Sweet Surrender

by Polly

Title: Sweet Surrender
Author: Polly - polly122456@yahoo.com
Classification: MSR, Mulder POV, Humor Rating: R
Spoilers: Takes place between "Milagro" and "The Unnatural." Lots of references to many episodes through the entire series up to and including most of Season 6
Disclaimer: Not mine; all XF characters belong to 1013 Productions
Notes: This is a companion to my story "Sweet Dreams," which can be found here:
http://pollysxfic.com/sweetdreams.txt. You don't have to read that one for this one to make sense, but it would probably help. Thanks to Peg's Girl and Phantagrae for being wonderful betas
Archive: If you want it, it's yours
Feedback: Always welcome and appreciated Summary: Mulder gives a gift and gets one in return

"Easy now. Not so fast. Let's do this nice and slow. Just a little more. Almost there. That's it! Let it go!"

Scully's knees buckled and she let out an exhausted breath that puffed aside a few strands of hair that weren't plastered to her forehead. Sweat was pouring down my back and I straightened up gingerly, stretching the kinks out of my spine.

"Man, that is just beautiful!"

Frohike stood at the end of the bed, hands on hips, grinning from ear to ear. Scully shook her head and fell into the desk chair with a grunt, while I simply slid down the wall and collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Frohike pulled a handkerchief from his vest pocket and cleaned the streaks of sweat from his glasses. "Come on, guys. We're almost done. Let's get it filled up."

"Just hold your horses," I said, motioning for Scully to toss me the bottled water I'd left sitting on the desk. She complied, and I took a long swig. "Let us catch our breath for a second, okay? You've had us going nonstop all day."

He replaced his glasses and tucked the handkerchief back in his pocket. "Wuss."

"Slave driver."

Scully chuckled at our bickering and handed Frohike one of the water bottles before taking a sip from her own. "I know you're anxious," she said, "but you've been working as hard as we have. You need to stay hydrated."

Anything for Scully, of course. He took a drink and gazed at the new addition to his bedroom. "Just beautiful."

It certainly was. I glanced up into the mirrored canopy and sighed. I loved this bed, and I was going to miss it. I never did find out who was responsible for leaving it in my apartment or why -- one more XFile I'd never solve -- but I'd learned to enjoy it immensely. In the three months I had it, I'd never slept better, the gentle rocking apparently just the cure for the insomnia that had plagued me my entire adult life.

But then a few weeks ago the waterbed sprang a leak, damaging my apartment and the one below mine; and that indiscretion proved to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. The landlord was intensely serious when he delivered his ultimatum: "The bed goes, or you do."

In the 12 years I'd lived at Hegal Place, the residents of my building were treated to a wide variety of mischief and mayhem: shootings, stabbings, break-ins, wiretaps, fistfights, one killer bee attack, and a couple of killer keg parties (in my younger days). My neighbors drank poisoned water and were tossed out on the street for four days thanks to Diana's bogus HazMat scare -- for no reason other than their great misfortune to reside under the same roof as Fox W. Mulder. But never was I threatened with eviction -- until my unlawful waterbed sprang a leak. How ironic.

I contemplated the irony in silence as I paid the damages and sat through my landlord's lecture, nodding every so often and saying "yes sir" when it was over. It reminded me of the "sex talk" my father gave me when I was fifteen. Come to think of it, I found that pretty ironic too.

Two weeks ago, my landlord and I stood side by side and watched the coroner remove the body -- and heart -- of Phillip Padgett from the building's incinerator room floor and the only thing he said to me was "Did you get rid of that bed yet?" I promised him I was going to take care of it very soon, but I wanted to tell him that he needed to get his priorities straight.

I took another drink and tried to ignore whatever it was that was tapping me impatiently on the shoulder. Frohike tossed the end of the hose into my lap, and I knew I was only postponing the inevitable. Scully smirked as I rolled my eyes, retrieved the waterbed hose connector from the plastic bag on the night table, and reluctantly pushed myself up to kneel next to the bed. "You sure the hose is clean?" I asked Frohike as I screwed the connector onto the end of the garden hose.

"As a whistle," he replied. "Flushed it out this morning."

"Okay, then," I said, preparing to attach the hose connector to the mattress valve. "Go hook it up and I'll tell you when. Oh, and toss me a towel."

Frohike disappeared into the bathroom and a moment later a towel came sailing out the door, narrowly missing the back of my head. I wrapped the towel around the connector to soak up any leakage and poured in the waterbed conditioner. Confident that everything was in order, I called out, "Okay, let 'er rip!" and a few seconds later, the water began to flow.

When I finally accepted the fact that I had to get rid of the waterbed, it seemed only right that Frohike should have it. He was the one who persuaded me not to toss it out into the street the night I came home from Area 51 and discovered it in my apartment; and he was the one who turned me on to the pleasures of slumber on the high seas. So I told him the bed was his if he wanted it. All he had to supply was the new mattress and the manpower to get it moved out of my apartment. He assured me he and the boys could handle the moving if they had just a little extra muscle, and in a weak moment, I agreed to help.

This morning Frohike showed up on my doorstep with a rented truck but no Byers and Langley, explaining they had to leave town unexpectedly late last night to pursue a lead from a highly trusted source. I suggested we put off the move till next Saturday, but Frohike started ranting that it was too late to get his deposit back on the truck and that money didn't grow on trees. I shut up and went to work.

I glanced over at Scully who was busy removing parcels from shopping bags. Frohike told me he'd asked her for help in decorating his new boudoir, and I was floored when he said she'd agreed. He took her to lunch one day last week and the two of them went shopping all afternoon.

While they were gone, I tried to figure out whatever would possess Scully to look happy about the prospect of picking out bedspread patterns with Frohike, and through my brilliant deductive reasoning I surmised that maybe she missed doing "girly" stuff. I know she used to have female friends, but I couldn't remember the last time she'd mentioned one. She used to do things with her mother too, but their relationship seemed more distant of late.

The more I thought about it, the clearer it became. My unyielding pursuit of the truth had not only consumed my own personal life, but Scully's as well. I didn't mean for it to happen; somewhere along the way it just did. She gave up bridal showers, kids' birthday parties, and family dinners to chase lights in the sky with me, and now all she had to look forward to was the occasional shopping trip with Melvin Frohike.

"How we doing out there?" Scully's new best girlfriend called from the bathroom.

I eyeballed the water level and laid my palm against the mattress to test its rigidity. "Keep going," I said. "It needs to be firmer."

"Dude, I bet you say that to all the girls."

Scully's giggle floated across the room before she could stifle it. As soon as I looked up she turned away, returning her attention to the important task of matching prints and solids and deciding which of the many purchases should go on the bed first.

It was nice to see her smiling and laughing after two difficult weeks of dealing with the aftereffects of Phillip Padgett and his very vivid imagination. She clung to me for hours, sobbing, after the "psychic surgeon" tried to pull her heart out of her chest, but in the days that followed she'd become distant and withdrawn. I was sure she considered her breakdown "conduct unbecoming of a Scully" and her isolation was self-imposed penance for that indecorous action. Today she seemed relaxed and happy, finally able to put the ordeal with Padgett behind her -- behind us.

While surprised that she agreed to be Frohike's interior decorator, I was more shocked to find her on my doorstep this morning bearing bagels and Starbucks. I asked Frohike how he talked her into giving up a precious Saturday to help us; he said she'd insisted, figuring the odds were better than even that if left to our own devices, one of us would require medical attention before the day was through. I would have been insulted except she was probably right.

As it turned out, her presence was a godsend, not for her medical expertise, but for her knowledge of physics, aerodynamics, and construction. If Frohike and I had disassembled that bed, we would have had a lot of shattered glass to clean up and about 14 years of bad luck between us -- on top of the trip to the emergency room. Scully took the bed apart in no time flat and made sure each fragile piece was well protected for transport. After our safe arrival at the Gunmen's, she put everything back together again with the speed and precision of a pit crew at the Indy 500.

I tried to insist that Scully was the brains of the outfit and thus should let Frohike and me do all the manual labor, but she'd have none of it. She toted just as many heavy pieces to and from the truck as we did. I always knew Scully had a tremendous inner strength, but I never realized how physically strong she was.

And she could work wonders with power tools. What a turn-on.

I looked over at the object of my "tool time" desire who was waiting for us to finish filling the mattress so she could go into decorator mode. She was leaning against the kitchenette counter, taking small sips from her water bottle, when she noticed I was staring. I flashed a quick smile and got a brilliant one in return, the kind of smile that I imagined she saved only for me; the kind that made life worth living.

She closed her eyes and held the water bottle against her cheek, the condensation sending droplets of liquid rolling down her neck and across her collarbone, disappearing into the hint of cleavage visible just above the v-neck of her forest green tee shirt. I followed the water's likely path, imagining the twists and turns it would take as it trickled down her body, unobstructed by silk and cotton. What an unexpected treat to see her like this. It was a day filled with unanticipated pleasures, and my eyes continued their journey downward to come to rest on the biggest surprise of them all: my partner in blue jeans.

In the more than six years we'd been together, I could count on one hand the number of times I'd seen Scully's delightful derriere decked out in denim. It was most definitely something worth waiting for. Blue jeans hugged her curves in all the right places, they made her look softer and younger somehow, and whenever she wore them, I thought up new and improved ways to take them off. How many times had I dreamed of popping that button, taking that zipper in my teeth? I could almost feel Scully's breath on the back of my neck ...

"You're going to have another leak if you're not careful, Mulder."

