He stared down at his hands, oblivious to his surroundings. He felt numb, disconnected, but wasn't that for the best right now? He felt a hand on his shoulder, small and warm, but as the only warmth in the world, at least as far as he knew.
"Mr. Mulder? We're ready for you now. Are you . . . do you think you can identify her body?"
He wanted to nod but wasn't sure he was capable. He made it to his feet and followed the lab coat down the short hall. He didn't look up or to either side, but paused at the door. He took a deep breath and stepped into the room. She was laid out on the table, her body covered, only her face exposed. She looked asleep, peaceful.
"Is it her?" The woman's voice was soft, compassionate. He nodded, looking away from the body. She pulled the sheet up over her face. He just stood there, unable to move. Then her hand was on his arm again. "Why don't you come with me."
He followed her silently and took the seat she indicated. His hand tightened around the cup of coffee he found there. "I don't know how you take it, this is black." He nodded, but didn't bother to put it to his lips. She sat silently across from him, not sure what to say.
"She . . . she cared about me. I should feel something." Without thought her hand covered his lying on the table.
"Is there anyone I can call for you? Family? Friends?"
"She . . . she didn't have any family. She kept to herself a lot. Diana was . . . she was consumed by her work most of the time."
"Diana Fowley, right?"
"Was she your partner?"
"We worked together, but not officially as partners."
Her grip on his hand tightened slightly, "I'm sorry Mr. Mulder."
He looked up then and was caught by the compassion in her blue eyes. She really did seem to care. She must go through this kind of thing every day, but she was making him feel like she had all the time in the world. A strand of her red hair had escaped the bun she had pulled it back into and he had the strongest urge to tuck it behind her ear for her.
He gave himself a mental shake. He didn't deserve any compassion and she had plenty of work to do. "I need to let you get back to . . . "
"Are you okay to drive Mr. Mulder?"
"Yeah, yeah I'll be fine. Thank you for . . . "
"I'll call you when we can release the body. Or is there someone else?"
"No, call me." He nodded as though to reassure himself that he could take the call and forced himself to his feet. She watched him walk away, the heaviness of his steps disturbing to her.
"Mr. Mulder." She couldn't stop herself. He turned to look at her, waiting. "Call me, if you need anything. Please."
He looked surprised at that and she watched some of the stiffness leave his posture. "Thank you." He turned away from her again and pushed the metal door to the stairs open. His step seemed a little lighter. She sighed and turned back to her office.
She looked up startled at the tap on her door. It was open, as always - so many people had their hands full when they came up here. "Dr. Scully?"
"Mr. Mulder, please come in." She rose from her stool behind the microscope and moved toward him. He looked very different from the man that had seemed half dead himself a few weeks ago. Today he was in suit and tie, looking very professional. That day he'd been in jeans and a plain gray t-shirt, totally disheveled and discomposed. He obviously made an impression on her, for her to recognize him so quickly. Now, now he was . . .
"I'm sorry to just drop by, but . . . "
"It's not a problem. Was, was there something else I - "
"That's not why I'm here. I, I wanted to thank you."
"Yeah, I was, I was - " He stopped and shrugged. "Listen, I know this is out of the blue, but are you free for dinner tonight?"
Dinner? She had way too much to do. She'd planned to eat a sandwich at her desk and try to catch up on paperwork. So why did she hear herself saying, "That would be nice."
A smile appeared on his face. "Great. When should I pick you up?"
She glanced at her desk, "Maybe I should meet you. Where did you have in mind?"
"Have you ever been to Antonio's?" She shook her head, "It's over on M Street. About seven?"
"That would be fine. I'll meet you there." He smiled again and she found herself smiling back.
"Okay, I'll get out of your hair. I'll see you at seven." He backed toward her door and finally turned, then exited the office.
She just stared at the door, totally confused. Why in the world had she just accepted a date with a man she had met at a viewing? Okay, he was damned attractive and something about him drew her to him, but dinner? And what the hell was she going to wear!
