Mulder heard her laugh as he was approaching the outer office of the morgue. Now there was a sound he didnít hear often, not nearly often enough. He picked up his pace to see what had caused that beautiful sound. He pushed open the door and saw Scully smiling up at some guy heíd never seen.
"Hi. You about through?" He looked around the lab; no equipment was lying around, were they just visiting?
"Yeah, all finished up. You need to meet David Nichols. Heís the new medical examiner."
Mulder held out his hand to shake, "Fox Mulder."
"Nice to meet you, Fox. Danaís been telling me about some of your cases."
"Oh?" He didnít like this guy.
"Yeah, liver eating mutants? Is she pulling my leg?" He looked down at Scully grinning.
Mulder felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. "No, that oneís true."
"Wild. I thought Iíd seen some weird things." Smiling, he shook his head.
"We probably need to get a move on, Scully." He wanted out of here, it definitely wasnít comfortable.
She glanced down at her watch. "Oh my goodness. I didnít realize it was so late. Thanks, David. Iíll be in touch." Being with this guy had made her lose track of time? That bothered him more than he wanted to admit.
"I look forward to it." He touched her shoulder.
Mulder couldnít help himself. He took her elbow and then pulled her closer to him with his fingers gently touching where he knew her tattoo to be. She glanced at him, but made no comment.
Once in the car however, "What was that all about?"
"What?" He didnít look over at her, busying himself with the keys.
"Donít act innocent with me. Did you not like David?"
"Whatís not to like?"
Scully rolled her eyes and decided it wasnít worth a fight. It didnít look like sheíd get any pertinent comments out of him anyway.
"Why were you called in?"
Oh, it was okay for him to ask questions. But she went ahead rather than escalate this into a fight. "David just started work here, heís replacing Dr. Sommers who retired, so they asked me to help out. He didnít need it though, heís extremely competent."
"Good, then they wonít need to call you in anymore."
She glanced over at him, but his obviously bland expression gave nothing away. She shook her head and decided to watch the scenery.
They arrived at her motherís house only a few minutes late. Mrs. Scully answered the door with a smile while Mulder took a deep breath of the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen.
"Sorry weíre late, Mom. Work."
"I figured as much. Hello, Fox, Iím glad you were able to join us."
"Thanks for having me. Smells great."
"Good, come open the wine and tell me what youíve been up to, if itís not top secret or inappropriate dinner conversation." She turned back toward the kitchen, leading them.
"Well, there goes everything I can say. Why donít we get Scully to tell us all about her new friend?"
Mrs. Scully glanced up at him, a question in her eyes. "New friend?"
"Heís talking about David Nichols, the new medical examiner. We met him today and he was quite charming." Scully didnít bother to look over at him, fishing a pickle out of the dish on the counter.
"I didnít know you liked the hairy type."
"It was just a mustache and wh . . . I donít want to talk about him any more." She turned her back to them both completely at that point and opened the refrigerator.
Mrs. Scully decided the warning bells she was hearing were only her imagination and steered the conversation to other areas.
After a wonderful evening, including dessert and leftovers for Mulder, they left with Mulder dropping her off at her apartment. "Thanks for taking me along tonight."
"She always asks you to come, you know."
"Yeah." He grinned. "Iím gonna do it more often. Maybe I can stock my freezer."
"Go home, Mulder. See you Monday." She opened the car door and let herself out.
"Okay, Iíll probably call tomorrow."
She nodded and waved. He watched until she was inside. She didnít like him walking her to the door in these cases he knew. For some reason she thought he was smothering her or something. Oh well, he headed for home.
Monday morning he was waiting for her in the office. "Good morning, Mulder." She smiled her greeting.
"Youíre in a good mood for a Monday."
"I had a good weekend." She said over her shoulder as she poured coffee.
"Yeah, Friday night was great with your mother."
"Umm." She agreed while sipping the hot beverage.
