Simple Choices (1/?) (PG)


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“Dr. Scully?”  The voice came over the intercom. 

 

Dana rolled her eyes and winked at the six year old boy in front of her.  “I’ll be right back.”

 

The boy nodded and grinned.  He wasn’t sick anyway; he just needed an exam before soccer season started.

 

Dana pressed the button on the chrome speaker.  “Yes?”

 

“There’s an FBI agent here to see you.”

 

“FB . . . All right.  Please ask him to wait in my office.”  She turned back to Josh.

 

“Wow, are you in trouble?”

 

She smiled. “I don’t think so.” She winked at his mother. “Lie back and let me feel of your stomach.”

 

She finished up the exam and signed his permission slip.  “Let me know how your team does.”

 

“I will!”  He took the sticker she held out for him and headed for the door.  “Come on, Mom.  She’s busy.”

 

Both women chuckled at that.  “Thanks Dana.  I’ll talk to you later.”

 

Dana nodded and turned away from them as she headed for her office.  She opened the door and spotted the tall man looking at her diploma.  “I did graduate,” she said with a slight smile on her face.  She held out her hand. “I’m Dr. Dana Scully.”

 

He smiled an easy smile at her.  Damn he was attractive, and . . . tall.  Then she realized that the smile had not reached his eyes.  “Duke.  I’m impressed.”  He hadn’t offered a name yet.

 

“Thank you.”  She took a seat behind her desk and motioned to the chair.  “You’re a little above the normal age of my patients.”

 

He withdrew his ID at that point.  “I’m Agent Mulder.  I’m here about one of your patients, Betsy Trotter.”

 

Fox?  She looked up from his badge at the name.  “Have you found her?”

 

He shook his head.  “I’m looking at the case.”

 

“I was under the impression that her case had been moved to the back burner.  Has something new been discovered?”

 

He shook his head. “The circumstances reminded me of another case.”

 

“The circumstances?  I thought there was no evidence.”

 

He shrugged slightly.  “I’d still like to see your file on her.”

 

“Do you have a warrant?”

 

He smiled that charming smile again.  “No, this is unofficial.”

 

Dana hesitated then. “Unofficial?”

 

“I haven’t been able to link the two cases, but I’m hoping you can help me with that.”

 

She took a deep breath, then nodded.  “Wait here.  I’ll get the file.”  She was back shortly with a too thin file, attesting to the youth of the victim.  Dana handed it over to him.  “She’s a sweet little thing, eight years old.  She’s had no serious health problems; these are her regular medical exams.”

 

“Do you have a picture?”

 

“No, she was forty pounds, just hitting a growth spurt.  She has long dark hair and dark eyes.”

 

He wasn’t looking at the file.  “She has an older brother?”

 

“Yes, Robert.  He’s my patient too.  He’s four years older, a quiet kid but very intelligent.”  She was watching the man now.  He seemed very far away and wherever he was didn’t appear to be pleasant.  “Agent Mulder?  Are you all right?”

 

“What?  Uh, yes.  May I take this file with me?”

 

She hesitated. “I’ll need you to sign a receipt.” 

 

“Thanks.  I’ll try to get this back to you tomorrow.”  He rose then, distracted.

 

She stood as well.  “Agent Mulder, are you sure you’re okay?”

 

“Yes, yes, I’m fine.”  But the smile wasn’t there.  “I’ll get out of your hair now.  I appreciate you taking the time . . . “

 

She nodded, wishing she didn’t have another patient waiting.  He wasn’t okay but she didn’t understand what was going on.  He was already leaving and she was busy.  She put him out of her mind.

 

*****

 

She walked into the diner and waved at Sara behind the counter. Then she turned toward her regular table.  It was occupied, by Agent Mulder.  She stopped for just a moment and he looked up.

 

He rose immediately and smiled at her. “Dr. Scully.”

 

She approached the table then. “Dana, please.”

 

“I’m Mulder.  Are you meeting someone?”

 

“Uh, no.  On Wednesdays I’m on my own.”

 

He nodded. “Would you join me?”  He indicated the chair across from him.

 

“Thank you.”  She looked at the file he’d been looking through when she walked in.  “Is that . . . “

 

He nodded.  “Betsy’s file.”

 

She wasn’t sure what to say and was saved by Sara walking up.  “Your usual, Doc?”

 

“Yes, thank you.”  Dana looked up at the waitress.  Sara sat a glass of ice tea in front of her and refilled Agent Mulder’s glass from the pitcher in her hand.  Once they were alone again, she looked back at the agent.  “Do you not have a partner with you?”

