Scully picked up the phone and, after a second, waved Mulder back to the files. It was for her so he continued his search. When she hung up she rose and he looked up again. "Skinner wants to see me."
"Yep. I shouldnít be long." She was out the door and he stood looking after her for just a moment before returning to the files.
"Agent Scully, thank you." Skinner stood as she entered the room and motioned for Angie to close the door behind her as she left. "I know youíre busy but an opportunity has presented itself that I think would be of great interest to you. Weíre creating a task force and your name was mentioned as a member due to your medical background." He handed her a file. "This could be quite a feather in your cap here at the Bureau."
"My assignment Ė "
"This will not replace your assignment on the X-Files. This will be in addition and should an assignment take you out of town, that will be accommodated. I do want to urge you to take this opportunity Scully. The X-Files may or may not continue indefinitely, in either case this kind of notation in your personnel file canít hurt."
"Can I get back to you?"
"It needs to be soon. Could you let me know something tomorrow?" She looked up startled, tomorrow? "Thereís going to be a congressional kickoff this weekend. Iíd like you on board for that."
She nodded and stood. "Iíll be in touch tomorrow morning."
Mulder turned from his computer when the door opened. "Iím assuming it wasnít a major scolding since I wasnít invited."
"Not a scolding at all. Iíve been invited to sit on a congressional taskforce, because of my medical background."
He stiffened immediately though he tried to hide it. Another assignment for her? Without him. She caught his reaction but didnít comment directly. "Theyíve promised this wonít get in the way of my regular assignment."
"Oh. How long is this supposed to last?"
"That wasnít mentioned. Donít worry, I wonít make you do all the paperwork. Just your share for a change." He made a face at her but wasnít completely mollified. It felt like they were taking her away again. She had returned to her work and wasnít looking at him so he took the opportunity to watch her for a moment.
He shook it off and turned back to his computer. She said it was a sideline, they hadnít taken her off the X-Files. Heíd just keep his eyes open.
Skinner was pleased, this would be very good for her, expose her to the right people. If she knew what else was available . . . nevermind.
"This is good news Agent Scully. You do need to know, since this is congressional, there is a black tie kick off Friday night. Youíll get to meet some of the backers of this study."
"Black tie? I donít know . . . "
"Iím just not comfortable at functions like that."
"Well, neither am I but I have to make an appearance. We could attend together, for moral support." She looked up and had to smile at his discomfort. It wasnít a date, but she understood why he was uncertain.
"I guess that would be okay." His shoulders relaxed and he knew he hadnít completely hidden his uncertainty.
"Good then, Iíll get the details to you. I think youíve made a wise decision to be part of this Scully."
Skinner knocked on her door and she opened it quickly, as though sheíd been watching for him. He felt like a fool in the monkey suit, but it was part of his job. He wasnít prepared for the sight that greeted him when she opened the door.
It wasnít that he didnít know that Scully was a beautiful woman, but he didnít think about it. Now it was foremost in his mind. This probably wasnít a good idea, escorting her to this dinner. But he was her superior and it was an official function.
He realized he was standing in her doorway, staring at her. Smooth, Walter. "You look lovely Agent Scully."
"Why donít you use Dana tonight?"
He smiled and nodded; "Walter would probably make sense too. Are you ready?"
"I am. Let me get my wrap." She turned and he was able to admire the dress more closely. It was form fitting; sequined with an extremely low cut bodice and the blue matched her eyes exactly. He felt his groin tighten in appreciation and was startled. How long had it been since that had happened?
She returned and he held out his arm. She took it and they walked to his car. Neither noticed the car parked near the side of the building or the man that slumped down as they approached Skinnerís car.
Heíd never seen that dress. Not that heíd have any occasion to. Scully didnít wear things like that in the field. Why had he even come here? He knew she had plans with Skinner. Well, not plans exactly but . . . Damn she looked good. He adjusted his slacks; no way he could get out of the car even if he wanted to. Heíd be arrested for indecent exposure.
