Takes place right before "En Ami".

Author's Notes: Just a cute story to play with their relationship pre-"all things". Not serious, meant to be fun and funny, my first foray into writing from Mulder's POV. This was enjoyable to write and thanks again to Alia for catching my silly mistakes.

Making It Up
y Suzanne L. Feld
Rated PG-13 for language

March 2000


I couldn't help but watch her across the table as she gracefully deflected all the questions, keeping our story straight, not quite lying while not quite telling the truth. She glanced at me once in a while with a smile, still talking to my female relatives as they questioned her almost as well as she or I would have grilled a murder suspect. The Mulder-side women can be relentless, but they'd met their match in my looked like a million bucks in a dark blue silk blouse and black slacks, and I was incredibly proud to have her as my date as I watched her fending off my relatives with finesse and aplomb.

When my vaguely-remembered cousin Nathan had called out of the blue several months ago and asked me to be in his wedding party I couldn't refuse; we'd been good friends as kids but had lost touch as adults. It wasn't until he called last week and reminded me to be sure to bring a date that I began to panic. Hence, Scully's timely rescue in agreeing to come with me. What she wasn't too happy about was that I had all but begged her to pretend to be my girlfriend, not my partner, but she'd grudgingly agreed when I explained how I'd have women thrown at me from all directions if anyone found out that she and I weren't romantically involved. And since this was my father's side of the family, no one knew a thing about my present life or job other than I worked for the Bureau just like he had.

I owed her a lot for this long weekend of putting up with my relatives, and wondered how I could ever pay her back for the favor. At least, for once, we were staying in a nice luxury hotel with an indoor hot tub, Olympic-sized pool, exercise room, and sauna—but that's because it was on my dime. It was affordable by the fact that I only had to pay for one room, which she'd agreed to so we could keep up appearances as long as it had two beds—and it did. I'd also vowed to myself to take her out for really nice meals when we weren't doing some wedding-related-thing with the family, but I knew I'd have to think of something more to make it up to her. I wasn't sure if a nice gift like a not-too-expensive bracelet or something was appropriate, but I'd think on it over the weekend.

Right now we were in the midst of having the night-before dinner at an expensive restaurant, where everyone in the wedding party and their dates/significant others were getting to know each other. The rehearsal had been earlier today, I'd picked up my tux, and all was ready for tomorrow afternoon's ceremony. I was just relieved that I was only one of the six groomsmen and not the best man, because that poor guy had been kept hopping from dusk to dawn today.

Dessert was cleared and coffee served and, at long last, I felt we could reasonably leave. I knew Scully wanted to spend some time in the hot tub at the hotel, and I wouldn't mind swimming a few laps myself. But as soon as I stood, trying to make excuses, all hell broke loose. The end result was that I was back in my chair, watching poor Scully fending off my relatives, until I heard the music and turned to look towards the front of the restaurant. A possible sanctuary beckoned: a small dance floor was slowly filling with couples dancing to the piano quintet in the corner that was just starting a Strauss waltz.

"Ladies, ladies, you won't deny me this dance, will you?" I said, rising again and going over to hold out my hand to Scully amongst the gaggle of females. "Take pity on me, I've hardly seen my lovely Dana all day!"

To a chorus of commiserating remarks I got her away from them, leading her to the dance floor. "You all right, Scully?"

"Yeah, but now I know how our suspects feel, Mulder," she said, half-smiling up at me as we began the waltz. Our usual uncanny telepathy was at work here, too, I saw. "You weren't kidding about your aunts."

"Glad I warned you," I said as I spun her past a slower-moving couple. "I'll get us out of here as fast as I can."

"Don't worry about it, it's not that bad," she said, following me step-for-step as we waltzed the length of the tiny dance floor. I'd already known Scully was a good dancer, and wished we had more chances to dance together. For once I was actually using something I'd learned as a child, when all of us boys had to go to Mrs. Crichton's Dance Academy for three months to learn the basic steps when we were in seventh grade. "They mean well, and they all seem to like you a lot."

I grimaced. "They don't know me, and they're just being nice since both of my parents are gone now," I said as we swung around to head back to the other end of the floor.

"You don't know that. Your Aunt Charlotte is sweet, and very impressed that we're both FBI agents," she scolded as the music finished and we separated. I already missed the feeling of her hand in mine, the muscles of her back and waist moving beneath my other arm and hand. Then the little group began playing again, something very slow that I didn't recognize, and I was about to head off the floor when Scully grabbed my forearm to halt me, then reached up and put her arms around my neck. "Hey, G-man, I'm not done dancing—after I spent most of the day waiting for you, you can at least indulge me on this," she said as my arms automatically went around her waist.

I pulled her as close as I dared, her breasts just brushing my chest, which was probably closer than we'd ever been unless it was some type of emergency, usually one of us hurt. "Glad to be of service," I grinned down at her as we swayed to the music, feet only moving a brief step every beat. "You know we'll be able to dance to our hearts' content for most of tomorrow."

"And to mine tonight," she amended, laying her head against my chest beneath my chin as she leaned against me—she wasn't wearing her usual three-inch heels and the top of her head barely came to my shoulder. My heart skipped a beat as her body came full against mine, but I didn't falter in the dance although I did pull her in a little closer. God, she felt and smelled good, I thought as I dipped my head to nuzzle her hair. "So, think we're putting on a good enough show for the nosy relatives?" she added, breaking the mood though we didn't move apart at all.

"Yes, and thank you again," I said, though I was rather bummed by her words. Still, I could fantasize that we really were what we pretended to be: lovers. "I really owe you one for this, Scully."

"Yes, you do," she chuckled, but didn't move away and stayed pressed up against me as we slowly circled the floor among other cuddling couples. "Don't worry, I'll think of something suitably torturous, like going clothes shopping with me and carrying my bags."

"Oh, God," I groaned, and didn't admit to her that that actually sounded like fun. Getting to watch Scully trying on a bunch of different outfits would be worth any residual boredom during the proceedings. "Why don't you just chop off my 'nads and have done with it?"

She chuckled, her breath brushing against my neck as she titled her head back. "Because that would be too quick," she said, smiling up at me. "On the other hand, I am a doctor and could--"

Out of the corner of my eye I caught my cousin Hugh coming towards us and knew he was going to cut in. He'd been staring at her all through dinner and I didn't like it. "Scully, I'm going to kiss you, don't freak," I said, interrupting her, and leaned forward to press my lips to hers just like I had on New Year's Eve a few months back. At the same time I moved her towards the back of the dance floor, putting at least three other couples between us and Hugh. When I lifted my head, smiling down at her surprised look, I said quickly, "My asshole cousin Hugh was heading for us—if we really were involved, I wouldn't want you dancing with him, and regardless I don't want you to have to fight off his roaming hands," I explained quickly.

"I've already been warned about him by your aunts," she said, reaching up and touching my lips—wiping away traces of her lipstick, I realized. But the feeling of her fingers on my mouth and her body against mine and the memory of that kiss was finally bringing about the one reaction I'd been worried about since we got on the dance floor. I had to move away from her a little, the soft music finishing with a flourish just in the nick of time.

"Why don't we go get some air?" I suggested, almost desperately willing my body to calm the hell down. I was wearing a pair of tailored slacks and a button-down shirt with no jacket, and there was no way I was going to be able to hide a physical reaction if I didn't stop it now. Grabbing her hand, I headed for the open-air patio where I'd seen the smokers going.

"Mulder, it's March, it's maybe thirty degrees out there and windy!" she protested, but followed along. "We should at least get our coats."

"I need the cold," I muttered sotto voice, pushing through the doors then holding one for her. Louder I added, "You don't have to stay out here with me, but I need some air."

