Simple Choices - 3/? (R)


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Something made Mulder look up and their eyes met across the room.  Dana?  What was she doing here?  His original reason for being here was forgotten.

 

‘Deep Throat’ glanced at the object of his attention and stiffened.  Without a word, he rose.  “Wait!”  Mulder spoke with a low voice, jerked back to the present.  The older man turned to look at him and shook his head, then moved to the back of restaurant.

 

She had seen him and for just a moment he thought she was going to bolt, but he watched her straighten her coat and approach him as he stood.  She’d become the most important thing, not possible information from a questionable source.  “Dana.  I, I didn’t expect to see you here.”

 

She gave him a small smile.  “I, uh, I work near here.”

 

“Here?  What about - “ He stopped immediately, was this a good time?  “Can you join me?”

 

She hesitated for a moment, then nodded and slipped into the booth opposite him. He took his seat again.  She looked toward the back, where his companion had disappeared.   “Am I interrupting something?”

 

“No, nothing important.  You work around here?”

 

She nodded, but she didn’t speak.  Seeing him had affected her more than she had even suspected.  Maybe that was why she had put off calling him, though he was always on her mind.

 

“Did you and, and Ethan move here?”  It had hurt to mention her husband, but the man was a reality.

 

“No, just me.”

 

“You left him?”  He leaned toward her, obviously burning with questions.  She wouldn’t meet his eyes.  He scanned her and she felt him stiffen. His eyes widened.  His voice was just a whisper. “It’s mine.” 

 

She looked up stunned.  No one here knew she was pregnant.  She wasn’t showing, and she was seated.  The table hid . . . but one look and he had known.  “We need to talk.  Let’s get out of here.”  His voice was low and hard.

 

He stood and reached for her hand.  She didn’t protest.  It felt like this had been inevitable somehow.  He led her to his car and held her door.  They were silent as he drove.  She could see his jaw tensing, his arm muscles bunching.

 

“Where are we going?” she finally asked.

 

“Some place private.”  He was silent after that and she didn’t disturb him.

 

He pulled up to an apartment building on Hegal and parked.  She had gotten out by the time he came around the car, but he took her arm again, as though he thought she would try to escape.  The elevator was empty, but still neither spoke.

 

Mulder opened the door to the apartment and let her precede him inside.  Then he locked and bolted the door.  She stood in the middle of the room and watched him.  He began to pace, his agitation growing.  “You’ve left Ethan. You’ve moved to Washington, but you don’t call.  You don’t call me, and you’re pregnant!”  His fist slammed into the wall and Dana jumped.

 

He didn’t say anything.  She approached him and took his hand in hers.  “Come sit down.”  She led him to the couch and he sat heavily.  She turned then and headed for his kitchen.  She ignored his uninjured hand coming out to stop her.

 

He heard the drawers opening and closing, then ice rattling.  She returned quickly with a dish towel full of ice and placed it on his injured hand.  “Are you okay?” she asked quietly.

 

He ignored that.  “Talk to me.  Why didn’t you call, why didn’t you tell me?”

 

She gave a small shrug.  “Getting up my courage?  I’m sure you weren’t planning on acknowledging the child of a one-night stand.”

 

His eyes narrowed at that statement.

 

“We did use precaution, I know.  In addition to the condoms, I was on the pill.”

 

“So we’re supposed to have this child,” he said quietly.  She met his eyes, startled.  That was exactly what she had thought that night when she finally admitted to herself whose child it was.

 

“Ethan didn’t think it was his?”  She started to move away then, but he caught her hand.  “What?”

 

“Ethan can’t be the father.  I’ve learned he had a vasectomy four years ago.”

 

“He never told you?” 

 

She shook her head.  “He wanted to ensure that the other person he was sleeping with never got pregnant.”

 

“He was having an affair?”  He sounded outraged.

 

Her eyebrow rose. “Pot calling the kettle black here, Mulder.”

