"I'm telling you, Dana, he checked you out."
Dana huffed and kept moving, "Look at him, he checked everyone out. With that body and that accent you know he's God's gift; at least in his own mind."
"Okay, I'll give you that, but he checked you out after you answered his question in class," Becky said, cutting her eyes at her friend. "Besides, you know red hair catches everyone's attention."
"Don't remind me," Dana said picking up her pace to get to the next class. Becky grinned, easily keeping up with the shorter woman's strides.
That night in the apartment, Dana was curled up on the couch studying while Becky was hunched over the desk. Dana looked up when the blonde leaned back stretching. "My eyes are crossing. Do you want some popcorn?"
Dana chuckled, "Sure." She rotated her neck to get the kinks out and slipped a 3X5 card in the book.
"I thought you were studying anatomy." Becky looked down at the text. "Psych?" When she looked back up at Dana, she saw the blush creeping across her cheeks.
"He raised some interesting questions; I'm just checking some things out."
"So you'll be ready for class. Hey, I understand. It has nothing to do with the tight butt in those slacks." She made no attempt to hide her grin.
Dana rolled her eyes and moved toward the kitchen to start the popcorn, but Becky's words had brought back the image of the new instructor. He did have a nice butt, great hair, a wicked, dry sense of humor, but the faint English accent was the killer. He'd told the class he was from Connecticut but just back from Oxford. Oxford, good grief.
The sound of the microwave drew her attention back to the kitchen and she blushed again when she realized Becky was watching her, smiling. "Okay, yes, he is good looking, but there's going to be a line out the door to see him, and it's not worth the fight."
Becky shrugged, "Maybe, but you seemed to have the edge, at least in our class." She took her half of the popcorn and tossed a kernel into her mouth as she turned back to the living room.
Dana hurried to the classroom for the next session. Her professor had held her up in the last class to compliment her paper, so she was running late. She looked up to see him standing at the door, ready to enter himself. He'd obviously spotted her and was waiting with a lazy, confident grin on his face.
"Miss Scully." He seemed to bow slightly.
"Dr. Mulder, sorry I'm late."
"You're not. I just got here myself." He held the door for her and his fingers lightly grazed her lower back as though escorting her inside. She willed the blood away from her face and moved toward her seat. You could hear a pin drop as he took his place at the front of the class and lounged against the desk, perching on the corner.
Dana made a point of not looking toward Becky, but she could feel her grin.
When they left the class, Becky was practically laughing. Dana threatened to punch her, which didn't help at all. She was still chuckling when they got back to the apartment and by then Dana had loosened up herself. She even agreed to head over to Bill's Pizza Pub for dinner.
Becky was pouring her a second beer when Dana spotted their professor enter the restaurant with a woman on his arm. Dana involuntarily scoped the woman out. She was tall, probably 5'9", long luscious dark hair, and a chest that wouldn't quit. She had hold of the man and was leaning toward him, showing her cleavage to the best advantage.
Well, it was what she had expected, though it was a little disappointing to see that he wasn't any more discriminating in his taste than other men. She took a long draught of the beer, and then reached for another piece of pizza.
Becky's brow furrowed. "Dana?" Before she could complete the question, the couple made their way toward the table.
"Miss Scully, Miss Simpson." He smiled down at them.
"Dr. Mulder, I see you've found the best pizza in town."
"The best, huh? I'm something of a connoisseur; I'll have to check it out. Do you know Kaitlin Pointe?" He looked over at the brunette beside him, now clutching his arm.
"No, pleased to meet you." Dana looked up at the woman. She was older than Dana had realized now that she was close.
It didn't sound like it, but how would she feel if she had a date with this man and he introduced her to other women?
"I see a table." He smiled down at them. "See you in class."
Dana nodded. "Have a good weekend." Becky watched them walk away, but Dana concentrated on her slice of pizza.
When they were out of earshot, Becky leaned closer. "He likes women his mother's age?" she whispered.
"She's not - nevermind. Just eat your pizza; I want to get out of here."
Becky's look turned sympathetic then. Dana rolled her eyes as she wadded up her napkin; but they didn't stay long.
Dana slipped into the pool and began her laps. She didn't get over here as often as she wanted, but she tried to get here every Saturday morning at least. She was back up to half a mile. She'd never gone for speed but she had always been a great endurance swimmer. The 500 meters had been her event and she still loved it, though she didn't compete anymore.
She was holding onto the side of the pool stretching at the end of her last lap when she saw him enter the pool deck. Good god, he was wearing a Speedo. No one on her team had ever filled out one like that. She looked down quickly to hide her interest, but he had spotted her and stood at the end of her lap, smiling down at her now.
"Ms. Scully, I didn't know you were a swimmer."
"Uh, yes, from high school." Where the hell was she supposed to look when he was standing over her like that? She swam over to the ladder and climbed out. He held out a hand to help her and after a slight hesitation she took it. She stepped over to the bleachers and took up her towel, drying her face and then shoulders.
He followed her. Damn he was comfortable in his body; of course there was no reason not to be. "Do you swim regularly?"
"I try to get over here on Saturday mornings."
"What was your event?"
"500 meters." She turned to look at him again, under control now.
"What about you?"
"I was clean up on relays usually. Well, I guess I need to let you go. Have a nice weekend."
"You too." She wrapped her towel around her waist and headed for the women's dressing room. Damn . . .
Dressed in jeans and t-shirt, she headed back past the pool to the exit. He was in the lane she had vacated, swimming the butterfly and moving as easily as he had on land. The memory of the Speedo was permanently etched in her brain.
The semester progressed and Dr. Mulder took every opportunity to engage her in debate. She saw him on numerous occasions around the town with a variety of women. He always spoke and was polite, but it went no farther. The women he dated could have been cloned.
She closed her blue book and sighed. It had been a tough exam, but fair. She felt good about it. She placed the book on his desk and moved out of the room. She had only gotten a couple of feet from the door when it opened again. Thinking it might be Becky; she looked back. Dr. Mulder was approaching her.
"What did you think?" He smiled down at her.
"Personally? I think I did pretty well. I've enjoyed your class."
"I'm glad. I suppose you're on your way to study for your next exam."
"No, this was my last one." He was standing in her space, but she felt no compunction to step back.
His smile grew. "So you're rushing to get out of town."
"Actually, no to that as well. My flight isn't until day after tomorrow."
"Then I don't suppose you'd like to have a cup of coffee with me?"
"I, uh, all right. You don't have to stay with the class?"
He looked slightly embarrassed then. "I didn't have to be here at all. The TA's in there."
"So why - " He let his hand rest lightly on her lower back again and began leading her out of the building. He turned toward the Student Union, which relaxed her slightly. If he noted it, he didn't show it.
He motioned for her to take the table. "Latte?"
She smiled. "No, just regular coffee, a little cream."
"Got it. I'll be right back."
She looked around the room. It was less crowded than usual, a lot of students had already finished their exams and left town. It made parking a lot easier. She turned to watch him move toward her. He was easy in his body, confident as he moved toward her. He placed her coffee on the table in front of her and sat across from her with his own. She took a sip and smiled, perfect.
"You said you had a flight, where's home?"
"Dad's career Navy. Right now he's based in San Diego. We're all meeting there for Christmas."
She grinned. "My older brother, Bill, Jr., is Navy too and he's also stationed there. My sister, Melissa, works in San Francisco and Charlie, the baby, is an undergraduate at Berkley."
"Wow. Is Melissa older or younger?"
"Older, by four years. What about you? Are you headed off somewhere to celebrate?"
He took a sip of his coffee, "No, I don't have a group like that. Mom and Dad divorced years ago, when I was fourteen. I lived with her until I went away to school."
