"Do you have any idea what he wants to see us about?" Mulder asked suspiciously as they entered the elevator. Well, at least he was speaking to her for a change.
"Not a clue. Maybe heís got a case." He snorted at the idea and she shrugged, not willing to argue the point. Theyíd argued enough lately. No that wasnít strictly true. They hadnít argued. If anything she wanted to have an argument with him. At least then he wouldnít be so damn distant.
Angie announced them immediately and they went in, Mulder trying to keep his cynical persona to himself.
"Thanks for coming so quickly. We have a problem that needs attention immediately. Thereís a case in California that needs a male/female team to go undercover. Apparently a team had already been assigned and briefed, but they had to withdraw at the last minute."
"Is this an X-File, sir?" Mulder didnít even attempt to show any respect and Scully cringed inwardly. His attitude stank and had for weeks.
His work hadnít really suffered, but she had and now she realized everyone around him was probably getting this same rebuff. She wasnít sure what the problem was, but she was going to have to address it before he cut his own throat with Skinner.
"No Agent Mulder, it is not. We have women disappearing, five so far. Their connection is nebulous Ė theyíre married and theyíve visited the beach in Southern California."
"Have any bodies been found?" Scully asked, trying to cover for him.
"Not so far. Thereís no evidence that theyíre dead, but none of them have any history of instability and their families are convinced that they have not run away. All of the marriages seem happy, no reported problems. The husbands have been investigated and so far are clean."
"So you want us to go undercover in this area as a married couple?" Oh great, she looked away, with his attitude toward her lately this was going to be a long case.
"Yes. You did a very good job the last time the two of you went undercover. See if you can see anyone hanging around the beach, approaching women. The husbands of the victims have so far been unable to identify anyone."
"When do you want us out there?"
"As soon as possible. Weíre already two days behind due to the problem with the other team, and another woman has gone missing in that time. It looks serial and we want to find him and get those women back alive."
"Do you have a profile?" Mulder was finally joining the conversation.
"A partial. Itís in the file. I want you to get out there today. The Bureau has rented a house on the beach where the majority of the women visited."
He was certainly acting differently than the last undercover assignment theyíd had. Heíd been fun then, enjoying himself. Hell, heíd actually played and had a great time acting as her husband. Sheíd not admitted it at the time, or ever, but his arms around her, his hands always touching her had been nice . . . well more than nice. Now he was . . .
The sound of the surf had lulled her to sleep despite her worry about Mulder. When she woke the room was dark. What had disturbed her? She couldnít hear anything Ė wait . . . breathing, very faint and . . . "Mulder?"
"Yeah, sorry I woke you."
"What are you doing in here?" She realized she wasnít even cross with him, just curious.
He heard that in her voice and rose, approaching the bed. He sat beside her and she sat up and turned on the lamp, pulling the covers up a little higher. He didnít seem to notice.
"Mulder, whatís wrong?"
"Why did you let me kiss you New Yearís Eve?" He spoke quickly but softly as though afraid to ask the question.
What? What was he asking? There was no good reason for her to have stopped him. They were friends; okay they were more than that, but . . .
"I wanted you to." There, sheíd said it.
He stared at her for a long moment. "Did you?"
"Why do you doubt me Mulder? What have I done to make you act like this?"
"Nothing." He looked down at his hands.
"Talk to me Mulder." Her hand was on his arm now and he was looking at it, the way the fingers curved around the muscles in his lower arm, the contrast of her white skin against the dark hair covering his.
"Iím sorry I woke you." He stood and she followed, ignoring for a moment the fact that she was wearing very little compared to her normal attire around him.
"Youíre not leaving. Somethingís been bothering you for weeks. Now is as good a time as any to get it out in the open." He didnít respond but didnít try to leave the room. "Are you . . . are you upset that you kissed me? Are you sorry?"
"No." His head came up then, facing her. "Are you?"
