Darkness and mystery surrounded Scully in her motel room as she carefully lit a series of candles throughout her room. Her first assignment as a field agent and it literally had to be in the middle of nowhere Oregon. She was tired. The day had been long and grueling and oddly enough, strangely satisfying. There was a mystery…a plausible explanation of some sort that could be discovered.
She shut her laptop, being careful not to use all her battery just in case the lights would be out longer than a few hours. She shuffled her notes and files, deciding to call it a night. Suddenly, the phone rang and she jumped slightly. She huffed to herself in amusement as she looked at her watch. She picked up the phone and greeted, “Hi, Ethan.”
“Dana,” he greeted. “How’s your first field case going? Find any aliens yet?”
“It’s not aliens, Ethan. But it’s going. I just lost power. This town literally is in the middle of nowhere.”
She tried to keep it professional. She wasn’t really expecting her rocky, taking some space-boyfriend to call her. She had her suspicions for the past three months that he was cheating on her with someone else. Scully was able to solve the mysteries of death but not the one mystery of her cheating boyfriend.
“Well, maybe being a field agent isn’t what you’re calling is. You had a pretty sweet gig in Quantico.”
She groaned at his nagging. That was another thing had been growing worse too. “Well, I think I could do more good here than in a lab, Ethan.”
“Chasing little green aliens?” He scoffed. “What is that I hear? Spooky?”
“How did you hear that?” She rolled her eyes. “Of course, now I remember you telling me.”
“I’m a journalist, Dana, it’s my job to know. I heard he used to be quite the golden child back in the day.”
“That doesn’t matter, Ethan. I’m doing a greater good here helping these people than I would in the lab.”
“You aren’t cut out to be a field agent, Dana. You’re a doctor. It is a waste of your talents.”
“You think I can’t do it?”
“I just think that a woman shouldn’t be out in the field is a dangerous situation like that. You’re a doctor, Dana.”
“And I’m also an FBI agent!” She was clearly annoyed now. “Why did you call me, Ethan? To berate me? That’s why I asked you to move out to begin with.”
There was a noise in the background, a woman’s sultry. “Come back to bed, baby.” Sheets ruffled and a hand covered up the phone. She could hear Ethan’s quiet, “Not now, Trixie.”
“What was that?”
“What was what?” He hissed over the line. “Tricia stop it.
Scully rolled her eyes, berating herself for being so naive. Of course, she should have followed her gut instinct. “Goodbye, Ethan and don’t ever call me again, okay? Just leave me alone.”
“Wait, Dana…I can explain.”
“I’m done.” She slammed the receiver and rolled her eyes. How could she be so stupid? “Damn it.”
Her head was still swimming from the evening earlier of being out in the woods, their car mysteriously dying and restarting their case, and the emotions of what just had happened over the phone. Her heart was racing. Scully was upset. She could feel tears wanting to begin but she crushed the urge. She had to remain professional, still get Mulder to respect her. He was challenging her every step of the way and at one point, she began to question if he had any respect for her at all.
She ran her fingers through her wavy hair and got one of her candles to bring to the bathroom. A hot shower would clear her mind. She set the candle on the counter, ran the shower, and took off her robe. As her fingers grazed her lower back and felt two raised bumps. Panic set in. It coldn’t be…
As a storm raged, she rushed to Mulder’s door and knocked on it. The door opened immediately. Mulder’s surprise was clear. “Hi.”
Scully’s mind was still racing. She felt panic, still striding high off her previous emotions. “I want you to look at something.”
He stood off to the side and motioned for her, “Come on in.”
Scully, with her arms crossed, walked into his motel room. Mulder shut the door behind her, sealing them off from the storm outside. She turns around and slipped down her robe. His eyebrows arched in surprise to see her only in her bra and underwear. She looked at him and down her back. Wordless, he bent down and gently touched her back. She jumped and he gently caressed her skin, soothing her frazzled nerves. He spotted two small dots and started to smile. He could understand why she would be so nervous.
“What are they?”
His smile grew wider.
