Rating: PG-13 Keywords:
MSR, classic X Archive: Anywhere Disclaimer: Chris's
Mulder was giving Scully the squinty-eyed look. "I don't care if I drop sauce on this shirt. I'm having ribs."
Scully gave up. At times, she felt like his caretaker, his older sister. When he got that buzz-saw whine to his monotone, she clenched her teeth and ordered the least fattening thing she could find on the menu. She knew it pained him to see her eating a grilled Portobello mushroom with nonfat mayo while he was clogging his arteries. He wanted her to wallow with him in the grease. The smell of the grease in this place killed her appetite completely; in fact, she felt as though she had a sheen of grease on her face.
Sometimes when he was arguing non-stop, she stopped seeing him, seeing Mulder, and she only heard his voice. She blocked out everything else, and entered the debate on the side of reason, of logic, of scientific evidence against inspired guessing.
And then he would look up, squinting against the late evening sun, and she would feel slammed back into her body all at once, every skin cell aware that she had been in his company for hours, unaware until that second of how he was concentrating upon her every breath.
It gave her a burning feeling in her chest.
He did love her. She knew that. But it was a strange kind of love, the kind he only confessed to when he was blissed-out on the kind of medication that fills you with love for everyone. For anyone. That one time, he had been hallucinating about time travel, and she had felt like hell after moving heaven and earth to find him. He'd said "I love you," nudging her for her attention. What could she do but roll her eyes?
And now, there he was, sucking BBQ sauce from his long fingers, with intense pleasure. Her mouth went dry. She was glad she'd ordered salad, because she could poke at it and not look at him.
"Try it," he teased, holding out his index finger dripping with sauce.
She wasn't sure why, but Scully took his hand, and licked the sauce as daintily as a kitten. "It's all right," she said, running her tongue over her lips. "Still too messy."
Mulder had become so pale his freckles stood out. "You should order some," he said. "Or have one of mine." He took a pull at his longneck.
"I don't really like pork," she told him. "But I would like a beer."
"A beer," Mulder said softly to the waitress, as if he were afraid Scully would change her mind.
She smiled, and saw the color return to his face. She wondered what he would say to her under the influence of alcohol. A lot of alcohol.
"Autopsy?" Mulder asked about fourteen questions with that one word, bringing her back to earth.
"Nothing unusual." She smiled the waitress her thanks as a bottle, the clone of Mulder's, appeared next to her plate. "Tox screen isn't complete, but as far as I could tell, there was nothing unexpected." She moved her glass of tea out of the way.
Mulder nodded and gnawed, gnawed and nodded, not really looking at her, not really looking anywhere else. Not really listening to her again, she decided as she drank her beer, but he was paying her a very Mulder-esque sort of attention, just the same.
"Nothing at all?" He asked abruptly, eyes focused on her suddenly. His tone said he'd come to Decatur looking for a X-File, and by God, he was going to find one, even if there wasn't one to find.
Same song, she thought, different radio station. "No. Nothing."
Mulder wiped sauce from the corner of his mouth with his thumb. "No puncture wounds? Abrasions? Contusions? No post- mortem injuries? Rashes? Discoloration? Bruising?"
She felt like slapping him, but she eyed him coolly, instead. "One of the people sitting at this table is a trained pathologist, Mulder, and one of them is a profiler with barbecue sauce on his shirt. Care to look down at your chest and guess which is which?"
Mulder pretended to examine his tie. "I must be the trained pathologist," he drawled. "This is a vintage Jerry Garcia, and that's not sauce."
And then he flicked his fingers at her.
She stared at him for a microsecond, not believing what had just happened. Then she looked down.
Barbecue sauce. On her Donna Karan. Which she had bought at a Filene's sale during a long weekend in Boston investigating---- shudder----abnormally large liver flukes.
It was pure reflex. She picked up her untouched glass of iced tea---why iced tea was served in January in northern Alabama was an X-File of its own---and flung it in Mulder's face.
But he fooled her. Grinning, wiping his face with one napkin, he picked up the remaining rib with the other and stalked out of the restaurant, leaving her with the tab, and the stares of forty people who downed forks to watch.
Mulder had been in Decatur, driving the police department mad, for two days before she had flown in, and for once, she had wheels of her own. How, she wondered, gunning the engine and cranking the heat, did he hear about these bodies in every corner of the country? How did he find out about these bodies with no discernable cause of death and nothing in common, other than their being dead?
"Maybe his heart just stopped," Detective Angelo had suggested. "Of course, it just stopped in the middle of closing arguments, but no one knew he had a heart, much less a bad one."
