UST AND THE THERAPEUTIC APPLICATION OF CHEESECAKE

I ate too much that first year. It was strange because I'd never had trouble with my weight before. Now, all of a sudden, I was a full-fledged stress eater.
It was Mulder's fault, of course. Working with him would make anybody fall into unhealthy patterns. Cro-Magnon man loose in New Jersey--a pine of Ben & Jerry's. UFO's in Okobogee--a pan of brownies. By the time we got to eight-year-old girls being reincarnations of murdered police officers, I was up to half a cheesecake.
Unfortunately, the FBI is one of those places where they expect you to stay fit, in shape, all that jazz so you can chase the bad guys without dropping dead of a heart attack.
Of course, I knew that, but I was so deep in denial--not to mention high-quality ice cream--that it surprised me when a Bureau psychiatrist came by to chat.
"I'm happy to work with you on this problem," she said gently, sitting in Mulder's chair, looking at me with sympathetic eyes over Mulder's desk.
"I don't have a problem," I said, refusing to look directly at her.
"The physician who referred you to me said you've gained fifteen pounds since you started your latest assignment."
Sugar is an insidiously horrible thing. One minute you're having a reasonable discussion with a psychotherapist, the next, the Ho-Ho you ate for lunch turns you into a stark raving bitch.
"You want to know what my problem is? It's that insane partner of mine. You work with that nutcase for a couple of weeks and see if you aren't hitting the Twinkies."
The doctor nodded sagely. "Would you like to request a change in assignment?"
My bluster disappeared as quickly as it had come. "No." I put my face in my hands. Quitting now would be admitting defeat. And if there was one thing Bill Scully's girl Starbuck did not do, it was admit defeat. "No. I'll just . . . I'll go to the gym more often, I guess."
"It might help," the doctor suggested in her irritatingly calm voice, "if we figured out the root cause of your weight gain."
I gave her a dark look, one I'd perfected lately on Agent "Bane of My Existence" Mulder. "I've been eating too much."
"Well, yes, but why?" The therapist's gentle smile was becoming extremely annoying.
"I don't know," I conceded.
"My guess is it's a response to some kind of emotional stress. Have you been under any kind of emotional stress?"
Does a bear defecate amongst the trees? "I don't know," I said, the sarcasm so thick I could taste it. "Why don't you name some kinds of stress and I'll tell you if I'm experiencing any of them."
She seemed determined to take me seriously. "Job pressure is one we run across quite often in the Bureau. Or anxiety about the dangers of your position." She paused, waiting for me to jump in. I didn't. "What about your social life?" she went on. "Perhaps some kind of unresolved sexual tension?"
"I'm sorry. Am I interrupting?"
I swung my head around to see Mulder standing in the doorway, his eyebrows raised in a kind of hyperintellectual amusement.
I felt my face go hot. I shoved to my feet. "Thank you very much," I told the therapist. "I'll get back to you if I need anything else."
With her soft, complacent smile, the therapist rose from the chair.
"I look forward to talking to you again, Dana," she said as she walked past Mulder and out of the office.
Mulder watched her go, then came in, flopping into his chair. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing," I snapped. He put his feet on the desk and leaned back in his chair, looking at me with those not-quite-brown, not-quite-hazel, totally puppy-dog eyes. "I'm going to the gym."

***
After two weeks of gym time, three days a week when I could manage it, I'd dropped all of one pound. I had to admit I felt a little better physically, though.
Then there was that whole frozen dead brain in a bucket thing. When Mulder started talking about mental telepathy between twins, I developed a sudden craving for cookie dough.
Unresolved sexual tension, my ass.
"We don't seem to have made much progress," the therapist said when she summoned me to her office a few days later.
We? What "we" was this? "According to the trainer I'm working with, my body fat has dropped two percent."
"That's good. Now, is there anything I can do to help?"
"I don't think so."
"Maybe we could explore some of the possible factors influencing your diet?"
"Like what?"
The therapist smiled sweetly. Here we go, I thought.
"Is there someone in your life you feel strongly for but are afraid to pursue?"
I decided to go along for a while, just to see where she was headed. "How would that make me fat?"
