying on top of the covers watching the small portable TV at the foot of the bed that had been downstairs by the couch for him to watch. “Hey, you stole my TV!”

I grinned up at him. “You can watch it in here just as well as downstairs. Besides, if we're married it's joint property, not just yours.”

His smile rivaled the sun in its intensity. “You inviting me to share the bed with you tonight, Mrs. Petrie?”

“As long as you remember that I'm Scully.”

 

The next few weeks went by as usual for us—hurricanes, water monsters, mysteriously appearing waterbeds, escaped convicts who could walk through walls—until the Philip Padgett fiasco.

This was one of those rare times that I wished Mulder had been right and as I clung to him, sobbing, I think I may have said so—but he probably didn't hear or believe me. Once he made sure I was all right he settled me on the couch and went to call the police and paramedics, insisting I get checked out although I absolutely refused to go to the hospital. I was, I knew, unmarked and not injured other than feeling weak, and after the parameds were done with me I went into the bathroom and showered. I heard Mulder moving around in the bathroom on the other side of the solid white curtain while I shampooed the blood out of my hair. When I got out and dried off I found a pair of his sweatpants and a large matching sweatshirt folded on the toilet seat but the shirt was so big, hanging to my knees, that I didn't need the pants which were comically large. My bloody clothes were gone, everything except my panties, and when I peered out of the bathroom Mulder was sitting on the couch alone and jumped up. “Is everyone gone?” I asked.

“Yes, the DCPD want you to come down tomorrow and make a formal statement, and they took your weapon for ballistics testing. But until then--” he walked over and put his arm around me-- “you need to stay warm and get some rest.”

He led me to his bedroom, which I had never seen before. I had, of course, noted the closed door upon occasion and especially after we'd had our argument about sleeping arrangements, but I'd never been in there. I suspected that his having gotten a bed had something to do with said argument, but I wasn't about to bring it up. I was surprised and pleased to find it nicely decorated, with what looked to be a queen sized bed that was neatly made. “I thought you said you had a waterbed?”

“After the problem with it leaking I gave it to Frohike and bought this one,” he said, pulling down the covers and turning me gently to sit on the edge. “I just put clean sheets on, so you climb in and rest. If the blood on your clothes really was yours, you'll need to rest and build your strength back up.”
I did as he said, sinking into the clean albeit wrinkled sheets with a relieved sigh. “Did you just buy these sheets, Mulder?”

“Yeah, but I washed them right after I got them—I'm just not too good at folding,” he admitted with a twisted smile. “Hey, don't complain, I'm a step ahead of most bachelors; at least I know how to make a bed. Are you hungry?”

I wouldn't have guessed it, but I was and told him so.

“Okay, you just rest and I'm going to run to the store. The paramedics said that you should have orange juice and soup; any preferences?”

“Tropicana and chicken noodle, but no Campbells, get Progresso, it's not as salty,” I said sleepily as I turned on my side and smiled up at him. “Thanks, Mulder.”

He reached down and caressed my cheek then brushed a lock of hair back from my forehead and kissed it lightly. Though my eyes were mostly closed, I saw the look on his face and felt my heart constrict and a jolt deep in my belly. If this man didn't love me, really love me, as he'd told me while doped up in the Bahamas a few months back then my name wasn't Dana Katherine Scully. But before I could think about what to do about it I must have dozed off, and woke up sometime later in the dark thrashing against restraining arms, feeling those cold ghostly hands reaching deep into my chest again.

“Scully! It's Mulder, it's me, it's okay, wake up, Scully!”

Realizing that it was my partner holding me so tightly, I stopped fighting and then, to my absolute shock, burst into tears yet again. I hated to cry more than anything but was helpless to stop sobbing as he held me close, stroking my hair and rubbing my back gently. He was murmuring to me, our bare legs entwined, and I suddenly realized that I was on his lap, sitting between his legs. As I calmed he enfolded me in his arms, holding me close, resting the side of his face on top of my head. I found my arms wrapped around his warm chest as well, holding him tightly to me. I could feel my defenses crumbling and knew that if he so much as kissed me, I was his in every way possible between a man and a woman. Maybe not a good idea, but the tenderness and caring he showed me—not to mention the love on his face earlier—I simply could not have resisted.

But he didn't. After a time he reached over and snapped on the bedside lamp, then moved away and got up, urging me to lay back where he'd been. “Are you hungry, Scully?” he asked, standing shirtless beside the bed. I then noticed that he was wearing a pair of hunter-green plaid pajama pants, the first ones I'd ever seen him wear, but of course no shirt. “Can I get you anything?”

