After Dinner Conversation By Maureen B. Ocks firstname.lastname@example.org Disclaimer: Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and all other familiar X Files characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and FOX. No copyright infringement intended. Archive -- Sure, just tell me and keep my name with it. Spoilers: One Son. Since the dating in this episode was weak, I picked when it actually occurred. Keywords: Setting things straight Codes: VA "R" for language. Author's notes at the end. x-x-x Dana Scully's Apartment February 7, 1999 6:20pm Scully answered the phone on the third ring. "Hey Scully, it's me. Want some dinner?" Mulder asked. "Mulder it is pouring rain, we have an eight o'clock meeting with Skinner, Kersh and Spender tomorrow morning. It's been a rough week. I'm in for the night." "Aw, come on Scully, you and me, Carmine's. You can hear the veal milanese calling you." Scully sighed. The chicken caesar salad leftover in her crisper was a lot less attractive than Carmine's veal, but not in this rain, not with the way things were going with them. "Maybe tomorrow when we know if we have jobs or not. I do want to talk before the meeting tomorrow though...." A knock on her door interrupted their conversation. "Hold on, Mulder." Scully was almost surprised to find Fox Mulder standing at her door. Wet -- he had no umbrella -- Mulder's arms were full of plastic bags and takeout tins. "What would you have done if I wasn't here or if I don't let you in?" "I checked that you were here first and then went by Carmine's." "Carmine's doesn't do takeout." Scully gave way at the door, Mulder stepped in. "They do if you tip Carmine enough." Mulder made a straight path to her dining room table, unburdening himself of the food and then his jacket. "If you get the plates, I'll get this all unwrapped." Scully shook her head and started walking to the kitchen. Mulder called to her and presented a bottle like a damp wine steward. "I'll open it if it meets with your approval madam." Scully read the label -- Ruffino Riserva Ducale -- Mulder had good taste. "Carmine told me it was a nice chianti." OK, Carmine had good taste. "No fava beans jokes Mulder." She started back to the kitchen. "Never even occurred to me." Scully grabbed a couple of plates and put some utensils, including the cork screw and her best cloth napkins on them. She rinsed out two wine glasses and returned. He was back to full Fox Mulder form. He bought dinner all right. Her table was now covered with all sizes of takeout tins - - tins that were sending off the most amazing smells. Mulder took the plates and finished his work. "OK, so for your dining pleasure, we'll start with a little portabello alla griglia, stuffed artichokes, pasta with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella, veal milanese with those little red potatoes you like for you, linguine fra diavolo for me, couple of canoli's for dessert." Mulder pointed in his best head waiter manner. Taking the cork screw, he opened and poured the wine Scully sat down and took her veal from the tin. "Mulder, I'll go back to my original question, what if I wasn't here? What if I went out between the time you checked and the time you got back? Sat in the hall and waited? Fed the Gunmen?" Mulder took about half the order of portabello mushrooms and moved them onto his plate. "They would have taken the food and thrown me out." Scully arched an eyebrow -- she had a mouth full of potatoes. "About a second after you left their offices day before yesterday, I was knocked to the ground. What Frohike lacks in basic fighting skills he more than makes up in enthusiasm and insanity. It took both Langly and Byers to pull him off me." "Frohike?" Scully stole a sip of her wine. It was quite good. "Oh yes. They shuffled him back into the lone bedroom when Byers turned. I've known him almost ten years and I've never heard him use that kind of language." Mulder took a sip of his wine. "The nicest thing he called me was a "useless prick"." "Byers?" Scully was more amazed by the moment. "When Byers stormed out, Langly started pointing at me and yelling that things would never be right for me unless I did right by you. Last night in bed I realized he was channelling Miss Celie from The Color Purple. Don't let that long blonde mane fool you Scully, the man is soul brother number one." For the first time in days, Scully laughed. It sounded odd to even her ears. Mulder flashed his best smile but grew serious as he looked at his dinner, "I want to talk about that night." "So do I Mulder, but I really want to enjoy this nice meal you bought so we'll talk about that after dinner. It's what I wanted to talk about before meeting with Skinner and company anyway." x-x-x During dinner, Mulder was at his entertaining best explaining to Scully how he actually got Carmine to cook and pack