by Livia Balaban
Rated light R(language and some nookie) = S, A, H, heaps of MSR
Oh my God, he knows.
I can't even fathom how he found out, but the bastard knows. He must have followed me.
I shudder at the thought of Mulder, sneaking around, stalking me, following me to Paolo's loft last night...
Oh my God, he knows.
He looks pretty cheerful, all things considered, and that humming...he's trying to make me crack. He's trying to make me break down and confess what's been going on. He heard - he must have heard everything - and now he's humming a little snippet of the evidence in that casual way he has of taunting suspects until they break.
The man is Columbo. "No, Mr. Simmons, I was just wondering, 'cause it seems so odd to me, how Junior could have taken your keys if they were on your key ring in your pocket the whole time..." That's the tune Mulder is humming. Oh it *sounds* like a few lovely phrases of classic French music, but the message is crystal: "I was just wondering, Scully, 'cause it seems so odd to me, how I heard what I heard and saw what I saw when you were at that man's loft last night, because I could have sworn you'd told me you were on your way to have dinner with your mom..."
Was he jealous? Maybe it's just a misunderstanding.
Right. He's humming "Chanson d'Avril" by Bizet and it's a coincidence. Of course he was there. Probably spying through the tall window overlooking the alley, concealed in the darkness, watching and listening.
Son of a bitch. Can't I have *one little bit* of my life to myself? Must he own me completely, consume every piece of me? The bastard followed me; he must have. He must have stalked me over to Paolo's loft, and figured out which unit I was in, and set up his little surveillance operation while I was ... well, probably while we were deciding what to do first.
He wants me to crack, to admit that I lied to him. And that I did it more than once, which is - I'm confident - why he's doing this.
All right, I'll admit to a small thrill that he was jealous. He must have been curious about my Wednesday nights, some of which magically morphed into Thursdays or Saturdays when we were in the field on a case midweek. Maybe he overheard a phone call? Maybe he saw some evidence of it in my luggage?
But dammit, it's my private life. Why the hell can't he give me that one little quiet corner? One little place where nothing from *this* life intrudes?
All right, Mulder's voice isn't that bad. He'd need to be a real tenor to sing it properly, and although his humming is graceless, it is nonetheless competent. It's nowhere near as beautiful as the recording of Kiri te Kanawa that Paolo played for me, but Mulder's hitting all the notes, and managing to seem wistful while he does it. Some people just don't understand a natural gift when it's handed to them. Sheesh. Damned smug, effortless bastard.
Deflect, deflect. Something to put him on the defensive should work nicely.
"Mulder, do you have the Gilpin case report finished?"
He ceases his humming and looks up at me. "Two days ago, Scully. Where have *you* been?"
Oh good Lord. Where the hell *have* I been?
* * * * *
TWO WEEKS AGO
I can't believe she's lying to me.
She's been lying to me.
Scully - my Scully - loyal, honest, dependable Scully, has been lying to me.
She left the office not less than sixty seconds ago, and in that one single minute, my life changed for good.
She looked me dead in the eye and told me she was off to have dinner with her mom. As usual on Wednesdays. Or Thursdays or Saturdays when we're out of town on a case.
But no sooner had I heard her little clicky footsteps fade toward the elevator than the office phone rang. It was Mrs. Scully, confirming Sunday brunch.
"You just missed her," I told her. "She's on her way now. You can confirm when you see her," I offered helpfully.
"Oh...of course," she responded meekly.
"Talk to you later," I tossed off angrily, as I managed to simultaneously hang up the phone, grab my jacket and briefcase, and dash out the door.
She lied to me.
My partner lied to me.
She could be off meeting a contact, in extreme danger.
I need to get off it. *I'm* the one with a degree in ditching. A Ph-fucking-D in it. It must be personal. So personal she won't tell me about it. Something she'll tell her mother about, but not me.
Oh god, is she sick again? She'd want to keep that from me. She knows how hard I'd take it. She must remember what I was like last time.
No, she's too sensible for that, I tell myself as I stab repeatedly at the elevator button in the vain hope it will cause the damn thing to arrive more quickly. If she was sick again, she'd know that she wouldn't be able to hide it from me for long. She'd be honest about that
So the only other possibility is...I think I'm gonna heave.
Holy shit. She lied to me.
The most significant person in my life lied to me.
The woman I - damn, damn, damn - the woman I love lied to me.
I'm such a doofus. Of course I'd figure this out *now*. I've had no fewer than seven years to get a clue about precisely how I feel, and I have to figure it out now.
And it's so obvious what it must be...some handsome doctor or broker or somebody equally boring and sweet, with two dogs and a fireplace and expensive taste in wine, playing classical music for her and treating her properly.
And I am the single most selfish bastard on the planet, because that is simply unthinkable to me. Selfish, greedy, chickenshit that I am, I'd rather see *my* Scully unhappy and unfulfilled, unpampered and unworshipped, because I can't bear the thought of another man getting anywhere near her. And of course the idea of actually *telling* her how I feel is unthinkable as well. There's only so much rejection a man can take before it starts to get him seriously down. So if it's all the same to you, Scully, as you drive away toward your Mystery Date, I'd be happy if we could just maintain the status quo, okay?
I feel positively feral by the time I reach my car, and manage to pull out of the lot a respectable distance behind Scully.
I'm following her. "Follow that car!" I shout inwardly, trying to make light of this enormously serious moment. What I'm trying to do is avoid the realization that I'm actually stalking Scully. I am following her, clandestinely, to find out where she's going.
But damned if I'll stop. She lied to me. She arrives in a less-than-fashionable section of Georgetown, in the midst of converted factories and renovated industrial buildings. All very Flashdance Chic. She pulls in behind an old blue Mercedes. She gathers her things and leaves her car, pausing only for a moment at the rear bumper of the Mercedes, shaking her head slowly in what I've come to consider her 'Oh, Mulder' expression.
She 'Oh Mulder's someone other than me? I fucking hate this. I remain perched silently down the block, waiting to see which building she enters. When she buzzes at the door of a nondescript red brick building and is admitted, I abandon my car, and follow, just out of sight.
I am stalking my partner.
Serves her right. She lied to me. I am inwardly thankful, though, to confirm that it's not a medical building. It's very likely packed with newly-renovated lofts. Pricey ones.
Goddammit. She walked through that door as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She's been here before. If I'm right, that would have been on Wednesday nights, after work. She knows that car and the person who drives it, enough to have an opinion of him or her. Him, Mulder, get real. She's meeting a man. That's why she didn't tell you.
The only thing I saw for certain from down the block was that she'd pressed the bottom intercom button on the panel. I approach and read the name next to it.
Fucking Paolo. She's meeting a guy named Paolo. Fucking Paolo fucking continential suave fucking Balestrero.
Fucking Paolo Balestrero.
I think I'm gonna be sick.
Like that's gonna stop me.
I hit a button near the top, and when someone finally picks up, I say, "Sorry," I read the name next to it and the one below, "Carla, it's Dan from 4-B. I locked myself out. Could you buzz me in?" She complies, and I am in.
I move quickly down the hall until I reach the lair of Paolo fucking Balestrero, and lean in toward the door to listen. The walls must be wood or painted concrete, because out here in the polished wood hallway, every sound reverberates. Ah, slapdash construction. Nothing like expensive but poorly-planned renovations on old buildings to aid an unprincipled eavesdropper in need. I can hear every sound, every word from where I stand.
I'll regret it later, but I *have to* know.
Scully's voice. Scully's sweet, low voice. "Sorry I'm late, Paolo. Long day." She laughs weakly. "Long week." It sure was, but it's pissing me off that she's complaining about it to HIM. It's not my fault that nine extra bodies turned up.
A man's voice, deep and smooth and impossibly rich. Goddamn fucking asshole. "Long case?" Neutral American accent. Okay, at least he's not European. Women lose it for European men. With expensive lofts.
"Yup." Some shuffling sounds. Their voices come from different parts of the loft. "I cannot believe you're still driving that old beater. I thought you were going to trade it in *months* ago."
MONTHS? How long has this been going on?
"It's a classic, Dana." DANA? "I've decided to remain faithful to the old girl."
"Tea?" he asks from what sounds like a different room. Probably the kitchen.
"Love some. Herbal?"
"Absolutely. You know better than to drink real tea before you come, right? And no coffee. The tannins are brutal, Dana. VERY drying on the mucous membranes."
"I haven't forgotten," Scully replies.
He's concerned about keeping her mucous membranes moist? Fucking goddamn lothario from hell. What's next? Rohypnol? Spanish fucking Fly?
"Here you go," Paolo drips solicitously. "I found that tape I told you about last time. You *must* listen to this." Listen yourself, you misogynistic asshole, Scully's her own person. She *must* do nothing of the sort if she chooses not to.
"Sure, that would be great," she enthuses. Oh Lord, Scully, don't you know better than to fall into his trap? Play hard to get. Keep your distance. Don't let him lead you into something you don't want to do.
Well, why wouldn't she want to? Fucking Paolo fucking Balestrero of the ancient Mercedes and expensive loft and moist mucous membranes must be some Fabio-lookin' hunka-hunka to keep her attention for this long.
She's been gettin' some. Oh, Jesus. Scully's been gettin' some?
I picture her briefly, naked and flushed, writhing beneath the figure of some godlike creature, an Adonis with a brokerage account.
I am going to be sick, right here in this hallway. And then she'll know I was spying on her. Even if I run away and hide, drive far from here before she escapes his lair, she'll STILL know it was me, using some freakish forensic technique to determine that the conspicuous puddle outside Paolo Studmuffin's door is the remains of my portion of the street-vendor shish kabob we shared at lunch.
Music begins to play in the loft, and I can already see what he's doing, fucking Fabio with his long blond hair and muscular build and bedroom eyes, reaching out for her and leading her to his horrifyingly expensive and non-grotty Italian leather couch.
I stifle a groan.
Actually, to the bastard's credit, the music is beautiful. French opera. I learned a little about it in college. Music Appreciation seemed like a good lightweight class to balance out all the clinical psych and literature courses. As it turned out, there was a lot of work involved. Music is like math - it's *complex*.
