Title: Better Things Than Counting Sheep
Summary: Scully can’t sleep. Mulder helps.
Notes: Just a bedtime story
She’d been trying for hours. Nothing worked, none of her usual methods, nothing she had formerly considered tried-and-true. But it was three a.m. and though she was so tired her head ached, Scully could not go to sleep.
She’d tried warm milk, reading, taking a bath, visualizing herself asleep, picturing a steady snowfall, listening to soothing music . . . all to no avail. She had to wonder how Mulder managed every night on four hours of sleep or less—if she didn’t get her seven hours she was a wreck.
She sighed heavily and shoved herself up from the bed, where she’d been lying for the past hour staring at the ceiling. She didn’t want to do this—it was like admitting defeat—but she couldn’t think of anything else to do. She picked up the phone, took a deep breath, and dialed.
It picked up after only one ring. “Mulder.”
“Mulder, it’s me.”
“Scully? Are you okay?”
The concern in his voice made her wince, and she said quickly, “I’m fine, I’m fine. I want some advice.”
“Do you have any idea what time it is, Agent Scully?” he said in an amused voice.
“Three eighteen. I’m sorry. I went to bed at eleven but I haven’t fallen asleep, and I need to sleep, Mulder. I don’t want to take anything because they all make me groggy. And I thought since you deal with insomnia so much . . . maybe you’d have . . . advice . . .” She let her voice trail off. She felt stupid and grasping. She said, “Never mind. I’m sorry to bother you. Good night, Mulder.”
“Actually, Scully, I know a lot about insomnia. You’re welcome to the wisdom that I’ve gleaned over the years. What have you tried?”
“Well, I took a bubble bath, because that always relaxes me. I drank some warm milk. I put on my ‘Bach For Bedtime’ album.”
“Is that all you’re wearing, Scully, a CD?”
“And all that didn’t help any?”
“Did you try counting sheep?”
“I haven’t. I figure there’s got to be better things than counting sheep.”
“Well, there aren’t many, really. Is your bedroom stuffy?”
“No.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I tried some visualization exercises I’d read about.”
“The visualizing a snowfall one?”
“Did you have a good dinner? One of the leading causes of insomnia is hunger.”
“I had a good dinner.”
“Hm.” She heard him sigh and shift around.
“Did I wake you? Are you in bed?”
“I was awake. I’m on the sofa. Flipping channels.”
“Is anything good on?”
“That depends on your definition of good. Where are you?”
“The living room.”
“That’s good. When you can’t sleep you shouldn’t stay in bed. You don’t want your body to associate your bed with worry. You know that the main cause of insomnia is stress, right?”
“So the main thing you need to do is relax.”
“Oh. If that’s all.”
He chuckled. “I know. Did you try reading something?”
“Was it a medical journal?”
“Well, that was a mistake, it was something interesting.”
“Actually it wasn’t, it was terribly dull, which was why I chose that particular article. But it didn’t work.”
“How about writing something?”
“Like . . . working on a monograph?” Scully said, glancing at her desk.
“No, not work. Just write. Like, write about what’s keeping you awake.Write what you’re worried about.”
“Does it work for you?”
He chuckled again, lower this time. “I’m not sleepless because of unusual stress. I’ve adjusted to being sleepless, I just find other things to do.”
“Like watching educational TV, apparently.”
“Scully, there are so many gadgets out there that you only learn about from infomercials, and each and every one of them is proof of intelligent life on this planet.”
“Uh-huh.” She wrapped a blanket around herself and settled down on her couch. “What channel are you on?”
“I’ll go back to two.”
“We’ve missed Conan.”
“We missed Conan by a long shot.”
“Why is it,” Scully said, “that on shows when a character can’t sleep they can always find something interesting on TV, when in reality there’s nothing but infomercials and second-rate movies on?”
“There’s always the cartoon channel.”
She punched the number for the cartoon channel into her remote. “Popeye. Really old Popeye. Not even a good episode of Looney Tunes.”
“Have you ever watched Animaniacs? That’s really good.”
“I haven’t. When is it on?”
“Um . . . not until tomorrow night. Eight.”
“Oh, well. I’ll try it tomorrow night.”
“On Disney it’s the original Mickey Mouse club.”
“Did you have a crush on Annette when you were a boy, Mulder?”
“That was a little before my time. My first object of desire was Farrah Fawcett.”
“You had the nipple poster.”
“Hidden in the closet, but yeah, I had it. Who was your first crush, Scully?”
“Probably. Tell me anyway.”