Keeping hold of my hand, she moved to the end of the patio with me past two small groups of huddled smokers on either side. The restaurant was at the end of a long spit of land out into Long Island Sound and we were right on the water, a chill ocean breeze gusting in our faces. The smell of the salt air brought back dozens of childhood memories, but I felt Scully shivering through our linked hands and I pushed the memories away to concentrate on her. I put my arm around her and pulled her close, rubbing her silk-clad shoulder. She put both arms around me and leaned against me, and the hard-on that had begun to deflate paused to consider the feel of the front of her small, soft yet firm body pressed against my side. "You'd better keep me warm, Mulder, because I have another choice between standing out here freezing with you or being in there dealing with your Russian-handed cousin. It's called taking the car keys and driving back to the hotel myself."

Foiled again. "Well, come on, let's get going then unless you want to try and dance some more," I said, hustling her back towards the doors past the still-puffing, still-shivering smokers. "Maybe if you're lucky Uncle Stephen will ask you instead—he used to be a chorus line dancer for the likes of Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire on Broadway in the 1930s."

"How old is he?" she asked as she preceded me into the building.

"Ninety if a day, but I saw him on the dance floor with us," I said, recapturing her hand as we passed the band on the way to the tables. "It's getting late so he may have left already, but if so I'll see that you get a dance with him tomorrow."

I was relieved to see that quite a few people from our party had left by now, including Hugh, so there was little trouble with grabbing our coats and Scully's purse and scurrying out of there. I had driven us up from DC in my car, but hadn't cleaned out the back seat so I didn't want the valets to park it. I had Scully wait inside the front doors while I walked across the parking lot and got it; I was still feeling my indebtedness to her despite her repeated slapdowns of my romantic efforts.

Is that what I was doing? I thought as I unlocked the car and got in. Trying to romance her? Well, sort of. I was never quite sure enough of our relationship to take it to the next level, but if she wanted to I was so there. I got the car started and blasted the heat to high so it would be halfway decent when Scully got in, still lost in thought, sitting and shivering in my leather jacket as I waited for warmth. What would I do if she responded to one of my clumsy, overeager overtures one of these days? Probably fall over in shock and totally miss the opportunity, I thought with a chuckle as I put the car in gear. Just-barely-warm air was blasting from the vents as I drove back to the front doors, and I turned the fan down enough so we could hear each other before pulling up.

"Jesus, Mulder, took you long enough—that valet who looks all of fifteen was coming on to me!" Scully snapped as she got in the car and fastened her seat belt. "He's damn lucky I'm not packing, I'm not sure I could have resisted the temptation."

"I was trying to let the car warm up a little before you got in," I explained stiffly as I drove away from the restaurant. Had one obnoxious kid really annoyed her that much? She sounded really pissed off.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you," she said, turning towards me, huddling down in her black wool coat. "When we get back to the hotel, want to go for a swim?"

I wanted to stay annoyed with her, but it was impossible and I had to grin over at her. "I thought you'd never ask."


Back at the hotel we changed into bathing suits and headed downstairs to discover that the pool complex closed in an hour, but it was enough to get in a good soak in the hot tub and a lap or two in the pool before they chased us out. As we headed for our ground-floor room I said, "If you want, Scully, I know a nice bar not far from here, we could have a drink or two."

"Why don't we just stop at the hotel bar? It's at the end of this hallway according to the signs," she said agreeably. "I don't feel like getting dressed again."

As she was wearing a dark brown maillot with a sheer beige-and-tan-patterned coverup-type shirt over it that fell to just past her hips and flip-flops, I was good with that; I could look at her wearing this outfit all day without a problem. I was wearing a pair of regular swim trunks and a black t-shirt, a hotel towel thrown around my neck, and shower shoes, but no one looked twice at us when we went in. We sat at the bar and I ordered a beer and she a glass of the house Chardonnay. "So. How is everything so far, not counting my aunts' interrogation?" I asked as the bartender set small white coasters in front of us.

"Today wasn't bad, I got a good six pages done on my paper," she said. "I'm glad you didn't mind me not coming to the rehearsal with you." She smiled at the bartender as he set a full wineglass in front of her, and I noted how enthusiastically he smiled back. I had brought her along to save me from predatory women, and here I was defending her from predatory men! A lot of it was, I knew, that Scully honestly did not seem to know how stunning, how unconsciously sexy, she was. Oh, I was sure she knew she was attractive but I suspected that she'd spent so many years trying to get men to see past her looks to the person doing the job that she'd either forgotten or was simply used to ignoring what an incredibly beautiful woman she was. I glared at the bartender and he scuttled away, Scully appearing to be oblivious to the entire exchange though I wouldn't be surprised if she'd noted it and decided to ignore it. Me Tarzan, you Jane.

"I'm just glad the hotel has internet access so you could do your research," I said, taking a sip of my Michelob, then checked out her crossed legs while she was looking away. "You going to work on that more tonight?"

She glanced over at the clock above the bar and I followed suit. Quarter after ten. "No, it's getting a bit late. What about you? Staying up?"

"No, I have to be at the church no later than ten-thirty tomorrow for pictures so I'm going to hit the sack early tonight," I said, glancing around the bar. At least three other men were staring at Scully, one with a woman by his side. "I was thinking, if you don't want to get up early with me I could take a cab and you can take my--"

"No way, Mulder, I'll ride with you," she interrupted me, holding her wineglass by the stem and twirling it idly, watching it turn. "It's not that early, the wedding begins at noon."

"Okay then," I said, feeling absurdly happy. "I can't wait to see what you brought to wear tomorrow, Scully. Don't you forget to send me the bill for that dress, either."

"You don't have to," she protested.

I didn't let her get any further. "Yes I do, I told you that I would pay for this entire trip and that includes the fact that you had to buy a formal dress since I'm in the wedding," I said firmly. "This entire weekend is my treat, so don't even argue about it with me."

She huffed, but I could see the glint of humor in her eye. "If I didn't know we had separate beds in the room I'd suspect some nefarious purpose behind you insisting on paying for everything, Mulder."

I leered at her, taking us back to our usual status quo. "We could push the beds together. Just say the word."

"Just because I don't have my gun with me now doesn't mean I won't have it tonight."

I clapped a hand to my heart dramatically. "Oh, baby, you wound me," I said.

She gave me The Look, the first of this trip but undoubtedly not the last. "You call me 'baby' one more time and you really will be wounded," she said drily, but a smile quirked at the corner of her mouth. I knew she was getting close to her threshold when she threatened to hurt me, but I simply could not resist one more chain yank.

I tossed back the last of my beer and slid off the stool, holding a hand out to her with my best Elvis flourish although her wineglass was still half-full. "How about sweetie? Honey? Cutie? Darling?"

She stared at me for a split second, then gave me a blinding grin. "Sure, Poopie-head."

Oh, God, I'd forgotten our one and only undercover assignment. "Okay, Dana, let's head back to the room, why don't we."

The grin slid into a bright smile as she put her hand in mine. "Sure, Fox."

I knew I was in for it then, but that was not necessarily a bad thing.

The next morning I woke before the alarm and turned it off, wanting to let Scully sleep as late as I could. But when I came out of the bathroom after my shower, dressed in one of the hotel's thick white robes, she was sitting up on the edge of her bed with a cup of steaming coffee. She looked appealingly disheveled, her normally-immaculate hair tousled, soft pink lips bereft of the usual lipstick, a bit of dark makeup smudged beneath her eyes which were at half-mast. When I looked pointedly at her, she waved in the general direction of the sink area outside the bathroom. "There," she mumbled groggily. "Glad they have an in-room coffeemaker."

