Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Title: Spontaneity

Category: SR, some H, more UST than you can shake a Sig at.

Rating: PG-13 I sípose.....a tad of innuendo, some mild cursing.

Summary: A hot July day, some good music, and a fountain; OR how Mulder and Scully spent their Fourth of July

Spoilers: Season 4, if you wanna get technical about it

Disclaimer: Ah, bite me. If youíre gonna sue me for this, you have too much time on your hands.

Notes: This is sort of based on the actual events of my friends and I this past July 4th. Being a native Washingtonian, I am quite a stickler for accuracy when it comes to my hometown. You can rest assured that all the places mentioned are real and in their proper geographical locations.

This story is for Sandi, Tom, Kristen, and the rest of the DC Summer Ď99 crew. Thanks for a great summer!

 

 

July 2

3:32 PM

 

"You are filling out that expense report." Her voice was adamant as she shoved a sheaf of papers at me.

"No way, Scully," I replied. "Every time I do the paperwork, we get called in on it. You fill them out." I shoved the papers back at her.

"Mulder, no! Itís your turn," she said and gave me the look intended to show me that she meant business.

Before I could reply, the phone rang. We looked at each other and our eyes met; a challenge. We raced each other for the phone, but she beat me to it. "Scully," she said, making a face at me. With practiced nonchalance, I picked up my copy of The Lone Gunman and studiously ignored her. But it was damn hard to do when she sat down on the edge of my desk, her skirt hitched up just enough to give me a tantalizing glimpse of her leg. Nonchalance aside, Iím no fool-a glimpse of Scullyís leg is worth looking like a schmuck for.

"Hi, Mom," she said into the phone, tucking her hair behind her ear.

"Hi Mrs. Scully!" I called out.

Scully shushed me. "Whatís up? Are we still on for this weekend?" There was a pause. "No, I donít know what his plans are."

His? His who? Me?

"Well, then, you ask him. Heíll just blow me off." She held the phone out to me. "She wants to talk to you."

I took the phone. "Hi, Mrs. Scully."

"Fox, what are your plans for Sunday?" Her voice was warm, but I know better than to let her tone of voice fool me. This woman wants something from me and sheíll be damned if she wonít get it. Of course, I wonít fight very hard-after all, Mrs. Scully is like a surrogate mother to me and I canít say no to her.

"Getting as far out of the city as I can on half a tank of gas?" I reply as I yank the papers out from under Scullyís lovely derriere.

Mrs. Scully laughs and I realize it sounds a lot like her daughterís laugh. "Well, I insist that you join Dana and I this weekend."

"Insist, huh? Guess that means I donít have a choice." I look up at Scully, who is looking at me with a bemused expression.

"Thatís right. Be at Danaís at 2 sharp."

"Can I ask what the game plan is, or should I show up with a pocketful of cash, a passport, and a pair of dry socks?" I shove the papers at Scully, who shoots me that look of hers.

Again Mrs. Scully laughs, and I am pleased. "Oh heavens no, Fox. Nothing quite so exotic. Just a picnic lunch on the Capitol lawn before the concert and fireworks."

"Sounds great," I say to her. Then I cover the mouthpiece and say to Scully, "If I have to go with you, you have to do this expense report. Fair is fair."

Again, she gives me that look-the one with the eyebrow. "No dice, Mulder. Sunday will be fun and you know it."

"Fun is subjective, Scully."

"Oh, thatís right, I forgot," she said, hopping off of my desk. "You donít know how to have fun."

"That hurt," I say to her, hoping to elict some guilt. Ha. I uncover the mouthpiece. "Iíll be there, Mrs. Scully. Hereís Dana." I held the phone out to her. "Youíre gonna pay for that remark."

"And youíre gonna do that report."

I laughed. "The hell I am."

"The hell you arenít, Mulder."

 

July 4

2:42 pm

 

"Youíre late," I say as I open the door to let Mulder in.

"I have a good excuse," he says.

"Alien abduction?" I reply. "You used that last time, and if I recall correctly, I didnít buy it then either." I shut the door behind him, and take a good look at him from behind. He is dressed casually-his favorite gray Knicks shirt and black Umbros, and I can see the bottoms of his boxers hanging out.......black with little green alien heads. I have to chuckle-how very Mulder.

"Fox? Is that you?" My mother appears in the kitchen door and embraces Mulder, who hugs her back. They share a bond they developed during the time I was missing-of course, neither of them ever talk about it, but I can see it when they are together and hear it in their conversations. My mom is the Mom Mulder always wanted, and I just know my mother is saying novenas to St. Joseph that Mulder will become her son-in-law. "I was beginning to get worried," she says to him, brushing a stray lock of his hair off of his forehead in a way only a mom can have. "People drive like absolute maniacs on holidays."

