SUMMARY: Breaking patterns and setting new ones.
SPOILERS: all things
DISCLAIMER: In this case, I think they belong to Gillian Anderson as much as Chris Carter. Either way, they certainly don't belong to me.
DATE POSTED: April 2000
He's used to being alone with his thoughts at night. In fact, he rather enjoys it. Living alone, being by himself all of the time, means that when his thoughts get too close to him, he can just get out of bed. He can brood on the couch. He can go mess around on his computer or read. Lately, he's been staring out the window by his desk, watching the sleepy comings and goings of his street until
he feels tired enough to go back to bed. He's learned, over the years, to get by on very little sleep.
There have been a lot of things for him to think about lately. Therefore, there have been a lot of late nights.
But tonight, when he feels his brain spilling over with thoughts and possibilities, he's not alone. He can feel her presence, practically hear her breathing, even though she's sleeping on the couch out in the living room.
Part of him, the selfish, stuck-in-his-ways part, wants her to be gone so that he can do his usual middle of the night insomnia ritual.
And the other part wishes she would come to him.
Mulder figures that in a while she'll wake up, spend a few disoriented moments wondering just where the hell she is, and then she'll clean up a little and go home.
Or, she may come to him.
They're so very new at this, this thing that is growing and changing between them with the speed of an Ice Age glacial mass, that nothing is habit, nothing is expected. He doesn't really know what she'll do.
They've only shared a bed a few times, after all.
The very first time was when he'd comforted a shattered Scully after she'd killed Donnie Pfaster. There had been nothing sexual or romantic about that night. It had been one good friend comforting another until she fell asleep in his bed. It was a night when he tried to assure her that she was still safe, still sane, was not a cold-blooded killer.
There was the night he found out his mother had killed herself. Scully had taken him to bed after he'd cried himself out, wrapped her soft arms around him and let him fall asleep surrounded by the gentle sound of her breathing and the smell of her sweet perfume.
And a few nights later, after he'd somehow been reunited with Samantha, she'd come to him again, touched him and kissed him and made love to him until he'd dropped into an exhausted sleep. When he'd awakened in the morning, shed been gone, but at breakfast she'd squeezed his hand and her eyes had let him know that she wasn't going to pretend that that night hadn't happened. It was a part of their shared history now.
But a few nights sharing a bed, one night sharing their bodies, do not a habit make.
Mulder is still musing over all of this, when he finds himself sliding back into sleep. He's at the stage when he's aware that he's not quite conscious anymore, when his thoughts are twisting and pulling like taffy but he can still hear what's going on around him.
That's why he immediately hears Scully's footsteps on his creaking wood floor. And he can hear those steps heading towards his bedroom and through the open door.
He rushes back to full consciousness when he hears her steps pause at the end of the bed.
He's not going to say anything. He's not. Let this be her move.
In the dark of the room, Mulder blinks, waiting. He can feel her eyes on him.
Scully doesn't say anything. Instead, he hears the top drawer of his dresser open and the soft sound of her hands rummaging around in there. He supposes he could be offended at this invasion of his personal space, but he's not. He likes the familiar sound of it. It sounds like it's a habitual thing for her to go into his t-shirt and underwear drawer.
Her steps head off to the bathroom and he hears water running and the sound of brushing. Interesting, when you consider that he only had one toothbrush in there. Of course, Scully is the kind of woman who probably carries her own toothbrush in her purse, but still...
The steps return and Scully pauses at the end of the bed again, as if waiting for permission to enter his space.
He sits up with a small groan and runs his fingers through his hair. "Couch not too comfortable?"
"It was okay," she says in a soft voice. "But after a while, I couldn't sleep anymore. I suppose I could just go home..."
Yeah, that's why you changed into my t-shirt and brushed your teeth, he thinks. And then he realizes she does need his assurance that being together tonight is okay. The other times were in periods of great crisis. And while Scully went through some life-changing stuff while he was in England, it's not a state of emergency.
If only they were two normal people who could admit they needed to be with each other. Oh well, this is probably as close as they're ever going to get.
"No, don't. Come on in." He pulls aside the comforter and pats the bare spot on the sheet.
Scully climbs in bed and settles on her back, drawing up the covers over her body. "I've been thinking about something," she whispers.
He rolls onto his side to face her. "What's that?"
"When I was young, I thought that when I finally grew up and became an adult, I wouldn't change any longer. I looked at the people around me, my parents, their friends, our neighbors, and they always seemed to be the same. They all had their firmly-held beliefs: America was number one, God was the all-powerful ruler of us all, children were not to speak until spoken to, watching football was as holy as going to church and every man and woman had a God-given right to play golf on the weekends."