My eyes snapped open and it took me a moment to remember where I was. Scully was barely three feet away, leaning against the bedpost, her arms folded across her chest. She had a huge grin on her face and her eyes were warm and playful. "Turn the water off, Frohike," she called out. "I think things are quite firm enough in here now."

I tried to re-create the disapproving look Scully usually gives me when she's on the receiving end of the innuendo, but I couldn't duplicate it so I waggled my eyebrows seductively instead. She patted my shoulder knowingly and started to turn away, but I grabbed her wrist. "Stay here a second," I said as I disconnected the hose. "I need your help with something."

I pulled the end of the hose into the bathroom so Frohike could drain it properly and returned a moment later with a broom. I waved Scully around to the opposite side of the bed. "Go around there and take this." I extended the broom across the mattress so that we were each holding one end. "Now put it against the mattress like this ... and now push slowly." She mirrored my actions and we inched our way toward the mattress valve.

"Um, what are we doing exactly?" she asked.

"Removing the air bubbles," I explained. "Frohike will have to do it again in a few days." We reached the end of the mattress and satisfied with our work, I propped the broom up against the wall. "Now all we have to do is insert the plug ..." I paused my playby -play as I completed each action. "Screw on the cap ... and plug in the temperature control system. Set it at 85 degrees ... and voila! We're done."

"You've certainly learned a lot about the care and maintenance of a waterbed."

I looked at the bed forlornly. "Well, I did a lot of research. I wanted to keep it."

"I still don't understand why you bought it," she said. "Especially when you knew it wasn't allowed. You knew someone would find out eventually."

"I told you, Scully, I didn't buy it. It just appeared."

She raised an eyebrow. "Out of thin air. Yes, I remember, you told me. I just thought you'd have a better story by now. Buying a waterbed is nothing to be ashamed of, Mulder. Lots of people have them. The mirror -- that's another story."

I opened my mouth to assure her I wasn't going through an early mid-life crisis when Frohike emerged from the bathroom, the hose neatly rolled up and resting on his shoulder. "All done in there," he said. "Oh, man, it looks fantastic!"

The phone in the Gunmen office started to ring and he looked at us apologetically. "Sorry, I'd better get that. Might be the guys."

We watched him go and Scully drafted me to put cases on the new pillows they'd bought while she unfolded the sheets and blanket. We worked in silence until Frohike returned. He was pulling on his jacket as he came through the bedroom door.

"That wasn't the guys," he said breathlessly, "but it was our informant. He's got some more data we need to follow up on, but he won't give it to me over the phone. I told him I'd meet him just down the block. I shouldn't be more than a half-hour or so. You two okay with that?"

"Sure," Scully answered, glancing at me before she continued. "We'll finish up in here and when you get back we can go for that nice dinner you promised us."

"It's a date." Frohike took Scully's hand and kissed it lightly, then reached for mine but I pulled it back quickly. "You two are the best," he said. "I'll be back in a flash. Make yourselves comfortable." And with that he was gone, pushing the bedroom door closed behind him.

Scully and I glanced at our watches in unison. She shrugged, and we picked up the linens and went to work.

"Anyway, they have one main kitchen but each bedroom has a kitchenette -- sort of like an efficiency apartment."

We tucked in our hospital corners and Scully smoothed the blanket with the palm of her hand. "I'm just glad to learn they don't all sleep in the same bed."

"They're not the seven dwarfs, Scully."

She unfolded the comforter and tossed one side toward me. "For your information, Mulder, the seven dwarfs don't sleep in the same bed either." We unfurled the comforter over the length of the mattress. "It's just not what I expected, that's all. For example, there's no TV in here. I expected Frohike to have state-of-the-art video capability."

I laughed as she tossed me a pillow. "He does. Behind that wall." I pointed across the room. "There's a remote here somewhere that controls it. The wall retracts into the ceiling and there's a big screen system behind it. Very James Bond."

Scully finished fluffing the pillows and I stood at the end of the bed and admired our job well done. "It really looks nice, Scully. Very classy." I sat down on the end of the bed and was overcome by nostalgia - - the gentle waves were just as nice as I remembered.

"Everything we bought goes together so he can mix and match." Scully sat down tentatively next to me and adjusted to the ripples our combined weight created. "I can understand why you liked this, Mulder. It's nice." She reclined back and folded her hands over her stomach. "And that is quite a view."

I fell back beside her and entwined my fingers behind my head. "The rocking motion is relaxing, isn't it?"

I was busy creating all new fantasies as I watched our bodies move back and forth, when I noticed a funny look on Scully's face. For a moment, I thought the seafarer's daughter was going to be sick. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"That is so weird," she said. "I just had the strangest feeling of deja vu. It's like I distinctly remember laying in this bed with you, just like this, staring up into the mirror."

I smirked. "Trust me, I would remember that."

She slapped me lightly on the arm. "Like I said. Weird."

"Maybe it's the bed," I offered. "Remember the day it sprang a leak? I was having lots of deja vu moments."

"Well, I'm sure if anyone would have a possessed bed, Mulder, it would be you."

"Frohike," I corrected. The phone in the outer office started to ring and we both sat up. I reluctantly left my comfortable spot and turned toward the bedroom door. "Speak of the devil," I said. "He probably wants us to meet him."

Scully stood up and turned her back to me, smoothing over the indentations our bodies had left on the bedcovers. When I reached the door, I couldn't help looking back over my shoulder to sneak a peek. How I wish she would wear those jeans more often. I blindly grabbed the doorknob, turned, and took a step all in one motion.

"Ouch!" I rubbed the end of my nose where it connected sharply with the heavy metal. I tried turning the knob again, first with one hand, then both. I pushed against the door with my full weight, but it didn't budge.

Scully came up behind me. "What's the matter?"

"The door's locked," I said, rubbing my nose again.

"It's probably just stuck." Scully jiggled the knob several times and we both pushed against it as hard as we could. After a few minutes of frustration, Scully pounded it angrily with her fist. "What's this door made out of? Steel?"

"Reinforced steel." In response to her odd expression, I added, "It's a survive-the-apocalypse thing. The deadbolt is controlled electronically. You have to punch in the combination on the keypad to lock or unlock it. Frohike must have hit it accidentally when he left."

"I saw the keypad outside when we came in. But there's no keypad in here."

"It's on the remote," I said. "Same one you use to control the wall in front of the TV. But it doesn't seem to be around."

"Maybe we could shoot the lock. Open it that way."

"We could try, but I doubt it. Especially since I left my gun at my apartment." I nodded at her. "You?"

She shook her head. "I didn't think moving a bed would require firepower. I should have known better." Scully scanned the room quickly. "No phone. My cell is in my jacket which is in your car."

"Ah, cell phone." I reached into my pocket and flipped the phone open. "Crap. No signal." I tucked the phone away again, walked back to the bed, and leaned against the post. "I guess we wait. Don't worry. If that was Frohike on the phone, he'll wonder why we didn't answer and be back in no time."

"What if it wasn't Frohike?"

"Well, he said he'd only be gone a little while." I looked at my watch. "It's only been 45 minutes. I'm sure he'll be back soon."

A half-hour later it was almost 6 p.m. and still no Frohike. While we waited, Scully and I made small talk, covering important issues like the weather, Monica Lewinsky, and where I might have left the receipt for the minivan we rented in Arcadia. I was sprawled out on the bed, enjoying it while I still could, and Scully opted for Frohike's swivel desk chair, fingering through the books and papers on his desk before leaning back to study the framed works of art displayed tastefully on the walls.

I flipped over onto my stomach and pulled a pillow under my chest. "Bet you didn't know Frohike was a connoisseur of fine art, huh?"

She smiled. "Well, I'm not surprised to see paintings of nudes on Frohike's walls, but I am surprised that they're not on black velvet." She stood up and started walking slowly around the room, pausing to look at each painting carefully. "Byers and Langly ... are their rooms like this?"

"Similar," I said. "Langly has a big TV, but mostly to play video games. Byers doesn't have a TV; he has books -- floor to ceiling along one wall. Mostly reference, some collectible."

Scully stopped beside the bed and folded her arms across her chest. "How do they afford all this?" she asked. "I mean, they usually look like they don't have two nickels to rub together. How do they afford fine art and fancy books, not to mention all the equipment they have? Not through subscriptions and advertising, I'll bet."

"Don't ask, don't tell, that's my motto." She rolled her eyes and I smiled. "They have a wealthy benefactor, I know that much. The rest I think I'm better off not knowing."

Scully nodded and looked at another painting. She was getting fidgety, shifting her weight from foot to foot and checking her watch every few seconds. I sat up on the bed and swung my legs over the side. "You okay, Scully?"

"I'm fine," she said. "I, um, need to use the bathroom."

I pointed at the door just left of the bed. "Right through there."

"I know. I'm just not sure I'm that brave."

I chuckled. "Well, Scully, sometimes when nature calls you have to answer -- no matter what the risk."

She looked as if she was about to face the hounds at the gates of Hell, but she took a deep breath and pulled open the bathroom door. She stepped quickly inside and snapped on the light, and a few moments later her voice echoed off the tiled walls.

"Oh my God."

She reappeared in the doorway and I did my best to look seriously concerned. "Something wrong?"

"I don't believe it," she sputtered. "It's cleaner than mine. And he has a Jacuzzi. Why didn't you tell me?"

I laughed out loud. "And miss the expression on your face? Not a chance."

Her stomach rumbled loud enough for both of us to hear, reminding me that my own had been sending me signals for the last hour or so. It had been a long time since our bagel breakfast and we skipped lunch in anticipation of an early dinner.