"Called you Saturday night. Langly had a new program he wanted you to see."
"So sorry I missed that." She said dryly.
"Did you go back over to your Momís?" She was standing beside the desk, flipping through the mail as she ingested her caffeine.
"Huh? Oh no, um, David and I saw a movie."
"David?" He felt his chest tighten and he struggled to keep his voice level.
"You remember him, the new medical examiner?"
"Yeah, I remember. What did you see?" Did he really want to know? Or did he just want to keep her talking?
"That Hitchcock festival was running downtown. We saw Indiscreet and Rope. Great films."
"Yeah, glad you had fun." He had to change subjects, so sheíd had a date, big deal. If you wanted to get technical, theyíd had a date Friday night and she took him home to see her mother. Drop it, she was just being friendly to the new guy and they did have a lot in common.
He forcibly shrugged it off and went back to the paperwork he hated so. David wasnít mentioned again for several days. After work Mulder followed Scully to the mechanics and after dropping off her car, took her home. He came in at her invitation, and was removing his coat when he spotted the flowers.
"Holding out on me, Scully? A secret admirer?" His teasing had a slight edge to it. He knew what she was going to say before he heard it.
"David sent those, just a thank you."
"For the movies?"
"No, for supper night before last. You want some leftovers? Iíve got lots of lasagna left."
Leftovers? Was that what he wanted? Davidís leftovers? Oh come on, Mulder. What was wrong with him? So she hadnít mention sheíd seen him again. She didnít have to report in, he wasnít her father.
"Thanks, but I need to get going."
"What? I thought weíd eat and . . . " Scully sounded confused and a little hurt.
"I forgot, Iíve got some stuff I need to finish up tonight. Iíll pick you up bright and early in the morning."
"Well, okay. Thanks for bringing me home." Shit, she really didnít want to be alone tonight. Sheíd looked forward to this time with Mulder. What stuff did he need to do?
"No problem. Iíll, uh, Iíll see you later." Out! Get out before you say something stupid.
She was definitely looking at him oddly when he left her apartment. He hadnít handled it well, but he just had to get out. Flowers? Movies? And now dinner at her place. Who was this guy, and how interested was she in him?
He was grateful to get an assignment that took them out of town. It probably wasnít an X-file, but he didnít care at this point. He tapped on the connecting door before sticking his head in.
She motioned him on in and continued her conversation on the phone. "No, it wasnít like that. This came up suddenly and you know it. Of course not. Yeah, that would be great. Okay, yeah we should be home in a couple of days. Ummm, you too. Bye."
Mulder could barely draw a breath. That was David, he had called her on the road. That kind of pursuit . . . and she obviously appreciated it. What was happening between the two of them? How much did he want to know? He felt sick, this had been happening under his eyes and he hadnít done anything. But what could he have done? This guy had everything and now it looked like he had her too.
"Mulder? Are you all right?" She had approached him without him even realizing it. She placed her hand on his forehead.
"You donít have a fever, but youíre awfully pale all of a sudden. How do you feel?"
"Fine, uh, fine. I just wondered if you wanted something to eat?"
"Yeah, the airline food was down to its usual standards. What do you think you can eat?" She was obviously still concerned, regardless of his protestations.
"Iím fine, Scully. Whatever youíd like." Keep moving Mulder; just donít think about it, not now.
"Okay. I spotted a diner a couple of miles back, want to try it?"
"Sure. Iíll get my coat." And my heart, and everything else I must have left in the other room, before I heard your conversation. He retreated to his room and sat on the bed. Shit.
Only moments later she stuck her head in his door, "You ready?" And realized he was sitting on the bed, not bothering to get ready at all. "Mulder, Iím not sure you should go out. Why donít I go pick something up and bring it back?"
"Yeah. Maybe thatís a good idea." Yeah, she could leave and he could pretend to be asleep when she got back. He wouldnít have to see her this evening and she wouldnít have to see him and realize what a fool he was.
