Spoilers: Your life. And Post-Modern Prometheus.
A/N: Takes place sometime late season 6, maybe between Field Trip and Biogenesis. Inspired by a picture of our heroes. I need to stop writing anything about Diana, even in passing. I even need to stop writing my middle name, which is Diana, and pretend my mother, who is a Diana doesn't exist. Just the name makes me shudder. And no, Julia, the ending of this is not at all related to Dean and Rory...
"Scully, I'm here, I'm early, I brought coffee!" Mulder shouted, walking through her front door.
"I'll be ready in 15 minutes. You can leave the coffee on the table."
"Are you decent? I'm tired of hollering at you. We're not in an emergency room and neither of us is deaf, so this yelling seems pretty uncivilized."
He heard her giggle and followed the sound into the bathroom. She was still in her bathrobe, curling her hair.
"You're not dressed," he commented, leaning against the door jamb and taking a drink of his coffee.
"But I know what I'm wearing and which shoes and which other girly accessories I will be dolled up in, so I'm as good as dressed," she replied, fluffing her hair and giving it a disapproving look before trying again to get the curl right. She finally looked over at him, very obviously sizing him up. "I like you in a suit."
"I'm always in a suit."
"Yeah, but this is a suit suit. You clean up nice my friend."
"The things I do for you."
"Mulder, you don't have to come with me."
"I know, but I want to go with you. As long as you're not wearing black. Or gray. Or various shades of deep reds and blues."
"It's a springtime wedding, I'm wearing green."
"So there's been a slight change in plans..."
"Charlie's rental car broke down, and it will be a little while before they can get another, and my mom's car is still at the dealership for its service, so on the way to the wedding, we need to pick them up. And we're going to have to take your car because it has a bigger backseat, hence, more leg room."
"I love that you're commenting on the size of my backseat, and are we picking them up at your moms?"
"Yeah," she answered, smiling at his comment, but ignoring it.
"So then do you want to drive? I don't know where this shindig is taking place and you know how you get when I get lost."
"Yes, I'll drive."
He smiled and took a small sip of his coffee.
"So this is your cousin's daughter's wedding."
"And you don't think it's weird that you actually know your cousin's daughter?"
"No. Ever seen the Waltons? That's my mom's family."
"I know. And because of the closeness, not one minute of anyone's life is exempt from discussion and deep scrutiny. It's always been that way, and there's nothing I can do about it, so I've perfected the smile and nod and quick excuses to slip away."
"I thought I was the only one who needed those."
"There's a lot we have in common. The whole being the black sheep thing? I totally get it."
"You? The black sheep?"
"In our younger years, Missy was a whiter sheep than I was."
"I've never been prouder of you in my life."
She chuckled and turned her curling iron off before giving her hair one last fluff.
"Let me change and then we can go."
She closed her bedroom door and Mulder went into the kitchen to put more sugar in his coffee. Usually the barista got it just right, but today a new girl had been working the bar and he wasn't sure she knew the difference between iced and hot coffee.
"Okay, I'm ready," Scully said as she came into the room. She was wearing a sage green silk dress that came almost to the floor. Her hair was pulled back slightly and she was wearing more make-up than usual.
"Wow. You look amazing."
"Are you wearing flats?"
"Why yes I am."
He grinned and led her down to the car where she adjusted the seat before sliding in. He chuckled to himself, glad she wasn't letting their height difference put a damper on the day. Sometimes the fact that she was a foot shorter than him really bothered her. He could never figure out why.
They rode in silence for a while before Scully cleared her throat and glanced quickly in his direction.
"Yes, you can ask me something."
She ignored his psychic abilities.
"Mulder, do you think that if Diana hadn't left you two would have stayed together?"
"Left field called, they want their question back."
"I'm sorry, it's just been bugging me for like a week, and I felt like we're finally back in the place where we can talk to each other instead of at each other."
"Fair enough. Diana and I wouldn't have stayed together. It was over before it started, she was just another Phoebe."
"If she's just another Phoebe, then that must mean you know she's playing you."
"Yeah, I know."
