PART TWO (1/2):
HOW I SLEPT WITH MY PARTNER (WITHOUT REALLY TRYING)
Mulder and Scully At Work... Yes, STILL
(Or how we get by without agreeing on any one damn thing)
II: Scully, 1995
Stake-outs Are More Fun With Mustard
(Sex Always Gets in the Way?)
“Do you see anything, Mulder?”
My partner, with his hands wrapped around a pair of government issued binoculars, turned his head just far enough to manage a quirky little, half-cocked grin. My eyes wide with expectation, my eyebrows arched in question, I opened my arms wide, palms up. We’d been sitting in the car for two straight hours now, watching an old, upper west side apartment building in the hopes that Mulder’s suspect, a thirty-nine year old male, would return to his old stomping grounds. The FBI had disapproved an official surveillance operation (and no wonder… it wasn’t like we had any evidence or witnesses or… anything to back up Mulder’s theory) so Mulder told me that he wanted to stake-out the apartment building -- alone. “No reason you have to come along, Scully,” he’d said. “Might be a late night and I know how you like to get to bed early.”
So of course I told him I’d come – but only because we were going to stay a grand total of six hours. No more, no less. It was dangerous for any agent (let alone two) to remain on a surveillance operation for more than twelve hours without a relieving agent. And Mulder, I knew, hadn’t slept much the night before. So that left us with four hours left here, and if I had to follow him up to his apartment and force him into bed, he was going to get some sleep and have a fresh start tomorrow.
But still, even with only four hours left, at the very most, my neck and lower back hurt. At the very least, I was sick of listening to Pete Rose’s all-talk baseball network.
“Well?” I asked.
Mulder nodded, as if to himself. “A hot girl on the second floor’s taking her top off.” His hazel eyes sparkled and he turned back to the driver’s side window. I groaned in disgust and yanked the binoculars roughly out of his hands, shaking my head and depositing the hijacked equipment carefully on the armrest between us.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, eyeing me mischievously. “I could be missing something highly important.”
“This is ridiculous,” I returned, reaching down for the paper bag I’d placed in front of my seat.
Mulder shifted to face me. “Why is this ridiculous?” he asked, folding his arms protectively in front of his chest. He looked positively chastised, like a petulant five-year old whose mother had just informed him that no, indeed, there was no purple spotted elephant in the backyard.
“You mean besides the fact that I don’t believe in invisible men?” I asked, yanking out from the paper bag a Rubbermaid container that held a garden salad.
“Yeah.” Mulder narrowed his eyes. “Besides that.”
“Well,” I went on, fishing though the bag for a fork, “Let’s just say, theoretically, that I did believe in the existence of invisible men. Even in that case, I’d still say that what we’re doing out here is patently ridiculous. Let’s look at this logically for a minute. If a man could become invisible at will, why would he choose to be perfectly visible while visiting a place that could very well be monitored by police? That is also, if I might add, in a not-so-good neighborhood that probably has cops here round the clock. It makes no sense, Mulder. This killer – and I’m not going to lend credence to this invisibility theory of yours – has managed to go successfully without capture for nearly four months now. What makes you think he’d be stupid enough to make a move that could possibly get him arrested?”
Mulder licked his lips and nodded his head, a bemused expression on his lightly tanned face. For a second I let my mind drift off, and I noticed how Mulder’s upper lip was slightly crooked on one side – the left side. The pigment was a little darker on that side and it curled downwards only slightly, almost like a pout. The ‘almost pout’ was actually very endearing in a puppy-dog sort of way, very attractive and oh my God, what the hell is the matter with me?
I shook my head to try and clear it. Maybe there was something funny in the Iced tea. I frowned and glanced down at the half-imbibed bottle sitting the cup holder. “I’m sorry,” I murmured, looking back up at him. “What did you say?”
Mulder frowned, but repeated himself. “I said I bet you never tried something just to beat the thrill of getting caught.” He reached across the space between us and touched my shoulder. His fingers grazed lightly over my light-blue blouse and trailed down my arm. “You spaced out there for a sec. Everything okay?”