I walked over and poured a cup from the tiny carafe. "What, no breakfast?"

The small throw pillow sailed past my nose and just missed hitting the vanity top where all of our toiletries, as well as the coffeemaker, was. Her aim was terrifying even half-asleep. "Keep it up before I'm awake, Mulder, and the next thing I throw will be larger and heavier."

I was never going to try and talk to her in the morning until she'd finished at least one cup from now on. A short time later I was sprawled on my bed watching CNN and sipping coffee, wondering vaguely if I had time to call room service for breakfast, when Scully cleared her throat. "Um, Mulder, I hate to mention this, but you need to cover up."

I looked down and felt my face flame. I hadn't been paying attention and had gradually slid down on the bed from a sitting to a half-lying position. Unfortunately, the robe hadn't completely followed me; one side had fallen back and was open up to my stomach showing part of my groin—in particular, one testicle and lots of dark pubic hair—and my hip around to where my ass met the bed. I yanked the material over to cover me and rolled to the side, mumbling, "Sorry, Scully, I didn't mean to do that."

"S'awright, Mulder, that's what I figured," she said in a calm voice, eyes on the TV. "As long as it stays over there I can deal with any free shows you throw my way."

"There'll only be more if you reciprocate," I shot back, sitting up on the edge of the bed and retying the robe. The banter helped ease my embarrassment, and I was sure that was why she was doing it. Good, that meant she knew for sure it was an accident; I didn't want her thinking I was that damn crass. "I don't do it for free. Your turn."

"Hah, dream on," she said, getting up and going over to pour the last dregs of coffee into her cup. She looked both sexy and severe in a dark-colored satin pajama set with no robe over them. "I'm going to shower, and you should probably get dressed out here while I do."

"Okay, but make sure I'm decent before you come out. You're not getting another free show without taking your turn."

She turned to face me with a huffed sigh, but I could tell she was in good humor. "Mulder, I swear, if I don't at the very least punch you, never mind shoot you, before this weekend is over it'll be a miracle."

She headed for the bathroom as I called after her, "But you're a Catholic, don't you believe in miracles?"

The previously-thrown pillow that had landed near the bathroom door sailed back towards me and I got my coffee cup out of the way just in time, the pillow managing to catch me in the side of the face. "You've got to learn to quit needling me when I've got ammo."

She had a point there.

Once the bathroom door was firmly closed I dressed quickly, worrying less about how the clothes looked than getting them on before she came out and caught me in dishabille again. I really was embarrassed; if I'd wanted to do something like that to make her look at me, I certainly wouldn't have chosen to have one hairy ball hanging out, that much was for sure.

I was adjusting the cummerbund when she came out of the bathroom some time later, still in her pajamas but with her hair and makeup perfectly done. I liked what she'd done with her hair; instead of having it hanging around her face, she'd swept it back with a thin, glittery black headband, showing off the tiny diamond studs in her ears and the length of her neck. "Wow, don't you look spiffy," she said, smiling, as she walked past me to her suitcase, which was open on top of the dresser at the foot of her bed.

"I really do feel like a penguin," I said, moving over to the full-length mirror to check and see if I'd missed anything. The tux was black with shiny accents, a black vest and cummerbund, snow-white dress shirt, and I'd get the pale blue carnation for the lapel when I got there. Other than tying the bow tie and putting on the shoes, I was pretty well set.

"At least they didn't get white or powder-blue tuxes for this wedding so count your blessings, Mulder. Could be worse."

"You're right," I agreed, deciding to leave the bow tie for the time being. I could always tie it when I got there. "We need to leave in fifteen minutes, will you be ready?"

She was holding a small bunch of material in her arms that I couldn't quite see, although one thin black strap did hang down as she passed me. I realized then that it was her underclothes but by the time I tried to look closer, she was in the bathroom and out of sight. Then she came back out and got the solid grey plastic dress bag from the closet, also carrying it into the other room and closing the door firmly in my face.

Guess I had been told.

I slipped on the highly-shined shoes, standing in front of the full-length mirror outside the bathroom door to make sure everything fit correctly. As I was twitching the shoulders of the jacket to hang straighter in the back, the bathroom door opened behind me and Scully stepped out so that I got my first look at her in the mirror.

I swear, the world flat-out stopped dead in its tracks for a moment. I'm sure I outright gawked at her, and didn't try to do anything else but show her my first reaction, which was awe. Her dress was of a deep brown color, some kind of shiny, sparkly material which clung to her figure beautifully. It had a low scooped neck, showing more cleavage than I'd ever seen on her before, tiny sleeves that barely covered her small shoulders, and a high waist that gave her the impression of being taller and outlined her flat belly and slim hips; I couldn't wait to see it from the back. I noticed that the dress pooled on the tiles at her feet, and realized that she wasn't wearing her shoes yet.

The moment spun out and I realized that I had to say something. Turning away from the mirror to see her in reality, I could only say, "You look amazing, Scully. What a great dress."

She smiled, lifting the skirt and heading towards the beds. "Thanks. It took some hunting, but I'm nothing if not persistent when the need arises."

I got my wish as she walked past me and went to slip on her shoes; the back view was just as awesome as the front. The sparkly, clingy material did its thing in just the right places and I knew I'd be hard-pressed to keep my eyes—and hands—off of her all day.

Then it hit me. Why would something she wore to a wedding be brown? Normally my colorblindness wasn't something I thought much about, but this reminded me. "What, ah, what color do you call that, Scully?" I said, trying to be nonchalant as I looked back towards the mirror, pretending to straighten my cufflinks.

"Burgundy," she said, standing at the side of the bed switching things from her larger purse to a small black one. "What does it look like to you?"

"Brown," I said, deciding to tie my bow tie to keep my hands busy, "like your bathing suit, but I'm guessing it's really red?"

"Yes to both," she picked up the little purse and a large black shawl that was draped over the back of an overstuffed chair. "I'm ready, exactly on time," she added pointedly. I decided to ignore the barb, at least this time.

"Then let's hit the road," I said, bowing her towards the door with one arm out. "And get this day over with."


"Who, me?" I asked as we walked towards the front doors of the hotel. "Nah, I've been an usher in two other weddings so I know what to do. How about you, Scully? Ever been a bridesmaid?"

She chuckled low. "Several times and let me tell you, if I ever get married I have no plans whatsoever to go through all that rigamarole," she said. "I think it's absolutely insane how much fuss and money people put into a one-day event."

"Yeah, I'm with you on that one," I agreed. Then, without thinking, I said, "Have you ever thought about getting married, Scully?" As soon as the words were out of my mouth I could have kicked myself; what kind of question was that to ask her?

But to my surprise—and she always surprised me—she laughed out loud. "What little girl who grew up in the United States hasn't? As a child we're bombarded with Barbie Dolls and the Brady Bunch and white weddings everywhere we look. But personally, yeah, a couple times although it never worked out and now I'm relieved it didn't. However, you keep proposing to me like you did that time I was in Maine, Mulder, I might just take you up on it one of these days."

She gave me a saucy grin and it was all I could do to not lean down and kiss her, she was so appealing. "Anytime, Scully, anytime," I said airily, never guessing what was to come.


When we got to the church I made sure Scully had someone to talk to before heading off for the photo ops, which were taken all around and inside the church since it was a bright and sunny if rather cold day. When we went outside to a small garden behind the church the bridesmaids had little jackets that went over their pale blue powderpuff dresses, but I thought Nathan's poor bride-to-be must be freezing in her low cut, if long-sleeved, confection of a wedding dress. And sure enough, as soon as the photographer stopped to reload his film someone handed her a thick blue parka, which she quickly huddled in. Nathan put his arm around her much like I'd done to Scully last night on the patio, but she crossed her arms over her chest and moved away from him, saying something about her makeup and hair. I'd liked Scully's reaction much better.

