"Oh come on, the 'Ice Queen' will never fall for it."
"Why not? She doesn't know him; okay she's probably heard rumors, but so have we all. If he thinks she knows something about that weird case where the body kinda . . . melted?" She shrugged. "Come on, after the way she showed you up at the last autopsy? I know you're dying to stick it to her, one way or another."
Peter thought about it; Sheila was right. The bitch did need bringing down a peg. He'd been head of his class in medical school; he'd wanted to join the Bureau. But she'd been recruited, and the instructors bent over backward for her. Okay, she was good, but her attitude toward him stung. He'd never had problems getting women - premed in college, then as an intern, but this icy redhead had turned him down flat.
If she could be taken down a peg or two . . . yeah, he'd enjoy that. "You really think we can get her to accept?"
"I think so. I mean she's ambitious and he did have a reputation as the golden boy of the VCS. Yes, he's 'Spooky' but he's supposed to be a brilliant profiler. If she has heard of him, how could she pass that up? It could enhance her career, or she'll think it could. Come on, she dated Willis."
"True. But you don't think the name will tip her off?"
"She's too busy with showing you up to know that many people. I'll have Karen talk up his credentials."
"Karen? You think she'll help us?"
"Not if she knows what she's doing." Sheila grinned and for just a second Peter was aware that the woman in front of him seemed more than anxious to help him with this. What had Dana done to her, but as she continued to talk, Peter was caught back up in it.
"Karen, I'm not interested in a blind -”
"Dana, come on. You haven't been out since you broke up with Jack."
"Jack and I didn't 'break up’; we just decided to see other people."
"Okay. What 'other people' have you seen?"
Dana stared at her, eyes slightly narrowed at being caught.
"That's what I thought. Come on, it's Friday night. If you have a terrible time you'll have two full days to recover. Besides, I know you want to work with Violent Crimes. You'd have an opportunity to make some contacts and you definitely have something in common."
Well, Dana couldn't exactly dispute that. Still . . .
"I can see you're weakening. Come on, it's one date."
"Have you ever seen him?" Dana finally asked.
"No, but I've heard he's hot."
"Hot. Why am I even considering this?"
"Because you want a life outside the Bureau. You know you do."
"If I want a life outside the Bureau, why would I date an agent?"
"Don’t use logic on me Dana. Just do it. One date."
Dana rolled her eyes, but Karen's smile grew.
"Oh all right. You're sure he -”
"It's all set. He'll pick you up at your place at seven."
"My place? He'll know where I live."
"He's an FBI agent, he can find out where you live." Karen pointed out.
"I don't care. I'll meet him at the restaurant. I want to have my own car."
"Fine, just tell me you accept."
Dana groaned. "Will it get you off my back?"
"Only if you promise to let me be a bridesmaid."
Dana rolled her eyes, but gave a reluctant nod. She knew that Karen was only trying to look out for her. And she hadn't been out with anyone since she quit seeing Jack. But that hadn't been a breakup as much as a moving on, and she had been busy.
She entered the restaurant and looked around. She was a couple of minutes late and very annoyed at Peter. It was as though he had tried to drag class out so that she'd barely have time to get ready. That was absurd, he had no idea she had a date or anything about her personal life, but she had hoped to sign on to a computer somewhere and find out who this "Agent Mulder" was - at least see a picture.
There was an incredibly fine specimen at the bar - long and lean with dark floppy hair and beautiful eyes. She moved on, the FBI might seem like a 'romantic' place to work, but the agents never looked like those men gracing the covers of her sister's books.
Over there, that was probably him. She focused on a shorter man, on the stocky side, with pale, thinning hair.
She started to take a step when a voice at her side stopped her. "Agent Scully?"
She turned and looked up and up into the smiling face of the man from the romance novel cover.
"A . . . Agent Mulder?"
His smile widened. "Yes, I thought maybe you recognized me, but then you turned away."
She returned his smile and made a mental note to send Karen that new tape she wanted. "No, the blind part of this date held true. How did you know me?"
"You're the only gorgeous redhead to walk through the door."
She blushed slightly and looked down, then back up to meet his eyes, "and my file on-line has a photo."
She was quick, he liked that. "Doesn't change the fact that you're the only gorgeous redhead to come here tonight."
"Our table's ready if you are." She nodded and felt the fingers of his right hand touch the small of her back to lead her. Normally she wanted more personal space and she didn't know the man, but he seemed not to notice he was even in her space. He seemed very at ease in his body and she appreciated the way he moved. He reminded her of a large, and dangerous, cat. He knew how to wear clothes too. If she didn't know an FBI agent's salary, she'd think it was tailored for him.
He held her chair, then seated himself. "Would you like a drink?" He asked as the waiter approached.
"Ice tea, please."
For some reason she thought that amused him, but then she heard him say to the waiter, "Two iced teas please."
"If you'd like a cocktail . . . "
"I don't drink much."
She felt as though she had passed some sort of test, which was ridiculous, but she relaxed another notch.
But why was a man who looked like him on a blind date? She spent most of her time at Quantico, but she had no problem imagining women at headquarters throwing their underwear at this man as he walked by. Then she realized he was speaking.
" - surprised you were free. I've looked forward to meeting you."
"Meeting me? I don't understand?"
He smiled, but it dimmed a little, "I've heard about the new dynamo in forensics. I was afraid the line was so long I'd be retired before we met."
"Hardly." She said dryly. "Is this a consult or a date?"
He had the grace to blush, "a date. Now maybe the next one . . . "
She inclined her head, but made no commitment he noticed.
"So, you're a profiler?"
He blinked then and sat up straighter. " You, you don't know who I am."
"Well I, you're Special Agent Fox Mulder. Karen told me you worked in Violent Crimes. Should I know more than that?"
He nodded, but his smile was nearly non-existent. "Look, we haven't ordered, if you'd like to leave now . . . "
She looked puzzled then, "Why would I want to leave?"
"I'm 'Spooky' Mulder." He waited.
It took just a moment, then he saw the recognition in her eyes. Before she could speak, he did. "Why don't I walk you to your car."
"But I want to stay."
"Agent Scully - "
"Dana. Please call me Dana."
"Dana, this wasn't a good idea. I really thought . . . I didn't realize how 'blind' a date this was. You didn't have all the facts."
He was interrupted by the waiter bringing their tea. "Would you like to hear our specials for tonight?"
"Uh, no, we're not - "
"Yes, please." Dana interrupted him.
"Are you sure?"
"Very." She looked up at the waiter and smiled. He returned her smile and Mulder's relief that she actually wanted to stay, dimmed at little.
"I'll give you a few minutes to decide." The young man's eyes darted down to her breasts and back up, following his recitation and was gone. Now why had he noticed that? He'd done the same thing himself from the bar when she had walked in.
"Uh, Mulder. I go by Mulder. I never really liked 'Fox'."
"Okay, Mulder. You want to tell me why you thought I'd want to leave?"
"Look, Dana, it's . . . let's have dinner and then you can - "
"Go home? Why don't you tell me where you got your nickname?" He grimaced, “That bad a story?” she asked.
What the hell, he was confident she’d never want to see him again anyway. He was used to that by now. As long as he acted like someone he wasn’t, dates were fine, but be himself . . . That’s why porn and 1-900 numbers were better. “I, uh, when I was at the academy I was doing my rotation in VC and I tried to write a profile on my own. I made a connection that was glaringly obvious to me, but no one else could see where I was coming from. Since they were at a dead end, they applied my idea and caught him in about two days. They were stunned and asked me to look at another case. I guess my mind works differently, they say I’m making these ‘leaps’ and have just been lucky, but the stuff is right there in front me for everyone to see.”
“It hasn’t made you popular.” She said quietly.
He looked a little startled, she was quick.
“You’re smarter than they are and you scare them.”
“You’re the one scaring me now.”
She smiled, “What little I have heard about you is coming back to me. Couldn’t ‘Spooky’ have been a compliment?”
“Maybe in the beginning.”
