He was outside Mrs. Scullyís house waiting when Bill emerged the next morning. He stepped from the car and Bill spotted him. He sighed and walked toward the car.
"Stalking my mother now?"
"Could we have a cup of coffee or breakfast? I need to talk to you."
"What could we possibly have to talk about? I said everything I needed to say last night."
"Please. I can drop you off after that."
Bill shook his head, but that would be better than taking his motherís car for the day. She might need it. He looked Mulder over one more time.
"Fine. Your treat." Mulder looked down and grinned. Yeah, that was Bill.
They were seated in the diner Mulder often frequented, but now he was beginning to think heíd made a mistake attempting to talk to Bill of all people.
"Iím waiting. You wanted to talk to me, not the other way around."
"Youíre right. I need you to explain what you said to me last night."
"What I said? About you intruding on my familyís personal time together? What about that needed further explanation?"
"You said youíd seen the way I look at Scully. What do you mean? Sheís my partner and yes, weíre friends, but what do you mean look at her?"
Bill stared at him, was he kidding? Was he a bigger fool than Bill had thought? Surely he knew . . .
"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"You canít be serious. You donít know how you feel about Dana? Come on!"
"I care about your sister, more than anyone else in the world. Sheís my partner and weíre friends, but . . . "
Billís eyes narrowed. The SOB didnít know, he honestly didnít know. "Youíre sitting here telling me that you donít know that youíre in love with my sister?"
"In love? No." He was shaking his head.
Billís shoulders sagged, "The worst part is she thinks she loves you too. Damn." He looked up at Mulderís incredulous face. "What universe do you live in Mulder? Donít you have any contact with the real world?"
"Maybe itís true about how I feel; maybe I can concede that. But she doesnít love me."
"Believe me Iíve tried to convince her of the same thing."
"What did she say?" He almost had his voice under control; at least it didnít break.
"To butt out. That it was none of my business. But it is my business. I wonít watch my sister throw her life away. You . . . "
Mulder was shaking his head, "Youíre wrong. Sheís better than that. Better than I even aspire to. You donít have to worry about that or me." He started to rise from the booth, but Billís hand shot out and stopped him. He leaned back, wanting to shake Billís hand off.
"Finish your coffee, Mulder. Iím not ready to go and you are my ride."
Oh yeah, he had said heíd drop him off. He reached for his cup and realized his hand was not quite steady. For a second he hoped Bill wouldnít notice. No such luck.
"Mulder, youíre a real ass, you know?" Bill spoke almost companionably.
"Thanks. Coming from you thatís a real compliment."
Bill regarded him for a minute. "I didnít realize I was in love with Tara at first either. Of course I have a little more to offer a woman Ė stability, sanity, - "
"Your point?" He really had made a mistake trying to talk to Bill. What had he been thinking?
"Just that when I knew I was in love with Tara and wanted to spend my life with her, I didnít already have a thousand strikes against me. You know, Iíve never tried to kill her?" Bill watched Mulderís jaw tighten and saw his eyes actually change color. Was he getting through to the jerk? Could he see just how bad, how wrong he was for her? What was it going to take?
"Have you finished?"
"Depends. Have you been listening?"
"I meant your breakfast." Mulder motioned to the plate in front of Bill.
"Yeah. But anytime you want to have one of these little chats, Mulder, you just call me, okay?"
"Youíll be first on my list." He slid from the booth and headed for his car. He didnít speak, driving in silence, following Billís directions. He pulled in front of the building Bill indicated and stopped. He waited for Bill to open the door, not bothering to look at him.
"Mulder, if you can refute anything I said, go ahead. Otherwise, leave my sister alone. Let her have a life before itís too late for her. Get out of her life and let her have a chance." He waited momentarily for a response, then finally opened the door. "Iíd say see you around, but I hope I donít. Goodbye, Mulder." He exited the car and didnít bother to look back.
Mulder pulled back into traffic, keeping his mind carefully blank. He didnít even admit his destination until he parked in front of his apartment. He was not going in to work today. He needed to think, alone. Yeah, alone was better for him Ė safer and saner for everyone.