"Of course he had a heart," another officer said. "It was just three sizes too small."
The policemen cracked up. Scully was glad she was wearing a mask.
They were just as happy to have a federal pathologist take over the autopsy, and not have to lug a corpse the four hour drive to the state capital for the state coroner. Scully had expected to receive skepticism, chauvinism, anti-Bureau resistance, but not this jolly reception. The large detectives -- "Good old boys," Mulder had muttered, his hackles up -- had beamed in delight and relief upon her.
She wondered, looking for her turn-off, what Mulder had been doing for two days. She could imagine his entrance into the tiny police station, clad in Armani and Burberry. Apparently the authorities, bemused instead of threatened, had thrust the file on the judge's death into Mulder's outstretched hand and left him to his own devices.
"Ya'll might want to go on back," Detective Angelo had continued, with a worried look out the opened morgue doors. "The temperature's dropping." Scully had just smiled and got into the car to go meet Mulder for barbecue. Now, as she looked for the exit she thought that she might have driven down on her way to Randy's Rib-eteria, she understood the significance of the detective's remark.
Snow in Alabama.
She took the turnoff for Church Street, thinking it sounded familiar, hoping it was the one she wanted, and hating Mulder in fresh and inspired ways as the car fish-tailed around the curve.
Someone was knocking on the door. That better be room service, Scully thought, tossing the remote control for the TV down on the bed next to her and climbing to her feet. "Room service," she mumbled, slipping her weapon in to her waistband, "or maybe a pool boy."
Stretching up on tiptoe, she put her eye to the peephole. Several thousand dollars worth of New England orthodontia grinned at her in all its warped, fish-eyed glory.
"Oh, hell." She twisted the dead bolt and flipped the lock bar, opening the door for Mulder. "It's just you." She turned and walked back to her bed.
"Yeah." Mulder let the door fall shut behind him. "It's just me." Instead of walking into the room, he stood for a moment, tapping the edge of the file folder he'd brought with him with his index finger.
She slowly became aware of his silence, and looked up.
At length, he spoke. "Everything okay?"
"It's just a slice of heaven, here," she replied dryly. The remote was back in her hand and Animal Planet was on the TV screen.
He was still standing in the doorway, silent, his blue shirt still damp with tea.
She raised one eyebrow.
"We've a little problem," he said.
Scully stared, then sat down on the bed, and kicked off her shoes. She pulled the pillows up behind her head. "I'm ready, now."
"They cancelled the flight out. The airport is closed." He gestured with the file to the window. "Snow. It kind of freaks everyone out."
Behind him, someone banged on the door, and he jumped. Scully stood up, wallet in hand, then changed her mind. "Get that, will you, Mulder?" she asked sweetly, and brushed by him and into the bathroom. She locked the door, turned on the vent fan and the taps, and waited.
"I paid," Mulder called. "You can come out now."
When she opened the door, he was at the table, uncovering two plates of cheeseburgers and fries. Son of a bitch. "That's not my soup and salad," she said, her fingers twitching on the butt of the pistol.
He turned, and nearly lost his smirk. "You wouldn't shoot me over a few calories, would you, Scully?"
It smelled good. And he looked like a lost beagle puppy. "If I didn't shoot you over my Donna Karan..." she trailed off.
"I don't know why I did that before, Scully," he said earnestly. "The weather or something, maybe. But I'll pay for it." He pulled out one of the chairs for her. "C'mon. Eat."
So what else could she do? She sat down and reached for the ketchup.
When her food was gone, Scully propped herself up against the headboard, flipped on the local news, and watched the regional weather hysteria. She felt indecently, luxuriously sated, she thought, stretching languidly, almost voluptuously full.
She looked at Mulder without turning her head. There he was, his jacket falling off the back of his chair, his tie pulled loose. In addition to dried tea stains, he had grease on his cuff, and a dab of ketchup on the corner of his mouth.
He looked up, and shifted his shoulders uneasily. "What?"
She tapped the corner of her mouth.
Oh, come on Mulder, she thought, you had to have learned those manners somewhere. She pursed her lips, and tapped the corner of her mouth again.
His eyes widened. He dropped the French fry he'd been dragging through a puddle of ketchup and stood. Before she really understood his intent, he had taken one long step to her, and sat down beside her.
"Here, let me. . . " she began, but before she could reach for a tissue, he kissed her.
She was so startled that her jaw dropped.
Taking that for encouragement, his tongue went to hers.