"No, Iím not. I said I wanted you to, that was the truth." What was going on with him? If she didnít know better sheíd say he was drunk.
"But thatís all you want."
"Mulder?" What was it? Why was he acting like this?
"Well it is, isnít it? Nothingís changed, nothingís been said. You havenít mentioned it in any way."
"I . . . I thought thatís what you wanted. You didnít say anything either. I assumed you were . . . that it wasnít what you . . . Damn!"
She couldnít say his expression had changed, but his eyes were lighter. She was sure of it. Whatever it was made her own shoulders relax slightly.
"Weíre a couple of idiots, arenít we Mulder?" She was shaking her head, not sure what to say.
He shook himself, as though to come back to the present and seemed to realize suddenly where he was and what she was wearing. His eyes widened and she saw his pupils dilate. "I . . . Iíll see you in the morning Scully. I didnít . . . good night." And he was gone, with her staring after him.
She didnít know whether to laugh or cry. That was what had been wrong with him? That she hadnít commented on the kiss? Oh my god, Mulder had a male ego after all! Now that was something she had never given any consideration. What was she supposed to have done? Fall to his feet in gratitude? Should she be angry at his attitude? Instead she found herself laughing out loud. She felt lighter than she had since the new year had begun. He had worried about her reaction and, if she was honest, sheíd been just as worried about his.
He froze on the steps at the sound of her laughter. Laughing? She was laughing at him? He couldnít move.
Then he heard the door open above him and her footsteps headed for the stairs. He turned to look at her as she descended toward him. Sheíd grabbed her robe, but hadnít bothered to tie it closed. She stopped a couple of steps up, eye level with him for a change. He fought the urge to run out of the house and disappear into the ocean.
"Itís my turn." Her eyes were twinkling with . . . Amusement? Joy? What?
She leaned forward and kissed him, her arms draping themselves over his shoulders. His own arms came up and around her automatically. The kiss lasted forever and no time, time seemed to disappear. When she drew back she seemed inordinately pleased with herself.
"Good night Mulder." She drew back another step and he reluctantly let his arms fall back to his side. She turned then, her robe whirling around her and headed back upstairs without another word.
He stood there, mouth open, unable to stop the chaos in his brain. Then a smile began to grow on his face. He backed down a couple of stairs, not willing to turn away from where heíd last seen her, then finally turned and headed back to his bedroom. The smile didnít abate even in his sleep, which was peaceful for the rest of the night.
The smell of coffee lured him out of bed the following morning and he trailed it to the kitchen. She turned when he entered, offering a cup. That same twinkle was in her eyes. His eyes glowed for an instant in relief. He hadnít dreamed it.
"Sleep okay?" She was watching him closely.
"Yeah. Yeah, I slept like a baby after I finally got to sleep."
"Good, you look more rested. Want to spend the day on the beach?" She watched his eyes scan her body, visualizing it in some sort of bathing suit. That brought visions of his Speedo to her mind and she turned away before she could reveal too much.
He moved closer and put his hand on her shoulder. "Scully? Are we okay?"
She didnít face him, dipping her head a little, "Better than that I think."
He turned her gently toward him and lifted her face toward his. "Was last night for real?"
She smiled then, a 100-watt Scully smile and he drew her into his arms. His own smile rivaled hers and he bent to kiss her forehead. "I thought Iíd ruined everything."
"Why would you think that Mulder? How did I act that . . . "
"You didnít. You didnít act any differently at all and I . . . I guess I wanted you to. When you didnít, I imagined all kinds of Ė "
She was on tiptoe then, hushing him with her lips. She finally pulled away from him. "We have work to do Mulder. When the jobís finished we can talk about this."
He nodded and reluctantly stepped back from her. She was right; they were here to work. The fact that they were doing it under the same roof, or out on the beach nearly nude, didnít diminish the importance of the job. At least they were communicating again. This had been caused by his insecurities, it was his fault. Hell, it had taken him five years to try to kiss her in the first place and two years after that fiasco to finally remedy the situation.
