He continued to grouse from his seat on her couch as she got ready. She let him talk, she wasn't a whole lot happier about the situation than he was, but an order was an order.
"It's just ridiculous Scully. Skinner never forced us to attend the Bureau Christmas party. Not once, in all those years."
"Well, Skinner isn't our AD anymore, so just get over it." She sighed, was he going to be like this all night? She could get excited about dressing up and going out, but not if he was going to be in this mood. Maybe it was a bad idea to attend together, but neither had a date. This had just seemed the easiest at the time. Now regret was beginning to creep in.
"Well what gives Kersh the right to dictate what we do in our free time, Scully? I mean I don't like most of these people when I have to do business with them, but to socialize - that's just rubbing salt in the wound."
She finished with her eye makeup and reached for her lipstick, tuning him out. Finally ready, she gave her hair one more little twist of her finger and stepped back to assess her appearance. Not bad, she'd been saving this dress for a special occasion, but since there never seemed to be one anymore, this would do fine.
She moved toward the open door of her bathroom and heard him, still complaining, from her living room. " . . . its not li - "
She looked over at him startled. Had he gotten choked on something? "Mulder? It's not like what? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." His eyes were scanning her, taking in the makeup, the hair, the dress. He stood automatically.
"Well, what were you saying?"
"Nothing. It's not important. I haven't seen that before, have I?" He knew damn well he hadn't seen that before. It would have been his first thought upon waking every morning if he had, as well as his last thought before sleeping. It was black, always her favorite, and well above her knees, but also plunging toward her navel. And only those two tiny rhinestone straps to hold it up. Did she have anything on underneath? She had to have been sewn into it.
She smoothed the form-fitting fabric over her hips. "No, I save this one for those special trips into the woods, when I'll be running through brush and undergrowth."
"Well it's short enough."
"I beg your pardon?" Her tone had just a touch of ice in it and he managed to drag his eyes away and look her in the face again.
"Sorry. It's just . . .I'm not used to seeing you dressed like that."
"Don't you like it?" She twisted in it slightly, trying to see for herself.
He had to swallow before he could answer. "Yeah, yeah it's . . . it's fine."
"Fine?" Not exactly the comment she was hoping for.
"No, no, better than fine. Scully you look like a million dollars in that dress. You want to waste it on Kersh?"
"Kersh isn't the only one who'll see me." Like you for example, the price of this particular outfit was already a non-issue after the look in his eyes.
"Yeah." That was certainly true. Every breathing male agent at the party would be looking at her, hell, some of the female agents too. And he had no right to be bothered by it; she was an adult. Obviously from the way she was filling out the damn dress. He ripped his eyes away from her and tried to adjust his jacket.
"Here, let me." She moved to him and adjusted the tie of his tuxedo and smoothed down the lapels. His eyes automatically fastened on her cleavage. Well hell, if she didn't want people to look she shouldn't wear anything like this. "Are you ready to go, Mulder?"
That drew his attention back to the present. Maybe this evening wouldn't be a total loss. He held her coat for her, which surprised her a little, but she made no comment. Nothing about tonight was normal.
His hand on the small of her back even felt different tonight as he led her to his car. The fact that he opened the car door for her was not lost on her at all.
They were fairly quiet on their way to the Watergate. Each was thinking their own thoughts. His were definitely not appropriate partner thinking and he knew he had to be on his best behavior tonight, in front of the Grand Poobah Kersh.
He was able to find a parking place that wouldn't put her outside for too long. No coat was going to make up for being mostly nude underneath and again found his hand on her back leading her inside. He checked their coats and she thanked him with her eyes. Damn, this was beginning to feel like a date or something.
They moved toward the ballroom. There was no formal sit down dinner tonight, just heavy hors d'oeuvres, drinks and dancing. He'd thought they would be able to get out quickly, once they were seen. Now in that dress, he wasn't so sure.
