“Are you sure this is okay?” She looked over at him again as he parked in front of a well-lit house.
“Yes. I told them I was bringing a friend.”
“But did you tell them it was me?” she insisted.
“I told them a lady friend. Okay?”
“No,” she wailed. “I’ll ruin it.”
“How can you ruin it? We’re just here for dinner. She’ll still be my sister; the kids will still expect to climb all over me. Relax, Dana.”
She closed her eyes, shaking her head.
“Come on.” He exited the car and moved around it to open her door. She already had it open, so he took her hand. “Breathe.”
She glared at him, but complied and they walked hand in hand to the door.
It was Samantha who opened the door. She’d obviously been watching and Mulder could see she was less than pleased when she recognized the diminutive woman at his side.
“Sam,” he stopped on the porch, “I’d like you to meet Dana Scully.”
“Ms. Scully,” Samantha held out her hand. There was coolness to her tone that caused Mulder’s eyes to narrow.
“Please, call me Dana.” Samantha nodded and stepped back, giving them access. Mulder shot her a warning look, but she seemed to ignore it. There was an uneasy silence until Chrissy raced into the foyer.
“Uncle Fox!” She skidded to a halt when she saw the woman beside him and immediately ducked behind Samantha’s legs.
“Chrissy, come here. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
She cautiously looked out and when she saw Mulder’s arms opened to take her, she rushed into them. He picked her up and settled her on his hip. “This is a friend of mine, Chrissy. Her name is Dana. Can you say hello?”
“Hi,” she said quickly and ducked her head into Mulder’s neck.
“Hi. Mulder’s told me a lot about you. You’re his best girl, aren’t you?” At that the little girl looked up and smiled, nodding. “You look like him, with those lovely eyes.”
John joined them then, carrying Billy. “Are you going to stand in the entry all night? Hi, I’m John and this is Billy.”
“Pleased to meet you.” She shook John’s hand. “Billy, hello. Aren’t you the fellow that Chrissy taught how to walk?”
“I did!” Chrissy was now scrambling out of Mulder’s arms. “Wanna see?”
“Yes, please,” Dana smiled at Chrissy. John dutifully put the boy on his feet and Chrissy took one of his hands. “See, he’s gettin’ real good at it.”
“He’s going to be running in just a few days. You did a great job,” Dana agreed with the girl. Chrissy beamed at her.
“Take his other hand, he can walk faster then.” Dana did as she was bade, and the three of them moved toward the family room. John looked between brother and sister and decided to follow them.
“What is your problem?” Mulder hissed at Samantha so that no one could hear.
“Now I know why you didn’t tell me who your ‘friend’ was,” she retorted just as angry. “I don’t want people like her here. She’s trash, Fox, expensive trash.”
“Fine, we’re out of there.” He started to follow the others when Samantha took hold of his sleeve.
“No, don’t cause a scene.”
“Me?” he gaped at her.
“Just, just eat. We’ll get through the evening.”
“I don’t want to just ‘get through the evening’. Dana is a friend of mine and if you can’t treat her as such, I’m not putting her through it.”
“Why did you bring her here?”
“Because there’s no place we can go and just relax and be with people that don’t judge her, or want to use her for something. I thought she’d be safe here.”
Samantha stepped back from his vehement whisper. “Fine, come on.”
“Will you be civil?”
Samantha ignored him and headed for the family room. Dana was on the floor with the kids, being shown toys and keeping a hand out for Billy’s support if he needed it. She smiled up as the two joined them. “They’re precious. I’d forgotten what it was like to be around children.”
“They can be handful,” John said with a smile as he nodded.
“But so worth it. I’m remembering when Charlie was just a baby.” She smiled at some happy memory and Mulder relaxed slightly.
“Who’s Charlie?” Chrissy touched her arm and took a seat beside her on the floor.
“My little brother. I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
“He went away. Maybe I’ll see him again someday. I’d like to.”
