By She's a Star
Disclaimer: X-Files? So not mine. If it was, I'd have gotten cracking on the second movie by now. ;-D
"Don't you ever miss normal nighttime things?"
As soon as the words leave her mouth, she realizes that it wasn't exactly the smartest inquiry. Sure enough—
"Scully, are you hinting at something?" he asks slyly, a smirk that she's gotten to know all too well over the past few years taking up residence on his face.
It's two thirty-six in the morning and they are sitting in a rental car in front of a derelict apartment building in Eureka, California, awaiting the emergence of a man who can apparently change into a coyote at will. She hasn't slept properly in almost a week, and reached the conclusion a few hours ago that she would gladly commit murder for a glass of wine and a bubble bath. Mulder, naturally, is having the time of his life.
Oh, hell. Why not play with him a little bit?
"Yes, Mulder," she responds brusquely. "Yes, I am."
He manages to look appropriately taken aback, which in turn prompts her to manage a small surge of satisfaction.
"I'm hinting," she proceeds, "that I want to be in bed right now."
"Sleeping," she finishes darkly.
"Uh huh," he says, unconvinced, and drums his fingers against the steering wheel.
"I believe you!"
". . . ya little minx."
"Would you be offended if I killed you in exchange for wine and a bubble bath?"
"Depends," Mulder says, after a moment's contemplation. "Would the bubble bath be scented?"
Reaching the conclusion that verbal sparring probably isn't exactly her strong suit in the wee hours of the morning, she reaches over and swats his arm.
"Whoa there!" Mulder grins, and catches her wrist lightly with his fingers. "You just can't keep your hands off me, can you?"
She levels him with her most effective exasperated stare.
"All right, all right," he relents, raising his hands in mock surrender. "My deepest apologies, Agent Scully, for implying that you are anything other than a steadfast professional and a deeply devoted servant to our fine country."
She rolls her eyes, crosses her arms in front of her chest, and tries not to think longingly of the motel room some ten miles from here that, while not luxury personified, has a bed and – has a bed.
Clearly, her standards have just plain skyrocketed in the time she's held this job.
Apparently, her annoyance has become visible, because Mulder leans a little closer to place a hand on her shoulder and says, with utmost sincerity, "Seriously, though, Scully – if you want to catch a few z's, that's fine. I can keep an eye on coyote boy solo. Say," he continues, and grins at her in a way that irritates her only because it always succeeds in ebbing away irritation completely, "I'll wake you if I hear any howling."
Despite herself, she smiles slightly in return. "That's okay, Mulder. I'm fine."
"You sure?" he asks. He's begun to massage her shoulder absently.
"Yeah," she assures him. "I'm just . . . Mulder, don't you ever want to sleep? In a bed?"
Mulder stares at her, faintly bemused. "You're absolutely sure you're okay, Scully?"
"I'm okay," she insists firmly.
"Oookay," he says, his tone drenched in an unmistakable undercurrent of 'my partner's insane.' She recognizes it so well because she's had many an opportunity to put it to use herself.
"I just . . . sometimes you still mystify me, Mulder."
"Well, yeah," he says, and grins. "I'm spooky."
"I mean," she progresses, "can you honestly tell me that you'd rather be doing this than sleeping in actual pajamas in your own bed?"
"I don't have a bed," he reminds her.
"Your couch, then," she amends impatiently.
"Well, I dunno, Scully," he says, and shrugs. "It's a good couch, and it's served me well, but some things just can't be compared to being out on the prowl for coyote men—"
He makes a noise of consent in the back of his throat, and silence falls over the car. She sighs and stares dully out the window. Coyote men. Coyote men. Or The Coyote Man, rather – apparently, there's just the one. Which is what makes this such an incredible phenomenon.
She doesn't know why she lets him drag her into these things.
"I've got something to confess."
"And what might that be?"
"I don't actually own any pajamas."
She holds back a smile. "I expected as much."
Mulder nods nonchalantly. "Yeah, I get that a lot."
"Do you?" She arches an eyebrow.
"Yeah," he says, and feigns slight bewilderment. "Apparently, it's really obvious that I'm the kinda guy that sleeps in the nude. Who knew?"
She laughs shortly.
"I mean, next you're going to be telling me that that's the first thing you thought when we met," Mulder goes on, in pained tones suggesting deep oppression.
"Afraid not, Mulder."
"Really?" he asks, and when he turns to look at her his eyes are alight with interest. "What did you think?"
She smiles a little as she remembers. "I thought . . ." she said, and contemplates how to phrase it for a moment, "'this is a man who I'm never going to be able to understand.'"
The left corner of his mouth twitches upward slightly. "And what do you think now?"
"I think I'm getting there," she replies lightly, and catches his gaze. It still surprises her a little, that they can look at each other and immediately reach this strange, powerful understanding – something that surpasses the need for words.
It's why they work so well together, she supposes.
And why she accompanies him on every ridiculous coyote man hunt, no matter how borderline homicidal she gets because of it. She figures that it's rare to find this kind of connection between two people. That she might as well hold onto it for as long as she can.
Something tells her it's going to be for a long, long time.
"Of course," she says slyly, breaking the silence, "I also thought 'he's kinda cute. Shame he's out of his mind.'"
It's Mulder's turn for arm swatting.
"Hey!" she says, and tries to refrain from laughing. "No need to get violent, Mulder. Besides, you still haven't told me what you thought of me."
"That's 'cause you probably don't want to know," Mulder returns smoothly.
She glares indignantly.
"Oh, don't worry," he adds. "Let's just say that my opinion improved significantly after you threw off your bathrobe in front of me."
She groans. "I can't believe you're bringing that up."
"Well, sorry to break it to you, Scully, but it's not exactly the kind of thing that a guy forgets real soon."
"I was scared. I'd never dealt with anything like that before. For all I knew, I'd contracted some mysterious malady—"
"Sure, sure. Sex kitten."
"No, I get it. I get what you're saying. Vixen."
"Oh, come on. Like I haven't seen you less than fully clothed – on multiple occasions, might I add—"
"Oh, really? How so?"
"Unless I recall incorrectly, Scully, I was in or had just narrowly avoided mortal peril during all those occasions—"
"All of them?"
"Well, when hasn't it involved mortal peril? Fill me in, Scully, I really want to know this."
"God, where to begin?"
"Well, there was that time when . . ."
At two forty-nine, a curious and grotesque figure that one might mistake for a werewolf exits the apartment building and slips, unnoticed, into the night.