Mulder laughs at that and she joins him. It's good to hear her laughter.
Scully's voice turns serious again. "I've gone for years believing in the same things, believing in God and Science. I still believe in them, Mulder, but I've realized that despite the fact that I'm a fully-grown woman, my beliefs are changing." She reaches out and takes his hand, gives it a squeeze. "I've never consciously stopped to examine what I believe in these days, but maybe I should."
"I know it's been confusing for you."
He can tell she's shrugging her shoulders by the rustle the sheets make.
"I've always been threatened by something that challenges my firm convictions. But I now know that instead of dismissing them, perhaps I need to keep my mind open. You and I have seen so many things that defy a rational explanation, and I've been quick to dismiss them and try to assign something reasonable that will label them. Maybe that's been the wrong tactic all along."
"Or maybe not. I think it's a good thing for you to open your mind to new ideas, Scully, but on the other hand, if you start agreeing with every odd theory of mine, we won't be able to work together and solve the mysteries we come across."
He would be lying if he said there weren't times when her stubbornness completely frustrated him, when he was certain that she was being contrary merely for the sake of being contrary. But he's also aware that her cool rationalism is exactly the kind of restraint he needs. Most of the time, she's his opposite but it somehow works.
She rolls over in bed and is now facing him, too. "I know. I don't think that I could ever so fundamentally change that I became just like you, but I also can't deny what I've seen and experienced, either." He hears her sigh. "It was just so odd, standing in Daniel's hospital room while the healer was working on him. I would have laughed at you if a year ago you'd told me I'd actually ask an alternative healer to come see a sick friend."
Mulder closes his eyes and pictures, for a fleeting instant, another hospital room, seemingly decades ago, even if it was only five years before. "I did the same thing when Melissa was standing over you with a crystal when you were in a coma."
"I thought about that, too. At one point, I hoped she was watching me from the other side, shaking her head and saying, 'Dana, I told you so...'"
"Both of us are going through a lot right now. But I'm glad we're not alone for it."
Her hand smoothes the top of his head, where he's certain his hair is sticking up in its usual middle-of-the-night unruly mess. "Me, too. That's another thing I was thinking about in the last few days. About my relationships with men over the years."
Earlier in the night, she'd told him a little about Daniel, but couched it in the vaguest terms-- her former professor, an older, married man, it was brief and intense and then she left because of her tremendous guilt.
The two of them haven't done a whole lot of talking about their romantic pasts. Scully knows about Diana and Phoebe and a few of the others, but nothing specific. He has heard a little about Jack and now Daniel.
He'd love to be wonderfully mature and be able to hear about Scully with another man without twinges of jealousy, but the last time Mulder checked, he wasn't wonderfully mature. Still, if Scully wants to talk, he'll listen.
"I've always had this...habit...of falling for men who are older than I am, who are powerful. I don't think it's a Daddy thing. I loved my father a great deal and was very close to him, but I'm never searching for a father figure. At least, I don't think so. I think it's something else, a need to, at least for a while, give up control.
"Since I was very young, I've tried to be in control of my life, tried to be the best and the smartest. Being with those men was a time when I could let someone else take over. Not that they treated me badly. Instead, I would have a man in my life who had something to teach me, who knew more than I did, who I could look up to. But in the end, it was never enough."
Mulder sits up for a moment and takes a sip from the glass of water he habitually keeps at the bedside table. Hearing Scully discuss this side of her life makes his throat dry. He slides back down to the mattress. "In what way was it not enough?"
"This is going to make me look bad," she says in a tight voice.
He reaches out to touch her cool cheek. "You should know by now that you can tell me anything, Scully."
"I know, I know. Okay, how do I put this into words?" She abruptly sits up and in the dark he can see the outline of her body and how she hugs her knees with her arms. "There would always come a day with my lovers when I'd realize that I wasn't in awe anymore, that I wasn't under their spell. I'd see them for the men they were, older men who were dealing with their mortality by being with a young woman whom they could impress. And I usually wasn't impressed anymore, or in the mood to follow him around as his devoted little girlfriend. Yet, I'd do it over and over again. I never learned my lesson.
"In Daniel's case, one day I woke up and realized that I was thoroughly entangled with a married man, a man who had a wife and a daughter and a whole life I wasn't a part of. And I knew that we didn't have enough to build a life together. So, I left him. It was hard and I felt guilty, but I also knew that if I'd destroyed his family, I would never be able to forgive myself."
When Scully sniffles, he knows she's crying. She's not someone who cries a lot in front of others, so her tears have that much more impact. The mere sound makes his chest tighten.
