“Dana! I’m so glad you could come.” The young woman threw her arms around Dana and she reciprocated.
“Shelly you look great.”
“Hardly! Every time I see you I renew my vow to exercise but I never follow through. Come in, come in!” She pulled Dana inside and took the bottle of wine Dana had brought.
“What can I do to help?” Dana followed her friend into the kitchen.
“Why don’t you fill the ice bucket and take it on into the dining room?”
Dana headed for the freezer. “Where’re the kids?”
“Scott’s mother has them for the night. I get to have a whole evening with adult conversation. If I start to cut up your meat, smack my hand.” Dana chuckled and headed for the dining room with the filled ice bucket. At the door she stopped short. Four place settings?
Shelly turned from the stove at her tone. “Now don’t be upset Dana. It’s not a set up.” She blushed slightly as Dana’s eyebrow rose. “Come on Dana. Gary’s a friend of Scott’s. He’s a really nice guy and if you don’t like him you never have to see him again. Come on, don’t be mad.”
“Shelly, I thought you understood. I don’t want - “
“Shh, you can yell at me later. Come meet him.” Dana sighed and turned back after placing the ice bucket on the sideboard.
“Dana, it’s good to see you.” Scott hugged Dana and kissed her cheek. “I can’t believe Shelly found you in town."
Dana smiled, “I hear your mother has the kids.”
Scott grinned and waggled his eyebrows, then turned toward the blond man standing beside him. “Dana, I want you to meet Gary Conners, he works with me. Gary, Dana Scully. Dana and Shelly have been friends since college.”
Gary extended his hand and shook hers. “Pleased to meet you.”
Dana looked him over. He was slightly shorter than Scott, 5'10" or so, blond hair that curled lightly around his ears and at the nape of his neck. Bright blue eyes that twinkled at a joke he seemed to share with her. She couldn’t help but smile. Shelly made a face at her from behind his back.
Dinner continued on a high note, Gary’s surprise that this beautiful diminutive woman was a forensic pathologist for the FBI giving way to fascination. “Are you still with that weird partner Dana? What’s his name, Muldoon?”
“Mulder. He’s not so weird.”
“That’s not the way you described him at first. I think you’re initial description was ‘jerk’.”
“Well that was a long time ago. I understand him better now. Aren’t you having any wine?”
“Uh no.” A smile grew on Shelly’s face and her hand went to her slightly rounded stomach. “I can’t.”
Dana felt her mouth go dry and her smile turn wooden. Shelly didn’t seem to notice, “It’s a surprise. We didn’t plan on three kids, but now that the shock has worn off we’re really happy about it.”
Gary’s eyes had returned to Dana and he sensed she was truly unable to speak. “That’s great.” He immediately picked up the slack. “Congratulations, Scott. They’re going to give you a lot of grief at work.”
“Don’t I know it. Beth announced she was pregnant a couple of weeks ago and Kevin’s wife is due anytime. A lot of people are avoiding the water fountains already."
The diversion had allowed Dana to gather her emotions back tightly around her and she was able to rejoin the conversation. But the joy had gone out of the evening. She managed to make it through dessert but polite conversation was more than she could handle.
“Listen Shelly, Scott, I’m going to have to call it an evening.” At Shelly’s protest, “I just got back into town and I have to make a report to my AD first thing tomorrow.” She rose from the chair.
“Dana’s right, it should be an early evening. With the kids gone you two should have some time together.” Gary grinned. He too rose.
They said their good-byes and Gary walked her to her car. “Listen, about tonight Dana, I just wanted you to know I didn’t know about this either.” Dana gave him a small smile. “I know we just met, but is everything all right? You seem, I don’t know . . . “
“I’m fine.” He looked down at her and finally nodded.
“May I call you? If we’re both in town maybe we could catch a movie or something.”
“That would be nice, thank you.” He was a nice man and he’d noticed her discomfort and come to her aid. She smiled at him; “I’d like to hear from you, without Shelly orchestrating from the rear.” She handed him her card, after scribbling her home number on the back.
“Great. I will be calling.” He opened her door for her and stood there until she pulled out.
She didn’t know what woke her; she didn’t hear anything and whatever dream she’d been having was in tatters before she could gather her thoughts. What? Her face was wet, her pillow soaked. She’d been crying in her sleep. Get a grip, Dana.
It took her a long time to get back to sleep. She made it though the day, even the meeting with Skinner. She thought her mood had gone without notice; in truth, it had only gone without comment from Mulder.
The second night was no better. This was stupid, she thought, as she lay awake. Surely Shelly’s pregnancy wasn’t affecting her this much. People had babies every day and she didn’t get weepy or dream about it. So Shelly already had two kids and this one wasn’t even planned. It had even taken them time to adjust to the idea. The tears continued to flow and sleep was even more illusive.
