We managed to rouse the clerk from his erotic hiatus. He promptly turned off the water, ordered us to wait until morning, and stamped back into the back room.
We dragged ourselves back to his room. "Great, Mulder. First, we're stuck in a motel straight out of Psycho, then you decide to recreate the sinking of the Titanic in your bathroom."
"Hey, I was only trying to fix the tap."
"A psychologist you may be, Mulder. But a plumber you are not."
He surveyed his waterlogged room. "I admit you're right," he sighed. "Now, where am I going to sleep?"
I took in the ruined carpet and general wetness. "Not in here, obviously. You can sleep in my room, if you want."
"Yeah?" he asked, unsure as to whether to accept the offer.
"Mulder, we've been working together for five years. I think sharing a room with you for one night isn't going to kill me." Then I imagined Mulder, warm, healthy, naked, in the same bed as me. I felt a blush creep up my cheeks.
"Okay... if you're sure."
"Yeah, I'm sure. I'll get a foldaway bed, then. Back in a minute." I assured him, rushing out the door before images of being tangled in Mulder's arms embarrassed me totally.
The clerk seemed rather... annoyed to see me so soon. When I enquired after a bed, he tactfully told me to go to hell. Then, he stormed into the back room and slammed the door in my face. I was forced to tramp back empty handed.
Mulder sat on the bed, already dressed for bed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt.
"No luck?" he asked.
I shook my head. "The clerk almost turned into a cheap imitation of Norman Bates, the little SOB."
"Well, we'll just have to make do."
He pulled out a spare blanket and pillow from the closet.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"Making my bed." he replied, dumping the blanket and pillow on the floor.
"Mulder. No." I objected.
"You need more sleep than I do, Scully. And a hard floor does not equate to having a good night's rest."
Damn, why did he have to be so gracious? Why did he have to be so right?
"Mulder, this is a queen-sized bed. There's plenty of room."
He raised an eyebrow. "Are you coming on to me, Scully?"
I huffed. "If my being concerned for you is considered a come-on, then be it. But I still insist on you sleeping here." I said, slapping the mattress.
He smiled, and expressed his gratefulness by supressing his compulsory snide remark.
He pulled back the sheets and climbed in. "Thanks." he muttered as he curled up beneath the covers.
"What are friends for if not to share?" I said as I turned to the bathroom.
When I returned from the bathroom in my alluring sleepwear of boxers and oversized t-shirt, Mulder was still wide-awake.
"Wow, who's this sexy babe?" he said sleepily.
I grinned, crawling into the covers on the far side of the bed and turning out the light. Soon, all I could hear was the rhythmic sounds of our breathing, and the rustling of sheets.
Mulder broke the silence. "Scully?"
I heard the sheets rustle as he turned.
"In the woods... When you said you struggled against the injustice of your cancer, did you ever think of giving up?"
I sighed, staring at the ceiling in an attempt to gather my thoughts.
"Yes." I admitted. "At the very end I was so -- so sick of fighting against something I couldn't see. I just wanted it to end. I wanted to die, Mulder."
The ceiling blurred with tears.
"What made you change you mind?" he asked softly.
I thought about this for awhile. "When Mom visited me in hospital. She came just as I lost my faith in everything. She convinced me that I was strong enough to live. Before that, I was so scared. I was scared to die, but scared to live, too."
"Scully." The way he said my name, so delicately. The way he looked at me in awe. It made me feel humble that a brilliant man like Mulder respected me. "You are the strongest person I know. Don't ever doubt your strength."
He looked up at the ceiling, studying its intricate pattern of cracks.
"You're so strong, Scully. So sure in your beliefs. I don't even know what I believe in right now."
I turned and touched his arm. "Mulder, being unsure doesn't mean you're weak. The fact that you've had the courage to reassess your beliefs... that shows you have strength."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Not that I had any choice. That smoking SOB took everything away. My sister. My belief in the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Hell, the more I think about it, the more I see how futile my whole life's been. My entire life is a lie, Scully!"
I sensed his frustration, saw the lines of disillusionment etched on his face. I knew why he had sacrificed his quest. It was for my sake. I knew then of the guilt Mulder had to face each day for the past twenty-five years.
"Mulder, do you regret giving it up? Giving up your sister?"
He faced me, studying me. Eventually, a wave of understanding washed over his face.
"No, Scully." he said softly. "I don't regret it. Because I would have been more lost without you."
His eyes tried to convince me of the truth in his words. He needn't have bothered. Somehow, I already knew.
I threaded my fingers through his, squeezed his hand, reassuring him that I understood. Then, before I could change my mind, I scooted closer and wrapped my arm around him. I felt him tense at my touch, but the tension eased as soon as I laid my head on his chest.
I felt his lips on my forehead.
The last forty-eight hours faded away. It didn't matter that the mattress was lumpy, or the motel clerk obnoxious. It didn't matter that we were in the middle of nowhere. At that moment, I felt safe. Loved.
The feeling of peace that descended upon me transcended all the burdens of the past few months. I was finally free.
"Why don't we test out that sleeping bag theory?"
I giggled, elbowing him in the stomach. I heard him giggle with me.
"Mulder, maybe this is your lucky night?"