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The Fear of Longing

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The first time it happened, it was Mulder waking up to Scully raiding his mini fridge at 2:00am. They had gotten a motel room with an adjoining door again, and apparently she had taken it upon herself to use it.


“Scully?” He leaned up on an elbow, watching her in the dim glow. It was odd to see her in his room when they had bidden each other goodnight hours ago. He suddenly recalls a story she had told him months ago, when they traded anecdotes of their younger selves in the car on the way to a case. She had recalled sleepwalking into her sister’s room to rifle through her closet.


Mulder assumed this was once again the case, and approached her carefully. “You’re sleepwalking, Scully.” He whispers, feeling stupid but gently taking her elbow. He leads her to the adjoining door, almost not even noticing the takeout container in her hand. He tries to grab it away but she grips it tightly and he chuckles despite himself and lets her have it. There goes his apple pie that he had saved from their late dinner at a local diner.


The second time, Mulder is awoken in the middle of the night once again. This time, it is to a small red-head climbing into his bed. He blinks, wondering if he’s dreaming. Again, Scully doesn’t speak. She curls up next to him- he’s afraid to wake her, knows that you aren’t supposed to wake a sleepwalker because it could be jarring for them. 


Moreover, he doesn’t want to.


Mulder falls asleep to her gentle breathing, but wakes up alone.


This happens several more times over the span of a few months; sometimes he wakes up when she climbs in next to him, other times he rolls over and she’s already there. She’s always gone by morning, and they never acknowledge it. He wonders if Scully even knows she’s been doing it.


He does a lot of research on the topic of sleepwalking, wondering why all of a sudden she’s begun having these episodes.


He puts together a pattern of sorts- it always happens after a particularly strenuous case. She will appear in his room, in his bed, hours after he’s fallen asleep. The first few times, he’s afraid to touch her, but after waking up with his arms around her once, it’s hard to break the habit.


Scully smells of vanilla and lavender, the scent comforting him and reminding him of the lavender bushes that grew behind his childhood home. The smell often lingers on his sheets for a few nights afterward. It has him hoping that they will spend consecutive nights in the same motel.


Each night spent alone in between the visits gets more difficult.


Sometimes, the morning after, Mulder will watch his partner carefully for any indication that she is aware that she has been sleep walking. He wonders if he should feel guilty, as if he is hiding something from her. What if her conscious mind doesn’t want to cuddle with him, even if her subconscious one really does? He has a brief flashback of her tiny arms around him, fists clenched in his shirt as they sleep. He physically shakes his head to dislodge the thought.


Mulder decides to broach the subject carefully one morning.


“Hey Scully, what do you know about sleepwalking?” He avoids her eyes, missing the surprise and then composed expressions glancing across her face.


“As much as anyone I suppose, what do you want to know in particular?” It’s her turn to avoid his gaze now, and they’re both actively not looking at one another.


“Um...actually never mind.” Mulder shuffles some papers and stands up. He can’t believe himself- he chickened out, too afraid of losing their nights together. He catches another whiff of vanilla-lavender as he brushes past her and can’t bring himself to regret his decision.


Mulder wakes up, rolling over and opening his eyes to glance at the alarm clock. Instead, his eyes meet blue ones that mirror his expression- sleepiness mixed with slight confusion.


“Good morning.” He says stupidly, as if this is a normal occurrence. His tongue feels thick in his mouth and he suddenly feels self conscious.


What if I have morning breath? Wait, did I brush my teeth last night?


“Um….” Scully searches his face but ultimately doesn’t make another comment.


They simultaneously roll to their backs, as if staring at the ceiling will grant them the answers they’re searching for.


“You’ve been sleepwalking.” Mulder says to the stained, swirling tiles above him. He holds his breath as he waits for her response.


Scully turns away and her shoulders are shaking- is she crying?


He hears a small snort and realizes she’s laughing. He leans up on one elbow to watch her, waiting to be introduced to the joke.


“I….” She giggles again.


“I couldn’t stop thinking about the pie.”


“What?” He asks her, now confused once again.


“Your apple pie. I know you offered to get me a slice and I declined, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”


She must be talking about the pie that she took from his fridge that night, months ago. Mulder realizes she is still going so he tunes back in.


“....and you caught me, I wasn’t as stealthy as I thought. So I just froze. And then you thought I was sleepwalking, and I didn’t correct you. I was embarrassed!” Scully twines her fingers around the sheets nervously. 


“So….you haven’t been sleepwalking.” He finishes the thought before she can say it. The more he thinks about it, the more it makes complete sense- the way she only appears conveniently when they have conjoined doors, only after a difficult case, long after he’s fallen asleep, is always gone in the morning...well, apparently not always .


A tiny bud of hope starts to poke itself through the soil in his heart. She was coming to him because she wanted to, not because of some slumbering impulse. 


Mulder realizes Scully is expecting him to say something.


“You didn’t think you could come to me without the pretense of something like that?” He feels a little hurt.


“At first….it was just the pie. But when you thought I was sleepwalking….I wondered if I could pull off joining you during a hard night. And then...I didn’t want to stop. I’m sorry I took advantage of you. It wasn’t right of me.” She seems ashamed, again afraid to meet his gaze.


“I’m the one who thought that you didn’t know and allowed you to keep doing it. I wanted you to keep doing it.” He rushes the last part out, partially to let her know that it was alright with him, and partially because it’s more or less a confession of sorts.

“We’re a mess.” She laughs a little again. He supposes they are- each worried about the other’s ego, while being consumed by desire to be near one another and fear of it ending, the fear of acknowledging it in the light of day.


There’s more to the fear than either wants to admit. The fear of rejection, of feelings not being reciprocated, hell, even the fear of acceptance. The fear of giving your whole self to someone else, mind, body and soul.


Like many things, they don’t address these trepidations in the moment, but the feeling that something is coming is in the air as strong as their combined scent of lavender and pine. Scully and Mulder, Mulder and Scully.


A little more time, and things won’t be so scary. For now, they turn to face each other in the bed.


The first night that she comes to his room after their talk is a month later. Scully knocks this time, giving him a soft smile and hopeful eyes when he opens the door. They brush their teeth together in the tiny motel bathroom, and lay down at the same time.


Their legs brush together under the scratchy motel sheets, and when he offers her a spot underneath his arm on his chest, she accepts. It’s peaceful, the only sound their synced breathing and the crickets chirping outside in the latest podunk town.


This time isn’t out of fear, secrecy, or a bad day. It’s simply out of desire in its most pure form- the desire to be close to someone you love.


The next morning, they become Agent Mulder and Agent Scully again, their easy workplace partnership slid back into place by the time they hit breakfast at a local diner. 


They share a small smile over coffee that says more than anything either could express in words.


“Excuse me?” Mulder summons the waitress.

“Can we get two pieces of apple pie?”