Scully opened the door and there he stood with a smile, a genuine smile, on his face. He held up a six-pack in one hand and a pizza box in the other.
She managed to keep her own smile under control. Instead her eyebrow rose, “Did we have plans?”
He gave her that abashed grin that always melted her. “I just thought you might not have anything here to eat since we’d been out of town. I’m being thoughtful.”
“Oh, that’s why I didn’t recognize it.”
me. May I come in?”
She sighed and stepped aside, “I suppose so.” But he saw the twinkle in her eyes, and moved inside. “You know where the kitchen is.”
“Yes ma’am.” He turned toward the other room. He slipped the beer into the refrigerator. He was grinning again. He’d taken a chance, coming over here like this. He just hadn’t been ready to part from her. The case had been kind of a bust, but instead of being annoyed with him for dragging her off, she’d actually teased him. He wasn’t sure what had put her in such a good mood, but the flight back had actually been fun. He opened the cabinets to get out some plates. A waste as far as he was concerned, but she liked it.
She stood at the door, watching him make himself at home in her kitchen. He was fun like this. She’d been relieved he wasn’t upset that the case was bogus. He’d been amused at the antics of the teenagers. She wondered idly if he’d pulled some similar stunt in his youth. She started to take a step toward him when she heard the knock on her door. Now what?
She turned back to her front door and opened it, then stood shock still. “Steve?” It was all she could say.
“Dana.” Then he had her in his arms, kissing her soundly.
Mulder had heard the door and started in that direction. The sight that greeted him stopped him dead in his tracks. For an instant he couldn’t assimilate what he was seeing. Then it hit him and he almost doubled over. It felt like he’d been sucker punched. His hand went out to the doorjamb to steady himself.
Well, now he knew what had put her in such a good mood. There wasn’t . . . there wasn’t even any place he could hide, but she’d obviously forgotten he was here.
The man finally released her, at least her lips, though he still held her against his body. To Mulder’s utter horror, he ground himself into her. Mulder couldn’t speak, there was no air in his lungs and he realized he’d actually reached for his gun. He had to get out of here, he couldn’t watch this.
“Steve, Steve stop.” She pulled away, but in his mind not forcefully or with any recriminations.
Scully looked over and spotted Mulder in the doorway. He watched color suffuse her cheeks. Hell, why had she let him in if she was expecting her . . . her lover? He fought the urge to double over again.
“Steve, I, I want you to meet Fox Mulder, he’s my partner.”
Partner? Yeah, partner. That’s all he was. Why had he thought differently? What else could she introduce him as - he wasn’t the man she was seeing, he wasn’t her ‘boyfriend’, he wasn’t her lover.
“Mulder, this is Steve Landers.”
He waited, but she said nothing else. Apparently his ‘title’ was self-evident.
He watched Steve’s hand come out to shake with him, and thoughts of his gun reentered his mind.
“Nice to meet you Fox.”
Somehow he forced himself to shake the proffered hand, but it was Scully he spoke to. “You should have told me you were expecting company, Scully.”
“Mulder, I - “
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t have just shown up anyway. I’ll, uh, I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
“Mulder, no. What about, what about the pizza?” She was grasping at straws, completely at a lost as to how to handle this.
“You two enjoy it.” He moved past them to the door.
“Thanks Fox.” Steve smiled at him, obviously glad to see him leaving. “Hey, it was nice meeting you.”
Mulder made no comment to that, letting himself out into the hall and closing the door. He made it around the corner, so she wouldn’t see, not that she would look. She was busy, busy with Steve. They were ripping the clothes off of each other now, he could see it. He fell back against the wall.
He had to get out of here. Maybe they were planning to go out. The sight of him grinding himself into Scully was back in his head and he tried to stifle a groan. No, they weren’t going anywhere tonight.
But he had to, he had to get away from here, as far away as he could get. Mulder forced himself upright and hurried to his car, running full out by the time he got to it. He peeled out, barely missing the car parked in front of him.
Scully looked up at Steve and put her hand on his chest to hold him back as he tried to pull her into his arms again.
“Steve, what are you doing here?”
“Here here?” His hand came back up to touch her cheek.
“I wanted to see you.”
“After six years?”
“I’ve been away, but I never forgot you.” He smiled his easy smile and she couldn’t help but smile back. Steve was as attractive as he’d been the last time she’d seen him. He was nearly 6’3”; she must be attracted to tall men. But this one was blond and blue eyed, not dark and moody with eyes that changed with his moods. This man skimmed through life, nothing touched him. She certainly hadn’t, but the sex had been good, playful, fun, intense. She hadn’t thought about him in years. Maybe she’d been afraid to - the lightheartedness of those years seemed so foreign to her now. Did she yearn for it, for a time when she wasn’t afraid for her life, her beliefs, her sanity? Maybe, whatever, she had blocked it. The sight of Steve had knocked her completely off balance. Damn she hadn’t been kissed like that since . . . since Steve.
“Steve really, what are doing in town?”
“I can’t just want to see you?”
“You’re crazy, you know that?”
“That’s what you always loved about me.” He pulled her back against him and this time she didn’t resist, enjoying the feel of his lips against hers. She realized that he was moving her toward her bedroom and she pulled free again.