"Are you any only child?"
"I have a sister," he said quietly.
"Aren't the two of you going to get together?" She smiled.
"No, I uh, no."
The look in his eyes told her it was time to change the subject. "What are your plans for next semester?"
He nodded slightly, possibly in gratitude. "Well I probably won't have as good a class, but they've asked me back."
"Aren't you on tenure track?"
"No. I'm not sure I want to teach, but I wanted to 'investigate' my other options before I committed to anything." She didn't understand the quirk of a smile but didn't pursue it.
"That sounds interesting." She glanced down at her watch.
"But you don't have time now," he said quietly.
"No, I don't. I have to get some last minute shopping done and pack."
"But you'll need dinner. Would you do me the pleasure of dining with me this evening?"
"Me? I mean, why me, why now, Dr. Mulder?"
He smiled then. "You're no longer my student. I'm just Mulder."
She blinked at that. "So I'm Scully."
He grinned. "That seems to fit."
"I don't think I'm your type, Doct- , I mean Mulder."
"I have a type?" He chuckled.
"You seem to. Kaitlin? And all of the other women I've seen you with." She met his eyes, unembarrassed by her knowledge.
He nodded. "I guess it does look like that. I suppose they remind me of someone I knew in England."
He huffed then. "Intimate acquaintance I suppose. Was that a yes about dinner?"
She laughed lightly then. "All right. Seven?"
"Perfect. Do you want me to pick you up, or would you rather meet me?"
"Let me meet you. Bill's? It shouldn't be crowded."
"Bill's it is. I'll be waiting." He rose then and held her chair.
"Thanks." She turned then and left him.
When she entered Bill's at seven, he rose to greet her. "Get all of your shopping done?"
"I hope so, because I've quit." She grinned. "I don't know how I'm supposed to get everything in my suitcase."
He nodded. "Then quitting is probably a wise plan. Beer?"
"I believe I'd like tea."
He motioned for the waitress to join them and ordered two teas. After she left, he turned back to Dana. They decided on their pizza, then he got her to talking about her family again. In a few minutes he changed the subject. "You need a ride to the airport."
She blinked at the shift in direction. "I, are you serious?"
"That would be a big help."
"Good. What time should I pick you up?" That slow grin warmed her more than the meal had.
"Dana! Phone!" Charlie yelled toward the kitchen. Dana rolled her eyes as she dried off her hands.
"Who is it?"
He shrugged. "A guy." Missy looked up then, her eyebrow rising.
Looking puzzled, Dana picked up the extension. "Hello?"
"I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas, 'Scully'."
"Mulder? I, thank you. And a Merry Christmas to you too."
"Is the whole gaggle there?"
"Yes, plus one."
"Yes, Charlie brought his girlfriend. Her name's Mary and she seems very nice. I think we've overwhelmed her though."
"Sounds like that would be easy with all of you at one time."
"So what are you up to?"
"There's a Twilight Zone marathon on. I just saw William Shatner lose it at 30,000 feet. That's always a treat."
She responded with something light, but her eyes betrayed her to Missy, who moved closer.
"Listen, I know you're busy, but I wanted to check on when you're coming back."
"Oh, I'll be coming back on the 28th around 8 in the evening. Are you going to volunteer for chauffeur service again?"
"I am, but I also wanted to check on something else."
"If you're free for New Year's Eve, I'd like to take you out for more than pizza."
Missy stepped even closer at the color that rose in Dana's face. "I, I'd like that."
"Good. I'll let you get back to your family."
"Mulder, thank you. I'm looking forward to seeing you."
"Me too. Bye." He broke the connection and after a moment, she hung up as well.
"Dana?" Missy was standing over her now, "Who the hell was that?"
"Friend, huh? You sure looked happy for just 'a friend'."
"Did I? He's, I don't know, he's different."
Dana nodded slowly. "I think he could be." She shook herself then. "But it's much too soon to tell. Help me with these dishes."
Missy dropped it, for now. Interesting.
He was waiting for her when she stepped out of the jet way. He spotted her immediately and his face seemed to light up. She was stunned at how happy she was to see him. Realistically she didn't know the man, but she knew that she was as happy to be back from San Diego as she had been to go in the first place.
"It's good to see you." He took her carry on.
"It's good to be home." And to feel your hand on my back, she thought.
She rolled her eyes. "Do I ever."
He chuckled and led her toward baggage claim. He pretended to stagger under the weight of her suitcases, one more than she had taken to San Diego, but she just rolled her eyes. He refused to have her carry any of them, but relinquished her carry-on to her.
He'd managed to find a close parking space and got her inside and the heat on quickly. "Have you eaten?"
"I had what they called a sandwich on the flight."
He shook his head. "You need something warm. I know a place."
She gave only a token protest. When he'd mentioned food she had realized just how hungry she was.
He parked in front of a Chinese restaurant and led her inside. "Mr. Muller! So good to see you again. You have Merry Christmas?"
"Yes, thank you, Mr. Tian. I hope you and your family did as well."
"Good, very good. Please, you come this way." He led them to a table and handed them menus.
"They seem to know you pretty well here." She looked around.
He smiled. "Oh yeah, I eat here regularly."
They shared their meals and spoke of her trip. When they were finished, they thanked Mr. Tian and he took her home. He carried her suitcases inside and with her permission, carried them into her bedroom. He took a quick glance around but didn't linger, returning to her in the main room.
"I'll let you get settled, but there is one thing about New Year's Eve . . . "
"Mulder, if you have to change your plans - "
"No, it's not that. I need to know if I have to wait until then to see you again."
She laughed then. "No. I'd like to get together before then."
His face lit up at that. "I'll pick you up at 11 tomorrow morning. We can get some lunch then see a movie. We can decide on dinner after that."
Her eyes widened and she chuckled. "Tomorrow, huh?"
He nodded rapidly.
"Okay, but only if I can cook you dinner tomorrow night."
"Don't you tease me, woman."
She shook her head, grinning. "Go on, I need to unpack and read a cookbook." She walked him to the door, but stopped with her hand on the knob. "Thank you again for the rides."
"It was my pleasure." He leaned down then, slowly. She didn't back away. Their lips met and melded. His arms went around her as hers slipped around his waist.
When they finally broke apart, she was grateful for his arms because her knees had gone weak. They were silent, staring at each other.
"I, uh, I need to get out of here."
She nodded and finally opened the door. "I, I'll see you tomorrow."
She took a deep breath before opening the door for him. She'd been unprepared for that kiss last night. Men didn't usually affect her like that. Today would be different; she'd be more in control. Finally she reached for the knob.
Damn he looked good. Jeans, with a gray sweater and leather jacket. He stepped inside. He seemed slightly hesitant.
She smiled up at him and he visibly relaxed. He took the opportunity to check her out as well. She had on navy wool slacks and a light blue sweater that matched her eyes. Her hair was pulled back in a loose braid.
He returned her smile and stepped inside. "Ready for lunch?"
"I am. Did you pick a movie?"
"Your choice, we've got Crimes of the Heart, Nobody's Fool - "
"Little Shop of Horrors?" Her chin went up defiantly.
"Are you serious?"
"My younger brother recommended it."
"I'd like to meet him some time." He held her coat and they headed out.
They were laughing when they returned to her place. The movie had been fun and their mood was lighthearted. He followed her into the apartment and immediately stopped, sniffing the air.
"You have a cook?"
"No, I'm the cook."
"You've cloned yourself." He said seriously, "I thought you were out with me."
"Have you ever heard of a crock pot? No, I guess you haven't." She shook her head. "Your coat?"
"Oh, yeah." He slipped it off and watched her put it in the coat closet. "So what is that delicious aroma?"
