Timeline: 6x2 Drive
Category: Post Episode
"And you apologize for him a lot. I've noticed that about you."
No need this time, AD Kersh. Her partner was right; he'd done the right thing. If that wasn't what law enforcement was supposed to be about then she didn't know what the point was. Of course, she knew better logically. Law enforcement was just like anything else—you followed the rules and you kept your job, as long as you did the requisite ass-kissing. She had developed a virulent case of cynicism: perhaps their office was infected with it, like the mold spores that she was convinced floated through the air of their basement lair.
So, back to shoveling shit. The next pile of manure would soon be calling to them from God knows where and they'd be off on a pointless search for domestic terrorists. It was hard not to be cynical when they were using the thumb screws so adroitly on their partnership. And yet she could still take pride in the fact that they'd managed to make a difference in spite of everything.
"Because of his work, the DOD is shutting down their antenna array in northeastern Nevada. Our participation in this case has saved lives."
They weren't always able to save lives like that. Mulder might still be more concerned about the lives already lost, but Scully couldn't help but feel good.
Things were good. Obviously not entirely. They had Kersh riding their asses, and she was the one that had to put a nice face on about the whole thing, so Mulder wouldn't go completely crazy. But all things considered, things were good. They had a renewed understanding; their partnership was clicking on all four cylinders. She had her health. And Mulder was once again back in one piece. These were things she had come to not take for granted.
It still burned though. That Kersh was a real son of a bitch.
"You want to grab something to drink?"
Mulder looked at the wall as he gathered his things. Surely he had misheard his partner.
"Mulder," she said in her—are you deaf?—tone of voice.
"Coffee?" he asked, as if this is what she intended at six in the evening.
"No. A drink. Something cold that will numb my nerves so I can sleep tonight."
Mulder folded his coat over his arm. "You have trouble sleeping?"
"I do after a day like this," she replied picking up her briefcase. "You coming, Mulder?"
He held the door for her as she brushed by him. "Yeah, sure." What was he going to do? Say no?
"You a big drinker, Scully?" he asked, swirling the whiskey and ice in the Old Fashioned glass.
She leaned forward almost imperceptibly, perhaps because of the noise in the tavern. Perhaps because half of her vodka tonic was already drained. The thought made him shuffle his legs restlessly under the table.
Neither was he, unless he was intent on beating himself up. Today hadn't been a good day, but he hadn't remotely planned on getting drunk over it. He still didn't—he needed his wits about him.
"A glass of wine is nice every once and awhile. I don't keep it in the apartment though," she continued.
"Someone tell you not to drink alone?" he teased.
"No one to share it with," she replied, raising one of her delicately arched red eyebrows.
Mulder tipped his glass back, taking a large swallow and letting the cool ice bump his lips. Better to say nothing: he didn't want to go down that road with her. It wasn't even worth expending one of his sarcastic one-liners.
"We did the right thing…you did," she continued. "Getting dressed down for it was unfair."
Was Scully still holding onto the notion that things could be fair?
She tucked a strand of her red hair behind her ear and pursed her lips: "And I just needed a drink," she explained, picking up her glass as if to prove her point.
"It's not the first time we've gotten our asses handed to us," he said, looking into the glass that was now largely melting cubes of ice.
"And it won't be the last," she said sliding out of the booth and grabbing for his glass, her fingers entangling in his for a moment. "You want another?" she asked.
'No,' he thought. "Sure," he responded automatically.
He just wanted to keep sitting here with her and if he had to keep knocking back glasses of whiskey, then he'd do his best.
He watched her as she walked towards the bar, weaving through tables of people in sweaters, baseball caps, and ragged jeans; she made quite a counterpoint dressed in a black suit, black high heels, and a crisp white blouse. She looked ridiculous in her surroundings. It made Mulder smile. He didn't fantasize about her in naughty black lingerie or skimpy tops and tight pants; he imagined her in these suits with the calf grazing pencil skirts and nude stockings. He drummed his fingers on the wood of the table and glanced over at a TV hung from the ceiling. Better to think about the game than start indulging in x-rated thoughts. That was the problem with drinking—it made him act like an ass.
"The Knicks are winning," he said as she slid back into the booth and pushed his fresh glass across the table towards him.
