Spoilers: One Father, Two Sons, FTF. Takes place between One Son and Agua Mala

Thanks much to Joe for the beta read; even though he doesn't care for the show he always gives me invaluable insight.


Vexed
Rated PG-13
By Suzanne L. Feld

I still couldn't believe I'd overheard Scully dissing me. And in a pretty damn mean way, too.

Peek not through a keyhole lest ye be vexed. I should have paid attention to the old proverb; I hadn't intended to overhear the conversation—although I had gone out of my way to do so once I realized whom they were talking about. I'd been walking past the ladies' room as Scully and another woman I didn't know came out behind me and I heard my name. I ducked around the corner and behind a partially assembled cube wall. I could only hope the workers putting up this cubicle didn't come back before the women left.

"—wouldn't waste my time. He's the worst slob bachelor I've ever known, including both of my brothers before they got married. He lives on porn and pizza, never cleans his apartment, and I can't even begin to imagine what he'd expect from a woman after that."

They both laughed as they paused, probably at the water cooler across the hall, and the other woman said in a low voice that I barely heard, "It is kind of a scary thought. But I've heard through the grapevine that he's, well, you know, hung. Mansfield said he saw him in the shower and said that it was impressive."

"He hasn't dated since I've known him," Scully replied with clear disdain. I heard a faint glug-glug and knew that I'd been right about the water cooler. "Can't be that great."

"So you never—"

"Oh, God, no, are you kidding?" Scully let out a rather mean laugh. "Not after I got to know him. He's a brilliant investigator and the best profiler I've ever known, but I wouldn't go near him personally with a ten-foot pole. And on top… that…. could…"

Their voices faded away and I now stood there with my mouth hanging open. I couldn't decide if I should be proud that the women in the Hoover thought I was hung, angry that Benny Mansfield had been checking me out, or shocked that Scully thought that badly of me. I decided to be all three as I peered around the wall to see that no one was around. I'd been using a little-known rear hallway on the way back from lunch trying to avoid Kersh, and wouldn't be surprised if Scully had used this remote restroom for the same purpose.

I wasn't sure if I could face her in the bullpen now without giving away that I'd overhead that rude conversation. But I didn't dare disappear for another day or I would get canned, and both Kersh and I knew it, so I had no real choice.

Scully wasn't at her desk when I returned, nor was our current boss hovering like he'd been doing since my MIA days two weeks ago and our admin leave for snooping in Spender's office. With nothing better to do at the moment, I got back to work doing online security checks on applicants we'd interviewed that morning, although my mind was barely on what I was doing.

Luckily, I didn't need most of my mind to look up a Mr. Herman Resser's credit history and police record so he could be considered as a federal employee. My fingers moved automatically, printing out the pertinent information for the report and saving other pages that I might need later to the hard drive.

Why would Scully say such rude things about me? Did she really think that I was such a horrible, disgusting person? She never said a word about my apartment unless it was really bad, or I'd left something perishable in the fridge or microwave while we were gone for days and were greeted by a stench when we walked in.

Well, I guess that explains why nothing ever came from that almost-kiss in my hallway, I thought angrily. She thought I was a dirty, perverted slob. I felt the old irate depression settling over me, the same kind that had descended after Diana had left me so unexpectedly. This was the main reason that I'd given up dating and lived with my videos, sex line calls, and the occasional movie theater or strip club trip for sexual satisfaction; I didn't need the crap that women dealt out. I'd thought Scully was different, but apparently not.

I was gathering printouts to finish up my report on the waste-of-time Mr. Resser when I turned and saw Scully sitting down at her desk. Three of the wet-behind-the-ears rookies were staring at her and looked away quickly when they saw my glare, but my thought this time was "You're welcome to her, boys. Good luck keeping your gonads" instead of "quit looking at my partner that way."

"Hey, Mulder," she greeted me in a friendly tone as I walked past carrying the stack of printouts.

"Scully," I said coolly, sitting down and turning my back to her.

I could feel her eyes boring into the back of my head. "Not going to ask where I was?" she said in a light tone.

I bit my lip against my first response, and then said, "It's not like we're joined at the hip, Scully. I didn't even notice you were gone and if I had, I'd have assumed that you were hiding in the ladies' room like you have been for most of this week."

I didn't have to see her shocked look to know I'd hurt her feelings, but I didn't care and went on with my careful sorting and stapling.

"Fine," she snapped, and was quiet while I finished readying the report. I wanted to glance back and see what she was doing since I didn't hear typing or her voice on the phone, but forced myself to act like this was the most important file in the entire history of the FBI.