He shook his head, “Why don’t we talk about you.”
He chose the dessert he saw her eyes dilate over when she refused for herself, with two forks. “Mulder, I can’t eat that.”
“Then we’ll let it go to waste and some starving child in a third world nation will curse us both.”
She chuckled, “You do have a different spin on things.”
He smiled and didn’t dispute her, taking a sip of coffee. He’d had a good time. And she hadn’t bolted. Of course, Monday when she did check on him she’d no doubt change her phone number, but that was days away.
She watched him smile. He was shy. It had taken her a little while to figure it out, but he really wasn’t used to this. Why he was insecure about women intrigued her and she found she wanted the opportunity to find out.
He almost laughed out loud at the look on her face when the chocolate concoction was placed in front of him. He handed her one of the forks. ‘You know some of those curses could be painful, you could grow a third knee in the middle of your calf.”
She chuckled and took the fork. “I’ll have to rely on your vast knowledge of curses I suppose.”
The humor left his face and she knew that somehow she’d said the wrong thing. “Mulder?” He looked down to see that her hand had covered his there on the table. Her touch made him feel better somehow.
“It’s nothing. Eat up.” After a slight hesitation she did, motioning for him to join her. He did, but enjoyed watching her enjoyment much more than the actual dessert. She put her fork down and watched as he slipped the last bite into his mouth. She was caught by his lips, they really were . . . luscious. And just when had she ever used that adjective before? Never mind, it fit.
She realized he was watching her watch him and she lowered her eyes.
“I don’t want to press my luck, Dana, but would you like to see a movie or . . . “
“I’m enjoying talking actually. But I can see they want our table.” She visualized coffee in some little place nearby.
He took that as the rejection he’d been expecting and nodded. He signaled for the bill and paid it, then rose and held her chair. She wasn’t exactly sure what had happened but now he seemed to want things ended. What had she said?
He walked her to her car in silence. The stars were gone, behind clouds now and she spotted lightening in the distance. She pulled out her keys and unlocked the car. He opened the door.
“I appreciate you having dinner with me.”
“I enjoyed myself.” He looked into her eyes, she seemed sincere.
He opened his mouth to ask if there was a chance to see her again, when a fat drop of rain hit her head.
“You better get in. I think it’s going to open up.”
She nodded and ducked inside regretfully. This weather had lousy timing. He stood there, not worrying about getting wet, so she turned the key, but nothing happened. She did it again and still nothing. It didn’t sound like a dead battery; there wasn’t even a click.
Mulder opened the door to the car, and leaned in. “Has it been giving you problems?”
“No. It was fine. I guess I better call AAA.”
Thunder rumbled nearby. “I don’t think you’re going to want to wait for a tow. I could give you a ride.”
She looked up at him, he was getting wet standing there. She nodded and he took her hand to help her out. He seemed to hover over her as they hurried to his car where he let her in, then got in himself. Well, so much for having her own car.
“Look, I could take you home, then come back and wait - “
“No, that’s okay. I can pick up the car tomorrow. I guess you’re not rid of me yet after all.”
“I didn’t want to be rid of you.”
“You didn’t?” She looked at him.
“No, I thought . . . “ He smiled then. “Never mind what I thought. You want to give me directions?”
She did and as he pulled out, her eye caught a couple in a car nearby. Funny, if she didn’t know better she’d think it was Peter and Sheila.
It was raining hard by the time they reached her apartment. He pulled an umbrella from the back seat and walked her to the door.
“You’re wet, Mulder. Why don’t you come in and wait for the rain to slack off. I can make a pot of coffee.”
“You sure you don’t mind?”
“I wouldn’t ask if I did.”
“No, you wouldn’t.” He grinned.
“Have a seat.” She turned toward the kitchen but he trailed her. He followed her directions and they made the coffee together. He’d just taken a sip from the mug she handed him when the lights went out. The apartment was plunged into total darkness for an instant before lightening, the brightest she’d ever seen, lit up every window. The hairs on her arm stood up and the thunder boomed immediately, directly overhead.
The next flash let her see his face. “Mulder?” He was frozen in place, but his eyes were dilated and the mug was in pieces at his feet. “Mulder, can you hear - “ She stepped closer, but he didn’t seem to notice. She touched his face and though he didn’t look at her, his arms suddenly clasped her to him. The storm hadn’t abated, but she knew the storm inside of him was somehow worse.
He breathed a name. It sounded like ‘Samantha’, but he said nothing else and she wasn’t sure she’d heard anything.
“Mulder, come on.” She stepped back and he allowed it, then she took his hand and led him to the living room. She sat him in the corner of her couch and quickly lit the candles she had on the coffee table and shelves.
When she turned back, he was watching her.
“How do you feel?”
He shook himself slightly. “Stupid, embarrassed, mortified.”
She shook her head, “Want to talk about it?”
He looked past her then for a long moment, then brought a shaking hand up to his forehead. She turned and he reached out toward her.
“I’m not leaving. Just a second.” She returned immediately with a small amount of amber liquid in a glass. “It’s brandy. I know you don’t drink, but - “
“Thanks.” He took the glass from her and drank. He coughed once and smiled slightly. “I should get out of here.”
“No. This storm is terrible and you shouldn’t be driving.”
“Or do you just want to get out of here.”
He gave a half grin, “Do you blame me?”
Her face softened, “May I ask a question?”
He looked into her eyes, then shrugged. This ‘date’ couldn’t get any worse for her. “Sure.”
“Who’s Samantha?” She asked it quietly, but the reaction was nearly as devastating as the storm.
“Where did you . . . where did you hear that name?” His voice sounded strangled.
“Mulder, I’m sorry. You . . . you said it in the kitchen.”
“She, uh, she’s my sister.”
“She . . .” he swallowed.
“Mulder, you - “
“It’s okay. It’s no secret. She disappeared when she was eight.”
He nodded slightly, “I was, uh babysitting. The . . . the lights went out and I woke up two days later in the hospital.”
The lights, that’s what had set him off. “How old were you?”
“That was . . . nearly twenty years ago, wasn’t it?”
“Nineteen, last November.”
“Is it still that . . . “
He managed a small smile. “Since I’ve already made a fool of myself, you might as well know. I, uh, I’ve been trying to remember those hours for decades. I can remember everything else - every book I’ve read, every course I’ve taken, every interrogation, but that’s gone. A few months ago I made an appointment with a, a regression therapist.”
He shrugged, “the guy wasn’t exactly reputable . . . or discrete.” He gave an ironic sort of smile. “It certainly enhanced my nickname.”
“And that’s what you thought I’d heard.”
After a moment he nodded.
“I hadn’t. But you owe it to yourself to try to find out the truth. You should find someone you can trust.”
He blinked at that, clearly caught off guard by her attitude.
“Have you had other . . . effects of the treatment?”
My dreams are more . . . vivid.”
He nodded. They both were silent then, just sitting together.
“Dana, why did you accept this date tonight?”
The question surprised her, but there was no reason not to answer. It felt like this man yearned for honesty. She shrugged, “I haven’t been out lately.”
“Are you kidding?”
She gave him a small smile, “No. I was dating Jack Willis. Maybe you know him from the Bureau.” Mulder nodded, he’d met the man a few times. “We decided to see other people, and I just . . . Anyway, Karen set this up. She said you were . . . hot.”
His eyes widened and she grinned. “She also told me you worked in Violent Crimes, and she knows I’m interested in that area, so we’d have something to talk about.”
“But we’ve barely discussed Violent Crimes.”
“So, we didn’t need a prearranged topic. We did fine on our own.”
“We did fine? You consider this a successful date? Damn, Jack must be a major dud.” He looked down, “Sorry.”
To his surprised, she laughed. “Not always, but I haven’t missed him terribly either. Tonight has certainly been interesting.”
She couldn’t read his expression, though she could see a myriad of emotions cross his face. “So, if I got up the courage to ask you out again . . . “
“I could pretty much assure success.”