The tenor's voice is very high but warm and strong. The soprano's voice is like a sweet, high bell. She sings, panicked, he responds, warmly. They banter back and forth, forth and back, clearly disagreeing, but when she finally prods him too far, he responds with amazement that she doesn't understand his position. I don't know who these singers are, but somehow they have managed to convey all this in just a few lines of music and words.
My French is very old and probably rusted shut, but it sounds like she's afraid he'll get caught, and he tells her that he's mesmerized by her beauty. She can't understand how he can be so unafraid, and he responds, genuinely surprised that she doesn't understand that he's in love. First he sings, then she repeats what he's sung - very tentatively, learning what he's teaching her - and then they sing together, a final joining of hearts and voices. It's an old recording, but it's beautiful.
The tape clicks off, and I hear Scully say, "Wow."
No arguments there.
"Did you hear what Ferrar did with the repetition of 'C'est le dieu de la jeunesse'? So tentative," - I hate this asshole - "so fragile, as if she's afraid to even *consider* that love could have that kind of power."
"Sounds familiar," Scully sighs. What the hell?
"I'll dub a copy for you. Okay, enough preliminaries." That's it? A little classical music and it's 'up with your ankles'? Fucking asshole.
"Okay," Scully says, resignedly. Fuck, she doesn't even want to do what she's there to do. Why is she doing this to herself?
"Let's start with something simple," he oozes. "Ease our way in." Fucking goddamn asshole from hell.
"Okay," Scully acquiesces.
Then things start getting weird. I mean *confusing* weird.
I hear a single note played on a piano, and only a moment later, I hear singing. A woman's voice, a rich, sweet woman's voice, singing something. Something in Italian. After only a few phrases, the voice hitches and stops, and Scully speaks. "Sorry. Wasn't ready. I'll start again."
*I'LL* start again?
"Drink a little, Dana. You sound dry."
"I am. The autopsy bay is cool and dry by necessity. I can't drink enough water or get warm enough when I'm in there."
"You need to take some time to warm up and rehydrate yourself before you do this. All right. One more time. Remember to float it. We're not going for richness here right now, just a light, clean head tone. Take a good breath, and start again."
Jesus H. Christ on a Triscuit.
Scully clears her throat - I'd know that sound anywhere - and she begins again.
"Dormendo stai con le braccia narcate...quasi una rosa in desio di sbocciar..."
Her voice - she can sing? - is warm and light, and sounds like it's effortless. Jesus God Almighty, she can sing.
Scully can sing.
Scully can fucking well sing.
Jeremiah was a bullfrog, my ass.
Scully can sing. In Italian.
The melody is pretty, lilting and simple, and when she reaches what sounds like the chorus of the song, her voice floats upward on a light run of notes, landing in a place I never imagined she could inhabit. It's very high, but free and sweet. My deep-voiced Scully, a soprano?
Scully can sing.
She sings the second verse with the same clean precision. Paolo chooses the very moment she's done to interrupt the moment. Okay, so he's not a lothario - he's only her voice teacher - but he's still an asshole. "Very nice, Dana. You've really been working on your lower body breathing. I could see your lower back expanding more consistently than before. And you're keeping your open vowels much freer than you had."
"My shower has *great* tile." She laughs. "I can be extra-critical in there. I can't even imagine what the neighbors think. I usually sing that last set of runs ten or fifteen times in a row. They're probably ready to have me evicted."
Paolo laughs. "It takes what it takes. Listen, have you given any thought to my suggestion about next week's master class?"
Scully sighs. "I have, but I don't know if I'm ready."
"You're ready for *this*, Dana; even if you don't feel prepared for your ultimate goal, you're definitely ready for a master class." Ultimate goal? "The entire studio will be there, and I want some of your colleagues to hear you. I want you to become more comfortable singing for an audience of more than one. And I think it would be good for you to watch how other people learn."
"All right. How about this?" Scully asks, and I hear the rustling of pages. "Chanson d'Avril?"
She says sheepishly, "Bizet."
He laughs. "You're incorrigible."
"It's all your fault, Paolo. You were the one who brought up Carmen last year."
"All right. Chanson d'Avril. Sing the first verse in a light head tone, and then give me full voice on verse two. And..."
"No getting hooty," they say in unison. Scully laughs. Her laughter is better than the music, it really is. I wish she'd laugh like that for me more often.
"When and where?" Scully asks.
"The main hall at Grace Conservatory in Arlington, next Tuesday at 8:00. You've come so far, Dana. I'm proud of you."
So am I. And I'm a complete asshole, invading her privacy like this.
I leave her to the remainder of her voice lesson in peace.
* * * * *
I don't want her to see me. I know I shouldn't be here - I KNOW THAT - but I can't stay away. The chance to hear Scully sing again, especially in front of an audience of appreciative fellow students, is too much to resist.
So I didn't. I'm hidden here, way in the back of the hall, hunched in my seat, cloaked in shadows. My entire body is a twitching mass of nerves, waiting in excruciating anticipation: I'm an addict, and I need a fix. Damn, I wish I'd brought a recording device of some kind. What was I thinking?
Nothing. I wasn't thinking at all. How else can I explain my presence here? I am again invading her privacy. Even if she never finds out, it's still wrong. I broke and entered without probable cause to assume a crime had been committed.
Well, I should have brought a tape recorder, then. Really committed to maxing out that felony. But then what? Listen to the tape for comfort and pleasure at home? Absolutely. How much harm could one little tape do? I'd keep it at home, and leave it unmarked, and she'd never know. Worst-case scenario: I'm gunned down during a case, and she cleans out my apartment after the funeral. She's unlikely to listen to every unmarked cassette tape. She'd just throw them in boxes with all of those -er- videos, and go back to her life.
Okay, maybe she'd cry a little, but not too much, because crying is bad for the voice.
I looked it up.
I've been doing a lot of extracurricular study over the past week, and I understand a little more about the vocal mechanism than I did before. For instance, I now understand why Scully declined the milkshake I'd suggested the day of her lesson last week: Phlegm. And although she's usually fairly discreet, I can on occasion hear her soft murmuring moans through a motel room wall, and according to my journals, she never -ever- makes those lush little sounds the night before a lesson. So she's adhering strictly to the 'no sex within 24 hours' rule.
Frankly, I found that one very interesting. Apparently, the release of testosterone in both men and women, which thickens the vocal bands, makes the voice lower and reduces vocal flexibility. Also, I read, fine abdominal muscle control is vital to good singing, and with the kind of short-circuiting that occurs to a woman's abdominal muscles during orgasm, she would lose all that delicate control over those elusive muscles if she had any kind of sexual gratification within 24 hours of trying to sing. God, that sonofabitch Ritter must have set her back *months* when he shot her.
And of course, no tannins. Paolo definitely got that one right. Wouldn't want to dry out one's mucous membranes. So no coffee or red wine, and only herb tea.
But that's my Scully: Discipline and structure in a beautiful, brilliant package.
Someone in charge arrives, a man in his forties, and arranges the piano and music stand onstage as more students arrive and greet him with smiles and waves. Definitely Paolo. I finally get my first good look at him, as he picks up a paper coffee cup at the well-lit lip of the stage. He toys with the tag from a tea bag and smiles off into the distance, only a few feet from me. Someone passes me, walking down the aisle toward the stage.
Paolo's not a bad looking guy, but Fabio he ain't. He's really pretty average looking, dark haired and slim, but his neck is kind of scrawny, and he has an adam's apple the size of Cleveland. It's kind of disconcerting to watch him swallow his tea. It looks like there's a little animal burrowing around under the skin of his neck. Well, hell, I've seen Jack Willis, so I know looks aren't everything to Scully. Then I take a gander at the man who approaches the edge of the stage.
And laugh my ass off. Silently of course.
Oh, it's definitely all business between Scully and Mr. Professor. The younger-looking man reaches up at the same moment Paolo reaches down, and they kiss. Deeply. Whew.
Fortunately, the room is designed with a dome in the ceiling, and it carries every whisper at the stage directly to my ears. I needn't strain to hear a single thing.
"I'm glad you came," Paolo tells him.
"Are you kidding? You said Dana was going to sing, and I *have* to hear this woman, after all the quality time you've spent yammering on about her. Is she here yet, or are you keeping her locked up in some little oubliette until it's time for the official unveiling?" Whoever he is, I give him points for the attitude.
Paolo rolls his eyes. "She'll be here. Unless she's been kidnapped by terrorists or something. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Patience is a virtue, you know."
"It must be so exciting," the younger man gushes, "working with a federal agent. Come on, hasn't she told you about *any* of her cases?"
"Plenty," Paolo tells him, "but it wouldn't be prudent to share." He smiles at the younger man, and finishes the thought. "Although I have to say I may never be able to go camping in Florida, knowing what I know." He smiles teasingly at his companion. Jesus, she told him about that?
"You? Camping? Your idea of 'roughing it' is instant cappucino."
Enough of that. I turn my attention elsewhere, hoping for a brief glimpse of Scully before the master class begins.
Finally, Scully arrives, deep in conversation with a young man of no more than 22 or 23. He's a handsome rascal, and is paying *far* too much attention to her for my liking. Then I see they're consulting over a piece of music, and my heart rate begins to return toward something resembling normal. They take turns pointing to spots on the pages, and nodding their heads in time, as if coordinating some kind of operation. I wonder what this forebodes.
More students arrive, all toting bottles of water - what is it with all the water? Oh yeah, moist mucous membranes - and Paolo gathers himself up out of the conversation with his friend, and calls the event to order. About damn time.
"Glad to see you could all make it. I'm sorry we didn't manage to have a class last quarter, but things just got swamped. Between the insane commuting to New York, and all those last-minute consultations for Katie," everybody laughs and looks at a stunning brunette near the front of the audience who looks back at them with a pained expression, "there just wasn't time for it. Show of hands here: Who had the chance to hear our lovely Katie on NPR last month?" Nearly all the hands went up into the air. "Good job, Kate. It appears the critics agreed." A small round of applause follows the compliment, and smiling stiffly, Kate turns her attention back to the stage.
