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On The Couch

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Ellen had claimed it was the coolest new eatery in town, and she only did this three times before Dana found a space in her planner for a post-church brunch. She hadn’t been avoiding Ellen, but life had gotten in the way of spending time with her closest friend. Between work, traveling for work and cancer treatments over the last few months, Dana lacked the energy to engage with the world around her.

The restaurant’s aesthetic was minimal and bright: white wooden walls contrasted against stainless steel tables and chairs. A pleasant server with a nose ring and beanie cap greeted Dana as she spotted her friend seated near the tall bay window. Dana took a few steps toward the table while remembering the last restaurant she and Mulder visited in Alabama. He had chided her for requesting turkey bacon and Sweet’n Low with her coffee. It was a greasy spoon and she needed the chili and egg platter to put some meat back on her bones, he had told her with a measure of sincerity.

Redundantly waving her over to the table, Ellen placed her menu down. The young waitress had two mimosas in her hands and an effortful smile on her face as she placed the vibrant yellow drinks down. “Is there anything else I can get you?”

“Another menu for my friend, please,” Ellen said. She turned to Dana with an excited air. “I wasn’t sure you’d find the place.”

“Oh, it’s not too far from my church. I really like this side of town,” Dana said as she dropped her purse on the table and took a seat. Her hair was pulled back into a minuscule ponytail with long hanging bangs framing the sides of her face. “I actually went to a really interesting art show down the block.”

“With who?” Ellen raised an eyebrow. Entirely too much time had passed between these girls’ brunches lately.

“I didn’t tell you?”

Ellen shook her head. Dana’s dating life was her least favorite topic of discussion with any of the women in her life. But, considering that the alternative issue was cancer, she relished this little bit of normalcy.

“Well, it was a blind date. My mom set it up, and I had a really hard time saying no, because she knows his mom.”

“Ohh, I love a blind date,” Ellen said, placing her napkin across her lap. “Not going on them, mind you. But I love hearing about them.”

“I know, but it really wasn’t that interesting. We had dinner and then walked around the gallery. There was this post-modern exhibit. A lot of video installations an—”

“I don’t care about the art, Dana. Tell me about the man.”

“Umm,” Dana murmured, struggling to remember the pertinent details and taking a sip of her drink. “He was a journalist. Something about writing about politics. He was kind of short, had blondish hair.”

Dana gave a small shrug and Ellen knew that there weren’t any juicy details.

“You’re really a poet, you know that, Dana,” Ellen said with a small laugh.

“I know. That’s the exciting dating life of your most eligible, single friend. I was in bed, alone, with a glass of merlot and The Joy Luck Club by 9:30.”

“You do live dangerously,” Ellen said. “It’s so funny. I just met the greatest guy at the gym the other day. He was on the treadmill next to me and we got to talking. He’s a lawyer and a Sagittarius.”

“So when’s the wedding?” Dana asked.

Ellen let out a deadpan laugh and began listing all the reasons this gym-goer and Dana would be perfect for each other. She started with his height: 6’1”. Then she moved onto his law specialty: corporate mergers. And she finished with his eye color: a dreamy hazel with specks of walnut.

“Walnut?” Dana repeated, clearly amused by the flowery descriptor.

“They’re very nice eyes. The kind that pierce your soul.”

“Jeeze, you’re really laying this on thick, Ellen.”

“Well, I want you to say yes. He told me that he’s free on Saturday night and that he’d love to meet you. This guy’s so handsome. And you’re gorgeous,” Ellen said. “He’s got a job and a car. What else can you ask for these days?”

“That’s kind of the bare minimum I’m looking for at this point in my life.”

“So, you’re looking...”

“I wouldn’t say I’m actively looking, but I see things,” Dana said.

“Is Mulder one of those things?”

Dana’s face flushed and she felt silly for encouraging the obvious retort with her statement’s broadness.

“You know, I just saw a study in the USA Today that 60 percent of relationships begin at the office nowadays.”

Dana was practiced at changing the subject under duress, and she didn’t want to talk about Mulder with Ellen. She didn’t want to think about how Mulder’s place in her life had changed and grown since she’d written him off to her those few years ago. “I really can’t go on another blind date, Ellen. Can’t you set up Mr. Treadmill with Susan? She’d like a lawyer.”