“And just what do you think you’re doing now?”
“Come on Dana, I know you haven’t forgotten the fun we can have in there.” He looked toward the bedroom.
She chuckled, “And I know you don’t think you’re getting me in there after a six year silence.”
“Dana, don’t you know I’ve been off studying how to make even better love to you?”
“Well I know you haven’t changed any.” She laughed out loud then. “Tell me why you’re really here and where you have been for six years.” She led him back toward the kitchen and pulled two beers out of the kitchen as he took a seat and picked up one of the plates Mulder had left on the table.
Mulder was nearly home when he realized that was the last place he wanted to be. He turned abruptly and found himself at a little bar not far from his apartment, one that he’d never visited before.
He took a seat at the bar and when the bartender approached him didn’t wait to be asked. “I want a beer.”
The bartender looked at him for a long moment. “How many have you already had?”
Mulder met his eyes in surprise. “None!” He responded stung, “I’m completely sober.”
Again the bartender took his time. “Then are you sure you need one?”
Mulder blinked, then let his shoulders relax. The man was right, a beer wasn’t going to help; a thousand of them wouldn’t. At this point nothing was going to help, he just had to live through it. What doesn’t kill you . . .
He stood then and pulled out his wallet, plucking out a couple of bills. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” The bartender watched him leave the place and nodded to himself. That man was hurting bad, he hoped he went straight home.
He was waiting for Scully, half of him felt ready to pounce and the other half was fighting to run away and hide. What did Dana Scully look like when she’d ‘gotten some’ the night before? He’d never had the opportunity to see her come from his bed, could he bear to see it now?
He literally jerked when the door opened, but she didn’t seem to notice. Her mood was definitely still good and he gripped the desk as his stomach did a slow roil.
“Good morning.” She smiled at him.
Oh god, “Uh, morning.”
“You shouldn’t have left so quickly last night. Did you get any dinner?”
“Yeah, it was fine. I didn’t want to intrude.”
“We really wouldn’t have minded. I’d like you to get to know Steve.”
Get to know Steve? He wasn’t going away then. Great.
“I, uh, I don’t remember you mentioning him.”
“I probably haven’t. He left just before I joined the X-Files.”
“Left? He doesn’t live around here?” He grasped at the possibility. Maybe the SOB was only here for a few days and then would disappear back down his rat hole and leave . . . leave Scully to him.
“He’s been in Atlanta the last few years. He’s here now because he has an interview at Georgetown University.”
“An interview?” God had his voice actually gone up? He coughed to try to disguise it.
“Yes, I can’t see him as a professor, but apparently that’s what he is.” She smiled at some memory and he felt his mood slip subterranean. She didn’t add anything, booting up her laptop. He didn’t have the guts, or the right, to ask what he wanted to know, so he turned to his own computer.
He kept quiet and she seemed absorbed in her report, through she looked happier than she normally did for such an activity. He was startled out of his reverie when she rose.
“Scully? Early for lunch isn’t it?” He glanced at his watch, only 11:25.
“Maybe a little, but Steve’s schedule is tight. We need to beat the crowd.”
“Oh, you’re having lunch with Steve?”
“Did I not mention that? I’m sorry. You’ll be okay, won’t you?” She was grinning at him.
“Hey, no problem.” He watched her leave and sank back into the chair. No. He wasn’t going to mope down here for an hour. He’d get some lunch too; he’d never gotten around to dinner last night.
He grabbed his suit coat and took the stairs. He immediately felt the other agents’ eyes on him as he started for the door. He hesitated, then spotted them, Steve with his arm around Scully, leading her from the building and that damn smile still on her face.
“Hey Spooky, we didn’t know you let the Missus date.” He ignored the voice, turning to go out a different door. He tried not to hear the laughter behind him.
Once seated, Steve grinned at her, the color was still high on her cheeks. “Don’t get kissed often in the FBI lobby?”
“Steve, I work there. Please don’t - “
“I know, I’m sorry.” He didn’t look sorry. “I just can’t help myself around you. And you were the one that threw me out last night.”
“You didn’t really expect anything different.”
“Hope springs eternal, Dana. What have you got that looks fairly conservative for dinner tonight, then will sexy-up when we go dancing?”
“Sexy-up? And who said we were having dinner or dancing?”
“Oh Dana, don’t let me down now. I’m having dinner with the dean and his wife - “
"And you need someone presentable on your arm?”
"No, I need a hot woman like you, but we’ll ditch them early. Please?” His self-assurance was jarring. It truly had not occurred to him that she might turn him down, whereas Mulder - hell, he wouldn’t have the nerve to ask her.
“Come on, when’s the last time you went dancing?”
Cher immediately came to her mind and though she didn’t know it, a wistful smile came to her face. He watched her taking it all in, then pressed his hand over hers on the table. “Please?”
She shook her head slightly to dislodge the memory. “Well, dinner anyway. I make no promises about after.”
He waggled his eyebrows at her, “I have a king size bed and room service for breakfast.”
“Don’t press your luck, Steve. I’ll come to dinner. Now, what time do you need to get back?”
“Don’t ruin my fun. I want to sit here and look at you.”
She rolled her eyes and picked up a menu.