Speaking of, I glanced around and spotted Scully with another woman standing on the side of the church watching the photo shoot. It looked like the photographer's assistants were taking their time with the cameras so I took the opportunity to break away and headed over to see how she was doing since she wasn't with the aunts I had originally left her with. As I neared I saw that the unfamiliar woman was pregnant, obviously but not hugely, and she and Scully were deep in discussion.

"Hey ladies, why aren't you in the nice warm church?" I said, going straight to Scully and putting my arm around her shoulders. Even with the long black wool shawl around her shoulders I thought she might be cold, and never let it be said I passed up an opportunity to touch her. She put her arm around my back as well, tugging on the back of my jacket. As I looked down at her I saw an odd expression on Scully's face, one I couldn't decipher, then she reached up behind my back and pushed on my head. Oh! That! I leaned down and kissed her gently like I had last night on the dance floor, but her mouth opened under mine and there was no way I could resist deepening the kiss, gently swiping my tongue across her lower lip and feeling the tip of hers touch mine before letting go. No one around us knew it, but we'd just had our first real kiss and my head was reeling.

"We're fine, just getting some air," the woman standing on Scully's other side said as we parted, gazing into each other's eyes almost startled. It was clear that she hadn't expected me to slip her the tongue but she didn't look angry, just a bit surprised. "So, Dana, are you going to introduce me to your handsome lover-boy here?"

Cuddling closer to me, she turned to the other woman, frowning slightly. I didn't say anything, waiting to see how she wanted to handle it, though I was tempted. "Kaycee Redding, Fox Mulder," she said shortly. "Kaycee's a roommate from college. We roomed together our freshman year."

By her short, clipped sentences I was able to infer that it hadn't been a friendly or pleasant roommate experience. "Fox, eh?" Kaycee Redding said, sweeping her eyes up and down me. "Looks like you hit the jackpot this time, Dana. About time you dated someone near your own age instead of twenty years older." She was as sharp-featured as her tongue, with a chiseled face and a mop of probably-dyed blonde hair atop it, and slender on the verge of skinny other than her belly. The smirk on her thin face was impossible to ignore.

I'd had it with this insufferably rude bitch; Scully's face was slowly turning red and I hated seeing her upset. "So, were you invited to this wedding or did you just wander in off the street?" I asked, squeezing Scully's shoulders gently as I held her close to me. "And if you must know, I prefer to be called Mulder."

She jerked her head back, glaring up at me. Though a few inches taller than Scully, she was nowhere near my height and I made a point of standing up straighter. I'm not above using my height to intimidate when I need to. "My husband is related to the bride," she said stiffly. "What are the odds that we'd meet here after all this time," she added towards Scully with a much less antagonistic attitude although she was still staring daggers at me.

I heard my name called and turned to see Nathan waving to me from the small grove of trees where they were back to taking photos. "Gotta go," I said, leaning over and kissing my partner lightly. "I'll see you before the ceremony starts. Wait for me in the front of the church?"

"Meet you at the front doors," she said with a smile, reaching up to smooth back my hair. It was a very intimate gesture and I briefly leaned into her hand, smiling back into her eyes. I had, by this time, figured out that she wanted the Queen Bitch here to think we were a close, loving couple and I was more than happy to oblige.

By the time the next batch of pictures were taken my cheeks were beginning to get sore from all the smiling, and I was relieved when the photographer dismissed us and with three assistants trailing, went to setup inside the church for the actual ceremony. I hurried to the front of the church, and sure enough Scully was waiting just inside the doors, standing alone although there were small groups all around her.

"So what the hell was with that bitch?" I asked, drawing her away to one side of the large rectangular vestibule to a small cul-de-sac behind a couple of pillars where no one nearby could see or hear us. "Is she always like that?"

"Actually she's worse now that she's pregnant," Scully said, leaning back against a huge marble column. "But yeah, Kaycee's always been sharp-tongued and says what she thinks no matter who she hurts with that thoughtless mouth of hers. And, as you can probably tell, we don't like each other much. I'm surprised she came up to me when we saw each other."

I wanted to ask about the crack regarding dating men her own age, but after seeing Scully's reaction to it I was afraid it would be reopening old wounds so I damped down my curiosity. "Something tells me there are other college friends you would rather have run into," I said, putting my hands in my pants pockets. It was cool, not cold, in the high-ceilinged room but I was still chilled from being outside.

"Trust me, she was no friend. We got stuck together in a dorm freshman year, and we had to put up with each other for three months before she pledged and moved to a sorority house, thank God," Scully said, her eyes darkening. "It was my first extended time away from my family and, understandably, I was homesick. She thought it was funny. Luckily my next roommate was tolerable or I might not have made it through that first year."

She didn't have to say any more; I could feel the pain radiating off of her. Even though no one could see us and it wasn't part of the act we were putting on, I went and enfolded her in my arms, loose, comfortingly, kissing her briefly on the forehead along the way. She leaned against me, arms going loosely around my waist over the tux jacket with her hands flat against my back, laying her head against my shoulder. The long black shawl was warm against my hands, and her breasts just barely touched my chest. I tightened my arms slightly, being careful not to muss her carefully-fixed hair.

I don't know how long we stood like that; I was content to feel her warmth in my arms, her firm body against mine, her soft perfume wafting up to me. Then I heard a woman's voice from the other side of the column, coming closer, saying, "Where are Fox and Steve? We're about to get started."

Someone else further away replied, "Steve's in the restroom, but I haven't seen Fox since we came in."

Scully lifted her head to look at me and I felt her muscles tense in preparation for moving away, and without thinking about it too much I lowered my mouth to hers again. But, not sure how she felt about the open-mouthed kiss earlier, I kept my lips together as I pressed them to hers. Then I heard a throat being cleared close by and looked up to see my aunt Charlotte grinning at us from the side of the post. "Sorry to interrupt, but they're getting the wedding party lined up. Dana, you should go sit down. Fox, wipe your mouth, you look like you're wearing lipstick and her color doesn't become you." Giggling, she disappeared around the column.

"Your timing is impeccable," Scully said as she repaired her lipstick using a small square mirror she pulled out of her purse as I fished a handkerchief out of my inside jacket pocket and wiped my mouth with it. My aunt was right, I think I had more of Scully's lipstick on me than she had on herself at this point. "I think that by now your family is convinced that we're lovers, Mulder."

"I'm beginning to wonder myself," I cracked as I stuffed the handkerchief back in my pocket, then held my arm out to her. "Milady?"

"Only if I don't get mauled again," she mumbled as she slid her hand beneath my forearm.

I reached over to squeeze her hand where it rested on my black-clad arm as we moved into the vestibule where everyone else waited. For her ears only I murmured, "I make you no promises, I tell you no lies."


Although it seemed to take forever, the actual ceremony went by smoothly and with no serious problems. The five-year-old ringbearer tripped over the bride's train after finishing his job of handing over the rings, but he didn't fall and other than a few giggles there was no harm done. Unfortunately Scully had been seated near the back of the church and I couldn't see her from the altar, which probably contributed to my feeling that the ceremony was never going to end.