 

He did look slightly abashed at that.  “Okay, but we were only together once.”

 

She sighed. “This one has been going on longer than that.”

 

He looked puzzled for a moment, her tone, her expression was . . . then his eyes widened and his mouth fell open.  “Robin?”

 

She needed to give up on being surprised by anything the man said.  She just nodded wearily, leaning back against the couch.

 

“His daughter?  How the hell could the son of a bitch . . . Jesus!  How, how did you know?”

 

“The same way you did, I just knew.  I don’t know; it all just fell into place.  All those times when Robin made it uncomfortable or impossible for me to join them; years Mulder!  Ethan was already furious, or he wouldn’t have blurted out that he got his vasectomy when Robin was ten.  That’s not the date I would think he would use to remember that kind of procedure.  He lost it; he was screaming at me and jerked me to my feet, I don’t think he realized what he’d said.”

 

“He grabbed you?” Mulder’s eyes narrowed.

 

“I’d never seen him like that.”

 

“What set him off?”  She looked up at him and just stared for a moment.  “Oh.”

 

“I had fixed a special dinner.  I wanted to announce that we were . . . I had refused to even wish the baby was yours.”  His eyes widened at that.  “We were both so careful.”  Her eyes filled and she looked away.  “You should hear his excuses.”  Her voice shook.  “At first it was that she seduced him - a ten year old!  When that didn’t seem to fly, he said he’d wanted to protect her, make sure her first sexual experiences were positive and gentle.”

 

Mulder didn’t bother to voice an opinion; his incredulous expression said it all.  “How is she?”

 

“In therapy.  And mad as hell that we turned him in.”

 

“We?”

 

“His other ex and I.”  She shook her head. “How could I have missed it?  I’m a pediatrician for god’s sake, and I’m married to a pedophile.”  She looked up at the ceiling, blinking to keep the tears from falling.

 

He moved closer.  “As a breed they’re good at covering their tracks.  If their victim is on their side . . . “ He brushed her hair back.  “You need to eat something.  You can’t skip meals, something with vegetables.  Do you like Chinese?”

 

She looked back at him, surprised at the turn in the conversation.

 

“Well, you need to look after yourself.  It won’t help to beat yourself up about this.  The courts will handle it now.”

 

She nodded and stood up.  He reached for her with his good hand.  “I need to go to the bathroom.”

 

“Oh.  It’s through there.  I’ll go ahead and order.”

 

They ate in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable now.  When she had eaten to his satisfaction, he took her plate from her hands.  They were still shaking slightly.

 

“What are you going to do?”

 

She shrugged.  “He’s agreed to a no-fault divorce, at his lawyer’s recommendation.  In Virginia that takes six months.  I’m also looking into an annulment since no real marriage existed.  With the charges against him that shouldn’t be a problem.  I want to be rid of him; away from the whole thing.”  She shivered slightly.

 

“Are you cold?”  She shook her head.   He pulled the afghan from the back of the couch and laid it across her legs.  “Try to relax.  You’re here and you’re safe.  Let me stand guard for a little while.”

 

She managed a small smile at that.  He leaned over and slipped her shoes off.  “Get comfortable.  I’ll be right back.”  He stood and headed for the bathroom himself.

 

When he returned he saw that she had drifted off, snuggled under his afghan.  He watched her for a moment.  She’d been through hell, whether she admitted it or not.  He wanted to strangle the illusive Ethan, for several reasons.

 

He turned back to his bedroom and stripped the bed, putting on fresh sheets.  She could stay here tonight.  They had so much more to talk about.

 

When he returned to the living room, he knelt beside her.  “Dana?”  She didn’t even stir.  He thought about it a minute, then carefully lifted her into his arms.  He carried her into the bedroom and lay her gently on the bed.  He watched, but she was still asleep.

