Scully pulled the invitation from her calendar, reading it again. She wasn't sure why she had been invited, not having spoken to Kelly in years, but the idea of a costume party was kind of exciting. If it meant getting out of Washington D.C. for a few days over the weekend on pleasure instead of business she was all for it. She had quickly filled out the response card, putting herself down as two attending weeks before, but now she wasn't so sure she wanted to bring anyone.
She had been seeing a man for a couple of months, Steve. She knew if she asked him he would be more than happy to go with her, but for some reason she hadn't even mentioned it to him. He was nice and she enjoyed his company, but there was no chemistry between them. They hadn't even slept together; the thought wasn't appealing to her and the idea of a weekend with him wasn't what she had in mind. She knew what ideas the suggestion would put into his mind.
At that moment, Mulder entered the office and she instantly plastered her best smile on her face. He had a few days off. She knew he still planned on working just with no intention of coming into the office. So, she was surprised to see him. He was dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt and a black leather jacket. He glanced at Scully briefly.
"Good morning, Mulder."
"Morning, Scully. You seem to be in a good mood today. Should I assume it's because you weren't expecting me to be in the office today? Or is it something altogether different?"
He took a file from his desk drawer, giving her a curious look. Mulder knew Scully had been seeing somebody. She hadn't mentioned it, but there were enough blatant clues she didn't need to mention it. The calls to her at the office that were instantly met with her lowering her voice and making some lame excuse as to the caller being her mother or brother. He noticed in her apartment the other day when he was waiting for her to change that there were roses in the kitchen. When he saw the roses curiosity got the best of him. He couldn't help himself, looking in her refrigerator he saw a bottle of wine and in the freezer were two goblets chilling. He hadn't said anything; it was none of his business. Obviously, she didn't want him to know or she would have mentioned it.
Scully raised her eyes to him, lifting her head slightly from whatever held her attention.
"Not at all, Mulder. I just wasn't expecting you and you startled me. Being stuck down here in the basement gets a little creepy sometimes. I hear footsteps and instantly assume it's someone lost rather than someone actually coming to see me."
Scully peered at the invitation, her glance moving to Mulder and then back to the invitation. Maybe she should ask him. She knew he would go without any repercussions coming out of the weekend. Truth was Scully didn't think she want a relationship. It was becoming more and more obvious to her, and if this party wasn't proof of it she didn't know what it would take. She sighed inwardly.
True, Steve was a nice guy. He was fairly intelligent, could be funny, wasn't bad on the eyes, but there was just no physical attraction there. How long could she go on like that, she wondered, certainly not indefinitely. She knew that she would have to tell him and end it before either one of them got hurt.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. It used to bother me at first, more because I knew they put me down here to hide me, to keep me out of the line of site from everyone else. Now I kind of like being down here. No one bothers me, and I don't have to partake in office gossip." He ran a finger along the edge of the file folder he held.
"Well, I suppose I should get going. I'll catch you later, Scully. Don't work too hard." He started toward the door and stopped. "Did you say something, Scully?"
Scully hadn't even paid attention to the fact that he had started to leave their office until she heard him say her name.
"What? No, Mulder, I'm just a little out of it today." She looked at the invitation again and said, "Mulder? I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I have a party to attend this weekend in Atlanta. It's a costume party that an old college friend of mine is throwing. I was thinking that maybe you'd like to come with me." She looked at him again, expecting his response to be an immediate no. She was surprised to notice he didn't seem to be laughing at her.
"Nothing like waiting until the last minute to ask me, Scully." He raised his eyebrows slightly. "A costume party, huh? Well, it so happens that my schedule is clear for the weekend. What will you be going as?" He tried to think of a costume, not being the costume type he realized he'd have to work on it.
"I can't tell you, Mulder, that would ruin the fun. There's an unmasking at midnight. Until then, you'll just have to figure out which of the fair ladies in attendance is me." She lowered her eyes again. "I appreciate it, Mulder. My other option was not nearly as appealing."
