Chapter 3

Scully woke the next morning, only slightly surprised to awake on the couch. She had a stiff neck and a pounding headache. She felt like she had a hangover. Guess that's what stress and self pity, combined with a night on the couch can do to you. She stood in the shower until the water turned cold, crying out her frustration. She simply didn't know what to do next. She felt alone and sad, like she lost something very important but didn't even know what it was. All because of one stupid bike ride.

Out of desperation to get some sense of relief, she decided to go to church. If she couldn't find peace within herself, maybe she could find some with God. She didn't have much hope, but it was the only thing she could think of.

She hurried to get ready, hoping to meet her mom at the Catholic church Maggie always attended. Traffic was light on a Sunday morning and she got there just as early mass started. Standing in the back, Scully finally found her mom, but then hesitated to move to where she was sitting. Her mom would know she was really in bad shape if she saw her there today. Somehow she didn't think she could admit this much weakness, even to her own mother. Scully quickly slid into a back pew and dropped to her knees, far more intent on finding her own spiritual peace than the service taking place around her.

As she left the church with the other parishioners, Scully actually felt better. While she walked to her car she reflected on how the human spirit truly needs communion with a higher power to maintain a sense of balance. She felt stronger. She felt like herself. She felt ready to face Mulder and deal with what was happening between them, whatever it might be. She felt hungry.

Well, there was no time like the present to deal with all of these feelings. Scully drove home and changed her clothes, putting on her favorite well-worn jeans, a soft gray sweater, boots and her leather jacket. After gathering her gun and badge and sticking some money in her pocket, Scully made a call to the Chinese take-out place near Mulder's apartment and headed out.

She felt a little nervous standing in front of his door holding lunch, but at that point it was too late to turn back. She knocked quickly and waited, holding her breath. She waited and released her breath when she realized she was holding it. She knocked again and waited. Was he in there?

Scully was pulling out her keys to use the copy she had for his door when she heard movement from the other side. She shifted from one foot to the other, willing him to hurry. Finally the door opened. Mulder stood there in his jeans and a rumpled T-shirt, blinking wearily. He didn't look so good.

Mulder had spent a rough night. The disappointment he had felt the previous evening stayed with him the rest of the night. He drove straight home from Scully's and lay on his couch, counting the water spots on the ceiling. He thought about his life, all he had lost, all he had been through. He thought about how much he had regained when Scully was assigned to his department. She had filled in the gaps of the people who had left him. She stayed by his side through even the worst of experiences. She had lost and suffered greatly, all because she was with him. But she still stayed. Why? It didn't make any sense to his rational thinking.

He finally dozed off in the early morning but slept fitfully, nightmares peppering his dreams. He dreamt of when Sam was taken, his father's murder, Scully's disappearance and return and then her cancer. So many painful things had happened during his 32 years. There was plenty to fuel his nightmares. Mulder was reliving Scully's abduction when, mercifully, he was awakened by knocking. It took him several minutes to shake off the reality of the dream and realize that someone was at his door.

He was surprised to see Scully. She looked good and what she was holding smelled even better. He raised his eyebrows in question, asking why she was there. Scully pushed by him, squeezing the food bags onto his already overflowing coffee table.

She turned back to Mulder and appraised him with her eyes. "Are you okay, Mulder? It doesn't look like you had a very good night."

Mulder ran his hands through his hair and felt embarrassed to have her see him this way. He must look awful. He smoothed his hands over his face and winced when he felt the stubble on his chin. "Well, I didn't have a good night. Why are you here?"

Scully smiled at his obvious discomfort. She thought he looked cute, but definitely in need of a shower. "I thought you might need some lunch. I brought your favorite! But perhaps you should take a shower first. The food will keep."

She gently steered him in the direction of the bathroom. He was still disoriented, partly from sleep and partly from confusion by her appearance. Mulder went willingly, glad for an opportunity to escape her scrutiny.

While he was in the shower his brain fog cleared and he took some time to consider Scully's presence in his apartment. He wondered why she just showed up. Hadn't they come to an agreement yesterday? He wouldn't wreck her life by pursuing a relationship. No, wait, he didn't see Scully yesterday. That was his personal resolution. That meant she didn't know about it. So what did he do now?

He made his way to the bedroom and got dressed, all the while thinking about the woman in his living room. The feelings he had experienced while they were riding his motorcycle began to come back to him and he anticipated what this day might bring. If she didn't know about the resolution she might be thinking about something else. Suddenly, Mulder couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next.

"So, what's for lunch?" he asked as he came out of his bedroom, pulling a T-shirt over his head. Scully turned at the sound of his voice and caught a glimpse of his well-muscled chest before the shirt covered it. Whoa. She wasn't expecting a view like that. Sure, she'd seen his chest before, but only when he was sick and she was trying to help him. It had never looked so…. yummy. She could feel her body heat rising and she felt embarrassed. She didn't expect to respond to him like that.

