She looked up as the two men approached her. “Dr. Scully, this is Agent - “
“Mulder.” She held out her hand.
“Dana.” He shook it.
“You two know each other?” Mr. Lansing, the new administrator of the hospital asked.
“Yes, we’ve worked together before.” She had a slight smile on her face.
“Well then, I’ll get out of your way.” The smaller man rubbed his hands together then, when neither looked at him, turned and left them alone in the hall.
“I didn’t realize you would be doing the autopsy.” Mulder couldn’t even have told her they were alone.
“Do you mind? I can get - “
“No. No, I don’t mind.”
She was looking at him, taking in his face. There was a sadness that seemed deeper than she remembered.
“How, uh, how have you been?” He seemed to be memorizing her somehow. She put her hand on his arm and drew him into her office.
“Good. I’ve been good. You?”
He shrugged. “About the same. Mr. Lansing called you Dr. Scully. Is that still your name?”
“For now.” His smile faded slightly, but before he could ask, she smiled. “I’m engaged.”
“Oh.” His face had gone carefully blank now. He glanced down at her hand.
She noted that and pulled the chain around her neck out to reveal the ring. “I can’t really wear it when I’m, what did you call it, slicing and dicing.”
“So, who’s the lucky guy?” His voice sounded tight to her, but she didn’t comment on that.
“Ethan Minette. He’s a producer, television.”
“Oh. Anything I’ve seen?”
“Probably. He does that Sunday morning show, ‘Issues and Answers’.”
He nodded. “When’s the big day?” He didn’t want to know, but it was the obvious question.
“We haven’t actually set a date. We’ve both been so busy . . . “
“My opinion of the man just plummeted.”
“What kind of man could win you and then leave you hanging?” Should he be kidding about this?
“He, he hasn’t - “ The question left her flustered, as much as his presence.
“How could he not set a date the minute you said yes?”
She blushed, “It’s not . . . we’ve both been swamped lately. What about you? Are you seeing anyone?” She needed to gain some control in this conversation.
“Me? No. And I don’t accept blind dates anymore.”
She looked down, color staining her cheeks. “They're not all bad.”
“No. They aren’t, but you can’t count on getting lucky every time.”
They were both quiet for a moment, then she looked up at him. “Tell me about this man I’m supposed to autopsy.”
He switched gears instantly, “White male, 29 years old. I need a cause of death.”
“You want to tell me what you suspect?”
He grinned, “Nope.”
“Mmmm. Okay. Larry should have the body set up. I’ll get started. You planning to observe?”
He grimaced, but nodded. “I need to make sure you get it right.”
Her eyebrow rose, but he winked at her and she couldn’t stop her own smile. “Then come on.”
A couple of hours later she turned to him. “What haven’t you told me?”
“Me?” He looked at her innocently.
“Mulder, tell me what you know.”
He sighed, but before he could speak, he heard her stomach growl. “When did you last eat?”
“It’s been a busy day. I missed lunch.” She admitted.
“Why don’t we go get a bite?”
“Will you talk to me?” She countered instantly.
“After you eat.”
She sighed but smiled. “Let me get cleaned up.”
He watched her as she ate her sandwich. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. He wasn’t surprised to find out she was engaged to another man. To be honest, he had imagined her married with a baby by now. That was one of the main reasons he hadn’t kept up with her. Knowing it was true would have been worse somehow.
He managed to put it aside. She was here with him now. That was more than he had hoped for; hell, seeing her was more than he’d hoped for. She reached for a napkin to wipe her fingers. He reached out, involuntarily, and wiped the mustard from the corner of her mouth onto his finger.
The gesture startled her and she took his hand. She smiled when she realized what he had done, and took his finger into her mouth, to suck the mustard from it.
His eyes widened and he felt his cock twitch. She realized her actions and released his finger, then licked her lips. Her color was high as well and there was silence for a moment.
“So, Mulder.” She drew her professionalism back around her. This deli was close to the hospital. She had no business acting this way with . . . “You were going to tell me about the victim.”
“Yeah.” He looked uncomfortable, but met her eyes. “I think he was killed by aliens.”
She waited for the punch line, but he had stopped. “You don’t mean Mexicans.”
That brought a slight smile to his face. “No, I don’t.”
“Mulder, you honestly believe that ET or, or Alf killed that man?”
“No, not them personally.” He grinned, but it faded.
They were both silent for a long moment. “You think aliens from outer space - “
“Yes, Dana. They’re here. Our government knows; they all do. They’re working with them. I . . . I think they took Samantha.”
She gasped then, and looked around. No one was looking at them. “Mulder, did you see another regression therapist? Did someone put - “
“Dana.” He put his hand over hers and part of him noticed she still hadn’t put on her engagement ring. “You can prove me wrong, at least in this case. Tell me what killed that man.”
She looked deeply into his eyes and finally nodded.
He gave her a lopsided grin and cleared his throat, “So, aren’t you glad you’re not still with the Bureau?”
She looked away for an instant, then back at him and sighed lightly. “I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision.”
“But your family - “
“Oh Mom is ecstatic about the decision. What happened in Little Rock devastated her. I think Ahab is aware I’m . . . not completely satisfied, but we don’t talk about it. There were people I should have talked to about the decision before I made it, but they weren’t available.”