 

She’d be more comfortable undressed.  This wasn’t a seduction, far from it.  He just wanted her to be at ease.  He carefully removed her dress and hose, then slipped one of his gray t-shirts over her head.  She merely rolled to her side and slept on.  Who knew how long it had been since she’d had a decent night’s sleep.  He smiled then.  She seemed more peaceful than he’d seen her all evening.

 

He moved back out to the living room and booted up his computer.  He’d been working over an hour and a half when he looked up and saw her standing in the doorway.

 

She held out the hem of his t-shirt.  It nearly reached her knees.  “Light touch.”

 

He shrugged. “Looks good on you.”

 

Her eyebrow rose.

 

“What, you don’t like haute couture?” he said with a grin.

 

He rose from his chair and moved to the couch, holding out his hand for her to join him.  She shook her head lightly and sat down beside him.  “I should be getting home.”

 

“Where is home?”  He leaned back, watching her.

 

“You know the Children’s Clinic, about a block from the diner?”  He nodded, as she added.  “I have an apartment about two blocks past that.”

 

He sat up straight then. “No.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“That’s no place for you to live.  It’s not safe.  You can’t - “ He saw her expression, but didn’t back down.

 

“You’re sounding a little caveman, Mulder.”

 

“Okay, I’ll be caveman.  You’re not staying there.”

 

“And just where - “

 

“Here.  At least until you find a place in a better neighborhood,” he amended.

 

“A more expensive neighborhood,” she corrected him.

 

“I don’t want you worrying about that.  I have - “

 

“Mulder, I have my savings.  I just don’t want to go into them yet.  I know I’ll need them later. “

 

“Please, I want you here.  You can have the bedroom.  I usually sleep out here anyway.”

 

“You want me to move in with you?” Her tone bordered on the incredulous.

 

“You don’t have to say it like that.”  He slumped a little. 

 

She gave him a tiny smile.  “It’s a nice offer, but - “ she glanced uncertainly toward the bedroom.

 

“Listen, I’m not expecting . . . “

 

“That’s not what I was thinking - “

 

They both stopped, embarrassed.

 

“Okay,” he broke the silence.  “Maybe we don’t know each other all that well, but we are connected.  I would really appreciate you staying here for a few days.”

 

Their eyes locked and held.  After a long moment she looked down.  “I guess I could stay here tonight.”

 

He realized he’d been holding his breath and wanted to laugh at himself.  “Good.  Do you want me to go get your things?”

 

She chuckled then. “I can get by tonight and go to my place to change in the morning before work, but thank you.”

 

He opened his mouth, but her look stopped him.  He’d have to pick his fights.

 

*****

 

The next morning he woke slowly, realizing that the warmth at his side was her and that his hand rested on her stomach.  He was still processing that information when she turned and opened her eyes.  She drew back immediately, then relaxed.  “I thought you were going to sleep on the couch.”

 

“I did.  I don’t remember coming in here.”

 

“Do you sleep walk?”

 

He shrugged. “I live alone.  No one’s complained.”  He slipped out of the bed then.  “I am sorry.”

 

“It’s, it’s okay.” She rose as well.  “I need to get ready for work.”

 

He opened his mouth, but her eyebrow stopped him for a moment.  She started for the bathroom.  “Dana . . . Listen, if you want to take a little time off . . . “

 

“Mulder, I need to work.  I need the money.”

 

“You don’t.  I mean . . . listen, you have a lot going on right now.  You’ve got the divorce, the annulment, the court case, you’ve left your home.  Why won’t you let me look after you for a little while?  I want to.  I’m not just saying that.”

 

“Mulder, I know you mean it.  But I also know you’re feeling . . . guilty about . . . I can look after myself.  I am a doctor.”

 

“Don’t doctors make the worse patients?”

 

“I’m not a patient.”

 

“But you are pregnant.  In light of my caveman status, do I get a say in anything?  It’s my baby, too.”

 

“Mulder I can look after myself.”

 

He seemed to deflate at that.  “I know.  I just . . . You’re right.  Go ahead and get ready, then I’ll take you home.”