"We have a great treat tonight, as well. Dana, yes *Dana*, will finally sing for us. Not once, but twice. So you can finally divvy up the money in that pool." Everybody laughs. "I believe I had her down for next quarter, so there goes a good twenty bucks. You owe me, Red." He smiles. She smiles in return.
This is fun.
"Okay," Paolo says, more official in tone, "Why don't we begin with Marcus." The lil' whippersnapper and Scully both rise, and approach the stage. "He's been working on an audition for Lakme at the Banff Festival for next summer, and has invested a lot of time in the first act duet. Dana has been kind enough to offer her services as Lakme. For those of you who are unaware, Dana is our resident Mezzo-Coloratura." Playful oohs and aahs emanate from the crowd, followed by assorted chuckles. "We've been working on Dana's head tone, and we thought this would be a good exercise for her. This isn't Dana's true voice, but it works, as you'll hear.
"Marcus has had a difficult time over the past two months adjusting to his throat *without* tonsils, so it's been very important that we work on keeping his vowels open and his breath control strong. Okay, let's start, If you're both ready."
She and Marcus exchange a meaningful glance, and the accompanist begins to play.
"D'ou vient tu? Que veut tu? Pour punir ton audace."
She's singing the soprano's part from the duet Paolo played for her last week.
I looked it up from the few lines I remembered, and discovered it was a scene from a Delibes opera called "Lakme", which pretty much all the authorities considered to be a Hindu version of "Madame Butterfly". It's the same opera, heck the same act even, that produced the incredible women's duet Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve writhed around to during that incredibly erotic scene from "The Hunger".
As Scully sings, she manages to project the fear and outrage Lakme felt when she discovered a man - a white man - in her father's Hindu temple. It's all directed toward Marcus, and when he begins to sing, she reacts to his ardent words, gaping in seemingly-genuine disbelief. His voice is very high, but strong. Young.
She takes over, and damn if she doesn't sound like she's caving a bit. No longer angry, really more concerned that she doesn't understand why this guy won't get the hell out. He tries to explain to her why he's so transfixed, and when she starts again, her confusion gives way to genuine awe.
My Scully can act. My Scully is a singing actor.
I'm not even watching her. My eyes are closed, my head floating with her intensity. She's amazing.
Finally, when she approaches the portion of the scene in which the intruder tells her why he's there - he's a guy, she's pretty, duh - Marcus again takes over. He is certainly more than competent, and hearing him sing that beautiful melody must help her to prepare for her repetition of what he's singing.
I translated the text of this section over the weekend, and it's just beautiful.
"What force steers him toward me? Nothing diverts him. From where did you gain this superhuman audacity," she asks him. "Which is the God that sustains you?"
"Which God?" he asks incredulously. "Which God?" he repeats. And then his beautiful recitation begins.
"It's the God of youth, the God of spring, the God who caresses us with ardent kisses." Yup, white boy's got it bad for the Hindu priestess all right. The section finishes with, "It's the God of your whims...it's love."
Finally it's Scully's turn, and she repeats each phrase, delicately and tentatively, projecting a perfect sense of innocent learning. Her voice shakes a little on the high parts - I'm guessing it's just not comfortable for her - but it's still pretty. I doubt she could make a living at it - she doesn't really have a professional-quality voice - but as hobby voices go, it's a stunner. It's certainly miles away from her days of croaking out Three Dog Night.
I listen on.
When the duet climbs to its climax and ends, the crowd pauses for a moment, seeming to collect themselves, and finally they applaud. Very respectful.
Scully is smiling softly, failing to meet the eyes of any of her studio mates. She seems pleased with herself - as she should be - but I'm guessing all of this is just too personal to share with her colleagues.
It also took a hell of a lot of courage to do what she did, and it takes even more to face what happens now. This is a Master Class, which means that she's about to be corrected in front of a crowd. Paolo approaches the two on stage, and begins to vivisect their performance, having them repeat phrases, making corrections to vocal technique and paying greater attention to their balance. The operation is essentially a public voice lesson, with only fellow students as audience.
And me. But they can't really see me. It's dark back here.
Finally, about fifteen minutes later, Paolo releases the two. Marcus seems unfazed by the experience, but Scully looks a little unsteady. There's nothing overt that anyone else would notice, but I know her: She's watching her step a little too carefully as she descends from the stage, and she's biting the inside of her cheek. From what Paolo said, she has more singing to do, so she must be taking his criticism to heart. She looks deep in thought.
Paolo next calls up a soprano named Elise, who shakily, falteringly sings something about a lass with a delicate air. She's a new student, Paolo explains, and he commends her for her composure so early in her learning process. Her efforts earn her a rousing round of applause. Gracious people, these studio-mates.
Next up is a thirtysomething bass with the pure booming voice of God. It's exceptional. Apparently, Kurt is an accomplished professional who continues to work with Paolo whenever he's in town. The man is amazing. And it's a good thing twittery little Elise went first. What an act to have to follow.
He is followed by another tenor, a very good one, but nowhere near as accomplished and talented as Kurt.
The much-hallowed Kate is next, and I can see why Paolo made such a fuss. She has a gorgeous voice, she's a complete knockout, and she's got more pure authoritarian presence than James Earl Jones. If she's not a star yet, she will be soon. Jesus.
Then up comes Scully again. She's alone this time and looks calmer than last time. Way to hold it together, partner. Hell, I'd be shitting bricks if I had to perform after Kurt the Metatron and Katie the Pro. Paolo must expect her to be uneasy, because he offers a few soothing words.
"Dana has been working rigorously to establish a good clear head tone as a prelude to the expansion of her range. When she first came to me, she was - I am not exaggerating - nearly tone-deaf. But we spent more than a year on ear training and basic technique, and what we discovered, only a few months later, was a layer we hadn't expected to find. I'm reminded of the surveyors who discovered seams of diamonds amidst layers of bedrock. What we discovered was the lovely instrument you heard earlier this evening, and which it is our pleasure to hear again now."
Okay, he's not an asshole. He's a very supportive teacher. I like the guy. Hey, I can admit when I'm wrong. It's just that I don't have a lot of practice at it.
He continues. "Dana has brought an art song by Bizet this evening, and I'd like to use it to demonstrate an important point about determining a reasonable tessitura."
Tessitura, I read, is the active range of a piece of music. Considering how low Scully's speaking voice is normally, I was surprised to hear her sing twice already in pieces that got high and remained high. She seemed pretty comfortable residing in that part of her range. It was, and still is, a tremendous surprise.
"Dana, why don't you do what we've done in your lessons." He turns his attention back to the crowd of rapt students. "Dana's going to sing the first verse in the same light head tone you heard earlier this evening. Then she'll sing the second verse full-voice."
The accompaniment begins, and Scully begins to sing again, and it's lovely. I looked up the song during the intervening week since her last lesson, and read the translation. The poetry is lovely as well.
"Leve-toi, leve-toi, le printemps vient de naitre..." <Arise, arise, the spring is about to be born> Her voice is sweet and reminiscent of birdsong. It could be because she's shaking a bit. It must be hard to do this kind of solo in front of such an accomplished group.
Like her last lesson, this piece also includes a passage that takes her voice up an ascending scale, but this one ends on a beautiful little bit that swoops around a little and leads breathlessly into the next phrase. She continues, until the lyrics lead her to let up gently, almost pensively, as she slows down just a touch, and lingers over a few choice words.
"Mouches et papillons brouisse a la foi."
<Flies and butterflies, --something-- at the time...> damn, I still need to work on my French.
And then, within moments, she is singing a word I *do* understand. "L'amour," she sings, "endormi dans les bois."
<love, asleep in the woods>
The piano plays a little bit, while she prepares for the second verse, and within the space of just a few seconds, she's an entirely different person. The individual changes are subtle, but her transformation is complete. Her shoulders are straighter and farther back, she is carrying her head higher, there is a stronger bearing in her posture. She is confident and strong and, really, the Scully I know best. The woman has presence.
When she opens her mouth and begins to sing the second verse, I understand what Paolo meant by "full voice".
Holy Christ Almighty.
What emerges from her is deep and full and rich and mature, and impossibly strong. All that voice, all that huge, deep voice, pouring out of her little tiny body. I think she can't possibly keep it up - it must drain the very life out of her to spill so much sound out of her like that. But she keeps going, each phrase more strong and more sure, and filled with richness but also a brightness, a kind of clarity that keeps it from wallowing in throatiness.
Don't get hooty. That's what Paolo meant.
Again, there's something missing from her sound that would make it professional-caliber, but I'm not enough of an expert to be able to say what it is. It's really very pretty, and this new deep part of her voice is massive, but it's not entirely effortless or flawlessly lyrical. I think maybe you either have it or you don't.
But it doesn't really matter, because it's so much more sophisticated and competent and - yes - pretty than anything I've heard from her before, and combined with her poise, it's still stunning as hell.
Scully finishes the second verse with a kind of deep pensiveness, as she sings, "et te parler d'amour sous les poirers en fleur," and she fills it with such longing my heart breaks in earnest. She's so good at this, I have to wonder if this yearning is just stage craft, or if the lyrics represent something she really wants.
<and to speak to you of love beneath the flowering pear trees>
I can't bear to think about it because I'll never be able to ask. I slip away before the rousing applause abates.
* * * * *
THURSDAY - YESTERDAY
After two nights of recalling the beautiful torment of her voice, I began to wonder if my opinion of her vocal potential was valid.
Could she be doing this? Instead of donning kevlar and severe suits and look-me-in-the-eye-when-you-say-that-you-heinous-perp shoes, could she be standing in front of breathless crowds, interpreting the music of the masters the way it was intended?
Could she do this, instead of chasing my sorry ass across the country, wrenching me out of one crisis after another, endangering her own life again and again for no good reason? Could she be respected and famous and safe, instead of under-appreciated and shot at and abducted and infected and used as a pawn in someone else's endless game?
I can't give her these past seven years back; I can't give her back peace of mind about her health, or her sister, or her stolen ova which warmed and died in their vial before I could even leave that goddamn lab. But maybe I can give her this. If she has the potential to make it happen, I can free her, take back this horrible mission that used to be mine alone, and free her to do this.
