Author's Note: I never imagined the fluffiest piece I've ever written to be an X-Files fic, but I guess that's how it's turned out. I started watching the X-Files for the first time this summer (thank you Netflix). This story is set somewhere in the 6th season (thanks Trycee), maybe just a little before The Unnatural. I apologize now if I break any canon norms or just totally screw something up.
"First date?" the hostess asked Scully as she led her through the crowded Italian restaurant.
"Blind date?" the girl pressed.
Scully sighed. "How can you tell?"
The hostess ignored that question, but answered one that probably seemed more relevant in the mind of the pretty college-aged co-ed. "Don't worry. He's totally cute."
"It's not him I'm worried about," Scully mumbled as she smoothed her new skirt.
The garment was different from most of the skirts she owned not due to color—the charcoal gray fit perfectly into her ever-darkening wardrobe. What distinguished this particular piece of clothing was that it lacked a partner. Scully purchased it alone, as a single item, without a matching jacket. Yet the acquisition was not as simple as it seemed.
Comparatively, this skirt was high maintenance. It required the owner to have some sense of fashion and coordination, to find a top that went perfectly without taking away from its own loveliness—or from its owner's.
That, and it was above the knee. A rare, daring choice for Scully, but paired with black heels and the red blouse she'd chosen from the group of shirts at the back of her closet that she reserved strictly for social situations—a collection that hadn't been accessed in quite some time—the result wasn't half-bad.
"Are you kidding me? Girl, you look smokin' hot. No joke."
Scully's laugh was more of a chuckle than a scoff. The statement's lack of merit wasn't even worth the skepticism. The hostess mistook her complete lack of belief as good humor and responded with an encouraging grin.
Scully had no idea why she'd put so much effort into her appearance for a date who was bound to be a dud. Before she had the chance to completely talk herself out of the whole thing, the hostess stopped at a table and pulled out a chair for her. Just like that, she found herself seated across from the pleasantly surprising Nathan Riley.
"Totally cute" didn't quite do him justice. Nathan was tall, dark and handsome in a way to which Scully had absolutely no objections. His green eyes sparkled when he flashed her a smile and stood up out of his chair. He nodded politely, pressing his red tie against his dark dress shirt, then took his seat again.
"You must be Dana."
"You look beautiful."
"Oh, thanks. So do you. I mean, you look handsome," she stammered as a blush burst onto her cheeks. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, opting for honesty, "You'll have to forgive me. When it comes to dating, I'm a bit out of practice."
"Likewise. I haven't been on a date in… years."
Knowing this put Scully at ease. Or maybe it was the wine that flowed so steadily before they had even put in their order. Either way, she felt perfectly comfortable talking to Nathan—so much so that she couldn't quite believe this match had been orchestrated by her mother who had never even suggested the idea of fixing her up before. Perhaps it was beginner's luck.
"My mother tells me you're a doctor," Scully commented as an attentive, but wisely quiet waiter delivered a little more wine to their glasses.
"My mother said the exact same thing about you," he teased with feigned accusation, "but she never said exactly what sort of medicine you practice."
Scully laughed down into her wine glass as she took another sip.
"Lose your license?" he joked.
"No. I'm an agent with the FBI. I investigate… crimes."
She hesitated before looking up for his reaction. His brows were arched curiously, but not judgmentally. His smile was impressed. "Wow."
"It's not as exciting as it sounds."
"That's what I say about my job, too," Nathan told her, "when I don't want to explain it."
Scully bit her lip. She was busted and she knew it. And, in a way, she sort of liked it.
"Well, that's just it," Scully said. "It's not exactly the type of thing you can explain."
"Now I'm intrigued," Nathan confessed, leaning forward in his seat.
His desire for more details, along with an inspirational smile and intense eye contact, turned the blush on Scully's cheek into a fiery flush that spread down past her neck and beyond the borders of the shirt, now just a few shades deeper than her own flesh.
Scully spoke slowly. "My partner and I investigate unsolved, unusual cases."
Nathan laughed. "No kidding?"
Despite the nature of the question, Scully was surprised to find his tone totally devoid of disbelief, but she'd yet to fully explain the nature of her work.
"You won't believe this," Nathan's words were now just a bit more cautious, "but that's precisely what I do."
Scully doubted Nathan's career in medicine could "precisely" mirror her own work with the X-files, but even just the chance of a peripheral connection drew her in. "How do you mean?"
"My cases aren't crimes, of course. They're unusual medical conditions with symptoms others have been unable to diagnose. My partner and I—"
"You have a practice dedicated to this?"
"Oh, no. We're actually employees of Fairfax County. Our office is located in the county medical complex," he explained, "but I call her my partner because she's much more than a colleague. Meredith is my better half. She keeps me balanced."
Meredith. Scully tried to keep the crinkle between her brow from forming, but it came despite her efforts to convince herself that jealousy was beyond premature.
"Professionally speaking, of course," Nathan asserted in response to her scowl.
Scully smiled, embarrassed to be so easily read. Hoping to divert Nathan's attention to something else, Scully said, "I'd love to hear more about your work."
Nathan hesitated. It was the same pause Scully gave before explaining her own job to someone she knew was smart enough to see past the extraneous details she used to disguise the true nature of the X-files. Now it was Scully's turn to be intrigued.
"Okay, well, you see," Nathan hedged, "People come to us when they're ill and other doctors have been unable to find the cause. While my specialties are interpreting symptoms and choosing appropriate testing, Meredith is better at…"
"The weird stuff?" Scully supplied after it didn't seem Nathan knew how to fill in the blank.
"Yes. Quite weird stuff, actually. Her hunches seem to come out of left field, yet she's very often correct. She also believes in treatments no other doctors, myself included, give credence. Acupuncture, reflexology, Eastern medicine..."
Scully raised a skeptical eyebrow.
Nathan smiled and nodded as if she were perfectly proving his point. "Exactly."
"My partner believes in aliens." Scully's delivery was deadpan, a monotone that would put even Mulder to shame, allowing room for the interpretation of her statement as a joke.
Nathan's response was perfectly serious. "Meredith thoroughly checks each patient for implants, presumably of an extraterrestrial origin, though she's not above a good government conspiracy theory."
"Has she ever found anything?" After she'd blurted it out, Scully convinced herself she'd asked the question strictly on Mulder's behalf.
"Not so far."
"And you don't think she ever will?"
Nathan considered this question as if it were one he often asked himself. "No. I don't think so, but I suppose Meredith has taught me to be…"
"Open to the possibility?" Scully suggested, already knowing his response.
Scully stared at Nathan, their work-related kinship overwhelming her.
"Dana, are you and your partner busy tomorrow?"
"Meeting in the morning."
"Free for lunch?"
"Perfect. How do you feel about hospital cafeteria food?"
More chapters coming soon!
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