Switched-The Other Side (PG-13)


She watched as the office door opened and he trudged in.   He was late, which was unusual and she started to make a comment until she saw his face.  He looked ill.  He didn’t even notice her over to the side at the file cabinet.  He collapsed into his chair rubbing his forehead.  Maybe he really was sick.  She moved over to him and placed her hand on his brow.  He jerked away from her startled. 

“It’s just me Mulder.  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.  Who are . . . Agent Scully, right?”

“Not funny Mulder.  What happened to you?”

He had no answer.  What was the Ice Queen doing in his office, and apparently she had a key?  Diana was going to love that.  “Look, you need to run along.  I don’t know what you were looking for, but this information is classified.  You shouldn’t even be in here.”

She stood looking at him, speechless for a moment.  Then she straightened her spine and her eyebrow rose.  “Enough.  Where were you last night?”

For some reason he felt compelled to respond.  It was as though she had some authority over him.  “I was at the Blue Moon.”

“Why?  What were you doing there?”

Now he was beginning to get angry.  “Not that it’s any of your business, but I was drinking myself into a stupor, like I do every night.”

She was obviously aghast.  “Mulder, no!  You started . . . When did you start drinking?  No!  You can’t!”

“Would you mind telling me what business this is of yours?   And just where is my partner?  Has Diana not been down here?”

Her lips moved a couple of times before sound actually emerged.   “Diana?  Have you . . . have you seen Diana?”

“Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I don’t care.  My head is killing me.  I want to take some aspirin and some strong coffee.  I would appreciate you going to your own desk and giving me a little time.”  He’d made it to his feet now and was leading her to the door.

For the time being she allowed this.  Something was definitely wrong and she needed to find out what.   Once out of the office she headed immediately for Skinner’s office.

He sank gratefully back into his chair and closed his eyes.   His headache was worse than when he’d arrived.  With his eyes still closed he reached into his breast pocket and expertly opened and dry swallowed two capsules.  He’d start with two, though it now usually took four or five to touch his headaches anymore.  After a moment he dared open his eyes and booted up his computer.

What the hell was this crap?  Who’d been screwing with his computer?  He didn’t know these cases.  Diana’s name wasn’t in evidence - according to this stuff Scully was his partner.  Oh yeah, that uptight piece of ass?  She probably hadn’t been laid in years. 

He turned from the computer and picked up a file from the top of the pile on his desk.  Look at the detail of her report!  What was the deal?   He’d never bothered with this kind of testing, this attention to detail.  Well, not for years anyway.  He closed his eyes again; he really needed a drink.

A tap on the door drew him up straight again.  “Yeah?”

The door opened revealing AD Skinner.  “Mulder?  I thought I’d check, see if everything was all right.”

She had sent him.  What was the deal?  “Everything’s fine, sir.”  That came out a little less respectfully than he wanted, but what the hell.

“Agent Scully seemed to think there was a problem.”

“Agent Scully was incorrect.”  He met Skinner’s eyes, then looked away.  Skinner seemed different somehow, as though he actually cared or something.  Fat chance.

“Look Mulder, you’re obviously not feeling up to par today.   Why don’t you go back home, sleep it off and start over again tomorrow?”  Mulder tried not to show his shock - take the rest of the day?  Sleep it off?  Since when was the Bureau going to cut him that kind of slack?  Who cared, he wasn’t hung over enough not to take advantage of it - and at home he could get some hair of the dog.  A win-win all around.

He nodded and hoped he murmured something that sounded grateful, then moved toward the door.  “Mulder?   Aren’t you going to lock up?”

Lock up?  No one ever came down here - he hadn’t been assigned a real case in years that anyone would care about seeing.  He turned back and signed off his computer and closed the file he’d opened, returning it to the stack.  Once outside the door he had to fumble to find the correct key.  Diana always left after he did; she usually handled this.  Where the devil was she anyway?

They rode up the elevator together.  Mulder didn’t bother to speak when he exited the car and headed for the garage.  Skinner watched him walk away.  Scully was right - something was off about him today.  Well, Scully would be checking into it - she’d give him some kind of report, though probably not a thorough one.  He continued to his office, his mind moving on to other things.

Mulder let himself into his apartment with a sigh.  A strange morning - he really needed a drink.  He opened the cabinet and stopped dead.  No liquor, there wasn’t a single bottle in there.  He hadn’t finished it all; he hadn’t been that drunk.   He yanked open the refrigerator, not even a beer.  What the hell was going on!  He did not want to go back out - hell; did he have any cough syrup?

