The only entertaining thing about having to be here, Mulder mused, was that everyone else was loathing it as much as he was. He chewed meditatively on a canapé. At least it was a good spread. Not that many people were paying attention to the food. An astonishing amount of the wine had already vanished, and he'd seen no fewer than ten pocket-flasks deployed, with varying degrees of discretion. This was a really, really bad party.
Out of the beige and navy gloom, he saw a flame-colored flicker, accompanied by the muted tap of high heels on carpet. He stretched his hand down automatically as Scully came up beside him, resting his palm in its accustomed place on her back. His Scully, his saving grace, and the only lovely thing in this entire stuffy room.
Samantha, long-lost and now returned, stood ostensibly studying a copy of a Thomas Cole landscape, but with her back pointedly to the rest of the room. Mulder assumed the snub was deliberate; he couldn't imagine she would actually find the painting riveting enough to stare at for a whole hour, otherwise.
She might have had better luck with the window, except Teena had already claimed it. Mulder wasn't sure whether she was actually seeing it, though, what with the glazed drift of her eyes from one corner to the other, and the regular glint of silver as she brandished her monogrammed flask. Mulder would have placed a bet on how long it took her to actually pass out, except the only one here worth betting with was Scully. Not that he objected to betting with Scully -- okay, fine, he objected to betting with Scully because he objected to losing, because his Scully fought dirty. He glanced again at his mother. At least she was still upright, and not yet swaying from side to side.
Both Teena and Samantha were doing their best to pointedly ignore what was shaping up to be an epic staring contest between Bill Mulder and C.G.B. Spender. Bill was clearly under orders to not cause a scene. He made up for it by sitting ramrod-straight on the puffy beige sofa, head lowered, glowering at Spender. The elder Spender, for his part, sat at ease in his wheelchair, with his son Jeffrey hovering in nervous attendance. He puffed nonchalantly on a cigarette in flagrant violation of the discreet brass no-smoking sign. Spender gazed placidly back at Bill as the smoke curled up around him, occasionally tapping his ashes on one of the little china hors d'œuvre plates.
Jeffrey Spender was the first to crack. "So, how about the Hoyas, huh?" he said, a little too brightly. Bill's glare at the cigarette smoking man deepened. The elder Spender sat unmoved, not so much as glancing at his son.
He tried again. "Nice, uh, weather we're having?" he offered. "Very, uh..." He glanced out the window. Mulder and Scully followed his gaze. One bedraggled robin sat hunched on a cherry branch, drops of rain rolling down its back and dripping off its tail, splatting on the verdant baneberry bush below. "Very ... moist."