At nine o'clock, Mulder gives up on his report. He's been staring at the same three sentences for hours. Just after dinner he'd typed Agent Scully's actions were due to and then he'd erased the words, gone back and typed them again, erased them. He doesn't know how to assign blame and he refuses to blame her.
After all, she's stared down the barrel of his gun this year. This is just karma.
That's what he tells himself. But he keeps hearing her say he's lied to me from the beginning, keeps seeing her teary-eyed and terrified. He keeps seeing the body of that other woman, spread out on a table at the Frederick County Morgue. He's seen Scully alive and well (enough) since then, but he keeps seeing her face on that body. Nude, shot in the forehead. Mulder hadn't even been surprised. Every time she doesn't pick up her phone he half-expects it. They will both die horribly, eventually.
He just wants to see her. If she's with him, if he can touch her, the nightmare will be over. It'll have to be over.
At nine-thirty he shows up at her door. He knocks and gets nothing, so he tries calling "Scully?" through the door and hears her faint response: "Come in."
She's curled up in a corner of the couch, a wool blanket tucked around her feet. The room is dark except for the TV.
"Movie night?" he asks.
Her eyes are slightly glazed. He suspects that she wouldn't be able to tell him what she’s watching. "I guess," she says. Behind the TV set there's a pile of unplugged cords, sloppily coiled; Scully's cable box is dark. There's a Blockbuster case laying open on the floor. No interference.
"Can I, uh," he says, gesturing toward the couch. He doesn't know why he's asking; he never has any compunctions about invading her personal space. Of course, normally Scully has the upper hand, so his touching and hovering is just an attempt to level the playing field. In this moment they are suddenly and strangely equal, and that changes all of the rules.
Scully scoots a little closer to the armrest, presumably to make room for him, even though she barely takes up half a couch cushion as it is.
For a minute he sits stiffly on the couch, staring in the direction of the TV. On the screen pixels dance and the actors yell at each other. He tries not to look at Scully.
"Are you okay?" he asks finally.
She shrugs noncommittally. This is, for Scully, an incredible admission; she is the queen of I'm fine, Mulder, so this non-answer amounts to a normal person's I’m about to fall apart.
"My dog died," she says. Her fingernails trace patterns into the upholstery. "I sank a boat. I almost shot you.”
“You’ve shot me before,” he points out.
She glares at him. “Then I almost shot you again. I don't know, Mulder. It hasn't been a banner month."
"None of that is your fault." Maybe the boat. He won't say that, though.
"You weren't affected."
He nods. "I'm mentioning that in the report. When I brought the tapes to the Gunmen, we discussed the possibility that the color red might trigger the signal that caused your psychosis. Since I'm red-green colorblind..."
Scully turns to him, her gaze sharp as knives again. He's relieved to see it, even if it means she's turning those knives on him. "You're colorblind?"
"Yeah. You didn't know that?"
"No! How did I not know that?" After a beat, Scully adds thoughtfully, "For that matter, how did you pass the vision test?"
"Oh, that." Mulder doesn't see challenges, he sees opportunities. And he doesn't believe that anything - not even a colorblind man passing a color vision deficiency test - is impossible.
She raises an eyebrow. "Yes, that."
"If I told you I'd have to kill you," he says, half-joking. He just doesn't want to brag.
His colorblindness isn’t something he thinks about often - it's just a trait that he usually ignores and is occasionally inconvenient, like being too tall for airplane seats or having hair that never goes in the direction it's supposed to. But for the first time in a while, he looks around Scully's apartment and wonders what she sees, wonders if her world is that much brighter than his.
Next to him Scully's posture relaxes, her knees and shoulders turning slightly toward him. She muses, "Mulder, what color is my hair?"
He looks at her. Reaches out and takes a handful of the soft strands, letting them slide between his fingers as he examines the color. "I don't know," he finally says with a shrug. "Scully-colored."
The smile she grants him is warm, her lips curving softly together. She’s so pretty like this, with her makeup off and her hair up, whatever color it is. “Well, that explains a lot.”
She quirks an eyebrow. ”You've never once asked me if the carpet matches the drapes."
