Title: Sweet Dreams
Author: Polly - firstname.lastname@example.org
Classification: Post episode, Frohike POV
Rating: PG-13 for a few bad words and thoughts
Spoilers: Dreamland I and II
Disclaimer: Not mine; all XF characters belong to 1013 Productions
Notes: Written for the After The Fact Dreamland II Challenge
Archive: If you want it, it's yours
Feedback: Welcome and appreciated
Summary: The Case of the Mysteriously Appearing Waterbed
* * *  * * *
I came awake with a jolt wondering who had stuffed cotton in my mouth and up my nose. Then I started asking myself the important questions: Exactly how much did I have to drink? Why do I do this to myself when Byers and Langly go out of town? How did I get home? And how the hell did a canary get in here?
I pried one crusty eyelid open just enough to read the digital display on the clock beside the sofa. 2:42 a.m. Jesus. I raised my head a bit and something exploded behind my eyes. Bad idea.
But that damned canary wouldn't quit. I opened my eyes, drifting somewhere between awake and asleep, and felt a faint vibration under my cheek. The muddled recesses of my brain finally processed the fact that it was not a canary chirping in my ear but my cell phone, tucked away in the pocket of my leather vest that I was using as a pillow. I fumbled for it in the darkness, and somehow managed to hit the talk button.
"Mmmm ... 'lo?"
"Get over here. *Now*." *click*
I pushed the end button and closed my eyes again. It would be pretty easy to convince myself it was just a dream and slip back into blissful unconsciousness, but the niggling wouldn't stop. Decision made, I rolled into a sitting position quickly before I lost my nerve. I clicked on the lamp and pushed the Caller ID button on the phone.
Even through the drunken haze I was pretty sure I recognized the voice; the phone number just confirmed it. I know it almost as well as I know my own. Temples pounding and stomach rolling, I stood up and headed for the bathroom.
* * *  * * * * *
Forty-five minutes, three Tylenol, and one cold shower later I was in Alexandria, standing in front of Apartment 42. I probably shouldn't have driven, but I reasoned there wouldn't be much traffic at this hour and the cold water and chilly night air had done their part to sober me up quite a bit. It still bothered me more than I wanted to admit that I couldn't remember how I got home from the bar. The little cantina where I go to drown my sorrows is only three blocks from our place. You'd have to be pretty wasted not to remember three blocks.
I rapped on the door and scrubbed at the stubble on my cheek. I didn't go on these benders very often any more. Maybe this memory loss was a wake up call that my bender days should be over.
The door swung open to reveal the source of my other unwelcome wake up call of the morning. For some reason, he looked royally pissed. Well, that made two of us.
"This damn well better be good, Mulder."
"Funny. I was gonna say the exact same thing to you."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
He pulled the door all the way open with one hand and made a grand sweeping gesture with the other. I stepped across the threshold and took a quick look around. Even in the soft lamplight I could tell the apartment looked different somehow, and my stuffy nose detected a hint of Pine Sol hanging in the air.
"About time you hired a cleaning lady," I said, but there was no answer, just a scowl that nearly curled my toes.
I shook my head and was reminded that the Tylenol hadn't completely obliterated my hangover. My patience had run out. "Look, Mulder," I barked, "You woke me out of a sound stupor. I've had too much tequila and too little sleep to play games tonight. What the hell do you want?"
His eyes were shooting daggers at me. "I'll show you what I want." He walked toward the door that opened up into what would normally be a bedroom and pushed it open, another sweep of his arm to beckon me through.
To say this room looked different than the last time I'd seen it would be an understatement. It used to be a not-very-organized - and that's being kind - repository for his files, his research, and his skin magazines - all Mulder's passions. Now, to put it bluntly, it was a passion pit; every guy's vision of Seduction Central.
King size bed with mirrored canopy, leopard skin sheets and throw pillows. New ultra-modern furniture and lamps that cast a soft glow around the room. Electric sex. Big screen TV, new stereo with gigantic speakers on either side of the bed. Discriminating artwork. Fresh flowers on the dresser and lots and lots of candles. A luxurious white rug on the floor. All that was missing was the fireplace.
