He stood in front of his closet in his boxers. Not jeans and a t-shirt, she was more special than that. He pulled out a pair of gray casual slacks and pulled them on. Now shirt, no, not plaid. Shit! When was the last time he’d actually changed clothes twice before a date. Of course, when was the last time he’d had a date he cared about? He finally decided on a navy golf shirt he’d forgotten he owned.
He was at her door at two minutes to nine, having driven around the block twice.
He smiled at the sight of her, also in casual slacks, black in her case and a medium blue v-neck sweater than clung to all the right places.
She smiled up at him. “Right on time. I called AAA, they’re going to meet us at the car.”
“Sounds like a plan.” He stood in the door as she picked up a light jacket and a small purse. His hand found that spot on her back automatically and he walked her to his car.
They only had to wait a couple of minutes for the tow truck. Mulder had offered to check the car out himself, along with the admission that the only thing he knew about cars was where to put the gasoline. She had decided to wait with a chuckle.
They both got out to talk to the young mechanic, and watched as he opened the hood. He asked Dana to try to start the motor as he leaned over it. “Well, this is gonna be easy.” He looked over at Mulder, who leaned closer, pretending comprehension. “Ma’am?”
Dana got out of the car and joined the two men. “You know what the problem is?”
“Yes ma’am. Someone disconnected these wires here.”
“Someone?” Mulder asked. “Couldn’t they have come loose by themselves?”
“No sir. If they’d just come loose, they’d still both be laying down there. Look where this one is. Think someone was playing a practical joke on you?”
Dana looked down at her hands for a moment. “Possibly. Can you fix it?”
“Oh sure, just a second here.” He was as good as his word, reconnecting the wires and cleaning off the other connections. Once again he had her try the engine. It started immediately and the boy grinned at Mulder.
Dana gave the young man a tip and they watched him drive away. “I should have known how to fix that.” He said.
“We both do now. Didn’t you say something about brunch?”
“I did indeed. Do you want to take your car?”
“No. I’ll lock it up. If my practical joker returns, we know how to fix it.”
He started to ask the obvious question, but she had already turned away. It wasn’t important right now anyway.
He got her to talk about her family over Belgian waffles. He was a little overwhelmed at the thought of four children in a family, and in awe of her mother for having to handle it alone so much of the time. Having two brothers and a sister sounded crowded to him, but she had obviously enjoyed it, even though her stories about her brothers made her sound put-upon. It explained why she took no slack from her male counterparts as well.
He started to ask a question about her older brother, when her eyes went past him and up. He realized someone was standing just behind him.
“Spooky!” the voice of the older agent sounded especially loud so close. “So, you datin' earth women now?” The man laughed at his own joke and Mulder didn’t turn to look at him. Dana noted that his knuckles were white on the edge of the table. The older agent clapped his hand on Mulder’s shoulder.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Spooky?”
“No, as a matter of fact, I’m not.” Mulder finally glanced up at the man.
“Ah, come on, don’t be so selfish.”
Dana’s hand came to rest on Mulder’s hand. “Are you ready to go? I am.”
“Sure.” He rose immediately and held her chair, then let his hand fall back to his side rather than rest on her back. She slipped her small hand into his and he gripped it. He didn’t speak, but she watched his Adam’s apple bob.
She looked straight into the eyes of the offensive intruder and he had the grace to blush and look away.
They walked away from him holding hands. He led her to his car and opened the door. She didn’t get in, but stood looking up at him. “Are you okay?”
He shrugged, “I’ll take you to your car.”
She still didn’t get in the car. “Do you have plans?”
He looked away, “I should probably do some laundry.”
“I don’t have any plans either. What if we did the tourist thing?”
don’t want to get away?"
She slipped into the car and after a moment he shut the door, then rounded the car and got in himself. Once he was seated, she turned toward him. “I’m going to say this one more time and I want you to pay attention, okay?”
He nodded, now what was coming?
“I enjoy spending time with you. I want to spend time with you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
He blinked and then nodded slowly. “I . . . I think I get it.”
