One thing I love about The X-Files is that it often leaves questions unanswered. Not everything is wrapped up in a neat little package at the end of an episode, or season, or ever. I think the ambiguities make the show more interesting. It feels natural to have questions, and I love that the show doesn’t shy away from that.
One benefit to all these unanswered questions is they leave room for viewers to come up with head canons to fill in the gaps. This is especially true when it comes to the Mulder Scully Relationship. Almost every Shipper I know has a favorite MSR head canon or two. I’m no exception.
A lot of fans express their ideas through fanfic. I’ve spent uncounted hours reading and re-reading and loving these stories. I’m constantly blown away by the talent in this fandom, and I am extremely grateful that these fan/writers generously share their work with all of us. I’m also in awe of their ability to create situations for such well known characters in a way that makes them completely recognizable. I love how fanfic expands the universe of The X-Files.
I don’t write fanfic. I don’t know how to construct a story or develop a plot, and the idea of trying to create dialogue causes me endless amounts of stress. But for some reason lately I’ve felt compelled to write out some of my favorite head canons as sort of “non-fic fanfiction.” They’re almost completely lacking in story, plot, and dialogue. They’re more descriptions of what I think happened based on clues we see in the show, or in one case maybe just wishful thinking. They’re simply my attempts at filling the gaps.
My Most Unfortunate Head Canon
This theory solidified in my mind during my last rewatch and I had to write it down. Coincidentally, it was just before Admiralty posted her extraordinary fic, The Whole Truth https://archiveofourown.org/works/21234686/chapters/50558084. Although we reach some of the same conclusions, there’s really no comparison. Her story is a brilliant work of art, intricately detailed, thoughtful, and completely true to the characters. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s truly beautiful.
I think Mulder had sex with Diana Fowley during The Beginning in Season 6. I know, I KNOW! It’s a horrible thought. I didn’t want to believe it, but the more I think about it the more evidence I find to support it. I wouldn’t characterize it as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but certainly to my mind it’s established by a preponderance of the evidence. The good news is that it’s never explicitly mentioned in the show. So if you want to go on thinking it never happened, that’s perfectly legit. But here’s why I think it makes sense.
As background, I have to look at Fight the Future. In the hallway scene after Scully tells Mulder she has resigned from the FBI and argues that he never really needed her, Mulder makes a beautiful speech telling her how wrong she is. She’s kept him honest, she’s made him a whole person. As moving and heartfelt as his speech is, I don’t think it’s a declaration of love. It’s more of a declaration of “I don’t know exactly how I feel, but I don’t want to find out by losing you.” It was a reaction to the thought of losing Scully as a partner, as someone he has come to depend on. I think it’s significant that they were talking about their work, and when Mulder said “I owe you everything Scully, and you owe me nothing,” he was telling Scully what she’s meant to him in that work. It was an emotionally charged moment, and it would have led to kissing and sex if the bee hadn’t interfered. But they really weren’t ready for that step, because they hadn’t come to terms with how they felt about each other, and they certainly had never discussed it. The aftermath would not have gone smoothly in the long run.
But the bee interrupted them and Scully was abducted, and Mulder went to the ends of the earth to rescue her. And in doing so he found undeniable proof of the existence of aliens. But then Scully denied that they had proof! Mulder was pissed, and he felt utterly betrayed. Not just by Scully, but by Skinner, who voted against reinstating Mulder and Scully on the X-Files, and by Diana, who got the assignment.
But mostly, he was frustrated with Scully’s refusal to believe what he saw in Antarctica. He reminded Scully that he had saved her (“You would have seen them too, but you were passed out over my shoulder.”) I think at that point Mulder was thinking that before Antarctica he owed Scully everything and she owed him nothing, but now they’re even. Out of frustration and anger he also questioned whether he really needed Scully, since she never believed him anyway. Scully reminded Mulder that he said her science has kept him honest, and he responded that this time her science is wrong.
Just when Mulder is feeling his most frustrated, Diana Fowley reappears. She tells Mulder that she’s making sure someone on the X-Files is serving his interests, someone who believes in him. She reminds him that she and Mulder found the X-Files together, and she offers to work with him. Fowley tells Mulder she wants to help him find proof, not because she doesn’t believe but because she does and she wants to help him prove it. This is music to Mulder’s ears. So Mulder makes his choice to go with Diana, leaving Scully to care for Gibson Praise. And Diana listens to him and agrees with his theories, and it feels so good to be deferred to for a change.
When Mulder and Diana are at the power plant, the situation gets a little scary, a little dangerous. Then they find the creature and Mulder is proven right. It’s exciting and validating, and there’s this huge adrenaline rush. Mulder is feeling really good right now, and that feeling gets associated with Diana.
It’s telling that in the middle of this scene Scully calls Mulder to tell him about the virus she found in Gibson Praise. Scully sees the virus as a step toward the proof they need, but Mulder doesn’t need any more proof. He shuts her out without telling her what he’s found.
After the power plant incident there’s a cut, and the next scene is back in Washington D.C. I think the sex happened between those two scenes. Mulder had just had this extremely exciting experience with Diana. She’s also told him she believes him and believes in him. They have a romantic history together and she’s showing signs that she’d like to rekindle that. I think they go back to her hotel and have sex.
Back in D.C., though, Mulder and Scully are ordered to cease all material association with the X-Files. And the next scene we see between Mulder and Scully is really tense and awkward. Scully tells Mulder that Fowley’s report makes no mention of Gibson, that it seems to protect everything but Mulder. Mulder defends Diana, pitting her against Scully, accusing Scully of asking him to make a choice between her and Diana. I don’t think that’s at all what Scully was doing, but I think Mulder is reacting this way because that’s what he’s going through in his head.