up this meal, the picking of the wine and running from Carmine's to her apartment when he couldn't find a cab. Scully started the coffee as Mulder helped clear the table and load the dishwasher. Mulder was sitting on the far end of her couch when Scully arrived with two large cups of coffee. "What were you working on?" Mulder pointed to several file folders piled on her coffee table as he took his cup. "Jeffrey Spender called this morning and messengered some materials over." Scully sat on the other end of the couch, facing him. "Spender?" "Yes, Cassandra Spender was identified as one of the bodies we found at El Rico. He wanted to make sure the dental records matched and thought I would be honest about Cassandra." "It was her?" "Yes." Mulder shook his head, "Scully I'm sorry." "She was found with about a dozen men who were former diplomats, retired military or government officials from the fifties on and their families. I met one of these men once when you were locked on that train in Iowa. My guess is these are the men who worked with your father." "I agree." "There are two interesting people missing though." Scully stood and flipped through one of the folders. Back on the couch, she handed a piece of paper to Mulder -- El Rico's guard house entry and exit records. "A car carrying one Diana Fowley entered the base at 11:20pm, which is about the right time frame if she went right from the Watergate. Agent Fowley left about nine minutes later with an older gentleman in her car. The older gentleman was identified by the guard on duty as one C. G. B. Spender." "Did the guard know the older Spender?" "No, Jeffrey Spender showed him a picture and the guard confirmed it." "They escaped." "And disappeared it seems. Spender has been trying to contact Fowley since that night. So has Assistant Director Skinner. No one was answering her phone. Skinner was concerned enough for her safety that he went to her apartment." "Not there?" Mulder knew the answer, but wanted to hear it anyway. "No, neither were her clothes, her weapon, her computer or any ID." Scully took a deep breath, "Mulder, has she contacted you?" "No. I haven't heard from her since I went with you to find Cassandra. I don't think I will." Mulder ran his hand over his face before running it through his drying hair. "Mulder, are you beginning to have some doubts?" "No, actually, this confirms the doubts I had when I saw Spender's old man walk into her apartment. I never knew where she lived after she came back. If I didn't get a look at her FBI bio on the computer you and the boys pulled up that night I still wouldn't know." Scully looked right at him, "Why did you dismiss me that night? I don't expect you to agree with most of the things I say. I expect to disagree with you most of the time. But Mulder, I've always tried to give your side of the argument a fair hearing. Why wouldn't you do the same for me?" Mulder shrugged, "Because I knew her -- or I thought I knew her. Because it would have been nice to meet someone who shared my interests without some hidden agenda." "Mulder, there are people all around you who share your interests. I do, Skinner does, the Gunmen, if they ever forgive you, do as well." "But Diana was there in the beginning..." "...and I'm here now Mulder. My only agenda was and is finding out the truth. I never lied to you and I never intentionally mislead you. I've supported you through any number of cases, conspiracies, side road trips. Whatever you wanted to investigate, we investigated it and for six years, I've been here. When do I get the benefit of the doubt that Diana gets for being there in the beginning?" "Scully, there is nobody I trust..." "Bullshit Mulder. Suppose, just suppose, that Walter Skinner came through that door after we were showered and separated from Cassandra. And suppose he had the same bogus story. You would have been climbing through an air duct and using those bolt cutters you bought last summer to find her." "I don't..." Mulder stopped, "probably. But I trusted her." "More than you trusted me." "Differently than I trusted you, never more. I expect to be on the same page with Diana more than I expect to be on the same page with you. And Scully, your reaction has been negative to her from the start." Outraged, Scully retorted, "What from the start? We worked together trying to protect Gibson Praise, a child that was taken on her watch." "She nearly died Scully." "Did she? For someone near death, she was back at the FBI requalifying three weeks later. Do you know when she was reassigned to Domestic Terrorism Mulder?" "Sometime last summer." Mulder shrugged. "When you and I were in Dallas." Scully sighed. "Mulder, I'm not the one here who looks for conspiracies under ever rock. If Diana's record belonged to anyone else, you would have had your spooky radar up from day one." "Probably.", Mulder stood