I laugh. "If thereís a maniac driver, itís Mulder."

He turns to me, and itís then I notice he has a white deli bag in his hand. If Iím not mistaken, itís from my favorite deli.

He holds the bag up, just far enough over my head so that I canít reach it. Damn him and his height. "Guess you donít want your gift then, huh?"

I make a grab for the bag, and miss. "Depends on what it is."

"You know that little deli you like so much?"

My eyes widen. "You didnít."

He grins that big, beautiful grin I love so much. "I did. Smoked turkey on wheat with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, right?"

Sometimes I swear I could marry this man.

I finally manage to grab the bag from him and dive in-but then I stop. "Mulder, that deli is across town-in other words, you had to pass here to get there," I say. "Couldnít you have gone someplace a little closer?"

He shrugged. "Couldíve. But it wouldnít have been the same." He grins again. "Is this a good enough excuse for my tardiness?"

Despite myself, I laughed. "Iíll go put these in the cooler. Do you think you could dig up the beach chairs for me? Theyíre in the hall closet."

As I walked to the kitchen, I could hear him grumbling. "Thatís the whole reason they asked me-so I could be the pack horse. I should have known better." I heard thumps and bumps from the closet, an "Aha!" and finally the sound of the door closing. A moment later, Mulder sat his tall, lanky body on the kitchen counter and took a bottle of water from the cooler. I shot him a look, and he replied with "What? Look, Scully......If Iím going to be forced into indentured servitude, the least you can do is spare me a bottle of water."

"Fine," I replied. "But when we run out later and you are thirsty, donít complain to me."

He hopped off the counter and walked into the living room, and a moment later I heard the television come on.

"I talked to Bill the other night," my mother said, filling a plastic shopping bag with potato chips and pretzels.

"How is he?"

"Fine. Heís on shore leave for the weekend, but goes back out on Tuesday. Says Matthew is sprouting up like a weed."

"Iím sure. Have you heard from Charlie?"

"Actually, yes." My mother busied herself putting carrot sticks in a plastic baggie. "Theyíre moving to Norfolk come the end of the month. They thought heíd be moved to Florida or California, but thank God heíll still be close."

Mom put the carrots in the cooler, and I put the lid on it. "Iím going to go put my shoes on, then weíll leave." Picking up the cooler, I walked into the living room and set it on the coffee table with a thunk. Grabbing my sneakers from beside the couch, I sat down and began to put them on.

"How are we gonna do this?" Mulder asked me, his eyes never leaving the screen. "Traffic is going to be a bitch, and I am not walking however many hundred blocks it is from here to the Metro."

"We could park at Union Station and walk from there."

He turned to me. "Yeah. We could also sit here in your nice, air conditioned apartment and watch it on television."

What a baby. "Mulder......" I said, hoping my voice hit the right tone between annoyed and frustrated.

"Okay, okay, weíll walk from Union." He turned the television off and stood up, taking the cooler in one hand and the beach chairs in the other. "Iíll go load up the car."

As he left, my mother entered. "Whereís Fox?"

"Loading up the car."

We gathered up the rest of the things and headed out. As I locked the door, my mother said, "I must say, Fox looks so handsome today. Donít you think so, Dana?"

<<Oh no no no no no. I am so not falling into that trap, Mother. I refuse to play into your hands.>> Feigning nonchalance, I reply, "No, Mom, I hadnít noticed."

She gave me that look. "Donít you lie to me, Dana Katherine."

Busted.

With a sigh, I put my keys in my bag and put on my sunglasses. "Letís go."

 

 

4:02 pm

I would just like to say that itís hotter than hell, and just as crowded.

Every year on the Fourth of July, the National Symphony Orchestra gives a free concert on the west lawn of the Capitol. And every year, there are more people crammed onto this solitary piece of grass than there are in Yankee Stadium on the seventh night of the World Series.

If I had a vision of hell before, the one before me at this moment has replaced it. The only difference between hell and this spot is that in hell, I would be forced to listen to the Bee Gees for all eternity. For now, though, some teeny bopper with a boom box is blasting Britney Spears, and I think maybe the Bee Gees are reserved for people in a ring of hell lower than this one.

"Looks like this is it," I say, dropping Scullyís cooler unceremoniously. I have managed to find the only plot of grass big enough for all three of us, and it is unfortunately behind the largest, whitest man I have ever laid eyes upon. I swear the glare from his back is blinding me, even through the lenses of the Oakley sunglasses I recently purchased.