He’d eaten, though he couldn’t remember what. Too bad, since it was sitting like a stone in his gut. He wasn’t exactly waiting for her to return from lunch, but saw every minute tick off that she wasn’t there.
When she did breeze in, nearly twenty minutes late he held his tongue. She didn’t seem to notice a problem, which only depressed him more. Was she totally oblivious to what he was going through here? Did she really not understand that he was upset? Or did she not care?
And why couldn’t he say anything?
It was a little after four when she handed him her part of the report. “I need to get out of here on time tonight, so could you go over that now?”
She nodded, “Steve and I are having dinner with some dean and his wife.” She rolled her eyes, but smiled just the same.
“A dean?” Had he really heard that right, she was helping him get a job here?
“Yes and I have to go home and pick out something that’s “conservative and hot”, like my closet has that.” She shook her head.
He felt something inside of him crumble and he kept quiet. She didn’t seem to notice.
She was out of there by 4:30. He sat, unproductive and unknowing until eight, when he heard the cleaning people come out of the elevator.
He was late the next morning and didn’t look like himself. She was instantly alert, but he obviously wasn’t in a talkative mood. She let it slide for now, maybe at lunch, out of the office, he’d talk to her. She just hoped it wasn’t something from Violent Crimes. Those cases were so damn hard on him.
A few minutes after noon, she finally rose and stretched. “Ready for lunch?”
“I, uh, I thought you’d have plans.”
“What? With Steve? He’s lunching with a group of the faculty today.”
Well, she wasn’t seeing him, but she knew his itinerary. Great.
“Mulder? Did you hear anything I said?”
“I asked if you could join Steve and me for dinner over at my place tonight. I really would like for you to get to know him.”
Get to know him? What, was she insane? She wanted him to, what, be buddies with her lover? Yeah, maybe he could be best man at their wedding. Second best man obviously. No way, no way in all hell could he spend an evening with these two, watching him touch her and . . .
“Sorry, Scully. I have plans. Wish I’d known about it sooner.”
“Mulder, please. Couldn’t you change them? Steve has to leave tomorrow.”
He looked up quickly, ‘leave’? The man was leaving. “Where’s he going?”
“Back to Atlanta. He has to wait to see if he made the cut, then come back for a second interview.”
“Oh.” Oh, it was a temporary thing until he got the job. Then he’d move here permanently. Into her apartment probably, at least into her life.
“Mulder, come on, for me?” She was actually cajoling him. What had this guy done to her, where was the standoffish, proper Scully he was used to. Was this the way she was when she was satisfied? And why the hell did he have to find out this way?
“I’ll, uh, I’ll see if I can get out of it.”
“Please try, if not for dinner, at least come for dessert.”
Dessert, that would come after he left, when the two of them were alone. How the hell could she ask him to spend time with the happy couple? Was it to help him learn his role as family friend? Why not, he was just her ‘partner’ after all.
She was standing at the door watching him, obviously waiting. He must have zoned out again. What did she . . . oh lunch. He rose and approached her, not coming quite as close as he normally did.
“Mulder are you sure you’re okay?” She lifted her hand to touch his face, and his hand shot out to catch hers. The motion startled her, in fact he’d actually hurt her, but she didn’t say anything.
“I’m fine. Let’s just get some lunch.”
“Okay.” She turned expecting, no that was too strong a word, anticipating his fingers on her back. When they didn’t come she looked back at him. He was following her, but at a small distance, as though distracted. She didn’t say anything, it wouldn’t be welcome, but she hoped he would come tonight. Yes, she wanted him to get to know Steve, but also she wanted to check on him.
She wasn’t entirely sure these two men would actually get along, but Steve had been a good friend when she was an undergraduate, away from home for the first time. He’d been there for her after her first disastrous sexual encounter and had had her laughing about the whole experience in an amazingly short time. They had even become lovers themselves for a short while, both knowing it was short term and just for the fun of it. That’s what it had been, too. He was her only ‘casual’ sex partner and they had spent as much time laughing as anything else.
She knew now how good he was in bed. She’d had little to compare to then, but nothing serious had developed. He had been introduced to all of her dates and he’d done the same for her. She’d forgotten how lighthearted she could feel with a man - especially with Mulder in her life.
It was different with Mulder. She would always ‘love’ Steve and enjoy his company when he was available, but Mulder, Mulder was deep inside of her, essential in a way she’d never tried to express, and wasn’t sure she could.
If some of Steve’s lightness were to rub off on Mulder . . .
He approached her door as though facing a firing squad. No, he would have skipped toward a damn execution rather than be here. So why the hell was he here? Because she had asked. Scully wanted it. She had no idea the pain he was in, he was just her partner.
He should have brought something, wine or flowers. There was still time -
Steve watched her move around the apartment getting everything ready. She was excited in a controlled way. He smiled; she had matured into a strong, incredibly lovely woman. He felt a moment of regret that they were only friends and it couldn’t be more. That time was past and anyway she was involved with this partner of hers. Involved, hell, she was in love with the man. Maybe he and Dana hadn’t spent a lot of time together lately, but he knew her - in more than the biblical sense.
He wanted to spend some time with this ‘partner’. What was it about him that had won this woman? She wanted to spend her life with the man and Steve wanted to be sure he was worthy.
