She actually made it all the way to her aunt’s house and had taken her and her mother’s bags inside before her cell phone rang. Scully managed not to smile, but Maggie saw the twinkle in her eyes and turned so that her own smile would be hidden.
“Hey, Scully, I was thinking, you’re close to a file I ran across - “
“Mulder, I’m on vacation.”
“Well, yeah, I know that. But this wouldn’t take long and if you find anything, I could head up that way and - “
“Vacation, Mulder. V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, ever heard of it? It means I’m not working. I’m resting and relaxing with my mother and visiting with my Aunt Claire. It does not mean that I can spend my time checking out an old X-File just because I’m ‘in the neighborhood’. Understand?”
“That’s a pretty narrow definition, Scully.”
“And what are you doing, other than bugging me, Mulder?” She grinned.
“Very important stuff, Agent.”
“Like clearing up some of that paperwork?”
“My talents lie in other areas, Agent Scully. You really ought to let me show you sometime.”
“Yeah, right. That really would be an X-File.”
“You cut me to the quick.”
“Mulder, I’m supposed to be visiting with Aunt Claire. I’ll see you in a few days.”
“Days? Scully, your skills could atrophy in all that time.”
“A risk you’re going to have to take, Mulder. See you then. Try to behave so you still have a job when I get back.”
“Tell the guys hi. Goodbye Mulder.” She disconnected the call and shook her head, smiling.
The guys, huh. So she just assumed he’d spend the time she was out of town with the guys. Well, she was right, but she didn’t have to gloat.
Scully joined her mother and aunt in the kitchen. “Was that Fox?” her mother asked innocently.
Scully nodded and took a cracker from the tray.
“You don’t have to leave?”
“No, I just had to define the term vacation. We didn’t have a case. This was a good time to get away.”
“Well I’m very glad to see both of you. I want you to relax; not think about work at all.” Claire smiled at both of them.
They spent the next day puttering around Claire’s garden, getting some sun and catching up on family. After dinner that evening, Scully excused herself to go up to her room to read for a while before going to sleep.
She found that the book didn’t hold her interest. Instead she got ready for bed, even though it was a little early for her. Then she tried to read again. It wasn’t until she gave up the second time that she allowed herself to realize that she had been waiting for his call all day. Yes, she’d said she was on vacation, but that had never stopped him before.
He probably had just gotten busy with the guys, playing some video game or investigating some conspiracy. ‘Bed time’ didn’t have the same meaning for him as it did for other people; maybe he’d call later. In any case, she wasn’t going to let it worry her. She did however leave her cell phone on and beside her on the bedside table.
When she woke the next morning, it had not rung. She shrugged it off; he might be trying to be sensitive to her mother and her aunt. No biggy.
The three women went shopping that day. It was a totally different kind of life for Scully. She spent so little time with other women, doing mundane things. No, she shouldn’t classify these activities as mundane; they just weren’t as intriguing, as exciting as her regular activities.
She had kept her phone on all day, but no one had called. She refused to admit to herself that it was bothering her, but she was beginning to feel antsy.
Maggie didn’t mention it and Claire really didn’t notice, but Scully had little appetite that evening and again excused herself early and went upstairs.
She very nearly called him, but convinced herself that was ridiculous. It wasn’t like she couldn’t go three days without talking to the man. That was . . .
She had more trouble getting to sleep. Had he taken her seriously that she didn’t want to hear from him? She certainly hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings. Again she left the phone on by her bed all night. She slept in short naps, waking every hour from dreams or something. The small clock seemed to move in slow motion and when she finally gave up and rose a little after five the next morning, she knew makeup would not hide her sleepless night.
She was quiet at breakfast and obviously distracted. Maggie had to ask three times for the cream for her coffee.
“Sorry Mom, I was thinking about a case and . . . “
“Dana, did Fox call?”
She looked down at her own coffee. “Uh, no.”
Maggie took that in. Was something wrong between them? That made no sense, if they hadn’t spoken, then they couldn’t have had a fight. However, that was exactly what it felt like to her.
“Dana, do you think you need to get back to DC?”
“Mom, no. We have two more days here and I don’t want you to cut your time with Aunt Claire short.”
“Well, I wasn’t thinking about me returning. I could take the train in a few days. In fact I could even stay longer that way. Claire and I could go see Steve and his family.”
Scully looked up and Maggie saw the relief in her face. “You, you wouldn’t mind?”
“No, Dana. You do what you have to do. I can have more time with my sister and you won’t have to feel guilty about letting Fox down or getting behind in your work. Why don’t you go pack? If you leave now you could be back in DC by early afternoon.”
