Neighborly - Part 1 (R)

 

He was lost, that much was obvious, but the morgue should be in the basement.  If he just kept going down, surely he’d find it.  A sound that he couldn’t quite place stopped him.  What the . . . a moan - someone was hurt.  Here in the stairwell?  He pulled his gun and proceeded down.

There, on the bottom landing, a woman.  No one else around.  Even as that registered he heard a door close farther down.  Ignoring that, he knelt beside her.  His gun was back in the holster, and he knelt beside her.  There was blood on her head and from the arrangement of her clothes he’d gotten here none too early. 

She jerked away from him then and began flailing at him, fighting for her life.  “Whoa!  Wait, you’re safe now.  He’s gone, you’re safe.  Listen to me.”  She opened her eyes then and looked at him.  “It’s okay.”

She forced herself to take a deep breath, taking the handkerchief he held out to her and placing it gingerly to the cut on her forehead.

“We need to get you checked out.  Can you put your arms around my neck?”

“I . . . I can walk.”

“You probably can, but I don’t get to rescue many damsels in distress.  Let me milk this a little.”

That actually brought a slight smile to her face and her arms did go around his neck as he took her into his arms.

He carried her easily to the ER, where they received the maximum attention.

“Dr. Scully!”  He was led into an exam room, where he lay her gently on the table.  The nurse asked him to step outside.  By that time, Security had arrived.

He gave them a statement, but since he knew nothing, that didn’t take long.  His original business forgotten for now, he waited until the nurse emerged from her area.

He stood, “Is she okay?”

“Yes, she’s going to be fine.”

“Good.”  He relaxed slightly, then turned toward the door.

“Could you wait?  She wanted to speak to you.”

“Uh, sure.  No problem.”  He resumed his seat and after a moment picked up a magazine.

It wasn’t long before the curtain was pulled aside and the small redheaded woman came toward him.  He took in the bandage on her forehead and the bruises around her neck.

He stood as she approached and smiled down at her.  She was really a pretty little thing.  “I . . . thank you for waiting.  I wanted to thank you for . . . for everything you - “

“I’m just glad I was there.  You’re a doctor here?”

“Yes.  I’m Dr. Scully, Dana Scully.”  She held out her hand.

“Special Agent Fox Mulder.”  He took her hand.

“Special . . .?”

“I’m with the FBI.”

“Well, I . . . I would think you’d specialize in damsels in distress.”

He grinned then, she remembered.

“I’m sure you need to get back to work.  Thank you for waiting, so that I could thank you.”

He shook his head, “I’m happy you weren’t more seriously injured.  Be sure to talk to Security.”

“I will.”  They shook hands again and she watched him leave the ER, feeling strangely let down, almost abandoned.

***** 

He juggled the Styrofoam box in his hand as he stepped back when the door opened.  He hadn’t stepped back far enough though, and she almost ran into him.

She looked up to apologize and their eyes met.  “Agent Mulder?”

He smiled down at her, clearly pleased to see her.  “You’re obviously feeling better.”  He’d thought her pretty a few days ago, immediately following her ordeal.  Now he upgraded that to lovely.

“Yes, thank you.”
 

The man behind her took her arm, and Mulder noted the territorial gesture.

“Oh, Doug, this is Special Agent Mulder.  Agent Mulder, this is Doug Michaels.”  She turned back toward Doug.  “Agent Mulder is the man who rescued me in the stairwell.”

The shorter, blond man looked up at Mulder, assessing him and, for whatever reason, was not pleased with what he saw.  He stuck out his hand anyway.  “Thank you, Agent Mulder.”

“It was my pleasure.”

“Well, we don’t want your dinner to get cold.  It was good meeting you,”

Dana turned to look at Doug.  That was it?  His tone bordered on boredom.

“Uh yeah.  I’m glad you’re doing well Dr. Scully.”  He let her past him and then exited the restaurant, purposely not looking back.

She watched him leave, then turned to look at Doug.  He wasn’t even aware of her, motioning instead for the hostess to seat them.  Her eyes hardened and her posture stiffened.  If he noticed he made no comment.  He took her arm to lead her to the table but she pulled away and stepped ahead of him.  His eyebrow rose, but he kept quiet.

