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Motives by abracadabra
From: Nancy <> Date: 16 Sep 2002 16:26:15 -0700 Subject: NEW: Motives by abracadabra 1/4 Source: atxc
Archive: Yes! Please just let me know where.
Sub-category: M/S, Angst, Scully POV
Spoilers: Up though S6, The End and The Beginning. Takes place right after the events in ‘The Beginning’.
Summary: Scully becomes suspicious about Mulder’s behaviour. Not intended to be a post-ep for The Beginning.
Disclaimer: Say it ain’t so…These characters belong to 1013 Productions, Fox and Chris Carter. I just get to take them out of their boxes and play with them. Occasionally.
Thanks: Wellll….I consider myself very lucky to have the two singularly wonderful betas, Lovesfox and Denise. Maybe it’s the fact that I pay them so well? Oh…I don’t pay them…Must be that they’re just wonderful friends. Also, thanks to Mortis for her insightful and often downright amusing comments.
Websites: http://www.geocities.com/spookys_girl2000/index.html http://www.geocities.com/mesmerizememulder/
Author’s Notes: Credits to Deep Background site for assistance in placing this story.
Feedback: I’d love it!
Date: April 2002
Motives By abracadabra
Motive: ‘An impulse, as an emotion, desire or physiological need, acting as incitement to action.’
Motives Part 1/4
X-Files Office Basement of the J. Edgar Hoover Building
Thursday morning 30 September 1998 6:00 AM
She couldn’t sleep. She had lain awake for several hours and then arisen. Coffee had only succeeded in making her more alert. Tired and alert. Wired. Her normally comforting walls had grown oppressive, so she’d dressed and driven to the office; the slick pavement catching the filtered light of the street lamps in her neighborhood and then the mercury vapor beams of the Beltway lighting. They’d become a whir of blinding light as her speed had increased.
She ended up in the parking garage with no recollection of leaving the highway. No matter. Slamming the door with purpose she made her way to the elevator and finally, the lobby. Michael smiled, waving her though the checkpoint. She was sure she caught his slight frown when she barely acknowledged his existence.
She hoped. No, she prayed, that Mulder hadn’t decided to come down to the office. They had both developed the habit of dropping by for files, especially when certain people were out of town on a case. It hurt to think about being out of town on a case.
She’d almost thought, ‘their’ office, but it wasn’t anymore. They were nestled upstairs in cubicles, performing meaningless tasks. Well, he joined her most of the time. When he wasn’t being recruited for VCU or… Or what? She didn’t know but it was happening. Frankly, she didn’t want to know anymore.
No one was in the basement, former home of their X-Files, the new occupants keeping semi-banker’s hours. And they tended to keep them in the newly-created office just down the hall. A-fucking-mazing how quickly that office had been carved out now, now that the FBI’s Most Unwanted were no longer in residence.
She’d always loved this office. It had character; it had memories.
It used to have the man she had thought she loved.
Pushing the door open, shaking her head over the fact that it was always left unlocked nowadays, she walked past the desk with the new nameplate and shrugged out of her coat. Carrying it into the alcove off to the side, she set it in the new armchair and headed for the filing cabinet. The fact that she was here without authorization wasn’t a concern for her. What could they do if they found her? Dismiss her? She allowed a small smug grin to turn up the corners of her mouth. They couldn’t dismiss someone who no longer worked here.
Taking the files back to the table, she hooked her heel into the rung of the stool and hoisted herself up. The two files were spread before her, but the words became just so much ink on the pages of information.
It hit her again; her belief that nothing would ever be the same again. Not in this lifetime. And if there were another, it would hold true in that lifetime too. Luckily, she only believed in the current time.
Removing her glasses, she set them on the glossy black surface and rested her chin on her hand. Logic wasn’t working, wasn’t helping. She’d spent the last two hours alternating between reviewing the notes and photographs from a recent case, checking the med notes and trying to figure out what Mulder’s reasons or motives might have been.
Motive. A reason to explain behavior. Usually ascribed to suspects. Someone under suspicion.
This train of thought was getting her nowhere, no closer to comprehending the reason her own partner would have left her behind. It made no difference that they weren’t actually, technically partners at this point.
The Powers That Be had tried to separate them before, but they’d always managed to work as partners, the team, they knew they were.
Would always be.
What had happened to the trust she’d placed in him? Five long years together through thick and thin, as the cliche went. Sharing what she would never have shared with any other.
She had allowed herself the luxury of friendship along with partnership, had allowed some of those carefully constructed emotional barriers to waiver, some to even drop completely. And for what? To prove that she had been right in the first place? To prove that he wasn’t to be trusted? To prove that she had been foolish in placing her trust? Therein lay that which hurt most.
She tried to replay the events leading up to what she’d heard, but the only constant when she sifted through the course of recent events was one name.
Special Agent Diana Fowley. Mulder’s former partner. Mulder’s former lover. As much as she wished she could place the blame squarely on the woman for whom she held no respect, the best she could do was hate the bitch. The truth that was out there was that her partner; soon to be former partner, was to blame.
Having the office to herself was a slight consolation. The darkness suited her mood, enhanced her need to wallow. She could hear the torrential downpour, could see the final destination of the sheeting water as it battered the sole window where the wall joined the ceiling. ‘Tears from Heaven’ her catechism teacher used to call the rain. Tears that would match hers if she had granted herself permission to shed them. God only knew they’d threatened often enough lately.
Little things. She’d thought she’d been too quick to judge. Too quick to reach conclusions. She hadn’t wanted to believe.
It had started in such an innocuous way, even she had to admit.
Two Weeks Earlier
“Hey, Scully, hand me the next batch of files, will you? I’m hoping that some of the top brass will notice how well I handle background checks and sign me up for the next level, maybe bill collecting. Whaddaya think?” She had mused that he had the uncanny knack of appearing oblivious to the sidelong glances from the surrounding agents.
Having cupped her hand over the mouthpiece, she’d whispered as she’d handed him the requested files, “Mulder, the only type of recognition you’re going to get is a one-way ticket to the copy room.” She’d settled back into her call, resisting the urge to smile in response to his lopsided grin and his feet on his desk.
The afternoon had passed slowly, but she had felt as if she were back in high school playing ‘look/don’t look’ with her latest crush. She’d tried to focus her attention on the calls, though she probably could have done them in her sleep. But whenever she’d glanced at the next phone number, she’d end up staring at him, watching him as he’d fidgeted with whatever he’d had in his hand. Pencil. Pen. Paperclip. It didn’t matter, he was always moving.
Their eyes had connected and she’d watched the slow pull of the corners of his mouth as his smile had grown, his eyes almost twinkling. He’d mouthed something to her, but she hadn’t been able to make it out. It hadn’t mattered; they’d shared a rare minute together alone in the midst of others.
And then his phone had rung. She’d taken notice, more so than usual. Most likely because he’d immediately turned his back to her. He’d hunched over, drawing in on himself and she hadn’t been able to hear a single word, although the tone had sounded rather upbeat and the cadence of his words had been lively, animated as he’d gestured with his free hand. A safe bet her partner had been engaged in the conversation.
When the call had ended, he’d turned back to her, his eyes riveted to the papers on his desk as if they’d become the most interesting thing in the room. The sudden absence of his gaze had made her uneasy, but she’d said nothing, busying herself in her calls.
She’d found herself wondering more about the call after they’d grabbed lunch at the local deli. It had seemed strange that he hadn’t offered to share the content with her for she knew how much he loved to find just the right time to spring things on her. An ironic half grin had formed as she’d mused over how many times a similar scene had played out between them. Her partner bursting into the office, tie flying out behind him, jacket open, eyes gleaming. Only to stop where he stood and then veer for his desk. Trying to appear nonchalant, begging her to ask him what was up.
She’d usually wait a beat or two or, if she were in a particularly stubborn mood, she’d watch him squirm and fidget, trying to find an outlet for his excess energy and need to tell her. Either way, the result would usually be the same, although the actual verbal delivery varied. As if he were tossing crumbs her way, he’d ask her in one of his more casual-sounding tones which was anything but, she thought, if she’d heard about this report or that.
It didn’t really matter. In the end he’d be sharing details, parceling them out in whatever order he thought might garner the best response from her, might hook her into joining him.
She wondered why he’d never seemed to realize that she’d have been by his side if he’d just come right out and laid it on the table. While she’d always offer her opinion, it was more of an exercise in intellectual debate that allowed them to hone the facts, to determine the essence of the case. It was never really a question of whether they’d take said case.
But more than that, it was part of them, part of their interaction, part of what she’d always enjoyed.
As they’d had coffee and she’d sampled Mulder’s cheesecake, she’d made overtures, asking him how his calls had gone that morning. He’d made the usual banal and sometimes flip comments. She’d pushed a bit harder, asking him directly about the one call that had come from outside, the one call he hadn’t placed. He’d looked momentarily hesitant, but then tried to brush it off claiming it had been a wrong number.