Her tone wasn’t accusing, but the guilt swept over him immediately. “Dana, I - “
“Mulder, it’s okay. Mom told me what she did. I can’t believe she interfered on that level, but I was lying in the hospital, bruised and battered. I guess the tiger in her came out to defend her cub.”
”Did you? When I found out I was so worried that you hadn’t.”
“When did she tell you?”
She looked directly into his eyes then. “Last weekend.”
“What?” He gaped at her.
She nodded. “And then, just a few days later, you walk into my office. Some coincidence, huh?”
He couldn’t think of anything to say for a few minutes, then, “I better get you back. I don’t want this Ethan guy to come after me.”
“He’s out of town this week.”
Mulder nodded, but rose. He couldn’t do this any longer, he wanted more than this and that wasn't going to happen. If she thought he was a crackpot, she wasn’t saying it. Was it a coincidence that her mother had brought up his name? It didn’t matter; she was another man’s now. It wasn’t like he had ever had aspirations of belonging to her, though it had been a nice fantasy for a couple of days. He mentally shook himself and picked up the tab.
“We should split it.”
“It’s okay. My dating account is overflowing.”
He watched her drive off. She found herself watching him in the mirror and regretting there had been no goodnight kiss. She drew herself up, where had that come from? She was with Ethan now.
Instead of going back to her office, she decided to head home.
She was in the office early the next morning. She wasn’t going to admit it, even to herself, but she wanted to find the cause of death for him.
She looked up when he entered the autopsy bay.
“Ready to prove me crazy?” He managed to grin at her.
She cut her eyes at him, which caused his smile to widen.
“You are in all together too good a mood for this early in the morning. But I did find something.”
”You’re kidding.” He stepped closer.
Her eyebrow rose, but his expression made her relent. “Over here. I had a full-body scan done this morning. We found this.” She pointed to the microscope. “It was embedded in the soft tissue of the neck.”
He glanced at her, then looked into the microscope. “What the - “
“That’s what I said.”
“It is a computer chip.”
“Well, it looks like one, but Mulder it’s too small. We don’t have the kind of technology - “
“We don’t. Dana . . . “
“There is a scientific cause of death. I just - “
“I have orders to get the body to his family.”
“What else do you want to check?” He waited, giving her time.
She didn’t have an answer, and no good reason to keep the body. She had the samples. She could continue her investigation, but . . . but there would be no reason for Mulder to come around.
He realized the same thing, and his smile faded. “I need to get back. Patterson was letting me check on this as an indulgence.”
“Oh sure. Listen, I’m not letting this go.”
He tried to smile again. “Need to prove me wrong, huh?”
“You better believe it.” She said lightly.
His smile faded. “I’ll have the body picked up this afternoon. Dana . . . “
She nodded. “It was good seeing you too, Mulder.” She didn’t mention staying in touch he noted, but she was engaged to be married. She didn’t want to see him.
Dana handed the bowl of potatoes to her father, then took a deep breath. “I had an interesting case this week.”
“Dana,” Her mother cautioned, “is this dinner conversation?”
“Yes Mom. No specifics. I was asked for a consult by the FBI.” She turned to face her father again. “Guess who the agent in charge was?” He shook his head, puzzled. “Do you remember Fox Mulder?”
She could feel her mother’s reaction, but kept looking at her father. “Of course. You brought him here for Sunday lunch once. I thought I’d be seeing more of him. You seemed . . . close as I recall.”
“Well, when I left the Bureau . . .” She shrugged.
“Dana, when will Ethan be home?” Her mother changed the subject.
“Tomorrow evening. I’m picking him up at the airport.”
Maggie smiled, “We need to get him over here. We have a lot of work to do and having the date set is a big first step.”
“I know. I’ll talk to him.”
“Good, thank you. I spoke with your Aunt Louise. She has all of her notes from Michael’s wedding. She’s sending them to me and I’ll . . .” Dana knew her mother continued talking, she even nodded at correct intervals, but she had tuned her out.
As soon as she could, she let them know she needed to leave.
“It’s early, Dana.”
“I know, but I have a long day tomorrow. I’ll be in touch.” She hugged her Dad and Maggie kissed her cheek.
“Be careful driving home, Starbuck.”
“I will Ahab. Love you.”
But once home she couldn’t settle down. The bubble bath hadn’t helped. She was dressed for bed, but her book didn’t hold her interest. Finally she sat up, and before she could stop herself, had the phone in her hand.
“Is this stupid?”
He'd said that to her once, a lifetime ago. “No . . . No, I just . . . “
“I was over at Ahab and Maggie’s this evening.”
“They okay?” He was scrambling to get his thoughts together. Why was she calling him?
“Yes. Ahab said to say hi.”
“Mulder, he didn’t know what Mom did. I didn’t know that until tonight. I . . . I just thought you should know that.”
“Dana . . . Dana?” But she had broken the connection. He stared at the phone for a very long time before putting it down on his coffee table.
She saw Ethan approaching the luggage carousel and smiled. “I am so glad to be back in DC. There is not a decent meal to be had in South Carolina.” He smiled, “and of course, you weren’t there.”
She smiled, but didn’t accept the unspoken invitation into his arms. “Dana?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t sleep well last night and I had three cases today. I’m a little tired.” She did step into his embrace then.