They entered the ballroom together and Skinner noticed the heads that turned toward them, knowing it wasnít because of him. She smiled up at him then and he relaxed. Several agents approached them, and greetings were exchanged. Skinner offered to get her a glass of wine and she accepted. When he returned she had been cornered by Agent Tom Rickard, who was paying altogether too much attention to her cleavage in Skinnerís opinion.
"Excuse me Agent Rickard, but there are some people Agent Scully needs to meet." He took her arm and led her away much to her relief. She looked up at him and smiled.
She looked around the room finally noticing that there were other women there. "Not a feminist taskforce, is it?"
"You know the Bureau better than that."
"I feel like a trophy wife." She remarked ruefully. Skinner looked down at her startled, if these people thought that about her it was only because they didnít know her.
He led her over to a clump of senators and introduced her. He noted the looks that the wives of the men were giving her, she was obviously a threat Ė looks and brains. She kept her hand on his arm making sure everyone knew she was with him. It was making him warm, too warm, but the wives had begun to relax.
When they took their seats he got to watch her at her most charming. He was able to sit back and just observe her in an environment that was new for him. Dinner was better than he expected, no rubber chicken here and the open bar continued. The speeches were mercifully short and then the music started.
"Oh no." He heard her whisper and felt her hand lightly touch his knee. He looked up in time to see Agent Rickard zeroing in on her.
"Would you like to dance?"
The gratitude was clear on her face and he rose immediately. "Excuse us Agent Rickard." He held her chair and led her onto the floor. She came into his arms as though they had always danced together.
After a moment she looked up at him, "Youíre a very good dancer, sir."
"Walter, remember? Itís not a talent I can display a lot around the office. Sharon loved to dance and she taught me. We went out a lot when we were first married."
"She did a good job." He pulled her closer and spun her around. The movement made it even easier to see what little she was wearing underneath the blue sequins and he felt his body respond again. This time however, it wasnít possible to keep it secret from her.
To his utter shock she didnít pull away from him or make any comment, though her cheeks did seem slightly pinker than a few minutes ago. Of course that could be from the dancing.
He was sure they would be returning to their seats following the dance, but she seemed in no hurry to sit down so they continued dancing for quite a while.
"Dana, we can probably sneak out now if you want."
"That might be a good idea. Tom seems to be waiting for an opportunity to cut in." He nodded and led her toward the table to get her purse, then placed her wrap around her shoulders.
At her apartment she opened her door and turned to look up at him. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"Better not, but thanks." He smiled at her. "I had a wonderful time."
"So did I; much better than I would ever had imagined. Thank you." For just a second he fantasized about giving her a goodnight kiss, but it was only a fantasy and he was already over the line with the dancing.
He nodded and stepped back. "See you Monday morning. The real work begins then." She waited in the doorway until he left the building, then moved inside and locked up for the night, her mind on the evening she had just enjoyed.
The work with Walter, well with the taskforce, took a lot more time than she had imagined, but she was enjoying it thoroughly. She had managed to make a couple of trips out of town with Mulder on their own work, but now she was having to cut back on the X-Files to meet the deadlines imposed by the powers that be. She felt some guilt about that, but Mulder was keeping busy so maybe he hadnít noticed her absence.
It was late and theyíd been working together silently for more than an hour. She sat back against the couch and stretched. Walter looked up in time to see the movement and appreciate it. He had a better understanding of why Mulder worked so well with this woman, though not of why she worked so well with him. Heíd known she was smart, educated, assertive, but not to what degree. Bevins had done the Bureau and this woman a disservice by assigning her to Mulder, but it was irrevocable now.
Scully placed her hand on his knee and levered herself up from the floor, joining him on the couch. "Need a break?" He asked.
"Yes, my brain is fried." She smiled up at him and without thinking he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. He jerked back, appalled at himself.
"Agent Scully, I . . . I apologize. I donít . . . " What the hell was wrong with him?
"Walter, itís . . . itís okay. In fact itís better than okay. Please, donít be upset."
"No, itís not. I donít know what I was thinking. I believe we need to break for the evening. Youíve been working too hard and I obviously Ė "
"Are attracted to me?" He was taken aback at the sparkle in her eyes. "If I remember correctly, I kissed you the first time."