His outright lie had driven the first wedge between them. Had he really expected her to have missed his phone ringing? Or the fact that he’d turned away from her to answer it?
But she’d pursued it out of anger and disappointment. Confronting him with the facts, she’d given him one more chance to come clean with her. At that point, the caller had assumed less importance than the possible reasons he’d tried to create excuses.
She’d posited that maybe because he’d known he was caught, he’d started back-peddling, saying he hadn’t been sure to which call she was referring. That he suddenly recollected a call coming through for him, that it was an old friend. The apologetic smile on his face never quite reached his darkened eyes.
She’d felt her heart sink as she’d reached for the check, slapping a five on the table as she’d made her way to the cash register to pay for their lunch.
X-Files Office Basement of the J. Edgar Hoover Building
Thursday morning 30 September 1998 6:40 AM
The rain had slowed to a steady mist as a soft gray light suffused what little she could see of the outdoors beyond the too-small, too-high window. It was going to be one of those days. Had been threatening to become one of those months, entirely skipping the ‘one of those weeks’ marker.
As if seeing herself from above, she wondered how long she’d been shuffling and reshuffling the case files and how one of the one of the photos had ended up face up on the floor next to her stool. Her mind had been wandering yet again. Something she was doing more these days. Losing her focus. Moving aimlessly through her days.
He still hadn’t returned although he’d tried calling her endlessly. She continued to delete his messages from home and didn’t clear out her cellphone voicemail until it filled up. After having listened to his first few messages, some recorded, some as she screened the calls, she’d decided she couldn’t handle hearing his voice.
All thought about the papers strewn all over the desk completely banished, she replayed his very first message in her head. The message she’d almost allowed herself to cut in on so she could talk to him. <Scully, it’s me. Are you there? Scully? Ok, well I just wanted to let you know I’ve been called out of town and should be gone for several days. No, nothing serious. I’m consulting on a case and will call you.>
‘…will call you…will call you…will call you.’ And he had. He’d called and called, but never said where he was, what he was consulting on. Who he was with. He had to have known that she’d heard his messages and not bothered returning his calls.
He also had to know that she’d be suspicious. Hell, that she’d be angry. He’d have been right on both counts.
Two Weeks Earlier
Two days had passed since the phone call and life had returned to something resembling ‘normal’. Mulder and Scully without the X-Files normal, her mind amended. Although they’d been reporting to Kersh, she’d received a call from Skinner asking that she meet with him later that morning. Mulder had inquired as to whether he was also invited, as he’d put it, but she’d shaken her head from across their desks.
The look on his face spoke volumes, although she’d known he probably would have asserted he hadn’t even made a look. She’d understood; they were used to being summoned to meetings together, each one having a specific role to play. Expectations to fulfill.
Mulder leapt, she grounded. Mulder conjectured, she countered. Mulder pushed protocol; she saved their butts. They were balanced, worked best playing off one another. Had accomplished more than the sum of their parts. Gave enhanced meaning to the term, ‘synergy’.
She’d smiled, her hand resting momentarily on his shoulder as she’d made her way to the elevator.
When she’d returned barely twenty minutes later, he’d been away from his desk. Wanting to give him some good news, she’d inquired as to whether anyone knew his whereabouts. One of the women Agents had been on the phone but had mouthed, ‘hallway’, and pointed outside the glassed in workspace.
She’d spotted him at the corner where the hall took a right-hand turn, his shoulder against the wall, his head bent forward as if he’d been listening or talking with someone. She hadn’t wanted to intrude, so she’d hung back a few feet, giving him some space. Aside from the occasional passerby, the hall was empty, making it easy for her to hear occasional snatches of conversation.
Her lanky partner had seemed to be either arguing or protesting— she hadn’t been sure at the time which—but she could tell by the intermittent raised voice and the clipped sentences that he had not been happy with either the messenger and/or the message.
Then she’d heard her name. But he hadn’t voiced it. And she hadn’t been sure at first whether the other speaker was male or female. All she’d known was that her name had been snarled. That had been the only way she could think of to describe the sound. It had sent chills up her spine.
Even more curious had been the fact that her supposed partner had continued the conversation, nodding and gesturing, his responses more animated. He’d seemed much more engaged. What had made her move closer was the way his head had begun to sweep side to side as if he’d been checking for others that might be listening.
The two voices had been much clearer although she’d only taken a few steps toward Mulder. <I really need your help on this> The emphasis on him alone had been abundantly clear, but that alone hadn’t caused her as much concern as the fact that she didn’t know the identity of the other person.
It had sounded as if she’d walked in on the tail end of the conversation, their tones pausing and then moving forward with finality.
She’d heard him ask for the location, presumably to somewhere he was being asked to go.
She’d watched him nod as if he’d been committing the directions to memory. At that point two other agents had walked by slowly, most likely on a break or making the most of their time between meetings. Mulder and the other speaker had both halted their conversation.
When they’d resumed, the exchange had been clear although the meaning had been fuzzy. Her partner had asked for clarification about the mention of her name. Whatever the response, it must have convinced him because she’d heard him say that he’d go alone without notifying her first.
And here she’d been silly enough to think they’d dealt with this issue sufficiently. It wasn’t exactly that she never expected him to follow a lead first on his own but she did expect to be included at the start of a case and to have him share all his information when he had it.
She’d even felt that somehow, although they weren’t officially partners, they were working just as closely together. Part of her had wanted to turn on her heel and walk away from the unfolding scene. It had been twice in so many days now that she’d found herself in a silent rage. If she’d been anyone else she’d mused, she’d also be feeling as if she’d just been dropped from the partnership.
All to quickly, yet not soon enough, she’d heard him thanking the other person for the tip. Before he’d had a chance to turn toward Scully, she’d caught a glimpse of the other agent’s back …as the female agent walked briskly toward the elevator. Blonde hair that bounced just above the jacket collar of her navy-skirted suit was what she’d seen. The woman was almost as tall as Mulder and built as if she lifted weights regularly.
Who was this, she’d wondered. And knew that the best person to ask had been turning toward her looking like a man on a mission. Driven.
She’d stepped directly into his path. Yet he still had not spotted her. Nothing new. She knew that when he had a purpose, a goal, his vision narrowed, excluding all but what he needed to focus on. But that hadn’t cut it with her that day.
She liked her facts to fall neatly in a row, supported by plenty of evidence. Fact: he’d taken a call yesterday from someone unknown to her. Fact: when she’d inquired, he’d claimed it had been a wrong number, yet had gone out of his way to turn from her and continue talking. Fact: he had just met with an unidentified agent for an as yet unknown reason.
At the last minute, something had made her decide to duck out of sight into the alcove of a nearby office. Trying to formulate how she’d ask him about what she’d just witnessed, she’d watched from the shelter of the doorframe as he hurried by, his suit jacket flapping behind him, his long legs striding down the hallway. Inhaling deeply to steady herself, she’d followed him back toward the suite of cubicles.
She’d been right behind him as he’d made his way to his desk. She’d watched with frustration as he’d immediately reached for his phone with his left hand, his right opening the call list. Quickening her pace, she’d stopped next to his desk, leaned down, her palms on its surface. She’d called his name prompting him to pause with his finger over the keypad. The look on his face had first appeared to be one of surprise; he hadn’t seen her standing there. But her own eyebrows had risen in question and doubt when she next saw what appeared to be mild irritation flicker in his eyes. He was irritated? At what? That she’d interrupted him?
Again, she’d had the feeling that something more was going on. She usually needed much more, she’d thought ruefully, before she became suspicious. Especially of Mulder.
“Did you want something, Scully?” She’d noticed that his finger remained poised over the phone, his other hand now cradling the receiver in his palm. Although his tone had sounded neutral, his look spoke of impatience. As if she had been in the way somehow. Treading where she didn’t belong.
Her mouth had opened in reply, but no words had followed at first. Instead, she’d drawn back, coming to her full height. One of the only times she towered over him.
Her hands on her hips, she’d come close to glaring, wanting to make him take notice. Not addressing his question directly she’d asked, “Where have you been, Mulder?” Her tone matched his.
“I could ask you the same.” Evasion. But he had smiled.
“You could indeed. But you wouldn’t have to since you knew I went to meet with Skinner.” She’d matched the smile, but hadn’t been ready to back off.
She’d turned to sit on the edge of his desk, knowing full well and not giving a damn that roaming eyes in the bullpen had been focused on them. Let them have their show she’d thought.
Mildly shocked at his response, she’d crossed her legs at the knee, her short skirt having hiked up to reveal an expanse of her thigh. It had almost appeared that he was about to come clean. Almost.
“I had to meet with someone about some important information.” He’d seemed satisfied with his answer although it sounded to her as if he’d just glossed over the matter; she’d felt as if he’d had just closed the discussion. She’d watched as he’d put the phone to his ear and begun to dial.