I also have to admit that my need to know her intentions played a part in the decision I made on Wednesday, when I did the unthinkable: I went to see Paolo. He was actually very nice, and totally unsurprised to see me. And he *did* have a very expensive leather couch. I'm good.
"So that was you at the back of the hall last night?"
Wow, he's good too. "Um, yeah. I'd hoped I'd remained a little more stealthy..."
"It's okay. I don't think anybody else noticed. Singers are actually fairly notorious for being self-absorbed." He laughed engagingly. Okay, he's cool.
I smiled. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I have a few questions to ask you about what I heard last night. Is that okay?"
"Sure. Dana must be thrilled that you're taking such an active interest in all this."
"She doesn't know, Paolo, and please don't say a word to her. She's a very private person, and I feel bad enough about being here. I don't want to make a precarious situation any worse."
"Precarious?" He smiled. "I don't get that impression at all from Dana."
I REALLY wanted to go there, but there was too much else to accomplish. "I'm still trying to wrap my brain around what I heard last night," I told him, and he smiled. "The first time I heard her sing, it was, well, kind of painful. I don't understand how she moved from awful to astounding."
He laughed again. "Dana never learned how to hear pitches inside her head. Once she learned how, 'carrying a tune', as you'd call it, became easy. The prettiness of her instrument is entirely separate from her ability to hear the notes inside her head and repeat them aloud. And fortunately, the quality of her instrument was apparent. I mean, you *have* heard her speak..."
Scully's speaking voice is warmly melodic, with just enough rough airiness to suggest a smoldering sexuality. I've always loved listening to her speak. I've often found myself at the brink of a full-out erotic fantasy prompted merely by the silky tones of her voice.
"So what you're saying is it was only a matter of helping her find a way to use the voice she already had?"
"That's it exactly. You're a quick study." He smiled again. Nice guy. "Amazing, isn't she? I can't believe she got from there to here in just under two years. Especially with all that time off after being shot and the whole tundra situation." He shook his head sadly. "She's the only person I know who can get frostbite in June."
I tried to sound casual, as I recalled some of the most traumatic moments of my partnership with Scully. He obviously knew only the vaguest details of the incidents, yet he shared my concern for her. I attempted to deflect the sullen course of the conversation with an offhanded "Yeah, well, it's an interesting job."
"I bet. So you want to talk about her singing?"
"I do. I know your future financial security depends upon retaining your students, but I want you to be completely honest here. Does she have the potential to do this professionally?"
He looked at me, dumbfounded. "What are you suggesting?"
"I want to make her an offer of sorts, and I need to know if my assumptions are correct. Is she good enough - or could she be good enough - to have a successful career in music?"
"Mulder," he said, and I flinched. "Sorry, that's what she calls you. Uh, *Agent* Mulder?"
I relaxed. "Sorry. No, 'Mulder' is fine."
"Okay. Look, I've told her this more than once already. But when Dana makes up her mind about something...well, you probably know more about that than I do."
"She's a formidable woman," I confirmed.
"That she is. But she only began this as a means to an end, and that didn't include a career. It makes me sad to think of it. We haven't uncovered all of her levels, but I think she might have a chance at a career if she applies herself fully. She doesn't really have a star-quality voice, but I think that with serious study, she could make a decent living in smaller opera companies."
I made a mental note about the rest, but the first thing he said struck a chord. "A means to an end? What do you mean?" I asked him.
He floundered for a moment. "I think you'd better ask Dana. It was supposed to be a kind of a hush-hush project. Say, you never explained how you found out about all this."
"I'm a federal investigator, Paolo," I said, attempting to sift all the condescension out of my voice. I was relieved when I heard him laugh.
"Well, I'll keep your secret if you keep mine." He gave me a conspiratorial look.
I raised my eyebrows inquisitively, in essence asking him to elucidate.
"I made a tape of one of her lessons and sent it to the Artistic Director at the Banff Center, and she said she heard the same potential I did. She thought Dana could have a fairly decent career in a few years if she kept on it."
I breathed deeply and attempted to absorb what he'd told me. "She's that good?"
"It's more than just her voice, which is competent. It's also the market. There are nearly *no* mezzo-coloraturas available. The market is starving for them."
"What kind of work is there for her?"
"You mean aside from 'La Cenerentola'?"
"It's Rossini. 'Cinderella'. The quintessential role for her voice type. It's horribly difficult to perform, and requires genuine depth and strength, with dazzling runs and a bell-like high range. And with her build and looks, Dana was born to play it. She could make the rounds as Cinderella for ten years and *still* not hit any major opera houses. If she gets a good agent with connections, they could send out tapes and headshots, and within three months every AD at every second-tier house in the U.S. will add 'Cenerentola' to their schedules, just so they can have her."
"Sign that kid up."
He laughed. "Yeah. The 'local kid makes good' scenario."
I needed some time to sort through all of it. "Thanks, Paolo. I appreciate your candor. And I'll keep your secret if you keep mine."
He reached out his hand. "Deal." We shook on it.
As I turned to leave, Paolo called me back. "Mulder," he began nervously. I turned around and watched him squirm from the doorway. "Listen, I can tell how much you mean to her. She did all this for you. So be careful when you talk to her about it. She wanted to reveal this in her own time."
"I will," I told him, and left, contemplating her future, my future, and her reasons for starting on this path in the first place.
She did it for *me*? I still don't claim to understand what he meant by that.
So now I sit here at my desk in my darkened office in the Hoover Building, twelve long hours before Scully's expected to arrive, because I'm so excited I can't bear to spend another minute in my own home.
Sleep, schmeep. She might be able to have a career away from all this pain and death. And I can help her achieve it.
* * * * *
TODAY - FRIDAY
"Mulder, do you have the Gilpin case report finished?"
He ceases his humming and looks up at me. "Two days ago, Scully. Where have *you* been?"
Oh good Lord. Where the hell *have* I been?
I know where I've been, I've been listening to Mulder hum something he could have only heard by eavesdropping on one of my voice lessons. More specifically, my lesson from two weeks ago. I should have known he'd follow me, when he told me two weeks ago that Mom had called right after I left.
I can't believe I forgot to call Mom about the rescheduling. Mulder is too good an investigator to let an oversight that huge past him.
Now what? He hasn't said a word about it in two weeks. We've been in the field twice already since then, and there was no humming of any kind, at least not that I heard. I was, of course, busy humming myself, quietly practicing in my room using the few precious sheets of music I'd brought with me, hidden in an unmarked folder in my briefcase.
Maybe he overheard and doesn't realize he's doing it?
No, that's not possible. I didn't bring the Bizet with me. I brought the Delibes. So he didn't hear it that way.
He definitely followed me. He followed me to Paolo's studio and listened through the door. There's no other explanation.
How could he do this to me?
He's humming again. I wonder if he even realizes he's doing it. It doesn't matter. What matters is that he violated my privacy and followed me, hell *stalked* me over to Paolo's place.
I'm losing my patience. He's dwelling on that final phrase, it doesn't matter from which verse, because they both focus on the word =l'amour=. Bastard.
Stop it, Mulder. Stop it.
"Stop it!" I shout. He looks up at me, genuinely puzzled. "Enough. Either say what's on your mind, or shut the hell up already." That was clear.
"What are you talking about?" He seems genuinely puzzled. Perhaps he wasn't aware of what he was doing.
Irrelevant. "You were humming, Mulder. Something inflammatory."
His eyes open in what appears to be shock, and he mumbles something quietly, returning his attention to his work. Not good enough. Not nearly good enough.
"Louder, Mulder, so the whole class can hear."
"I'm sorry, Scully," he says penitently.
"For what?" I want to hear him say it. I want to hear him come right out and admit that he stalked me and eavesdropped on my private voice lesson without so much as a 'by your leave'. Out with it.
"You're going to be angry, but I want you to understand why I did what I did."
"First I want to hear what you did. I'll decide whether to be angry later." Take *that*.
"I find that unlikely, Scully. It's evident from the sound of your voice that you're already angry. And I understand why. But I want you to hear me out."
I raise one eyebrow and wait for the inevitable stream of assumption, self-castigation, and possibly even recrimination. We'll see.
"I would never - *never* - have done this if you hadn't lied about meeting your mother," he begins. All right, strike recrimination off the list. What's next? Assumption seems most likely.
"I was concerned that you were going into a dangerous situation alone," he continues, my instinct rewarded by his predictability, "so I followed you."
Suspicion confirmed. I am good. I am also very likely glowering at him. I'm furious, and I usually tend to glower at times like this.
"I know it was wrong, and when I realized why you were there, I left."
"Yes, I left."
"And you never went back?"
He hesitates. "Well, not to eavesdrop."
"You went to Paolo's studio a second time?"
"I went," he pauses, appearing to gather himself - oh, this could be bad - and continues, "to talk to Paolo after your," he winces, "master class."
And I promptly lose it. "My *master class*? You were *there*?"
"I know, it was absolutely the wrong thing to do, I know that, but I couldn't stay away. What I'd heard the week before, it was a revelation, Scully. I needed to hear more."
Oh, he's really laying it on thick. The bastard. "So exposure to a revelation gave you the right to violate my privacy? Twice?"
"Well, uh, three times, actually. I had that conversation with Paolo a couple of days ago."
"And what exactly did you need to discuss with my voice teacher?"
"I wanted to know if you had the potential to make a career out of it."
He's joking. I'm sure of it. He cannot possibly mean what I think he's implying. "And...?"
"He said you could get work if you stick with it. He sounds sincere, Scully. You could really do it. And I could help. I want to help. It's the very least I can do. I know that lessons are expensive."
"What are you suggesting?" I can't believe I'm an actual participant in this conversation.
"I could finance your lessons, and you could get a fresh start."
At what? "I did it for myself, Mulder, not to create a new life. I did it because I hated the way my voice sounded that night I sang for you, and I wanted to see if I could do better." I'd hoped to make that admission when the time was right. But now the confession is necessary, and instead of being a gift, it's a weapon. This makes me very angry. "I did this nice thing for you, Mulder, and you've thanked me by thoroughly disregarding who I am and what I want from my life."
