Stakeout Through the Heart
It wasn't a dark and stormy night. But maybe it should have been.
The late model blue Ford Taurus tore down the moonlit Idaho lakefront
road, slid to a halt, then reversed briefly.
Mulder glanced at his partner. "Is this it, Scully?"
"Yeah, that's them in the black Taurus," she replied, gesturing with her
chin at the car sitting under an overhanging tree.
"They look pissed." The lack of real concern in his voice revealed just
how seriously he was taking this new facet of their recent reassignment
-- coordinating schedules with other agents.
Scully maneuvered the blue car behind the black one and killed the
"Tell them you were taking care of something that just couldn't be
rushed, Mulder," she said, still mildly annoyed at the effort it had
taken to get them to the right place only twelve minutes late.
"I don't know. That might give them ideas."
The leer in his voice was a little too obvious even for him this early
in the evening, she thought. What she said was, "I'm sure they'll take
one look at you and realize that blow-drying was involved."
"Oooh, I love it when you talk dirty, Scully."
After a short and decidedly cool briefing, their associates departed at
"Why are we doing this, Mulder?" said Scully, settling into her seat. It
was more complaint than question. "This guy's a bomber, not a murderer."
"Because the Boise SAC wanted all the angles covered, and Kersh probably
told him to give the dullest angle to us." The flat voice belied the
anger and frustration this assignment had engendered in both of them in
the span of a few long days.
"Well, I think his partner's missing because he decided to leave the
fertilizer business for greener pastures, not because he was murdered,"
"So, you think he couldn't face a future full of fertilizer?"
She carefully masked a smile. "I dare you to write that in the report,
"Why would he want to leave all this? Nice house on a lake, just down
the road from his partner. What's not to like?" said Mulder.
"Yeah, this is very romantic," came the dry response.
"Are you implying something, Scully?"
"I just never thought that at this stage of my career I'd be stuck on
routine surveillance duty." She tried to keep the frustration out of her
voice. Unlike Mulder, she failed.
His reply was milder than she expected. "Just think, if you stick with
me, you could be transcribing wiretaps next."
"Well, even if there was a murder, this is such a waste of time," she
"Why?" he asked.
"Because, Mulder, it's stupid to dump a body in a body of water."
"How do you know?"
"You can lead a corpse to water, but you can't make it sink."
"Pathologist's Handbook. Chapter Six."
By unspoken mutual agreement, further delving into the their current
assignment, and why they were on it, was tabled.
Mulder began a deeply involving discourse on the state of his car. At
least, it was involving for him. Luckily for Scully, awareness returned
just at the point at which a contribution from her was required.
"And then the mechanic said, on top of all that, I need all new tires.
The hell with it. I'm just going to buy a new car," said Mulder.
"Let me guess. Jaguar, right? Long, sleek, powerful?"
For only the second time since they'd arrived, he glanced in her
direction. "So you think that for all men cars are a sort of phallic
"At least I didn't guess a new Volkswagen Beetle."
He smiled slightly. "Actually, I've been thinking more and more lately
about a little red Corvette."
"That'd be a tight fit for you, Mulder." The minute the words were out
of her mouth, she wished them back, because the voice that could drop
from sexy to sinful at the slightest provocation, did so.
"Oh, I like it like that."
Two and a half hours, mused Scully. That's a record in restraint. "Have
"Yeah, once, a long time ago. Don't you remember? I do."
Like a dog with a bone, she thought. Leave it to Mulder to require
validation by choice of snack food. "Don't remember, don't want one."
Was now the time to tell him that she had recently thought of acquiring
a taste for that smoky, salty flavor, as long as she was enjoying it in
his mouth, not from the shell? Probably not. The continuing changes in
their relationship, together with all the things they had yet to say to
each other, made what used to be an easy task -- an eight hour shift
alone together, in close quarters -- new and raw.
"Anyway," she said, "all the more for you."
"'S true. Phpbt."
