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Heaven and Hell Were Words to Me

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It starts on Tuesday.

Scully comes into the office to find Mulder already there - as had been usual until after Dreamland - looking as tired as she feels.

Despite having gotten 8 hours of sleep, Scully had woken that morning feeling exhausted. Fragments of nightmares she can’t quite remember left her stomach churning enough that she didn’t even have breakfast.

Seeing Mulder instantly calms her a little. Touching him is even better. Her hands stop shaking for the first time in hours when she finds a reason to cross the room and touch his shoulder to ask where a file is. But whenever he’s out of sight, a pit drops back into her stomach like a stone, her limbs becoming heavy with dread.

He’s gone for 5 minutes that afternoon to use that bathroom, and her hands start to shake again.

He’s gone for 30 minutes the next day to pick up lunch, and she can barely type, noting reluctantly that her resting heart rate climbs to almost double her regular resting rate and into tachycardia - hovering around 130.

It’s ridiculous, she tells herself. They’re both fully functional, independent adults who can operate without the other.

But Mulder seems reluctant to be away from her, as well; on Thursday, he proposes she go with him to get lunch (which he never does because she hates it - she gets line-rage, and he doesn’t mind picking it up for them), and she jumps at the opportunity. His hand is rooted to the small of her back the entire way there, and hers to his arm the whole way back.

When they get back, they definitely don’t clear off half of his desk and bring her chair over so they can eat right next to each other; no, they sit on opposite sides of the room at their respective desks like normal people.

But if, say, they both just so happen to regularly need to use the bathroom at the same time, coincidentally meaning they end up spending less time apart, then that’s definitely just a coincidence.

‘Intimacy through codependency’, Dana Scully’s ass.

So, when Scully asks Mulder to come with her after work on Friday, it’s for completely practical reasons.

“Mulder? Are you okay? Your neck is red because you’ve been rubbing it so much.” Scully’s voice startles Mulder out of continuing that same motion.

“What? Yeah.” He smiles sheepishly, resting the offending hand on the desk. “I guess I’m just getting old, Scully. Sleeping on the couch this week has really done a number on my neck.”

Scully nods sympathetically. “Why haven’t you bought a new mattress yet?”

“They’re still redoing some of the floor in my room,” Mulder says.

Scully frowns. “You told me they finished that on Wednesday.”

“...I just haven’t had the time?” He tries, caught. Doesn’t say, it’s not worth buying one if you’re not in it.

She lets him off the hook. “Okay. We’ll go shopping after work today.” You deserve comfort, and I’m going to see that you have it. Then, with a gleam in her eye, “after all, an old man should take better care of his body.”

Mulder shakes his head, solemn. “You’ll know how it feels when you’re my age, Scully.”

Scully scoffs, Mulder smirking to himself before feigning a return to his paperwork. She waits until it seems that he’s actually focused on it, then pulls a paper clip out of a container in front of her and takes aim.

When it hits him square in the forehead, the look on his face is worth the war it starts.

--

“24/7 MATTRESSES!” offered the kind of vibe you’d expect from stopping at a non-descript fast food joint in the middle of nowhere at 3 AM; lighting just a little too bright, music that seemed familiar yet was impossible to place, and a single employee who seemed to appear out of nowhere from otherwise deserted floorspace.

Still, they offered incredible deals on queen-size mattresses, even offering complimentary pillows and same-day delivery and installation within a mile. And, luckily, Mulder’s apartment was only a few blocks away. So, hairs on the backs of both their necks up the whole time, Scully helped Mulder choose a nice memory foam mattress, then watched his back as he paid, and was at his side as they fast-walked to the exit.

If they’d turned back, they would’ve seen that the employee vanished as soon as the door shut behind them.

--

By the time they get to Mulder’s apartment just 10 minutes later, they find the mattress neatly set in his bedframe, pillows on top, even though his front door had been locked.

“...remind me to file that place under ‘liminal spaces’, Scully,” Mulder says with an uneasy laugh.

Scully nods absently. Mulder can see the gears working in her head. Eventually, she settles on, “sheets?”

Mulder fetches them from the linen cupboard, and they get to work. Together, they wrestle the fitted sheet onto the bed. Mulder tries to help with tucking the flat sheet, but Scully gets frustrated with his sloppy corners and shoos him away to find pillowcases.

He chuckles when he returns to find the sheet tucked with military corners - he loves how much of a perfectionist she is - but shuts up when he gets a pillow to the face. Tossing Scully the other pillowcase, he makes quick work of his own, then places it on the bed and collapses.

