Summary: She wondered, if fate and death hadn’t intervened, would their truths have ever intersected?…A response to Robin’s “Fortune Cookie Challenge”
Title: Fate, Faith and Fortune
A response to Robin’s “Fortune Cookie Challenge” at BTT; dedicated to Char for her birthday, and to sweet Sallie, whose original get-well fic is languishing on my HD.
Keywords: Mulder, Scully, Cancer, MSR, UST.
Spoilers: Numerous; up through Season Four.
Archive: Sure, if you want it, just keep my name and email with it.
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully were created by Chris Carter, they are the ‘property’ of some combination of Fox, CC, lawyers, and 1013. Their hearts and souls sprang from David and Gillian, but I like to think they belong to us.
Many thanks to Carol A for kick ass beta, and ass kicking as needed.
*It was ever thus with them: one stepped forward, the other back; a parody of dance, their lives in balance.*
Dana Scully’s Apartment
Dana Scully stood in front of her mirror; green silk swirled around her shoulders, draped over thin arms and breasts flattened by weight loss. She took the too-large dress and stuffed it into a bag destined for charity. It was already filled near to bursting with suits, slacks, silk shells. As her body mass was leached away by the cancer, the trappings of her life seemed to be slipping away as well. Even her shoes no longer fit right. She’d actually cried when she’d had to replace her favorite pumps. A bright spot in all this was that her favorite pair of white strappy sandals still
fit, but only because the tiny buckles were functional, as well as decorative, and she could adjust them. Of all the losses to mourn, she thought, it was silly that it was her shoes that caused hot tears to break through the icy barrier she’d thrown up around her soul.
Thank God, she’d had some time to rebuild the walls before Mulder had to confront Modell’s sister. Seeing his grief stricken heart shining through his eyes had nearly opened the breach again. She was afraid that if she started to cry for the coming losses – of leaving Mulder; his grief–she would never stop.
The cancer had, she knew, nearly run its course. Some days she found that she hardly cared anymore; that she wouldn’t care at all, except for Mulder.
A week ago, she’d collapsed in his arms. A week ago, she’d needed another transfusion to come back to him, feeling washed out and looking more drawn, more beaten down. Mulder rejoiced that she’d won again. Admittedly, with the transfusion, her cheeks had a little more color, her eyes were a bit brighter. The fact that she’d lost so much blood as to be nearly translucent, didn’t seem to
register with him. Mulder took these small victories and ran with them, all the way to the conclusion that she would survive this disease.
He looked at her as though she were not going to die; not going to fade away to nothing; would always be by his side. She thought he might be right, but not in the way he hoped. If spirits truly stayed instead of passing on due to unfinished business, she was certain to remain. She had so many unfinished matters.
She pondered what kind of ghost she’d make. Would she be ethereal and lovely, and float around Mulder and try to protect him from harm, like a pining female Casper? Or would she be a poltergeist who moved his coffee cups; perhaps stole his ugly ties? Would his atheistic heart refuse to believe that her soul couldn’t leave him, and she would only be able to visit him in dreams?
She couldn’t talk about this with him though. Not even in a philosophical “what if” kind of way. For Mulder, the Great Believer, thought they would find the Truth and it would heal her.
But Scully knew the truth already. She felt it in the vague ache of her bones; in the way her energy flagged more rapidly every day. She saw it in the Technicolor of the MRI results and the stark black and white print detailing blood tests.
The truth stared at her from her mirror, from racks holding ever-smaller sizes of bras and panties, from the size one jeans that she had to cinch tighter with belts. A bright-eyed teenage clerk watching her shopping for shirts had suggested she check the girl’s department. The girl bubbled with enthusiasm; the clerk truly thought any woman would be pleased to be so tiny.
After all, isn’t the saying “You can never be too rich or too thin, right?” If people only knew…
Well, enough of that. She had to decide what to wear. She’d acceded to Mulder’s plea that he be allowed to take her out for dinner. To celebrate, he said. They’d survived yet another audit. He’d successfully explained a lost car, he still had his cell phone privileges, and no auditors had been injured or taken hostage to achieve this triumph and next, by God, he was going to get some calories into her.
Bless his spooky little heart, he thought he was being deviously clever, but he was as subtle as a jack-hammer. He was always enticing her with her favorites: Belgian chocolates, fine French pastries. Tonight, he’d promised her Chinese. As her sense of smell waned, she needed stronger flavors to appreciate food.
