He slipped into his bed and glanced over at her in her bed. “Scully? Did I embarrass you too much?”
“No, Mulder. You didn’t embarrass me at all. You were totally charming. Don’t worry, I’ve already checked under the bed for pods.”
“Thanks.” He grinned at her.
“Well, Mulder, it was a little different. I’ve never seen you like that.”
“Maybe we should date more often.”
“Right.” She rolled over, turning her back to him, but didn’t bother to turn off the light. She knew he wouldn’t be going to sleep anytime soon.
“Mmm?” She didn’t turn back toward him.
He could see her tense immediately.
“Where did you hear that name?”
“A couple of your girl friends were talking. Brenda, I’m not sure who the other one was. Brenda said she hadn’t seen you look at a man the way you looked at me since Daniel.”
She was silent and he realized he’d made a mistake. He wasn’t sure what he should say now. Maybe keeping quiet himself was the right thing. Yeah, and since when did he do the right thing?
“Scully, how did you look at him?”
“I . . . Mulder, I can’t - “
“Who was Daniel?”
“You don’t want to hear that story.”
“Or do you not want to tell it?” She still hadn’t turned to look at him and he finally saw just how uncomfortable she was. “I’m sorry, Scully. It’s none of my business. Go on to sleep.”
At that she did turn to look at him. He sounded so guilty. “Mulder, I’m tired, and I’ve had a little too much to drink. Could we - “
“It’s not a problem, Scully. Sweet dreams.” He reached up and switched off the light.
Unfortunately, the sleepiness that had encompassed her was gone now. Daniel? Why the hell had Brenda mentioned him in the first place, and especially where Mulder could hear. Damn it.
She rose from the bed and moved over to sit beside him on the bed. He turned to look at her. She was probably making a mistake here, she’d definitely had too much to drink, but he had been so sweet tonight. “Mulder.”
“Scully, you don’t have to talk about this. We’re not really dating, ‘involved’.”
“We’re involved, Mulder.” She sighed, “I . . . I’m not proud of my relationship with Daniel.” She looked around the room while he waited. “Daniel is Dr. Daniel Waterston. He was one of my professors in Medical School. He’s a brilliant cardiologist and for some reason he became attracted to me.”
He sat up then, pulled the sheet up over his lap and leaned against the head of the bed. He was watching her eyes. “I can understand that.”
She looked down. “It was a mistake.”
“Because he was your professor?”
“Because he was married.”
Mulder blinked. That had never crossed his mind.
“It was such a mess. He was very upset when I decided to leave medicine for the FBI. He couldn’t understand it and we had harsh words.”
“Did you leave to get away from him?”
Her head shot up then, “That’s what he accused me of.”
“Was he right?” He didn’t back down this time, but he wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing.
“I wanted to join the FBI. I did not want to go into cardiology; I was interested in pathology - another bone of contention. As a pathologist, I felt I could make a difference at the FBI.”
“What did he think?”
“That I was throwing my career away, that I was being foolish, that . . . that I was running away.”
“Were you in love with him?”
She didn’t answer right away. “I suppose I thought I was. It was flattering to have such a distinguished, older man, a man with a brilliant career, interested in me.”
“You were lovers.” It wasn’t a question, so she didn’t bother to answer. “How long since you’ve seen him?”
“I haven’t seen him since I went to Quantico.”
Mulder blinked at that, nearly eight years. “That’s a long time.”
“It was over. It should never have begun. I’m very ashamed that I became involved with a married man, Mulder.” She was also aware that she had definitely had too much to drink. This was not a topic of conversation she should have with her partner.
She started to rise from the bed, but his hand shot out and took hold of her arm. “Scully, thanks.”
“For talking to me about this. And . . . and for looking at me like you did.”
“Go to sleep, Scully.”
She nodded and did rise then. She crawled back into her own bed but didn’t turn away from him. He moved back down in his bed as well and rolled to his side to look at her as well. After a moment he reached up and turned out the light, but neither turned away, falling asleep facing each other.
She signed the guest register for both of them, and turned back to Mulder. Greg approached them then and smiled. “I know, friend of the bride.” He held out his arm to escort her.
Mulder didn’t look too happy about that, but trailed after them when Scully made no comment. She slid into the pew and after Greg moved away, he sat beside her.
“Friend of the bride?”
“Yes. The friends and relatives of the bride sit on the left and the groom’s friends sit on the right facing the altar.”
“Well, it certainly would look meager over there at our wedding.” He grinned at her before she could start any outraged comment. “And Frohike would probably want to sit on your side anyway.”