He turned her toward the bar as soon as they were inside. He didn't drink a lot, but tonight he was going to need a little to get through. He got her a glass of red wine and himself a beer, then turned back to her. He barely managed to put the wine in her hand before Kersh appeared out of nowhere.
"Agent Scully, you look lovely tonight."
"Thank you, sir." The comment had caught her a little off guard.
"You're looking good tonight too, Agent Mulder."
"Yeah, I clean up well," was Mulder's comment.
Kersh had turned from him to continue his conversation with Scully when the band struck up a new number. "Agent Scully, may I have this dance?"
"Uh, of course. Thank you." She looked around quickly for a place to set down her wine glass, as Mulder reached for it. She smiled her gratitude to him and allowed Kersh to lead her onto the dance floor.
Mulder watched them, less than happy. He felt himself stiffen as Kersh took her into his arms and moved her around the dance floor. He was holding her awfully close and kept looking down. Okay, she was shorter than the man, he had to look down to talk to her, but the view was more than he deserved.
He took a long pull on his beer and moved toward an empty table to put her wine down and give her a place to sit. He kept standing so she could see where he'd moved. The song was finally ending, good. She was actually smiling up at Kersh.
To his surprise she didn't walk away, but allowed the man a second dance. Mulder's eyes hardened. A dance was politically correct, two was . . . His thoughts darkened and he took a seat at the table.
He couldn't see her as well, the floor was getting crowded and she was shorter than most of the agents out there. He finished off his beer and tried to decide if he should have another. He'd wait; surely she wouldn't dance with the man three times.
When she didn't find him as the third dance started he rose again to look for her. There was Kersh, where was . . . ? There, he'd spot her red hair anywhere. Who the hell . . . Colton? Tom Colton? He hadn't seen that little prick since they had busted Tooms the first time. He'd made his interest in Scully known then and it had bothered him. It bothered him a hell of a lot more now. Colton was making no pretext of not staring down her dress. He had two choices, beat the little asshole to a pulp, or get another beer. He glanced around - the beer, he really didn't want to lose his job tonight.
The crowd at the bar had grown and it took awhile to actually get the beer. When he started back to the table he looked for her again. There, over on the far side of the room dancing - with Skinner? What the hell was going on here?
He killed the beer in two long pulls and found a place against the wall to stay out of the way. That's where Skinner found him. "Scully said you were here somewhere."
"I'm surprised she remembered."
Skinner looked over at him curiously. "You okay?"
"Let me ask that again. Are you all right?" Mulder shrugged. Skinner looked out on the dance floor where he was watching. "Why don't you dance with her?"
"Her card looks pretty full."
Skinner nodded, "But it was you that brought her. She told me." He responded to the surprised look Mulder gave him. "She was worried about you being all alone while we were dancing. She probably didn't mention you to Kersh or some of the other agents, but I guess she felt safer with me."
Mulder's eyes were back on her. "I guess I could ask her."
"Or maybe take her some food. She's got to be getting tired."
Mulder took a minute to think about that, then nodded and headed for the food table. He loaded a plate with her favorites and as the music ended, he met her at the edge of the dance floor. "Hungry?"
She gave him the most beautiful smile. "Thanks." He escorted her to a seat and stood guard as she caught her breath and ate from the plate. She offered him a couple of bites, but ate most of it herself.
"I'd go get you a glass of wine, but you'd probably disappear again."
She laughed, "I don't remember ever dancing this much. Where were all these guys when I was in high school?"
"So you're having a good time?"
Before she could respond AD Lattimer was at their side, asking her to dance. Mulder watched her walk away with a sinking heart. Lattimer? Hell, he hadn't known Lattimer even knew them. That was three different AD's that had claimed her time tonight. Well that pretty much proved that he was the reason she was still in the basement.
He started to finish the food on her plate, but his appetite was gone now. Another beer, yeah that was the ticket. One led to another. He stayed near the bar and watched her. She was truly the belle of the ball tonight. His mood continued to plummet.
