Before you read, take note that this is:
-The first thing I've written in over a year
-The first X-Files fic I've written
-The first het fanfic I've written
-The first time I've written fiction of actual people (everything before now has been anime, video games, or the occasional OC)
And for the record, the title is based on a line from the song "Sunlight" by Natalie Imbruglia, though it really has nothing to do with the story.
That being said, um… don't kill me if you feel I did a bad job?
This assignment, Mulder decided, had been a bad idea from the start.
The information they'd been given, while certainly authentic-sounding at first, had led them on a wild chase that had landed them in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with a population of what appeared to be about six people, two cats, and various rodents, most of which were abnormally large. And that, unfortunately, was about as much of an X-File as they were going to get out of this case; their info had been very... misleading... and the end result of their journey had been a scruffy, oversized, slightly intimidating but certainly not lycanthropic German Shepherd.
Werewolf, my ass, Mulder thought sardonically, turning over in bed. And how the hell could anyone mistake a German Shepherd for a wolf? Admittedly, if they'd never actually seen a wolf, it could be vaguely possible... very vaguely... but a wolf? And a werewolf at that? Either these people were just idiots, or someone had cleverly hoaxed them. Judging by this town, though, the former was the more plausible.
Not only that, but they'd been hard-pressed to find a motel here. There had been no way they were going to figure out the way back when they didn't know quite where they were and night was setting in. So they'd looked, and looked, and finally stumbled across a tiny, tucked-away place that apparently had exactly three rooms, all of which were full, though on why a motel in a small town such as this would be full—even if there were only three rooms—Mulder was lost. In any case, he'd badgered the owner into telling them that two rooms were split between one family, and he'd convinced him to let them take one of the rooms and put the family into a single room. It had been a completely fair, rational argument, of course, and if Mulder had happened to accidentally let the man catch a glimpse of his badge, and if he had perhaps shifted a little to unintentionally reveal part of his gun after the man was still being uncooperative, well, accidents happened. In the end, they had a room.
Which meant, however, that they were sharing this single room. Fortunately, it had two beds, which oddly enough were decently-sized, so Mulder didn't have to worry about the awkwardness of the situation. Scully hadn't minded much, but then again, she hadn't said much since they'd gotten to the motel. Which made sense; they were both exhausted, after all, and they had just driven for several days without much rest. After they'd checked into the room, they'd gone to bed, he flopping across the mattress like a dead fish, she curling up under the blankets with a tired "Good night."
Now it was late at night, and, fittingly for this trip, Mulder couldn't sleep, despite how tired he was. He'd discovered very soon that the heat in their room didn't work, which was quite unfortunate, as it was the middle of November. The two sheets and thin comforter didn't give much help, either, so he was reduced to shivering and balling up the cheap material around him. As he lay there, staring at the ceiling, he found his thoughts wandering to his partner.
He didn't know when it had begun—perhaps even since the day he'd met her—but he'd always felt something for her. He hadn't been sure exactly what, at first, but as the feeling had grown stronger day by day he knew that he cared about her more than just as a partner... more than just as a friend. The need to protect her, to care for her, though he knew better than anyone that she didn't need protection. She was strong; she'd always been strong, even on the verge of breaking down, and he admired that about her. Still, though, sometimes he wished she'd let her guard down. She was never completely open with her emotions; she always had a wall up, whether it be thick sometimes or thin. Mulder wanted that wall knocked down.
They'd been working together for several years now, and he'd never told her how he felt. He'd never even come close to telling her. Part of him wanted her to accept it, to return it, but another part of him warned him against ever saying anything. He didn't want to ruin the relationship they had now, and if she didn't return the sentiment, it would at the very least make working together quite strained. If things were to turn for the worse, he'd rather they just stayed the same. At least this way he could be with her, even if it wasn't in the way he wanted.
He turned his head on the pillow to look at her. She was facing towards him, breathing quietly, hair tangled from moving in her sleep. She shifted her head a little, and her lips parted as she breathed out. Mulder found himself staring, and he quickly looked away. He turned over to face the wall, closing his eyes and willing himself to fall asleep.
After a while, he finally began to grow sleepy. He was drifting off, pictures already dancing across his eyelids, when he heard a noise. He groggily opened his eyes and lifted his head. He peered around, but didn't see anything in the half-dark. Then he heard it again, only louder; it sounded like... crying?
He sat up, immediately awake. He peered over, and saw Scully tossing and turning in her bed, mumbling incoherently, caught in the clutches of a dream. He started to rise to wake her when she cried out, twisting violently and lashing out an arm. Mulder was instantly at her side, switching on the lamp and shaking her. "Scully, wake up! What is it?"
