At first, it began as just one night. But one night became two, which turned into three, and before she knew it, it had been three straight weeks of the same nightmare.
Scully was spent, barely functioning at work due to the lack of sleep.
Mulder noticed of course, but she warned him not to profile her and so the subject was momentarily dropped.
She tried everything; running before bed to exhaust herself, sleeping pills, falling asleep with the TV on, sleepy time tea. None of it prevented the nightmare from consuming her. It twisted her insides, chewing her up until it felt like her bones were ground into dust and her heart became more pulp than organ.
The feeling of dread came first, crawling up her spine as if it wanted to reach her brain to smother her whole being in darkness. Scully would be asleep, yet the feeling would be conscious somewhere in her mind.
And then, the dream.
She was standing in a wide open, barren field that seemed to stretch on forever. The sky was overcast, gray with thick clouds that were menacing instead of peaceful. The atmosphere seemed to grip her, hold her tightly in cold, bony hands that she couldn’t shake the feeling of even when she was awake. She walked for what seemed like miles, but there was never anything in any direction. No trees, buildings, other signs of life; just vast, empty, nothingness.
The only thing that changed was Scully’s reaction- sometimes she screamed, sometimes she kept walking, other times she just stopped and stared at the abyss.
The outcome was always the same; she was alone, with nothing and no one to abate the loneliness.
To some, it may not seem so terrifying- but the sheer nothingness that surrounded her gave her a deep ache that couldn’t be explained. Maybe it was the feeling she had sometimes when she was awake that this is where she was headed.
In the beginning, it was just a phone call in the middle of the night. Mulder was awake, as he so often was at a late hour, engrossed in articles that may or may not provide him with helpful information for a case.
“Mulder, it's me.” The familiar voice of his partner comes through the speaker. He glances at the time- 1:01am. This is later than she usually stays up, he knows. It must be the nightmare again.
“Is everything okay?” Mulder places the paper in his hand on the coffee table and allows her his full attention.
“Yeah, I...I can't sleep. I just wanted to talk for a minute, to have some sort of company.” Scully’s voice sounds almost sad, and it tugs on Mulder’s heartstrings to hear her like that.
They talk for almost an hour, about everything and nothing- after all, they did spend all day together. He offers to read her to sleep, something boring from his collection of old history books, but she declines. He finds himself wondering if she fell asleep yet as he lays down at 2:45am.
Scully knocks on the door of his motel room after midnight about two weeks later. She stands there in a set of matching satin pajamas, slippers adorning her feet and her pillow clutched in her hand. She looks grumpy, annoyed even.
“Can I come in?” She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “I’m so tired, but I can’t fall back asleep after the nightmare.” She sits on the end of his bed, hugging her pillow now.
“I could help tire you out?” Mulder says it before his brain can catch up with the innuendo, and he feels his cheeks flame. “I just meant, watch a movie or something.”
“I could be amenable to that.”
They watch The Twilight Zone re-runs until he glances over and sees his counterpart is asleep. Her own pillow is tucked under her head, but she has commandeered most of his comforter on the lumpy full-size mattress. There’s a small sofa in the corner of the motel room, and he glances at it with trepidation.
He sleeps there, feet hanging awkwardly over the armrest, but it’s worth it if Scully can get some shut eye. Mulder gets up in the morning to meet with local PD, but leaves his partner behind with a note that says “Be back soon.”
She emerges from his room just as he arrives back over an hour later, rested and feeling better than she has in weeks due to her chance to recharge.
Scully did feel guilty that she had confiscated Mulder’s bed the night before, but the relief she had felt after waking up with more than a handful of hours’ rest to revitalize her very nearly canceled it out.
Only her sweet, selfless partner would allow such a thing without so much as a complaint or backhanded mention of it later in the day. Scully caught herself staring at him over her coffee cup but allowed herself to indulge another moment before looking away. His intense hazel eyes, his perpetually floppy hair, his long, thin fingers wrapping around ceramic in a way that her own smaller ones never could…Mulder was attractive, there was no doubt about that, but perhaps it was everything else that came wrapped up in that tall, dark, and handsome package that had her mind aching for a different reason.
That night, her ancient enemy, the dark dream, claimed her once more.
The following morning, the overcast sky reminded her so much of the dream that she physically shivered. She abhorred this, the feeling that her own mind was holding her prisoner. She was in a foul mood for most of the day, unable to shake the feeling that she was being swallowed by an invisible enemy that knew all her next moves.
They were heading home from the case that day, but Scully was unable to rejoice in the victory of a job well done with her partner. He reached for her hand in the car, a silent unspoken acknowledgment of “I’m here for you.” If she held it for over an hour of the drive, well, neither of them pointed it out.
