Mulder spotted her across the room, her arms laden with files of some kind. He angled toward her, avoiding people and desks until he was right up with her. "Scully, need some help?" He was practically leaning over her and leering in her ear. She didnít respond, veering into an empty cubicle and emptying her arms onto the desk.
"Can I help you Agent?" She looked up at him, not a trace of warmth in her expression.
"Agent? You mad at me Scully?" He now took in her body language, definitely not in a friendly mood. What had happened? He searched his memory quickly for what transgression he might have committed this time. He stepped closer.
"Excuse me?" She backed away one step and he realized she was in no playful mood.
"Scully?" He took her upper arms into his hands. "Are you okay?"
"Get your hands off of me." She hissed this at him, glancing toward the entrance of the cubicle to make sure they were unobserved.
"Scully, what?" His concern for her was growing rapidly and caused his hands to tighten on her shoulders. His complete trust of her causing him to miss all signals of danger to himself. He was completely vulnerable to her when her knee made contact with that most sensitive of areas and his hands were no longer holding her, protecting instead his violated manhood as he bent double with the pain. No words emerged; he was trying too desperately not to lose the small breakfast heíd eaten this morning.
She stepped around him and turned. "You have five minutes to recover and get out of my area. If youíre not gone, Iíll press charges." And she was gone from his sight.
No longer able to stand, he sank gingerly into the chair and tried to recover his breath. What the hell? Heíd done nothing to warrant this. Hell, he couldnít recall anything that would cause this kind of reaction from her since theyíd met. His five minutes were almost up and he didnít doubt she was somewhere close by watching the clock to make certain he emerged on time. No way he wanted a repeat of what had just happened. It was a good thing heíd never planned to have children, sheíd probably made that a moot point anyway. Damn!
He managed to regain his feet and walked with what he hoped looked like a normal gait to the elevator and headed for the basement.
Once in his office he sank into his own chair and tried to decide if an ice pack would aid his recovery. He didnít bother to boot up his computer or even glance at the papers scattered on the desk. His mind was running over the encounter this morning, what had set her off? Sheíd been okay yesterday, so whatever it was had happened after they left here. She had left for home before he did, and her car was gone when he finally made it to the parking garage. Did something happen at her apartment? Not that involved him, and he hadnít called her and woken her during the night, so she shouldnít be ticked at him about that. Of course "ticked" didnít quite cover it.
He saw the door opening out of the corner of his eye and turned, ready this time to defend himself. He was not, however, prepared for Diana to walk in.
"What are you doing here?" He asked crossly.
She hesitated just inside the door. "Well, good morning to you too partner." And came on in, removing her coat to hang beside his.
Partner? What the hell was she talking about?
"Word has it you tried your charm on the Ice Queen this morning. A little word of advice, Fox? Stick to the secretarial pool, they donít have the same hand to hand combat training." Her eyes showed her hurt, but she didnít comment on it and he had no intention of getting into this with her.
When he remained silent, she proceeded on to the other desk in the room, which in his battered state this morning he really hadnít processed, and sat down. She booted up the computer and reached for a file on top of what seemed to be her desk.
"Whatís going on here?" He demanded, turning to face her for the first time.
"That should be my question, Fox. Whatís wrong with you this morning? If youíre hung over again, donít expect sympathy from me."
"Hung over?" He looked at her stung. He didnít drink, maybe he had some back when theyíd been together, but since heíd teamed up with Scully he hadnít had more than a beer or two a month. And that usually with Scully over pizza while they were arguing a case. He stuck to ice tea now and had for years.
"Listen, I donít care what you do in your spare time anymore Fox. Could we just get down to work?" This was obviously a lie on her part, but he didnít want to pursue it now. Scully was top priority and Ė was that it? Did she think he had requested Diana to work down here? He had been completely surprised when Diana had entered the office. Scully knew better, but for whatever reason she seemed to have a blind spot where Diana was concerned.
Since Diana didnít seem to have any intention of leaving, he decided to try to get a little work done himself. He'd give Scully some time to cool off and then try to find out what had set her off this morning.
He quickly realized that Scully was not the only thing that was "off" this morning. He didnít recognize a single file on the desk as he began to flip through the paper surrounding him while he waited for his computer to come on-line. He glanced over at Diana, but she was working, head down, obviously ignoring him and still in a snit.