Even more expressions crossed his face, but she knew she recognized delight when she saw it. He looked even happier when she blushed. He finally seemed to relax a little. He glanced at the window. “The storm’s moving off.” He caught the fleeting look of disappointment on her face and was stunned. She was actually enjoying his company. What the hell, “Dana, since we didn’t get around to talking about my job tonight, maybe we could get together again.”
She tried to keep her face bland, but he spotted the twinkle in her eyes. “Yes, I think that would be a good idea. I’m free tomorrow night.”
His mouth dropped open and she focused again on that lower lip. Unprofessional, but she was a breathing female.
“So, are you free tomorrow night?”
“Good. Since you know where I live, do you want to pick me up?”
"I'd love to, but you're going to need your car. I could . . . "
"True, maybe we could get together a little earlier and take care of that, if it's not an imposition."
A smile blossomed on his face. “Not an imposition at all. Before lunch, say . . ." Go for it Mulder, "Nine?"
“That would be good.” As though waiting for her acceptance, the power returned and the lights flickered on. She didn't seem to notice and made no move to extinguish any candles.
“Well.” He nodded again and rose reluctantly to his feet. “I’ll see you at nine.”
She walked him to the door. The thought of kissing him crossed her mind and she knew it had crossed his, but neither made a move. They both knew there was tomorrow.
He put his hand on the doorknob, then stopped. Something had been nagging at him since she’d talked about accepting the date. “Dana, did you say someone named Karen set us up?”
“Yes, Karen Connors. She’s at the academy with me.”
“That’s not the name . . . do you know a Sheila Lewis?”
She blinked, Sheila? Had that been her in the parking lot, with Peter? Had they done more ‘setting up’ than she realized?
He wished he’d kept his mouth shut, was she upset?
Then she looked up at him, “Sheila, huh? I’ll have to thank her personally.”
He knew he’d missed something, but with any luck he’d get the chance to ask what. “Tomorrow.”
“Yes, I’ll see you in the morning, Mulder. Be careful, the streets are wet.”
He nodded and at the last moment, let his fingertips brush her cheek. For some reason it felt more intimate than a kiss and she knew blood had suffused her face again. He looked at her for a long moment, then stepped out into the hall, feeling happier than he could have thought. Imagine, a blind date . . .
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?”
“You, you don’t want to get
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.
She opened the door at his knock. The sight of him brought back the memory of last night’s kiss and she could feel her cheeks grow warm. It had only been one kiss and in the parking lot at that, when they’d picked up her car. That was probably a good thing. If he did everything else as well as he kissed, she wouldn’t have allowed him to leave her place - regardless of her declaration.
He was wearing another suit. Did he really own that many expensive suits or did his body just make the clothes look that good?
“Oh, hi. Come on in.” Her blush grew and she stepped aside to let him in.
“I’m fine.” She turned toward the living room.
He touched her arm, "Are you sure? Dana, if you've changed your mind, I can go." He motioned toward the door.
She looked up at him then, "I haven't changed my mind. Not at all. I . . . I'm very happy that you're here." She saw his shoulder relax and his eyes lighten.
"I brought your mother flowers. Is that . . . okay?"
"She'll be as charmed as I am."
He smiled then, but she could see that he was nervous. It was kind of strange how well she could read his face after just a couple of days, but it was true.
They both turned as a dark haired woman approached from the back of the house. She smiled at him and held out her hand. "You must be Fox."
"Mulder, Mom. Mulder, this is my mother, Maggie Scully."
He shook her hand, "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Scully."
He nodded, "I, uh, thank you for having me over." He handed her the flowers he'd brought.
"They're lovely. That was very thoughtful. I'll put them in water, then join you. Dana, why don't you introduce Fox to your father." She smiled at Mulder, "I'll be back in a minute."
"It's Mulder." Dana muttered under her breath and he grinned at her.
"I don't think she's listening."
Dana rolled her eyes, "I can guarantee it. Come on, meet Ahab."
"My father. That's what I call him. Mulder, it's okay, he doesn't bite."
She smiled then and took his arm. An older man turned as they entered the living room. Mulder noted the close-cropped hair and the military bearing. There were some things she hadn't mentioned.
"Ahab, this is my friend, Fox Mulder. Mulder, this is my father, Captain William Scully." The older man held out his hand and Mulder shook it.
"Pleased to meet you, Sir."
"You too son. I like meeting my children's friends. It doesn’t happen often enough now that they’re grown. Have you met my wife?" He glanced over toward the door.
"Yes sir. She's in the kitchen."
"I'm not surprised. Things have to be perfect when our youngest daughter brings home a guest."
"Ahab." Dana's voice was low.
"What? I shouldn’t be honest with the young man?"
She rolled her eyes.
Maggie joined them almost immediately, announcing that lunch was ready and herded everyone that way.
They moved into the dining room where Mulder saw his flowers beautifully arranged on the sideboard. Mulder held the chair for Dana. He was grateful she was sitting beside him rather than across the table and wondered if that was her idea. He sat down and surveyed the food in front of him.
“Mrs. Sc . . . Maggie,” he changed at her look, “this is incredible.”
“You don’t get many home cooked meals?”
“No ma’am. I haven’t had a meal like this in years, literally.”
Both women looked at him surprised.
Captain Scully helped himself to some chicken, then passed the platter to Mulder.
“How long have you and Dana been seeing each other?”
“Ahab - “
“Actually, Dana and I met on Friday. She had some car problems after work. I was able to help out.”
Dana’s eyes twinkled, but she didn’t contradict him. This version would make things easier.
“You know, I met a William Mulder at the Pentagon several years ago.”
“That, uh that would be my father. He’s retired from the State Department.”
“Retired, huh. As I recall he was working on a special project. His security clearance was the highest I’d ever seen. Do you see him often?”
“No Sir, I haven’t seen him in several years.”
“Years?” Maggie spoke up. “Where does he live?”
“He has a house on Martha’s Vineyard.”
“That’s not that far.” Maggie commented.
“The physical distance isn’t the problem.” Mulder took the dish of broccoli casserole from her father.
Maggie absorbed that statement, “What about your mother?”
“She lives in Connecticut.”
Mulder nodded, “Since I was fourteen.”
“It was for the best.” He took a sip of tea.
“Are you an only child?” Maggie continued.
“Uh, no. I had a sister. She,” he swallowed and looked down at his plate, then faced the woman. “She went missing when she was eight. We, we never found her.”
He felt Dana’s hand come to rest lightly on his knee and the words didn’t hurt as bad.
Captain Scully picked up the conversation then, changing the subject as Maggie watched the young man. She didn’t exactly disbelieve his story, but it was difficult to believe they had met on Friday. The man was more than a little in love with Dana, and she hadn’t missed the subtle touch of the man’s leg when his sister was mentioned. Dana had already had that information, even though they had known each other for only two days.
The men had moved on to basketball now, so Maggie could observe them without drawing attention. Dana’s hand was back in sight, but their body language made them seem closer than they were. She needed to have a conversation with Dana. At least this Fox was younger than Jack Willis, and a great deal younger than that Dr. Waterston.
Dana had made . . . mistakes in her personal life. Okay, she was a grown woman, but Dana would always be her baby daughter. Her husband’s question caught her attention.
“How long have you been at the Bureau, Mulder?”
“What made you decide to join?”
“Actually I was recruited, like Dana. I,” he glanced over at Dana, “I have my Ph.D. in psychology from Oxford. I guess they saw something they liked."
Dana’s smile was warming.
“What area do you work in Fox?” Maggie asked.
“I’m in Violent Crimes. I create profiles of criminals.”
“It’s my job to get inside of the heads of criminals, figure out what they’re thinking, how to track them, help the police determine who their next victim might be and get them off the street as soon as possible.”
The Captain spoke again, “Do you think it’s a good career for a woman, the Bureau?”
Dana looked down at her plate, shaking her head slightly. She had no control over this conversation.
