around eleven-thirty, something stirs him from sleep; groggily, he looks around for a cause, sees scully sitting up in bed. if it’s passed eleven and scully isn’t asleep, then there’s a definitive reason, so he slowly sits up and joins her. at the sight of him, she grimaces.
“i didn’t mean to wake you,” she frets under her breath.
“it’s okay,” he says. “what’s on your mind?”
she gives him a look, says, “i just can’t sleep, mulder. that’s all.”
returning the look, he asks, “do you need anything? there’s melatonin somewhere around here.”
she lets out a deep breath, closes her eyes in indecision. on nights like this, he wishes her pride and vulnerability would swap places, that she could open up to him with practiced ease, but she’s scully, and if there’s anything he knows about scully, it’s that she needs to be coaxed and to feel comfortably in control. as always, he offers both.
“a cup of tea would be nice,” she offers.
“okay,” he says, standing up while his joints creak in protest.
while he walks down to the kitchen, she follows, her steps softer and farther apart than his. over the last few days, he could tell that something was up; her spirits weren’t as bright, her mind was exhausted at the end of each day, and she seemed to crash as soon as she got home, to fall onto their couch and just breathe once her day came to a close. though he asked at times, a soft question of how work was or of how she was feeling, she didn’t let on to anything being different, and he trusted that if she wanted to talk, she would, so he let it go and didn’t push too hard. however, a sleepless night means more for her than just some exhaustion at the end of a workday does; if she can’t sleep, then he’ll push for more.
filling the kettle with water, he hears her pull out a chair and sit down at the kitchen table, her movements quiet. he lights the stove, puts the kettle on, springs for their tin of chamomile tea. setting two mugs and her favorite blue teapot on the counter, he adds a couple teaspoons of loose-leaf to the pot. then, he joins her at the table, where she looks uncomfortably rapt in thought.
“what’re you thinking about?” he asks, his hands folded on the table.
at that, she sighs, says, “i’m just stressed out.”
“about what?” he asks.
taking a deep breath, she admits, “there’s too much of it. we have too many active cases going right now. if i’m not with a patient, then i’m working on a patient’s treatment plan or assisting on a surgery. i didn’t even have time to eat lunch today.”
“by law, you’re allowed forty-five minutes.”
she gives him a look.
“or so i’ve heard,” he adds.
with a little smile, she shakes her head at him, says, “i just couldn’t stop, you know? I figured that five more minutes on one case wouldn’t suck me in, and then, i looked at my watch, and it was four in the afternoon, and i had somewhere else to be.”
“can you leave from certain cases?” he asks. “if you’re assisting, i figure they could find someone to fill in, especially if it makes your caseload more manageable.”
then, she sighs, and he can tell what that means; though a doctor could definitely do that, she wouldn’t let herself do that. begrudgingly, he respects that stubbornness and pride.
“i just need to power through,” she figures, “but i can’t get my head out of work-mode. i can’t stop thinking about all of it.”
at that, the kettle hisses, so he stands up, rests a hand on her shoulder before he walks over to take the kettle off. pouring hot water into the teapot, he listens as she stands up and walks over to him, stands alongside him. without shoes on, she’s so tiny, so when she wraps her arm around his waist, her shoulder stretches up, throws her shoulders off.
“thank you,” she says, “for this.”
putting the kettle down, he kisses her scalp, puts the teapot’s lid on. they both know she doesn’t need to hear a little speech on how he’s always willing to do this for her; at this point, that understanding is so deeply ingrained that it never needs saying.
the scent of warm chamomile at night is always relaxing for him; as she relaxes against him, he knows it does the same for her. thankfully, she starts to soften, her mind finally shifting from work-mode to home-mode. when he pours them both a mug, she yawns.
“tired?” he asks with a little smile.
she nods a few times, takes her mug while he leads them upstairs.
“why don’t i go with you to work tomorrow,” he offers, “and walk around town until you’re done?”
“you’ll be so bored,” she says, sitting down on her side of the bed.
“the library there is enough like my office here, and i’m dying for some of that stew from the coffee shop in town,” he insists. “plus, i want to use the forty-five minutes, which you are allowed by law, scully, to take you to lunch.”
softly, she smiles to herself.
“that would be nice,” she says, then takes a sip of her tea.
“okay,” he grins. “what time do you plan on heading out of here.”
at that, he groans, puts his tea down on his bedside-table, and flings himself back against the bed dramatically, and she laughs, genuinely laughs.
“we can make it seven-fifteen, but beyond that, you’re pushing it,” she teases, climbing under the covers.
he went all the way to the arctic for her once; he surely can wake up early for her, even if that seems more grueling than the far north ever did.