She found the restaurant with no problem. Mary had come through for her again, kind of. She was supposed to be her secretary, but seemed to enjoy the role of mother much better. Her delight that she'd accepted a date was a little over the top. And of course her mother would never have picked out this dress.
Okay, Mary had offered to run out and pick up something, despite her protests. She should have protested harder. Maybe it was a simple black dress, but it was a little too simple. And too short and revealed too much cleavage. By the time she'd realized all of this, it was too late to go back to her apartment and change again. She should have worn her lab coat.
She spotted him at a table near the back and moved toward him. He looked up and his eyes widened. He rose from the table as though in a trance. She felt her cheeks warm at his obvious regard.
"You found it."
"Drove right to it." She smiled and seated herself as he held her chair.
"I ordered for us and some wine, would you like a glass?" He poured as she nodded.
"Thank you." She took a sip.
"I know I'm about to get my face slapped, but . . . " She looked up startled. "I knew you were a beautiful woman Dr. Scully, but, wow."
She was blushing again, she knew it, but smiled. "I'll tell Mary you liked the dress."
"Do that. Who's Mary?"
"My assistant slash surrogate mother. She doesn't think I go out enough."
"Good." She looked at him a little confused. "I mean, I'm glad you were free tonight. I, uh, I owe you."
"I don't understand."
He took another sip of wine before responding. "The, uh, the, when we met . . . " His voice trailed off and she waited. "I was in pretty bad shape. I'm sure you could tell. I don't know what I was thinking, but it was . . . I was, I'm not sure what I would have done when I left if you hadn't . . . "
"Mr. Mulder, I - "
"Just Mulder, please. I think you saved my life." Her eyes widened at that. "The guilt was overwhelming. I should have been there; I should have backed her up. She had no business being out on a case without . . ."
"You said she wasn't your partner."
"She wasn't, but we did work together. It turns out she did call me; I wasn't home. There was a message on my machine but I didn't hear it until after I got the call from your office."
He shrugged. "She didn't follow procedure. I shouldn't - "
"That's right, you shouldn't."
He smiled a little at that. "Thank you again Dr. Scully."
He nodded, "Dana."
"You're staring at me again."
"Sorry. That dress is for looking at, but I'll try. May I tell you that you don't look like a pathologist? A pediatrician or maybe an obstetrician, even a family doctor."
"Have you been talking to my father?" She grinned at him. "He feels the same way. A woman shouldn't do what I do."
"Why do you do it?"
"I took a couple of criminal justice courses as electives in undergraduate school. I was fascinated. There was so much evidence, so much information left with the body. It was just incredible what could be learned, I was hooked."
He saw the light in her eyes as she said this. What she said was true; she loved her work.
"What about you? Why the FBI?"
Before he could speak the waiter arrived with the food. They sampled his choices and she smiled her appreciation. They ate for a few minutes, sharing from each other's plate.
She took another sip of wine. "You're not getting out of it, why the FBI?"
"It wasn't how I started out. I actually have a Ph.D. in psychology. The FBI recruited me out of school. They needed profilers and it seemed that I could do that."
"Ph.D. I should be calling you Dr. Mulder as well."
"Hardly. I've never practiced. I went straight into the academy."
"Where did you get the Ph.D.?"
"Oxford? As in England?" He nodded, slightly embarrassed. "You must be good. They don't hand out Ph.D.'s from Oxford easily."
He chuckled, "No, easy isn't the way I would describe it."
She watched him for a minute, "You were top of your class, weren't you?" He looked down, not answering. "At the academy too. Go ahead, admit it."
"It was a fluke. I just - "
"A fluke? Don't be modest Mulder. You're the best at what you do, aren't you?" Her hand was on his again.
"No more than you, I'll bet."
"Tell me about Oxford."
They talked and talked, so focused on each other that they finished the meal and the wine, without even being aware. They still had plenty to say to each other.
The waiter walked past yet again and Dana looked up. "I think they want this table."
"What?" He glanced down at his watch. "Damn, I had no idea. I'm . . . I'm not ready for this evening to end."
"Neither am I. I'm not familiar with this neighborhood. Is there some place we could go for coffee? Do you live around here?"
