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A Companion Unobtrusive

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Dana Scully was running late. Flustered and out of breath from running the few blocks from the Metro stop, she pushed through the doors of the coffee shop, startling a young mom who was pushing a stroller out the door. 

“Sorry,” she said, apologizing, and then held the door open while the woman slowly navigated the stroller through the narrow doorway. When she was out, Dana finally stepped in and scanned the store, looking for familiar auburn curls. 

Her sister Melissa held up a hand and stood as Dana approached. 

“Missy!” Dana said, relieved to see her. 

Melissa gave her a long, tight hug before reclaiming her seat. Melissa’s hugs were the kind you always wanted to get. Like she’d cultivated them in a field, each one grown in a tidy row, just for you. 

“Everything all right?” Melissa said, as Dana, huffing and out of breath, shrugged off her jacket and swung her purse over the back of a chair.  

“No,” she said, laughing at herself and Melissa’s eyebrows came together in  sympathy, “but tell me about you first. How was your flight? God, it’s been so long!” She reached across and squeezed her older sister’s hand. 

Melissa had flown back to the States only the day before, having spent the last two years living in England. 

“I’m great!” Missy said, “living abroad has been incredible. I almost hated to come back.” 

“Oh, I’m so glad,” Dana said. 

In truth, she was glad. She’d missed her sister terribly, but Missy had needed a big change. She’d dropped out of college several years before, much to their parent’s horror, and Melissa had been too spirited to live long under their father’s roof. Her sister looked wonderful. Clearly the time abroad had been good to her. 

“But, what’s happening with you? What’s going on?” Melissa said.

Dana blew a raspberry. 

“I’m in a tight spot,” she finally said, “We just found out this morning that Ellen got the internship in Seattle for the summer. It’s the one she wanted, and I’m really excited for her, but it’s not paid, so she won’t be able to cover her half of the rent -- she leaves in two days and rent for next month is due in five. We’ve got three more months on the lease. I’ve got to find someone to sublease her room, like yesterday.” She felt panic bubbling up in her gut. “I don’t suppose you have any interest in staying in DC for the summer?” she asked Melissa hopefully. 

“Oh, I wish I could,” Missy said, “but I’m registered for massage therapy classes at the National Holistic Institute in Baltimore for the summer. Mom and Dad have calmed down and I’m going to stay with them while I get certified.” 

“Missy, that’s wonderful!” She tried to smile at her, but she knew it didn’t reach her eyes.  Dana was excited for her sister, but had been holding out a hope that maybe Missy coming back Stateside would be an answer to her prayers. 

“What about Ethan?” Melissa asked, lowering her voice unconsciously, “Couldn’t he move in with you for the summer? It’s only three months, Mom and Dad don’t need to know.”

Dana bit her lip. 

“We broke up,” she said. Melissa’s eyes widened. 

“June and Ward Cleaver broke up ?” Melissa said, in shock. “When? I thought….”

She didn’t need to finish the sentence. Dana knew what Melissa thought. What everyone had thought. She and Ethan, together since their sophomore year of high school and enrolled in the same post-grad program at Georgetown, were the all-American couple. They, and everyone else, had assumed they would be engaged after they got their PhDs, and married not long after. 

“Last month,” Dana said, looking down at her hands.

Melissa reached across the table and put her hand on Dana’s arm. 

“What happened?” 

“We grew up,” Dana said simply, “we’re different people, now. At least, I am. I’ve been thinking about making some changes at school and Ethan… was not supportive.”

Melissa squeezed her arm. 

“What kind of changes?” she asked. 

Dana looked up at her sister, “I’ve been seriously considering med school for some time.”

“But you’re so close to your degree!” Missy said. 

“That’s what Ethan said,” said Dana, “but he was just so… dismissive. Like he had this plan for me. Like what I wanted didn’t matter. It was bad, Missy.”

“God,” Missy said. 

“Yeah,” Dana went on, “he found out I took the MCAT and lost it. I broke up with him then and there. I haven’t seen him since. Not even on campus.”

Melissa gave her a shrewd look. 

“Can I say something that you may not want to hear?” 

Dana nodded morosely. 

“I’m so glad ,” Dana shot her sister a look, surprised. Melissa went on, “I never liked him, Dana. I know Mom and Dad loved him, but he’s had a stick up his ass since high school and he always thought he was better than everyone else. I used to sneak out and sprinkle catnip under his bedroom window in the summers.”

Dana’s jaw dropped. 

“He used to complain all the time about-” 

“-Tom cats in the neighborhood gathering outside his house and howling all night? Yeah, that was me.”

“Missy!” 

“He deserved it,” Melissa said, sitting up with an air of moral superiority, “I’m glad you broke it off with him.”

“To be honest, I am too,” Dana said, “but I’m in a real lurch with this roommate situation. I don’t want to take out another student loan and I don’t think I can ask Dad for more money. Especially when he finds out I’m abandoning the program.”

“So you’re quitting for sure?” Melissa asked. 

