October 28, 1996
"What part of no don't you understand?" The patented Scully Glare had finally lost its effectiveness completely; time to go back into the lab when she got the chance.
"Aw, c'mon, Scully, it'll be fun."
"I am *not* your sidekick. And, I might add, Robin's a boy."
"Actually, Scully, in Frank Miller's excellent Dark Knight series, the post-apocalyptic Robin is a short, feisty redheaded girl. She's drawn to him from Gotham's urban hell because she knows in her bones that justice exists and that she should mete it out."
"Jesus, Mulder, who writes your dialogue these days, Quentin Tarantino?"
"I should only wish. I've reserved the costumes," he wheedled. "And I *know* you haven't figured out what to wear; you aren't looking sufficiently smug for that. You have to go; it's not like we earn lots of Brownie points for good Bureau attitude the rest of the year."
She eyed him balefully. "If -- *if* I do this -- what'll you do for me?"
He leered -- funny how *his* patented expressions hadn't lost their punch -- and leaned over her desk. "I thought you'd never ask."
When she didn't react, he tried again. "Please," he whined, eyes crumpled in their standard puppy-dog-pleading expression. "I'll even leave the favor I owe you undefined-- absolute power, Scully."
"Fine," she decided. "Bring in the costume a day early so I can see how it fits. Your treat, I assume."
"Believe me, Scully, this will be worth postponing my next Armani for."
* * *
Scully's ApartmentNovember 1, 1996
Scully checked her costume a little nervously. Despite her initial resistance, she'd gone all out once she'd acceded. She'd added a short black wig in a perfect Robin haircut, and she'd even taped her chest to flatten it underneath the ridiculous rubber breastplate. Now that she'd lost so much weight, the discomfort didn't even outweigh the pleasures of disguise. She looked like Robin -- well, not as buff as Chris O'Donnell, but the stiff rubber of the costume helped her fake it. She chuckled to herself: despite Mulder's comic-book reference, this Robin costume was definitely for a man. Ideally an insecure man. Where *had* the model for the, uh, codpiece come from?
Spirit gum to affix the traditional eyemask completed the picture. Not counting her gun, of course, which went on the convenient utility belt, underneath the short cape. At this point, she'd sooner go without underwear than her gun.
Mulder pounded on the door. "Hey, Scully! The Batmobile awaits!"
She opened the door and her jaw dropped. He seemed to fill the hallway. *She* looked cartoony; he looked -- scary. It helped that he'd stuck with the costume from the first two movies, not the more anatomically correct recent version. Midnight black, devil's pointed ears, caped and masked: a creature of nightmare. So maybe there was something to the archetype after all, if *Mulder* could make her nervous by dressing up as a bat, which was after all the most normal thing he'd done in weeks.
Meanwhile, he was gaping at her. "Scully?"
"Holy tonsils, Batman! Shut your mouth and let's go; we're late already."
On the way to the hotel where the FBI's Halloween party was being held, he kept stealing glances at her. "I have to admit, I'm impressed," he said finally. "You really . . . went all out. You make a great Boy Wonder. In fact, if I weren't happily heterosexual, I'd definitely make a pass at you."
*Oh, gee, that explains your complete indifference the other 364 days of the year.* "Are you saying that I make a better man than a woman?" she asked, dangerously.
"No! Uh, no. You're always completely feminine, which is what makes this transformation so . . . unusual." *Erotic. Damn, I had to choose a costume for her that involved tights.*
Even for Batman, discretion can be the better part of valor, so he shut up for the rest of the trip.
At the hotel, they showed their invitations and were admitted to the main ballroom. Scully spotted Skinner across the room, standing next to Sharon Skinner. He was Jean-Luc Picard, she was Vash. She nudged Mulder. "Looks like things are going well with Skinner."
"Yeah. Hey, he makes a pretty sexy bald captain."
"Mulder, he makes a pretty sexy bald AD." She was rewarded with a piercing, suspicious glare.
