He opened the door and tossed his keys onto the table. Another thrill-a-minute weekend to look forward to. He looked around the apartment. It could use a cleaning. He sighed. Just about everyone he knew looked forward to the weekends. Personally he couldn’t get through them fast enough and get back to important things.
Too bad there was no good case to work on, then he and . . . oh yeah, she was one of those people that looked forward to weekends. He sighed and headed into the bedroom. Once there, he changed into cut off sweats and t-shirt. He could probably get a run in, and put off housekeeping for a little while longer.
He was moving toward the door when the phone rang. “Yeah?”
Great, the management company that looked after his mother’s house. Damn he hated making these kinds of decisions. If the tenants wanted to put in more flowers, fine with him. Yes, a couple of stones for a pathway through the flowers would be fine as well. He was shaking his head now; this stuff did not matter!
He managed to get off the phone without losing it completely, but his desire to run was shot. He was supposedly an adult now, with adult responsibilities, cleaning the apartment was something that had been put off for too long.
He trudged into the bedroom and grabbed his laundry basket. There wasn’t a good reason for not putting his dirty clothes actually in the basket instead of throwing them around the room, and making the bed didn’t take that long.
He moved into the kitchen when the phone rang again. “Yeah.”
“Well hello to you too, Mulder.” Just the sound of her voice lifted his spirits.
“Sorry, just went a couple of rounds with the management company in Greenwich. What’s up, Sunshine?”
Sunshine? Was he drinking? She decided to ignore the comment and move on.
“Just thought I’d let you know the autopsy report came in. The tox screen confirmed our report.”
“Great. You want to go in tomorrow and - “
“No. Mulder, stop there. I’ve got plans this weekend.”
“Plans? What, you have a date?”
“Stranger things have happened.” But she relented as the silence grew from his side of the call. “I’m going to Richmond. An old friend of mine is getting married.”
“You’re a bridesmaid!”
“Bite your tongue, Mulder. No I am not a bridesmaid. This is her second marriage and there are no bridesmaids.”
“Were you one in the first wedding?”
“Shut up, Mulder.”
“Pink taffeta and ruffles?”
“I’m hanging up.”
“Wait! I’m sorry. When are you leaving?”
“Well, it’ll take me at least an hour and a half. I’m supposed to be there for a lunch.” Her voice kind of trailed off.
“You don’t sound especially thrilled, Scully.” He probed gently. He could almost hear her shrug.
“It’ll be nice to see my friends again.”
“How come she’s had two husbands and I can’t even find one!”
He sat there, stunned. She didn’t usually admit things like that, at least not to him. This must be bothering her more than he realized.
He heard her sigh. “I’m sorry, Mulder. That was a stupid comment and I apologize. I do need to hang up, pack, that kind of thing. I just thought you’d want to know about the results.”
“Scully, are you going alone?” He decided to ignore that part about hanging up.
“I don’t know, it sounds like you could use a friend.”
“I’m going to be with all my friends from undergraduate school.” She sighed, then “Oh. You mean . . . Mulder, are you busy this weekend?”
“Swamped, but I could probably fit you in.”
“Are you serious?” She realized she was holding her breath.
It hit him what he had just offered, without much thought. “Well, yeah. I mean, if you wouldn’t mind. I’d try not to embarrass you too much.”
“Could I pick out your tie?”
“I should resent that, shouldn’t I?”
She chuckled at that. “Would you really do this for me?”
That settled it, he’d blundered in, but he wasn’t about to back out now. “Sure. You’ve done enough off the wall things for me.”
That brought about another laugh. Yes, Mulder would consider this ‘off the wall’, but for the first time since she had received the invitation, she didn’t feel overwhelming dread.
“What do I need to pack?”
“A suit, bathing suit - “
“Bathing suit?” He broke in.
“Yes, there’s a pool party at the groom’s house tomorrow night. And something casual - not jeans and t-shirt.”
“I think I can do that. What time should I pick you up?”
“I’ll pick you up. Nine o’clock sharp. If you’re not ready - “
“You’ll leave without me. I get it; I’ll be ready.”
“Mulder, thank you.” She hung up before he could respond. He wasn’t sure what he’d gotten himself into, but she really did seem pleased that he was accompanying her.
He opened the door when she knocked the next morning. “Mulder, are you - “ She stopped then and had to laugh. “I can’t believe you still have that.”
“Why, what do you mean, Agent Scully?”
“You still have the pink golf shirt?”
“You don’t like me in pink?” He asked innocently. “You did when we were married.”
“Actually, you might fit in well in that.”
“Great.” He rolled his eyes. She moved past him and headed toward his bedroom. “Scully?”
“You said I could pick your tie.”