When the report was done and I couldn't draw it out any more I glanced up at the clock to see that it was quarter after four; fuck it, close enough for horseshoes. I set the file folder in the Out box on my desk and stood, grabbing my suit coat from the back of the chair. "See you tomorrow," I mumbled in her general direction, careful not to look at her, and fled like the coward she thought I was.

:::

"I should have known I'd find you here."

I turned on my stool to blearily face my partner, all bright red hair and shining face even in this smelly, dimly lit bar. Despite how angry I was at her, I couldn't help but think that she really was a sight for sore eyes as she hopped up on the stool next to me. "Christ, can't a man even get drunk in peace?" I grumbled, turning back to my glass.

"You're not getting drunk tonight, Mulder, or that will be the end of the FBI for you if you go in hungover tomorrow," she said, reaching over and pulling the empty glass towards herself. "Kersh noticed that you left early and he's not happy about it. C'mon, let's get you home. How many have you had?"

"Not enough," I snapped, reaching for the glass but missing by a good country mile. My arm brushed her shoulder but she didn't flinch away, instead grabbing my wandering hand just above the wrist with the one of hers not holding the glass away and pinning it to the bar's mahogany surface. "Let me go, Scully, what the fuck is wrong with you?"

I wanted to yank myself away but even half-drunk was aware that we could get hurt if we both toppled off the barstools, which was the likely outcome if I tried to move that fast in this condition. Even as upset as I was, I didn't want that.

"Nothing's wrong with me, and although I think I may have figured out what's wrong with you, I can't talk to you like this," she said, still holding my arm down on the bar. "If you want to talk we've got to get you sobered up."

"He had two doubles when he came in but has been drinking club soda for the last hour or so," the blonde bartender interjected as she walked by carrying a large silver shaker. "Shouldn't be too difficult to sober him up."

"Thanks—see if you ever get a tip from me again," I snarled at her and got a cocky grin in return. Bitch. Now Scully knew I was mostly pretending, though I could still feel the effects of the whiskey in my tingling fingertips so it wasn't all an act. "Scully, one last time, let go-a me before I make you."

She did so, pushing the glass away further down the bar then folding her arms over her chest. "You going to come with me quietly or do I have to handcuff you?" she said, low, her serious eyes blazing into mine. "Either way, you're leaving."

"Pushy and kinky—not sure I can keep up with you there," I said snidely. But I stood and paused, letting the room settle down—perhaps I was a little more lit than I'd initially thought—and then grabbed my jacket and tie off of the coat rack just inside the door on the way past.

I slid into Scully's car without argument though mine was in the lot out back; I knew I wasn't able to drive safely and would have taken a cab home anyway. We rode to my apartment in silence, thought it seemed to be more of a regular silence between us than a tense or uncomfortable tone. I laid my head back against the seat, too beat and hosed to argue with her right now.

But I was still hurt and angry, and planned to have it out with her just as soon as we got to my place. Little did I know that she had other plans.

Two blocks from my apartment she stopped at Mike's Deli and, without a word, got out and disappeared into the building. When she returned just a few minutes later it was with a large, greasy white bag that she handed to me wordlessly and then finished the drive. There were some seriously good smells coming from that warm, lumpy bag and my stomach growled its recognition of not having had dinner. On top of that, all I'd had for lunch was a corndog from a street vendor so I'd been drinking on a seriously empty stomach. No wonder I was still half-cocked from just two whiskies a couple of hours ago.

In my apartment she cleared off the dining room table in a no-nonsense manner and took the deli bag from my arms, setting it on one end. "Mulder, go change and I'll set out the food," she said in a matter-of-fact way, shrugging off her blazer and putting it on the coat tree. I couldn't help but notice that the pale blue top she wore underneath the blazer was rather tight and outlined her breasts nicely. So what if I was mad at her? Didn't mean I couldn't look, I thought as I watched her heading for the kitchen. "My eyes are up here," she said drily, waving a hand in front of my face. Somehow she'd gotten from across the table to right in front of me. "You okay to go change your clothes?"

"If not, you gonna help me?" I leered down at her, hands on hips.

"No, you can eat dinner in your sweaty, wrinkled, bar-smelling work clothes for all I care," she said right back, turning and heading into the kitchen.

Here was my opening! "Whatsa matter—that's what you think I do anyway, right?" I threw after her.

"Ohhh, here we go," she said, throwing up her hands and turning to face me from the doorway. "I was hoping to have dinner first but fine, let's do this then. I just don't want to hear it when you have to eat cold matzo ball soup and a pastrami sandwich later."

I paused. "Matzo?" I parroted. "Pastrami?"

"Like I don't know your favorites by now," her voice drifted out of the kitchen. How did she keep teleporting like that? "Unpack the bag and let's eat before we have our fight."