Scully shot her a look of pure gratitude. “Aunt Claire, you wouldn’t hate me, would you?”
“Oh Dana, of course not. I understand a demanding job. I’m just glad you were able to come up for this long.”
“You’re wonderful.” She gave her aunt a quick hug, then hurried upstairs to pack.
With all of her practice, that didn’t take long. She was back downstairs in less than twenty minutes. Scully didn’t notice the fact that both women were hiding their amusement at her speed.
“Dana, you be careful driving back. DC will still be there this afternoon.”
“I know Mom, I promise. You two have a wonderful time and let me know when you get back.” They walked her to the car and waved her on her way.
“Maggie, are you telling me that she doesn’t know she’s attracted to this man?”
“Apparently doesn’t have a clue, but then neither does he. It would be funny if they weren’t so right for each other.” Both women shook their head at the foibles of young people and returned to the house.
Since it was Monday, she headed for the office rather than her apartment. Traffic had been on her side and it was just lunchtime when she pulled into the parking garage. She was headed for the elevator when she spotted Mulder’s car pulling out. He must not have spotted her and she took a step toward him before it registered that he wasn’t alone in the car.
The woman beside him was blonde and . . . and attractive. That was about all Scully had time to notice before they were gone.
She was probably just someone with a case. Scully hadn’t recognized her from working in the building. She shook herself to throw off the growing sense of dread. This was more ridiculous than missing sleep because he hadn’t called. It wasn’t like she was some teenager.
He was no doubt checking out some X-Files and he’d be back shortly to bring her up to date. She made her way to the office and checked out her email. There was no note saying when he would be back, but why should she expect one? She was back two days early. He wasn’t expecting her until Wednesday.
She checked out the files on his desk, but it didn’t look like he was working on anything specific, or new. That’s okay, she’d just answer these emails and wait for him to return.
It was closer to an hour-and-a-half than an hour when she heard him return. That was unusual, he normally grabbed something from the cart and ate at the desk. But if he was discussing a case, he might have lost track of the time.
He was actually humming when he entered the office. That caught her attention. What had put him in such a good mood, he . . . what was that on his cheek?
It took him a few seconds to realize she was there. She couldn’t remember the last time he had been unaware of her presence and it heightened her sense of wrongness.
“Scully? Scully what are you doing . . . I mean, I thought you were going to be gone until Wednesday.” They both seemed to be frozen into place. What the hell was wrong with them? She made herself move closer to him.
“Mom and Aunt Claire decided to go on upstate to see their brother, and spend a few days. I couldn’t take that much time, so I came on back.”
“That’s great. I’m glad you . . . “ She had moved even closer and was looking at his face strangely. “Scu . . . Scully?”
Her eyes went wide, very wide and she backed away. “I see.” That was all she said, then she grabbed her bag and was moving quickly, though he couldn’t call it a run, out of the office.
“Scully? What!” He finally got his own feet to move, but the elevator was closing by the time he got there. What the hell? He took off up the stairs.
He nearly bowled Sanders over at the top of the stairs. “Hey, Spooky watch it! If she’s trying to get away that fast you ought to accept it.”
“What? What are you talking about?” He couldn’t know that Scully had just taken off out of the office.
Sanders’ hand came up and brushed his cheek. “Lipstick Mulder?”
The taller agent’s face went white and his hand came up to his cheek. Oh shit. He turned back down to the basement, moving much slower.
He moved into the restroom and toward the mirror. Oh god, why hadn’t he thought to check? Okay, he had come straight down to the office, he knew no one would see him and she . . . she wasn’t due back until Wednesday.
His hair was mussed, he had lipstick on his cheek and the corner of his mouth and . . . and, could it be more of a cliché, on his collar.
He leaned against the sink and closed his eyes. Now what? What could he say to her? Why hadn’t he thought? Why hadn’t he . . .
She slammed into her apartment and dropped her suitcase, kicking the door closed. She was so angry she was shaking. She deadbolted the door and, at the last minute, engaged the chain.
Why was she so shaken by this? Why had it not occurred to her that he was involved with someone? Just because she wasn’t? She realized her keys were still in her hand and threw them across the room. They dented the wall and fell to the floor.
Why hadn’t she stayed with her mother? Then she wouldn’t know. Oh yeah, that would be better. How long had it been going on? How long had he been seeing her? Why hadn’t she known?
That stopped her in her tracks. She had known, when he hadn’t called her in two days, she had known something was wrong. Oh god, she groaned and sank onto the couch.