"Holy Mother of God." I sucked in a breath and walked around to the side of the bed, watched as the vibration sent gentle waves rippling from head to foot. "Who's your new decorator? Hugh Hefner?"
He stood near the door, arms folded across his chest, still glowering at me. My head was throbbing, but I was determined to get to the bottom of this hostility. "Don't think I'm unappreciative of this little preview of you new shagadelic pad, Agent Powers, but is there a point to all this?"
He started to speak, then bit his lip and nodded toward the bed, the glare even more deadly. I stared at him for a moment, looked back at the bed, and then back at him.
"Ummm ... I'm flattered, Mulder. Really. But I don't swing that way."
That did it.
"Are you gonna stand there and pretend you don't know anything about this?" He cocked his head and arched an eyebrow, but his voice was controlled. No need to wake the neighbors.
"About what?" he repeated. He made a wild gesture with both hands. "About this ... this ... this ..."
"A-ha!" He pointed at me and brought his hands to his hips. "I knew it!"
"What, you think *I* did this?"
"You or one of the other two stooges."
I laughed like a demon. "Trust me, Mulder. If we had the kind of cake it took to put together a fornication station like this, we wouldn't waste it on you. We'd put it somewhere it was likely to get a little action."
He folded his arms across his chest again and looked around the room. "You guys didn't do this?"
I shook my head. "Not guilty, I assure you." While he mulled over my admission of innocence I climbed on the bed and stretched out. Oh, man. This was just the cure for my aching head.
"Well, what do you suppose happened to all my stuff?"
Only Mulder could receive the gift of a room like this and be thinking about his displaced minutiae. "Have you checked the closet?" I asked.
"No." He took a tentative step and stopped, seemingly afraid to venture further into the room. But after a few moments, he gathered up his resolve, walked confidently to the closet, and pulled back the shutter-style doors.
Inside, boxes were stacked in an orderly fashion from floor to hanging rod, as well as on the shelf above, each container labeled with a list of its contents. He stood and stared, and I just laughed. "What a lucky bastard you are, Mulder. Your Fairy Godmother is not only an expert on love lairs, she's also a neat freak."
He shook his head and shoved his hands in his pockets, then turned to face me. "If you didn't do this, who did?"
The rolling waves were very soothing. "Maybe it's a gift from old Smokey or one of his cronies."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
I propped myself up on my elbows. I'd meant it as a joke, but he was biting his lip again, his brow was furrowed, and that little vein beside his eye was pulsing just a bit. "Yeah, that would be one of his typical strong-arm tactics - redecorating your bedroom. What's his motivation? He wants you better rested so you'll prove to be a more formidable adversary? I don't think so."
"You're slipping, Frohike. It would be just his style to put a surveillance camera in the mirror hoping for a sex scandal. Lots of compromising photos."
I snorted. "Of what? You and your hand?" He looked mortally wounded. "On second thought, you could be right. Maybe that is his plan - provide you with Fox's Den of Iniquity to get your mind off colonization and focused on headier pursuits, no pun intended."
He was uncharacteristically silent. "Look, if you're really so worried about where it came from," I said, "why don't you ask the super? He'd probably know about any deliveries."
"Can't," he replied. "Water beds aren't permitted in this building. It's in the lease. If he knew about it, he wouldn't have allowed it to be delivered."
I stretched out on the bed again, adjusting the pillow under my head. "Then I say don't look a gift horse in the mouth."
"That's what the Trojans said."
"Look, if it makes you feel any better, Byers and Langly will be home tomorrow." I glanced at my watch. "I mean later today. We'll go over everything with a fine tooth comb. If there's cameras or microphones in here, we'll find them."
He didn't seem convinced. I needed to get his mind off his enemies bearing gifts before he brooded himself into a frenzy. "In the meantime ..." I patted the empty spot beside me. "C'mon, Mulder. Catch a wave, you'll be sittin' on top of the world. Cowabunga and all that jazz. At the very least, if there *is* a camera up there, we'll give Cancer Man a cheap thrill."