"Scully? Are you okay? What's for lunch. I'm starving and it smells really good. Do I need to heat it up or do you think it is warm enough as is?" Mulder didn't notice Scully noticing him as he crossed the room and started digging through the bags she had brought in. "Nope, it's still hot. Well, warm enough for me, anyway. I hate the way the chicken gets rubbery when you reheat it. Can we eat out of these or do you want plates? Actually, I don't think I have any clean. Is it okay to eat out of these?"

Scully finally found her tongue and responded, "I don't care. I'm fine to eat out of the containers. Just don't mix the sesame chicken with that Kung Pao stuff. I like my Chinese as it was intended to be eaten, not mixed together. Are you sure the rice is hot enough?" She was glad to avoid discussing her red face and hot body. Mulder didn't seem to notice anyway.

God, he was cute. His hair was still wet and sticking up from where he had rubbed the towel over it. His very presence was making her even hotter. Maybe she should take the rice to the kitchen and put it in the microwave for a minute or two. It didn't really need to be heated up but she sure needed to cool down. She quickly grabbed the rice and made her escape.

Whew. She was hot. Think about something else Dana. You don't want to draw this problem to Mulder's attention, now do you?

Too soon the rice was done and she was forced to go back to the living room and rejoin her partner. He hadn't waited for the rice and was deep in the Kung Pao pork. He really seemed to be enjoying it.

"Thanks for bringing this over, Scully. I was really hungry. I shared pizza with the Gunmen last night but you know them, they pick through it so much I lose my appetite by the time they've finished looking for surveillance equipment."

"So what do they think of the motorcycle? Did Byers ride? Somehow I just can't picture that! Here's the rice." She dumped some rice into his pork and carefully added a little to the top of the sesame chicken, then dug in. "Oh, do you have anything to drink, or will my trip back to the kitchen be futile?" She shoved a forkful of chicken into her mouth and headed for the kitchen, not waiting for his answer. He mumbled something in response but his mouth was too full for it to make sense.

Mulder could hear Scully pushing things around in his fridge. He quickly chewed and swallowed so he could direct her search, but paused when she appeared with two beers in one hand and a pitcher of tea in the other.

"Did you make this tea recently or is it left over from the last time I was here, about 6 weeks ago?" He grinned sheepishly and she returned the tea to the kitchen. "Well, I guess we are having beer, then. Does beer go with Chinese food?" She handed him his beer and popped the top off hers, then took a long swig. "It's not too bad. What do you think?"

After taking a long drink of his own, Mulder nodded in response before digging into his meal again. They ate in silence for a while, until Scully plunked the remains of her chicken on the table and groaned appreciatively. "They make the best sesame chicken I've ever had. How did you luck out, living so close to that place?" Mulder just shrugged his shoulders and reached for the leftover chicken.

After trying a bite he agreed with her, "You're right. This is great. I never ordered this from them. I'll have to get it next time. Do you mind if I finish it?" When Scully gave her permission, he quickly finished it, and then reached for the fortune cookies. Scully took hers and broke it open to read the message. "Follow the leading of your heart." Great, even the Chinese were giving her advice now. She didn't say anything; she just ate her cookie in silence.

Meanwhile, Mulder broke open his cookie and ate it immediately. Food was his main concern, not fortunes. After he ate every crumb he picked up the slip of paper to see what wisdom the cookie had for him that day. He almost laughed out loud when he read "Your greatest treasure is truth." Talk about truth! This fortune hit it right on the nose! He laughed out loud and handed the slip to Scully.

"Boy, do they know you!" she said. "I wonder; do they call this the Fox Mulder special?" She was afraid he would want to read her fortune now. She didn't know if she wanted him to see it. When she looked at him she saw he was holding out his hand. Yeah, he wanted to read hers. Without a word she handed it to him, and then waited to see what he would say.

"Wow, Scully. That's pretty deep. What do you suppose that means? Romantic advice from a fortune cookie. Do you suppose it's talking about me?" Mulder had been teasing, but suddenly wished he hadn't said that. The look on Scully's face really made him wish there was some way to take it back. But once it was said there wasn't anything he could do about it. Trying to fix it or cover it up would just make it worse.

That was one thing he learned early with women; if you put your foot in your mouth, leave it there. If you take it out to talk some more you will just get yourself in even more trouble. So he waited to see what she would do next.

Scully froze when he asked if the fortune could be talking about him. Yes, it could be. Like she was going to admit it. Why would he ask that? Unless perhaps he was thinking the same thing? Could it be that Mulder was affected the same way she was by their night together on Friday? That was something to consider. But what was she supposed to say now?

Well, according to Mulder's fortune, his greatest treasure was truth. She knew that even before the stupid cookie said so. So maybe she should give him some of the truth that was so important to him.