"Excuse me!" She laid her hand across her belly as if that would command quiet. "I sure hope Frohike gets back soon. I'm starved, and you must be too. Do you think he has anything in here that's edible?"

I jumped off the bed. "You use the facilities, I'll see if I can rustle us up some grub, ma'am," I said with a phony Texas twang, tipping my imaginary Stetson.

"My hero." She smiled and disappeared into the bathroom, this time closing the door behind her.

There were a few boxes of unopened crackers sitting on the countertop, so I checked the "sell by" date and figured they were safe for human consumption. There were also two small loaves of bread -- one rye, one pumpernickel -- the kind you get to make fancy party sandwiches. Maybe Frohike bought small loaves of bread to make himself seem bigger. I laughed at my own joke and made a mental note to tell that one to Scully.

The items on the counter would keep us from starving to death, but I was after something that would do a little more for the palate. I pulled open the refrigerator door and struck the mother lode.

It was packed to capacity -- large plates teeming with fresh fruit and vegetables, assorted cold cuts and cheeses, and plastic containers filled with dips and sauces. Raw oysters on the half-shell. Spiced shrimp. Caviar. Strawberries, some dipped in chocolate, others ready to be dipped in the bowl of whipped cream nestled beside them. All the way in the back was a plate piled with slices of cake, fancy truffles, and other chocolates.

No wonder Frohike hurried us along all day. That little weasel had a date! I had that bed for over three months and the only thing I ever did in it was sleep. Frohike planned to get lucky in less than one day.

I was still doing my erotic food inventory to determine if there was any potential aphrodisiac Frohike had missed, when Scully sidled up beside me.

"Mulder, look." She was clutching two bundles, each tied with a green ribbon. Through their cellophane packaging I could see the pristine white robes were thick and luxurious -- the kind you get as part of the accoutrements at fancy hotels and spas. "I think Frohike is expecting someone later this evening."

"I think you're right, Scully," I replied. "Look what I found." I opened the door a little further so she could see my discovery. I lifted the plastic wrap covering the fruit and snagged a few grapes, popping one into my mouth and handing her the rest. "Come on, let's eat."

The cellophane around the robes crackled as she shifted both packages under one arm and juggled the grapes in her hand. "Oh, Mulder, we can't eat any of this," she said, licking her lips at the same time. "It wouldn't be right."

"It serves him right for locking us in here," I said. "Besides, he's got enough food here for an army. Unless Frohike is entertaining the entire University of Maryland women's lacrosse team, he'll never miss it. We're starved. I say we eat." She still looked a bit skeptical, but another rumble from her stomach provided all the convincing she needed.

"Okay." She popped the grapes in her mouth and held up the robes. "Give me a minute to put these back and to finish freshening up."

"And I'll prepare the feast." I was taking plates out of the fridge before she closed the bathroom door. When I pulled out the one laden with plump strawberries, a piece of paper fluttered off the tray and landed on the floor at my feet. I sat the tray on the counter, picked up the note, and was surprised to see my name scribbled on one side. I unfolded the paper and began to read:


Mulder -- In appreciation of your generous gift of this magnificent waterbed, I give you this gift in return: one night. One night completely devoid of the pressures and horrors of the outside world. No aliens to fight, no conspiracy theories to chase. No smoking men, leggy ex-girlfriends, or Africanized honeybees to stand in the way of progress. Your cell phones won't work in this room, so don't even think about it.

Tonight it's just you, your pretty partner, and this big, beautiful bed. I know you're not very good at math, but I'm sure the lovely Agent Scully can help you with the arithmetic.

So eat, drink, and be merry. Talk, rest, enjoy each other's company. If there are things you need to work out, do it. If you need to fight, yell, scream, cry, do it. This is your opportunity for uninterrupted conversation and whatever else might come naturally.

Just don't think. The night you got this bed I told you that you think too much. So don't. That's an order. Let whatever happens happen. And if it's not meant to be, at least tomorrow you'll both know.

I'll be back at eight in the morning. Make sure you're both decent and don't leave a ring in the bathtub.

And don't bother looking for the remote. It's safely in my pocket. There's no way to escape, kiddo, so you might as well surrender. -- Fro


I've had the misfortune of experiencing sheer terror a time or two -- but it didn't hold a candle to what I was feeling when I finished reading. My mouth felt like it was filled with cotton and sweat was starting to trickle down the back of my neck. I read the note again, stared at Frohike's seduction smorgasbord, and for the first time noticed five bottles of wine neatly lined up on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Five bottles? I scowled at Frohike's insinuation that Scully would have to be plastered to go to bed with me, then realized he probably thought I'd need that much liquid encouragement to try and get her there.


Jesus! Good thing the refrigerator door was still open or Scully would have seen my real panic face. I hastily shoved Frohike's note into the back pocket of my jeans and peeked over the door.

"Yeah?" My voice traveled about six octaves in one word.

She was refluffing the pillow I'd scrunched and straightening the comforter. "Looks like Frohike has big plans for this bed tonight."

<That was the understatement of the year.>

I nodded and willed myself to calm down before my heart pounded right through my chest. I tried to concentrate on moving the plates of food from the fridge to the counter, but my fingers didn't want to cooperate. I was staring at the cold cuts when a pair of hands gently touched mine.

"Let me help you." Scully sat the plate on the counter and held out her hands for the next item. I somehow managed to pick up the caviar and pass it to her. "Wow, we have a veritable feast," she said.

I nodded again. It was so much easier than trying to form words. We continued to unload the contents of the fridge onto the counter; and when we were done, she looked over the entire spread with her hands on her hips.

"It all looks wonderful, but Frohike's going to be mad when he comes back and finds that we've dipped into his very sinful buffet."

<Not as mad as you're going to be when you find out who this buffet is really for.>

I motioned toward the paper plates, napkins, and silverware conveniently left on the counter. "Dinner is served."

I opened the crackers and bread -- plotting ways to kill Frohike if there was enough of him left to kill when Scully got through with him -- while Scully sized up the selections, cheerfully sharing some scientific data about oysters. Her voice was like music, and the more she talked, the more I relaxed. By the time she filled her plate, I'd convinced myself that we might as well enjoy our meal before I delivered the bad news. I'd tell her about Frohike's ill-conceived plan after our bellies were full.

I pulled out one of the wine bottles and held it up for Scully to see. "How about some vino?"

"We shouldn't."

"There's plenty," I said as I grabbed two wineglasses that were pulled to the front of the cabinet where no one could miss them. "I promise we'll drink a toast to our absent host."

Scully laughed at my rhyme. "Well, then how can I refuse?" She popped a cracker loaded with caviar into her mouth. "Mmm, delicious. I guess now we know why Frohike got rid of Byers and Langly today."

"Too bad he didn't wait until we got the bed moved first."

Scully sighed and set her plate on the counter, waiting patiently for me to join her. "It just seems strange, Frohike making plans without the other two. I guess I tend to think of them as a group. I forget they're individuals. It's hard to imagine one without the other two."

"Actually, they've only been a trio since '89," I said. "In fact, I'm the one who brought them together."

"You're kidding."

I shook my head. "Inadvertently. It was back when I was with Violent Crimes, just getting my feet wet. I was after a woman suspected of murder, sabotage, and treason. This woman somehow convinced Byers to help her and ... are you sure I never told you this?" Scully shook her head.

I opened the drawer beside the refrigerator and reached for the corkscrew. "Then take a seat, little girl, and I'll tell you the story of how Fox Mulder met the three Gunmen."

"The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital. I went back to the convention center and the three of them filled me in on what happened at the warehouse." I speared a shrimp with my fork and waved it in midair. "After what they saw, they decided to try and uncover the truths Susanne told them about. So they started 'The Lone Gunman' and they've been together ever since."

"And you never found out what happened to Susanne?"

"Nope." I popped the shrimp in my mouth and chewed carefully. "But I don't think Byers has ever stopped looking for her. He fell in love with her the moment he laid eyes on her."

Scully rose from her chair and sat her empty plate on the counter. "Sometimes a moment is all it takes." I nearly choked on my shrimp but she didn't seem to notice. She shook her head as she refilled both our glasses and tossed the empty wine bottle in a recycling bin under the sink. "Byers once a Federal employee. Hard to believe."

I used a cracker to gather up the last dollop of caviar still on my plate as Scully leaned against the counter and sipped her wine. I was sitting on the floor with my back against the foot of the bed and I dropped my empty plate beside me with a satisfied groan. I decided to let everything settle before I went back for seconds.

Scully was swishing the wine back and forth in her glass, watching it with a furrowed brow. "So, do you think the toxin you got sprayed with had any effect on you?"

"Well, it made me rip off all my clothes and, as the detective on the case said, start jabbering like a monkey. And it got me held in five-point restraints for 24 hours. How much more effect do you want?"

I thought she was going back to the chair, but instead she sat down on the floor next to me. "I was thinking more long-term," she said.

"How so?"

"Mulder, if what Susanne Modeski told the Gunmen was true, you were sprayed with massive amounts of an experimental gas, a small dose of which was designed to cause paranoia and anxiety in its victims. Don't you think it's remotely possible that the exposure to that drug had at least some effect in shaping your beliefs about government conspiracies and the existence of extraterrestrials?"

I smiled. "I see where you're going with this, Scully, but I was a pretty paranoid guy before I got doused by the spray."

She took another sip of wine. "You said this happened in May 1989?" I nodded and she raised a skeptical eyebrow. "And your regression hypnosis with Dr. Werber was in June 1989, after which you became convinced that your sister was abducted by aliens."