I swallowed and shivered as Mulder gazed at me; my arm was acutely aware of his touch. For whatever reason, my body had started reacting to him in a foreign way – like I found him attractive or something. And now the passenger’s seat was noticeably three degrees hotter. God fucking damn it, I thought. Something must be wrong with me. First my mind wandered and then a distinct temperature jump invaded my system. Well, I decided, it can’t be Mulder. Mulder is… Well, he’s MULDER, for chrissakes. Must be a cold, the flu, a hot flash or… the Iced tea. Yes, definitely could be the Iced Tea. Although I’m not sure how LSD would have made it into my drink –
“Fine,” I answered, averting my eyes to the container in my hand. I cleared my throat and decided to focus on the topic. “Killers who manage to go on killing for long periods of time don’t just do idiotic things simply to obtain an adrenaline rush, or to thwart getting caught. The murder itself brings the emotional high, not returning to a place that was never the sight of any murder at all.”
Mulder clucked his tongue. “Agreed on most points,” he said. “But Sociopathic personalities will often attempt to do dangerous things, even if they’re stupid dangerous things, like shoplifting and aggravated assault, simply FOR the adrenaline rush. Mr. Grimes – and I don’t believe he’s crazy, just a little compulsive – may be fulfilling some genetically pre-programmed instinct: almost like hunger. You get hungry; you eat a sandwich. You get an urge for unlawfulness; you see it through. The difference is that most people have the means to suppress their more basic instincts. If Mr.Grimes attempted another murder but was unsuccessful in his attempt, like say he was unable to locate his next victim, he might be compelled to fulfill his desire for excitement through other means.”
I pursed my lips and nodded, satisfied for the moment, in a rational argument coming out of my normally irrational partner. “So you think adrenaline is the motivator here? Passion? But crimes of passion aren’t normally premeditated. Plus, those types of murders are often sloppy, simply because they ARE so impulsive. The crime scenes in this case were almost compulsive in their cleanliness.”
Mulder shrugged, a nonchalant air to his expression. “I think passion’s a part of it, yes. Maybe not the motivator -- longevity-wise, but definitely the grounding force. I mean, the guy gets hit by lightning while getting out of his car, and suddenly he believes that he can turn invisible at will. He’s had no previous history of hallucinations or mania. Now, whether or not he truly CAN turn invisible has been argued for by me and disputed by you. At any rate, he’s killed three times already -- all in crowded places -- without getting caught or leaving witnesses behind. His wife’s been cheating on him with who knows how many of those cross-dressers. What an opportunity for a little, angry man who was described as a cold, unfriendly, money-grubber.”
I sighed, watching shadows play upon Mulder’s face as a passing car striped his forehead in a yellow-gold glow. He really was attractive in an off-beat kind of way. I suppose acknowledging his attractiveness couldn’t hurt me.
“Well, I won’t argue with you that Grimes isn’t the killer,” I said, my fingernails tapping on the lid of the Rubbermaid container, “Because I think he IS. The fact that his wife was poisoned and he’s now conveniently disappeared lends credibility to the idea. But I still don’t buy any of that invisibility nonsense. And I also don’t believe sitting in this car is going to do us any good either, because there’s no reason for him to even come back here. The man lived here once, Mulder, back in 1976. Now, unless he plans on reliving his days of Disco Fever, why would he –“
“His mother’s got a ‘guy friend’ here, Scully. His DIVORCED mother, I might add. He also just found out about his wife’s infidelity a few months ago. You don’t think our old friend Grimes would want to pay this place a visit?”
“No, I don’t. Besides the fact that his mother, from what police have gathered, isn’t even SEEING the man that lives here anymore. She dated him back in the eighties. Grimes wouldn’t find her here even if he wanted to.“
Mulder pointed a finger at me. “What if it isn’t his mother he’s looking for?”
I let out a deep, frustrated-sounding breath. “Mulder, we’re going in circles here. I don’t –“
Before I could even finish, Mulder snorted at me, a loud, irritating snort, something that sounded like a pig going through his mud pies in order to chose the best one. The sheer volume of it caught me off guard and made me gawk at him with a raised chin. “What,” I asked, “was that for?”
Mulder grinned, a self-satisfied look on his face. “You really have NEVER done something bad, just for the thrill of it… have you, Scully?”
I narrowed my eyes, angered by the ignorance of his assumption and by the unprofessional turn in the conversation. “”Don’t be ridiculous,” I said, snapping my head around in order to stare out the passenger’s side window. Of course I’ve done… bad… things. All people do bad things at one point in life or another. Okay, so maybe my things weren’t as bad as some other peoples’ things, but that was nothing to be ashamed of, right?
