Danny wants to cash in on the office pool.
Will his scheme to make Mulder and Scully confess
their love to each other actually work,
or will it backfire?
SPOILERS: nothing significant; set around season 7
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Author's Notes: Nothing too deep or meaningful here. Merely a few well-worn cliches, but all in good fun. Just go with it.
To quote the song, "This is dedicated to the one I love." (See the notes at the end.)
Thank you to Mims for the beta.
* * * * *
"Here's that background check Skinner was looking for."
Kim took the folder and set it on top of a pile of mail. "Thanks, Danny. He's in a meeting right now, but I know he'll be eager to see this."
Danny turned toward the door, then shifted back toward the desk. He leaned in and asked in a conspiratorial tone, "Any news on the office pools lately?"
Kim glanced at the door to her boss's office, then answered quietly. "I haven't heard anything. Why--are you looking for some cash?"
Danny propped a hip on the desk. "Yeah. I lost big on the Super Bowl. I was hoping to win some of it back. Hey, what about Robinson's baby?"
"Two weeks overdue."
"Damn. I think my money was on the 5th. Doesn't everyone induce these days?"
"I heard she was going for natural childbirth. Even having the baby at home, with a midwife."
"Hmm. Well, what about Thompson?"
"Still in the closet."
"Mulder and Scully? They're a sure thing."
"Nope. Not a shred of evidence. And it's been seven years now."
"Seven years?" He whistled softly. "They can't be that good at hiding it. I thought this place was full of investigators. Can't anyone dig up some dirt?"
"You know, I'm not so sure they're actually involved."
"Of course they are. That many years together, neither of them married or dating? C'mon, you see all their expense reports. Don't you have even something circumstantial?"
"It's going to take more than circumstantial evidence to win the office pool."
"Hmm." Danny absently scanned the room as he took a minute to contemplate his options. "You know, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. With a little help, I think..." He turned to Kim. "Hey, want to help me play Cupid?"
"What's in it for me?"
"You get a cut of the winnings. I'll even double my bet. This one should be a slam dunk. Easy money."
She looked at him slyly. "Well, I am trying to pay off my credit card from Christmas..."
He leaned closer and rubbed his fingers together, indicating money in the hand. "A little extra cash can go a long way. Just think of it this way: you'd be doing them a favor."
She hesitated a moment longer. "Okay, I'm in. What's the plan?"
* * *
Scully smoothed her hands over her skirt again, resisting the urge to look at her watch. She'd already picked clean all the lint on her suit--and the sofa cushion next to her--so she was running out of things to keep her fidgety hands occupied.
She'd been waiting over fifteen minutes to meet with Skinner for her annual review. She didn't understand why he would urgently reschedule for the noon hour and then completely ignore her. He usually ran a tighter ship.
Scully glanced over at Kim once more, who was intently focused on whatever she was typing. Scully thought about asking again how long it might be, but the last two attempts hadn't gotten her more than a noncommittal response.
A voice drifted in from the hallway. The door to the hall had been standing open when Scully arrived, and snatches of conversation floated by as packs of agents and employees wandered the halls, probably most of them headed to lunch. If nothing else, the wait had been enlightening. Among other things, she'd overheard what she assumed was the latest nickname for A.D. Cassidy. Mulder would love that one.
The voice seemed to come closer to the door, but no one entered. Scully thought it might be Danny, but she wasn't entirely sure; the voice was off a little, higher-pitched. Whoever it was, he was animatedly engaged in a one-sided conversation, no doubt with his cell phone. For whatever reason, some people never appeared to notice how loud they were when they talked on the phone.
"...Yeah, her flight's coming in tonight.... Well, she's not really my cousin, more the step-daughter of a second aunt, or something like that. I can never keep it straight. But I don't see why I should have to entertain her.... Sorry, but I'm setting her up with a buddy of mine. She's a hot little number, and I want to make sure she has a good time.... I'll tell you, but you can't laugh: Fox Mulder."
That perked Scully's ears up. Who was this, and why was he talking about her partner, especially in this context?
"Yes, that's what I said.... What? She's easy, and he's desperate. They're a perfect match."
Scully's jaw dropped. She clamped it shut and snuck a look over at Kim. The secretary didn't seem to notice the conversation.
"Of course he's in love with his partner. Everybody knows that. But it's obvious she doesn't feel the same way. Look, maybe he wants to torture himself, pining away for someone he can't have, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't get laid. Debbie'll totally do him."
Scully felt her face grow hot. She wasn't sure if it was more from anger or embarrassment. Is that what people thought of her partner--and her?
"Listen, I'll call you later. I still gotta set this thing up. Then I'll be free for the game tomorrow night."
The voice went silent, but Scully could still hear it ringing in her ears. She was stewing but trying to maintain her composure. The last thing she needed was Skinner asking questions about why she was so upset.
