Talk Disney to Me
It was strange, being on the road again. She had forgotten what it was like to be in such close proximity to Mulder, the scent of him tickling her nostrils, his very essence filling the tight space of the car. So many empty hours of driving, but they used to make the best of what they'd been given, filling the time with discussions about whatever case they were on, sometimes books they were reading, the occasional movie or documentary one of them had watched. During stakeouts he taught her profanities in languages he had picked up God knew where; words no Catholic girl should know, let alone repeat in anyone's ears. Words that would make her dad turn in his grave, her mom to alter her good opinion on him, and Bill to come after him with all his might, but she loved it – it felt forbidden and she took pleasure in his delight at corrupting the pure, innocent mind of his partner.
When he didn't notice she liked watching his fingers as they were gripping the steering wheel, long gentle fingers, like a pianist's. She used to wonder what it would feel like to have them against her heated skin, then – overcome by longing unrequited – blushed and looked away. Those were the early days, her infatuation days, as she had come to call them. As they had grown to know each other, trust each other, they began to share more intimate tales about their childhoods, weaknesses and significant others, somehow along the way becoming one another's significant others. During one of those conversations, on a late night stakeout, when she confessed how she'd been staring at him, he timidly admitted he had been doing the same.
But now it was all different. Silence lingered between them, as vast as the long road ahead, making her shrink in her seat. Three times she had meant to break it, then stopped herself three times, unsure what to say. Never in a million years had she thought a journey alongside Mulder could feel so awkward. Even their first rides together had more vitality in them than this one. This was the very thing she had feared, one major reservation she'd had about their renewed recruitment to the bureau, about working together again. They made a good team, there was no question about that. But after months apart, and with all this history between them, she didn't know what they were to one another anymore. Even though Mulder had fervently denied it, she still suspected there was something going on between him and Svata before she disappeared. Furthermore, their most recent case brought memories of William resurfacing, filling her with anguish yet again. She knew it was early days and that the awkwardness between them was bound to dissipate sooner or later, but for now things were tense and she hated it.
Mulder's fingers were tapping impatiently against the steering wheel before he reached a hand towards the radio, turning it on. He switched the station a few times, not staying on one for longer than a millisecond and yet not finding anything to his liking. She used to hate it when he did that; now there was some reassurance in it. Apparently she wasn't the only one uncomfortable with the silence. She listened only halfheartedly to the changing tunes, until one of them sounded more familiar than the rest. He didn't linger on it though; huffing in what sounded like exasperation, he was about to switch it off.
"No, don't!" she all but cried out, a bit embarrassed as she realized the urgency in her voice startled him.
"What are you on about?" he asked, throwing a glimpse at her.
"This song. I like it."
If before he seemed confused, now he seemed baffled. "It's that song from Frozen, Scully."
"I know," she replied, undeterred by the hint of scorn in his eyes.
"And you like it?"
"It's a damn good song, Mulder." Their fingers brushed against one another as she reached for the dial. She tried to ignore the tingle his fingers had left in their wake as she switched back the station; focused on turning on the volume. The lyrics wrapped around her like a blanket or a hug, forming a mantra that felt familiar, from a previous life almost.
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know...
"You're not kidding." There was unmistakable awe in his voice as he watched her sing along, albeit off-tune. He seemed stunned. "My partner, a Disney fangirl. I've known you for over two decades. How did I not know this about you, Scully?"
"You never asked," she shrugged.
I don't care what they're going to say, let the storm rage on – the cold never bothered me anyway.
Funny. That song saw her through challenging times in recent years, but she had never realized how perfectly the words embodied that early period in their partnership, but it did, to a tee. She could see it so clearly now, that young version of herself, watching him, imagining, yearning, always yearning. For so long, she had been holding back feelings she was not supposed to have, until she didn't. She let it go. If only the song had existed back then; she could definitely use some of its empowering magic at that uncertain time.
"Oh, I get it," said Mulder, in what she'd come to term his epiphany voice. She glanced at him somewhat fearfully. Did he figure out what had just become apparent to her? Would he think her pathetic? "It's because people called you The Ice Queen back in the Academy?"
"What? No!" Honestly, she had already forgotten all about that ridiculous nickname, pushed it to the darkest corner of her mind as she left the FBI. At the hospital no one had dared to address her so, not even behind her back. "No, it's just... sort of been there for me in difficult times."
She peeked at him, and although his face was expressionless, she knew he was doing the math. The film, and the song along with it, were fairly recent. About as recent as her walking out on him, leaving the house they had shared. Of course he would deduce she was talking about them, about him.
"And did you? Let it go?"
"Well, it's easier said than done, Mulder," she replied softly, wondering if her answer would ignite hope or despair in him. She wasn't sure which of the two she preferred. She wasn't fully prepared for it to be the first, but she couldn't bear to hurt him further with the second.
