The phone rang and she grabbed it without even looking over. Mulder was upstairs anyway. "Scully."
"Dana? Did I really get you finally?" The woman's voice sounded familiar. "They certainly protect you there."
"Chris? Is that you?"
"It is. I'm in town with Rachel and we want to see you."
"Rachel's here too?" Scully was caught up in memories of times with these women. Good memories, embarrassing memories, unclear memories.
"Yes. Her assignment is to track down Carol, so the four of us can get together tonight. Do not tell me you're too busy, Dana."
"I...I don't - "
"You do not have an autopsy tonight. We forbid it."
"What do you have in mind?" Scully spoke cautiously, but she already knew she was going to do this. She hadn't seen these women all together in years.
"Shots? I haven't done shots since . . . since the last time I went out with you." She shook her head at that vague memory.
"You can do it, Dana. Six thirty, the Blue Moon. Come on, don't let us down."
"The Blue Moon, six thirty. But I have to work some tomorrow, I'm not going to get as drunk as last time." She was smiling now and beginning to look forward to the evening. She'd grown up a lot with these women. None of them had lived away from home when they'd met in college and they'd banded together as their own little family. It would be good to catch up on their lives.
"I've got a beep, Dana. That's probably Rachel. See you in a couple of hours."
"The Blue Moon. I can't wait to see you." She hung up and looked for a moment at the far wall, not really seeing the articles and pictures Mulder had posted there. A smile played around her lips. She didn't see Mulder enter the open door.
He stood watching her. She hadn't realized he had been outside the door. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but he'd never thought about her drinking shots. He'd only seen her drink wine and not much of that. Now she was meeting some guy and promising not to get as drunk as last time. When the hell was last time? Would she say anything to him? She hadn't 'last time'.
"Mulder, I didn't hear you come back. Did they have the results?"
"What? Oh uh, no. I'll have to check back later."
"Later. Uh, Mulder I need to leave on time tonight." She didn't look up when she said that, avoiding looking at him.
"Oh, plans?" He was holding his breath, would she tell him?
"Yes. This stuff can wait until Monday, can't it?"
"Uh, sure." She wasn't going to say anything. She had plans; plans to get drunk and she didn't want him to know about it. Super. He felt his mood darken and he grew quiet, pretending to work on the computer. Actually he kept watching her, surreptiously. She was excited about tonight, pleased. No reason she shouldn't be. Damn it!
Shortly she closed down her computer and rose. "I'm at a good stopping point, Mulder. I'm going to go on home."
"Yeah, okay. See you Monday." He watched her leave and felt his mood sink even lower.
He was accomplishing nothing. His screen saver had come up for the third time. He stabbed the keys to sign off and slammed the desk drawer closed. He might as well close up and go home as well. All he could do was visualize her, laughing, with some man's arm around her, his hands on her, as she threw back her head downing the alcohol.
He let himself into his apartment and sighed as he hung his overcoat up. He was going to a lot of fun to be around tonight. Too bad he was the only one here. He toed off his shoes in the middle of the room and trudged toward the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and looked inside but couldn't focus. He was seeing her again, her eyes gleaming as she bit into a slice of lime.
He slammed the refrigerator door shut, causing the supplies in the door to rattle. He wasn't hungry. Instead he turned back to the table and sorted through the small stack of mail he had tossed there when he came in. A couple of bills, some junk, an ad for a new men's club. Hell. He tossed everything but the bills; it wasn't like it was anything new. Not many personal letters made their way into his mail slot.
He was being a real idiot about this. She had plans, plans to get drunk with someone she obviously trusted enough to get drunk with. She wasn't a kid. He sighed again and headed into the bedroom.
He changed into jeans and a t-shirt, actually bothering to hang up his clothes rather than drape them over the chair. He removed his holster and gun, securing them in the top drawer of his dresser. While he was at it, he changed his sheets and gathered up his laundry. Maybe that would occupy him tonight.
He carried the basket into the living room, but that was as far as he got. He dropped the laundry beside his table. He glanced at the table, then shook his head and turned toward the computer.
He logged on, the guys weren't on-line. He checked a couple of chat rooms he had visited before but nothing caught his attention. When was he going to admit it, the only thing he wanted to do was go over to the Blue Moon and see this guy.
He refused to stand, surely even he wasn't that stupid, was he? Well, maybe he was because now that the thought was fully formed it was all he could think about. He sat there for a few more minutes before he slammed his hand down on the desk and rose.