Following retrieval of several errant sunflower seed shells, an
atmosphere approaching the companionable settled over the occupants of
"I guess you're right, Mulder. The moon on the water is pretty nice,"
"And here I thought I'd have to work harder to keep you interested these
days. I shouldn't have underestimated the effect of scenery."
"Actually, this view reminds me that I've always wanted a sailboat."
"Planning on sailing away, Scully?"
"Maybe just around the Chesapeake, to start." She decided to take a
chance. "You... you could come with me, if you wanted to."
"Not unless you'd enjoy watching me lean over the side and upchuck every
meal I've had since last Thanksgiving."
Yes, that was her partner, she thought. Ever the romantic.
Scully glanced over to the passenger seat for the fifth time in as many
minutes and tried to decide if a wiggly Mulder was an improvement over a
"You're awfully fidgety, tonight, Mulder. Anything wrong?"
"No. Sorry the work has gotten so boring, Scully." he said, his tone
darker than it had been all evening.
Where had that come from? "I'm not bored, Mulder. Just... restless,
maybe. It would be nice to go someplace other than Idaho."
"Where would you go?"
"I don't know. Fiji's nice, I've heard."
"Pretty far away, Scully."
"That's the whole point."
To her surprise, the wiggling stopped. What had she said? It would be
nice to know for future reference.
"So would you go in the sailboat?"
"I'd go in an airplane and ship the sailboat over. I'm restless, not
Silence reigned again, broken only by the gentle sound of water lapping
against the shore. Scully felt her eyelids dropping more than once. Out
of desperation, she was about to suggest a game of Twenty Questions,
even if they did have to play by Mulder Rules, which meant adding a
fourth category to the 'animal, vegetable, or mineral' question.
Out of the blue, Mulder said "Do you think they have e-mail to Fiji,
Slightly startled, she answered, "Probably. I'd have to teach my mother
to use a computer before we left, I guess."
No sideways glance this time. This got her a full, straight on stare.
"I left. I mean... Well, I guess I was thinking you could come too,
since I wouldn't be using the sailboat to get there." Very graceful.
Time to retrench. "Don't you ever just want to leave, Mulder? Just pick
up and get the hell out of Dodge for a while?"
"Leaving doesn't solve anything, Scully."
"Since when did you start reading Ann Landers?"
For some reason Scully could not quite grasp, the companionable
atmosphere had reversed itself. Mulder's restive mood manifested itself
in speech once again.
"So what happened to 'If we quit, they win.'?" he asked.
That stung. "After I embroidered it on the pillow, it didn't sound quite
as smart as I'd originally thought."
"Oh, I see." his mutter was accompanied by the sulky look that never
failed to annoy her.
"For Pete's sake, Mulder", she said, "What do you think? That I've
forgotten I said it, and meant it?"
"No. But maybe you've subconsciously decided that leaving is still the
best option for you."
If he was trying to pick a fight, it was working. "It's idle talk,
Mulder," she said, "Don't put words in my mouth."
"Since I can't figure out what the hell you're thinking half the time
these days, I wouldn't dream of it."
Oh, great, Scully thought. Stuck in a car with Mulder displaying some of
his most endearing qualities. Sanctimonious, truculent, and snippy.
"What is your problem?" she demanded. "You seem determined to hear 'I'm
leaving you, Mulder', even though I've never said that, and I'm never
That should have ended it. Instead, it produced another round of
intermittent seat wiggling and pocket change jangling.
Scully was about to suggest he step out of the car -- to stretch his
legs, or to take a long walk off the short pier that was visible at the
back of the large lakefront house they were supposed to be watching,
when she was preempted by his next statement.
"You told me once that you left Jack Willis, not the other way around."
So now they were going to review ancient history? "Yes I did. Because
there was nothing that made me want to stay. And that relationship has
so little to do with this conversation, I can't believe you brought it
"So it wasn't all good times and warm memories?"
