The Hotel Bed: A Universal Invariant

Dana Scully slept uneasily in yet another hotel bed. It was a bed no different than any of the others -- stiff, starched and anonymous. The mattress creaked in all the right places. The headboard rattled on its loose screws. The pillow was just lumpy enough.

There was nothing at all strange about this hotel bed. What was unusual was what was happening next to it.

Fox Mulder knelt by this bed as he had not done by any of the others. His hands were clasped together on top of the covers. In the darkness he looked to be praying fiercely.

Scully opened her eyes. She could see a Mulder-shaped shadow next to her bed. She could see the outline of his neck, the way his hair stuck up in the front; she could see the way his eyes flashed, picking up light like a stray cat's.

She could see that he wasn't wearing a shirt.

Seeing him there with such a hungry greediness on his face frightened her.

He was a man filled with monsters and demons and ghosts.

(oh my)

Sometimes a few of them escaped. Sometimes they took his sense with them.

Tonight they took him to her bedside.

She now regretted the fact that her gun was across the room.

Of course Mulder's demons were the soul-sucking kind, the kind that ate people. They would not be scared away by bullets. Many people had tried that approach, but these demons could catch silver bullets between their pointy teeth. They loved the attention.

Mulder knew what it took to scare them away. It was simple really -- Scully.

Scully would grab them by the lapels and shake them around. She'd use big words. She would convince them to leave, and they would.

All it took was Scully. His monsters couldn't stand her.

But, at this moment, it was something Scully found herself unwilling to give.

Maybe it was the way his eyes glittered in the near darkness. Maybe it was the way he was leaning into her, but she had a feeling this would be the night he would ask for too much.

Mulder opened his mouth to speak, and all Scully wanted to do was burrow under the quilted polyester bedspread and wait for next spring.

She wanted to crawl into the dresser drawer with the phone book and the Gideon Bible. She could pray and look up the number for the state psychiatric hospital at the same time.

(Lock us up, sirs. We're completely loony.)

She wanted out.

She closed her eyes instead. Perhaps a convincing opossum would at least confuse the demons -- distract them for a while. Maybe then they would lose interest and look for somewhere else to play.

But Mulder's demons were more clever than that. They wanted her, and they weren't leaving.

"Love me tonight, Dana," he said, his eyes level with hers.

And she didn't have the breath to ask him what he meant by that. He had not touched her, but the air had been knocked from her lungs with all the force of a fist to the stomach. Or a thumb across a cheekbone.

Loving Fox Mulder was something that would require guts. It would take nerve and patience and grit.

She had all those things, but loving Fox Mulder wasn't her job. She had never counted on this, and she was scared.

She wasn't thinking about how his lips would feel on hers. She wasn't interested in the way his eyes were hooded and lustful. She didn't want to know if he was gentle or rough.

Instead she was calculating the distance to her gun. She was counting the rounds left. She was still squeezing her eyes shut.

It wasn't her job to love Fox Mulder.

But what was worse was that she knew he wasn't asking for any of that. He was here tonight. And tonight was all he wanted.

"Scully, I need you," he said. He did not say for what.

"Go away, Mulder," she hissed, trying to edge away from him under the sheets, but some overzealous chambermaid had tucked them in too tightly, and she could barely move.

She cracked open her eyes to check him out.

He had unwrapped his hands from each other and was sliding them across the bedspread toward her.

Scully was not afraid of spiders. Rats didn't bother her at all. Mulder's two hands creeping across the bed sent her skin crawling.

She had been forgetting to breathe. She tore a lungful of air from the room in one sharp gasp.

"Scully," Mulder insisted, "just for tonight."

"No, Mulder," Scully protested, but it sounded like the creak of a rusty door hinge.

"But I can't sleep, Scully. I can't sleep."

Scully tried for some purchase on the slippery sheets. She pressed her palms against the bed and tried to push herself away from him, but she was trapped like lunch meat between slices of Wonder bread.

Mulder's hands had almost reached her.

She slapped at them as if trying to put out tiny fires.