“Good, it’s about time. Now what touristy thing do you want to do?”
He smiled at her then, with almost the ease he had displayed last night when he'd been in that other persona before he had allowed her to know him a little. “Some place we can talk. I want to get to know you better.”
“Fine, want to walk around the Smithsonian?”
“Yeah.” He started the engine and smiled over at her.
They drove in silence for a few minutes, then she turned slightly in her seat to look at him. She could see the instant tension, but pressed forward. "Mulder, does that kind of thing happen often?"
"That was the first time."
"Mulder." Her tone was warning.
He managed to grin; "I only met you yesterday."
"You know what I mean."
She wasn't going to let him evade. She might look like a tiny package, but . . . "They're not usually that blatant, but then I'm usually not out in public with a beautiful woman. I'm sure he was caught off guard."
"Mulder, that's harassment."
"He's never tried to fondle me.”
“I need to know what he meant, ‘earth women’.”
“Dana, it's . . . let's forget about it. I'd rather talk about you." He looked upset and that’s not what she wanted. She decided to let it slide, for now.
"So, you want another story about my exuberant siblings?" She capitulated.
"Actually, I'd like to hear about your practical joker." She looked away. "You know who it is, don't you?"
"I have my suspicions."
"And it wasn't a joke."
"No. It wasn't. But it turned out good."
"Dana, what he or she did was immature and it could have been dangerous for you. Since they knew where to find your car, I have to assume it had something to do with our date. Sheila?"
She glanced back at him. "You really don't forget anything, do you?"
"Nope." He waited.
Finally she sighed, "As we were leaving the restaurant last night, I thought I saw two of my classmates in a car in the parking lot. I dismissed it until you told me that it was Sheila who really set up the date."
"So I was part of the joke." He spoke low, but she heard the pain in his voice. She had to be honest with him.
"Yes, I believe you were. But it didn't turn out the way they wanted. They don't know you, they just believed the reputation, which makes them fools."
He met her eyes then and the surprise at her words was obvious. He said nothing, but pulled into the first parking spot he saw. He got out and opened her door, taking her hand to help her out. She didn't release it when she was on her feet.
He tried to
smile, "What's a nice girl like you doing out with a guy like me?"
"Enjoying herself. Mulder, don't believe the reputation - I don't, I hope you won't. Come on." She led him up the slope to the reflecting pool.
The subject was changed by unspoken agreement, and they took turns pointing out places they enjoyed. He followed her into the Space Museum reluctantly, what if any of his co-workers spotted that. But at her urging, he began talking about a subject he obviously felt passionate about. Maybe some day he’d get up the nerve to tell her his theory about Samantha. Yeah, right . . .
When his stomach growled, she glanced at her watch. "Mulder, it's after five."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't want to break the spell." He sounded so wistful, she found herself wanting to take him into her arms.
"Let's get something to eat, my treat this time."
"Wait a minute - "
"You paid for the last two meals. Don't argue with me, I'm a federal agent."
He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Yes ma'am."
"So what are you in the mood for?" His look caused color to rise in her cheeks, but she kept her gaze steady. "Chinese?" She spoke dryly.
"Sure. There's a place in Alexandria that's good. They deliver, so I'm pretty familiar with their menu."
"Let's go." They walked in companionable silence back to his car. She watched as he took short cuts and side roads, and pulled up to the restaurant very shortly.
"You live in Alexandria?"
"Over on Hegal. I've been there about four years."
"You like it?"
He shrugged, "I never thought about it. It's just a place for my couch and fish."
"You have fish?"
"Most of the time. When I travel . . . "
She chuckled, "That's why I have no pets." He led her into the restaurant, and the owner snapped to attention when he recognized Mulder.
"Mister Mudder." He bowed to the younger man, "you comin' here? Ahh, pretty lady. Get you good table right now." He scurried off, but returned quickly and personally escorted them to the best table in the house. He held Dana's chair and winked at Mulder.
Dana's laugh when they were alone, warmed Mulder to the core.