She elbowed him lightly and he chuckled. “You obviously haven’t attended enough weddings, Mulder, or you’d know how to behave.”
“Can’t disagree, Scully.” He looked up as Brenda slipped into the seat next to him.
“Hi guys. Glad to see you could make it here today.” She grinned evilly at Dana, who shook her head. Mulder put his arm over the back of the pew and around her shoulders. She tried to suppress a grin and Brenda actually snickered. “Nice glow, Dana.”
“Will you hush?”
“Come on, Fox, doesn’t she have a radiance about her?”
Mulder grinned down at Scully, but wisely kept quiet. The need to whisper was a problem and his smile wasn’t helping the situation.
“She’s really putting on the dog for a second wedding.” Brenda remarked a little snidely. “But I guess if my mother had done to me what hers did to her . . . You ever been married, Fox?”
It was a throw away question, just conversation and Brenda was stunned to see the color suffuse his face as he stumbled through a non-answer. Brenda saw Dana stiffen and realized she had really stepped into it this time.
“Hey, look, I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.” Too late, the damage was done. Obviously he had been married and even more obviously Dana hadn’t known. Brenda was ready to kick herself; these two had been having such a good time. Why had she asked the question?
The music changed then, swelled, and the minister motioned for everyone to rise. Mulder almost missed it, watching Scully. She wouldn’t meet his eyes; she wouldn’t even look in his direction, instead staring straight ahead. Even Brenda could feel the tension. It was too late to change seats, but they needed some time alone.
Chloe came down the aisle alone to meet Jason and the minister. Her dress was lovely, tea length and lace overlaid. She carried orchids and wore baby’s breath in her dark hair. Scully saw none of it, her shock too deep, too raw.
Mulder saw this and felt his heart sink. What could he have been thinking?
The ceremony was mercifully short, and as soon as possible Brenda left them after a look of sympathy to Fox. He stepped out into the aisle to let her out and his hand came up to touch her back. She shied away instantly, not allowing his touch. “Scully, we have to talk.”
She ignored him and walked down the aisle, stiff with composure. Angie joined them at the front of the church. “Dana, Fox, could I catch a lift to the reception? Harry got a call and he has to find a fax machine.”
“We aren’t - “
“Of course you can, Angie.” Mulder interrupted. “It would be my pleasure to escort two beautiful women.”
Angie smiled up at him. “How do you stand him, Dana?” She didn’t see the fire snapping in Scully’s eyes, though she held her silence.
Angie and Mulder did most of the talking on the drive to the country club, and Angie didn’t seem to pick up on the tension. When they arrived, Mulder pulled up to the front door. “I’ll let you ladies out and then park. I’ll be just a minute.”
The two women got out and Scully headed for the ladies room. Angie followed and pulled a lipstick from her bag. “Dana? You okay?”
“Are you sure? You seem a little pale.”
“Do I? I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Good, a little champagne is probably just the thing.”
Scully had a half-thought idea of staying in the ladies room until the reception was over, but Angie was waiting, so reluctantly she followed her out. Mulder was waiting just outside the door.
“He is so incredible, Dana.”
Scully made no comment, but when he took her arm, she couldn’t jerk away. Angie moved on ahead of them.
“Please what?” Now she did pull away.
“Please let me explain.”
“Explain what? That after seven years you didn’t think it was important to tell me such information about yourself? That you couldn’t trust me enough to tell me? Or maybe you think married men are my type. Fine, I guess we’re not as close as I thought we were. I just wish you could have let me know that was how you really felt.”
“Scully, you know that’s not how I feel.”
“You can say that, but your actions . . . I have a headache. I’m going to tell Chloe goodbye and head back to D.C.”
“You should stay for a little while. You don’t see these people very often and I want you to - “
She brushed past him and moved into the large room. Brenda spotted her and immediately came over. “Dana, are you okay?”
“Bullshit. The last thing you are is fine, Dana. Look, I don’t know what happened, but - “
“That’s right you don’t know.” Scully snapped back.
“Well neither do you, Dana. It’s damn obvious you were caught off guard. Okay, he was married before. A lot of people were. It’s not a crime.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“So explain it to me.”
“This is none of your business, Brenda.” She turned then and nearly bumped into Mulder who had approached with two glasses of champagne. “No thank you.” She brushed past him and moved toward the far side of the room. Mulder closed his eyes in pain for an instant and felt Brenda’s hand on his arm.
“Fox, I’m terribly sorry I caused this. I would never - “
“Brenda, it’s not your fault. I should have . . . I screwed up big time.”