Motives Part 2/4
X-Files Office Basement of the J. Edgar Hoover Building
Thursday morning 30 September 1998 7:10 AM
She wasn’t even sure why she remained in the office. The words on the documents in front of her were just so many characters, so much black ink on white space. She hadn’t made any sense of the case notes in the half hour she’d claimed she was looking at them.
The only bright spot, literally, was that the sun had come up and it appeared to have stopped raining. ‘Appeared’ being the operative word. From where she sat, she had only a small rectangular view of the outside world.
The chirping of her cell phone roused her and she flipped it open, bringing it to her ear on autopilot. “Scully.” She waited. She was about to snap it shut when she heard his voice. “Scully, it’s me; don’t hang up, please.” Resisting the very strong urge to do just that, she merely listened, having neither the energy nor the desire to say anymore. Ambivalence. That was the only feeling she had at that moment.
She knew he took the open line as a positive sign, but seemed to be taking his time, composing his thoughts. Figuring out what other lies or cover-ups he could employ? She hated the fact that she was questioning his behavior, questioning him. Where had her compassion and understanding gone? Probably to the same place her trust had. Oh, Mulder…
Summoning what seemed to be a hard-earned breath, she replied, “I’m not hanging up—for now.” She swore she could hear his smile. Too bad she didn’t have one to share with him.
“Scully, you’ve got to listen to me—”
No. No she didn’t.
“Now you want me to listen? I tried talking with you before you left. You didn’t seem to need me to listen then. As a matter of fact, you didn’t seem to need to talk either. What’s changed now Mulder? No, better still, don’t answer that. I don’t think I want to hear anymore lies or half-truths or whatever you’re calling it these days.” She’d worked up a full head of steam, her anger finally having a live target.
But, as usual, he charged in, attempting to derail her anger. “I couldn’t talk to you then. We were being watched…”
She knew he continued to explain but she was weary—suddenly very weary. It was the same five and a half-year story. Another conspiracy, someone else observing them, eavesdropping on their conversations. Oh, it had been true often enough; she’d seen the evidence, the hard cold facts. Maybe she was becoming jaded or maybe she was just so bone tired of his excuses.
“Mulder, we’re always being watched, someone’s always listening. It doesn’t wash any longer. I needed to talk. To you. You needed to follow another lead. You didn’t need me or my help.” She knew he would hear the resignation in her voice. She wondered if he’d hear the sadness.
The silence stretched between them. Between D.C. and wherever he was. Interminable.
“This is different Scully. I need you to understand, but I can’t stay on this line right now. I’ll call you back at home tonight.” He sounded so very far away and it wasn’t the mere miles separating them this time.
“Don’t bother.” Quietly and gently closing the phone, she placed it on the desk. Right before she swept the scattered papers onto the floor.
The day had gone from bad to worse. Maybe even to dismal. But she didn’t want to be melodramatic. There’d be plenty of time for that later, she thought wryly.
She wasn’t getting anywhere here, so she packed up her things, stooping to gather the pieces of paper and photos of some case she’d yet to make sense of. She plucked her coat from the chair and tossed it over her arm and headed for the door. Barely stopping long enough to turn off the lights and pull the door closed behind her, leaving it unlocked like she’d found it.
For reasons unknown, she didn’t want to leave the building yet. With no one she wanted or needed to visit, so she headed to the cafeteria. Setting her briefcase and coat on a window booth, she made her way to the line where she ordered a cup of tea and plain yogurt with honey, idly wondering whether she’d be able to stomach the food—knowing she needed to have something in her. Settling into the corner of the booth so she could gaze outside while absentmindedly watching the various staff and visitors coming and going, she opened the yogurt.
Her thoughts went everywhere and nowhere, blissful oblivion blanketed her. Until the one person she wanted to see least joined the cafeteria line. The tall brunette ordered a bagel, yogurt, fruit and a coffee. As she was paying for her purchases, she started looking around for a place to sit.
Scully wanted to crawl under the table or bolt from the room, but knew neither was her style. She’d never been one to shy away from a confrontation. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding when Diana made her way to a table with three other male agents.
With revulsion, she watched the viper attempt to charm the pants off the men who seemed only too eager for her company. As one, they oriented themselves to her, following her words and her movements with hypnotic attention. At one point, the men leaned in closer. It appeared as if their female colleague was about to impart some rather important information by the look on her face and theirs. Instead, they all burst out laughing.
Scully snorted and turned toward the window. Which was why she never heard the brunette approach until she was looming over the booth.
“May I?” Diana’s voice was dripping with undisguised insincerity. Not waiting for an invitation, she slid into the booth as Scully glared openly.
Feeling as if her day couldn’t get any worse, she turned to face the unwelcome visitor, “I’m in no mood to hear anything you have to say Diana.” Pushing away from the table, Scully stood. Her eyes slowly moved downward—to where Diana’s fingers were wrapped around her wrist.
“I was wondering if you happen to know where Fox is.” Scully didn’t miss the gratingly mellifluous tone. A tone that had the air of one of who believes she knows all.
“Let. Go. Of. Me.” Scully yanked her hand free and spun on her heel, her coppery locks whipping out behind her as she moved briskly away from the other woman, leaving her barely eaten yogurt and lukewarm tea.
Just outside the cafeteria entrance, she slumped against the wall. She was shaking and gulping in breaths as if they were a scarce commodity. She’d allowed the Fowley woman to get to her yet again. But she knew she shouldn’t be hard on herself since one of the woman’s favorite pastimes seemed to be making Scully’s life hell.
Heading home. The only option worth considering given the way her day was going. She felt the vise-like grip around her temples and between her brows, signaling the stirrings of a full-blown tension headache. Sighing, she stopped in the lounge, setting her satchel on the table as she rummaged for some aspirin. Downing two at the water cooler, she re-closed her bag and headed for the parking garage.
Slamming the door, she let herself sink back into the upholstered seat, her head lolling against the headrest. What next, she thought, her brows furrowing, her mouth set in a pout. Who had she pissed off to have to deal with both her errant-without-explanation partner and the FBI’s-excuse-for-an-X-Files-Agent? She could sleep where she sat.
Home of Dana Scully Approximately Three Hours Later
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d left the office without reporting to her supervisor. Nor when she’d fallen asleep mid-morning on her couch dressed in her work clothes. She awoke with a start, her dreams dark and disturbing.
The type that ventured into her waking realm. The type with her and Mulder separated by a dark and storm-tossed ocean. She could see him, see the look of excitement on his face as he pointed toward the heavens. And she could see his hand reaching toward her, but never quite able to touch hers. She felt the agony of that distance and her inability to match his joy strongly in the pit of her stomach.
Still clutching the afghan she must have pulled over herself, she sat up, crossing her legs under her. The blinds were still closed, the curtains drawn, leaving the room painted in a wan golden light. The semi-darkness suited her mood well.
She couldn’t get him out of her head. Mulder who was supposed to call her later and try to talk his way out of whatever he’d gotten himself in to. Mulder who had very nearly shoved her out of his way just a couple of weeks ago.
She deposited the afghan on the back of the sofa and made her way to the kitchen, intending on making herself some tea. Setting the kettle on the stove, she reached for a ceramic mug from the cabinet next to her and set it on the counter. Having retrieved a tea bag, she dropped it into the cup and then sat down at the kitchen table.
The day had turned darker; the sky an angry charcoal gray with only hints of white where daylight back-lit the clouds. The changing colors of the leaves of the maple tree outside her window stood out in sharp contrast, vividly outlined in the crisp lighting.
The sky looked like she felt—a raging storm just waiting to happen.
And that was exactly how she’d felt when she’d tried to talk to him. He’d had the audacity to continue with his cold calling although she’d sat there, on the edge of his desk, asking him to talk to her. He did talk to her. But not with any words she wanted to hear. Snippets of their rather one-sided conversation ran through her head…
“Mulder, is this some sort of case? Something I should know about?” Her hand covered his, trying to get him to put the phone down and look at her. Although she had felt the tension in his forearm muscles, his show of resistance seemed to be only for show.
His scowl had deepened. For a fleeting moment, she’d actually thought he’d looked contrite, as if he were about to apologize or at least open up a bit more. But that moment had come and gone, replaced by the set of his jaw and his penetrating gaze.
He’d told her he didn’t have the liberty to share with her. The words had stung, but she’d remained where she was.
Scully shook herself from her reverie as the teapot whistled for her attention. Now holding the hot mug between her hands, she headed back to the couch, sinking in deep, sipping the soothing hot liquid. The warmth spread through her taking the edge off her vacillating emotions. But it did nothing to stop the memories.
He didn’t have the ‘liberty’. She heard the sound of his voice, low, firm; he wasn’t budging. She knew him well enough to know that when he used that tone with her, nothing short of proof of life on other planets would change his mind.
She wasn’t about to give up or give in. So she’d switched her approach. “Mulder, help me out here. Help me understand what you could have possibly been told that you don’t think you can share with me. Your partner.”
