Caring (PG)

"Scully? Did you hear me?"

She focused her eyes on him, "What? Sorry Mulder. What did you say?"

"I asked if you wanted to get some lunch? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Iím fine, just thinking. Iím not really hungry, you go ahead."

"I can bring you something." He stood and stretched, then reached for his jacket draped over the back of his chair. She shook her head and he looked at her carefully, then shrugged and headed for the door. What in the world had her so distracted today?

When he returned from lunch she was gone, but he didnít think anything of it. Maybe sheíd gotten hungry after all. An hour later he began to wonder where she might have gone and looked for a note. When another half-hour had passed he picked up the phone and dialed her cellular. He heard it ring from her briefcase beside the desk.

Okay, that was definitely not like her. He did stupid things like that, not her. Where had she gone and why hadnít she left a note? Well he wasnít accomplishing anything here; wonder if her car was still in the garage? It was, so he made a quick tour of the labs and areas she frequented. He quickly concluded that she was no longer in the building. She wouldnít have gone home without her car, so she was somewhere in the area.

What the hell; he headed back for his car. He wasnít accomplishing anything anyway. Once in the car he realized he didnít have a clear destination in mind. Where should he start? She had been deep in thought when he had tried to talk to her, so maybe she just went somewhere to think without interruption.

Well, she was going to be interrupted if he could find her.

He found her on the bench, their bench, overlooking the reflecting pool. She didnít seem to hear him approach and he didnít want to startle her, so he stood for a couple of minutes just watching her. She seemed to be a million miles away. He found a growing disquiet from that. He wanted her to notice him; to know heíd been concerned enough to come looking for her.

That was stupid, he wasnít some high school boy wanting a girl to notice him. This was Scully, his partner, his best friend, most times his only friend. Something was bothering her and he should be thinking about her, not himself.

He slid onto the bench beside her. "Scully? You okay?"

"Mulder? What are you doing here?" She smiled at him puzzled, "I thought you were going to lunch."

"Scully, itís after four."

"What? Oh Mulder, it canít be." She looked down at her watch. "Oh my god. Iím sorry, I had no idea."

"Are you sure youíre okay?" He reached for her hand, "Damn, Scully! Youíre frozen. Have you been here all along?"

"Yes. I was just thinking. I didnít mean to worry you."

"I wasnít worried." He protested until that eyebrow went up. "Okay, maybe a little. Come on, weíve got to get you inside somewhere. Iíll take you home."

"No, not my apartment. I donít want to go there."

"Okay." He said slowly. What was going on with her? He took both of her hands in his to rub them and pulled her to her feet. Then he put his arms around her, massaging warmth back into her arms and shoulders.

"That feels good, thanks."

"How about an early dinner, since you missed lunch? We could . . . "

"I have to go to Momís for dinner tonight. I think thatís why Iíve been so spaced out."

"You donít want to have dinner with your mother?" Now with his mother that would require no further explanation but Mrs. Scully was great.

"Itís . . . Mulder, itís Melissaís birthday. Iím just not looking forward to facing her alone."

Melissaís birthday. No wonder she didnít want to go to her apartment. He remembered plenty of dinners on Samanthaís birthdays. He hated to even think of Scully having to go through that.

"Think sheíd mind if I came along?" Had he really said that? Oh yeah, he really wanted to be there for that. He hadnít done it enough over the last 25 years? What had possessed him?

"Do you mean that Mulder? Would you really come with me?"

Well, that settled that. Of course heíd do it, for her. He hadnít realized his masochistic streak was still growing. Heíd always hoped it would be like his feet or his height and finally come to a halt. No such luck.

"No, Mulder. Iím sorry. I canít ask that. I wasnít thinking." Oh, she was reading his face again.

"And miss a Maggie Scully home-cooked meal? Iím going even if you donít. But come on now. Iíve got to get you inside somewhere." If he kept rubbing her arms and back like this he wouldnít be welcome at her motherís house.

He hurried her to his car, where he turned the heat up full and rather than worry about the office, headed on over to Mrs. Scullyís house. Her warmth enveloped them both immediately and she seemed more than glad that he had joined them.

She put them to work and it was nothing like what he had expected. Mrs. Scully wasnít morbid about Melissa, she was even telling funny stories about her. His family was really warped. This was healthy and normal. Well, there you go.