“Don’t apologize. To be honest I’m wiped myself. You wouldn’t mind if I stayed at my place tonight?”
She smiled tiredly, “No, I wouldn’t mind. I just feel - “
“Dana.” He gave her a quick kiss. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get together tomorrow after work and we’ll be rested. It makes good sense. You should go on home to bed after you drop me off. I’ll pick you up at the hospital tomorrow night for dinner.” He kissed her, then let reached for his bag.
He kissed her once more in the car, then let himself out, promising to call to firm up their plans for the next night.
She sat there, indecisive for a moment, then after he entered his building, put the car back into gear.
The knock on the door startled him. No one ever came to see him. He opened it and stood there stunned. “Dana?” She took in his appearance almost hungrily. He was ready for bed, wearing a gray t-shirt that had been washed at least a hundred times, and cut off sweat pants. She couldn’t help it, she knew he was going commando underneath them.
“May I come in?”
“Of, of course.” He moved aside. “Is everything okay?”
“I don’t know. I feel off balance somehow.”
“I . . . Dana, I - “
Before he could say anything else she was in his arms, kissing him. He lost no time catching up, molding her body to his. His tongue dueled with hers for possession of her mouth and he felt her hands underneath his t-shirt.
Then just as suddenly she broke from him. Shaking her head she moved to the door. “Dana?” She was out and moving fast for the stairs. He hurried after her into the hall, but he wasn’t dressed, not even shoes. He watched in confusion as she disappeared through the door. What the hell was he supposed to do now?
She let herself into her apartment after three tries to get the key in the door. She couldn’t remember the last time her hands had shaken like this. Maybe never.
The phone rang immediately, but she didn’t answer it. There was no one she wanted to talk to. When the machine picked up, they left no message. She removed the receiver and left it on the table, then got ready for bed.
The next day was the longest she remembered. Only one autopsy, the rest was paperwork. Twice she looked over at the file on Mulder’s case but refused to even touch it. She ate at her desk rather than be around anyone else.
She called it quits around 4:30 and took a shower, even changing into the dress she had brought to work for her dinner with Ethan. Finally she took a couple of aspirin to try to stave off the headache she felt growing at her temples.
By the time Ethan arrived, she knew the aspirin weren’t going to work. She managed to smile and return his kiss. She let him lead her to his car. He could bring her to work in the morning. They went to her favorite place and he ordered wine and her favorite meal. She was quiet, listening to him talk about catching up in his office and his trip.
Finally he wound down, “I’ve been doing all of the talking tonight, Honey. I didn’t mean to - “
“No, it’s fine. I certainly don’t want to talk about autopsies.”
“Did you have a bad day?”
“Well, you’re a little pale and you haven’t eaten anything.”
She forced a smile, “I have a headache. It’s been growing all day and so far nothing has touched it.”
“Maybe if you did eat . . . “
She managed a nod. “Maybe. I’ll try; just keep talking. Are you going to have to go back to South Carolina soon?”
He continued with his story and she forced herself to eat a few bites of food. The nausea grew and she stuck with wine, keeping an interested expression on her face.
She let him help her to her feet after he paid the bill and led her to his car. He was watching her with concern now, but kept his thoughts to himself until they were inside her apartment. He saw her wince when she turned on the light.
“Dana, your headache’s worse isn’t it?”
“Ethan, I - “
“You’re sick." He touched the back of his hand lightly to her forehead. "I think you should go to bed. I can hang around, in case you need anything. Let me tuck you in. Go get in those flannel pj’s you love so much.”
“They’re not very sexy.”
“They don’t need to be. I can sleep out here.”
“Oh Ethan no. Why, why don’t you go on home?”
“You sure? I could - “
“I’m sure. When I feel like this I need to just curl up and let the world go away.”
He hesitated for a moment, but she looked adamant. “Okay, let me get you settled. If you do decide to go into work tomorrow, you can call me and I’ll pick you up. But if you’re still feeling this bad, I hope you call in sick.”
“Ethan, I’m really sorry. You’ve been out of town and - “
“Dana, stop. You don’t feel well; I understand that. I really don’t mind keeping you company.”
“No, Ethan, but thank you. I’ll go on to bed. Don’t worry about me.”
“I am going to worry about you. That’s my job now.” He gave her a light kiss on the lips. “Go on.”
“Let me lock up after you, then I will.”
He brushed the hair back from her brow. “We have lots of time. Don’t think about it again. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Remember if you do decide to go to work - “
“I’ll give you a call.” She accepted another kiss on her cheek, then walked him to the door.
Once it was shut and locked, she leaned against it. She’d never had a migraine before, but this had to be one. She didn’t know how long she stood there, but finally pushed herself upright and turned toward her bedroom.
She was barely to her couch when she heard the knock on the door. She closed her eyes. Why had he come back? She didn’t want any company. He had no reason to feel guilty.
She opened the door to tell him just that, but her eyes had to travel up and up. Mulder. Mutely she stepped aside to allow him entry. He paused just inside and watched her close the door. She just watched him, waiting.
“I wanted to, to talk to you. I almost left when I saw you with . . . but then he left. I was . . . surprised.” He wound down then, just looking at her.
“Do you want me?”
