Title: 10:24 pm, Apt. 42, 2630 Hegal Place, Alexandria
Spoilers: S.R. 819
Summary: Hospitals, shadowy conspiracies, lies, deceit and insomnia - it's pretty much a standard week. There has to be another side to it all, or they'd go... well, even more crazy. Right?
The phone ringing drags her out of an exhausted doze. For a moment she hopes it's the apartment phone next to the bed - at that point she'll have an excuse to just let the machine pick up, roll over and go back to sleep - but it's her cell, tossed on the bedside table beside the alarm clock, she can tell by the sound.
She opens her eyes and sits up, groping across to pick it up. The clock, mocking her, insists that it's far earlier than her body wants to imagine. She scowls at it and closes her fingers around the phone, flicking it open as she brings it to her ear.
"*Hey, Scully, it's me.*"
"Mulder." She smiles and drops back onto the pillow, rubbing sleep from her eyes with her free hand. "Are you done with your detention?"
She can hear him smiling back, though there's something a little off in his tone. "*I bet you'd have made a damn good lab partner, too.*" She's about to play the usual Mulder, why are you calling me card when his voice sobers abruptly. "*Listen, Scully, I know it's late, but I need you to come into work.*"
She sighs. One of these days she's going to take out her gun and shoot him someplace far more lethal than his shoulder. "Mulder..."
"*Something's wrong with Skinner.*"
She throws herself upright and swings her legs over the edge of his bed. "What?"
"*I don't know. All I know is he's conked out on his office couch, he looks like shit, and he's absolutely insistent that I should not call you and tell you to come take a look at him.*"
She wonders if either he or Skinner are aware that that is exactly Mulder's act, and that it's guaranteed to get the opposite reaction. She finds it amusingly ironic for Mulder to so readily switch sides. "I'm on my way. I'll be there in," she glances at her watch, glad for once that she fell asleep still dressed, "half an hour, tops." The usual route through Georgetown will be murder at this time of night with the restaurants beginning to empty, and she's glad for once she'll be coming the opposite way.
From his pause, Mulder is obviously doing that social math as well, and coming, as usual, to the right conclusion. "*You home, Scully?*"
She smiles. "In a manner of speaking." Her shoes are beside his couch, her suit jacket draped over the back. She sits down to put them on. "Can you tell me anything else?"
"*Only that I kinda wish I'd given up on that report a couple hours ago. Oh - feed the fish, would you, Scully?*"
"I already did." Her smile widens at the little sound he makes to answer that, and she puts an amused emphasis on the words. "And I meant about Skinner."
"*Not much. I'm gonna do a little digging while you drive over here, see what I can coax out of him.*"
"Okay." She grabs her coat from his coat rack. "Are you okay, Mulder?"
"*Me? I'm fine, why?*"
"That's supposed to be my line." Her car keys are in her pocket still. She stops for a moment to finger-comb her hair and hopes she isn't going to get into work looking like she just slept three hours or more on Mulder's bed. "Is there anyone else around?"
"*Everyone else evidently has a life, on this floor anyway.*"
"Okay. But you feel fine?"
"*Yeah, I told you, I'm okay. Why the question?*"
She swallows. "There are a few airborne agents that can cause impaired vision as one of the early symptoms." She can hear his brain tick over and quickly adds, "But if you feel fine and no alarms have been tripped in the building, it's very doubtful that that's the cause. Try and keep him in his office until I get there. Get him to drink something if you can. Fluids couldn't hurt."
"*My powers of persuasion may not be up to that, Scully.*"
She can't help another smile, pulling his door shut behind her. "I have great faith in your powers of persuasion, Mulder."
"*This coming from the woman who still doesn't believe in the existence of extra-terrestrials.*" He pauses, and she can hear the levity drain out of him. She imagines him in her mind's eye: pacing an empty corridor, phone to his ear and the other hand gripping the back of his neck the way he does when he's worried. "*Skinner's office, Scully, okay?*"
"I'm on my way now." She clicks the phone off and pushes for the elevator.
Mulder is sprawled not quite upright on his couch when she enters his apartment. His eyes are glazed, staring into nothing above the low drone of the television, and he turns to her as if on a time delay - she's almost to the couch when their gazes connect. He moves one knee out of the way to give her room to sit, and she drops down gratefully.
His voice sounds like sandpaper. "How is he?"
She kicks out of her shoes, and tries to stretch her back without expending the last few ounces of energy still wound up in her muscles. "The last round of arterial lasering seems to have given us a head start at succeeding with the plasmapheresis, but he's still in critical condition at this point. It's going to be forty-eight hours before anyone can say if it's going to work, and even that's a far more condensed treatment than anyone would usually prescribe. I had to talk incredibly fast to get his doctors to agree to it." She rubs a hand over her face. Her skin feels like a cramped, dirty cage and she's longing for a shower, even though she's sure she wouldn't be able to stand long enough to take one. "There's nothing we can really do now except wait. At the very least, the fact that he seems not to be getting worse can be taken as a positive sign." She eyes him, her concern shifting focus. "You look tired."