But then, of course, after walking down the aisle to the front of the church, they gathered us all up again and it was back to the alter to take more pictures. Luckily the bridesmaid I was partnered with, the bride's sister, was as annoyed with all this as I was and we spent the time we weren't actually involved in posing complaining about it. However, when they took the photo of all the groomsmen and fathers standing around the couple, I spotted Scully standing at the back of the mostly-empty church by the doors and that cheered my mood immensely. Though the original plan had been for the wedding party to pile into three limos and ride to the hall, I had already made it clear that I was going to take my own car and so had several others. So I had the ride with Scully to look forward to.

They finally released us and I went to find that Scully was mostly alone in the vestibule except for a few others waiting for their members of the wedding party; most of the hundred or so people had gone ahead to the reception hall, I guessed. "God, I'm glad that's over," I said, running one hand through my hair.

"Now you just have the reception to get through," she grinned up at me. I started to lean down but the smile disappeared and she warned, sotto voice, "Enough with the kissing, Mulder. Give you an inch you take a mile."

I was more disappointed than I cared to show, so as usual I tried to goof my way out of it. I smacked my chest and, still leaning towards her, said, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much."

"The lady's going to be driving home alone very shortly if you don't start behaving yourself," she warned crisply, gathering her shawl around herself. "Besides, you just flattened your carnation."

I looked down and sure enough, I had crushed the pale blue carnation in my tux jacket's buttonhole. I knew how it felt. Without another word, I offered my arm and we headed out to the car, but the brightness had gone out of my day.

We didn't talk much as we drove to the reception hall, which was a good twenty minutes from the church. I didn't mean to sulk, but I was rather hurt by Scully's pushing me away. Here I thought we'd been having a great time and I had been annoying her every time I kissed her. Wonderful.

"Mulder, are you okay?" she asked as the sign for the country club came up and I slowed, hitting the turn signal.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I said shortly. "Just tired of the monkey suit and the posing and the smiling. And not looking forward to more."

I could feel her eyes on me. "If you want, we can leave as soon as dinner's over," she said slowly. "They should be done with the pictures by then. I don't mind."

"I thought you wanted to dance," I pointed out. "You made a point of telling me so last night."

"I do," she said. "And I have been looking forward to dancing with you all day."

"Oh, I'm good enough to dance with but not to kiss, is that it?" I snapped unthinkingly.

"Is that what this sulking is all about?" she nearly yelled. Luckily I had just pulled into a parking spot as I nearly jumped out of my skin. "You're mad because I asked you not to kiss me in the church?!"

I turned to face her, shutting off the ignition. "Was it just because we were in the church?" I said suspiciously. "You didn't seem to have a problem with it when we were behind the pillar."

"Number one, yes, I did have a problem with it when we were standing in the middle of the aisle right down from the sacristy," she informed me, also turned in her seat to face me. The day had been bright and sunshiny but now clouds were moving in, turning the interior of my Taurus dreary—or was it just my mood as we were once again arguing? "Number two, I had no idea you'd be kissing me every time someone came near us when I agreed to come here and pretend to be your girlfriend. And number three, you only kissed me in the church before the ceremony because you knew your aunt was coming and you wanted her to see us."

"You wanted me to kiss you when your old roommate was there," I pointed out. "That's called being a hypocrite. Make up your mind, Scully."

She froze, blanching, and I immediately felt like a real shit.

"Ah, shit, I'm sorry," I said, reaching out to take her hand. She tried to pull it back, but I held firm and put my other hand on top of hers as well. "That was a lousy thing to say and you don't deserve it. Look, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you doing this for me and I'll stop annoying you. I didn't realize the kissing was bothering you; you seemed all right with it. I, uh, thought you were enjoying it as much as I was," I admitted, letting go of her and turning to look out the windshield. "You just let me know what's appropriate and I won't cross the line again."

I heard the rustle of fabric then her hand on my cheek turned my face to hers. She had slid over so that she was sitting closer to me, only an inch or so away on the bench seat. "No apology needed, because you're right," she said, letting her hand fall. "I guess I should explain."

I turned a little and looked down at her, raising both eyebrows. Let it not be said that I don't know when to shut up.

"It didn't occur to me that you'd be kissing me when I agreed to this so I've been confused," she said softly, looking up at me with shadowed eyes. "It's not that I don't want to kiss you, Mulder, but I'm not sure where we stand and think we should stop it for now."

"Is it... is it that bad?" I had to ask, worried.

"God, no! Not at all! Mulder, only you would think that," she gave me a small smile. "It's just the opposite. I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that I like kissing my partner."

Oh. That changed things. I put my arm around her, kissed her on the forehead, and hugged her lightly against me. "I like kissing my partner too, but I will of course respect your wishes," I said, feeling her leaning against me. "Should you change your mind, I'm here for the kissing and whatever else you may decide."

"The hugging's good," she said after a moment. "I'll let you know about anything else."

She looked up at me, we smiled at each other, and it was all I could not to immediately make a liar out of myself and kiss her then and there.

Just as I was about to let her go a tap came from the window behind me and we both jumped, then Scully moved away to the other side of the seat as I turned to see my cousin Hugh's florid face in the window. "C'mon, man, quit sucking face and get in there, everyone's waiting for you," he yelled through the glass, sneering. "Can't you wait until you get back to your motel to fuck around?"

I shoved the door open, making him fall back against the car next to mine. "Shut the hell up, Hugh, and get away from me."

"Oh, kiss my ass, Foxy. You think you're--"

I'd had enough. Between watching him staring at Scully last night and interrupting us now, my temper snapped. I grabbed him by the front of his jacket with both hands and whirled to throw him against the side of my car, making sure I jarred him but good. "I said shut the hell up, asshole! You go deaf?" I gave him a hard shake for good measure. "And leave Dana alone, don't you even think about coming anywhere near her, not even for a dance."

To my surprise he was blubbering, waving his arms and whining in a high-pitched voice. I hadn't realized I'd had him up off his feet and set him back down, then let go with one last shove. "Get the hell out of my face."

I watched him scuttle off, straightening my cuffs and tugging down my suit jacket.

"Jesus, Mulder, you can really be a caveman when you want to," Scully said, coming around the side of the car and up to me. She reached up and smoothed the tux jacket over my shoulders, then straighted the bow tie. The shawl hung open in front, giving me a wonderful view of her cleavage that I took advantage of. "But, regardless of the fact that I could have taken care of him myself, thank you. He made my skin crawl."

I leaned back against the car and loosely circled her small waist with my hands, drawing her to me. I was beginning to get the idea that she didn't like being overwhelmed or have me looming over her, so I decided to try this tactic. "I know you could have, Scully, and in fact I'd have liked to watch you kick his ass either verbally or physically. But you're my guest and I want to make sure that you have a good time this weekend, and that doesn't include having slimy assholes staring at you. Only I get to do that," I grinned down at her.

She leaned against me, her arms slipping around my waist and head against my shoulder. For the first time I felt what it was like to have her come to me willingly, because she wanted to and not because we were playing a part for someone else's benefit, and it was breathtaking. Her whole body pressed against mine and for once I didn't worry about my obvious physical reaction, just put my arms around her shoulders and held her to me. The warmth of her against the coldness of the early New York spring air was exquisite, and I hated to have to let her go. But I knew someone else would be coming after us soon and I didn't want to hold up Nathan's reception.

"Yeah, we'd better get in there," she agreed as if I'd spoken out loud, moving away reluctantly and opening her purse.

I knew she was going to repair her makeup and pulled her against me in another quick hug before I let go of her, grinning. "You never said how much or how often I could hug you."

She gave me an exasperated look and said, "Something tells me I'm going to regret this later."

I grinned back. "Too late."


Once inside I endured the teasing good-naturedly as we made our way through the ballroom; Scully was right, half the people at the wedding had seen us sitting in my car without us noticing them. As she went to her assigned seat at one of the large round tables near the front Scully was smiling, so I didn't worry about her.