“Thanks a lot.” But he followed her into the bedroom, where she spotted several ties laid out on the bed. She turned to look at him, eyebrow raised. He shrugged but grinned at her.
She immediately reached for a dark green tie with a geometric design. “Did you pick this one out?”
“I beg your pardon?”
She didn’t back down, “Mulder, did you?”
He looked away. “No. The salesman liked it with my suit.”
She didn’t even try to hide the laugh. He would have been a lot more insulted if she didn’t look so damn good.
Yes, he was wearing the pink golf shirt, but she was wearing a short straight dress, mostly black, of course this was Scully. But it was sleeveless and had flowers around the hem.
“We better get going. I’m hoping there’s no traffic or construction, but . . .”
“Okay, I’m ready. Let me put the tie in and we’re off.”
He followed her to the car and let her open the trunk. “Be careful, the wedding present is back here.”
“Oh, what did we get them?”
Her eyes narrowed, which caused his grin to widen. Instead of answering, she walked around to the driver’s side and got in.
He got in on his side and after buckling up, turned to her. “You can’t tell me because it’s too sexy?”
She snorted lightly, “It’s two champagne glasses in their pattern.”
“So we have very good taste.”
“Yeah, Mulder, great taste.” She pulled out into traffic as he chuckled. Boy, she hoped she hadn’t made a mistake here . . .
After they got on the highway, he turned to her again. “Okay, tell me all about the other wedding.”
“The one where you wore the pink ruffles.”
“Oh god, Mulder, you are not going to talk about that. It was a long time ago, they’ve been divorced at least a couple of years. And I did not wear pink.”
“Scully, I promise to be good as gold.”
She glanced over at him. He was enjoying this, at her expense, but he seemed so light hearted, it was beginning to lift her spirits as well. She knew she had not gone into this with the best attitude. “It was yellow.” She finally said.
“It was spring.”
“Yeah, but yellow?”
Scully shook her head and smiled. “Yes.”
“You want to know the style of the dress? What is this?”
“Come on, I’m trying to visualize you. I don’t suppose there will be old pictures of the first wedding hanging around.”
She turned and glared at him. He mock cringed. “Good as gold, I promise.”
“Great. What have I done?” But he could tell she was beginning to get into a weekend mode, lighter, freer. Whatever happened, this ride would be worth it. “Gone With the Wind.”
He almost choked. “Scully, you’re kidding!”
“No.” She shook her head again. “Her mother planned the wedding. I still remember the tension between those two. I wouldn’t be surprised if her mother’s not even invited this time. We weren’t in hoop skirts, but they were full and had crinolines, white gloves and those big floppy hats with ribbons.”
“God, Scully. Please tell me there is a picture of this somewhere back at your apartment. My imagination is just not that good.”
She laughed out loud then, “I may have kept one, but if you ever tell anyone . . . “ She let the threat hang and watched as he crossed his finger over his heart.
“Mulder, I need to get to the luncheon right now.” She glanced at her watch, then over at the desk. “Could you check us in? Leave my key at the desk? I’d appreciate it.”
“No problem. Have fun.” He watched her walk away. She looked great and, for this weekend only, she was with him. And not as a partner.
He turned toward the desk.
“May I help you?” The woman behind the counter looked more than willing to assist him with just about anything.
He shot her his most appealing smile. “Yes, I believe you have a reservation in the name Scully?”
“Ah yes, Dr. Scully.” She typed quickly into the computer.
“Wha . . .? Oh, and I need another room too.”
“I’m sorry, Dr. Scully. We have several meetings going on. I’m afraid we’re completely booked for tonight.”
“Oh. Uh, okay.” He glanced in the direction Scully had taken. Well, he couldn’t bother her right now, but she had the car keys. Well, in the meantime, he could wait in her room. “I’ll take one key, but I need to leave one here to be picked up.”
“Yes sir, no problem.” She smiled at him again.
He nodded and picked up both suitcases and hanging bags and headed for the elevator. “Sir, would you like some help?”
“I’ve got it. Thanks.”
He found the room with no trouble. It wasn’t like he didn’t know his way around hotels. The key card got him in and he hung up her dress and his suit, then eyed the room. It was a mini-suite, sitting room in the front and two queen size beds in the other room.
Maybe she’d let him sleep on the couch, then at least he wouldn’t have to find a room. In the meantime, he could hang out here at least.
Lunch. He should get some lunch. He hadn’t asked her when the party started tonight and he’d had to hurry to meet her deadline this morning, so he’d forgone breakfast.
He headed back downstairs to the dining room. He spotted the sign on the room for the luncheon and stood just outside the door listening for just a second.