My cheeks were burning red and I didn’t want Mulder to see them. To admit to having been a world-class-nerd in my younger years would be tantamount to stripping myself naked and running down the street. And besides, there was no point to any of it.
“I knew it!” Mulder said to my back, and when I turned my head he was lounging against the seat in a superior fashion. “You’ve never –“
With an air of mild anger surrounding me, I leaned forward and said, “Yes, I have.”
Mulder raised an eyebrow. “Nah, I don’t think so.”
“Yes, I --- You know something, Mulder? -- and not to instigate this ludicrous discussion any further, but I don’t know why you see me as some giant prude. It’s not like I’ve never been there. I WAS a teenager, you know.”
“You’ve been there,” Mulder said, his face completely expressionless. “I don’t believe you.”
I sighed and tapped the container on my lap, my head falling back against the headrest. I licked my lips and nodded with my eyes closed. How sad this whole night really was, I thought. “You would say something like that,” I said, as if that summed up the entire conversation from my end, and I went back to work on prying open the top of the salad container with my fingernails.
Mulder made a sound like a sigh. “Now what does that mean?”
I stared at him. Mulder was a tall guy, so tall that when he adjusted the driver’s seat he had to bend his slightly muscular legs at odd angles. He sprawled next to me lazily, like a teenager would straddle a classroom chair. A single lock of deep brown hair had drifted into his intense greenish eyes and he looked… like a young person, like someone just out of college. He seemed like a normal guy, an easily dateable guy, yet he never dated. He never went out with friends just to knock some beers around, to shoot the breeze. I’d been partnered with Mulder for two years at that point, but he was still a mystery to me in most ways. I supposed, as I sat there staring at him, that he was still in that phase where he always looked excited to have someone to share his off-the-wall theories with.
Even if I didn’t always believe him. Or even if I never believed him.
I still wasn’t at all sure where I stood with Mulder; whether or not he trusted me completely, or even mostly. But at least he seemed to genuinely enjoy my company now, and that was enough. In the very beginning he’d made it quite clear that I was a hindrance. He’d let me know, by ditching me or by lying to me –as if I was stupid – that he disliked my intrusion in his already established lifestyle. I’d often suspected that Mulder truly did believe that I’d made it my mission in life to spy on him and report back to the big wigs.
But after our separation and official reconciliation, after I’d been abducted and returned three months later, and after the X Files had been re-opened that first time, Mulder began to change. Sometimes he’d come in early just to bring me coffee. Or he’d call me in the middle of the night for no reason at all, to check on my well-being was what I suspected, but I’d never said as much to him.
While on some occasions Mulder was a pain in the ass, I couldn’t help but find it endearing that he worried about me in such the abnormal way that he did. He looked at me differently now, as if I were somehow a very valued part of his life instead of simply a tag-along, and I appreciated that change very much. Even if we did disagree about nearly every single facet of life, whether it was my science or his aliens, the friendly debating was always fun. It was just a shame that Mulder and I couldn’t connect on a personal level: that we couldn’t go out socially as other friendly coworkers did, because I knew that Mulder didn’t understand me as well as he could. And I wasn’t entirely sure whether that was his fault or my own.
“It means you don’t know me very well,” I said honestly. “It means you only see what you want to see.”
I sighed. “And… let me put it this way.” I balanced the container on my lap and spread my hands wide. “Invisible men, aliens, ghosts… Is that shadow a nightmare or is it real? Or does that even matter? Even if nothing’s there you see it, because you want to see it. You’re so convinced in your self-righteous pursuit of the unknown that when you’re faced with a phenomenon that is totally and completely natural and of this world, you don’t want to see it. And when you think you’re right you think you’re so right that you don’t need to know anything else.”
Mulder squinted his eyes, blinked a few times, his expression still unreadable. “Your point?”
I studied his hands in his lap, the way he seemed completely calm and in control of the situation. Why did it seem that I had somehow spiraled out of control while Mulder remained in the driver’s seat? And on that note, why the hell did he always get to drive anyway? I had a license, after all. I wasn’t a child.