She was the one that found him when she was ready to go. Even after all that socializing and dancing, she looked fresh and gorgeous. "It's getting late, Mulder. Are you ready to go?"
He nodded, the comments that came to mind were too sardonic to make, and he wasn't drunk enough to make that mistake. He followed her to the coatroom and found the ticket. He was quiet, but she hadn't really noticed. As they approached the car he drew the keys from his pocket, unlocked the driver's side and handed them to her.
"How much did you have to drink?"
He shrugged and opened the door for her. She looked at him, but he was avoiding her eyes now, so she seated herself and leaned over to unlock his door. That gave him a nearly unobstructed view and he hesitated before entering the car, giving her a chance to straighten up.
"Mulder?" She hadn't started the car yet. "I'm sorry if I made you stay longer than you wanted."
"It was fine." Was his short answer. Rather than pursue such a conversation, she started the engine and pulled out into traffic. She drove to her apartment with him looking out the window. He was not at all in the same mood he'd had been in earlier.
When they pulled up in front of her place, she turned off the car and pulled the keys from the ignition, then exited the car. "Come on in."
"No. I should get on home."
"Not if you've had that much to drink. Come have a cup of coffee."
"I'll be fine."
She ignored him, keeping the keys and moved inside. He watched her in disbelief; she'd stolen his keys. He actually thought of hot-wiring the car, but decided that was the beer talking and finally got out of the car himself.
She had left the door to the apartment open and she was in the kitchen, making the coffee. "I don't need coffee, Scully. Just give me the keys."
"Forget it. I'm not letting you drive under the influence. That's all Kersh would need."
He turned away from her at the mention of the man's name. "Okay," she moved around him, "what is it?"
"Nothing. I'm ready to go home."
"Well you obviously didn't have a very good time tonight."
"Well you had a good enough time for both of us."
She blinked at that. What? What was this about? "Are you upset with me?" When he didn't respond, she jerked on his arm. "You are! I don't believe it. Because I had a good time dancing tonight? What about you? Who did you dance with tonight?"
"I didn't dance." He wouldn't meet her eyes.
"You didn't . . . not at all?"
"You were too busy."
That stopped her in her tracks. Her anger evaporated. She hadn't danced with him, she'd been waiting for him to ask, but this was Mulder. As confident and arrogant as he seemed on a case in front of his peers, he was a mass of insecurities. It was why he stuck with those videos she didn't know about. She'd never admit she knew that, just as he would never admit it was true.
After a moment's thought she turned to her living room. She looked over her collection of music and chose a CD. When the music started she turned to him. "Would you dance with me?"
She nodded and stepped closer to him. He was unmoving until she put her arms out to him. He wasn't consciously aware of approaching her, but she was in his arms now and they were moving to the music.
No wonder so many men had wanted to do this tonight. She was so much woman. She belonged in a man's arms. She always did, but the dress tonight had accentuated it.
"Why what, Mulder?" She looked up at him and watched his eyes dilate as he looked down at her.
"Why did you want to dance and why here?"
"Because you were the one I wanted to ask me all night. Here, no one can cut in." Those words caused him to pull her a little closer.
"You . . . you wanted me to ask you?"
"You're the man I went with, aren't you?"
"But that was just because it was convenient."
"Was it? Did I buy this dress with Kersh in mind?" That caused his arms to tighten around her even more.
"Hardly." The music ended, but the dance didn't. Another song began and their rhythm wasn't broken.
When they finally ended their dance he stepped back only a hand span from her. "Thank you for a wonderful evening." He leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. She responded, her eyes closing, allowing him to pull her against him again.
After a very long time, he moved away from her. "I better go home."
"Are you okay to drive?"
"Actually I think I'm higher now than I was before. But I'm okay to drive." She smiled at that.
"Good night Mulder."
"Can we get together tomorrow?"
"That might be fun." She smiled as she nodded.
"I'll call you in the morning." He leaned over and kissed her again, then forced himself toward the door. Maybe Kersh's orders weren't always as bad as he'd thought.