I've edited this story a half a dozen times, and still can't figure out if I like it or not, so I decided to just post it, and save myself any more deliberation. Spoilers for Chimera.
Mulder dribbled the ball down the court, caught it in his hands, and tossed it smoothly into the hoop. He was the only one on the court, and one of the few in the deserted gym. His gray t-shirt with the sleeves cut-off was dark with sweat, and his hair was soaked with it. He'd started playing hours ago, when there were actually still people on the court. It was just before eight, and those same people had all left to go home to their very conventional families.
The only family he conceivably had left was in her apartment, still sleeping off the stakeout from hell. Or at least, lounging in her fuzzy bathrobe and slippers with a glass of wine. He'd never tell her for fear of being shot again, but he thought she was adorable wrapped up in the bathrobe with the fuzzy slippers swallowing her feet. The imagine made him grin widely.
Scully did not like being thought of as cute. Fortunately, she couldn't read minds. If she ever did develop that particular ability, cute fuzzy slippers was the least of his problems.
She was the closest thing he had to family. In their own unconventional, stunningly complicated way, she was his significant other. Ellen Adderly didn't understand it. Though, her opinion at this point was in serious question, considering how well her idea of familial bliss turned out. His concern was that no one else would understand it either; hell, he wasn't even sure they understood it.
He ran around the court again, dribbling the ball in front of him, bouncing it from hand to hand, pushing his body as far as it would go.
He'd spent a few hours going through the bureau library in search of the definition of 'significant other'. In an ironic twist, he'd found the most appropriate definition in one of the books Scully kept in their office. The obscenely large Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary, defined a significant other as, "a person who is important to one's well-being; especially : a spouse or one in a similar relationship".
Scully was immensely important to his well-being, there was no question about that. He'd never been as close to another human being in his life as he was to Scully. Even his past girlfriends never got that close, though Diana certainly tried. Sex doesn't immediately bring you closer to someone, and it doesn't necessarily mean you love them. If he'd learned anything over the years with Scully, it was that intimacy was so much more than just intercourse.
If there was ever a time he could say that without her getting embarrassed, he'd thank her for it.
He jogged and dribbled again, this time heading up to the basket to attempt a dunk, and attempt is exactly what it was. He jumped short of the basket, fumbled the ball, and damn near landed on his ass. And, that was why he only tried that in a deserted gym. Oh well, he yawned widely, time to pack it in anyway and hit the showers.
As the hot spray washed over him, his mind turned again back to that conversation with the housewife from hell. When Ellen had assured him that 'the right woman to come along and change all that,' Mulder didn't take it as the comforting words it was supposed to be. He wanted to argue that she'd already come along and she'd changed so much since then. But, he'd chosen not to bother.
Trying to explain his relationship with Scully to anyone--including Scully and himself--was slightly less difficult and frustrating than trying to prove the existence of extraterrestrials. Although, at least with ETs, he could bring up Area 51 and the most well-known UFO lore, and people would nod and understand what he was talking about.
The best he'd come up with to describe their relationship was the opposite of fuck-buddies, who had all the physical components of a relationship without any of the emotional. He and Scully had all the emotional components in spades, but were lacking the physical components. But this wasn't completely accurate either, because they had their own brand of physical intimacy.
When they stood near each other, they were either touching, or half a millimeter from it. The small, gentle touches that they shared were a comfort to them both. They occasional held hands (in a non-junior high way), and then there were the forehead kisses that were as close as he dared get for years. They'd held each other, often with tears, feeding on each other's strength.
And, he wasn't naive enough to say it was all platonic. He didn't know if they'd ever been completely platonic; he had always felt that there was a deep connection with Scully. A connection, he was sure, that neither of them expected or knew exactly how to handle.
That last part was often painfully clear. Teenagers weren't so awkward.