 

He shook his head after taking a sip of the tea.  “I’m working this case on my own time.”

 

“Is this . . . nevermind,” she looked down.

 

“What?  Go ahead.”  He encouraged her.

 

“It seems almost personal to you.”

 

“You’re very perceptive.  It is.”   He looked down at Dana’s hand.  “Will your husband be worried about you?”

That was a definite subject change.  She allowed it.  “No, on Wednesdays he’s with his daughter.”

 

“Oh.  You don’t join them?”

 

“She’s fourteen, I’m not really welcome.  It’s okay, I like having some time.”

 

“Do you have her often?”

 

“Every Wednesday and every other weekend,” she said lightly.  “Do you have children?”

 

He glanced down at his own wedding ring.  “No, my wife has a demanding career.”

 

They fell silent then, not sure what to say.  Again Sara rescued them, placing a cheeseburger and fries in front of Mulder and a Cobb salad for her.  They eyed each other’s meal but neither commented, then began to eat.

 

Usually silence with a stranger made Dana feel uncomfortable, but she found she wasn’t with him.  There were no expectations, they were both married and it was kind of nice not sitting alone here.  She looked up to find him watching her.

 

“Spinach in my teeth?”

 

He grinned, and this time it did reach his eyes.  They were green and warm.  He shook his head. “Just thinking how nice it was not to have to eat alone again.”

 

She blinked; should she admit she’d been thinking the same thing.  For some reason she didn’t think she needed to.

 

“So Dana, why did you decide on pediatrics?”

 

They talked then; she discovered he was also a doctor, Ph.D. in psychology from Oxford of all places.  That definitely ranked up there with Duke Medical School.  Before either realized it, Sara was standing beside them.  “Listen, I hate to do this, but I have to kick you out.  We’re closing.”


Dana’s head jerked up and she glanced at her watch.  Good lord, it was after ten.  Ethan was probably already home.

 

He spoke immediately. “Dana, I’m sorry,”

 

“It’s not your fault.  We just got to talking, but I do need to leave.”

 

“I’ve got this.  Go on and be careful.”

 

“Uh, thank you.  I’ll . . . I hope to see you soon.”

 

He nodded and watched her leave. 

 

*****

 

He was at her office when she arrived the next morning.  She’d had short rounds at the hospital, so she was a little earlier getting in.  Dana didn’t want to analyze the warm feeling that came over her when she spotted him in the waiting room.

 

He was already rising when she stepped into the waiting room, almost as though he’d sensed her presence.  Her smile wasn’t forced and his eyes were smiling as well.

 

“Come on back, I don’t have any patients for at least half an hour.”

 

He followed her and took the seat he had taken the day before.  “Were you in trouble for breaking curfew last night?” he asked as soon as the door was closed.

 

She sighed, but gave him a slight smile.  “Ethan was already asleep when I got home, so no problem.”

 

“He was asleep?”  Mulder sounded incredulous.

 

“It’s okay.  I wasn’t - “

 

“Sorry, it’s none of my business.”  He seemed to retreat from her and she was startled at how bleak it made her feel.  That was ridiculous; she’d met the man yesterday.

 

“I, I just don’t want you to feel guilty about anything.  I completely lost track.  I was having a good time.”

 

He was obviously taken aback by that and fell silent.

 

“Did you get the information you needed?”  She indicated the file in his hand.

 

He seemed to deflate slightly.  “Thank you for letting me take the file.”

 

“It didn’t help,” she said softly.  For some reason she wanted to reach over and take his hand.  What was it about this man?  “Can you talk to me about the case?  I don’t know what I could do to help, but maybe if you just talked it out . . . “

 

“You, you’d do that?”

 

“Of course I would.  Betsy is special to me.  She was one of my first patients when I opened the practice, she and her brother.”

 

“You speak of her in the present tense.”

 

“I haven’t given up on finding her,” she said simply.

 

“Why not?” he asked, honestly curious.

 

“Because sometimes people do come back.”

 

“That sounded like experience.”

 

She shrugged. “Well I guess it is, but not mine as much as my family’s.”

 

“Your family’s?”

 

She nodded. “I don’t really remember it.  I was only four.”

 

“Tell me, please,” he asked as she settled behind her desk. 

 

“There’s not really that much to tell and it was a long time ago.  We were on vacation.  Dad was in from a long cruise, so all six of us packed up and went to New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns.  I do kind of remember being in the back seat in the middle between Bill and Missy.”  She grinned. “Charlie sat up front.  Anyway, we went to the Lincoln National Forest the first night.  We were camping out.  Missy and I were playing at the playground.  She was eight and since it was so close to our site Mom let us go alone.