"My grandmother's recipe, chicken and dumplings."
His mouth dropped open. "I haven't had that since I left for school."
"I hope it's good. Why don't you pick some music while I get everything ready?"
They ate at the table in the kitchen and he filled her in on his mother's cook that had fixed meals like this for him. She noted that he didn't say much about his family, but he had good memories of this Gloria and a couple of other women that had worked in his home. She was beginning to get the sense of money in his background, but was careful not to betray it in her expression.
After dinner he insisted on helping with clean up and was actually quite capable at it. They returned to her living room and sat on the couch, their conversation turning to England and Oxford. The bottle of wine accompanied them and she refilled both of their glasses.
As a silence fell, she realized they had moved closer on the couch. Their eyes met and without speaking they moved together and his lips took hers again.
When they broke for air, he realized they had reclined and he had pulled her atop him. His hand was on her waist and her sweater had ridden up enough so that a couple of fingers were against her warm skin. She pulled her sweater back down and sat up, brushing her hair back.
He swallowed hard and sat back up himself. "I need to get home. Would, would you like to do tourist stuff tomorrow?"
"The Smithsonian? I've never been there."
"You live in DC. I need to fix that." He was shaking his head in mock disbelief.
"Oh, and you've been here so long."
"Well, I spent some time here as a kid. My Dad moved here after the divorce and on his weekends he'd have some guy take me around."
It was the most he'd said about his father, but the memory of his body against hers was too fresh to take it in. He rose and she stood beside him.
"Can I pick you up for lunch again?"
"Aren't you tired of me?"
"Hardly," he said softly. "See you tomorrow, same time." He moved toward the closet and took his coat. She followed him and opened the door. He gave her a quick kiss and moved out into the hall.
When the door was closed, she leaned against it, her fingers against her lips.
It was a little spooky how compatible they were. He was smart and quick and funny. She felt no need to hide her own intelligence from him and enjoyed challenging some of his comments for the pleasure of the verbal dueling that ensued. But she was beginning to realize that he hadn't opened up to her about his personal life. There was a curtain there that he didn't seem to want to draw back. While he had drawn out the information on her siblings, she didn't even know his sister's name.
The closer she looked; it was obvious there was a part of him that he didn't want to share. Maybe it was the divorce. From the little he had said it seemed like it had been bitter; yet he seemed to enjoy hearing about her own family. Well, they really had just met. If things were going to grow between them, they would learn these things.
He was the consummate tour guide through the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian, but there was an air about him that confused her. It was as though he were searching for something that he couldn't find.
He stopped just inside the door. "What about tomorrow?"
She shook her head. "No, Mulder. I need tomorrow to get beautiful for the evening."
"You're already beautiful. Throw on a dress and you'll be ready."
"Thank you, I think." She grinned. "But I need to do a little more if we're going to the Watergate."
"So I won't see you until tomorrow evening?" Where had the man learned that puppy dog pout?
"Now you're getting it," she said with a light laugh.
"You're cruel, you know that."
"Maybe a little distance will make you more happy to see me tomorrow evening."
"I could be happier to see you?"
She nearly melted at that, but stiffened her spine. "You're impossible."
"I thought that was adorable."
She laughed out loud at that. He tried to look insulted, but her smile caused an answering smile from him. "Well, if that's the way you feel, I can take a hint. I'll pick you up at six."
"Six thirty. Be ready."
"Yes sir." She saluted and he pulled her closer, kissing her thoroughly before releasing her and turning toward the door.
He woke and stretched. A new year was starting and for a change he was, hell he was happy. It was almost unrecognizable, but it felt good. He couldn't say why he was attracted to Dana Scully, but it was undeniable.
Too bad he had a whole day to kill before he could see her again. He sighed and rose from the bed. He started the coffee, then took a shower. He read the paper, did some housework - something he should do more often.
With one load of his laundry in the dryer and one in the washer, it crossed his mind that he hadn't been in touch with his father over Christmas. Damn, he must be happy to be thinking of calling the man. Now there was a new feeling.
It was the holidays and hearing about Scully's family had given him the hope that real families did exist. What the hell . . . He picked up the phone and dialed his father's number.
"Dad? Hi, I just wanted to check in."
"Fox, it, it's good to hear your voice."
That was a positive; they discussed what they had done over the holidays and his position at the university. Without really thinking about it, he brought her up. "I'm seeing someone, Dad. She's, she's important."
"That's good to hear, son. Is she someone I would know?"
"No, I met her at the university. She was one of my students, but I didn't ask her out until the semester was over."
His Dad actually chuckled. He must have caught him at a good time. "Her name's Dana Scully."
"Scully? I know that name. When I was at the Pentagon, I knew a William Scully, career Navy."
Now it was Mulder who chuckled. "That sounds like the same family. Did you work with him?'
"Not really, he was involved in a project I followed for a while."
"Did you ever meet him?"
"No, I was in another part. I just remember the name, same as that sports announcer."
"Is it serious with this woman?"
"It's a little too soon to tell something like that." But he couldn't keep the smile out of his voice.
"I hope you'll let me know if something does develop."
"I will, Dad, thanks."
They spoke for a few more minutes, then said their goodbyes. Mulder hung up a little bemused. He'd had a pleasant conversation with his father. That hadn't happened since . . . when had he last had a pleasant conversation with the man? And he might know Scully's dad, what a coincidence.
He finished up his laundry and cleaned out his refrigerator. Might as well start the New Year off right. He was aware that what he was really doing was killing time until he could see her again. The day was dragging, but at least he knew it was him she would be starting the new year with tonight.
She opened the door at his knock and watched with a little thrill as his eyes widened. She worked hard at keeping her face neutral, but she felt a warm glow at his regard.
He hadn't seen her like this before. The dress was short, very short, with rhinestones around the hem and . . . and up the slit which made it even shorter. The same rhinestones were around the straight cut neckline and on the spaghetti straps. The swell of her breasts was beautifully displayed and he had to ball his hands into fists not to caress them through the fabric. Her hair was pulled back in a French twist with a rhinestone barrette. His eyes raked her up and down and caught on the high-heeled sandals she was wearing. Fuck me shoes if he'd ever seen them. Good god.
" . . . in?"
"I asked if you were going to come in."
"Oh, yeah," he stammered. "Scully, you're so beautiful." He smiled at the light blush that stained her cheeks. He gave her a peck of a kiss on one of those cheeks.
She closed the door behind him and gave him the once over at that. Damn, he looked like he'd been born in a tux. He looked as comfortable in it as he had been in the Speedo.
"We need to get going. We have reservations and I don't think they'll hold them long tonight."
She nodded and took her wrap from the closet. He took it from her and placed it around her shoulders, giving her a hug as he took a quick glance at her cleavage from behind. He took a steadying breath and led her to the car.
He chose valet parking to get her inside quicker and out of the cold. They checked their coats and headed inside for dinner. After the appetizers, Mulder led her out onto the dance floor. She came into his arms gracefully and they moved smoothly together around the floor.
He reluctantly released her to return to the table where they shared lobster and petite sirloins.
After a 'death by chocolate' dessert, they danced some more, watching people and just being comfortable together. Neither had much to drink, but when the champagne was passed around in anticipation of midnight, they both took a glass.
When the ball dropped at Times Square, they came together as though with years of familiarity. An island in a sea of madness, they explored each other. When they drew a breath, he heard her whisper in his ear, "Let's get out of here."
He met her eyes and after only an instant nodded. He led her to the coat check and retrieved their wraps. He stood with his arms around her, waiting for the car. They didn't speak, each thinking their own thoughts. Once they were in the car, he turned to her. "Where did you want to go?'