She had to get her act together. The man could see anyone he wanted to. She had no reason to be upset by this. Well she didn’t! He was a man, he needed . . . he needed a woman. She didn’t really believe he only looked at those damn videos, did she?
Her face fell into her hands. Get it together Scu . . . Dana. If only she hadn’t lost it and run from him. That was going to give him the wrong idea. He would think . . . he would think . . . oh god.
The near pounding on the door caused her to jump violently. She hadn’t realized how long she’d been sitting. She was stiff, partly from being so tense as she sat here.
She moved slowly to the door, and checked the peephole. She didn’t need to, she knew who it was. She took a deep breath and removed the chain, then opened the door.
“Scully, hi. I . . . I wasn’t expecting you back today.”
“Obviously.” Why had she said that?
His face darkened. “May I come in?”
She hesitated, then stepped aside to allow him entry. He stepped just inside and turned to watch her close the door. She didn’t speak, waiting.
“I, uh, I wish you hadn’t left so quickly.”
She just looked at him and he tried not to fidget. After a long moment, “I’m still on vacation.”
“Oh, yeah. But I’m really glad you’re back.”
Her expression showed her reaction to that.
“Scully, listen. What you saw - “
“Mulder, it was a long drive. Why don’t you go home? I’ll be in the office on Wednesday, like I had planned.”
“Scully, please. I had lunch with a friend, Allie. We met Friday night and - “
“Mulder, it’s none of my business.”
“Scully, please - “
“You can see anyone you want to, Mulder. Now, could you leave? I need to unpack.”
“Scully, no. We . . . if I’d known you were back, I would have had you come to lunch with us. I want you to meet - “
Oh god, he wanted her to meet this woman? “Some other time, Mulder. I’m tired. Please, I’ll see you Wednesday.” She opened the door and he blinked at her.
She didn’t speak then, just holding the door open. He felt as though he’d been sent to sit in the corner for the next year. He moved slowly to the door and looked at her one more time as though for a reprieve. She was already shutting the door. He watched her unmoving, and heard the deadbolt and then the chain engage.
He bowed his head and let his forehead rest against the door. What was he supposed to do? He turned and moved to his car. He sat there for a few moments, then pulled out his keys and started the car. He still waited, but knew he wouldn’t be welcomed back at her door. He pulled out into traffic and headed toward his apartment.
What was the big deal? Okay, he’d come into the office after being with Allie, but he hadn’t been expecting her and even if he had, she didn’t own him. They didn’t spend time together outside of work. She’d gone out of town, okay with her mother, but still . . . She was right; this was none of her business. He didn’t need to get permission from her to date someone. Shit, just because she didn’t go out was no reason for him to remain a monk. Hell, his mother would want him to have more action than he’d gotten in the past decade.
By the time he’d arrived at his own place, his guilt had been replaced by anger. What right did she have to try to put a guilt trip on him? She didn’t own him and he didn’t owe her any explanations. She sure as hell didn’t want to go out with him.
Allie was a nice woman, she was attractive, intelligent, and she enjoyed the physical. They hadn’t slept together, yet. Hell he’d met her Friday, but he was pretty sure she wouldn’t keep him on the line for over six fucking years before she came to his bed.
He slammed into his own apartment and headed for the couch. He collapsed down on it and grabbed the remote, loosening his tie. He began surfing, trying to get his mind on something else. Damn, 106 channels and nothing . . . he’d seen the special on the Spice Channel at least three times, but left it there anyway.
This is what Scully wanted for him, virtual sex, no physical contact. Yeah, that’s what she wanted, but that didn’t mean the rest of the world had to be celibate.
The phone startled him, but he grabbed it before the second ring. Was she calling to apologize?
“Fox? I thought you were going to stop by?”
Allie. He’d forgotten. “Shit, Allie, I’m sorry. I . . . something came up at work and I just got so involved, I didn’t think. Look, I can be there in thirty minutes. Okay?”
“Honey if you have to work, I understand.”
“No, seeing you is just what I need. I’ll be there in a little bit.”
“I’m looking forward to it, Fox.” Her voice was sultry and he could feel the sex in her tone even over the phone. She broke the connection and he rose from the couch, flipping off the TV.
Yes, this was just what he needed, some time with a real woman. He winced mentally at that, he was being a little harsh. Then he remembered her expression when she had ordered him from her apartment. Harsh, huh?
He ran a hand over his cheek, no he didn’t need to shave, just get going. He needed to get out, think about other things.
She met him at the door in a thin summer dress. She always looked so feminine, no severe suits and the only time he’d seen her in black was Saturday night, and that was one of the sexiest outfits he’d seen in a long time.