He buries his face into the mattress with an exaggerated moan. “Oh, Scully, this thing is amazing,” he says, muffled by the foam.

Scully drops her pillow next to him with a chuckle, resting a hand on his back lightly. “Should I leave you two alone?”

Mulder heaves a deep sigh, rolling over onto his back and resting his head on a pillow. “She could never feel the same way about me,” he says, tone wistful. “No,” he puts a hand over his heart, looking downtrodden, “I’m afraid it could never be requited.”

“A shame,” Scully agrees, stifling a smile.

Mulder cranes his head up, mouth open to make a joke, but all that comes out is a pained groan. He grabs his neck as his head falls back against the pillow.

“Oh, I forgot about your neck.” Scully’s brow creases as she leans down a bit. “You okay, Mulder?”

Mulder nods, eyes shut tight.

“Well, that’s convincing.”

A few seconds later Mulder peers up at her, smiling but obviously not feeling as good as he wants her to think. Scully makes a decision.

“Mulder, let me give you a massage,” she says. When he opens his mouth to object, she continues, “my mom always used to get terrible pains in her neck from sleeping on the couch on nights where we waited for Dad to come home. I was the only one in the house she trusted to get the knots out.”

Mulder rubs his neck, considering, then nods gingerly. “Thank you,” he says gratefully.

“Any time,” Scully responds, slipping off her shoes. “If you were feeling better, I’d ask you to move. But since you’re not, I’ll come to you.”

She climbs onto the bed, kneeling behind his head.

“I’m going to support your neck with one hand, slip the pillow out from under you with the other, then rest your head flat on the mattress, okay?” She explains.

Mulder hums in agreement, wincing only minimally as she moves him around. Then, she rests her hands on either side of his neck, fingertips touching his clavicles, and begins gently applying sweeping pressure from his neck down to his shoulders.

“I’d normally use massage lotion,” Scully says, teasing, “but I doubt you keep any around the house.”

“Mm-mm,” comes Mulder’s quiet confirmation, mouth quirking with half a smile.

When she’s finished, she notices that Mulder is completely limp in her hands, apparently asleep. She smiles softly, reaching to comb the hair away from his forehead. Letting her fingers brush through his hair, she takes stock of herself.

For the first time this week, she feels steady. And it doesn’t escape her notice that it’s while she’s holding Mulder, either.

She knows she should go now that he’s asleep. But those nightmares... even just the flashes she does remember after a week of having them - cradling him in her arms, desperately trying to keep his life from leaking out from between her fingers, pleading for him - have her reluctant to leave him. To sleep, even for just one night, with him in her arms, where she could know he was safe--

Mulder fidgets in her hands, and she looks down to find him blinking up at her. “Whatever it is, you’re thinking too hard,” he teases sleepily.

“Sorry,” she says, “I was trying not to wake you.”

Scully extricates her hand from his hair delicately, moving to get up, but he grasps her wrist. “Wait. Please stay.” His voice is soft. “That was the first time all week I haven’t had any nightmares.”

Scully frowns. “Nightmares, Mulder? I’m sorry. Old ones or new ones?”

They’re both intimately familiar with each other’s nightmares, and with how to soothe one another after them. Sometimes, part of the soothing process was to talk about them - especially if they were new.

“New, I think. I remember being in pain and hearing you sound worried and scared, but being unable to help when I tried... and then nothing.”

Scully frowns once more, starting to stroke his hair again. “How can I help?”

“Stay?” He requests softly.

“Of course,” Scully says. They’d both held each other after nightmares before.

Scully scoots down the bed, settling herself on a pillow and pulling Mulder to her. Absently, she thinks that she’s glad that they’d stopped by her place before the mattress store so she could change into casual clothes.

Mulder wraps his arms around her back, snuggling his face into the crook of her neck.

They breathe each other in for a while before he speaks again. “You’ve been having nightmares too,” he deduces, sounding like he’s come to a realization, “and that’s why you’ve been tired and just as clingy as me this week.”

Scully sucks in a breath, nodding.

“Old ones or new ones?”

“New,” she confesses. “But this is supposed to be me comforting you, not the other way around.”

“We can do mutual comforting,” Mulder assures her. “How can I help?”

She holds him tighter, feeling the rise and fall of his torso between her arms and the soft huff of his breath across her neck. It’s enough to know he’s safe, alive, and well. She squeezes him briefly. “This is enough.”