"Scully," Mulder moaned, his chest following his hands across the bed. He drew one leg up under him.

Under the sheets, Scully wedged her foot up against where Mulder's knee dimpled the mattress and pushed. Mulder didn't budge, but she went sliding backwards -- away from him.

Her temple hit against the edge of the headboard. "Fuck," Scully cursed, holding a hand to her sore and dented head.

Perhaps it was a poor choice of words -- Mulder lunged at her.

"I'm lonely, Scully," he whined, ready to kiss her neck.

She took this opportunity to stand straight up. She leaped over Mulder's body and off the bed. Her right ankle wobbled when she hit the hard, carpeted floor. She snatched her key off the night stand. She didn't have time to get her gun.

She ran for the connecting door and slammed it shut behind her. She tried to lock it with her key, but it wouldn't fit. She employed the door's safety chain and then pulled the dresser in front of it --just to be safe.

She could sleep in Mulder's bed...because she knew that all hotel beds were the same. It would be fine. It would be the same.

She crawled into his bed.

The headboard rattled. She pulled the covers over her and rested her head on the lumpy pillow.

But it wasn't the same.

This bed wasn't like all the others. This bed smelled like Mulder.

Scully flipped the pillow over to the cooler side and tried to go back to sleep.

The next time she woke up it was a bit brighter. The room was messier. She couldn't find her watch, didn't know what time it was -- couldn't find her gun either and couldn't understand why she was worried about that.

She was cold. She was cold because Mulder had all the blankets. He had all the blankets because she was in his bed next to him. Now she remembered why she had wanted her gun.

Scully clenched her jaw. She was an FBI agent. She could get out of the grips of madmen. She could certainly get out of bed.

But where to after that? She must have her own bed around here somewhere.

She was lying on her back. She raised her head a little to look about the room. Her eyes darted from side to side. She was a solider.

Directly in front of her: A dresser blocked the connecting door. He must have anticipated her plans to escape.

To her right: The window. They were on the second floor. She would enjoy a brief, but uninterrupted fall straight down to the parking lot.

To her left: The bathroom. She could lock herself in there with the instant coffee packets, the pink Sweet & Low, and the non-dairy creamer.

He could easily pick the lock with a butter knife.

He could, and he would. He was insatiable. Or so she'd heard.

If she could just get back into her own bed everything would be fine.

Keys, she needed the keys to her room. She looked down at herself. Wearing pajamas. What sort of a solider wears pajamas? Pajamas without pockets even.

She didn't have her keys. He must have her keys. She looked to her right and eyed his sleeping form. He wasn't even wearing pajamas. He couldn't have her keys either.

She looked past him to the nightstand. There, next to the bolted down remote control, lay the key to her hotel room on its green diamond-shaped keychain.

She eased over on her right side and then onto her stomach. She moved closer to him on top of his blankets. Pressing even closer, she reached out her left hand, stretching blindly for the key.

Her damn arm was too short. Too short for a soldier.

She dared to rest her cheek on his chest to move her shoulder closer to make her arm longer.

She stretched. Her cheek skidded across his warm skin and she froze, her left hand hovering in midair as if testing the wind. She waited, her eyelashes tangling in the hair on his chest.

He didn't move.

She stretched a little further. She could just feel her fingertips nudging the plastic keychain. She was carefully breathing through her mouth, being sure not to make any noise. She exhaled, moved her cheek closer to the center of his chest.

In one smooth motion she snatched the key, rolled off of his chest and then off the bed. She crouched there, waiting to see if he would wake up. Her right ankle throbbed from the impact.

He pulled the blankets in closer to himself and curled around an imaginary space next to him, right about where she had been lying.

She narrowed her eyes. The pig.

She stood and made her way to the door. A flash of green caught her eye. Another keychain. How many keys to her room did he have?

None, she thought, picking up this other key from its place on the counter of the bathroom sink.

She opened the door to the hallway and escaped.

She was an FBI agent.