The next morning even makeup couldn’t hide her swollen eyes from him. Mulder watched her, wishing she would open up to him. “Scully.”
“Um?” She wouldn’t quite look at him.
“Scully are you okay?”
“I’m fine Mulder.” Her standard answer when she didn’t want to be bothered.
“No, you aren’t. Come on Scully.” Okay, according to her rules he wasn’t supposed to do that, but . . .
“I said I was fine.” But to her horror tears welled up in her eyes. She turned for the door but he was too fast. He had his hands on her shoulders when, to his utter astonishment, she lowered her head to his chest and burst into tears. His arms automaticatly closed around her.
She didn’t respond and he kept his questions to himself for now, just holding her and being grateful for the fact she allowed that much.
When she moved away from him finally, he let go of her reluctantly. “Scully?” She nodded, not bothering to speak. He fished out his handkerchief and handed it to her. “Why don’t you go wash your face? I’ll be right here.” Again she nodded and headed out the door.
He was waiting and she tensed immediately. “Mulder, I can’t talk about this right now. Please?”
He hesitated, “For now, okay?” She nodded. “I made you some coffee.”
“Look, there’s nothing going on. Why don’t you take the day; I can cover for you. You’ve done it for me often enough.”
“I’d rather work. Really.” He nodded; he knew if he pushed she’d retreat, but damn, whatever it was had really gotten to her.
He did his best not to hover, though he had to keep reminding himself. They had sandwiches from the cart at lunch, but she didn’t really eat hers. He bit his tongue, she wasn’t ready yet. Maybe this evening.
She was hanging up the phone when he returned from upstairs and looked a little better. Had she gotten some good news? Shit, it wasn’t her health was it? Would she talk? “Scully.”
She looked up, a warning in her eyes. Not yet. He nodded, giving her the space she was obviously requesting. He’d drop by her place tonight; being away from the office should relax her.
When he heard the knock at the door he turned toward the bedroom. “Dana? Are you expecting anyone?”
“No, could you get it?” He rose from the couch and opened the door to see a tall dark haired man standing there. He obviously wasn’t expected. The man in front of him quickly pulled a gun and had him up against the wall.
“Where’s Scully?” His voice was low and menacing.
The man didn’t attempt to speak, merely pointing toward the bedroom.
“Mulder! What the hell are you doing!” Scully came out of her bedroom to find her partner holding a gun on her date.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine! Get your gun off of Gary. Now!”
Gary? She knew him? Oh shit. Mulder’s gun was immediately pointed toward the ceiling and he released his hold on Gary.
“I didn’t, I thought, Scully I’m sorry.” He was actually stammering at this point and Scully looked anything but friendly.
“Gary, this is my partner, Fox Mulder. Mulder, this is my date, Gary Connors.” Gary gamely held out his hand to shake, and Mulder sheepishly took it.
“I’m sorry about . . . I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here with Scully.”
“Yeah, no problem.” Gary was now adjusting his clothing and waiting for his heart rate to slow back down to within normal ranges.
“Now, what are you doing here?” She had her arms folded across her chest and the ‘ice queen’ look on her face. How could he have overreacted like that? That thought was on both of their minds.
“I wanted to check . . . never mind. I’m really sorry to disturb you guys. I, uh, I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Possibly.” Was her clipped response and he felt her anger like a blow. He needed to get out of here and spend the night trying to come up with an apology for this monumental blunder. Why hadn’t she told him she had a . . . a date. She’d been so upset earlier and she’d let him comfort her. That wasn’t . . . had these two had a fight, was that what it had been about this morning? He had to get out of here and think. If he’d been comforting her because of some other man . . .
When he left, Dana and Gary made their way to his car. “Gary, I’m really sorry. I can’t begin to explain what happened. He doesn’t normally overreact like that. I don’t know what got into him.”
“You’re kidding, right?” She looked at him startled.
“I don’t know what . . . “
“When Shelly talked about your partner, I didn’t realize you were involved.”
“Involved? What are you . . . Mulder and I are partners. Good partners, for years now.”
“Oh?” Did she believe that? The man had pulled a gun on him for the crime of being in her apartment. But she seemed clueless. Fine, he enjoyed her company, and if she wanted to go out with him, great.
“Yes. Do you still feel like going out? I know this was unnerving.”
The change in subject was definitive. “No problem, it was kind of exciting in a warped sort of way. It makes me want to go somewhere lively.”
Scully smiled, “Okay, but not late. I do have to work tomorrow.” And not too early either, maybe she’d get some sleep tonight.
Mulder was waiting for her in the office the next morning. When she opened the door she had the definite impression he was about to pounce. He visibly relaxed when she entered the room.
“Scully, I wanted to apologize for last night. I should have called, but I didn’t know . . .”
“No problem, Mulder.” She settled into her chair and booted up her computer.
