Winter Night's Tale |
Author: MaybeAmanda (Amanda Wilde)
Rating: PG for a bad word, four times, and in two forms.
Timeline: Set after Revelations (3X11) and before War of the Coprophages (3X12), but references neither.
Spoilers: Really? I mean, at this late date, REALLY???
Categories: Mulder/Scully, UST, vignette
Provenance: Written for the LiveJournal 2010 XF-Santa exchange
More Disclaimed Than Disclaiming: Chris Carter owns M&S; Fox owns The XFiles; I own this story. No infringement intended. Thanks to: Circe for beta, lj guidance, (and listening to the incessant whining), Wendelah and Amal Nahurriyeh for encouraging me to do this (without knowing they were, but it still counts), and Chris Carter, bitches!
Summary: Scully is sleepy; Mulder is not. No hilarity whatsoever ensues.
Giftee: DkScullyUK - Merry Christmas! I hope this is enough Scully for you :D
Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep. ~~~Fran Lebowitz
A Winter Night's Tale
December 22, 1995
It's the Friday before Christmas, and Dana Scully has a date with a Jacuzzi. Or that had been the plan, anyway.
It's the dead of winter in a summer town, Plymouth Shores, on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. For the last eight days, she and Mulder have endured bad coffee, lousy take-out, and unbelievable cold, helping the local team profile, and then track down, Patrick Donovan, who held the distinction of being, as Mulder so succinctly put it during one of his morning briefings, "about the sickest fucking fuck" he'd ever encountered. (Scully had smirked and Mulder had mouthed "What?" and Scully had mouthed, "Oxford," and then they'd both smirked and the rest of the team had looked worried. But at that point she'd slept maybe six hours in four days, he'd slept quite a bit less by her calculations, so some delirium was to be expected.)
It wasn't Mulder at his most eloquent, true, but she couldn't argue with his assessment. Patrick Donovan liked doing very bad things to little boys. The investigation had ended - predictably, but not soon enough - in a hail of bullets. And while she wouldn't normally describe herself as either 'blood- thirsty' or 'vengeful', she'd been with the team that found Donovan's blood-soaked 'hobby hut' deep in the woods, and she wishes at least one of those bullets had been hers.
She shakes her head, trying to dislodge the thought. It's just the exhaustion talking.
It's only seven o'clock but it's fully dark by the time the sheriff's deputy drops them at their motel, one of the few still open this time of year. A cluster of surprisingly new, surprisingly well-appointed Lincoln-log cabins just off the main strip, The Plymouth Pines is a step above their usual accommodations. Each has living area and kitchenette, a queen sized bed in the loft, a couple of TVs, and a surprisingly spacious bathroom. And each bathroom is equipped with a spotlessly clean, extra-deep, swoon-worthy whirlpool tub. She had promised herself a thorough soaking when the case was over, but she's too sleep-drunk at this point to even feel she's been cheated out of her reward. And cheated by herself, no less.
As long as she kept moving, she'd been fine, but sitting in the back of an over-heated sheriff's department car for forty-five minutes - that had done her in. She's so tired, as tired as she has ever been, as tired as she thinks she will ever be capable of being. All she wants to do is sleep. Now. And for a good long while.
The third time she swipes her key-card to no avail, she finally looks at it and realizes it's her parking pass. Twenty seconds or so go by as she stares at the pass, trying to remember what she's supposed to do now.
"Card not working?" Mulder asks. He's in the cabin next to hers and already has his door open, a feat which impresses her more than it probably should.
"Um, wrong card." She reaches into her pocket, produces the right one.
"You wanna go grab some dinner or something?"
"I wanna go grab some sleep or something." The light on the lock turns green and it fills her with such joy that it's all she can do not to weep.
"Maybe later, then?"
"Maybe." Maybe what? she wonders.
"Or I could go find us something, bring it back."
The thread of the conversation is lost completely, now. "What?"