He wanted to see this man. The Blue Moon was always crowded, he could slip in, stand at the bar. She wouldn't have to see him and if she was doing shots, she might not be able to see that far anyway. He rolled his eyes, boy he really was in a sweet mood tonight.
He grabbed his leather jacket off the coat rack and snatched his keys from the table. He was a jackass but he was going to do this. He didn't bother to wait for the elevator, working off energy by trotting down the stairs.
He turned himself off on the drive over. Second guessing himself wasn't going to help anyway. He'd made his decision. Was it anyone he knew? He thought over the men at the Bureau. There were several men there that watched her whenever she was around. None of them were worthy of her. Well, to be technical neither was he, but . . . shit. It wasn't anyone at work. He would know, he just would. No this was someone from outside, someone one of her friends had introduced to her.
She was such an intelligent woman, but her taste in men sucked. Jack, Ed Jerse, even Padgett, and of course at times she even seemed to enjoy his company.
Well, he was here. Did he do the wise thing - turn around and go home, or the normal thing and make a fool of himself. At least the place was crowded, if this man enthralled her he would be easy to overlook. Shit.
He parked a couple of blocks from the bar and walked slowly to it, his feet dragging more the closer he got. This was insane. If she caught him . . .
He pushed opened the door, and made his way toward the bar. He ordered a beer and turned to scan the room. He didn't spot her, but he couldn't see the whole bar from where he stood. So now what, did he wander around until he found her? That would certainly be unobtrusive.
Had she . . . had she already left with him? His spirit sank even lower. He took a long swig of beer from the bottle. He should probably go on home before he made an even bigger fool of himself. Instead he heard himself order another beer. He didn't bother to look around, just sinking onto an empty seat and nursing the beer.
"I can't believe we're doing this. I have not - "
"Oh come on, Dana, don't tell us you never have fun anymore. You kept up with us drink for drink in college."
"That was a long time ago."
"Bull!" Chris laughed, "You quiet ones are always the worst. Don't kid us. And don’t tell us that with all those men at the Bureau you don't party with some of them."
Dana rolled her eyes. Yeah, all those 'men' at the Bureau. The only one she wanted to notice her was so obsessed with his work it was never going to happen, and the ones that did notice her - yuck. Now that was mature - no wonder she didn't drink anymore.
"Stop picking on Dana, Chris. Have you looked around? Yeah, you can get picked up in DC, but the guys here are more into power than women." Rachel defended Dana. "I live here too. I can go out, yeah, but someone I care about - forget it. They are all so full of themselves."
Dana kept quiet, yes that have been her experience at one time. To be honest she hadn't gone out on a 'date' date for too long. She hadn't realized how uninterested she was until this minute. She didn't even look at other men anymore. Other men? What man did she . . . oh shut up, Dana, you know exactly what man you want to look at.
This was not good. Forget Mulder. You're out with old friends; you're not here to pick up a man. You are here to catch up on Chris and Rachel and Carol. She firmly shoved Mulder from her mind. She thought about him enough, hell she dreamed about - argh!
"Chris, tell me about Nick." Dana leaned forward to concentrate fully on her answer.
"Nick? Boy, we have been out of touch." Chris threw back another shot. "The boy didn't believe in monogamy. I'm not big on sharing."
The others laughed and made rude comments at her understatement. Dana's thoughts slipped traitorously back to Mulder. She couldn't testify in court that he wasn't seeing anyone but she felt pretty sure of it. And what did it matter?
"Details, Chris. Did you injure him when you found out?" Rachel was laughing now. Carol leaned against Dana chuckling and awaiting the answer eagerly. Dana took the opportunity to throw back another shot. She needed to get into the spirit of the evening. She didn't have to be the responsible one tonight.
They continued to laugh, catching up with each other. "Dana, it's your round." She shook her head, rising to go to the bar. They would have to wait ages for a waitress. When she returned, Chris nudged her, "Boxers or briefs?"
"No way! We are not kids. I'm not about to - "
"Dana, you were always the best at this. We need your expertise."
Carol had tears running down her face. "You,” Dana pulled Carol to her feet, "come with me. Let's give them a chance to calm down."
They got in line for the women's room. "I can't believe those two. Does Frank know what we do when we get together?"
Carol grinned, "Are you kidding? Like he would offer to baby-sit for this. We never see each other, Dana, even living in the same city. Are you seeing anyone?"
"Who has time, Carol? I don't even think about it any more."
"I find that hard to believe. Every woman needs a little male companionship occasionally."