She didn’t feel like eating; didn’t really feel like going anywhere, but he’d looked so hopeful. She’d started to say no, but as her mouth was forming the words, she must have telegraphed her refusal. His face had fallen, his eyes dimmed. He’d simply sagged with disappointment, and at the last second, even as she was speaking, her “no” had morphed into “yes.”
She wondered if she looked as startled as he had. She was almost certain she’d *been* more startled, but he didn’t seem to notice or care, as his gloom swiftly changed to glee. What a pair they made. Mr. and Mrs. Spooky and their magic morphing emotions.
And so here she was, pacing back and forth, surveying the new garments in her closet as though she were a general reviewing the troops. Hardly festive, but at least some of her old determination was mixed in there somewhere.
She settled for a soft golden silk Tee over a flowing white skirt and donned a white sweater against the early evening chill. Summer might be in full force outside, but a low hemoglobin could cool a person down quicker than iced tea. She sighed with relief at the warmth of the loose garment and wondered what it would be like, to never be cold again. She’d know soon enough. . .
She banished the morbid thought and eyed her reflection and decided it would do. The outfit wasn’t so large that it made her look like she was a little girl playing dress up; the softer lines helped disguise her terrible thinness and the cashmere sweater helped stave off the chill that seemed to be her constant companion these days.
The doorbell chimed at seven-thirty. Mulder was right on time. She formed a smile on her face, checked the hall mirror to see if it looked genuine, then opened the door to find Mulder looking down at the floor with a pensive look on his face.
She cocked her head and peered up at him. “So, what’s up? Did you change your mind, maybe thinking of taking off?” She was trying to tease him, to make a stab at normalcy, and hoped he didn’t realize that she almost wished that he would change his mind. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be with him. The truth of the matter was that a night in her apartment, with a blanket and book, would probably be easier than a night of “let’s pretend Scully isn’t dying,” with Mulder.
“No, not at all. I just kind of zoned out for a moment.” Mulder’s eyes lifted to meet hers, and he smiled at her, then his smile faded as his eyes swept over her. The vision before him made his head swim. Scully wore a cashmere sweater over a golden top that made her skin glow. A skirt of some silky fabric flowed around her, caressing her curves. Her feet were encased in delicate looking high heeled sandals, and her tiny pink tipped toes peeked out at him, almost begging to be kissed.
She’d turned off most of her apartment lights; a single lamp next to her couch cast a warm light into the room. It tipped her hair with fire, and gilded her curves and spilled over the draped fabric of her clothes, like molten caramel. Her face was in shadow, but her eyes flashed at him like illuminated sapphires, full of warmth, burning with life and intelligence.
His chest ached. His eyes drank her in, his voice was smoky and soft. “You look lovely tonight, Miss Scully. Like ivory washed in gold.”
He’d taken to complimenting her more, and she wondered sometimes, if the fiasco in Philadelphia had made Mulder think she was seeking male attention. She couldn’t tell him what she was really thinking when she spent the night in Ed Jerse’s apartment. She didn’t have the nerve to tell him that Ed had meant exactly nothing, that the only attention she wanted was Mulder’s.
Whatever the reason, be it a true expression of his feelings, or a campaign to boost her morale, Mulder was constantly saying things like that, or bringing her tidbits to eat, or novels by her favorite authors or dragging her to comedy films or god-forbid, chick flicks.
She wondered at these changes, and Mulder seemed to understand her uncertainty, but clearly, Fox Mulder was a Man With a Mission: to convince Dana Scully that she was beautiful in his eyes and appreciated in so many ways. After all, if he told her enough times, she should believe him, right?
Usually, even as she was warmed and heartened, she felt a bit silly at this regard. She simply wasn’t used to any man treating her like this, especially not her alien chasing, mutant catching, partner. But tonight, his compliment struck a discordant tone. She was like ivory, she thought. Rigid. Fragile. A substance taken from once vital, living things, reshaped by men to suit their desires.
She managed a smile for him and he seemed to light up from within as she murmured, “Thank you, Mulder.” She stood and just looked at him for a moment; took in his dark eyes, his soft expression. He was such an enigma, such a paradox. He could, without a doubt, be the most aggravating man on the planet with all the sensitivity of a New York cabbie. Other times, he could be thoughtful. Romantic. Sweet. Even poetic.
At another time, she might have asked him if he thought he was a reincarnated poet or just a wannabe in this life. That would make him laugh and they’d argue the merits of past-lives theory. She wondered what he’d think, if he knew that she thought he must have been a poet in another life, but she was tired this evening and not really up to playing. Even a simple verbal sparring session with Mulder could be exhausting. Tonight, she just wanted to enjoy his company. Tonight, she just wanted to *be.*
Something in his eyes showed he sensed her mood, and his voice wavered, “Are you ok, Scully?”