 

“Mulder, don’t be like that.  I’m not upset with you.  I, I need to feel some control.  I need to feel like I can handle this.  I’m not shutting you out.  I did stay here last night and I did end up sleeping with you.”

 

He gave her a slight smile at that.  “I guess that’s true.” He sighed.  “If I take you home, what happens then?  When will I see you?”  He took her hand.  “We do have more to talk about.”

 

“I know.”

 

“We could have dinner.  You know, a, a date?” Mulder shrugged.

 

“That’s a little backwards, isn’t it?  We’re a little beyond dating.” Her hand caressed her stomach.

 

His eyes locked on her body.  “Yeah, I guess we are.”

 

“Dinner, huh?  I guess that’s a good idea.  But I don’t plan to move in here.  Deal?”

 

There was a hesitation on his part, but he met her eyes.  “Deal.” 

 

*****

 

She looked up surprised when he walked into the clinic late that afternoon.  “I, I thought I was going to meet you.”

 

He shrugged. “Why waste the gas?”

 

Her eyebrow rose, but she allowed him to lead her to his car.  “Remember, you have to bring me back here to pick up my car.”

 

“Sure.”  He looked innocent, but she’d keep an eye on the time.

 

*****

 

It didn’t work out that way.  Dinner was wonderful and the conversation stimulating.  He carefully avoided any discussion of the baby or the court case, instead concentrating on getting to know her, her family, her friends.

 

Once again they shut down a restaurant and she just sat back, staring at him.  “Where the hell does the time go when we’re together?”

 

“So you think I cause missing time?”  He grinned as he took her hand to help her from her chair.

 

“You must.”  He led her to his car without another word and opened the door for her.  She was asleep when he reached his apartment.  He rounded the car and opened her door, kneeling beside the car.

 

“Dana?  Honey, wake up.”

 

“Mmm, what?”

 

“You fell asleep.  I’m going to put you to bed.”

 

“Muld, mmm . . . “

 

He grinned at that and carried her inside.

 

The next morning he again woke wrapped around her small body, his hand over their child.  She stretched and realized he had again joined her.  She looked up at him.  “Yes, you do sleep walk.  And would you like to explain why I’m here again?”

 

He gave an embarrassed chuckle.  “Oh that.  You fell asleep on the way home, so I just . . .  I really don’t mind.  Maybe tonight you should lock the door.”

 

“Mulder, I . . . I don’t want to mess up the divorce.  We can’t - “

 

“Dana, I understand.  I’m not, I’m not trying to . . . Dana, I want you.  I hope you already know that, but I don’t want to cause you any problems.”  He couldn’t mistake the look of relief that raced across her face.  He pulled her to him then.  “I’ve never stopped wanting you.”

 

“There’s so much . . . baggage now.”

 

“Baggage?  If you mean our child, that’s the wrong word.”

 

“There’s also the court case, and - “

 

“Shh.”  He kissed her brow.  “None of that bothers me.  I don’t want it to bother you.  I’m here,” he grinned, “and I shouldn’t be, but I am and I will be.  Lean on me.  We’re connected now.”

 

*****

 

He called during lunch.  “Hi, thought I’d see where you wanted to go on our date tonight.”

 

“I think we overdid it last night, thank you.”

 

“How can you say that?  No dancing, no movie, and you fell asleep on me.”  He grinned.

 

“Why do I think that was the plan?  Mulder, remember what I said about not moving in?”

 

“So let’s go to your place tonight.  I’ll bring dinner and meet you at work.  You can give me the tour.”

 

“The tour?” Her voice was dripping with irony now.

 

“Of course.  I need to know what’s better than my place.  Italian?”

 

“I didn’t say it was better.”  She sighed. “Fine.  I’ll wait for you here.”  She heard him chuckling as he hung up.

 

He followed her in his car the few blocks to her apartment.  His impression of the place did not improve on closer inspection.  The doorknob to her unit was loose though the lock seemed to be holding.  He looked up at her after jiggling it.

