He shrugged as he hung up his coat. "Sort of. Nothing going on but paperwork right now. Not really my forte, you know."
She smiled. "Yes, I know." She came out of the kitchen and took his hand, reached up to kiss him.
His stance changed and he relaxed, leaning on her a bit for support. She slipped her arms around his waist briefly.
"I made us some dinner."
"I can smell it. Steak. What's the occasion?"
Any other man in the world wouldn't have noticed her gaze shift, her jaw muscles clench ever so slightly.
Any other man but Fox Mulder wouldn't have registered these things.
"We can talk about it over dinner. It's almost ready, so why don't you freshen up?"
It wasn't the right thing to say. They'd known each other so long, and been together so long, that they'd rarely needed to have "talks." Fox sensed that this was a "talk", she saw it in his eyes. He wasn't looking forward to it, and Diana knew that.
This conversation had been coming for awhile.
Diana set the table. She put out a tablecloth, the good napkins, the silverware her mother had gotten her as a housewarming present and that Diana kept for "company." Fox wasn't company, he was practically family. But it wasn't until she put out the candlesticks that she realized she was
He was going to be angry, she knew that. He wouldn't ask questions, but he might yell. He would sulk. And she would feel guilty, she would feel *responsible*.
But she wouldn't give in.
Fox came out of the bedroom and sat down at his usual place across from her at the table. She'd put the steaks on the plates, left the potatoes and salad in bowls (with the pretty serving spoons, of course). He took all this in, and the look on his face told Diana that he knew more than he was going to let on.
They ate in silence, the clinking of that fine silverware the only noise in the room. Diana itched to put on some music, make small talk, anything to avoid telling him her news.
He saved her the trouble of starting.
"The letter came."
Not a question.
She put her napkin over her half-eaten food and sat back in her chair.
"Did you get it?" He was going to make her tell him. Make her feel guilty.
Fine. "Yes. The Berlin assignment."
Fox took a swig of his beer, his demeanor screaming his desire to be manly and not care.
The way his lips were pursed gave him away. He was never good at hiding how he felt.
"Are you going to take it?"
Diana stood up and went to the kitchen, taking their plates with her.
"Yes, of course I am. Fox, we've had this discussion. I can't do
the kind of work that needs to be done from an office in the Hoover
building; I need to be out there! Foreign terrorism...."
"Is not nearly as prevalent as domestic! Diana, there are enemies to fight right here in D.C., and you don't have to go far to find them!" He followed her into the kitchen, taking the plates from her and dropping them into the sink so hard that Diana was afraid they'd broken.
She didn't bother looking. He would take any opening he could get to say more, and she needed to win this argument.
"Fox, you know I am overqualified here. There is work to be done that few people can do, and I'm one of them. Your job is here, and mine is not. We knew we'd have to cross that bridge one day. I have to go."
He looked haggard, more tired than when he'd come in. Diana wanted to reach out and touch his face, kiss his hands. She wanted to just be
together, because she wouldn't be here forever. She had to leave, and it would be soon. Fox had backed up, though, out of the kitchen and away from her. He stood in the living room with his back to her.
"What if I told you something, Diana? What if I knew of something that
you needed to stay for? Work that needs to be done?"
"What are you talking about?"
He turned around. His eyes were wild, his face a shiny, panicked glow.
She knew immediately. "You found it."
The X-files. There had been rumors back when they were at the Academy of entire casefiles that had been shoved into a sort of dead letters department at the Bureau. Crazy stuff - telekinesis, stigmata, alien abductions. As long as she'd known him, Fox had wanted to find these files and open the cases, solve the mysteries within. It had been something of a joke with them. The FBI kept them busy, Fox with violent
crimes and profiling, Diana with domestic terrorism investigations. But one day, Fox was on a case that went awry. He was hospitalized briefly after being exposed to a halluconogenic gas, and had come away obsessed with alien abduction.
With his sister's disappearance.
Diana believed his stories, though they got increasingly farfetched as his hypnotic therapy revealed the horrible truth about that night in 1973.
Fox thought the answers to his questions about that night would be found in the fabled X-files.
And he was telling her that now they had a chance to find out.
She sat down hard on the couch and looked up at Fox. He nodded again and sat down beside her.
"This isn't a ploy to keep me here?"
He shook his head.
"You really found them?"
"In the basement. On the opposite side of the building from Behavorial Science. Reggie had me doing Crawford's dirty work today, and I went snooping around. I don't think Crawford even knew the office was back there, it's just a storage room full of boxes. But they're all marked, Diana. X-files."
Diana knew what he was going to say next, so she said it for him.
"You want me to stay and help, don't you? You want me to be the one who goes to Blevins and gets this project for you." She sounded put-upon and hated the note of sarcasm that crept into her voice.
"Not just you, Diana. I plan to go to Senator Matheson, get some congressional backing. I might need it."
"Yes, even the fair-haired heroes of the Bureau need help." She looked at him and her resolve began to crumble as his eyes begged her to give him a chance.
"This is serious, Diana. I need you on this. You can't go to Berlin, not now, not when everything is just starting to happen."
She put her hand on his cheek and he closed his eyes. They stood in their tiny kitchen, the world outside intruding with the occasional slammed door or ambulance siren.
She thought about the look on his face the night he'd told her about Samantha. About the way his mother would never talk about the past, how his father drank. The key to everything may be in the X-files, Fox had been saying so for a long time.
He was right, she couldn't go.
She thought of all the practical reasons to go to Berlin. She'd already been told that this was the surest path to advancement for her, and she wanted that. She didn't want to be a bullpen go-fer forever, cataloging the many uses of horse manure and tracking dirt farmers in Iowa. She wanted to make a difference.
But she was also in love. Fox Mulder was idealistic, driven, and committed to the truth. He had the same suspicions that she did, that there were secrets that most people weren't even aware existed to be hidden in the first place. And they complemented each other; where he was headstrong and volatile, she was diplomatic and cool-headed.
He would pursue this with or without her. But with her, he might have a shot at succeeding.
The letter explaining that she'd been accepted to a special program that trained agents in foreign field work lay on the coffee table. She had to respond with her decision to accept by tomorrow.
She reached over and tore the letter in half.
Fox's eyes lit up and Diana was reminded of a kid on Christmas morning, getting the BB gun he was so sure he wouldn't ever see. He took both of her hands and leaned over to kiss her, erasing all thoughts of cute kids and replacing them with much racier fare.
"Really?" he said, coming up for breath.
She laughed. "Yes, really." The next kiss lasted much longer.
They never did get around to dessert.