"My place is closer."
He smiled then and put the car in gear. Neither had said a word on the way to her apartment. People were still out celebrating, but he was able to find a parking place near the entrance of her building. He hurried her inside and out of the cold. Once inside the door, he turned her toward him and kissed her softly, then took her wrap and hung it in the closet, his coat following.
When he looked back at her, she was standing where he had left her, watching him. He moved toward her and let one finger trace her jaw line as he drew up next to her. "Scully, Dana, are you sure?"
"I love to hear you call me Scully. And yes, I want to begin the New Year with you."
His look was positively smoldering. He lifted her into his arms and carried her into her bedroom. When he let her feet touch the floor, she reached for the zipper on the back on her dress. "Let me," he whispered.
He stepped around her and gently lowered the zipper. He slipped the jeweled straps from her shoulders and the tiny black dress fell to the floor. His breathing stopped for a moment. The black lace strapless bra matched the, oh god, the garter belt she was wearing. She had thought about this when she was dressing! She had, had planned to be with him. His body reacted to that knowledge immediately.
His hesitation had worked in her favor. Her fingers had untied his bow tie and were working on the studs that held his shirt closed. His hand brushed back the loose curls of her hair, then he looked down to watch her hands uncover him.
She pulled the fabric loose from his slacks, then pushed the shirt back off of his shoulders. Her hands came to rest on his chest and she looked up at him. At her shy smile, he drew her to him and held her. "I want this too."
He sat her on the bed and knelt in front of her, removing her stockings and garter belt, then her bra. She watched him admiring her body, then she rose and tugged him to his feet. She fumbled only slightly with the button of his pants and then lowered the zipper.
His hand stayed her then. "Scully, I don't have any protection." He looked stricken for an instant.
She smiled then. "I guess it's a good thing you're dating a medical student." He hadn't planned this, was her first thought. It had happened as it should. Wearing only her panties, she moved toward her bathroom. She returned quickly to find him sitting on her bed, his shoes and socks neatly to one side. His boxers were well tented as he watched her return to him.
She rose from the bed after their second time together and he reached out for her. "No."
"I'll be right back." She kissed his brow and let herself into the bathroom. She returned with a warm cloth and cleaned him as he watched her through hungry eyes. He pulled her back on top of him when she was through. "Sleep now, Mulder. I have to be able to walk tomorrow."
She chuckled as he cuddled her up against him.
The next morning he woke spooned around her. It felt right. He kissed her ear and reluctantly rose from the bed.
"I'm going home for a few minutes, to get detuxed." He grinned at her. "I'll give you a call."
She lazily watched him dress and gave him another kiss when he leaned over her. "Sleep, Scully." He was smiling as he quietly let himself out of her place.
"You bastard! What did you do to her?" Becky's voice lashed him when she opened the door. His smile vanished and he took a step back from her.
"What are you talking - Where's Scully, uh Dana?"
"That's what I want to know. She's gone."
"Gone? What do you mean 'gone'?"
"I mean when I got up this morning, she wasn't here." Becky stepped back from the door when he entered, uninvited and shut the door.
"Tell me what's going on." He loomed over the other woman now and finally she took the time to see that he honestly didn't know what she was talking about, or he was a damned good actor.
Becky sighed and calmed down slightly. "I finally got her to go to bed around one this morning. She was exhausted emotionally and physically. How could you do that to her?"
"Do? What did I do? I've been in Connecticut."
"What's in Connecticut?"
"My parents. What the hell is going on?" His anger was surfacing now.
"You could have told her you were leaving town."
"I did! I called, but I got the machine. I left a long message about how strange it was that my parents wanted to see me and that they were together. Are you saying she didn't get it? I told her I'd call back when I got there and I did, but the phone was busy."
"You called? You didn't just screw her and, and disappear?"
His face drained of color. "Is that what she thought? Oh God."
"The message on your machine didn't help." She sneered at him.
"Message? What message?"
Without answering, she picked up the phone and dialed the number from the pad by the phone. When the machine picked up, she thrust the receiver at him.
"Fox Mulder, I'm not here. Leave a message." The beep sounded and he looked over at her. "What?"
She snatched it back and dialed again. At his message she finally looked confused. "That wasn't . . . That's not the message we got. Who the hell is Phoebe?"
"Phoebe?" He sounded breathless then. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Your message! It said 'if this is Phoebe, I'm sorry I've been away but I'm back now. Be sure to leave a message'."
"I never put that on my machine. I never would."
"So who's Phoebe?"
"She's a mistake I made in England, a long time ago."
"You're not seeing her."
"I haven't seen her in a couple of years. With luck I'll never see her again. Where is she; where is Scully? Where would she go?"
"I, I don't know. I called the police but they won't even talk to me for twenty-four hours."
"You called the police?"
"She vanished in the middle of the night! She didn't even take any shoes. As far as I can tell she left wearing her pajamas."
"Her, her pajamas?" He sank onto the couch then as though his knees would no longer support him. "Tell me what happened, tell me everything."
Unnerved by his sudden intensity, Becky took a seat across the room from him. "What are you thinking?"
"I don't know. Please, everything."
"She was, she was upset. Damned upset about what had happened between you. She thought - "
"I can imagine what she thought, go on."
"I finally got her to stop crying and try to get some sleep." Becky saw Mulder's eyes close at those words, but his body language showed he wasn't missing a word. "It was around 1 a.m. She was exhausted and seemed to fall right to sleep. I went in my room and conked out."
"You didn't wake up all night? You didn't hear anything?"
"Well, the lightning woke me up sometime during the night. I hate winter lightning, it's creepy, but I didn't get up or hear anything."
"Lightning? There was no storm last night."
"There must have been, I saw it." She watched as he let his head sink into his hands. Her anger at him was draining away fast. He was devastated. "Are you, do you want some water?"
He looked up then and shook his head. "Have you called her parents?"
"I tried. I got their machine and I didn't want to leave this kind of news, but they haven't called me back."
"Okay." He was on his feet.
"What? Where are you going?"
"I want to look around the building. If the police are going to stall, they could miss something. I'll be right back."
The police officer sat on the chair facing Becky on the couch. Mulder was pacing closer to the door. "And where were you, Mr. Mulder?"
"I was in Connecticut at my mother's. Her number is 203-555-3678. Check me out, but please she's been missing for two days, she's - "
"Mr. Mulder, I understand that you're upset, but I need you to understand - Ms. Scully is an adult and since there is no evidence of any - "
"You don't think that she walked out of here in her pajamas, barefoot at this temperature! I've checked around the building, no one saw her leave. Yesterday there were no bare footprints outside. She's missing, something happened to her!"
"Please, Mr. Mulder, let me get this information so that we can get on with looking for her.”
Mulder tried to take a relaxing breath, but it didn't help. He resumed pacing as the officer spoke with Becky.
The thump against the door caused all three of them to turn in that direction. Mulder was closest and already on his feet. He jerked the door open. She stumbled into the apartment, shivering, her eyes wide and fearful.
"Scully - " He caught her in his arms as she collapsed. "Get a blanket!" He carried her into the room and lay her gently on the couch. "We need an ambulance." He directed this to the officer but kept his eyes trained on Scully. His eyes were fastened on her, searching for any sign of consciousness.
"Here." Becky was back with a blanket and he tucked it around her, rubbing her arms to stimulate circulation. He glanced down at her feet, then looked up at the policeman.
"She's barefoot and in her pajamas." His tone was accusing.
"The ambulance is on the way," was the only response.
He arrived at the hospital shortly after the ambulance, but she had already disappeared into an exam room. "Dana Scully, she was just brought in."
"And you are?"