Scully hands Mulder a file and tells him what she found in the virus and in Gibson and apparently we’re all part extra-terrestrial, whatever. But then Mulder finally gets it. He understands that Scully never gave up on him, that she kept looking for proof because she wants the truth, which is the same thing he wants.
After this Mulder comes to his senses. I think it was this conversation with Scully, but I’m not really sure. I’ll have to think about that some more, or let someone else think about that. But he only had sex with Diana that one time in Arizona. (I think what Mulder says to Diana in his dream in Amor Fati supports this: “I sleep with you one time and you lay all this on me?”) At some point Mulder told Diana he wasn’t interested in resuming their relationship, and there was never going to be anything between them other than the past.
Then Mulder went to the Bermuda Triangle. His experience on the 1939 ship, the thought of never seeing Scully again, made him realize what he had to do. When he woke up and told Scully he loved her, he meant it, completely.
When Scully confronted Mulder with her suspicions about Diana in One Son, Mulder reacted childishly. He lashed out at Scully because he was embarrassed and even guilty that he had slept with Diana. Not because he wasn’t free to make that choice, but because he knew he made it for the wrong reasons and he regretted it. So in his childish response, he tried to shift “blame” to Scully, telling her she was making this personal, which was a really bonehead thing to say. The man may know he’s in love with Scully, but he hasn’t figured out how to convince her of that yet.
I haven’t come to any conclusions about Diana’s motivations. Like Scully, I don’t trust her. I don’t know if she had real feelings for Mulder at this point, or any point, or if he was just a means to an end. The show doesn’t give us enough information to go on, so I’ll leave that to the fandom’s talented fanfic writers.
What the Shadow Man Doesn’t Know
I’ve had this theory for quite a while but just recently put it into words in response to a conversation on Twitter.
After Mulder and Scully have sex for the first time in all things they fall asleep together in Mulder’s bed. When Scully wakes up a couple hours later she has a moment of panic. Not regret, just a need to process on her own before facing him. So she gets out of bed, goes to the bathroom to get dressed. Mulder is awake but doesn’t let her know this. He knows her, knows she has to process. He’s content to let this proceed at her pace. To him it’s just like her “oh brother” when he told her he loves her in Triangle. As she’s leaving she can’t help a little feeling of triumph. She did this. But she has to think about what it means, by herself, so she leaves.
They don’t see each other at work the next day, each called to separate duties. Maybe there’s a brief awkward moment in the office, but there’s not really time to say anything.
By the time Scully gets home, she has regrets. Not that they slept together, but that she left without saying goodbye, without talking. She’s restless. She decides she can’t let this wait a moment longer, so she calls Mulder. She stammers on the phone and wonders why it’s so awkward, it’s just Mulder. She manages to ask if he can come over, and he’s on the way before she even hangs up the phone.
Mulder arrives, still determined to follow Scully’s lead, so he doesn’t say anything about last night. He probably makes a stupid joke which falls flat. She starts talking a couple of times, but she can’t get to the point. He reaches out and touches her hand in encouragement. That’s all it takes. They end up in her bed, yadda yadda yadda.
Through all of this there is no mention of the night before. There’s still no talk of the future. They leave together the next morning, but there is no repeat performance in her apartment before Mulder is abducted.
When the Shadow Man tells Scully he knows that one lonely night she invited Mulder to her bed, Scully realizes that he has in fact been watching, but she also realizes that there’s a limit to his knowledge. He doesn’t know that that wasn’t their first time, and he doesn’t know there were other times after that.
You’re My Sweetheart
I came up with this post-Babylon head canon between seasons 10 and 11 as way of leaving Mulder and Scully reconciled. I altered it just a bit in light of Plus One, but I still think it works. It’s what I want to believe anyway.
The case wrapped up, and Mulder invited Scully over for dinner. Things have felt more comfortable between them since they started working together again. They’re on their way back to being them. There’s still so much to work through, but they’re both feeling like they’ll get there. It seems natural to spend some time together after work, so he asks and she says yes.
He waits for her on the porch listening to some music. The Lumineers aren’t his typical choice, but there’s something about this song, on this day, that just speaks to him.
Scully arrives and they start right away with their banter, and it’s so familiar and so comforting. Underneath it there’s a sense of reconciliation, of understanding, of connection. This, whatever it is, is right. They belong with each other.
Mulder invites Scully to walk with him. This was always something they loved about being out in the country, away from prying eyes. It was something they could share even when she could venture out into the world and he couldn’t. Again, this feels right, it feels like them.
They’re speaking from the heart, and though they’re not yet talking about their relationship, in their own way they’re acknowledging it. Mulder hears music. Not the trumpets of angels. No, it’s that song again. “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart.” If there was ever a song that summed up in a trite phrase how he felt about Scully, that was it. He’s a little embarrassed about that sappy thought, but then he doesn’t care. He just wants to enjoy this moment. She wraps her arms around him, and he knows she feels the same.
They wander back to the house and she stops at her car to get the bottle of wine she brought. Inside, dinner smells delicious, but Mulder tells Scully it still has to cook for about an hour. He takes the wine from Scully to open it. “So we could…” he starts. Scully shocks herself by blurting out “we’ll think of something.” That was their little joke when they were on the run, filling countless hours by exploring each other’s bodies. Mulder stills, looks at Scully. He doesn’t want to presume that was her intent, is willing to let the comment pass as just a slip of the tongue. But Scully realizes she doesn’t want to let it pass. This is exactly what she wants. She reaches for Mulder, and they kiss passionately. He leads her up the stairs.
After, they both understand without saying that there’s a lot more work to do on their relationship. This was wonderful, and it was right, but it was right now. It’s a step in the direction they both want to head, even if they’re not sure how or when they’ll take the next one.