Jesus. Mulder tries to keep his mouth from hanging open and hopes fervently that the heat in his face isn’t visible. And of course now he’s thinking about it, and that can only go badly for him, and now he’s shaking his head so hard that there’s a risk it’ll come right off. ”I wouldn't..."
“Please,” she drawls. “Do you think that's the worst thing I hear from the upstanding agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation?"
"Uh, I hope so,” he stammers.
"Not even close. Honestly, Mulder, I don’t even fight ‘Mrs. Spooky’ anymore. It’s obnoxious, but at least it’s not explicit.”
Mulder just nods, dumbstruck. Part of him wants to leap up and defend her honor or something, offer to punch anybody who says shit like that to her, but he doesn’t think she would appreciate it. Especially because sometimes he says shit like that to her. “Scully.” He can feel his pulse throbbing in his throat and behind his eyes. “If I ever make you uncomfortable…”
She waves him off. “I’ll let you know. And it’s different. You’re not trying to make me uncomfortable, and you’d stop if I told you to. And we’re friends.”
Obviously he knows this, but it makes him feel warm to hear her say it.
“And,” she continues, “you wouldn’t be offended if I turned the tables.”
“Actually I’d encourage it,” he says, leering. Just a little.
As usual she ignores him. She leans her head against the couch cushion and lets her eyelids flutter closed. He fights the urge to touch her. Her oversized suits might as well be made of chain mail, but here she is within reach, without armor. The slight flush to her cheeks tells him that her skin would be warm if he touched her.
That impossible if.
Mulder says, ”I really am sorry about Queequeq. I think that uh, that maybe I didn't seem very sympathetic at the time."
"No, you didn’t,” she agrees, but she doesn’t sound angry. She blinks her eyes open and looks at him, hazy and curious. “You’ve never had a pet, have you?"
"I have the fish."
Scully says, ”That's not the same.”
He’s sure his fish would be offended to hear that, but he concedes the point. "You could get another dog." As soon as the words are out of his mouth he knows they were wrong.
She smiles sadly. "I don't think my lifestyle is well suited to dog ownership, Mulder."
Gosh, Scully, what's the problem? he thinks. The long hours, the travel, the carnivorous lake monsters?
And she got to follow that up with some television-induced psychosis, just to liven things up. And now, thanks to said psychosis, Mulder knows that he is Scully's worst fear.
A better man would tell her to go.
“None of it is your fault, either,” she says, because she’s psychic or because he’s obvious. She yawns, and her tongue darts out to wet her lips. “I knew what I was getting into.”
Whatever she means by that - the FBI, this case, working with him - he doesn’t ask.
“I’ve always trusted you, Mulder,” she says. “Since the beginning.”
“You must feel pretty stupid about that now,” he jokes, but the comment withers under her earnest gaze.
“Not for a minute,” she says seriously.
Her eyes, blue. Maybe he doesn’t know what color her hair is, but he knows about her eyes, how they are blue like flying, blue like drowning.
She pointed that gun at him, shaking, and it was the worst possible time for him to realize that he’s in love with her.
“I’ll let you get some rest,” he says, but as he starts to get up he feels her small hand on his forearm.
“The movie’s not over.” Scully tilts her head in the direction of the TV. He’s assuming this is Scully-speak for I want you to stay, and he wants to stay. When he settles back onto the couch she moves a little closer to him, so her head is resting on the cushion just inches from his shoulder.
Within minutes she falls asleep, the muscles in her jaw relaxing. He watches her instead of the movie until the credits roll and he stops the tape, leaving them in darkness. Scully doesn’t stir. Her breathing is untroubled and he understands that no one else has ever trusted him so completely; he understands that this, too, is a kind of blindness.
Mulder should wake her up so she doesn’t end up sleeping on the couch all night. He should go home to his own couch. He should tell himself that he’s been sleeping alone for a long damn time and it suits him just fine.
He shouldn’t wonder what would happen if he kissed her.
Scully in the shadows, in black and white. He stares at his empty hands, at her lashes dark against her ivory skin. If he woke her up right now, their eyes would work just the same. Everyone is colorblind in the dark.
The other night with the boat, out on that rock. Sometimes the way she looks at him—it can’t all be in his head. And tonight she asked him to stay.
And he wonders what would happen if.