Kim's phone rang, and Scully jolted at the unexpected sound. The call lasted no more than ten seconds.
"Agent Scully? I'm sorry, but the Assistant Director has to reschedule. Are you still available for the original meeting time?"
Scully cleared her throat and mustered her voice. "Yes. That should be fine." Grateful for the reprieve, she wasted no time getting out of there.
Although she would be loath to admit it, she had to hurry back to the office and see if Mulder was making plans to meet someone named Debbie.
* * *
"I still don't know why you couldn't just give me the results over the phone, Danny," Mulder said.
"You? Mr. Paranoid? Don't you know better than to discuss such sensitive information over a phone line? Besides, some things you have to see to believe."
"I'm looking, but I'm not seeing. C'mon, where's the data? You dragged me all the way up here. And just when I was getting a nice tan from that tiny sliver of sunshine filtering through the skylight."
"Hold your horses, Mulder, I've got it. I just have to pick it up from the printer down the hall. Don't move from that spot--I'll be right back."
Mulder stayed put, but his eyes wandered restlessly around the lab. Usually, he and Danny merely talked on the phone. It was never a problem before, so Mulder didn't know why Danny was acting like this. Maybe he was just bored and looking for company. It was pretty quiet around here.
Quiet, except for the voice that glided down the hall, accompanied by the tap of high heels. It wasn't that Mulder was eavesdropping, but he couldn't help but overhear her.
"Almost every day last week. Wednesday, it was chocolates. Thursday, it was a big stuffed bear holding a heart.... No, she leaves them at the front desk until the end of the day. I guess she doesn't want them on display in her office.... Not *that* Dana--Dana Scully."
What? Mulder thought the voice of the speaker was vaguely familiar, but that thought was drowned out by his surprise at hearing his partner's named mentioned. What was this about chocolates and stuffed bears? He moved closer to the door.
The voice was drawing nearer. "That's okay, I can swing by on my way back to the office. I need to finish running a couple of errands first. I'll see you in a few minutes."
Mulder didn't have time to move out of the way before she came plowing through the doorway, and stopped just short of running into him. It was Kim Cook, Skinner's secretary.
Her eyes met his as they almost collided, but she quickly looked away. "Oh. Hi, Agent Mulder." She hastened to get past him. She dropped a piece of paper into a basket on a shelf, then made a beeline for the door. Once in the hallway, she looked toward the right and said, "Danny, I just dropped off that form you needed."
"Thanks, Kim," he answered, his voice right outside the door.
Kim headed off to the left, and Danny entered the room, holding out a stack of pages to Mulder. "Here you go. Everything should be in order, but let me know if you have any questions."
"Thanks," Mulder said absently and headed for the hallway. But he didn't even glance at the pages in his hand; he was too preoccupied by the phone call he had overheard.
* * *
The data Danny handed him proved a good distraction as Mulder rode the elevator back down to the basement. He had his head buried in the stack of papers as he breezed through the open door to his office. He didn't bother to look up as he started talking.
"I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse to be color blind on Valentine's Day. I know everyone is decked out in red, especially the secretaries--it's like a conspiracy or something--but it looks just like St. Patrick's Day to me. Except for that tie Agent Bellarmine is wearing. That's more of a puke color."
At Scully's silence, he finally looked up and, for the first time, noticed the large bouquet she was holding. Red roses--or green, but his guess was red. "Nice flowers."
She gave him a coy little smile. "I thought so."
Was she taunting him?
"Secret admirer?" he asked, trying to sound disinterested. He continued to his desk, pretending he cared more about the papers he was reading than he did about the flowers.
"Seems so, since there's no card attached." Her tone was still teasing, and he wondered why she was dragging out the suspense.
If it hadn't been for what he'd just overhead Skinner's secretary say, he would've assumed the flowers were simply from Scully's mother. With any other woman, he might wonder if she had sent them to herself to provoke him. Phoebe had done that once, but that wasn't Scully's style. Was there really a man sending her outlandish gifts? And was his straight-laced Scully actually swayed by that kind of thing?
Mulder suddenly had no patience for games, especially when it seemed so unbecoming his partner. "Okay, Scully, I give. Who are the flowers from?"
Her winsome smile evaporated and she blinked at him. "You mean you didn't send them?"
"No, of course not. Why would I send you flowers?" At her frown, he jumped in to amend his statement. "I mean, why would I send them here? Wouldn't you rather get them at home?"
He could tell she wasn't satisfied with his response. With a dismissive tone, she said, "No, you're right. Why would I want flowers in the office?"
Did he detect a hint of sarcasm? "So, you don't mind receiving gifts at work, just not in the office."
"What does it matter, Mulder? I do have flowers, they are in the office, and they're not from you." She stood up and grabbed the bouquet. "And they need water before they start wilting. I'm going to look for a vase."