I bit down on the inside of my cheek, unable to admit to her that I'd had the same doubts about my regression therapy dozens of times. "Maybe it did fuel my subconscious," I said, staring into my wineglass. "I guess until I find out what really happened to Samantha, I'll never know for sure."

Scully placed a reassuring hand over mine. "I'm sorry to dredge up old memories," she said. "It just seems like too much of a coincidence."

I smiled and leaned close to her. "Ah, and I've taught you well about the likelihood of coincidences, haven't I, grasshopper?"

She laughed and stretched her legs out in front of her. "I hope Frohike's okay," she said. "He's been gone a long time."

"Don't worry about Frohike. He can take care of himself." I glanced at my watch and was surprised that we'd been talking for over an hour. It was almost 8 p.m., but still another 12 hours before Frohike would return. I was having such a nice time with Scully that I'd almost forgotten why we were here in the first place.

Suddenly the note was burning a hole in my pocket and I still hadn't found the right moment to tell Scully the truth. A little while longer wouldn't make any difference, I decided, so I got up to sample some of the delicacies I'd skipped the first time. "Can I get you something while I'm up?" I asked.

"Not right now," she replied. "I'm letting all that decadence digest. Then I'm going to hit the buffet again." Scully's concerns about raiding Frohike's refrigerator seemed to have dissipated, so I adopted her new philosophy and refilled my plate.

Scully scratched her nose and cocked her head from side to side, rolling the kinks out of her neck muscles. "Have they lived here a long time? The Gunmen?"

"They moved into this place soon after we met." I returned to my seat next to her on the floor. "They decided they wanted to keep tabs on my behavior after I was exposed to the gas and this was the closest place they could afford."

"I'm glad they were looking out for you," Scully said, taking another drink of wine. "And I'm glad you look out for them. I guess you've spent a lot of time here?"

"Quite a bit." I wolfed down another shrimp and licked my fingers. "They were my only friends."

"I'm sure you had lots of other friends, Mulder."

"Name one."

"Reggie Purdue. He was your friend. And what about Jerry?"

"Reggie was a friend, but he was also my boss. We didn't exactly 'hang out' together. And Jerry ... well, he was my partner at VCU but we were never really that close. For some reason, nobody wanted to have much to do with Old Spooky Mulder."

"What about Diana?"

There it was, finally out on the table, the subject that had driven an invisible wedge between us since Cassandra Spender fell from the sky and back into our laps. I suddenly lost my appetite and dropped my plate on the floor beside me. I pulled my knees up and rested my elbows on them, my chin perched on my clasped fingers. If there was ever a time to choose my words carefully, this was it.

"I owe you an explanation about Diana, Scully, but first I owe you an apology. I know you had your reasons for not trusting her and I should have listened, but I let my ego get in the way. I didn't want to believe you, but that doesn't excuse the way I treated you."

"Mulder, you don't have to..."

"No, let me finish. When you called me here that night, to confront me about Diana, I knew deep down that what you were saying was probably true, but my stubborn male pride wouldn't let me admit it, especially in front of the guys. So instead I acted like a stupid jerk. I had no right to say the things I said to you. I know our work has become as intensely personal to you as it is to me, and I had no right to diminish that. I'm sorry."

"And I'm sorry you felt I was asking you to choose between me and Diana. It was never about that."

"I know that. Now." I picked up my glass and swallowed the rest of the wine with one gulp, giving me the shot of courage I needed to continue. "You know that when I left here that night, I went to Diana's apartment looking for evidence. I kept telling myself it was to prove you wrong, but that was a lie. I went there because I was afraid you were right."

I paused for a moment, waiting for her to comment. When she didn't, I rubbed my hand over my chin. "When I found Old Smokey there, I still didn't want to believe Diana had betrayed me. I tried making excuses -- that he was forcing her or blackmailing her, hell, even that he'd brainwashed her. But they didn't find her body at El Rico, and then Skinner told us about her sudden reassignment to that big undercover operation, and I couldn't deny it any more. You were right about her. Thanks for not saying 'I told you so,' by the way."

She squeezed my hand and gave me a rueful smile. "If it's any consolation, I don't take any pleasure in being right." She looked down, fumbling for words. "I know that Diana was more than just your friend and partner. I know you were ... that you cared for her and you trusted her. And if I've learned anything about you in six years, Mulder, it's that trust is something you don't give or take lightly. I don't blame you for not wanting to accept that she changed."

I laced my fingers with hers and her gaze once again met mine. "That's just the trouble. She hadn't changed. I realize now that Diana was a part of it from the very beginning. I thought she believed in the work we were doing and in me. I thought she loved me, but I know now she was playing me for a fool."

"You can't know that for certain. You can't be sure that back then her feelings weren't just as genuine as yours."

I shook my head. "No, it all makes sense now. I was so happy to have someone who took me seriously, someone who shared my enthusiasm for the X-Files, that I just couldn't see what was really happening. It was like I had blinders on where she was concerned. But it's clear to me now that Diana was the one engineering the roadblocks. And when I'd start to ask questions, insist we dig a little deeper, she'd take me to bed and make me forget about everything else. She was leading me around by my dick and I was just too stupid to see it."

"Sorry," I muttered, as a blush spread over my cheeks. I've heard Scully swear like a sailor on occasion, but I've still always tried to watch my language around her.

I pushed myself up from the floor and covered the short distance to the sink in two strides. I leaned over it, my palms perched on the edge and the stainless steel cool under my fingertips. I stared down into it, hoping the words that came spilling out would swirl right down the drain so I'd never have to think about them again. "Diana kept me distracted, but that wasn't enough. They wanted me out of the game entirely. So they took her away and they sent you -- they just gave you a different game plan. They figured you'd create a whole new set of roadblocks, that the constant scrutiny and the pressure to have the work validated by scientific analysis would put an end to the X-Files. They were counting on you to succeed where Diana failed."

I glanced over at her and she smiled up at me. "I guess they didn't know who they were dealing with, did they?"

I shook my head and smiled. "No, they didn't." I stood up straight and turned to face her, my hip brushing the counter. "They expected you to destroy me, Scully, but you saved me. And I still haven't sent them a thank you note."

Scully gracefully stood up and stretched the stiffness out of her back. "I'd have to consult Miss Manners to be sure, but I think your grace period for writing a thank you note has expired," she said as she handed me our plates and wineglasses before joining me at the counter. "And you told me that before," she said. "That I saved you."

"And I meant it," I replied. "But then I let Diana screw me over again. For old times sake, I guess." Scully chuckled and I reached out tentatively, gently resting my hands on her shoulders. "I'm not asking you to forgive me," I continued. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry, for everything I said and did. And to say that even though I don't deserve it, I'm grateful you're still here to save me."

A single tear trickled down her cheek but she brushed it away and pulled me into a quick embrace. "I guess neither one of us is very good at taking advice about old flames." I raised a questioning eyebrow and she explained. "Jack Willis. Remember? You tried to warn me about Jack but I wouldn't listen."

"I don't think that's really the same thing."

"It's exactly the same thing," she said. "It doesn't matter why Jack changed. You tried to tell me he wasn't the same man I once knew, but I didn't want to listen. I'm just saying that I can understand your feelings about Diana. Now Phoebe Green? That's a different story. Did you say there was more wine?"

I nodded toward the fridge. "Bottom shelf. Phoebe Green." Speaking her name still sent shivers up my spine. "I can sure pick 'em, can't I? Hey, how is it that you've been lucky enough to meet two of my youthful indiscretions and I've only met one of yours?"

Scully laughed as she opened the refrigerator door and I couldn't help appreciating the view as she bent down to retrieve the wine. "First of all, I never said Jack was an indiscretion, and second of all..." She closed the door and sat the bottle down in front of me. "...I didn't realize we were keeping score. Make yourself useful." She tossed her soggy paper plate into the trashcan and picked up a new one. "But the next time one of my former lovers breezes into town, I'll be sure to introduce you so you can catch up."

Former lovers. The way she said it made it sound like the line would circle around the block. I wondered if Scully would be surprised to learn she'd already met one-half of the "Former Lovers of Fox Mulder" Club.

"I believe I'm ready for seconds now," she said, tapping the clean plate with her forefinger. "And I guess we'd better put this stuff back in the fridge before it gets too warm. Do you want anything else right now?"

I nodded at the plate I hadn't touched since discussion of Diana began. "No, I'll finish that first." She shrugged and surveyed the selections on the counter again as I fumbled in the drawer for the corkscrew. "Um...is that likely?" I asked, fishing for details. "One of your former lovers showing up sometime?"

"Doubtful," she answered, raking a pile of strawberries onto her plate. "Maybe Marcus. I don't really know what happened to him."

I concentrated on opening the bottle of wine. "Who's Marcus?" I asked, trying to be nonchalant while my stomach was doing somersaults.

She sighed dreamily. "Only the love of my life."

Before I could process that tidbit of information, she sat her plate down on the counter beside me. It was piled to overflowing -- same as her first trip through the buffet -- and I couldn't help wondering how a little woman like that could pack away so much food. At this rate, if Frohike failed to return when promised, we might have to start rationing.

Frohike. This was probably a good time to tell her the truth and for a moment I considered it, but the more I thought, the less it seemed like a good idea. When I told her, she'd be pissed at Frohike all right, but she'd be angry with me for not telling her as soon as I found the note, and the rest of the time we spent in here together would be unpleasant to say the least. No, it would be better to wait a little while longer.

And besides, I wanted to know about Marcus.

The cork came loose with a satisfying 'pop' and I refilled our glasses as Scully placed the last tray in the refrigerator. She picked up her plate and a clean fork and eyed me with a playful smile. "Now, what were we talking about?"