He gaped at her, “What?”
“Do you want me? Do you want to make love to me?”
“Yes.” It was the short answer, but true.
She heard that and moved to him, rising up on her toes to kiss him. He responded immediately drawing her to him. When they broke apart, she took his hand to lead him to her room.
“Dana, wait. That’s . . . that’s not why I came here. I was worried about you. I’m not . . . “ She just watched him. “Dana, I don’t even have any protection for you.”
Her lips barely curled then, “I’m a doctor, I do.”
“Dana, this is not - “
Her lips took his again, one of her hands caressed his chest, then the other cupped his growing erection. The response was immediate. He groaned, pulling away slightly. How long since someone had touched him there? “Dana, are you . . . are you all right?”
The question caught her off guard and she thought about it. Her headache was gone; it had vanished when he’d stepped into her apartment. “I don’t think I could be any better.”
He blinked at that response, but relaxed slightly as well. She had called him, then showed up at his place, now this. It was a signal even he couldn’t miss and it wasn’t her fault he had so little practice reading such things.
She tugged on his hand then, and pulled him toward her bedroom. He was too stunned to stop her, even if he'd wanted to. She led him to the bed and he stopped when the back of his knees touched her mattress. Oh god, she was suckling on his lower lip and it was going straight to his cock. He pulled her closer and she looked up at him, her eyes wide at the intensity of his arousal.
"Make love with me."
He lifted her to his lips, his arms holding her against him. She weighed nothing; he could hold her forever. He wanted to hold her forever. Her arms laced around his neck. Finally he lowered her to her feet. She pulled his t-shirt from his jeans. He just watched her, then let her pull the shirt over his head.
"You're sure." The tiny note of wonder made her eyes glisten.
She nodded and reached for the zipper of her dress. His hand covered hers and lowered the zipper for her. She let the dress fall to the floor and his eyes devoured her. He found the clasp on her bra and released it. His hands cupped her breasts. She was perfect. His eyes met hers and he knew he loved her. He hadn't realized until he'd seen her again that she'd been in his thoughts, his dreams every day since . . .
She stepped out of the dress and her shoes and he lowered her gently to the bed. After a slight hesitation he removed her underwear. That half smile she gave him nearly paralyzed him.
"You have on so many clothes." She whispered to him.
He nodded and toed off his shoes, then removed his jeans. Her fingers traced along the elastic of his boxers, then she pulled them down as well. She hadn't imagined his size and her breathing grew shallow.
He covered her body with his own, his lips melding with hers, then moving on down her throat while his hands explored her curves and secret places. She pulled him closer and he heard her moan as his hand found her sex.
God, he wanted her. The fantasies he had allowed himself were nothing compared to the real thing, this flesh and blood woman, writhing in his arms.
Her hand wrapped around him and he lost all semblance of control. He wanted to be inside of her and she obviously felt the same; guiding him to her. She opened herself to the feel of him.
He entered her slowly, not wanting to hurt her. She was tight, so tight and so hot and . . . He met her eyes and fell into them, each thrust bringing them closer. He never wanted to leave her body. He was home; he was whole.
"Mmmmulder." She was close, he could tell. He had brought her to this point. He had brought this woman to the edge. His fingers joined the game and her eyes widened for an instant before she arched beneath him, into him, spinning out of control in his arms.
He held her, but he was too close himself. He groaned as she spasmed around him and gave into the sensations, spilling his seed into her.
She clung to him, the only stability in the universe. He rolled to his side, holding her close, not leaving her body. She buried her face in his chest. "Don't leave me." She whispered.
"I won't." He settled her and watched as she relaxed, then slipped under. His eyes were closing when it hit him, they had forgotten the protection. He wanted to be worried about that, but he knew he was clean. She was in a relationship, so she was probably on the pill.
He couldn't sustain consciousness anymore, he kissed the top of her head and slipped under.
The daylight coming through her blinds woke her. She started to move, stretch, but his arms restricted her . . . his arms. She looked up to find him watching her.
He wanted to speak, but fear held his tongue. She didn't smile, just leaned up and took his lower lip between her own. He felt his heart start to beat again. "Dana." His hand caressed her cheek.
"I want you." She murmured into his neck and she reached for him again. He was more than happy to comply, slipping into her with a feeling of completeness, even more than last night. They had been together and she still wanted him. He was willing to swear the planet quit spinning when they came together a few minutes later.
When she had her breath again, she kissed the tip of his nose. "Is this a conspiracy to make me late for work?"
He nodded solemnly, "Is it working?"
"Too well, I need a shower." She smiled then, "want to join me?"
His face lit up and she felt his cock twitch against her. "Just a shower, Mulder. I can't explain a headache when I left, changing to being unable to walk this morning."
"I can only promise to try to be good."
"Oh you're damn good. That's not the problem."
He blushed. She was again amazed that a man who looked like he’d have a great deal of experience with women would be this insecure . . . her eyes widened suddenly.
"We didn't, we didn't use protection."
He nodded, "I'm clean Dana. I haven't . . . I haven't been with anyone in a long time."
She blinked at that, it didn't seem possible for this man . . . After a moment she nodded, "I'm tested regularly."
"I wasn't worried."