For the first time this evening, a hint of a smile. "No, that's okay. You can sleep there, though. I think you'd better stay here for what's left of the night. You look like hell."
I studied my reflection in the mirror above. "I *feel* like hell. It's a set." I scraped my hand over my chin. "I guess I got a little carried away tonight, trying to get the worm out of the bottle. Not to mention that I got rousted out of bed at 3 a.m. by an obscene phone call."
He looked at the floor. "Sorry. I thought ... well, sorry."
"It's okay," I replied. "I probably would have done the same if the shoe was on the other foot. C'mon, Mulder, seriously. This bed is sweet. You gotta give it a try."
"No thanks, I'll pass." He crossed his arms tightly against his chest again, then quickly blurted it out. "I ... I get seasick."
I sat up and happily discovered my headache was nearly gone. "A waterbed's not like a boat," I told him. "The movement's more subtle, like your mama rockin' you to sleep in her arms. You won't get sick." I could see the wheels turning. "And if you do, I promise to hold your hair while you puke."
My attempt at humor was lost, as he continued to stare blankly at the bed. "Come on, Mulder. Give it a try. You might like it." He considered for a moment longer, then raised an eyebrow. "Don't worry, your virtue is safe with me."
He took one step closer to the bed and placed his palms flat on the mattress, testing the waters, so to speak. He stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity, then tentatively lifted one knee to rest on the comforter, letting his body get used to the motion. A few more minutes passed and he turned around and sat, then slowly stretched out his lanky frame until he was flat on his back. At first he looked terrified, his arms tense on each side, his fingers splayed out seeking some false sense of balance. But gradually, he seemed to relax, so I settled back on the pillow on my side of the bed.
"But, Mulder, if something *should* happen, I'll still respect you in the morning."
At last a chuckle and he relaxed a little more.
"So how'd things go in Nevada?" I asked, suddenly remembering why Mulder had been out of town in the first place.
"Waste of my frequent flier miles," he said. "We got stopped out on the highway a couple miles shy of Groom Lake. Didn't even get close to Dreamland."
"Dreamland." I laughed. "You know, that would make a pretty good name for this bed."
"Oh, it needs a name now?"
"Of course." I checked out my shit-eating grin in the mirror. The mixture of Tylenol and alcohol must finally be kicking in. "All this talk of sex scandals and Trojans has got me thinking. You know how you should christen this worthy vessel, Mulder? With the very tasty Agent Scully."
"Yeah, right. Just today, Scully was saying she'd like to settle down and live a normal life - you know, house in the suburbs, picket fence, kids, dog. If I invited her in here, I doubt that 'normal' would be the first word that popped into her head."
"That's just another excuse in your long line of excuses," I mused. "Besides, just because she wants what most people consider a 'normal' existence doesn't mean that applies to all things. In my experience, 'normal' in the bedroom is highly overrated. Agent Scully might just welcome a walk on the wild side."
He frowned, but I forged ahead. "You've put Scully up on this puritanical pedestal, but I'd bet her base desires aren't so different from yours."
"What would you know about Scully's base desires?"
"A lot more than you, that's for sure. I wouldn't have wasted six years dicking around when it's been pretty obvious for a while now how the two of you feel about each other." I didn't have to turn and face him - I could see his reactions in the mirror canopy. "This might come as a shock to you, Mulder, but you're not immediately likeable. However, you do have a knack for growing on people. You grew on us, and trust me, you've grown on Scully. She could have left you a long time ago, but she's still here. You invite her over here to share this bed and I guarantee you that Mr. Webster will have to redefine 'normal' in his dictionary."
He absently tugged at a loose thread on the comforter. "You make it sound so simple."
"It *is* simple. You and Scully make it complicated. It doesn't have to be. But one of you has to take the first step. You come clean with Scully about how you feel, I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised at her reaction."
He laced his fingers across his chest and took a deep breath. "I did tell her that I loved her." His voice was nearly a whisper. "Let's just say the response was less than enthusiastic."