“You haven’t heard?” Ellen asked. “Susan got engaged to Tom. They went to a wedding in Sonoma and he proposed to her.”

“No,” Dana gasped. “He didn’t do it at the wedding, did he?”

“Oh no. I said that weird. He proposed the day after. They went wine tasting and he did it in the vineyards. Her ring is absolutely gorgeous. You have to meet-up with her soon. She told me that she misses you.”

“So, he planned to —” Dana stopped and said the first thing that she could think of: “I can’t go on the date. I’ve got plans with Mulder on Saturday.”

“Mulder,” Ellen said in an almost sing-song voice with a mockingly sweet smile. “Is it a date?”

“Yes, I have a date with Mulder. I’m going to wear my little black dress that shows off the goods, and we’re going to Alfonzo’s for the lasagna and sangria. Then we’re going to make hot passionate love all night long.”

Ellen laughed and Dana didn’t.

“We’ve got some work stuff to take care of and then we’ll probably watch Animal House on VHS.”

“Why do you have to get my hopes up?”

He called it a field trip. Mulder and Scully exited the confines of the basement office to check on an ongoing forensic report in the F.B.I. lab for their latest investigation. He had requested a material analysis of a potential alien implant. It was left in the mail slot at his apartment, and the somewhat personal nature of the delivery had intrigued him.

Mulder ran a hand through his messy hair as he looked down at a piece of paper. The analysis was inconclusive, and the potential alien implant appeared to consist of aluminium and copper. Scully had said there would always be another alien implant in their future.

Slowing his gait to walk in step with her, he reached into his pocket for the keys to the office. He held the door open for Scully, and this drove her crazy. This social nicety had an aroma of sadness to it now. She didn’t want to feel fragile or incapable. With the work day coming to a close, Scully grabbed her coat from the rack and turned to her partner. “Mulder, do you have any plans for Saturday night?”

“Saturday,” he repeated. “I’m going to the Y to play basketball at two. But, no. No plans for Saturday night. Why?”

“I was thinking that we could grab some dinner. It’s been hard for me to cook lately... just too much effort for only me. And we could go over some of the extra cold cases. Maybe pick something for when we have some down time.”

“You want us to have dinner. Together?” Mulder asked.

She nodded. “I told Ellen I had plans on Saturday, and I don’t want to be a liar.”

“What does Ellen have to do with us eating dinner?”

Scully sighed. “It’s a long story.”

One side of the basketball court was occupied by six men playing a three-on-three pick-up game. A tall, skinny man sunk the final basket to end the game. Mulder wiped his damp forehead and adjusted his red, white and blue sweatband. His legs ached and his heart beat fast. After taking a swig of water, he jogged over to his teammate Ben.

“I’ve only got time for one more game,” Mulder said.

“Now I know you don’t have a hot date tonight,” Ben replied.

“Hey, I’m considered a very eligible bachelor.”

“Not even your mom thinks that, Fox.”

Mulder tossed the ball a little harder than normal at Ben’s chest and he gave Mulder a knowing grin. “Hey Kevin, did you hear that? Mulder’s got a date tonight. He has to leave early to get himself all pretty for her.”

“Is it that redhead we saw before?” Kevin asked.

Mulder didn’t want to talk about dating with his basketball buddies. He wasn’t even sure if he should consider this an official date.

“I don’t kiss and tell, boys,” Mulder said with a sly grin.

Scully had let her hair air dry into beachy waves. She pushed her hanging slim-cut black suits to the side of the closet and leafed through her casual wear. It was the smaller selection of clothing, and too many pieces would be a bit baggy. She didn’t consider wearing a dress: that would be too fancy. She didn’t want Mulder to think this was a real date, so she picked a slouchy forest green sweater and a pair of high-waisted black jeans.

She applied a minimal amount of makeup: just enough to look somewhat lively, as she’d always hated being told she looked sick when she didn’t wear any. After looking forward to the lazy evening with Mulder all day, she became impatient. A single cup of tea became two, and she glanced at the wall clock. Absentmindedly, she turned the tv on and changed the program from a hockey game to the nightly news, wondering why ESPN was the last viewed channel. There was trouble in the middle east, and Scully slowly faded into sleep, curled up and snuggling a throw pillow.