“Mulder, what are they?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I got eaten up a lot myself out there.“
Scully gasped in relief, blood rushing to her cheek as she slipped her robe back on. She instinctively hugged Mulder and she lingered. He hesitantly returned it, surprised at the physical contact. She suddenly realized she felt embarrassed and hugged him longer than she had to. But at the same time, it just felt…right.
“Yes.” Scully pulled away from the hug and tried to calm herself by taking a deep breath. “I’m fine. I just…I haven’t been sleeping well.”
She looked away. “I need to sit down.”
She sat down at the small table and he took a seat from across from here. “Take your time.”
“You don’t trust me,” she exclaimed bluntly. She clutched her chest, willing her heart to slow. “You think I am a spy.”
“Scully,” he tried to soothe.
“Don’t, Mulder. If you don’t trust, just any it! I know you hate having me here.” She got up. “It was stupid to come here!”
“Scully!” He grabbed her hand. “You didn’t waste your time.”
“You think I’m a spy,” she spat. Mulder didn’t deny it. “Your silence is deafening. I am sorry for bothering you, Mulder.”
She yanked her hand away, wrapped her robe around herself tightly, and grabbed the candle she had brought with her. “Scully, you don’t have to go out into that rain.”
“You made it perfectly clear. I was unprofessional. Good night, Agent Mulder.”
She jogged back to her room, avoiding the pouring rain and locked the door behind her. She set the candle back down on the table she had previously been sitting at. She moved to look for additional candles but had no luck until she looked under the bathroom sink. Scully chuckled at the irony of finding candles in a questionable hotel.
She lit the rest of the candles throughout her room and decided that perhaps she could try to review the case but right now, that was the last thing on her mind. She could read the book she brought for the flight but her mind was elsewhere. But her thoughts went back to Ethan.
Scully had met him on the rebound from Daniel, shortly after graduating medical school and being recruited into the FBI. Maybe she was still looking for that hole that Daniel had filled, but for a while, it worked. A successful up and coming journalist that covered Capitol Hill that was on the up and up to eventually go to national broadcasting. Ethan had nabbed a deal to a woman who was not only a medical doctor but and an FBI agent. At a Christmas party for his work, he paraded her like a prize…the oohs and awes from his coworkers still made her skin crawl…a doctor and an FBI agent? What a catch, Ethan.
Her father was so happy. His youngest had found a good man, her mother flirted the m-word, marriage. For a month she played with the idea, however, she caught him cheating the first time, and then things just went downhill from there. Tonight was the final straw.
She sighed and went to her bed, bringing a candle with her. “I’m single,” she repeated. “Fuck.”
She couldn’t fathom it and how much her life had changed in 72 hours. New assignment. A partner, could she even call Agent Mulder that, refused to trust her. Is this was being a field agent was? And now, she was free…single too. Was she free though? Ethan’s words still stung her.
Scully jumped when she heard a light knocking at her door. “Scully? You awake?”
She felt the bile rise up in her throat. “What do you want, Agent Mulder?”
“Mulder,” he corrected. “Um, can we talk?
She was reluctant to let him in. “About what? The case?”
She would not open the door.
“No. Um, about earlier, Scully…can we just talk?”
She got up and, after a moment’s hesitation, opened the door. “Is this about the case?”
Mulder held his own candle and shook his head. He looked down at his feet. “No. I feel like I made an ass of myself, Scully. Can I come in or do you want me to stay out here all night?”
Scully looked past him to the storm raging outside. After a moment’s hesitation, she stepped aside. Mulder’s reluctance to enter was clear but he did so anyway. “Say what you have to say, Agent Mulder.”
“Mulder,” he corrected. He turned on his heel to tower over her. “Scully.”
“This is not some Tarazen and Jane situation,” she snapped.
He arched an eyebrow, clearly confused. “If this is about what happened earlier, I assure you it isn’t. I want to clear the air between us,” he said softly.
“There’s nothing to clear. You made that certain.”
“You know as a profiler and just as a good observer of nature, does your anger have to deal with the mysterious phone call with someone named Ethan you got right before we left Dulles?”
Scully glanced at him in the corner of her eye and sighed. After a moment, she answered, “He is, excuse me, was my boyfriend of three years.”
“So,” Mulder ventured slowly, “this happened recently?”