and started to pace. "Scully, after they split us up a few years ago, if Alex Krycek told me he was suspicious of you, I would not have believed him." "Nice to hear." Scully replied dryly. "No, wait. That's not what I mean." Mulder took a deep breath and tried again. "What I mean is that until that night, Diana never did anything to make me suspicious. That file you had, the travel records? You want to explain our travel records over the last few months? We've been to Nevada, back to Dallas twice and that little side trip to West Virginia. Are those trips in our records?" "No, but our records for the last six months, for the last six years, haven't been hollowed out by someone. Your name is well known to most MUFON chapters. In all that time, why didn't she drop you a note, send you a file, a clipping, a joke saying you're famous?" "Think I have global appeal?" Mulder deflected. "Interplanetary -- answer the question." "Until a couple of days ago, I never thought of it. Diana was an interesting woman I met after my divorce. We had the same interests, did the same work and had some fun. We were both really into our careers. She got the offer to go to Europe and I encouraged her to go. There was nothing nefarious about it. I helped her pack, helped her sell her car and drove her to the airport." "And when Gibson Praise shows up, so does she." "In a meeting with a dozen other agents including you." "I was invited by Agent Spender. I could not figure out, and in hindsight neither could Spender, who sent Agent Fowley." "Scully, I'm not disagreeing with you. Diana looks dirty, really dirty. Yes, Pat, I'd like to buy a clue. What I am saying is that the information you gave me wasn't all that damning." "Gave you? I forced it on you.", Scully ran her hand through her hair, "Mulder, I have a lot of problems with some of the things you said that night. One line I just didn't get was your statement that you didn't have time for this. Mulder, we were suspended, your apartment was still under CDC control. What exactly were you running off to do?" "I thought it was a waste of time." Mulder stated, "My time and yours." "And now?" "I was wrong." "Wake the kids and phone the neighbors." Scully threw her arms in the air in mock victory. Mulder made a face but continued, "I was wrong. I am sorry that I did not give your concerns a fair hearing. You've done the same for me in the past and it was wrong." "Good." Scully took a deep breath, "I have one other issue." "The personal one." "Yep. Mulder, sit down, because if we don't get past this part, we have real problems." Mulder reluctantly returned to the couch. "When I met you, you told me about your sister, that her abduction was the one thing that drove you. Your passion, your single-mindedness to find the truth all goes back to that one event." "There have been other things since then but yea, it goes back to Samantha." "Mulder, four years ago, a man came into this apartment, assaulted me, stuffed me in the trunk of a car and stole months of my life. When I was returned, it was to die. I survived though, only to have my sister fatally wounded in the same apartment. Her death, your father's death, my illness, the chip, Penny, Emily...why wouldn't this be personal to me?" Mulder tried to speak but couldn't. "This is personal to me. Mulder, my life has become our work - - not your work, ours. I don't agree with everything you say but I have never dismissed you like that. If we are to continue working together, you need to understand this." "I do, I guess it's just been my quest for so long I forget." "Well Mulder, time to start remembering. I'm sorry Diana wasn't what you thought she was. But Mulder, did you think those who worked against us were going to pick an antagonist to shut us down? Wasn't it so much easier to separate Gibson and me from you when Diana arrived?" "Yes." "And that was nothing more than a dress rehearsal for Cassandra. Mulder, the story the Cigarette Man told you was interesting, plausible and if we had just a few minutes more with Cassandra, maybe even provable. But you decided Diana was right and I was being out of line." "You were a little strident Scully." "Was it any different than your behavior in any one of the half a dozen OPR meetings? Any different than what you've done in half a dozen staff meetings, briefings? Mulder, I disagreed. And it looks like I was right." "I agree Scully, I was wrong and I'm sorry." Scully took a deep breath and continued, "I don't know if I should tell you this, but in the interest of full disclosure, Jeffrey Spender told me something when I confirmed his mother's death. I am taking him at his word." "This doesn't sound good." "No Mulder, actually it does. Tomorrow's meeting with Kersh, Skinner and Spender will be about the deaths at El Rico. Spender is going to admit that if you and I weren't suspended, weren't