And again she’d seen a change; the hardness in his eyes softened subtly, searching her face, almost imploring her. She’d met his questioning look with one of her own. “Tell me.” So close. He seemed to be so close to telling her and had then shored up his resolve.
To keep her out. “I can’t, Scully. You need to trust me on this one.” She’d been stunned. Didn’t he know that she did trust him? With her life? This appeared to be more about him trusting her. And it looked like there wasn’t much there.
She’d decided she’d reached her limit. She’d slid off the edge of his desk, smoothing her skirt, and had turned to walk away. And that was when she’d felt his fingers graze her hip, then tug slightly on the hem of her jacket. She’d already known what he was about to say from the resigned look on his face. The look she knew was painted on her own face. “I promised.”
She’d none-to-gently removed his fingers, wryly musing once again that he was right. With a deep sadness tinged with disbelief, she’d whispered, “I thought you did; I thought we did. Promised to trust each other.”
His lack of response was overshadowed by the look of barely contained pleasure on Diana’s face as she sauntered by Scully on her way to Mulder’s desk.
Dragging her mind from the cursed daydream, Scully set the mug of half-drunk tea on the coffee table and pushed to a standing position. She didn’t know where she was headed, but sitting still wasn’t working.
Too much bottled frustration coursed through her.
Frustration over not knowing where her partner was, what he was doing and why he was doing it. Frustration because she was beginning to wonder where she’d gone wrong in assessing their relationship. Frustration because…because she was even taking the time to play this all out over and over again. Reliving the past when she had the present to deal with and the future to contemplate. She wondered whether she should be ‘contemplating’ requesting a transfer…
On that thought, she picked up her shoes and made her way to the bedroom where she changed into jeans and a sweatshirt. Why stay dressed for work when she knew she’d never make it back today? She opened the blinds, watching as the wan light bathed the room. Zoning in on a point across the street, her mind was drawn once again to the conclusion of the scene in the bullpen…
She’d wanted to continue walking out the door without looking back. As a matter of fact, she’d wanted to waltz right on out of the building, their partnership, maybe even the FBI. Yet, at the same time, she’d also wanted to know what business Diana had with him. So, she’d busied herself by one of the filing cabinets in a section of the room with unoccupied desks. Not very far from the unfolding scene.
Once again, she’d found herself on the fringes of the conversation, but had been able to occasionally glance sideways and see one or both their expressions. Diana had perched on his desk just as she herself had done earlier. Seemingly unconcerned about public displays of overt friendship, she watched as the Fowley woman leaned toward Mulder, fingers brushing a few locks of hair from his forehead before her hand came to rest on his shoulder. His expression revealed almost nothing. Almost. His eyes had briefly locked with hers as he’d shifted just slightly, the result being Diana’s hand nearly sliding from his shoulder.
To this day, she wasn’t sure whether the look in his eyes and minimal movement had been some recognition of her presence or consciousness of others around them.
She all too clearly remembered having wanted to rail against her partner’s tacit acceptance of what had seemed all but forbidden to them in their years on the X-Files. And the way he’d taken the offered business card from the brunette, his index and middle fingers receiving it and tilting it from side to side as if weighing its implications.
Focusing on the feel of the windowsill beneath her fingers, Scully broke her stare, intending to leave the bedroom. She was beginning to feel confined, the walls of her apartment closing in on her in much the same way as her doubts about her partner were.
The only words she’d been able to hear that day had told her nothing. Nothing that would have tied Agent Fowley directly to Mulder’s current whereabouts. She had watched that woman’s non-verbal communication slip between simperingly fawning and professionally haughty.
Having decided to go for a walk, she donned her raincoat and Pocketed her keys, setting the deadbolt behind her as she left.
Her thoughts, as her sneakers squished against the wet pavement, centered around him. Her mind fought to make sense of the very lack of sense, to untangle the jumble of emotions. The bottom line for her was that they were much better together than apart. The rift within her ached and she didn’t know how to begin to ease that pain.
J. Edgar Hoover Building Two Weeks Earlier
A cold front had passed through the bullpen. A rather selective harbinger of the oncoming winter or the already existing freeze-out between the two partners on hiatus from the X-Files. Civility was the word nearly four days after she had tried to talk to Mulder about his meeting in the hallway. Nearly four days since Diana had begun to frequent the crowded room full of desks and computers and telephones and faceless name badges all doing background checks.
She’d alternated between attempting to thaw the ice and retreating into hibernation. She’d wondered whether he was really unaware of her attempts or purposely ignoring them. Either way, it hurt. She hurt. And some small part of her hoped he was sharing the pain.
They’d gotten a slight reprieve from the phone calling when Skinner had managed to pull them into a local investigation. Scully had hoped their involvement would come as the result of the meeting he’d called her to earlier, but she’d been asked to hold off mentioning it to Mulder.
Although she was more than willing, eager even, to take on anything that would get them off the phones, the change in her partner had been nothing short of amazing. His usual energy level rebounded and his loquacious ability to spout entire paragraphs of intelligible speech was a sure sign of his excitement. Along with the way he’d herded her to Skinner’s office for the details.
The case had been routine and mundane, but had offered the opportunity to use skills other than their ability to dial the phone, ask scripted questions and record the responses. She’d been on the verge of being subsumed by his exuberance, but managed to hold herself in check. She hadn’t been able to help feeling that this brief respite couldn’t cure whatever ailed them, although she was willing to give it a try.
She’d waited in the garage while Mulder had gathered the remaining paperwork from requisitions. Leaning with her back to the passenger door, she hadn’t heard him approach from the driver’s side of the Taurus. The tips of his fingers pulling her hair teasingly had caused her to jump. “Jeesus, Mulder.” She’d whipped around to face him as soon as he’d let go of her. The look in his eyes told her he’d registered her surprise and discomfort. He’d shrugged, a lopsided grin flitting across his face as they got into the car and drove to the crime scene.
The first hour had gone by the book; she’d gathered forensics evidence, he’d started interviewing witnesses. Nothing X-Files related here, she’d snorted.
But, then again, she’d always needed much more to convince her of that possibility. She’d found herself missing those times when once the basics had been handled, they would have time to hypothesize, to share what they’d each learned and come up with their options.
Even when she’d find herself astonished at some of the initially-outlandish sounding ideas, she’d found herself totally engrossed. Wanting nothing more than to challenge and debate, hone the facts into a working theory. One of their many rituals she’d have to admit she enjoyed.
Scully had found herself with the Coroner’s Office staff as they’d moved the bodies and was pulling off her latex, the ‘snap’ audible, when she’d turned to toss them in the bucket. She’d heard Mulder’s voice, the monotone recitation being delivered at a rather quick clip, telling her he was either in a hurry for some reason or trying to drive his point home.
The third option, she’d missed entirely. He’d been extremely pleased that he had an attentive audience…of one. Why Agent Fowley of the X-Files needed to be here when this was nothing more than a clear case of mistaken identity, the wrong victim, Scully didn’t know. Unless the woman had a name for their John Doe, she didn’t belong here as far as Scully was concerned.
What she did know was that Diana seemed to be spending more and more time with Mulder. Finding ways to insinuate herself back into his life. She’d tried to catch his eye, willing him to look at her. But he’d been too intent on whatever it was he was sharing with Diana. For her part, the brunette agent was equally engaged, her eyes following his every word, hanging on them. And Scully had had enough.
She strode in their direction with purpose, her arms swinging at her sides, her trenchcoat billowing behind her. She’d joined them, standing by her partner’s side, alternately focusing on him and the other agent. From what Scully had been able to make out, Diana was trying to demonstrate a link between this ‘non-case’ and a presumably X-File. Of course, she’d found the perfect believer in Mulder.
She wasn’t selling him short—not by a long shot. Although it was common knowledge that he could see evidence of the paranormal in situations that seemed anything but, it was also widely known that his intelligence and training made him an esteemed, if somewhat unorthodox, agent. It was just that he’d been known to openly accept the unexplainable more readily than anyone else Scully had ever known. The dark-haired woman knew of his ‘interest’ since she shared it with him.
Unconsciously, Scully had stepped closer to Mulder, drawing an invisible line in the sand. “What’s going on Mulder?” She’d schooled her tone. Neutral inquisitiveness. She’d hoped her facial expression matched.
She knew that Mulder had been quite pleased at how the day had gone so far and seemed all too happy to oblige her in answering her question. “We have what may be a link between this John Doe and the new X-File.”
“We?” She’d known well enough to whom he was referring, but it had seemed like the natural response.
One word, one name. That’s all it had taken.
“Diana.” He’d smiled at her and then swept his eyes toward his partner, non-verbally including her.
“And what is it, Agent Fowley, that you feel connects these two cases?” Scully’s question had been delivered with as much professional courtesy as she could muster.