She took a deep breath, "Okay, shower." She didn't bother with a robe and he seemed okay with the nudity. She was more than a little stunned that she hadn't even thought about a condom after those first comments at the door. That wasn't like her. This man did things to her she couldn't explain.
To her delighted amazement he was ready again in the shower, which made the experience all the more enjoyable. "No one told me you were actually seventeen years old, you know." She gasped into his chest when she could speak again.
"You bring out the best in me."
She looked up, not a trace of a smile on his face. She pulled that face down to her and kissed him thoroughly. "Mulder you better let me out of here or I'll never leave."
"I don't see the downside."
"Actually, right now, neither do I. Let me think . . . unemployment, hunger, homeless . . . we better get dressed." She wrapped a towel around her and slipped out to start the coffee. He returned to the bedroom and found the clothes he had tossed the night before.
This wasn't a dream nor a fantasy. His sore, underused muscles proclaimed that to him, but he still couldn't believe it. He heard her return to the bathroom, so he headed for the kitchen to give her a little space and help himself to the coffee.
When she joined him he was sitting at her table, his hands around the mug, but his mind very far away.
"Mulder? You okay?"
He met her eyes then, "Are you still engaged?"
"No. I . . . maybe officially. I'm going to talk to Ethan today."
He just looked at her, memorizing her face. He didn’t speak.
After a long moment she spoke, “You believe me, don’t you?”
“I want to.”
“Mulder, I - “
“Things are moving fast between us.”
She’d heard that tone before, when he’d thought he was part of a practical joke. “Mulder, it’s not fast. It’s right. I didn’t . . . I didn’t realize until I saw you. I had been avoiding setting a date. I couldn’t make that kind of commitment. I knew it wasn’t right.”
She saw the flare of hope in his eyes, quickly hidden, and moved closer to him. “I feel like I’ve been on hold for two years Mulder.”
His lips moved but no sound emerged. She leaned down and took his lips. “Believe me.”
He nodded. “I, uh, I should get you to work.”
“I can . . . no car. Seems to be a pattern with us.”
He smiled then, “If you’re ready, I still have to go by my place and change.”
“Okay. I’m ready.”
“Will I see you tonight?”
She looked down, “I’m supposed to have dinner with my parents and Ethan, I should go over and let them know.”
He nodded. “If you need me . . . “
She caught up on her messages, then because she couldn’t avoid it any longer picked up the phone and called Ethan’s office. She was put through quickly. “Dana, how are you feeling?”
“Better, thanks. I was wondering if you could break away for lunch today.”
“Yes, I think so. Are you sure you’re up to going out? I could bring - “
“I’m at work Ethan.”
“What? You didn’t call.”
“I know, I took my time this morning. You were already at work, so I got a ride. I’m feeling better and I need to see you.”
“Okay, I can pick you up.”
“No, let me meet you. Harpers?”
“Good, 12:30, I’ll see you there.”
She put the receiver down, grateful that he couldn’t see her face. This was going to be difficult. She didn’t want to hurt him, but she couldn’t lead him on any more; give him false hope. She didn’t love him, not the way you did someone you married.
Dana was waiting at the table when he arrived. He took the seat beside her, then leaned over to kiss her. She accepted the kiss, but broke it off quickly and picked up a menu. She wasn’t sure she could eat, but . . .
“You do look better, Honey. I was concerned about you last night. You looked pretty sick.”
She nodded, “I’m sorry I worried you.”
“Like I said, it’s my job now.” He reached for her hand, but she picked up her water glass, hoping it looked like a movement she’d already started.
“Ethan, there’s something I need to tell you.” She looked away, then turned back to face him. She hated to hurt him, but she stiffened her spine.
“Dana?” He leaned toward her, a crease appearing between his eyes.
She reached into her pocket and took his ring into her hand. She hesitated for an instant, then placed the ring in his hand. “Ethan, I’m sorry, but I, I can’t go through with this. I can’t marry you.”
He looked at her, obviously dumbfounded for a long moment. Finally he looked down at the ring in his hand. “What? Dana, what are you talking about? Has something happened? We . . . we were fine before I went out of town. What - “
“No, Ethan, I’ve been thinking about this. It’s why I couldn’t set a date. It’s not you, I’m just not able to make this kind of commitment to you. I’m sorry.”
“Dana, you . . . talk to me. I don’t understand.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I’ve hurt you, but I can’t do this.” She scooted her chair back then to rise and he reached out taking hold of her arm.
“Dana, you can’t just leave. We have to talk about this.”
She shook her head again and tugged her arm free. “I’m sorry Ethan. I’m not going to change my mind. I’ll pack up the things you have at my place and let you know when you can pick them up.” She didn’t know what else to say. He was obviously in shock, just staring at her.
It would be better to make this clean. She didn’t look back as she exited the restaurant.
He picked up the phone quickly when his secretary said it was Ms. Scully. But it was Maggie’s voice on the phone.
“Ethan, I just wanted to make sure you were going to join us for dinner tonight. I haven’t been able to reach Dana. We have a lot of decisions to make.”
“Uh, Maggie . . . I won’t be there.”
“Ethan? We’re running out of time.”
There was a long hesitation then, “Maggie, you should talk to Dana.”
“What? Is something - “
“You need to have this conversation with her.” He sounded stiff and cold.
“Ethan, what is wrong?”