"Why do you let her?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's some kind of problem. I want to please every woman in my life because I could never please my mother, maybe I don't even fully realize what she's doing until she's done it and by then it's too late. I don't know, Scully."
"But why do you continue to do it? I don't get that. If I were to mess with you as much as she does-"
"Don't compare yourself to her. You and I have a completely different relationship."
"Scully, I know you're not going to screw me over. I know that I can rely on you. I trust you, I respect you and I care about you. I know you feel the same way, at least most of the time."
"You treat her better."
"No I don't."
"Yes you do. You look in her eyes when she talks to you. The only time you do that with me is when you're begging me to do something. Not fair."
"Because my relationship with her is different from my relationship with you, doesn't it hold that I would communicate with her differently?"
"Yes. However, the way you communicate with her is the way you should communicate with someone who you trust and respect and care about. And the way you communicate with me is the way you should communicate with someone that you do not feel that way about. There's some kind of role reversal in the way you communicate and I don't like it."
"I don't understand what you're really quibbling about here. We've had this discussion before. It's not like I've seen her since then and opened up another can of worms. Why is this bothering you so much?"
"Because... I... honestly, I don't know. It's always sitting there in the back of my mind and no matter what you say I can't make it stop bothering me. I feel like if I treated you the same way she does, I would be out of your life so fast my head would spin. And she keeps coming back, and you keep letting her. I don't know how to reconcile what you're saying with what you're doing. I know you well enough to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I need to be reassured sometimes. I need to know that you're my partner and you're not hers, and you're not wanting to be hers either. I just need to see it. You can tell me there's an alien in your kitchen sink a thousand times, but until I see it, I can't make that work in fruition with everything else. What you say and what you do have to match up or I can't believe you. And that's not safe."
"No, it's not. So what specifically can I do to prove what I say?"
"Believe me when I tell you things. When I have concerns, don't blow them off. If you trust me, tell me where you're going. You don't have to put me first, but at least pencil me into the roster. Or at least don't tell me I'm your one in five billion and then turn around and treat me like just another one of the many. Just... think a little before you do stuff. That's what it really boils down to."
"Okay, I can do that."
"What can I do to make it easier for you?"
"I need you to tell me stuff," he answered almost immediately, as if he had been waiting for an opening. "Don't tell yourself that it's not worth it or I don't care. Let me know what's bothering you so I can fix it before it's too big."
"Now can I ask you a question?"
"I suppose that's fair."
"Out of all the things that have happened to us, all the people that we've dealt with, all the informants and late night meetings and ditches, why does Diana bother you the most?"
Her sigh was a record breaker, as far as length. So was the silence.
"Well," she finally started, taking a deep breath. "There was a lot going on at the time she showed up. We had made a lot of progress in our work. We were getting at least scraps of credibility. It was just the perfect time for her to swoop in and shatter the illusion, you know?"
"You thought she was a threat."
"Of course I did. She tried to convince you of things and she tried to make you out to be a fool."
"I meant that you saw her as a personal threat."
"No, not really."
"Yes you did. You and I were closer as friends and partners that we'd ever been and you saw her as a threat to your place in my life."
"Yes you did. You were worried that she would become my best friend and I wouldn't need or want you anymore. You thought that everything that we have would become nothing to me because she was around. She was an old flame and you figured that would carry a lot of weight with me. You thought she and I would pick up where we left off and you would be out in the dust. Admit it."
"That's not what I thought, Mulder," she replied, her eyes narrowing and her grip on the wheel turning her knuckles white.
"It is what you thought because it's exactly what you told the Gunmen."
"You can't talk to me so you talk to them. They tell me things they think I need to know."
"I've got to get new friends," she muttered, turning off the highway and into her mother's neighborhood.
"Don't hold it against them. They were worried about you. I didn't listen too much to them, but what they said stuck with me. Diana bothered you because you were afraid she was going to steal me from you."
"Could you be more conceited?" she scoffed.
"I'm not saying that to be conceited. It's like a movie."