"You mean sung than done." She cracked a smile at his lame quip. They sat there in silence for another moment, listening as the song reached its crescendo. "Well, she's rather good," he asserted, almost reluctantly.
"Rather good? She's phenomenal, Mulder, don't start with me."
"Fangirl," he muttered.
"I have a feeling we'll spend quite some time on the road now that we're back with the bureau. I'll let you listen to some of her other stuff. It's been ages since I have musically educated you."
"I resent that statement. If anything, I should be educating you," he backfired, as she had almost expected him to. It was – to quote another Disney film – a tale as old as time. "She's the one who got her name butchered at the Oscars, isn't she?" He must have read the astonishment on her face, for he chuckled and asked, "Does my knowledge of pop culture turn you on at all?"
"I didn't answer the first time you asked me a version of that question, what makes you think I will now?"
"Well, the first time I asked you that, it turned out the answer was hell yes," he said, batting his eyelashes suggestively at her. She gave him a no-nonsense look, but he obviously wasn't taking it seriously. "A guy can dream."
The song ended, and silence resumed, but it was different, closer to the ones she'd remembered from all those years ago. Those silences she didn't mind; there was certain comfort to them. It was sort of a mutual understanding that their minds needed a break from one another. She reveled at the familiarity of it, embraced it. There was some irony to it. A song sung by an ice queen served as their ice breaker; how amazingly fitting.
She blinked, and found him watching her curiously. "Which one what?"
"Which Disney film is your favorite?"
She didn't really have to think about it; the answer slipped easily from her lips. "The Little Mermaid," she admitted, smiling sheepishly.
He nodded as if he understood. "Because of the whole maritime theme? It reminds you of your dad?"
"Umm no," she replied, blushing, realizing too late she should have said yes. At least that motive had some rationale to it. She didn't mind telling him the truth though. He already thought she was out of her mind; she had absolutely nothing to lose. "Because Prince Eric is quite possibly the hottest prince in Disney history." She even had an Eric figurine Melissa had gotten her as a joke once. That fact she'd kept to herself.
"Hmm." His expression was unreadable. "I suppose it's a good reason as any."
"You're underwhelmed? Were you expecting an embodiment of girl power like Pocahontas or Mulan?"
"Well... yeah, kind of. For someone who wanted to be Eleanor Roosevelt for a day, those do seem more fitting."
"Well, sorry to disappoint you, Mulder. I'm a romantic at heart."
"Oh, don't I know it."
She did not like the direction this conversation was taking. "What's yours?" she asked, wanting to stir the discussion as far away from her as possible.
"As you're so knowledgeable on pop culture, you must have a favorite Disney movie, Mulder. You may be a cynic, but you're not made of stone." He smiled to himself, as though protecting some dark secret. "I knew it," she giggled. "Well, which is it?"
He lingered, and she wondered why. Was he concocting some outrageous answer to make her regret putting him on the spot? Would he now choose a Pixar movie or a completely outlandish title just to spite her? Then he cleared his throat and asked kind of shyly, "Will I lose points for originality if I say The Little Mermaid is my favorite as well?"
"Not if you admit it's because of Prince Eric," she retorted sweetly, grinning at him sideways.
He actually blushed, which she found endearing. "Sorry to disappoint you, but no. It's because, erm, because she's a redhead."
She didn't know how to respond to this, and so she didn't. It was almost like muscle memory, looking away, letting the words hang in the space between them without dealing with their weigh, their impact. She wondered what he'd made of her own subtle statement from before. Of course she couldn't let it go – how could she, when their lives were so intertwined? No matter the distance she had strove to put between them, they were always drawn back to one another. As if they were destined for each other and nothing they had done could change it. Honestly it sounded like something her sister would believe, but after everything they had been through together, she had become a believer as well.
And yet, she couldn't bring herself to address it. Not on this drive. It was too soon. There was too much background noise, residue of their recent cases. They would have to ease into it, just like before. But not like before.
She placed her hand on her side, against the car console, a wordless offer. She kept her eyes straight ahead, trying not to hope, not to yearn. Before long she could feel the flutter of his fingers, just a brush against her palm at first, but as he gained more confidence, he slowly laced their fingers together, and gave her hand a little squeeze. She breathed more easily, leaned back a little more comfortably. Everything warm and familiar lay in the way their hands were gripping one another. It felt like going home.
Resolution was coming. She could sense it. One way or another, the end was near.
Silence lingered between them, as vast as the long road ahead, as they drove on, into the unknown.
I live for those moments where fandoms collide. Guess appearance by Idina Menzel (aka the voice of Elsa in Frozen), whom I've been a fan of for nearly two decades :)