Mulder snorts quietly, the sound that means he'd laugh but he doesn't have the energy. "I may have set a new record on lack of sleep, even for me."
"You haven't eaten all day, either, have you." Why she even bothers asking is the better question. "I saw some iced tea in your fridge. I'll go sweeten some, you'll drink it, and we'll go to bed. How does that sound?"
His smirk is slightly drunken, aiming for a leer and falling a mile short. "Fantastic."
Scully smiles and pats his knee, using him as leverage to push herself up off the edge of the couch again. She drags her feet wearily into his kitchen and hunts out two clean glasses, forces the fridge door open after two half-hearted tugs, and pours them both a drink, adding a liberal helping of sugar to his even though he's likely to complain she's made it too sweet. A hypoglycaemic Mulder is never pleasant.
Perhaps two minutes have passed when she goes back into the living room and Mulder is stretched out full-length now on the couch, his legs already having slipped back down into the space she's left behind. His eyes are closed, he's breathing slowly, and it takes her only a moment or two of scrutiny to know that yes, he really is asleep.
The sight brings a small smile to her lips. Awake, he would likely not believe that she's more amused, even pleased, than annoyed that he's gone completely dead to the world within five minutes of her arrival. They've both been up for over forty hours straight and as usual, while she's been holed up in the lab and the theater he's been the one running around half of Washington on their desperate search for answers. Her eyes are dry and itch madly - she hasn't spent so many straight hours staring into scopes for many a year - her feet despise her and her back aches, but she suspects this is nothing compared with Mulder. At least she got a few hours' nap in before he called her... good Lord, was it only this time yesterday?
She sets both glasses slowly on the coffee table, careful not to make more than the faintest of sounds. Sometimes when Mulder sleeps he looks peaceful, innocent even, boyish: tonight he just looks exhausted. The man has a kind of control over his adrenaline levels that simply defies logic - he can push himself so hard, until there's nothing left, and she marvels at the way he will hang on anyway until a moment like this, when he feels safe enough to give in and let sleep take him.
Sometimes she thinks Mulder wouldn't be such an insomniac if he weren't so damned paranoid. Of course, that would be easier if so many people weren't out to get him, or her, or them, or the people they care about, or the world in general.
She reaches over and gently, so gently, smooths his hair down. He doesn't even stir under her touch. She smiles, pulls the blanket down from the back of the couch, tucks it around him and leaves him to sleep.
On the television Leslie Nielsen delivers one of those masterful lines she must have heard a hundred times - "*It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now*" - and Scully is amazed to feel her lips quirk along with Mulder's low sound of amusement. She thought she was too exhausted to smile, exhausted after blowing off her usual day's work to spend it at Skinner's bedside, watching and waiting and hoping and still no closer to knowing if she's making any difference...
She pushes away the remains of her mu shu pork in its slightly disintegrating carton, disposable chopsticks sticking out of one corner. It's another concession to her fatigue that they're having tonight's late dinner here on Mulder's couch, and that she made no fuss about eating out of the box, or Mulder dripping sauce everywhere while feeding her the occasional slice of lemon chicken. The odd mixture of sesame and citrus is thick on her tongue despite the tang of the white wine unearthed from somewhere in the back of Mulder's kitchen. It's the same brand they handed out around the Bureau last Christmas - probably even the same bottle, since Mulder isn't the type to go out and buy wine that he isn't planning to give away or bring to her apartment.
"You done?" He's looking her over, she can feel it. She always can.
"Mm." She leans back against the couch, tipping her head back to come into contact with his knee. She's sitting cross-legged on his rug, her preferred position to eat potentially messy takeout with the minimum of possible injuries to her outfit. "Did you choose this building specifically for that takeout place?"
"It was a deciding factor." There's a light pressure on the crown of her head: Mulder's hand, and she tips her head back up, mock incensed at his playfulness.
He flashes her a smile. "Come up here, Scully. There's room enough for two."
"Hm." There is no graceful way to move from a floor to a couch without standing in between, and she's too exhausted for that, but Mulder's couch is a special beast, well broken in and surprisingly comfortable and able to tempt her into expending those last vestiges of energy, particularly since Mulder's thigh is currently at her eye level and frankly looks even more tempting.
She makes the ungainly move without knocking into the coffee table or spilling any wine, which she thinks can be counted as a success. "Move over a little, I'm tired." He does so without argument. She tucks her knees up a little and settles her head on his thigh, a warm denim-clad pillow. This time his fingers trace her hair, untucking it from behind her ear to fall in a curtain across her cheek, before he relegates his hand to a less distracting position resting lightly on her upper arm.
Somewhere before the titular airplane makes its landing, she closes her eyes. Somewhere before the credits roll she starts dozing; she only wakes up when the warmth of a blanket settles over her and falls back to sleep, curled up childlike and exhausted, as Mulder clicks over to the news.
Mulder's bed, she thinks, is an infinitely better place with Mulder in it.