He couldn’t hear her voice, some other woman was talking and he moved on before someone had him arrested as a pervert. He knew she wasn’t completely thrilled to be here and he hoped that he could help with that.
When he emerged from the bathroom, she gave him the once over. “Are you armed, Mulder?”
“We’re going to be with women who have been married a while. You’re going to make the husbands look a little stale.”
“Why, Agent Scully, are you coming on to me?”
She rolled her eyes, “Can’t take a compliment, huh?” She grinned and took over the bathroom.
When she emerged, she watched his eyes widen. “Well, I know you aren’t armed.”
“What, is it too tight?” She twisted, trying to see herself and he was stunned to feel a stirring in his groin.
“Uh, no, Scully, it’s perfect. You’re not much for compliments either, are you?”
He’d never seen her dressed like that. It was a sundress, spaghetti straps. It was some shade of green, wasn’t that called sage? He had a tinge of regret that he couldn’t see the color as others did, because it was obviously perfect on her.
Her legs might be short, but damn were they shapely and those little nothing shoes made them look plenty long. Enough! This was Scully, quit gawking at her. So what if you haven’t had a live date in nearly a decade; maybe this was why.
“Scully, are you kidding? This is the address?”
She checked the number again. “This is the place.” She was looking at the house too. It was a mansion; there was no other word for it. It was not what she had expected.
“She’s marrying him for love, right?”
The question caught her off guard and she laughed. “Are you going to behave, Mulder? Or should we turn around and leave right now.”
“Come on, Scully. Tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing.”
She forced a bland expression on her face, though her eyes were dancing. “We’ll discuss this later. Come on.”
Mulder pulled the car up to the curb along with the other cars and got out. He moved to open her door, but she beat him to it. He did put his hand on her back as they walked up the drive, neither thinking that much about it.
The bride herself answered the door. “Dana!” She threw her arms around Scully. “I still can’t believe I was able to catch you on a weekend you were free. Everyone is just thrilled that you could come. I’m sorry we didn’t have more time to talk at the luncheon. It’s been too long!”
Scully returned the hug. “I know, I’m sorry. I should do a better job of staying in touch. Chloe, this is my friend, Fox Mulder.”
She turned and indicated Mulder, standing close behind her, and watched the expression change on Chloe’s face. The woman actually checked him out before she found her voice. “Fox. Very nice to meet you.” She held out her hand and took his.
“Uh, thanks. I’m glad Dana and I were free.”
Scully’s head came up suddenly, but she caught herself. She’d get him later.
“Come on back. Everyone’s at the pool. You can put your bag in the pool house and we’ll change after we eat. Jason’s grilling out with help from the other guys. I bet you do a great job on the grill, Fox.” She had his arm, and it was as though she had forgotten Scully for an instant, then she took her arm as well and led them through to the back. “I’ll give you a tour of the house later. I didn’t think I was going to get the decorators out of here before the wedding, but we squeaked by!”
She led them to the bar first. “You need to get a drink before everyone starts talking to you, or you’ll never make it. Come over and meet Jason as soon as you’re fixed up.”
She released Fox, finally, and moved to speak to her other guests. Mulder leaned down to Scully’s ear. “Yeah, it’s for love.”
She had to cover her mouth to keep from sputtering as she laughed out loud and Mulder relished the sight. He got her a wine and himself a beer, then began following her around, being introduced to her friends.
Chloe wasn’t the only woman to take special note of him and Scully began looking at him with new eyes. He did look great tonight, in gray slacks, a darker gray t-shirt and sports coat. He seemed at ease and was obviously thoroughly enjoying calling her Dana and not bothering to explain their relationship. Well, she couldn’t complain exactly, she was doing the same thing.
He had stayed at the grill with Jason and the other men after they had introduced themselves and she was carried off by several of her friends.
Brenda had her cornered now, “Where did you meet this foxy Fox? Come on, Dana, give!”
“He works at the Bureau. We’ve known each other for a while.”
Chloe joined them then, “Well, Honey, it’s good to know my tax money is going for something like that! Good old J. Edgar never looked like him.”
Scully glanced back over at him. He saw her and winked. She couldn’t help the blush that came over her face and the other women noticed immediately. Comments began flying.
“Wait, wait a minute, it’s not like that. We’re friends.”
“Yeah. I’d be friends with him in a minute myself.” Brenda commented and the others laughed, agreeing.
Scully looked back over now that he wasn’t watching her. He was the best looking man standing there. Okay, maybe she was a little prejudice, but it all worked for him, tall, dark, handsome . . . She realized where her thoughts were taking her and shook her head slightly.
“Yeah, join us again girlfriend. You can watch him after the lights go out.”
Scully just shook her head again and smiled, then remembered that she would indeed get to watch him sleep tonight.