"The worst part about seeing Daniel again," she continues, "is knowing that I did wreck his family, after all, even though I left."
Mulder struggles to sit up and touches her arm. "You did the best you could."
"But I shouldn't have been there in the first place."
"We all make mistakes, Scully. You're not perfect and neither was he. These things happen." They're all cliches, he realizes, but he hopes they'll have some meaning for her anyhow.
"I know. After Daniel, I vowed I would never let that kind of thing happen again. But shortly after I left him, I got involved with Jack, and there I was again, with my older man. When Jack and I broke up, I told myself I needed to take a break from men, get myself together and figure out what I wanted. And then I met you."
There's a question Mulder needs to ask, something that's been nagging at the back of his brain since she began telling him these things. "Do you think I fit into that pattern?"
It's a long moment before she answers him. "You know, a few years ago, I might have said yes to that. You can have your controlling moments, but on the other hand you're not that much older than I am. But I think I now know that what you and I have is a true partnership, that ultimately, we're equals. And I value that."
It occurs to him that she's never told him that she loves him. He'd like to believe that she shows it in the way she sticks with him through all the bad times, the way she's quietly devoted to him, but still, he'd like to hear the words.
She leans into him and lays her head on his shoulder. It's the perfect image of the two of them, Mulder thinks, the weary soldiers at rest with each other.
"I think that scares me a little, Mulder," she says. "What you and I have is outside of any pattern I've ever known or experienced. I don't know how to act."
He strokes her soft hair. "You don't need to act in any special way."
"I try not to be standoffish around you, but I'm a little frightened. Intensity scares me. But I want to be with you, whatever that means."
"What do you want it to mean?" His heart is beating so hard inside his ribcage he's sure that not only can Scully hear it, but it's probably waking the neighbors on the other side of the wall.
"I'm not sure. But I want to be able to come over, or you to stop by my place, and have it be about spending time together, not because there's a big crisis that needs dealing with. I want to see what it feels like to be with a man who is my partner, not my superior. I want to know what I'm like in a relationship like that."
He can feel the smile growing on his face. Funny how, despite their incredibly opposite natures, they want the same thing, after all.
Somehow, he feels a little humor is called for here. "I want to know what you're like in a relationship like that, too."
Mulder is rewarded with a chuckle and a playful squeeze of his arm.
They slide down into bed together and he kisses her. She responds with sleepy languor.
"Tired?" he says.
"Yeah, I'm sorry," she says. "I don't know if I'm up to anything more tonight."
"Bummer, because my memory of that night we were together is starting to fade a little bit."
She kisses him again and this time it's full of the potential of things to come.
"Believe me, Mulder, you want me to be well-rested."
Still smiling, he pulls her into his arms and lets her rest her head on his chest. Normally, he hates sleeping while touching another body, but this night is different. He doesn't care if he gets any sleep, jet lag or no jet lag. He's just glad she's with him.
Just as his eyes are starting to droop, she says it: "Mulder, I do love you, you know."
"I know," he echoes, feeling the warm glow of satisfaction, and they're the magic words that allow him to sleep.
Later, he's awakened by the sound of her getting out of bed and gathering her clothes off the chair.
He sits up. "Where you going?" he asks in a half-asleep voice. He was counting on a nice morning together, some breakfast, maybe some lovemaking, before they had to go to work.
It's just light enough in the bedroom that he can see her expression and it's a sheepish one. "I have to go," she says. "I have an appointment."
Don't do this, he thinks, don't withdraw from me now, not after last night. "What kind of appointment?"
"You know, Colleen, the woman you had me see? I'm meeting her for breakfast. I need to go home and shower and change first."
"You're kidding me." Scully and a Taoist healer, what an interesting mix.
"We have a lot in common. Did you know she had cancer a few years ago? I enjoyed talking to her and decided she was someone I wanted to get to know."
He yawns. "Sounds like fun."
She walks over and lightly kisses him on the lips. "Thanks for last night, Mulder. It meant a lot to me. I'll see you at work and then afterwards..."
He starts grinning. "What about afterwards?"
"Remember what I said the other day about staying still? Do you think that we could pretend, just for one night, that we were somewhat normal and maybe go see a movie or something?"
"I think we could definitely do that. How do you feel about martial arts movies?"
Scully snorts derisively and heads off to clean up in the bathroom.
While drifting off to sleep again, he thinks, this is going to work, this could even become natural and habitual.
He's sleeping so heavily he doesn't even hear her leave. He doesn't need to. He knows he'll see her later and everything will be different and yet comfortingly the same.
All thanks and the highest praise to my wonderful beta readers, Gwen, Plausible Deniability and Shari. You guys saved me from the pit of writer's block.