Mulder glanced over at her and smiled slightly. “I don’t know, it could be hard on a woman. She’d have to be made of strong stuff. It’s still a boys club for the most part. But from my perspective, I like having a woman check out the scene of a crime. They, as a rule, see things differently than men. They pick up on the little details, the nuances of a room that men who have been doing this work for years could miss. Maybe it’s the fresh eye, but women seem to think differently, at least from me, and I need their insight.
“Since Dana has already battled her way through medical school and residency, I’d say she has the backbone needed. We haven’t worked on a case together, but I’m sure her input would be very valuable.”
The Captain and his wife exchanged glances. It was a different argument than the one Dana had given them, not that she needed their permission.
The rest of the meal was eaten mostly without Dana wanting to kick anyone under the table, and the two men seemed to get along even better than she had hoped.
“Mom, let me get that.”
“No. I’m sure you and Fox have plans for the afternoon. Your father can help me get the kitchen ship shape. Go on, really. Fox, I hope we see you again soon.”
“Thank you Maggie.”
“Yes, you come back, even if you are misguided enough to root for the Knicks.” Her father’s eyebrow was raised, but his eyes smiled.
“Yes Sir. I’ll try not to influence your daughter unduly.” He shook the older man's hand and they headed for their cars.
“I think it’s already too late to worry about his influence.” Maggie remarked to her husband as they returned to the dining room to clear the table.
Peter had parked a little to the side, waiting for her to return. His guilt over what he and Sheila had done, both the date and the sabotage had bothered him with growing intensity. Sheila was ticked at him, but he wanted to check on Dana, even if he didn’t ‘confess’.
He watched her pull into a space and get out of the car, but she didn’t move inside. Peter reached for the door handle; then stopped as he saw her face light up and she moved toward a car that had pulled in behind her.
As Peter sat watching, the long, lean body of Special Agent Fox Mulder emerged from the second car. It was the first time Peter had ever seen the man smile. Dana took his hand and led him toward the building. There was nothing icy about her now.
Shit! He ground the engine starting it and peeled out of the parking lot. Dana and Mulder turned at the noise. Dana's eyes widened and Mulder looked over at her. "What?"
"Let's go in. I want to change." He followed her into the apartment. "Make yourself at home. I'll be right out."
He nodded and watched her disappear into the bedroom. He moved to the window and stood looking out at the street. She was back quickly in navy tights and an over-sized navy and white sweater. Lounging clothes, his mind supplied, they weren't going anywhere.
She smiled at him, "You know, you could lose the tie and jacket."
"Oh, yeah." He slid off the jacket and she took it as he removed his tie. "Dana."
"That car, the one that raced out, was it Peter?"
She hesitated for a moment, "Yes."
"Is he stalking you now?"
"No. I . . . "
"He came over to check on you, because you'd been forced to spend time with me?"
"It's obvious he's interested."
"Well that makes one of us. Would you like some tea?"
"Sure." She wanted him to stay, he felt positively light headed at that.
She returned with two tall glasses of iced tea and motioned for him to join her on the couch. "I'd like to apologize for Maggie and Ahab."
"What? They were great, and I really haven't eaten like that since I can remember."
She shook her head, "We met Friday, when I had car trouble?" She grinned. "Ahab may have bought that, but Maggie . . . "
"She had her radar up about you. She was definitely in 'Super Mom' mode."
"What does that mean?"
"Come on, Profiler Par-excellence, you didn't get those vibes?"
"No, but then my mother's never met anyone I . . . "
"You've never taken a woman home?"
He shook his head, "It never crossed my mind. If it helps any, I've never met anyone's parents before either."
She blinked at that, no wonder he'd been nervous. She decided to switch gears. "The, uh, the game you and Ahab were bickering about comes on in a few minutes. Want to watch?"
"I'm not confident on the finer points of the game."
"Now there I can help you." He smiled.
She handed him the remote and made herself comfortable.
He answered the door with a scowl on his face. "What do you want?"
"Well, it's good to see you too." Sheila responded. "We were going to go over our notes, remember?" She waited a moment. "May I come in?"
Peter stepped aside with a sigh.
She dropped her bag on the chair and turned to look at him. "What's wrong?"
He hesitated, then faced her. "I should never have listened to you."
"Oh god, is this about Dana again? You cannot be feeling guilty about that. It was one date. I'm sure he knows she never even heard about the melting body and has retreated back to his coffin in the basement."
"Wrong again Sheila." He turned away from her, toward his kitchen.
"I was just over at her place." He didn't try to interpret the look on her face, but registered hurt and outrage at least. "She wasn't there when I arrived, so I waited. She showed up, followed immediately by Special Agent Fox Mulder. Let me tell you, she was no ice queen, in fact, ice was melting in at least a one block radius."
He jerked away, "I'm not up for company right now."
"Company. Right, I'll get out of your way." She grabbed up her bag. He didn't try to stop her. By the time she'd made it to her car, her fury had taken over. What was with that redhead? She wasn't that attractive, and her personality - she was so damn rigid. Okay, she'd been top of her class in medical school. Sheila knew what that meant, she'd been one of two females in her own class, but still. Dana had that weird undergraduate degree too. Physics? Not biology or chemistry. What was with that?
So what about the bitch attracted men? Jack, Peter, that older doctor - yes, she'd heard about that, and now someone with a loner from hell reputation like Fox Mulder. It made no sense!
Well, she might have the brains, but Sheila had the smarts. She’d had to, to get where she was. She needed Peter. Okay, she’d underestimated his feelings for Dana. It hadn’t occurred to her that he cared about the redhead. But it could be fixed.
She stretched, waking and felt his arm around her. "Oh my god. Mulder, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"My stimulating personality?"
"No." She smiled shyly. "I had trouble getting to sleep last night. And I guess basketball doesn't really . . . " She sat up fully then, and he released her reluctantly. "Did you win?"
"Yeah. Oh, you mean the game, yes, in overtime."
She blushed at that. What had gotten into her, falling asleep with a man who should be nearly a stranger considering how long she had known him.
"Maybe I should go."
"Do you have to? I'm a lot better company awake."
He smiled, remembering the feel of her of her against him, relaxed, trusting him.
"What? Did I snore?"
"No, not at all. Why, uh, why did you have trouble sleeping?"
The color in her face grew and his eyes widened. Him? Thoughts of him had kept her awake? And she'd just asked him to stay. He leaned forward and she met him, their lips meeting, tongues exploring.
When they fell back, both gasping for air, they just looked at one another for a long moment. It was better than last night's goodbye kiss. A lot better.
"I came so close to doing that in the restaurant last night."
"I know. If I'd had my gun, I'd have winged Mr. Tai."
He gaped at her, "I had the same thought."
She smiled. "I know."
"Who are you?"
"I'm not sure when I'm with you."
He blinked then, "Is that good or bad?"
She managed to smile, "I don't know."
"I'd like to find out." He leaned in to kiss her again.
He tossed his keys on the table and shed his coat. It had been hard leaving her tonight. It was the right thing to do, he knew that. Ignore the fact that she fit into his arms, against his body, as though created to be there. Her lips fit his so damn perfectly. It was too quick; no one had ever gotten to him the way she had. They had spent a comfortable afternoon and evening, shared a pizza, and he had gotten out of there. If he'd stayed . . . well, it would have been . . . premature. It would have been incredible, but rash.
God, he wanted to hear her voice. He made his way to the bathroom and changed into his pajamas bottoms and a t-shirt. He sat on the couch and reached for the remote. Instead he picked up the phone and dialed without hesitation.
"Hi. Is this dumb?"
He could actually feel the smile before she spoke. "No, not dumb. I was . . . I was lying here hoping you would call."
Lying there. That brought up a hell of a visual and he felt his groin tighten.
"Yeah." His voice sounded deeper to her. "You know it's a good thing I left."
"Yes, it was."
"Listen, I don't know what I'll be working on next week, but if I'm in town, do you think I could give you a call?"
"Yes. You know, you could call even if you're out of town."
He grinned. "I think I'll do that. I should let you get some sleep. Good night Dana."