He called in and left a message with Skinnerís secretary, then laid back on the couch.
His mind began cataloging the times heíd put Scully in danger, not just the job Ė him personally. Heíd pulled a gun on her in Alaska, heíd shot at her reflection at the lake house, heíd nearly killed her twice because of Modell, and what about the times heíd left her in danger, left her where she could be killed, the damn psychic surgeon was just the latest. There was always Duane Barry.
"Mulder? Mulder let me in. I know youíre in there." What was she doing here? He didnít want to see her, not now, maybe not ever. He heard her key in the lock and moved in that direction, giving serious thought to fastening the chain. Too late.
"Mulder, whatís going on?"
"I donít want you here, Scully. Iíd like you to leave."
"No?" He looked at her for a second, unable to process what sheíd said. "It is my apartment, Scully. If I ask you to leave Ė "
"Iím not leaving unless you throw me out bodily. And I remind you, I am armed." Spunky little bitch, wasnít she? But he made no comment. When he didnít move to let her in she stepped around him. "Mulder, Skinner said you called in sick. You havenít taken a sick day in six years, even when you should have. Now whether you admit it or not, this started last night. Bill said something to you, he upset you and that makes me involved."
"No, it doesnít."
"The hell it doesnít." He stepped back at the vehemence in her voice. "Why did you pick Bill up at Momís house this morning?"
"She saw you. She was pleased that you and Bill were getting along. I didnít burst her bubble, but I didnít buy it. Talk to me, Mulder."
"Bill and I were clearing up a few things between us. He made his views known to me."
"You do know that his views are not usually my views?"
"Maybe they should be. In his own crude way he does make sense."
Scully stared at him, speechless for a moment. "I know you donít believe that." When he didnít respond she headed for his couch. She draped her coat over a chair and sat, kicking off her shoes. "You might as well get comfortable, Mulder. Iím not leaving."
He glanced at the door as though contemplating escape, but what good would it do? This was his apartment.
"Letís get this out in the open Mulder. Billís opinions do not necessarily reflect those of management." He didnít smile. "Mulder, what did Bill say to you?"
"Why donít you ask Bill?" Anything to get her out of here.
"Because I prefer to speak with you."
"What?" She didnít really understand the question.
"Why would you prefer to speak with me? Iíve done nothing but screw up your life."
She closed her eyes for a moment. "Is that what he said?"
"He didnít have to, I already knew." Why didnít she go?
"What else do you already know?"
"This is pointless, Scully. Why donít you just leave?"
"Because if I do youíll go on believing the garbage Bill fed you. Youíll believe that you ruined my life, brought all the ills of the world down on me. You wonít believe the truth."
"The truth, Scully? I know the truth."
"Billís truth?" She watched him turn away from her at that. "Youíve ruined my life, right? Without you Iíd be a pediatrician or something? Why does no one remember I joined the FBI before I met you? I didnít want a medical practice. That doesnít matter to Bill or you. You both want to blame you for anything either of you think has gone wrong in my life. Maybe you two should be best friends instead of you and me."
Now he did look up at her. Best friends? She saw that look and just shook her head. "I could have left the X-Files a dozen times. Tom offered to help me get into the VCS six years ago." She saw his eyes narrow at the thought of that little twerp. "Hell, Iíve been thrown off of them two or three times already. I could have kept walking. I didnít, did you notice that?
"Any idea why I didnít, Mulder? You." He paled at that. Him? Sheíd stayed because of him?
"I donít know anybody else like you. Look at last night, after all the years youíve had to suffer through your own family dinners on sad occasions, you volunteered to come with me, just because you realized I needed you. Do you think Iíve forgotten how you rushed to California when I found Emily? I hadnít finished my sentence before I knew you were coming to me. Do you think Bill would drop everything, change his plans in thirty seconds to come to me, to support me?"
He was staring at her wide-eyed now. Where was she getting this? Nothing heíd done was unusual or out of the way. Of course heíd be there when she needed him.