He sighed; this woman had been good to him. This just wasn’t his place. “Dana . . . Dana returned my ring today. We’re not getting married.”
“Are you . . . Ethan, is this some kind of joke?”
“If it is, it’s not funny.”
“Ethan, Ethan it must be just cold feet on Dana’s part. Let me talk to her.”
“Maggie, I . . . she sounded pretty sure of herself.” His voice was flat now, remembering their conversation.
“Did you have a fight? I mean - “
“No. As far as I know nothing was wrong when I went out of town. But . . . but something was different when I got back . . . “
There was a brief silence, then he heard Maggie breathe a word, it sounded like
“I need to go, Ethan. I’ll be in touch, don’t worry.” She was gone before he could even say goodbye.
The phone rang, startling Mulder back to the present and away from a certain shower he had enjoyed that morning. He knocked a pencil to the floor and lifted the receiver as he leaned forward in the chair to retrieve it. “Mulder.”
“Mr. Mulder, this is Maggie Scully. I need to speak to you.” He froze in the process of sitting back up.
“M-Mrs. Scully? You need to speak with me?” He was stalling, he knew that, but this had caught him completely off guard.
“I realize it’s a work day, Mr. Mulder, but would it be possible for you to meet me?”
Was there anything in the world he wanted to do less than meet with this woman? The one that had sent him away from Dana in the first place. But he heard himself say, “Of course, where would you like to meet?”
“There’s a coffee shop . . .”
They made arrangements to meet in half an hour and she broke the connection. He slowly hung up the receiver. His first impulse was to call Dana, but he stopped himself. He needed to know what was going on first.
He was waiting when she entered the coffee shop. He stood, drawing her attention and she walked to the back, where he held a table. “May I get you anything Mrs. Scully?”
“No thank you. I appreciate you meeting me on such short notice.”
“You made it sound important.”
“I believe it is. You’ve seen Dana recently.”
“Yes ma’am. We consulted on a case.”
“She doesn’t work for the FBI anymore. Why was she consulted?”
“The Bureau has an agreement in the wider DC area. Her name happened to be at the top of the list.”
“You didn’t request her?” Maggie seemed a little surprised by that.
“No. I didn’t know she would be there until I arrived.”
Maggie thought about that for a moment, then squared her shoulders. “Dana is engaged to be married. Did she tell you that?”
“She mentioned it, yes.” Mulder met her eyes, but didn’t back down.
“Mr. Mulder, Ethan is perfect for Dana.”
“Shouldn’t that be her decision, Mrs. Scully?” He asked quietly.
“Dana doesn’t always know what’s best for her. As her mother, I am going to do what I can to protect her.”
“Protect her . . . from me? What is it about me, Mrs. Scully, that makes you think you need to protect her?”
“I’m sure you are a fine man, Mr. Mulder, but not for Dana.” His mouth opened to ask again, for specifics this time, but she continued. “You are no doubt, considered tall, dark and handsome, you wear expensive suits and you have a glamorous job. But you don’t strike me as the kind of man who would maintain a relationship. Mr. Scully and I have been married nearly 40 years - “
“And my parents divorced twenty years ago, right?”
“Mr. Mulder, I don’t want to insult you, but I would ask that you not interfere in Dana’s relationship with Ethan.”
He blinked not sure what he was supposed to say to that.
“I’m sure I can count on you to do what’s best for Dana.” Without warning she rose from her chair. He couldn’t even rise to tell her goodbye, just watched her make her way out of the shop.
Dana pulled up in front of the house and parked, but didn’t leave the car. There was no way she could have asked Mulder to join her for this, but she wanted him here, beside her.
She took a deep breath and forced her hands away from the steering wheel. She let herself out of the car and moved toward the front door. She opened it and let herself in.
Immediately her father came into the foyer. “Hi Starbuck.” He hugged her to him, then looked around. “I thought Ethan was coming with you.”
“No, he won’t be joining us tonight.”
Before William could ask another question, Maggie joined them. “Dinner is going to be a little late, I had to run an errand.”
“That’s okay Mom, I need to talk with the two of you for a minute.” She turned toward the living room.
“Starbuck? Is something wrong?” Her father followed her.
“No, actually something is right, but it may not sound like it.” She gave him a small smile.
“That sounds kind of mysterious, Honey.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean it to.” She sat on the couch and motioned for him to sit beside her. Maggie took her regular chair.
“There’s no easy way to tell you this, but . . . I won’t be marrying Ethan. I returned his ring today.”
“Starbuck?” Her father touched her hand. “Are you okay?”
Scully smiled gently then, “Yes. It was the right thing Ahab.”
The older man looked deeply into her eyes and after a moment, nodded.
Scully turned to her mother. “Mom?”
“I think this is a huge mistake.”
William turned to look at his wife then. She seemed more calm than he would have expected. “Maggie? Did you know about this?”
She turned away, but Dana saw the heightened color in her cheeks. “Mom?”
“Yes, I knew. I spoke with Ethan earlier.”
“You did what?” Dana stared at her mother, incredulously.
“I called him to confirm he was coming for dinner. He told me that you had returned his ring.” She met Dana’s eyes then defiantly. “That’s why I was late with dinner. I went to see Mr. Mulder.”