That wasn’t exactly fair; she’d made this decision without him. She’d had enough relationships to know what she wanted, still . . . it was what she hadn’t said that had tipped him off.
Her head went up and he watched her smile grow. He hadn’t heard anything, but she moved toward the door. What, was she psychically linked to the guy? He smiled at that thought.
Before Mulder could turn, she opened the door. “I thought I heard you out here. Come on in.”
He did, seemingly reluctantly. She tugged at his leather jacket. “Why don’t you take that off and stay awhile?”
“Oh, yeah.” He forced himself to shrug off the jacket. He looked around for Steve but couldn’t spot him. He turned back toward Scully; she looked so happy he wanted to run. He’d never made her look that happy. He looked away in despair.
That’s when he saw Steve, coming out of the kitchen with three glasses of wine. “Ah, Dana’s pizza man. Glad you could join us.”
The comment nearly knocked the breath out of him. Steve was playing host to him, in Scully’s apartment.
“P . . . pizza man?”
“Yeah, you left that great pizza here for us the other night. I didn’t get the chance to thank you.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s . . . that’s okay.”
Steve set the glasses on the coffee table and took a seat on the couch - his seat. Oh this was going to be a fun evening. He opted for the chair, it would have been too obvious to sit between them like he wanted.
Steve took his glass and held it up. Scully settled into her seat and took her glass, handing the third to Mulder. “To getting acquainted.” Steve offered his glass and Scully smiled broadly, touching his glass with her own. They both turned to Mulder and he let his glass touch each of theirs. He wondered for an instant if he was wearing his ‘panic’ face.
“So Fox, Mulder, sorry.” Steve squeezed Scully’s thigh in apology.
Didn’t a heart attack feel like a metal band around the chest?
“Mulder, you’ve worked with Dana for over six years? Is she a good partner?” He grinned at her.
Mulder didn’t look at her, “Yeah, she’s pretty good to work with.”
“Pretty good, Mulder? Gee thanks.”
Steve chuckled, “Dana’s been telling me some pretty wild tales about your cases. Is she just yanking me off?”
God, he was going to die, he wanted to die. “Uh, we’ve seen some strange things.”
“And Dana here has gone along?” Steve pulled Dana closer, draping his arm around her. He noted Mulder’s posture tighten yet again. Man he was uptight - and so jealous he might explode. So he was in love with Dana too. Why didn’t he say something? Why had he chosen that seat and allowed Steve to practically cuddle with his woman?
That’s when it hit him; this Mulder didn’t know she was his woman. How the hell not? Did he not see how much Dana loved him? Maybe . . . maybe he didn’t. That didn’t make a lot of sense, it’s not like this guy should be insecure.
Steve knew his own assets - tall, blond, good looking. It had gotten him a lot of places, but he saw Mulder’s assets as well - he was the Heathcliff type, dark, brooding, vulnerable but hard to know. In fact, the ying to his yang. They were polar opposites, yet they both loved Dana.
Mulder wasn’t going to offer him anything, wasn’t about to open up to him. In fact, Mulder was scared to death of him. That struck Steve as amusing; the man was probably armed but he felt completely powerless.
Steve glanced over at Dana. She wanted this evening to go well. That wouldn’t be a problem, but he wasn’t going to give her to this guy so quickly. What made the man tick?
He decided to let Dana lead the conversation, and he could keep it upbeat. What he really wanted was to spend some alone time with the man. That wasn’t going to happen this trip, but when he came back for his second interview, and he had no doubt he would, he’d make time to have that talk.
“Dinner’s ready guys.” Scully stood and the two men rose, Mulder just a second after Steve. They followed her into the kitchen and Steve picked up the lasagna to move it to the table. Mulder was mentally kicking himself. Why hadn’t he thought to do that? In fact, why couldn’t he think at all?
“Mulder, the salad’s in the refrigerator. Would you get it?”
“Sure.” He moved in that direction and pulled out the bowl. He turned back to the table in time to see Steve hold her chair. Why again had he come here this evening?
Scully served both men large squares of her homemade lasagna. She knew how much he liked this, maybe she’d made it with him in mind. He tried to hold on to that, until Steve spoke, “I guess she’s made this for you before Mulder. You should have tried it before I taught her how.”
“Taught me how, huh? I don’t remember it exactly that way.”
“Sure you do. It was back in that dumpy little apartment you had just off campus - you and Brenda and Chloe. None of you could cook worth a damn before I took over.”
“You took over?” She had a huge smile on her face.
What little appetite Mulder had vanished. Why hadn’t he come just for dessert? She’d offered that, but he’d known how much she wanted him to be here, to play nice with her lover. He gulped the wine left in his glass and refilled it. It wouldn’t help in the long run, but maybe it would numb him enough to survive the meal.
fixing the dessert now. He’d moved the food around on his plate enough to make
it look like he’d eaten something. As soon as dessert was over, he could get
the hell out of here and leave them to their own dessert.
He realized that Steve was watching him and turned to face him. “Yeah?”
“I’m just trying to get the feel of you, Mulder.”
“The ‘feel’ of me?”