Scully and her mother spread out the blanket they have brought and I sit myself down on it, taking off my sneakers. Next to me, Scully is doing the same thing. One of her Nikes lands next to mine, and I see just how tiny her feet really are. Compared to mine, they look almost miniature, lilliputian. I ponder this for a moment.......in my mind I know Scully is a small woman. Petite-not diminutive, though. I have to look down at her when I talk to her. If I get in the car after sheís driven it, the steering wheel cuts off my circulation in an area that Iíve grown particularly fond of. I am aware of the fact that she is short, but the sight of her tiny shoe next to my huge one reminds me just how petite she really is.

I am snapped out of this wonderment by Scullyís voice. "Mulder, could you get the sun block for me? Itís in my bag."

I grab the woven bag she has brought and begin to go through it. Some books-Stephen King, Tom Clancy-car keys, the latest New England Journal of Medicine, wallet, Bureau ID, sunglasses, sun block, a small plastic baggie with band-aids and alcohol swabs, her cell phone, a deck of cards, the paperwork for the expense report, and a bag of seeds.

Have I mentioned that I love this woman?

I hand her the sun block, and she begins to slather it on. I am seeing a lot more Scully skin than I am used to today. She looks beautiful-a lavender tank top and khaki shorts that are just short enough so that if I look at the right angle when she pulls her leg up to put sun block on her calf, I can see that her underwear is blue. And satiny. Sheís wearing her hair up today, which is a new thing for her. Not since our first year as partners has she worn her hair up in any other place but the autopsy bay.

"Do my back?" she asks me, handing me the bottle.

Did I say earlier that this was hell? I meant heaven.

She turns her back to me, and I begin to rub the white lotion into her pale skin. As I rub her shoulders, my eyes fall to the small scar on the back of her neck, and for a brief moment my stomach knots up.

I havenít forgotten that it is there. I donít think I ever could. What lies beneath that scar is too important to forget. But to see it......to feel it beneath my fingers conjures up so many memories..........painful memories best left in the past. But for all the pain that small scar evokes, itís small compared to the utter joy it has brought me. That chip gave me something I thought was impossible-the cure for Scullyís cancer. And with it, a renewed sense of hope. Some day, when Scully and I are no longer living in fear of the men of the conspiracy, when we have exposed the lies and the betrayals, when we are old and gray and no longer have to pretend we do not love each other I will kiss that scar, because what that small chip that lies beneath that scar has given me is more valuable and holy to me than anything else could be.

I hand the bottle back to her, and she turns to me with a smile. "Thanks. You want a book or something?"

"Uh, yeah. The Tom Clancy one looks good to me."

She gets up onto her knees and reaches for her bag, her cute little butt staring me full in the face. I force myself to think of the large pasty man sitting not ten feet away, and all feelings of arousal immediately disappear. She chucks the book at me, then the bag of seeds.

Have I mentioned that I love this woman?

Scully pulls herself up into the second beach chair, next to her mother, and begins to read the journal she has brought. I can only stare at her as she chews on the blue Bic pen in her hand, engrossed in her medical journal.

When I finally look away, I see Mrs. Scully watching me watch Dana, a small smile on her face. Silently, she peers over the top of her sunglasses and gives me a wink, then goes back to her Agatha Christie book.

 

 

 

7:45 pm

Mulder is getting restless. After six years with this man, I can tell when he is getting restless. In a moment he will begin to complain, then to do things to try and annoy me. Finally, he will do something so obnoxious that the people around us will balk, and then Iíll be cranky for the rest of the evening. Iíd better head this off at the pass. Weíve only got 15 minutes until the show.........

"Letís play poker," I say, sliding down onto the blanket and reaching for my bag.

"Poker?"

"Yeah, poker." I hand him the deck of cards, and he gives me a leer. "Not that kind of poker," I say to him, giving him that look. I hope my mother didnít see that-I donít need her getting ideas about Mulder and I.

"Poker is so dull with two people," he complains. "Letís play gin."

"Thatís fine."

We play in silence for several minutes. Mulderís brow is furrowed in concentration, and I can see him trying to guess my hand from my face. I give him no clues, and a few minutes later when I say "Gin," his face crumbles.

"Cheat."

"Sore loser."

I take the cards from him and shuffle them, as the announcer begins the routine message. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a Capital Celebration 1999." The announcer drones on, listing the celebrities on the lineup and asking everyone to be enthusiastic-this will be on TV, after all.

I put the cards away and take a good look around, noticing that it has gotten considerably dark out. Itís not night by any means, but the sun has dipped below the dome of the National Gallery of Art, and the sky has turned pinks and purples and blues of every shade. Mulder abandoned his shirt long ago, and his skin turns golden in the dusky light. The women seated around us have been staring at him all afternoon, but Mulder remains oblivious to them. Despite myself, I catch myself staring at him as well as he stands up and stretches his long, lean body.

"Be right back," he says to me, and he trots off.

