Frohike let himself into the morgue, carefully not looking around. The other doctor looked up first, “Uh, you’re not allowed in here, uh, sir.”
Dana looked up, “Frohike? Is something wrong? Is he - “ Frohike managed not to smile. Her first reaction was concern.
“He’s hurting. Can we talk?”
She looked down at the body, “Give me ten minutes. Wait in the coffee room.”
Frohike glanced down at the table she stood behind, then nodded. It was closer to twenty minutes, but she joined him drying her hands. “What’s wrong?”
He looked her over more closely as she wadded up the towel and tossed it. She seemed . . . less alive somehow, as though the light in her had been dimmed. Even her hair seemed less red. “He’s not okay. He wouldn’t leave you if he was.”
“He’s an adult. If he doesn’t want to be with - “
“He does. You know he does. He just thinks you’d be better off without him.”
“Better off? What are you talking about?” She shook her head.
“Can we go somewhere?” Frohike looked around, other people were coming in and out of the room.
Dana sighed, “Yes, I’m off duty, but I don’t know what good it will do. If he’s decided . . . “
Frohike took her arm. He’d seen the tears that formed in her eyes even though none had escaped. “Come on.” He led her to his car and opened the door.
He drove her to the arboretum and parked. She wouldn’t look at him. “Dana, why do you think he’s leaving?”
“To get away from me.” She answered immediately. “I told him his sister was working with the . . . with them and he can’t be around me any more.”
Dana looked over at him startled, then back down at her hands, but kept silent.
“Dana, he’s afraid for you and of you. Mulder hasn’t shared a lot about his relationships with us. I can tell you from what we have heard that they’ve been dismal. Mulder seems to have a talent for attracting women that use him.”
She looked over at him again, “I don’t understand.”
“I know, you’d think a guy that looks like him would at least be as successful with the ladies as me, but he’s been . . . I don’t know, hurt.” He moved toward the bench. She followed, needing to hear more.
“Who hurt him?”
Frohike shrugged. “Like I said, he doesn’t share. I can tell you that he hasn’t been in a real relationship since we’ve known him. Whatever he had with Diana never, it never got deep. They were never a couple.”
“But before her?”
“Whoever she was, or they were, he won’t talk about them. It’s like, it’s like he’s afraid to try again. I can tell you, you got to him. He was a totally different person when you came to him. Hell, Dana, he was happy.”
“Happy? That’s why he decided to run away.”
“He’s not running away.”
“What would you call it?” She met his eyes then.
“He’s gotten it in his head that you’re not safe with him around. He says they’re watching him and because of him, you.”
“Who would be watching him and why?” She asked.
“Haven’t the two of you ever talked about his work? You know he thinks the government knows about the aliens. He thinks they were behind Samantha’s abduction because of his father.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
Frohike stared at her then, “You really don’t know?”
“No. I mean, I know he thinks that his sister and I were taken by them, and I know I saw the woman in the picture. But his father? The government? I don’t, he never said anything about that.”
“Get comfortable Dana. I have a story to tell you.”
“He’s leaving me to save me? He’s turning his life upside down and leaving his home - “
“I don’t think Mulder thinks of DC as home. I don’t think he has a home. He does see his mother occasionally, but he and his father have been estranged since before we met him. He was only in the Bureau to look for Samantha. Even I know he never fit in there. Have you seen him when he’s profiling?”
“I talked to him when he had that case in Chicago.” Her eyes were far away, remembering his voice.
“It wipes him out. He doesn’t come out of it for days. And each time it seems to be a little worse. That time, the Chicago case, wasn’t as bad. I didn’t realize until just now why. He talked to you, during the case.”
“Yes, he called every night.”
Frohike nodded, “That makes sense. That’s why he was better. He had you.”
“No. When he got home he was, something was wrong. Then I made it worse by telling him about Samantha.”
“Telling him about Samantha was the right thing to do. Maybe what was wrong was the case. I told you - “
“No, something else was wrong. He had sounded fine on the phone, happy to be back. But when I got to his place, the door was unlocked and he was, he was completely distant. He didn’t even know I was there until I touched him.”
“So something happened before you got there. Did you see anyone? Hear anything?”
She shook her head, “I don’t know. I didn’t think about it.”
“Are you in love with him?”
“Yes.” She didn’t even hesitate.
“Well he loves you too, but since he’s never been in love before, he doesn’t know how to handle it. He’s being noble, trying to protect you. I don’t know, you really may be in danger because of all this, but it looks like you’re both dying from lack of each other. What’s more dangerous than that?”
She paused outside of his door. She hadn’t seen him since she’d walked out of the diner. The courage she had felt when talking to Frohike had developed a slow leak.
Being with him was the only thing that mattered. If what Frohike had said was true . . .