Well she certainly wasn’t volunteering any information and her eyes weren’t red and swollen. That was a good thing, wasn’t it? “You, uh, you been seeing him long?” He wasn’t even trying to look disinterested now.
“We’ve been out a couple of times.” It was true, at Shelly’s and last night. She wasn’t entirely sure whether to be irritated or pleased at this attention. It wasn’t any of his business technically, but in reality she knew it was.
“How did you meet him?” Might as well go for broke.
“He’s a friend of a friend.”
“Oh, just a friend of a friend. Well, that’s nice.” He turned back to his computer and failed to see the small smile on her face at his questions. She shook her head at him and opened a file on her desk. It was nice of him to worry, but really unnecessary.
It was their third date that was interrupted by a phone call from Assistant Director Skinner. A few words from him sent the blood from her face. “Gary I have to go.”
He was on his feet beside her. “Where do we need to be?”
She barely hesitated, “DC General.” He nodded and they were on their way.
After very short introductions, Skinner brought her up to date. “He was mugged Scully. They took his gun. He wasn’t shot.” He spoke quickly as her eyes widened. “But he was pistol whipped. He has a concussion, at least four broken ribs, a punctured lung, bruised kidneys, a lacerated liver . . . he’s still in surgery.”
“My god, what’s the prognosis?” Now Skinner looked away. “Sir? What are they saying?”
“To get you down here, since you’re his next of kin.”
She said nothing for a moment as though concentrating on remaining upright. She seemed unaware the two men had each taken an arm.
“Did they catch him? The man that did this?”
“It took four of them to do this Scully. Three are in custody, one’s dead.”
“How did they find them?” She was whispering now, as though listening for him to call her.
“The police broke it up. If they hadn’t gotten there when they did . . . “ He didn’t need to finish that sentence. “They were high as kites, looks like PCP.”
“I don’t know, wrong place at the wrong time? Does he normally frequent bars?”
“No. That’s very unusual.” Why had Mulder gone to a bar? He knew she had a date with Gary, but that wouldn’t have anything to do with it, would it? Skinner glanced over at the door to surgery. The woman that had brought him up to date, and told him to find next of kin, was approaching.
“Director Skinner, were you able to contact - “
“This is Agent Scully.”
“Scully. Yes, he asked for you. The surgery is almost over. He’s closing now and will be out to talk to you shortly.”
“And?” Scully demanded.
“And he survived it. Other than that we can’t say at this time. He’s listed as critical. He’ll be moved to the ICU in a little while. You can see him for ten minutes on the hour.” Gary watched Dana’s eyebrow rise and was grimly amused at the thought of this woman attempting to keep the two of them apart. “I need to get back, but I wanted to bring you up to date. Why don’t you have a seat and the doctor will be out as soon as possible.”
Scully started to speak, but Skinner squeezed her arm and led her toward the waiting area. Gary was a little surprised she gave in, but this big guy was her boss.
“Scully?” He woke remembering this was a hospital. The hand that was now touching his arm was definitely not hers, where was she? He managed to turn his head.
“It’s Gary, Mulder.”
“Gary? Where’s Scully?”
“She’s lying down. Do you need anything?”
Well definitely not you, he thought. Where was Scully? He felt better when she was here.
“She really needed some rest, Mulder. She’s not left your side since you were brought here.”
“So she leaves her boyfriend to baby-sit me?” He sounded petulant even to himself, but he hurt everywhere.
“Boyfriend?” Gary looked at him oddly, “Skinner said you didn’t know, but I thought he was pulling my leg.”
“Didn’t know what?” Where was Mrs. Scully, she’d be better than this.
“How much she loves you.”
Mulder’s head whipped around, and he winced at the pain that generated. “What?”
Gary sat back in the chair and contemplated him, “You really didn’t know.”
“You’re crazy.” Mulder said ungraciously. “She’s my partner, she cares about me, sure, but . . . “
“No, she loves you. Skinner practically had to threaten her with his gun to get her to stretch out and rest a little. She still refused until I agreed to stay and wake her if you needed her.”
Mulder’s eyes had narrowed, trying to take in these words. “How long has she been here?”
“Three days. She’s wearing scrubs now and showering in the doctor’s quarters when Skinner’s with you. I just dropped by to check on her. Don’t you remember talking to her?”
“Yeah, but I hadn’t realized it was three days.”
“You were about as beat up as anyone gets and lives. She was scared to death.”
Mulder absorbed this then, “But you and she . . . “
“Hey, I don’t need a gun pulled on me to make me see what the relationship between the two of you is.”
Mulder felt his face warm with embarrassment. “So what, she’s not your type?”
“Are you kidding, she’s every man’s type. Beautiful, intelligent, independent. Not my type.” He grunted and leaned back in the chair.
“You do date girls?” He groused.