"Yeah, just a few blocks over. I come here a lot, for takeout."
"Well, why don't we have coffee there?" Had she really said that? What was she thinking?
"You wouldn't mind? I'm not sure how the place looks."
That brought a smile back to her face. "I'm not planning an inspection."
"Good, because I don't think I would pass." He rose then and held her chair. "Do you want to leave your car here? I can bring you back."
That wouldn't be a good idea; she should have her own car. Then she could leave when she wanted. This was a first date, how could she even think about doing this?
"I'll bring you back any time you want."
"I know. Let's go." She took his hand and he felt his chest lighten.
He unlocked his apartment door and held it open for her after glancing inside. He gave her a rueful grin and she entered carefully.
"Not bad, no socks on the floor, no underwear on the couch."
"I got lucky."
She laughed then, "May I use your powder room?"
"Oh no, here's where I'm going to flunk. It's through my bedroom, over there."
Her eyebrow went up and she squared her shoulders as though going into battle. He watched her leave, removing his suit coat and loosening his tie, then turned toward the kitchen to start the coffee.
When she returned he looked over at her. "How many demerits?"
"Well, your running clothes were on the floor and the seat was up, but the bed was made. I should probably give you points for that."
"Not really. I don't usually sleep in there."
She looked confused at that, "Well where do you sleep?"
"The couch usually. I do a lot of work here and when I drift off I don't bother to . . . " He shrugged. She just shook her head and wandered into the living room. He opened the cabinet to find the mugs.
She began a tour of the living room, letting her fingers trail along the couch and watching the fish for a moment. She moved over to the desk and saw the framed picture sitting next to his computer. That caused her to look around the room again. It was the only picture in the place. She picked it up and studied the face of the young girl. She resembled him. She turned as he entered with the coffee, the frame still in her hand.
"Is she your daughter?"
"Uh, no. Sister."
"How old is she?"
"She, she was eight. That's the last picture we had of her." He took the frame from her and placed it back on the desk.
"Mulder, I'm sorry. How did she die?"
"We . . . we don't know that she's dead. She was taken, abducted from our home. I was babysitting."
"Mulder . . . " She moved closer to him, putting her hand on his sleeve.
He didn't really look at her, his eyes on the picture. "She's the real reason the Bureau was able to recruit me. When I joined, I got access to her file. You know, I have a photographic memory. I can remember everything I've ever read, seen, except for that night. It's a total blank. I don't . . . "
"Mulder, you can't feel guilt over something that happened,” she did some quick math, "that happened over twenty years ago."
He turned to look at her then and shook himself slightly. She saw what a deeply rooted sadness she had inadvertently touched. "I'm sorry. How do you take your coffee?"
She moved toward him then, "I'm sorry." Then she was in his arms and their lips met with a force she had only imagined. She felt her knees grow weak as they fed from each other, kissing, tasting, exploring.
They found themselves on his couch and he finally seemed to realize where this would inevitably lead. "Dana, oh god, Dana I'm . . . I don't know what to say. I don't, I've never forced myself - "
"You didn't force anything Mulder. It seemed to be a mutual decision to me."
"You're not . . . you're not angry?"
"Angry? I think the word is horny." His eyes widened in disbelief. He hadn't moved completely from atop her and his body reacted even more forcefully at her words.
She pressed herself more firmly against him. By god, he was enormous. "You better have some protection here." He gaped at her, unable to speak. She smiled and he lifted her into his arms to carry her to his bedroom.
She woke alone and stretched, wincing slightly as her abused muscles protested. She moved slowly into the bathroom and when she emerged looked around for something to wear. The dress really didn't seem right for morning, so instead she slipped into his dress shirt and headed for the kitchen.
He'd obviously been up for awhile. The table had been straightened up, there was a box of pastry on the counter and she could smell the coffee brewing. She padded up behind him and placed a kiss between his shoulder blades, against the soft fabric of his t-shirt.
"Um, good morning." He turned and kissed her lips gently.
"You don't have women here very often."
"Do I need coaching?" He glanced toward the bedroom.