"Mulder, the warmest memory I have of Jack Willis is of ice-fishing."
"Oh. What's the warmest memory you have of me?"
Apart from occasional lip chewing, Mulder finally lapsed into stillness.
What Scully had mistakenly thought of as calm restored proved only to be
the passing eye of the storm.
It started obliquely enough, with Mulder crossing his arms over his
chest and shifting to stare out the passenger side window. "If we'd held
our ground at the hearing, Scully, we could be on satanic voodoo
headhunter patrol in Palm Beach right now, instead of fertilizer patrol
"Mulder, we both know that the outcome of that hearing was a foregone
conclusion," she said, to the back of his head.
"Oh, is that why you didn't show up?"
If he wanted to rehash this, fine. She certainly wasn't going anywhere.
"I didn't make it to the hearing on time for exactly the reason I told
you. I'd never hang you out to dry, and you know it."
"Whatever. It's just ... you're very good at... If you don't agree with
me, you just shut me down, shut me out, very efficiently." The sullen
voice was back. What she didn't hear was the fear in it.
"I think you're confusing me with yourself, Mulder. You're the master at
shutting me out. I'm the one who's been in there swinging for this
partnership all these years. And not just because I was assigned."
Perfect. She'd been wanting to say that for quite a while.
He turned back around to face her. "Then why were you so ready to pick
up and leave after the Dallas hearing?"
"What made you think I was all that ready? I told you, Mulder, that I
wanted to make a decision that was best for you... for us. And growing
up the way I did may have made me a little more adaptable to the idea of
leaving a particular place when I was told." She took a breath and tried
to address what apparently was the real issue at hand. "But no matter
whether I resigned from the FBI or was reassigned to Salt Lake City, I
knew in my heart that I would never leave you."
"I never expected to hear you say that, Scully."
They were face to face now, making the sort of eye contact that was rare
for them -- possibly because that contact carried such a powerful
"Why the hell not?" Scully demanded. "You must have been able to tell
how I felt. Everything I've done in the past five years... I want to be
a good person, Mulder, and a good scientist and a good agent. But I also
want to be a good partner. I can't believe you haven't seen that."
"Maybe you're not as transparent as you think you are, Scully. And,
well, in the beginning, I never thought of this as permanent."
"Neither did I."
"But, after you were taken the first time, it... it was a shock to
find... a big chunk of my life was missing." He broke contact and turned
away, slumping in his seat. "Even if it was... inevitable, I guess."
"Why? Mulder, that was hardly a voluntary decision on my part." She
gentled her tone. "Was it because you always expected me to leave?"
The inevitable shut down whenever they approached a discussion like this
was taking place. She made an effort to get back on track. "Why would
you say that, Mulder? Even that long ago, before the... abduction, I
thought you might have realized that a big part of my life too was...
Well, you were in it."
He was staring out the passenger side window again. "Maybe I'm the
opposite of you, Scully. Maybe you grew up learning how to leave... And
I grew up learning how to be left."
"God... Mulder --"
He shifted away from the tentative hand she had placed on his shoulder.
"Forget it. This is pathetic."
She tried to quench her instinctive sympathetic response, the one that
let him get away with far too much. Actually, this is nuts, she thought.
Why am I the one doing all the reassuring, when half my time is spent
trailing after his scent like a worried bloodhound?
She took a another deep breath, and tried not to let it out in a sigh.
"Mulder, that first -- hell, every time -- I couldn't have gotten back
without the strength of your beliefs. Your beliefs. And I hoped...
thought... we had a connection that made this a permanent posting." That
was eloquent. Why were they dancing around this subject? They were both
well educated, verbally adept people. Why was this part of their
relationship so difficult?
She made another stab at reassurance. "Mulder, even when I've been so
angry with you I could spit, I never thought about leaving." Oh, yes,
much more eloquent.
"Yeah, well I was always pretty sure I was just one smartass remark or
one boneheaded move away from watching you walk permanently," he said.