He grinned at her, "Guess I don't bring many women here."
"That makes me special." She smiled.
"You already were." She looked down. There were so many layers to this man, but she was certainly attracted to what she'd uncovered so far.
They ordered and when alone again, he leaned closer to her, "I need to ask you something."
"About reputations. You said you hope I wouldn't just believe the reputation. What did you mean?"
She met his eyes and looked at him for a long moment. "You're not the only one at the Bureau with . . . "
"I have a reputation myself it appears." Now she wouldn't look at him.
She nodded. "I just found out about it, by accident."
He touched her cheek, bringing her face up to see into her eyes. They had tears in them, but she blinked them away, refusing to let one fall.
"Apparently I'm known as 'the ice queen'."
He looked at her for a long moment, "Because you're so together during an autopsy."
She managed a wry smile. "No, but thank you."
"That's ridiculous. How could anyone - "
"Mulder, you don't have to defend me. We've known each other, what, twenty-four hours?"
"Haven't you heard? I'm the best profiler the Bureau's had in fifty years." He took hold of her hand and caressed it lightly. "Who started it? You said you were dating Willis."
"No, Jack wouldn't . . . we didn't break up, we just decided to move on. We're still friends."
Mulder nodded. "Sheila."
Dana blinked then. "I . . . that's a possibility."
"It's . . . it's complicated and, and stupid."
"I can handle that." The pressure on her hand increased.
"There's a man in our class, Peter Doud. Sheila set her sights on him from the beginning."
"But he's interested in you."
She met his eyes - he was the best profiler. She shrugged.
"So you turned him down, but he still wasn’t interested in Sheila."
"Have you been following me?"
But he was on a roll now, "You were recruited, right?" She nodded. "They weren't."
"I don't know for sure. I don't think so."
"You're smarter than they are and it scares them."
She gaped at him; he really didn't forget anything. "Mulder, thank you, but really it doesn't . . . it shouldn't matter what they think of me."
He grinned then, "Hey, I've spent most of my life not caring what anyone else thought about me. I've gotten good at it. In fact, there's just one person in the world whose opinion of me matters. That's you."
Her lips parted in surprise. He leaned in, the desire to kiss her overwhelming him suddenly.
"Here's your food, Mudder. You eat up, need strength for later." Mr. Tai winked at Mulder.
Mulder drew back surprised, and for an instant, wished he was armed. He managed to recover and hoped she hadn't realized. If she had, she made no comment. Instead she picked up her chopsticks and began to eat.
They ate in silence for a little while, then she reached for a shrimp off of his plate. "Hey!"
She grinned, "Got a problem?"
He shook his head and stabbed a piece of her chicken. The meal was lighter then, the things they had been discussing put aside for now.
They finished and put up with a few more comments from Mr. Tai, then he led her back out to his car. He turned to her after buckling his seatbelt. "You know, the last thing you are is an 'ice queen'."
She looked at him for a moment, "I'm not jumping into your bed."
The puppy dog look caught her off guard, even as she noticed the twinkle in his eyes. She laughed out loud. "Well, definitely not tonight. You said you needed to do laundry."
He grinned, "You busy tomorrow?"
"I have plans." She saw the light dim slightly in his eyes, so she continued, "I'm meeting my parents for lunch after Mass." The tension in his body eased. On impulse she heard herself say, "What to come?"
"What?" She couldn't have said what he thought she had.
"Do you want to join us for lunch?"
"I . . . I wouldn't want to - "
"No." He responded stung.
"You are. You're afraid to meet my parents."
"I was trying to be a gentleman and not horn in on your time - "
"What time and where?" He shot back at her.
She laughed then, "12:30 at my parent's house. Don't worry, I'll make sure they know you have no intentions and should not be grilled as a potential mate."
"I have no intentions?" But he looked as happy as he had when he had picked her up that morning. He memorized the address and nodded. "I'll be there."
"Then you better take me home now. All those housework things I didn't do today, need to be done."
"Yeah, and I have laundry to do . . . " He grinned at her.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.