He put the phone down and stretched out. His hand cupped himself and his thumb moved over his semi-erect cock through the fabric of his pajamas. The phone ringing caused him to jerk his hand away. Was she calling him back?
There was silence for a long moment.
"Is anyone there?" Dana wouldn't -
"She's not what you think."
"She's not the woman you think she is. You shouldn't trust her."
Sheila? Was this the best she could come up with? How the hell had she gotten into the Bureau in the first place? "Are you talking about Dana?"
"She didn't get to the top of her class using her brains. It was a different part of her anatomy."
"Are you saying she slept her way to the top?"
"She was involved with at least one of her instructors at the academy, and a doctor during her residency. She uses people."
"That sounds pretty harsh. How did you find out?"
"I checked around."
"To protect me? Do I . . . do I know you?" He had slipped into his 'Marty' voice. He could feel her hesitation. "Please, why are you looking out for me?"
"I . . . I didn't, I didn't want her to hurt you." The question, the tone had thrown her, he could feel it.
"Why? Why do you care about me? Tell me I know you."
"No, no we don't . . . I mean - "
"Could we meet?"
"Why? I mean . . . "
"What's your name? Please." Damn, he was good. No wonder Chantal seemed to enjoy their phone time as much as he had, just as long as he wasn't himself he did great with women. Too bad he was so damn tired of not being himself. What he had told Dana was true, she was the only person whose opinion mattered.
"I . . . I don't know."
"A name, just your first name then. Please, don't go away." He had her off balance. She hadn’t expected him to come on to her. This was good.
"Sh . . . Sheila."
"Sheila. Can I meet you?"
"No. I should go."
"Will you call again?"
"I . . . I don't know."
"Please, Sheila. If you care enough about me to . . . please."
"I'll see. I have to . . . good night." She broke the connection.
What was the woman's problem? Why was she so determined to hurt Dana? His desire to relieve himself gone, he dialed another number. "Danny, it's Mulder. When you get this, could you do me a favor? I need a background check on a Sheila Lewis. She's at the academy and I want to know how she got there and if she's really qualified. While you're at it, check on Peter Doud as well. Give me a call and thanks."
He sank back down onto the couch and closed his eyes. Maybe if he could profile this woman, he could get her to leave Dana alone. He’d find Danny first thing when he got in tomorrow.
They hadn’t seen Dana come up behind them, but Sheila was leaning in to Peter, a flush on her face.
“So now you’re smitten with Spooky too?”
“I didn’t say I was ‘smitten’. I just said we had a very interesting conversation last night. Maybe what you thought you saw wasn’t what was really happening, and maybe I was wrong about the man.”
“You, wrong? How refreshing.”
“You don’t have to get snide, Peter. He is attractive. Maybe the stories about him have been embellished. He didn’t sound very Spooky to me.”
Peter’s expression caused her to stop and look around. Dana’s face brought a smirk to the other woman’s face. “Have a nice weekend, Dana?”
Instead of responding, Dana brushed past them and on into the lecture hall.
“Dana - “Peter tried to stop her, but she didn’t slow down. “You know, you’re a real bitch, Sheila.” He moved away from the blonde following Dana, but she had already taken her seat. He’d have to see her after class.
The lecture had already started when the door opened and a young woman entered. She handed a note to Dr. Guttman. He read it and looked up.
“Dr. Scully, get your things together. You’re going to be missing classes for the next few days. Your services have been requested by the VCS. I have no doubt you’ll learn more in the field than here anyway. I will meet with you later about your assignments.”
Dana managed to rise, and couldn’t stop herself, she glanced toward Sheila. The woman's face was bright red, her fury palpable, then spotted Peter out of the corner of her eye. He was white as a sheet and too stunned to move, though Sheila had her hand on his arm. They both knew the implications of such a summons, and exactly who was behind it.
“Report to Bill Patterson.” Dana took the paper her instructor held out to her and nodded, then turned to the door. Karen was grinning ear-to-ear and mouthed ‘call me’ to Dana.
Dana’s nod was almost imperceptible, then she slipped out of the lecture hall.
She came through the metal detectors and got her badge, then hurried upstairs to Patterson’s office. Just outside the door she stopped and smoothed down her skirt and straightened her jacket. Then she took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
“Come.” A man’s voice called to her.
She opened the door to see a large office with a lot of activity. She glanced around, but didn’t see anyone she recognized.
“Yes sir.” She turned to face the man that spoke.
“Mulder said you could be a help on a case we’ve just picked up. He said you were still at the academy.”
“I am, but I am a forensic pathologist. I did my residency - “
“Fine. Report to Mulder; he’ll bring you up to speed on the case.”
“Yes sir.” She turned as the door opened again and she watched Mulder enter the room. He spotted her instantly, as though he’d sensed her before even seeing her. She saw his eyes smile, but it didn’t reach his lips. Fine, professional, that was good. Besides, she had to admit she was feeling a little unsettled by what she had overheard this morning.
She moved to him and held out her hand. “Agent Mulder.” He shook the proffered hand with only a hint of a smile.
“Dr. Scully. Why don’t I bring you up to date.”
“Thank you.” She followed him out into the hall and to the elevator. She noted that he pressed the button for the basement, but neither spoke with all of the other people around. The car emptied out on the first floor and they were alone. “Mulder? Why did you do this?”
“Because I think you could be a help on this case.”
Her eyebrow rose and he grinned. “Okay, I wanted to see you, but I do think you could help out.”
“The announcement made quite a splash in class.”
“Upset Sheila and Peter, huh?”
“You could say that. I thought Peter was going to pass out and Sheila, she almost had an aneurysm. If you were going for shock, it worked.”
His smile widened.
“You did this on purpose. Mulder, Mulder did you really call her last night? “
“Call her? No. Hey, I may have staged the announcement, but I was thinking about this yesterday when I left you.”
“She said - “
“Scully, when I got in this morning I was handed this. It could be a big case, a murderer who targets women, three so far. I need a woman’s point of view. And you are top of your class and a forensic pathologist. You’re not here just because we’ve gone out. We can talk about the phone call later, I promise.”
She looked into his eyes for a long moment, then nodded. “Okay. Thank you.”
“Did you know you were already being discussed in higher circles, I just preempted them by asking for you first.”
That surprised her, but she said nothing.
After a moment, he turned to his desk. For the first time she looked around the room. Why was he in the basement, so far from the others? And who did his decorating? The “I Want To Believe” poster was a little strange, but he had shown a lot of interest in outer space when they were at the Smithsonian. She took a step closer to look at the other pictures, but he flipped on the slide projector. “Want to get the light?”
“Uh, sure.” She turned off the fluorescent lights and turned toward the picture showing on the wall. It was horrific, the woman had been brutalized. Dana swallowed hard and stepped closer. “Was she raped?”
“Yes.” He pulled another slide, of a different woman, but the wounds were similar.
“The coroner . . . well, I would prefer it if you would do an autopsy yourself. I’m not . . . he may not be as reliable as we need for this case.”
“When was she autopsied?”
“Yesterday. The first slide was the latest victim. There have been two others.”
She nodded, “Where?”
“We fly into Little Rock this afternoon. How long will it take you to pack?”
She blinked, “Not long. You've already made the arrangements?”
“We need to move on this. Our flight is at 2:30.”
She glanced down at her watch. “I need to go to my apartment.”
“I can pick you up there.”
“It’s out of your way.”
“I don’t mind. You better get going. I’ll brief you on the plane.”
She nodded, “I’ll see you in a little while.” She moved toward the door, but with her hand on the knob, she turned back. “Mulder, thank you.”
“You can do this. And I need you. Go on, I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
They made their plane with little time to spare. Fortunately the flight wasn’t crowded, so they had a row to themselves. He took the aisle seat, tossing his briefcase into the window seat so that she would be next to him.
She didn’t settle back as he had expected, and seemed to tense up when the engines revved. “Dana?”
“I’m okay.” She managed a small smile.