"Maybe it is talking about you, Mulder." She spoke so quietly he could hardly hear her. Mulder wanted desperately to look into her eyes, to see what she was really saying to him but she refused to make eye contact, instead focusing her attention on a chip in a fingernail as if that was the most important thing happening right now.

"Scully, Dana, please look at me," he pleaded. He knew that using her given name was a sure way to get her attention.

Scully couldn't resist the pleading in his voice. She raised her eyes to his and let him read what was written there. She wanted him to know the struggle she was facing, all her fears and all her desires. She wanted him to know her heart.

Mulder was overwhelmed by what he read in the depths of her blue eyes. He was drowning in the emotion she shared with him. He was amazed she could communicate so much with one look, that the walls she usually kept up to protect herself were so far removed, he could see into her soul. Mulder felt so honored by the trust she was placing in him. He was honored by what he saw in her eyes. She cared about him. He could see it.

Involuntarily, his hand reached across the table and brushed her cheek, wanting to return the emotion she was sharing with him. He wanted to speak, to verbally respond to what she had told him with her eyes. "Scully, do you really feel this way? Am I reading you right?" He searched her eyes, soaking in the emotion she radiated, and then he saw the fear behind it all. She was afraid? What was she afraid of? Him?

"I'm afraid, Mulder. I'm afraid of what will happen to us if we let 'us' happen to us. We are good partners, good friends. I don't want to lose that. I'm afraid we will wreck what we have. I'm also afraid of what will happen at work if we were to change our relationship. You know they would separate us. I don't want to lose you." Scully wondered if she had been too honest. Did he care? Did he want to deal with this? Maybe she shouldn't have said anything at all. The fear and frustration of the previous night washed over her again.

Unable to restrain himself any longer, Mulder crossed to the other side of the table and, reaching for her hands, drew her up and gathered her in his arms. He had wanted to hold her for so long. Weakness was one thing she refused to share with him, except when she was pushed beyond her limits, like with Tooms.

Scully let herself sink into the strength and warmth that was Fox Mulder. She breathed deeply into his neck, inhaling the scent that was so him, and drew strength from his strength. The crushing weight of fear lifted, almost as if Mulder had drawn it out of her and taken it upon himself. When did she come to depend on him so strongly? She needed him, whether she would admit it or not.

Mulder could feel her relaxing against him, and breathed a prayer of thanks to a God he didn't believe in. He never thought she would let him hold her, unless they had just miraculously survived another brush with death. He held her tighter, afraid she would withdraw and he would never be allowed this close again. She was so strong, so independent. He wanted her to need him, just a little. She gave him so much, daily. He wanted to give something back to her.

Gradually, his grip relaxed and Scully slowly backed away, not completely out of his arms, but enough so that she could see his face. The thunder clouds of emotion she had felt inside herself were mirrored in his face. Could it be he really felt the same way she did? It was such a comfort to know she wasn't alone, that her feelings were reciprocated.

Out of relief, Scully threw her arms around his neck and gave him a squeeze of joy. Mulder's face broke into the most beautiful smile she had ever seen and he hugged her back. Their hearts had made a connection and it felt wonderful.

Eventually they stopped hugging and sat back on the sofa. Mulder pulled Scully into his side, snuggled under his arm. She fit so perfectly there, like the final piece to a puzzle, a completion of the whole. The breathed a united sigh of contentment.

Mulder was the first to break the silence. "So, what do we do now?"

"Mulder, for once I haven't done the 'right' thing. For once I've done what my heart said to do, regardless of the consequences, regardless of the repercussions. I don't want to put any more thought into this situation. I've spent far too much energy being afraid, worrying. Do you know what I really want to do now? I want to go for a motorcycle ride. Do you think you can help me with that?" Scully turned her face up to him, to see how he would respond.

She didn't need to worry. Fox Mulder wasn't a follower of rules, anyway. He grinned down at her and, before she could react, bent down and kissed her. When he pulled back he was still grinning but there was look of deep satisfaction on his face. He'd wanted to do that for a while. It felt good to finally do it.

Scully was surprised to see him zeroing in on her lips. She knew they would kiss at some point, she just hadn't expected it that soon. But, wow, what a kiss. How could a man's lips be so soft? She couldn't do anything but stare up at him. This soft, gentle Fox Mulder was one she'd never seen before. She wondered what else he'd kept hidden from her. Scully suddenly couldn't wait to find out. With a grin of her own she reached up and pulled his head back down and claimed his lips for her own, taking great pleasure in turning the tables, surprising him.

When they separated this time, she couldn't she couldn't help but ask, "Does this mean I can finally call you 'Fox'?"

Author's Note: Well, wasn't that interesting? Not too great but not as bad as I'd feared! Let me know if you had the mental fortitude to stick it out for the duration by clicking that "review" button!