She gave him a coy smile, realizing the statement was vague and could mean so many things. She liked it better that way. She didn't owe Mulder any other explanation. Though asking him at the last minute might give him the impression she was stood up, or desperate. She didn't think the latter would enter his mind.
"Let me give you the information. I can book your flight if you'd like, I'll see if we can't get adjoining seats. But Mulder, you do realize you'll have to come as something." She rolled her eyes slightly, trying to envision the costume he might come up with, hoping against all hope that these pictures were wrong.
"Yes, of course, Scully. I've already got something in mind. I assure you, I'll pass with flying colors. But I don't even get a hint of which costume will be yours?" He held up his hand with a smile and a sigh. "All right, I won't ask again. Just leave me a message on my machine with the flight information and I'll meet you at the airport Friday." He turned, waving good bye to her from over his shoulder. "A costume party. I hope you know, Scully, if it were anybody but you I wouldn't be doing this."
Scully couldn't help but laugh. She knew he told the truth. Costume parties didn't strike her as being Mulder's cup of tea. She picked up the phone and placed a call to her friend, Kelly, in Atlanta whose party it was she was attending. She felt like talking to her, knowing that she wouldn't have the chance to over the weekend at the party. They talked for a while, catching up on idle gossip they hadn't filled one another in on until now. Scully hung up the phone, realizing over an hour had gone by. Finishing up a few odds and ends, it was soon time for her to go home. She glanced at Mulder's bare desk before turning off the light and shutting the door behind her.
Friday afternoon came and true to his word, Mulder was at the airport waiting at the gate when Scully arrived. She silently breathed a sigh of relief. She still hadn't talked to Steve; he didn't even know where she was going this weekend. She was going to kick herself if Mulder decided at the last minute not to go with her. She didn't know what she would have done if that had happened. She was no wallflower, and she was sure there would be other friends there from college but the idea still didn't appeal to her.
Four hours later they landed in Atlanta, collected their bags and were taken to their hotel where they had separate rooms. They had dinner at the hotel that evening followed by drinks and them both going up to their rooms early.
Scully returned to her room, pleased to see her outfit for the following evening had been pressed as she requested. She took one last look at it before hanging it in her closet, happy with her choice. She got ready for bed, watched some television while eating an apple and fell asleep.
She ordered room service in the morning, enjoying the luxury of being able to sleep in and eat in her pajamas. She had an appointment that afternoon to get her hair and her nails done, luxuries she rarely indulged in. She knew Mulder wasn't happy with her, not allowing him to see her until the unveiling at midnight. But she wanted to keep that air of mystery about the evening. What was the point of a costume party if the person who knew her best had any sort of clue as to what her costume was for the evening? As she dressed for the evening, she found herself wondering what Mulder was going as and whether or not she would recognize him.
Mulder didn't sleep well that night. Scully had been unusually conversational over dinner, yet still neglected to tell him about her mystery man. Maybe there wasn't a guy, he thought. Maybe she'd had a date and the roses were a day-after gesture from some guy who still thought chivalry existed.
He didn't think so, but what was really bothering him, what was really keeping him awake was why he even gave it a second thought. After managing a few hours of sleep, he woke to his cell phone ringing. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he took the phone from the desk next to the bed he answered with, "Mulder." Silence on his end followed by, "Thank you. I'll be right over to pick it up."
He put the phone down, showered and dressed in a pair of stone washed jeans and a black T-shirt. He ran his errands, returning to the hotel in plenty of time. He tried to reach Scully's room, but she did not answer. Whether she was there and just not answering he did not know. He looked at his watch, it was still early but he wouldn't put it past her to leave early just to avoid him running into her in the lobby.
She had made sure he had an invitation to get in, so that wasn't a concern. He finished dressing, looking in the mirror at himself. It wasn't much of a costume. Scully would obviously know exactly who he was. Somehow he knew he wouldn't have the same luxury in return. He could only imagine what she might be going as. Dressed in a sleek black tuxedo, a white tuxedo shirt with black button covers, a black tie, a black cummerbund and black cufflinks, Mulder adjusted his tie as he rode in the elevator to the lobby.