He looked straight into her eyes, deeper than she’d ever felt before, then casually draped his arm over her shoulders. She seemed to move just a touch closer, though it might have been his imagination.
“For the record, Dana, I did not call Sheila.”
She looked up surprised. Not what she had expected him to say. She relaxed a little more, he had seen her tenseness at flying and had made her physically comfortable and now was distracting her. And it was working.
“I . . . I didn’t really think so. She must have seen me standing there and wanted to make Peter and me both jealous.”
“Did it make you jealous?” She caught the surprise and the . . . the hope in his tone.
He smiled then, “Well, I didn’t call her, but she did call me.”
“She what?” Dana sat up a little, but he pulled her back down against him, even closer than before.
“She’s half a step above stupid Dana. She said she wanted to ‘warn’ me that you weren’t the person you were presenting yourself to be.”
Dana’s mouth had fallen open and it took all of his will power not to pull her even closer and take advantage of that fact.
“What was I supposed to be?”
“A bimbo, sleeping her way through medical school and now the academy.”
She blinked, “Doesn’t fit the ‘ice queen’ rep, does it?”
“Nope.” He grinned.
“I didn’t you know.”
She sighed, “I have made mistakes.”
“So have I. Do we need to exchange stories?”
She chuckled, “No. I don’t think I want to hear about your women.”
“My women? Yeah, then what would we talk about for the other three hours and ten minutes of the flight?”
She realized they were in the air and met his eyes. “Thank you.”
He shrugged, “Want to go over the case?” He reluctantly removed his arm.
They had met with the sheriff, then he had driven her over to the hospital to use their facilities to repeat the autopsy. Now he stood watching her as she bent over the body. She was adorable in the greens, though he’d never say that. She was all business. He glanced at the body, and winced. It was bad enough looking at dead bodies, but here with the deep investigation . . . he had to keep objective. At least he didn’t lose his lunch like some cops.
She reached for another instrument and he cleared his throat. She glanced over at him and noted his discomfort. “You don’t like this part.”
“Not especially.” He grinned at her.
“I really don’t need you to stay here. I want to be thorough. Why don’t you meet with the Sheriff, see what else they have. I can call you when I’m finished.”
“How long are you talking?”
“A couple of hours at least.”
He was there in exactly two hours to pick her up. She was finished and scrubbing when he arrived. It took her just a couple of minutes to don her street clothes.
"Find anything?" He asked when she rejoined him.
"Yes." She handed him a small evidence bag.
He looked at it closely. "What is it?"
"A splinter? Where . . . "
"Her vagina." He winced. "Mulder, he performed object rape in addition to assaulting her himself."
"It was post-mortem."
He closed his eyes for a moment. "It's late, let's get out of here. Do you feel like eating?"
"I'd really like a shower and to take off my shoes. Could we get some take out?"
He smiled then, "Sure could. Chinese?" The smile grew.
"Without Mr. Tai? Wouldn't feel right. How about Italian?"
Well, the blood didn't seem to bother her, but she'd have to have a strong stomach for this work. "Italian it is. I'll drop you by the motel, then go get the food."
"You don't - "
"It'll be nice and hot when you get out." He cajoled.
"Mmm, sold. Let's lock up the evidence and get out of here."
She answered the door quickly when he knocked. He had to check her out and he liked what he saw. Her hair was slicked back, but the tendrils that had dried were curling. She had on a large USN t-shirt and running shorts, but had topped everything with a three quarters length robe. She let him in and pulled the robe closed. He was positive she wasn't wearing a bra.
"Smells good." She took a deep breath.
"So do you." He responded and enjoyed her shy smile. "May I join you?"
"Of course." She scooped her papers off the small table and pulled up the other chair.
He steered the conversation away from the case, and Sheila. He knew what he had to do tonight and this respite would get him through it.
She cleaned up and put her files on the bed. "Do you want to work in here?"
He blinked at her, in here? With her? He didn't answer and her face flushed. "I'm sorry. If you have a routine . . . "
"No, it's not . . . no one's ever asked before. I don't know, I'm not good company when I . . . "
"I understand." She gathered up her notes and settled Indian style on the bed.
"Dana, really, I've never worked around anyone when I'm trying to get into someone like this guy's head."
"Mulder, it's okay. I'm not upset. I don't know how this is done, I've never done it either. If you need to be alone, I understand."
"The problem is, I don't want to be alone."
She smiled slightly then. "I'm not throwing you out."
He joined her on the bed then, not close enough to touch, and made himself comfortable against the headboard. "You could tell me what you found. Talk to me."
He stirred when she rolled over. Shit, he hadn't meant to get really comfortable, much less fall asleep. He had work to do. He slipped off of her bed and took the papers over to the table, then took the half of the bedspread he had been lying on and lay it over her. Before good sense could take over completely, he gently kissed her lips. She seemed to sigh a little, but didn’t wake. He let himself out of the room.
The knocking woke her. She turned, stretching slightly. Why was she on top of the covers with the bedspread draped over her. Mulder! Her eyes flew open. He’d been here, explaining how he worked through the evidence.
The second knock jolted her back to the present. “Who is it?”
“Dana, open up.”
Mulder. She scrambled out of the bed and hurried to the door. She glanced through the peephole, then hurried to let him in.
“They found another body. We need to get over there.”
“Give me fifteen minutes.”
He nodded and she looked at him more closely.
“Are you okay?”
He nodded, “We need to hurry.”
“Of course. I’m sorry. I’ll be right out.”
“I’ll find us some coffee.”
The scene was gruesome, the rage and overkill blatant even to her novice eyes. The locals had waited for them and now Dana was taking the crime scene photos as Mulder talked to the neighbor who had reported the disturbance.
They had moved to another room, so the older man could get his composure back. Mulder was torn between talking to him, and keeping an eye on Dana. He knew she had picked up his emotional distance this morning and he wanted her to know it was the work. He shoved that aside, they could talk later.
One of the deputies took the neighbor home finally, after Mulder thanked him for his assistance. Mulder hurried back to the bedroom. She looked up as he came through the door “Is Mr. Abram okay?”
“Not really. The deputy was going to stay with him until his son can get here.”
She nodded. “We’re about through in here. I’ll ride with the body and you can have the car.”
He nodded. She seemed rather
distant herself. They moved out of the way, so that the body could be loaded
for transport and in the relative privacy of the hall, he touched her shoulder.
“Listen, I - “
“Mulder.” She smiled up at him. “It’s the work. It’s why you’re so good at it. I don’t want to be a distraction, I want to be a help.”
He leaned down, close to her ear. “Do you know how much I want to kiss you?”
“About half as much as I want you to?” She grinned at the stunned look on his face.
They had loaded the body onto the gurney now. Dana leaned over and unzipped the bag, to check one last thing he assumed. He looked down at the dead woman. What he saw froze him - it wasn't the dead woman, not the victim that had brought them here. It was her, Dana, lying on the gurney, her beautiful red hair spread out around her peaceful face. He couldn't speak, he couldn't even move.
"Mulder?" Her hand on his arm brought him back. "Mulder, what's wrong?"
He still didn't speak. She motioned for the men to take the body out, then pulled Mulder to the side.
"Mulder, talk to me. What is it?"
He grabbed her upper arms in a painful grip. "I want you to go home, back to DC."
"What? No. I have an autopsy to do." She motioned toward the door.
"I know how he picks his victims."
Her eyes grew wide. That had been a point of frustration all along. "How?"
"Its women he sees at the crime scene. He comes back, to watch us work. Then picks an innocent bystander."
“Mulder, you can’t know that.”
“Dana, please, trust me. I’ll have to do some checking, but I’m right.”
“Okay, you go to the station and check. I’ll go to the morgue and start on the autopsy.”
“He’s seen you. I’m sure of it. You’re not safe. Hell he could already be targeting you!”
She just looked at him and his frustration grew. Why wasn’t she listening? He knew what he was talking about. She must have seen his frustration because after a moment she nodded. “I can take a deputy with me. He can wait outside of the morgue.”