Stunned, she felt a flicker of fire from her mouth straight to her groin. She put her hands on his shoulders, planning to gently but firmly push him away, but he was still kissing her, and somehow, instead of pushing him away, she was sliding her palms over his back and running her fingertips down his spine. And groaning.
He shuddered and panted something unintelligible into her neck. She was going to ask 'what?' or even 'huh?', but before she could remember how to form words, he pulled her down across the bed and began kissing her again.
They kissed, long, slow, thorough kisses. Scully had to finally pull her mouth from his, just to get air. Btu as oxygen hit her brain, she realized that if they kept on going, they would be taking off their clothes in very short order. And they didn't need to do that, did they?
No, she thought finally, and reluctantly sat up.
"Wow," Mulder said, still lying on the bed, his eyes shining as if he had been given a genuine alien autopsy video. "So that's why you don't eat grease?"
She raised an eyebrow.
"It turns you into a wild woman." He stroked the back of her hand, then began playing with her fingers. He was smiling.
She couldn't think of a thing to say that wouldn't be a mistake of some kind. Clearing her throat, licking her lips, she got up and got a glass of water, carefully avoiding her reflection in the bathroom mirror.
When she returned, Mulder had picked the pillows off the floor, and was straightening the sheet and comforter. The television was off. He looked up at her, his expression unreadable.
He sat back down on the bed, glanced out the window. "Weird weather," he said.
"Yeah," she agreed. She joined him on the bed, far enough away so that they weren't touching, but close enough that they could, easily if. . .
If nothing, she thought. She'd been only been meaning to tell him there was ketchup on his face. He'd misunderstood. It was all a misunderstanding.
She leaned back against the headboard, then turned off the bedside lamp so they could watch the snow swirling beyond the window pane.
"What?" he asked at length, in a tone of voice that was new to them.
She shook her head. "It's the snow."
"Snow in Alabama," she said.
"What about it?"
"It's unexpected," she answered. "Out of place. And it won't last."
Mulder nodded and reached over, lacing his fingers with hers. He squeezed her hand once before letting go, then suddenly picked up their conversation from hours before. He was in the middle of explaining what he thought might have really happened to the judge when he dozed off, almost in mid word.
Maybe, she thought, scrutinizing the curve of his jaw, the relaxed lines of his mouth, the soft lines of good humor around his eyes, he had finally bored himself.
Damn, he was gorgeous.
Scully looked up, glanced in the mirror over the bureau, half expecting to see some difference in her face, but she was the same. It was almost like a dream, and if the dishes from their make-shift meal hadn't still been on the table, she would have been tempted to think that it had. Seismic shift had occurred in the relationship.
But was he hers? Could he be hers? Could they be like a normal couple and actually have conversations about carpet cleaning and weekends at the beach? Where to go for the Fourth of July and tax deductions for home office use?
Of course not.
She fell asleep eventually, and didn't hear him get up to go back to his own room. When she woke up, he was gone.
He was sitting downstairs drinking coffee and reading the local Newspaper the next morning, back to business as usual. She studied him surreptitiously. He looked slightly flushed, but the heat was on full-blast. Otherwise, he looked the same.
"We've got a flight leaving in forty minutes. I already checked out. Want some coffee?" He picked up a small pot.
So that was it. He was embarrassed. He had let his guard down for an evening, but she wasn't his type?
She sat down and accepted the cup he held out to her. You'll live, she told herself. You've had sex with men and then gone to work with them the next day. All you did with Mulder was make out.
She looked out the restaurant window. The snow in the parking lot had melted, leaving the asphalt wet and shiny. Snow still lay on the shrubbery and trees in the parking lot, blazingly white in the sunshine.
"Let me have the sports section," she said, folding her feelings and stowing them away in the special compartment.
Mulder didn't try to kiss her again - not on the plane, or later that night, or during any of the next several times he saw away from work her after that.
One evening in Alabama, making out like freshman at their first school dance, then falling asleep in their clothes? Six years of build-up, and that was it?
After two weeks, it was like nothing had happened at all. He resumed looking at her in the same way he always did - closely-but he didn't use that tone of voice that had made her shiver.
She was backing up her hard drive one Saturday afternoon, when she noticed snow drifting past her window. Scully felt deflated. She wanted to shiver, damn it. She wanted to be back in Alabama with Mulder, not alone in her apartment after spending five full days being aware of his every movement.
Scully spun around in her computer chair. Which file was it that Byers had told her not to open?