"Marcus," I said dryly.

"Oh, that's right." She giggled and slurped an oyster from its shell, wiping away the liquid dribbling down her chin. "Take a seat, Agent Mulder," she said, "and I'll tell you all about Marcus O'Malley, the love of my life."

"Anyway, the campfire that Sylvia and that idiot Kevin Berwood built went totally out of control, somebody called the fire department, and we all had to ride back to town on the pumper truck. Marcus was extremely disappointed."

Scully's eyes sparkled and her cheeks flushed slightly, more from the wine than from embarrassment, but her giggle was infectious and we both laughed so hard the rippling waves beneath us threatened to pitch us off the bed. For the past hour she had regaled me with stories of her misspent youth, most notably adventures she shared with her best friend and frequent partner-in-crime, Sylvia Ann Sullivan, during their senior year in high school. I was so captivated by Scully's version of "When Good Catholic Girls Go Bad" that I really had no recollection of finishing dinner, kicking off my shoes, and crawling onto the bed that used to be mine. And the biggest surprise was that Scully was right next to me.

We were both stretched out on our sides, facing each other, sipping our wine, and enjoying the PG rated pillow talk. I pretended to listen as Scully finished her tale of the Senior Prom Scandal, but I was actually busy sending a silent thank you out to Sylvia and Berwood for creating the unintentional diversion that kept Marcus-of-the-Kelly-GreenCummerbund from unlocking the mysteries hidden under Dana's moire taffeta dress.

Scully sat her half-empty wineglass on the bottom shelf of the headboard's built-in cabinet and turned over onto her back. She laced her fingers behind her head and stared up at her reflection. "The fire truck took us back to the school," she said. "Of course, by the time we got there, the prom was over but half the senior class was out in the parking lot -- along with the local cops and our parents."

"Dana Katherine Scully: Public Enemy Number One."

"My father certainly thought so," she said. "The cops let us off with a warning, but I was grounded for a month."

I downed the rest of the wine in my glass quickly and coughed. "So you and Marcus. Did you ever, um..."

She sighed. "No, never. In fact, after graduation, I never saw him again. My father got his orders and we moved to Maryland that summer. But I guess that's why I always think of Marcus so fondly. To me, he'll always be young, he'll always be handsome, and what we shared will always be pure and unadulterated. Men may come and men may go, but I'll always have Marcus -- the twelfth grade love of my life."

She sat up and retrieved her wineglass from the shelf, tilting her head back as she drained the remaining liquid. I reached over for the nearly empty bottle of wine I'd left sitting on the nightstand and split its contents between our two goblets. She lifted her glass to her lips, but held it there, suspended between thumb and forefinger.

"Stupid!" She slapped her forehead with the palm of her empty hand. "You've been listening to me so politely and I forgot I've already told you this story."

"No you haven't," I replied, sitting my glass on the headboard shelf.

Both eyebrows shot straight up. "Oooh, right," she said, dragging the words out slowly. "I must be thinking of something else."

"Must be," I agreed. "Probably that deja vu thing again, huh?"

"Right, deja vu." She nodded, though I got the feeling there was something she wasn't telling me. She took another sip of wine and placed her glass next to mine. "Maybe this bed really is possessed." She stretched out on her back again and I did the same, our shoulders nearly touching. "I'll have to mention it to Sylvia next time I talk to her. It's her area of expertise."

"Beds?" I asked.

"No, possession," she replied. "Sylvia's a nun now."

Our laughter erupted in unison, and we giggled ourselves silly, Scully wiping fat tears from both cheeks and me holding my stomach to keep it from fluttering. Just when we'd almost gotten ourselves under control, we made eye contact in the mirror and the snickering started again, building and building until the bed started rolling faster and faster as our bodies twisted in fits of hysteria.

"Okay, stop, stop," I said, trying to catch my breath. "If we keep this up, I'm gonna be seasick."

After a few more minutes of frivolity we settled down. Scully folded her hands over her stomach and I laced my fingers behind my head, and we lay there silently watching each other in the mirror. "Okay, Mulder," she finally said. "Let's hear about your senior prom."

"I didn't go to my senior prom, actually."

She rolled over and propped herself up on one elbow. "Why not?"

I let out a deep breath and kept my eyes trained on our reflections. "Well, I know it's hard to believe given my sparkling personality now, but I wasn't exactly that popular in high school. Girls weren't really too eager to be seen with the creepy guy whose sister mysteriously disappeared." I swallowed hard, still unable to look her in the eye. "And of course I was at that awkward stage, waiting for the rest of my face to catch up with my nose." I sighed. "And here I am, twenty years later, still waiting."

She laughed softly and rolled onto her back again. "I think you're very handsome," she said. "In an unconventional sort of way. I've always thought so."

I studied my features in the mirror. "Well, thanks, I think. That was a compliment, right?"

I expected another laugh but she was quiet, and that little furrow in her forehead was beginning to form, the crease that materialized every time she was preparing to say something serious. "Can I tell you something, Mulder?"

Our eyes met in the mirror and I nodded. "Sure."

"Other than Marcus, every relationship I've ever had has been with an older man, and usually someone I worked with. I walked away from just such a relationship when I joined the FBI, only to take up with Jack almost immediately. And after Jack there was someone else. But then I was transferred to the X-Files and I thought it was a sign, a chance for me to make a fresh start." Her lips curled into a hint of a smile. "So despite your reputation as a 'crackpot,' I was determined for this assignment to work and I promised myself I would not make the same mistake again."

I closed my eyes, no longer sure I wanted to hear what she wanted to tell me.

"But you made keeping that promise very difficult. Do you remember our first case?" she asked. "That night I came to your room because I felt those bumps on my back?"

Do I remember? Every detail. I remember how beautiful she looked in the candlelight, the softness of her skin against my fingertips, how her hair smelled of vanilla and how it caressed my cheek as I held her trembling body against mine. I remember how we talked for hours and how I somehow trusted her enough to tell her things I'd never told anyone else. I opened my eyes and for a moment I considered telling her exactly what I remembered about that night -- but only for a moment.

"Yes, I remember," I said. "You may find this hard to believe, but beautiful, scantily clad women very rarely burst into my hotel room."

She chuckled. "I was scared out of my wits when I came to your room that night. You could have used my fears or my inexperience against me, taken advantage of me, but you didn't. You were comforting and kind, and when you put your arm around me for that split second, all the promises I made to myself about not getting involved with the next man I worked with went right out the window."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. A quick scan of my photographic memory assured me that Scully hadn't given any indication that night that she was even remotely interested in me. If she had, I might not have been the gentleman she remembered.

"I'd heard all the rumors about you," Scully continued. "But as we talked that night I realized you weren't the raving lunatic that everyone made you out to be. Driven -- yes. Passionate -- most assuredly. Dedicated -- absolutely. But a lunatic? Definitely not. I thought you were the most interesting, fascinating, complicated man I'd ever met. And if you had asked me to go to bed with you that night, I would have. In a heartbeat."

"Now you tell me."

She elbowed me in the ribs. "In retrospect, I'm glad we didn't jump into something that neither of us was ready for. If we'd slept together that night, we wouldn't still be together now."

I had to admit she was right.

"But what we did do that night," she said, "was lay the foundation that our whole partnership, our whole friendship, is based on -- trust and respect."

"Well," I pouted, "I'm glad something got laid."

Her glorious giggle returned and she reached over and patted my hand before sitting up to take a sip of wine. "It was the right beginning for us," she said. "We've had our ups and downs, but it all turned out okay in the end, don't you think?"

I thought "ups and downs" was putting it mildly, but I nodded in agreement. I waited while she settled beside me again, holding my question until I could see her face in the mirror. "So," I said, "is that really what you thought of me when we first met? That I was 'passionate' and 'fascinating'?"

Her lips curled into that <I know something you don't know> smile that had the power to drive me out of my mind. "Yeeesss," she flirted, turning it into a foursyllable word. "I believe 'exasperating' and
'infuriating' came later."

"Well, at least I had you fooled for a little while."

She played with the hem of her shirt, avoiding my eyes staring down at her from the mirror. "I thought you were extremely smart," she said. "Intriguing. Very charming when you wanted to be. Occasionally funny."

"Occasionally?" I slapped one hand over my heart. "Scully, you wound me."

She looked up into the mirror and laughed. "And you talked a good game, but I could tell you were very sensitive, a little insecure, and just a bit shy."

"Just what every guy wants to hear," I muttered.

She shook her head and sighed. "And as I said before, I thought you were very easy on the eyes. And that night in your hotel room in Oregon, I learned that you were very caring, gracious, and noble. In fact, if I hadn't already been in love with you, I would have fallen for you that night."

"You make me sound like a ... whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold the phone." I sat bolt upright causing the waves to slosh underneath us. "WHAT did you just say?"

Scully laughed and sat up too, turning toward me slightly before tucking her legs underneath her and picking up her wineglass. "I said I could have fallen in love with you that night. Except that I was already. In love. With you."

For a few moments we just sat there looking at each other, me bug-eyed, sputtering, and stuttering, Scully casually sipping her wine waiting for me to get a grip. Finally the ability to form words returned and I threw my hands up to assist in illustrating my confusion. "You're telling me t-that on our first case ... in Oregon ... you w-were in love with me?"

She raised one eyebrow and nodded slightly, her lips perched on the rim of her glass. "Uh-huh," was all she said.

My mouth dropped open and I curled my fingers into tight fists. "And in six years, you never once thought to mention that?"