"But you've lost so much working with me, Scully. Let me give you something back. Let me do this for you. You'd be successful, you'd be adored...and..."
"Yes...?" I know where this is going, but I need to hear it anyway.
"You'd be safe."
That was the straw. That was the one I knew would come. Mr. Caveman and his desperate genetic need to keep his woman safe, regardless of her credentials or professional experience.
I've stood on my own two feet and walked beside him, run beside him, stood face-to-face against some of the most horrifying things in human history beside him, and he has the *nerve*, the utter *gall*, to claim the Cro-Magnon need to protect me? I'm grateful to him for coming to my aid as often and as unfailingly as he has, but I've done the same for him. I've hauled his miserable ass out of more trauma than *any* partner should have to. It's not his responsibility to take care of me like some meek little stray kitten. I'm a trained, experienced professional. I'm as competent as he.
I am livid. "You arrogant son of a bitch." He looks genuinely stricken. Aw.
There is nothing to else to say. Picking up my case and jacket, I leave the office.
* * * * *
Well, that went well. I cradle my face in my hands as I slump over my desk in the wake of Scully's sudden, infuriated departure.
I don't think I could have played that any worse than I did. But I'll be frank, there was no way I could come out of this unscathed. I was wrong, and no apologies will make it better. I'm going to have to prove myself to her all over again. God, it could take years.
I'll start now.
I write her an e-mail message, and pour into it every thought, every reason, every stupid idea and every brainstorm that occurred to me between Paolo's door and now. I want her to know why I did it, and what I hope to gain from it. I want her to know how much she means to me, and what I'm willing to give up to ensure her happiness. I want her to understand the depth of my dedication to this.
When I've finished surveying the paragraphs of rambling, I shrug and hit "Send". It's all true. I hope she understands. And if she doesn't, at least she'll have the weekend to cool down.
Compulsively, I check my In-Box. The first of many times, I'm sure, in the next few hours.
* * * * *
I'm still fuming when I arrive at home. I strip and shower furiously, hoping to wash away the layers of dread and anger that cling to me, unrelenting.
Son of a bitch. One little "I'm sorry" and everything reverts to the status quo?
Oh, who the hell am I kidding? The status quo *is* equivocation, suppression of honesty, anything but bare truth when it has to do with our personal lives. Why else would I have undergone a two-year construction project - purely for his benefit - and told him nothing about it?
The water isn't nearly hot enough. I turn up the temperature.
Perfectionist that I am, enough was never enough. It was supposed to be enough when I learned to carry a tune. But I held off when Paolo said he felt I was capable of more.
So I continued to study, and when I developed a good solid head tone, managing to sing a single soprano piece well, it should have been enough.
But it wasn't. Because Paolo realized I had all kinds of untapped depth and richness in my voice, and that my natural range extended beyond what he'd thought initially. So I continued to wait. At that point, I honestly don't know why, but I kept working and stretching, becoming something I hardly recognized.
I still have difficulty with it. Despite the long hours of practicing in the shower and in the car and in my lessons, I still feel an incredible rush when I open my mouth, fill my lungs, and let loose with this new Diva voice. It doesn't feel like me. The size and quality of the sound still catches me off-guard, so much so that I often find it difficult to cease once I've begun. Very often I practice until exhaustion forces me to stop.
Even taking my heightened standards into consideration, I've been ready for a few months now, yet I still can't seem to bring myself to declare that it's time.
My plan has changed over the past two years. At first, I'd figured on an impromptu night out at Bobby's, where I would very carefully get 'loaded' on Midori Sours which I would fetch from the bar, so Mulder wouldn't know I was ordering mine virgin. When I was sufficiently 'hammered', I'd allow Mulder to 'convince' me to participate in a little Karaoke. He'd whine and complain about how awful I was going to sound, and I'd go along with it. Then I'd choose "Chain of Fools" or something else equally Motown Divalike, and promptly blow him away. I could already envision the expression of shock on his face. It was my goal.
Later on, when my singing took a serious turn toward the classical, I'd decided that I would invite him to a master class when I felt ready. So much for that, the bastard.
Some of the shampoo has dribbled into my eye and I wash it out, turning my face toward the stinging spray. My eye stings, my skin stings. The water is very hot. I turn up the temperature again.
I feel cheated. That's what's bothering me so much.
I had an opportunity to set this thing up precisely as I'd planned. I've spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours working on this project, and I'd had a very specific manner of revelation in mind. But with one careless slip-up, I granted him the opportunity to slide right on in and deny me my ultimate goal.
I had wanted it to be a gift to him, a gesture of affection. I wanted to open my mouth and weave a web of something personal around us - something separate from our work, our mission, our quest - and I wanted him to know it was for him alone. I wanted to watch his expression transform from pained expectation to shock to wonder. And maybe, if I was exceptionally fortunate and God smiled on me, into something deeper and more personally significant. Maybe into awe, or reverence, or love.
I wish I could have seen him there at the conservatory. I wish I could have watched his expression evolve. I know what I sang that night, and I know how I sounded, and it must have had a significant enough effect to compel Mulder to visit my voice teacher behind my back.
My skin is on fire. The water is too hot, but I don't move to change it. It will cool down soon enough.
Good God, he's becoming involved in this. He *wants* to be involved in this. But it's supposed to be over. I was supposed to have the grand ribbon-cutting, and then that was supposed to be it. But Mulder wants to take this farther, and I find myself furious with him for his presumption. He's trying to take over an operation upon which I embarked without thought of future development. He wants me to see it through to its natural conclusion.
Natural conclusion? I'm a medical doctor, a pathologist, a physicist. I'm a scientist and a Federal Agent. That's who I am and that's what I do, and I thought he respected that. Why must I suddenly transform myself to fit his view of how life *should* be?
The water is not cooling down. Neither am I.
I turn off the shower and wrapping myself in a large, fluffy bath sheet, tromp over to my computer to dash off a quick message to Mulder. I don't want to lose a single scrap of my righteous indignation. I am going to let him have it.
But there's a message from him. Damn him, pre-empting me at every turn.
Goddamn him. Tears stream down my heated cheeks. My anger has dissolved under the onslaught of emotion that is Hurricane Mulder. If he hadn't been so damned honest...
I understand now it's not a need to control me, but rather a genuine concern for my well-being that drove him to sneak around the way he has. I understand this, but his planning and plotting behind the scenes irritates me as much as my brother Bill's well-meaning stabs at Mulder. They both genuinely want what's best for me, I'm sure out of nothing less than love, but they both seem to think *they're* the ones to make the decision about how I am to achieve it.
And *that's* what is pissing me off right now.
I want to say that to him, but it'll be another war of words, and neither of us ever do very well with words. Oh, his confession was touching, and communicated his intentions and his feelings exceptionally well, but I don't trust myself with words when I need to tell him something. He always misunderstands. I need to do something simpler, more precise.
I have it.
I pull a sheet of music from my lesson bag, and a score for an operetta from my bookshelf. I scan a single page from each. I take a CD case from the shelf and scan in the rear cover, and using a little image-editing program, highlight a single song title there, as well as the titles of the two pages I scanned earlier. I send all three images to him, attached to a blank e-mail message.
My meaning is clear. No more fooling around here. Back to business.
* * * * *
Just about the time I give up on hearing from Scully, I compulsively check my e-mail and find a reply. It's blank. Oh, that does not bode well. But I can see from the little paper clip icon that there is a file attached. When I click on it, I find three files, all images. They're numbered S1, S2 and S3. I open the first, and it's a picture of a sheet of music. I open the second, and it's a sheet of music as well. The third is what looks like the rear cover of a CD. All three images have titles highlighted.
The first piece is in German, an art song by Mozart, so I fire up the language translator and feed in the one-word title: Warnung. Well, that wasn't much of a challenge. Change the U to and I and that's it: Warning. I'm getting a creepy feeling about this. The remaining two titles are in English: The first is a song by Kurt Weill, and the second is a cut from a Natalie Cole album. In order, the titles read:
I forward this message and my prior message as well to my home e-mail box and after tossing some miscellaneous files into my case, I pick up my jacket and race out the door. I have a few CDs of my own, and I intend to craft an artful reply.
Thank you God or whoever or whatever you are, for giving Scully the ability to rebound from just about everything with her dignity and dark humor intact.
I can't make it home fast enough. I've already chosen my first three song titles.
* * * * *
Mulder's reply comes after nearly an hour of waiting. I smile inwardly when I view the blank message with its five attached files - he's always been long-winded - named M1 through M5.
They are all scans of CD covers, with individual song titles highlighted, much the same way I did with that Natalie Cole album. Clever boy. In order, the titles read:
Okay, I can deal with the Blondie and the cut from "Grease", but Neil Diamond? He will have to pay.
I return the volley with another German art song, this one by Hugo Wolf. It's entitled "Bescheidene Liebe", which translates to "Modest Love", but it's the first line that interests me. I scan the first page and highlight the phrase, "Ich bin wie andere Madchen nicht". Take that, Mulder.
* * * * *
Only ten minutes later, my response arrives, in the form of another German song. Jeez, Scully, way to make me work for it. This one's by Wolf, but instead of using the title, she wants me to translate the first line. I indulge her, and the results are:
You can say that again.
Another apology is in order, followed by a declaration. And a promise. Back I go to the CD cabinet, to cull my next set of titles.
* * * * *
Mulder's next message is heartbreakingly sincere. He starts with Connie Francis, segues into a song by Peter Gabriel, and finishes nicely with another cut from "Grease". This one makes me giggle.
I can barely catch my breath I'm laughing so hard over the last song title. Not that Mulder's sentiment is laughable. Cheesy, yes, but not laughable. It's that I'm suddenly struck with the memory of going to see the movie "Grease" with my sister and brothers. Charlie was very young at the time, and he misheard John Travolta singing the first line. Instead of "I've got chills, they're multiplying," Charlie absolutely *swore* he heard the phrase, "I've got shoes, they're made of plywood." The ushers nearly threw us out of the theater for unruly behavior. Billy was not at all pleased. Poor Charlie was confused. And I don't remember seeing Missy any happier in her life than she was at that moment.