His eyes are closed. His face, expressionless. He's standing in the sub-freezing Michigan air, warm breath rising and fading away. He's the picture of serenity, of calm, of peace.
"Please," he says.
And she remembers, then. He's spent over a week profiling a sick fucking fuck. There are six dead children, and he will pointlessly and irrationally feel accountable for every one. He hasn't slept in 8 days, not really. Her brain feels like it's shut down, but his probably won't shut up.
This is Mulder, begging.
She takes a deep breath, nods, tries to wake herself up a little. "Yeah, sure. Okay. Of course, yeah. Pajama party, my place, ten minutes. BYOB."
"I don't have a bottle," he says, like that should be obvious after what happened last time.
"Bring your own blanket." She hands him her key-card. "Pillow, too."
"This town is obsessed with fudge. I'm opening an X-file."
She made it into her pajamas -it had been a close thing, but she really didn't want to sleep in her suit - and did a truly lousy job of scrubbing off her make-up. She's dozing on top of the covers, face turned to the wall, when Mulder arrives sometime later. "Fudge?"
"Yeah." He climbs into the loft and she can tell he's found the remote by the sudden blue glow seeping through her closed eyelids. "I walked like four blocks and there were nine fudge shops. Who the hell needs that much fudge?"
Scully likes fudge. "Buy some?"
"Shops were all closed. Seasonal thing I guess, but still, an economy built on fudge, seasonal fudge?"
"Yup," she acknowledges. "X-file."
Rustling paper sounds follow. "I got fish and chips because it was the only place open. It's white fish. It's good, though." More rustling. "You want some?"
The very idea of food makes her nauseous. "No thanks."
The bed dips beside her. What? He's not going to eat in her bed, is he? She should say something.
There's a sharp smell in the air, tangy. She tries to place it. Bleach? No.
"You sure? It's really good. And they had vinegar." He sounds a little giddy. "Malt vinegar! In Michigan!"
Vinegar. Of course.
Mulder gets like this. After a bad case, and more specifically, after profiling a bad case, Mulder gets a little hyper, a little wired, a little needy. And then he starts talking.
Usually, they go out for drinks or grab dinner somewhere and Mulder rambles for a couple of hours, Scully barely gets an understanding, encouraging word in edgewise, and then she calls him a cab. It hasn't happened that often, four times now, maybe five if you count that time after Lukas Anderson (Should she count that? Why is she keeping count, again?) and it's never a big deal, because she's got a degree in physics and understands about steam and why they install release valves in boilers.
"Okay if I keep the TV on with just the captions?"
"S'fine," she mumbles into the pillow.
But those sessions don't involve him in her bed. Which is the way she wants to keep it, thank you very much, and why she sends him home in cabs. Because if there is a list of complications her life doesn't need, now or ever, the lanky one on the bed beside her is right at the top. So she's wondering if this whole pajama party idea is a good one.
"I called the airport, got us on a flight at three," he says between mouthfuls of food, oblivious to the strange turn her mind has taken. "Airport's about a two and a half hour drive, but we'll leave as early as we can. Get a ten-dollar airport cookie and some bad coffee and play 'I Spy,' maybe."
"Hmm." God. What a spectacularly bad idea he would be.
It's not like she hasn't considered it, though. Mulder's hot and she's human. There's also that proximity thing - whenever she turns around it seems like he's RIGHT THERE. He also understands what she does for a living, even when she doesn't, which is more than she can say for anyone else she's even vaguely thought about possibly considering maybe dating. Most importantly, Mulder's got something she absolutely adores in a man: a great, big, sexy brain. His is enormous. Massive. It's crammed full of odd stuff, true, but still, it's huge and the man knows how to focus and -
"What are you giggling about?" Mulder asks as he covers her with the blanket he brought from his cabin.
Oh God, she's giggling? "Brains," she mumbles.
"Brains? You going all zombie on me, Scully?"
She chuckles. She feels like a zombie, or what she imagines a zombie feels like, since there's no such thing. A really tired giggly zombie, that is. She doesn't answer.