She sat her wineglass in the headboard alcove and pulled my hands out of the air, trapping them both between hers. "Mulder, that night in Oregon I listened to you talk about the importance of your work, your suspicions about government conspiracies, and your need to find your sister. You made your priorities very clear. In fact, I think your exact words were 'nothing else matters to me'."

Just my luck; Scully had a photographic memory too.

"It was for the best, really. Romantic entanglements were the last thing either of us needed." She relaxed her grip on my hands. "But you did need a partner whether you wanted one or not, and I knew working with you would be challenging and rewarding. So I put aside my feelings and concentrated on being your partner and your friend."

"So you stopped loving me, just like that?"

"I didn't say that." She let go of my hands and folded hers in her lap. "I continued to have very strong feelings for you, but eventually I convinced myself it was my usual pattern and I was determined not to let it go any further than that. We were working well together, and I didn't want anything to interfere with that." She picked up her wineglass but didn't take a drink, just held it at the ready.

"Then so much happened," she continued. "I was gone, and your father was killed. And Missy. My cancer. I tried to shut you out then, but you wouldn't let me. You did everything in your power to save me. I hope you realize you are the best friend I've ever had."

I smiled at her as warmly as I knew how. "Likewise."

Her eyes sparkled and she tilted her head to the side. "Then I was well again, and you were so sweet and supportive when everything happened with Emily, and for the first time I started to wonder if it was possible that you had feelings for me that were stronger than just friendship."

"Why didn't you say anything then?"

"Because then Diana showed up." She kept her eyes trained on her wineglass as she traced a finger along its edge. "And you hurt me very deeply -- not because you'd never told me about her. You didn't owe me any explanations about old partners or past relationships. It hurt because you didn't acknowledge that you knew her right up front. I was extremely embarrassed that I had to find out from her that you two once worked together. I didn't understand how you could be so cruel."

"I didn't do it on purpose, Scully," I said. "When I walked into that briefing room and saw Diana, it threw me for a loop. I know I should have said something, but I didn't know what to say."

"I know," she replied. "But I still felt betrayed. I felt you were deliberately hiding something from me. So I came here and asked the guys about Diana. They told me she was there when you found the X-Files, and they implied you had a physical relationship with her. Diana obviously still had feelings for you, and because you were being so secretive, I thought you must still have feelings for her."

"Scully, I ..."

"Everything happened so fast after that. Diana was shot, they closed the X-Files, and eventually I decided to quit. But you asked me to stay." She reached over and trailed one fingertip along my forearm. "That afternoon outside your apartment you said all the right words I'd been waiting five years to hear, but I couldn't trust that you truly meant them. Were you telling me how you really felt, or were you reciting the lines that would get me to stay? Then I realized you were going to kiss me, and I knew from that kiss that I would know if you were telling me the truth or not. And then ..."

"And then we were so rudely interrupted."

She smiled and set her wineglass aside again. "When you ran to call the ambulance, I remember laying there thinking I was going to die never knowing for sure how you really felt."

I lowered my eyes and I whispered, "I'm sorry I never got the chance to show you."

"But you did show me, Mulder," she said, waiting for me to look up again. "How many girls can say that their man literally went to the ends of the earth for them?"

<Did she just call me her 'man'?>

"But after we got back from Antarctica, things got in the way again," she continued. "The X-Files were reopened without us and we were both having a hard time adjusting. You didn't seem interested in picking up where we left off in that hallway, so I thought it was best to forget it and only concentrate on maintaining our partnership and our friendship."

"But I told you I loved you. In Bermuda."

"Ha!" It was part gasp, part laugh. "It's a little hard to wrap your brain around that sentiment when you've already heard it uttered to one doctor, two nurses, three Gunmen, and Assistant Director Skinner."

"That's what Frohike said."

She nodded. "You were drugged to the gills, Mulder. I wasn't about to take you seriously or hold you to anything you said at that point."

"But I meant it, Scully." I took her hand and pushed the words out before I had time to swallow them back. "I love you. I've loved you for so long, but I never thought you could feel the same way about me."

She smiled and her thumb played over mine. "Amazing, isn't it? Sometimes when we're on a case, you and I are so in tune that I feel like I can read your thoughts and you can read mine, yet somehow we've never been able to apply that professional ability to our personal feelings."

"I know," I agreed. "I guess you were right. I could have used a few of those communication seminars after all." I paused for a moment, wishing I hadn't been so anxious to chase mothmen the last time Scully wanted to share a glass of wine with me. "Why tonight?" I asked. "What made you finally tell me how you felt?"

She pulled her hand away and reached for her wineglass, tipping it toward me in a mock toast. "Well, this didn't hurt." She tossed back the remaining liquid, licked her lips, and set the empty glass back on the headboard. She stretched out on the mattress again and motioned for me to do the same. I think Scully had discovered what I realized earlier - - it was easier for us to share our true feelings looking into the mirror instead of at each other. It was intimate, yet kept things at a safe distance. I guess for both of us old habits died hard.

"But more than the wine, I think it was fate," she said as I lay down beside her.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I recalled a debate Scully and I once had about fate versus free will, but the details were hazy, just out of reach, almost like I'd dreamed it. Deja vu again. But right at the moment, I wasn't interested in calling Sylvia about a possessed bed. "Why do you think it was fate?" I asked.

"Well," she said, "over the past few months I've experienced a seemingly unrelated series of events that have made me think more about the future ... our future."

"Such as?"

"Our field trip to Nevada for starters, contemplating a normal life. The 'insightful' Christmas Eve we spent together. Too many close calls -- you being held hostage by poor Mr. Crump, Bermuda, Florida, Padgett. The over-eager Peyton Ritter."

I shuddered as I remembered the phone call from the hospital, hearing little after the words "critical condition." The short flight from D.C. to New York never seemed longer.

"And we survived two women trying to come between us," she said. "First Diana -- again -- and Karin Berquist."

Karin. I still felt responsible for what happened to her. And in some oddly twisted way, I felt a little responsible for what happened to Diana too. Whatever her reasons, she was involved with some ruthless people because of me.

"There were a lot of things," Scully continued. "But mostly, it was that case in Kansas. You remember, you had the bright idea that Holman Hart's bottled up emotions were somehow controlling the weather, and that in order to stop it we had to get him together with the woman he was secretly carrying a torch for?"

"A theory which turned out to be correct," I interjected.

She rolled her eyes. "Okay, I admit given the end result it's conceivable that you were correct. But that night at the reunion when I was talking to Sheila, she said she only thought of Holman as a platonic friend, that she never considered him in a romantic way. And I told her that I felt the best relationships were often rooted in friendship. That one day you look at the person who you consider just a friend and you see something more than you did the night before. And suddenly that person is the only person you can ever imagine yourself with."

She took her eyes away from the mirror for a moment and looked over at me. "And at some point during the conversation, I realized I wasn't talking about Holman and Sheila anymore. I was talking about us."

She returned her gaze to the mirror before going any further. "After that I wanted to tell you how I really felt so many times, but I could never seem to find the right words or the right time. But now here we are, accidentally locked in this room. Add a little wine to loosen the tongue and there you have it. Fate."

I couldn't let her say any more. It was time to tell her the truth and face the consequences. I let out a long, cleansing breath, reached toward my back pocket, fingered the edge of Frohike's note and ... "Hey, wait a minute," I said, pulling my hand away from my pocket. "You said you would have fallen for me that night in Oregon except that you were already in love with me. But we'd only known each other a couple of days. Are you telling me it was love at first sight?"

She laughed softly. "Not exactly. I knew I was in love with you before I saw you. You had me at 'Nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted'."

"And I always thought it was my spine-tingling slide shows that got the girls."

"Okay, turnabout is fair play," she said. "I want to know the exact moment when you knew you were in love with me. Was it love at first for you?"

"Are you kidding? Do you remember that jacket you wore?"

She swatted my thigh. "Come on, be serious. I told the truth."

"Okay, okay," I said. "But I don't think there was one defining moment. It was more gradual." I ran my fingers through my hair and cradled the back of my neck with my hand. "I liked you a lot from the very beginning, even though I didn't always show it. But I think the first time I knew there was something more was after Deep Throat ... when they closed the XFiles and separated us."

I paused for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts, unsure why I felt so nervous. I pressed my arms tightly against my body, my palms flat on the mattress trying to steady myself and the waves rippling beneath me. "I didn't realize until then how much I'd come to care for you and depend on you," I finally said. "You gave me direction, made order out of chaos. I missed that. I'd never met anyone who challenged me the way you did. I'd never met anyone as intellectually stimulating. I missed your company. I missed you."

She said nothing, just reached over and lightly placed her left hand over my right, reminding me she was still there. "And then you were taken and I never felt so alone. Realizing I couldn't pick up the phone and talk to you, having no one to laugh at my crazy theories. I even missed that skeptical eyebrow. Those months you were gone ... I guess that's when I realized that I loved you. And I thought I'd never get the chance to tell you."

"Why didn't you tell me when I was returned?" she asked.

"You were going through a lot," I replied. "Besides, I really never thought you could feel the same about me. I mean, I knew that you cared about me, about my well being and my sanity. But to be honest, most of the time I thought you were just humoring me, or tolerating me. I never thought you could love me. When Padgett said you were already in love, I thought there was somebody else."

"I don't have time for anybody else, Mulder," she laughed. "You are a full-time occupation. The pay is lousy, but the fringe benefits are excellent."

We both grinned at the exact same moment and I hoped I didn't look as goofy in reality as I did in the mirror. I'm not sure how long we lay there, silent, letting the truths we'd been hiding for six years sink in. But I couldn't help wondering; now that this information was out in the open, what were we going to do with it?