Dana shrugged; this wasn't a subject she felt like discussing. She changed the subject to Carol's kids. When they finally headed back to their table the room was even more crowded and smoky.
"Dana!" Chris pulled her close to make herself heard. "The guy in jeans at the bar. Boxers or less?"
Dana rolled her eyes, but Carol nodded. She looked over that way; well it was obvious which man she was talking about. Dana's eyes widened, "Less."
"I agree, and wow!"
The man turned, as though feeling their eyes on him. Dana forced her eyes up to his face, and froze. "Oh my god." The other women looked at her curiously and Carol touched her arm.
"Dana, you okay?"
Mulder's eyes were still locked on hers. There was no mistaking he knew what she had been doing. He moved toward her. There was nowhere to run.
"What are you doing here?"
"Having a beer." He waggled the bottle at her.
"Aren't you going to introduce us?" Dana jumped as Chris spoke.
"Uh, Carol, Chris, and Rachel." She indicated each of them in turn. "This is Fox Mulder, my partner."
"Partn - "
"This is Fox?"
"Pull up a chair." That from Chris. After a short hesitation, he did just that, much to Dana's dismay.
She closed her eyes. What the hell had she been thinking? She looked down at the table and threw back another shot. He said nothing, just watching her. She didn't have a date; she'd come here with friends, and . . . and -
"Hey Fox, let's dance." Chris was pulling on his arm now.
"I, uh, I don't dance very much."
"It's so crowded out there, no one will know." She urged him to his feet and he trailed her out to the floor. He was taken aback by her proximity, but there was nowhere to retreat.
Dana watched them, torn between disbelief that Chris would do this, and simmering mortification that he had caught her checking him out so appreciatively. This whole night was a mistake.
It didn't improve. Chris continued to come on to Mulder and the other two seemed to be enjoying his company altogether too much. Scully began drinking more steadily. She wanted to leave, but it didn't seem to be an option.
When the music turned slow, Mulder turned to her. "Scully, may I have this dance?"
She looked at him as though he had lost his mind, but she wasn't really in any physical shape to refuse when he helped her to her feet.
Once on the floor and in his arms, she finally spoke to him, "What are you doing here?"
"I just came for a beer, Scully. I hadn't planned to stay."
"Then why don't you leave?"
"Is that what you want?" He was careful not to hold her too close.
"I don't care what you do. You and Chris seem to be having a wonderful time. Knock yourself out." She pulled away from him and he had to reach out to keep her on her feet. That seemed to anger her even more. What? Was he supposed to let her fall?
"Come on." He led her back to the table and watched as she took another drink.
It wasn't long before the lights dimmed momentarily. "I think they're throwing us out."
"Damn, I was having a great time." Chris's hand rested on his chest.
Dana turned away.
"Do you ladies have rides home?" Mulder rose from the table.
"Well, Rachel's staying with me at my hotel tonight and Carol lives close by. But Dana drove herself and lives in the opposite direction."
"I'll make sure Scully gets home okay. Let me get a cab for you."
"I can get myself home." Dana rose but had to grab hold of the table to remain upright.
Mulder took her arm despite her protest and escorted the women outside. He settled Chris, Rachel and Carol in a taxi after they told each other goodnight, then turned Scully toward his own car.
"I can get home, Mulder."
"Right." He didn't even slow down and since he had her arm, she kept walking.
As their taxi pulled away, Carol turned to Chris. "Okay, what the hell was that all about?"
"Did you see the way he looked at her? Did you see! And after I went after him you saw how she acted. No time or interest in meeting anyone my ass. She's interested now and pissed enough to maybe do something about it."
"She may never speak to you again." Rachel advised, slipping off her shoes and wiggled her toes.
"If it works like I hope it will, she'll speak to me." Chris smiled and settled in for the ride.
Mulder sat her in his car and shut the door firmly. He was shaking his head, what an incredibly bad night this had been. By the time he got in on his side, she was asleep against the window. Oh yeah, she could have gotten home alone. He would certainly have allowed some strange cab driver to have custody of her like this. He reached across her and buckled her in, then pulled out. He didn't even bother to think about it. His apartment was closer and she was in no shape to be alone.
When he got to his place, she did rouse slightly, but not enough to walk, so he picked her up and carried her inside. He took her straight to his bedroom, and laid her carefully on the bed. He slipped off her shoes and jacket. She didn't look comfortable, and she probably couldn't get any angrier at him, so he carefully unbuttoned her slacks and slipped them down her legs, followed by her blouse.