I read a book a couple of years go about misquoted song lyrics, and there it was: "I've got shoes, they're made of plywood." So Charlie wasn't the only one who'd misheard it so amusingly. I sent him a copy of the book for his thirtieth birthday.
Significantly more cheerful, I send back a teasing reply to Mulder. A Tina Turner song.
* * * * *
"What's Love Got to Do With It?" I holler aloud into the empty room. "Damn, woman!" Time for a serious declaration here. Carly Simon will do nicely.
* * * * *
Ooh, he's being territorial, I see.
Oh, I do, do I? Best follow up with some more of the divine Ms. Turner.
* * * * *
Okay, well at least she's giving me some hope here. She's giving me the chance to prove myself. I rise to the challenge, Dr. Scully and Miss Turner.
You bet your sweet pitootie I will. Bobby Harden, soul singer extraordinaire, will say it better than I can.
* * * * *
Who's Bobby Harden? Oh well, it doesn't matter. What matters is Mulder's promise:
He'd better. And I think it's time to end this banter and really get into the meat of it. I send two songs which I'm confident will constitute the final strokes of this match. I'll put the ball firmly into his court, and leave the rest up to him. He began it, he can damn well finish it. I scan one more art song, this one in Italian, and the rear cover of an LP. Ah, vinyl. Glad I kept them.
* * * * *
Two more images, and this time she has left no doubt as to her wishes.
The first song is another bit of classical music, a song called "Se Tu M'ami", which I feed into the translator. The second is an actual album cover - man, I miss vinyl - the soundtrack recording from "My Fair Lady". Jeez, Scully. Eclectic much?
How the hell did I get this lucky? What the hell did I do to deserve her? Why the hell is she giving me a chance after all the sneaky crap I've pulled over the last two weeks?
Who the hell cares? She's mine, and I'm the happiest I've ever been. The assembled message is a beacon. I'm floating.
I'm the luckiest bastard who ever lived.
* * * * *
There's a knock at my door. I've never been so simultaneously relieved and anxious in my life. Losing my virginity was nothing compared with the prospect of opening my door to the man who has just declared his love for me. Convincingly, if not conventionally.
He's such a complicated man, shrouded in enigmas of his own devising. He conceals his true feelings and needs behind a veneer of winky asides and lusty double entendres, all the while assuming his meanings are clear. I'll be lucky if I ever *really* know him. I think that's mostly what frightens me about these next few pivotal moments: Very shortly, I will be in the position to commit myself to a man I still can't predict.
That was a nifty bit of self-delusion, Dana. Of *course* you can predict him. What you *can't* do is control him. You can't make him bend to your will, and you can't compel him to behave normally, because he's not a normal man. I wouldn't know what to do with a normal man these days anyway. Empty chat over a glass of chardonnay at a gallery opening? It's so far removed from my life I can't even picture it clearly.
Doesn't matter. Mulder's at my door and, abnormal as he is, he's mine. No more fooling around. My life changes tonight.
I finally rise from my computer desk and move toward the door, preparing myself for the onslaught of a Mulder-style rant. I hope he plans to use small words, because I simply don't have the composure to both think and act simultaneously. I've done my thinking. Now it's time for acting.
I take a deep cleansing breath, and open the door. And smile.
He's standing there, casual in that yummy gray t-shirt and jeans, wrapped up in that delicious leather jacket, and I wonder if it was intentional. If he dressed that way because he knows how much I like to look at him in it. No, he's oblivious to my opinions of his appearance. I take into evidence the sheer number of times I've been compelled to utter the phrase, "just trust me," while handing him a tie of my own choosing.
He wore that t-shirt when he kissed me. And the time before that, when he tried. I think it's time for another kiss. A real one this time. And some honesty.
"That shirt intentional?"
"This old thing?" He smiles softly. "That sweater intentional?"
It's a soft little cream sweater I've taken to wearing to the office on occasion, paired with a sensible black skirt and heels. But over jeans, it's an entirely different garment. It transforms from elegant to indulgent. I've seen him watch me with increased intensity the few times I've chosen to wear it, so it's hardly a surprise that I chose to put it on after I issued my challenge to him, knowing he would come over.
I simply smile and mock him gently. "What, this old thing?"
He smiles softly, and sighs. "Still angry?"
"Yes." I am, but I say it tenderly.
"Can I come in?"
He removes his jacket, and settles himself on my sofa, looking up at me with trepidation. I should put him out of his misery. I don't actually want him to suffer.
"It's okay, Mulder. You don't have to apologize any more than you have. I understand why you did it, and I think I understand what you hope to gain from it. What I don't understand is why *I* did it."
"Scully?" Mulder looks confused, and that's a good thing. I am too. We might as well be there together.
"I'm sorry I overreacted. You were wrong for following me and invading my privacy, but I was wrong to insult you the way I did. I know your intentions were relatively harmless."
"That's me," he sighs, "Mr. Innocuous."
"Don't make this more difficult than it has to be, Mulder. You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry I put you through so much . I know you were trying to do something for yourself, and I was selfish about that. I'm genuinely sorry I did that to you. You deserve as much private space as you need."
I sit beside him, and shake my head vigorously for a moment, as if to settle the contents. "All this honesty is giving me a headache."
"Damn," Mulder mutters slyly, "and I was hopin' to get lucky tonight."
My turn to be sly, as I slowly slide toward him. "What's luck got to do with it?" He smiles, and his face lights up. He is beautiful.
"Scully," he murmurs, reaching for my hands, "I meant everything I said. You know that. If I had to boil it all down to just a few words, I'd tell you that you're my life." He chuckles at himself. "I guess I just did."
"Mulder," I whisper, but he swallows my remaining words with his lips.
His touch is gentle, his lips pressing innocently against mine, as they did only weeks ago. Last time he backed off, and I just stood there, stunned and off-balance. I should have leaned in and demanded more. I should have pulled him back down to me and kissed the life out of him then, but I didn't. It was New Year's Eve, and I honestly didn't know what he'd meant by it.
Was it a completion of that aborted kiss outside his door so long ago? There we stood, side by side again at a pivotal moment in our history. But the moment didn't build. I didn't reach for him - he reached for me, and kissed me before I knew what has happening. I was unprepared. And I didn't react well.
I won't make the same mistake twice.
Before he has a chance to back off or even breathe, I part my lips and sweep the tip of my tongue across his luscious lower lip. The effect is nearly instantaneous. He sighs deeply, sucks my upper lip firmly into his mouth, and wraps his arms around my shoulders, drawing my body to his more fully.
My last few reasonable thoughts flick their way across my rapidly-waning consciousness. I know we avoided this for a reason. This was inevitable, and I feel myself drawn toward a now-welcome conclusion which I am certain would never occur should I give it sufficient thought: I will awake to his warm body in the morning.
At the moment, it's more than just warm, it's frantic. If I could bear to tear myself away from his mouth, I would undoubtedly find knuckles white with strain clinging desperately to my shoulders, as Mulder makes love to my mouth. His tongue slips beneath my upper lip, tracing the little crease, teasing the sensitive skin he finds there, and I melt into him.
Goodbye rational thought. His intensity is gratifying beyond measure. No more thinking. I love this man, I want him, and I will have him. That's all I can manage to work out now.
* * * * *
She has slid her hands around my neck, and she is nearly tearing the skin from me in her attempt to keep me pressed against her. I'm not going anywhere. Not if being here feels this good. Her lips are soft, her tongue is creative, her hips are making little involuntary thrusts, and I can smell her arousal from all the way up here. When Dana Scully wants something, she is not a subtle creature.
I should reassure her. I pull back just slightly, braving the pain she inflicts with those perfectly-manicured fingernails. "Shh, shh, Scully, it's okay, I'm not going anywhere. Believe me, I want this as much as you do. I want you so much I can hardly breathe, but I think that's the problem. And combined with the bloodletting you appear to be committed to," I say, referring to those nails of her still embedded in my neck, "I could very well pass out. Let's take this a little more slowly. I don't want to rush and miss any of the good parts."
Scully purrs, "They're *all* good parts." She smiles a little guilty grin, and slinks her tongue back across my lips before settling in for another good long smooch. Oh yeah.
She's moved her little bottom closer to me, too, and is nearly sitting in my lap when...nope, too late, she's already sitting there. Quick little minx. Her hands have found their way up inside the back of my t-shirt, and she's dragging her fingertips up and down my back.
I discover, much to my extreme pleasure, that every time I run my nails across her shoulder blades while I'm kissing her, she grinds her hips down against my happily growing erection.
Her fingers are now creeping northward, snaking into my hair, drawing me even closer. I can barely breathe. Time out here. "Scully," I say, gulping for air, "there are plenty of places this can lead. I need to know what direction you want to move in."
"About fifteen feet down the hall and to the right would be a good start," she breathes into my ear, as she slips the lobe between her lips and nips at it. Goddamn. She's flicking at it with her tongue, exhaling through her nose *right* into my ear. This woman knows her stuff. The entire left side of my body is suddenly freezing cold. Oh, that's not cold. That's chills. The good kind.
Okay, it's been a while. I'll remember.
Meanwhile the sluggish, lagging cerebral processor I usually call a brain has finally completed the mental math necessary to figure out that fifteen feet and a right turn will lead to her bedroom.
Her bedroom. That's kind of a commitment, my lust-soaked brain considers. A commitment to the down 'n' dirty. The naked pretzel. Ess, ee, eks spells SEX, my friends, and this is just a little too fast. I want it all here - the entire enchilada - but she hasn't given me clue one about what her real intentions are. I need to know. Once I open the control gate I've kept locked for so long, I won't be able to close it again. She knows how I feel now, and once I have the freedom to touch her and make love to her, I'll never want to stop. I can't do this if there's even a remote chance she'll close off again and get regretful afterward, or worse, just blow it off as a cathartic stressfuck.
"Scully," I interrupt again, earning a raised eyebrow and a little squinty, appraising look from her. "Look," I try to reason with her, "I really want this." She's still squinting. "No, I mean I REALLY want this," I repeat, stressing the words with a quick upward thrust of my hips to illustrate my continued arousal, "but I think we need to talk about it first."
