Deeper into Arcadia

Summary: With all those nosy neighbors, wouldn't it be safer to share a bedroom to avoid suspicion?

Rating: PG

Dana Scully sighed as she packed one more outfit into a box. Used to strange assignments, she was admittedly unaccustomed to ones involving role playing. But here she was, with a box full of cashmere twinsets and Liz Claiborne slacks. She was about to assume the role of Laura Petrie-upperclass suburban housewife.

How many times had she imagined that exact role for herself before? It seems as women, we never want what we have. Housewives with Kitchenaid blenders and cashmere twinsets wish they were hardcore, adventurous FBI investigators. FBI investigators wish they could just settle down, relax at the end of the day and watch some crap quality TV with a warm, snuggly husband. Sigh.

This case had all the trappings of that glossy suburban lifestyle that she knew did not exist (and wouldn't be right for her if it did). Yet her stomach was still in her throat. She was going to share a home with Mulder under the guise of husband and wife, in order to investigate some suspicious deaths in an idyllic planned community.

She laughed a little at the irony. Planned communities WERE a little creepy, weren't they? Every house the same-go into your neighbor's house and know exactly where the bathroom is, accidentally reach for the drinking glasses in the cabinet where you keep them in your own house. Perfect lawns, perfect images, perfect people living their perfect public lives, while who knew what lurked beneath? Seemed in this planned community, it was something sinister indeed.

Yet Arcadia must have had a certain endearing charm-as people were honored to be accepted there and thrilled to submit to their endless association rules. There must be something there. Was it the illusion of purchasing the Perfect Life in an all-inclusive package?

Anyway, back to packing. Her crime scene supplies went into a box marked "dishes" and the dreaded twinsets were packed into one labeled "bedroom". Bedroom. Bedroom indeed. How on earth were she and Mulder to handle this "bedroom" issue? They always maintained separate rooms when they traveled. She would never let him know that sometimes she wanted to crawl into bed with him and spend the night. She couldn't. It would ruin not only their friendship but their work partnership-might even cost them their jobs.

But she just melted inside when he was protective of her, when he hugged her after a frightening encounter, when he stood by her during her father's funeral, when he was just plain there for her, no matter what she needed. She hated to admit needing his comfort, his presence, his warm hands and strong arms. But she did. And she was terrified that some day he would realize it, realize that she was not Iron Scully who could take anything with scientific detachment.

It was certainly an exciting introduction to Arcadia when the moving truck pulled up and neighbors swarmed them, grabbing boxes and furniture right and left. Scully tried to protect her "dishes" box but it got dropped. She cringed as she heard the fragile testing equipment shatter inside. This was not an auspicious beginning. She watched Mulder argue with someone over his basketball hoop. So much for a low profile. They would be lucky if their cover wasn't blown before the bedroom issue ever came up.

Finally, the neighbors left and the moving truck pulled away (just in time, according to the association rules on moving times). Scully sighed and looked over at Mulder, looking quite polished but completely fake in his Izod shirt and Ralph Lauren slacks. She laughed inwardly as she thought of his pigsty of an apartment. Yes, this was going to take some serious acting chops. And now there were only about 4 hours before the big bedroom question was going to need to be addressed.

"So, Mul...uh...Rob." She tried not to laugh again. She felt ridiculous. "Let's get to work." For four hours they worked collecting evidence and examining the far corners of the house. They found a few things and bagged them for testing. Scully held out hope that they would be able to quickly solve this and get the hell out of this place. This faux marriage was just hitting her far too close to home.

Another personal demon was rearing its head within her. Posing as a married couple in a nosy community, one of the first questions that would be hitting her was the question of children. A question she hated. Not only was she now unable to conceive, if she had been superlatively fertile she still would not have had anyone to conceive WITH, making her biological clock tick louder and louder and louder. Some days her womb just ached to carry a baby. Some days she just cried from the loss of something she never even had. A soft, warm baby to cuddle in her arms, a nursery to lovingly decorate, tiny clothes...tears pricked in her eyes and she quickly invented an urgent need for the bathroom.

Inside the (tastefully neutral) bathroom, she collected herself as she tried mightily to push the thought of a happy family from her head. Just her...and Mulder...their precious baby...stop. Real tears began to fall. She just couldn't help it. Lately these baby thoughts, completely against her will, kept welling up in her at the most inconvenient times. And even more against her will, they always involved Mulder. Placing his warm, gentle hands on her swollen belly, holding her hand during ultrasound appointments, holding her close and telling her what a beautiful family he had.

And now, play acting at being married to him, for heaven's sake, sharing a home with was too much for her. How does one act out her greatest desire, when one knows she will never have it? Wiping at her eyes with toilet paper and making sure her mascara wasn't running, she faced off with herself in the mirror. "Agent Dana Scully. You have completed difficult assignments before. You are just going to have to soldier on through this one as well." A little thought flitted through her mind. Maybe she should just enjoy this and stop obsessing over the fact that it was fake. Maybe she should just embody Laura Petrie fully, and consider it method acting.

