They’re having lunch in a bar on the way back from a visit to a local hospital where a couple of doctors wanted Scully’s professional opinion on an atypical presentation of some disease or another. The place is popular and there weren’t any tables, so they’re sitting at the bar. Scully has a soda water with a lime to make it look like they’re legitimate, although Mulder supposes his iced tea could be something stronger. He’s preparing to wax rhapsodic about his current theory on the connection between the inoculations that rendered the corpses in the boxcar unrecognizable and the government conspiracy that exploits scientific progress when Scully looks up from her salad and says, “Fuck” quietly but clearly.
“What?” Mulder asks.
She leans toward him, murmuring into his ear, her hand on his thigh to steady herself. “Don’t turn around, but the people who just walked in - I used to date one of them.”
“Okay,” he says.
Her hair brushes his cheek. “We were already growing apart when I got abducted,” she whispers. “And then afterwards, I just never called him.”
“That’s rough,” Mulder says.
She glances over. “He’s coming this way. And he’s with someone.”
“Dana?” a man says brightly, and Mulder turns to see a perfectly ordinary looking white guy in his mid-30s. He might as well have “Suburban” printed on the name badge clipped to his polo shirt. “Wow.”
“Hello, Ethan,” she says, and Mulder can see her smile is pained. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah,” he says. “I heard you got…I heard you were away for a while.”
“I was,” she says. “But I’m okay now.” Her hand trembles a little where it’s still on Mulder’s thigh. He puts his hand over hers.
“Where are my manners,” Ethan says. “This is Jenny.” He reaches back to put his arm around the brunette that’s with him. She’s wearing a sweater set and Mary Kay pink lipstick. Her hair curls around her face. When she smiles, Mulder sees white picket fences.
“Hi,” Jenny says, drawing out the word a little. “It’s nice to meet you, Dana. Ethan said when we met you were the one who got away. I guess I’ve got to thank you for leaving such a good man behind.” She puts her fingers possessively on Ethan’s chest. There’s an engagement ring on her finger. Scully’s eyes flicker to it.
Ethan chuckles. “You know, I was going to give that you,” he says to Scully, “but I don’t think it’s actually your style at all. But it looks perfect on Jenny. Even my grandmother said so, and it was her ring.” He grins down at her.
“It’s lovely,” Scully says with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. “Congratulations.”
“Congratulations,” Mulder drawls. He sticks out his hand, the one that isn’t pressed over Scully’s. “Fox Mulder. I guess I’m the one who caught the one that got away.”
“Oh, wow,” Ethan says. “She doesn’t work too much for you?”
“I really admire her dedication to her career, actually,” Mulder says, looking down at Scully and giving her the smile he used to use in the pubs at university, the one that made even Phoebe smirk back. Scully’s used to him, but her cheeks get pink. He tucks a lock of hair behind her ear with one finger. “She’s going to be running the FBI one day.”
“That’s great,” Ethan says. “How’d you two meet?”
“I’m a profiler,” Mulder says easily.
“He explains their lives and I explain their deaths,” Scully says, rebounding. She leans into him a little. “And he’s absolutely brilliant.”
“That’s so nice,” Jenny says. “Oh, you two will have to come out with us sometime. Double date. What do you say, honey?” She pats Ethan’s chest.
“Definitely,” Ethan says.
Mulder reaches into his pocket. “Here’s my card,” he says. “Just give us a call. We’d love to have dinner.”
“We’d love it,” Scully echoes.
“Perfect,” Jenny says. “Well, we’ll leave you to it. Can’t spend too long away from the office - who knows what the interns will get up to?” She laughs.
“Enjoy your lunch,” Mulder says. “And give us a call. We’ll make it happen.”
“Can’t wait,” Scully says smoothly. She’s still blushing a little and leaning into the shelter of his body. Her fingers tighten slightly on his thigh as Ethan and Jenny walk away and then release. He lets her hand slip out from under his.
“You’re my boyfriend now?” she murmurs.
He leans down, mimicking her earlier pose, his lips just barely brushing her cheek as she eases closer. “It seemed expedient,” he says. “And after that engagement ring fiasco, I couldn’t leave you to fend for yourself.”
“Throwing yourself bodily in front of an engagement ring isn’t as impressive as a bullet,” she says.
“Still goes through the heart,” he says. “But we can always break up before our dinner date, if you’d prefer.”
“I have to honor your sacrifice, don’t I?” she says. She kisses him on the cheek. “Thank you, Mulder.”
“You’re welcome,” he says.