He was back in that elevator, her hands on his face, kissing him quickly and thoroughly. "That was different, Iíd done you a favor . . ."
"Maybe you just did me another one."
He rose from the couch; he had to put distance between them. "I think you should head on home Agent."
She smiled, "Youíre right. Please donít be upset about . . . Iím not angry."
"Thank you Agent Scully." He had his most professional demeanor in place again. He seated himself behind his desk willing her to leave the room. This couldnít happen again, no more late evenings in his office. He could lose his job, not to mention his mind. If Mulder ever found out about this . . .
* * * * *
He was headed to his car when he spotted her. She had the hood of her car up and was leaning over the engine. He hesitated but he couldnít just walk away. With a sigh he headed in her direction. "Problem?"
"Itís not the battery, but I canít get it to turn over." He looked in at the engine himself. It was just a reflex; he really didnít know anything about cars.
"Why donít I give you a ride home. You can have someone come look at it tomorrow."
"Thanks. I appreciate it." She knew he was uncomfortable around her. He had been since heíd kissed her the other night. Maybe this would give them the opportunity to talk. He opened the door for her and after she had seated herself closed it and walked slowly to his own side of the car.
This was a terrible idea. Heíd done a pretty good job of not being alone with her, now this. He remained quiet, he could tell she wanted to speak; sheíd started to a couple of times but something had stopped her. Probably his attitude, but it was the only way.
When he stopped in front of her apartment he finally turned to her. "Will you come inside Walter? Please."
"I canít Agent Scully, Iím late for Ė "
"Bullshit, sir." His eyes widened but he didnít respond. "We need to talk about what happened Walter. If you donít get out of this car, Iím not going to either."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me."
"Agent Scully Ė "
"Dana. And I know all about Bureau policy. In case you care Iím sick of it."
"You and Agent Mulder Ė "
"Agent Mulder is not interested in me as a woman. Heís made that clear for years and Iíve finally had to accept it."
"You donít believe that."
"I havenít wanted to." She looked away for a moment. "He doesnít leave me a lot of choice."
"You love him donít you?" He was watching her closely now.
"Yes." She looked up at him, "I do. But I have to compartmentalize it. Iím pretty good at it after all these years. Weíre a great team, we know how to work with each other Ė most of the time Ė and Iím proud of the work we do. That has nothing to do with what happened in your office the other night."
"I think youíre wrong. Mulder may be the only man on the planet more inept at showing you how he feels than I am, but you shouldn't doubt how he feels about you."
"Walter, I donít want to talk about him. Would you please come inside?" He found himself nodding.
Mulder let himself into her apartment. He shouldnít be here but she wasnít due back for a couple of days. The taskforce was taking a lot more time than he had imagined and he felt she was stretching herself too thin. Besides he was worried about her, she hadnít been herself. She was keeping something from him. If something was wrong, if she was ill Ė not the cancer please Ė he needed to find out.
Nothing on or in her desk, but sheíd keep information like this closer Ė her bedside table or her dresser. That would make him feel even more uncomfortable but he was going to do whatever it took to help her. Of course she was working too hard, but supposedly the taskforce was almost over, the final report being drafted. Then she would only have the one job Ė with him.
He opened her bedroom door quietly, the blinds were drawn but he could still see. If only he couldnít. He watched Skinner sit up, as Scully stirred. She opened her eyes and they grew impossibly wide. He was moving now, toward the door, out of the apartment as fast as he could move. Then she was out of the bed snatching up her robe as she chased him to the living room.
"Mulder! What are you doing here? Whatís going on?"
"Whatís Ė youíre asking me that?" He shook her hand off. "You choose Ė after six years . . . I thought . . . Nevermind what I thought. Have good life Scully." He slammed out the door.
"Mulder! Mulder?" She jumped when Skinner came up behind her. "What happened? What was Mulder doing here?"
"I donít know. I think we need to talk to him."
"No, I need to talk to him. I . . . I need to get dressed." He nodded and stepped back from her, more unsure of himself around her than before theyíd gone to that dinner together. Not that he hadnít been expecting this on some level since they had gotten together. She might not know what she was to Mulder, but he did.