Mulder looked away from the game to his partner and caught her slight smile. "It could be of great importance, you know. I could have money on this game."
"Then it's just men playing with a ball."
Mulder resisted the urge to make an innuendo. "So, you don't watch sports. And instead…you entertain yourself by coming to bars after work?"
"Oh, every night, Mulder. I'm a regular."
"But you usually drink ginger ale."
She shook her head, tipping back her glass: "Shirley Temples."
"Hmmm…I'm more of a Roy Rogers man, myself."
"I can get you one," she said, leaning across the table and making a grab for his glass.
His hand tightened around the glass, his knuckles turning white. "Oh no, you don't. It was a bad day," he said, a smile playing on his lips.
She sat back in the booth, leaning her head against the tall wooden back and closing her eyes for a moment. There was a growing flush to her cheeks that belied her condition. His legs moved restlessly again at the realization. Surely she had no notion of what she did to him without even trying. If she knew, she'd be moving for the exit.
"Where do you think we'll be heading next?" she asked, opening her eyes and taking another sip from her fresh drink.
"South Dakota," he guessed with a shrug before stirring his drink with his index finger.
"Lots of homegrown terrorists in South Dakota?"
"Maybe. Or maybe lots of piles of manure."
"Well, that's got to be nice this time of year."
"The manure?" Frozen piles of shit—that would be novel.
"No, South Dakota."
He pictured the God forsaken stretches of barren frozen landscape through which they'd have to drive before reaching their assignment.
"Yeah, nice with ten feet of snow."
"Snow's not all bad."
"Snow's fun when you're ten," he agreed.
"Not just when you're ten. I bet you ski."
He shook his glass and took another swallow. "There's no skiing in South Dakota, Scully."
"I know, but I'm right nonetheless."
"Yeah, I bet in addition to a house in Martha's Vineyard, you also spent time in a ski lodge in preppy turtleneck sweaters."
He leaned his chin on his hand, looking into her blue eyes without responding.
"I'm right, aren't I?" She looked rather victorious.
"I haven't skied in years," he answered. Mulder picked up the beer coaster and fingered its edges, which were growing warped by the condensation from his glass. "Military brats don't ski?" he asked.
"Definitely not. A base pool, tennis courts sometimes, but definitely not a mountain slope."
He tossed the coaster down and snaked out his hand to grip her forearm that rested on the table. "It's a shame. You'd make a first-class snow bunny."
Scully tried to pull her arm away, but he refused to let it go.
"No more whiskey for you," she said through slitted eyes.
He sat back, finally releasing her. The whiskey was making him less careful, but he noted that she wasn't truly angry, just gamely playing along.
"I may not be a regular here, but I think the bartender will take my money just the same."
"Are you getting up?" she asked, her eyes brightening.
He looked at her glass, which was nearly empty. She was drinking too quickly for her size and weight.
"Maybe," he said, finishing the last of his drink. "You want another?" he asked.
"Are you buying?"
"For you, sure."
She tossed back the remaining swallow and slid the empty glass towards him.
Scully pinched herself under the table, so Mulder wouldn't see the test she was performing. No, she wasn't feeling that like she should be. She had overindulged. Mulder was in the middle of some meandering tale punctuated by self-motivated guffaws.
She interrupted him: "Mulder, I can't drive."
He stopped and swallowed. They'd taken her car to the bar, when they'd left the office a few hours earlier.
"That's okay, I'll drive."
Scully reached across the table, grasping Mulder's hand in her own. "Come here," she urged.
He looked confused and she tugged on his hand.
"Let me look at your pupils," she explained.
He dutifully leaned across the table and Scully performed her brief examination, during which she could smell the whiskey on his breath. "You can't drive either," she said releasing his hand. She checked her watch. It was late and they had work the next day. Not much time to sober up. "We'll have to get a cab."
"And ditch your car here?"
"We could get some coffee and sober up."
"It's late, Mulder. We have to be at work tomorrow morning."
His face fell; perhaps he hadn't remembered about work.
"You want to leave now?" he asked.
Scully picked her suit jacket off the booth bench next to her, where she had discarded it. "I think we better."
"Okay," he said, mimicking her gesture and gathering up his things.
He held the door for her as they walked out into the chill of the evening.
"Our briefcases are in your trunk," he said as he placed his hand on the small of her back.