“She’s worth fixing this.”
“I know that. The question is, am I?”
Brenda blinked at that. “The short answer, Fox, is yes. Any man who loves someone as much as you love Dana . . . Fox, fix this and quick.”
He glanced over at Scully, who was standing by the food table. He nodded at Brenda. “Thanks.“ He moved toward her.
She must have felt him coming because she moved instinctively farther away, though she hadn’t glanced in his direction. She snagged a glass of champagne from a passing tray and drained it in one gulp. Before he could reach her, she had drained a second one.
“You better slow down, Scully.”
“Why? It’s a wedding, a party to celebrate two people who have decided to trust each other and spend the rest of their lives together. Two people who have decided not to keep secrets from each other.” She plucked a third glass from the table and downed it.
“Scully - “
“Leave me alone.” She faced him then and the look in her eyes convinced him just how serious she was with that statement. If he hadn’t known her so well, he would have missed the pain she was trying so desperately to hide.
“Please forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. You’ve done nothing to me. There are a dozen women here who would enjoy your company a great deal more than I do at this time. Please visit with them.”
“Damn it, Scully!” He hissed, “Give me a chance.”
Instead she turned away from him and joined some of her friends, leaving him standing alone in the middle of the room. He watched her take a fourth glass of champagne and begin visiting with some people he didn’t recognize from last evening.
Okay, he’d keep his distance for a little while. She wouldn’t be able to escape him in the car on the drive home. He stayed to himself off to one side, always mindful of her location and consumption. He had never seen her drink like this and while she might look steady on her feet to others, he could see the damage it was doing.
After an interminable time, Chloe and Jason finally decided to leave, signaling his own escape. Chloe called for the women to gather so that she could throw the bouquet. He was a little surprised to see Scully join the group, until he saw that Brenda was actually guiding her. Great.
Well, Scully might be plastered, but her coordination and reflexes were still better than any of the other women out there on the floor, who had also been drinking obviously. Scully literally plucked the bouquet from the air, despite her height, but didn’t seem to understand what she had done until the applause penetrated her fog. Then she turned bright red and thrust the flowers at Brenda, her eyes snapping with fury.
Brenda didn’t seem to be fazed, taking Scully’s arm and leading her toward Mulder. “Fox, I believe this is yours. You better make sure she gets home safely.”
Mulder was a little surprised that Brenda hadn’t been singed by the look Scully shot her at the comment, ‘I believe this is yours.’ Did the woman have a death wish? Regardless, he took Scully’s arm firmly in his grasp and led her to the car after a quick thank you and goodbye.
No way could she drive, and fortunately she was smart enough not to even argue about it. He settled her in the car; glad they had checked out of the hotel prior to the ceremony. He turned the car toward DC and purposely didn’t look at her.
In a few minutes, her even breathing told him she had fallen asleep. No wonder, with that much alcohol. It wasn’t like he was going to be able to have a coherent conversation with her anyway. What the hell had he done?
She was still sound asleep when he pulled up in front of her apartment. Hell, it was probably the best thing for her but he knew he’d missed his opportunity for that quiet, uninterrupted talk.
He parked and got out, then carefully opened her car door and knelt beside it. “Scully? We’re home.”
She muttered something unintelligible, then his name. He wasn’t sure he wanted to decipher what she had said. “Scully, wake up.”
She roused slightly then and opened her eyes. “Mulder?” She smiled at him, “what?”
“We’re home, Scully. Come on.” He helped her to her feet and held her as she gained her balance. When she was standing, he lifted her suitcase from the trunk and again took her arm. If she didn’t remember, he wasn’t going to bring it up.
He used his own key to let them into her apartment and she hurried to the bathroom. He deposited her suitcase on the chair in her bedroom and waited for a minute, then turned to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee.
She had obviously remembered by the time she returned. “Why are you still here?”
“Because you slept the whole way back and we need to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” She watched as he ran her a glass of water and extended it to her along with a couple of aspirin.
Though she hated to show the weakness, she knew this was a good idea so after a slight hesitation she took them.
“I need to explain, Scully. Then you can throw me out, but you have to hear me first.”
She turned from him and he almost grabbed her to turn her back to him. Thankfully he didn’t as he watched her settle on the couch. He poured them both some coffee and joined her.
She took the cup from him when he held it out to her, thinking to herself, what do you get when you give a drunk coffee? A wide-awake drunk. She said nothing, waiting for him to take his seat on the couch. As soon as he was seated she looked up at him. Before he could speak, she did. “Are you still married?” Well, there was obviously still alcohol in her system to be that blunt she realized.