This dress was light, airy and flared slightly well above her knees.
She greeted him with a kiss and led him into her apartment. He found himself wiping his lips to ensure that no lipstick remained, then chastised himself silently for the gesture. “Where would you like to go tonight?”
“We don’t have to go out tonight, if you’re tired or . . . “
“I think getting out is just what I need.”
He had only imagined the flicker of disappointment across her face, hadn’t he? But he did want to get out, show off that he was with a beautiful woman. To hell with his reputation as a loner or a geek.
He drove them back to the club where they had met and led her inside. “Is this okay?”
“Wonderful. They have a good band on Mondays, you know, for the tourists. If you’re not too tired, we could do some dancing.”
He smiled, but didn’t commit. He hadn’t danced since he and Scully had . . . he brushed that thought away. He ordered drinks for both of them and found them seats away from the music so that they could talk.
The problem was, he couldn’t think of anything to talk about. He jumped slightly when her hand came to rest on his thigh. “Fox? You okay? You seem a little out of it tonight.”
“Sorry. I am glad to be here with you.”
She smiled brightly. She smiled a lot, as though her life had always been wonderful. She’d never been taken, tested on, had a sister murdered, gotten cancer and seen all of the things . . . Damn it! Why was he doing this? He was out with a gorgeous blond, enjoy it!
Her smile dimmed slightly, “Fox? Please, is something wrong?”
“Yes, I’m not concentrating on you. Come on, may I have this dance?” He rose and held her hand to draw her up next to him. She fit nicely in his arms and he didn’t get a stiff neck looking down at her. He grimaced at that thought. Fortunately she missed it as she placed a kiss on his neck.
He did his best to get into the mood, and hoped she didn’t realize he was having to work so hard to appear upbeat.
Around ten, he glanced at his watch and she caught him. “Do you need to get home?”
“It is a school night, Allie.”
She chuckled at that. “Okay. Would you like to come over for dinner at my place tomorrow night?”
“That sounds good; could I let you know for sure tomorrow?”
“Of course.” But she felt let down somehow. They had spent so much fun time together over the weekend. She had never seen him at the club before; she would have remembered him. He had been quiet, off to the side as though unsure of how to navigate these waters, which, given his looks made no sense.
She had made the first move, sitting next to him at the long bar. That had startled him, but shortly he had begun to warm up. He had honestly seemed surprised that she wanted to spend time with him, as though he felt guilty.
He wore no wedding ring, never had as far as she could tell and he’d seemed to have free time, now . . . now something had changed.
He was back in his apartment by eleven. His mood had plummeted after dropping Allie at her place. She had offered to fix him coffee, but he hadn’t wanted to come inside. Now he was wondering at that decision.
Allie wanted him; she’d made it clear that she wanted to spend time with him. That she wanted him. So why was he home alone at 11 p.m.?
He knew exactly why, and it angered him. He had no responsibility to Scully in this area. She was his partner; he’d always watched her back and . . . and kept her safe. He closed his eyes.
It was more than that; it had always been more than that.
The next morning did not bring relief and he sank into his chair as conflicted as he ever remembered being. He’d done nothing wrong. He had every right to see Allie, but he couldn’t deny it felt wrong. Maybe he didn’t have the relationship with Scully that he wanted, but what he did have was damned important to him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d always felt like more would come.
Had he just gotten used to waiting and never tried to move things forward on his own? She tolerated his innuendoes and on rare, extremely rare, occasions threw out one of her own. What would have happened if he had pursued her on a more personal level?
Hell he cared more for her and about her than any other woman he had ever known. How the hell did he tell her that? Did she even want to hear? She must, why else had she been so ticked at him yesterday.
Because he’d walked into the damn office looking like he’d just gotten some. Hell, hadn’t he been singing? He closed his eyes, shaking his head.
He reached for the phone, but stopped himself. Did Scully really not know? Hell, he stood up and took his jacket from the back of his chair.
She opened her door wearing jeans and a t-shirt, her hair pulled back in a partial ponytail. “What do you want Mulder? I still have one day of vacation.”
“I know, I took the day myself. Maybe we could do something.”
“I’m sure you have better things to do.”
“No, Scully. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than spend the day with you.”
Her eyes narrowed and she didn’t move to let him in.
“I’m sure Allie can give you more of what you want.”
“I had a good time with Allie, she was fun, she was affectionate, she was good company, but I’m in love with - “ He stopped dead at those words. When was he going to learn to think before he spoke?