She pulls back from me with a little sigh, and slumps back against the couch. "Talk," she tells me. She doesn't sound pleased.
"Okay," I start, figuring I'll know what to say when it hits me. I guess she's in for a bit of a ramble. "All right. I know most men would just saddle up and worry about the length of the ride later on, but I can't do that. We both have so much invested in each other, I kind of need to work out in my head where this is going." She opens her mouth to respond, but I cut her off. "I don't mean geographically, Scully. Come on, this is serious. I need to know that we want the same thing. I've told you that you're my life, and I want to do whatever I can to make you happy. All you've told me so far is that you want me in your bed, and that you expect me to treat you well. See the difference in scale here?"
She looks at me blankly. "I've pretty much committed my life to you," I continue, "and you seem to be treating this as a simple sexual experience. I'm concerned that I'm going to want more from you than you can give, and I don't think I could live with that disparity, Scully. In fact I know I couldn't.
"I don't expect the world from you right away, but...well, actually, I guess I think I do. I don't care what the sex is like. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. The sex is just not an issue."
She takes a long look at the still-healthy erection trapped inside my jeans and raises her head, quirking one eyebrow in challenge.
"Yes, of course I'd still like some, pretty please," I'm really rambling now, "but it wouldn't matter if we *didn't* in the grand scheme of things. You know, the big picture. So I guess what I want to know is if this is some kind of audition, or..."
She cuts off my rambling with a gentle caress of her thumbs across my lips. "It's my fault," she tells me quietly. "I haven't done this very well. Mulder," she says, straightening her spine, for all appearances preparing for a formal lecture, "you could be a lousy lay and I'd still love you."
She loves me. Hallelujah! But I also make a mental note to do something about that whole 'lousy lay' issue eventually.
"I really do think it's time for the sex now," she says with a quiet smile, "but if you need to clear this up first, that's okay with me." Whew. "You know me well enough to understand that I don't undertake these things lightly. We've spent nearly seven years getting to know and trust each other, building a relationship based on experience, not instinct. This is *it*, Mulder. You and me and whatever lies ahead of us." She's smiling openly now.
"That's what I want, Scully. It doesn't have to be a minivan and a house in the suburbs and 2.4 dogs in the yard, as long as it's US, our life. Late nights and long weekends and hard, hard work. Bad takeout in crummy motels, and an occasional stolen night to play baseball or eat ice cream or dance at someone else's reunion. And *loads* of nookie whenever you want. All the time."
"There will be days I'll have much less energy than others," she responds, "but I won't give up, no matter how difficult things get. It's worth the effort." Her expression softens further, and she leans in to me, pressing a sweet, light kiss on my lips. She pulls back just a little, and looks me in the eyes, evaluating the effect of her little confession.
I get up from the couch and go to the front door and stop just short of it, to reach inside my jacket pocket for the pouch I put there in the insanely optimistic hope that it would finally come to some use. Until the Monday after New Year's it had sat in a safe deposit box at my bank for close to three years. But things changed at the dawning of the Year 2000, and I decided to take my chances again. It's been nestled safely under one loose floorboard in my living room since then, waiting for its chance to see the light.
I return to Scully, and sit down where I'd been only moments before, but now it feels new. And a little scary. But a good kind of scary.
"Scully," I tell her, smiling inwardly at the curiosity and trepidation flowing off her, "I have something I want to tell you and something I want to ask. They're both pretty important, so please let me just do this, okay?"
She nods tentatively.
"Okay." Man. This is harder than I thought. My mouth has gone dry and I suddenly can't seem to get enough oxygen into my lungs. I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and swallow. When I open my eyes, I feel better, clearer. "This is it for me, Scully. I mean, I don't know what's going to happen to us or the world. We're no closer to proving anything or stopping colonization than when we began. Sure, we know plenty more than we did, but we're still pretty much powerless to change anything.
"Spender and his lackeys are still out there, following orders and acting on plans, and there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it.
"What I'm trying to say is that we may have fifty years or fifty hours. There's no way to know. But I don't want to waste another day worrying about it. I still want to fight, but I'll only do it with you at my side. *This* is as much a part of us as our work is." She nods in assent. "There are plenty of reasons I kept my hands off you before, but one of them was that I was afraid that they'd try to use you against me if they knew how much you meant to me."
She snorts with ironic laughter at the thought. Yeah, I was naïve.
"Okay, so it's obvious they know how much you mean to me, based solely on the number of ways they've tried to hurt you. And I'm sick of it. If they're going to make us suffer because of our dedication to each other, we might as well at least enjoy the benefits of it. Let's stop hiding. Let's go public."
She smiles warmly. I'm not done. Not by a long shot.
"Let's get married, Scully. Let's..." She nods her assent in an effort to shut me up. It works. "Yes?"
"Yes." Just one word, but her eyes are telling me everything. She knew I was going to ask. She knows what's in the pouch. She's been waiting for us to reach this point. She knows it's the next logical step.
I lean forward, and she does the same, meeting my forehead with hers. For a while, we just sit there, breathing quietly against each other, content in the knowledge that from now on, everything is easier.
But I'm still not done.
"It's enough for now."
"No, there's more. I don't want you to find out some other way. I want you to hear it from me." No big deal; she won't be angry I never told her. Just breathe in and breathe out. Okay. "I've been married before."
What the fuck? "What?"
She rolls her eyes and then stares at me like I'm a three year old. "That's why they put the 'I' in FBI, Mulder." She knew?
"How long have you known?"
"Since the first day. I looked up your records. I wanted to know who Spooky Mulder really was."
I'm struck with a little pang of guilt when I realize she probably did her snooping because she was afraid of what effect Spooky Mulder would have on her career plans. But just as quickly as the guilt hits, I kick it aside. I'm too old for that self-castigation crap anymore. Scully chose her life, and now she's chosen me. I'm okay with this.
But damn, the little sneak tried her hand at profiling. I wonder how close her assumptions were to reality. "You never said anything."
"Neither did you." Touché.
"It was a long time ago, Scully."
"Yes, eleven years, I'm aware. And it didn't last long. You were in Violent Crimes at the time. I assumed that you'd been profiling much of the time and that it put too much of a strain on the marriage."
She's good. "That's pretty much it. Molly was sweet, but I married her for all the wrong reasons."
I'm glad she's already said 'yes', because this bit of my history is not exactly a screaming testimonial for my expertise at husbandhood, but I have to be honest. "I worked crazy hours, never came home, hardly called. I was a miserable bastard, and a lousy husband. And even when we did spend time together, we had almost nothing to talk about. We had the same taste in music and food, but nothing more substantial than that. We had nothing in common. But I thought I needed someone to take care of me, and she thought her destiny was to look after her man. It seemed to make some sort of sense at the time.
"She was a lovely young woman, but she gave too much and didn't expect enough in return. I'd come home, eventually, and she'd be there, smiling and happy to see me. She'd do the nurturing thing and I'd do the 'Honey, I'm home' thing, but there was no real exchange of ideas or opinions. No bantery pillow talk, no intellectual challenge. It was domestic, not cerebral, and it made me miserable. It was dysfunctional in the worst way.
"We both ended up unhappy. Five months in we both finally clued in and agreed it had been a mistake. The divorce went through about eight months after the wedding. Weird year. I met the boys right around then. They definitely helped me keep my mind on other things."
"Did you love her?" She doesn't sound threatened at all, merely curious.
"Of course I did. I wouldn't have married her otherwise. But I've learned a lot since then. Compared with *this*," I say, squeezing her hands with mine, "it was a high school crush."
She looks at me long and hard. "It's okay, Mulder. It was a different relationship with a different person. I'm sure now you'll make the same kind of husband as you do a partner."
"Oh, I was hoping you wouldn't go that route," I say with a healthy dose of concern.
She smiles. "Looks like you're going to have to behave yourself in both arenas if you're going to stay on my good side, Mister."
I should have known she would react this way. She's a reasonable person, endowed with impeccable logic, proven by her next question.
"So, is there something in that little pouch for me?" she asks slyly.
I start to finger the little silk drawstring as I contemplate how to give it to her.
"This ring means a lot to me, Scully..." I don't know how to say this right. Blue is the only color I can really see vividly. And when I look into her eyes, I see both this vivid shade of blue *and* all the truth she never verbalizes. Well, until now I guess. Everything she feels is visible in those blue, blue eyes. So in a way, everything that's good in my life lives in her eyes.
I had this ring made three years ago, when she was so sick I was afraid I'd lose her. I had a jeweler find a stone the exact shade of her eyes, so I could look into that stone and feel like she was with me. I was terrified I'd have to face the world alone, and I think I really believed this blue stone would give me the strength to go on without her.
I had debated with myself about whether to have it made into a ring or some other piece of jewelry, and decided on a woman's solitaire. I don't think I'd ever intended to give it to her. I just liked the idea that I'd have it, just in case.
When Scully's cancer went into remission, I quietly celebrated, and put the ring away for safekeeping. It just wasn't our time then.
The band is rounded platinum, set with a single stone, rich blue, about a carat and a half. I didn't stint.
"You might want to get this insured on Monday," I tell her, pulling the ring from the pouch. "It's kind of valuable." I take her hand and slip the ring on her finger. It's a bit of a struggle to get it over the knuckle, but once past, it slides into place. It looks beautiful on her.
"Oh, Mulder, it's stunning." Glad to have my opinion backed by a competent authority. "What kind of stone is it?"
"What kind of stone...?" Oh, I get it, the color. And it *is* kind of massive. "It's a diamond, Scully."
"A blue diamond? Mulder, it's huge. How the...?"
I laugh. "I wanted you to have it. It was important to me. It still is. Do you like it?"
"It's perfect, Mulder. Beautiful. But how could you afford...?"
"We can talk about the money later, Scully. It's really not important." It isn't. I'll tell her about the money later on, but right now I want to enjoy this moment, because it's all about her and me and nothing else in the world can intrude. The consortium, little gray colonists, all that money, my rotten family, none of it matters right now. I'm starting a new family right here. And even if it's only ever the two of us, it's enough for me.
