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Of Bets and Beers

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The hug changed everything. Rather, it was all the events that preceded the hug. Emotions swirled and mixed; all the doubts and fears were scraped away along with all the barriers that previously seemed important. When faced with the real possibility of not seeing Mulder again, of thinking he might be dead for real this time, or worse, trapped in some horrible Russian prison camp having god knows what done to him, Scully just didn't bother to try and raise that last wall she'd kept standing so firmly between them since day one.

They didn't shared anything beyond a hug and a look, not with an entire senate subcommittee looking on, and not with god knows how many of their enemies and detractors seated throughout the gallery. And there wasn't a lot of time afterwards, with the scramble to track down the package, the allegedly alien rock containing the black oil virus.

Nor was Scully convinced that there weren't eyes on them after they left that room that was supposed to house senators seeking truth, but the committee was really a very poorly disguised witch hunt. Eyes belonging to people who would use just about anything to discredit them either professionally or personally. Use whatever came to hand to destroy what credibility they still had amongst their peers and superiors.

The FBI was such a male-dominated workplace, and her specialty even more so, that being taken seriously as a pathologist and a field agent was hard enough. Few people knew that she'd slept with Jack, and even fewer knew about Daniel, but enough did that she swore to never, ever again start that type of relationship with another colleague.

Neither relationship had ended well and Scully was leery of entering into any type of friendship with Mulder, let alone a romantic entanglement when she was first partnered with him, but now...

“Did you know that there are forms for illegally entering a foreign nation as a law enforcement officer without declaring yourself?” Mulder asks, peering at her through his glasses as he leafs through a stack of papers on his desk.

“I would think the illegality of entering the country would supersede the fact that you were a law enforcement officer who was in no way there as a sanctioned agent of the United States,” Scully says with as much gravitas as she can manage. But her lips aren't paying attention to her tone, and she ends up smiling at him as she continues to fill out her own report justifying the expense of using a civilian helicopter.

She might have her own special forms about threatening said civilian, but she's not going to bring them to Mulder's attention. He doesn't really need to know the details of what she does, at times, to watch his back. It'll either encourage him or hobble him and both could end up being deadly.

“Well, it turns out I will need to fill these out in triplicate and then defend my actions to a committee of my peers and superiors.”

“Put 'unknown experimentation and unwilling participant' as part of your explanation. In conjunction with 'black oil' and I bet you a beer you won't hear another word about it.”

“I think you underestimate the desire of those who want to discredit me.” Mulder tilts his chair back at a frankly alarming angle, but as he's yet to crash to the floor in her presence, Scully has long ago stopped worrying that he will. Instead, she uses the time to let her eyes run over his long legs, taking in the way his thighs flex under the material of his trousers as he rocks back and forth.

At some point, Mulder rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, and the lightly tanned sinewy stretch of his forearms contrasts beautifully with the somewhat wrinkled, stark white of his dress shirt.

Habit has her flitting her eyes up to his face to see if he's paying attention to her perusal. He's not, because he's staring at her very intently. Startled, Scully looks down, but after a quick check that everything is in order, she has no idea what has caught his attention.

It takes her a second, and a more thorough evaluation, to figure out what he's staring at, now slightly slack-jawed. From the new angle canting back in his chair, he can see down her blouse. It's nothing blatant, nothing he hasn't seen before, just the edge of the right cup of her bra peeking between where the buttons gap on her blouse. Only, today she's wearing the red bra, the one that's comfortable, but for the rough edge of black lace that frame the cups. It's not a bra she usually wears to work, but between raids, congressional hearings, jail time, and tracking down and saving Mulder, she hasn't had time to do laundry.

Normally, she would ignore the look, pretend that he wasn't staring at her in a sexual way. Hell, normally he wouldn't be, or if he does, she's very rarely caught him, and never in their office.

But lines have been crossed, walls are in ruin, and a whole host of other metaphors that mean things are changing, growing well beyond their original boundaries, and neither of them are trying to stop said changes.

Instead, she shifts ever so subtly so that Mulder can get a good look – not that there's a 'good look' to give, per se, but there's a bit more he can see – and waits, eyes on his face, until after several long moments she can see him forcibly make himself stop looking.

It's then that he realizes that she's stopped writing and his eyes dart up to hers; his chair wobbles back to a near-overbalance, before crashing down frontward with enough force to rock Mulder forward, his palms slapping on the edge of his desk to prevent his torso from slamming into it.

The tips of his ears turn red and his eyes dart across the papers on his desk, flicking up to hers every couple of seconds before skittering away.

A slow smile tilts the corners of her lips and Scully returns to filling out the forms on her desk.

After a long time so does Mulder.

“Bet you a beer I still have to justify my actions to a subcommittee,” he says, when the energy between them has dropped from a roaring fire to crackling sparks.

Scully just raises her eyebrow and continues filling out the form.