A gentle knock shocked her awake, and she swung her legs over the couch and shakily stood up. She pulled the door open and her vision filled with a mixture of pink and yellow. It was a makeshift bouquet of roses with a sad and rustic quality about them.

Standing tall with a sheepish expression Mulder had a grey suit with a navy blue shirt on. Scully definitely noticed that his top button was open. His dark hair was slicked back with gel. “I, uh, passed the cemetery on the way here.”

Scully raised an eyebrow.

“They’re from the side of the building,” he admitted.

“Wow, Mulder,” Scully said, with a lump in her throat. “Did you bring the cold cases?”

“No, I forgot them in the car. So, are you hungry? I haven’t had anything since breakfast.”

“Yeah, I’m starving too. What did you have in mind? Pizza?” Scully asked. She looked over his outfit and then down at herself. “I feel a little underdressed, Mulder.”

“You look amazing. And your hair...”

Scully still felt asleep or in a strange state of inbetween. This made no sense. She had asked him to come over for dinner on a Saturday night. And he arrived in a suit carrying flowers. Roses. No tie. Gel in his hair. Did he think this was a date? Why didn’t she think this was a date? “I don’t know what to say, Mulder. Let me put these flowers in some water.”

She walked into the kitchen carrying the loose assortment of her landlord’s roses as Mulder grabbed the remote control off of the couch to turn off the still blaring tv. He clicked off Peter Jennings mid-sentence and placed the remote on Scully’s impeccably organized coffee table. An assortment of medical journals and entertainment magazines sat stacked on one side next to a few coasters on the other.

“I thought we could go to this little French restaurant in Georgetown. They’ve got a prix fixe menu, and I hear the chef is amazing. But if you’re feeling underdressed we could try McDonald’s.”

“Mulder, I really wasn’t expecting this.”

“Expecting what?”

“You looking like this,” she said with an exaggerated arm gesture. “And, a fancy dinner. I kinda thought we’d get delivery or something.”

Mulder didn’t flinch. He turned around and walked out of the door, so Scully stared at the open doorway. Getting ditched never felt good, but this had to be the most egregious example. He’d never ditched her personally: it was always on a case. She stood still for a moment before walking over to close the door.

Only a minute had passed when Mulder let himself in carrying a bright red plastic cooler. “Sorry, I didn’t know where to get one of those adorable wooden picnic baskets.”


“I didn’t really want to go out tonight.”

“Well, you certainly dressed up for it…” Scully said, doubting his intentions.

Mulder shrugged. “I wanted to look good for our date.”

There it was. The word. Scully hadn’t planned to say anything about the misunderstanding, and she wasn’t looking forward to having a conversation about this.

“Our date,” she repeated.

“I thought of a ton of fun date ideas. Rock climbing, a wine walk, ice skating,” Mulder said. “But then, I remembered K.I.S.S.”

Scully’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?”

“K.I.S.S. ‘Keep it simple stupid,’” he said. “I’m the stupid in this example.”

“You’re not stupid, but you are constantly a mystery, Fox Mulder.”

He opened the cooler and began pulling out its contents. There were carefully wrapped sandwiches and small containers of potato salad and macaroni and cheese.

“Did you happen to stop by the deli on your way here?” Scully asked.

“I didn’t think you’d appreciate my peanut butter and jelly masterpieces,” Mulder responded with a grin.

“Sometimes I don’t know how you’re still alive. It won’t be the syndicate that takes you out; it’ll be all the sodium in that top ramen you eat.”

“Thanks, Dr. Scully,” he said as he handed her a glass bottle of lemonade. His fingers brushed hers and she blushed with the realization that they were having a picnic date in her apartment. The longer they went without talking about the obvious gave Scully a slight stomach ache.

“I’m sorry Mulder, I didn’t think you’d do all of this. We’ve had dinner together before,” Scully said with a slightly frazzled aura. “How could I have known that you’d think it was a date?”

“It’s okay,” Mulder replied. “I kinda knew that. I just wanted to make it a date. I thought the two of us could use a bit of a departure from the usual.”

Scully’s stomach rumbled. “Let’s eat, Mulder.”

Mulder nudged the coffee table to make room for a throw blanket on the floor. He kicked his shoes off and took a seat. Scully sat with her back against the couch and Mulder crossed his legs. She placed the plates in front of her and Mulder and unwrapped the sandwiches.