I was up on the dais, seated between the best man and the bridesmaid I was partnered with, but I could see Scully clearly as her table was right in front of me and she sat facing the dais. I grinned at her and she smiled back as I seated myself at the long table, and the festivities were underway yet again.

To my relief the request was made to not do any glass-tapping to make the newlyweds kiss, which I'd always thought was one of the more idiotic customs of the modern wedding reception. Several speeches were given--thank God I didn't have to make one--several toasts were drunk, then at long last brunch was served.

I was starved; Scully and I had stopped at a Tim Horton's on the way to the church and shared a bagel and coffee, but that had been hours ago. I noticed that she made short work of her food, too, apparently both of us not minding the cardboard-like club sandwiches and rubbery fries. Since we would probably leave here before dinner, I decided to take her out for a nice one as I knew of several excellent restaurants in the area.

After dinner and dessert were cleared there were more toasts and speeches, and it wasn't long before my seat-mate leaned over and whispered, "Do you think we can get up yet?"

"Probably not," I murmured back. The photographer was still snapping away at all of us. "If this goes the usual way, we'll get away from the table by being called for the first dance."

"Oh, crap, I forgot about that," she sighed, sitting back. "God, I need a smoke."

I looked down at Scully again to see that Kaycee Redding was now sitting next to her. I hadn't noticed her before this, and wondered if she'd table-hopped to sit next to Scully. I hated being up here, knowing that she had to put up with that vindictive bitch, feeling helpless.

Then they began calling the wedding party for dances. The bride and groom went first, the best man and maid of honor next, then it was myself and the bride's sister. I raised my eyebrows at Scully as we went past and she smiled up at me, then reluctantly went back to talking to Kaycee. Not for long, I promised myself as we swung onto the dance floor. As soon as this number was over I was going to grab her and not let go for the rest of the night.

Unfortunately the song Nathan and his new bride had picked for their first dance was "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls, which I knew had to be at least four minutes long, and we had previously been instructed to dance with our present partner for the entire thing so that many photos could be taken. But at last it was over and after thanking my partner for the fine dance, we both bolted our separate ways; her towards the doors, me back towards the tables.

But, to my surprise and bafflement, Scully was gone although I spotted both her shawl thrown over the chair she'd been in and her little black purse sitting on the table. Kaycee Redding was still at the table, now sitting with a man who appeared to be about our general age and looking very self-satisfied, almost smirking. Something told me that this wasn't a good combination, and I went in search of my partner.

I spotted that unmistakable dress at the bar, where I found her standing at the far end almost hidden by taller people with her hands wrapped around a tall, thin glass half-full of dark liquid. Her face was pale and I saw that her hands were just barely shaking. "Scully?" I said, walking up to her. "What in God's name is wrong?"

"Jesus, Mulder, let's get out of here," she hissed, grabbing my hand and hustling me towards the doors.

"What, leave?" I said, slowing, taken aback.

"No, just out of this room, away from them," she said with a jerk of her chin over her shoulder. Despite the dozens of people in the room I knew who she meant.

"Only if you tell me what in the hell is going on," I said as I let her lead me out of the ballroom and into the large, bright foyer. I was worried; I'd never seen Scully this upset unless someone had a gun to her head or was trying to remove her heart with psychic surgery.

We found a small bench in a tucked-away corner near a full coat rack, partially hiding us from anyone else entering or leaving the ballroom, and as we sat down I put my arm around her. When she raised her pale face to me I could smell the alcohol and said, "What are you drinking?"

"Rum and coke. I wanted something stronger than wine and this was all I could think of."

I took the glass from her fingers and sipped, and nearly gagged. I don't like rum. "Jesus, is there any Coke in there?"

"Enough to get me drunk enough to forget who Kaycee married," Scully said, taking the glass from me and tossing back a hefty swallow. That right there told me just how drunk she already was because her answer made no sense. "Remember earlier when we were talking about being engaged? Well, I was engaged to the man she's now married to, and the reason I called it off was because I found out that he was seeing her on the side."

"Oh, shit," I said, understanding. I ran over our earlier conversation in my head; we'd talked about wanting to get married, not being engaged, and I added this tidbit to my meager knowledge of Scully's life before I'd met her.

"And here sits old maid Dana, while Kaycee's married to the man and living the life I could have had if not for her. They probably live in a goddamn mansion; he's a well-known trial lawyer in Manhattan. This is their third child, Mulder. Third. And I can't have even one."

Despite being well on the way to drunk, Scully wasn't whining or feeling sorry for herself; she seemed to be more bitter and angry than anything. Somehow I didn't think pointing out the good things in her life was the way to go, so instead I decided to distract her from it. "Fuck 'em," I said bluntly. "I don't know about you, but I'm not going to let them ruin my good time with you. C'mon, let's go dance. I've been looking forward to it all day."

"Didn't you hear me, Mulder? That bitch stole Dale from me, and now she's flaunting him under my nose!"

"I did hear you," I agreed, taking the glass from her and setting on the floor. Being half-drunk was a new facet of her to me despite all the years we'd been partners, and I was suddenly very glad she was nowhere near a weapon. While I knew she'd never hurt a pregnant woman, the husband was another story entirely. "How about you give her something to be jealous about, instead of the other way around? It'll make her crazy if she thinks you could care less about her. You see?"

She tilted her head at me, the tiny diamond studs in her lobes sparkling brilliantly in the light from the large chandelier overhead. A slow smile came over her features, doing my heart good. "Yeah, actually, I do. Is that the Temptations I hear the band butchering in there?"

"I believe it is," I said, standing and putting my hand out to her. "May I?"

Grinning, she stood and took my hand. "You may, G-man. Let's go show them a thing or two!"

When we walked back into the ballroom, I couldn't see the table where Scully had been sitting earlier due to all the people milling around, which was a relief. I let her lead me right to the dance floor where "I Wish It Would Rain" was playing, and I swung her into my arms and joined the crush of people. I'd had nothing more than half a glass of champagne with the meal that I'd drunk during all the toasts, but now I was floating as high as if I'd finished an entire bottle.

My world narrowed down to her upturned face, below that her tiny gold cross resting at the base of her throat just above the swell of cleavage. She'd been wearing the shawl most of the day when I'd been able to see her, so now I feasted my eyes on her in that stunning dress. Once or twice, at the edge of the dance floor, I whirled her away from me just so I could watch her move.

Several songs later I decided that we needed a break, so I led Scully off the dance floor and to the bar. "Two white wines, Chardonnay if you've got it," I ordered.

"Wine, Mulder?" Scully smiled up at me, leaning against my shoulder. "Why not more champagne?"

"Because I'm driving," I smiled back down at her. "And I don't want to be hung over tomorrow. I'm not in any hurry to get back to D.C., and there's a couple of places I'd like to show you if you don't have to get back right away."

"Not at all," she agreed easily as we took our wineglasses from the bartender. "You grew up around here, didn't you?"

"I did," I nodded agreement, putting my arm around her shoulders and leading her through the crowd towards my seat at the dais, where I figured we could sit and talk for a bit while we caught our breath. "And maybe tonight we could--"

"Oh, there you are!" I looked up to see my more-than-ancient Uncle Stephen approaching slow but steadily. "Fox Mulder, have you been ignoring me?"

I bent over to hug the old man, who had once been as tall as me but was now quite stooped. "Are you kidding? You can still kick my ass," I said, then turned to Scully. "Dana Scully, my uncle Stephen Wright. Uncle Stephen, Dana Scully."

