Scully’s phone rings, and she has never been more grateful in her life.
“It’s work; excuse me I have to take this.” She slides her phone out of her purse and excuses herself from the table, hoping that her eagerness didn’t show on her face.
“Scully, it’s me.” The familiar voice on the other end almost makes her want to sigh with pure relief. “I’m sorry to interrupt your date.”
Her partner continues, giving her an update on the case they’re currently working on. There has been a possible lead, nothing urgent but he knew she would want to know and so he has called to inform her.
Mulder was definitely right- she would want to know at any rate, but especially tonight. Scully had made the mistake of accepting a date with a perfectly nice, ordinary man.
A boring man.
He hasn’t done anything exclusively wrong, but the pretty red-head has been almost out of her mind with how dull the past hour has been. Her date, James, had ordered two glasses of wine and insisted on their chatting before they ordered their meal. Under different circumstances, that would be fine with Scully- except his idea of riveting conversation was describing in great detail how much his first job as a bag boy led to where he was in life today.
She hoped she feigned interest well enough, not wanting to be rude but desperate for reprieve.
“I can come down to the bureau, take a look over the information you found.” She offers Mulder, leaning against the wall behind a large potted plant, wondering if her date was looking for her across the restaurant but not daring to look.
Mulder insists it can wait, and Scully shifts the phone. “Are you...sure?”
He is quiet for a moment.
“Scully, are you trying to fake a work emergency to leave your date?” She can hear the smirk in his voice.
“I’m just saying, Mulder, if you need me to come to the bureau I will.” She bites her lip, hoping he will forgo further teasing and grant her this out.
“In that case….” He pauses, the tension making Scully bite her lip even harder. “I think I need a second set of eyes.”
She sighs in relief for the second time in fifteen minutes and lets her partner know she will meet him soon. Scully schools her expression into an apologetic one and walks back to her date to bow out gracefully.
She pulls on a cardigan to give her dress some semblance of being work-appropriate attire. It isn’t skimpy by any means, but is a simple black number with a dip in the back that isn’t necessarily something she would choose to wear into the office if not for the given situation. Scully feels slightly self-conscious for wearing it in the presence of Mulder, but to go all the way home to change would simply be a waste of time.
Mulder has to forcibly redirect his eyes three separate times as Scully looks over the new information for their file. She looks stunning in a black dress with a knit cardigan and small heels. Notes of her perfume still linger on her skin, a different scent than the one she sometimes wears into the office.
It must be her date perfume.
He tells himself he does not feel bitter, tells himself that he did not feel triumphant in hearing that her date did not go well. He’s sure he will tell himself several more lies as well before the night is over.
“Did you even finish your dinner?” Mulder asks suddenly.
“What?” Scully looks up. “No, we didn’t even get to the food.” She shakes her head in faux misery.
“Let’s grab something after this. It’s a shame to let that dress go to waste.” Mulder shrugs, hoping he comes off as causal when the reality is that his heart is pounding.
“Okay.” She agrees, and his internal self does a dorky fist-pump.
They end up downtown at a stretch of street filled with various food trucks. Scully feels overdressed, and slightly ridiculous, but she can’t deny the atmosphere is nice. There are glowing string lights around the trees and they cast a beautiful amber glow across the darkening evening. They walk together, wrapped tacos in hand. She has changed into the spare pair of flip-flops she keeps in her car, and she feels tiny next to Mulder, almost vulnerable.
They sit at a small cafe table and unwrap their food.
It isn’t long before she’s laughing at something he has said, he’s always been so funny, so charming. Mid-laugh, a realization hits her like a piano falling on the head of a cartoon character.
Scully takes another bite of taco to distract herself.
His partner looks so effortlessly stunning, giggling in the glow cast by hanging lights. Her lipstick may have worn off and her heels are long gone, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest.
He’s glad he took this chance, even if it’s the only one he’ll ever get. If nothing ever happens between them, at least they’ll have this night.