They chewed in silence.

“The turkey is really good,” Scully said.

“Yeah, I remember you mentioning that you liked it.”

“It’s good for when my stomach’s upset.”

Mulder scooped a second serving of potato salad onto Scully’s plate. “I want to make sure you’re eating.”

“I eat,” Scully said.

“I know you eat. It’s just that I worry about you,” he said.

She didn’t tell him that she worried about him too.

She had rarely felt this awkward around Mulder, but this foray into an unexpected date gave her a sense of foreboding.

“Do you want to watch a movie later?” Scully asked.

“Maybe. Or we could play that,” he said, pointing to the bottom of her bookshelf. A multicolored box adorned with beer foam and large letters reading “Drinking Party Game” looked incredibly out of place.

“Oh, I forgot I had that.”

“I never took you for much of a partier, Scully.”

“I definitely had my wild days in college. But, I was all partied out by med school,” she said. “Actually Melissa gave that to me a few years ago as kind of a gag gift. I’ve never used it.”

Mulder scooted across the floor to the bookshelf and grabbed the box. “‘Hours of drunken fun, guaranteed!’ This looks like a blast. Want to give it a go?”

“Unless you’ve got a six-pack in that cooler, I’m all tapped out here, except for some cooking sherry,” Scully said. “I think Melissa mentioned something about it being a little like truth or dare, and we’re definitely not playing that tonight.”

Mulder placed the game back on the shelf.

“Please tell me you brought dessert.”

“I did. Guess what?”

Scully closed her eyes. “Cookies.”

“Nope, cheesecake.”

She pulled the cooler closer and reached inside. There were two slices of cheesecake: one covered in chocolate drizzle and another with raspberry glaze.

“Which one do you want, Mulder?”

“I’ll take whichever one you don’t want,” he replied.

“Just how are you single?” Scully teased with a fork in hand.

He shrugged. “I’ve been told I’m too ‘singularly minded and selfish’. But, I’m not sure one can trust an ex to be impartial.”

She handed the raspberry slice to Mulder and then took a bite of hers. “Mmmm, this is so good.”

They ate their cheesecake and the smallest sounds of pleasure escaped both of their lips. And, the picnic portion of their quasi-date had drawn to a close. Mulder wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Well, the night is still young...”

The dim lights from the multicolored lamp on the side table gave the living room a ghostly quality and cast a blue hue on Scully’s pale skin. “Do you ever get lonely?” she asked with a slight shake in her low voice.

“Yeah,” he said.

“I thought I was going to die without anyone in my life.”

Mulder sat in silence and swept a few crumbs off his lap.

Scully stood up and excused herself. Each step brought her closer to the bathroom. With the door closed behind her, she gripped the sink in an attempt to steady herself. And she exhaled.

Mulder couldn’t sit still. He picked up the various plastic wrappers and garbage on the floor and took it all to Scully’s kitchen. He returned for the plates and placed them into the sink with a sigh. Tap water ran over the artisan plates and he filled her dishwasher. Rag in hand, he began to tidy the already clean kitchen.

Returning to the living room, Mulder sat down on the couch and stared at the blank, black glass of the television screen. He rubbed his eyes and slouched over, nudging a throw pillow aside. Glancing down at his shoes he saw a second pair.

“Hey,” Scully said.

Mulder looked up at his partner with a sense of relief apparent on his face. “Hey, yourself.”

“I’m sorry about all of that. I just felt a little overwhelmed. I’m not sure what we’re doing here. And, I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“I could never be mad at you, Scully,” he said. “Come here.”

She shuffled in her gray socks over to the couch and collapsed next to Mulder. There was little space between them, yet the void felt charged. The distance had been an vague obstacle, yet he lifted his arm, and Scully instinctually nuzzled into his side.

His cologne smelled a little like a musky forest, and she wondered if he saved it for after work occasions because she never remembered him smelling so masculine. She felt his chest rise and fall with each breath and wondered how this could feel so simpatico. “Thanks for dinner, Mulder.”

With a nod of his head, he placed a small kiss on the top of hers. Hands became enmeshed, and his thumb rubbed hers.

“I hope you liked it,” he said. “Maybe we could go bowling for our next date and actually get you out of this apartment.”