She double checked her zip drive. Everything had been copied. She drew the zip disk from the drive, tossed it into her desk drawer, then deliberately opened the file she'd been warned about.
Mulder picked up his cell phone on the first ring. "Yeah, Scully?
"Oh, Mulder, my computer is frozen. Can you come over and have a look at it?"
She felt his hesitation. "Me? Can't Byers- " he began.
"Fine, if you're too busy..." she said, allowing herself the stiff-upper lip tone that always seemed to work.
"No, no, I'll come over. Do you want a pizza? I haven't eaten yet."
"I'll order one, Mulder," she said, and hung up.
Your ass is mine, kissy boy, she thought, watching snow accumulate on her window ledge.
It wasn't that Mulder had had second thoughts, or regretted anything about that night in Alabama. Except falling asleep.
Downstairs the next morning, showered, dressed, and whistling to himself, he had been eating the free doughnuts at the restaurant. When he signaled the waitress for a refill, she had filled his coffee cup, then smiled down at him.
"Sir," she had said, tapping the corner of her mouth.
He stared up at her.
"You have icing on your mouth, right here," she said, tapping the corner of her own mouth, exactly as Scully had done last night.
He slowly wiped his mouth.
Scully hadn't been asking him to kiss her, he realized, and wondered if it was possible for his head to actually explode.
But she kissed him back, he argued with himself. It was great.
It was great for _you_.
What was she going to do? They were friends, so she wasn't going to hit him.
He felt himself turning red when Scully arrived, calm and collected. Her face was mildly inquiring, but no more. Mulder found his mouth and his mind both set to autopilot, which lasted for hours. Was she regarding him with a shade more watchfulness now? Or was he just boring her senseless? He couldn't tell.
That long afternoon in the basement was followed by a succession of long days, with the weather filthy and no excuse for him to go anywhere or do anything except try to meet her eyes with an 'I'm not a sex maniac' open, boyish stare. It proved difficult because Scully seemed to be alert to his every movement. It was as if she were expecting him to do something unexpected and unwelcome and was, therefore, keeping her guard permanently up.
So he was surprised when called him one Saturday evening weeks later, and plaintively asked him to come look at her computer.
The smell of a Supreme Toppings Special greeted him at the door, along with Scully, in her standard sweatshirt and leggings. "Thanks for coming, Mulder," she said, in a normal tone. "I think I have a corrupted file. Or something."
"I still think you should call Byers," he hedged, coming in. He didn't know what to do with his hands, and found that she was waiting for him to give her his black leather jacket.
"Well, if we can't figure it out, we can call him," she said. "Come on and get some pizza while it's hot."
Mulder took a three slices on a plate, a handful of napkins, and a Coke, and went to boot up her computer. As always, having a problem to solve steadied him. The food grew cold as he began tapping keys. Something had happened to the registry, but nothing hopeless.
Mulder heard Scully come up behind him. "I got it, Scully. It's all there, and I didn't even have to call Byers." He swung around from her computer and smiled.
Without changing her serious expression, Scully walked up to him and kissed him.
Mulder thought he was dreaming. For years, he had cuddled Scully, patted Scully, slung an arm around her, told her he loved her, held her hand, rubbed her neck, and then, hell, made out with her one night during a snowstorm. He had been trying to figure out his next move for two weeks, carefully planning how to approach her. All he had done was fix her computer, which hadn't needed a lot of fixing, and smile at her, and she had put her hands on his head and pulled his face to hers. And he hadn't smiled in any particular way, he thought dazedly as she kissed him.
More than just kissed him. She kissed the corners of his mouth, her lips slightly parted, brushing her fingers down his neck and made him grateful he was sitting. He pulled her onto his lap, opening his mouth to her hot tongue, held her there, one hand cradling her bottom, the other hand in her hair.
Scully made a noise somewhere between a purr and the sound she made when drinking really good coffee, and she licked the bridge of his nose.
"What?" he asked, obediently closing his eyes so she could kiss his eyelids.
"I wanted to see what your freckles tasted like," she said, a little breathlessly. "I love your freckles."
Mulder swallowed. "I've always thought they were dopey."
He opened his eyes. "Who are you, and what have you done with Scully?"
She sat back in his arms, touching her lips with her fingertips. "I'm just thanking you for fixing my computer," she said, her voice a little breathless. Scully trailed a saliva-moistened fingertip along his lower lip. "And for you being you."
"You've never liked me doing that before," he objected, his eyes on the tiny mole over her lip
"Shut up, Mulder," she said, and leaned in. "I'm thanking you."