I lean in toward her, and kiss her soundly. Her breath hitches for a moment, and she melts back into me. Oh, yeah. This is the moment. No misunderstandings, no fear, no interruptions. We're finally on the same page.
And this page reads, "He takes her into the bedroom and gnaws on every bit of her luscious little body." I stand up, and with one uncharacteristically elegant gesture, pick her up and carry her to the bedroom.
Oh, I know why it was effortless. She helped. Throwing her arms around my neck, swiveling a little on the couch, she made it easy for me to be all suave and dashing. What a partner.
By the time we've traversed the fifteen feet and made the necessary right turn, we're kissing again, so it's not a complete surprise when I bash my knee into the doorjamb. I bounce around the hallway for a moment, while Scully breaks the kiss and laughs one of those whole-body laughs that reminds you how great it is to be alive. She's thrown her head back, her free arm hangs limply at her side, and she's laughing so hard she unintentionally snorts. A little one, but it's definitely a snort.
"THAT was ladylike," I tease, maneuvering us through the doorway.
"Uh-huh," she chortles, "well, you'd better have better physical coordination if you're going to impress me, Bucko."
"I thought you said skill didn't matter."
"You're right," she says, slipping out of my arms and on to her bed, kneeling at the edge. "Don't worry, Mulder. I'll whip you into shape in no time. I have the feeling you're trainable."
"I live to serve." My smile muscles hurt already. "So, um," I mutter, fingering the neckline of her sweater, "you have any important singing to do tomorrow?"
"No," she tells me with a questioning quirk of an eyebrow, as she liberates me from my t-shirt.
"Good," I tell her, caressing her curves through that soft little sweater before lifting it gently over her head and tossing it to the floor. "So you could conceivably have a dozen screaming orgasms tonight and you wouldn't have to worry about your breathing or range or nuthin' tomorrow."
She smiles, caressing my bare chest and stomach. Mmmmm. "Nope," she replies, working intently on the buttons of my jeans. "But if I have a dozen screaming orgasms tonight," she replies sternly, "I'll probably have other worries. Like electrolyte depletion. Or clinical exhaustion. Or death."
"Don't worry," I quip back, unbuttoning and unzipping her jeans. "I brought Gatorade." Goddamn, this is fun. I take my time pulling her jeans slowly from her body, so I can run my hands along each beautiful bit of her silky legs as I reveal them. I like having permission to want her.
I wonder if having will be as good as wanting.
By the time we've lost ourselves in touching and kissing again, we're down to our skivvies. Mine are dark blue silk, and oddly, so are hers. Christ Almighty she looks incredible. Look at that narrow waist, those curvy hips. She's so fucking *womanly*. And damn, but her breasts are perfect: A small, fully-rounded handful, peeking voluptuously over the edges of the blue silk.
I made sure to give myself a nice close shave before I came, so I know my cheek is smooth when I nuzzle lightly between her beautiful breasts.
When I hear and feel her gasp, I look up into her eyes, and I'm stunned by the expression on her face. Her eyes are liquid with lust, her lips are full and parted. She's a living, panting, study of need. This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Why am I keeping this to myself?
"Jesus, Scully, you're fucking gorgeous."
Her perfect lips curve into an evil little smile. "Such eloquence, Mulder." She laughs. "And I've always been gorgeous," she sighs teasingly. "Good of you to notice."
"No, I mean you're always beautiful, but like this," I say, returning my lips to the divine cleft between her breasts and nuzzling some more, "dzzzrph trzzhphrmzzz ooph."
She giggles. "I beg your pardon?"
I remove my lips from her sweet skin, just enough so I can rub my cheek against the swell of her left breast and repeat, "Desire transforms you." Her fingers are combing through the hair on the back of my head, and her abdomen is fluttering with laughter. "That's good," I praise. "Right from the diaphragm." I can feel the ring on her hand, sliding warmly against my scalp. I like it there, so much better than under my floorboards or at the bank.
And I might be able to spend more time thinking about the amazing turn our lives have taken if she didn't just slide her hands down my spine and into the back of my boxers. Scully has her hands on my ass. Her little warm wonderful hands are on my ass. It feels...well, it feels incredible. She's taken possession of me, and she's not shy about it.
"Scully, if it's not too much trouble...?"
"What?" she asks.
"Could you keep that up for the next twenty years or so?"
There's an appreciable pause. "I hope we have more time than that."
I pull away just a few inches, so I can look into her eyes. "Me too."
Just like that, the searing hunger abates, and I suddenly feel the overwhelming need to hold her. I maneuver us into the Classic Movie Cuddle - with me on my back - and I hold her close against me. We're quiet for a while.
When she speaks, her voice is very soft. "That was one hell of a mood buster."
I chuckle and kiss the top of her head. "A doozy."
She sighs. "I'm sorry. It was such a good moment before..."
"It's okay," I tell her. "We'll have plenty of moments. If the worst that happens to us is the overwhelming need to cuddle at inopportune times, we'll have a good life."
She chuckles, and examines the hand that's resting on my chest. Her left hand. "So, do you want to tell me about this ring?"
"What do you mean?"
"You said it was important to you. I assume there's more to it than just appraised value."
I smile and hold her more tightly. "It's beyond price."
"How?" she asks.
I never really worked out how I'd tell her my reasons for having it made. "I rely on you, Scully, to remind me that I'm okay. Without you, I don't know how I would have managed. I thought it might help."
She is silent for a long time, and just when I think she's fallen asleep, she asks me, "You had this made when I was sick?"
Another pause. "It's my eye color."
"That it is."
She props herself up on her right elbow and looks at me. "Way back then?"
Is she kidding? I've loved her for years. "Way before then." It earns me a smile.
She settles back in, pressing her cheek against my chest. "Thank you."
I reach over and stroke the ring and the finger it adorns. "I call it 'The Eye of Scully'." She snickers. "You know, if you want to wear just a wedding band, I could have the jeweler find a matching stone and make them into earrings. 'The Eyes of Scully' sounds much more mythic."
I thought that would garner another laugh, but it doesn't. Instead, all she says is, in a hoarse whisper, "Wedding band." I nod. "How do you think Skinner's going to take it?"
"Too late to worry about that. He had his chance."
She slaps my chest playfully. "You know what I mean."
I sigh. "I don't know. But I don't intend to give in on either issue. They're not gonna separate us, personally or professionally."
She's been thinking about it already. "We could have a little private ceremony and just not tell anyone at the Bureau. By the time Skinner finds out, we'll have had the opportunity to prove our professional relationship is unaffected by the change in our personal one."
My sneaky, brilliant little minx. "Solve rates speak louder than words."
She snuggles in a little closer, slipping her left leg between my own. "Precisely."
I'm very interested, though, in just what she's planning. "Private ceremony?"
"Mm-hm. I was thinking a judge's chambers."
That surprises the hell out of me. "You don't want a priest?"
"You're not Catholic, Mulder. Besides, we've put so much of our lives into the pursuit of justice, it seems appropriate to leave the officiating of our marriage to a justice as well."
The words sound impossible to my ears. I say them aloud to make them real. "Our marriage."
"Married," she says, and she sounds like she's doing the same thing. She turns the ring around so only the plain platinum band shows. Jesus, a wedding ring. There's a wedding ring on Scully's hand.
I've lost the capacity to form coherent sentences. All I can come up with is, "Wow."
She's still staring at the ring. "Yup."
"When?" I ask her.
She looks up at me and I'm rewarded with a little smile. It's narrow but deep. I see it in those eyes. "Right away."
I smile. "I know a judge in Columbia, Maryland who owes me a favor. I'll call him and see if he can take us next Friday. That way we can have a little weekend honeymoon."
She snickers. "You have a justice of the peace in your pocket, Mulder?"
"No, a circuit court judge, but he can do it. And he's not in my pocket. I helped him out a few years ago, so I'm sure he'll agree."
"Good," she replies. "I'll call Mom. Who do you want on your end of things?"
I have to think about it. I don't really have a lot of friends, I have no family to speak of, and I usually tend to think of the Gunmen as one biological entity. "Honestly? I'd really like to have Arthur Dales there. I don't know if he can travel, though." He writes to me every couple of months, and his letters are a welcome change from the Circus of Disbelief I usually face with everyone else I know, even Scully. Also, he's become a big booster of my relationship with Scully, and I think he'd like to be there. I'll call him in the morning.
"I think that's a wonderful idea," she tells me.
There's something I need to know. "Can I ask you something else?"
"Why right away? You afraid we'll lose our nerve if we wait?"
"You don't want to lose any more time?"
"Well, no I don't, but that's not really the reason."
I smile. "You wanna gimme a hint?"
With a soft warm voice, Scully recites, "'Et te parler d'amour sous les poiriers en fleur.'"
She did mean it. Her expression of longing wasn't all artifice; it was real. It's the ending of that beautiful Bizet piece she sang at the Master Class, and it's only now that I really understand she did do it for me. The timing...
I roll her over on to her back, and lean over her possessively. I see love and acceptance in her beautiful blue eyes, and I'm relieved to know - without question or reservation - that she wants this as much as I do. I kiss her softly and murmur, "The pear trees are still in bloom?"
"Then speak to me."
Notes: Okay, this is sort of songfic. I guess you could call it, um, 'singfic'? The title is translated from Delibes' opera "Lakme", from which I borrow heavily. Many thanks also to (in no particular order) Bizet, Donaudy, Patsy Cline, Peter Gabriel, Hugo Wolf, Neil Diamond (I'm REALLY sorry about that one, but it was necessary), "Grease", Rossini, Nat "King" and Natalie Cole, Kurt Weill, Bobby Harden, A. Scarlatti, Lerner & Lowe, Blondie, Mozart, and Connie Francis. Whew.
And of course my faithful team of Alaskan Malamutes who dragged me through the Iditarod of writing: M. Sebasky, SEP for the nitpicks despite conceptional disagreement, Empress Galia and her thumb of fate, Sabine, Narida Law, Chriswife, Lysandra, Leslie, Punk, and Madgeleine. And Lysandra part two, new and improved, with Machete!
Dedicated to the dismal music department at Northwestern University, the Golden Compost Heap of Classical Voice Training. Can we all say "Miserable Thieving Bastards"?