“Yeah. You spend a lot of time with someone very important to me, but I really don’t know that much about you.”
“Scully could get you a copy of my permanent record.”
Steve shook his head, “No, I think we should spend some time together, without Dana. When I come back, let’s do that.”
After a moment Mulder nodded. Yeah, for Scully’s sake he’d have to be on some sort of social basis with the man. Unless . . . what if Steve talked her into transferring out? He wouldn’t want her to spend so much time with a man who had so much desire for her. Or was Steve so sure about her that he had no concerns about Mulder?
Could he settle for just seeing her at the office and on cases? Lately . . . lately he’d thought they were moving toward something . . . no that was ridiculous. She’d had this relationship with Steve and he hadn’t even been aware.
What was taking so damn long about the dessert? He needed to get out of here, even if it meant leaving them to . . . He closed his eyes for an instant, but opened them when Scully leaned over him and placed the slice of peach pie and ice cream on the table in front on him.
“Looks good Scully.” He managed to say.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him. When the hell had she ever smiled so much?
She’d protested that it was early when he’d risen to leave, but Steve had seemed pleased and he’d taken all he could. He thanked Scully once again for dinner and made his way to his car.
He sat there for several long moments, unaware that Steve was watching from the window. He didn't bother to look up as he peeled out. Steve just smiled.
"What are you looking at?"
"Just checking the view. Now if you want to lose some of those clothes, I'd rather watch that view."
"Back off, Steve." But she smiled; it was kind of nice to have a man seem to so overtly want her, even if it was in jest.
He approached her then, and put his hands on her shoulders, massaging them lightly and began to move down. "I'm not kidding Dana."
Her smile faded, "Steve, I can't."
"Because of him?"
She glanced guiltily at the door. "No, I just . . . "
"Because of him. I can see it Dana. You're head over heels."
"I am not. Stop it; this has been a nice evening - "
"For me maybe, he tried to endure it."
"Endure? What are you talking about?"
"He didn't want me here; he doesn't want me anywhere near you." He was watching the color rise on her face.
"You're talking nonsense. Mulder's my partner and - "
"Give me a break, Dana. I've seen you with other men; I've gotten you through more than one 'ice-cream' night."
She looked down, "Yes, you have."
"What about him?"
"We really are friends Steve. The Bureau . . . "
"The Bureau be damned. How do you feel about him?"
The color rose even higher and though she couldn't see herself, he felt a stirring in his groin at her expression. Damn Mulder was one lucky SOB and the fool didn't even realize it!
"Have you ever told him?"
"Told him what?" She hadn't said a word, what was Steve staring at?
"The fact that you are madly in love with him and just watching him breathe makes you want to jump him."
"’Steve’? That's your denial? Come on Dana, you can do better than that."
"There's nothing to deny!"
His eyes swept over her and he couldn't keep the amusement from his face. He could see her hackles rising. "Okay, okay. Calm down. You know if he saw you like this he'd have as much trouble as I am keeping his hands off of you."
"Maybe you better go." Her tone bordered on icy suddenly.
Steve glanced at his watch, much as he wanted more information; he basically knew the facts now. "Yeah, if I'm going to spend another solo night in that lonely hotel room, I guess I'll pack it in. I'll let you know when they've scheduled the next round, so you can clear your calendar."
"If I'm speaking to you."
"Come on Baby," he drew her to him, "You can't stay mad at Steve. You know how much I love you. Can't just hand you over to this new dude without some probing, right?"
"Go on, you've used up all of your welcome." But she didn't pull away. This man had helped her through a lot of what now looked like childhood angst.
"Never happen. When you and old Mulder have a mansion in the Hampsteads there'll always be a bedroom for me. And you can sneak in when you get tired of him." Before she could protest, he had his lips on hers and she didn't resist. It was nice being kissed by a man who meant something to her, even if it wasn't . . .
"Go. You can call when or if you're invited back. Don't just show up, I might be busy."
He grinned, "Hey, I like to watch."
She swatted him then, pushing him away. She put up with a lot from him, but it was time for him to get out. Things weren't going any farther between them and she had felt his growing excitement when he held her.
One more peck at the door, and she shut it firmly behind him. The smile slipped immediately from her face. Madly in love? Where had he gotten that idea? But the frown didn't leave her face.
Her sleep was unsettled that night, going over Steve's departing words over and over.
She was late the next morning. His visions of her excuses swam in front of him until he wanted to shoot something, no someone. But when she arrived, she offered no excuse at all which was somehow worse.
She seemed distracted, unsettled - well why not, her lover had left town. She was probably lonely, but it wouldn’t be for long.
Yes, his mood was foul and he noted she was watching him from time to time. Hell, if she didn’t owe him any explanations, he sure as hell didn’t owe her any.
They moved around each other, not connecting. His comments were short and increasingly sarcastic. She barely heard him, still inside of herself. Steve’s words were with her, coloring everything. ‘Madly in love,’ what had Steve seen?
He’d accomplished nothing this morning, maybe some lunch. If they were out of the office, oh yeah, that would help.
He rose and pulled his suit coat from the back of his chair and shoved his sleeves down. “You want to get some lunch?” She didn’t even seem to hear him. Great. He touched her shoulder. “Lunch?”