Once seated he ordered a bottle of wine.  “Are you going to be in a mood tonight?”

She just looked at him.  He sighed, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“You want to act like it then, Dana?”

She stiffened again, “You were rude to Agent Mulder.  He did rescue me.”

“I thanked him.  He was just acting a little cocky if you ask me.” 

“Cocky?” 

“Yes, like he’s god’s gift to women or something.   That attitude always irritates me.” 

She held her tongue.  As a woman she hadn’t felt that at all, but her choices were to have a fight, or get through the evening and try to get home early.  She chose the path of least resistance, nodding to him.

He accepted her unspoken apology, which infuriated her more though she held her tongue.  They ate in near silence, and it was his suggestion that he take her home rather than see the movie they had planned.

She was relieved, but tried not to show it.  It wasn’t entirely Doug’s fault that she was finding it harder and harder to spend time with him.  The chemistry she had thought was there in the beginning had either worn off or been her imagination in the first place.  Now she just wanted to go home, maybe soak in a hot tub.

That ended up being exactly what she did, not even inviting Doug in for coffee when he dropped her off.  He was obviously miffed with her and she found herself not caring at all.

What did surprise her was the fact that once relaxed in the tub, with the steamy scent of her bath oil surrounding her, it was Special Agent Mulder’s face that came to her when she closed her eyes.  God’s gift to women?  Well, he had every reason to think that about himself, she was sure.  But he hadn’t come across that way to her.  In fact, shy was the word that came to mind.  That was ridiculous, he hadn’t been shy when he rescued her, or in the ER.  He had been quiet when he met Doug, but that was most likely the vibes he was picking up from Doug himself.

She’d never seen him at the restaurant before.  And yes, she realized, she would have noticed him.    It would be nice to think he’d come there hoping to see her, but that was ridiculous as well.  At least he hadn’t forgotten her; his smile when he saw her had been extremely warming.

She sat up in the tub then.  Had she reacted to seeing him?  Was that what had ticked Doug off?  Well, Doug certainly looked at women and most of the time didn’t even try to hide it.

She eased back down into the warmth of the tub.  She was tired of Doug.  It shamed her slightly to admit that to herself, but that didn’t make it less true.  She’d been going out with him because he was there, comfortable and familiar.  That was a terrible reason.  Even the sex had become mundane, at least for her.

Okay, she might be alone more on the weekends, but she was going to break it off with him.  They would both be better off, and to be honest, being alone right now was better than being with Doug.   She shouldn’t have let inertia carry her this long.

The next time she saw him, she would explain things to him.  Doug probably was already looking for a way to tell her the same thing.  Yes, it was time to move on.

She soaked until the water was cool, then wrapped herself in her warmest robe and curled up on the couch with a novel she had been meaning to get around to for ages.

She went to bed late and woke up even later.  The sun was high in the sky.  She realized she felt free, lighter than she had in a long time.  She would have slept even longer except for the noise above her.  Someone must be moving into that apartment finally. 

After a quick shower, she gathered up her laundry and headed to the basement.

She was fitting her key into the lock and trying to hold on to the empty basket when the front door of the building opened and two men, with a leather couch between them, struggled inside.

The man facing her was short, with a craggy face and glasses.   He automatically gave her the once over.   She managed not to roll her eyes - you have to be nice to the neighbors.

“Now I see the attraction of the building.”  He spoke to the man whose back was to her.  This second man turned, and stumbled, nearly dropping his end of the couch in shock.

“Dr. Scully?”

She had frozen, her hand on the doorknob and the basket falling to her feet, forgotten.  Which one of them was moving in?  Oh please, oh god please . . .

“We seem destined to meet lately.”  He had control of the couch again and was watching her.

“We do, don’t we.”  She finally managed to speak.

“Huh, Mulder.  Could we do this later?”  The smaller man shifted his end of the couch again.

“Oh yeah.  Listen, I’ll be right back.  Okay?”

She nodded and let them pass her in the hall, then retrieved the laundry basket from where it had fallen.  It wasn’t possible, wishes weren’t granted that quickly.  And what business did she have wishing to see him again anyway.