“Literally right before I ran over like a coward asking you to check my back. He told me,” she paused, “that this was a waste of my talents and that a woman should not be out in a dangerous situation such as this. I told him that I felt like I could do the best out here in the field, helping those couldn’t help herself, despite what people say about me.”
Mulder saw the unmentioned barb thrown his way, and her ex-boyfriend he supposed. “Well, what purpose does some guy have questioning the person who rewrote Einstein?”
She chuckled and wiped away a stray tear. “A journalist who cheats on you with someone named Trixie.”
“Journalist…is it Ethan Minette?”
“You know him?”
“Not directly but he tried to reach out to do an interview of some sort. He seemed just like everyone else who has made fun of me over the past years so I refused it.”
“He mentioned that.”
“Can you blame me?”
She shook her head and turned to face him. “I’m not here to spy on you, Mulder. I’m here to do a job. I am here to. Find the truth, help these people, and solve this case…with you. I am tired to you fighting me each and every step!”
“Have you ever had a partner, Scully?”
She shook her head. “Unless you count a cadaver.” Mulder frowned in response. “Pathologist humor, sorry. Mulder, I’m here so we can solve a case and so I can ground our findings in science. So we can solve this case.”
He titled his head and nodded. “You know, Scully, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had anyone take me seriously since I had someone to trust.” He walked past her and sat on the floor next to her bed. “You get used to people making fun of you, teasing you…” He shrugged. “I’ve been on my own with the x-files so long, I just learned to ignore it. But when I got the news I was getting assigned a partner, a scientist no less, I can’t help but be suspicious.”
“I know the feeling,” she said, reflecting on Ethan.
“How long had your ex been cheating?”
“I caught him in my second year of our relationship. He swore it was a one-time thing. Then it happened again. Then I kicked him out.”
Scully smiled and lowered her gaze. “I was trying to make it work because of my parents…”
He held up a hand and patted the bed behind him. Scully smiled slightly and picked up a white blanket and wrapped up around herself. She lounged behind him and adjusted the blanket to rest on her hips. “I know about trying to please your parents but coming as a third neutral party for this, Scully. I think you are better off without him. He sounds like a twat.”
“Sorry. An ass. An idiot. You did the right thing, Scully. So how did you find out?”
Scully felt a little lighter. Maybe Spooky Mulder wasn’t spooky after all. “Literally the woman said something over the phone while we chatted and I heard it. 20 minutes ago.”
“Ouch,” he winced. “Well, the fool didn’t know what he had.”
“What about you?”
Mulder’s head lolled back and looked at her. “Hmmm?”
“I give a little, you…”
“Fair enough, Scully. We’re going to be partners after all.”
The first time he had mentioned something more than temporary. Maybe he would finally take her seriously. “So, what do you want to know, Scully?”
She was quiet and then asked, “You had the whole world in front of you with your career, why the x-files?”
He smiled, surprised, and decided to trust her. “It’s a long story.”
“Well, we got time,” she countered.
He lolled his head back and took a deep breath, “I was twelve when it happened. My sister was eight. She just disappeared out of her bed one night. Just gone, vanished. No note, no phone calls, no evidence of anything.”
Scully was not expecting this. She propped her head up in curiosity. “You never found her.”
“No.” He smiled ironically. “I understand family pressures, Scully, trust me. Tore the family apart. No one would talk about it. There were no facts to confirm, nothing to offer any hope.”
“What did you do?”
“Eventually, I went off to school in England, I came back, got recruited by the bureau. Seems I had a natural aptitude for applying behavioral models to criminal cases.”
“I know the feeling. We lived on the West Coast when I was a teenager and I wanted to get out so badly to make my own name. We moved back to Maryland when I was 18. I tried to go to medical school out west but I…”
“Johns Hopkins, top of your class, recruited into the FBI,” he smiled, “something we both share.”
Scully laughed and Mulder’s smile went wider. He faced her. “My success allowed me a certain freedom to pursue my own interests. And that’s when I came across the X-Files.”