Today has been interesting, I think to myself as I munch on a carrot stick. Itís been relatively peaceful, which is unusual for Mulder and I. No big arguments, no quarrels over who is right or wrong-not even a fight about the expense report he knows I have in my bag. Nope, today was positively domestic. If I hadnít known better, I would think Mulder and I were an old married couple.

I know thatís what my mother sees. I have caught her watching us from behind that Agatha Christie book she is pretending to read. I can see the wheels in her mind turning now, choosing wedding colors and bridesmaids dresses, making a guest list. She thinks sheís being subtle, but I know when my mother is planning and she is currently planning big.

"Dana, honey?" Her voice shatters my reverie.

"Yeah?"

"You okay?" she asks me, leaning forward and brushing a stray lock of hair out of my face. "You spaced out for a few moments."

"Yeah, Mom, Iím fine. Just thinking."

She gives me that look, the one that tells me she knows what I am thinking but wonít push the issue. Instead, she dog-ears the page in her book and puts it away, then reaches for the bag of pretzels. I know she is dying to say something but is refraining, and at that moment I thank God for giving me such a great mom.

Mulder returns, carrying an ice-covered box.

"Whatís that?" I ask, looking up at him. Iíve got quite a view from this angle-my eyes trail up his long legs to his washboard stomach and nicely developed pecs and wind up at his beautiful, smiling face. Itís smiling, I realize, because the owner is about to drop a freezing cold popsicle down my back-which Mulder does with relish. When I squeal, he laughs.

"Cold?" he asks as he hands my mother an ice cream.

Giving him a dirty look, I reply "Hope you enjoyed that, Mulder. Hope you got a real big kick out of that."

"Oh, I did," he replied, biting into his cherry twin pop with no remorse.

"Just for that, you get to do the expense report."

"Scullll-eeeee......" he whined.

"Whining will get you nowhere, Mulder," I say, unwrapping my popsicle.

"Please, Scully......." He gives me an imploring look.

"What part of Ďnoí donít you understand?" I was enjoying this way too much.

"Okay, fine. Be that way, Scully. But mark my words, " he said, leaning in so that we were nose to nose. "Youíll pay for that."

I laugh. "Yeah, right. Mulder, you donít scare me."

I saw the glint in his eyes, and I knew at that moment that I was in serious trouble.

 

 

8:35

I think Scully is crying.

I mean, I canít be sure-she hides it really well. But if Iím not mistaken, her eyes look a little damp to me. She is watching the old video of Louis Armstrong singing ĎWhat a Wonderful Worldí on the jumbotron, and her face has taken on this look somewhere between sorrow and joy.

"Scully?"

She turns to me. "Hmm?"

"You okay?"

"What? Yeah, Iím fine." She pauses. "This song always makes me think of my father."

I have no response. Iím kind of in shock. Scully rarely opens up to me of her own free will, and when she does it always shocks me. Tonight is no exception.

"My father used to sing this to me. We were living in Florida, and some evenings in the summer he would take me to go get ice cream. Weíd have all the windows open in the car and heíd turn on the oldies station, and when this song came on he would sing along. I always used to dream that at my wedding, this would be the song that I would dance with my father to." Scullyís face is wistful, and a lone tear falls down her cheek.

I glance over and see that Mrs. Scully has teared up as well. Silently, she takes Scullyís hand in her own, and I see Scully squeeze her hand.

But just as quickly as the moment came, it passed. Scully takes a deep breath and smiles at me, a sad kind of smile. I want to reach out and touch her, to caress her cheek or stroke her hair, but I know Scully wonít like that-especially in front of her mother.

I think Mrs. Scully thinks something is up. Or wants something to be up. Even though I know she is a devout Catholic, I think she would say a prayer of thanksgiving if Scully and I were to hop into bed-within a committed relationship, of course.

I know Scully hates it that her mother is so........involved? concerned, with her life, especially her lack of a love life. You see, Scully sees it as busybodiness-which I guess it is in some way. But Mrs. Scully wants her daughter to be happy and will do anything to make that happen, and I think she sees that Scully keeps happiness at armís length, as though she is unworthy.

Mrs. Scully knows how I feel about her daughter. When Dana was in the coma, her mother took care of me. She called me every day, made sure I got up and out of bed, ate regularly, basically made sure I was functioning like a human being. At first it was just courtesy-calling to let me know how Scully was doing. But eventually, sheíd call me and ask me all the right questions and I would find myself confiding to her that her daughter was the most important person in my life, that I had caused her abduction, how guilty I felt. Scullyís mom became the mother I had always wanted........and some small part of me that had always been hollow and empty was filled.

I look back over at Scully, and she no longer looks so sad. In fact, she is smiling a pretty big smile, yet another rarity in my world of Scully. I reach out and put my hand on her tiny foot, and she graces me with a small, almost bashful smile.