He could be with her in any situation, had been for the most part. He knew she cared for him. Why had the physical part thrown him for such a loop? It wasnít like he was a virgin Ė well not physically anyway, but emotionally . . .
"Come on. We need to get ready." Her voice drew him back to the present, and he nodded. He watched her leave the room, then taking his coffee cup, returned to his own room and changed.
This might not be a good idea. He should have brought a different suit. Well, he could buy one, but today could be iffy. The jogging shorts, that would be a better idea. He changed again and returned to the kitchen.
She joined him in a few minutes wearing a short terrycloth robe, her hair in a ponytail. His imagination had already filled in the blanks, but he wanted, no he needed, to know what she was wearing.
"No Speedo?" He looked up finally to her face and realized heíd been staring.
"I . . . I uh . . . " Then he realized she was teasing him. "Youíre an evil woman."
She didnít disagree; it was too nice having him back. She drew the sunscreen from her bag. "Will you do my back?"
Was she kidding? Sheís the one that had pointed out they needed to work. Now she was down here, in that, and wanted him to run his hands over her body? And she had wanted him to kiss her. She was beyond evil. But he found he had the bottle of sunscreen in his hand.
"Thanks." She had her back to him and dropped her robe from her shoulders. The feeling of deja vu sent him reeling back to Oregon Ė their first case. He stared at her back unable to move. "Mulder?" She twisted to see what he was doing.
The suit she was wearing was black, one-piece. The back was cut so deeply that her entire back and the top of her ass were exposed. The legs were cut high too. Part of his brain knew that was to make her legs look longer; the rest of his brain didnít give a damn it was so . . . right. He took a steadying breath and poured some of the cream into his hand. He had to lean over her, didnít he, to do this? The front of the suit left little to the imagination as well. That deep a v Ė this was not a suit to swim in, this was only for being seen. He closed his eyes for an instant. Yeah, and he liked what he saw but he was supposed to be working.
She gasped and straightened up arching slightly as the cool cream touched her back. As long as she didnít turn around before he did maybe he could finish this, then wrap a towel around his waist and . . . it was going to be a long day.
"Thanks Mulder." Her voice made him realize that he was finished with this particular duty and he stepped back, snatching the towel from the counter. She picked up her bag and hat and headed for the door.
Walk Mulder, one foot in front of the other. He managed to follow her down the steps to the beach. The Bureau had rented a nice house, right on the oceanfront. He was glad this wasnít going on his Visa bill. Yeah, think like that Mulder, you can get through this.
He helped her spread out the blanket, turning his head when she bent over to smooth it out. Once it was settled she sat down and looked up at him.
"Uh, I think Iíll check out the waves."
"Mulder, donít you think itís a little cool to get in?"
"Yeah, thatís the idea." And he was gone. She stared after him, mouth open. Had he really said that?
She shook herself and decided against watching him jog to the water. She opened the bag and pulled out the magazine that hid the information she needed to study.
By the time he returned she was deep into the file. She gasped as he shook his hair out over her, spraying her with water. She slapped the file closed and looked up glaring. "Funny."
He grinned down at her, more in control, then joined her on the blanket. "What did you find?"
She decided to get down to business, otherwise . . . "The women are all 22 to 27. Very nice looking, blond, brunette Ė "
"The man has no taste."
"Mulder." The tone was warning, but not too bad. "I have the pictures if you want to see them."
"Later. Tell me how they were taken." He stretched out beside her and turned toward her. Bad idea, he was looking straight at her thigh that had the file propped against it. He closed his eyes and turned his head the other way. If she noticed this by-play she didnít comment on it.
"The first two just never came home from shopping. It took a while for their husbands to realize that something was wrong. Then the police didnít want to touch the case because they were missing adults. The third was missing from the beach when the husband returned with food. The fourth from the market and the fifth vanished while her husband went to get the car when they were leaving a restaurant."