Tom Colton, dressed like a Victorian fop, came over to them. "Nice costume," he said to Mulder, then peered more closely at him. "Mulder?"
"Agent Colton, so nice to see you."
"Yeah. Where's the Mrs.?"
Mulder stiffened beside her. As much as his nickname hurt him, it was even worse for him that she was tarred with it, and in the unkindest of ways. But Colton hadn't figured the costume out, so he could at least mess with Colton's head in revenge.
"She couldn't make it. But I did bring a date . . . Kevin, this is Agent Colton. We've worked together before."
Deadpan, Scully extended her hand. Colton looked like he was going to refuse, but the thought that Mulder would have no compunction about beating the crap out of him in front of every one of his colleagues probably deterred him. He took her hand, and she gave him the kind of limp-wristed handshake men like him always expected from her. Okay, if she was going to be cast as a short, gay man, she could at least ham up the part. He dropped her hand as soon as was minimally polite and fled, not seeming to notice that she hadn't actually spoken to him.
When he'd left, she looked up at him quizzically. "When are we going to reveal my dirty little secret? Or lack thereof."
"Do we have to tell?"
"You don't mind people thinking that you're gay?"
"There's no lower level of exile for me, anyway," he replied. "And maybe the news will get to some of the more excitable women in Accounting."
"And you *want* that?"
"Sure, women who think you're gay find it easier to confide in you. And then when they find out that you're not, it makes them so happy, they'll do almost *anything.*" Leer. She sighed. She should have known.
"I don't know whether being a fag hag will be a real upgrade from sleeping with my partner."
"We can reveal the joke if you want, Scully. Whatever will make it easier on you." She saw the immediate sincerity in his eyes, the determination to protect her in any way he could.
"No, at least it'll help unify the Ice Queen image. It seems so unfair to be perceived as a frigid slut, but no one else seems to see the inconsistency there."
"Is it that bad?" he asked, face reflecting the guilt and concern he felt whenever he was convincing himself that he was bad for her.
"No, it's not. Not mostly. Just when I'm depressed anyway and then I hang around the real office jerks, who'd be saying I was sleeping with Skinner and probably Janet Reno if I *were* with some other, more popular division. And they just don't understand us, Mulder, and so I don't care." She said it simply, but she saw the powerful effect her words had. "I'm gonna go get a drink," she continued, giving him a chance to make the conversation lighter. "Want anything?"
"Iced tea, if they have it. This costume is hot."
"You have no idea," he thought he heard her mutter as she left. But it could have been wishful thinking. Conversations swirled around them with tipsy force, making hearing a matter of effort. He watched her retreating back. Well, not her back exactly. Her cape was a lot shorter than his.
"Agent Mulder?" Skinner's slightly incredulous voice dragged him away from the contemplation of his partner's body. Oops. Skinner had been following his fairly blatant stare.
"Agent Mulder, your personal life is obviously your own, but I do need you to tell me that the *boy* you brought with you is over the age of consent. He doesn't even look old enough to *drive,* much less drink."
"Robin? Robin's definitely over the age of consent. Have no fear there, sir."
"And what fears should I have, Agent Mulder?"
"Well, sir, to be honest, Robin was just saying how sexy a Starfleet Captain you make." He would have thought that, short of rigor mortis, the AD couldn't get stiffer, but it happened. Maybe it was an X-file.
Sharon Skinner appeared at her husband's elbow, smiling at Mulder. "Fortunately, Robin doesn't share our universe, so I can't see him as a threat. How long have you and your friend been together, Agent Mulder?"
He grinned back at her. "A little over four years, now."
"You've been keeping him hidden."
"No more than Director Skinner kept you hidden. But of course the reasons for that are obvious." She blushed. Now steam was practically coming out of Skinner's ears. Mulder was *flirting* with her. Sure, some gay men did that deliberately, but Skinner knew about Phoebe Green. He wouldn't trust Mulder with a biped of any sex, much less his wife.