 

“We were on the see-saw then it started getting dark.”  Dana’s eyes were unfocused remembering the scene.  “It started to storm.”

 

Mulder nodded, she had stopped talking.  “Dana?”

 

“I don’t remember any rain, I never can remember the rain but there was lightening, a really bright burst right over us.”

 

“What happened?”

 

She shrugged, “I don’t know.  I woke up three days later in the hospital.  It turned out that Missy had been missing all that time.  It was hell for Mom, one daughter missing and one in a coma.”  She shook her head.  “But they found her wandering in the forest and when she was back, I woke up.”

 

“You, uh, did you have any aftereffects?”  He was leaning forward in his chair now and the undercurrent of tension caused her to frown slightly.

 

“No.  I’ve never had a recurrence.”

 

“What about Missy?”

 

Her face fell slightly then.  “Missy hasn’t done as well as I have.  She started acting out; when she got older she ran away a few times.”  Dana stared at her hands. “She experimented with drugs, cut herself.”

 

“Was she . . . hurt?”

 

Dana shook her head.  “There was no evidence of it.  She had no memories, none at all.”

 

“Has she gotten any help?”

 

“Oh yes.  Mom took her to counseling, but . . .”

 

“It didn’t help.”  It wasn’t a question.

 

“I haven’t seen her since my wedding.  She and Ethan’s daughter, Robin, were my bridesmaids.  I hoped that would make her feel part of the family again.”  Dana looked off into the distance, thinking unspoken thoughts. “So sometimes people do make it back.”

 

He looked at her for a long moment.  “I would like to discuss this case.  Maybe I do need a new perspective.”  His eyes lightened for a moment, then it dropped away.  “No, I can’t ask you to be away from home another night.”

 

“Of course you can.  This is important.  Should we meet at the diner again?”

 

“You’re sure?”

 

“Yes.  I should be out of here a little after five.  Have an iced tea waiting.”  He nodded and handed her the file.  “You won’t need it?”

 

“No, I have the info down.”  He stood and hesitated, suddenly uncertain.  “I, Dana, I appreciate this.”

 

She came around her desk.  “I appreciate the chance to help.”  She touched his arm and he took an involuntary step toward her.  He caught himself then and shook his head slightly, bringing himself back to the issue at hand.

 

He nodded. “I’ll see you at the diner.”

 

*****

 

She took a short break at lunch, eating yogurt at her desk.  She called Ethan at his office.  It took a moment to get past his assistant, but she was used to that.

 

“Dana?  You were out early this morning.”

 

“I know, I’m sorry.  I had two patients in the hospital.  Did things go okay last night?”

 

“Yes, Robin scored a goal.”

 

“Good for her.  Where did you eat?”

 

“Pizza, with some of the girls on the team.  You should have joined us.”

 

She was glad he couldn’t see her face.  She’d tried that.  Robin made sure her displeasure was well known.  No, the weekends were enough.  “I know, I was working.”

 

“You were late getting in yourself.  What time did you get home?”

 

“I was there a little after eleven.  I didn’t want to wake you.  I called to let you know I was going to be late again tonight.”

 

“Another patient?”  He sounded slightly annoyed.

 

“Yes, remember that little girl that disappeared, Betsy Trotter?  Her case is being reopened and I need to meet with the investigators.”

 

“You?  Why?  The girl’s been gone over six months.  Someday they’ll find the body, but you can forget finding her alive, Dana.”

 

His attitude surprised her, but she wasn’t looking for a fight.  “I hope you’re wrong, Ethan.  I feel like I have to do this.  I shouldn’t be that late.  There’s that left over casserole in the refrigerator.”

 

“What about you?”

 

“I’ll get something. Don’t worry.”

 

“If I’m asleep, wake me when you get home.  I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen you.”

 

“I know and I’m sorry.  Don’t worry, I’ll make all kinds of noise tonight.”

 

He chuckled and they talked for a couple of minutes, then she had to get back to work.  She refused to dwell on the sense of anticipation about her meeting with Mulder.

 

*****

 

Regardless, she was ready to leave in record time that evening.  She couldn’t help the smile when she saw him rise to greet her as she entered the diner.  He seemed pleased to see her as well.  There was a glass of iced tea waiting for her.

 

They visited for a few minutes, catching up on their days.  Sara joined them then, pad in hand.  He waited for her. “I guess I’ll have the salad again.”

 

He spoke up. “You’re a doctor; you know you need a little protein.” 

 

“A cheeseburger, like you had?” she asked, her eyebrow high.

 

“Tastes great.”

 

“What’s your cholesterol level?”