“What? Oh yes.” She rose as well, “Steve, I need to - sorry, Mulder, I need to stop by the lab when we get back.”
She was slipping on her own jacket and didn’t see the look on his face at her slip. It had staggered him. She’d called him by her lover’s name. He thought he was going to be sick. She stopped at the door and looked back at him. “Mulder?” He still didn’t seem to hear her, so she lightly touched his arm. He jerked away as though burned. “Mulder, what’s wrong?” She looked up at him anxiously.
“I, uh, I just remembered a meeting. I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”
“Mulder, are you sure you’re all right?”
She held her tongue. It was an answer she’d given more than once and, since she was less than ‘fine’ herself, maybe it was a good idea to be apart for a little while.
“Okay.” She turned to the filing cabinet and retrieved her wallet. “I may be a little late. I’ll stop by the lab.”
He nodded and pretended to gather up a file as she left the room. When he heard the elevator doors close, he closed his eyes and sagged against the desk. She had called him Steve. He still couldn’t draw a full breath around that pain. Get out, get some air, and try not to throw up on the desk.
He trudged up the stairs and took the side door. He walked blindly toward the monuments and took a seat on a bench. He sat then, staring at nothing for nearly an hour. When he finally roused himself, he realized he couldn’t see her, not right now.
He pulled out his cell phone and left her a message on her voice mail that he would be out the rest of the day, then retrieved his car and headed home.
The next day he was able to force himself back to the office. It would sure be nice to have a case to focus on. He heard her approaching the office and tensed. Was she going to call him Steve again?
It was obvious her mood was no better than his. Such a contrast to the way she’d been . . . but that was because she’d been expecting Steve.
“Did you get everything taken care of?”
“Huh?” He came back to the present with a thud.
“You said on your message . . . “
“Oh, just signing papers on Mom’s estate.”
She nodded and turned away. This was ridiculous, if nothing else they should at least still be friends. They should be able to, to talk about this. He shook his head, no he couldn’t talk to her about her lover. He couldn’t.
“You were . . . are you okay?”
“Sure. I, uh, I need to get back to my email.”
She looked at him for a moment, then turned away. He opened his mouth, but decided against it. He could only make things worse.
The phone rang and Mulder grabbed it without looking up. “Mulder.”
“Mulder, hi. It’s Steve. How you doing?”
“Uh, fine. They’ve, they’ve given you the wrong extension.”
“No, I asked for you.”
“Yes. We need to talk.”
“Talk?” He felt his stomach lurch and his chest tighten.
“I’ve been called back for a second interview. I can come up a day early. You and I can spend some time together.”
“I don’t see - “
“I can come in Wednesday evening. You can pick me up at the airport and we can go somewhere.”
Mulder looked down at the receiver. The colossal gall . . . but he had a point.
They needed to talk. He sighed, “What flight?”
Mulder watched the man walk toward him, and the way the women responded as he did. Steve had seen him, there was no reason to hail him, so he waited.
“Mulder, good to see you.”
Mulder nodded, “You have luggage?”
“No, just this carry on. You hungry?”
“Well I am. I’d like a beer and a Reuben. Where would you suggest?”
“I know a place. Come on.” Mulder led him to his car and drove in silence to a bar near his apartment. He led him to a booth near the back.
After the waitress took their order, Steve spoke up again. “You sure I’m going to enjoy the food?”
“Yeah, it’s good.”
Steve watched him; this was going to be fun. The man was twitchy as hell. How was he going to get him to open up? “So, how’s Dana doing?”
Mulder looked at him then, “I imagine you two have talked.”
“Actually no. I decided to give her a little space. There are some decisions she needs to make.”
The waitress placed their beers in front of them and Mulder look a long swig. Steve thanked the waitress and watched her walk away.
“Yes decisions. You know, what she wants to be when she grows up, who she wants to grow old with, that kind of thing.” He noted that Mulder’s grip on the bottle had tightened. “You see, Dana’s very important to me and I want to make sure she makes the correct decision.”
“And you’re part of that decision?”
“I used to be, I could be again.”
“You’ve known her a long time.”
“Yes.” He smiled at some memory and Mulder’s hand tightened more around the bottle. He realized it this time and let go of the bottle before it broke in his hand.
The waitress set the plates in front of them and Steve smiled at her. Shit, did the man always smile so damn much? Was that part of the reason that Scully smiled when he was around?
“How, how did you meet her?”
Steve’s smile widened if that was possible. “I was lucky. Redheads aren’t really my type. At least they weren’t. I was dating a girl down the hall from her and I kept noticing her. After I broke up with Susan, I kept showing up at the dorm and we became friends.” He took a bite of his sandwich.
“Um, good. Anyway, she got involved with a real jerk, a lowlife who talked her into his bed. Problem was he wasn’t nearly as interested in her and he was in adding the notch to his bedpost.” Steve shook his head, “he hurt her. She was destroyed. Here she’d given this asshole her virginity and he just dumps her. I talked to her, made her see that it wasn’t her fault; that she’d been played. I also pointed out what a true jerk he was.” Steve shrugged.
“You did something about him, didn’t you?”