Sure, fine, whatever. He turned to his email to see if he could glean any information from it. This was only getting worse. He didnít even know what cases were being referred to in the messages he was receiving. Maybe this was some elaborate practical joke, no too elaborate and Scully would never injure him for the sake of a joke. He couldnít be asleep, not with the ache he still felt in his groin. Okay, keep your mouth shut and try to figure this out.
As he read on he found himself becoming fascinated by the information he was looking at. These cases had been sanctioned? He was startled out of the file he was studying when Diana stretched and rose from her chair. Heíd forgotten she was there.
"Lunch?" She turned to look at him.
"Is it that time already?" He glanced down at his watch. "Uh, no, Iím caught up in this, I may grab something later."
She shrugged and left, he could still feel her irritation with him but he didnít really care. As soon as he heard the elevator close he was on his feet and pulling open the files. It wasnít there; there was no file with Scullyís name on it. Someone had taken it, but why? Samanthaís was still there, but as he continued looking he noticed several files missing from the drawer. The ones missing were the newer ones, just in the last five or so years. But there were lots of files that heíd never seen before. They didnít look new, whoever had done this had gone to a lot of trouble to make it look good.
A quick survey of the remaining files showed that all mention of Scully had been removed. The new files only listed Agents Mulder and Fowley as agents of record. Sheíd called him partner when she entered the office this morning. He thought she was just yanking his chain, trying to get a rise from him especially after the debacle this morning. Now he wasnít so sure.
In order to give himself a chance to think he wandered upstairs and found the lunch cart, snagging a sandwich to take back to his desk. He found that he had wandered close to Scullyís cubicle, at least where sheíd assaulted him this morning and walked past to see if she were there. She was, her back to the entrance, eating her own lunch at the desk.
He wanted to speak, to get her take on what the hell was happening. No, now wasnít the time and face it, one Ďnad smashing a day was his limit. Heíd try to get more information on his own, then bring the evidence to her, but not here and not now.
Reluctantly he returned to his own office and continued his solitary investigation.
Heíd debated with himself long enough. He needed to talk to Scully and he needed it to be private. Get out of the damn car and go knock on her door, the worse thing she can do is not let you in. Or maybe knee you in the balls again, either way you have to try.
The knock was followed by a lengthy wait; sheíd looked through her peephole and seen who was there. He was sure of that. Did she have company? He knew her car was here, but she could be out on a date or . . . The door opened and an obviously annoyed Agent Scully stood before him.
"How the hell do you know where I live and how dare you come over here uninvited?" Cold as ice, her nickname was certainly well deserved now.
"Could I talk to you for just a minute? Please."
"There are plenty of other women you could be pestering right now, because if you came here to get laid Ė "
"Geez, Scully! Thatís not . . . can I just talk to you for few minutes. Iím not here to hurt you, I swear."
Her eyes narrowed and he knew his entry was a flip of the coin right now. He kept his expression bland, any entreaty on his part would seem like a come on to her. Finally she sighed and stepped aside to allow him entrance. "Have a seat." She gestured toward the couch.
He gratefully sank into his seat, not exactly sure where to start. "Well?" She was giving no quarter, having taken the chair farthest from him. He knew she never sat there, this was only to put distance between them.
He took a deep breath. "Scully, how do you know me?"
"I donít know you, except by reputation." Short, clipped, this was probably going to be a very short conversation.
"Yeah, ĎSpookyí Mulder, chasing little green men?"
She waved her hand to dismiss that, "I was actually speaking of your reputation among the women at the Bureau."
"I have a reputation with women?" He was silent for a minute. "Me?"
"If this is some sort of weird come on, itís not going to work." She said dryly.
"No, no. Look, I came here to ask you a few questions. Please?"
He did look earnest about whatever he was here about. And she was a little curious, men like Fox Mulder didnít often have the nerve to do something like this around her. Finally she nodded. "Go ahead and ask."
He looked her in the eye, sheíd never noticed his eyes before, they were attractive. Sheíd always been too busy dismissing his body and the way he enjoyed displaying it to the females downtown. His words however, brought her back to attention.