His eyes closed and the relief actually bowed his shoulders. She had listened, she might not believe, but she had listened. He looked down at her then, and let one finger trace her cheekbone. “Don’t leave the morgue until I come to get you. No one else.”
She gave him a slight smile. “No one else, got it.”
“I’m serious Dana.”
Her smile disappeared, “So am I. I need to get going, and so do you.”
Mulder arranged for her to ride in the ambulance, but to be followed by Deputy Miller. His directions to Miller were specific. He drove back to the sheriff’s office, but his unease didn’t lift. Seeing her body, lifeless on that gurney, had affected him, truly affected him in a way he had been unprepared for.
He tried desperately not to think of the victims of the crimes he investigated as people. It didn’t help, and only made the depression worse when he worked.
He cornered the sheriff in his office and went over his theory that their murderer had been at the scenes of each of the crimes, which could mean it was one of his people, at the least someone he knew. They also checked, where they could, about whether or not the victims had been at previous crime scenes.
The other correlation hit him as he stared once again at the folders spread out in front of him. It was what he should have seen last night, but he’d been too comfortable. These women, all but one had traditionally male jobs. The first victim had been a loan officer, the second a lawyer, this last one worked as a lineman for the electric company. That didn’t explain the waitress.
“Sheriff, look at this.”
Wilkins moved over closer, and looked at the files with the grisly photos spread over the extra desk. “Yeah?”
Mulder quickly explained his theory.
“So you’re saying he’s angry at women who get ‘men's’ jobs?”
“Yeah, except for the third one. A waitress is traditionally a woman’s job.”
“Well Mollie only did that part time.”
“Part time? It’s the only occupation listed.” He pointed at the file.
“Well, she wasn’t official yet.”
“Official?” Mulder was not going to hit the guy, not yet.
“She was a volunteer fireman, well fire fighter I guess is the correct term now. She hadn’t completed her training, but she was good.”
That was traditionally a male role. He had hit on it. But he should have realized this last night. Dana was in danger from this guy because he’d been slow. She was a doctor, a pathologist and an FBI agent - how traditionally male could you get?
He pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed her cell.
He looked up as Miller approached the desk, and felt fear grip him. "Why aren't you with Agent Scully?"
"Dell told me you needed me here. He came to relieve me." The confused deputy looked up at Mulder.
"Dell? Who's that? Did you send him?" Mulder turned on the sheriff, even as he pressed redial on the phone.
"Dell? He's a guy that hangs around here. I've deputized him a couple of times. Real helpful guy.”
“Well, yes. He applied for the police academy this past session but didn't get in."
"Oh, space. I'm sure he'll get in next time."
"Space?” Mulder felt a familiar sinking feeling. “Who got the last space this time?"
"Let me think, Grace, Grace Madison. She had a better grade on the entrance exam."
"A woman. How did he take it?"
"He was disappointed, maybe a little sore. He took some ribbing because a woman - "
"This Dell, he's the guy that been murdering these women. He's been at the crime scenes; he's seen the women. Shit! I should have - He's got Dana. Where would he take her?"
The two men in front of him were still gaping at him, unable to make the leaps he was making at this lightening speed.
“Did you hear me? Where would he have taken her?”
“Now listen just a minute Agent Mulder. You don’t even know that she’s not still in the morgue, checking out the body.”
Mulder held up his cell phone, “She hasn’t answered.”
“So she’s got her hands in the woman’s body.” The sheriff put his arms out to try to calm him, clearly put out by the man’s attitude.
“Come on.” Mulder grabbed his jacket.
“You’ve got the siren and lights. Now!”
The sheriff sighed, but he did move to follow Mulder. “Miller, hang out here. Call me when Dell shows up.”
The sheriff’s attitude had changed abruptly when they arrived at the hospital. Neither Dana nor Dell was anywhere to be found, but the body had been left out, exposed, the autopsy half finished. The blood spot on the floor near the door had two red hairs caught in it
Mulder felt blackness creeping in on him. He’d been right, but he hadn’t followed through enough to protect her in time.
“Where would he have taken her?” His voice was low and harsh. The sheriff winced. “He murdered the other women in their homes. They let him in, that’s why there was no forced entry. He’s got a uniform, doesn’t he?”
Sheriff Wilkins nodded.
“Okay, they felt safe.” Mulder had gone inside of himself again. “Why these women. There were other women that witnessed the clean up, from behind the lines. What am I not seeing?”
The sheriff stood there, watching him.
“The victim, the first one, she was a loan officer. Did he have any money problems?”
“Uh, listen - “
“You listen! This madman has my partner, a woman doing what he thinks is a man’s job. Tell me what I need to know.”
“Yes, he had money problems. He ended up having to sell his family home after his Grandmother died. They wouldn’t extend the loan.”
“She was the first victim. He liked the feel of it, he felt justified. Where would he take her?”
“He lives in a, it’s like a boarding house. He couldn’t take her there.”
“The home he had to sell - “
“The new family is there.”
Mulder reached for the man’s lapels, ready to shake him, but realized in time and forced himself to step back. “Are there outbuildings on the property?”
“I haven’t been out there. We need to talk to Miller.”
“Come on, he can meet us out there. We don’t have any time.”
Mulder was moving toward the door, ready to break into a run as soon as he was outside of the building. Wilkins hurried to catch up. He had put her in this danger, he had to find her, he had to save her.
It was Deputy Miller who spied Dell’s car hidden in a wooded area of the old farm road. The closest building was an old shed, used to store equipment closer to the fields. Dell had obviously had to improvise quickly with a woman who had no home in the area.
They heard no sounds coming from the building, but Mulder’s senses were on high alert. The sheriff had only pulled his gun reluctantly at Mulder’s insistence.
By sign language, Miller indicated he would go in first. Mulder felt as though they were placating him, but he needed the back-up.
Miller cautiously pushed the door open, but the groans from the hinges spoiled any hint of surprise. Then Miller was on the ground, struck in the head, unconscious. Mulder moved then, as the sheriff stooped to check for a pulse.
Dell had moved back into the shadows where Dana lay, knowing he was caught, but desperate to finish his work before they had him.
Dell raised the piece of wood he had slammed into Miller’s head, but Mulder’s bullet caught him on the down swing, knocking him back. He lunged forward once more, but another bullet, from behind Mulder, finished the job.
Mulder was already on his knees beside her. “Get an ambulance!” He barked at the sheriff and heard him race off toward the cars.
“Dana? Dana, its Mulder. You’re safe now. Can you hear me? I’m sorry, I’m so damn sorry.”
Her eyelids fluttered, but didn’t open. He saw her split and bleeding lips form his name. Relief threatened to topple him, and he found himself sitting on the wooden floor at her side.
“It’s going to be okay.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and felt her relax under his hands.
He was in a hurry; he wanted to get to the hospital. He needed to see Dana, but he had to get this out of the way. He picked up the phone and dialed.
“Come.” Sheila opened the office door at his biding. She had stopped to freshen her lipstick, fix her hair, and unbutton the top two buttons of her blouse.
“Agent Mulder.” She practically purred the words and he struggled to keep his face impassive.
“Please, call me Sheila.”
The huff from the corner of the room drew her attention and Mulder saw a look of unease come over her face. Peter? “What are you doing here?”
“Agent Mulder asked to see me.”
“Please,” Mulder motioned to the chair. She sat, but didn’t cross her legs provocatively. Mulder found himself a little disappointed, and a lot amused.
“Ms. Lewis, Sheila, I thought you should know that you’ve been the subject of an unofficial investigation.”
“I just decided to check into your ‘credentials’.”
He saw her face pale and he pushed a file toward her. Peter just observed from the far side of the room. After a moment, she took the file he extended. Mulder was watching her, but she had dropped her eyes. She opened the manila folder and began looking at the papers. Her face lost even more color. After a couple of minutes, she closed the file and faced him. “So?”
“So,” he smiled, “they’ll be asking for your resignation. You might want to get your resume together.”