He wasnít at his apartment when she arrived and she didnít know where else to look. He wasnít at the office, he wasnít with the guys, she was at wits end. She paced around his apartment, straightening up a little just because she couldnít be still. Sheíd washed his dishes and was putting them away when he stumbled into the apartment.
It took him a moment to realize that she wasnít an apparition standing in his kitchen. When he did realize he seemed to grow in front of her, looming over her. She could smell the alcohol on his breath. "What the hell are you doing here!"
"Please what? Stand by while youíre banging the boss! Is that what you want? It must be, you certainly never wanted to sleep with me." He clutched the back of the chair to stay on his feet. "At least now I know why you were acting so weird. I guess I should be relieved itís not the cancer back, youíre only keeping your sex life from me as always."
"From you? What are you talking about? Youíve never wanted me. Why are you acting like this?"
"Never wanted you? What the hell kind of a prick tease are you! I have wanted you in my arms for years, but youíve always kept me at arms length. Fine, Iíve lived this long without you in my arms I can live the rest of my life that way as well. Get out. Get out of my apartment!"
She realized that she was physically afraid of Mulder for the first time in her life. He stepped toward her and she tensed, ready to defend herself if necessary.
"Never wanted you . . . how in all hell . . . " Then he had her in his arms, holding her tightly against him, his lips pressed against hers, his tongue demanding entry. She struggled for an instant but then allowed herself to relax into his embrace.
Suddenly he released her and shoved her away from him. She was slammed into the counter and barely managed to remain on her feet. "Go back to Skinnerís bed, you donít want me. Youíve made that clear for years. Get out." He turned from her and stumbled from the room.
She stood, her hands pressed to her lips. "Oh my god." What had she done? Mulder wanted her? But heíd never . . . heíd never made any move toward her. What was she supposed to do now? Scully let herself out of his apartment, looking back at him once where heíd collapsed on his couch.
"Mulder! Let me in or Iím breaking the door down. Do you hear me?" He banged on the door again and nearly struck Mulder in the face when the door flew open. On second thought, maybe that would have been a good thing to do.
Mulder rubbed his face with his hand. "What the fuck are you doing here?"
Skinner shoved past him then and on into the apartment. "Where is she?"
"Have you checked your bed?" The venom in his voice caused Skinner to pause for an instant.
"Where is Scully, Agent Mulder? She was going to look for you. That was five hours ago. She hasnít been seen since. Was she here?"
"Five?" Mulder shook his head, trying to clear it. There was a good reason he didnít drink and he was remembering it clearly right now.
"Mulder was she here!"
"Yeah. Yeah she was waiting for me when I got here. She left, I donít know where she went. Just wait for dark, Iím sure sheíll show up when she gets horny enough." Then he was on the floor looking up at Skinner, his jaw on fire.
"If you can keep a civil tongue you can get up. Was she all right when she left here?"
Mulder sat up on the floor but didnít bother to rise, his forearms resting on his knees. "What are you doing here?"
"Dana is missing. She hasnít checked in at work, sheís not at home and sheís turned her phone off."
"Maybe you werenít as good as you thought you were and sheís avoiding you." Mulder sneered up at him.
"You still have a job because Iím cutting you a hell of a lot of slack here. I want to know that Dana is okay. I want to make certain you havenít done anything to her."
"Me!" Now he did rise to his feet. "You want to know if Iíve done anything to her? You son of a bitch, get out of my apartment!"
"I want answers Mulder. If she was here, is she okay?"
Mulder charged at him at that point, knocking him against the wall. He had his forearm pressed to Skinnerís throat and his gun pressed against his ribs. "I donít want you here."
"Is this what you did to her? Have you got her body hidden in the other room?"
Mulder shoved away from him and stumbled over to his couch, dropping his revolver on the coffee table. "She was here, I donít know where she went."
"I donít imagine youíll be hearing from her, but if you do tell her I need to talk to her." The look Mulder shot him was nearly physical; he took a deep breath and let himself out of the apartment. He didnít have a clue how this was going to play out; he didnít see a happy ending for anyone.