 

“There’s also a chain,” she said quietly.

 

“Oh good.”  The sarcasm coated his voice.

 

She ignored him and took the bag of food from his hand.  The table in the kitchen part of the efficiency wobbled slightly, but he fixed that with a folded napkin.  The dishes came with the apartment, but they were sparkling clean.

 

They were in the middle of dinner when the sirens and blue lights skidded to a stop in her courtyard.  Mulder pulled the gun from under his arm and moved toward the window.  She started to join him but he motioned for her to move back into the kitchen alcove.  He twitched the curtains and watched the police break into a unit three doors down.

 

They dragged out a couple of men and a woman, and the cars carrying them peeled out.  Two cars remained behind.  Mulder turned to look at her.

 

“You planned this,” she said quietly.

 

He almost smiled then.  “Please don’t stay here tonight.”

 

Her shoulders slumped.

 

“Please.”

 

She met his eyes and after a moment nodded.  He waited while she packed her bag, then took her back to his apartment.  They were silent on the drive, but when she got out of the car she stopped.

 

“Dana?”

 

“I, I appreciate - “

 

“Dana, stop.  I want you here.  Come on up and get comfortable.”

 

She got ready for bed, then came out and joined him on the couch.  They watched one of his cheesy sci fi films that had her laughing out loud at parts of it.

 

When it was over, she rose to go to the bedroom.  “Dana, I’m not kidding.  You should lock the bedroom door tonight.  I love waking up next to you, but for right now . . . “

 

She nodded.  “I feel a little funny about it.  It is your bedroom.”

 

He grinned. “It will be again.”  He winked and appreciated her light blush.  “Go on to bed.  I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

“Good night,” she said faintly and moved into the bedroom.  He heard the lock snick into place and sighed.  It had felt good having her in his arms, but she was right.  Now wasn’t the best time.  But soon.

 

*****

 

He took a deep breath and felt her hair on his face.  Oh no . . . wait. he was still on the couch.  She, she was sprawled atop him with one leg resting between his thighs, and sound asleep.  He glanced over at the bedroom door.  It was open.  A small smile started to grow on his face.  “Uh, Dana?”

 

“Umm.  Mulder?”

 

“I’m not the only one sleep walking around here.”  His grin was growing.

 

“I locked the door.”  She was starting to sit up. 

 

“That was only to keep me out, not keep you in.”

 

Her blush was adorable, and he pulled her back down into his arms.  “I think we fit well together.”

 

“I came out here when you didn’t come to me?” she asked a little helplessly.

 

He nodded, watching her closely now.  She pushed away from him and scrambled to her feet.  She stepped on one of his shoes and teetered for an instant.  He was on his feet instantly, his hands steadying her.  “Careful.”

 

She didn’t acknowledge his words, looking down at the floor.

 

“What are you feeling?” he asked softly.

 

“I’m scared.”

 

He released her arms.  “Of me?”

 

She looked up then.  “Of me,” she answered, then looked down again.

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“This is not me!”  Her voice was loud in the apartment, but he didn’t move away.  “I don’t do things like this.  I don’t break my wedding vows.  I know they were already shattered, but not by me!   I don’t sleep with a man the third time I see him.  I don’t get pregnant out of wedlock.  I don’t move to a strange city to be near a man I barely know.  I had other options, my parents are in Hawaii, my older brother is in California and my younger one is in Ohio.  But no, I pull up stakes and come to a city I haven’t even visited in years!  I’m not like this!  I don’t fall in - “ she stopped abruptly and looked toward the door.

 

“Fall in what?” he wasn’t touching her but she could see his hands were fisted, as though restraining himself.

 

Her shoulders slumped.  “Fall in love.”

 

“In love?” She could hear the smile in his voice and managed to look up.  His delight caused an answering smile of her own.  At that he drew her into his arms and kissed the top of her head.  “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

 

*****

 

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