Steve looked at Mulder closely; this man didn’t miss anything. That probably made him a very good FBI agent. “Yeah, I did something. Some of my frat brothers and I explained that what he was doing wasn’t very nice. He seemed to get the point pretty quickly.” Steve grinned, “pretty damn quick indeed.”
Mulder didn’t smile, but he nodded.
“After that, all of her dates had to be ‘Steve-approved’. That worked much better.”
“You didn’t make your move?” Mulder asked quietly.
“I didn’t want to be rebound guy.” Steve shrugged.
“Yes, we finally got together.” Steve looked him straight in the eye. “We were very good together.”
“You were lovers.”
“Yes. Like I said, we were very good together.”
Mulder closed his eyes for an instant. “What happened?”
Steve shrugged, “Neither of us was ready for a long-term commitment, at that time.”
“You haven’t eaten much of your sandwich.”
“I don’t have much of an appetite.”
“How about you? How did you meet Dana?”
Mulder shook his head.
“Come on, Mulder. Tit for tat, I showed you mine.”
Mulder looked up at the ceiling. “She was assigned to my division.”
“The X-Files, with all the weirdo stuff?”
“Yeah, the one with all the weirdo stuff.” Mulder made no attempt to defend his work.
“Doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing the Dana I knew would be into.”
“She . . . she was sent downstairs to debunk the work, to shut the division down.” His voice was flat, dull.
“It’s been nearly seven years.”
“She had too much integrity. She wouldn’t play their game. I think . . . I think she came to respect the work. She makes me work for it, but she listens. She’s seen things . . . “ his voice trailed off then.
“That sounds more like my Dana.” Steve actually drew back from the look Mulder shot him. For some reason he remembered that the man sitting across from him was armed.
“Are we through talking?” Mulder asked.
“No. I have a question.”
Mulder took a deep breath and fastened his eyes on the man.
“How long have you been in love with her?” The question stunned the man facing him. Steve watched his Adam’s apple bob convulsively.
“I don’t know what - “
“Of course you do. You’re head over heels.”
“Even if that were true, it’s none of your business.”
“Dana is my business. Like I said, her dates need to be Steve-approved.”
“We’re not dating.”
“You want to explain why not?”
“I don’t want to be talking to you at all.” Mulder started to rise.
“But you are talking to me. You can’t help yourself. You’re desperate to find out what my intentions are.”
Mulder sank back down into the booth. “Okay, what are your intentions?”
“Maybe I want to protect her from you.”
Mulder blinked at that. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The way you make her feel.” Mulder’s voice had no inflection, no life in it.
“The way she acted when she was waiting for you.” Mulder offered finally.
“Waiting for me?” Now Steve was confused.
“When you were coming here.”
“She doesn’t know I’m here, unless you told her.” Steven took another drink from his beer, but his eyes never left Mulder.
“Not this time.”
Steve watched him. “I don’t follow.”
Mulder sighed, “When you came last time, she was in a wonderful mood, happier than I remember seeing her.”
“Mulder, she didn’t know I was coming. It was a total surprise when she opened the door that night.”
“She had no idea. Something else must have put her in such a good mood. What was going on around here?”
“Uh, we, we had just returned from a case.”
“One of the weird ones?”
“Well, that’s why we went out. Turns out it was a teenage prank.”
“Was she annoyed about that?” Steve asked, the hint of a smile on his face.
“Uh, no. She, she thought it was funny.”
“So she was in a good mood when you got back to town.”
“And that was unusual? Being with you keeps her from being in a good mood?”
“Then why did you believe that only I could put her in a good mood?”
“That’s not what . . . Shit.” Mulder looked away, not sure what to say.
“You’re in love with her. I suspected it before we had dinner that night, but you . . . “ Steve shook his head.
“You came over there with your heart on your sleeve, but you wouldn’t claim her as your woman. That really confused me, because it was so damn obvious how you felt. Then it hit me, you don’t know how she feels and you’re too gutless to ask her. I find that amusing you know.”
Mulder just stared at him. This amused the man?
“When are you going to decide to check out how she feels about you?”
“You’re crazy. And this is none of your business.”
“I told you, Dana is my business and always will be.”
“I feel the same.”
“Finally, a backbone. Have you got the balls to find out how she feels?”
For the first time, Mulder seemed to hear what he was saying. Okay, Steve knew he was in love with Scully. Steve wasn’t going to go away, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t at least let her know . . . He rose again from the booth.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“I need to talk to Scully.”
Steve nodded, “Yeah, you do, but you’re my ride.”
“You can get a cab.”
“What about my luggage?” But his damn smile was returning.
“You can either follow me to the car or I can leave your suitcase at the bar.”
The knock on the door surprised her. She wasn’t expecting anyone. When she checked, she was even more confused. He hadn’t spoken more than a couple of words to her in weeks, but she opened the door.
He stepped just inside the door and stopped. She closed the door and walked around him. “Mulder, is something wrong?”
“Are you in love with Steve Landers?”
“What?” She blinked up at him, completely confused.
“Are you in love with Steve Landers?” He repeated himself with no expression.
“No. He’s a friend. He was a very good friend at a rough time in my life. He was there when I really needed someone and I have good memories of him.”
“As your lover?”
Her cheeks flamed. “No. Just as a friend.”