“Just water,” I said, then spotted my overnight bag near his bedroom doorway. It was the one I always kept in the trunk of my car for emergencies, which he must have gone and gotten. “And while you're gone I'm going to put on some clean, uh, underwear.”

He grinned at me from the doorway. “Never had you pegged for a 'Haines Her Way' type, Scully,” he said. “I'd have thought Victoria's Secret was more your speed.”

I harrumphed. “You obviously haven't snooped through my dresser drawers.”

“Oooh—comfortable during the day and sexy at night, are we? You do keep me guessing.”
He left, closing the door softly behind him. I got up and rummaged through my bag, but all I found in there were my, yes, comfortable everyday bikini briefs. Too bad—I would have dearly loved to have “accidentally” left out a pair of my Betsey Johnson or Occhi Verdi panties, most of which were a wisp of satin or lace and not much else, just to see the expression on his face. I sometimes wore a thong but never packed them; they were usually for my slinkier dresses or snug slacks that I didn't wear a jacket over, never workday attire. That, I thought with a smile to myself, would have been even better. I took off yesterday's panties, stuffed them in the bottom of the bag, and replaced them with a clean pair, feeling better already.

A knock sounded at the bedroom door and Mulder came in. Seeing me sitting on 'my' side of the bed with the sweatshirt pulled down decently he snapped his fingers and said, “Darn, was hoping to catch a glimpse of some skin.” Then he carried a small tray into the bedroom, on which was a tumbler of ice water, a smaller glass of orange juice, and a steaming bowl of soup. “I know you said just water, but you should try to eat something. It's Progresso chicken noodle, and I got a few other kinds as well if you don't like this.”

The smell of the soup brought my stomach to instant attention as he set the tray over my outstretched legs. Almost before I knew it I'd inhaled everything on the tray and was feeling sleepy again, and told him so as he took the dishes away. “It's almost four a.m., so we've both got more sleeping to do,” he told me as he slid into the other side of the bed. As he turned off the lamp I was already moving across the bed and when he laid back I was next to him, throwing my arm over his chest as he moved his beneath my head. Our legs tangled together again and as his other arm settled over the one I had on his chest, I felt his hand gently stroking my hair. “I don't know what I'd do if I lost you, Scully,” he said softly. “I don't ever want to find out.”

I squeezed him in wordless reply, and turned my head to nuzzle his warm skin. “If Clyde Bruckman was right you never will, but I also can't imagine my life without you in it,” I murmured. Taking a deep breath I added, without thinking much before I spoke, something that had been on my mind ever since we'd begun sleeping in the same bed. “Mulder, do you want to make love to me?”

I both felt and heard his breath stop, and then he let it out in a long whoosh. Beneath my cheek and arm I felt his heart begin to pound, and both hands clutched at me—one in my hair, one on my arm. “What—right now?!” he said in a rather panicked-sounding voice.

“No, I'm taking a poll,” I said drily, and then had to laugh at the absurdity of us. “I'm sorry, that was a stupid thing to say.”

“No, no, not at all,” he hastened to assure me, his hands relaxing though his heart was still thundering beneath my cheek. “But I always thought we'd manage more of an, uh, seduction or get swept away by the heat of the moment.”

“So the answer is yes?” I teased, making sure to interject that note in my voice. “Sounds like you've given this scenario some thought.”

“And tell me you haven't,” he said in a clearly amused voice. Then he sobered. “There is nothing on this planet or any other for that matter that I'd like to do more to make love to you all night long but this isn't the time, Scully. I think you know that too.”

I mused it over for a moment and realized that he was right. “Yeah,” I said slowly, moving my hand up to his neck and snuggling closer, if that was possible. “You're right, now is not the time after I've been attacked by an imaginary madman and nearly killed. Do you think we'll know the right time?”

He kissed the top of my head, squeezing me briefly. “I do. We will. C'mon, Scully, let's get some sleep; long day ahead of us tomorrow.”

But his heart continued to beat fast for quite some time, and I eventually dozed off with it galloping steadily along in my ear.

 

For the next few months after that we shared a bed at least once a week and sometimes more often, whether we were on a case or not. I was content to wait and he seemed to be as well, so I let the subject of going further drop. I found myself satisfied with sleeping beside him for the time being, though there were times when my body urged that more would be awfully nice, but I ignored it as best I could. Unspoken, we both knew when we'd be ready.

Then came the artifact. I missed Mulder deeply while in Africa, especially at night when I couldn't sleep without his warm, hard body next to mine never mind being worried half to death about him. By the time that whole episode was over I was a wreck although we were closer than ever, but we had gotten out of the habit of sleeping in the same bed and I didn't know how to resume it.