“At first, it looked like a garbage dump for UFO sightings, alien abduction reports, the kind of stuff that most people laugh at as being ridiculous. But I was fascinated. I read all the cases I could get my hands on, hundreds of them. I read everything I could about paranormal phenomena, about the occult and…” He sighed and drifted off in thought. “I found my sister’s file.”
“There’s classified government information I’ve been trying to access, but someone has been blocking my attempts to get at it.”
The passion with which he spoke to her made her sit up a bit more. “Who? I don’t understand.”
“Someone at a higher level of power. The only reason I’ve been allowed to continue with my work is that I’ve made connections in congress.” After a moment, he added, “The same freedom being the golden cow of VCU afforded the same connections elsewhere.”
“And they’re afraid of what? That, that you’ll leak this information?” Scully’s interest was piqued. “Mulder.”
He sighed bitterly. “I hate to tell you this, Scully, but you deserved the truth. You’re a part of that agenda, you know that.”
“I’m not a part of any agenda. You’ve got to trust me. I’m here just like you, to solve this.”
He kneeled on his knees, twisting toward her. “I’m telling you this, Scully, because you need to know, because of what you’ve seen. In my research, I’ve worked very closely with a man named Dr. Heitz Werber and he’s taken me through deep regression hypnosis. I’ve been able to go into my own repressed memories to the night my sister disappeared. I can recall a bright light outside and a presence in the room. I was paralyzed, unable to respond to my sister’s calls for help.” He moved close, emphasizing, “List to me, Scully, this thing exists.”
Scully felt like she could see his brilliance but a deep trauma that permeated his every move. “But how do you know…”
“The government knows about it, and I got to know what they’re protecting. Nothing else matters to me, and this is as close as I’ve ever gotten to it.”
Scully could see why everyone thought he was crazy but she saw past that. There was something more to him that others’ could not see. “Why tell me all this, Mulder?”
“I’ve always trusted no one.” He shrugged. “Maybe, since I have a partner, maybe I should start trusting someone.” He nodded to her. “'I know you were sent to spy on me, Scully. I’m not stupid. But…” he paused. “I can see you mean what you say. You only want to solve the case.”
They shared a moment of mutual understanding before the phone rang. Scully jumped and Mulder rushed to pick it up.
“Hello? What? Who is this? Who is thi…” He slammed the phone down and turned to Scully. “That was some woman… she just said Peggy O'Dell was dead.”
“The girl in the wheelchair?”
“Let’s go then.”
- - - - - -
Days later, with their first x-files case solved together, Scully found herself sitting at a bar in a Portland airport dressed in jeans and the rain jacket she felt like she had been wearing for days now. Next to her a small duffle bag with some quick clothes she had purchased after their motel had gone up in flames. Next to her bag was Mulder’s. “Hey, sorry that took so long. I got us a flight in three hours non stop to D.C. I didn’t want to deal with any layover.”
“You order yet?”
“Uh, no. I wasn’t sure what you wanted.”
“Usually unsweetened tea but, Scully, we’re off the clock. Why don’t you say we celebrate our first solved case.”
“If you can call it solved. There are still so many questions I have, Mulder.” She shook her head. “I’ve never studied anything or seen anything like it. I know the answers are there, Mulder. There’s probably a lot of logical answers to the files down in the basement.”
“And we’ll solve them. This is what the x-files is, Scully. Unexplained.”
“Do you think that is where the ‘x’ comes from?”
“X as found in explained? Or imagine if they called it the xxx files…unexplained to the third power.”
Mulder burst out laughing. “They might think the FBI solves pornos or that could be a porno. Two agents, out against the world, solving one 1-900 number at a time.”
Scully snorted. “So now we solve poor pornos.” She shook her head. “And what about celebrating our first case? Is that an olive branch I detect from you, Mulder?”
“So maybe you aren’t a spy and I am making the choice to trust you, to a degree. I don’t go around telling everyone my life story. Besides, maybe I am tired of being the lone agent. Maybe I could use a partner.”
“You’re the first one who has called me, Scully…outside of my instructors. Everyone calls me Dana or whatever. It’s always a boys’ club. I knew that going into it. Ethan didn’t help.” After a moment, Scully smirked. “You’re really bad at this.”
Mulder chuckled. “Well, I’m not perfect.”