 

 

 

10:00 pm

We join the large crowd of people streaming off of the west lawn, and I am sorry to see the evening end. Normally an evening with Mulder includes discussions of alien abduction, mutants, and paranormal phenomenon. But tonight was surprisingly calm and relaxed.......like I said earlier, almost domestic.

Mulder is carrying the chairs and the cooler without complaint. He hasnít said much since earlier this evening, when I burst out with that story about my father. I think I scared him. Normally I donít open up like that, and I hate to cry, but I just couldnít help it. That song just touched something inside me and I found myself getting all weepy. Mulder must think I am having some wacko PMS symptoms.

We follow the crowd across Pennsylvania Avenue and up a grassy hill, where throngs of concert goers have thrown themselves into a huge, multi-level fountain to try to escape the still oppressive heat. I think to myself that splashing in a fountain looks almost fun-but then the doctor in me begins to list all the things I could pick up from that filthy Washington water. Suddenly, playing in a fountain no longer looks fun.

I wish I could stop being so reserved sometimes. I wish that I could throw caution aside and throw myself into that filthy water with abandon, not caring that I could pick up any number of diseases from it. I wish that I could be silly and stupid and just let go sometimes, be reckless and fun-loving and the world be damned. But that was always Missyís job. Missy was the wild child, Bill was the jock, Charlie was the baby, and I was sensible Dana. But I always harbored notions of being more like Missy, used to dream that some day I would go do something outrageous and wild that would shock everyone who knew me. I guess in some ways, I have; I went against my fatherís wishes and joined the FBI, I have thrown the strict rules of Catholicism out and taken lovers to bed, I have even gone so far as to get a tattoo with a strange man I met in a bar. But somehow, if Missy were still alive, she would have shaken her head at me and told me I was still so sensible.

I have been so busy thinking to myself that I have failed to notice that Mulder has stopped walking. I walk right into his backside. "Oh, God, Mulder.....Iím sorry."

He suppresses a chuckle as he sets the chairs and cooler down and turns to me. "You feeling okay, Scully? I mean, first you get all teary eyed at the concert, then you walk into me.........how do I know you are really Scully?"

I look over at my mother, who is standing some distance away, as though to give us privacy. She gives me a smile then discreetly turns away.

"Sorry. I was just.......thinking. "

"Uh-huh." His hazel eyes are full of mischief, and I find myself beginning to worry. I have a feeling that my mother is in cahoots with him, and suddenly it dawns on me-I have been set up.

Mulder takes the chairs and cooler over to my mother, then walks back to me with a shit-eating grin. I know something is wrong-I can feel it. But like a deer trapped in headlights, I am powerless to move.

He crouches down and unties my sneakers, prying them off of my feet. Then he removes my socks and tucks them inside my shoes like he would a small child. He pries his own shoes off and gives both pairs to my mother. I want to scream, to protest, but I canít. I am powerless.

When he picks me up, I finally find my words. "Mulder, put me down."

"Iím sorry, Scully, but I canít do that."

"Dammit, Mulder!" I say, trying to get angry. "I donít want to be thrown into the fountain!"

He grins. "Too bad, Scully. I told you Iíd get you back."

"This isnít fair!" I cry as he hops into the fountain and drops me unceremoniously on my butt in the lukewarm water.

"Life isnít fair," he says, kicking a little bit of water at me.

Thatís it. He wants a fight, heíll get it. I grab his leg and pull, and with a huge splash he lands on his butt in the water next to me.

Before I know what is happening, he is picking me up again and throwing me into the next level of the fountain, which is deeper than the first. Now I am drenched from head to toe in this filthy water.............but I just canít get mad. Despite myself, I am enjoying this. However, I will not let on to Mulder.

"Mulder, do you know how filthy this water is?" I ask him as I climb out of the deeper water, my voice harsh. "Do you have any idea how many microorganisms are floating around in this water, just waiting for the opportunity-"

"Scully, do you ever just relax? Let go and stop worrying?" he asks me, running a hand through his wet hair. "Canít you just forget about being sensible for a moment and let yourself go?" He reaches around and yanks the back of my shirt up, placing his hand on my tattoo. "Isnít that what.......this......" he waggles his fingers on my skin "......was all about?"

I just stand there and look at him, dumbstruck.

 

10:15

Uh-oh. I think I made a wrong move here.

I was hoping that Scully would let loose, kick back and relax and swim around in the fountain like a beautiful, redheaded mermaid. I was hoping that by goading her, by pushing a button or two, maybe sheíd do it to spite me.

Mentioning the tattoo was most definitely the wrong button to push.

Ah, yes. Ed Jerse. Something I think weíd both rather forget. I can see it in her eyes........a painful memory best left unmentioned.

Yes, I do believe Iíd like a little salt with my foot.

