The deli was crowded, he should have known better than to try this place at this time of day. He held his tray and looked around.
“Mr. Skinner?” His head turned to locate the voice.
“Mrs. Scully, isn’t it?” He smiled.
“You’re welcome to share my table. Looks like we came at a bad time.”
He put the tray down. “You’re sure you don’t mind, Mrs. Scully?”
“Only if you’ll call me Maggie.” She smiled up at him.
“I’m Walter.” She nodded and moved her drink to give him more room.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here before.” He glanced at the bag beside her chair.
“This isn’t really my section of town, but I had a friend recommend a shop down the street, so I thought I’d check it out.”
“The little gourmet shop, about three doors down. They had some spices and other ingredients I had looked for and not been able to find.”
“I know the place. They do have a good selection.” He nodded.
“Do you cook?” She asked.
“When I can. I enjoy it, but being alone I don’t usually bother.”
“I’ve always thought men made better cooks. Although I must admit my husband never was. Men seem to be more adventuresome, willing to try new tastes or something.”
“Adventuresome is the word. I’ve had some real disasters in the kitchen, but some successes as well.” He grinned.
“I would venture to guess that your successes far outweigh the disasters. How about baking?’
“Never. I am absolutely lousy there. Give me a wok and some strange ingredients any time.”
Maggie laughed. “Well, the next time you’re feeling adventuresome and need a dessert, let me know. That’s more my speed.”
Walter looked at her and heard himself say. “It would be presumptuous of me to ask if you were busy Saturday night for such a collaboration, wouldn’t it?” He’d even startled himself with that suggestion, but it felt right.
She blinked but responded, “Not at all, I think that might be fun.”
“Thanks.” He smiled his relief. “I haven’t had a casual conversation like this with a woman in so long, I’ve obviously forgotten how.”
“You’re doing very well, Walter. We’ve actually made a “date” for lack of a better word and have only been here ten minutes. I would think that was unusually fast for both of us.”
He laughed out loud. What a charming woman! So this was where Dana got it. They continued to visit until Walter happened to look up and see the clock over the counter.
“Oh no, I’m late for a meeting. I haven’t had a lunch this nice since I can remember. I really have to go, but I will call you and firm things up for Saturday.”
“I’m looking forward to it, Walter.” She smiled as she watched him leave and hurry back toward his office.
A date. Well, not really, just a dinner but it promised to be fun. She had spent some time with him in the past, usually at hospital bedsides, so they weren’t exactly strangers. She realized she was reassuring herself for no good reason and began to decide on a dessert for Saturday evening.
Mulder stood and stretched. “Enough paperwork. I’m gonna go get something to eat. It’s been a long time since lunch. Wanna come?”
“Could you bring me something back? I need to finish this and call Mom.”
“Be right back.”
Scully typed the rest of the paragraph and leaned back to reread it as she began dialing her mother’s number.
“Hi, Mom. It’s me.”
“Hi yourself. What can I do for you today?”
“I got two tickets to a play at the Kennedy Center for Saturday night. I was wondering if you wanted to go.”
“Honey, I have plans that night. Why don’t you ask Fox?”
She ignored that. “Plans? Something going on over at the church?”
“No, actually I have a date.”
There was a momentary pause in the conversation. “Oh, oh that’s wonderful Mom.”
“A little less enthusiasm Dana, don’t overwhelm me.”
“I’m sorry. You just caught me off guard. Who is this guy?”
“A very nice man that I’ve met on several occasions. You don’t need any more than that.”
“Well, uh, what are you two going to be doing?”
“We’re having dinner at my house. He’s cooking and offered to do it here so I wouldn’t have to drive home alone late at night. So you see, he is a gentleman. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“I don’t know how to stop that Mom.”
“I know, but try. This is not a romantic entanglement by any means. We both just wanted someone to eat with. See if Fox is free. Gotta go, my oven timer just went off. Bye, love you.”
Dana was still staring at the phone when Mulder returned with her chocolate.
“I guess so.”
“Is your Mom all right?” He pressed when she still looked . . . unsettled.
“She’s busy Saturday night. She has a date.”
“Well good,” he shrugged, “at least someone has them.”
She shot him that patented Scully eyebrow.
“I said the wrong thing?”
“Does your mother date?”
“How the hell would I know? Sorry, is this really bothering you?”
“It shouldn’t but . . .”
“Well, who is the guy, we could check him out.”
“She wouldn’t give me his name.”
“Because she knew we would check him out.” He watched with amusement as the color stained her cheeks. “Shame on you Scully. Thinking such unethical thoughts.”
She glared at him without speaking. He tossed her the candy and lowered himself into his chair.
“I guess I didn’t think it would get to you like this. I mean, your mother having a date.” He was more than a little surprised.
“I didn’t think it would. She is an adult and there’s no reason for her to be alone for the rest of her life.”
“Whoa, this is a date. Not an engagement.”
“I know, but she just sounded so . . . so pleased. Now who do I ask to go to the play with me? Mulder?”