"Dr. Mulder." Okay he wasn't a medical doctor but at this point screw it. The receptionist had straightened up at the title.
"She's in trauma room 3. I'll let them know you're here."
It wasn't long before he saw a nurse slip out of the trauma room. No one was watching, so he moved in that direction. He pushed the door open and found her unconscious, an IV in her arm.
"Scully, I'm here. I know what you think of me right now, but I'm here. We need to talk." He took a seat beside her and laced his fingers through hers. She was back, alive and safe. For the first time since Becky had opened the door for him, he felt like he could take a deep breath.
Suddenly exhausted, he rested his head beside their hands.
He woke to see that their hands were still entwined. He sat up and realized she was awake and watching him. "How are you feeling?"
"Why are you here?" she countered, her voice cold.
"I wanted to be. Sc-Dana, we need to talk."
"Scully is fine. I doubt we'll be seeing each other - "
"Please. Listen to me for just a - "
The door opened and a doctor and nurse entered. "Good to see you awake, Ms. Scully. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. I want to go home."
"Let me give you a quick exam and we'll see. Dr. Mulder, if you'll please step outside . . . "
Mulder looked over at her, but she wouldn't meet his eyes. With his shoulders slumped he left the room.
In a short while, the nurse opened the door and he rose quickly. "Is she - "
The nurse smiled, "You can go back in now."
He lost no time doing just that. She watched as he entered the room, then back to the doctor. "May I go now?"
"I don't want you driving."
Her mouth opened, but before she could speak, Mulder spoke up. "I'll take her home."
The doctor nodded. "If there's any change, bring her back in immediately."
"I will." Mulder shook the doctor's hand as he left, leaving them alone.
"I can get a cab," she said flatly.
"I told the doctor I'd take you home. Scully, please, we have to talk." He moved to take her arm, but she avoided him, rising from the examining table. "You can't walk far barefooted."
She glanced down, then closed her eyes. "Fine. Thank you."
He took her arm then and led her back out into the waiting room. "I'll go get the car. You will be here when I get back?" He tried to smile but it fell flat when she just stared at him.
He hurried to the car and brought it to the pickup area. He got out to open the door for her and slipped his coat around her. She didn't say anything, but pulled it tight over her pajamas. For an instant he thought she took a sniff of the coat, but he could have been mistaken.
They were silent on the drive, though he kept glancing over at her. When he parked in front of her building, he hurried around. "Let me carry you."
"No thank you." She stepped away from him and rushed to the building. He took a deep breath and followed her.
Becky threw the door open and took Dana in her arms. "Oh God, you scared me! What happened? Where did you - "
"Becky, she and I need to talk," Mulder said quietly.
Becky looked up at him. "Now? Could you give her a little - "
"Please. She needs to know what happened."
To Dana's surprise Becky nodded. "I know. I'll be at Joe's. Don't wear her out."
He nodded as Dana's eyes widened. Mutely she watched Becky gather her coat and purse. Becky hugged her again. "Dana, you need to listen to him. Trust me."
Dana watched incredulously as Becky left the apartment. When Mulder turned to look at her, she drew herself up and moved toward the couch. She took a seat in the corner, but didn't look up at him. She felt him take a seat at the far end of the couch.
"Can I get you anything? Hot tea? Your slippers?"
She seemed at a loss, so he got both. She noted his familiarity with her kitchen, but made no comment. When she was settled he took a seat beside her.
"I need for you to hear some things. The most important of them is that I did not make love to you and then run off to scratch a notch in my bedpost."
Startled, she looked in his direction for just an instant.
"When I left here that morning, my intentions were to shower, change, then get back over here and pester you to let me take you to a late lunch. That's not what happened. Shortly after I got home, I got a phone call from my father. He asked that I meet him at my mother's house. He said that the three of us needed to talk. I will admit I was blown away by that. My parents haven't communicated, except through business managers and attorneys, since the divorce. He made it sound urgent and, like I said, I was caught off guard." Mulder hesitated then for a moment, but she made no comment.
"Anyway, I called you immediately to let you know that I had to go out of town. I got your machine and left a message about what was going on and that I would call you when I got there."
At that her head did come up, but she still kept silent.
"That was the first thing I did after I got there, I called you. The line was busy, so I decided to call again in a few minutes. That didn't happen, but I'll get to that. Scully, I did not put any message to Phoebe on my phone. Phoebe is a woman that I knew in England. I don't know who put the message on my machine, though I suspect I know why. It wasn't there when Becky told me about it. I don't doubt that you heard what you heard, but I did not record any such message."
Again he looked over at her. She was watching him now, her demeanor was still distant and he sighed.
"Second, I know I've never talked about my family. There isn't much left to talk about now, but at one time there was, at least a little. I have a sister, Scully, her name is Samantha and like you she vanished in the middle of the night. The difference is she never came home. It's been thirteen years and I've been looking for her in one way or another the entire time."
"Thirteen . . ." It was the first time she had spoken.
He nodded. "Thirteen years. I was twelve and I think you need to hear the story."
His voice was rough, hoarse from talking so long. The glasses of water he'd gotten for both of them were empty now. He fell silent, watching her.
Finally she met his eyes, her eyes boring into him. "There's something you're not telling me."
He seemed slightly surprised at that, but nodded. "Yes. Until this happened," he took a deep breath, "until this happened to you, I didn't realize my parents were involved in Samantha's disappearance."
"What? What are you - "
"They got me out of town. I had spoken of you to my father."
"Why did you do that?" she asked quickly.
"Because you're important to me. It was a foolish thing to do, to allow him to know anything about me, but I wasn't thinking. He was the only one that knew. He asked me if you were William Scully's daughter."
Her eyes widened then. "He knows Dad?"
"He knew of him, through the Pentagon." Mulder shook his head. "He knew that I had seen a woman named Phoebe while I was living in England. I have no doubt he has recordings of my voice. I just never wanted to believe . . . "
"You think your parents lured you out of town so that I could be kidnapped."
"Abducted," he corrected.
"Not kidnapped, taken by . . . " he stopped then. "I guess I should stop while I'm behind."
"Who do you think 'took' me?"
He took a deep breath. "Aliens." He watched her mouth fall open and her eyes narrow again.
"You can go back to Phoebe now," she said quietly and started to rise.
His face darkened and he reached out, taking hold of her arm. "Scully, I'm not insane. The bright light that Becky and I saw, the complete lack of evidence - you were taken without a struggle in your damn pajamas! It happened immediately after my father found out we had a relationship. Okay, call me paranoid, but something happened to you, and just like Samantha, it was my fault!" He was yelling now. She looked down at where his hand gripped her and he realized his hold on her had tightened. He released her immediately and moved to the other side of the room. "I'm sorry. Scully, I'm sorry." His shoulders drooped and he turned toward the door.
"She never came back?"
He stopped then, but didn't turn around. "No, not yet." He reached for the doorknob.
In her slippers, he didn't hear her approach and he jumped slightly when her hand came to rest on his arm. "Were you in love with Phoebe?"
He gave one harsh laugh at that. "No. Not even close. But she did teach me a lot." He paused then and she could practically hear his brain whirling. "Oh god, she was part of it. They used her to keep me off balance. Why didn't I see . . . Goddamn them!" He jerked away from her and reached for the doorknob again.
"Please don't leave," she spoke quietly, but her words penetrated.
He turned slowly to face her.
She looked directly into his eyes and whispered, "I don't know what happened, to me or to you, but I don't want you to go. Not yet anyway."
The mixture of emotions that raced across his face held her. Relief, fear, happiness, despair - they were all there for an instant. She took his hand and led him back to the couch.