If they'd been anything but colleagues, he'd have probably asked her out. Of course, she probably would have turned him down, but still, it would have been as simple as that. But, after almost eight years? Even if he wanted to ask her out, how would he do it? If he just asked her to dinner, she'd assume they were just getting dinner together ike they had a thousand times before. He could tell her to wear something black and sexy, but then Scully would undoubtedly roll her eyes and assume it was just more of his innuendo.
That made for a less than complimentary statement about him.
Not to mention that the phrase 'taking Scully on a date' rolled around in his head about as naturally as 'making brownies with a giraffe'. It was just weird.
When someone has risked their job, reputation and life for you, and you for them, 'a date' is just too innocent and simplistic to fit the situation. Dates are for people who just met, and have to get a feel for each other. Dates are about seeing how that first spark of attraction pans out. Even for married couples, dates are way of getting that early relationship excitement back.
Their lives were not short on excitement. They also weren't really dating. Oh god, Mulder moaned to himself, shaking his head. Maybe he should just show up at her apartment in a suit, bouquet of flowers in hand, and she what she did.
Aw hell, Scully would ask what the flowers were for.
Mulder dried off from his shower, mind still whirring endlessly, and changed into clean clothes. No suit, just a black t-shirt and jeans. He ran the towel over his head, removing the excess water, and unintentionally spiking his hair in twenty different directions. Since he wasn't an angry teenager with a nose piercing, he combed his hair flat, then sat on a bench and stared at his phone.
He could call her right now, and tell her everything he was thinking. He could end their circular pattern of getting closer only to get further away and repeat the same damn thing. He could tell her that unconventional though they may be, she was still his significant other--her very existence was crucial to his well-being.
He was dialing her number before he'd even decided what he was going to say.
He froze. He should have had something in his head to say, because he just suddenly drew a blank.
His mouth hung open, but his brain refused to produce anything.
"Hello? Mulder, is that you? Are you hurt?" Her voice was high, tinged with impatience.
"Huh," he finally managed. His brain started back up again. "Sorry, I uh, I tripped."
"Are you okay?"
"Yep, you know me Scully, I bounce right back."
"Sure you do...what's up, Mulder?"
"Do we have a new x file, because I'm still recovering from the last one. I figure I'll only need about a dozen more showers before I feel clean again."
"And how goes the recovery plan? Shouldn't you be hibernating and waiting for spring?" He asked.
"Actually, I was until about forty minutes ago, then I showered. Again. Now, I'm on the phone wondering what you have planned." She didn't sound hopeful.
"You haven't had dinner yet, have you Scully?"
"No, I haven't," she said cautiously.
"I'll be at your place in thirty minutes--with dinner."
"Mulder, I just spent that last several days eating pizza, I had planned on anything but for the next year."
"Good, cause I'm not bringing pizza," he said, grinning.
"Oh? Then what are you bringing?"
"It's a surprise, Scully." He was thinking of the fancy Italian restaurant by the gym and the fact that they rarely got anything besides pizza and Chinese.
She sighed on the other end of the line. "Whatever it is, Mulder, it better be dead."
He chuckled. "I promise it will be dead, cooked and ready to consume."
"Alright, then, I guess I'll see you in half an hour."
"Great." God, he was a coward. He rolled his eyes at himself, and was about to hang up, when a sudden thought stopped him. "Scully, wait."
"Scully, what are you wearing?"
He could almost hear her rolling her eyes at him.
"You're out of luck, Mulder," she paused, "a big fluffy bathrobe."
Score, he thought, but said, "Damn, so close."
They hung up, and Mulder shook his bowed head. He'd played his part, maintained their banter and status-quo. He could have said anything else, surprised her, made his intentions clear, but of course he didn't. He'd really meant to, but like a Mathlete faced with the sudden opportunity to talk to the prom queen, he'd balked. Chicken-shit...
Maybe he'd bring her flowers with dinner...and, then he'd lie and say he stole them from the little table in her building's lobby. Because, he couldn't just admit he bought flowers for his best friend...significant other...whatever.
Mulder looked down at his phone, and chuckled sadly. Vaguely pathetic indeed.