“Oh, we’re doing this again?” she said.

“A date is what generally happens when two people make plans. And they want it to be considered a date.”

“And you do?”

“I do,” he replied and his eyes narrowed. He had missed this, this closeness. Yet, he waited for Scully to make the next move.

She rubbed his forearm and then his bicep. She averted her gaze with a sense of shyness that felt as natural as it was undesired. “How do you feel about the end of a first date? Is a kiss appropriate? What about expected?”

Before he could answer, Scully leaned over and upward. With the same gentle touch Mulder usually reserved for the small of her back, she grazed the side of his mouth with her eager lips. Almost instantly, they both found the mark and continued to explore the warmth of the connection. The electric contact felt unreserved and increasingly wild as each moment passed with the knowledge of Mulder’s lips on hers.

He reached between them and rested his hand on her hip and then pulled her closer. “It’s definitely nice.”

“What?” Scully whispered. Her nose scrunched as a sense of confusion washed over her face.

“A kiss at the end of a first date.”

“Oh, is this the end?” she asked, suddenly worried the evening’s spell would lift.

“I hope not.”

Mulder ran his hand up her arm, caressing her soft sweater and stopping momentarily at her shoulder. His touch lingered on her face, and he brushed a stray wave of hair behind her ear. She reacted to this gesture with a shiver and focused her gaze into his with a mixture of arousal and thrall apparent on her flushed features.

He leaned in and pulled her close, and his lips crashed on hers. Deeper than the first, the kiss became a warm transgression, as Scully’s second thoughts kicked in. She felt a pang of doubt, self-consciousness. Her partner noticed the shift and pulled back. “Are you okay, Scully?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” she said. “I — I just wanted to make sure that you want this.”

“Scully… of course I do. What about you? What do you want?” Mulder replied. His distressed face pained her.

She hovered above him with the shaky intent to continue their romp on her couch. “I think I want to keep kissing you,” Scully replied with a small smile and a sigh. “Sorry, I’m just a little nervous. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a really good first date.”

Hungrily, he held her slight form against his and grasped her waist tightly. Her leg slipped off the couch, and she thought that maybe it was too small for this type of activity.

Scully shifted her weight to close the gap between them and swung her leg over his. Closer to Mulder’s body than ever before, she felt the tangible evidence of his desire.

She kissed him with an intensity borne of impatience. Too much time had passed without this contact, without his lips on hers. With a ravenous look in her eyes, she ran one hand through his hair while steadying herself on his chest with the other. She needed to feel him, to touch his hard muscles. Her desire grew with each passing moment, and he explored her curves, with his grip resting firmly on her hip.

“Fuck Scully, you’re so hot like this,” Mulder said with a slight growl in his voice.

“Like what?”

“On top of me, for starters…”

The first button of Mulder’s dress shirt gave Scully a fight, but the second relented with ease. His sparse chest hair appeared between the sides of the shirt. Scully grazed his stomach with her fingers as she made her way toward his pants.

Mulder looked up at the woman on top of him and reached up to caress her face. With a thumb on her pink lips, she took it in and sucked gently.

“Oh, Scully.”

“Mmmm,” she responded.

“I do believe you’re a little too dressed,” he asked with a grin.

Scully crossed her arms and pulled her sweater up and off with a quick motion. Revealing her black bra, she leaned in for a kiss. And Mulder ran his hands over her back, from shoulders to hips. He fumbled with her bra clasp for a moment before unveiling her topless form. Her small and beautiful breasts were at his eye level, and he reached up to caress them. He gently squeezed both breasts and moved to her nipples. Rolling one between his fingers, he groaned with excitement and began to lick the other.

“Not too hard, Mulder.”

“I promise I’ll be gentle.”

Mulder sat up a little bit and shifted Scully’s weight, so he was laying her down on her back. The sofa wasn’t big enough for this type of activity, but neither wanted to halt the action long enough for a change of location. It wasn’t a bed, but there was something about a makeout session on a couch that seemed intensely becoming to Scully.

“I can’t believe this, Scully.”

She let out a small laugh, and he raised an eyebrow.

“Nothing,” she said. “I just never expected we’d be making out on my couch when I asked you over for dinner.”

“We didn’t even have to play truth or dare…”