Party Time (PG-13)


 

He entered the banquet hall reluctantly and looked around. Damn he hated these functions, but this one couldn't be avoided - word from the top. So here he was, suit and tie on a Friday evening when he could be over at the Lone Gunman's doing research or at his place with a video. Well, he'd make it an early evening.

He didn't attempt to catch anyone's eye. There was no one here he wanted to 'visit' with anyway, so he was little startled at the slap of the hand on his shoulder. "Spooky! What did they do, threaten to hold your check?"

Mulder pretended to laugh and nod and moved on quickly. Yeah, the less time spent here the better. He made his way to a corner so that he could be out of traffic and survey the room. Maybe he should have tried to round up a date, but in a setting like this, he'd have to introduce her, stay with her most of the evening and . . . it was just too much trouble.

Now there was a likely candidate to sidle up to, tall, brunette, sultry looking. Before he could take a step three other agents approached her and he decided not to buck the crowd. Something made him look over at the bar and he spotted a short redhead, also looking at the tall brunette.

The redhead looked cool, detached to the point of iciness. The dress she was wearing worked perfectly - short enough to be sexy but long enough to be discrete. Somehow it made her legs look longer than they were. Too much investigative training, why notice that the length of her legs was an illusion? The cool blue of the dress added to her aloofness - he wanted to see her in black or dark green, but he couldn't argue with the cleavage that was exposed. Nice. Her eyes assessed the taller woman and found her wanting. For some reason this amused him, but when he looked back, the brunette did seem lacking somehow. Interesting, of course the men panting around her didn't help.

He found himself moving closer to the bar. Redheads weren't his type and this woman was too short anyway, but he liked her attitude, at least the attitude he was projecting on her from her expression. After waiting his turn, he asked for a red wine. Drinking wasn't his thing, but it might help if he had to hang around here for long, and it gave his hands something to do.

The redhead was still there and still aware of the brunette. Was she appraising the woman or one of the men surrounding her? He felt a mild prick of jealousy and looked over at the men. He didn't know any of them well, but had seen their faces.

He found himself moving toward her almost involuntarily. He wasn't interested, she wasn't his type and he didn't plan to be here that long. And now he was here beside her - what was he supposed to say?

She turned and looked up at him just as someone bumped into him from behind. It took all of his skills and ability to react instantaneously to keep from pouring his glass of wine all over her. He managed it with only a couple of drops on his own slacks.

Her eyes, which had grown wide at the impending disaster, were now lit with amusement. She had seen what it had taken to protect her and she was appreciative. "Nice catch."

"It's those superior athletic skills." She chuckled at that and he wondered why he had thought she was cool.

"Ballet, right?" She was smiling warmly now and her eyes were twinkling.

"How did you guess?" A second person jostled his arm, this time not actually spilling any wine. "Maybe this isn't the best place to stand."

She glanced over at the brunette again. "You could be right." Without conscious thought his hand touched her back, leading her to a safer, less crowded area of the hall.

It crossed his mind that she was someone's date and not affiliated with the Bureau herself. She hadn't offered her name and he didn't especially want to admit who he was. If she was here with someone, and left with that person, his reputation didn't have to be a topic of conversation or a joke on the way home. At least she wasn't wearing a wedding ring.

They stood together silently for a moment, but for a change it wasn't awkward. They turned as the music started and he heard himself say, "Want to see how all those ballet lessons worked out?"

She smiled her acceptance and placed her own drink on the nearest table. He followed suit and found his hand on her back again, leading her to the dance floor.

His arms went around her naturally. She wasn't really short; in fact she fit very nicely in his arms. She was a good dancer, better than him, but she followed well. It crossed his mind that on the dance floor would be the only place this woman would follow and not lead. Where the hell was he getting this? He had seen her for the first time less than thirty minutes ago and already he was assigning her a personality that he was creating.

But she did feel good in his arms. That wasn't his imagination. He pulled her a little closer and she didn't protest. They danced in silence; he was enjoying the aroma of her hair. When the song ended, much too soon for him, they returned to rescue their drinks. Once again he saw her glance over at the brunette.

"Friend of yours?"

"No." Then, as if realizing how short that answer sounded, "I've never met her."

He didn't respond, just watching her for a moment. Then he placed his wine back on the table. "How about another dance?"

"I'd love to." She really seemed to mean it and he felt his smile grow. Hers grew to match his and she seemed to relax and put the woman out of her mind.

They danced for quite awhile. It was as though they knew what the other was going to do instinctively. He couldn't remember a more enjoyable evening.

He noted that her glass was empty, and though he didn't feel the need for more alcohol himself offered to get her another. "Thanks." He reluctantly left her side.

It took a while to make it to the bar and even then he had to wait to order and be served. When he finally had her wine in his hand, he turned to make sure she was in the same place. She was, but she was no longer alone. He knew that agent; he'd never worked with him though. Jack something, yeah Jack Willis. She didn't look that happy with him, in fact they seemed to be arguing. Wasn't he one of the men who had been hovering over the tall brunette? Was she okay? He quickened his pace to return to her side.

"It's good to see you here, Agent Mulder."

"Uh, yes sir." He glanced over at her; she was on her feet now and she looked detached, cool again. And Jack had his arm around her.

" . . . team player. I appreciate the effort that you - "

"Excuse me, Director Blevins. The, uh, the congressman's wife asked me to get her this drink."

"Oh, of course. Well it is good to see you, we'll get together early next week."

He nodded and moved around the larger man. He looked over for her again. They weren't there. His eyes scanned the room. It was a lot more crowded now. There! They were going out the door. She was leaving with him? He wasn't dragging her; she was leaving on her own.

He couldn't exactly draw his gun and force these people out of his way. By the time he made it to the door, they were no where to be seen. Come on, at least Prince Charming had had a shoe to search with.

He continued on to his car, there was no reason to return to this particular party. He felt strangely depressed, but he had no good reason. He didn't know the woman and she'd left on her own. He'd danced with her, that was all. They hadn't even exchanged names. He shook himself, he was acting crazy.

*****

He found himself in the area of Jack's office following his meeting with Director Blevins. He wasn't really sure why, he had no reason to talk to the man and he had things he had to do now, important things. Still, he found himself looking around.

Agent Campbell looked up from his desk. "Can I help you Agent Mulder?"

"Uh, yeah. I was just looking for Agent Willis."

"Today's not a great day."

"Really?" Mulder wanted to walk away but something held him.

"He broke up with his girlfriend last night. If it's not critical, I'd wait a day or two. Is it about a case?" He looked at the file in Mulder's hand. "Maybe I could - "

"Uh, no, it's not important. Thanks." He retreated from the area and headed to the basement. He needed to research this new partner they were planning to stick him with. He'd check up on this development with Willis as soon as he could. He felt lighter suddenly and not nearly as bummed about this new partner as he had been only a few minutes ago.

He'd broken up with his girlfriend huh? Mulder found himself grinning as he entered the elevator. That drew some looks but it didn't matter. It felt like something right was about to happen to him. About damn time.