Scully reached out and drew him into her apartment. “I’m fine, Mulder.” A little line developed between his eyes, and he nodded slowly. She thought how easy it was to lie to him, to this man who treasured the truth above all things, and how easily he accepted these little white lies from her.
She knew he didn’t believe her stream of *I’m Fines*. Not for a moment. But Mulder understood that Scully needed for him to participate in the lie; needed him to accept that some truths were too difficult to face.
It was ironic, she mused, that a psychologist would knowingly participate in such a co-dependent relationship, but there it was. She needed the truth to be hidden; he needed for her to be free to hide from him. She knew that he had his own truths that he hid from her, from the world.
She wondered, if fate and death hadn’t intervened, would their truths have ever intersected?
Scully turned her face to the scenery passing beyond the car window. Homes full of families, with kids chasing the gleam of fire flies, riding skateboards and pretending they didn’t hear their parents calling them in for the night.
The residential district flashed past and gave way to an industrial district; normalcy receding behind them, life thumping along, accompanied by the thrum of tires on pavement. Warehouses rose from asphalt lots like a carnivore’s bones from the Brea Tar Pits.
Her eyes fell on a burned out warehouse that she remembered reading about in the Post. Not far from here was the warehouse where she and Mulder had faced each other over drawn guns; where a murderess had tried to force Mulder and her to kill one another.
She thanked God that he hadn’t pulled the trigger. Not for her own life; she knew that was pretty much forfeit, and going out in a rush of gunfire and blood might have been easier than what lay ahead.
No, it wasn’t her life that she had feared for, but his. She knew with certainty that the next shot from his gun would have taken his own life. She was afraid for him; she knew it was probable that he wouldn’t live past her funeral, anyway. And she hadn’t yet summoned the nerve to have The Talk with him. Soon, she knew, she would have to tell him that after she was gone, he had to continue. Not in a quest for revenge, but to make a life for himself; to try to build a future, to savor life, so that she could be at peace.
She glanced over at him. The summer evening was settling around them, the air rich and heavy with moisture. The evening was made darker by the heavy cloud cover and in contrast to the blue black night, his face was softly lit; a bit of cobalt from the speedometer, a bit of crimson from a turn signal. She smiled. The person who wrote the song had phrased it well. Mulder certainly looked like a bit of paradise in the dashboard lights.
Well, Dana, your opportunities for make-out sessions at a drive-in movie are fading fast. She wondered if there were still any drive-ins around. She wondered what he’d say if she asked him to find one. She sighed; yet another fantasy bites the dust…
He felt her eyes on him and when he glanced at her, his gaze was full of questions. “What are you thinking, Scully?”
“About drive-in movies. About baseball games and watching fireworks on the Mall.” //About fire flies gleaming as they seek mates in the dark. About never seeing these things again; about never sharing them with you.// She paused, wanting to tell him what was in her heart, but her courage failed her.
She sat back and listened to Mulder as he talked about his childhood. Summers in Vineyard sandlots; sneaking into drive-in theaters; skinny-dipping in the community pool; firing bottle rockets over the bay. He bemoaned the fact that if they had known one another as kids, she would probably have wimped out if he’d tried to drag her along on such adventures.
She archly informed him that Scullys *never* wimped out.
“Oooh, Scully. . . never?” She smacked his shoulder and watched as his lower lip protruded. She could almost hear the hamsters gallop as he imagined sharing such adventures with her and plotted ways to make some of them come true. She was almost tempted to dare him to come up with something. She really couldn’t imagine playing sandlot baseball, but bottle rockets made such a satisfying pop and drive-in movies could be fun. While skinny dipping with Mulder wasn’t an option, the idea of finally seeing Mulder in his legendary red Speedo did have its appeal.
No, she decided, it wasn’t cowardice that kept the subject of The Talk tucked away for later. It was a flickering hope that these things might yet come to pass, that Fate would not casually cut her cord.
Tonight it was still summer, the nation’s Capital was a beautiful place to be, and Mulder was beside her.
Mulder maneuvered the car into a parking place in front of Ching Lee’s, and warm rain began to patter against the windows. Mulder glanced at her white skirt and strappy sandals. “Stay put Scully. I’ll bring the umbrella around and get you.”