"Oh, jeez, Scully........Iím sorry," I say, removing my hand from her warm back and pulling her shirt back over it.

"No......no, itís okay, Mulder." She looks up at me, and I see that she is being honest with me. "Youíre right. It was about being.......spontaneous. About me letting go, being a little wild." She sighs. "Iíve been sensible Dana my whole life. Responsible, dependable, straight-laced Dana. And you know what, Mulder?"

"Youíve decided to give up your career in the FBI to become a stripper?" I ask, a hopeful look on my face.

I can see her struggling not to laugh, but itís a losing battle and soon her face is alight with a smile. "No, Mulder. Iíve decided that youíre right."

Uh-oh. When Scully admits that I am right, it means big trouble. "I am?"

"Yeah, youíre right. Life is entirely too short for me to worry all the time. Missy always used to tell me that I spent too much time worrying and not enough time living."

Two Scully confessions in one evening? I donít think I can handle this.

She takes the clip out of her hair, and it tumbles to her shoulders in damp auburn waves. She sinks to her knees, then begins to swim around me in circles. Finally, she floats on her back and extends her hand to me. "Come on in, Mulder. The waterís fine."

With a grin, I pick her up and throw her back into the water, the sound of her shrieks filling the night air.

 

12:02 am

Traffic was hell. The car was freezing. My underwear was wet and decidedly unpleasant feeling against my skin. I was sunburned, tired, and cold.

And I was surprisingly happy.

When Mulder and I finally emerged from the fountain, my mother was looking at us like we were two small children who had just done something bad but undeniably charming. She handed us our shoes without comment, but I could tell by the gleam in her eye that seeing that made her happy.

The drive home was quiet, the sound of the radio (thankfully Mulder tuned it to NPR instead of tormenting my mother and I with his awful heavy metal) was the only noise.

We arrive back at my building, and Mulder gallantly unloads the car and offers to carry it upstairs.

"No, itís okay, we can manage," I say. "Go home and get some sleep."

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

Mulder goes over and gives my mother a hug, and I hear her say something to him. He looks over at me and then back at my mother, a decidedly unsure look on his face. "What now, Mulder?"

My mother speaks. "I asked Fox if heíd like to come up for the barbecue tomorrow afternoon."

"Youíre coming, Mulder."

"You sure?" I can tell he is afraid that he will wear out his welcome, that tonight has been a figment of his imagination, and that tomorrow will come and what he has seen and heard tonight will disappear.

"Yeah, Iím sure."

His face relaxes into a smile. "Okay."

I smile back at him. "Pick me up at two-and be on time this time," I add, giving him a stern look.

He laughs. "Yes, maíam. You sure you donít need help?"

"Iím sure, Mulder."

He drives off, and I am sorry to see him go. With a sigh I dredge up my keys from the very bottom of my bag and pick up the cooler. "You got the chairs?" I ask my mother.

"Yes."

Silence descends as we enter my building and then my apartment. I can tell my mother wants to say something, is dying to say something. I set the cooler on my kitchen counter and begin to unpack it. Finally the silence becomes too much and I say, "Mom, I know you want to say something, so just come out with it."

She chuckles. "Never could put one past you, could I?"

"Nope."

She walks over to me and tucks a lock of my hair behind my ear. "It was nice to see you so happy tonight," she says. "Sometimes I worry that because of your job......because of everything that has happened, that you deny yourself the simple pleasure of being happy. But after tonight," she pauses, and she looks deep into my eyes as she says the next words, "I know that I donít have to worry. Fox is taking good care of you. Heís a good man, Dana......and he cares about you very much. Donít be afraid of it, donít push it away.......accept it, treasure it. Itís a gift, one that many people arenít lucky enough to receive."

She kisses me on my forehead and is gone, and a moment later I hear the shower running.

 

July 6

11:03 am

 

"Dammit!" I curse, throwing my pen on my desk in frustration.

Scully, in her usual place in the chair opposite my desk, looks up from my copy of The Lone Gunman. "Problem?"

I put on my best pathetic look. "I am so bad at these expense reports," I say. "I just know that weíre going to be called up on them." I stick my lower lip out a little bit more, hoping sheíll crumble.

No dice. Her eyes are ice as she raises one perfectly shaped eyebrow. "And what exactly do I get if I say Iíll do it?"

I need a bargaining chip. My mind races through the options I have; the Oreos I have stashed in my desk are old, the Hersheyís Miniatures I usually keep in the bottom filing cabinet have mysteriously disappeared, and the only thing left I have are seeds and I know those are not a bargaining tool with Scully.

Suddenly, I have an idea. "Iíll buy you an ice cream from the Ben and Jerryís across the street in the Pavilion."

She smiles, and I know I have won.