She left her door open, so he would know it was okay to stop by when he returned.  She heard them drop the couch upstairs and some scrapping, then as the smile formed on her face, waited for him to return.

He was at her door almost immediately, tapping on the door facing, but not presuming to enter.  The little man was still with him.

“Hi.  Which one of you is my new neighbor?”  She smiled at both of them.

“I’ll toss you for it, Mulder.”  He was leering at her again, but with her ‘hero’ here she felt safe enough.

“Back off Frohike.  If she finds out I have friends like you I’ll never make any headway with her.”

Dana chuckled, enjoying the bickering, but enjoying even more the fact that HE was the neighbor.  Two other men appeared behind them in her door.

“Come on in.”  She gestured to the whole group.

“Yeah, these are my friends, Frohike, Byers with the beard, and Langly with the hair.”

“Pleased to meet you.”  She shook hands with each of them.  Frohike’s hand held hers the longest, and Mulder elbowed him to get her released.

“Sorry about all the noise.  But everything should be inside soon.  We’re going to order pizza.  Want to join us?”

“Sure.  After I get the clothes in the dryer I’ll be up.”

“Great.  And you can show me where the laundry room is?”

“I think I can handle that.”

The guys backed out and she saw Frohike clap her new neighbor on the back in a congratulatory way.  She shook her head, but felt like someone should congratulate her.

By the time she had her laundry drying, the men had finished unloading the truck and were sprawled around his new living room.  The floor plan was the same as hers, but the two apartments couldn’t have looked more different at present.  She had to chuckle when she entered after tapping on the door and responding to the “In!”

There was some attempt to rise in her presence, but she waved them down.  “Hard work, huh?”

“If they throw you out of here, call a moving company.”  Langly groused.

She watched the heat take over his face.  “Thrown out?  What kind of neighbor am I getting?”

“Hey, it wasn’t my fault.  My work followed me home a couple of times and . . . “

“Do I want to know about this?”  She asked warily.

“Probably not.  But I’ll be more careful here.  I really don’t want to offend my new neighbors.”

“Good.”  She took the beer he handed her, then turned to look around.  “Where’s the rest of your furniture?”

“This is it.”  He gestured toward the table in the kitchen and the desk and couch in the living room.

“What about your bed?”

“Well, I uh, I normally sleep on the couch.”

She looked at him closely to see if he was kidding, decided he wasn’t and dropped it.   She moved over to look at the fish tank, it hadn’t been set up yet, but there were several bags sitting on the rocks with fish swimming around.

The knock on the door drew her attention.  Mulder stepped over Langly, pulling his wallet from his pocket.  He paid the pizza guy and returned to the couch.  “Sorry, I haven’t unpacked any plates yet, but there’re plenty of napkins.”

They insisted that she take the first slice, even though she protested that she hadn’t done any work.  She helped herself to a small slice and made herself comfortable on the couch while they tore into the rest of the pizza.

When the pizza was gone, Langly stretched.  "Okay, Mulder, I'm outa here.  I've got a chat room meeting this afternoon."

"I should give you some space too."  Dana started to rise.

"Hang on just a minute Dana, please?"  She nodded and settled back.  Frohike and Langly exchanged looks.  "I appreciate this guys.  I owe you one."

"We'll think of something.  It was nice meeting you Dana."

"You too." 

She rose as he let the men out, "Mulder, you have a lot to do.   I better let you get started."

"But if you leave, I'll have to do it."  The puppy dog expression on his face brought a grin to her own.

"What if I come check on you in a little while?"

"Promise?"

That got a chuckle.  "Yes, I promise."  She moved to the door, then stopped, “May I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Doesn’t anyone call you Fox?”

“Not if I can stop them.”  He grinned.  “I prefer Mulder.” 

“Then Mulder it is.”

*****

She took pity on him and had him to her place for dinner that night.   About the only things he had really accomplished were setting up the fish tank and the computer.

They were comfortable together and it showed.  When she asked about his work and his partner, his expression again brought a chuckle to her lips.  "What's wrong with him?"

"Nothing.  Well . . . I have trust issues with him."  He smiled a little.