They keep walking after they’ve finished eating. Their path leads them to a fountain, the kind with a big spray in the middle and smaller ones that shoot up directly from the ground. Scully removes her flip-flops and walks into the spray, playing with the water with her bare feet. A lock of her hair falls over her face, and Mulder takes the moment to let his gaze linger on her.
He so rarely sees her like this, carefree and uninhibited by the horror of whatever case they’re currently working on. She tosses her sweater onto a nearby bench, and the dip of the dress she’s wearing makes him weak in the knees.
“You joining me or what?” She smiles at him and he can’t think of a single thing in the world that would prevent him from doing so.
This feels intimate, being here with Mulder in bare feet and layers of clothing that have been shed, no matter how innocently.
Then again, it seems like a lot of things they do feel intimate.
He flicks water at her and she laughs, flicking some back in retaliation. He gears up for an even bigger splash, but Scully playfully jogs away.
She slips on the smooth faux-marble surface of the fountain spout, landing hard on her butt. She meets Mulder’s eye in surprise, and he rushes toward her but she lessens some of his worry when she bursts out laughing. He helps her up, one hand on her elbow and the other on the small of her back, bare and with droplets of water clinging to it. She has a scrape on her shin, and the bottom half of her dress is soaked, but the smile still hasn’t left her face
They decide to head back to Mulder’s apartment to get her cleaned up. Neither mentions the fact that it would be just as easy to take her home and say goodnight instead.
Scully sits on the closed toilet lid in his bathroom, while he crouches in front of her and dabs at her wound with a peroxide-soaked cotton ball.
“Dr. Mulder, who would’ve thought.” She smirks, pretending that his other hand resting on her bare leg isn’t doing anything to her.
“So, the date was really that bad, huh?” Mulder can’t keep his stupid mouth shut, is dying to know who the mystery man was.
She exhales, “Yeah. He was so….ordinary. Dull.”
They’re both silent for a moment before she continues. “It wasn’t until tonight that I realized what I want.”
He’s terrified to look up, to meet her eyes while she describes someone else, someone that’s not him.
“Mulder.” She says softly.
“Yeah?” He says to her knee.
She places a gentle hand on his cheek and he dares to raise his eyes to meet hers.
“I don’t want someone boring, or average. I want someone who believes passionately, despite evidence against the odds; someone who is selfless and headstrong and kind. Who had the presence of mind to ask me if I believe in the existence of extraterrestrials despite the fact that there was the chance of me laughing in his face.”
“I think I know a guy.” Mulder responds. He can feel the concrete wall he’s built around his heart crumbling down, every sandbag that was added year after year to keep out the flood of emotions washing away with the essence of Scully.
She changes into one of his t-shirts and old boxers, and he strips out of his work clothes and down to an old shirt and sweatpants; in separate rooms, neither is ready for more despite their obvious attraction to one another. It feels too fragile, too much like an heirloom Christmas ornament that must be handled with care.
They slip into his bed together, the one he rarely uses because it feels too lonely. Scully’s revelation feels heavy in the air, and Mulder feels the need to reciprocate, but not with words.
He leans over, pressing a soft kiss to her lips, gauging her reaction the whole way, giving her an out if she wants one. Hands go to hair, roam the expanse of backs, tongues and lips slide together until they almost can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Their clothing still stays on, but the intimacy of sharing breath and body heat in this moment is enough. It feels like they’re on the precipice of something.
“You’re not like anyone else.” Scully tells him, both of them staring up at the ceiling, thinking. For a brief moment, he flashes back to every time someone had told him a variation of the same thing, their snickers and disapproving stares echoing in his head. Somehow, when his partner said it, he felt differently. As if being different were a good thing.
They lay together for a long time, before Scully breaks the silence. Mulder had almost thought she had fallen asleep.
“Mulder, what was your first job?” She’s thinking of her failed date; it seems like a million years ago that she was listening to James drone on about being a bag boy. She’s so inexplicably happy with the way the night turned out instead.
“One of those mascot sign holders. Actually funny enough, it was an alien costume. ‘Out of this World Skating Rink’. He responds, the curiosity at her question evident in his voice.
She laughs loudly. “Case in point.”