Her eyes flew open and she sat up, staring straight ahead, wide-eyed. Her breath came fast and she clenched her sheets, hands trembling. He touched her shoulder and she jumped. "Scully, it's okay. You had a nightmare. You're in a motel, and I'm here with you. Just calm down. It's all right."
Slowly, she turned to look at him, and recognition dawned in her eyes. "Mulder...?" she said slowly. Her breathing began to return to normal as she realized where she was. "I, um... I'm sorry," she said, pressing a hand to her head. "I guess I did have a nightmare, didn't I?" She smiled shakily.
"Are you okay now?" he asked gently.
She took a deep breath, then let it out. "Yeah. I'm fine." She saw that he was still looking at her concernedly and shook her head. "Go back to sleep. Thanks for waking me up, but I'm fine now, all right?"
He watched her for a moment, then found himself reaching out and touching her cheek. "If you're okay," he said quietly, "then why are you still crying?"
She gave a start and raised a hand to her face. "I am?" she said. "I... I don't know. I guess it's just my body still reacting to the nightmare. Don't worry about it—it'll stop soon. I don't even remember the dream anyw—"
Scully's voice closed off as Mulder pulled her to him and embraced her. She froze for a moment, not reacting, and finally managed, "Mulder, what..."
"Even if it's just a reaction to the dream," he said softly, "I'll still hold you til it stops." She started to protest, but he cut in. "Besides, if it's really just your body, then it should recognize a feeling of comfort, right?"
Scully didn't say anything. She didn't move. But Mulder didn't move either, and eventually she relaxed and rested her head against his chest. She was still shaking, and soon she relented and hesitantly put her arms around him. He could feel her warmth against him, could feel that she was still crying, and he pressed his cheek against her hair, breathing in a sweet, slightly floral but slightly earthy scent. Closing his eyes, he rubbed his fingers in a small circle across her back.
He didn't know how long they sat there in the dark. He just knew that she was there, in his arms, and that he wasn't going to move until she did. Time crawled by; he could hear the seconds tick by on the cheap analog clock. The wind began to blow outside, perhaps the beginnings of a storm, or maybe the tail end of something much fiercer from far away. It was still chilly in the room, but with her against him, he barely felt it.
At last, after what seemed like an eternity, she stirred and turned her head to the side. "Mulder."
"Can I confess something?"
He could feel her swallow. "I stopped crying about fifteen minutes ago."
Mulder gave a slight smile, feeling her hair move against his mouth. "Yeah, I know."
She shook her head, but didn't pull away. "Then why are you still holding me?"
He shrugged as best he could in the position he was in. "Probably for the same reason you didn't let go of me fifteen minutes ago."
She let out a breath, but didn't say anything. "Do you want me to let you go?" Mulder asked quietly.
Scully was silent for a moment more, then shook her head. "Not really."
He tightened his arms around her. "Then don't say anything."
She leaned against him and he closed his eyes, happy with how right she felt with him, as if they fit together like two pieces of a broken whole. Soon he felt himself beginning to drift into sleep, arms loosening as he became drowsy. It was then that she moved back, releasing her grasp and pulling back. Mulder rubbed at his eyes, forcing himself back awake. "Um. Sorry. Guess I was tired." He blinked and looked at her. "I think I'm going to go to bed. Are you all right now?"
The corner of her mouth quirked up in what appeared to be a smile. "Yeah." She slid back under the covers and brushed her hair out of her face. "Go to sleep, Mulder. It's been a long trip."
"You could say that," he grumbled. He stood and slipped back under his woefully thin blankets, almost immediately beginning to grow cold again. He pulled the sheets around him like a cocoon, shivering. Closing his eyes, Mulder tried to fall asleep, but it was hard now. He found himself, again, hit with a wave of inconvenient insomnia. He sighed and pulled the sheets tighter.
He opened his eyes and looked over. Scully was watching him, evidently awake as well. "What?"
"You're cold, aren't you."
Oh dear. An insult to his masculinity? This wouldn't do. "Me? Cold? No, not at all. I'm warm enough."
She eyed him. "You're lying, Mulder."
He propped himself up on one elbow and gave her an offended look. "I never lie! What makes you think I'm at all cold?"
It was hard to see in the darkness, but he could swear Scully rolled her eyes. "The fact that you're shaking so hard I can hear your teeth knocking together, and that you've got those blankets wrapped so tightly around you that it looks as though you believe you're going to become a butterfly when you wake up." She paused. "And knowing you, I wouldn't discredit that thought."
"I resent that," he muttered, but he flopped back onto the bed, ignoring the creaking springs, several of which were most likely broken.
They were both quiet for a few minutes. He pulled the top blanket over his ear; it felt like it was going to freeze off. Finally, Scully sighed. "Come over here."
He cracked open an eyelid. "Are you coming on to me?"