"Hardly." She laughed lightly. "But women are usually watching their weight. We don't eat all this sugar."
"You burnt off more than twice that last night." He watched in appreciation as the color rose on her face. He glanced down then, "That shirt never looked like that on me."
"Good. I wouldn't have wanted to stay if it had." She moved closer and noted that his body responded once again. He pulled her into his embrace and she felt him twitch against her thigh. Her hand, with a mind of its own, grasped him and he groaned.
She found herself in his arms, heading again toward his bedroom. "You know, someday I really do want to taste your coffee."
"Don't worry about it. It's the only thing I have in abundance at my apartment."
"Um, I disagree." She was pulling him back down onto the bed again.
He collapsed, trembling on her and managed to roll to the side. He pulled her to him. "I wish I'd met you when I was nineteen."
"I'm glad you didn't. I'd be in a wheelchair by now." She brushed the hair from his forehead and lowered his head to her breast. "I know you have no reason to believe this Mulder, but I've never done anything like this before. I've never gone to bed with a man on a first date."
"I believe you, Dana." He kissed her breasts and held her close.
"Rest Mulder. I've got you." He made some sound of acceptance and gave into oblivion with her in his arms. She watched him sleep for a while and when she knew she wouldn't disturb him, left the bed carefully and made her way to his shower.
With the water sluicing from her body she stood, remembering the night before. He was an incredible lover, the best she'd ever had. It was as though he knew exactly what she wanted before she did herself. But she'd only known him a few hours. That thought brought her to a complete stop there in the shower. How could she have done this? She wasn't this irresponsible. This was insane and she had perpetrated it. She had come on to him, been the aggressor. She needed to leave, go somewhere and think.
She couldn't do that if she stayed here with him. He was too powerful; the pull of this man was too strong. She got out of the shower and dried herself, forcing her mind away from him. She slipped past him, ignoring the long, lean thigh exposed as he lay on the bed. Their bed, her mind supplied.
She slipped on the dress and quietly phoned for a cab. She scribbled him a quick note and headed downstairs to wait for the taxi.
She looked up startled as her door opened. She had thought she’d be was alone in the building since it was Saturday. "Mulder? How did you know I was here?"
"Because you weren't at home. I didn't know where else to look."
"You know where I live?" A stupid thing to say, but she was caught off guard by his presence.
"Working at the Bureau has some perks. I had to make sure you were okay."
"I . . . I'm fine. I just thought, I thought maybe we needed some time to think." She knew she sounded a little distant, but if she wasn’t careful she might throw herself at him again right here in the lab.
After a long moment he spoke, "Think about what? About what happened last night? Think, or regret?"
"Do you regret it?"
"No!" He sighed, "Dana I didn't mean to push you. We can slow this down, get to know each other. Just please don't run away from me."
"I wasn't running away. Mulder, I've never acted like that. I didn't even know I could. You . . . you bring out something in me that, that scares me. But you need to know, you didn't push me Mulder. I pushed you."
"You didn't have to push very hard." She managed a smile at that. "If you need time, you have it. We could date, talk, stay in public places."
She gave a rueful chuckle. "The way I acted last night, I'm not sure staying in public places would be any safer."
"I'm not too worried about my virtue Dana. There's something, something about you that I . . . that I need in my life. I don't doubt that I need you more than you need me, but please don't . . . to wake up without - "
"I shouldn't have done that. I apolog - "
"Don't. You have nothing to apologize for. I just . . . " He ran down then and sank into a chair. He shoved his fingers through his hair. Her tone, she was keeping him at arms length. "I'm sorry. I shouldn’t have tracked you down, forced my way in here. You wanted some space. I know you're okay now; you haven't vanished into the void. Listen, if you want to see me, give me a call some time. You know where I work and where I live." He stood and turned toward the door. Not facing her, he stopped, "Thank you for last night." Then he was gone.
She sat frozen, staring at the door. He wasn't really going, was he? What had she done? But she couldn't make herself move.
The next few days passed in a blur. Her work was precise, her reports fully documented, but she was numb. Mary was extremely worried about her. She didn't even seem to hear anyone around her.