"*Your* date is returning," he ground out. Scully came up to the group and handed Mulder his iced tea, keeping the champagne for herself. "Where is Agent Scully?"
"I'm not her keeper," Mulder said lazily.. Scully wondered if he practiced insolence every morning, or was just a natural. She wouldn't put it past him to think up lines in advance for maximum irritation.
Sharon Skinner put her hand on her husband's arm. "Why don't we go look for her, dear?" she suggested. "This isn't good for your heart." Skinner allowed himself to be tugged away.
"What are we going to do when I have to talk?" Scully asked, standing beside him.
"In this noise it shouldn't be too hard. Pitch your voice low, growl a little, slur the words. You'd be surprised how far people's preconceptions will carry them."
Sure enough, the braver agents who came over to greet them didn't seem to sense anything out of the ordinary in Mulder's shy young date. In fact, several of their colleagues who sought them out were falling over themselves to thank Mulder for bringing a man to an official function, and seemed to be so pumped up by the information they were sharing about themselves thereby that they hardly gave Scully a second glance. In a lull, she told him, "Mulder, if I ever date outside the Bureau, remind me not to go to *his* professional functions or bring him to mine. I feel like I'm scenery, and not very interesting scenery at that."
"Scully, that was way too many openings even for me to take advantage of. But I'll start by saying that you make excellent scenery."
She snorted. Such an indelicate noise from such a delicate woman. "Look, we've been here well over an hour. Costume shown off, impression definitely made. Take me to Au Pied de Cochon and buy me a chocolate mousse and we'll call it a night."
"We could go over to Tracks," he named DC's best gay dance club, "and continue. Hundreds of gorgeous men, Scully, and if you just want to look without touching all you have to do is take off your costume." Whoops. That little image would keep him up a while tonight. "Or you could keep it on and get hit on to your heart's content."
"Mulder, whenever we go *anywhere* you get more passes than I do. And women are supposed to be less aggressive than men. Why would I want to go somewhere where you'd get all the men, too?"
He considered that. "Chocolate mousse?"
"Not ten minutes away, walking. We could leave the car in the hotel lot and get it later. They have lots of things with cheese and ham too if you want to make a really full-fledged assault on your arteries."
"Deal. But one last thing before we go."
With a flourish of his cape, he swept her into his arms. The dramatic motion drew plenty of attention, as he'd intended. "Mulder!" she squeaked. Damn, she hated to sound shaken. But she had more pressing concerns. Literally, as he brought his lips to hers in a body-liquefying kiss.
When he released her, she had to focus all her available attention on breathing. And on resisting the urge to rip all that . . . sexy . . . rubber off and jump on him like Det. White.
It was some satisfaction that he was panting too. "Needed a good reason to leave," he said raggedly, looking at her with dilated eyes. He wasn't paying any attention to the crowd for whose benefit he'd supposedly done this.
"Let's get out of here." She whirled and stalked toward the main doors, clearing a path by sheer willpower -- short people have to get good at that -- trying to think about chocolate mousse. Then about dissections. Then about bile. That one nearly worked.
He caught up with her outside the hotel as she reoriented herself and turned toward Wisconsin Avenue. "What am I going to do if someone asks me about tonight, Mulder?" she asked, looking straight ahead.
He shrugged. "Deny everything." They walked together, automatically in step, garnering not a few shouted compliments from passing cars. "That's my plan for explaining tonight."
She allowed herself a knowing glance at him, pursing her mouth in rueful acknowledgment of the wisdom of his course. "Indubitably correct, Mulder . . . for once," she told him. "But you still owe me a favor of my choice. Sit and squirm, partner, because I plan to have a *great* time when I decide to collect."
"I guarantee, Scully, that I'll be squirming when I think of you."
She pulled a face. Always had to have the last line. Oh well, at least he was going to pay for the mousse. "So, I don't suppose I get to call you 'Batty' from now on?" She darted away from his attempted poke. "'Bats?' One animal to another . . ." and she started to run, laughing. She might just let him chase her until she caught him.