My mouth gaped open in spite of myself. "When? When did you tell her?"
"In Bermuda. When I woke up in the hospital." He sighed. "I told her I loved her and she said 'Oh, brother'."
I let out a belly laugh that set the waterbed's waves rolling furiously.
He swallowed hard and looked as though he expected nausea to set in at any moment. "It's not funny."
"The hell it isn't," I tried to stop laughing so the bed would stop rolling. "Mulder, you were in and out of consciousness those first few hours in the hospital. You told *all* of us that you loved us at least once. You even tried to kiss Skinner on the forehead."
He sat up quickly. "I did not!"
I smiled broadly and looked him in the eye. "Oh, yes you did. Anyway, given the circumstances, I think Scully's reaction was pretty understandable. You try it again. Things'll be different."
"I don't know. I think ..."
"That's the trouble with you, Mulder," I said, watching him in the mirror as he settled back on the bed. "You think too much. You gotta stop thinking and take action."
He considered my advice in silence, lacing his fingers over his chest again, crossing his legs at the ankles, and chewing on his bottom lip. I took the lull in the conversation as an opportunity to consider the possibilities of the well-placed reflective surface above us.
"You know what I'm thinking, Mulder?" I asked, not waiting for an answer. "I'm thinking that somebody's firm little ass would look mighty fine from this angle. That is some rear view mirror up there."
"Don't talk about Scully that way, Frohike."
"Who says I was talkin' about Scully?"
He glanced over warily, I smiled sadistically, and we both looked up at our reflections. "Take it from someone who's known you a long time, kiddo." He realized he was about to get a lecture and closed his eyes. "Scully is the best thing that ever happened to you. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Tell her how you feel - and not when you're in some drug-induced haze or when one or both of you is in the hospital recuperating from God-knows-what. I'm not gonna stand on the sidelines forever, you know. I've given you six years to make your move. Your time is running out. If you don't tell her soon, I'm gonna snatch her up and we'll use this bed as it was intended to be used. You hear me, Mulder? Mulder? Mulder!"
I raised up on one elbow to see if he was playing possum, but the steady rise and fall of his chest and the sound of a soft snore convinced me that the gentle waves had done their work. His fingers slowly unknotted and his left hand dropped to his side, his right still rested on his chest.
"Seems like no matter who I take to bed, it always ends the same," I whispered. I swung my legs around, careful to create as little motion as possible, waited for the turbulence to subside, then stood up. I was steadier on my feet than I was earlier, and my head was definitely clearer than when I first arrived at Mulder's door, but I'd already tempted fate once tonight and I wasn't going to do it again. It was just dumb luck that I didn't get stopped on the way over here; no use risking a DUI when Mulder's couch had a vacancy.
He didn't stir as I loosened the knots on his Nikes and eased off his shoes and socks. In this muted light he looked much younger than a man nearing middle age, all the world's worries that Mulder usually carried in his features smoothed away in slumber. He looked peaceful, strong yet vulnerable. And I often imagined that he looked exactly like my own son would have looked if he'd had the chance to grow up.
I'd never told Mulder about the loss of my wife and son and I never would. Hell, I'd never even told Byers and Langly. If they'd known, they never would have left me alone today ... yesterday. It happened a long time ago, and I'd buried the pain deep down, but once a year it floated to the surface. Thank God for tequila - the only substance capable of washing it back to the depths where I wanted it to remain.
Mulder would probably be offended if he knew I sometimes think about him like a son, but he should be flattered. If my own son had grown up to be half the man Mulder is, it would have made me extremely proud. And I couldn't be prouder of Mulder if he were my own flesh and blood.
Except for his love life, of course. His love life needs serious work and I'm just the man to take on that challenge. I don't know where this monstrosity came from, but something tells me if I can get the bed, Mulder, and Scully in the same place at the same time, things will take care of themselves.
I paused at the bedroom door for a moment and glanced back. "Goodnight, kiddo," I whispered. "Sweet dreams." I yawned, clicked off the light switch, and headed toward the living room where an empty leather sofa was calling my name.
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