A small smile began to play around her lips, seeing his utter cluelessness about how he treated her and how unusual it was. "Do you think I trust anyone else to find me when Iím lost, or save me when Iím in danger?"
"But Iím always the one that puts you in danger."
"How so? It seems to me that Skinner and Kersh have actually put me in more danger than you have. They assign our cases or at least approve them. Do you think Iíd be in less danger in the VCS? The work weíve done with them seemed just as hazardous as anything the X-Files has thrown at us.
"Were you a good partner to Lamana?" She could see her question had surprised him.
"Yeah, at least he seemed to think so. Why?"
"Well, did you do these kinds of things for him? Did you call him after hours to go over cases and ask what he was wearing, hop on a plane to some other continent to save his ass, call his mother just to check on her, or . . ."
"What are you talking about, no!"
"Why not? He was your partner, just like me." He was silent at that. "I think maybe, Mulder, weíve evolved beyond partners. Iím not sure when it happened, maybe after Donnie Pfaster. I donít know exactly when, but I think I own part of you and I think, maybe, you own part of me. Iíd like to think you do anyway."
That rendered him speechless for a moment. "Bill said. . . " He stopped, what was he doing? He couldnít say that to her.
"What did Bill say, Mulder?"
Shit, she certainly didnít seem to be leaving anytime soon. She looked like she belonged there on his couch, with her shoes off and . . . damn! He looked away for a minute; sheíd never let it go now.
"He said I was in love with you." Her eyes widened. Oh god, heíd done it now.
"He, uh, he . . . " She swallowed. She was stunned into silence, not even able to continue contemplating ways to maim her older brother. "Was he right?" Oh god, sheíd said that out loud. Oh god!
Well that was a question he hadnít expected. A laugh maybe, or even a slap, but not that question. She actually looked frightened.
"I think maybe he was."
They both seemed to run out of words at that, but were afraid to look away from each other. Finally she stood and began to slip on her shoes.
"Are you . . . please donít go."
"I donít know what to say, Mulder. This is none of Billís business. I canít believe he would involve himself in something like this."
Might as well go for broke. "He said that you felt the same."
At that her face stained bright red. "He had no right, he should never have told you about that." Now she had both shoes on and had turned from him.
"Told me about what? Did you really have that conversation with him? Scully wait. When I wanted you out of here I needed dynamite, now when I need you to stay, I have to pull out the cuffs?"
"Mulder I should go. This isnít . . . "
"Why didnít you want me to know about this?"
"I knew it would be too weird. Youíd feel obligated to try and feel something more for me. I know you care," she hurried on, "thatís obvious, but I didnít want . . . Damn him!"
Mulder put his hand on her upper arm, purposefully not using force to restrain her, but holding her nevertheless.
"I think that SOB may have actually done me a favor." He stopped, his eyes wide. "Oh shit, Scully, no offense to your mother. I didnít mean Ė " He was appalled, he would never insult Mrs. Scully.
Instead of being offended she had to chuckle, "None taken. He can be an SOB."
He breathed a sigh of relief. "So where does that leave us, Scully?"
"I donít . . . with a lot to think about."
"Are you . . . are you scared of this?" She nodded, studying her shoes. "Of me?"
"No!" She looked up startled. "No, not of you. Iím more scared of me or us or whatever. Mulder, why did you come looking for me yesterday?"
"You didnít come back and youíd left your phone at the office. Thatís not like you."
"So you really care about me."
He took a deep breath, shaking his head; "I canít get away with that today, not after talking to Bill. Itís more than that. No, look at me, Scully." He lifted her chin up to see in her eyes. "I know a way to really tick Bill off."
The gleam in his eyes held her still as he lowered his head to meet her lips, softly, barely brushing them with his own. He pulled back to look at her, no withdrawal from him, no censure on her face, in fact . . . in fact she was rising on her toes to meet him now. He cared and now, because of that . . . that brother of hers he knew Ė she did too. Wait until Bill found out what heíd done this time.