The smell of the food hit me again and I was distracted from the looming argument, leaning over the bag to see what was in it. Almost before I knew it we were sitting at the table eating; I was still wearing my smoky, bar-smelling work clothes minus the jacket but Scully had quit complaining about it so I ignored it as well.

I scarfed down both the huge deli sandwich and large cardboard container of soup she'd gotten me, washing it down with draughts of cold water from a large bottle of Evian she'd set at my place. "I didn't realize I was so hungry," I admitted as I balled up the greasy wax paper wrapper from the sandwich. "Or thirsty."

"Alcohol dehydrates you," Scully said, nibbling at the crust of her sandwich, which was all that was left. She was really picky about her bread, liking the taste of rye but not the hard crust, and often didn't finish it. But she ate it right down to the part she didn't care for, like she was doing right now. "That's why I got you the water. Drink as much as your body wants, it'll help reduce the severity of your hangover tomorrow too. There's another bottle in the fridge if you need it."

As I tossed the crumpled sandwich paper in the bag that sat to one side, I got a whiff of my nasty smoke-saturated shirt and grimaced unthinkingly. "I can see why you wanted me to change," I said with a sigh, and got up. "I'll be right back."

Now that I was sobering up I wasn't so sure I wanted to have this discussion with Scully; it was bound to be embarrassing for us both and, more than likely, get mean and turn into an argument. We fought enough these days out of sheer boredom and I didn't want yet another reason to have at it. As I changed into clean sweats and a t-shirt I decided not to mention it and pretend that I hadn't heard anything. The fact that it had hurt my feelings I couldn't change, but I could hide it from her.

When I walked out of the bedroom the dining room table was cleared off and Scully had moved to the couch, my bottle of Evian and hers of diet root beer on the coffee table in front of it. Instead of sitting down, I grabbed my water and leaned against the living room archway looking down at her. She was perched in a corner of my couch near the fishtank, facing me, sitting with one leg folded under her and arms crossed across her chest, clearly a defensive posture. "I think I'm all sobered up, you don't have to stay any longer," I said, beating her to the punch as I saw her mouth opening to speak. "Thanks for dinner, but I'll be fine now."

"That's not why I'm here. I got you sobered up so we could talk," she said, looking calmly back at me with those clear blue eyes. "I need to explain something to you."

"No you don't," I countered, really not wanting to talk about this. "I don't care what you think about me, Scully. It doesn't matter as long as we can still work together, especially if we get the X-Files back someday."

"I knew you must have overhead at least some of my conversation with Reaves and that proves it," she said with a sigh, looking away and shaking her head. "I am sorry about that, Mulder. How much did you hear?"

Anger, shame, and hurt swept over me in a remembered and renewed wave. "I was around the corner when you came out of the bathroom telling your buddy what a fucking slob I am," I said, not hiding my emotions, which were clear in my voice. "Is that really what you think of me, Scully? That I'm a dirty, disgusting person who can't get a date?"

Her head snapped up and she gazed back at me with alarmed eyes. "God, no, Mulder, I was just saying that to… to…" her voice trailed off and she looked away.

"To what?" I demanded, moving over and dropping down on the couch across from her. Only a foot or two of black leather cushion separated us but it may as well have been a brick wall at this point. Despite our physical nearness I felt like I'd never understand or be close to her again after this.

"To chase her away from you," Scully admitted in a rush, looking away. Her face was rapidly turning a deep pink. "She, ah, cornered me in the ladies' room and started asking about you."

I stared at her red face, eyes still averted. "And what's wrong with that?"

Scully huffed, turning away from me and setting both feet on the floor. "She was going to ask you out, Mulder. On a date."

I still wasn't getting it. "So?"

"Goddamn it!" Scully burst out and then turned to glare at me briefly. "Are you going to make me spell it out, Mulder? Are you really that dense?"

I frowned at her. "I have no fucking clue what you are talking about, Scully. Could you please enlighten me?"

"God! I don't want you to go out with her, Emily Reaves, of all people," she burst out, low but intense. She was still blushing profoundly and looking away, and it was like getting hit between the eyes with a rubber mallet as what she said sunk in and gelled. "I know I have no right to butt into your personal life, Mulder, but I couldn't help it."

"Oh," was all I could say, now looking away from her with embarrassment and confusion of my own. The Clueless Male Strikes Again. Jesus, I felt like I had when I'd heard about Scully and the guy in Philly, although I was pretty sure she hadn't slept with him. At least I didn't want to believe so.