Late that evening, after dinner at the neighbor's house, she should have felt relief when the door closed behind them, putting a barrier between them and this crazy bunch of nosy Stepford people. But her stomach was churning and her hands were shaking. It was ten p.m. It was bedtime. The bedroom thing had to be addressed. Her earlier resolve to enjoy the sham and chalk it up to good acting had crumbled in the soft evening light. She wanted so much to just crawl into bed with him and be safe and comfortable in his arms...but she couldn't admit it.

"Rob." She said, trying to put on a cool, collected facade. "I know we usually have separate bedrooms. But with the level of nosiness this community encourages...I almost wonder if there won't be rumors flying tomorrow that our marriage is on the rocks."

He raised an eyebrow in his characteristic maddening adorable Mulder way. "Laura Petrie I declare." he drawled at her. "Separate bedrooms? What on EARTH are you suggesting?"

She glared at him. At least he made this easier by being a smartass. "Really, I think we should just share a keep in character." She let out a huge breath. There. It was out. Now all she had to do was keep the mental demons at bay as she spent the entire night in the same bed with Mulder, all the while knowing that she wanted to spend every night that way.

In the moonlit bedroom with the enormous, fluffy bed, Scully again felt giddy and ridiculous. Why oh why did this have to be so difficult? She stood in the master bathroom fretting over her nightwear. She had splurged on a new nightgown when she had purchased her Laura Petrie wardrobe, figuring if all those beautiful clothes were going to be essentially wasted she could at least treat herself to something pretty to keep.

It was a floor length royal blue gown with lace along the top of the bodice. It was shiny, silky satin. She felt absolutely beautiful in it, but when she had purchased it she had not been thinking that it would be on display to anyone but herself. She had not considered the spectre of sharing a bedroom, and a bed, with her partner. Now she was terrified that Mulder would misinterpret it as an act of seduction. But she had nothing else to wear but a ratty t-shirt, and she wasn't going to wear that. Taking a deep breath, she turned off the light and walked from the bathroom into the bedroom.

Mulder was already in the bed with his laptop, but he looked up when she came in, and the appreciation on his face was quite obvious. "Scully you look absolutely stunning." He said without sarcasm. His smile was genuine, and his eyes showed the tender love of a man gazing upon his bride. (Or did her traitorous mind make that part up?) He smiled at her as she blushed furiously and very nearly turned around and returned to the safety of the bathroom.

"I didn't realize we'd be sharing a room when I bought it." She said meekly, and stood shifting her weight between her bare feet, trying to decide what to do. She didn't know that she had any other choices, and began to walk over to "her" side of the bed.

She climbed in, facing away from him, and laid there, wide awake, worrying about what Mulder thought, worrying about her future, worrying about the case. She heard the click of his laptop and the sheets rustled as he eased down under the covers. She nearly exploded when he shifted closer to her and placed a warm, reassuring hand on her shoulder. When she didn't move, he must have assumed she was asleep and placed a single kiss on her shoulder blade. "Goodnight Laura" he whispered.

Three hours later, Scully was still wide awake and staring out the window. The skin on her shoulder still tingled where he had kissed her. She had been hashing it over in her mind for so long now that she wasn't even positive that she hadn't imagined it.

What on earth did it mean? Had he somehow divined her innermost feelings? Did he realize that this farce—this playacting at happy married couple wore at her heart so keenly? Or was he merely taking an opportunity that he wouldn't have otherwise? He could blame it on "staying in character". She wished she believed that last one. She wished she could believe he did it because he loved her the same as she did him.

She heard him grunt in his sleep as he rolled over and threw his arm over her. She held her breath for a moment, willing herself not to squeak in surprise. Suddenly he was curled around her, his face nestled next to her ear, and his hand coming to rest on her belly.

Arousal gripped her as tears stung her eyes at the same time. This was nice. Too nice. He was just a breath away from nibbling on her ear, and she blushed to think at what was pressed snugly up against her bottom. But it was the placement of his hand that drove deep ino her soul and seared her. It was such a tender, intimate gesture, yet it was devoid of sexual innuendo. It was the stereotypical touch of a man caressing his wife's pregnant belly. How many nights had she dreamed of his hand resting right there, to feel the child growing within her-their child?

She tried to banish the thoughts by thinking of telling AD Skinner. "Why yes, Assistant Director Skinner, I was only trying to remain in character. The blue satin gown was to further my undercover identity as Laura Petrie, not to titillate Agent Mulder. The fact that we were sharing a bedroom? Now, what would the neighbors think if we slept apart? The fact that I laid awake all night fantasizing about having sex with him and getting pregnant with his child is completely and totally secondary to my commitment to the character of Laura Petrie."

She tried mightily to stifle the laugh but it came out as a snort. Clamping a hand over her mouth she listened to Mulder stir, then snuggle back up against her without waking. Big sigh of relief. With that relief came a surprising relaxation-Mulder really was so warm and comforting to lay next to. She felt safe and protected. And aroused. Still aroused. But she certainly wasn't going to do anything about that tonight. Smiling to herself she snuggled closer, deciding to enjoy this once in a lifetime gift for what it was, and maybe neither one of them would remember it tomorrow, so there would be no associated awkwardness.