"Fear of commitment?"  She was still grinning.

"Something like that." But he dropped it, so she let it go, talking of other things instead.

*****

It was Tuesday evening; he'd been living there for four days when he tapped on her door.  "Hi, come on in."

He did, following her to the kitchen.  "Can I ask a favor?"

"Um, what?"  But she was smiling as she said it.

"I have to fly out in the morning.  I wondered if you could feed the fish for me?"

"Oh, sure, that wouldn't be a problem."

"Great."  His smile was bright.  "Here."   He withdrew something from his pocket and took her hand.

"What?  A key?  You had a key made for me?"

"Sure.  You'll need to get in."

"I thought you didn't trust."

"I trust you."  The smile faded slightly from his face, and the look in his eyes confirmed that.

*****

When she arrived home the next evening, she let herself in her apartment and put her stuff down, then headed upstairs.  Things weren't a lot different from when she'd been here on Saturday.  There were plenty of boxes untouched, though his clothes had found their way to his closet.

When she returned downstairs, she realized she was actually lonely.   That was silly, they hadn't really spent that much time together, but knowing he was there, in the building, was a warm feeling.

She tried to shake that off, but shortly realized that she wasn't able to just dismiss the fact that he was away and chided herself for it.  There was plenty for her to do, and she probably wouldn't have seen him tonight anyway.

She absolutely refused to think of him any longer, forcing herself to finish up some housekeeping chores she had been putting off.

She was still ready to go to bed a little after ten.  She had just lain down when the phone rang.  "Hello?"

"Hi."

"Mulder?"

"You know my voice."  She could hear the pleasure in his voice.

"I guess I do."

"Is this a really stupid thing - calling you like this?"

"No, I'm glad you did.  The fish are fine."

"Good, I worry about them a lot."

She chuckled and settled back to enjoy the conversation.  They talked for nearly an hour and she found herself extremely relaxed when they did finally say goodnight.

Her co-workers noted and commented on her mood the next day, but she said nothing.

He called earlier that evening, and didn't sound as positive.  "Is the case not going well?"

"About like I expected.  I'd rather hear about your day."

They hadn't talked long when she was startled by a knock on her door.   "Mulder, I need to go.  There's someone at the door."

"No, don't hang up.  Find out who it is first."

She smiled at the protective gesture.  "Okay, hold on."  She went to the door and rose up slightly on her toes to get the best view out of the peephole.  Her heart sank at the sight.  Doug.  And he knew she was home.

She might as well get this over with.  She opened the door.

"Dana, I thought we should talk."

She nodded and moved to allow him entry.  "I'll be right with you."  She brought the phone back to her ear.  "I need to go."

"Is it Doug?"

"Yes."  She didn't add anything.

"Are you okay?"

"Of course.  I’ll talk to you later."

"Dana . . .  ‘nite."  He didn’t want to break the connection, but she needed to talk to Doug.  She'd told him that, he had to respect it.

*****

She was lying in bed, but far from sleep.  When the phone rang, she grabbed it before the first ring ended.

"Hello?"

"Are you okay?"

It was him and she found herself relaxing.  "Yeah, I'm fine."

"You don't sound fine."

"It was . . . it was unpleasant.  I don't think many women have made the decision to stop seeing him."

"He didn't get out of line?"

"He was just upset."

"I wish I was there."

"Me too."

He didn't know what to say to that, but the desire to be back in DC and away from this case, this partner, this . . . "I'll be home tomorrow or the next day."

"Good."  He could hear her smile.

"If you need anything, you know you could call the guys.  Whatever you need . . . "

"Thank you, but it's not necessary.  I’d better go, I have to be in early tomorrow."

"Okay.  Call me if you . . . good night."

"Good night Mulder."

She was able to sleep then, a smile on her face.

*****

Traffic made her a little late getting home the next day, it was happening more and more.  She really should look for another route home.  She let herself in and let the door close behind her after pulling out the key.

She had barely gotten her arm out of her coat when she heard the knock on the door.  She tossed the coat over the back of the couch and automatically checked the peephole, then threw the door open.

“Hi Honey, I’m home.”