As if in answer to my question, Scully turned on her side and began to trail one finger along my arm. It made the hair stand on end and sent a jolt of electricity to my fingers and toes ... and other areas. "Did you really find me intellectually stimulating, Mulder?"

"Mmmm," I hummed. "Still do."

"Do you find me ... stimulating in any other way?" She leaned closer, maintaining the stroking on my arm with one hand while she tickled the hair behind my ear with the other.

As wonderful as it felt, common sense kicked in. "Stop, Scully," I said, stilling the fingers brushing my wrist. "We can't. I think you've had a little too much to drink."

"What makes you say that?" Her voice was low and beguiling.

"Well, for one thing, you're touching me," I said. "You hardly ever touch me unless I'm sick, or injured, or unconscious."

"That's not true, is it?" she asked. "And anyway, if you're unconscious, how do you know I'm touching you?"

Tipsy or not, I should have known I'd never get that one past her. "Well, sometimes when I wake up, I pretend that I'm unconscious -- just for a second or two -- in order to prolong the touching. In fact, a trained psychologist might suggest that my propensity for injuring myself is borne from my deep-seated need for comfort."

"Or maybe you're just a klutz."

"Well, there is that theory too."

Now she was nibbling on my earlobe.

"Scully, we can't." I sat up quickly to underscore my point, propping the pillows against the headboard and leaning back. Scully fell back on the mattress with a dejected sigh. She lay there for a moment, staring up into the mirror, before she sat up and arranged her pillows next to mine.

She folded her arms across her chest and cocked her head, the same way she prepared to argue with me when she was hell bent on making her case. "Mulder, I thought we just spent the last two hours establishing that we love each other."

"We did," I agreed.

"Well, usually when people have declared their love for one another, they want to take those feelings to the next level."

"I know," I nodded.

She pulled her legs crisscross underneath her and rested her palms on her knees. "Mulder, don't you want to make love to me?"

I looked over at her and knew I couldn't disguise the desire in my eyes. "Is this a trick question?"

She slapped her thighs and raised her arms into a frozen shrug. "Then what's the problem? Mulder, what are we waiting for? It's been six years."

"That's just it, Scully. It's been six years." It's hard to mount a debate when you only half-heartedly believe what you're saying, but I had to try. "It's taken us six years to get this far. I don't want to mess up the progress we've made tonight by doing something we might regret in the morning."

"I wasn't planning on regretting it," she said. "Were you?"

I shook my head. "Scully, we've both been drinking. You yourself admitted saying things you might not otherwise have said without the courage the alcohol provided. I was telling you the truth in Bermuda, but you didn't believe me because I was drugged. When we take this next step, and I do believe we will, I just want it to be right. I don't want there to be any second-guessing or any regrets for either of us."

"Mulder, I am not drunk and neither are you. A nice little buzz, yes. Relaxed, yes. But I am perfectly capable of making rational decisions. And I want us to make love, right here, in this bed. It's destiny, Mulder. I know it in my heart. Fate brought us here tonight."

I took a deep breath and prepared to face the music. "Scully, it wasn't fate that brought us here. It was Frohike."

One corner of her mouth turned up. "What?"

I shoved my hand in my back pocket, pulled out the note, and waved it in front of her nose. "Read this."

She shook her head questioningly as she took the note from my hand, unfolded it and started to read. While I waited, I crossed my arms and let my chin drop to my chest, preparing myself to take whatever was hurled my way. A few moments later, she refolded the note and held it gently by the corner as if she planned to lift fingerprints from it later.

"Does this mean ... are you saying that all this was meant for us? That Frohike deliberately locked us in here?"

I nodded quickly, not looking up or relaxing my body from its defensive position.

"When did you find this?" I didn't need to see her face; I could hear the accusation in her voice.

"I found it when we got the food out of the refrigerator."

"So you've known about this for hours and didn't say anything?"

"I tried a couple of times," I said. "But I couldn't. I was enjoying being with you, and I didn't want to spoil it. I'm sorry, I should have told you when I found it."

I turned away, swinging my legs over the side of the bed and dropping my feet to the floor with a thud. I sat with my head in my hands as the silence got louder, the scrape of her fingernail along the crease of the notepaper the only sound breaking the stillness. The bed shifted as she left it, probably before she realized there was really nowhere she could go. She was stuck with this sorry son of a bitch for another eight hours or so.

I was wallowing in so much self-pity that I barely felt her hand on my shoulder, her touch feather-light as she sat down beside me. Her hand slid across my back, her fingers stroking the back of my neck as her other hand rested gently on my thigh.

She leaned toward me, her voice at a whisper. "Frohike went to a lot of trouble. It doesn't seem fair to disappoint him."

I looked at her in shock. "You're kidding, right?" I knew she wasn't when her tongue swirled over and into my ear. "Now I know you're drunk."

"I am not drunk, Mulder," she said, trailing a path of light kisses down my jaw. "I know exactly what I'm saying. And doing."

<She'd get no argument from me on that point.>

She placed one wet kiss on the corner of my mouth and put her arms around my neck. "Actually, I think this was kind of sweet, Frohike playing matchmaker. It's funny that other people were aware of our attraction to one another when we weren't aware of it ourselves."

I shook my head. "I can't believe you're not mad, Scully. What happened to the woman who believed in fate?"

"Sometimes fate needs a little push."

She placed her palm against my cheek and turned my head to face her, bringing her lips up to meet mine. The kiss was soft but meaningful, an introduction as well as a preview of things to come. Her eyes were dancing when she pulled back to gauge my reaction.

"Dr. Scully," I whispered, "you're trying to seduce me."

"I thought you'd never notice." She pressed her lips against the stubble on my chin. "Are we going to talk in movie cliches all night?" she asked. "I have something better in mind."

She reached up to caress my cheek again, but I caught her wrist and shook my head. "Scully, I think ..."

She jumped off the bed so quickly I was left bobbing back and forth like a buoy. "Frohike was right," she said. "You do think too much." She grabbed one of my hands with both of hers and pulled me off the bed with more force than I ever imagined she could muster. "Come on, Mulder. Let's go."

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"We're going to get sober."

I'd been in "hot water" with Scully more times than I could remember, but this was certainly the best time. It was so wonderful, so relaxing, that I almost didn't want to leave. Almost.

Scully and I luxuriated in the Jacuzzi for nearly an hour, enjoying our standard brand of foreplay -- conversation -- while we experimented with reasonably chaste and playful caresses and kisses. So far everything we'd done could be dismissed or forgotten -- though not easily; we were both naked, after all, although our bodies were somewhat obscured by the whirling waters. But consciously or subconsciously, with our restraint we'd left each other an escape clause. We both knew that once we crossed that final hurdle of intimacy, things would be forever changed. And I was terrified.

Not of the intimacy. In my deepest moments of selfreflection I realized that I'd been more intimate with Scully with my clothes on than I'd been with any other woman with my clothes off. Sometimes I felt Scully and I were so close that we were already lovers in every way but one. What if we took that last step, then realized it was the biggest mistake of our lives? What if we were throwing away our friendship and partnership for one night of sex? Was it worth the risk?

I stood next to the bed, hands shoved in the pockets of the fluffy white robe, waiting for Scully to finish up in the bathroom. How many times had I wondered what it would be like to make love to Scully in this bed? And now that it was so close to happening, I was in danger of losing my nerve.

A pair of arms snaked around my waist and a shock of auburn hair rested against my shoulder blade. "You're not thinking again, are you?"

"A little," I said, turning to face her. "Are you sure this is what you want, Scully? Really sure?"

She took a step backward and raised her right hand. "I, Dana Katherine Scully, do solemnly swear that I am, at this very moment, as sober as a judge. I am in complete control of all my faculties, my judgment is sound, and my reflexes are not impaired in the least. And I do further declare and affirm that I wish for us to make love to one another as soon as is humanly possible, so if you don't believe me, feel free to conduct any test you like. Want me to walk a straight line?"

She took six graceful steps forward, pirouetted like a gymnast on the balance beam, and took six steps back. "Done. Want me to touch my nose with my fingertips?" She closed her eyes, held her arms straight out from her body, and brought her index finger to her nose, first left, then right, two times from each side. "Done!" she cried. "Want me to balance on one foot while reciting the Gettysburg Address? Four score and seven years ago ..."

I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her mouth to mine, softly at first, then with purpose. Her lips parted and our tongues and teeth jockeyed for position, touching and exploring until the need for oxygen became too great. I reluctantly pulled away, trapping her head between my hands, my fingers tangling in her damp hair. Her eyes were smoky blue, filled with desire only for me.

"I prefer the Breathalyzer test," I said.

"So tell me, officer," she purred. "What did I blow?"

"Nothing yet," I murmured. "But the night is still young."

Her face broke into a wicked grin. "Aren't you going to read me my rights?"

"You have the right not to remain silent."

She giggled, "Ooh, why do I think that's not the first time you've used that line?"

"Resisting an officer of the law, huh?" I flirted. "Am I gonna have to use the handcuffs?"

"Hmmm, kinky," she said. "But not this time, officer. I'll go peacefully."

"Good, because I left them in my other pants."

"I hope that's the only thing you left in your other pants." She stood on tiptoe to kiss my cheek and casually rubbed her body against mine before leaning over to turn down the bed -- the same sheets and comforter that only a few hours ago we had carefully smoothed across the pulsating mattress.

"I guess now I know why Frohike was so adamant that I pick out the sheets," she said, fluffing each pillow before tossing it next to the headboard. "He left nothing to chance."

