He shoved away from the desk and stood. He felt itchy, off center, and he wasn’t sure why. Okay, Scully had taken off early, but that wouldn’t put him in such a mood. It shouldn’t anyway.
He sighed, unrolled his shirtsleeves, and slipped on his coat. He locked the door behind him, then headed for his car. Going to his apartment didn’t really appeal, but neither did any of the options.
He picked up his mail and got in the elevator, when it opened on the fourth floor the aroma of Italian food greeted him. It made his mood sink even lower. At least someone was having a home cooked meal.
Boy, he was at his best tonight. He fitted the key in the door and opened it. What the . . . the Italian food was in here.
Scully stepped into sight. “Happy Birthday, Mulder.”
Happy? Oh shit, it was his birthday. He’d completely forgotten.
“I take it I was able to surprise you.”
“This is why you left early?”
She smiled. “I thought you might enjoy a home cooked meal. Why don’t you go change and I’ll dish everything up.”
That’s when he realized that she had changed clothes herself. She was wearing a long v-neck sweater over casual slacks. It was blue, like her eyes. Not a speck of black in sight. He felt lighter than he had all day. Mulder nodded and headed for his bedroom.
He changed quickly and returned to her side. She had the lasagna out of the oven and the salad on the table. His eyes lit on the bottle of Chianti on the counter. Wine? Wow, she’d gone all out.
“Sit. Everything’s ready.”
He did as she asked and smiled at the sight of Scully bringing food to his table.
“This is, this is great Scully. I . . . I’d forgotten it was my birthday.”
“I thought you had, or you were upset with me because I had.”
His eyes widened at that. “You know, maybe I was, but I didn’t realize it.”
She just smiled at that.
“You know me too well, Scully.”
“You better believe it, Mulder.” She joined him at the table and took the salad bowl he handed to her.
“Yes, it’s a special occasion. Besides you don’t have to drive anywhere tonight.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll just have a sip, to toast the occasion.”
“I get a toast?”
She lifted her glass and let him fill it and watched as he filled his own. He met her eyes in a mock challenge.
“To the most important day of the year.”
He blinked at that. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“This is the most important day of the year?”
“Yes.” She was blushing slightly now and he appreciated the color in her face.
“Thank you.” He touched his glass to hers and they drank.
They kept the conversation light after that. No talk of cases, he got her to talk about birthday parties of the past. His favorites were the pajama parties that Melissa had on her birthdays.
They enjoyed easy camaraderie, and after he had eaten his fill, he helped her with the clean up, then they retired to his couch. He brought the bottle of wine with them and refilled his glass.
“I better not.”
“Come on, if you’re tipsy, you can stay here.” Her eyebrow rose. “You can have the bed and I’ll stay out here. Come on, I never had a pajama party.”
That drew a small chuckle from her, but she allowed him to refill her glass.
It was a couple of hours later when she realized the time. “Mulder, I need to get out of here.”
“Come on, Scully. I wasn’t kidding about you staying over. No strings, and the sheets are clean.”
She smiled. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. It’ll be a great birthday present.”
“You’re crazy Mulder.”
“Never denied it, come on, you’ve had the wine, it’s dark and I think it’s already started to rain.”
She glanced toward the window. It was dark.
He could see her wavering. “Come on Scully, on the most important day of the year?”
She pursed her lips, but sighed and he smiled his victory. “Everything you need is in the bathroom.”
“From the last woman you had over?”
“Matter of fact, yes. You stayed over when I ‘ditched” you a few months ago.”
She rolled her eyes at that memory. “It’s late, I need some sleep.”
“All yours ma’am. Sleep well.”
He moved to the kitchen to wash the wine glasses and finish the clean up. She joined him in a few moments, wearing his pjs with the legs rolled up.
He gaped at her, and she laughed. “You said it was a pajama party.”
“Yeah I did. They never looked so good on me.”
“Don’t make me sorry I accepted your invitation, G-man.”
“Never. You through in the bathroom?”
“Yeah. Goodnight.” She brushed a quick kiss on his cheek. “Happy Birthday, Mulder.”
“Thanks Scully.” He watched her disappear into his bedroom. Down boy, she was only here because of the wine. Though that was an incredibly good reason to keep some around . . .
The light to the bedroom was out when he emerged, but the door was open. That felt nice, he’d never had this kind of trust before that he could remember.
He didn’t even bother with the TV, he was nicely drowsy and warm inside from his birthday celebration. Having her in the next room pretty much assured a good night’s rest for him. He settled down on the couch and drifted off.
The sound that woke him was unfamiliar. It took a moment to realize that Scully was talking in her sleep. He smiled at that, unable to understand the words. It didn’t sound like she was upset, or having a nightmare, but he rose anyway to check on her.
She had quieted by the time he entered the room. He stood for a moment looking down at her. The light from the street was just enough for his dilated eyes to feast on her.