“And me without my pearls.”  She was as happy as she remembered being.  Rather than analyze it, she rose onto her toes to brush a kiss on his cheek.

He turned at the last second and their lips met as though magnetized.   He managed to move them both inside, kicking the door closed behind them without releasing her.  When she finally moved away from him he allowed it, reluctantly, but kept his hand on her to steady her.

“Mulder, I . . . I’m sorry I - “ Her cheeks were flaming as she realized to what extent she had betrayed herself.

“Don’t ever apologize for that.  Never Dana.”  He looked around the apartment, “Look, you haven’t started dinner yet, have you?”

“No, I just walked in.”

“Yeah, I was watching for you.  Why don’t we get a bite to eat; there’s no food upstairs.  We could . . . you know, in some place with a lot of people . . . “

“Yeah, that would be a good idea.” 

At least he recognized that things were moving too quickly.  That was a relief, mostly.

She asked him about his case, but he countered with what had happened with Doug.  Well, neither wanted to bring the other down, but it seemed inevitable.   She started, at his insistence, and told him, finally, just how upset Doug had been last night at her apartment.

She saw the tenseness in his own shoulders at her words.  "Dana, you should have told me.  You should have called the police when he grabbed you."  He reached for her hand, then hesitated.

She placed her hand over his to reassure him.  "Mulder, it's over.  He's gone.  His ego was hurt and he reacted, but he didn't really hurt me."  His look was openly skeptical.  "Mulder, he's out of my life."

He glanced down at their hands intertwined.  "I'm going to sound like an egotistical jerk, but . . . did I mess up your relationship?"

"You don't sound like an egotistical jerk.  The answer is, yes.  You helped me see that the relationship was over.  But I made the decision before I really got to know you, before you moved into the building."

"Are you sure I didn't - "

"Mulder, it was the right thing to do.  And way past time."

He took a deep breath and finally nodded.

"Now tell me what you can about the case."

"We're really trying to bring each other down tonight aren't we?"  She squeezed his hand and smiled gently at him.

"The, uh, the case wasn't really straight forward.  They dropped it on my partner's say so, rather than investigate the . . . the evidence I was following."

"Your partner?"

"Yeah.  He, uh, he doesn't understand me."  He gave her a rueful grin, and she chuckled.

"You can't really talk about it, can you?"

He shook his head.  "The case isn't officially closed, and maybe you don't know me well enough to want to hear my theory."

She looked at him curiously.  What did he mean by that?

"We should order."

She gave a slight nod and looked at the menu.  After the waitress left, he picked a new subject entirely.  "Do you have to work tomorrow?"

"No, I actually have enough seniority to get weekends off now."  She smiled.  It came to her that she did a lot of smiling around him.

"Good.  Now I ask if you have plans?"  He looked almost comically eager.

"Well, I do have plans for tomorrow morning, but I'll be free after lunch."

"After lunch?"

"Yes.  I can't get out of this one."

"He's important?" 

"She.  My mother.  I'm going with her to the attorney's.  They made a special Saturday appointment to accommodate me."

"Oh.  Is there a problem?  I mean, lawyer?"

"He's handling Dad's estate.  Mom just doesn't want to go alone."

"Dana, I'm sorry.  I didn't know . . . "

"It's, it's been almost four months.  Dad had a heart attack.  No warning.  It was, it was a good way for him to die.  He didn't linger, or suffer.  But Mom . . ."

Mulder nodded.  "Yeah, of course you should be with her.  But if you feel like it, maybe in the afternoon . . . "

"I think I'll very much feel like it by then."

He nodded, "I'll go in and do some paperwork - my favorite pastime, then we could meet up."

"Yes.  The lawyer's office is just down the street from the Bureau."

"Yeah?  Who's the lawyer?"

"Joseph Simonton of Templeton, Hurst and Simonton."

"I've seen the sign.  So, it's a date?"

She nodded and found herself smiling again.  She barely noticed what she was eating.  The company was too distracting, too congenial.  She couldn't remember a time when she had been so attracted to a man.

Back at the apartment, he watched her unlock her apartment, then rather than follow her in, cleared his throat.  "I, uh, I should head on up.  I still have a lot of unpacking I could do, or . . . you know."