"If you feel a strong attraction to someone, yet feel this relationship might be inappropriate, then subconsciously you might see the weight as protection. If you make yourself unattractive to this person, then you render yourself safe from the dangerous inappropriate relationship." She paused. I was too dumbfounded to say anything. Finally she continued, "Do you think this might be what's going on?"
"How would I know, if it's subconscious?"
Smiling, a vacuous look in her eyes, she said, "I'd like to do some free association exercises. I'll ask you some questions, and I'd like you to answer with the first thing that comes into your head."
I felt a twinge of panic. This made no sense, so I ignored it. "Okay."
"How do you feel about your weight gain?" she began.
"Shitty," I said, then amended, "I mean, I feel bad."
"That's quite all right. I asked for the first thing that popped into your head. What other emotions do you experience in relationship to your weight gain?"
"Anger. Resentment. Fear." Fear? What the hell was that?
"Which of these comes as the greatest surprise to you?"
"Fear."
"What are you afraid of?"
"Mulder." I froze and stared at the therapist.
"This answer surprises you." She was far too calm. My stomach had just started a major dip-and-roll."
"Yes," I said.
She smiled blandly. "Why are you afraid of Mulder?"
The answer was right there. I lacked the courage to speak it, but in a flash of insight, I *knew*.
I was afraid of being attracted to him. I was afraid of him being attracted to me. So I had put on armor, just like the therapist had suggested. A layer of fat to make him not see me as a sexual being in any way, shape or form.
The revelation stunned me. With narrowed eyes, I glared at the therapist.
"How, exactly, is this supposed to help?"
She only shrugged and smiled. "You tell me."
"Argh!" I said, and stomped out of the room.
***
There were people in Mulder's office. I heard them talking while I was still in the hallway. Just out side the door, I slowed my steps, cautious. One thing I'd learned over the past few months was that the X-Files office got very few visitors.
"I don't see the problem," Mulder was saying.
"It's a fitness issue," said another male voice. I wasn't sure who spoke. Maybe that new AD, Skinner. He had that kind of low, growly voice, made tense because he clenched his molars when he talked. It was hard to tell, though, from my position in the hallway.
"What fitness issue?" said Mulder.
"You haven't noticed?" said another male voice. This sounded like the Bureau physician I'd talked to earlier in the week. "She's put on a good fifteen pounds."
These damn men with their testosterone-enhanced metabolisms could so bite me.
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Mulder again. He sounded genuinely flummoxed, not to mention irritated. My jaw dropped open.
I looked down at myself. I had on all new clothes, a size bigger than I'd worn the day I'd first walked into that basement office. Hell, my boobs had even gotten bigger. Was the man blind?
"Just talk to her, please?" Skinner again.
"What am I supposed to say to her? She's doing her job. She's tip-top. Who am I to criticize? I don't know what kind of health issues you guys think are going on, but I'm telling you she could likely kick my ass any day of the week."
A warm glow filled my chest. He was defending me. The same man who'd accused me of spying on him. The same man who glared at me and clenched his teeth every time I suggested he might want to look into some kind of scientifically plausible explanation for whatever case we were working on.
"Fine," said Skinner tightly. "Just see if there's anything you can do."
It hit me then that they were about to come out of the office and head my way. I started walking toward them, as if I'd only then come into the hallway. Skinner and the doctor nodded at me as they passed.
"What did they want?" I asked Mulder.
He gave me a searching look, head to toe. I cringed, but when his eyes came back to mine they still looked vaguely puzzled.
"Some bullshit about you gaining weight. They were talking about reassigning you to desk duty." He shook his head and picked up his ubiquitous bag of sunflower seeds. "You know what I think?"
Okay, this should be interesting. "No, Mulder. What do you think?"
"I think it's a big ruse to get you reassigned. They've figured out how well we work together and they want to split us up, so they're making up this weight thing as an excuse."
I just sat there, a grin spreading over my face.
"What?" he said, affronted. "You don't think it's a plausible theory?"
"Not really." But my brain struggled with the question--What *did* he see when he looked at me? Did he see me as a woman at all? Apparently he didn't see me as a nuisance, at least not anymore.
"Huh," he said. "What do you think it is, then?"
I shook my head. "Nothing, Mulder. I don't think it's anything at all."
Six months later, the weight was gone. And I still had no idea what Mulder saw when he looked at me, but at least I didn't have to do any more of those stupid free association exercises.
END.