“Did . . . did you sleep with her?” Why had she asked that? Yes, it was what had run through her mind all night, but she’d had no intention of asking! Any more than he had of blurting out . . .
“No. Scully, no. I met her at a club. I shouldn’t even have gone out, but you said something about spending my time with the guys while you were out of town. I don’t know, I just . . . I guess I just wanted to prove you wrong. It was stupid.”
Her eyes closed; yes she had said that.
“We visited and we left the club together, I took her home, but I didn’t go in. Then, because you were still out of town and I didn’t have anything to do, I called her Saturday and we did tourist stuff, walking around the mall. She works in the office over at the Smithsonian, but neither of us had just looked at the exhibits and, you know.” He shrugged.
He realized they were still just standing in the entry of her apartment. “Scully, you do believe me?”
“But you enjoyed . . . No, I’m sorry, Mulder this is not - “
“It is your business. I guess I just didn’t want to admit that. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“Does it matter? I just want to spend time with you, without a case. Tell me about your visit with your aunt.”
She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead he took her hand and led her out. “Wait, I don’t have my purse or my keys.”
“You won’t need them.”
“How will I get back in?”
“I have a key. Come on.” He pulled her on outside and to his car.
“You really took a day off?”
“Hey, I’ve done stranger things.”
“No argument from me there, but . . . Mulder you don’t have to do this.”
“Pay attention, Scully. I want to do this. I missed you.”
“You didn’t have time to miss me.” She retorted and he looked over at her. She didn’t seem angry.
“I tried to fill up my time until you got back. You told me you were on vacation and not to bother you.”
“That’s not what I said.” She protested immediately.
“It’s what I heard. Tell me, how did you fill your time? Did your aunt set you up with a lawyer or something?”
“No. We worked in her garden and did some shopping.”
“Did you buy me anything?” He glanced over and nearly lost control of the car at the blush on her face. “You did! You missed me too.”
“Idiot. Of course I missed you, whether I wanted to or not. I spend twenty-four hours a day with you for days on end, then have to go cold turkey when the case is over and it’s the weekend or whatever.”
“Scully, all I did was kiss her.”
“She wanted more.”
“What?” Maybe he should find a place to park; he was spending more time looking at her than at the road. He made a quick right and pulled into a no-parking area. He tossed the FBI card into the window and got out. He hurried around the car and opened her door.
“Come on.” He took her hand and led her to a bench at the reflecting pool. He seated her and sat beside her. She looked around; this was where they had met when the Bureau had tried to separate them.
“Mulder, what are we doing here?”
“I need to know what you mean, ‘she wanted more’?”
“That’s pretty clear Mulder. Allie wanted more from you.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I know you. I know how charming you can be.”
“Well, you have to work at it, but - “ He glared at her, but couldn’t sustain it. “Mulder, you’re a very attractive man. From what I saw of this ‘Allie’ she was also very - “
“Wait a minute. You saw her? When?”
“When I got back, I was in the garage when you pulled out to go to lunch.”
“I didn’t see you. Why didn’t you flag me down?”
“I . . . I was caught off guard. I guess I knew it was a date instinctively and I didn’t want to intrude.”
“You couldn’t intrude Scully.” He took her hand and she didn’t resist.
“I doubt Allie would have felt the same. And if I had been there you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to return to the office looking like you did.”
He flushed then, “Scully, I . . . nothing happened.”
Her head dropped and his heart raced. He tilted her head back up to look into her eyes. “Scully?”
“I . . . I believe you, Mulder. I trust you, but - “
“Maybe something should have happened. You’re a grown man, you have needs.”
“Needs?” He gave a weak chuckle.
She blushed, but didn’t back down. “Look Mulder, from what I’ve seen, she’s your ‘type’. I think you should keep seeing her.”
“I didn’t know you’d decided on a type for me Scully. Do I get any say?”
“It looked like you agreed with my assessment when you got back from lunch.”
“Damn it, Scully. Nothing happened. We went to lunch, she kissed me goodbye when I dropped her off at her office.”
“Must have been a hell of a kiss.”
He shook his head slowly in despair. “Yeah, I guess it was, but I didn’t let her get to first base.”
She struggled not to smile at that.
He saw it and felt a sense of relief. “My virtue is still intact, Scully.”
She hesitated, then “Mulder, is that a good thing?”
He blinked then, “Yes. Yes, Scully. I’ve waited this long for you, I’m not going to - “
“You haven’t been waiting for me. Mulder, we’re partners.”
“Partners, right.” He looked away for a minute. He took a deep breath and decided to change the subject; “You bought me something while you were out of town?”