She nodded after a moment and held up a finger. “Beer but just one.”
“Scully, we’re off the clock and I saw how you gripped the armrest during the turbulence and when we took off and landed. You don’t like flying.”
“You better get used to it if we’ll be traveling across the country.” He nodded and put their tickets on the counter and tapped them lightly. “Um, I know we had separate seats last time but no such luck. I hope you don’t mind.”
Scully’s eyebrow arched. Another olive branch. “That’s fine, Mulder. Thank you.”
“So, how about some dinner and another beer before we fly?”
“Why kind of partner would I be if I didn’t,” he teased. Scully smile coyly. Maybe he did trust her after all. “Besides, it’s only one beer. What could it hurt?”
One beer turned into two and three. They shared an order of spring rolls and spilt an order of meatball sub with extra mozzarella. The more Mulder got to know her, the more he felt like he could trust her.
“So,” Mulder said, pausing between bites. “You met Ethan where?”
Scully giggled and let her cheeks blush. He couldn’t get enough of that sound. “Of all places, a medical conference. I had just graduated from the academy and I was still fresh at Quantico. He normally covers the hill but because Thomas Miller was there…”
“The assistant director of forensics and pathology at Quantico?”
“The very same as the one who recruited me. It was by chance. He spilled a bourbon and coke on my dress. One thing led to another…” Scully shrugged looking down into her beer. “My parents approved of him but it only took a year before I caught him cheating. I was so desperate for…” She shrugged again and looked at Mulder. “I wanted so badly to believe that I could make something out of it. That it is a one-time thing. But it happened again. And again. Then I kicked him out.”
Mulder sipped his beer, intrigued. “So the phone call before we lost all our stuff?”
“I thought there was still hope. Even though he didn’t live with me, I thought I could still make it work. I’d invested three years of my life into trying to make this relationship work. We were already on rocky ground. I told him when I got the assignment and that I couldn’t have dinner with him because I was going to Oregon. I gave him my hotel phone number…out of habit I guess.” Scully shrugged. “But as I was talking, I hear this sultry voice from a woman named Trixie.”
“Trixie?” Mulder repeated.
Scully sipped her beer and snorted in amusement. “And then I just broke it off. Best thing I have ever done.” Scully smiled. “It’s very metaphorical if I think about it. Right after I decided to cut all ties and all of our stuff was burned.”
“And our evidence,” Mulder said glumly. “We were so close, Scully.”
She hummed and held up a finger and reached into her jacket, producing a glass vial with a small implant. “You managed to save it.”
“It never left my side, Mulder.” She passed it to him. “That is our best evidence for what happened to Billy Miles and those kids. I can’t explain it but it’s a start. There’s still a lot more to do.”
He was once again taken aback. “You really aren’t a spy, are you?”
She laughed. “You still can’t get pass that, can you? Far from it. I was serious about what I said. I’m here to solve these cases, Mulder. Maybe my background as a scientist can give your explanations a bit more ground to stand on. But I want to do good in the world. I’m here to solve these cases just like you.”
He nodded and lifted his half full glass of beer. “To new beginnings, Scully.”
She smiled and he sensed a real, genuine smile. There wasn’t anything about her that was fake. She raised her glass and clinked it. “To new beginnings, Mulder.”
- - - - - -
Mulder found his walls crumbling as he watched Scully doze against the window of their plane. During take off, they sat together and he held her hand tightly as she clutched his for dear life. Once they were airborne, and likely somewhere over the Midwest, she finally relaxed and slumped over towards the window. Mulder gently tugged on her hand. “I’m okay.”
She blinked sleepily and nodded. “I know,” he whispered. “But do you want me to ask for a pillow or blanket for you?”
“Finally trust me?”
“Just a bit.” He waved his hand slightly. “Can I…”
“I’m okay, Mulder.”
“Too late.” An air flight attendant listened as he requested a pillow and blanket. “See, I got you.” It was delivered promptly and Mulder offered them after the flight attendant left. Scully blinked sleepily. She took the blanket and pushed the pillow towards him. “Agent Scully, we just met.”
She chuckled and lounged the seat back to get comfortable. Mulder didn’t know why, he did the same, trying his best to master the same angle. “What are you doing?”