He didn't resist. He was reeling from the insight he'd just gotten and that blow on top of acknowledging his parents' betrayal staggered him.
He turned then realized it wasn't the first time she'd said his name. "Sorry, I - "
"Why do you think this?"
He looked tired then, weary. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have laid all of this - "
"Why do you believe it?"
"I saw it, Scully." The look in his eyes pulled at her. He obviously expected her rejection, but he yearned for acceptance.
"Tell me." She leaned back.
"I didn't remember, not for a long time. As part of my studies I underwent hypnosis. I've listened to the tapes. The doctor didn't lead me. Hell, he was as surprised as I was at what I was saying." He sat back, shaking his head. "Enough. You should be resting. I had no intention of getting into all of this. I just wanted you to know I didn't . . . "
"Becky certainly believes in you."
But you don't, his look said. "The message I was supposed to have left was gone when she tried again. I guess my cluelessness penetrated." He took a deep breath. "I'll call Becky. I don't want you here alone."
She watched as he dialed the number and asked her roommate to return. When he hung up, he returned to her side. "She'll be here in a few minutes and I'll get out of your way."
After a moment's silence, with him staring at his hands, he looked up again and faced her. "I'm sorry I hurt you."
"If you didn't carve that notch - "
"I didn't," he interrupted, "but I'm responsible for your - "
"Mulder, I need some time."
"Right." She had the impression he had curled into a fetal position though he hadn't moved. "Listen, you should be lying down. Go on. I'll let Becky in."
After a moment she nodded and rose. She motioned for him to keep his seat, then retreated to her bedroom, shutting the door firmly behind her.
He closed his eyes at the sound.
When Becky's key turned in the lock, he rose. "Mulder? Are you okay?"
"Yeah. She's in her room, resting I hope. Thank you for . . . thank you."
Becky looked puzzled at that. "We'll see you tomorrow?"
"No. I don't think you'll be seeing me any time soon."
"She didn't believe you."
He managed a sad smile and moved past her, pulling the door closed behind him as he left.
He had dragged himself home and not left the apartment since. There was no one he wanted to talk to. Classes wouldn't start for a couple more days and he had no appetite at all.
There was no one he could trust. To be honest, he hadn't really trusted his father in years, but to have it slam him in the face . . . to have the man take someone else away that he cared about was devastating. He hadn't made friends since he returned to the States; oh he'd dated but it had only been for company. No one had engaged his mind except Scully. He shoved that thought aside brutally.
He'd hurt her. Okay, it had been unwittingly, but he had hurt her badly. The thoughts of their night together taunted him. He had thought they had connected. Hell, they had connected. He wasn't delusional, and he'd had enough experience to know when a woman was pleased. And good god had she pleased him.
He reclined again on the couch and dropped his arm over his eyes. He couldn't sleep but he was exhausted.
The ringing phone startled him. He hadn't spoken to anyone in days. If it was his father, he couldn't be responsible for anything he might say.
"Hello." Okay he didn't sound very welcoming, but then he didn't feel very welcoming.
His voice stuck in his throat. "Sc-Scully?"
"If this is a bad time - "
"It's not. I just wasn't expecting . . . I didn't think I'd ever hear from you again."
"I know. You have Becky to blame. She, she wanted . . . "
"Does she accept jewelry? Furs?"
He heard her nervous laugh and closed his eyes. It was so good to hear her voice.
"Mulder, I think we moved too quickly."
"Yes, you're right. I apologize for that."
"I'm the one that invited you to my apartment that night, so there's no reason for you to take the blame. I think if we do see each other again, we should . . . "
"I would like to see you, Scully. We can go as slow as you want. I just want another chance."
There was silence on her end while he waited. "I . . . all right."
That startled a chuckle out of her. "That's taking it slow?"
"Just dinner. I'll have you home to Becky by nine o'clock."
Again that silence and he waited. "Okay."
"Thank you," he said quietly. "I'll pick you up at, at six?"
"That would be fine."
"Where would you like to go?"
"Someplace busy, with a lot of people."
He winced at that. "Sure. Have you been to Giovanni's?"
"I'll see you in a little while."
He'd seen the cartoons, heard the jokes, but it was the first time he'd ever actually changed clothes three times before a date. He felt stupid about it, but damn it, this was important. He'd finally settled on gray sports slacks, a light blue sport shirt, open at the neck, and a navy blazer. He stood outside of her door promptly at 6 p.m.
His knock brought Becky to the door instantly and she opened it with a smile that grew as she inspected him.
"Is she okay?" he asked quietly.
"She's nervous. She's changed clothes three times." Becky didn't understand the sudden relaxing of his shoulders or the grin that swept his face.
They both turned as Dana came out of her bedroom. She had also settled on slacks with a green turtleneck sweater and a dark green wool blazer. For an instant he had the impression of a lamb being led to slaughter, but then she gave him a tentative smile.
"You look beautiful," he said softly. "Thank you for agreeing to see me."
He appreciated the color that stained her cheeks at his words but didn't push it. He was on thin ice here and he knew it. No way was he going to blow this opportunity.
They had a nice quiet meal, soft music in the background. It took her a while, but she loosened up and seemed to enjoy herself. There was no dancing, not this time. He kept a respectful distance, but his hand kept finding itself on her lower back. Thankfully she didn't shy away.
She seemed to be enjoying herself, at least until they were in the car heading home. He could feel her tense up as they drew near to her apartment. Once there, he parked but made no move to leave the car. "Scully, may I see you again?"
She seemed to be memorizing the pattern of the fabric of his car seats. "Do you want to?"
"Yes." The answer was so quick and so short that she looked up.
"I, I suppose - "
"I know classes are starting. Tell me what nights are good for you."
"Nights?" She met his eyes then.
"I'm rebuilding here, your trust, our relationship. I know, slow, but steady, okay? You could wear my pin." He grinned then, but she could see how nervous he was.
"Let me get into my new schedule. I would like to spend time with you."
His eyes closed for just an instant, in relief, then he was smiling, for real.
As it turned out Wednesday and Saturday evenings were the best times to get together. Sunday afternoons soon followed, but these were mostly work sessions. He would bring papers over to read or grade while she studied. Becky would spend the time with Joe.
When he arrived that Sunday afternoon, she met him at the door. "I'm sorry; I didn't reach you in time. Becky and Joe are going to be here this afternoon. They have to fumigate his building - you don't want to ask - so I was going over to the library. Do you want to go . . . "
"Do you need to do research?" He was playing with a curl that had escaped her ponytail.
"No, I just wanted some place quiet."
"What about my place?" He stepped back from her, hands in the air. "I'll be good."
"You don't mind?"
"No, I just don't want you to be uncomfortable."
"I won't be," she said softly. "Thank you."
He winked at her and his hand came to rest on her lower back.
He reached for a marking pen to make notes on the paper he was reading when he realized she had fallen asleep against him. He smiled down at her, grateful she was secure enough with him now to drift off like this. He was making headway.
He carefully settled her on the couch, then moved to the kitchen. As much as he wanted to hold her while she slept, he wasn't about to abuse her trust.
He didn't hear her wake. She stretched and rose to her feet, making her way to his bathroom, rubbing her eyes. It wasn't until she left the bathroom that she stopped to look around his bedroom. He obviously hadn't used the bed lately. It was piled high with boxes, files, pictures. As she looked closer, her jaw dropped. These were, these were files about aliens.
She turned when she realized he was standing in the door. "I guess you want me to take you on home."
"You haven't mentioned any of this since that night."
He shrugged. "I know you don't - "
"If you really believe this, if you think this is what happened to me, we need to talk about it. You told me you saw what happened to your sister."
"I don't remember anything that happened to me. Why don't you tell me what you saw, tell me what these people saw?"