She’d felt the physical distance created by her partner positioning himself to one side, but between the two women agents. And she’d watched as Diana leaned in toward Mulder, their shoulders almost touching. If the taller woman had been trying to instigate something, she had done a fine job. Scully listened to the parallels Diana tried to draw to link the shooting to her X-File, but all she was coming up with was conjecture.
Pure, unadulterated conjecture. In fairness, the redhead knew that the brunette was quite intelligent, widely read and published, extremely capable. However, Scully also knew exactly what Mulder’s former partner’s intentions were. The woman was transparent—at least to Scully.
“Agent Scully, you don’t seem to see the obvious connections here.” The redheaded agent had refused to be intimidated, even as the taller woman and Mulder appeared to form a physically unified front.
But Scully was not about to back down. She’d seen nothing but a house of cards in the agent’s reasoning. “Agent Fowley, there is no evidence here to link this case to anything other than a case of mistaken identity. The murder weapon has clearly been established by forensics, the John Doe’s DNA is being run through the databanks as we speak. I fail to see how it could be connected to the possible sighting of an unidentified flying object.”
The one-sided grin of amusement had Scully flushing, the heat causing her porcelain skin to redden despite her best efforts to control her growing ire. “I would have thought that after all this time working with Fox your mind might be more open to extreme possibilities. I thought you’d be able to look past your insistence on up-front facts, realizing that they always fall into place later.”
Deep breaths had helped slow her pounding pulse, but did nothing for the acerbic rejoinder that was threatening to spill from her lips. Having taken a step forward, succeeding in making Mulder take a step out of the triangle, Scully’s voice was dark and low as she replied, “The only extreme possibilities I can see in this case is that you’re looking for evidence that does not exist and prejudging that which you have not yet seen.”
Faster than she would have thought possible, Mulder was next to her, his hand on her shoulder, fingers attempting to guide her back away from Diana. As if he’d thought she were about to resort to fisticuffs.
Through the fuzziness of the blood pounding in her ears, she’d heard him muttering something about there being no need to judge and that she should know that connections weren’t always obvious at first. Well, he’d been right about that. She was just beginning to make the obvious connections….
Before he’d been able to spout anymore rhetoric, she’d removed his hand from her shoulder as if in slow motion and quietly excused herself from them, making her way to the Officer in Charge.
To his credit, albeit a day late and a dollar short, she’d seen Mulder’s long legs pumping as he’d tried to get the patrol car to stop as the officer drove her home.
The officer had been circumspect, asking no questions and offering his assistance. When it had become apparent that she was going to be a silent passenger, he’d merely nodded in her direction without further comment. He’d tipped his hat and bid her good day at curbside.
She’d managed to make it inside her apartment with a calm collectedness she definitely wasn’t feeling. That calm had fled as soon as she’d closed and locked the door behind her, depositing the keys rather forcefully on the small table, hearing them slide off onto the floor. With a short efficient movement, she’d kicked them out of her way and kept moving.
She’d nearly torn her jacket from her body and had flung it over the back of the couch, not caring where it landed. Stopping in the bathroom, she dug around in the small basket on the vanity for something to tie her hair back. As she’d reached behind her to gather the strands, she’d faced her reflection, noting how unlike herself she appeared. Well, that was just fine since she felt even worse than she looked.
Her insides churned, burning and clenching. She’d known the signs although she hadn’t experienced them often. She was seething and teetering on the brink of losing control. And she was scared shitless.
Drawing in a deep, hopefully cleansing breath, she’d tried to gather her thoughts as she unbuttoned her blouse and headed for the bedroom. As she’d placed the silk garment on a hangar, she’d frozen in place, the unrelated action bringing back earlier events.
And Diana Fowley. Mentally chiding herself, her brows furrowed, she’d closed the closet doors and removed her skirt, tossing it on the bed. A sure sign her tenuous grip on her emotions was failing.
‘Damnit, Mulder!’ Plopping down on the end of the bed, she’d yanked off her pantyhose, flinging them toward the wall. She’d bounded from the bed like a tightly coiled spring and stalked to her dresser, bending to reach the bottom drawer. She’d pulled it off the track and just missed landing the heavy oak on her toes. Unfurling her sweats with full force Scully fury, she’d let them fly back over her head.
“Damn you, you self righteous, pompous ass.” Absentmindedly pulling her gray sweats on followed by her socks and cross-trainers, she pocketed her driver’s license and moved with purpose toward the door.
When she’d bent to retrieve the keys from where they’d landed earlier, they’d slipped from her fingers. In the first of an instant chain reaction, she flashed hot and kicked the keys against the wall. Her actions toppled the small catchall table. Her feet had never stopped moving as she gave vent to her emotions, stomping then shoving her heel into the spindly legs of the oak table.
It had been as if she saw what she was doing for the first time. She’d stopped almost as suddenly as she’d begun, her heart racing, blood pounding in her ears, shaking. Pulling in shallow breaths at first, she’d tried to calm herself by focusing on each breath, drawing it in and exhaling as slowly as possible. Although she’d managed to slow the erratic beating of her heart, she knew she’d not expelled the tension.
Stooping once again to gather her keys, she’d removed all but her house key and tucked it into her pocket. The door had slammed behind her; partly because of momentum, but mostly due to the force with which she had swung it.
She’d headed for the gym, knowing that she needed to work off the rest of turmoil and try to sort through whatever was going on.
Motives Part 3/4
Gold’s Gym and Sports Club Georgetown
She’d barely noticed the man at the desk handing out towels as she took it from him and made a bee-line for the weights room. With the towel draped around her neck, she’d headed straight for the seated row, already warm enough to lift her maximum, she’d mused. Placing her feet against the metal foot strike plates, she’d grabbed the short pulley, opting to do concentrated work. Taking a few deep breaths, she’d drawn the pulley toward her slowly, reveling in the feel of sheer strength as her rhomboids and lats contracted, drawing her shoulder blade down and center, her back arching slightly. She’d exhaled and slowly released the contraction.
But that hadn’t provided much satisfaction. She’d paused briefly, gathering her energy, letting the anger flow through her to a single point of reference directly in front of her. Being careful not to clench her fists, she’d nonetheless held on tightly and inhaled as she drew the pulley toward her once again. Just a little bit faster. Exhaling a little bit harder.
She’d hit her stride, had a rhythm going. Contracting her back muscles to allow her to rather forcefully bring the pulley toward her, holding it a few seconds and then releasing. Only to bring it toward her again immediately. Again and again. Until she felt the flexing in her quads, the working of her arms, the slight burn in her back. The sweat soaked the thin cotton of her sweats. The recent events fueled her.
‘Recent events’, she’d huffed upon exhale, now there was a sound byte if she’d ever heard one. She’d drawn in another sharp breath and nearly yanked the pulley from its steel cable. ‘Goddamn him.’
The release had allowed the weight plates to drop down onto each other, clanging loudly. ‘How long would it take him to see the bitch’s true colors?’ She’d drawn the pulley back with extreme strength and even slower speed. And let it rip on the release, exhaling to her mind-picture of how he’d placed his hand on her shoulder to separate her from Diana.
With great satisfaction, she’d watched the pulley smack into the guard bar as she’d let go. Her breathing labored and rough, she’d stood and headed for the Smith Machine, intending to do some weighted squats. As she’d racked the plates onto the bar and adjusted the pins, she’d been caught off-guard, her movements derailed as she’d pictured his face. It had hit her dead on. She hadn’t known how to interpret his look. But she’d known what it felt like. Like sides had been taken and he wasn’t on hers any longer.
She’d stepped backward under the bar, curling her fingers in an overhand grip and bending her knees. Lifting slightly to disengage the bar and plates from the frame, she’d let the chrome rest on her shoulders. Sucking in her abs and ensuring a wide enough stance, she’d begun to squat. Her mind checked out as her quads and glutes took the brunt of her anger and hurt. Faced with a choice; believe his own partner or older, supposed friend, Mulder had sided with the latter while turning on the former. At least that was what it had felt like.
She’d managed six deep and slow reps before re-racking the bar, slipping out from underneath, walking off the lactic acid build-up. Her hair had spilled out of the covered elastic in pieces and wisps, now curling in the humidity of her workout despite the air conditioning. Pulling on the velcro tabs of her leather lifting gloves, she tugged them off and tossed them on the bench next to her.
Was it possible to feel euphoric from physical exhaustion…and achingly sad? Wiping her face with the towel from around her neck, she’d pushed her sleeves to her elbows and sat heavily on the bench. She’d wanted to cry, she’d wanted to rant and she’d wanted to hit something.
But he hadn’t been there. He hadn’t been there for a while now.
When her breathing had returned to normal, she’d headed for the door, tossing the towel into the bin on her way out.
Home of Dana Scully 30 September 1998 Early Evening
The day couldn’t settle on one mood anymore than she could. Her walk had begun in drizzle, gray skies and clouds lofting heavy with the threat of much more to come. It was ending with a nearly clear sky in that crisp fall hue; a cross between robin’s egg and teal blue, the few clouds now high or vanished and the warmest rays of sun trying to dry the soaked earth.