"So pleased to meet you," he took her hand and kissed it, which I saw made her blush lightly; I thought it was charming. I also filed it away for possible later use. "May I have the next dance, young lady? Fox, you don't mind, do you, if I borrow your date? She's the only woman in the place I think I've missed tonight," he cackled with no malice. "And I asked for a slow dance next, heh."

"I've already told Dana about you, Uncle Stephen," I said, grinning, as I lightly laced my fingers with hers. He was one of my few relations I really liked, and of course he lived halfway across the country. "And I told her she can't miss a dance with you, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

As the music ended Scully handed me her wineglass, which I set on a nearby table, and my uncle led her to the dance floor. Even stooped he was taller than she, but still moved with a fluid grace and ease that belied his age. I snagged a chair at the edge of the dais and sat down as the next song began, a Big-Band-era song with a lot of soulful trumpet that I thought might be by Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong, watching them and unable to stop smiling. At first it was clear that despite the tempo of the music Scully was trying to keep things slow but I knew Uncle Stephen wasn't going to stand for that. It wasn't long before he was swinging her around the floor and she was laughing with delight, animatedly chatting with him as they danced. As I watched, her hair and skirt both belled out as they made a sharp turn to avoid another couple, and she followed him step-for-step. God, she was stunning and I was so proud to be with her. Bride or no bride supposedly being the center of today's show, she was the most beautiful woman here and I couldn't take my eyes from her. As much as I loved watching her, I was going to--

"My god, look at that. Poor girl's gotten stuck being dragged around by that dotty old man," a snide voice nearby said. I looked over and sure enough, Kaycee Redding and the same man I'd seen her sitting with earlier, whom I assumed to be her husband, were standing nearby watching as well. He wasn't bad looking, but he had a noticeable bald spot beginning and was rather soft-looking all over. I had to assume he'd been better-looking in college if Scully had once been engaged to him. "I'll bet she has no idea how silly she looks at her age."

I stood and stepped up next to them at the edge of the dance floor. The way they turned towards me, startled, made me realize that they hadn't seen me until I moved. "That dotty old man is my uncle, and he danced with Fred Astaire in the 1930s, so I'd say she's not 'stuck being dragged around' with him," I said coldly. "As for silly, I'd suggest you don't insult my--girlfriend." I damn near said fiancée just to shock her, and that gave me the beginnings of an idea.

Kaycee snorted, turning her sharp nose up. "I didn't mean to insult her, I just meant that by her age you'd think she'd have settled down, not be running about chasing criminals and spending her evenings alone."

"What makes you think she spends her evenings alone?" I said, doing a slow burn.

"Well, she's single!" Kaycee said in an exasperated tone as if that explained everything, crossing her hands over her belly in a very noticeable way. It obviously hadn't occurred to her that she was talking to another single person. Moron. "Besides, she's always been a loner. I'd put money on the fact that she never gets married like a real woman should."

Just then Scully and Uncle Stephen swung by near the edge of the dance floor, and I knew she'd heard the last comment when I saw her face blanch.

I was furious; that did it. No wonder Scully had been so upset when I'd found her at the bar if she'd been listening to this crap. I glanced over at the husband, but he was looking away at a girl in a tight black dress who was shimmying out of time to the music with enthusiasm but no talent. I was so angry I didn't know what to say. Rather than start something that could ruin the reception, I forced myself to walk away and went to stand on the side of the small raised stage where Scully could see and find me when the dance was over.

Then the edges of the idea I'd had earlier popped full-blown into my brain: wouldn't it chafe that bitch's skinny ass if I asked Scully to marry me in front of all these people? I grinned at the thought, then it occurred that I might be usurping Nathan's special day and I decided to ask him first. Luckily I spotted him talking with a group of mostly men in one corner, and after a glance to make sure Scully was still involved with Uncle Stephen, I headed over to talk to my cousin.


A short time later I was back at the edge of the stage, where I spotted Scully and my uncle slow-dancing to a different song. I was rather surprised that they were still out there; Uncle Stephen loved to dance, but at his age he must have had to sit down or rest frequently. But this one was a lot slower than the last—which had been faster than the Strauss waltz that Scully and I had danced to last night—and they were deeply involved in conversation. If he'd been younger, I might have been worried about losing her to him with the way they were talking but even if she did have a thing for older men I wasn't too concerned. As I watched I saw Scully turn her head, eyes scanning the crowd until she saw me, then she grinned and said something to my uncle, who also looked up and lifted their linked hands in a kind of wave. I raised a hand in return, smiling, and went back to my mental plotting.

I snagged two flute of champagnes from a passing tray; though I usually stay away from the stuff my mouth was getting drier by the minute. Proposing to the woman I loved in front of a couple hundred people, even if it wasn't the real thing, was enough to make anyone nervous, I thought.

The song finally ended and as I watched, my uncle bowed to Scully and kissed her hand again, then tottered off in the opposite direction as she headed for me. I'd finished my champagne but didn't feel it affecting me at all, which was a good thing because I needed a clear head for what I was about to do. As she reached me I handed her the other glass then took her arm and said, "I need to talk to you in private, Scully."

She was flushed and smiling, looking more relaxed than I'd seen her since she'd dozed off before me last night. I almost hated to continue, but I thought she'd get a kick out of what I had planned. Sure enough, the smile faded as I led her out of the ballroom and back to the bench we'd sat on before and she asked in a worried voice, "Is something wrong? Did work call?"

"No-o-o, nothing like that," I said, sitting close beside her. "Listen, I know you overheard what the Queen Bitch said about you when you were dancing."

She frowned at me, those lovely brows drawing together. "Queen...? Oh, Kaycee. I'd rather not--"

"Let me finish," I interrupted her, raising one hand. "How'd you like to really burn her ass?"

The eyebrows went up as she took a sip of the bubbly. "You've got my attention," she said drily. "You're planning something, aren't you?"

"Yep. I already talked to Nathan and Amanda, and they're fine with it as they'll be leaving soon anyway. If you don't mind, let's wait until--"

"Wait to do what?" she said with exasperation, clasping the flute with both hands in her lap.

"Have me propose to you." The glass tilted and I caught it before it spilled.

She gaped up at me, wordless, then shook her head. "Tell me you didn't just say what I think you just said. I was kidding earlier, Mulder."

I had half-expected this response. "You heard me right, Scully. No one but you and I needs to know it's not for real..." I paused, almost said unless you want it to be but didn't, then continued, "and I'm sure it'll give that bitch a severe case of the red ass if I ask you to marry me in front of everyone here."

Scully looked away from me, opened her mouth, glanced back up at me, and then shook her head. "I don't think it's a good idea, Mulder. It seems... dishonest."

"Up to you," I said easily, but I could see the wheels turning in that beautiful head of hers. "But if you change your mind, I'd love to do it. I've only known her a couple hours and I already can't stand her."

Scully chuckled, taking another sip of champagne. Neither of us made a move to leave the bench, however. She glanced up at me from beneath her long dark lashes. "It'd only be to shut her up, right?"

"Right," I replied, almost aching to do it for real. But if it ever happened between us, this was neither the time nor the place. As much as I wanted to be with Scully, I had never thought about marriage or even just living together, and that would take some consideration with my track record. I wasn't exactly husband material and I knew it, although I could change that if I wanted to—and if anyone could make me want to, she was sitting next to me. "But that doesn't mean we can't put on a good show to really drive her crazy."

At that, Scully looked up at me with what I can only describe as a shit-eating grin. "Then let's do it, Mulder," she said, lifting the flute and draining the rest of the champagne. "For just once in my damn life I'm going to do something that makes absolutely no sense except to make me feel good."

