SPOILER: all things
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; the X-Files belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: This story is a blast from the past, for me. The last date I have on it is from 2004 (I'm posting this in 2008). It represents some of my earliest writing, and I have mostly left it as is. I like to consider this an example of how much my fic has improved over the years.
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Mulder looked over and saw that Scully had fallen asleep next to him on the couch. She had had a long weekend, one that was emotionally exhausting, and now she could finally find some much-needed rest. Mulder pulled a blanket off the couch and stretched it out over Scully. He took a moment to just watch her. She looked so beautiful when she slept. So peaceful.
Mulder knew that she would sleep soundly tonight, so he didn't want to wake her, even though it was getting late and she should be heading home. He couldn't let her sleep on the couch--if she remained in that position, she would have a terrible kink in her neck in the morning. Mulder walked back to his room to check the state of his bed. It wasn't made, and the sheets had come loose from the mattress in several places. In fact, he couldn't even remember the last time that he had changed the bedding. Now would be a good time.
Mulder went to the closet and pulled out a clean set of sheets. He pulled the old ones off and tossed them in a heap in the corner, and then he stretched out the clean sheets over the bed, taking more care in smoothing out wrinkles and tucking in corners than he usually did. Then he walked back out to the living room.
Scully was still fast asleep on the couch. Mulder quietly went over and leaned over her, slid one arm behind her neck and the other behind her knees, and slowly picked her up off the couch. Scully's head fell over against Mulder's chest as he lifted her, and her auburn hair fell across her face, but she was still asleep. Mulder quietly walked to the bedroom and laid Scully down in the freshly made bed. Then he picked up the blanket that had been covering her on the couch, set it aside, and pulled the covers up to her chin. He stood there for a moment, looking down at her. Then he leaned over and reached down to sweep aside the hair that was still covering her face. He gently placed a kiss on her forehead and turned to leave the room.
"Mulder, what time is it?" He heard her groggy voice behind him as he reached the doorway.
"It's almost one."
"I need to get home." Scully sat up, threw her legs over the side of the bed, and sat there for a moment to wake herself up.
"It's late and you've had a long day. You can sleep here tonight."
"You're right. I'm too tired to go anywhere right now." Scully leaned over to her side and dropped her head back down on the pillow. Mulder turned again to leave the room. "Mulder, do you have some clothes I can borrow to sleep in? This isn't very comfortable." Scully was still wearing the jacket, sweater, and skirt that she had been in all day.
Mulder turned toward her again. "Check the closet. I have some shirts in there and some sweats. You can wear whatever you find." Not hearing an immediate response and thinking that she may have already fallen asleep again, Mulder walked back to the living room. He picked up the crop circle photos that were sitting on his desk and stretched out on the couch.
A moment later, Scully finally summoned the energy to get up and switched on the lamp next to the bed. In a chair across the room she noticed the clothes that Mulder had been wearing at the office on Friday. She walked over and picked up the dress shirt that was draped over the back of the chair. Without thinking about it, Scully brought the shirt up to her face, closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply. The shirt smelled like Mulder and reminded her of the many times that he had held her so close, with her head leaning against his chest or her face buried in his shirt. Scully took the shirt with her into the bathroom. She disrobed and put on the dress shirt, neatly folded her clothes, and then went back and set her own clothes on the chair from which she had taken Mulder's shirt. She started to walk back to the bed but then paused, turned, and walked to the doorway leading into the living room. Mulder looked up and saw her leaning against the wall, wearing his shirt.
"What are you doing?" she inquired.
"I was just looking over these pictures again before I turned out the light."
"I appreciate you being a gentleman, Mulder, but you don't have to sleep out here on the couch. There's plenty of room in that bed for both of us. Besides, it doesn't look like you even have a blanket." She was right--he had forgotten to bring the blanket from the couch out of the bedroom after he carried her in there.
Mulder thought of the many times that he had longed for such an invitation from Scully, but he saw the sleep in her eyes and knew that she would be out again as soon as her head hit the pillow. She was simply offering him a bed, and he couldn't read any more into the invitation than that. There was a pause before he responded. "I'm just going to finish going over these. I'll be in there in a few minutes. You don't need to leave the light on for me."
Scully disappeared from the doorway and was happy to climb back into bed. She turned off the lamp and then moved over to the other side of the bed, as she knew that Mulder usually slept on the side closest to the lamp, and she was sure to leave the covers turned back for him. Scully rolled over onto her side, toward the edge of the bed and with her back to the doorway, and promptly fell asleep.