She blinked at the switch and color suffused her cheeks. “Uh, yes. I . . . I wasn’t sure I was going to give it to you.”
“Come on Scully, what did you get?”
She glanced down at her hands; this subject wasn’t any better than the one they’d been on.
“It was stupid. We . . . we were in the mall and they have a new WB store. I saw some . . . Mulder.”
“Come on, what did you see there that made you think of me?”
She rolled her eyes. “I got you some boxers with . . . with Marvin the Martian on them. Okay?” She finally met his eyes, and saw that he was grinning ear to ear.
“Are you kidding?”
“No.” She sounded slightly amused and slightly miserable.
“When do I get them?”
“Mulder - “
“No really, I want them. I’ll model if you ask nice.”
“See, that’s why I had decided not to give them to you.”
“Okay, ask for a transfer.”
“Ask for a transfer. Go work in some other section. Come on, you know we’ll still work together, we always do, but we won’t be partners and then I can have ‘lunches’ with you.”
Her mouth moved, but no sound emerged.
“I . . . I don’t want to transfer out. I, I work on the X-Files, I’m good at it and there’s no reason for me to - “
“I agree. I’d like you to stay, but . . . but I’d like to have lunches with you.”
She blushed then.
“You’ve thought about it! Look at you; you’ve thought the same thing. Scully, would you have lunch with me?”
“Mulder, this whole conversation is ridiculous. We’re partners, there’s a policy on consorting - “
“So we don’t consort, we lunch.”
She glared at him then, “You are out of your mind.”
“I have never once denied that to you in all the years we’ve been together. It hasn’t chased you off yet and you just said you didn’t want to leave me.”
“I said I didn’t want to leave the X-Files.”
“Scully, I am the X-Files. Without me, there is no X-Files. Come on.” He ran his hand down her arm. “Scully?”
“I . . . I need to, I need some time.”
“Time. Six more years?”
She had to laugh at the expression on his face.
“I’m going to take that as a good sign, Scully.”
“What would you say to Allie?”
“She, uh, she thinks you’re dating. She wants . . . more, remember?”
“Yeah. I’m, uh, I’m supposed to have dinner over at her place tonight."
Her eyebrow was as high as he’d ever seen it.
“I’ll explain things to her.”
“That . . . that there’s someone else in my life. I’ll apologize for giving her the wrong idea and - “
“Maybe you shouldn’t. A relationship with her would be a lot . . . easier. There wouldn’t be all the baggage, the history - “
“Okay, I’ll give you a little more time, not six years. Let’s change the subject. We’ve both got the day off and I want you to have some fun. Where would you like to go?”
He knocked on Allie’s door, flowers in one hand.
“Fox, I’m so glad you were able to come tonight.” He managed to smile and hold out the flowers. “They’re beautiful. Come on in.”
He followed her into the living room of her apartment. “Smells good.”
“I hope you like it, it’s an old family recipe. I opened the wine to let it breathe, would you like some?”
“Uh, sure. Thanks.”
Her hand came up to caress his cheek. “You seem awfully nervous, Fox. It’s just me, relax. We’ll have a very nice evening.”
Before he could speak, she had moved into the kitchen. He followed and accepted the glass of wine that she poured.
“Allie, I appreciate all the effort you’ve gone to, but I need to talk to you about something.”
She turned back to him and her smile faded. “You’ve gone back to her.”
“You’re wife. You’ve decided to go back to her.”
“I’m not, what made you think I was married?”
“I can tell. When a man’s committed to another woman, really committed, it shows. I mean, you don’t wear a wedding ring, but a lot of men don’t. I could see how uncomfortable you were that first night, like you hadn’t dated in a very long time.”
He put his glass down on the counter, listening to her.
“I thought maybe she had left you.”
“Why didn’t you think I had left her?”
Allie shook her head. “No, you would never leave her.”
Mulder gaped at her. “I don’t . . . “
“Fox, are you sure she’s back? I mean, I don’t want to see her hurt you, not again.”
“She didn’t hurt me, I mean, Allie I’m not married, but I guess I am in a committed relationship. She was out of town and - “
“And so you decided to go bar hopping, picking up women?”
“No! No, that wasn’t . . . I didn’t plan to meet anyone.”
“Oh, so I picked you up. I threw myself at you.”
“Allie, stop. I’m sorry, I should have told you I was with someone, but . . . “
“So why didn’t you?”
He sank onto the stool at the counter. “Would you believe I didn’t know?”
“Fox, I knew. I didn’t want to, and I hoped that if you were out there it was over. When we got together Saturday, I really felt like there was a chance.”