"No. I don't want to influence you. If you do start to remember, I don't want it tainted with something I told you."
"Can't you tell me what happened to you that night? What happened when your parents got home? What did they say?"
"Actually I can't."
"Mulder - "
"No, really, I can't. When they got home, they found me comatose. I woke up in the hospital three days later."
She leaned toward him and took hold of his arm. "A coma? Did they find out . . . "
He shook his head. "Dad got me out before they could finish the testing. When I woke up, he pulled me out. At the time I agreed with him. Now . . ." He shrugged and moved her toward the door.
"I guess I should be getting home," she said and began gathering up her books.
"Are you upset with me?"
"No, but I need to think. I don't like not knowing what happened to me."
"I don't like it either. To be honest, I hate it, but if the memories come back, I want them to come back naturally."
"Naturally. Is that possible?"
"Yes, in dreams or, or when you're relaxed."
After a moment she nodded. "I really do need to get home."
She smiled then. "Yes, if I can get some studying done between now and then."
"Umm, I need to get you home." His arm went around her and pulled her gently to him. He sniffed in the aroma of her hair, nuzzled behind her ear and was rewarded with her arms winding around his waist.
"Yes, you do."
He sighed, but smiled. He gave her a little squeeze and moved to get her coat.
When he arrived Wednesday, Becky answered the door. "Hi. Come on in. I'm probably in trouble, but she's not ready."
"No problem. Why are you in trouble?"
"I didn't wake her. I got busy with my lab results."
"Uh, yeah. I don't think she's sleeping well these days." At his look of concern she continued. "Every afternoon she comes in and takes a nap before she eats or hits the books."
"So she's not sleeping at night?"
"Well, I've heard her up at night, but I'm sure it's nothing big. She had that 24-hour stomach thing Sunday night. It probably just messed up her sleep cycle."
"She was sick? Does she have a fever?"
"I didn't check, but she's a grownup, Mulder. I wouldn't - " But he had already stepped away from her and toward Scully's bedroom. He opened the door quietly and spotted her sound asleep on her bed. He approached her quietly and let his hand lightly touch her brow. No fever, but she didn't wake. He sat carefully on the edge of the bed, watching her. She still didn't wake, but curled around him.
He let his hand lightly caress her hair for a moment. She didn't look sick. Was she having nightmares? Beginning to remember? Guilt washed over him for a moment, but she looked peaceful enough right now. He took a deep breath and rose, leaving her room quietly.
Becky was waiting for him. "You didn't wake her?"
"No, she needs to sleep." He seemed to hesitate for an instant, then gave Becky a sheepish grin. "Wanna share a pizza?"
She smiled then. "Sure. The number's on the refrigerator."
"Got it memorized." He moved toward the phone.
"One of those garbage things you like?"
His face lit up. "She told you about that?"
"I think she's planning to bring it up in class, in the nutrition section."
"She, she talks about me?"
Becky glanced over at him. He looked so young suddenly. "Yeah, you've come up in conversation a couple of times," she turned away, "an hour," she muttered trying to ignore the look of delight now on his face.
They were sitting at the table, visiting, the pizza box open and half empty between them when they heard her slip into the bathroom. When she emerged her eyes went from the pizza to Mulder. "What time . . . Oh Mulder, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. You needed the nap. Besides, Becky's been telling me all kinds of dirt about you. It's been very educational." He nodded sagely.
Dana cut her eyes at Becky who was grinning like a fool. Dana just shook her head and sank into the chair beside him.
"Well, I've done my duty. He's all yours, Dana." Becky stood and took her plate to the sink. She gave a little wave as she disappeared into her room.
Dana turned back to Mulder. "I'm so sorry."
"It's not a problem." He rose as well and took her hand to pull her up beside him. "I'm going to get out of your way tonight. You need to study or finish your nap or something."
"But I didn't get to spend any time - "
He leaned over and kissed her brow. "I'll be around." His smile slipped away, "You'll tell me the next time you're not feeling well?"
Dana glanced toward Becky's door, "It wasn't - "
"But I want to know. And if you can't sleep, call me. I'm up late most nights; I'd love to spend that time on the phone with you." Before she could respond he was tugging her toward the door. He stopped just short of it and brushed a light kiss on her lips. "I know we're taking it slow," he said as he kissed the tip of her nose, "but just so you know, I think I'm falling in love with you."
Her lips parted in surprise. He took advantage and kissed the bottom one, then the top, then opened the door and was gone.
She stood there, speechless, staring at the wooden barrier. She didn't hear Becky come up beside her and started when she felt Becky's hand on her arm. "You okay?"
"He, he said . . . "
"I know. What surprises me is how surprised you are."
Dana opened her mouth, then just smiled.
She dragged herself to class, but she couldn't seem to shake the bug she had picked up. Again she hid it from Mulder. It wasn't a big deal. She continued to nap when she got home, thinking the rest would eventually go away. It didn't.
Becky finally confronted her. "You have to get checked out, Dana. Something is wrong with you. You've lost at least ten pounds."
"I've lost four pounds," Dana said dryly. "But you have a point. I'm exhausted all the time." She sank onto the couch. "I hope it's not mono."
Becky just looked at her for a long moment, then sat beside her. "Dana, you couldn't be pregnant, could you?"
"No!" Dana answered automatically, but at Becky's silence she began to take inventory. "No. I can't be. We were careful, double protection. Remember, I'm on the pill and he used a condom."
"Okay. I'm sorry, it's just . . . " her voice trailed off as she watched Dana.
"No," Dana said once again. "It's not possible."
"So it wouldn't hurt to take a test," Becky said mildly.
"There's no need," Dana insisted.
"I know, but as a precaution . . . You know, just to rule it out completely."
The look Dana shot her was more fear than annoyance. Becky nodded and rose. "I'll just run out to the drugstore. That way you can put it out of your mind and figure out what really is going on." She squeezed Dana's hand, which seemed cold now and headed out the door.
When she returned with the small plastic bag, she couldn't see that Dana had even moved. "Dana?" Dana blinked as though waking and slowly stood. "Are you okay?"
Dana reached for the bag. "Let's get this over with."
Becky nodded and watched as Dana opened the box and withdrew the instructions. She read them quickly, then looked up at Becky. "Seems simple enough."
"They're trying to make them foolproof. Should you wait for morning?"
Dana shook her head, no way. She dropped the folded sheet on the table and took the box into the bathroom. Becky watched helplessly.
Dana quickly returned to the living room, shutting the door firmly behind her. "Five minutes," was all she said.
"Do you want some tea?" Becky asked, desperate to do something.
Dana shook her head and retreated to the couch, where she huddled in the corner, her knees held firmly against her chest as she hugged herself.
Becky realized that Dana wasn't watching the clock when seven minutes had passed in silence. She cleared her throat. "Do you want me to check?"
Mutely Dana shook her head and slowly unfolded her body. She moved toward the bathroom like an old woman and hesitated just an instant before walking inside. She didn't close the door.
Becky couldn't help herself, she moved in that direction, waiting.
"Becky," she sounded composed, but that was the only word she said. Becky hurried into the small room. Dana was holding a small white plastic stick. The tip of it was bright pink. As Becky watched, Dana's hand began to tremble and then shake as she was suddenly sobbing.
Becky wrapped her arms around her friend and let her cry.
She didn't know how long they had sat like that on the side of the tub, but she heard the knocking first. "Dana, I'll be right back." She eased the door to the bathroom closed and hurried to get rid of whoever was at the front door.
"Uh, Mulder - " She glanced back into the apartment. "Tonight might not be a good - "
"Is she okay?"