He caught a taxi, which took him to the Ritz Carlton. Whoever Scully's friend was, she knew how to give a party. While he had never been to a Ritz Carlton, for some reason these hotels weren't on the FBI's approved accommodations list, he knew its reputation. He laughed slightly thinking had he wondered why before, the answer was obvious as he stood at the entrance. He adjusted his shirt cuffs as he entered the hotel and made his way to the ballroom, where he presented the doorman with his invitation and made his entrance. He found his way to the bar, getting himself a Bushmills and turned to watch the goings on. He wasn't sure if Scully had arrived, but given his attire knew if she wanted to make her presence known to him she would.
Scully stood nearby in a floor length, body hugging wine colored, velvet ball gown. Every curve from her chest to her waist was accentuated. The sleeves were short and off the shoulder with feathers dyed to match the dress giving the shoulders a poofy appearance. The dress was generously low-cut, leaving most of her chest, back and shoulders bare and exposed. She wore gloves also the same color and had a sheer floor length wrap in a creme that draped over both of her bare arms and along the back and sides of the dress. Her hair was off her face and behind her ears, a pair of pearl ear bobs her only adornment.
She was talking to some of her friends not far from the bar when Mulder came in. He was hard to miss, her eyes followed him as he walked to the bar, she should have known. She laughed as one of the other girls she was with told a joke, all the while thinking how nice Mulder looked in a tuxedo. She knew he hadn't spotted her yet, and took advantage of it, allowing herself to stare at him a little longer than she normally would have. She excused herself, making her way to Mulder and the bar. Suddenly she felt very exposed, and briefly thought of turning away but she continued on her path toward him. "Excuse me, sir, could you hand me one of those napkins behind you?"
Mulder grabbed one of the cocktail napkins and turning toward the requester, he couldn't help but stare. He didn't even look at her face. His eyes were immediately drawn to her bare shoulders and chest, to her hips, back up to her chest and then after what seemed an eternity he looked at her face. If she was anywhere near as nice looking as her body was he might not be in for a bad evening after all. The surprise was evident on his face as he realized who it was. He was speechless as he handed her the napkins.
"Scully? Wow." He couldn't keep his eyes off her. She was riveting, breathe taking.
Scully smiled despite her best efforts not to. She wasn't sure why it pleased her to know that Mulder obviously found her appealing, but it did. "Yes, Mulder, you were so very difficult to find in that get up, I hardly recognized you. Just who are you supposed to be? The butler?"
Mulder laughed, "Why, James Bond, of course." He adjusted his cuff links as the orchestra started to play. "I don't suppose I could interest you in a dance? Or do you already have too many offers for you to fill tonight? Dressed like that I wouldn't be surprised if you'd captured the attentions of every man in the room." His eyes again drifted to her shoulders and chest, then up to her eyes again. "Not to sound ignorant, Scully, but just who are you supposed to be?"
Scully laughed as she followed him to the dance floor. They began to dance.
"You mean you don't know, Mulder? I'm not telling you if you don't know, but she's one of Atlanta's most famous fictional characters. And yes, I've had offers to dance, but I was saving the first one for you. You are after all my date. That would be rather rude, wouldn't it?" she laughed, resting her head on his shoulder as Sinatra's IThe Way You Look Tonight/I started.
The song ended and Scully brought Mulder to meet some of her friends. They talked and when Mulder had gone to get them both a refill on their drinks, Scully was bombarded with questions about who Mulder was. Much to their disappointment, she informed them all he was her partner and her friend, nothing else.
One of them looked from Mulder to Scully, shaking her head.
"I don't know, Dana, but I see the way he looks at you. Maybe you should consider the just friends thing. He's nice looking. He looks good in a tuxedo and obviously isn't afraid to wear one, and dances fairly well from what I observed. As long as he's not stupid and can hold a conversation with you what more is there for you to ask for? I don't know, but maybe you're looking in the wrong places, or expecting too much. I mean, he can't keep his eyes off you." She laughed wickedly, "And I believe the opposite is true as well."