His hand was still on her belly, his lips barely brushing against her ear, when she drifted off into an unusually peaceful sleep.

Scully blinked awake as the sun came streaming through her window and right into her eyes. She grunted and turned her face down into the pillow. A hazy memory was coming back to her-did she sleep snuggled up to Mulder last night? She felt warm, but it was only the sun, Mulder's side of the bed was empty. A note was left on the pillow: "Went for a run. –Rob" She breathed a deep sigh of relief as her memories of last night crystallized. She HAD fallen asleep in his arms. She HAD slept snuggled up to him in a terribly expensive satin nightie, with his entire body pressed right up against her. She HAD fallen asleep despite being amazingly turned on. And thankfully, he must have rolled away in the night and woken up without any idea that he had snuggled up to her in his sleep. It was just human nature to snuggle next to a sleeping partner. A primal need to keep warm.

She smiled to herself, having settled that, and got up to begin getting herself ready for another day as Laura Petrie. She hummed to herself as she ran a hot shower, brushed her teeth, blew out her hair, and dressed in a pink twinset and gray slacks. She felt so much better today. Her hormones must have just been crazy out of whack yesterday. She was going to be fine. She was going to figure out this case and never ever ever wear a twinset again in her life. Smiling, she put the final touches on her makeup and started downstairs for a cup of coffee.

As the shadows lengthened toward evening, Scully wondered what the hell had happened to Mulder. She had hardly seen him all day; almost as though he was avoiding her. She had seen him put a pink flamingo in the yard, but then hadn't seen him until hours later, when he was disappearing into the garage. Then she glimpsed him later as she was on her way out, but he had his nose buried in the inch-thick community guidelines book and he barely looked up to acknowledge her. Was he mad at her? Did he think she had tried to start something untoward with him? Clearly they were on HER side of the bed! He had to know that it was him that moved over to be by her, didn't he?

Two theories ran through her head simultaneously. One, perhaps he was embarrassed. It had been a very long time since she had spent the night with a man, but she certainly remembered waking up and being poked with a hard morning erection. What if he thought she had faked being still asleep, and didn't want her to know? Obviously it was just natural...the testosterone surge in early morning... but she guessed it was pretty embarrassing to poke your partner so intimately like that, even when your partner was a doctor.

The other theory, what if HE had been pretending to sleep, last night when he put his arm around her? Maybe it wasn't just primal nature leading to snuggling. Maybe he was using his Rob Petrie role as a cover to try to light her fire. She gulped. He had succeeded.

Either way, this was going to be embarrassing for at least one of them, and probably both.

That evening, she put on her blue nightie without a second though and climbed into bed with a book. She was going to wait him out-where the hell was he? He had to come to bed eventually. They were going to talk like adults and banish this weirdness so they could concentrate on their case. After nearly 100 pages her eyes started to glaze over and she caught herself drifting to sleep. She glanced over at the clock—it was nearly 3 a.m. Now worried, she grabbed her robe and pulled it around her as she padded down the hall, peeking in the other bedrooms. "Mulder?" she called softly? "Rob?" She wasn't sure what he was up to. Was he messing with her? Trying to see if she would come to him?

Not finding him upstairs she crept downstairs, her heart beating faster as she began to worry. What if something had happened to him?

In the fuzzy orange light of the streetlamp, she saw a form lying on the couch, and she suppressed a giggle. Was he THAT used to sleeping on a couch that he just couldn't sleep in a bed anymore?

"Rob?" she asked softly, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Honey?" that one just popped out—she had NOT meant to say that! His eyes opened slowly as he turned to face her. "Why don't you come to bed?" His eyes widened suddenly, his brain fuzzy from sleep. He hadn't immediately remembered that he was Rob, and she was Laura.

Scully decided if he could use his cover identity for his own convenience, so could she. "You know I hate to sleep alone." She smiled and tugged at his hand. "Come on. You don't want the neighbors to talk."

"Scully...I mean...Laura..." he pulled back on her hand, not getting up. "I'm really sorry. I didn't intend to take advantage of you. I never meant to make you feel uncomfortable." He was looking up at her so sincerely, she almost felt like crying agian.

"Mulder." She smiled and sat down next to him. Her mind was racing. "I actually slept really nice snuggled up with you." Whoa. Did she actually say that out loud? She blushed.

He smiled at her tenderly, and pulled her against him for a hug. "Let's just go to bed without awkwardness, okay? I'm really tired and I need some sleep. It's clear we're both a little weirded out." Grateful to him for finding the words so she didn't have to, she reveled in the warm, sleepy hug, and then followed him upstairs.

As though they had done it every night for decades, they slipped into bed together, snuggled right up against each other. In the tangle of bedsheets and blankets, his hand found hers and their fingers interlaced. She squeezed his hand gently. "Good night Mulder".

"Good night Scully." he whispered, before planting a tender kiss on her shoulder.