Now she looked him directly in the eye. “Was it Diana?”
“Good god, no!”
Well, the vehemence wasn’t feigned. She didn’t want to show relief, but she couldn’t hide it completely. She was now able to lean back slightly and take a breath.
Without preamble he spoke, “Her name was Pamela, Pam. I met her when I was at the academy. They had me profiling already.” He shrugged, “I was good at it, but you know how I am when I’m profiling. And I was lonely. I kept running into her at the deli and eventually I asked her out. I hadn’t been seeing anyone since Phoebe and I thought at the time Pam was nothing like Phoebe.” He kind of grinned, but her face remained impassive.
“She was in marketing and she was ambitious. She wanted to own her own firm by the time she was thirty. I’m not sure why I asked her, obviously I thought she meant something to me, and I guess I was less lonely when I was with her.
“We didn’t have a wedding, not like what we went to today. We just went down to the courthouse. I wore a sport coat, she had a flowered dress. We didn’t even have a honeymoon, just a long weekend, then we both got back to work. I believe we spent more time together before we got married, but we were both so busy I’m not sure I noticed.” He sighed then and looked away. She didn’t speak, waiting.
“They called me in on a case, my first big one. They wanted me to profile the guy, so I did, and it worked. My profile broke the case. He was a serial rapist; real bad guy and we got him. I was psyched. I got home a day early, so I dropped by the store and picked up a bottle of wine, then headed home.” For some reason she felt herself tense up slightly.
He sighed, “I walked in and caught her in bed with her newest client.” He gave her an ironic grin. “I told you she was ambitious.”
Her eyes showed concern and she seemed to be leaning slightly toward him, but maybe he was imagining that.
He actually laughed, “I don’t think any man has ever wilted as fast. I guess I am pretty intimidating. I’m a big guy and I was armed.”
That surprised her. How could he smile about something like this even now?
“Anyway, I retreated to the kitchen and waited. They got dressed and he hauled ass out of there. Here I am, standing in the kitchen, still holding that stupid bottle of wine and I realized, I didn’t care. I had just caught the woman I was married to in bed with another man, and I didn’t care.”
“Didn’t . . .”
He shrugged. “It’s not like it had been you.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “She came into the kitchen and before she could try to explain, I asked if she wanted a divorce. She asked if I would mind an annulment. I told her whatever she wanted was fine. I packed a few clothes and got a room for the night. The next day I moved the rest of my stuff. She brought some papers over later and I signed them and I got the final forms in the mail a few weeks later. So technically I’ve never been married. Even your church says I haven’t been married, but . . . but I should have told you. It wasn’t that I was keeping it from you, Scully, I just . . . “
“Do you still see her?”
“When, when was the . . . the last time?”
“When she brought those papers over. It’s been . . . ten years, a little more.”
Scully was silent for a long moment, trying to take this all in. “What . . . what did you mean, ‘it’s not like it had been you’?”
He took a deep breath, “Scully, if I found you in bed with another man, rest assured, I would shred him in front of you.” He said it quietly, but she didn’t doubt his sincerity.
Her eyes widened and she tried to suppress the shiver that ran through her, but she didn’t speak.
He rose then and moved toward the door. “I’ll, uh, I’ll see you in the morning. Try to get some rest, maybe it’ll help the hangover.” Then he opened the door and left. He pulled out his cell phone and called a cab, then moved to her car to get his things. It was going to be a long night.
He’d been right, it had been an extremely long night and he didn’t think he’d slept more than five minutes at a time. He was running late, but part of him was afraid to show up at all.
She was here, he’d seen the car and the door to the office was open. Scully turned from the files. “You look terrible.”
“Thanks.” He moved cautiously to his chair. At least she was here, and speaking to him. He glanced down at the desk and spotted the envelope. “What’s this?” Oh god, please not a transfer request.
She shrugged, but didn’t turn away. He frowned slightly and picked it up. With a last glance at her, he opened it and pulled out a photograph.
The dress was canary yellow and ruffled, it did invoke memories of Gone With The Wind. The white-gloved hands held a white basket of spring flowers. Her hair was longer and curly, but the hat was truly out of character. He couldn’t quite suppress the smile. Her eyes narrowed but she didn’t speak.
She shrugged, “I guess everyone has things in their past they don’t like to think about or . . . or talk about. Things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.”
Mulder nodded slowly and she turned back to the files with a slight smile. He slipped the picture into his top drawer and felt his whole life seem . . . lighter.
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