Dana’s mouth fell open. “You did what? You spoke to Mulder about . . . I can’t believe you . . . I need to leave.” She was already on her feet, moving toward the door.
“Starbuck!” She didn’t turn. “Be careful, Honey.”
Dana nodded and pulled the door closed behind her. She was already at a run before the door clicked into place.
“Maggie,” William turned to his wife, “we need to talk.”
Dana hesitated outside of his door. She had made the trip fast, concentrating on driving rather than what she would face when she arrived. Now she was here, and she needed to see him, see what her mother had done.
She took a steadying breath and knocked on his door.
It felt like a long time before she heard any movement, anything at all. When the door finally opened, she found herself looking up into the most defeated face she could remember seeing.
“Mulder, I’m sorry, I - “
“Dana.” He shook his head, “You should be with your parents.”
“I have no desire to see my mother right now. May I come in?”
He seemed to think about it, but then quietly moved aside to grant her entry.
“Mulder, I can’t believe she would do this again. I can’t even imagine what she’s thinking.”
He stepped around her after shutting the door and returned to the couch. Once he was seated, he looked up at her. “She wants what’s best for you.”
Dana took her seat beside him. “She has no idea - “
“Yes she does. She’s your mother and she loves you. She said it, ‘Ethan is perfect for Dana’.”
“She has no idea what is perfect for me, Mulder. She has no right - “
“Dana.” He stopped her again, “Why would she want the wrong man for you. She only wants your happiness.”
“Not if she keeps us apart.”
“Twice. Dana, this is the second time she’s warned me away from you. I don’t know what she’s seeing, but she doesn’t want it around her daughter.”
“So her daughter gets no say in the matter?”
“Maybe she’s more objective.”
“No post-coital bliss? No, I don’t buy that, Mulder.”
She got no smile from him for her comment. If anything there was a flash of anguish before he could hide it. She wanted to reach out, touch him, hold him, but he seemed so distant.
“Dana, I told you before, hell, on our first date I told you about my reputation. It certainly hasn’t improved the last couple of years. As a mother, she probably has some special radar to protect her children. You should listen to her.”
He blinked, expecting more. “No?”
“No. She doesn’t have a clue. I changed my life once to please her. I changed my whole career. She wasn’t right, I’m not happier at the hospital. Mulder, look at me. I . . . I saw you in the hall that day and, and it felt like the sun had come out. I didn’t know I’d just been going through the motions, but I was. I was being the good, dutiful daughter, dating her idea of the ‘perfect man’ and I was suffocating. I didn’t even notice I was going under. Then you were standing in front of me. I woke up for the first time in two years. I have no desire to go back to that half life again.”
He was staring at her, mouth agape.
She leaned over to kiss that mouth. She didn’t register the sound of his phone ringing, and was startled when he pulled back.
“The, the phone . . . “ He turned away and didn’t see the devastation on her face.
“This is William Scully, Dana’s father. Would she be there by any chance?”
“Mr. Scully.” Dana head flew up. “Yes, she’s right here. Just a second.”
She was already reaching for the receiver, the worry plain on her. “Ahab? What’s wrong?”
“I need to talk to you, Starbuck.”
“What is it? Is Mom okay?”
“We need to talk face to face, Honey. Can you meet me at your apartment?”
“Yes. I’ll leave now. I should be there in half an hour. Ahab . . . “
“I’ll see you then.”
She disconnected the phone and he took it from her shaking hand. “I . . . I have to go.”
“I’ll take you.” He offered immediately, forgetting that he had made the decision to leave her alone once more.
“No, no I need my car.”
“You’re upset. You shouldn’t drive.” He had hold of her arm as she turned to the door. He wasn’t sure she had heard him.
“Mulder, I have to go.”
He looked at her closely. “I’m following you.”
“I’ll follow you to your place. You need to calm down.”
She seemed to nod, already moving away. He grabbed his keys and took her arm. He seated her in her car and hurried to his. He pulled out right behind her.
He was able to pull his car in next to hers outside of her apartment. He took her arm again and walked her to her door. He took her keys when she couldn’t get it into the lock.
They were barely inside when the knock on the door sent her running to answer it. “Ahab?” She was in his arms even as she drew him inside.
He held her tightly, then looked up and spotted Mulder. He released her and held out his hand to the younger man. “Mr. Mulder.”
“I just wanted to make sure she got here safely. I’ll leave you two - “
“You’ve taken care of her on more than one occasion. I appreciate that.”
“You’re welcome.” Mulder looked over at Dana, then started for the door.
“Mr. Mulder, this affects you. Please, stay.”
“I’m not sure . . . “
She looked up at him then. “Please.”
He slowly nodded and took a seat in the easy chair next to the couch. Dana and her father took the couch and she clasp William’s hand. “Ahab, please.”
“Mr. Mulder - “ Her father looked over at the worried younger man.
“Just Mulder, please.”
William nodded. “I want to apologize for . . .” He swallowed, then drew a breath. “My wife has interfered in your life. I think I knew when you were at our home with Dana that there was a, a spark between you. I was frankly very puzzled when we didn’t see you again. Maggie explained what happened when we talked tonight. She was wrong to do that to the two of you.”
“Ahab, please. What happened tonight?”