"I think Skinner knows, Scully." He's stretched out on his side behind her back, his arms around her waist, his lips against the back of her neck. The pale blue duvet is wrapped comfortably around them and she can feel his knees tucked up behind her own. He's rubbing her ankle lightly with his toes, which thankfully have warmed up considerably since he flicked the light off and slid in behind her. "I've been thinking about it. That little look he gave you the other day when I asked him about waking up alone? He had that look in his eye. I saw it."
"I think Skinner's right that you're paranoid," she mutters affectionately. Her feet ache from the six-hour stint she spent at the hospital earlier, but it's a relief to be able to talk as if Skinner is actually going to make it. "Besides, I'm not worried about him knowing."
He pauses in that way that makes her smile that she's managed to surprise him. "You're not?"
"He's not exactly the type to spread rumors around the water cooler. I'd be more worried about Kersh knowing, except that short of your suggestion about scrubbing toilets, there's not exactly anything worse he could do to us."
He snorts into her hair. "You make a good point." He spreads his hand warmly across her stomach, avoiding by recent habit the fresh bullet scar, healed over but still tender, low on her left side. "By the way, Scully, is it okay to be very turned on seeing you in those red scrubs?"
She chuckles at that, twisting to look over her shoulder at him. "You have a thing for doctors, Mulder?"
"Just one of them."
"Hm." She pats his hand and settles back onto the pillow. "Well, I think you're forgiven, if only on the grounds that I'm sure your mind was multi-tasking at the time."
"Good to know." He tugs her back tighter into the solid warmth of his chest, and his nose brushes her temple as he settles his cheek comfortably against her hair. "Though I guess, you probably wouldn't be open to liberating a set of scrubs next time you're over there..."
She laughs. "If it turns you on that much, I probably still have some in the back of my closet somewhere."
"It's the color, though, Scully. It complements your hair."
She arches an eyebrow at that surprise sentiment. "You sure you're feeling okay?"
His grin is just visible out the corner of her eye, broad and wolfish, voice deliberately low in her ear. "Well, that and it makes your body look incredible."
"That's more like you." She lines her hand up along the back of his, sliding her fingers into the spaces left by his own. "I really wish I wasn't so tired right now," she says apologetically, and she thoroughly means it. She would love nothing better than to uncover the energy to turn over and kiss him and start something that would end with them both sweating, gasping and screaming, but she just doesn't have it in her, and her body seems adamant that no pleasant surprises will be forthcoming.
Mulder makes a sound that's his vocal equivalent of a shrug. "I don't know about you, but I'm pretty happy right here."
The truth is that she is, actually. They get to do this so rarely, to really have a night when everything else is shut out and it's just the two of them, just the feel of him solid at her back and warm around her in the dark. Through all the shit they see and all the shit they go through, nights like these are what keep them both going, and there are never enough of them. She might be exhausted now, but she's more certain than anything that come morning she'll wake up in Mulder's arms, in Mulder's bed, having slept like the dead and feeling like a new woman all over again.
Maybe she'll start something in the morning, then, she thinks, and she drifts off to the sound of Mulder's breath in her ear, slowly evening out as he falls asleep behind her.
With all the lights off, the blinds pulled down, only the muted television throwing pale flashes of color across the living room, Mulder's apartment is surprisingly intimate. Somewhere above and behind her head, the fish tank is glowing, and that eerie blue is just enough to outline Mulder's face, his dark eyes and strong shoulders as he moves on top of her. His breath is hot against her lips, her skin, and the slow and measured way he's sliding in and out of her body is completely at odds to the wild thudding of his heartbeat. She can feel that even through her palm, pressed between his shoulders, stroking the broad plane of his back, her hand moving up and down with each careful thrust he makes.
His fingers are tangled gently in her hair, his forearm braced against one of the few patches of couch leather not currently clinging to her sweaty skin. When he drops his head down to rest his forehead on hers, the blue light slides across his shoulders, and she slides her hand up to cup the back of his neck instead.
"This is nice," she whispers. He laughs, low and hoarse and not entirely steady.
"This is incredible," he corrects her, and pushes into her again, and she rocks slowly with him, her eyes fluttering closed for just a moment as she absorbs the feeling. "Oh, God, Scully," he breathes, and the rough catch in his voice is so beautiful when he says her name.
"You okay?" She rubs her thumb along one strong tendon of his neck, the same slow caress up and down. It feels as if they've been doing this for hours, for days, forever. It's so, so good, so good she doesn't even want to come, doesn't want him to come, she just wants to lie here and be doing this, feeling this. Mulder moving inside her. God.
She can hear him swallow, deliberately slow his breath down with a long inhale. He smiles, dark and honest and close, his voice soft. "Yeah, yeah, I'm good. I'm - oh, Jesus, Scully, can we just stay like this? You think that would be okay?"
She thinks that would be perfect. She lifts her hand to sift his hair through her fingers: it's sweaty and messy and bleached black in the weird light. The way he looks, right now, all contained power and heat, the faintest hint of desperation and need creeping up in the tension of his arms against her, his gaze holding hers - it's almost more than she can believe. Almost.
"I don't know about the rest of the world," she whispers, "but that's absolutely okay with me."
"Screw the rest of the world, then," he whispers back, on another slow slide in, and she agrees completely.