Scully dismissed her friend's statement as Mulder returned with their drinks, "I hope I got it right, Scully. Both our drinks look the same, if I have an Amaretto sour instead of my Bushmills I'll be none to happy." He smelled his glass, confident in the fact he did indeed have his drink and not hers he took a wip.
The majority of the evening passed by in a blur. Scully was surprised at how comfortable Mulder was talking with her friends, and how the feelings were mutual. She was so used to her family not caring for him, that she took it for granted at times that everyone she knew wouldn't. Of course, these people knew nothing about him or their past.
The evening was drawing to a close and it was announced that the next dance would be the last of the evening. Mulder looked over at Scully, "Should we one last time, Scully? I don't think we'll ever be in this situation again, so we may as well take advantage of it."
Scully took his offered hand as they walked to the dance floor and danced to Tony Bennett's IWhat A Difference A Day Makes/I.
"I hope you had a good time, Mulder. My friends sure seem to like you." She laughed as she tightened her grasp around his neck, "You'll never believe what my friend, Angela said. She seems to think we should be more than partners and friends."
Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with memories over the years when they had been mistaken for a couple and even husband and wife. Maybe there was something to that, she wondered. The case or two they had to pose as husband and wife, they inevitably pulled off such a task without a hitch to the amazement of Skinner who thought for sure that they would fail at pulling off such a cover. Surely two people who have never been married and who have never even been close to being married couldn't have a clue about how to pretend to be married, he had said. Scully looked into his eyes, "That is rather strange, don't you think, Mulder?"
Mulder returned the gaze, using his arm at her back to pull her closer as he guided her on the dance floor. "No, I don't think that's so strange. I think you know me better than anyone else. I certainly spend more time with you than anyone else. Maybe if I were to send you roses you'd look at me differently."
There he had brought it up. He continued holding her close, enjoying the feel of her bare skin against his hand.
Scully was startled. How did he know about the roses? He must have been in her apartment, but she couldn't remember.
"Mulder. That's not it at all." She cast her eyes down, thinking. "I don't love him, Mulder. He's nice and everything, but┘" she trailed off not knowing how to finish the sentence. As the song ended, she reached up and kissed him. "He's not you, Mulder." She hoped she hadn't opened her heart to him in haste. She would feel very foolish having said that if he didn't feel anything for her.
Mulder was startled by her kiss; it certainly wasn't something he had been expecting. He tried to think of a response to what she had said; his eyes focused on her lips.
"I guess I should count my blessings that he's not me then, because here I am with by far the most attractive woman in this room." He kissed her and when they parted said, "I believe the song has ended, Scully. Your friends are staring at us." He gestured over to where they had spent most of the night, where indeed they were watching them.
"Let them look. All they're going to tell me when I go back to them is that they told me so." She shrugged, bringing her hands to his face and her lips to his. She placed her hand in his after they kissed and walked with him to say good night to her friends.
They got a cab and returned to their hotel, Scully looking questioningly at him in the lobby. "Now what, Mulder?" She smiled slightly, evidently leaving it up to him.
Mulder couldn't help but notice the looks they were getting; rather, that Scully was getting, as they stood in the hotel lobby. "Well, I suppose you'll need some help getting out of that dress. I'd be more than happy to give you a helping hand. After all, what are friends for?" He raised his eyebrows slightly, "Your room or mine, Scully?"
Scully laughed. She had no idea what she was getting herself into; neither did he she imagined. "I think my room would be better, Mulder. I never know what I might find in yours. And yes, help getting out of this dress would be most welcome. It's rather uncomfortable, so don't expect to see me dressed like this again anytime soon. Besides, I get the impression you're more interested in seeing me out of it then you were in it." She brought her wrap around her arms as Mulder placed his arm about the small of her back leading her to the elevators and to her room.