As Mulder and Scully were carrying the food into the dining room she stopped him. "Thank you for being here. It would have been a lot more morose without you."

He looked at her surprised. "No problem, Scully. I always enjoy coming here."

She smiled up at him, then as her mother came in behind her, moved away from him and put her dish on the table.

They were barely seated when the doorbell rang. Mrs. Scully excused herself and headed toward the door.

"I don't believe it! Come in, come in!" Mulder looked over at Scully, who shrugged.

"Dana, look! It's Bill!" Mrs. Scully was pulling her son into the dining room. Mulder could feel his smile turning wooden. He glanced over at Scully who sent him a silent apology, then rose to hug her brother.

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" Mrs. Scully was still holding Bill's arm. Mulder wanted an answer to that question as well. If he had known Bill was coming . . .

"I couldn't be sure it would all work out, and I didn't want to disappoint you." He kissed her cheek again.

"Well I'm just delighted! I want to hear all about the family. Here, sit down, let me get you a plate." She hurried into the kitchen.

"Mulder, I didn't expect to see you here." The smile had left Bill's face as well.

"Bill . . . " Scully's voice was warning.

"Yeah, you surprised me too." Mulder responded, then everyone retreated to his or her corner as they heard Mrs. Scully returning.

Her superior skills as hostess kept the meal upbeat and cordial. Stories of Melissa and the other kidís childhoods continued and Mulder filed them away to use later when visualizing Scully as a little girl. He actually did have a good time, in spite of the additional company.

They rose and Mulder helped Scully clear the table while Mrs. Scully served dessert and Bill started the coffee.

"You fellows take this on in the living room, Dana and I will bring the coffee." Mrs. Scully handed each of the men two plates and shooed them out of the kitchen.

Mulder followed Bill into the living room and sat his plates on the coffee table. He turned back to see if there was anything else he could do to help.

"Mulder." Bill hissed at him and grabbed his arm. "You work with my sister, that doesn't give you the right to be here."

"Scully invited me . . . "

"I'm Scully too. My mother is too much of a lady to throw you out, even though you are the reason Melissaís gone. Leave Dana alone. Give her a chance for a life, a family of her own."

"Scully and I are partners. We don't . . . "

"Don't give me that Mulder. I've seen the way you look at her." They both looked toward the door as they heard footsteps approaching. "Let her have a real life!" He hissed urgently and stepped away, releasing his grip on Mulder's arm.

Scully entered carrying the tray, her mother a couple of steps behind her. Scully hesitated, feeling the tension in the room and tried to catch Mulder's eye. She was unsuccessful. What had happened between them in such a short time?

When dessert was finished, Scully put her cup down. "Mom, Mulder and I have a meeting first thing in the morning and we still have a report to finish. We'll let you and Bill visit, Mulder and I have to get back to work."

"Oh Dana, are you sure you have to go so early?"

"Yes, Mom. We've got to get this report done. I'll call you tomorrow."

Mulder rose. He didn't know what report she was referring to, but he wasn't about to miss a chance at escape.

"Thank you for having me, Mrs. Scully."

"You are always welcome here, Fox. Thank you for making this evening so much more enjoyable for me." Mulder couldn't hide his startled look. Mrs. Scully gave him a gentle smile and kissed his cheek. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, Dana." She hugged her and walked them to the door.

Mulder was silent on the way to the car and didn't put his hand on her back, but opened the door for her. That surprised her, but she waited until he was in the car before speaking.

"What did Bill say to you?" He didn't respond, pulling away from the curb. "Mulder, what happened between you two? I need to know."

"Don't worry about it. He was just being a big brother. I'd probably be a lot worse if I'd been given the chance."

"Stop it Mulder. I'm not buying it. He has no right to interfere in my personal life."

Personal life? Bill was right, he had no business being with them tonight. "Let it go, Scully. I'm fine."

She knew from that tone she wouldn't get any more out of him tonight. He walked her to the door, but wouldn't stay, even at her insistence. He needed to be alone; to think.

"I've seen the way you look at her." What did that mean? What had Bill seen? What did he think he'd seen, rather? She was his partner; of course he looked at her. He didn't look at her any special way. He didn't! At least, he didn't think anyone had noticed when he did. Damn it!


Caring 2

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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter,10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.

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