“This woman, the one I’m committed to, I’ve known her for years. She and I, we’ve built this relationship from distrust and barely tolerating each other into what we have now.”
“And what is that?”
“I’m in love with her.” He stated it simply and she heard the truth. “Allie, I never meant to hurt you. I truly didn’t realize.”
“Maybe you should go Fox.”
“Allie, I feel terrible, is there anything - “
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. After a moment he rose from the stool and headed for the front door.
He turned back to her.
“What’s her name?”
“Uh, Scully.” She nodded and he let himself out.
“Why don’t we eat at my place, Scully?”
“Do you have food at your place, Mulder?”
“Twenty minutes or it’s free.”
She rolled her eyes, but before she could comment, the phone rang. He was already at the door, so she picked it up. “Scully.”
“Hello. This is Allie Stevens.”
Scully stopped in her search for a pencil. “Yes.” It occurred to her suddenly that she’d been expecting this call.
“I was wondering if we could meet for a drink or something.”
“When?” She was so aware that Mulder was standing there, watching her. In fact, he had picked up on something because he started to move toward her.
“Tonight? I could meet you.”
“The Blue Moon? It’s close for both of us.”
“Yes, I can do that. I was getting ready to leave now, why don’t I just drop by.”
“Thank you.” The phone went dead.
“Um? Oh, that was the lab with some results I’d forgotten I asked for. Why don’t you go on home and I’ll pick this stuff up.”
“I could take you by.”
“No, too complicated with the cars. Go on, I should be there shortly.”
“So you’re still coming by?” His eyes were searching her face, not convinced she was being completely forthcoming.
“Yes, I’ll come by. Don’t save any pizza for me. I’ll pick up something and bring it with me.”
“Okay.” He was still watching her, and ran his hand down her arm to take her hand, which he squeezed lightly. “Be careful.”
She smiled then, relaxing a little. “Promise. Go on, I’ll see you in a little while.”
Something just didn’t feel right, but he trusted her. He waited for her to lock the office and rode up the elevator with her, then walked her to her car. He actually waited for her to get in and start the engine before he moved. She was aware of this, but didn’t comment. What could she say?
Scully stopped just inside of The Blue Moon to let her eyes adjust. It was fairly crowded; happy hour was getting into full gear. Her eyes swept the room and she spotted the woman she had seen in Mulder’s car. She moved in that direction, working her way through the crowds and soon stood at the table.
Allie looked up startled. “Scully?”
“Oh, please, have a seat.” She had seen this woman come in the door, but it hadn’t occurred to her . . . “Would you like a drink?” Allie motioned to the waitress hovering close by.
“Just coffee, thank you.” She wanted a drink, but it wouldn’t be a good idea. Once the waitress had left the table, Scully looked over at Allie again. “You wanted to meet me?”
“Yes, thank you for coming.” Allie’s eyes were appraising her. “How did you recognize me?”
“I saw you when you left for lunch with Mulder on Monday.”
“You call him Mulder?”
“Yes, he prefers it.”
Allie took in that information silently.
“Ms. Stevens - “
“Allie, please. I, I’m not sure why I called you. I just . . . his story didn’t make a lot of sense. “
“His story?” Scully was too wary to want to give anything away to this woman.”
“Fox . . . Mulder said that the two of you had known each other for several years and that . . . that he didn’t realize . . . “
“Allie? Didn’t realize what?”
“That he was in love with you.”
Scully blinked and sat back. “He said that to you?”
Allie stared at her for a long moment. “You didn’t realize it either. How do you two know each other?”
“We work together, we’re partners.”
Allie nodded, “Why did you leave him?”
“I didn’t leave - this is really none of your business Allie.” Scully started to rise.
“But it is, a little bit. I haven’t known Fo - Mulder long, but I . . . I felt something for him. He seemed so . . . vulnerable.”
Scully was the one staring now. How much time had these two spent together?
“You don’t have to worry, he’s told me he was in a committed relationship. We’re not seeing each other any more. I just . . . are you in a committed relationship? Because if you’re not - “
“My relationship with Mulder is complicated. We have a history that . . . “
“Are you committed to him?”
“Yes.” Now they were looking each other in the eye. “Yes, I am.” Scully saw Allie’s posture droop slightly.
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“He dated you. He . . . “
“He wanted something to do while you were away. I guess I was . . . easy.”
“He enjoyed your company. You shouldn’t - “
Allie turned away and took a sip of her wine. “It was good of you to come, Agent Scully.”