Chrissy nodded and picked up a ball that had gotten away from Billy, handing it back to him.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll get dinner on the table,” Samantha spoke abruptly.
Dana looked up. “May I help? I can’t cook,” she laughed, “but I pour a mean glass of water or tea.”
“Oh, uh, everything’s done, really.”
“Okay.” Dana turned back to the children. Mulder shot Samantha a wary look and she sighed.
“Well, if you don’t mind, you could get the ice for the glasses while I take up the roast.”
“I’d be happy to. I probably can’t mess that up, but we’ll see.” With a wink and smile, Mulder reached down and took her hand as he helped her to her feet. Samantha turned away, with a resigned sigh and headed to the kitchen.
“She can be a slave driver, Dana. If you need any help, you call me.”
“I think I can manage on my own, but thanks.” She followed Samantha to the other room.
“The glasses are on the counter,” Samantha offered, motioning with a tilt of her chin.
Dana made no move toward them. “I’m sorry I was a surprise. Mulder thought this would be a place we could just be normal. We’re not dating, but we are becoming friends.”
“That’s what he told me.”
“And that concerns you,” Dana sighed.
“Fox is an adult. His choices are his own.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about anything. He’s much too good for me and I know it. He’s just being a friend to me, teaching me how to be a friend. I’ll make sure not to surprise you with any future visits.”
“That’s not - “
“It’s okay. Let’s just not upset your brother. He’s a very good guy.”
“Yes, he is. I don’t want him hurt.”
“You don’t have to worry about that from me. I’m not going to be in a position to hurt him, but even if I were, that’s the last thing I would do.”
Samantha thought about that for a long moment. “I’m not sure you’re right about that, but I appreciate you saying it.”
Dana forced a smile and moved toward the refrigerator. She filled the glasses while Samantha took up dinner in silence.
Finally Mulder couldn’t stay away and joined them with Chrissy in tow. “Hi, what’s taking so long?”
“Just waiting for the rolls to brown. Why don’t you get Billy in his high chair?”
Mulder hesitated for a moment, but neither woman spoke, so he turned back to the dining room. When they were all there, Chrissy started to take her regular seat beside Mulder. “Uh, Chrissy, why don’t you let Dana - “
“No. If that’s Chrissy’s usual seat, I’ll just sit over here with Billy.”
“That might not be a great idea,” John stopped her. “Why don’t you sit here?” He held his chair at the head of the table.
“Nonsense, I want to sit across from Chrissy and next to Billy. I don’t get the opportunity to enjoy kids very often.” John shrugged and held the chair as she slipped into it.
“You can send us the dry cleaning bill,” he added with a chuckle.
She smiled and slipped the napkin into her lap. Mulder helped Chrissy fill her plate and everyone dug in.
Chrissy looked up at Dana after she’d eaten a few bites. “Are you Uncle Fox’s girlfriend?”
“Chrissy - “ Samantha immediately started to chastise the child.
“Well, I’m a girl,” Dana agreed.
“And she’s definitely my friend,” Mulder joined in.
“No, that’s not what I mean.” Chrissy rolled her eyes at her uncle. She turned back to Dana. “Do you kiss him?”
“Uh, no, I haven’t,” Dana responded with a blush.
“You should.” Chrissy nodded to herself as she took a carrot onto her spoon. “Momma says he’s a hunk.”
John’s coughing didn’t quite cover the laugh. Mulder glared at him. “Chrissy, that’s grown up stuff.”
“I know, but I can tell you really like her. You should kiss her too.”
Mulder closed his eyes. He wasn’t going to win this one. Finally he opened his eyes to see Dana smiling, though her color was now a bright pink. “I’ll get back to you, okay?”
“Okay,” Chrissy agreed and focused on her meal. Billy decided to join in then, offering Dana a mushy carrot.
“Thank you,” she said seriously as she took it from him. She pretended to put it in her mouth and he laughed. “Now the question is, does he like me enough to share or does he not like carrots and this was a way to get rid of one?”