The new millennium brought it back to us.

 

When he kissed me so unexpectedly and in such a warm, friendly way I swear I felt my heart expand a few sizes, kind of like the Grinch when he became good. When our eyes met afterward, it was with the clearest silent communication we'd ever shared: tonight. The world didn't end in any of the ways we meant when we spoke the words and as we walked across the parking lot to my car what we didn't say was just as important as what we did.

But neither of us had counted on strong pain medication or simple exhaustion. Mulder passed out on his couch and I didn't want to move him, so I removed his shoes, covered him with a blanket and crawled into his bed alone wearing just my plain bra and panties. I couldn't help but be bitterly amused as I buried my face in his pillow; wasn't this just the story of our lives?

The next morning we both knew the moment had passed though we never discussed it. Mulder was running a slight fever so I stayed the next night as well, taking care of him like he'd cared for me after the Padgett mess, and we crawled into his bed that night like nothing had changed. I had brought pajamas but didn't wear the bottoms, just the dark blue satin top and a pair of panties—comfy ones, of course. Mulder wore just the light yellow cotton bottoms of his and we joked that together we made one entire pair even if we didn't match.

Over the next few months we spent the night together more often than not; I think the close call with the artifact and Mulder's brain surgery made us both realize how truly fragile our lives were especially in our line of work and with the type of enemies we had. Neither of us seemed to care much anymore if anyone knew although we were, as always, careful not to answer the others' phone if it rang while we were sleeping.

After Donnie Pfaster's attack I stayed with Mulder for nearly two weeks while on administrative leave after the shooting and made no bones about where I was to anyone; not my mother, not Skinner, not the few friends I still stayed in touch with. Even when I went back to my apartment, stubbornly refusing to move again, we seemed to somehow end up in each other's beds more often than not. When we went back out in the field there was no doubt that we'd spend every night cuddling, and it seemed like there never was a time I could remember without Mulder's warm, strong body next to me in the night.
I swear, we grew closer by the day if that was possible. I knew the time was coming soon when we would consummate our relationship and, wondering if we might get caught up in the heat of the moment as he thought, I took to wearing my nicer underthings much of the time although I was careful not to let him see them.

Then, as we always seemed to, we managed to screw things up. First it was my illicit trip with CGB Spender, which I knew really undermined Mulder's confidence in me and, afterwards, saw what a huge mistake it was. Then when I found out where he'd been staying while in Vermont while I was freezing my ass off in an unheated room amongst the dregs of society I really let him have it. It was a stupid fight and kept us apart for over a week, and I was still annoyed with him when he started with the crop circle stuff and expected me to fly to England with him with no warning.

That first night he was gone I barely slept, tossing and turning--even hugging a pillow didn't help. He wasn't there and while it was far from the first time we'd slept apart over the last few months, I was really bothered by the way we'd parted. Not to mention the whole debacle with Daniel and Maggie and the strangeness I felt in meeting Colleen Azar.

The next day was even worse, and I had nightmares all night before being awakened early with bad news. But it all worked out, and now here I am standing in Mulder's bedroom doorway watching him sleep restlessly and remembering all our nights together over the past six years.

I know why he covered me with that old blanket and went to bed; he probably thinks that this is like the time he fell asleep on New Year's Eve. But it's not. One thing I realized over the last two days is that our “feeling” regarding when it'll be the right time to consummate our relationship is nothing more than putting off what we're really afraid of, what I found I didn't know I needed until I was faced with truly losing it. I am filled with a peace that has nothing to do with any spiritual being or even anything I found out over the last two days about Daniel per se; it is purely myself, coming to terms with my life up to this point and being ready to move forward.

We've only been pretending to be close and intimate until now, both of us absolutely terrified of really being there. Really opening ourselves to the hurt of allowing the other deep into our hearts, with our histories both separately and together. We could manage the quasi-intimacy of trusting each other with our sleep, but not our bodies and hearts.

Well, that stops here and now. Moving to the foot of the bed where I've already spent so many nights I quietly undress, removing even the fancy lingerie I'd put on unthinkingly this morning. He can see it tomorrow; tonight I want no misunderstandings between us. For the first time I slide beneath the covers naked in more ways than one to find his lean, warm body similarly unadorned. It seems that he as well as I knew it was time to stop pretending. He turns to me and we smile understandingly in the semi-darkness, lying facing each other.

This time I don't close my eyes as we come together; we both face the future with eyes wide open.

 

finis