She wakes later, not sure when, not sure why. She'd been dreaming of Melissa again. This time, they were in a funky, sunlit, architecturally-impossible cafe near the ocean. She and her sister are talking about, of all possible things, redecorating. Melissa says she needs something better on her windows, Dana says California shutters are practical, Melissa rolls her eyes. "Practical!?" she scoffs. Melissa pours. Dana pays. They smile at each other and at the ocean and the teacups and the building that should, but doesn't, fall down.
By rights, Missy should be haunting her, and in her waking hours, Scully supposes, she does. For all her eccentricities, though, Melissa was the soul of forgiveness. She believed in things like karma and grace and joy, and truly thought the universe, left to its own devices, would take care of itself perfectly. Everything in Melissa's universe would balance out, the just would be rewarded, and the unjust, punished.
Scully wishes she could believe that, too. But no, she knows better. The world doesn't work that way. Bad things happen to good people every day. Melissa is proof enough. But Scully isn't sure it's knowledge that informs her philosophy so much as fear, and she hates not knowing.
Her left hip has fallen asleep and she realizes suddenly that it hurts, really hurts, pins and needles and burning, searing pain, and ouch, oh god! that's probably what woke her. She rolls over, seeking relief, and there, traced in blue TV light, is Mulder. Staring. At her.
"Hey," he says.
"Time?" she asks reflexively, and rubs her hip, smoothing the pain away.
"Too late." He sighs, and she gets the impression she's walked in on the middle of a conversation. "Way too late."
She closes her eyes, kneads her side, waits for the ache to subside. She should get properly under the covers, but that sounds like so much work. "Sorry I fell asleep," she says, because it's the polite thing to say.
"Yeah, some party," he replies good-naturedly.
They are silent for some time. Finally, Mulder says, "Sorry."
"For what?" she finally manages.
Mulder snorts. "God, Scully, pick something."
What? No no no. No pity parties.
She shakes her head. "No, Mulder," she says. "I won't."
Silence again, and she almost nods off, but Mulder says, "I should go back to my own room."
No leaving, either. Dreaming of Melissa only reminds her that she's had enough of leaving, of people who were right there, and then, suddenly and irrefutably, not there anymore. It's childish of her, but it feels like an insult every time, like a personal affront. People keep leaving her. It has to stop. She has to stop it.
She reaches out, cups his cheek. "No," she says. "Just stay, okay?"
Mulder is still for a long time, like he's thinking, calculating, weighing her words. Then he turns his face into her hand, kisses her palm. It should be weird, but it isn't really weird, is it? She doesn't know why, and she'll have to think about it when she's awake.
"You're too good to me," he whisper, with no hint of sarcasm or irony.
But, oh, no, she's not. She's really not much good to anyone, is she? Her horrible secret, the one she knows to be true above all others, is that she's kind of awful. Why else would they leave?
Mulder moves closer, but still, not really close. "If I could," he says, his voice low and raw, "I'd be someone else. You know that, Scully. I would. I'd do it in a minute."
She wonders what brought that on. She wonders who else Mulder thinks he could possibly be, or who he'd be better off being. She wonders how she can explain to him that the idea alone nearly breaks her heart.
He's good at many things, but he's only truly great at being Mulder. So, he'll just have to stay Mulder, no matter what. She's counting on it.
"No. Stay," she says and throws the edge of the blanket over him. "Just, for me, okay? Just stay."
He sighs. "Okay." He pulls away, rolls over, turns his back to her. He sounds like he's being punished.
She has the sudden sharp sensation that she's done something wrong or said something wrong or that something is just wrong or - or something.
She reaches out, rests her hand on his back. "Mulder?"
He flinches. "Good night," he says.
Scully lets her hand drop. They'll talk about whatever it was that just happened in the morning, she tells herself, though she already knows they won't.
They won't, she thinks as sleep claims her again, and they don't, and they never will.
Thanks for reading!