Before she could respond, he was out the door. The sky seemed to choose that moment to open, and the pattering became a deluge. Her breath steamed the window, and the car shifted as Mulder fumbled in the trunk. A moment later, he had her door open and was beside the car with his umbrella perched precariously over him, the ribs resting on his head and the roof of the car.
Scully started to swing her legs out, then looked down. The car wasn’t far from the curb, but was just far enough. A muddy torrent rushed toward a storm grate, carrying leaves and cigarette butts with it. There was no way she was going to get from the car to the sidewalk and keep her feet out of the muck, much less dry. She was contemplating a dismal evening with wet feet, when her very own Sir Walter Raleigh came to the rescue. “Scully, put your arm around my neck and grab the umbrella so it won’t catch on the car door.”
“What?” Her eyes widened. “The curb isn’t that far. I can reach it.” He was *not* picking her up like a four year old. Having wet feet wasn’t a pleasant prospect, but she wasn’t fragile. She wouldn’t melt.
She didn’t want to think about how to hide her reaction, should she find his solid body pressed against hers.
“Come on, Scully,” he growled, “while you’re thinking about ripping my throat out for suggesting that you aren’t capable of jumping over this little river, the rain is running down my back. Grab my neck with one arm, this damned umbrella with the other, and I’ll just swing you over to the sidewalk. ”
She bit her lip and frowned. She knew he wasn’t trying to cop a feel; this was Mulder, after all, and this was a simple case of chivalry; it was no more than that.
He frowned back. “Have a heart, will you? I don’t want to walk in to Ching Lee’s with my ass any wetter than it already is.”
She pondered Wet Mulder and his ass, nodded meekly and put an arm around his neck. He eyed this compliant Scully suspiciously, then angled his head so she could reach the umbrella handle.
“Ok, now, on three, we’ll go. Ok?”
“Ok.” Scully braced her feet against the floorboard, ready to hop up and jump for the curb.
“One, two…” He slipped a very large, very warm hand under her thighs and she gasped as his intent became clear.”. . .three.”
She was barely able to emit a squeak before she found herself pressed snugly against her partner’s chest and being hauled through the rain. She was still trying to sputter out a protest, when she was deposited under the circus striped awning of Ching Lee’s restaurant. He plucked the umbrella from her suddenly nerveless fingers and ushered her into the paper lantern bedecked interior.
“Mulder!” She folded her arms and glared at him. “What happened to ‘swinging me over to the sidewalk’?”
Mulder’s hair stood up from a brisk finger-combing and the shadow of his sparse chest hair made an enticing pattern under his damp blue dress shirt. Scully’s eyes widened as she realized he’d not worn a tee shirt. She made herself look away before he could catch her checking out the topography of his chest.
“What’s the problem, Scully?” He handed the dripping umbrella to a smiling coat check girl. He pocketed his claim ticket and wiped his face clear of rain water and eyed her.
Mulder shook off a brief chill and blinked moisture from his lashes. He’d brought a tweed jacket along, but when the deluge started, he’d opted to leave it in the car. He wasn’t sure if the restaurant required jackets, but he wasn’t about to get his favorite English sport coat soaked. One leg of his khakis was wet below the knee, and he shook his leg to get the wet fabric away from his skin. The summer weight twill would dry quickly. He was glad he hadn’t worn denim.
“You didn’t get wet, did you?” He inspected her for water damage, and seemed satisfied that he’d gotten her to the restaurant without a soaking. She had a few spots along the side of her skirt that had not been shielded by his body, and a bit of dampness on her sweater sleeve from where it had been wrapped around his wet neck, but other than that, she looked pretty dry.
“No. No, I didn’t.” She puffed out a long breath, but the arrival of the hostess forestalled any further comment.
He looked down at Scully and smiled. “Good.”
The young hostess smiled up at Mulder, and he grinned when Scully rolled her eyes. It was amazing, how quickly wait staff appeared when Mulder walked into a restaurant.
She motioned for them to follow, then she handed them off to a young man in black trousers and a snowy white shirt. He led them to one of a series of private dining rooms and seated them in a booth. The table was black enamel, surrounded on three sides with high backed benches upholstered in soft red leather. Bamboo place mats and a red and gold runner glowed in candlelight emanating from a tiny pagoda shaped lantern. The effect was serene, and Scully felt some of her tension drain away.
The waiter stood, pen poised over his pad and nodded when Mulder ordered iced tea for himself. “Do you want tea, Scully?”
She nodded. “Yes, but I’d like hot green tea, please.”
Their waiter deposited two menus on the table and hustled off in search of tea, and Mulder fell to studying the menu as though it were the Rosette Stone, with the key to every question he’d ever posed.