We exit the FBI Building at Pennsylvania Ave. and cross the street, the July heat still oppressive. I refrain from saying this to Scully, though-sheíll just tell me it isnít really the heat that is the problem, itís the humidity.

We enter the Old Post Office Pavilion, and sure enough itís full of tour groups either eating lunch or standing on line for the elevator to the bell tower. I place my hand at itís usual place on Scullyís back as we navigate the crowd of tourists in matching T-shirts.

The line at Ben and Jerryís is long, and the kids in front of us are whining at that pitch that sets my teeth on edge. By the time a tall blond girl asks for our order, I have decided that I should be in charge of natural selection and therefore should be allowed to shoot the little darlings in front of us.

"Iíll have two scoops of the Phish Food," I say to the girl. "Scully?"

She is biting her lower lip in a rare moment of indecision. For a minute I think for sure sheíll get some of the non-fat frozen yogurt, but for the fifth time in as many days, Scully surprises me. "One scoop each of the Bovinity Divinity, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and New York Super Fudge Chunk. In a waffle cone."

"No more non-fat tofutti rice dreamsicles?" I ask her as I pay for our ice cream.

"Not if youíre paying," she replies, licking her ice cream. I push the dirty thoughts out of my mind, then realize they just wonít leave as long as I have to watch her eat.

We sit on the marble steps outside, facing Pennsylvania Ave., eating in silence and watching the cars go by.

Finally, she speaks. "Mulder, youíve got some on your mouth."

Before I can wipe it off, she reaches over and gently wipes the corner of my mouth with her thumb. Then she stands and offers me her hand.

Surprised, I take it, and she pulls me to my feet. We cross the street, still holding hands. I am surprised at her-this is so out of character, so brazen and bold and daring.

I like it.

She holds my hand until the last possible moment, when we open the tinted glass doors and enter the cool darkness of the building. But just as she lets go of my hand, she looks at me with a mischievous smile on her face, and I know that this is not the last I will see of spontaneous Scully.

I should have thrown her in a fountain years ago.

 

Friday, July 23

8:05 PM

I set my phone down with a sigh. So much for my Friday night plans.

I had really been looking forward to seeing Ellen tonight. I havenít seen her in awhile, but the idea of adult conversation that didnít revolve around aliens and cow mutilations was appealing. However, Trent had come down with the flu, and so Ellen called and canceled our plans, apologizing profusely.

Before I could even take off my shoes, the phone rang again. "Hello?"

"What are you doing right now, Scully?" Mulderís voice greeted me.

"At this very moment? Talking on the phone."

I could hear him chuckle. "And after that?"

"I was supposed to have dinner with Ellen, but Trent got sick.......so, nothing. Why?" I sat down on my couch, wondering just what Mulder was thinking.

"What are you wearing?" he asks innocently.

"If you want to talk dirty, call one of your 1-900 numbers," I reply with a smile.

Again, he laughs. "No, I mean, are you dressed and ready to go out? ĎCause Iím going to be pulling up at your place in about.......two minutes, and I donít want to wait for you to primp and all that other girly stuff."

"Where are we going?"

"What happened to spontaneity, Scully?" he asked. "Why do you have to know? Canít you just come out with me and trust that it will be fun?"

I sigh. "Will it require a change of clothing or a passport?"

"Only if youíre nice."

I look down at the slim black skirt and blue satin blouse I am wearing. "If I donít know what weíre doing, how will I know if Iím dressed appropriately?"

"Unless youíre wearing a burlap sack, youíre fine. Now come on down, Scully, Iím sitting here waiting." And with that, he hung up.

With a sigh, I grabbed my handbag and went downstairs. Sure enough, Mulder was sitting in his car, waiting.

He wolf-whistled at me as I slid into the passenger seat. "Looking good, Scully. How come you never dress like that for me?"

I gave him a look as I buckled my seat belt. "Because a) you never take me to places nice enough to warrant dressing like this and b) you never asked."

He smiled. "Thatís all about to change."

As Mulder maneuvered the car through the streets of Georgetown to Pennsylvania Ave., my mind began racing, trying in vain to figure out where he could be taking me. My first thought was back to work, but as we passed the Hoover Building I knew that wasnít it. After Mulder turned down North Capitol Street, I deduced that it also wasnít dinner at The Dubliner or a movie at Union Station. Instead, Mulder drove down through Spring Valley, onto River Road, and turned into Glen Echo Park.

"Glen Echo?" I asked as he pulled into a parking space. For a Friday night, the parking lot was almost full.

"Yeah," he replied, turning the engine off. "Is this a problem?"

"No........Iím just........confused. You brought me to a defunct amusement park."

"Come on," he said, getting out of the car. "Weíre already late."

"Late for what?" I ask as I get out of the car.

"Youíll see."