“He loves carrots, so I’d say you’re in with both the kids,” John chuckled.
Mulder looked over at Samantha. She was taking another sip of wine and not joining the conversation. His mood dipped a notch but he was pleased to see that Dana was handling herself well.
In fact it was her charm that kept the conversation going. She and John were getting along well and Chrissy kept things lively. Samantha joined in just enough not to be rude.
Everyone helped with taking the dishes back to the kitchen and Mulder was getting ready to offer to fill the dishwasher when Chrissy grabbed his hand. “Will you read to me?”
“Sure. Go get on your pj’s and I’ll be right up.”
Mulder looked up at Dana. She smiled. “I’d love to.”
Chrissy led them upstairs and to her room. She climbed into bed and handed Mulder Goodnight Moon, her favorite. He read it and then gave her a kiss.
“One more, please!”
Dana watched him, trying not to smile.
Mulder gave her a warning look. “Just one more.”
Chrissy smiled. “Let Dana pick.”
“Me? Well,” she looked over at the bookcase. “I always liked this one.” She picked up In the Night Kitchen and handed it to Mulder.
Once he had finished he gave Chrissy another hug, then to Dana’s surprise threw her arms around Dana’s neck as well. Dana returned the hug and Mulder saw her blink back tears at the gesture.
After that they spent more and more time together. They avoided the clubs, instead frequenting the small hole-in-the-wall pizza parlors and movie theaters. They also spent a lot of evenings at each others’ apartment, eating in and watching videos, and as they became familiar with each other, making out on the couch became a favorite pastime.
They hadn’t moved into the bedroom yet and Dana was a little concerned that he hadn’t pushed for more. Maybe it was because he had been her doctor, and maybe that was the reason she hadn’t pushed for more herself.
On the other hand, it was nice taking it slow; nice that he wasn’t pressuring her. They were friends; she was learning that and her trust of him increased daily. He really seemed to enjoy just being with her, not asking anything of her but her company. They had conversations about everything, from aliens to Shakespeare. His education had been on par with hers, prep schools, college and medical school at Duke. The difference was he hadn’t wasted his, getting the most from his scholarships and fellowships, and graduating at the top of his class.
As they grew to know each other, she found her confidence growing both with him and in herself. That was definitely a new feeling and she relished it. He believed she was a strong, capable woman. With him she believed it as well. For the first time she felt as sure of his feelings for her when they were apart as when they were together.
The smell of smoke caught her attention. Mrs. Church had opened the door for the visitor, but Dana moved to the top of the stairs to see who it was.
It was him, the smoking man. Dana carefully slipped her phone from her pocket and snapped a couple of pictures of him. Then she put the phone back and started down the stairs.
“Thank you, Mrs. Church.” The older woman nodded and left them alone. Dana looked up at the man. “May I help you?”
“I’m here to see your father.”
“Father isn’t home right now. I’m sorry, but we don’t allow smoking in the house. If you would please put it out.”
He just looked at her for a moment, then took a long draw on the cigarette. As he exhaled, he snuffed the cigarette out in one of the antique bowls on the entry table. Dana said nothing, just watching him.
“I believe I’ll wait for him.”
“I don’t know how long he will be.”
“He knew I was coming by. I’m sure he’ll be here shortly.”
Dana nodded. “Fine. If your addiction demands that you have another cigarette, please smoke it outside.”
The man’s eyes narrowed then, but he made no comment. “I understand you’re seeing a new therapist.”
Her pulse increased, but she stood her ground. “Excuse me?”
“Is that instead of rehab?” She started to turn then but he continued. “You should be careful about remembering things that can’t be changed. That might make things worse than they are. You might want to think about that.”
She looked him directly in the eye. He nodded to her and without another word she left him standing in the foyer. He smiled as he drew out another cigarette.
Mulder knocked at her door and waited. She opened it quickly and motioned him in. The expression on her face concerned him. “You okay?”