The waiter moved with the silent grace of a ninja as he deposited Mulder’s glass, and carefully poured Scully’s first cup of tea for her, then asked if they were ready to order. Scully barely glanced at the menu; her dietary preferences were pretty narrow these days, so it didn’t take long to choose. He gave Mulder a little time, then jotted their selections on his pad, bowed and trotted off to place their order.
Scully sipped her tea and listened to the soft chime of the background music. She idly wondered what the instruments were but didn’t care enough to ask her dinner companion, aka, Mulder, the walking encyclopedia, if he knew. Between his formidable intelligence, relentless curiosity and eidetic memory, the man was a virtual font of useful and useless information.
She watched as he ran his fingers along the heavy silk runner that stretched along the center of their secluded table. As he admired the sinuous dragon artwork of the wall coverings, he regaled her with facts about dragons. He told her that the dragons of the Far East and those of Medieval Europe didn’t look alike, that the legends of both version may have sprung from travelers’ stories of the Komodo Dragons of Indonesia. “There was even a really lousy movie made about these things, Scully.” She considered asking him if he thought dragons existed, and smiled as she imagined B-movie fan Mulder munching artery clogging popcorn and watching an abysmal film about lizards. She laughed softly as he grinned a self-satisfied look at her.
Mulder was such a tactile person; he experienced his world through touch, as much as by sight. She’d tried, time and again, to break him of this ‘touch first, ask later’ approach to life. She feared that one day, he’d touch the wrong thing, and she would lose him to his curiosity. Even though she wished he would be more careful, she had to admit that she enjoyed watching the play of smooth skin and supple muscle of his elegant hands as he explored the world.
Soft music and the clink and rustle of other diners all seemed far away. She felt cocooned within the curtained alcove, safe from intrusion. Finally, she asked, “Mulder, what were you thinking?”
“I’m not thinking about anything in particular.” He suddenly became interested in the beverage menu, began reading the description of different ones aloud. “Have you ever heard of a chocolate martini?” He wrinkled his nose. “It seems an odd thing to find on a Chinese menu, but the combination does sound interesting.” Uh huh. Sure, he thought it was interesting. She’d believe that, when she saw his lips wrapped around the flared glass rim.
Her partner was primarily a beer or ale drinker, with an occasional glass of wine with a meal. After all, most upper crust Vineyard families weaned their kids on the stuff. However, unlike other Vineyard families, along with an Oxford education, the expected old world values and proper table manners, the Mulders had instilled an appreciation for firearms and a healthy paranoia into their firstborn.
Mulder had taken his psychology training about alcoholic tendencies in families to heart and avoided drinking in most situations, but he had been known to indulge in hard liquor on occasion. It was possible that he was considering trying one of the novelty drinks. This was a Survived-the-Audit celebration, after all.
She sipped her tea and soup as they awaited the main course. Mulder had made short work of his Hot and Sour soup, and was fiddling with the menu again. Scully wondered how long he’d use the drink menu to stall. He soon bypassed the limited menu of mixed drinks and turned the page to the wine section.
Yep, an avoidance tactic, to be sure. Mulder didn’t like wine with Oriental food. He claimed to have had a bad experience with a spicy eggplant dish, some green noodles and plum wine, and as a result, couldn’t stomach the sweet oriental wines. He also disliked Sake. Another bad experience, she supposed.
“No, Mulder. I meant what were you thinking, earlier?” She knew Mulder understood what she was referring to. He just didn’t want to deal with her objections to his impulsive action.
The waiter brought their entrees, and she waited for him to bow out of their cubicle, carrying Mulder’s empty bowl, and her nearly untouched one, before continuing. “Why did you think you needed to carry me, Mulder?” She cocked a brow at him, and began to eat the spicy vegetable dish in front of her. “I won’t melt in the rain. You do know that, don’t you, Toto?”
“I resent that; I am much taller — and smarter — than Toto. Besides, Scully, everyone knows that only bad witches melt in the rain.” He flashed a smile at her, then busied himself with adding soy sauce to his meal, then focused his attention on spearing bits of steak with his chopsticks.
She laughed, “Taller anyway.” She eyed him. “Well, you’re not actually hairy enough to be Toto, so does this mean that I’m a good witch, Tin Man?”
“Ha, ha.” He actually flushed, whether from embarrassment, or amused annoyance, she couldn’t tell. He shifted under her scrutiny. “Did you get a look at that sidewalk? It seems that someone else must have had a bad plum wine experience. I didn’t want to you to have to walk through that muck.”