Wait, did he still have that bottle in the back room?  He opened the door and was shocked into immobility.  A bed?  Furniture?  This was his apartment; the key had fit.  He backed out, not willing to go in there even to look for liquor.  The world had gone mad, or maybe he was still drunk and this whole day was a hallucination. 

He was startled to hear a key in the lock and turned to see Scully entering his apartment.

“You?  Did you come in here and empty out my booze?  And where the hell did you get a key?”  She stopped, stunned at the attack.  Whatever had been wrong with him earlier hadn’t abated.

“Mulder, please.”  She held out her hand, “I need you to calm down.  I didn’t empty out anything.  When I was over on Friday, there wasn’t any alcohol here.”

“Bullshit!  You’re trying to mess with my mind and I don’t know why.  And the key - where the hell did you get that?”

“From you Mulder, years ago.  When we first became partners.  You gave me the key.  Originally it was to feed the fish - at least that was the excuse, but I - “

“We’re together?”  He interrupted her abruptly.  “I don’t remember you ever being in my bed.”

Her back straightened again.  Damn she was a formidable looking bitch like that.

“You’re damn right I haven’t been!”  She tried to relax and wrap her armor of composure around herself again.  “Mulder, what is going on?  Talk to me - why were you drinking last night?  What happened?   What made you start drinking?”

“Start?”  He made his way around her and turned toward the desk in his living room.  One of them was crazy and he wasn’t willing to admit it was him.

He stopped so suddenly she almost ran into him.  She looked up at him - what?  His face had gone ashen, his eyes wide.

“You - it had to be you.  Did you do that?”  He sounded strangled.  He was focused on the desk.  She forced her eyes away from him and concentrated on that side of the room.  What?  What had upset him so?  She couldn’t spot anything out of place.

“Mulder, what are you talking about?”  She was using her most calming voice, finally realizing just how out of it he was.

“The picture!  Her picture!  Where did you find it?  Why did you . . .?“

She looked again.  The only picture on the desk was of Samantha and it had always held that place of honor.

“Mulder, calm down.  Are you  . . . are you talking about Samantha’s picture?”

He jerked away from her.  “How do you know her name?  Who are you to do this to me!”

“Mulder?”  He spotted the tears in her eyes.  She blinked them back as he watched and though he tried to ignore it, felt her compassion wash over him as well as her fear.

He didn’t want her compassion; he didn’t want anything from her.  He didn’t want anything from anyone.  He moved around her and sank onto his couch, his head in his hands.  It felt like his head was going to explode.

After a moment or two he spotted her shoes in front of him.   When he looked up she was holding out two capsules and a glass of water.   “Take them Mulder.  They’ll make you feel better, then maybe we can talk.”

“Why would I want to talk to you?  Why the hell are you here?”  He ignored the medicine she held out to him.  He wanted her out of here, he wanted a drink, he wanted oblivion.

She sank onto the couch beside him, at a loss.  They sat in silence for a few minutes, then she took a deep breath and rose.  Good!  She was finally taking the hint.  But instead of heading toward the door, she moved to the desk and picked up his phone.  He was watching her, what was she up to now?

“John, there’s a problem.  Can you come to Mulder’s apartment?”  She avoided looking at him, “Thanks,” and hung up the phone.

“Now what stranger have you invited over?  How do I get rid of you anyway?”

“You don’t Mulder.”  She returned to the couch.  He was just staring at her now.  You don’t?   What the hell did that mean?

“Who did you call?”

“The guys, Byers, Langly and Frohike.”

“You know them?  God, I haven’t seen them in years.  Why would they come?”  She didn’t respond, just shaking her head.

She busied herself in his kitchen rather than be near him.   He was grateful for the space and, after a few minutes of eyeing the medicine she had left on the coffee table, swallowed it.

He didn’t bother to move when he heard the knock at the door.  She came out of the kitchen drying her hands, glanced over at him, then opened the door.  The guys took in her expression and Byers automatically reached out to take her elbow.

For some reason the sight of the man’s hand on her raised the hair on the back of his neck.  He shook that off, she was nothing to him.  They hadn’t even slept together - according to her.

“What’s going on?”  Byers looked back and forth between the two of them.