He kept his distance the entire trip, which turned out to be a bust anyway. She was hurt and confused, but couldnít draw him out and make him talk to her. He barely spoke on the plane and didnít even help her inside with her bags when they got to her apartment. In his defense sheíd always discouraged him from doing that, but he always tried. Maybe he was still not feeling well from that bug heíd picked up the first night. But if this continued, sheíd have to do something.
He was still quiet the next morning, but didnít seem to be avoiding her. At least he was in the office with her, not like out of town. She was getting her courage up to question him again when they both heard the tap on the door.
"Yeah?" Mulder responded. Who came down here?
"Hi. Glad youíre back in town." David entered the room, and he had flowers again. Mulder felt something break inside of him. How had he gotten down here? The basement wasnít on any tour heíd heard of. David leaned over and kissed Scully. Mulder felt like something had torn and he was filled with broken glass or something. And she accepted it as though it was normal. Hell, maybe it was. How had he let things get this far? Let things? Since when had he had any control over what Scully did?
They were talking, he was probably supposed to be part of the conversation. Concentrate Mulder. " . . . pop in like this, but I wanted to make sure you got home okay. No bad guys got you or anything."
She smiled up at him. Heíd always thought that was his smile. Get real, Mulder. Sheís gone and you just let her slip away.
"Listen, Iíll just let you two get reacquainted for a bit. I need to take this report up to Skinner. Good to see you again, David."
"You too, Fox. Thanks for taking care of her while she was gone."
He was going to throw up. Thanks for taking care of her? He had to get out quick; heíd be damned if he could handle watching him kiss her again.
"Dana, Iím fixing ribs tomorrow night. Why donít you and Fox join me?"
"Sounds good, but what if I brought David over instead?" Dana wiped her hands on the kitchen towel and folded it.
"Heís the new medical examiner in . . . "
"Oh, heís the new friend Fox was talking about last time you were here. Are you seeing him?" She asked this cautiously, Dana was a grown woman but still . . .
"Yeah, weíre seeing each other." Scully was studiously avoiding looking at her mother.
"How does Fox feel about that?" Not a question she meant to ask, it just slipped out.
"Mulder? He doesnít care who I date."
"Dana Katherine Scully, you donít believe that!" Mrs. Scully looked positively scandalized at the thought.
Scully drew back, her eyes wide. "Well, you obviously donít."
"Are you and Fox having problems?"
"Of course not. But weíre partners, Mom. Thereís never been more than that. The Bureau doesnít allow it and anyway, heís not interest in me like that."
"Not interested? Dana, have you ever given him the opportunity?" Boy was she over the line with that question, but she had to ask.
"No. Heís my partner."
"Heíd like to be more." Mrs. Scully spoke softly.
"Mom, youíre living in a fantasy. Mulder is not interested in me. I would know if he were."
"Like you let him know how interested you are?" Careful Maggie, otherwise Dana will be out the door and this line of communication closed for a good long time.
"Can I bring David or not?" She wasnít about to get into this any deeper.
"Yes, of course you can. But please think about what I said." Scully rolled her eyes and turned back to putting away the dishes.
Well, this David was a very nice man, and obviously fond of Dana. Mrs. Scully watched the two of them together. He held Danaís chair, poured her wine, and had been extremely charming to Mrs. Scully herself. So what was missing?
It wasnít fair to compare him to Fox, she knew that. But something wasnít there. They had only known each other a few weeks, while Fox and Dana had spent years saving each otherís lives. Of course the communication would be more intense between Fox and Dana. Mrs. Scully had always enjoyed watching them communicate with nothing more than a raised eyebrow, other people in the room oblivious to the fact that communication was even taking place.
What would it do to Fox if Dana fell in love with someone else? He was just now, after all these years, beginning to trust himself and feel at ease around her in a social setting. Well, she knew enough of the pieces of his past to know heíd be devastated.