"You know, those movies where there's this couple and they're perfect for each other. And then the guy's college girlfriend comes back and you think he's going to get back together with her and maybe he does. Then some tragedy happens and he goes back to the woman he was with in the first place and they live happily ever after. Ignore the romantic crap and that's us."
"Mulder, I'm not going to argue with you about this as you seem to already have it all figured out. I'm just going to say that she bothers me and that should be enough for you."
"Okay, we'll leave it at that."
She sighed a little as she pulled the car into her mother's driveway.
The one hour drive to the wedding passed uneventfully for the most part. Mulder and Scully bickered good-naturedly, but were shocked into silence when Charlie pointed out that Maggie had been egging them on for close to half an hour.
"Isn't it emasculating to be sitting in the passengers seat while she drives?" Charlie asked Mulder suddenly.
Mulder laughed a little and glanced over at his partner.
"What's more emasculating is having to pull over and ask for directions while she sits in there giving me the stink eye and asking in very colorful language why I didn't bother to look at a map half an hour ago before we missed our exit."
"And the whole time you're thinking that this could have been avoided if she would have just navigated in the first place."
"Exactly. At least someone understands me."
Scully just rolled her eyes.
"So Mulder, how do you deal with this sister of mine? 17 years in the same house with her and I never figured it out."
"I wrote "Dana Scully for Dummies." I'll get you a copy."
"Don't pay him for it, Charlie. It's probably only a paragraph long."
"You think you're such a big mystery."
"I never said that. I just don't think you could figure me out."
"I am an investigator and a profiler. I have you totally pegged."
"What would Emily Post say if she knew you were profiling your partner? That is like, the epitome of bad manners."
"So is waking someone up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday by jumping on them and shouting that it snowed."
"It was the first snow of the season. It was magical."
"Since when do you believe in magic?"
"Since it became beneficial to this conversation."
"Dana, I don't think Emily Post would approve of your flightyness in the area of your beliefs, nor would she appreciate you jumping on someone to wake them up. If anyone in this car has a problem with manners, it's you."
"I tried to keep the two of you apart for as long as I could, because I knew this would happen. I knew you'd turn on me."
Charlie's wife Michelle chuckled quietly.
"Dana, just keep thinking about the copious amounts of Jordan Almonds we'll be able to eat today. See, now nothing bothers you."
"Mmm, Jordan Almonds."
"Are those the almonds with fakey pastel candy around them?"
"Yes. Except at weddings, sometimes they come in silver. Those are the best."
Mulder just rolled his eyes.
"Mulder, I suggest you take that candy away from her quickly," Charlie advised, sipping his punch. "She's going to start acting crazy soon."
Mulder looked over at Scully, who was sitting next to him in the reception hall, enjoying the Jordan Almonds even more than he thought she would. He wasn't sure if it was solely the sugar she was after, or if there was a deeper reason why she was eating them like they were vitamins. He knew she didn't like weddings, and maybe the candy was her way of dealing with it, like her peanut butter ice-cream after their fights. He had always known about Scully's sweet tooth. Sometimes all he had to do was bring her a few jelly beans, and she'd forgive him for anything. Of course, there was the time he brought her a chocolate Easter bunny, which she ate completely in the course of 4 hours. She'd started giggling about everything around hour three, and by hour four, he had been ready to send her home. But she looked so happy and harmless now with the small candies, he didn't have the heart to take them away.
"Dude, I'm serious. If she and Michelle are both hopped up on these things, there will be no living with them."
"Charlie, why don't you go play in a microwave?" Scully said, narrowing her eyes as Mulder took the candy away.
"I'm doing this for the benefit of everyone here. You'll thank me tomorrow."
"Bite me, Chuckles," she retorted, crossing her arms.
Mulder held back a laugh and patted her hand.
"Why don't you sober up, have a cup of coffee, and reevaluate the situation."
"You make this sound like an intervention, Mulder."
"Well, it's not serious enough to bring in a lynch mob and torches yet."
Maybe it was fate. Or maybe it was just happenstance. Either way, the DJ had started to play "Walking in Memphis." It wasn't the Cher version, but Mulder and Scully looked at each other and smiled anyway.
