So this epic essay/rant began as my thoughts on the scene in S10 (Home Again) where Scully calls Mulder “Fox”. I get it, I really do that Mulder is “Mulder” and Scully is “Scully” for a lot of shippers and that’s sacred to a lot of you. But for me it really was a gut punch to hear her call him Fox in that moment… because it suggests to me that in their most intimate, emotional moments they are comfortable with using their first names - in fact, not just comfortable, it’s a kind of language they use to communicate intimacy. Which started in the show, but they’ve clearly developed that closeness further in the 10+ years since we last saw them.
So yes, when Scully first wanted to use this language in Tooms to convey an intimate, heartfelt moment with Mulder, (she’s about to tell him she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anyone but him) she goes to call him Fox and he can’t allow it - he tells her to call him Mulder… he lies in fact, he says he makes everyone call him Mulder, even his mother - but when we see his mother she never once calls him that. Not to mention all of his old flames have called him Fox and he doesn’t chastise them. Even Scully’s mother, Margaret continues to call him Fox even after Scully has corrected her.
Mulder was putting up a barrier in Tooms - he didn’t want to allow Scully to get too close - I mean, the guy has a history of dating female co-workers, when you think about it. Perhaps he’d decided he didn’t want that to happen again with Scully - she had become very special to him and he didn’t want to lose her to a fling or short-lived romance.
Perhaps that also goes some way to explain why he took so long to act on his feelings for her, and the one time he lets his guard down and does act on them (Fight the Future) he doesn’t allow himself to revisit the moment with Scully later. The bee sting lets him off the hook after a moment of weakness where his deeper feelings for Scully surface as a result of the intensity of the moment (and he tries to kiss her). But once the moment is gone, the barrier is back up.
When Scully herself attempts to revisit the moment in the first episode of S6, (The Beginning) Mulder is actually quite cold towards her; he removes his hand from hers and walks away. God, the pain of that scene, which was in no small part the result of reuniting with one Diana Fowley.
Let me side step into talking about Diana for a moment…
I think Mulder/Fowley relationship was a kind of pre-cursor to Mulder/Scully relationship for him. Fowley was also a beautiful, intelligent woman that he felt attracted to but the difference here was that he acted on those feelings - he let her in; she calls him Fox from the get go, and still does right up until their last scene together. But look where that ended up for him - she abandoned him and their work together. Ultimately she was willing to sacrifice her relationship with him for self interest and I think he was pretty badly hurt by that. What those interests are, we never find out. But it clearly wasn’t a good enough reason for Mulder to accept, as in The Sixth Extinction he can hear her thoughts, knows her reasons - even as we don’t - and he doesn’t react to her at all, even as she’s telling him she loves him, he doesn’t move to return her feelings. He pretends to be out of it, but as she leaves the room, he watches her go - letting us know that he does not trust Diana any longer.
This is backed up rather than contradicted by Amor Fati, where Mulder has his last temptation of Christ moment, where Diana ultimately is a figurehead of deception, manipulation, and stagnation. She sleepwalks him into ruin and away from his chosen path in exchange for domesticity. That isn’t Mulder, and no one knows that better than Scully - a woman who is able to love a man like him without making any demands of him, whereas Diana is the opposite. One of these days I will write a mammoth essay about how incredible Scully is… but I digress…
So how does this figure into how and why Mulder would keep Scully at a distance? Well we as humans often function on the faulty thinking that history will repeat itself; particularly in interpersonal relationships. I suspect he fears being hurt for one, but also fears losing Scully if he goes down the same path with her that he did with Diana. So when Scully reminds him of what he said to her in his hallway right before the bee stung, (The Beginning) he doesn’t respond - the walls are up and he refuses to go back to that place again, and quite cruelly shuts Scully down.
In my shipper heart, and apparently backed up by Chris Carter (although he changes his mind on this all the time, so whatevs) Mulder was attracted to Scully straight off the bat; which is pretty clear in the pilot and early episodes imo - he’s a young man and she’s a beautiful, extremely intelligent young woman who stands her ground with him (that - as we discover over time - is kinda his “type”).
But pretty quickly he starts to care for her deeply; to feel he can trust her and only her - she’s his human credential, as David Duchovny once poetically put it and that’s even more true in the earlier seasons where Mulder is clearly more bothered by how people view him - with Scully at his side, he stops caring - we stop hearing him reflect on this label of “Spooky” his fellow Agents have given him.
He was isolated and alone, and she saved him from that - she accepted him. It’s completely understandable that he’d start to feel very protective of her and their friendship. So with that in mind, he can’t entertain any thoughts of attraction towards her as that would risk that friendship. So when she tries to call him Fox he’s suddenly quite uncomfortable. He even seems embarrassed. Then shocked and I think quite moved, when she tells him she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anyone but him. But his response? He plays it off with a flippant comment about iced tea! He clearly needs to maintain that bit of professional distance to keep their relationship platonic. Which he often achieves with humour.
So returning to that moment in S10 (Home Again) to see her call him Fox - it’s a huge deal that he now lets her… they’re at a different level of intimacy now, he’s not trying to keep her at arms length or away from his heart anymore; which is made all the more interesting because they’re no longer together in this scene.
That says to me the breakup wasn’t a mutual decision; it definitely wasn’t what Mulder wanted - it feels like they are communicating loud and clear that it was Scully that ended their romantic relationship and I get the feeling he’s still pretty heartbroken over it. His slightly bitter remarks in My Struggle where Scully says it’s good for him to get out of “that little house” referring to their home together in IWTB and he responds with “it certainly was good for you.” Ouch!
Then his comment in Tad O’Malley’s car where she says they’ve both moved on with their lives now the X files are closed and she says “for better or worse” and he says “for better, for worse..” and Scully is clearly very uncomfortable with what he’s said. There’s so many freakin’ layers here - the most obvious one being the fact these are wedding vows - what are they hinting at here? (God I sincerely hope they didn’t get married and divorced - but I wouldn’t put that past CC) but my interpretation is that Mulder is saying Scully was better for it, but he was worse. The final bitter comment is when he mentions the fact that Scully had apparently once referred to his pursuit of UFOs as having a “stranglehold on her life”. Ouch. Again.
But for me, the most heartbreaking scene revealing the depth of Mulder’s loneliness without Scully was in episode 2 (Founder’s Mutation) There is one scene where we see him sitting in the kitchen of the “little house” they once shared together, alone, looking at a photo of William… Gods… what are you trying to do to me, CC?? His lonely figure sitting at the kitchen table in a family home, with 2 empty seats is just another gut punch.
Yeah, he’s definitely still hurting over it.
So just to briefly touch on the first names thing one last time, because I can clearly go off on some epic tangents here; Scully never had any issue with Mulder calling her Dana; it takes her by surprise once (Beyond the Sea) - but every other time he did it, it was again to create intimacy and closeness, it’s not some awful transgression that’s a betrayal of their past relationship - it’s an evolution of it. Thinking here of how hung up people get about Mulder referring to Scully as “Dearest Dana” in an email in Trustno1.
I want to hear her call him Fox again - at least one more time. Sex scene, anyone? Ha! FIGHT ME!