"Do you have any memory of ever being my partner?"
"What? Do I . . . is this some kind of sick joke? Did someone put you up to this?" She was rising from her seat, he knew his next move would be out the door.
"No, Scully this is not a joke. Iím lost and, shit. Iím sorry I bothered you." Now he rose from his seat, his defeat evident in his posture.
Despite her distrust, this didnít look faked. "Agent Mulder, what are you talking about?" He certainly looked lost. In spite of everything sheíd heard about this man she was intrigued. He was either a damn good actor or he really was upset about this.
"Sit back down Agent Mulder. I need a little explanation about that question. Would you like something to drink?" That surprised even her, she certainly hadnít planned for him to be here that long.
He looked up at her, his gratitude evident in his face. "Do you have any ice tea?"
Ice tea? Fox Mulder asking for ice tea? Well, she had heard that over the last couple of weeks he hadnít been seen out drinking or even hitting on the female personnel. This visit only added to the strangeness.
She returned shortly with two tall glasses of ice tea and handed him one. She couldnít resist, "Not exactly the beverage I would have expected you to request."
"Is that my reputation now too?"
Now? What did he mean? He saw the confusion on her face. "Nevermind."
"Go ahead with your questions Agent Mulder."
"Could you call me just Mulder, please?" She nodded. "I guess this all started a couple of weeks ago, that day I followed you into your cubicle and you . . . " She nodded. "I apologize for grabbing you that day, I would never . . . " He ran his hand through his hair not sure how to get into this story.
The man was sexy, the tousled hair didnít hurt any at all. She forced her attention back to the business at hand. This must be how he did it, looking so damn vulnerable.
"Everything went to hell that day, Scully. I woke up at my normal time, had a bite to eat, drove to work and came upstairs. I spotted you lugging that huge pile of papers and went over to see what you had and if I could help. And you . . . you didnít want to have anything to do with me. I couldnít for the life of me figure out how I had made you so angry, then Diana shows up in our office and Ė "
"Scully you were my partner when I left work the day before. Weíd been partners for nearly six years. I have a photographic memory."
She nodded, sheíd heard about it. He was phenomenal when he was hot on a case, remembering every detail of every case with even a hint of similarity.
"I have a memory of six years with you as your partner, working with you, coming over here and sharing pizza working at this very table. Youíve been to my apartment a thousand times. We were close, Scully. I . . ." He looked up into her eyes. "Not like that, we never, we were friends Scully. Best friends, you knew everything about me and I knew everything about you. We solved cases the Bureau didnít even want solved. We were damn good together and now I seem to be the only one that even remembers that it ever happened."
She spoke softly; he seemed sincere, but . . . "Is this how you do it? Is this how you get all the women in your bed?"
He suddenly looked tired, "No and I donít remember getting any women into my bed. Iíve waited for you for six years instead."
Was he kidding? What kind of a comment was that? He was smooth anyway, she had to give him that. "Youíve been partnered with Diana Fowley for years. You two had a thing going for a long time I heard, after that you started playing the field, but you stayed partners. I always wondered how that worked out, how you managed to remain friends."
"My memory doesnít include us being friends. She tried to come between the two of us and . . . You think Iím crazy donít you?"
"I honestly donít know what to think. I know that you and Diana have the same ideas about what you do, the cases you take."
He gave an unamused chuckle, "You know I always thought if youíd only agree with me a little more things would be easier. Having someone who never questions me is worse. I donít feel like I have to work for it anymore. Iím not as good. I have a very vivid memory of telling you that you kept me honest, made me a whole person. Iím not that now, not without . . . You donít remember any of this. Iím sorry I bothered you." He rose from the couch. "Thank you for the tea."
Should she stop him? He wasnít making sense, but he hadnít made any untoward moves. He truly seemed lost. Alone. She rose also, "Iím sorry Mulder. I wish I could help you, but I donít . . . "
"Itís okay. Thanks for not calling the cops and having me hauled out of here. Iíll see you around the office."
"Mulder, what kind of disagreement are you looking for about your cases?" He had his hand on the doorknob now. She almost smiled at the look of eagerness that lit his eyes.