“He was there today, at the house.”
“The smoking man! He came to see Father.”
“And are you okay?”
“It was . . . he was scary. I took his picture.”
“I wanted you to see him.” She reached in her sweater pocket for her cell phone and pulled the picture up. She turned it toward him.
“He’s no Brad Pitt,” Mulder offered.
She rolled her eyes. “That’s not all. He smoked a couple of cigarettes, after I asked him not to.”
“Asserting his authority?”
“Probably, but I took the butts.”
“You did what?”
“Yes,” she pointed to the baggy on the counter. “Since I can’t seem to get a name for him, I thought it would be nice to be able to get DNA to go with the picture. Don’t worry, I didn’t touch them. I used a tissue to pick them up.”
“If you really want to know, you could ask your father his name.”
“I thought you didn’t want me to talk to Father.”
“Yeah, I don’t; but this is a little extreme.”
She shrugged. “I’m going to hold onto it anyway.”
“Remind me not to tick you off. You’d make one hell of a stalker,” he grinned and followed her toward the kitchen.
Dana let herself into the house and dropped her bag beside the table in the foyer to look through the mail. She looked up when she heard footsteps on the marble.
“Father? I didn’t think you were home. I was going to stay with Mother.”
“My meeting was canceled. Do you have a minute?”
“Of course. Is everything okay?”
“We just need to talk.” He led her to his study and to her surprise, shut the door behind them. He took a seat behind the desk and she mentally rolled her eyes. So, he was planning on using intimidation. She seated herself in front of him and waited.
“This new psychiatrist you’re seeing - “
“Where did you hear - no. I’m not discussing him with you. If you want to talk, tell me the name of the smoking man; the one that came to see you yesterday.”
Her father drew back slightly before he could stop himself. “Why would you want - “
“Why would I want his name? The name of the man you conspired with when Charlie was taken. You allowed it; you let him work with the others to take him.”
She pointed up toward the sky and he blanched. “The aliens, Father. You know, it’s kind of nice to know you can be frightened of something; as frightened as I was that night when that gray creature came into our room with those pebble-y fingers and huge unblinking eyes and touched me.”
“Dana!” The man quickly glanced around as though checking to see who was listening.
“Yes, I remember now. I remember that man coming here and the fight you and Mother had that night.”
“Dana, we can’t talk about this. Your memories aren’t - “
“Aren’t real? What’s his name?”
“Stop it! We are not going to - “
“Right, we’re not going to talk about it. We can sweep it under the rug like we have the last fifteen years!” She rose abruptly and started for the door.
“Dana, don’t. You need to drop this.”
“Drop it, just drop it?”
“It’s for your own good. Listen to me.”
“Why? Why should I listen to a man who would allow something like that to happen to his son; his baby son? Can you explain that to me?” She stood there for a moment waiting, but he made no response. Finally she turned away and left him. She didn’t see him drop his face into his hands.
She grabbed up her purse from the entry and hurried to her car. She forced her hands to quit shaking and started the engine. She drove straight to her apartment. Mulder had warned her not to get into this with her father, but she’d lost it. Her father was telling her not to remember! And he hadn’t denied his involvement. He hadn’t even denied the existence of aliens. She let herself into her apartment and collapsed on the couch, her energy drained.
Maybe that hadn’t been the smartest move, but how could she just walk away? She still didn’t know the SOB’s name and now she probably never would.
Mostly she wanted to talk to Mulder. He was busy tonight, but he’d said he would call when he got home from his meeting. She’d just have to wait. In the meantime, she was going to protect the evidence she had. Her safe was difficult to get to, but it was the best place to keep the pictures she’d printed off and the cigarette butts.
Once she felt better about the safety of her evidence, she heated up some leftovers. She didn’t want to go out, even to pick something up. She needed to talk to Mulder. She couldn’t stop the smile that grew on her face. That was happening more and more often lately. Fortunately he seemed to feel the same way.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.