He opened the door at her knock, but he was stunned speechless at the sight of her. She took in the sight of him. It looked like he’d had as little sleep as she’d had, but without the benefit of makeup to disguise the fact.
She looked around the apartment. There were boxes stacked against the wall, most of them already sealed and labeled. “Going somewhere?”
“What are you doing here?” He knew he sounded harsh, but the sight of her was like a wrecking ball in his carefully constructed wall of detachment.
“Do you want to leave me?” She looked him directly in the eye. He fought the urge to pull her against him.
“I told you - “ Damn how could he send her away again?
“It’s what you didn’t tell me that’s important.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You think I’m safer with you gone.”
“Who have you been talking to?”
“I’m gonna kill that little troll.”
”Please don’t. If you really do leave me, he’s the man I’ll lean on.”
Mulder’s eyes widened and his hand grasped her arm involuntarily. “You’re kidding.”
She shook her head. “At least he’s been honest with me. He told me about your work, the full story - your father, the collaboration.”
“Shit. You don’t need - “
“I do need. I need to know everything. I need to make some decisions on my own. Not having the facts could be dangerous.”
“And having the facts could be fatal! Damn it Red, Dana - “ He threw up his hands and moved away from her. “You can’t know this stuff. It’s too dangerous.”
“You know it.”
“I don’t matter, you do!”
Her lips parted then and she followed him across the room. Her hand on his back forced him to turn, to face her. The tears brimming in her eyes almost brought him to his knees. He closed his eyes, forcing steel into his spine.
He reluctantly looked at her.
“Mulder, I told Daniel something just before Frohike threw him out - “
“Frohike?” He interrupted.
She nodded. “I’ll tell you about it some day. What I told Daniel was that I wanted to live my life, my way. Control was taken from me once. Not again. I want to be with you and I believe you want to be with me.”
She moved closer to the man. A breeze could barely pass between them, but they didn’t touch. She waited.
“What . . . what if I can’t keep you safe?”
“What if you can?”
He blinked at that, it was obviously a concept he hadn’t explored.
“Diana did this, didn’t she? She put the idea in your head.”
“Red - “
“That woman has lied about so many things. Why did you decide to believe this?”
“Because you’re too important.”
“And she saw that.” Dana responded immediately. “Mulder, she despised me on sight. She saw the connection between us instantly. When she walked into that diner she knew, long before you did.”
He seemed a little stung by that comment she noted, but she didn’t smile. “When did you know . . . “ He realized what he was asking too late to retract it.
“When you put your jacket around me to cover me that night. I knew it then, it’s the only reason I let you open it the next morning to look at me. I looked up into those beautiful eyes of yours and I knew I was where I belonged, wherever I was.”
His lips moved, but it was a moment before he could speak. “I . . . I have beautiful eyes?”
Her lips curled into a smile then, “Yes and I want to wake up seeing every day for the rest of my life.”
He gaped at her then, “you love me?”
“I love you. I’m in love with you. Your danger is my danger.”
He sank into the desk chair, speechless. Her eyes lightened, he definitely wasn’t repulsed by her.
“Mulder, if it’s safer away from here, if we have to go underground, let’s do it. But together. I need you and whether or not you can admit it, you need me too. I can help you with any returnees we find. I know what they’ve experienced. I can be an asset to you. Let me help you Mulder, let me come with you.” She was quiet then waiting, the rest of her courage seeping away at his continued silence.
His eyes had not left her face. He swallowed twice, then finally managed to speak. “You . . . you’re in love with me?”
Her startled laugh was half sob and she moved closer, standing between his legs and pulling his head to her breast. “For a Ph.D. in psych, you’re pretty dumb Mulder.”
“I . . . I wasn’t studying women.” He asked.
Her smile grew, “that’s not a bad thing to know about you Mulder.”
His cheeks colored at that. She had no idea how little he knew or understood about women, but this woman, this woman he wanted to know. He wanted to spend his life knowing her. Maybe he could admit that now.
Her hand came up and touched his cheek. That broke his paralysis and he stood, taking her into his arms.
When she finally took a breath, she leaned back slightly. “I know you’re the psychologist, but I had to do a residency in Psychiatry. I think we need to do some work on your issues.”
After a moment, he gave a slight nod. She saw that he glanced toward the couch and bit down on a smile. “Well, I need to go.”
“Go?” His look was incredulous then.
“Well, if I’m going to leave town, I need to talk to Mom and Ahab.”
He grimaced. “Your parents. They must hate me now.”
“No, Mulder they don’t hate you. Bill talked to them.”
“Bill?” His mind ran through what that could mean. “What, what did he say to them?”
“I don’t know, I wasn’t invited.”
“I need to come with you.” He said determinedly.
“Mulder, you don’t have to.”