"I need the scientific slant. What if there is a mundane solution. Thatís not going to come to me automatically, I reach for extreme possibilities. I need someone to bring me down to earth, make me prove my theory. I donít need everything handed to me, if I canít prove it, then maybe Iím wrong."
"Diana doesnít do that?"
"Sheís more out there than I am." He snorted, "I donít remember her being that like when we were together." He caught her look, "I mean the way I remember things. Some of the work weíve done that Iíve checked on since this happened is downright sloppy. I canít believe it passed the AD. Unless . . ."
"What?" Heíd gone far away suddenly.
"Unless thatís what they want. Let us do a half-assed job, let everyone who knows about the X-Files have a good laugh. Weíd be less expensive that way and theyíd have shut me up by letting me think I was Ė "
"That sounds rather paranoid, Mulder."
He grinned at her. "Thatís the first thing anyoneís said to me in weeks that sounded familiar."
She couldnít help responding to his smile. He was a damn attractive man. "Look, if you really need someone to give a hard look at something about one of your cases, why donít you email me the details. Iíll look it over and see if I can help."
"Are you serious?" He reached for her hand and stopped himself before he could touch her. "Sorry, I used to . . . sorry."
He might look like one, but he certainly didnít act like a lady-killer. He acted like a geek, kind of, and he seemed shy. This did not seem like the man sheíd heard all the stories about. Maybe he was different when he drank. But he hadnít tonight, not a drop except the tea and she was sure heíd been sober when he knocked on her door.
She felt more energized than she had in years. She wasnít letting these new cases interfere with her Ďrealí work, but the stuff Mulder was bringing her, the debates with him, made her feel alive. She hadnít realized that she was beginning to just go through the motions, now even her regular work was benefiting from this sideline.
She had to admit she was a little miffed at his continued insistence that her involvement be kept completely confidential. She was beginning to get used to his paranoia and even teased him about it on occasion, but she had not been able to budge him on this one issue.
She was in the ladies room reapplying her lipstick when the door opened. The two women that entered didnít bother to see if anyone else was in the room.
"I swear heís going to have a heart attack if he doesnít calm down and Iím ready to help it along. It is illegal to push your boss out the window, right?"
"Yes, especially one of the windows here. They might catch you, unless you leave evidence of course." The other woman snorted. She had as much respect for the abilities of management as the rest of the staff. "Whatís wrong with him today?"
"Oh, itís those damn ĎX-Filesí. Ever since Mulder sobered up apparently heís turning in work that they canít dismiss anymore. You know how they used to get together and laugh, well they ainít laughing anymore and theyíre beginning to get angry. No one expected him to do this kind of work, he never has before."
"I thought Diana was supposed to keep him off track."
"Me too. But now he seems to be keeping it in his pants and staying sober. The female staff are devastated, but not as much as the fifth floor."
"Come to think of it, I havenít heard of him seeing anyone lately. You donít suppose there really is anything to those old files? I thought it was just sop because of his fatherís position in the state department."
"Oh no, heís bright, top of his class at the academy. You know, itís almost as though they were afraid of him. I imagine thatís why he was paired with Diana. I know they used to use to her thwart investigations they didnít want . . . well, you know." For the first time the women realized they might not be alone.
Scully had already moved into one of the stalls, not closing the door, but staying back out of sight.
"I donít see anyone. We better get back to the desks. Heíll explode if he needs a paperclip and Iím not there to disentangle one for him. You know, I hope Mulder does uncover whatever theyíre so upset about. Iíd rather work for him, even sober, than the old man."
The two women left the room, still gossiping. Scully allowed herself to slide down onto the seat and try to gather her thoughts. Maybe Mulder wasnít so paranoid after all. And just because youíre paranoid, doesnít mean theyíre not out to get you.
She waited a good five minutes before emerging from the ladies room and even then found her hands were shaking when she pulled up her email. Was it safe to send him an email? Were they watching them both now? Or had her involvement escaped notice so far? Damn, she felt as paranoid as he always seemed.
She quickly disengaged the signature from the bottom of her email and sent Mulder a quick note to meet her at her apartment at noon. She pretended to work, moving around papers until she felt she could slip out in the lunch crowd without being noticed. He was waiting outside her door when she arrived.