Scully stared at the off-white ceiling of her apartment, her hair still damp from her hot bath and her fingers clenched in her sheets. She wasn’t sure if she could take another night alone, left to face the darkness with nothing more than her feather pillow to comfort her.
She thinks of Mulder- thoughts wandering down a path she so seldom let them. But she was too soul-weary to stop herself.
She wishes that he could be here, beside her; that she had the capacity to tell him how she felt and that he would return her feelings. It’s all consuming, this gnawing wound that threatened to erase her completely.
Loneliness is what others call it, she is sure.
Scully is on the road to Mulder’s apartment before her mind even catches up- she’s not even sure what she’s going to do, only that she needs to do something .
She hates the tears that gather in her eyes as she knocks on his door. They feel something like relief with an edge of last resort.
Mulder opens the door to see the familiar beautiful face and red hair that have greeted him almost every day for years. Her eyes shine with unshed tears, and he ushers her inside without so much as asking why she’s here.
He pulls her into a hug, and she returns it gratefully, arms wrapping tightly around his midsection and squeezing. He rests his chin on her head for a moment, both of them breathing in familiar scents of comfort.
They sit on his sofa, her wrapped in a blanket from his bed and their thighs pressed together. Not out of necessity- the couch is plenty big to leave some space between them- but out of the desire to be close.
She divulges the details of the dream she has been having to him- that it’s not traditionally scary, but how the vast desolate land seems to choke her with its ominous silence.
He understands how the nightmare could be psychologically taxing; the idea of having a recurring dream of being completely alone disturbs him as well.
Scully swallows, and turns her body more toward him. “Mulder, I….I just can’t shake this feeling.” The tears brim in her eyes once again. “The feeling that it’s an omen, that I will always be alone.” Both of them seem shocked by her admission; it wasn’t often that they discussed personal feelings in such a blatant way. A few of the tears escape and run down her pale cheek, and the sight has him reaching for her.
Mulder pulls her tight to his side, holding her as she cries. Her fists come up to clench in his shirt, and the feeling of her needing him this way has him ready to find a way to defeat the dream himself just to bring her some peace.
“You’re never alone, not now and you never will be. I’ll always be here.” He says it without any uncertainty.
“If you’ll have me.” He adds, wanting to give her an element of control back.
“Oh Mulder.” Scully’s hand comes up to rest on his cheek. His thumb brushes across her wet cheek, wiping away the moisture. Her own thumb finds its way down to his plump bottom lip, gliding delicately across it in preparation for when she leans in.
She leans in, intent on their mouths finally meeting. She is close enough for their breath to be mingling, when Mulder speaks-
“Scully.” He says it softly, her name spoken aloud close enough to her mouth that she can almost taste the way it sounds in her partner's voice.
She knows, knows what this tone is; he’s going to stop her from kissing him.
Scully leans back, panicked, but one of his hands on the back of her head stops her.
“Not tonight, not like this.” It’s Mulder’s turn to swallow a lump in his throat.
“You’re upset, vulnerable, and I don’t want to take advantage of that.”
She knows that he’s right, but the rejection still stings, and she tries to turn away before he can see it in her eyes.
“Hey.” Again, his voice is so soft, it makes her heart pulse to a different beat. “There is nothing that I want more than you.”
“Then show me.” Scully can’t believe her own boldness.
“I will. Just not tonight.” He looks like the idea of turning her down is hurting him as much as it’s hurting her.
“Trust me.” Mulder knows what those words mean to them, knows that this will get through to her. “Let’s go lay down, get some sleep.”
They lay together in his bed, intertwined like one of them will float away if they let go.
The dream does not come to Scully that night.
When she wakes, her expression is filled with wonder as she watches Mulder breathing deeply in sleep beside her. The feeling is in part due to the disappearance of the nightmare, and in part due to waking up beside the person she has longed for for years.
Mulder makes them a hearty Sunday breakfast- pretty much the one type of food he can consistently make without screwing up.
They end up back on the couch afterward, both deserving of a lazy day of rest.
“I think it took me not sleeping alone for the dream to go away.” Scully gives him a shy smile.
“I’m sorry, if I would’ve known, I would’ve suggested it sooner.” Mulder flashes her a playful smile in return that proposes a hint of sincerity at the idea.
The pair are quiet for several moments.
“Do you know what Kintsukuroi is?” Scully asks him suddenly, turning the full weight of her gaze onto him. His mind searches for the meaning, the word familiar but just out of his grasp. He waits for her to continue.
“It’s a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas with powdered gold.” She picks at a thread on the bottom of her shirt. “Sometimes, I feel like that’s what you did for me.”
Mulder shakes his head, “You’ve got it all wrong. The gold was always yours, it didn’t come from me.” Their hands find each other on the couch and squeeze, palm to palm and fingers intertwined.
“Now,” he licks his lips and leans closer to her. “I think I owe you something from last night.”