“Don’t you think I could have walked around that, and if not, so what?” She had, after all, lost shoes to worse things than human emesis.
He chewed carefully and swallowed, then waited for her to do the same. “Not to give too much information, but does the phrase “big pieces’ mean anything to you?”
“Uh, yeah.” She wrinkled her nose. “Big pieces, huh?”
“And copious amounts of the aforementioned chunks. I could barely step over it, and my legs are a lot longer than yours.” He winced when he thought about the last time he’d referred to her height. It had taken Scully a long time to quit steaming over that ‘little legs’ comment. He forged ahead and thanked the partner-harmony gods for smiling on him when she didn’t reprise the argument, but simply let him continue.
“Come on, Scully, I only carried you this far.” He spread his arms to illustrate. “I didn’t want you to mess up your pretty shoes or skirt, or get that gunk on your feet. If we’d stopped to discuss it, we’d still be out there.” He speared a bamboo shoot and pointed it at her in emphasis. “You’d have said ‘no’, we’d have argued for a while. I’m stubborn, but I’d eventually lose, then you’d be miserable with wet feet. My ass would be wetter than it is now; I’d feel guilty about your ruined shoes, so I’d be honor bound to go with you to replace them.”
He intoned, “Shoe shopping would have ensued, Scully. You’d glare at the clerks. You wouldn’t find a pair of shoes you like as much as these. You’d glare at *me,* and I’d suffer in silence. It wouldn’t have been pretty, Scully.”
She rolled her eyes. “You are so full of it.”
“Full of it?” He set his chopsticks on his plate and swirled an egg roll through hot mustard.
She swiped a fried wonton from his plate of hors d’oeuvres and considered him. “Yep. ”
She snorted. “Are too.”
“Scully, you wound me.” He clamped a hand over his chest as though protecting his poor injured heart.
“I don’t glare at clerks.” She thought back to the teeny bopper who’d suggested she look for clothing in the girl’s department, and how pale the girl had become, when Scully snarled that her holster wouldn’t fit under a DKNY for Kids jacket. “Well, I wouldn’t call it glaring. Not exactly.”
“Yes, you do. You *exactly* glare. That or you nail them with the Brow.” He stole a piece of her sesame chicken and dodged her effort to stab the offending hand with a chop stick. “You always glare at shoe clerks.”
“Well, ok. I might sort of glare. I didn’t say you were completely off base about that.” She ignored his eye rolling and stole a bamboo shoot loaded with hot mustard, and quickly took a sip of her tea. “You said you’d suffer in silence.” She arched a brow. “We both know you wouldn’t ‘suffer in silence.’ You’d let everyone know. You’d whine, Mulder.”
That wasn’t exactly true either. Every day, Mulder suffered silently due to a myriad of things, most notably her cancer. She knew he wanted to talk about it; wanted to pamper her and hover over her, but refrained out of deference to her wishes. Thankfully, he never mentioned the elephant in the room. Every day, she loved him a little more for it.
True to form, he ignored the moisture that was welling in her eyes, but she noticed he swallowed a sip of tea rather hard, then waved a hand in denial of her accusation. He said loftily, “I don’t whine. Much. But anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is, we’d both have been miserable. I got you over the slimy stuff and back on your feet in about ten seconds and we both escaped a shoe shopping ordeal. So really, Scully, what’s the big deal?”
She opened her mouth, then closed it. Actually, if she thought about it, there was no ‘big deal.’ She handed him a fortune cookie and began to crinkle the wrapper of another. She smiled at him, and found that she was truly glad she’d come with him tonight. “Thank you, Mulder.”
He caught her hand between his palms and to her delighted shock, pressed a kiss to the back of her fingers. She shivered slightly when his lips lingered and his warm breath made every hair on her arm, and all the way to her neck, stand on end. “You’re welcome, Scully.” He cradled her hand in one of his and began to play with his own wrapped cookie with the other.
Mulder waved his cookie at her and waggled his brows. “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.”
“Ok, you’re on.” She ignored his innuendo, and to his delight, she blushed and played along. “You first.”
He pulled the strip from his cookie and read it aloud, “One learns through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.” He smirked her. “Confucius say, superior to inductive reasoning, intuition is.”
“Confucius say, Agent Mulder is channeling Yoda, and inductive reasoning will kick him in the intuition.”