We walked up the dimly lit blacktop path in silence, his hand warm on the small of my back. I heard the old carousel before I saw it, the music of the calliope filling the air. For a moment I was transported back to my childhood; riding the carousel in Ocean City with Missy, our stomachs full of hot dogs and boardwalk fries and fudge, our hair blowing in the salty ocean air as the carousel went around and around in itís dizzying circle, feeling nauseous and loving every minute of it. I stopped at looked at the brightly colored, well lit carousel and smiled. "Is this it?" I asked Mulder with a smile.

"That comes later," he replied. Taking my arm, he guided me past the carousel and up to another building, this one filled with the sounds of swing music. We stepped into a carpeted hallway and then up four stairs, and I found myself standing at the entrance of an old ballroom, complete with a revolving disco ball. A big band stood on a stage at the far end of the ballroom, with a large banner saying "Welcome to the Starlight Ballroom" hanging over them. Couples of all ages danced to old Cole Porter songs, swaying in time to the music. I was mesmerized.

"May I have this dance?" Mulder asked me, offering his hand.

Speechless and awestruck, I took his hand and we glided out onto the dance floor. "You dance really well, Mulder," I said with surprise.

"Mom made me take cotillion," he replied with a grimace. "I hated every last minute of it.......but I did learn how to dance like Fred Astaire."

"Does that make me Ginger Rogers?"

He smiled down at me. "No......Ginger could dance, but ten bucks says she couldnít fire a gun with the same style and grace as you."

I laughed. "Arenít you full of sweet talk tonight."

"Is that a problem?"

"Only if this means you are up to something and are trying to butter me up."

He gave me a leer as he said, "Butter? Scully.......I never pictured you as the kinky type."

I stopped dancing and raised my eyebrow at him.

"Sorry," he said. "It had to be said."

Despite myself, I smiled and allowed him to dance with me once more.

It was late as we left Glen Echo, but neither Mulder or I really wanted to go home. The ballroom had made things seem........almost magical, and both of us were reluctant to let that image go so easily. The music, the light, and the nostalgic old ballroom had combined to make an evening reminiscent of old Cary Grant movies.

"How about some coffee and dessert?" Mulder suggested as we pulled out of the parking lot.

"Sure."

We ended up at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, browsing through the rows and rows of books.

We started at the self-help section, where Mulder sat down and made me take the ĎAre You Paranoid?í test. I scored in the normal range. Mulder declined to tell me his score, which means he was off the charts.

We spent hours just browsing through the books, reading everything from Steven King short stories to Hegel to the history of Playboy-which, much to Mulderís dismay, was not a photo essay. Eventually I ended up in the travel section of the store, browsing through the guidebooks of Europe.

"Ever been to Europe, Scully?" Mulder asked me as I flipped through a guidebook of London.

"Dad was stationed in Germany for awhile," I replied. "Thatís where I learned German. But we didnít travel much-we pretty much just stayed in Germany. We went to Ireland once, but I donít remember it."

He picked up a guidebook of Rome. "Never went to Italy?"

"Nope."

"Too bad," he replied. "Youíd like it."

I looked over at him. "You went in college?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Travel within Europe wasnít that expensive, so for holidays and stuff, my friends and I would pick a country and bum around until we ran out of money. Skiing in Switzerland, Oktoberfest in Germany, spring break in Greece. But Italy was the most beautiful place I have ever been."

I smiled up at him and sighed. "Well, maybe someday Iíll get there."

Mulderís eyes lit up and I knew something was up. "Why not now?"

"What?"

"Now," he said. "Letís go now."

"Mulder, " I replied, putting the book I had been reading down. "We canít just fly off to Europe! We have jobs, remember? That big ugly building on Pennsylvania Ave? We work there."

He smiled. "The Bureau owes us vacation time. You know it. If we told Skinner we wanted a vacation, weíd get it."

"We have no tickets."

"We can fix that."

The idea was so appealing it frightened me. I wanted to go-badly. Doing this would be the height of spontaneity, would be the most un-Scully-like thing I could possibly do.

I looked up at Mulder. "Okay, Iím game."

I was rewarded by a huge grin.

And that is how, on a beautiful Tuesday evening in late July, I ended up standing in front of the Pantheon with Mulder, eating a huge cone of gelato.

"Beautiful, isnít it?" he said, taking a bite of his cone.

"Yeah." I turned to him. "Iím glad we did this."

"Me, too."

"Thanks."

"For what?"

"For this," I said, gesturing to my surroundings. "For making me do something as foolish and crazy as take off to Rome with you on a momentís notice for what will undoubtedly be the most incredible vacation of my life."

He gave me an enormous grin. "You ainít seen nothiní yet, Scully. Now letís get those little legs moving........thereís a fountain Iíve been dreaming about throwing you in."