forbidden from investigating X Files cases, in all likelihood, El Rico wouldn't have happened." "He is?" "Yes. He is also going to put in for a leave of absence because of his mother's death. He will resign his position with the X Files, recommending you and I be reinstated to both the FBI and the X Files." "You believe him?" Mulder was sure. "If I see it, yes. Mulder, I didn't have a bad relationship with Agent Spender until Arizona. Turning his mother's dental records over and asking for independent confirmation makes me believe he might just do it." "Some skeptic you are." Mulder teased. "We'll have our proof tomorrow, but I want you to know where I stand if this happens." "You said this was your work too." "Yes Mulder it is, and that mean some changes. The ditches have largely stopped with the trip to Canada when your mother was sick. That is to continue." "Got it." Scully continued, "No more secrets Mulder -- no more not telling me things for my own good. I'll make those decisions." "Fine." "If you ever dismiss me like you did the other night..." "....I'll get kicked to the curb." Mulder finished her thought. "On your ass." Scully looked at him straight in the eye. "Fair?" "Fair." Mulder sighed. "Scully, with all this, why do you put up with me?" Scully took a long sip of her now cold coffee. "Well, every time I deal with the partner who blows off my opinions, who leaves me behind for my own good, who keeps secrets from me for my own good, I remember this other man. My first real recollection of this man one very cold, bad day, was him taking off his parka, his snowpants and his socks and putting them on me. See, these clothes he brought to the end of the world and he gave them to me." Scully took a deep breath and continued, "This man told me I saved him from making mistakes, he sat next to my bed a few weeks ago and kept me entertained for days after I was shot. This man...." Scully began to choke up. After a deep breath, she continued, "One very dark morning, this man dressed in black head to toe told me I had the power to save myself. When my mother gave up on me, when my family gave up on me, when I was giving up, Mulder, that man stood there and was as sure of my survival as I am you're sitting here." "I think I know that guy." Mulder's smiled shyly. "I think you are that guy most of the time. Those are your better angels Mulder, the part of you that I see when everyone else wonders why I stay with you." "That's why you stay?" "Yep. That and nobody has challenged, engaged, infuriated, angered, entertained or annoyed me more. I told you once before and I'll tell you again, I wouldn't change a day." Mulder smiled, "I'll probably infuriate you some more." "Probably, and I'll try to stop you when I think you're making a mistake. But Mulder, one more scene like the one with the Gunmen and I'll need help remembering that dark angel of hope that very bleak morning." Scully smiled at Mulder -- a smile that gave him what he came for -- understanding, forgiveness, acceptance. "If you are right and we get our jobs back and the X Files back, how about we do this again -- this time we'll see Carmine." Mulder took her hands in his. "Sounds good, after that dinner I should finally be hungry about this time tomorrow." "Speaking of which " Mulder leaned over and kissed Scully lightly on the mouth, giving her hands a slight squeeze. "Night Scully, bright and early for either the emancipation or execution." Speechless for the first time that night, Scully watched Mulder grab his coat and go to the door. "See you tomorrow Scully, sweet dreams." "Mulder, you want to take a canoli?" It was the only thing she could think to say. "Wrap 'em up, save them for tomorrow. We'll come back here for either the wake or a planning session." Mulder almost completely shut the door when he popped his head back in. "Scully, can I ask a favor?" "OK?" "We're cool, right?" "So far." Scully knew this had to be good. "Can you call Langly? He sent me an e-mail with a worm attached to it. Wiped out all the sounds in my computer. When I turn it on, or open a program, I hear Frohike saying 'Hi Fox'." Scully laughed for the second time that night, a much better laugh than the earlier one. "I'll give him a call." x-x-x The End Author's notes: Yes Mulder was a full-fledged jerk in parts of One Son. He needed redemption. Italian food has redemptive qualities. Thank you so much to everyone who has sent feedback for my other stories. I am honored and grateful for the time and effort that takes. Special thanks: Jennifer Arthur for help with the wine. As a teetotaler, I needed all the help I could get. To a nice group of women who have been incredibly supportive in this little venture and in me. Their kindness is greatly appreciated, especially the Teletubbie Fan who is simply the best. Feedback is just another way of saying "I Care".