"Scully, wait." Mulder hurried around his desk and laid his hand her shoulder before she could make it out the door. "I think we should talk about this." If there was another man competing for her affections, he wanted to get it out in the open before there were repercussions for their partnership.
She didn't move back into the room, but she did turn to face him squarely. "Okay, Mulder. Talk."
* * *
Scully entered the fourth-floor employee lounge, the bouquet of roses proudly cradled in her left arm. After all, it was Valentine's Day; there was no reason for her to be shy about having a sweetheart. The lounge was fairly quiet since it was earlier than the usual lunch hour. Only Kim and another secretary were seated at the round table in the corner.
Beginning with the cabinet under the sink, Scully started searching for a vase, one large enough to hold her flowers. She had just stood, not yet finding her goal, when she heard Mulder's rather agitated voice behind her.
"Why won't you tell me who he is?"
She turned on her heel and placed her free hand on her hip. "Why won't you let this go?"
"Because I have a right to know."
"A 'right'? Just because you're my partner doesn't give you a claim over my personal life. This is none of your business." She shoved past him and headed for the storage closet on the opposite wall.
"Are you ashamed of him?" he challenged, obviously trying to goad her.
She stopped short of the closet and turned again. "Of course not. He's the most caring, sensitive...beautiful man I've ever met. And he just might be the man I'm going to marry."
She watched the flash of emotion on Mulder's face. That one got him. He swallowed hard, then plodded on, but his tone had lost its edge: "Then why can't you tell me his name?"
Scully straightened and said as coldly as she could, "This is my life, Mulder. I'd appreciate if you'd stay the hell out of it." She turned back to the closet and yanked the door open. It didn't take long before she heard him rapidly exit the room.
She took a moment in the closet to gather her composure. Her eyes were still engaged in their search, but she wasn't really registering what she saw--her mind was elsewhere.
Scully finally exited the closet, her eyes inadvertently falling on the two women seated at the table. They were both watching her but quickly looked down at their food.
Trying to sound nonchalant, Scully asked, "Kim, I was hoping to find a vase for these"--she gestured to the flowers. "Do you know if we have one around here?"
Kim looked shell-shocked, but after a couple of swallows, she managed to say, "Check the third cupboard on the left."
Scully smiled her thanks and crossed to the cupboards. She did feel slightly bad for making the two women witness such a scene, but it was unavoidable. Sometimes, people needed to be put in their place.
* * *
The comforter had been shoved to the end of Scully's bed, hastily pushed aside in their rush toward the mattress. The sheet was now tangled around their cooling bodies, smoothed only incidentally by a foot caressing a calf.
She lay with her head resting on her lover's chest, her eyes focused beyond him on the vase on her nightstand. It held three roses: a yellow one for friendship, a red one for passion, and a white one with flares of orangish-red at the tips, which he claimed was the closest he could find to her hair color. After that sentiment, it hadn't taken her long to throw him down to the mattress and have her way with him.
Her eyes drifted up to meet his and found him watching her. They shared a lazy smile.
"You were quite the little actress today, Scully. And you always claimed you were a rotten liar."
"I wasn't lying, Mulder. I meant what I said. I just didn't specify who I was talking about."
He chuckled softly in her ear. "Potato, potahto."
"Do you really think those flowers were from Danny? I can't believe he would spend that much money just for a prank. What do you think he was up to?"
"I'm guessing it has something to do with the office pool. I hear he lost a pretty penny on his Super Bowl bet."
"He must've had a lot of money riding on that pool. Surely Kim wouldn't have gone along with it unless he promised her a significant pay-off."
"What I can't believe is that after all these years, anyone still cares. I thought people had given up on us, that we were old news."
She looked at him seriously. "I hadn't given up."
"Neither had I." He leaned down and kissed her sweetly. When he pulled back, they smiled at each other again and snuggled closer.
"You know, Mulder, now everyone's going to think I'm dating someone else."
"Maybe that'll work to our advantage."
He caressed her bare finger. "You can start wearing the ring to work and not worry who people think it's from."
As she considered the idea, she watched his finger trace patterns over her knuckle, his touch light and seductive. Then she recalled the question she meant to ask him earlier but had quickly forgotten after he started suckling her earlobe.
"Did you even remember to get me anything for Valentine's Day before you saw that bouquet this afternoon?"
His finger stopped, and he gave her his best innocent look. "Of course I did."
"Now who's the rotten liar?"
"Maybe I work better under pressure."
She smiled at him. "Then maybe I should get flowers from other men more often."
He gave her a feral look and skillfully set about using his tongue and touch to wipe that smile off her face.
Notes: Forget Valentine's Day. February 14 actually marks a much more important date, ever since 1859. And so I dedicate this fic to Oregon, in honor of her 150th birthday. :)
I've actually been working on this fic for years (not quite 150, but it feels like it). Every year at Valentine's Day, I pull it out again and swear this year I'll finish it. So, this year I finally did.
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