"Yeah.  See you tomorrow, okay?"

He nodded, "Nite."

"Goodnight."  She watched him turn toward the stairs and softly closed the door.  She wasn't sure if she was more disappointed or relieved.  Much too fast . . .

*****

When her mother picked her up the next morning, she saw that his car was already gone.  They hadn't talked about plans, so she'd opted for slacks and a silk t-shirt with a blazer.

She saw how tense her mother was when she got in the car, and put everything else out of her mind.  The session with Mr. Simonton, Joe, went well.  He and her father had been friends for years, and his compassion for her mother was warm and heartfelt.   It didn't take long and ended with an invitation to dinner with Joe and Esther for the next week.

When they got back to the waiting room, her eyes found him as though drawn by a magnet.  It was as though he felt her approach and came to his feet.  Mrs. Scully looked at the two of them, unsure what was happening, but the smile on both of their faces reassured her.

"Hi.  Thought I'd meet you here."

"Mom, this is Fox Mulder.  Mulder, this is my mother, Margaret Scully."

"Pleased to meet you.  Did she say Fox?"

"Just Mulder would be fine."  He shook her hand.  "I thought I'd see if I could take the two loveliest ladies in DC to lunch."

That caught both women a little off guard, but both smiled and, after looking at Dana, Mrs. Scully nodded.  "I'd love to."

He led them to his car and reached for the door handle.  "Mulder, what happened?"  Dana was staring at his car.

"Yeah, pretty fancy key job, huh?"

"When did that happen?"

"Sometime last night.  Some neighborhood I live in."

"Where, where do you live Mulder?"

"Oh, he moved into that apartment above me, Mom."

"This happened in your neighborhood?  Dana?"

"I didn't see any other damage.  It was probably kids and they got to my car first."  He shrugged off the damage and seated Mrs. Scully in the front seat of his car, then Dana in the back.

He chose a teashop that he knew his mother had enjoyed when she was in the city and escorted them in.  The talk was easy, Mrs. Scully was fairly discrete with her interrogation and Dana didn't attempt to rein her in.

Mrs. Scully was obviously pleased to be included and enjoyed the opportunity to meet this new young man in her daughter's life.  Besides, it was obvious he was in her life.  It had been a long time since she had seen Dana so happy.

When they had finished the meal, Mrs. Scully reminded Mulder that she had things to do that afternoon.  Dana wasn't sure it was true, but she was obviously trying to give them some time alone.

"Mrs. Scully, are you sure?  You could - "

"Joe gave me plenty to do this afternoon."

Mulder's face became somber then.  "Mrs. Scully, I was sorry to hear that your husband had passed away."

Maggie looked up at the young man, "Thank you.  I miss him terribly.  We had a lot of wonderful years together, but when you find that one person that you belong with, five hundred years wouldn't be enough."

She noted the involuntary look that passed between them and part of her smiled.  He cared for her daughter.  Maggie wished again that William were here with her.  She was sure he would have liked this man, and she did so wish he could have met him.

"Come on, I'm not going to intrude on your whole day.  Have fun and thank you so much for the lunch.  If you could take me back to my car I'll let the two of you get on with your day."

Mulder looked over at Dana and she nodded.  He rose and held Mrs. Scully's chair.

Mulder drove them back to Mrs. Scully's car.  "It was very nice meeting you, Fox.  I hope we'll see each other again soon."

"So do I."  He glanced over at Dana, who nodded smiling.

"Good.  Now go, have a wonderful day."

He waited until she drove off, then returned to his own car.

"So, what do you have planned?"  She smiled at him as he entered the car.

"Hmm, maybe I should surprise you."

"I know, my own personal tour of the FBI building."  She grinned.

She saw the smile slip from his face.  "No.  I think you should stay far away from that place.  And especially stay away from me over there."

"What?"

"Look, you don't want anyone at the Bureau to even know you know me.  Okay?"  He started the car.  "How about a drive?  There's someplace I'd like to show you."

He wanted the subject changed, and she wanted to spend the day with him.   This other could be discussed later.  "I'd love a drive."

He nodded and pulled out of his parking space and out of the garage into traffic.  She quickly realized they were headed toward Virginia.