“When we got back in town after our last case, why were you in such a good mood?”
“Yes. You were relaxed and happy and . . . and like you were anticipating something. What?”
“I don’t . . . the prank that those kids pulled was a really good one. Even you were impressed. And you weren’t upset, I mean you, we laughed about it. Then when we got home you showed up at my apartment with that pizza and that goofy grin and . . . “
“Did you know Steve was coming over?”
“Mulder, I hadn’t thought of Steve in years. I had no idea where he was, much less that he was in town or about to knock on my door.”
He stepped closer to her, less than an inch between them but still not quite touching her. She could feel him in every cell of her body. What was going on here? What had brought him here tonight?
“Will you grow old with me?”
“Will you? Could you grow old with me?”
She nodded, unable to speak as she watched his lips come down toward hers. Then they were joined.
He realized sometime during the kiss that her arms had gone around his neck and he was supporting her completely, as her legs no longer seemed capable.
Then they were on the couch, his body partially atop hers.
He pulled back slightly then, “Why did you call me Steve?”
“What? When?” The transition too quick for her.
“In the office, the day Steve left, you called me by his name. Was it because you were lovers again?”
She was reeling. They had been nearly making love themselves and he asked her that?
“No! He never, we never, I wouldn’t do that.”
“Then why did you call me his name?”
“He, he was on my mind. He’d said something to me . . . “
*The fact that you are madly in love with him and just watching him breathe makes you want to jump him.* That’s what he’d said, but she couldn’t tell Mulder that.
“He just made me . . . think.”
“Yeah, he has a way of doing that.”
“When did you talk with him?”
“Earlier. I, uh, I picked him up at the airport earlier this evening. We had dinner.”
Her face went white, that’s why he was here? Because Steve had . . . Oh god. She pulled away from him. “What did he say to you? What did you talk about?”
Her chest was heaving now, what had Steve said to him? “Is that, is that why you asked me to grow old . . . What did he say to you?”
“He asked me how long I’d been in love with you.”
She went very still then. “Steve asked you . . . “
“He says you can only date ‘Steve approved’ men. He’s not sure I qualify. I’m not sure either.”
She pulled away then and left the couch. She stood watching as he sat up. He didn’t attempt to rise.
“The two of you were discussing me.”
“You’re the only thing we have in common. We’re both in love with you.” He stated it simply.
She blinked. “You’re . . . you’re in love . . .”
“So I need to know . . . Steve or me.”
“What?” She was throwing him out?
“Get out of here.”
“Scully, I - “
She had moved to the door and was holding it open.
He rose then, "You said you'd grow old with me."
"That was before I found out I was the prize in some sort of pissing contest between the two of you."
"That's not what this is." He was close to her now, and pushed the door closed behind her. "When I, when I told you I'd seen him, you . . . you looked frightened. Why?"
She straightened to her full height. "I wasn't frightened."
"You and Steve have no right to discuss me. Or to go behind my back. Why? Why did you do that? I might have expected Steve to do something like that, but you! I trusted you." She turned away.
He blinked at that, then his hand shot out to stop her. "You can, you can trust me. I . . . I wanted to know his intentions. I thought . . . shit!" He backed away then, "I thought your good mood was because Steve came to town, I thought he was your lover when I saw the two of you together that first night, I thought I was going to lose you."
She gaped at him, "Lose me?"
"I wanted to put a bullet in him. And when he was here, all you did was smile. You don't smile like that for me. But . . . but he told me you didn't know he was coming."
"I didn't." She whispered.
"So your mood, it was good be-because of me?"
"Why do you think I'm never in a good mood with you?"
"Because you aren't." He shrugged, "and I don't blame you. I haven't exactly brought a lot of sunshine and flowers to your life."
"You think that's what I want? A few laughs, a good time, partying?
He didn't speak; he didn't know what to say.
"Steve was good to me. I guess in a naďve way he had my back. I needed him, or someone like him at the time. But I'm an adult now. My needs are different, more intense. With you on my back, I feel safe, protected in a whole other way. How many times have you saved my life? And how many times have I saved yours?"
"Will you do it again, now?"
The question caught her off guard for just an instant, then she got it. She smiled, full wattage and his breath caught. "I'm in a pretty good mood now."
"You can come with me." She offered again.
"No, you should talk to him alone. And no, I don't trust him, not for an instant. I do trust you."
She shook her head, but she was smiling.
Scully saw Steve at the bar of the hotel and approached him. He was watching a woman make her way to the table and didn't realize Scully was standing behind him. That made her smile again. Mulder would have known she was there before she entered the bar.
"Dana, hi." He turned and gave her a big smile. It dimmed as he looked at her. "I see you talked to Mulder."
"Yes, I did."
"It would be a bad idea for me to take this job."
He shrugged, "I guess I can use this to leverage an increase in Georgia."
She chuckled then, "I knew you'd find a positive spin."
"Is he really what you want Dana?"
She nodded, "Yes. He's not perfect Steve, but he needs me and I need him. It was good to see you. Now go home and let me get on with my life, with Mulder."
Steve sighed. "He's one lucky bastard."
"And I'm going to spend the rest of our lives reminding him of that." She smiled broadly and he knew her mood was better than good.