“He says . . . he doesn’t seem to know me, or our work, or . . . “

Langly sat on the table in front of him, “Is this a joke Mulder?”

Mulder’s eyes narrowed, “How did she get you to go along with this?”  They didn’t answer, turning to look at her.

“He needs a complete physical.”

“You gonna handle that?”  Mulder’s eyes raked her body and he was brought up short by Frohike’s sudden grip on his collar.

“A little respect, G-man.”  Frohike had no humor in his voice.  The other two looked like they wanted to do the same.  He subsided and slumped back on the couch.  He’d lost control anyway, of his apartment, his computer, hell, his life. 

“What if this is the water again, Scully?  Like when his father died?”

“I haven’t gone down to check the tanks but - “

“What are you talking about?  My father’s not dead!”  Mulder looked at each of them.

“Mulder, I’m sorry.  It’s . . . it’s true.  He was killed several years ago.”  Scully wanted to touch him, but he had been so resistant.

“Killed?  Who would . . .?“

“It was Krycek, Mulder.”  Byers answered the half-formed question.

“Krycek?  I don’t . . . “

“You don’t remember Alex Krycek?”  She shook her head and left the couch.  She needed to step away.  This was too much.  He didn’t remember anything, not this, not her, not them.   She made her way back to the kitchen.  She needed to be alone.

“What’s with her?”

“It’s Krycek, Mulder.”  Frohike spoke softly, so that she wouldn’t hear.  “He killed your father, but he also murdered Scully’s sister and he aided in Scully’s abduction.” 

“Abduc . . . “ His head jerked around to look for her, but she had moved out of his line of sight.  He turned then to stare at the photograph of his sister.  This woman too?  Why?  “Enough.  Get out of my place.  I don’t need this.”

“Mulder, we need to get to the bottom of what’s happening.”

“Fine.”  He rose to his feet.  “You get to the bottom of it, but leave me out of it!”   He grabbed his jacket and was out of the apartment.

“Mulder!”  She raced back at the sound of the door slamming.

Byers was at her side, “We’ll go after him.”

Her shoulders slumped.  “Don’t.  He doesn’t want our help.  We can’t force it.”

“Dana, I . . . we, we can’t leave him like this.  He doesn’t know who he is.”

“He knows this is his apartment, he knows he works for the FBI.   He remembered you; he just thought he hadn’t seen you in years.  He remembers . . . “ She looked at the ceiling for a long moment.  “He remembers Diana.”

“Dana - “

“It’s okay.  I’ll uh; I’ll wait here to see if he comes home tonight.  It’s okay.”  She put up her hand to forestall their protest.  “We can pick this up tomorrow.  Maybe he’ll be more himself them.”

The men exchanged glances and finally, silently agreed with her.  Byers put his hand on her shoulder.  “We’ll do what we can tonight.  Call us - call us for anything, anytime.  Promise?”

She nodded, unable to speak and let them out of his apartment.   She locked the door behind them and returned to sink down on the couch.  She felt helpless - he didn’t know her, didn’t want to know her.

The sound of the door opening woke her and she sat up, allowing the afghan to slip to the floor.  He was home, good, maybe he was -

“Fox, stop it.  At least shut the door.  Your neighbors don’t have to . . . “ She fell silent as she spotted Scully standing beside the couch.  It took him a minute to notice, his hands were busy molding her large breasts, his lips on her neck.

Finally he realized she’d gone rigid in his arms.  “What?  Sandy?”  

“You son of a bitch.”  Her palm made sharp contact with his face and she turned, slamming the door behind her.

What the hell?  He turned then toward the living room and spotted her, standing beside his couch.  Her officious suit coat was gone and she was holding his t-shirt.  She’d apparently used it as a pillow.

“Why are you still here?”  He was more than a little drunk and horny now.  “You want to be my ‘partner’ tonight?  Is that why you ran her off?  Fine, you’ll do just as well.”  He was approaching her now and for the first time she realized her vulnerability.   She started to take a step back but her calf touched the couch.

“Mulder, don’t do this.  I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“I’m great.”  He sounded so bitter.  “My life is just perfect.  I have a job I love, a palace to live it, the respect of my peers.  What more could any man want, except maybe a piece of Ice Queen ass.  Right?”

Now she was scared, truly scared of this man in front of her.   That was a first.  In seven years this had never - she’d been afraid for him many times but never, ever of him.