She squeezed my hand and walked around the bed to prepare the covers on the other side. I nervously pulled open the nightstand drawer and found what I was looking for. "Yes, Frohike thought of everything," I said, shaking the box and rattling its contents. "Ribbed for your pleasure."

I started to break the seal and her voice rolled across the bed as gently as the waves within the mattress. "I don't need those if you don't."

I smiled and tossed the box back in the drawer, trying to stop my knees from knocking before I took off my robe. Scully was fluffing her last pillow, so I tugged on the knot I'd tied in the robe's belt and took a deep breath. "Well, here goes nothin'," I said, and the robe dropped to the floor.

Scully tried to hold back a chuckle as she took in the view. "I'm not asking you to sweet talk me, Mulder, but for future reference, those are not exactly the words a girl wants to hear right before you plan to make love to her."

"Oh, sorry." Scully continued to watch me as I climbed into bed, refraining from comment as I satisfied the obligatory adolescent compulsion to check out how certain body parts looked in the mirror. I'm not so sure she didn't sneak a peek herself. When I was comfortable, I patted the empty spot beside me and held out my hand, completing the invitation.

"Just one more thing," she said. She hit the dimmer switch on the wall, picked up something from the kitchen counter, and made her way around the room, pausing to light each candle Frohike had set out. Funny, I hadn't even noticed them until now. When she finished, she dropped the lighter on the desk and returned to her side of the bed, stopping for a moment to marvel at the luminescence created by the candlelight reflecting off the canopy. She took a deep breath, and slowly slid the robe from her shoulders.

She stood perfectly still, allowing me the same opportunity I'd afforded her a few minutes earlier. Her hair was soft and untamed, framing her face perfectly. Her pale skin was radiant in the candlelight, her breasts round and firm. The curves I'd visualized lurking under those blue jeans and Donna Karan suits were abundant and magnificent, my imagination ill-equipped to do them justice. In a word, she was exquisite.

The effect Scully was having on me was more than evident, but she couldn't resist a little flirtation. "Disappointed?"

I shook my head slowly, my mouth almost too dry to form words. "Only that we didn't do this a long time ago."

"No more misgivings?"

"Right now I can't think of a single one. Scully, if I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?"

She put her hands on her hips. "Movie cliches weren't enough, now you want to recite lyrics from bad country songs?"

"Hey, that's a classic," I said. "And you didn't answer the question."

She smiled and crawled into bed slowly, purposefully, like a lioness stalking her prey. I was making myself dizzy trying to watch her movements from every possible angle. I was propped against the pillows, and she stretched out beside me, resting her head on my chest for a moment as if she was checking my heartbeat, reassuring herself that this was indeed real.

She draped herself over my chest to kiss my forehead, the tip of my nose, my lips, my chin, seemingly fixated on heading south without a roadmap, but not afraid to pause frequently at rest stops or to spend extra time exploring areas of local interest. While Scully took the scenic route, I was content with enjoying the sights right where I was, the mirror affording me an incredible view of the ouroboros painted on her back. I traced my index finger over the colorful circular serpent and the snake seemed to come to life, writhing under my touch just as I was under Scully's.

I'd only seen her tattoo a few times, but it always fascinated me, and I found it sexy as hell. I always thought she considered it a badge of honor, earned during an act of rebellion -- an uprising against many things not the least of which was me. Regardless of why she did it, I still wanted to believe she chose that particular tattoo as a symbol of our partnership -- creation out of destruction, life out of death, an eternal cycle of renewal.

I realized the kisses had stopped and turned my attention back to the woman in my arms. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"You don't suppose Frohike has any cameras in here, do you?"

"No," I said reassuringly. "He has too much respect for you."

"That's too bad," she teased. "I think I'd like to have this on tape. Something to put in the drawer with those other tapes that aren't yours."

I chuckled and looked into her eyes, holding her tight as I absently stroked her hair.

She tilted her head and raised the corner of her mouth and her eyebrow at the same time. "Are you thinking again?"

"I was just wondering what it'll be like on Monday," I replied dreamily. "Going to work with a partner who is also my lover."

"You may not get to find out if you don't stop thinking and pay attention." She raised herself up to her knees, placing her hands on my shoulders for balance as she straddled my hips, her bottom nestled against my thighs. "Tell me, Agent Mulder," she said, "while you've been doing all this thinking, have you given any thought as to how you'd like to do this?"

<Only about a million times.>

"You're doing just fine," I said. "Keep going, FBI woman."

And she did.

It was times like this that I wished I were a man of faith so I could pray to a benevolent God, not to make time stand still, but just to slow it down a little. I wanted to remember every detail of the first time we made love -- every sound, every touch, every taste, every moment -- and I knew despite my best efforts, it would be over much too quickly.

And it was.

But there were things I would remember: Watching in the mirror as our bodies moved rhythmically with the waterbed's waves, erotic and hypnotic all at the same time. The huge grin that spread across Scully's face as she discovered the "sensation intensification" that a waterbed provides. The neat tuck and roll maneuver she orchestrated when she realized the partner looking up had the advantage. Most of all I would remember the exact moment we joined together, and how pleased I was to affirm that despite the difference in height, our bodies fit together perfectly -- just as I always knew they would.

"You're thinking again."

I thought she had dozed off and her throaty growl startled me.

She was tucked beside me, her hand on my chest, her head resting against my shoulder. "I can see the wheels turning from here," she said.

"I was just thinking I should check my lease when I get home," I replied. "See if there's any rules about mirrored ceilings." She laughed and snuggled closer. "And I was thinking that was more amazing than I ever dreamed possible."

She winked. "Well, I was thinking that practice makes perfect."

"You didn't think that was perfect?"

"Well, you said that one of the things you love about me is that I challenge you." She pressed a kiss against my ribcage. "I can't let you rest on your laurels, so to speak."

I smiled and kissed her forehead. "Well, I'm not as young as I used to be. Can I rest on my laurels for just a little while if I promise to rise to the challenge later on, so to speak?"

We shared a laugh and a kiss and turned onto our sides so I could spoon up behind her. "You know what else I was thinking, Scully?"


"The last time I slept in this bed, the same day repeated over and over again." I leaned in close and whispered in her ear. "I know you have your doubts about whether that really happened, but I just wanted you to know, if this day repeats over and over again -- I won't be disappointed."

She looked back over her shoulder and smiled, pulling my arms tighter around her. "Neither will I, Mulder. Neither will I."

"Rise and shine, boys and girls! And how are we feeling on this beautiful Sunday morning?"

I'm not sure exactly what Frohike expected to find when he unlocked the steel door at 8 a.m. sharp, but I was pretty sure it wasn't Scully and me, fully dressed, sitting on the end of the bed playing gin rummy.

Given the expression on his face, he also didn't expect Scully to come bounding off the bed to let him have it with both barrels. She might not have been quite so tough on the poor little guy, but Frohike had failed to take one important factor into consideration. His plan was perfect, flawlessly timed and executed, but for one crucial error -- no coffee.

Scully didn't have the opportunity to "tower" over too many people, but she was making the most of it with Frohike. Or maybe he was shrinking. It was difficult to tell.

"Just what the hell did you think you were doing?" She had her hands on her hips, her face about one inch from his, her tirade coming fast and furious. And she didn't let Frohike get a word in edgewise. "Locking us in here like that ... suppose there had been an emergency ... what if Skinner was trying to reach us ... you can't meddle in people's lives like that ... my love life is my own business ... whatever possessed you to do something so inconsiderate and mean-spirited? Well, say something!"

"I'm ... I'm sorry," he sputtered. "I really didn't think you'd feel this way. I don't know what else to say."

She crossed her arms and looked down at him sternly. "Well, I only have one thing to say to you, Frohike." She leaned forward and he tensed up, waiting for her to drop the bomb.

"Thank you, Melvin." She kissed his cheek and smiled, the smile usually saved only for me. But I let her share it with Frohike just this once. "Come on, Mulder, let's go."

Frohike looked totally flabbergasted. "What? Wait! Hold on a second! Where are you going?"

"First, we're going to get coffee," I said.

"And then we're going to buy Mulder a new bed," Scully explained cheerfully, the mere promise of coffee putting her in a better frame of mind. "He can't go back to sleeping on that couch."

"Are mirrors standard or optional equipment?" I asked

"It's not like buying a car, Mulder." Scully picked up the shopping bag leaning against the wall and we headed for the open door.

"Wait a second!" Frohike shouted. "Where are you going with my sheets?"

"Your sheets are over there." She pointed toward the bed. "These are mine now. Don't worry, I'll get you some replacements. Enjoy the bed, Frohike." She turned and was out the bedroom door before he could answer, her voice trailing behind her. "Come on, Mulder! Get that very fine ass moving!"

I shrugged my shoulders and grinned sheepishly. "Thanks, Frohike," I said, extending my hand. "For everything. And I do mean everything. I'll see you later. Gotta go."

He scratched his head and waved me off. "Yeah, okay, go. But you're not gonna get out of telling me exactly what happened here last night."

I paused at the bedroom door. "Tutoring," I said. "A friend told me my arithmetic skills left something to be desired. As it turned out, my friend was correct about a lot of things -- including the fact that Agent Scully is a terrific teacher. So long, Frohike. And thanks again."

Scully was waiting for me by the front door, and I opened it and motioned for her to lead the way. Just before we made our exit, Frohike appeared outside his bedroom.

"Yeah, you call it what you want," he said. "But you know what I think? I think ..."

I looked at him disapprovingly and shook my head, offering a piece of advice before I closed the door behind me. "You know the trouble with you, Frohike? You think too much."


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