This time she found her gun and put it next to her on the nightstand before she went to sleep again. She put her two keys there as well.

She crawled back into her bed. She'd have to do something about these pajamas though. They smelled like Mulder.

She flipped her pillow over and tried to go back to sleep.

Scully woke with a start at the sudden sloping of her mattress. She opened her gummy eyes. "Eh?" she tried to say with her dry throat.

Mulder was sitting on the edge of her bed. Wearing slacks and an untucked white dress shirt, he was almost ready to go somewhere.

"Mul-der," Scully said carefully.

"Ready to fight crime and make the streets of America safe?"

"No," Scully said decisively.

"What's wrong, Scully?"

"Hhmm, I'm tired, Mulder," Scully said, rubbing a hand across her eyes and yawning sleepily.

"What? Didn't get enough sleep?"

"What time is it?" she asked suspiciously.

"It's almost six o'clock. We've got to get the jump on the criminal element. You know how they like to get up early."

"I see you're up plenty early."

"I had a wonderful sleep, actually slept for once. Must be these beds. Oh, by the way, what did you do with my key?"

Scully was stretching under her covers but stopped. "Your key?"

"Yeah, I was carrying our bags, and you had the keys. I followed you into your room to put your stuff down. The manager had already unlocked the connecting door so I just went through that to get to my room. I think you still have my key."

Scully sat up and accidentally banged her head against the wall. "Hrk," she grunted, throwing her legs over the side of the bed and sitting up all the way.

Her gun was on the nightstand to her left. She craned her neck around to look behind her. Two keys on identical green keychains, except one said "207" and the other said "208."

Scully frowned at the keys. Mulder stood up from the bed to take the one marked 207.

"So, Scully, want to get breakfast?"

Scully squirmed, her pajama bottoms were twisted around her waist. She straightened them out and looked up to catch Mulder grinning at her.

Scully blinked again. "What?" she said, rubbing her eyes.

"I don't know," Mulder admitted.

Scully's mind wandered a bit. She pushed herself off the bed and stood up. It had originally seemed like a good plan, but her right ankle vetoed the idea by refusing to work. She stumbled.

Mulder caught her. "Hit the minibar last night, Scully?"

Now that sounded like an excellent explanation for why her head was so muzzy, and it would also account for her sudden inability to walk.

She looked behind her where the minibar crouched next to the television set. She more than half-hoped it would be cracked open and missing several bottles of gin or vodka or whatever she might have drunk without realizing it.

The minibar was untouched.

She sighed. She turned back to Mulder, who was giving her a worried look.

She sighed again. "Hhmm," she said, "Mulder, what are you wearing?"


"No, really, you smell good," Scully said.

"Scully?" Mulder asked, still holding onto her.

"Your shirt smells good, Mulder," she said, stuck in some kind of a verbal rut.

"Scully, I think you've lost it," he said, letting go of her. She wavered.

"It's probably my fabric softener or something." He lifted his shirt and gave it a sniff. Scully got a brief glimpse of his stomach before he let go of it again.

"Look," he said, leaning down to smell the collar of her pajamas, "your pajamas smell exactly the same."

"What's that supposed to prove?" Scully asked, worried that it might make sense, but that her fuzzy mind was just too tired to understand.

"Well, whatever it is, it's not just me."

Scully sighed. It was going to be a long day, and God but did she feel slow.

Her right ankle was sore. She sat down on the floor and examined her foot. It was a little swollen. When had that happened? They had just gotten here last night.

"Scully, are you okay?" Mulder asked her, crouching down in front of her where she sat on the carpet.

"Mulder," she began but didn't know how to finish. "Yeah, I guess so."

Still looking at her, Mulder asked, "What do you want for breakfast?"

"Coffee. A lot of it," Scully said. If she was going to be awake, she might as well be wide awake.

"Scully, I need you--" at her panicked eyes he broke off, startled. "To get dressed," he finished slowly, giving her a wary look. "We've got an appointment at seven-thirty."

Scully made a silent decision to skip the coffee. She needed to sleep tonight.