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Unimpressed If It Kills Me

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There are two things a good driving song has to have: attitude--particularly in the lyrics--and a strong, driving rhythm that makes you want to press the accelerator all the way to the floor.

I still remember John's reaction the first time I told him that: "Are you sure that's such a good idea for you, Mon?" he laughed.

Okay, so I like to drive and I like to drive fast, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me. But what does tend to surprise people is some of the songs on the "driving tape" I'm never without in my own car. Some of them, like Meredith Brooks' "Bitch," "Holding Out for a Hero," Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" or Sting's "Desert Rose" (a particular favorite) are relatively self-explanatory. Others--Chely Wright's "Shut Up and Drive," for example--can require some telling. That one breaks both my rules even if it is *about* driving, but I can't count the number of times I've needed to hear it after an encounter with Brad:


Don't look in the mirror
He might have that look in his eyes
The one that's so strong
It strangles your will to survive
He's mastered the art
Of looking sincere
His eyes have a way
Of making you stay
Don't look in the mirror.

Sigh.

I know. It probably seems like Country music and I ought to mix about as well as oil and water, but as I've said about other things, I try to stay open. Besides, you can't live in the South as long as I have and not be influenced by it, unless you're living under a rock. And ever since John introduced me to Garth Brooks two years ago, I've discovered more and more that Country songs have a knack for saying just what I'm feeling.

That's something else that makes for a good driving song: a good driving song gets me thinking about my life.

The song playing right now is a good example: Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much." Not only is Ms. Twain the voice of the sexy, sassy single woman, but if someone were ever to sit down and deliberately pen a song about the men in my life, they couldn't do much better than she did by accident.

Take Fox Mulder. I barely got a chance to learn to recognize the sound of his voice before he was gone again. But while he was here...I have never felt so stimulated, so challenged intellectually, as I did matching wits with that man. Like the song says, he really did have "being right down to an art," but I'll never forget the look in his eyes when I called him on it. I'll swear he was flirting.

I only wish I'd gotten the chance to know him much, much sooner.

Okay, so I'm not the cool, unimpressed heroine of the song, but I'm damned well trying to be. Because it's not just Mulder's absence that puts him out of my reach, it's Dana Scully. I haven't had many female friends in the Bureau and from what little I know, she's had fewer. I'm not about to jeopardize that, no matter how much this man intrigues me. Not so long as her eyes darken over at the mere mention of his name.

Maybe in some other universe I have a chance--hopefully not the one where I had to be buried without my tongue--but in this one Fox Mulder is strictly off-limits.

Which brings me to the next verse. If there was ever a man who "carried a mirror in his pocket/and a comb up his sleeve just in case," it's Bradford Follmer. Of course I knew this even back when I got involved with him the first time--though he has his moments, Brad's first love always has been and always will be Brad. Problem is, with those dashing good looks and that boyish charm, he's still a damned hard man to say no to.

Particularly when he smiles.

So, once again I fail miserably at being unimpressed.

Then there's John, the third verse. John Doggett definitely has a car--a big manly-man truck that he treats like his baby--but it's not the car that owns his heart. Again, it's Dana Scully. If Mulder is Dana's weakness, Dana is definitely John's. It's around her, not his Silverado, that I'm expected to "take off my shoes" and tread lightly. And the least step over the line he's drawn makes him strike like a rattlesnake.

John's always been a protective man, but I never saw him like this before. I never saw him in love; by the time we met, his marriage was crumbling under the weight of their son's murder. But seeing it now, I can't help but envy any woman who is the object of that kind of devotion--there aren't many men out there who can give it.

The irony is Dana doesn't have a clue, and he has no intention of ever giving her one because he doesn't want to burden her with the knowledge of a passion she can't return.

Unimpressed, me? I wish.

I'm pulling up in front of my apartment now, and it occurs to me I might as well face it. There's not really one of these men who's "got the touch" I need. From now on, I promise myself and Shania, I'll be unimpressed if it kills me. With all of them.

Maybe I ought to look into buying a cat.

"My neighbor's cat down the hall is expecting kittens."

The helpful, almost droll voice makes me jump about six and nine-tenths inches. I turn away from my car to face a very chagrined-looking Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

"Sorry about that," he apologizes.

I laugh. "It's okay. I didn't even realize I said that aloud." (I can only hope it was just the part about the cat!)

He allows himself a small smile and I find myself surprisingly thrilled by it. I realize I don't think I've ever seen this man smile before, not really.

"So, what brings you here?"

"I just wanted to check on you, see how you were doing." He starts to reach for my face, then pulls back, embarrassed, as he realizes what he is doing.

My own hand flies to my chin, where a yellowing bruise still lingers from the last case that John and I worked. I'd forgotten about it in my focus on the song.

"I'm doing okay, really," I promise, flattered by his concern. John never mentioned anything to me about AD Skinner checking in on his injured subordinates.

Skinner looks uncertain and I remember one of the few things Mulder confided in me during our brief acquaintance, that Dana was always "fine," even when she wasn't.

I smile, even more touched now because he really wants to know, not just to be reassured.

"Seriously, Walter," I choose to chance his first name for emphasis. "The doctor said the bruise should be gone in a few days, and after that the worst thing I'd have to worry about would be a possible phobia of rakes."

That was intended to make him laugh, but it only half succeeded.

I take his hand and pull it towards me, pressing his strong fingers against the edge of the bruise. "See for yourself. Barely even hurts anymore. In fact, I'd completely forgotten about it."

Finally, a full smile. A bigger one this time, which, along with the near-caress of his fingers along my jawline, boosts my sprits even more than before. Okay, to be completely honest, it shoots me skyward like a catapult.

"Since you're here, would you like to come up for a little while?" I ask. "I could make us a pot of tea...or coffee," I add hurriedly, realizing he might not be the tea-drinking sort.

Walter nods, still smiling. "I think I'd like that, Agent Reyes."

"Monica, please," I correct. "At least while we're off-duty."

"Monica," he amends dutifully. I soar--wow, I love the sound of my name on his lips!

As we climb the stairs to my apartment, I take a new look at Walter Skinner. And at myself, at all the things I never knew I liked about him.

He's smart, but he doesn't seem to need to prove it. He's good looking, but with that bald pate certainly not "traditionally" handsome like Brad, and totally unaware of how attractive he is. I'll be damned if I know whether or not he's got some muscle car tucked away in his garage somewhere, but frankly I don't care.

He may not be perfect--nobody's perfect--but I was wrong: one man in my life has got one hell of a touch.

I'm sorry, Shania, but it does impress me.

Very much.