"She, uh - " At that he moved around Becky and into the apartment.
"Scully? Scully, what's going on?"
"Just a, just a minute," she called. Becky glanced at him, but then hurried back to Dana without speaking.
Becky entered the bathroom and saw Dana repairing her makeup. "You need to tell him."
"Tell him?" Dana hissed at her. "I didn't even expect him tonight. I can't - "
"You have to. He deserves to know. Do you want me to stay?"
Dana shook her head. "And don't say anything."
"I won't. But this is not something you should face alone."
Dana glanced at her but didn't comment. She smoothed her sweater down, her hand lingering for just an instant over her stomach. Becky bit her lips, then let Dana precede her through the door.
Mulder stood indecisive after Becky disappeared, not into Scully's bedroom, but the bathroom they shared. What the hell was going on? Okay, he hadn't called first, but he just had not been able to stay away tonight.
When neither of the women appeared, he began pacing. They had been getting along very well. Not rushing, a goodnight kiss, nothing more. He took no responsibility for the dreams he had about her; that was beyond his control.
He saw a piece of paper under the table and bent to retrieve it, unable to remain still. He glanced at it, then froze. Only his eyes moved as they rapidly scanned the instructions two, three times. Instructions for a home pregnancy test . . . He didn't even hear the bathroom door open or realize Scully was approaching him.
When he looked up and saw her, his eyes scanned her body involuntarily. Now it was her unable to move. He crumbled the paper in his hand as he reach for her. "Are you all right?"
She couldn't speak, her eyes staring at the paper in his hand.
"I'll see you guys later," Becky murmured, but she wasn't sure either of them heard. She gathered her books and purse after slipping on her coat.
Dana jumped slightly when the door closed.
"Let's sit down," he said quietly. She didn't protest as he led her to the couch. He sat beside her and pulled her close.
After several minutes of silence, she pulled away. With only a slight hesitation he let her. "Are you okay?"
"Mulder, those tests can be - "
"You have to suspect something."
She closed her eyes, unable to face him. "I'm sorry."
"Answer my question, Scully. Physically, are you okay?"
"I, I suppose so. I haven't seen a doctor."
He nodded and quietly pulled her back against him, holding her gently. That's when she lost control and tears began streaming down her face. Neither spoke; he just held her until she was cried out.
When her breath grew steadier, she stared down at her hands. "I don't think I can get rid of it."
His arms tightened slightly. "No one's asking you to."
She looked up at him then. "What do you want?"
"I'm not a caveman, I can't demand that you carry my child, but Scully, I could never ask you to terminate . . . " His Adam's apple bobbed.
She seemed to relax slightly at that.
"Let's get out of here. Leave Becky a note. We'll go to my place, we'll have privacy there."
She met his eyes and saw something she needed there. She nodded and took his hand to rise.
He sat watching her as she dozed on his couch. What had happened? Had they released her because they discovered she was pregnant or had they impregnated her then released her? Either way it was because of him.
What was it that attracted him to her? She wasn't the type of woman that usually drew him, but then he wasn't drawn to her in the same way. It was deeper; it felt more real. He wanted to be with her, had wanted to be with her since he laid eyes on her.
Even in class he'd been drawn to her, though he had fought it harder. Her intelligence, her wit, had caught his attention. He'd pushed it aside while she was his student but just barely. He'd actually looked for women that reminded him of Phoebe just to keep away from her. It hadn't worked.
It sounded dumb, but with her he felt whole as though she filled up a space he hadn't known was empty. He wanted to be with her and now, with a child, his child . . .
She began to stir. He rose and moved closer, perching on the coffee table in front of her. She sat up, blinking. "I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"You needed a nap. It's okay."
She looked down but didn't comment.
"Uh, Scully, I've been thinking. I know I'm springing this on you, but I think . . ."
"I think we should get married." He faltered as she drew back, obviously caught off guard by his words.
"We, we don't . . . "
"I won't pressure you, Sc-Dana."
That brought the ghost of a smile to her face. "Scully is fine."
"It's just, well, if we go ahead you and the baby will be protected legally."
"Legally," she repeated the word dully.
"Wait, that's not . . . I want to be with you. This isn't just because you're pregnant, I was already - "
"We shouldn't get married just because the sex was good." She drew back as his face lit up.
"The sex was good?"
She rolled her eyes, biting her lip. Now wasn't a time for laughing.
"I mean, it was for me and I thought it was for . . . but - "
"How male of you," she muttered dryly, but she couldn't keep the smile from her eyes.
"So you'll think about it? About marrying me?"
"I never planned to start a marriage like this. What about my education?"
"Neither of us planned this. But we are together and it feels right, at least to me it does. And you can finish your education. It might be delayed some, but I promise you, you can go back."
"I'm trapping you," she stated sadly.
"Scully, do you want to know when I first thought about marrying you?"
"First . . ?"
"New Year's Eve," he said quietly. "When I saw you that night it just clicked for me. I knew I wanted to spend my life with you. Scully, that was before we went back to your apartment."
"I . . . you never - ""
"How could I say something like that? It was our, what, third date? How was I to know you wouldn't run screaming in the other direction? It was too soon to say anything."
She just sat there with her mouth slightly open, staring at him.
"It started before that, you know. That first day of class, you walked in with Becky and some others and I found myself staring at you. I kept forcing myself away, but my eyes would return to you. I went on a date with, uh, what's her name, Kaitlin and first thing I spot is you and bring my date over to your table. Very uncool and I wasn't really able to salvage the evening," he said with a rueful smile. "Seeing you at the pool, well I was just glad the water was cool."
She blushed then and looked away.
"What? You don't believe me?"
"No, I do believe you. Becky told me you were checking me out. At the pool, well that was some swimsuit."
His smile grew for a moment, then faded. "I'm scaring you. You think I'm some sort of stalker or something, don't you?"
"It's not you I'm scared of. It's me." His brow furrowed, but she continued before he could speak. "I had those same feelings. It was right to invite you back that night. It felt . . . right. Then things fell apart."
"That wasn't entirely our fault."
He took a deep breath. "Dana Scully, will you marry me, let me love you and our child, live with you and love you for the rest of our lives?"
She met his eyes then, looking deep into them. "Yes," she said quietly. "I'll marry you."
His look of relief was quickly replaced with a look of sheer delight. Even though he was sitting quietly beside her, she had the impression he was bouncing up and down.
"So, we can fly to Las Vegas tonight. We'll bring Becky and - "
"Sure! How many chances do you get to be married by Elvis?"
"I'm changing my mind," but she was grinning at his enthusiasm.
"Okay, okay - tradition, twenty bridesmaids, a trumpet processional . . . "
"Think we could meet in the middle somewhere, Mulder? What if next weekend we go to City Hall, with Becky?"
"You deserve more," his tone was serious now.
"We can plan a big party for our first anniversary. How's that?"
"I love you, Dana Scully."
He looked down at the newborn in his arms; his first grandchild. Dana was sleeping now and Mulder should be, but obviously he couldn't tear himself away.
He hadn't even been in the states when Bill, Jr. and Missy were born. But he'd been there for Dana. Oh, not in the delivery room, the military didn't believe in that 'nonsense' at the time, but he'd been allowed to sit with Maggie before.
Maggie said that Mulder hadn't left Dana's side from the beginning. William smiled, she'd also said that she had thought the young man was going to go down a couple of times, but he'd hung in there. She hadn't been sure whether Dana had been giving him strength or he'd been giving strength to her.
His smile faded then, his new son-in-law was a mystery to him. The son of William Mulder . . .
Author's Notes: I know, I pulled a CC, raising more questions than I answered. But hey, it's the X-Files, right? Merry Christmas!!