Dana nodded. “I just got the MCAT results and I did really well,” she couldn’t hold in a smile, “I told my advisor last week. I’m finishing out the summer. I’m going to start applying to med schools.”

“Well,” Missy said, “I’m glad you’re following your heart. And I wouldn’t worry much about Dad. He’ll be thrilled to have a doctor in the family. But maybe not so thrilled about bankrolling a degree you don’t intend to finish.”

Dana squirmed in her chair. 

Melissa leaned back, thinking. 

“What about…” she stopped, assessing Dana for a moment. “I have this friend. Someone I met in England last year. Moving to DC to be closer to family.”

Dana sat up straight. 

“Do you know if she needs housing? Oh my God, Missy, you’d be saving my life.”

“The thing is,” Missy said, “it’s not a she.”

Dana made a face. 

“He’s a great guy, Dane,” Melissa went on, “PhD in Psychology from Oxford. I met him when he was dating my friend Emma. His parents passed away recently and he’s putting his sister through school. She was a freshman at American this year. I can call him if you want.”

“I don’t know…” Dana said. 

“Dana Scully, you are a 25 year old woman and it’s almost 1990 for God’s sake. Surely you’re not so old fashioned that you wouldn’t consider a male roommate. Particularly one that I can personally vouch for.”

“I don’t suppose he’s… gay?”

“You heard me mention my friend Emma, right?” Missy said, “No, he’s most certainly not gay, and no one is going to care that he isn’t. This isn’t Three’s Company , Chrissy. You need a roommate, and he--last I heard--needs a place to live. It’s perfect.”

It was only three months. Surely in this day and age having a male roommate wouldn’t give her some kind of reputation. And she was desperate--she would at least meet the guy. She leaned back in her seat. 

“He isn’t cute, is he?” Dana asked.

Melissa narrowed her eyes. 

“Cute?”

“Attractive. Hot. Someone with pleasing facial symmetry who other people like to look at.” 

“Like you?” Melissa said. Dana gave her an exaggerated eye roll, and her sister asked, “Why?” 

“Because it’s the last thing I need right now,” Dana said. 

Melissa took a demure sip of coffee.

“No,” she said, not making eye contact, “he’s not cute.”

Dana considered her sister a long minute.

“Okay,” she finally said, “call him.”

XxXxXxXxXxX

At precisely 3:00pm, there was a knock on her door. Shave and a haircut.  

He was punctual -- more than she could say for herself that day -- and that usually boded well. 

Instead of sticking around to introduce them, Missy had said she had other friends she was supposed to see while she was in town and had taken off after setting up this meeting, though she promised Dana she would still come over for dinner. 

Dana opened the door. He was tall. At least a foot taller than she was, and he stood in the doorway with a smile on his face. He was wearing a black leather biker jacket, jeans and black boots and was carrying a motorcycle helmet under one arm. Dana was momentarily taken aback by his good looks. She would kill Melissa. 

“Dana?” he said, expectantly, reaching out for a handshake, “I’m Melissa’s friend. Fox Mulder.”

“I thought you’d be British,” she said,  the words fumbling out of her mouth before she could stop them. 

He smiled.

Dana shook herself, embarrassed, and extended a hand. 

“Dana Scully,” she said, “sorry. Come in?”

“I met your brother when he came out to visit Melissa,” he said as he shook her hand, “one more Scully and I win a set of steak knives.”

“You’re in luck,” she said, smiling, “we Scullys come in sets of four.”

He laughed and wiped his feet on the welcome mat before stepping past her and into the apartment. He stood a few feet in and looked around. 

“Wow,” he said, “this is a really nice place.”

Dana nodded and closed the door. It was a nice place. Much nicer than two broke grad students had any business living in. It had cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors and a large, spacious living room framed on one side with immense sliding glass doors that opened to a long balcony that ran the length of the room. On the other end of the living room sat a modern kitchen with a large island countertop that sat three people on the living room side, and had a 4 burner cooktop on the other. The appliances were pretty new. There was a hallway leading from the other end of the living room that led to one bathroom and a bedroom (Ellen’s), with a small in-unit washer/dryer at the end of the hall. Stairs led up from the left of the doorway to the master bedroom (Dana’s) and en-suite bathroom that had a separate tub and shower. The place was filled with hand-me-down furniture from various parents and siblings, but was decorated well and was quite comfortable. 

“Rent controlled,” she said, by way of explanation, “my roommate’s brother had lived here for years. We got really lucky.” He nodded, still taking in the space. “You want a tour?” she asked. 

“Sure,” he said, smiling. 

She showed him the living room and the trick to opening the sliding glass door, then ran him through the kitchen and on down the hallway to Ellen’s room, which was a disaster area filled with half-packed boxes. 

“This would be your room,” she said, “I promise to clean it before you move in.”

“Nah,” he said, peeking his head in the closet, “I’d be happy to do it. When would move-in be?”

“You could be in in two days,” she answered, “Ellen flies to Seattle tomorrow night, though you wouldn’t know it to look at her room.”

He smiled. 