“If I’m going to take their daughter away from them again, I need to face them.”
He followed her home, purposely not allowing himself to think beyond the drive. He parked behind her and they walked to the door hand in hand. Her father stepped into the foyer at the sound of the door.
“Mulder, it’s good to see you.” They shook hands.
“Thank you sir. I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome.” Mulder glanced over as her mother joined them.
“Of course you’re welcome.” William smiled slightly. “All couples have rough periods.”
Couples? The man still considered him a
decent companion for his daughter? Hadn’t she said that Bill had talked to
Maggie motioned for everyone to move to the living room. Mulder sat beside Dana on the couch.
“Ahab, we’ve talked and, and worked out some things.”
William looked at Mulder, who cleared his throat. “I will be leaving town and, and Red, Dana, has . . . seems to want to come with me.” He glanced down at his redhead with something like awe.
William had to look away for a moment and coughed slightly. After a deep breath he looked back, “I see. You’ll be leaving soon?”
“Friday? This Friday?” Maggie spoke up immediately.
“Yes ma’am. I, we need to get settled before . . . I can’t really . . . “ He glanced at Dana.
“There are reasons, Mom. It has to do with how I was rescued.”
“It’s what Bill talked about?” William asked quietly.
“I’m not sure what he told you, but the short answer is yes. I wish I could tell you more.”
“Are you going to get married?” Maggie spoke from the other side of them.
“Mom! We haven’t - “
“Starbuck,” her father interrupted, “it’s a legitimate question. If you’re going off with this man, we want to know both of you are committed to each other.”
Mulder nodded, “He’s right Red. I . . . I leave my shoes in the middle of the floor and, and I never remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste, and lots of other things, but . . . but if you’d consider . . . “
William could see his daughter’s face from where he sat and had to look away again, blinking his eyes.
“Sir, uh, of course we’d want your blessing.” Mulder remembered to look up at man.
William glanced over at Maggie. Her nod was imperceptible to anyone else, but they had been married nearly forty years. He could read her from across the ocean. He’d seen the beginnings of the same thing between these two.
“You have it, son.”
Mulder’s mouth fell open at the ease of the whole process. Maggie met his eyes then, “You aren’t used to getting what you want.”
“Uh, no ma’am. I . . . I’ve quit asking, because it just never happened.”
He felt Red slip her small hand into his and when he looked back down at her, saw her quickly dash a tear from her eye. “Well Mulder, that stops now.”
He nodded slowly, still processing that this woman loved him, wanted to be with him and . . . and her family wasn’t driving him off with crosses and fire.
“You won’t be able to be married here.” Maggie spoke with regret, it wasn’t a question.
“No. It wouldn’t be . . . we need to be very discreet. But I promise you I’ll do everything in my power to make your daughter happy and keep her safe.”
“I don’t doubt that Mulder.” William spoke with a small smile.
Mulder looked down for an instant, then met the man’s eyes. A deep communication passed between them, and Dana shivered slightly.
“Can you tell us where you’ll be living?” Maggie asked.
Mulder glanced at Dana, “No, not now. But I have some friends that are helping me to set up a place.”
“Friends? That sweet Mr. Frohike?”
Mulder blinked at Maggie, “You know Frohike?”
“Oh yes, I met him when he came over here. He was a tremendous help to Dana that day. I could tell that she was shaken, but he was so charming and supportive of her.” Maggie smiled at some memory.
“Frohike.” After a moment he looked at Dana again, “You and I need to talk.”
She grinned, “Okay and then we start working on your insecurity issues, okay?”
“Yes ma’am.” He looked at her with a sparkle growing in his eyes.
Maggie looked over at William, “I suppose we can use the money we’re saving for a nice rehearsal dinner for Bill and Tara.”
“Bill told you . . . “ Dana glanced at her mother.
“No.” Maggie said dryly, “but he didn’t need to.”
Mulder actually chuckled at that, truly relaxing for the first time since she’d walked into his apartment.
“Well, we have things to do. Dana, come help me get some dessert and coffee. We have lists to make. We’ll go shopping tomorrow for a dress for you to be married in. Even if you end up in Las Vegas, I want you to have a nice dress.”
Dana’s lips parted in surprise, then she smiled over at Mulder, “Elvis?”
”I think we can do better than that.” He watched the two women leave the room and turned back to her father. “You’re serious, you’re really accepting me into the family?”
“I saw what you were willing to sacrifice for her.”
“Sacrifice?” Mulder asked, puzzled.
“Your own happiness. A father needs to see that. She’s my baby girl, Mulder. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
William watched the younger man’s back straighten and his shoulders level. This man had been through things, it was obvious he had suffered, but Dana would look after him and there was no doubt in his mind that he would look after Dana.