“It’s not The Vagina Monologues again, is it?”
“Yeah, like you would attend that, even at gun point.”
“Are you implying, Agent Scully, that I am not in touch with my feminine side?”
Scully gave a very unfeminine snort. “Right, your feminine side.”
“Hey, I think I’ve been insulted.”
“Bright boy. No, it’s a road company of Phantom.”
“Well, I guess I could go.” He feigned reluctance. “I mean it’s not a basketball game, but . . .”
“My Mom has a date and I get - ”
“Don’t finish that thought, G-woman. I might get offended.”
She shook her head and turned away. A date. She shook it off.
Mulder was dressed nicely for the play, no jeans and t-shirt, even though it was a Saturday night, and he’d insisted on picking her up as though it were a real date. He eyed her appreciatively when she answered the door. It might be black, but that dress sure as hell couldn’t be mistaken for severe or business like.
“You look good, Scully. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.”
She looked down, smoothing the fabric over her abdomen. “No, I rarely wear this to the office.”
“Good, too distracting - for all those other FBI agents in the building. You know we have a lock on the door . . . “
She rolled her eyes and reached for her wrap. He had it first and to her surprise, placed in around her shoulders. He leaned in and she could feel his breath on her ear. “It’s a good lock.”
She chuckled, which she knew was the wrong thing to do. Encourage this man and . . . She moved toward the door and he followed.
The play was excellent, the road company doing an exceptional job, yet she found herself oddly distracted. At the intermission, he led her to a corner and seemed to loom over her. “What’s wrong, Scully? Is it being here, with me? I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
She shook her head, so typical of him to assume he was the problem in a social setting. “Oh Mulder, I’m sorry. It’s not you at all. It’s . . . I feel so stupid.”
“I keep thinking about Mom on her date.”
He blinked at that, he’d honestly put it out of his mind. “It’s really getting to you.”
She looked down and the tip of his finger under her chin brought her face back up to him. “Stupid, huh?”
“No, concerned. Is this her first date since your father died?”
“I . . . I think so. Mulder, it never occurred to be that this would bother me.”
“You were very close to your father, weren’t you?”
She nodded and he saw the tears sparkle in her eyes. “Until the last couple of years we were, until I . . . “
“Joined the Bureau.” He finished for her.
She nodded. The lights lowered, announcing the end of intermission. “Scully, do you want to leave?”
“No, it’s a wonderful play and I want to see it.”
“Okay, whatever you want.”
She managed a smile and took his proffered arm to return to their seats.
When he handed her his handkerchief a little later, he knew it wasn’t just the play causing her tears. When he led her to the car afterward, he opened the door and seated her, then surprised himself by saying, “It’s not that late, would you like to swing by your mother’s house?”
He saw the hope flare in her eyes. “Would we be spying?”
He shrugged and grinned, “A little. We don’t have to go in. Her company might be gone and she’s all tucked in.”
“Not this early, not Mom. You really don’t mind?”
“Mind? Come on Scully.”
She managed a little smile then and settled herself in the seat. He shut her door and moved around the car. It took a little while to get out of the traffic around the theatre but relatively quickly they reached her mother’s neighborhood.
The house was lit up, and there was a car in her driveway.
“He’s still here.” She spoke flatly.
“But they’re still downstairs.” He tried to lighten her mood.
“Thanks.” As she mock-punched his arm.
“Hey, assault on a fellow officer, I think I can bring char - “
“Mulder, that car.” She broke in, her voice sounded slightly strangled.
“What?” His head whipped around to look at it. Come to think of it, it did look familiar. He pulled a little closer and his eyes widened to match hers. “Skinner?”
“Get out of here. Please, let’s get out of here.” Her voice was shaking and after a quick glance at her, he did as she bade. Skinner was Maggie’s date? Shit. He chanced another glance in her direction. She was frozen in her seat, unmoving. He didn’t have a clue what to say, so for once he kept his mouth closed. Quips would not be welcome at this point, not that any came to mind. Skinner?
When he pulled up to her place, he parked and let her out, walking her to the door. Once there, she made no move to open the door, so he used his own key, letting them both in.
“Skinner? Why would she be seeing Walter Skinner?”
“Well, he’s a nice enough man, Scully.”
She looked over at him and he quailed. “We don’t know anything about him.”
“We know he’s a widower.”
“We know he was accused of murdering that prostitute after he slept with her.”
“Scully, he was cleared and he’s not going to put the moves on your mother.” He started to add ‘on a first date’ but bit that back. “He knows your mother is a lady. And they have spent time together before.”
“Come on Scully. I’m sure it’s all innocent, two people who just wanted a little company over a meal.”
She looked up at him, her eyes craving reassurance. He put his arm around her and gave her a little hug. “You want me to talk to him Monday?”
“What, ask his intentions?”
“I’ll try to be a little more subtle than that.”
She sighed, “I’m being ridiculous. I know it rationally, it’s just - “
“He’s on Ahab’s territory.”
She nodded, looking so young and vulnerable. He hugged her again. “I better get out of here.”