The dinner had been such a Scully gesture. He felt overwhelmed again by her care of him, and face it, by the fact that she wanted the job. It was nice to ‘belong’ to someone and whether she knew it or not, she owned him body and soul.
“Mulder? Are you okay?”
He hadn’t realized her eyes had opened. “Yes, I’m fine. Just checking on you.”
She smiled, “Thanks. Now come to bed.” She scooted over to give him room.
“It’s late. Come on.” She patted the bed beside her.
Was she kidding? It didn’t look like it. She wouldn’t tease him like that. Well, she wasn’t exactly offering her body to him, just one side of the bed.
Still he hesitated until she looked him in the eye. “Come on, Mulder.”
Okay, she meant it. He lay down beside her. She was fully covered with his pajamas and he had on pajamas bottoms himself. Yeah, and it would be more comfortable here than on the couch.
To his surprise, she cuddled in beside him and sighed her contentment, dropping back off to sleep. Damn! He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this wide awake, but he didn’t care. This really was the best birthday he’d ever had.
Her even breathing and Scully scent lulled him off to sleep before too long, holding her against him.
The scramble in the bed and the light flashing on in his eyes woke him abruptly the next morning.
“Mulder! What the hell are you doing in here? You said you were going to sleep on the couch.”
“I did! I, I was sleeping on the couch.” He was still blinking his eyes, trying to fight his way to some semblance of consciousness.
“It sure as hell doesn’t look like it.” Damn did she sound frosty.
“Scully, hold on. You invited me to sleep in here.”
“I did what?” Her eyes narrowed. He couldn’t remember when she had looked less friendly.
“Scully, I swear. I heard you talking in your sleep and I came in to check, make sure you were okay. Then you spoke to me, asked me if I was okay and told me to sleep in here. It is more comfortable and there’s plenty of room. I didn’t mind that you cuddled up to me, but - “
He stopped as her face flamed red. “That wasn’t a dream?”
“Uh, no. Scully, you thought you were dreaming it?”
“Oh my god.” She buried her face in her hands.
“Scully?” His hand tentatively stroked her shoulder. “Please, don’t be embarrassed. I just took it as another birthday present - an especially nice one.”
“I shouldn’t have stayed, especially tipsy. Mu . . . I’m sorry.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“What?” She looked up confused.
“That you’re sorry it happened, sorry you stayed, sorry . . . sorry that it was me.”
She looked at him for a long moment. “What I’m sorry about . . .” She took a deep breath and left the bed. He closed his eyes in pain. “Mulder, what I’m sorry about is that I . . . that I revealed too much. I know you want a professional relationship and I - “
“Hold it.” His eyes had flown open now. “I want?”
She nodded miserably from her place beside the bed.
“Just wait a minute Scully. I am not upset about what has happened here, I . . . okay slap me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. And just for the record, I think we moved beyond ‘professional’ relationship sometime in the middle of our first case. You mean more to me than that and if you are unaware, then I have truly screwed up big time.”
She seemed to be thinking that over.
“Listen, I’ll step into the bathroom for just a . . . don’t leave Scully. Promise me you won’t leave.”
“I promise.” She spoke low and wouldn’t look at him.
When he emerged she was dressed and standing, looking kind of lost, in his living room.
“Mulder, I need to get home.”
“Don’t. Don’t do this Scully. Don’t put up a wall between us, not now. We just spent the night in each other’s arms. You slept over my heart and it was like you were custom made to be there.”
She looked up surprised at those words.
He shrugged and gave her a nervous smile, “I’m not good at the poetry and flowers thing.”
“That sounded pretty good.”
His smile grew a little. “I have an idea.”
She looked at him warily, but he could tell she was already more relaxed.
“Why don’t you stay over tonight too, and we could get used to - “
“Mulder.” But she was smiling now.
“Sounded like a good idea to me.” He took her hand, “Okay, but there is one thing.”
She waited, a smile playing around her lips.
“I haven’t gotten a birthday kiss.”
“A birthday kiss? What about last night?” Her eyebrow rose.
“That didn’t count, no lips involved.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head slightly.
“Hey, I slept with you last night, I don’t want you to think I’m easy.”
“Mulder, ‘easy’ is the last thing I think of you.”
“So do I get the kiss?” He waited, not moving any closer to her.
God, she felt like she was fourteen again. She glanced at him shyly and he did move toward her.
She’d expected a chaste kiss, like the one they had exchanged on New Year’s Eve last year. She was unprepared for the feel of his lips melding into hers, becoming hers. Neither was she prepared for her knees to give way or to find herself clinging to the man to stay upright.
She’d always assumed he would be a good kisser. The one time had been pleasant, but too short to make much of a comparison. That wasn’t going to be a problem this time, not that there was anything to compare this to.
When the kiss finally ended, he didn’t release her, for which she was grateful. They stood there for a long moment, staring into each other’s eyes. His had turned a deep shade of green.
She managed to get her breath back, “I think . . . I think I know what I want for my birthday.”
He just smiled at the endless opportunities.