“I don’t know what to say to you Allie.”
“There’s nothing to say. Right now you want him and he . . . he’s always going to want you.”
“You don’t think I’m truly committed to Mulder.
“I think you want him now because you found out about me.”
“You . . . you know nothing of our relationship.” Why was she still here? This was not a conversation she wanted to have with anyone, much less this stranger.
“Not true. I know he loves you. He feels guilty that he even met me.”
“You think I don’t feel the same?”
“No, I don’t. I think you’ve kept him on a string.”
“As I said before, our relationship is complicated, and it’s none of your business.”
Allie nodded. “Right. Just so you know, the next time he needs companionship, I’ll still be around.”
They stared at each other for a long moment; then Scully nodded. “It was interesting meeting you, Ms. Stevens.” Scully rose and turned from the table.
“Agent Scully, Fox is a very desirable man - sensitive, intelligent, damned attractive. If you aren’t truly committed, he deserves better.”
Scully had stopped, but not turned toward the woman. Now she straightened her shoulders and moved toward the door.
He opened the door at the first knock. “Hi, I was beginning to think you’d changed your mind.”
“I had that stop to make.”
“You were going to stop for some food.”
“I, uh, I forgot.”
“That’s okay, there’s pizza left.” He watched her walk past him, then took hold of her arm, “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? You were fine when we left the office.”
She shook her head, but he didn’t release her arm. “Scully, come on.”
She wouldn’t look up at him; instead she took a deep breath. “I didn’t go to the lab.”
“Okay, where did you go?”
“The Blue Moon.”
“The Blue . . . Scully?”
“I met Allie. She was the one on the phone.”
“Allie? Why did you want to meet her?”
“I didn’t. She called me.”
“But you went.”
“She wanted to meet me and . . . and I was curious myself.”
“She’s very attractive.” He just looked at her waiting, “She cares a lot about you.”
“Scully, you’re attractive and I know you care about me.”
“I do, I do care about you. I . . . more than that.”
Mulder’s lips twitched. “I guess that’s a declaration coming from you.”
“It is. It is Mulder. She . . . she . . . “
She just shook her head. He led her to the couch and put a piece of the pizza on the plate waiting for her.
“Are you feeling, I don’t know, insecure about her? There’s no reason Scully. I’ve known her two days, I’ve loved you for over six years.”
“But I’ve never given you - “
“You’ve given me everything Scully.”
Again she shook her head. “Why Mulder, why is it so hard for me to . . . to tell you how I feel?”
“How many men have you told that you loved them?”
She blinked at that, “I’ve never told a man that.”
“Never? Not even in high school?”
“I went to three different high schools Mulder.”
He nodded thoughtfully at that. “Do you love me Scully?”
“I do Mulder. I don’t know why I can’t . . . “
“I’m willing to wait, Scully. Knowing that you do love me, I can wait, if I know there’s hope.”
“What . . . what is it you want from me?”
“Nothing you’re not ready to give.”
“But other women would give you - “
“I don’t want what any other woman would give me. You know that.”
“How . . . how many women have you told you loved them.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “Then, then how can you be sure?”
“I wasn’t, at first. Scully, I’ve had a long time to get to know you, about seven years longer than any other woman I’ve known. You can be the most aggravating, stubborn, mule-headed woman in the world. There have been times I wanted to walk away and never see you again. That usually lasts until you’re out of sight. Then I start missing you terribly. I know what a vacation is, the problem is you always take them without me and that puts you out of sight.”
He sighed, “I’m scaring you.”
“No, not scaring. I . . . when you didn’t call me I . . . it wasn’t right. I pretend to be annoyed that you’re calling and interrupting my ‘away’ time, but I’m not. And when you didn’t call, I came home to find out why.”
His eyes opened wider. “Really?”
“Okay, so now we’re going to lunch and vacation together. What else?”
“Mulder.” She rolled her eyes at him, but he saw the smile growing on her lips. “You know, you can be just as aggravating and stubborn - “
Her eyes narrowed, “You are the epitome of mule-headed Mulder. But . . . but I think I’m in love with you. I miss you too much when you’re not wherever I am.”
His whole body seemed to relax at those words. “About time, Agent Scully.”
“So what do we do about it? I mean, the Bureau - “
“The Bureau is already convinced we’ve been doing it since day three. I’m not going to worry about them now. Do I take the leap and ask you to stay here tonight?”
He watched her cheeks stain a lovely pink at his words. “Maybe you should come to my place, at least you have a change of underwear there.”
The delight on his face swept away the rest of her fear. This was right and about damn time she knew it.