"How did you find this place?"

"Actually I was here on a case, unofficially, and there was this really beautiful spot to just sit and . . . and be.  I wanted you to see it."

"I can't wait."

"You know, your mother's a very nice lady."

"Yes, she is.  She raised the four of us very well.  Dad was Navy, so he was gone a lot, but she kept us in line."

"Four of you?"

"Yep, two girls and two boys.  Bill's the oldest; he's in the Navy too.  Then Melissa, she's a designer and the last I heard was in California.  Then me and finally Charlie.  He teaches at a university in Ohio."

"Wow, that's a diverse group."

She laughed and agreed.  She started to ask about his family when he pointed to a sign.  "There."

She turned to see what he was talking about.  'Skyland Mountain, Ascend to the Stars'.  "Is that where we're going?"

"Yeah.  The sky tram isn't running this time of year, but the scenery is really awesome."

For some reason she felt like the subject had been changed again, but decided not to pursue it, letting him guide the conversation for now.

It really wasn't that long a drive, or maybe it was the company.   At the top of the mountain, he pulled into a parking space.  He got out and hurried to her side of the car and opened the door. "Come on, we have a little walk now."

He opened the trunk and handed her a heavier jacket and a blanket, while he took a gym bag and his own jacket.  He hoisted the bag onto his shoulder and took her hand. 

They walked for about thirty minutes before he stopped.  He gestured at the view.  "Did I oversell it?"

"Oh Mulder, it's beautiful."

He nodded and dropped the gym bag, then lifted the blanket from her shoulder.  He spread it out then took her hand and seated her.  He sat beside her and opened the gym bag.  He handed her a bottle of water, then pulled out some grapes and cheese.  "Hokey?"

"Wonderful.  How did you find this place?"

"I was . . . I was looking into an old case and just wanted to see the place."

She nodded and looked back out at the view.

"You know, I feel like I know you, Dana, but if anyone asked me questions about you, I couldn't answer them.  I mean, I don't even know what kind of doctor you are.  Would you remove my appendix, or do I have to get pregnant to see you?"

She chuckled, then grew serious.  "No, I'm the kind of doctor you never want to see."  She looked away for a minute.  "I'm a pathologist."

He blinked at that, "You mean . . . dead bodies?"

She nodded, "dead bodies."

"Why?"

She shrugged, “Maybe I've read too much Patricia Cornwell, but I'm fascinated.  The human body has so much to tell.  I help the police; I work with the CDC.  It's just . . . it's what I want to do."

"I bet you're good at it."

She nodded, "I am."  She smiled up at him; "Maybe as good as you are at profiling."

"Who said I was good at profiling?"

"I've been in touch with your fan club."  She grinned.

"My what?"

"Frohike called me."

Mulder sat up; "He called you?  Do I need to ask him to step outside?"

She laughed out loud.  "You were out of town.  He just wanted to make sure I was okay."

"Yeah, right.  The little pervert."  But he was smiling again.  "So what did he say about me?"

"Shouldn't we wait until home room?"

He glared at her for a second and she tried to look serious.  "Okay, okay.  He says you're the best at the Bureau.  That you get insights and flashes that solve the unsolvable cases.  That your superiors call you 'Spooky'."

"Well that part's true."  He grimaced at the name.

"Are you that good?"

"No.  I've been lucky."

"You don't earn a Ph.D. from Oxford by luck."

"I'm obviously not paying Frohike enough."

"Do you enjoy profiling?" 

He looked away then and she reached out and touched his arm. 

"The truth?  No, but I am good at it for some reason."

"Why do you stay?  I mean if you don't like it . . . "

"It's not why I joined the FBI anyway.  I wanted access and now I have it."

"Access to what?"

He looked at her for a long moment, as though asking a question she couldn't quite hear.  "It's not something I talk about much."

She saw how serious he was.  "If you want to talk about it, I'd like to hear it."

He still hesitated and she took his hand.  "I . . . I've met your mother, you've told me about your brothers and sister.  I haven't said a word about my family."

"I know."  She said it softly and squeezed his hand.