She gave him a long, intentionally blank look. "It's cold. You're cold. Transfer of body heat equals warmth. If we sleep close to each other, neither of us will be cold."
"Yeah, but—" He gestured. "Is that okay? I mean, seeing where we are and all."
She half-closed her eyes in irritation. "I know you're not going to try anything, Mulder. I know you respect me more than that. I respect you more than to suspect that."
He exhaled in defeat. "All right. Fine." He sat up and said under his breath, "Because it is really goddamn cold."
Scully smirked as he got up and padded over to her bed. "Told you."
"You weren't supposed to hear that," he complained, lying down next to her. He closed his eyes and willed himself to fall asleep, but soon felt her watching him. Opening one eye, he asked, "What? Am I that attractive?"
"Mulder, why are you lying on top of the blankets?"
He stopped. "Because... uh..."
"It's not appropriate for us to sleep right next to each other? As partners?"
"Uh, yeah. That."
She sighed. "Get under the covers."
He waved a hand. "I'm fine. I can still feel warmth through the sheets. They're thin enough anyway."
She gave him another look. "Mulder, it's a late November night, we're in a cheap motel with cheap thin walls and cheap thin blankets, the heater is broken, and you didn't have the sense to bring anything warmer to sleep in than boxers and a t-shirt. Get under the covers."
Mulder began to protest, but found himself unable to come up with an argument. With a grunt, he flipped back the blankets and slid under them next to her, trying to ignore the fact that she was lying right there beside him. He settled in and breathed out, then blinked. "Why are you looking at me like that? I'm under the covers."
"Then why are you two feet away? I thought the idea was to be warm. Body heat. Or did you not get that?"
"No, I just, uh—I thought—"
Scully's eyes became solemn. "You really don't want to do this, do you?"
His breath caught in his throat. "What? No, that's not—that's not what I..."
She closed her eyes. "Never mind." She moved to roll over. "Sorry if I crossed a line."
He grabbed her by the shoulder. "Scully, no. That's not what I meant. I just—" Mulder felt the words spill out. "It's because I do want to that I—" He stopped, realizing what he'd almost said, what he'd almost revealed, and what he might have given away. Time seemed to stop; neither of them moved, and he could hear his heart pounding in his ears, loud and clear, could feel his throat lock up, unable to say anything more.
Scully turned over to face him once more. He was silent, watching her. She only looked at him for a long moment, then said,
"It's cold. Come here."
He exhaled and realized he'd barely been breathing for the last minute or two. But, not saying anything, Mulder slid closer so that they were pressed against each other. She laid her head against his chest and put her arm around him. Unable to really comprehend what was going on, and half wondering if this were even happening, he settled his arm over her. Neither of them said anything; there was only the ticking of the clock and a faint sound of wind gusting outside.
It was dark. The night was cold, but with her against him, he didn't feel it at all anymore. He squeezed his arm tighter and settled in a bit more. He could feel how soft she was—softer than he'd ever expected. For the first time all night, he felt as though he could really fall asleep.
He didn't know what made him do it. Looking back on it later, he still didn't. It just—happened. But suddenly he found himself lowering his head and kissing her gently on the forehead. Eyes closed, he could smell her hair again, that sweet scent. Her skin was smooth, and—
Mulder's eyes flew open and he jerked his head back. He stared down at her in horror, realizing what he'd just done, as her eyes fluttered open. Frozen, he couldn't move or speak. Slowly, Scully looked up at him, raising an eyebrow. Not knowing what else to do, he managed to begin to stammer an apology, but had only gotten a few half-formed words out when she tilted her head up and touched her lips to his.
He couldn't think; couldn't react. His mind was blank and all that filled his world was the soft sensation of her mouth against his. Stunned, he couldn't even kiss back. Only when she pulled away did coherent thought return to him, and as he began to speak, to ask her something, anything, to pull her closer... she nestled her head against his chest again and settled back in. "Good night, Mulder," she murmured.
He could only stare down at her. Had that really just happened? Or was it wishful thinking? A half-asleep hallucination? A dream where it seemed like he was awake?
But this wasn't a dream; he knew better. The warmth of her pressed into him was all too real, as was the lingering feeling of her lips on his own. He closed his eyes and relaxed, tightening his arm around her. The chill of the room might as well have not even existed anymore. She was right here, in his arms, by now fast asleep. Mulder felt himself beginning to drift off as well, his body relaxing, but still holding her close.
It was late at night. Outside, a storm was beginning to stir. The wind began to whip about fiercely, sending the stray animals for cover. It was a cold night, and it was leading into cold days. This trip had been nothing but a headache; writing their report would be tricky if they wanted to avoid complete embarrassment. But as Mulder finally fell asleep, feeling Scully's heartbeat against his own, he thought to himself that maybe—just maybe—this assignment hadn't been so bad after all.