He saw that fear and stopped his approach, an unfamiliar emotion tugging at him.  He had to search before he recognized it.  Shame.  He was ashamed of the way he was treating this woman.

And what was wrong with him?  He didn’t treat women this way.  He never had, his reputation as stud around the steno pool had been earned with care.   He knew every move to get a woman in his bed.   So why was this bitch bringing this out in him?  He didn’t know her; he didn’t want to know her.   He’d never bothered to make a move on her - he knew her reputation as well.

She was just another bit of T & A.  Why was he analyzing this so hard?  Shit!  He backhanded the glass she’d brought to him earlier off the coffee table.  “Get out.  I’m not going to hurt you.  Just . . . just leave, please.”

She’d watched the struggle within him, but for the first time in years she wasn’t able to read his thoughts.  Something had happened to him and she had to get to the bottom of it.

“I’m safe, I’m here.  Consider me tucked in for the night and go home.”  She nodded silently, gathered up her jacket and left without another word.

He looked at the couch but shook his head and then grabbed the discarded t-shirt and headed toward his newly found bedroom.   On impulse he slipped on the shirt and crawled into bed.   He didn’t expect to sleep - without a woman or booze he’d probably have nightmares all night.  But the t-shirt smelled good.

*****

He looked up from the files when she entered the office the next morning.  She was surprised to find him there, but tried to hide it.

“Listen, Agent Scully, I wanted to, uh, to apologize for . . . for the way I acted last night.  It was good of you to be concerned - “

“You still don’t remember me, do you?”

“No.  I got here early to go through some files, see if I could figure out what’s going on.”

She looked away and moved toward the desk.  He seemed so distant, wary of her.

They both looked over at the door at the tap and Skinner walked in.  “You look a little better Agent Mulder.”

“Uh, thank you.  I slept well last night.”  He had, no nightmares, some vague dream about shampoo or something.  He shoved that aside.

“I’ve got something here I’d like you to look over.  I got a call from a friend of mine.  This one . . . they've requested you."

Him?  Someone had requested him?   He watched Scully take the file from Skinner's hands.  She didn’t act surprised.  After a couple of seconds she looked up at Skinner.

He nodded, "You better hurry.  I have a feeling things are going to start disappearing fast.   Let me know what you need."  He let himself out of the office.

"What's he talking about?"  It sounded like a command and she stiffened, but handed him the folder.

He looked in the file, then up at her.  “Well?”  Nothing, there was nothing in his memory about this. 

“Maybe you should spend a little more time going through the files Agent Mulder.”  She turned on her heel and left the office.  Whatever had happened, she was getting damn tired of his attitude.

He watched her walk away with something like relief.  Nothing he had ever heard about her had enticed him.  Getting to “know” her hadn’t changed his mind.   The case, however, did sound interesting.   He stepped over to the files and began cross-referencing information.  If he had been requested, then maybe there was something in here.

He wanted to talk to Diana.  Maybe she could explain what the hell was going on.  He’d not tried to contact her, waiting to see what the hell would happen next.  He’d waited long enough.

As he reached for the phone, it rang.  “Mulder.”

“Wendy Malcolm from Travel, Agent Mulder.  Your tickets can be picked up at the desk.”

“Thanks.  When do I leave?”

“You and Agent Scully are on the 1:30 to Atlanta.”

“Agent Scully.”

“Uh, yes sir.  She asked me to - “

“No problem.  Thanks Wendy.”  He made his voice low and warm.  There was a hesitation on the other end.  He smiled; he’d caught her attention.  Rather than pursue it right now, he got off the line.

Where was Diana?  She wasn’t even listed in the directory.  That was odd.  He picked up the phone and called the switchboard.  “I need a number for Diana Fowley.”

“Excuse me?  Agent Mulder?”

‘Yes.  Could you get me that number?”

“I . . . I don’t, Agent Fowley died seven months ago, sir.”

There was a long silence.  “Agent Fowley is dead?”

“Yes sir.”  She paused for a moment.  “Agent Mulder, is everything okay?”  The dial tone was her only answer.

Diana dead?  Under what circumstances?  He turned toward his computer, but glanced at his watch.  If he was going to make his plane he needed to pack.  He’d investigate this, but now he needed to focus.  AD Skinner had given him an assignment - given - so he shouldn’t blow that.  He had a lot to think about.

*****