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A Break in Security

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So they ended up at a bar.

This was strange. It was Scully's idea. No open flight to DC till morning, she had tried to rope him into dinner. But Mulder had a policy about dinner and women, even a woman like Scully, who cut open the bodies and was really a solid career help. It was too social. There had been a roar of resentment after a broken lunch date with a brunette in Organized Crime. Mulder didn't need sex that bad.

But he had a confusion headache, so when she suggested a beer, he thought “what the hell.” Although he didn't drink.

Except when he did. Come to think of it, sex was kind of like that.

It was a respectable bar, or tavern. Cool Dr. Scully had a no-dive vibe. There were real wood booths and an unnecessary, he thought, amount of greenery.

It occurred to him that the betrayal of the elusive Deep Throat and their office tug of wills had her worried. Or maybe she just wanted some kind of instability chat she could take to her dark masters. She was cute, but she might be a cute spy. Mulder trusted no one. He said it often, sometimes just to himself.

Maybe Frohike was a spy. Well, he was, but he was Mulder's spy. Mulder had the Gunmen in a mental file marked “Useable.”

Damn it, she was talking while he was thinking.

“So you didn't see an alien.”

“He said it was dead. He said he'd killed them and it bothers him.”

“It bothers me if he's telling the truth. Also if he's not.” Scully sipped her drink, making the rocks chingle. “Plus this edgy little adventure is not going to help us, getting apprehended in a classified area.”

“He'll protect us.”

“Now you trust him?”

“I don't think he'd do anything to draw attention to the incident. We're not allowed to talk to each other, even to know each other. He's highly placed, but he's still vulnerable.”

Scully had ordered Irish whiskey. How not? Still, she looked a little under-aged. She didn't look old enough to carry a gun or do any FBI stuff, but she overcompensated. That had been to his advantage. Mulder was trying to nurse his dad's brand of Scotch and being roughly as unsuccessful as Dad had been.

“Who would he report to? Why would he be killed?”

“I don't know, I don't know anything. Except the likelihood of alien visitation. It's a big secret. Forget about it. It's safest for you not to get involved. I wouldn't want you to get hurt.”

“What's that supposed to mean? If we take on the risky business your contacts trick you into, either one of us might be hurt. That's the ground rule of being an agent, but you seem willing to take it to the next level. And I'm your partner.”

“Yeah, my partner. You've read, I presume, the small print on that assignment.”

“Mulder, I am not trying to sabotage your projects. I'm playing this straight, although I would prefer not to be called in for malfeasance.”

There was a tense pause. God, he hoped she wasn't a spy.

“In any case, I didn't actually see anything. So there's nothing to report.”

“What a shame. The guys who sent you to the basement would enjoy a Mulder is cracking up story. And it would be fun for the local cops if it got leaked.” He remembered now why he didn't drink. It had a tendency to make him snotty. He was snotty enough sober.

Scully looked put out. She stared intently at the rocks. Were he being precise, he'd describe her look as stricken morphing instantaneously to rancorous.

“Hey, Mulder. The partner thing. You go down, I go down. You want to play with your paranoia, you know where you can go. That place where they tape phone conversations.”

Mulder was sorry. His urge to tantrum dissipated. He remembered that Scully had spotted the fake photograph and located the trail of the truck. And that she had said she trusted him. Who else trusted him? Three badly socialized weirdos, one of whom was decently groomed. It was possible that he was untrustworthy.

And it was nice having a woman of his own in his basement, a thought he wouldn't need to apologize for since it was just a thought, and his partner was definitely no psychic.

“We work pretty well together, Scully. That was neat how we foxed our watchers. Checking out the magazines and that.” Making nice was hard. “I don't really think you send secret notes on me upstairs. It's just a psycho nervous tick.”

“Don't use the word psycho. You're a perfectly normal neurotic.” She was still staring at her drink.

“Fine. Am I allowed to say you're a good shot for a woman?”

She raised her eyes sternly to his. “No.”

“Can I say you're a better shot than I am?”

“As often as you like. And I do the paperwork.”

“That too. Jerry never did. Slob.” A beat. “So, want to get a burger?”

“Not if it involves French fries.”

Mulder felt momentarily uncomfortable, as though a deep-seated safeguard had weakened. But Scully had a small smile.

They compromised on Italian without wine.