"Let's do it," I echoed, getting up and holding my hand out to her. But when she stood, she put a hand on my shoulder and reached up to kiss me on the cheek.

"Thank you, Mulder, for caring," she said softly. Instead of taking her hand, I slid my arms around her waist and pulled her against me. We stood like that for a few moments, her one hand on my shoulder, both of my arms around her waist, her warm soft body pressed to mine. I inhaled the heady scent of her hair against my face and remembered what it had been like to kiss her earlier today, when her mouth has been open under mine and I'd felt the touch of her tongue. I felt my body stir and knew I had to move away from her, but she felt so incredible against me that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I ached to tilt her head back and devour her mouth, but I'd made a promise and would stick to it if it killed me—and at this rate, it just might. If I couldn't kiss her, I was going to hold her as much as I possibly could.

She made a murmuring noise in her throat and I reluctantly let go, then remembered what we were about to do. Looking down at her, I said, "You ready?"

"As I'll ever be," she said, taking hold of my arm. "I just hope this never gets back to my family, because I'll be hard-pressed to explain it."

"Do you think it will?" I said as we headed back to the ballroom, where I could hear the singer talking into the mike but not what he was saying.

She shook her head. "I doubt it, Kaycee and I move in much different circles," she said in a curiously flat tone. "I doubt she'd deign to socialize with lower-class people like me and my family."

Just then we reached the doors and I noticed that the dance floor was now filled with women and the new bride, Amanda, was standing on the stage in her fluffy white dress holding the bouquet. She spotted us and, leaning over to speak into the mike that the announcer held, called, "There's another single woman! Come on, girl, get over here."

Perfect. Before she could do anything, I led Scully to the stage and called up to Amanda as we mounted the steps, "She's not eligible."

"What?" Being in on it, she was grinning widely and for a moment I was afraid she'd give it away. "Why not?"

I stepped around to face Scully and put my hand back, felt the weight of the microphone in it as I took Scully's left hand with my right one. I took one good last look at her face, making sure she wanted to do this, and to my surprise I saw that she looked like she was about to cry, blue eyes huge and lips trembling. I hesitated and she squeezed my hand, eyes widening even more, and I got the message—don't you dare stop. "Because," I said into the mike as I dropped down to one knee—ouch on the hard stage floor--"I'm asking her to marry me and she won't be a single woman any more if she says yes."

A flurry of gasps and a squeal or two swept across the ballroom as I paused, then I continued.

"Dana Scully, will you marry me?" I said, looking up into her wide blue eyes, then lifted the mike to her face.

She took a deep breath, which was picked up and broadcast, then leaned forward a little and said in a firm but trembling voice, "Yes, of course I will."

As I got up, grinning as widely as if she'd really agreed to marry me, it hit me. What did one do after getting a yes on a marriage proposal?

They kissed the agreer, of course.

But I had promised not to kiss her.

Back on my feet, I again handed the mike behind me without looking, staring down into her bright blue eyes. She gave me just a little nod as she stepped towards me and I got it. Once I felt the weight of the mike leave my palm, I cupped her face in both hands and slowly leaned down, watching her face to make sure that this was what she wanted. As my lips touched hers I realized that they were parted, this time deliberately. I let my eyes drift closed as I covered her mouth with mine, hearing the applause start but barely noticing it as I felt her tongue meet mine, then scrape lightly along my bottom teeth. My knees weakened and it was all I could do to stay upright and gently break the kiss, sucking on her full bottom lip for just a moment as we moved apart. Once again I gazed down into her eyes and what I saw there shook me to the core; for the first time Scully showed me exactly what she felt for me and the depth of the feeling in her face sent a jolt straight to my heart. Never again would I wonder or worry about how she felt about me even if we never shared so much as another friendly hug or kiss. She loved me as much as I loved her, and in that moment I felt it pass back and forth between us, never to be recalled.

Then the moment was broken and I was being thumped on the back by an enthusiastic Nathan as we were urged down off the stage, surrounded by people happily congratulating us and having a glass of champagne thrust into my hand as we were toasted again and again. I managed to hang onto Scully, determined not to be separated from her, but it was some time before we could break away from the crowd to get a breath. They were once again announcing the throwing of the bouquet, and as we moved away from the crowd on the dance floor I was scanning the area for the Queen Bitch and her retinue of one. I didn't see them as I led Scully towards the ballroom doors, but I was sure she wanted to confront her now and see her reaction.

"Mulder, where are you going?" Scully asked as we walked across the room. "If we're leaving now I need my purse."

"Nooo, I was looking for your friend," I said, still glancing around. Almost everyone was over watching the bouquet being flung through the air, and the dread couple weren't anywhere I could see. "I figured we could discuss buying your engagement ring at Tiffany's where she could hear us."

"Mulder, at this point I could really care less about her," she said, surprising me into stopping and turning down to stare at her.

"You couldn't?" I said, baffled.

She smiled up at me, covering the hand that I held hers with. "Finding out how you really feel about me was all that I needed," she said softly, but I heard her clearly even over the squeals and yells of the women on the dance floor. "Even if it wasn't real, that was the most beautiful proposal I've ever seen, or experienced for that matter."

I squeezed her hand, gazing down at her. "Glad you liked it, but I liked the kiss even better."

Her smile grew into a grin. "So did I."

"Does that mean..."

"I'll lift the ban on kissing, at least when we're not in the office. It stands at work."

I celebrated her announcement by leaning down and kissing her again, though not as deeply as I had up on the stage. "Better get used to it."

"Something tells me I'll be buying a lot of lipstick," she said, reaching up and wiping my lips with her thumbs, fingers resting gently on my cheeks.

"Bill me," I said, kissing her fingers.

"You're incorrigible, Mulder."

Just then, with incredible timing, my stomach growled.

"And hungry, I take it?" she added, eyebrows raised.

"Not only was brunch hours ago, there was nowhere near enough for a growing boy. Want to go get something better? I know of some really good restaurants around here if that sounds good to you."

"I thought you'd never ask," she said, taking my hand as we headed for the table and got her shawl and purse. We had to wait until they were done throwing the garter before we could say goodbye to Nathan and Amanda and slip out, foregoing seeing anyone else—although we did wave at Uncle Stephen—so we could get out of there quicker.

We paused in the foyer and I helped her on with the shawl; it was getting dark and probably colder outside. But as I put my arm around her and turned towards the doors, who should I see standing at the coat rack but the Queen Bitch of Manhattan and her lone retainer? Without even thinking about it, I said clearly, "Dana, I don't think Tiffany's is good enough for your engagement ring. I think we should fly to London tomorrow and check out the Hatton Garden diamond district. I'd also like to introduce you to my professors and friends at Oxford."

The expression on their faces was priceless, and I made sure Scully got a good look before I swept her out the doors into the coolness of swiftly falling dusk. Now I felt like I had finally paid her back for coming with me this weekend.

She was laughing openly by the time we got to my car. "That was terrible, Mulder, and I absolutely loved it! Fly to London tomorrow indeed!"

"Yeah, that would most certainly make us late for work on Monday morning but they don't need to know that," I grinned down at her as I dug my car keys out of my pants pocket. Then I sobered up as I added, "I really would like to take you to England someday, Scully, to meet the people I know over there."

"I'd like to go someday, Mulder," she replied as I unlocked her door.

I started to open the door, then paused with my hand on top of it and looked down at her, feeling a grin grow on my face. "Could I get you to go pretending to be my girlfriend again, Scully?"

A beat, then, "I guess you listened when I warned you to stop needling me when I have ammo around."

Laughing, I went around the car and got in, considering myself lucky in more ways than one.