"Mulder, like I said before, I grew up, leaving -- no, being made to
leave, places... people -- arbitrarily. What that taught me was how easy
it is to leave -- that unless there was a damned good reason to stay, I
could pack up my sailboat and sail away, to Salt Lake City, or Fiji, or
wherever, without a backward glance."
"Yeah, you could. Maybe you should, " he said, almost whispering now.
"But let me finish. You have to realize that growing up always leaving,
never feeling permanent, means that the few people in your life who are
constant -- you will never leave them. There's an unbreakable
connection, and because of that you learn to protect them, and the
relationships you have with them, at any cost. Literally."
That got her his full attention again. "I know how loyal you can be,
Scully," he said. "I was always pretty sure I didn't deserve it, though.
Your family, well, at least, your brother, sure as hell feels that way."
"God, you make me sound like your faithful old dog Trey." Something
snapped, enough to move her very close to a declaration she wasn't sure
she was ready to make -- or he was ready to hear. "It's not just
loyalty, and my brother needs to get the same thing through his thick
head that I'm trying to get through yours..."
At the last minute, faced with his earnest gaze, she compromised. Though
the admission was not as full blown as it could have been, it was close
enough that she could feel heat flaring in her face. What if he laughed?
"This is it for me, Mulder. I'm not going anywhere -- ever. You've
officially joined the very short list of people that I will never leave,
at the top. Do you believe me?"
"I want to believe."
More vulnerable than she'd like to admit, she only saw the faint grin
that accompanied his words, and didn't register the hope and uncertainty
in his voice. "Dammit, Mulder..."
Temporarily blinded by the flash of the overhead light as she flung open
the car door, the grab he made for the sleeve of her coat missed. "No
wait, wait, Scully -- Shit. I thought you said you'd never leave me."
The Taurus insistently chimed into the conversation, alerting the
neighborhood that someone had opened its driver's side door without
removing the key from the ignition.
Scully solved that problem with a satisfying slam.
Taking advantage of both his height and desperation, Mulder lunged
across both seats, pulled the keys from the ignition, and pushed the
door back open. He gestured for Scully to get back into the car.
"Scully... I'm not -- that wasn't flippant."
More in response to the quick shame to her professional sensibilities
for allowing a personal matter to possibly compromise their assignment,
than to his entreaty, she got back into the car and closed the door.
She sat still and tense, staring straight ahead. Picking up on his
defensive statement, she finally replied. "No? But leave it to you to
make a joke at the expense of something I take very seriously, Mulder.
And I wondered why I never told you any of this before. That's my
answer, I guess."
"Shut up, Mulder."
This is interesting, thought Mulder. He used to be able to go days --
possibly weeks -- with her this angry with him. Couldn't do that
anymore. Strangely, following her admission, he was feeling much better,
even though guilt at having pretty much bullied it out of her was
showing up right on schedule. He suppressed a sigh of his own, and, in
imitation of her earlier gesture, put a hand on her arm.
"Scully..." She shook him off. "Okay, you don't have to look at me, but
at least listen. I've already told you how I feel--"
"Yeah, that you think I should just pick up and walk out. Or that you
think I would, which is worse."
"No -- wait." Heavy lifting time. "I told you how I felt when you told
me you really might have to leave."
"Believe me, I remember, Mulder."
"I've never had anything close to this... what I have with you." Oh, big
man. Very brave. He scrambled back to the point. "I don't want to lose
Her breathing had slowed to normal, leaving a silent stranger where his
passionate partner had been.
"I don't want to lose you." The reality of what he was saying set in.
His tone went from placating to heartfelt. "Or, for you to be lost,
He turned from her and dropped his head, not wanting to accidentally
catch her eye while confirming his weakness. "Scully, when you talk
about leaving, even in passing, half of me panics, because I can't go
through that again. But half of me is sure that you leaving is the best
thing that could happen to you. And half of me--"
"Three halves don't make a whole, Mulder."