The plane jumped slightly like it had on their way into Oregon and Scully turned her head and reached for his hand. He held it tightly. “Thanks.”
He squeezed it. “Of course.”
- - - - - -
At about 7 p.m local time, their direct flight from Portland landed at Dulles International in Virginia. The bump-bump of the plane landing on the tarmac woke Scully and had, embarrassingly, found herself sleeping about against Mulder’s shoulder. He just offered her a smile and said nothing about it. She blinked herself awake and watched the plane taxi to their ramp.
“Welcome back,” Mulder stated softly.
“Home sweet home.”
“So, Scully, you survived your first x-file, what’s next?”
“You sound just like a game show host.”
He shrugged and gave her a goofy smile. “Well, Agent Scully?”
“Just let me know.”
Mulder smiled broadly. “I’ll grab our bags when the plane stops. So, what’re your plans once you get back home?”
“Same old, same old.”
Mulder nodded and focused his gaze forward. As the plane parked, Mulder stood up first, unlocking the overhead bin. He grabbed both of their duffle bags effortlessly. “I got it, Mulder.”
“I’ll give you your bag once we get off the plane. Besides, I can run down people with these bags.”
His joke got the laugh it intended. Unconsciously, she grasped the back of his jacket. “Just don’t lose me in the process.”
Mulder and Scully got of the plane, and once they got to the ramp, he passed her her bag. Scully slung her duffle over her shoulder and followed Mulder. She noted that, in the beginning, she had struggled to keep up. His long strides matched his determination to seek the truth. But now, he either purposely or unconsciously matched his stride to be in tune with hers. He touched the small of her back. “You have a ride back to your place?”
“I’m fine, Mulder.”
She stiffened when she saw Ethan rushing towards her with a bouquet of flowers. Mulder frowned, turning towards her. “Is that Ethan?” He asked.
She nodded slightly. “I don’t know how he knew,” she whispered back.
“Dana! I’m so glad you’re back. I was afraid you missed your flight.” Ethan stopped in his steps, seeing Mulder talking to her. “Agent Mulder, I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure.” He offered his hand. “Ethan Minette.”
“I know who you are,” he said cooly, ignoring the offered hand. “You dogged me on a case a few years back and made my work impossible. We’ve met.”
Scully heard the chill in Mulder’s voice and shivered unconsciously. “What do you want, Ethan? How did you know where to find me?”
“I called your mother.”
“You didn’t tell her…” Scully pinched the bridge of her nose. “Ethan, we’re done! I want nothing to do with you!”
Mulder wisely kept quiet and placed a guiding hand on her back and pushed past the ex. “Well played, Scully.”
“Is he following us?”
Mulder chanced a look over his shoulder. “No, but as a man, I would think you just took my balls as trophies.”
She stopped and couldn’t help but laugh. “Dana!” She could hear her ex-boyfriend calling her. “Don’t go off with Spooky!”
“Keep walking, Scully, however, you might become, Mrs. Spooky in the process.”
“I’ll take the chance.”
Mulder smiled boyishly and placed his hand on the small of her back. “Welcome to the basement,” he teased.
He escorted her to the taxi area and from there, they took separate taxis to their own apartments.
When Scully got home, she stared at the empty apartment and went about her evening routine. By 11 pm, she was in bed and couldn’t sleep. By 11:21 pm, she flipped over onto her side and stared at the alarm clock. A series of thoughts rolled through her mind. She was officially a field partner. She jumped when the phone rang.
“Hello?” She answered unsurely.
“Scully? It’s me. I haven’t been able to sleep. I talked to the D.A. in Raymond County and there’s no case on Billy Miles. The case we filed was gone. We need to talk, Scully.”
Mulder? What was he talking about? Their case.
“Yes…we can talk about that tomorrow.”
He heard her sigh. “How are you doing, Scully?”
“With what? The case?”
“No. Ethan Whats-his-name.”
“I’m okay. We’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”
“How did you get my home number?” She asked after a moment.
“How did I get your senior thesis?”
Scully smiled into the phone. “Good night, Mulder.”
She hung up and sighed: how things had changed.