It was a good thing he still had the sense to remember these things.
"Right," she said walking towards the small parking lot.
They approached her car and she dug in her suit jacket for her keys. Mulder pulled something out of his pants pocket and Scully glanced over as she heard jingling.
"You gave them to me," he said, dangling them in front of her before unlocking the trunk and hefting the two briefcases out. "Neither of us will have a car," he said as he slammed the trunk closed. "Tomorrow morning," he continued, when Scully failed to respond.
'Damn!' She wasn't going to have them both arrive in cabs tomorrow morning.
"You know what would be good right now?" he asked, grasping her arm and directing her back towards the street.
"Yeah, glazed donuts. There's a 24 hour place that makes them fresh a couple of blocks from here."
"I don't eat donuts."
"People don't make bagels with no fat cream cheese at this hour, Scully," he retorted.
She began to slow down, as if to prevent herself from being led to the donut shop.
"Come on, it'll be my treat. Aren't you hungry?"
She was. Somehow they'd missed dinner. That probably wasn't helping her situation. "And then we'll get a cab?" she asked.
She had to admit the smell in the donut shop was intoxicating and her stomach rumbled as she watched the young man wrap the donuts in wax paper with the warm glaze sliding off in flaky pieces. Mulder took the donuts and handed her one. She eyed it in her hand. This was not on her diet. She took a nibble: if possible, it tasted better than it looked. The cash register drawer popped open and Mulder waved off the change as they exited the store and headed back into the chilly night.
"You cold?" Mulder asked as he held his arm out to hail a cab.
He took a monstrous bite of his donut. It would be gone in seconds, Scully considered as she still nibbled away on hers.
"No," she lied.
He'd probably noticed her shivering as soon as they hit the cold air. He dropped his arm, shrugging off his jacket and shoving the rest of the donut in his mouth. He slipped the trench around her shoulders and she could tell without looking that the bottoms of it were brushing the ground.
"Thanks," she responded as a cab pulled over and Mulder grabbed the door handle.
It was warmer in the cab, but not by much. Probably a busted heater. Mulder shouldered in next to her in the cramped back bench seat of the car and pulled the door closed. She dimly took note that Mulder barked her address at the cabbie, as she took another tiny bite of her now cooled donut.
"I could eat six of those," he said, eyeing up what was left of her donut.
She waved her hand in front of him and nodded her head: "here."
He raised his brows in surprise before taking a huge bite.
"Watch my fingers," she laughed.
"You need these?" he asked, going in for another bite and feigning as if to sample one of her digits.
"Professionally, I do."
"Personally?" he teased, licking glaze from his lips.
"I think I'd get by with a hook."
"I'd miss them," he said, shaking his head and looking out the window.
"Well, I won't have any trouble sleeping," Scully said with a sigh, pulling the coat around herself tighter to keep out the chill.
"What will we do tomorrow morning?" he asked, his tone serious for the first time.
"I'll arrange for a cab to pick you up at seven," she answered.
"Just don't sleep through your alarm," she advised.
She didn't usually have to worry about Mulder oversleeping.
"I won't. And you?" he asked, looking back at her.
"I'll do the same and pick up my car before work."
He watched her, seemingly sizing her up. "No one will know," he said in a reassuring tone before fumbling on the seat and finding her hand.
She swallowed. He could read her far too easily tonight. They turned a corner and her briefcase tipped over knocking into her calf; she let go of Mulder's hand and reached down to right it.
The cab pulled to a halt and she glanced past Mulder at her apartment building.
"One more stop," Mulder instructed the cabbie as he opened the door and waited for Scully to hand him her briefcase.
She struggled for a moment in the cab, shrugging off his trench coat that had become tangled in the seatbelt. She slid across the bench and took his proffered hand so as to steady herself as her heels hit the pavement. She stepped up onto the curb, gaining several inches back in height differential from him.
Scully lifted her briefcase off the sidewalk, feeling awkward now that she had to say her goodbyes. She knew it was ridiculous. Mulder gripped her arm and pulled her into a half embrace, pressing a kiss on the top of her head.
"Night, Scully," he said before letting go of her and ducking back into the cab.
Scully studiously looked forward as she walked towards her apartment, hearing the cab pull away into the night.