"Heís been successful every time."
"What?" She turned to look at him. He was still facing the other way.
"Heís gotten every woman he tried for, no slip ups. Thatís why heís getting bolder. How much time could he have had waiting for the car? He feels invulnerable. No one has seen anything. He may think heís invisible now. That could be to our advantage; overconfidence could lead to mistakes." She nodded, "So I shouldnít let you out of my sight."
"That could be counter productive to our investigation donít you think?" He shrugged and still didnít turn to face her. "You need some sunscreen yourself, Mulder."
Before he had a chance to protest he felt her hand on his back, then she settled herself on his butt and began massaging in the lotion. He didnít even have time to react before feeling her press her weight against him.
"Scully?í He finally managed a choked gasp.
"Weíre supposed to be married, right?"
He groaned again and she thought she heard the word "evil" before he finally decided to relax as best he could.
When she was through torturing him she rose and hid the information in the bottom of her beach bag inside the magazine. "Come on, we should wander the beach; see and be seen."
"Are you saying you didnít wear that suit just for me?" He was looming over her now, his view of her navel nearly unimpeded.
"Iím armed Mulder" she said, and turned from him.
"Iíd be happy to frisk you."
She smiled and moved on. He followed and scooped the bag from her shoulder, leaving the camera with her. They did look like a married couple to anyone watching. Friendly bickering, the closeness, his arm slung across her shoulders and her arm around his waist, looked incredibly natural to the man observing them.
He noted them and their location and then left them alone, not bothering to stalk them. He knew what he was doing now and he was good at it. He could take his time.
After their stroll on the beach they returned to the house, changed, and continued their observations, taking in the outdoor market where two of the women had vanished and passing the restaurant. It would be open for dinner so they would return then. The second woman had been last seen at the Mall but they opted to stay closer to the ocean where the other four had last been seen. This was his territory and they wanted to cover as much as possible.
They called in to the field office late that afternoon to check on any developments from their end and reported their own lack of new evidence. Scully hung up and turned to Mulder, "Nothing. Do you think the women are still alive?"
"I donít know. I donít have a sense of this guy. Why is he sticking to happily married women? And where are they now?"
"Do you think he drowns them? Is that why heís at a beach?" Scully leaned over him as he sat at the table looking over the file one more time.
"Could be. The bodies would certainly be harder to find if he dumps them far enough out. I donít know, I canít get a feel for this guy." He had the pictures spread out before him; they were all lovely women, but they had no characteristics in common other than that and their age.
"Come on Mulder. If weíre going to make our reservation we need to get ready." He nodded and replaced everything in the file. He looked up in time to see her leave the room and couldnít help but smile.
It was like a weight had been lifted from him. For a few days he had been able to handle it, but as time passed and she still didnít mention the kiss, or made any move toward him, he had sunk into a depression nearly as profound as when he was a child. He handled it differently. He was much more sardonic in his wit now, but his insecurities had run rampant.
Why had he taken so long to talk to her? He saw her everyday and she really hadnít acted differently. Like heíd said, that was the problem. He hadnít really expected her to swoon and fall into his bed, had he? No, not Scully. But some acknowledgment would have been . . . She was as insecure as he was. For some reason that was comforting to him, now that he saw it.
It helped being here with her, out of town and in this kind of setting. Last night, going to her room in the dark, it had been easier than facing her. In the dark he could imagine that she felt like he did. But to find out that it was true . . .
"Mulder!" He had to grin; she certainly sounded like a wife. One heíd want forever. He shook himself, come on weíre talking about a couple of kisses, not a lifetime commitment. He rose to head to his bedroom and stopped Ė lifetime commitment? They already had that, didnít they?
Why didnít that scare him? He had always assumed it would, if it ever happened to him. Now it just felt warm. He needed to clarify this with her of course, but after last night he felt more self-confident than he had in a very long time.Beaches 2
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.