He laughed. His smile was infectious. It was wonderful to see him smile; to laugh with him. The innocuous slip of paper had pegged her partner. It was almost as though someone who knew Mulder had chosen this fortune; someone who knew where his greatest strengths lay: His honor, his gentle goodness; his compassion, and his intuition; all driven by his great heart.
She smiled at him, enjoying his pleasure at his ‘fortune.’ That child-like wonder was another attribute of the heart, the pure joy he found in the universe; a universe that had not always treated him gently.
“Your turn, Scully.” He munched on a bit of broken cookie, and nodded at the cookie that lay forgotten in her hand.
“Okay, here goes.” She extricated the thin strip of paper, but the words stilled in her mouth. Wordlessly, she handed it to Mulder.
Mulder’s eyes skimmed the paper, and he read it aloud to her, as though she hadn’t already seen it. “Man can cure disease, but not fate.”
Her laugh was short, dry as dust. “Well, someone seems to have gotten this one backwards. My disease is beyond man, while my fate was fashioned by men.”
“No, Scully.” He shook his head. Sensing that she was about to flee, he grasped her hands and pressed them both to his lips so she couldn’t bolt. “The things that man did caused this, and man can cure you, as well; I’m sure of it. And fate can be changed.”
“How can you say that, Mulder?” She blinked angry tears away.
Good, he thought. As long as she was angry, she wasn’t giving up. His fear that she was giving up had been growing for some time. “Because of us,” he said, “I’m still here, because of you. I am one hundred percent certain that without you in my life, I would be dead. You changed my fate, Scully. You saved me a dozen times over. I think you’ll be around for a long time to continue to save me.
“I swear to you, we’re going to find the men who did this to you. I can’t promise that they’ll ever come to justice, but we *will* find them. And we *will* find a cure for your cancer. We’re not letting anyone else control our fate.”
She read the determination in his eyes. His use of the plural, the joining of their fates, of sharing responsibility and risk, didn’t escape her. Suddenly, she felt hopeful and more connected to him at that moment than she’d ever felt before.
His eyes glowed with determination; the sheer force of his faith washed over her. He had the strength of his beliefs and was giving it to her. Her smile was tinged with tears, but her eyes were bright when she looked at him; Mulder, her own true believer.
She tugged on his hands and drew him around the table to her. Silently, she moved into his arms and cuddled against his chest. He tucked her under his chin and bent, curling his body around hers, as though to shield her from the world. His breath was warm against her skin as he sighed and kissed her forehead. His eyes closed in contentment, then opened suddenly when she moved.
Certain she was moving away from the intimacy, he sighed and let her go, wishing for her to stay, but not preventing her attempt to go free. It was ever thus with them: one stepped forward, the other back; a parody of dance, their lives in balance. Always moving toward the same goal; moving in step, but independently. The emotion in his eyes changed to surprise as she moved closer; her breath warmed his face, her hand stroked the back of his neck. For the first time, Fox Mulder felt Dana Scully’s warm lips on his. He was stunned, reeling with joyful shock.
He gazed down at her in wonder, his voice conveying all his questions, his hope, his love, in the syllables of her name: “Scully. . .?”
Her whispered response answered all his questions, quelled his fears and held a promise of a shared future. “I do believe, Mulder.”
It had been raining for hours and the air was heavy. Rain poured down the window, streaking the dirty glass. Headlights from an occasional passing car flashed briefly across the wall, barely registering on the old man’s peripheral vision, before vanishing.
The trill of his telephone was muted by the dull air. The tall, stoop shouldered man rose from his seat in front of the old typewriter and rubbed his neck. He’d been wrestling with this new part of his document for several hours. He was in a quandary, didn’t know how he wanted things to develop. He needed to decide so he could proceed. He was ready for a break. The phone call would be as good a reason as any to stop for a while.
He eyed the phone as he lit a cigarette. He was in no real hurry to pick it up. Anyone who had this number would let it ring until he deigned to answer it.
He liked to keep people waiting; it made them anxious, nervous, and nervous people were more likely to tell you what you needed to hear. After several more rings, he picked up the receiver and breathed “Yes?” through a puff of smoke. “What news do you have for me?”
He strolled to the window and watched the rain thrumming against the glass as he listened. “They are together?” His face cracked in a smile. “You’re certain? Agent Mulder has finally worked up his courage?”
Miles across town, a lone figure watched two figures next to a nondescript sedan in the restaurant’s parking area. A tall dark haired man had a petite red haired woman pulled up against his chest. His head was bent to her, his lips brushing against the side of her throat, one arm tightly around her waist, his fingertips brushing the underside of a breast. His red haired companion’s eyes were closed in bliss, her hands clenching and opening as she gripped the sleeve of the man’s blue shirt. If he felt the bite of her nails on his arm, he didn’t seem to notice or care.
