Mulder checked that the small citrus fruit he carried in the pocket of his overcoat was still there. He had grabbed it on a whim on his way to work that morning from the market a few blocks away from the Hoover building.
The good intentions of the store owner had added to his tardiness but Mulder had insisted he keep the one dollar bill he handed him in exchange for Scully’s favorite fruit. The old man had stared at him, mouth agape, wondering why anyone would pay that much for a tangerine. He didn’t have time to wait for seventy-two cents in change because he just wanted to get to work, to see Scully.
The tangerine would hopefully be in her possession before she got borrowed to help another department. That’s how it was lately if they weren’t knee deep in cases over fertilizer. It was a total load of horse manure that he couldn’t get the X-Files back after what had transpired over the summer. He and Scully had handed their case for their reinstatement, including the proof of the alien virus in the bee that stung her, only to have his life’s work handed to two people that would be set to destroy it. More so, he hoped Scully was as adamant and willing as he was to get back to their basement office.
The elevator didn’t offer the usual solace that it did. The other agents huddled towards the opposite corners casting side glances in his direction.
“Rough night, Spooky?” an agent he didn’t recognize mocked as Mulder exited the elevator to the sixth floor.
“I didn’t know little green men took swings at people,” another agent added as the elevator doors shut behind him.
The punch to the face he had received for kissing the 1939 version of Scully was healing nicely but it was still slightly noticeable.
“Gray,” he muttered already feeling like this Monday had gone on long enough. He had to find Scully and fast.
His hope renewed itself when he saw a flash of familiar auburn hair among the sea of employees. He tried to catch up to her but the obstacle course of bullpen members slowed him down. All too quickly, his hopefulness was dashed when he spotted the same redhead go into the women’s restroom.
“Looking for the missus?” a cheerful voice offered from behind which Mulder ignored with a slight groan when he recognized who it was. “She’s down the hallway.”
Agent Caswell was the type to utilize Mulder when he needed something such as fodder for office gossip or a profile on a subject. His intentions for a friendly rapport were transparent and shallow. Caswell called him Spooky behind his back and lived in the camp that believed Mulder and Scully were sleeping together.
It was a rumor that Mulder would gladly make truth. What had happened, or what had not happened, outside his hallway kept him up at night and further ignited the fervor of his fantasies. However, returning from their ordeal and not addressing what had almost occurred showed just how complicated things were between him and his enigmatic partner. People like Caswell wouldn’t understand that what he had and felt for Scully wasn’t just about sex. If he ever found the opportunity to get Scully into bed, he expected it to be forever. She was his ‘happily ever after.’
“Hallway you said?” Mulder repeated pointing to his left and the other man nodded as if the information would be leading Mulder to a tryst with Scully in that instant. He glared at Caswell for his misconstruing of the facts about them. “Thanks.”
He made his way down the hall and scooped the tangerine out of his coat pocket in anticipation. His hand covered it whole so there was still an element of surprise. His eyes darted all over the place searching for her but turned up nothing. He glanced down and made a face at the fruit in his hand as if it would offer further instruction to her whereabouts. Suddenly he came into contact with someone else as their shoulders collided.
“Oh!” exclaimed a woman’s voice but it didn’t belong to the one he was looking for. “Fox, is everything alright?”
Diana Fowley looked more than happy to see him yet attuned to his agitated state. Mulder didn’t have time to exchange pleasantries.
“Yeah,” he provided hurriedly. “Have you seen Scully?”
“Has she still not been able to find you?” she noted with a slight laugh. “She made quite a scene on Thursday.”
Mulder narrowed his eyes pensively and excitement coursed through him at the thought that during this whole time Scully was just as eagerly searching for him.
“She made a scene?” he asked with a smile playing on his lips.
“She barged into Kersh’s office, threatened Agent Spender and A.D. Skinner scolded her outside an elevator,” she said with another laugh. “It was all anyone was talking about on Friday.”
“Oh, that’s funny she didn’t mention anything when we-,” he started but decided he didn’t want to get into the details of his hospital stay.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “When you…?”
He shrugged slightly indicating that he wasn’t going to add anything else.
“With the way she behaved, I doubt you can get the X-Files back,” she reproached.
“It’s my fault,” he defended right away. “She’s my partner and Scully was only trying to help me. She’s always had my back and if it weren’t for her-”
“I only have your best interest in mind,” she cut him off. Her hand reached for his but came into contact with the tangerine instead. “What’s this?”