“You don’t think I’ve ever been caught with my hand in the cookie jar because you don’t want to know about that aspect of my life. I think it’s easier for you to see me as this straight laced, professional ally because then it’s easier for you to trust me. I think you like believing the most unusual possibilities because they are easiest to believe.”
Mulder laughed, a short, easy laugh, and he scratched his chin with his hand. He hadn’t shaved yesterday and the chestnut colored stubble was starting to show. “You think you’ve got me all pegged, don’t you?”
I laughed once and pulled the plastic fork from my paper bag. “I didn’t say that.”
“Oh come on, Scully. We both know how much you enjoy knowing everything.” His tone had a suspicious edge to it, a dark underbelly that I wasn’t sure I liked. Suddenly, I felt bad for ever having said anything.
Taken aback, I stammered, “That’s not true. All I said was that you—“
“That I don’t know anything personal about you because I don’t want to know. And that I’ll cease to trust you if I find something that doesn’t agree with me.”
I scrunched my nose at that not-so-accurate account. “You make me sound like bad Chinese, Mulder.”
Mulder laughed and reached for the bag. I handed it to him and our fingers brushed over the crumpled opening. “I’m just summing up your end of the conversation,” he said. Then he pursed his lips and nodded. “Okay then, tell me.”
I furrowed my brows, confused. “Tell you what?”
“Tell me all about these sordid things you did that you knew would get you in trouble.”
At the sound of my partner’s voice using the word ‘sordid’ in reference to me, I felt my cheeks warming and I pretended to focus on opening up my salad container. “Mulder, I don’t think –“
”Oh come on, I want to know.”
My fist curled tighter around my fork. My head flew back against the headrest in exasperation. “Since when?”
“Since you told me I only see what I want to see.”
”You know you want to tell me.”
“Aw, come on. The invisible man wants to know.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Don’t you think we should drop–“
Mulder sighed, his hand fishing through the bag for his ham sandwich (made fresh at MY house, by the way.) “Look Scully, you already think this surveillance operation is a waste of time, right? I’m just trying to prove to you that it’s not. Just tell me one ‘naughty Scully’ story and I’ll shut up. Promise.”
I leaned forward on my hands and narrowed my eyes. Suddenly the turn in the conversation seemed very orchestrated and I wanted to know why. “You – “
Mulder was smiling now. He was very much grinning. Like the cat who’d just eaten the mouse.
I was the mouse.
Fuck, I thought. I was the mouse.
“You tricked me,” I said, pointing an index finger at Mulder. “You –“
Mulder yanked out his tin-foil wrapped sandwich with a victory smile. “You know you want to tell me,” he said. “Or else you wouldn’t have made it into an issue.”
My mouth opened in protest but nothing came out. Obviously, I’d been had. It was amazing how he did that to me: how Mulder knew exactly when to press my buttons while I still wondered over his. It seemed to me that I’d never get it right, our building a friendly relationship, because he insisted on being in control of it. And because he consistently kept me at arms length, at a safe distance where he thought he could keep from trusting me.
He was always trying to push me away.
Once I’d tried calling him Fox, an attempt at reassuring him of my faith in our partnership, but he’d brushed me aside. He told me that even his parents called him Mulder, something I of course didn’t buy, but I let it slide. Another time, right after my father had died, Mulder decided to change the rules on me again by calling me Dana. “How are you doing, Dana?” he’d asked. And the amazing thing was that I’d let him do it. I needed to hear the concern coming from him. I needed to know that he grieved for me on more than simply a professional level. Hearing my first name come out of his mouth made me feel that he cared for me. I don’t know why I felt that way--
“I wasn’t brushing you off by not letting you call me Fox. I swear, I DID ask my parents to call me by my last name. Do you have any idea how cruel it is to name your son after a small forest animal? It’s like naming your kid after toilet paper. So I said to my father one day, I said, ‘Dad—‘”
“Mulder! Be quiet. You are going to ruin my story.”
“What? No, I’m not. I just want you to have your facts straight.”
“I do have them straight. Now can I get back to what I was saying?”
“But you distinctly said that I’d tried to push you away but not letting you call me by my first name. That’s not necessarily the truth. What I meant was—“
“Mulder, the point here is that I’m recalling this situation from my perspective, not yours, and my perspective of you, and of our relationship at that point in my life, is that you –“
“Is it THAT important for you to overanalyze everything to the point of dissecting it?”