Mulder hooted with laughter. Scully closed her eyes and waited for him to finish, smiling. “I see him on VH-1,” she said, “on that ‘Where Are They Now’ show, and I just feel sad.”
“Aren’t you glad you weren’t a child star?” Mulder said, and she could picture his affectionate smile. “Do you ever sit back and just be grateful for the problems you *don’t* have to deal with?”
“Well . . . no. I do think ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ a lot, but I don’t think, like, ‘Thank God I don’t have to deal with troubled children’ or ‘I’m glad I don’t have a husband to cheat on me’ or anything like that.” She bit her lip—that really wasn’t the kind of thing she wanted to tell Mulder, but it had slipped out somehow.
He was silent for a moment, then he said, “You know, if you get married and he cheats on you, I’d be happy to kill him for you.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” she said, relieved, “but thanks for the offer.”
“Of course,” he added, “if it were *me* it wouldn’t happen.”
“Oh, you think not, huh?”
“I know not. I mean, I know it wouldn’t.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Because I know.”
Scully watched the cartoons for a few minutes in silence, then said, “You know, Mulder, if this is your idea of a proposal—”
“Oh, you’ll know when it’s a proposal, Scully. I’ll do it right. Bended knee and roses and velvet box and the whole she-bang. Third time’s the charm, right?”
“What if I don’t want all that?” Scully said, letting her voice drop. “What if all I want is for you to be sincere?”
“I love how low-maintenance you are.”
“Is that a good thing, being low-maintenance?”
“Well, I’m high-maintenance enough for the both of us, don’t you think?”
“That’s true,” she said, and he laughed again.
“Tell you what, Scully,” he said, “I’ll ask you to marry me when I’m sure you’ll give me the answer I want to hear.”
Scully had to admit at the moment she wasn’t sure what answer she’d give, and she said, “What’s on AMC, Mulder?”
“Um . . . it is a Marx Brothers movie. ‘A Night in Casablanca.'”
“I need to buy a tape of ‘Casablanca.’ I haven’t seen that movie for years.”
“You like ‘Casablanca?'”
“It’s a classic, Mulder.”
“It depresses me. I don’t know if I could sacrifice love, even for the sake of a greater good.”
Scully said, “You know, they didn’t know how that movie was going to end until they were on their way to film it.”
“I know. And Ingrid Bergman kept coming to the director all through the filming, asking him what her motivation was. I know it’s a great movie. It still depresses me. Hey, it’s old Ed Sullivan clips on VH-1.”
Scully changed th
e channel, in time to see a very young Mick Jagger sing ‘Goodbye Ruby Tuesday.’ She sighed. “I like this song. I’m very torn on the Stones: there are some songs that I just love, and there are some that I can’t stand. That single from their last album as good, though.”
“Keith Richards looks so young.”
“You know what show I’ve always wanted to see, that I’ve never had a chance to? ‘The Prisoner.’ So many people have told me it’s brilliant but it’s so hard to find.”
“I think it’s been released on video. I’ve seen it. It gave me a strange feeling of deja vu.”
“See, even you’ve seen it.”
“I’ll find a copy of it for you, Scully.”
She lay down on the sofa and switched the phone to her other ear. She said, “I’m starting to feel sleepy.”
“I’m glad my company is so stimulating.”
“Oh, you know what I mean. It’s probably exhaustion. I hate being too tired to sleep.”
“Maybe I should come over and give you a nice, relaxing backrub.”
She ignored the tingle that ran through her and said, “No, thank you anyway. Do you want to know what I would like, though?”
There was a slight pause, then Mulder said softly, “My voice isn’t very good.”
“Excuses, excuses.” She yawned.
“Give me a minute to think of one.”
“Sure.” She snuggled deeper into the couch and clicked off the TV.
He said, “I’m not going to do the verses because I don’t know all the words, but I like the chorus.”
“Okay.” She smiled and pillowed her head on her arm.
He cleared his throat. He sang, very softly, barely above a whisper, ” ‘Everything’s gonna be all right, rockabye, rockabye, everything’s gonna be all right, rockabye, bye, bye . . .” He sang it through a few times and Scully felt her eyelids grow heavier.
His voice faded, and he said softly, “Good night, Scully.”
“Good night, Mulder. Thank you for talking to me.”
“Anytime. I love you,” he added, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
“I know,” she whispered. “Good night.” She turned off the phone. She pulled the blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes, and slept.
e n d
“Lullabye” is by Shawn Mullins.
Good night, everybody.