She really needed to talk to her mother. It was late, but sheíd just have to wake her. This couldnít wait. Scully relived the dinner on the drive over, still not believing it.
The candles, the music, the flash of the ring as he placed it on her finger. Sheíd never been so dazzled, so off-guard.
"Dana? What time is it? Is everything all right?" She was sitting up in bed, trying to force herself awake.
"Mom, Iím sorry to disturb you." She didnít look sorry, she looked keyed up.
"No, itís okay. Are you all right?"
"Yes. Iím fine."
"Fox. Is Fox okay?" Knowing even as the words left her mouth that Dana would never have left his side if he werenít. Scully ignored that.
"Mom, David asked me to marry him tonight."
"Dana, I . . . "
"I havenít said yes. I told him I had to think about it. But he insisted that I wear the ring while I decide." The words were tripping out of her mouth. Maggie had the thought that she was trying to get it said before she could give herself time to think. She held her hand up for her mother to see.
"Thatís . . . " she searched frantically for a neutral word. "Quick, isnít it?"
"Mom, he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, build a home, maybe have kids . . . " She was staring at her hand, not looking at her mother.
"What about Fox?" She could feel Dana tense at the words.
"Mom, how many times do I have to tell you? Mulder doesnít think of me as a woman. Iím his partner, weíre friends." She knew she sounded testy and she didnít want to fight with her mother, not now, but couldnít she see that this was a wonderful thing?
"Dana, Iím going to tell you this, because apparently Fox canít, but Fox Mulder is in love with you and has been for years. Hush, let me finish. I have to tell you this because whether you admit it or not, youíre in love with him too," She paused for the inevitable denial. When it didnít come she relaxed a little. "Iím not going to tell you who you should marry Dana, youíre a grown woman. But it wouldnít be fair to either man, or yourself, if you donít explore those feelings with Fox. And Dana, youíre going to have to go to him, he wonít come to you."
"Why?" She asked in a very small voice.
Mrs. Scully thought for a moment. "He doesnít think he deserves you."
Scully sat in silence, staring at her hand. Finally she stirred, "I need to go home."
"No. Stay here. Itís too late, and you have too much on your mind to be driving around DC. Your roomís made up. Try to rest, maybe sleep. Okay? We can talk more in the morning."
"I donít know what to do." Damn she hated admitting that out loud. Why was this a problem? Why had her mother even brought it up; Mulder was not interested in her. Heíd had plenty of opportunity and heíd never . . .
"Just be honest, Dana, with yourself and Fox. Thatís all you need."
She didnít see him enter the room, her back to him while she worked on the computer. He moved closer just to enjoy her before she spotted him. The sight of the diamond sparkling on her left hand as she typed stopped his heart momentarily. She was going to marry David? Married, forever to another man, oh god.
She turned then and saw him. He could hear himself mouthing congratulations, was his voice wavering or was his hearing affected as well? She had risen and was talking; he could see her mouth moving. Why couldnít he understand what she was saying? He had to get out of here. She was a doctor, couldnít see she that he was bleeding to death from the gash sheíd torn in his heart?
He stepped toward her. His plan was to give her a peck on the cheek, a Ďkiss the brideí kind of thing. He was caught off guard when she turned her head. Their lips met, and try as he might he was unable to pull away. The kiss deepened and his arms closed around her. She was responding, her mouth opening to welcome his tongue. Her arms came up to encircle his neck and he realized he was supporting her.
She tasted as good as heíd always imagined. What the hell was he doing? Oh god, she loved another man. She was getting married to another man. What was he doing? He thrust her away from him, breaking the kiss. Luckily he pushed her toward the wall, giving her a place to support herself during the rapid descent into reality. He turned and rushed from the room, not seeing the hand she reached out to stop him. He removed his coat to carry in front of him; he couldnít hurry through the halls of the J. Edgar Hoover building in his state.