“Yes. And you do it too, Mr. ‘that’s not necessarily the truth.’ Can I finish now?”
SO…. LIKE I WAS SAYING --
Back to 1995:
Sometimes, my personal conversations with Mulder seemed forced, almost as if he felt that anything unprofessional was not allowed, or that such things were outside the boundaries. Occasionally, I wondered whether I’d ever know anything personal about Mulder -- something that didn’t involve his sister and aliens, that is, and I felt bad for letting that part of him slip past my radar. How, I thought, could any professional relationship succeed if both parties refused to come to some sort of compromise? And, since that compromise wouldn’t ever be professional… scientifically speaking, that is, it would HAVE to be personal, wouldn’t it?
“Okay,” I finally said, an embarrassed smile creasing my face. “There was this one time –“
“Oooohhh.” Mulder leaned forward on both his hands, his wide eyes a becoming shade of dark green as another car passed us and threw him into the light.
“—When I was thirteen years old, and the whole house was asleep, and my father had just come home from one of his long hauls –“
I waved my hand distractedly. “Naval assignments,” I amended. “My father was a navy captain. Sometimes he’d be gone for months at a time.”
Mulder nodded, his forehead slightly creased, his eyes gazing at me as if he were going to drown me with his attentiveness. It didn’t escape my notice that I had his complete and undivided attention, and that I rarely ever got such an opportunity. I felt powerful, almost dizzy with adrenaline at knowing Mulder was watching me so intently.
“Anyway,” I said, “my father had taken my mother out to dinner that evening, and I knew they’d probably been out drinking, or else they must have been very tired. I knew this because my mother didn’t have her purse with her when she passed by my door, and that meant that she’d probably left it in the living room. My mother only left her purse lying around when she was too tired to take it upstairs with her. And she was probably distracted that night, what with my father home and all, and it being her birthday…”
I realized in that moment that I’d never before revealed to Mulder any information about my family, and I was blushing because of it. And damn it, he knew I was blushing. Telling Mulder any kind of personal story did that to me and I think he understood that very well. I also think that he liked watching me blush, and that was why he’d asked me to tell a story in the first place.
“So I was wide awake and Missy – my sister Melissa, that is-- we shared a room – she’d gone to bed hours ago because she wasn’t feeling well. So on impulse I got up and I crept out of bed, even though I was terrified of waking anyone. My sister, I wasn’t so much worried about her because she could seep through anything. But my brothers shared the room down the hall and Bill – my older brother – he was a light sleeper. Plus, he enjoyed being the disciplinarian. I knew that if he caught me wandering around at such a late hour, he’d have no problem telling my parents he’d caught me.”
Mulder nodded and took a large bite out of his sandwich, wiping his knuckles across his chin to catch a dollup of mustard that had gotten away. The mustard lingered for a second, yellow and unusually bright against the contrast of Mulder’s smooth, beige skin. I couldn’t help but pause for a moment as I watched him chew, as he licked the mustard off with his tongue, and think how I would love to have been the one to reach across the seat and wipe the mustard away. Just a small gesture, I thought, but ultimately intimate on my part, especially if I decided to lick the mustard off my fingers afterwards.
Maybe this was why we never talked about anything intimate, I thought. Because anytime we did I thought about Mulder in a different light, in a newer, aesthetically and emotionally pleasing light. I’d see him as an attractive man who just so happened to be my partner, instead of as a person who was my partner and nothing more, and I’d find it increasingly harder to avoid inappropriate lines of thought. I’d remember that Mulder was a good looking guy, a well-intentioned good looking guy, and that he was someone who, under different circumstances, I’d probably ask for a date.
Thinking of Mulder as a MAN would only lead to distraction. And the last thing I needed was distraction.
“So?” Mulder said, waving around the arm with the sandwich, “Go on, go on.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his eagerness, my cheeks still a deep, bashful red.
“So,” I said, a note of teasing in my voice, “I crept downstairs, still scared that I would wake someone, that the stairs would creak or I would accidentally trip or Bill would get up to get a glass of water… Something like that. But I made it, much to my relief, and once I got downstairs I felt determined, convinced in my course of action. So I snuck around in the dark to find my mother’s purse and…”
“And what?” Mulder’s nose scrunched as he chewed.