She got up and I glanced warily at her, but couldn't see her face past the curtain of her thick hair. "Let's let this drop now, Mulder. I said what I wanted to say, I'm sorry I interfered, and if you want I'll talk to Reaves tomorrow and tell her that I lied."

"Wait—what's so wrong with her?" I asked, also getting up and moving in front of Scully. She stopped, still not looking at me, but her face wasn't quite as red now, which I found a relief as it eased things between us. "Emily Reaves, I mean. I've never even seen or heard of her before today."

"I'm surprised—you must not be in much for locker room talk," she said, folding her arms over her chest again. "She's known to collect notches on her headboard, if you know what I mean."

"She doesn't sound like my type," I said. "I don't go in much for known sluts, you know."

She huffed again. "I wouldn't know your type, Mulder. You really haven't dated since I've known you, that's no lie."

"Neither have you," I pointed out, but in a gentle and not accusing tone.

"How would you feel if I did?" she asked, raising her face to look at me. It was no longer red, though the color in her cheeks was still pronounced.

My instant reaction was jealousy and then anger, but I tamped both back. "Not too happy about it, I think, although that's not fair," I admitted. "We should both be able to have lives outside work, you in particular. I gave up on dating a long time ago."

She bit that full lower lip, the one I sometimes daydreamt about licking. "Actually, Mulder, I have too. My last blind date was so boring that I barely stayed awake and was it a relief when you called me away."

"When was that?"

"Around the time of the Jersey Devil case, I think."

"My god. That was, what, four or five years ago?" I said, surprised. I had kind of assumed that Scully dated now and then, and now I realized that she probably sat home alone every night like I did. As much as I hated the thought of her seeing another man, it was better than having the same type of lonely existence I endured.

"Trust me, everyone's been trying to set me up on dates, but I'm just not interested," she admitted with no malice. "I've plenty of chances, believe me, but I just don't have time."

"Because I keep you running around after me," I said bitterly.

"I make my own decisions, Mulder, and the day I don't want to be by your side I won't," she said with more of her usual attitude. "We're in this together, remember?"

"So what makes you think I have time to date?" I said, leaning back against the doorway opposite her and folding my arms, mimicking her posture.

She shrugged, her eyes still meeting mine. "It's different for guys, that much I know after having grown up with two brothers," she said. "Most women require a few dates before they, ah, put out, but men don't seem to be as discriminating with a willing woman."

"Ah, so you're saying that you think I'd have a one-night-stand with Reaves and let her notch my name on her bedpost," I said.

"Something like that. Couldn't blame you for going for a sure thing," she sighed.

I thought of Kristen Kilar, the vampire-wannabe chick who was the last woman I'd had sex with. Apparently it had been a bit more recent for me than for Scully, but not by much. "Listen, the last time I got laid didn't turn out so well, and for now I'm not interested in dates or one night stands," I said honestly, and then took a swig of the water that I still held in one hand. It was mostly that I felt guilty about having gotten laid while Scully was missing, though I had done it to get the thought of her out of my head for a while. It hadn't worked. "I appreciate your chasing off the she-vulture, Scully, but it's not necessary. I can fend her off myself if need be."

She gave me a somewhat shamefaced grin. "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings," she said softly, just loud enough for me to hear. "I didn't mean any of what I said, you know. I was just trying to make her uninterested in you and not have anyone think anything about us at the same time."

"I know that now. But if nothing else, can you do me a favor tomorrow?"

"Sure, you know I will."

"Could you just verify that, as a doctor, I am what Mansfield said about me in the locker room? I don't care if anyone thinks I'm a slob bachelor as long as they think I'm hung."

Scully stared at me wide-eyed for a few beats than burst out laughing. "That's not going to help the Reaves of the world from coming after you, you know."

"That's okay, I've got you to protect me," I grinned over at her. "Anyone comes on to me, I'll sic you on them."

Still smiling, she moved over to the coat rack to get her blazer. "I'll see if I can slip that into conversation sometime, Mulder, but no promises."

"Fair enough," I agreed, opening and holding the door for her. "Thanks again for dinner, Scully. And caring enough about me to both diss the shit out of me and make sure I don't get fired."

She paused in the doorway and looked up at me seriously, our light mood gone. "I didn't say those things because I care about who you date, Mulder, I said them because I was jealous at the thought of you seeing another woman. Any woman."

With that, she turned and hurried off down the hall. I seriously considered following her again, this time finishing the kiss I had attempted a few months ago, but knew that she would just attribute it to me being drunk even if I wasn't anymore. We were good at that type of rationalization, both of us. I stood there and watched her get in the elevator and the doors close. To myself I whispered, "I'd have been jealous too, Scully."

Then I went inside and closed the door, for the first time in months looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

finis