He slipped one of his t-shirts over her and tucked her in. She curled into his pillow and he retreated to the living room.
He had drifted off himself to whatever was on the Sci-Fi channel when he heard her moving around and then dash for the bathroom. He followed her in there and held her head as she was sick.
He handed her a wet cloth and while she wiped her face he found an extra toothbrush. Then he left her alone.
She came out slowly, "What am I doing here?"
"Sleeping it off. Go back to bed, Scully."
She seemed to think about it for an instant, but didn't bother to argue, just returned to his room. He didn't dare even smile. Maybe she'd gotten rid of enough alcohol. But tomorrow morning was going to be painful. He reclined again and flipped off the TV.
He tapped on the door the next morning, carrying a mug of coffee and a glass of juice. "You awake?"
She opened her eyes painfully. He sat the coffee on the bedside table and pulled the bottle of aspirin out of his pocket. "I thought you might like these."
"Thanks." She levered herself up carefully, then glanced down at her apparel. "What the hell?"
"I wanted you to be comfortable. Don't worry, I was out there. You want to get up?"
"Yeah." He nodded and returned to the kitchen.
When she joined him, dressed but not exactly at her best, she sank into a chair at his table. "What happened last night?"
"What do you remember?"
"Meeting my roommates, then you joined the party. Then Chris kept giving you lap dances."
His face colored at that. "Not exactly."
"Close enough. Did you get her number?"
"I don't want it. You know how those places are, women checking you out, treating you like a piece of meat."
Her eyes widened as memory returned, then she dropped her face into her hands. At that he loosened up a little. "You do that often?"
"Mulder . . . damn, I don't know what to say. I haven't spent much time with those women in years. We stay in touch, but . . . "
"Feeling pretty bad aren't you?"
She nodded her head carefully.
"Well, your car's still at the bar. Why don't you stretch out on the couch while I straighten up."
"I should be getting home."
"Okay, let me start my laundry and then I'll take you over there." He was watching her and beginning to feel some real sympathy for her. "Put your feet up. It's Saturday, you don't have to do anything."
She pushed herself up and walked wearily to the couch. He fixed her an icepack and while she got comfortable, picked up the laundry basket he had dropped in his living room the night before.
When he returned she had curled up under the afghan he had used the night before and was sound asleep again. Rather than wake her, he cleaned up his bedroom, occasionally checking on her.
He returned to the room when he saw her sit up. "Feeling better?"
"Yeah, a little. Mulder, thanks for taking me in last night. I, uh, I was . . . "
"Yeah, you were."
"Why were you there last night, Mulder? Don't tell me you just went there to get a beer."
He looked down for a moment. "No, that's not why I was there. I heard you."
"What?" She was still hung over enough not to follow him easily.
He sighed, "In the office. I overheard you talking to whoever called - Chris? I didn't know you were talking to your roommate. I thought . . . “ He sighed again, "I thought you were talking to some guy you were going out to get drunk with. Someone you'd gotten drunk with before. I, oh hell, I wanted to see what he looked like, who you were dating."
She sat there, staring at him, her mouth slightly open.
"You could say something."
"That I'm a damn fool, that I had no right to intrude on your personal time, that eavesdropping is illegal."
"Okay. All of the above."
He sat silent, waiting for a long moment. "Well? That's it?"
"Yes, for now. You came into the bathroom last night, to look after me, didn't you?"
"How do you feel about Chris?"
"I don't have any feelings about her."
"It didn't look like it last night." She was watching him now.
"That was all her, Scully. What about . . . "
"Oh." She looked away, then back with a sigh. "Mulder, that was an old game. It doesn't mean anything. When we were in college, it was normal for the guys to . . . Chris just decided to start paying them back. It worked, men don't like it any more than women do - except for the exhibitionists on both sides of course."
"Do you consider me an exhibitionist?"
"No! I . . . I'm sorry. I didn't know it was you."
"If you'd looked at my face . . . "
"Mulder, please. Okay, I messed up, you messed up. Can we call it even? Can we go back to yesterday afternoon?"
"I suppose that would be for the best."
"It would, Mulder. Believe me."
"How are you feeling now?"
She gave a slight smile, "I think I'm going to live."
"Good. Scully, no more shots unless I'm around, okay?"
"I think I can agree to that. Just here, where it's safe." She relaxed back against the leather.
His eyes gleamed, safe here? And let's face it; he was never going to forget the look on her face when she was playing her 'game' with him. Gratifying. Maybe he could get her to do shots again . . .