“Quite certain, Sir.” Alex Krycek wondered how long it would take the agents to get across town to consummate this fledgling love affair.
The familiar voice buzzed in the old man’s ear; even over the phone, his young caller was clearly amused. “Well, sir, let it not be said that Mulder doesn’t know how to take a firm grasp on a situation. In fact, I’d say they’re about two gropes and one silk blouse away from a public indecency arrest. But as to Mulder’s initiative, according to my assistant in the Chinese restaurant, it appears that Agent Scully actually initiated things. Mulder as usual, was simply mooning over her and kissing her forehead.”
“Good, good.” The smoking man paced back to his desk. “It will make our task that much simpler, if he knows his desire for her is truly reciprocated.” He blew a ring of smoke and watched it drift away.
Alex glanced at the small screen of his enhanced PDA and watched the replay of the scene in the restaurant. He paused. “I do, of course, have a tape for your files.”
“Oh?” The smoker sounded bored, but even from his distant location, Alex Krycek recognized the sound of a fellow voyeur’s interest. Spender’s voice was cool, jaded. “Of course, you knew I would require photographic confirmation. But I’m pleased that you managed a tape on such short notice. How did you accomplish this, Alex?”
“My agent placed a special candle holder on their table.” Alex smiled at the tiny pagoda on the car dashboard. He had replaced the memory chip and its tiny lens was focused on the scene before him.
“And your confederate, the young hostess, I believe it was? What of her?” He waited for Alex’s response. He nodded in approval when Alex answered without missing a beat.
“Yes, Sir, it was the hostess.” The younger man had no idea how Spender knew this detail, but couldn’t say he was really surprised. “Awaiting your orders on her compensation.” He hoped the old man wouldn’t order her termination. She had proved useful, and could again.
The Smoker settled into a lounger, pretending to consider the question. “The usual, I think.”
Again, Alex didn’t hesitate. “I’ll handle it, Sir.”
“Very good, Alex.” He chuckled, then smiled as he imagined the other man’s surprise.
“Sir?” Alex was not sure he liked this new cheerful sounding Spender and he wondered what the old man was up to.
“Alex, on second thought, pay the young lady what you promised, then add another two thousand as a thank-you from me. We can hope that young Mulder proves as sentimental as his father was. If our love birds return to this branch, we’ll have need of Miss Lee’s services again.”
“Very well, Sir.” He looked up from his phone to see a flushed Mulder ushering a tremulous Dana Scully into the car. “Sir, Mulder and Scully are leaving the parking area. Do you want me to continue surveillance?” Alex thought of the video pickups; one was in Scully’s bedroom vent; the other in the ceiling above Mulder’s couch. The old pervert knew about the bedroom vent, but not the one in Mulder’s place. The old man seemed to have a thing for the delectable Agent Scully, and monitored what went into the files, but he exerted a fanatical control over what kind of surveillance Mulder was subjected to.
“Yes, Alex. Continue. Photographs will be sufficient, but if audio or video is available, that would be excellent.”
Finally, Alex thought, something to watch other than paranoid musings and solitary sexual release, as well as the old man’s permission to use the tapes. “I think we can get that covered,
“Very good, Alex.” He stubbed out his cigarette and sat back in front of his typewriter. “Let the lovers get well accustomed to being together; let Mulder become even more invested. Faced with Agent Scully’s demise, he’ll be sure to come around.”
“Do you have any other orders?”
“Not at present. Just be aware, we will proceed with phase three in a few weeks.” He terminated the call, and caressed the keyboard of his old typewriter.
Tonight, perhaps he’d allow his tall, dark, handsome, strong, silent hero a love interest. Perhaps, two. A delectable young Chinese girl, who, of course would have to die. Perhaps a tragic fall from a horse. Perhaps she would be mugged, fleeing from a lovers’ quarrel. Perhaps she would suicide after seeing photos of her lover with another woman; a woman from his past, an agent of a foreign power.
So many possibilities. He would have to choose best how to make way for the hero’s true love, the lovely auburn-tressed Delia Sanders.
Spender began to type, wondering if there were a way to save Delia; to leave her alive and with the hero, but then dismissed it after some consideration. She must die, or be forever alienated. He didn’t know which way he’d take it yet; he knew only that the love affair, if not the lover, was doomed. After all, his tragic hero wouldn’t be tragic, if he were lucky in life and love.