"We can't not," she said finally, reaching her hand out for him. He grinned and took it and they headed out to the dance floor, leaving her family wondering what kind of joke they were sharing.
The last time they had danced like this, it had been a simple slow dance, the two of them mostly just watching Cher with the Great Mutato. This time though, they almost had to look at each other. They let their thoughts drift back to the case, which had probably had the best ending of any case they had had before or since. They'd both been happy then. She had been freed of the cancer, the X-Files weren't under fire, and they had been getting along. It had been a sweet time in their lives, one that they hoped they would always remember. The calm before the storm.
She sighed a little and looked up at him, her eyes sparkling.
"Mulder, I never did ask you where you learned to dance."
"I'll give you one guess."
"Your mom made you take ballroom dancing lessons."
"Bingo. I'm going to have to call and thank her one of these days."
"Tell her thanks from me too."
He laughed a little and let his forehead rest on hers.
"Scully, I know that sometimes we don't get along, and a lot of the time I treat you like crap, but I just want you to know that even though I don't always act like it, I love you."
The looked that passed across her face was one of surprise at first. It seemed like an unwritten rule that they could never bare their emotions point blank. It had to be done on the sly, through actions or thinly veiled, muttered phrases in a crisis. But never so clearly, and never out loud.
The next emotion he saw was the one that scared him. It was either confusion or conflict, but it certainly was not love. She stood there, her mouth opening and closing like a suffocating fish.
"I... I..." she sputtered, her eyes darting from his to his tie or the floor or anywhere else neutral. He tipped her chin up, forcing her to look at him like he had so many times in the past.
"I... I can't say it. I'm sorry, I just can't say it," she apologized before walking out of his arms and stealing away. He stood there for a moment, a chill settling in to replace the warmth. He wasn't quite sure what he had done wrong. He knew that she knew that he loved her. And even though he was in love with her, it wasn't like he had said that out loud. Just a simple, friendly "I love you." Maybe she took it the wrong way. Maybe she thought he was trying to convey romantic feelings.
With something the weight of a brick settling his stomach, he went the direction she had gone, hoping to save their partnership.
He found her out on the balcony, the afternoon sun glinting off of her hair. She was staring out over the beach and he could see from the slump of her shoulders that she wasn't feeling too good about herself.
A slight breeze blew over them and he slid his jacekt off, then silently walked up behind her and placed it around her shoulders before leaning on the railing next to her.
"I'm sorry, Mulder," she said again, refusing to look at him.
"I meant it totally innocently, Scully. I don't want you to think that I'm-"
"Mulder, it's not that. I know how you meant it. It's just... it's hard for me to say."
She sighed and pulled the jacket tighter around her small frame.
"I'm not really used to saying it. We rarely said it when I was growing up-"
"Yeah. Dad wasn't the kind of guy who would say that, and mom... well, she never heard it growing up, so she didn't think we needed to either. It doesn't mean that they didn't love us, it was just never said. And now, it doesn't come easily to me. I don't want you to think that I don't. I just can't say the words."
He slipped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer.
"Scully do you love me?"
"Yes, I do. A lot."
"That's all I need to know."
"I want to be able to say it to you. You're my best friend, and it's only fair-"
"Scully, I know already."
"But I want you to hear it."
"Then say it when you can. Don't force yourself, and don't feel like I think you love me less because you can't say the words. They'll come eventually, just like you'll find a substitute for 'I'm fine' and just like someday, you will be able to admit that you need help."
"Hey, ouch," she whined, crinkling her forehead.
"I speak the truth. Even though you can't say all of those things, I know that you're not always fine, and I know that sometimes you need help. And I know that you love me. Okay?"
She sighed and nodded, her arms going around his waist.
"Thanks for understanding."
"Well, that is kind of my job."
She smiled and nuzzled his chest.
"Hey, wanna go inside? I'll give you back your candy."
"Oh bless you," she said, taking his hand and following him inside. She really did want to say the words, but she would beat herself up over that later. For now, she just wanted to enjoy his company.