“Soup’s on!” Jason called from the grill and Scully gave a little sigh of relief. It was hard being questioned, even teased, by these women on this subject, especially with Mulder, ‘Fox,’ watching from the sidelines.
He brought her a plate, with exactly what she would have chosen for herself and sat beside her. When he did, some of the husbands also joined the women - whether to protect their turf or not, Scully wasn’t sure.
“How about some more wine?”
“I’d love it, thanks, Fox.” She looked up at him challengingly.
“Anytime, Dana.” He rose and moved toward the bar.
“Good god, Dana. The way he says your name! I’ve got goose bumps.” Brenda leaned in and whispered.
Scully made no comment. This was one hell of a strange evening. She heard the music change and several people got up to dance. Mulder returned with her wine, but instead of handing it to her, placed it on the table. “Dance?”
The request caught her off guard, but she only hesitated an instant before nodding. He took her hand and led her to the dance area. It wasn’t until after she was in his arms that she realized what was playing, “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge.
She looked up at him, not sure if she was expecting a wink or a laugh. She was not expecting that look in his eyes. Her breath caught and he pulled her a little closer. She didn’t resist, instead closing her eyes and resting her cheek against his chest. Surely it was only her imagination that his heartbeat became a little faster.
It definitely was not her imagination that his lips pressed against her forehead as the song ended. She was afraid to look up; she knew she was blushing. His lips brushed her ear then, “thanks for the dance.”
She nodded and let him escort her back to their seats. She was aware of the looks she was receiving, but chose to ignore them. There was nothing she could say anyway. She reached for her wine, forcing some control into her hands.
Shortly Jason joined their group. “The water’s perfect and the hot tub is ready. The guys are going to change first, because it doesn’t take us as long. Then we’ll turn the pool house over to you ladies.”
Mulder stood to follow him and this time he did wink, then turned away. She was watching him when suddenly it hit her, had he brought the Speedo? Oh god, she’d never get through the evening if he had.
“Dana? Are you okay?”
“What? Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”
“He’ll be right back.” Brenda teased.
“You guys are awful! I told you, we’re just friends.”
“Dana, Sweetheart, you and I are ‘friends.’ The word for the two of you is lovers. Come on, can you say ‘lovers’?”
“We are not involved that way. Listen - “
“We think thou dost protest too much, but we’ll let you keep to your little fantasy for now, won’t we ladies?”
She couldn’t stop herself from watching for him to come out of the pool house, and breathed a small sigh of relief when he did. Not the Speedo, he’d brought what looked like jogging shorts. Damn he looked good.
“Dana? Breathe.” Brenda said and everyone laughed.
Jason came over about that time. “Ladies, the pool house is yours.”
“Come on, let’s get those bikinis on.” Brenda rose.
“Oh yeah, I’m going to expose these stretch marks with a bikini.” Angie spoke forlornly as she followed her. Scully refused to catch Mulder’s eye; she’d blushed enough for one evening.
He was watching for her when she emerged. He was not disappointed. She looked incredible. He knew she worked out, did yoga, and of course he’d seen her at the shooting range.
The bathing suit was one-piece, and black, but the neckline was deep, deep enough to give the impression she could fall out of it at any moment. The legs were cut very high. He knew that was an illusion to make her legs look longer. Well, it worked.
He didn’t see the other women emerge, but they were watching him. In fact it was a lot more fun watching these two than the engaged couple. He approached her now, with her glass of wine.
“You look great.”
“Thanks.” She didn’t quite meet his eye.
He led her that way and took her hand to help her in. She sank into the warmth and smiled up at him. He joined her, setting her wine on the ledge where she could reach it easily.
“We should do this more often, Scully.”
“Not Dana?” she questioned.
“Just want to make sure you know who I’m talking to.”
She nodded, then turned away, unable to look at him now. Several people joined them, and one of the men, Greg, introduced himself to Dana.
“I met Fox over by the grill, I’m Greg Summerlin, a school friend of the groom.”
“Pleased to meet you, Greg.” She leaned forward to shake his hand and brushed her breast against Mulder’s chest when he shifted. She pulled back, hoping it didn’t look as though she was jerked away from him, even if that is what she had done.
“I, uh, I think I’ll jump in the pool for a minute.”
“Mulder?” They had just gotten in the hot tub.
She felt his lips at her ear again. “I need some cold water, very cold.”
Her mouth dropped slightly open and she watched him wrap a towel around his waist then move to the pool. He executed a shallow dive that took him to the far end of the pool in one breath.
Rather than make a comment, she reached for her wine. Maybe if she got drunk she could get through this evening and . . . and the rest of the night.
Always a Bridesmaid 2/2
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