"My parents divorced when I was fourteen.  I stayed with my mother until I went away to school.  I didn't see my father but a couple of times."

"I'm sorry."

"About the divorce?  Don't be.  It was bitter.   I think my mother truly hated my father by that time."  He gave a sad chuckle.  "Maybe she was right."

"Mulder?  I'm sorry."

"I, uh, I had a sister."  That startled her, but she kept quiet.  "She disappeared from our home when she was eight.  I was twelve.  I was babysitting and I was there when whatever happened . . . I woke up in the hospital a couple of days later.  We never found her." 

"Oh my god, Mulder.  I'm so sorry."

"It tore the family apart.  We never talked about it.  I know Mom blamed my father though she never explained why.  She still won't.  When I got recruited by the Bureau, it seemed like the best way to conduct my own investigation into what happened."

"Have you?"

He nodded, "It took a while to find her file, it was buried in the basement along with a lot of other unsolved or unsolvable cases.  They call them the X-Files."

"Mulder, you don't feel guilty about this, do you?  You were twelve."

He shrugged.  "Yeah, I feel guilt.  I was there; I should have looked after her.  And I still haven't been able to . . . the case I was on unofficially when I found this place was, I think it was, related.  The Bureau doesn't say too much, since I do this on my own time.  As long as I continue to do as well as I do with the profiling . . ."

Without hesitation she moved closer to him and put her arms around him.  His own arms went around her as well and they sat in comfortable silence.

After a little while she looked up at him.  "Thank you for telling me this Mulder."

"I told you, I trust you."

"You don't know me that well."

"I feel like I do."

She nodded at that.  Then without really planning it, moved toward him, pressing her lips to his.  He obviously didn't mind, pulling her even closer.

When they broke apart, he took a deep breath.  "I'm finding it really hard to go slow with this relationship."

"Me too." She whispered.

That brought a smile to his face.  "That's very good to hear." 

She moved slightly away from him.  "Maybe we should - "

"Get back to a public place again?"

"I don't want to do this wrong, Mulder."

"Me either.  It'll be sunset soon, then I'll take you back to civilization.  Okay?"

"Okay."  She relaxed back into his arms and enjoyed the feel of him against her and the peace of this place.  

They didn't talk much, just being together.  The sunset he had been waiting for was spectacular.  She couldn't remember being closer to a man, and nothing physical had really happened between them.  It was only a matter of time.  She knew that without a doubt.

They stopped for a quiet dinner on the way back to DC and she got him to talk about Oxford, leaving unhappy memories for another time.

When he dropped her off at her apartment, he refused to come in for a drink.  "Taking it slow means I can't come in, not now Dana.  But soon."

She nodded and turned to enter her apartment.  He stopped her and gave her a quick kiss, then stepped back and after a moment, turned toward the stairs.

*****

She didn't sleep well, knowing he was directly above her, only one flight away, kept intruding on her dreams.  The alarm wasn't really needed, she had been awake for nearly an hour when it went off, but couldn't force herself out of bed.

At the jarring sound, she slapped her hand on the off button and threw back the covers.  She forced herself into the shower and got ready for her day.

She was fixing herself a cup of coffee when she heard the knock on her door.  She couldn't stop the smile from forming on her face.  Mulder.   Probably just wanted to wish her a good day.

The thoughts of seeing him made her less cautious and she didn't bother with the peephole, just opening the door with a smile.

That smile vanished as Doug pushed his way into her apartment.  "I waited until he left.  Didn't take you long to get him into your bed, did it?"

"What are you - "

"Is he that good Dana?  You throw me over after all these months, after it takes me weeks to get into your bed?  You can replace me in a couple of days, huh?"

"Mulder and I aren't - "

His hand against her face kept her from finishing the sentence.   She stood more stunned than hurt, her hand to her cheek.  No man had ever hit her before.

Her lack of reaction seemed to enrage him even more and he swiped a lamp off of the table beside her couch.  That caused her to take a step back from him.

He saw it out of the corner of his eye and moved toward her again.  He grabbed her arm and before she could speak, punched her in the jaw.  Pain flared and her vision swam as her knees buckled.  She felt his shoe connect with her ribs, then blackness overtook her.

*****