I sighed, leaning back as I finished. “And I took out her cigarettes, even though they’d never been opened before, and I popped one out to smoke out on the porch. I kept looking up at the windows the whole time, just waiting for a light to come on, positive that someone would wake up because I was doing something I wasn’t allowed to do.”
Mulder shoulder’s slumped, his hand going slack with the sandwich. “And that’s it?” he asked, his eyes wide with something that looked like incredulity.
I frowned, a bit offended he would ask. “Well… yeah,” I said. “Why?”
Mulder leaned back and for a second, he was silent. Then…
He laughed, lightly at first, then harder and harder until he was holding his sandwich out in front of him with one hand, and grabbing his stomach with the other. A tear rolled down his cheek and he wiped it away with his free hand, his chest bobbing up and down like an amusement ride. He fought to catch his breath. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember when I’d ever seen Mulder laugh that hard. And if I hadn’t been positive that he’d needed it so desperately, I would have taken out my gun and shot him.
“What,” I snapped, “is so damned funny?”
Mulder laughed for a few more seconds, sighed, and finally took a few normal breaths. “You,” he managed, placing the back of his hand over his mouth, “sneaking a cigarette.” Then he laughed again, letting out a long “ahhh” sound, as if he was thoroughly sated.
“Is it so hard to believe that I smoke?” I bit, yanking so hard on the container of my salad that the top snapped off and flew up past my face. My head fell back against the seat in surprise and I gasped, flinching as the top hit the glass window and dropped to the floor. Mulder’s laughter started up again, more obnoxiously loud this time, and I turned my head to face him slowly, angrily. Oh for goddsakes, I thought, of all the stupid, irritating things to laugh at –
“Are you done yet?” I asked, stabbing at my salad with the plastic fork.
Mulder licked his lips and held up a hand to me. “No, give me a second…” and he laughed for a few more moments, yanking off another bite of his sandwich as he bobbed his head up and down. His cheeks filled with an impossibly large supply of ham and cheese and bread and mustard, and I was surprised that he didn’t choke. As a matter of fact, I was almost half disappointed when he didn’t.
“You smoke?” he asked, breathlessly.
My eyes narrowed. “I used to, yes.”
“But not anymore.”
I shoved the forkful of salad into my mouth. “No.”
Mulder nodded thoughtfully. He took another bite of his half-devoured sandwich and said, “Curiouser and curiouser, dear Alice. Well, don’t worry. I promise not to tell mom if you sneak one out of another agent’s desk.” And, like a small child, he erupted in giggles all over again.
I took another stab at the salad. “Shut up, Mulder,” I said, and I tossed a cherry tomato at him. He caught it easily with his left hand and shoved it into his mouth, whole.
“I hope you choke on that,” I muttered.
Mulder grinned. “Anything to get you off the wagon,” he said, and he tore into the crust of his dinner.
“You’re not going to tell the rest of the story, Scully?”
“There’s nothing left to tell. That is the story.”
“No. No, it’s not. What about the suspicious figure we chased?”
“You took five shots at a cat, Mulder.”
“It was a stray. Could’ve had rabies. I did the neighborhood a service by driving it away.”
“You woke everyone up. Plus, we had to turn in our firearms the next day because you discharged your weapon, AND I had to explain the whole thing to Skinner, who was NOT pleased with either of us.”
“That hot girl gave me her phone number, though. Didn’t she?”
“What hot girl?”
“Oh come on, you know what ‘hot girl,’ Scully. The one --“
”Oooh, HER? Please. She wasn’t hot by any known definition of the word. Her hair was… and her stomach was… she was just… That blonde? The one with the overbite?”
“Okay, now you’re just being snippy.”
“Snippy? I’m being snippy? How about I tell everyone what happened when you actually had to go undercover in that silver sequined—“
"Okay, Scully. That's good. You can turn the tape off now."
"Oh no, I think inquiring minds want to hear about this--"
"No, they don't."
"Yes, they do. Either you tell it or I tell it. And I don't think you'll like my version very much, Mulder."
"You---I-- Fine, okay? Fine. You're relentless."
"You're in love me."
"I've been tricked into submission."
"No arguments here."
GO ON TO PART 2, MULDER'S STORY.