“Wouldn’t you like some coffee or something?”
He met her eyes and realized she wasn’t ready to be alone quite yet. “Sure. That’d be good.” She gave him a small smile and turned toward the kitchen.
He followed her, but now his mind was on something else. He watched her fix the coffee and bring the cups to the table. “Mulder?”
He looked up as though surprised to see her there. He tried to grin at her, “Sorry, I was thinking about something you asked me.”
He gave a small shrug. “You asked if my mother ever dated. I realized I honestly don’t have a clue. We don’t talk, we’re almost never together. I guess I’m not a very good son.”
“Mulder, why do you say that?”
“I should call her more often, spend time with her.”
“We work strange hours, Mulder.”
He nodded, “But I don’t think she’s ever dated since the divorce. She doesn’t have much use for the male of the species.”
“Except for you.”
He looked up startled, “Uh, yeah, except for me.” He did manage a small smile then, “Maybe she prefers women.”
“Would that bother you?”
“I was kidding.” He looked down and wondered mildly when they had taken each other’s hand. “I can’t imagine her showing affection to anyone.”
She was aghast at that statement and was glad he was looking away. She knew her face would betray her, and her grip tightened.
He looked up then and blinked, coming back to her. “Well, I’ve done a great job of cheering you up, haven’t I?”
“I didn’t ask you to stay to cheer me up. I just wanted your company.”
She watched his lips part in surprise. “Weren’t you listening Scully? Even my own mother doesn’t want my company.”
“That’s her loss.” She said it lightly, but her eyes were serious.
After a moment he gave a slight nod, “Well, it’s getting late. I really should get out of here.”
“Yeah, thanks again for going with me tonight.”
“It was kind of fun.” He grinned at her and she followed him to the door. He reached for the knob, then stopped and turned back to her. “Listen, tomorrow night I was gonna order in a pizza and maybe watch a video. Want to come over?”
“Uh, yeah, I’d like that.”
His smile broadened and he nodded, then let himself out. He waited in the hall until he heard the lock engage, then left with a lighter step.
She picked up the phone on the third ring, after dropping her laundry basket the next morning. “Hello?”
“Hi, I thought I was going to get your machine.” Her mother’s voice gave her pause.
“Sorry, I was doing housework.”
“Did you and Fox have fun last night?”
“Yeah, it was kind of nice. How about you?”
“I had a very nice dinner. Dana, you should probably know - “
“That it was Walter Skinner?” Scully interrupted.
“How did you - “
“That’s why they put the ‘I’ in FBI, Mom. Are you . . . “ She said lightly.
“It was just dinner, I told you. But I did enjoy myself. If I saw him again, would it be a problem for you, at work I mean?”
“You had a good time?”
“Yes, I did. It was different and nothing’s going to come of it, so you don’t have to worry about that, but I did enjoy myself.”
“I’m glad you did, Mom.” She realized she meant it.
“Well, well good. After our previous conversation . . . “
“I was being stupid. I do want you to have fun.” Not like, like Mulder’s mother. “I don’t especially want you to marry my boss, but - “
“Marry! Dana, don’t be silly.”
Scully smiled to herself, her mother had had a good time last night and after her conversation with Mulder, she really was pleased.
“Anyway, since I don’t plan for you to marry me off tonight, would you like to get together, do something? I did blow you off last night.”
Scully chuckled, “Actually I have plans.”
“What is this? You’re not trying to match-make.”
“Well, I think it’s a great idea.”
Scully rolled her eyes, and groaned slightly. “Don’t make me regret this Mom.”
Her mother laughed, “Maybe these FBI men aren’t all bad. Go on, do your housework and have fun tonight. Let’s try to get together soon, if we can coordinate our heavy social calendars.”
Scully chuckled. “Right, we’ll do that. Talk to you later, Mom. Love you.”
He answered the door almost before she knocked. His smile was warm and welcoming.
“Well, you’re in a good mood.” She turned to watch him as he shut the door.
He shrugged, “I had a good day and now I have great company for this evening.”
She pursed her lips, “What made it such a good day?”
He shrugged, placing his hand on her back and led her toward the couch. “Want a beer?”
She chuckled, “Sure, but do I get an answer?”
He hung his head, “I . . . I called Mom today. You know, after last night . . .”
“Did you have a good talk?”
“We did.” He smiled down at her. “I think I surprised her, but after a couple of minutes, she relaxed and we, we just talked. Maybe I should thank Skinner, after I get his intentions toward your mother.”
Scully huffed at him, “You don’t have to go to Skinner. I talked to my Mom too, and it’s . . . it’s okay.”
“You’re not jealous that she has more social life?”
“Don’t push it Mulder.” But she was grinning now.
“And you are out tonight for the second night in a row.”
“Yes, I am.” She grinned, “and if I play it right, I bet Frohike would ask me out tomorrow.”
“I’d kick his ass.” Mulder growled, but grinned as Scully laughed. He turned to the kitchen to get their beers and she settled onto the couch. “Thanks Mom.” She whispered.