He raised his head and looked at her. "Now who's being flippant?" She
was still staring straight ahead.
Matching her pose, he stared sightlessly out the windshield. "The sad
fact is, I've never been able to share my work with anyone like I have
with you." The devil that lived inside him, that made him want to push
those around him -- even her, even now -- to their limits, made him
continue. "But I still have to know what you're thinking, and why. I
might like surprises, but not the kind you threw at me at that hearing."
"Mulder, I am sorry about the way things turned out at that hearing."
The anger was gone from her voice, replaced by the flat, implacable tone
that so often grated on his nerves. This time, he was just glad she was
still speaking to him.
She continued, "But you have to accept -- hell, you should have accepted
a long time ago -- that when I disagree with you, it doesn't mean I'm
leaving and have no vested interest in our work. Usually, it means I'm
staying and fighting -- for you, and the work."
He turned back to her. "What does it mean the rest of the time?"
"That you're just plain wrong, Mulder."
Now he was back on stable ground. "I was right about the
extraterrestrial origin of that -- thing."
"Mulder, that thing may well turn out to be as much a human creation as
you or I."
"Yeah, well I'm warning you, it's not very satisfying to say 'I told you
so' from a distance."
"That's why I'm looking forward to saying it to your face."
She still wasn't looking at him, but the atmosphere in the car was
clearer than it had been all evening.
"Sorry, Scully. All the things you said about the job and being a...
partner -- this is important stuff for me too. When it's threatened, I
get scared, and I guess that makes me stupid. I've already lost the
X-Files. If you go... If I lose..."
"Mulder, I told you a long time ago -- I love this job. And I love...
being your partner." She finally turned toward him. "You're a great
partner, Mulder. Well, most of the time. When you make a conscious
"I promise to keep working on that Scully."
"You better, Mulder."
"Well, I guess if you're staying, I'll have to."
This time, she accepted the faint grin that accompanied his statement
with equanimity. "Mulder, I have a lot of reasons to stay. And not just
because you have yet to behave badly enough to push me away. God knows,
you've given that your best shot. But there's a lot about this
partnership and about... you that makes me want to stay. So, I'm
staying. And I'll ask you again. Do you believe me?"
"I believe you, Scully."
The sudden need to re-connect was satisfied by some good old-fashioned
"Ohhh... Scully, you are so good." Sulky had been replaced by sultry. A
"I'm going to remind you that you said that." Though the words were
characteristically brisk, the antagonism had disappeared from Scully's
"Give me a break, Scully, I'm under extreme sensory overload here."
She leaned in and doubled her efforts. "You smell good, Mulder."
"See, even if we were late, it was--uh... worth it."
"Why can't you do this for yourself?"
"'Cause you have the magic touch, Scully."
"You really think that kind of thing works with me, don't you?"
"It's worked... Oh, that's good... so far, hasn't it?" He was
"Right there? Or there?"
"Yes. Either. Whatever."
"Mulder, those little bamboo back scratchers cost one dollar each. I
can't believe even you are so cheap that you won't buy one. And why are
you so itchy, anyway?"
"I washed this shirt myself. I think I forgot an important step."
"What happened to Debbie Does D.C. Discount Cleaners?"
"It's Debbie's Discount Cleaners, and Debbie doesn't work the front
counter anymore. Donna does."
"What's the matter, Donna doesn't give you the same discount Debbie
"I think she wants to give me something. I'm just not sure it's a
She suppressed a laugh and no small amount of smugness at the sincere
distaste in his voice. "Saving yourself for someone, Mulder?"
"Like I told you months ago, Scully. I'm saved."
Scully was once again having trouble keeping her eyes open. The feel of
a strong hand tugging on her shoulder made her shrug slightly and
murmur, with a sleepy smile, "I don't want to wrestle, Mulder."
Here he was, trying to be gallant, and neither she nor the bucket seats
were cooperating. "I'm not trying to wrestle, Scully. Just lean over
here. Or do you want to lie down on the back seat?"