She wasn’t sure if she felt any of those rays. Clouds still seemed to fog her emotions. It was still raining inside of Dana Scully’s heart.
Leaving her shoes at the door, she headed for the shower, wanting nothing more than to feel warm and dry again. Her damp clothing was hung behind the door on the whitewashed hooks and she was ready for the driving force of the water.
Timing just right, the phone rang as soon as she’d pulled the shower curtain closed. Shower gel in hand, she planned to ignore it. It stopped and she continued to massage her body with the body puff, feeling some of the stress of the day wash away as the water sluiced the bubbles from her skin.
And it rang again. Almost insistent, although she knew she was attributing qualities to the phone that didn’t exist.
She stuck with her plan to finish her shower and poured some Shampoo into her palm. Her fingers worked the amber liquid through her wet hair and scalp. As she rinsed, her cell phone chirped from the side table in the hallway right outside the bathroom. She knew then who it had been all along. Mulder had told her he’d call back tonight. Well, he was early and she wasn’t finished with her shower. She knew she couldn’t be sure it was him, but the pattern; keep calling till she either answered or smashed her phone, was distinctly his. On occasion, it had been endearing.
She shut off the taps, drew the curtain and grabbed a towel for her hair first, wrapping and then tucking it at her neck. Her regular phone started ringing again as she finished drying off and pulled on her robe. The machine clicked in as she padded to the living room.
<Scully, it’s me. Please pick up if you’re there. I know you must be>
‘You know, Mulder? What you know these days is rather suspect isn’t it?’ She turned on her heel and sauntered into the bedroom. She removed the towel from her hair, bending over and patting the ends and then flipped her head back.
When the phone rang again, she flung the wet towel across the room, watching disinterestedly as it nearly knocked over a vase of dried flowers. So much for her theory that her walk and hot shower had eased the tension from her.
Stepping into her panties, she idly wondered just how many times he’d call before giving up. His persistence was so much a part of him and usually served him well. The man never gave up in his pursuit of what he believed in. She’d found herself the object of his relentlessness on occasion and had been grateful, had felt cherished. But, as was often said, one person’s strength could also be his downfall. Right now, he was pushing her to her limit. If she didn’t answer it now…
Having finished pulling her robe around her, she sat down on the bed and waited. Mentally counting, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and nodding her head toward the phone, she held her hand over the handset as it began to ring.
<Scully, you’re home> It was times like this that his intelligence was called into question, she thought, shaking her head.
“And you’re persistent. What do you want, Mulder?” She knew he’d hear the flatness in her tone and she didn’t care.
She was actually surprised that he didn’t jump right in with a response. As a matter of fact, the silence seemed to stretch thin and she was about to ask if he was still there when his almost whispered words came. <You’re not making this easy>
“Let me add ‘perceptive’ to the list of your attributes.”
<Cut me some slack here, Scully>
It was her turn to be quiet. When in fact, she wanted to rail, to rant and maybe scream. Loudly. How could he not see why she was so upset?
“Why would I want to do that, Mulder? Things have seemed rather one-sided between us lately. I ask, you ignore me or, worse yet, I offer an opposing opinion and you attempt to hold me back as if I might attack. So you’ll have to excuse me if I can’t seem to find it within me to cut you some slack.”
His sigh almost sounded regretful, sad, apologetic to her. Almost as if he were trying to decide whether or not to continue. She was momentarily torn. Torn between wanting to tell him it was all right, she’d listen, she was here for him and…hanging up. Damn she hated this feeling of being split in two, feeling as if she wanted to open herself to him and walk as far away from him as she possibly could.
<Look, our lines may not be secure. Can I call you right back on your cell?>
She wondered if a similar sigh from her would answer his question. “Fine,” was all she could muster.
She’d barely hung up when her cell chirped. She opened, gritting out one word, “Talk.”
After a few halting sounds she supposed were attempts at beginning what he had to tell her, he seemed to gather his wits. <This isn’t what it seems, Scully. You have to believe me>
“Oh? What do you think it seems like to me, Mulder?” Her delivery couldn’t have been flatter if it had been steam-rolled. “And I’m sure I don’t need to spell out why believing you is not something I feel inclined to do just now. So why not skip the bullshit and tell me what you needed to say.”
<I need you to know that appearances can be deceiving and that I’m still me, Scully. Nothing’s changed despite how it looks right now> His tone and the cadence of his speech told her that he believed what he was saying, that he believed his own sincerity. The problem, as she saw it, was that she wasn’t so sure she could believe the same thing.
“I know it’s still you, Mulder, and maybe that’s partly why this is all so hard to understand. I know that you will pursue that which you feel merits investigation and that when you deem it necessary, you will let nothing or no one get in your way. You’re intent will be sincere, but your methods will sometimes be called in question. This; no, these recent events are casting serious doubts on your motivation.”
<Are you finished, Scully?>
“I could ask you the same thing, Mulder.”
The airwaves separating them crackled with unseen tension and Scully realized she’d paced her apartment several times since they’d begun their conversation. She wasn’t sure what they’d accomplished other than sharing mutual frustration. Well, they’d always been rather good at mirroring each other’s emotions, she rued.
Where had things gone so horribly wrong?
<I’m trying, but you’re not willing to hear what I’m saying. What do I need to tell you to fix this?>
Indeed. How could he not know?
“You’ve explained nothing, Mulder. And I think you know exactly what I need to hear. So, unless you’re willing to tell me, this conversation’s over.” She chuffed out a long held breath and waited.
<I’ve told you what I can for now. I won’t wait around for you to find a way to trust…to trust me, Scully>
He closed the connection before she had a chance to and she found herself strangely unsure of what had just transpired. Her knitted brow and pursed lips conveyed to no one her confusion.
Confusion over the enigma that was her partner of nearly six years. She knew his predilections, probably as well as he knew hers. Knew his quirks, his shortcomings, his strengths. Again, as he knew hers. But knowing someone so deeply was supposed to elucidate, not frustrate, wasn’t it?
J. Edgar Hoover Building Two Weeks Earlier
‘Consummate professionals do not allow personal feelings to interfere with their ability to carry out the job.’ Nearly a verbatim quote from the handbook. It hadn’t been all that long ago, had it? Then why was it that she was having to work so hard to contain the wash of emotion that threatened to send her into a tailspin at the thought of him showing up at work?
She hadn’t been able to lie to herself; nothing had changed overnight. She still saw red at the mere thought of Mulder and Diana linked in any capacity. And she couldn’t wrap herself around the reasons why he was either unwilling or unable to see the Fowley woman’s duplicitous nature.
Moreover, she still had no idea what was going on. Too many seeming coincidences over a short period of time had raised more suspicions.
Plunging herself into completing her portion of the report for Skinner, she hadn’t heard him come in, nor had she seen him standing to the left and slightly behind her, looking over her shoulder. She was surprised to feel his fingers lightly brush her back. An attempted connection which she quickly aborted by sliding forward in her chair.
“Scully, we need to talk.” Simple. A statement of fact. His fact.
Without taking her eyes from the monitor or her fingers from the keys, she’d typed a few more words before pausing to reply. “I need to finish this report.”
Conscious of the few agents turning their way or attempting to be unobtrusive in their eavesdropping, she’d kept her voice low, barely audible. Knowing he’d heard her. Yet he’d remained rooted to his spot.
Rooted in that Mulder fidgety-rooted way. She could feel the need in him. The need to tell her something, to do something, go somewhere. She allowed herself a wistful indulgence as she pictured happier moments when that constant movement of his was sometimes amusing, sometimes infuriating, but oftentimes endearing.
A sharp pang for those times…
So be it. If he wouldn’t move, she would. “Excuse me, Mulder.” She hadn’t really wanted to roll over his foot as she backed up. He’d move quickly enough, but hadn’t left the desk.
Setting her glasses on the surface, she tried to walk between him and the furnishings, but his fingers on her elbow stopped her dead in her tracks. Her eyes moving from his fingers to his face conveyed exactly what she thought of his hold on her. But there was something in his look that gave her pause and held the words from emerging.
His words slammed into her with their quiet and low spoken intensity. “I’m sorry.”
She felt the heat rise in her face as a confused half smile found its way to her eyes even though it never actually visited her lips. Still, she couldn’t quite get out any reply that would have changed things, so she touched his hand where it held her. Releasing him, her hip brushed his on her way to the copier.
When she turned around, he was gone.
As she made her way to the copier, she found a hand thrust out in front of her as a female voice called her name. She looked up questioningly, lost in thought over her earlier exchange with Mulder. “Yes?”
“Oh, Agent Scully, this fax just came through for Agent Mulder, but I saw him head out into the hall before I could snag him. Can you take it for him?” The salt and pepper haired woman thrust the paper document into Scully’s hand with a warm smile from her brown eyes.