 

“Uh, good?”

 

She rolled her eyes.  “Okay, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat and a side salad.”  She looked the challenge at him.

 

He let his shoulders slump.  “I’ll have the same.”

 

Sara’s chuckle as she walked away made him give Dana a mock glare.  Dana forced a sober expression, but the twinkle in his eyes undid her and she laughed as well. 

 

By mutual agreement, they didn’t discuss the case while they were eating.  When the meal had ended, Mulder looked around.  “Would you mind if we discussed the case somewhere a little more . . . private?”

 

“Oh, of course.”

 

“I have the files at my - “ He stopped and shook his head.  “Oh god, I was going to ask you to my hotel room.  I’m sorry, I - “

 

“If that’s where your files are, I understand.  Mulder, we’re adults, we’re both married.  I certainly trust you enough not to jump me in your room.”

 

Those words seemed to stun him.  “You, you trust me?”

 

“Well, yes.  Any reason not to?”

 

He shook his head. “No.  I can be a gentleman when I have to.  I’m at the Summit Inn.  Do you know it?”

 

“Yes, it’s on my way home.  Why don’t I follow you?”

 

He smiled, aware perhaps better than she that she had given him a gift.  He reached for his wallet.

 

“You got it last night.  This is on me.”  She insisted and motioned for Sara.

 

Traffic had thinned out and they reached the Summit Inn quickly.  She pulled in beside him and exited the car.  His hand on the small of her back led her into the lobby.  Gentleman indeed.

 

Once in his room, he grabbed a pair of running shorts off the chair and kicked his shoes out of the way.  “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting company.”

 

She bit her lip to keep from laughing.  He merely looked embarrassed.  He pulled the chair up to the small table and held it for her.  Now he was beginning to look nervous.  On impulse she reached out and took his hand.  “I’m not going to talk about this to anyone.  I would never want to hurt your investigation.”

 

“That’s not it.  I . . . “ He took a deep breath. “You said it seemed personal to me.  It is and now that you’re here. . . “ He shook his head. “You’re going to think I’m insane.”

 

Her brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

 

“You could leave now and I’d still have some dignity and good memories of an evening with a lovely woman.”

 

“Dignity?  Mulder, please.”

 

He sank down on the foot of the bed.  “Could I ask you to hear me through, before you try to have me committed?”  He looked down at their hands, still clasped and withdrew his.

 

“I promise.”

 

*****

 

She kept her promise, listening to his entire story.  Her heart ached for that young boy who had been through this trauma.  His theory had caught her off guard, but he was obviously sincere about it.

 

He finally met her eyes. “Well, you haven’t run screaming from the room.”

 

“Oh Mulder, I’m so sorry about Samantha.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Your parents - “

 

He shook his head. “They don’t talk about her.  She doesn’t exist for them, but she haunts them.”

 

“Mulder, I . . . “

 

“You do think I’m crazy.  Little green men from outer space, stealing my sister.”

 

“I will admit it’s something that would never have occurred to me.”

 

“I woke up in the hospital three days later.”  He just looked at her then as her eyes widened.  Without realizing it, she’d stood, and her hand had come to rest on his arm.

 

“Is that . . . do you think . . . “

 

“I’m not saying that.  It’s probably just a coincidence.  Did you ever do X-rays on Betsy?”

 

He was giving her some time, switching back to Betsy.  Dana took a deep breath. “No.  She’s an extraordinarily healthy little girl, so is her brother.”  She looked up then. “What about Samantha?”

 

“I don’t remember her ever being sick.  She broke her collar bone once, falling off a swing.”

 

“That’s an accident, not an illness.  What about you?”

 

He stopped, looking at her. “I have Samantha’s medical records, and mine.  Do you want to see them?”

 

“Yes.  It’s very unusual for a child not to have some illnesses.  Now of course we have the chicken pox vaccine, but not when you were a child.  I don’t know that I could find anything, but I’d like to try.”

 

Inappropriate, but why did he have such a feeling of relief that this wasn’t going to be the last time he saw her?  She was married, and so was he, kind of.

 

He glanced down at his watch. “I hate to say this, but you need to get home.”

 

“Wha - Oh, yes.”  She seemed flustered as, as though going home hadn’t crossed her mind.  “I . . . Mulder, thank you for sharing this with me.  I could tell it was difficult for you to talk about it.  I . . . that means a lot to me, we don’t know each other that well.”

 

He nodded, not sure what to say.  She was right; they didn’t know each other that well, so why had he allowed himself to be that open with her?  He was always more cautious than that, even with the incident in her past.  But it had felt right, he felt connected to her.

 

*****

 

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