Finally she'd had enough. She entered the office, closing the door firmly behind her. Dana looked up, "Mary?"
"I'm surprised you recognized me."
"What?" Dana put down the slide she was holding.
"I want to know what happened. What did this man do to you?"
"I don't understand." But she didn't meet her eyes.
"Oh yes you do. You left here Friday night, in your new dress, as happy and excited as I can remember. The next time I see you, Monday morning, you're a zombie. What did he do to you? Dana, did he rape you?"
"What? No! No, he didn't hurt me."
"Bullshit." Dana stared at her; she'd never heard Mary talk like that. "He did something to you."
"Mary, this is - "
"None of my business? No. You're my friend and you're in pain. I feel responsible, I picked out the dress, I encouraged you to go with him. Now I wish you'd never gone." Dana shook her head, not willing to talk about this. "I'm tempted to call the police. You say he didn't hurt you, but look at you. Talk to me Dana. What's wrong?"
"Mary, please - "
"I'm not leaving. You need to talk to someone. You certainly can't go on like this."
Dana seemed to sink down into her seat. Why couldn't Mary leave her alone? She was doing fine, she was . . . oh hell.
She mumbled something that Mary couldn't hear. She moved closer, "What Dana?"
"He made me fall in love with him." She sounded totally hopeless.
"Fall in - Dana? You love him?"
Dana nodded, staring at the equipment on the bench.
"And that's a bad thing?"
"It's impossible! I've known him a couple of days; we've had one date. This is insane! I've lost my mind and I can't see him. I've got to get on with things."
"How does he feel?" Mary was groping here; this was not what she'd imagined.
"How should I know? I haven't spoken to him."
"Well don't you think you should?" She sounded so outraged that Dana finally looked up. "Dana, you have to talk to the man. If he's had this kind of effect on you who knows what kind of effect you've had on him. Look, I'm not saying you're in love with him for sure, but you obviously feel something. You deserve to know what that is. You deserve happiness if that's what's in the future for you. And if he's used you, you deserve a chance to kick him in the balls."
Dana stared at her speechless, then she began to chuckle. "You're crazy. I should send you over to talk to him."
"Fine. Where would I find him?"
"No! I was kidding. I don't want you anywhere near him."
Mary held her eyes then, until Dana herself looked away. "You don't like it, you don't want to listen because you know I'm right. I'll bet he's been walking around in this fog just like you are. Want to prove me wrong?"
"You're impossible. Where do you - "
"Dana." That was all she said, but Dana ducked her head to avoid her eyes again.
"I ran away from him. He probably doesn't even want to see me - "
"Dana." That tone. Her own mother couldn't do any better. She wanted to snarl at her, except that she had a damn point. If she did see him and he threw her out, then she'd know.
She tapped on the door to his apartment. His car was here. Of course he might have another woman in there. She'd deserve it. If he slammed the door in her face she'd deserve that too. What the hell was she doing here?
She jerked back as the door opened. She couldn't lift her eyes, staring at his shoes. "Dana?"
She was stronger than this. She managed to look up. "I'm sorry to, to just show up like this."
"Why did you?" Oh god, she'd hurt him. She'd hurt him deeply. That had never been her intention. He was disheveled again, unkempt somehow and that look of sadness in his eyes . . .
"May I come in?" He moved to allow her entry, but didn't speak. He watched her walk past him, not letting himself feel. It made no sense anyway. There was no logic in feeling for this woman the way he did. He didn't know her. The hurt he thought he felt . . . no, think about it later.
Neither spoke as she stopped and turned to face him. After a moment he realized he was still holding the doorknob and pushed the door closed.
She looked up then, not daring to move any closer. "I'm Dr. Dana Scully and I was . . . I was wondering if I could get a cup of coffee."
He blinked at those words and looked into her eyes. She was scared. She was as scared as he was. Adrenaline was coursing through his body. He held his hand out, "Dr. Fox Mulder, pleased to meet you. I'll . . . I'll see about that coffee."
- Fin -