“No problem, Agent—”, Scully leaned forward to see the woman’s badge, “Agent Gilliland.”
They parted ways, Scully continuing on to the copier. Once she’d set the machine to ‘print’, she glanced down at the fax in her other hand. Just then, the copier spit out the five pages and she leaned down to retrieve them, now heading back toward her desk.
As she walked, she held the document up in front of her, squinting to make out that it was indeed addressed to Fox W. Mulder. There was no cover page, which surprised her. Most transmissions arrived not only with a cover sheet, but marked ‘Confidential’, ‘Classified’ or ‘Highly Confidential or Classified’. It was rare to find only the document itself.
Setting her own paperwork on her blotter, she stopped between her desk and her partner’s, still holding the fax, only partially acknowledging that she wanted to know its contents… and that it was really none of her business.
And that was when her stomach seized and an icy cold settled into her. The ‘To’ line did indeed show her partner’s name. The ‘From’ line said ‘Diana Fowley, Special Agent’. At that point, there was no way she could not go on, nor could she stop from finishing her quick scan.
Flight plans. Roundtrip tickets to Omaha leaving tonight. She’d seen enough—quite enough.
Whirling around, the culmination of the last few week’s activities collided, threatening to send her into a free-fall. What exactly had Mulder been ‘sorry’ about a half-hour earlier? Had she misread the look in his eyes, the feel of his hand on her and his response to her touch?
Her rational mind told her not to jump to such outlandish conclusions. The part of her mind that dealt with all else overrode her rationality. She fumed inwardly and grew cold and extremely annoyed outwardly. Just in time to see him waltzing toward her, a rather loopy grin pasted on his face. No doubt, he had something exciting to share with her. Well, it wasn’t going to happen.
Given the way his smile left his eyes and then his mouth, she knew he’d read her mood. She’d give him that; he was a quick study when it came to reading her. Heck, they did it with each other so often it was second nature. That was about the only thing she was glad about right now because she knew there would be no way she could convey in words all that she was feeling as she saw him approach.
“Hey, Scully. What’s up?”
Her inner voice answered him, ‘That’s the question I’ve been asking for the last week or so.’
Finally managing to make herself move forward, she intercepted him, her arm extended, the fax in her hand. “I believe you’re running late?”
She heard him calling after her and then heard the sound of his shoes as he ran to try to catch up with her, as the stairwell door closed behind her.
Reports all but crunched in her tight fist, Scully made her way to her car. Although she could have just as easily faxed or email attached them, she wanted to personally confer with the assisting pathologist. Driven by the need to get out of the building, she took the stairs down to the garage, not wanting to waste time waiting for the elevator.
Within moments of heading into the stairwell, she no longer heard Mulder’s voice. So much for his need to make her understand…
As she came through the door to the subterranean parking level, She stopped, fist tightening once again on the document.
A black late model sedan was parked with the engine running next to her and her partner’s vehicles. From behind, Scully could just make out the shoulder length hair and the light color. The agent from the hallway meeting?
She didn’t have long to wonder. From the corner of her eye, she watched, her heart and head pounding, as her secretive partner popped the trunk on his Taurus and grabbed his overnighter.
She was surprised to find that her eyes were rimmed with tears she refused to shed when he smiled and got into the car.
The car door slammed shut.
Motives Part 4/4
Home of Dana Katherine Scully Saturday, 1 October 1998 8:00AM
She pulled the blankets up just a bit farther, enjoying the cool breeze that heralded in the month. She’d planned to get up earlier and go into the office to catch up on paperwork.
So much for the best-laid plans. Bed just felt too damn good right now. Besides, her sleep-filled mind added, if she stayed here, she didn’t have to face that fact that her partner was gone to parts unknown for reasons equally unknown. At least to her.
She rolled onto her side, drawing her knees up toward her body, tucking herself into a close approximation of a fetal pose. How Freudian, Doctor Scully. She knew she was withdrawing, hiding. She preferred to think of it as cocooning, taking comfort from her home. Yeah. Right.
Wallowing in her hurt and anger wasn’t her usual style. But then again, a series of partnerly transgressions of this magnitude wasn’t his style either. Wherever the Fowley woman was involved, trouble washed over all who were caught in her wake. Scully was sure Diana wanted it that way. And she was very used to getting what she wanted. Who she wanted.
Allowing only one eye to take a cautious glance at the sky outside her window. A hint of wan sunlight filtered through the semi-closed slats of her blinds, as they refracted and disbursed the pale light over her comforter. She had an idea. Close that eye. If she didn’t see the day, she didn’t have to participate in it. Classic avoidance behavior. Mulder would have a field day with her on that one.
As if she’d invoked his spirit, her bedside phone rang, startling her. “Damnit!” She snaked one hand out from under the blankets and pawed at the handset. “Hello?”
She almost hung up, but she heard a slight inhalation. A sharp intake of breath indicating surprise?
She knew it had to be him. He was intruding. On her sleep. On her weekend. On her life.
“Go away, Mulder.”
<I’m on my way> She groaned and she was sure he’d heard her. She was also relatively sure that he was actually already somewhere close by. How nice of him to give her warning. Which was a lot more than he’d given her in the last few weeks.
When had she grown so sarcastic? Probably right around the time she’d decided she didn’t know if she could count on her partner to trust her, to tell her the truth. How had that happened?
Throwing back the comforter and groaning again for good measure, she moved with purpose into the bathroom. She resented having to get dressed, but the idea of having company wearing nothing but her tee-shirt and panties was not appealing.
A half hour later, dressed in her faded denim with the holes in the knees and cropped white tee, she made herself some tea. The warmth of the liquid was almost what she needed. Almost.
His knock was accompanied by him calling her name. As if she’d left after he’d called. “It’s open.”
The door swung open as if he was in a hurry, but he stopped short when he saw her. Seated at the kitchen table, mug in her hands, her eyes remained lowered. Just enough to avoid eye contact, but not so much that she couldn’t see him.
One hand still on the doorknob… “Are you coming in or did you plan on talking from there?”
The other suddenly jammed in his pocket. “Uh, yes. Sure. I—,” he stammered.
Surreptitiously, she took in his expression. He was exhausted, his face drawn, hair in disorganized spikes. But it was his eyes that drew her, threatening to knock her resolve off-kilter.
She blinked, slowly, once, then again, hearing rather than seeing him approach. The soles of his shoes squeaked on the hardwood flooring, the usual bounce missing from his steps. She was perversely pleased to note that he seemed unsure of how to proceed, his pace hesitant, uncertain. Just as she had been feeling.
His downcast glance seemed to ask her permission to sit and she lifted her head to level him with her expressionless face. If he was going to do this, it would be without her help.
She watched him turn the slatted back chair around, straddling it, his gaze seeking hers. “Scully.”
The sound of her name had none of the hesitancy his movements did. It bade her to look at him and for a brief moment, she found herself frozen into stillness.
She’d forgotten how this man could convey so much in a single word. Especially when that word was her name. Where she preferred to guard her displays, his face was a veritable catalogue of a wide range of emotion. And it was usually somewhere deep within those hazel eyes that she could detect a storm brewing or unspoken joy. Right now, they showcased concern and maybe…fear. She wasn’t sure, but the subtle shifting told her he wasn’t quite sure where to go from ‘Scully’.
“Is that what you’ve come to say, Mulder?” The words were out of her mouth before she had a chance to think about them. It wasn’t like her to allow her frustration to take over. Dana Scully didn’t operate by the seat of her pants, on a whim. She had a hold on her thoughts and feelings and shared them with precision.
‘But that wasn’t entirely true, either, was it,’ she mused. Especially with this man. This man who she’d grown closer to than any other she had called friend in her thirty some odd years. This man who exasperated the hell out of her with his quirks, selfishness and lack of grounding. This man who oftentimes amazed her with his caring, compassion and single focus on doing the right thing; even when it wasn’t the popular thing.
Yet she wasn’t sure where to go from here.
“Scully,” he stood, pushing the chair into the table, and walked around behind her, his hands hovering over her shoulders.
She made his decision for him, however, when she intoned lowly, “Don’t touch me, Mulder.”
Then she, too, was on her feet and moving into the living room. “Just tell me what you came here to say.” Arms crossed, words clipped, she leveled him with her stare. And watched his face; looking toward the floor as he rounded to stand before her, keeping his distance. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. She’d already damned him verbally and mentally many times over the past few weeks, but…damn him again for what looked like guilt written all over his face.
“Scully, I’m just going to get this out, so let me tell it all, okay? Can we sit down?” He took a few steps to place himself by her side, gesturing to the couch. “Sit where you want, Mulder. I’ll stand for now.”
“No slack, huh, partner?” She felt the sting in his voice, saw the attempted half-grin.
But he had a point. Had things gone so far that she couldn’t even listen to what he had to say. Probably not, but she just couldn’t see her way past the hurt and humiliation; especially where Diana was involved.