"Your mother and I had a long talk. One that was extremely overdue. Maybe you should hear this from her, but she is not able to discuss it with you at this time. I didn't want it to wait." He saw Dana's hand move toward Mulder and he grasped it, holding it gently but firmly. Internally, William nodded.
"Your mother was pregnant when we married." He stated it flatly, a fact, not a judgment.
"Bill?" Dana could only get out the one word, her mind trying to grasp that reality.
"No. She lost that baby. But that wasn't the reason I had married her, I loved her, I still love her, so we stayed together." He looked away for a moment and cleared his throat.
"It wasn't until tonight that I learned that the baby wasn't mine."
Dana's mouth opened, but no words came to her. Her grip on Mulder's hand tightened.
"Apparently your mother was seeing a man while I was away. She was . . . infatuated with him. However, when she told him about the child, he bolted, unwilling or unable to take that responsibility. When I returned . . . Maybe I didn't look at things as closely as I could have. I wanted to be with your mother and . . ." He cleared his throat again and studied his shoes for a moment.
When he looked up, it was Mulder he addressed. "Your resemblance to the man is peripheral. He was also tall, dark hair . . . sophisticated."
Maggie's words were back in Mulder's mind. 'You are no doubt considered tall, dark and handsome'. Those words made some kind of sense now.
"You do not strike me as the kind of man that would use my daughter and discard her. If I'm wrong, I hope that you would be honest enough to at least admit that to yourself."
Mulder shook his head, "If your daughter would have me, I would be hers forever."
William met his eyes and relaxed at what he saw there. He cleared his throat again, "Well, I'm sure you two have things to talk about and I need some time myself."
"Ahab, please stay here. I've got room, you shouldn't be alone."
"I need to be, Starbuck. I'm going to get a room tonight, just to think. I'm not leaving your mother, don't think that. We both just needed a little time apart tonight."
"Daddy - "
He smiled, "You haven't called me that in a long time. You and Mulder need some time as well. I'll talk to you tomorrow." He rose to his feet then and Mulder did the same. They shook hands and though no words were spoken, a communication took place between them.
Dana stood then and hugged her father, then walked him to the door. "If you change your mind, or just want to talk, please call me." She waited for his nod, then hugged him one more time. He let himself out.
She stood facing the door. Mulder was at a loss of what to do. He had no experience with anything like this. He decided to go with his heart and moved to her. He let his hands gently caress her upper arms. To his relief she leaned back into him.
“Tell me what you need, Dana. If you want some time alone . . . “
Her hands grasped his; her arms crossed over her breasts. “Please don’t go.”
He closed his eyes and held her tightly. “Come, sit down.” He finally led her to the couch. “Would you like me to get you something to eat?”
She shook her head quickly, so he took a seat beside her. “Do you . . . do you want to talk about it, or . . . or call your mother?”
“No.” She spoke immediately. “Talk about something else. I just want to hear your voice.”
“Tell me a story, something.”
He looked down at her and finally nodded, whatever she wanted. “Did you, uh, keep up with Peter Doud?”
The name surprised her. “I haven’t thought about Peter in years. Is he still with the Bureau?”
“Yes. He was posted to Omaha. He’s got a solid career, vanilla autopsies. I don’t know that he’ll ever rise above that.”
“He was smarter than that. He should have excelled.”
“Personally I think he was happy to get out of DC and away from ‘Spooky’.”
She cuddled in closer, offering him comfort now.
“What about Sheila Lewis?” He asked.
She looked up at him, “You kept up with her too?”
He shrugged. “She’s in L.A. Works at one of those store front liposuction clinics.”
To his surprise, Dana actually snorted a laugh. “Remind me to avoid that place.”
“You don’t need it.”
“Why?” He looked down at her confused. “Why did you keep up with them?”
“Oh, they, uh, they did me a huge favor one time.”
“Which blew up in our faces.”
“Not really.” She looked up at him, not believing his words. “Memories have gotten me through more than one long night.” He finally offered.
“How could she do this?” Her voice was raw and coarse suddenly.
“Dana - “ He knew immediately they had changed subjects, but was she ready?
“No, I know she had to have gone through hell. An affair, getting pregnant, being abandoned. But how could she not look at you, look past how attractive you are, and see the kind of man you are?”
“You think I’m attractive?” He finally asked, more to give her some time than anything else.
She cut her eyes at him. “I’ve seen women’s tongues fall out of their mouths when you walk by.”
He stared at her for moment. She was kidding, right?
“It happened in my lab this past week. Fortunately I know where the scalpels are stored.”
He laughed then and to his relief she did too, at least a little, closing her eyes and chuckling almost silently.
“I’m having a hard time thinking about Mom. I can’t imagine . . . “
“I haven’t said it, but I would never abandon you.”
“No shotgun wedding?” She gave him an ironic grin.
“I’d load your father’s gun myself, but he wouldn’t need to pull out as much as a slingshot.” He answered, not a trace of a smile.
She looked deeply into his eyes and finally relaxed. “I knew that.” She touched his cheek. “Take me to bed.”
He nodded and rose to his feet, pulling her up beside him. He wasn’t sure what the future held for them, but he had another chance. For a change he wanted a woman to know him. He wanted to open himself up and see if, maybe, she really would have him. He was ready to try.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.