At least fifteen minutes went by before Mulder finally put down the pictures and rose from the couch. He turned off the living room light and walked to the bedroom in the darkness as his eyes adapted. The street light shining through the slats in the blinds fell across the bed and on Scully's face. She was unaware of the passage of time as she drifted in and out of sleep, but she heard Mulder walk into the bathroom. As she emerged from sleep a second time, she felt him climb into bed next to her.
Mulder was lying on his back, looking into the darkness beyond him. The conversation of that evening was still running through his mind. He was wondering how much more there might be to Scully that he still didn't know or understand. After seven years as partners, he thought he knew her completely, but she always found a way to surprise him, to keep him guessing. And in that very moment, she did it again.
Scully had felt the bed move beside her as Mulder climbed in. Her back was turned to him and she remained still, listening. The motion stopped and the room was silent again. A moment later, Scully rolled over and moved toward Mulder. She laid her head on his chest, draped her right arm across his left shoulder, and closed her eyes. "Goodnight, Mulder."
Mulder wrapped his arms around Scully and held her. He leaned his head forward and kissed the crown of her head. "Goodnight, Scully." Mulder settled his head into the pillow and closed his eyes. As he noticed his breathing falling into synchrony with Scully's, the rhythm lulled him to sleep.
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Scully awoke as the morning light filtered into the room. Although Mulder's grip had loosened in his sleep, it was clear that neither one of them had moved since they had fallen asleep together the night before. From where she lay, Scully had a clear view of the clock on the nightstand. It was almost 5 a.m. It was Tuesday morning, and she knew that she needed to go home to shower and change before going in to work. Although she didn't want to move, Scully finally lifted her head about five minutes later, as the clock turned to 5:01. She looked at Mulder. He was still asleep, breathing deeply. As she started to pull away and move to the edge of the bed, Mulder stirred and opened his eyes.
"Go back to sleep, Mulder. I need to go home before I go to the office. I'll see you there later." Mulder's eyes were already closed again. She leaned over to kiss his forehead and then got out of bed. Scully walked over to the chair to pick up her clothes. Then she walked into the bathroom and closed the door.
Alone again as she dressed, Scully found herself deep in thought. So much had happened to her over the last few days. The world around her was much the same, but so many things had changed for her. And there was so much more that she had wanted to say to Mulder, if only she hadn't fallen asleep when she did.
Scully had known for so long how much Mulder had loved her, but that was a feeling she couldn't reciprocate. She cared for him a great deal, and they had been through so much together, but he was only her partner. He was part of the FBI, part of her mistake, her poor career choice that had cost her so much and that she so often regretted. But he was the one point of light for her there. If it hadn't been for Mulder, she probably would have quit the FBI and returned to medicine long ago. He was the reason she stayed. She needed him, depended on him. Without that partnership, there would be nothing left for her there. And so she couldn't let anything compromise that partnership.
But now everything had changed. She no longer regretted joining the FBI. Scully had seen a glimpse of what her life might have been if she had followed another path, and she realized what a different person she had become--because of Mulder. Her life with him wasn't the result of a wrong choice--it was the only choice. She was exactly where she was supposed to be. This was her destiny, here on the X-Files with him, and she could no longer detach herself from him. Their paths were not separate, but together. They had become a part of each other, and suddenly the line between personal and professional did not seem so clear.
Had she made a mistake in denying his love, in distancing herself from him and refusing to recognize her own emerging feelings? It wasn't until just yesterday, as she looked into the eyes of a man she once loved but who now was so foreign to her, that she realized how much she had grown to love Mulder. But she needed his partnership. How could she love him without jeopardizing that? They could not be both lovers and FBI partners. They had fought so hard to remain on the X-Files, to work together again when they had been separated, to regain their standing when they had been reassigned. If they were lovers, people would find out, and that's all the reason Kersh would need to shut them down again or to force them apart. She couldn't live with that. She couldn't live without him.
Scully was torn between these feelings of love and professionalism as she smoothed her hair and walked out of the bathroom. She picked up the jacket that she had left on the bed and stopped to look at Mulder one last time before she left. Could she really express to him how she felt? Would there ever be an appropriate time or place? Not today. Not at work. She would see him there again this morning, and they would settle back into their routine. Things would be the same as usual--but somehow they would be different. And that's what both frightened and exhilarated her.
Scully put her shoes on, walked out of the apartment, and got on the elevator. As she stepped outside, she could feel the warmth of the sun on her face. It was a new day, a new chance to appreciate life. She drew in a deep breath of the fresh air and smiled.
It was that same smile that Mulder dreamed about as he still lay asleep in the room upstairs.
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