“I don’t know if Melissa told you about my situation,” he said, “everything has been happening kind of quickly. You’d really be saving my bacon, here.”

“She told me a little,” Dana said, “I’m really sorry about your parents, Fox.” 

“Thank you,” he said softly. He cleared his throat. “Though, I uh, prefer to go by Mulder.”

“Fair enough,” Dana said. “Though there’s no way you ever got Melissa to call you anything other than Fox. I bet she was delighted.” 

He laughed, a melodious, warm sound. Upon hearing it, she decided she liked him. 

“And then some,” he said. “So what do I need to know?”

“Well, it would be a sublease for three months, until Ellen gets back. I may or may not be moving out in the fall, and our lease goes month-to-month after that.” He nodded. “Otherwise,” she said, “I mainly do a lot of studying. I have office hours and classes three days a week. I’m not big on house parties, and I like things quiet.” She looked at him, and he didn’t seem thrown by anything she’d said so far. “Do you…” she was sure how to put it, “have a girlfriend or anyone who would be coming over a lot?”

He smiled.

“No girlfriend at present,” he said, “though my sister is at AU and she may come over every now and then if she’ll deign to visit her stuffy older brother.”

His eyes crinkled with affection when he talked about his sister, and Dana found herself involuntarily charmed. 

“And what do you do for a living?” she asked. 

He winced. 

“I’m currently looking for work,” he held his hand up when she raised her eyebrows, “I have enough in savings to more than cover three months of rent,” he said, “so you don’t have to worry about that. But I only got into town a few days ago. I’m still trying to figure everything out.” 

“Melissa vouches for you,” she said, “that’s good enough for me.”

He fiddled with the helmet, which he was still carrying, and took a long, slow turn, looking around the apartment, as if making a decision. He finally turned back to her.

“Well, Scully Number Three?” he said, holding out his hand once again. “You’ve got a new roommate if you’ll have me.”

“No need to remind me of my place in the pecking order,” she said, “if you’re Mulder, I think just Scully will suffice.” Scully . She let it roll down her spine and liked the way it felt. She reached out and gripped his hand firmly. It was warm, dry, and completely enveloped hers. “Welcome home, Mulder,” she said. 

XxXxXxXxXxX

Melissa breezed past her in the doorway without a word, arms laden with plastic bags. 

“I brought take-out!” she said over her shoulder, kicking off her shoes and making her way to the kitchen to unburden herself of the bags. “Is Fox still here?” she asked, looking around, a little out of breath. 

“He left about an hour ago,” Dana said, coming to stand in the doorway of the kitchen. “Melissa,” she went on, and Missy wouldn’t look at her. “You said he wasn’t cute.”

Melissa opened the fridge and helped herself to a beer. 

“He’s not cute,” Missy said, finally turning to her, “he’s gorgeous . You’re welcome.” She twisted off the top and then shoved herself up to sit on the counter, taking a long pull.

“Make yourself at home,” Dana said sarcastically. 

“Thanks,” Missy said, brushing her off. “How’d it go?”

“You’re right, he was really nice. He’s going to take it,” Dana said, and then decided she could go for a beer as well. She opened up the fridge as Missy punched the air in a yes! gesture. 

“What did I tell you?” Melissa said, “kismet.”

“Yeah,” Dana said, tamping down her own enthusiasm, “I hope it works out.” 

“It’s going to be great!” Missy said, “He really is the best guy.”

“Did you guys ever…?” Dana asked, wondering if she really wanted to know. 

“Me and Fox? No,” she answered, “not that I wouldn’t have liked to,” she went on, “but I think the whole ‘thou shalt not date your best friend’s ex’ rule is pretty universal. Even across the pond.”

Dana was surprised to find herself relieved. 

“I am privy to some information, though,” Missy said, arching an eyebrow. 

“Do I even want to know?” Dana asked. 

Missy ran her tongue along the corner of her mouth. 

“He’s very well endowed,” she finally said with a grin.

Dana felt herself blushing and took a deep swig of beer to cover for it. 

“Unless it’ll help him pay the rent,” she said, swallowing, “I don’t see how that’s any of my business.”

Melissa shrugged, looking coy. “I’ve also heard he loves to eat out,” she said. 

“What does that have to do with-“ Dana finally looked at her sister, caught her eyebrows in the air, suggestively. “... Jesus , Missy.”

Melissa smiled, took a sip of beer. 

“I’m just saying,” Melissa said, “a generous lover is a generous man.” Dana looked to the sky as if for help. Her sister was clearly enjoying Dana’s discomfort. She finally jumped down off the counter and turned her attention to the bags of food. “You could do a lot worse than Fox Mulder.” 

“I’m not going to do Fox Mulder, Missy,” she said, and Missy let out a bark of laughter. “I need a roommate, not a boyfriend. And anyway, I’m going to be in med school soon. I won’t have that kind of time.”

“Make time,” Melissa winked, and then dug around in the bags, pulling out carton after carton of Chinese food. “You hungry?”

Dana set down her beer and hugged her from behind. 

“I’m famished, you snot,” she said into her sister’s hair.