“Shit, Mulder! How the hell am I supposed to cut you slack? You damn well walked out on me, you ignored me, you took her side over mine…again!” She was on the move now, her hands slamming into the back of the couch as she uncrossed her arms. The momentum kept her going as she stopped in front of him, her breathing coming heavily.
“I thought we knew each other better than that. No, I thought we respected each other more, I…” The word caught in her throat as the intensity in her voice grew. Beyond her own usually well-thought out plans, her emotions took over, the anger spilling, the hurt leading her.
Through tunnel vision, she watched him stand…slowly, worry etching his face, knitting his brows. His hands once again reached for her, but she took a step back. “I didn’t take her side, Scully, you have to believe that. I had to follow through with the plan. She had information. Diana had answers.”
Her name again. Didn’t he know what it did to her?
Unable to control the flash of anger in her voice, she told him, “Get out! Just go,” and stepped aside giving him a wide berth.
“Fine, Scully. I’m outta here” His voice was gruff, but she detected hurt and maybe defeat. He was giving up. He got as far as the door.
Grabbing his wrist, she caught him off-guard, her voice bordering on hysteria. “You’re leaving? I don’t buy your excuses and you just give up, is that it, Mulder? When did we get to this point?” Her tone fell off as she mouthed his name, her hand releasing its hold on him.
She observed his indecision with detached resignation colored by an anger and hurt she wasn’t sure how to fathom. Would they ever work this out?
“Scully…there are things you don’t know; things I couldn’t share with you…” Now it was his turn to trail off, unsure of how to proceed.
“So, tell me, Mulder.” They both remained poised by the door and she had no idea where to go from there. Not one to shy away from taking the lead, her partner took the first step and headed for the side chair, nearly collapsing into it. Restless, he moved about trying to find a suitable position. At another time, it might have amused her.
She crossed to the couch, choosing to sit on the far end, her legs crossed at the knee, arms folded in front of her chest, her body angled in his direction. Waiting.
He leaned forward then, his forearms resting on his knees, head down. At his first words, he lifted his head, searching her face.
Looking first at her own hands as she uncrossed her arms and let them fall to her side, and then at his, aimlessly animated, she met his gaze.
Held it. Waiting for him to continue.
Strangely, she was tired and weary. So very tired of not knowing what had happened, where they stood as partners…
She had to lean forward to hear his first words…words that were spoken barely above a whisper. An imploring whisper.
“Where to begin. So much has happened, Scully. So much that isn’t as it appears.”
Her normal pitch sounded almost deafening in the quiet of her apartment and in contrast to his. “You’re speaking in riddles, Mulder. Out with it.”
Pressing his palms into his thighs, he slowly rose, moving to sit on the couch, to the left of her feet, careful to keep his distance. “Not intentionally. It’s just that sometimes we’ve had to rely on each other without knowing all the facts. Make decisions on the fly, trusting that the other would understand. Right?” He turned toward her, his right leg bent at the knee, resting on the couch.
She nodded for him to continue, her hands now resting in her lap. “I mean, we’ve both been involved within a certain set of circumstances that have dictated appearances, driven behavior, necessitated divorcing ourselves from each other in order to pursue the goal.” She marveled at how this man could marshal the words to weave a reasonably intelligible discourse, but she needed more. She needed answers without qualification or subterfuge.
She knew he’d eventually get to the crux of the matter, but in the meantime, he was driving her around the bend. It was a classic stalling technique.
As he drew in his next breath, most likely prepared to skirt the facts a little longer, she brusquely interrupted him. “Mulder.” That got his attention. “You’re trying to tell me something about this trip of yours. Do I have to play twenty questions here or are you going to just tell me?”
She could see the internal debate in his eyes; should he, could he? How much longer did she have to wait to hear what she had the feeling would answer very little?
“Skinner, Skinner had me on a case. He was working with OPR on an internal investigation and they needed more information.” Now that the words had started to flow, it was almost as if he couldn’t stop.
But she was finding the information a little hard to swallow. “And you couldn’t tell me about it? Couldn’t answer any of my questions for two weeks? That is, if my assumption that your mysterious phone call, meeting with the unnamed agent in the hallway and the appearance of Agent Fowley at the crime scene are all connected.”
She could sit no longer. “This isn’t getting us anywhere, is it?”
Raking his hand through his hair, he stood, joining her. “No, it’s not Scully, but I can’t tell the story unless you’re willing to stop asking me more questions.”
Before she could give voice to the look of frustration on her face, he continued. “I know what this all must look like to you. Can’t say it wouldn’t look exactly the same way to me, but I thought you knew me better than that.”
They stood less than a foot apart now, a glaring stalemate. Her head tilted to one side and one eyebrow raised she waited.
“I was undercover, Scully. Reports had been coming in over the last several months regarding some not so kosher activities. Most of these activities involved Diana; directly or indirectly.” She was barely aware of her partner’s hand on hers, gently pulling it away from her body, guiding her over to the couch. Sitting side-by-side and turned toward each other, she looked down at her fingers twined with his, not really remembering when she had decided holding hands was all right.
“You’re not going to say anything, ask any questions, Scully?” She noted the somewhat bemused expression, but schooled hers to remain neutral.
“Mulder…the results?” she asked him, “What did you find?”
“Not nearly enough, but I did manage to pull in some outside sources who will be able to finish what Skinner had me initiate, hopefully before the trail grows any colder.” He squeezed her fingers, trying to draw her hand closer to his leg, but she resisted.
“You avoided me, evaded my questions.” She paused, and took a deep breath, pushing away the pain caused by his actions. His all too recent actions. Reminiscent of a pattern she hoped had been broken long ago.
“You ditched me, Mulder.” She glanced down, noting how his thumb seemed to be tracing imaginary patterns in her palm…how his eyes followed hers.
“I was doing my job, Scully; nothing more, nothing less. You would have done the same.”
“You don’t know that, Mulder. I do know you were doing what Skinner asked, but damn it, when the hell have you ever followed protocol, done what you were told? We’re a team, or I thought we were.” As he began to shake his head, she continued, “All right, we’re not officially assigned as partners right now, but you know what I’m talking about.”
Through it all, he seemed unwilling or unable to release his hold on her. Their connection.
“What made this ‘undercover’ case any different than the others you’d been assigned?” She shook her head when she noticed his attempt to respond. “Those others that you either enlisted my help or at least let me know you were going undercover and would be out of touch?” The sting of the initial anger had abated, although she still wondered at his reticence to include her. Fidgeting. Classic. Drawing his bent knee toward his body, he turned, facing her completely. Their still connected hands now resting on the back of the couch.
“I don’t know what made this case different, Scully…,” he trailed off, gathering his thoughts, “But I think it may have had something to do with who was being investigated and the fact that I was going to have to have substantial contact with her. Something told me that your reaction might make it, uhm somewhat distracting to my work.”
Although she remained seated, Scully pulled her hand free as her mouth opened, her eyes expressing her incredulity. “Do you really believe that I’d compromise your work, Mulder, because of a professional disagreement with Diana Fowley?”
“‘Professional disagreement’ is one way of putting it, Scully.” She wanted to wipe the arrogant smirk from his face. But also resigned herself to the fact that he did have a point, albeit a weak one.
“Point taken, Mulder. But I can’t believe you’d honestly think I’d let my feelings interfere.” She noted his wince at the tartness of her voice.
“I don’t necessarily think that. What I know is that I had a tight timeline, little to go on. You know the drill, Scully; places to go, people to see?”
This time, her fingers sought his, twining, joining and resting on her leg. She said nothing in response, knowing she was becoming more at ease with the situation, but was still waiting to hear that which would allow their partnership, sanctioned or not, to regain its former status.
“What can I say? Proactive notification and explanation aren’t my strong suit?” She’d missed that smile. The one that started out as nothing more than a glistening in his eyes, traveled to his mouth where the corners turned up first. And then blossomed into a full tilt whole face grin. With teeth.
“Yeah, you could say that, partner. But I thought we had a plan. Thought we were working toward mutual inclusion, teamwork?” Her smile held the question, her lips pursed, then curling upward.
“Scully, we don’t need anyone to officially declare our partnership. They made us a team long ago when they assigned you to work with me. Okay, I admit their intentions were far afield from where we are now, but you and me working together has been a done deal since that day you waltzed into my office, scrubbed and professional and really wet behind the ears.” She could tell he was proud of himself based on the all-out smile that headed toward lopsided.
“I was not ‘wet behind the ears’, Mulder. You know darn well what I’d accomplished before I was recruited.” She was only half-serious in her rebuke, her eyes catching his.
Ignoring her rebuttal, he continued, “The point is Agent Scully, circumstances beyond our control might send us in different directions at different times, but there isn’t anything I can think of that could split up apart.”
Feeling the warmth of his hand on her leg, she smiled. “I couldn’t have said it better myself Agent Mulder.”
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