"Mulder, we are in so much trouble, the last thing we need is for the
next shift to show up and find us asleep in the back seat."
That snapped her eyes open. "Me. Me asleep. Alone. In the back seat."
He grinned, but refrained from commenting. "I'll keep watch, Scully. I'm
not the one falling asleep sitting up. You are."
"Well, you try going through pages and pages of fertilizer purchases all
day and then a stakeout all night."
"Will you just relax and close your eyes?"
"Okay." She settled her head on his shoulder. "But don't get sunflower
seed shells on me. And don't sing."
"Did I ever tell you you're beautiful when you're grumpy?"
"You've never told me I'm beautiful, period."
He rubbed her back, in gentle imitation of the favor she had done for
him earlier, carefully skirting one reminder of the cost of her
fidelity, lodged at the base of her neck. The forces ranged against them
thought they had gotten rid of him, stranded him -- impotent in Idaho. A
brief smile crossed his lips. They were so wrong on so many counts. As
long as she stuck with him... The smile faded. She had stated her
resolve to stand with him, no matter the cost. He had to make sure she
knew that from now on, the cost would be theirs, not his or hers alone.
"I'll never leave you, either."
She was awake enough not to let that pass. "Oh, Mulder. I love the fact
that at this moment you really believe that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"That you really do think that by next week you won't be haring off, by
yourself, to God knows where, leaving me a phone number if I'm lucky,
and a satellite positioning signal if I'm not."
He should have already realized that he wasn't going to earn any cheap
points tonight. "No, I meant... Like you said before, Scully. In my
heart. In my heart, I will never leave you."
"Oh... Okay." Her voice was muffled against his chest, but the slight
tremor in it could be heard by both of them.
He felt an answering constriction in his throat. "Do you believe me?"
"I believe you, Mulder."
Head back, eyes slitted against the diffuse dawn light, Mulder was
reflecting on opportunities missed when he spotted the approaching
maroon Taurus. He shook Scully lightly. "Scully? Scully, next shift's
"Next shift's here. We can go."
She lurched upright. "Sorry, Mulder."
"'S okay. Sweet dreams?" He reached up to help her smooth down her hair.
"No dreams. Anyway," she moved away from his hand and looked over at
him, professional mask slipping back into place, "I wasn't really
sleeping. I was just resting my eyes."
He turned away from her, to look out the passenger side window. "I don't
know Scully, snoring like that usually means you're asleep."
"I do not snore." She reached over to lower the window, but was halted
by his next comment, spoken in a loud whisper.
"It's okay Scully. You have a very lady-like snore."
She shot him a look that would have shriveled a lesser man, then got on
with briefing their colleagues. That chore finished, she stretched, and
took in the tiny drops of water sparkling on the windshield. "When did
the rain start?"
"About half an hour ago."
As she maneuvered the car off the shoulder, and back onto the road, she
said, "Actually, I've suddenly remembered part of a dream."
"Did it have anything to do with the fact that on Fiji, women go
She didn't bother masking the smile this time. "Dream on, Mulder. No,
but it did have you and me and the sailboat. And a lot of Dramamine."
As they drove out of sight of the other car, he reached over and
tentatively stroked the top of her thigh with one long finger. "Hey,
Scully, did I tell you that before we left, I checked my hotel room --
really carefully -- for bees?"
She glanced over at him, then trained her eyes back on the road ahead.
"You have no idea how glad I am to hear that, Mulder."
The smile in his voice answered her own. "Oh, you can show me -- later."
It wasn't a bright and sunny morning. But it was close enough for
Thanks: To Invisivellum, whose best efforts at betareading saved me from
embarrassing errors, whose suggestions made the difference, and whose
enthusiasm is contagious. To Marguerite, for her kind encouragement, and
for writing Mulder and Scully the way I like to read them. Thanks
especially to the folks who've been sending such wonderful feedback.
Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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