“Because of Dana? Because we set you up on a blind date?”
Peter jerked at the word ‘we’, but Mulder’s look kept him quiet.
“Actually I’d like to thank you for that, but the rumors, the lies about her reputation, come on Sheila, the sabotage on her car? What is this, high school? You don’t have what it takes to be in the FBI. Personally, I don’t think you have what it takes . . . never mind.”
“What about Peter? Are you throwing him out too?”
Mulder turned to look at the man, “No. I don’t have the authority to throw either of you out. Besides, he might be able to cut it. The Bureau needs agents willing to . . . to work hard and do the scut work.”
“Dana - “ Peter started, but Mulder’s narrowed eyes stopped him for a moment. “She doesn’t have to worry about . . . I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? What you are is a wimp.” Sheila hissed at him. “No wonder she wasn’t interested in you. What woman would be?” She turned to face Mulder then, “Fine, I’m out. You gentlemen can run the damn Bureau, but you,” She looked at Mulder, “You’re no better for her than he is. I didn’t make up your reputation, you earned it. You really think a woman like Dana Scully could stay interested in you? Has any woman ever stayed interested in you?” As she watched, his face became totally impassive; no expression at all graced his features. For the first time, she felt fear.
He pushed the door opened quietly, she was asleep. He was pleased to see that her bruises were healing. A movement caused him to look to the side of her room. Her mother stood and motioned for him to step outside. She followed him, pulling the door closed silently.
Not Fox, he felt a pang of dread. “Mrs. Scully. How is she?”
“Better. They may let her go home tomorrow.”
“That’s wonderful.” He glanced at the door.
“Mr. Mulder . . . I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to see her. She, she’s confused about her . . . her career path right now. Her father and I would like to see her return to medicine. You have, you have a great deal of influence over her and we, her father and I, would rather you not attempt to talk her into staying with the Bureau.”
“Mrs. Scully, I . . . I would never try to convince her to do something she doesn’t want to do.”
“That’s the problem Mr. Mulder; she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Please, for her sake, would you step away at this time?”
He glanced at the door one more time, then settled his shoulders. “You think that’s for the best.”
“I do. I’m sure you are a very nice man, but - “
“No Mrs. Scully. I’m not a nice man. I was able to get into the head of the man that hurt Dana. I understood him, I was able to find him. Someone that can do that . . . we should be alone. I knew that before I met her, I just forgot for a little while. Would you tell her I’m glad she’s doing so well. No, no don’t do that.” He held out his hand, “It was very nice meeting you and your husband Mrs. Scully. You have a wonderful daughter and I . . .” He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and looked at her, “Goodbye.”
She watched as he turned and walked toward the elevator. She very nearly called him back and did take a step toward him, but stopped herself. He wasn’t her worry, Dana was.
She put her coffee down, she couldn’t let him see that her hands were shaking. She wasn’t even sure why they were. When the Bureau had called for an assist on an autopsy, it hadn’t crossed her mind that the AIC could be Mulder. They hadn’t spoken in nearly two years.
The timing was unbelievable. Just last weekend she had been helping her mother in the garden when the older woman had brought up Mulder. Dana had tried to change the subject at first, but Maggie Scully would not be dissuaded.
Finally Dana sank down on her knees beside her mother, mouth open. “You asked him . . .” She lost her voice. Her mother had no idea what she had done. The man was so insecure. He had been so incredulous that her parents had liked him and then . . . oh god.
She’d left her parents home in a daze, allowing herself to remember that time. A time she had worked so hard to put aside, to forget. She was stunned that it was still so vivid.
She’d been a little surprised when he hadn’t come to the hospital, but knew that he had a lot of work to do to finish up the case. Even though there would be no trial, and the shooting had been witnessed by the sheriff, there was a lot of paperwork to complete. She was hurt when he didn’t call after she was released. He had to know she was home. In the beginning she had jumped at every call, and, though she had never admitted it, she had called him once. She hadn’t had the courage to leave a message when the machine picked up.
Her memories of the actual rescue were muddled. She knew that she hadn’t been raped, but it would have been soon. He had already removed his belt and beaten her with it. She had been drifting in and out of consciousness, but knew the sound of his voice, Mulder’s voice. A feeling of peace had come over her. She had heard the shots, then his arms were around her, his voice in her ear whispering apologies over and over. He hadn’t kissed her lips, which were torn and bleeding but she had a vivid memory of his lips on her forehead, as though branding her with his mark.
She had returned to a changed class. Peter was there, but more subdued. He had welcomed her back along with the others, but had not attempted to get close enough to even shake her hand. But she was truly shocked to find Sheila gone. Karen had been more than willing to bring her up to date.
“You haven’t heard? Oh Dana, it was the biggest scandal! No one knows how the news came out. We hadn’t even heard that you had been injured yet. They decided to redo a background check on her for some reason and apparently re-interviewed some people that had recommended her. It all came out. Instead of being in the top 10% of her class, she was in the bottom 5% and wouldn’t have been there if she hadn’t been sleeping with, as it turns out, several of her professors. And she was getting ‘help’ here as well. Agent Davies is no longer at Quantico, though no one wants to talk about it. I heard he was transferred to Minneapolis.“
She had known instantly that Mulder had been behind this. He’d run the investigation while she was in the hospital recuperating. That was the night she had called, but hung up. If he’d cared enough about her to look after her, to protect her this way, then why . . .
After several weeks, she was given an assignment that took her downtown. After a great deal of tossing and turning the night before, she had made up her mind to confront him - for better or worse, she needed to know why.
The door to the office had been partially open and she’d seen him, his back to the door. He was poring over some file. Just the sight of him had sent a thrill down her spine. Before she could chicken out, she tapped on the door.
“Yeah.” He turned surprised.
She’d never seen him in glasses.
God, the man just looked better every time she saw him. Several expressions
flitted across his face before he had control of himself. He rose finally, and
stepped toward her. “How are you?”
“I’m good. All healed, well mostly.” She smiled softly at him. “Am I interrupting?”
“I’m working on something for Patterson.”
She nodded, “I won’t take long. I just . . . Mulder, what did I do wrong?”
“Wrong?” He seemed genuinely puzzled.
“I . . . you didn’t call, or . . . “
“I kept up with your progress. I’ve just been very busy.”
“Busy.” She repeated as though she didn’t understand the word. “I see.”
He stood there, obviously impatient to see her go. Instead she plunged on, “Mulder, you know I don’t blame you for what happened, don’t you? You saved me; that’s what I remember.”
“You wouldn’t have needed saving if I hadn’t dragged you out there. I should have . . . “
“Was it because I’m so inexperienced? Did I - “
“No. I was the senior agent. The whole debacle was my responsibility.”
“But it wasn’t! You knew. You’d figured it out and I didn’t take it seriously enough.”
He smiled slightly, sardonically, “I’m used to that.”
“Mulder, don’t - “
“Dana, I really need to get back to work.”
“That’s it? You want me to leave?”
“I think that would be for the best. Don’t . . . I really enjoyed meeting you - “
“Meeting me?” Her eyes widened.
“Spending time . . . Listen - “ The phone rang interrupting him. He grabbed the receiver, trying not to show his relief. “Yes sir. Yes. Right.” He hung up. “Dana, I have to - “
“Of course. I need to get to my appointment, It was nice seeing you and . . . and thank you again for saving my life.” She turned quickly, so that he wouldn’t see the tears threatening to fall from her eyes, and left the room. She didn’t see him reach out to stop her, or the look of anguish when he let his arm drop.
She hadn’t looked back.
Finally she had managed to put it aside, she had begun dating and now was in a relationship with Ethan. She was over Mulder, completely. This assignment would prove that, besides she hadn’t really been in the Bureau long enough to have a professional reputation, not like now. Okay, the ‘ice queen’ label had stuck. Dana occasionally wondered if Sheila knew that she had actually helped with that particular rumor. The men she had to deal with understood that she was all business. She could do this. She squared her shoulders and turned toward the door, she was ready to face him now.
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.