He tossed the fruit up in the air and caught it with the same hand. “A tangerine.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and looked irritated at him for stating the obvious. He shrugged and made a face at her indicating that she was the one who had asked.
“Since when do you like those?” she questioned and there was another hint of disapproval in her tone.
That summed up their relationship in the past perfectly. She wouldn’t question the things that would challenge him where it counted but rather personal things like his taste in beer, clothes, and now fruit. They were the type of things that reminded him of the accusatory look in his father’s eyes as well as the disapproving but altogether indifferent expression from his mother when he told them he was joining the FBI.
“They’re sweet and I’ve been told the Vitamin C is good for my health.”
Diana stared back at him with a frown. “Fox, the only fruit you consume is the kind that comes in a plastic jug.”
He furrowed his brows in displeasure that she still recognized these type of relevant details about him. He hoped that the same things he knew about her could still be applied or his plan to get the X-Files back was doomed. He enjoyed a cup of orange sugar water now and then but he had changed in other aspects of his life. He was no longer the shell of a man she left behind for better prospects of a career. Mulder still didn’t have his sister and he had lost his life’s work, but he was a whole person now.
“It’s just,” he began but paused to gather his thoughts. He couldn’t forget the smile on Scully’s face and the look in her eyes when she shared why tangerines were her favorite. The fruit had been part of another treasured exchange with her father when she was a child. She had decided to let Mulder in with that little ounce of information and he valued it wholeheartedly. “Great things come in small packages.”
He tucked the tangerine back in his coat pocket and took a step to show he was returning back to his search.
“Your eye,” she interjected and touched the bruise. “Fox, what happened?”
Mulder winced from her touch and at hearing his given name one too many times in such a short period.
“It’s a long story.”
Diana reached for his hand again and began to speak when he noticed the undeniable profile of his partner by the elevator.
She pressed the button on the wall and turned in his direction, their eyes making contact. He whizzed past Diana and reached her side feeling slightly out of breath at finally having been able to find her. His hand gently grasped Scully’s elbow before reaching its destination at the small of her back. He led them inside the elevator as its open doors welcomed only the two of them.
“What was that about?” she asked curiously but there was a tension in her tone and she slightly raised her chin upward.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he teased. He reached into his pocket and opened his hand with a similar flourish in which a magician would reveal a magic trick. “Tangerine?”
As of late, Scully had been on a bee pollen and yogurt kick and he couldn’t understand the need for that. Without the privacy that their old office provided she tended not to bring food with her and instead opted for the little cafe a few blocks away from the Hoover building.
“Thank you,” she said and looked into his eyes as she took possession of the little orange.
The expression on her face softened and he felt like he was going to get a gold star. She ducked her head and smiled, her lashes fanning over her eyes. He might as well have offered her a bouquet of flowers because it was the same reaction. It was endearing that a woman as intelligent, beautiful, and independent as she still managed to be so modest and unassuming when it came to personal things. This wasn’t the first time he brought her something that wasn’t a case file and she always reacted with a hint of ‘you shouldn’t have.’ He found it hard to believe that she wasn’t fully aware that she was constantly on his mind. At this point, saying I love you was an obvious indicator but apparently not for Scully.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. Where are you headed?”
“To meet with Agent Orosco,” she replied. “She wants to discuss the results of an autopsy.”
“Oh, she’s the one who just had…”
“Yes. A little girl,” she confirmed in a wistful tone. “It looks like I might be helping her out with her case for a few days.”
Mulder nodded and quickly decided on a plan to spend more time together.
“When do you think you’ll be done with Agent Orosco?”
“I’m not sure. Why, Mulder?”
“There’s something in Nevada I was hoping we could look at,” he said lightly as though she wouldn’t make the connection to Area 51 and government offices.
“Area 51?” she asked.
“Scully…” he whispered proudly.
“Mulder,” she intoned letting him know that this wasn’t a good idea.
“Just outside of Area 51,” he bartered.
She raised a skeptical eyebrow but her curiosity was evident. He wrapped his fingers around her wrist. When she didn’t pull away, he felt extremely grateful.
“I need you with me, Scully. As you can see I can’t be left to my own devices or…” He held up his hands in surrender and made a face indicating that he would be a goner if she didn’t come along. She looked up at him with uncertainty but he could tell she was close to complying. She licked her lips and his heart sped up. He needed to entice her further. “I’m sure there will be science things that need your attention.”
“Yeah?” he asked but continued before she could change her mind. “I’ll pick you up at seven on Wednesday. I need to sort a few things with a contact but it should be fun.”