“Thanks a lot Mulder. You’ve put a whole new concept on the term baby-sitting.” He sat forward as he saw a spasm of pain cross Mulder’s face. “You need me to call someone?”
“No, let her rest.”
“What about the nurse? She could give you something.”
“It wouldn’t help.” He shifted slightly, trying to get some degree of comfort. “While we’re alone, I need to ask you something anyway.”
Gary looked at him; well he could always refuse to answer. “Go ahead.”
“Were you the reason she was crying?” He didn’t feel friendly and if this guy had hurt her for whatever reason he’d end up answering to him.
“When? I haven’t . . .”
“At the office, that morning before I met you.”
“No. We’d only met a couple of days before that. Our friends Shelly and Scott set us up. She was crying?”
“Yeah, I guess it wasn’t you.”
“She did get upset at dinner that night, but she tried to hide it.” Surely she hadn’t been that upset, he thought back to her actions of that night.
“About what?” If he concentrated on this maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad.
“Well, Shelly announced she was pregnant again and - Mulder are you okay?”
“Yeah, that was her pain, not mine. Shit. Doesn’t the woman already have two or three?”
“Two. I take it this is personal.” Not his pain, in a pig’s eye.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t mention it to her if I were you.” Gary nodded; he’d already made that decision. But Mulder knew all about it. Did the two of them really think they were just partners? It was kind of funny watching them. Gary knew he’d never had this kind of relationship with another person. His grandparents had had this, a lifetime commitment and no need for anyone else in their lives. But at least they knew it, not like these two. Gary almost felt sorry for them, but more so for the other people who might try to come between them in the future. He was very glad he knew the truth so early; maybe he and Dana could be friends at least.
“What are you thinking?” Mulder’s eyes were narrowed and he didn’t look at all friendly. Gary wondered briefly what Mulder would do if he said he was visualizing Dana nude. No, Mulder would break some stitches coming after him and probably hurt both of them. He grinned at Mulder, which didn’t help Mulder’s mood at all.
“You wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“Try me.” Mulder growled.
“Try you at what?” Scully asked as she came in the door. Gary watched Mulder’s face relax, pain dissolving with her presence. He shook his head again. “About time you woke up. Trying to catch up on six years in just a couple of days?”
“Well the sponge baths relax me, maybe you could learn how to do that.” She rolled her eyes and looked over at Gary.
“See what I have to put up with?”
Gary wondered if he was supposed to notice the light in her eyes now that Mulder was awake and teasing her, or the way their hands had melded when she’d approached the bed.
“Did you get any rest?” Mulder asked before Gary had the chance.
“I’m fine Mulder. We’re here to worry about you.” She turned to Gary; “I appreciate you staying. If there’s anything you need to do, I’m here for the night.”
Gary started to say something, thought better of it and nodded. “I guess I’ll shove off. Want me to pick you up some dinner and bring it back?”
“That’s okay, they know to bring me a tray when they come around.”
He nodded, “Walk me to the elevator?”
“Uh, sure. I’ll be right back Mulder.” She squeezed his hand, but he made no comment, just watching Gary, trying to figure out what this move was.
Gary held the door for her and turned to grin at Mulder, then waved and pulled the door closed. Mulder’s glare at the door could cause flames and Gary hated to see other patients harmed.
“Is everything okay Gary? Did he say anything?” She turned anxious eyes to him once they were out in the hall.
“I think he’s doing great. Especially when you’re around.” She looked down, “Dana? It’s none of my business but you do know what you mean to him, don’t you?”
“We’re close. We’ve been partners for years.”
He stopped then and after a quick decision, pulled her gently into the waiting room across from the elevator. “Partners? Dana, that man is in love with you. Just your presence takes away his pain. Why are you avoiding that?”
“I’m not avoiding anything.” Except maybe Gary’s eyes now.
“Dana, you’re in love with him too."
“I am n - “ The automatic denial coming to her lips.
“Dana.” He interrupted her. “Don’t. You can lie to me, but give yourself a break.” He sighed, "We can talk about this later. Right now he’s probably going crazy knowing you’re out here with me. As much as I might enjoy that, he is in pain.” Her head came up and she looked toward his room.
Gary chuckled at that. “Yeah, you’re not in love with him. Listen, if you need someone to talk to, I am a friend. Don’t forget that. You might want to talk to him too.” Her face was stained red now and he gave her a comforting hug. “Go, I’ll check in with you later.” He gave her a peck on the cheek and turned toward the elevator.
He pressed the button, then turned back to her. “Since you’re taken, if you have a friend . . . “
She managed to smile and it grew more certain as he watched her. She turned and walked with a lighter step back toward Mulder’s room. He nodded; he’d done a good deed and maybe created a lasting friendship for himself. Of course, now he had to make friends with Mulder . . . oh well.