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Walking the Tightrope

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When she put the phone down she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. The Billy Miles case had been unsettling on a level she wasn’t prepared to admit just yet. She’d gone along for Mulder’s ride with more than large dose of scepticism packed in her case. But her resolve to be rational went out the window, along with her pride, after she disrobed before him. His tenderness towards her was a surprise. That he’d shown his vulnerability with his sister’s story was an even bigger surprise.
She got up and made tea. She considered calling Ethan but she could already hear the snip in his voice, the way he’d talk over her if she so much as mentioned her new role.
“Dana, if you’re going to be a spy, shouldn’t you be in the CIA?”
Ethan Minette was a great boyfriend. Just not for Dana Scully. She kind of knew that before she’d got the request from Blevins. Ethan was sweet in the beginning, considerate, interesting and intelligent. But he had started to become self-absorbed and even a little jealous of her career.
“I booked us a table and you didn’t show up.”
“I told you I was flying out the next morning. I couldn’t have a late night.”
“But you’re talking to me after 1am, Dana. Seems you can have a late night with Spooky Mulder, but not your own boyfriend.”
She’d nearly hung up, but she took a deep breath, picked up the specimen jar containing the strange object removed from Billy Miles and held it up to look at it for tenth time. “You called me, Ethan.”
“And you were still awake.”
“This is going nowhere. I’ll see you when I’m home.”
His curt, “Will you?” left her edgy and she wished she could go for a run. She could hear Mulder moving around next door and she knew he would be willing to accompany her, but instead, she tried to add details to her report. Details that didn’t exist.
Sipping her tea, with a better perspective, she could see that now that she’d worked a full case with Spooky Mulder and found him less spooky and more intriguing, she had that bubble of nervous energy working its way around her gut telling her that she needed to do the right thing and let Ethan go.
She was rinsing the cup when she heard the knock at the door. A frisson of fear ran through her. She reached for her weapon with one hand and held the other at her throat, holding the collars of her robe together. It was probably Ethan, she reasoned. Anxious to see her, and she wanted to think it was a good thing, that he was being attentive. But it was gone midnight and she hadn’t slept well for days. By the time she tiptoed to the door, reason had turned to anger. What right did he have to just show up like this? She wasn’t his property. She was still gripping the gun and she didn’t care. Holding her breath until she gasped at the second knock, harder this time, and followed by a low male voice.
“Scully, it’s me.”
Relief flooded her system. She unlocked the door and let Mulder in.
“Were you going to shoot me?” he said, looking at the Sig in her hand.
“I thought you were my boyfriend,” she said, locking the door again.
His mouth dropped open and then shut again. She felt the flush bloom over her chest and neck and up to her cheeks.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
Mulder grinned. “Remind me never to ask you out, Scully. I’ve heard you’re a pretty mean shot.”
She giggled and sounded about twelve. “Treat me with respect, Mulder and you’ll never have to find out.”
His grin fell away. “I hope you don’t mind me coming here. I don’t mean to get in the way of your private life. If you were expecting your boyfriend, I can leave. I’ll see you in a few hours anyway.”
“It’s fine. I wasn’t expecting him, but I couldn’t think of anyone else who would show up here. Do you want something to drink? Tea, coffee?”
He shook his head. “I just wanted to talk to you about the case. Is that all right?”
She showed him to the couch. “What more is there to talk about? They buried the evidence. My report was trashed. Our voices have been drowned out.”
His weight on the sofa felt different to Ethan’s. Mulder was taller, took up more space, but somehow it felt more comfortable. She sat like she would without anyone there, cross-legged on the seat, hair tied in a loose pony-tail, no make-up, no pretences.
“Scully, I know you were sent to spy on me but I think this case has shown you that what I’ve discovered in the X-Files, the things I’ve seen, I’ve learned…I…I think you can see that the work is valid.”
His face was open, his eyes trained on her, his jaw flexing. She felt a buzz in the pit of her stomach, a familiar ache, something that she hadn’t experienced for the longest time. Excitement, anticipation, rising tension. It was building within her as he spoke. His face, his body language, the way he talked faster and stammered, was evidence of his passion, his complete commitment to his work. Fox Mulder was intensity personified and she felt alive.
When his hand rested on her knee, she swallowed back thick saliva, tasted more than just the tea – it was the tang of arousal and she flushed. She looked up at him, still talking, still explaining the bizarre and the arcane, the conspiracies and the paranoia. He was oblivious to the power he commanded. He had no clue about how he exuded sensuality through this passion of his. She stayed still, holding her breath, lest the shuddery exhale give away her own vulnerability. She was his partner, for God’s sake. She’d already walked that tightrope before and there was no way she was going to give in to emotions so readily. She promised herself she wouldn’t go there anymore. Clearly, she needed distance to work with this man, she needed boundaries. She needed to build some walls.
Her cell rang and she jumped. Mulder stopped talking, surprised to be interrupted. He didn’t move his hand though, even when she leaned across to the coffee table to pick up the phone.
“Ethan?” she said. Fuck. She already had distance, a boundary, a wall. And his name was Ethan. “Why are you calling me so late?”
Mulder leant back against the couch and smiled that lazy, sexy smile. His arms tucked behind his head and his body was on the diagonal so that his knees touched hers. She felt the buzz and she couldn’t move.
“I’m not doing anything. I’m trying to sleep.”
Mulder grinned and shook his head slightly. He was loving this.
“I’m in bed, Ethan. And it’s late. And I’ve had a big week.”
He leant forward now, elbows on knees, face up against hers, and whispered. “I’ll see you later, Scully.”
She watched him stand and walk to the door. She followed. “Thanks for coming over,” she said. He turned and winked to her. She heard Ethan’s voice in her ear and gulped. “No, Ethan. I didn’t say anything. There’s nobody here. I’ll call you later.”
Mulder stood in the doorframe. “You’re a terrible liar, Scully.”
She blushed. “He’s been worried about me. The job, the case.”
He nodded. “But you’re an FBI agent. You can take care of yourself, make your own decisions. I’m sure Ethan will understand.”
“He does,” she said. But as Mulder pointed out. She was a terrible liar.
“Goodnight, Scully. Sleep tight.” He laid a hand on her forearm and looked right into her. They stayed that way for a long, long beat.
“Night, Mulder,” she said, finally.
But she knew when she shut the door she wouldn’t be able to sleep.