It just happened one day while she was sitting directly next to him at his desk on the third floor, watching as he scrawled some notes for her to look at. He was focused with a severe intensity that caused his forehead to wrinkle in thought and the tip of his tongue to peek out from between his slightly parted lips.
Her attention was drawn to this minor detail, and she studied the rest of his features, and then considered him in whole. He was not ugly, quite the contrary; he had a puckish charm about him, and he was always ready to crack a joke to lighten the mood, even when it was inappropriate. More than once she had to swallow the urge to laugh at his humor which was often twisted.
But that was the thing about Mulder; his humor hid an intelligence that he often downplayed. He was quiet about how much he let on, and was never one to brag about his level of understanding, but he was a quick study, aided by an eidetic memory. Mulder could oftentimes see connections where others could not, and in her mind, his powers of observation were only second to Sherlock Holmes himself.
“Are you okay, Scully?” His voice brought her back to the present time, and she felt her skin flush with heat. He had caught her staring, perhaps rudely so.
“Yes, everything is fine. I was just thinking.” She said, and he offered her a smile. She returned it, in a nervous way and Mulder went back to writing.
It didn't hit her suddenly, but it was a slow realization that came only after they started working together again after they reunited in Antarctica. It was something she ruminated on as her eyes landed on a snow globe that was sitting on the edge of the desk. Encased was a pair of penguins, one slightly bigger than the other. It was a silly gift given to the both of them from one of the girls in accounting—Agent Harrison.
“Mulder, there's something I need to talk to you about,” She started, and Mulder glanced over at her, unsure of what sin he had committed against her inadvertently.
“I'm not upset with you.” She said and he seemed to be relieved.
“Could have fooled me. What's on your mind?” His attention was focused on her; he leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk, perhaps sensing that this talk would probably not allow him to continue writing when it was over. The motion was uncomfortable with the keyboard on the desk, but he didn't seem to mind.
“Do you remember when we came back from Dallas, and I came over to tell you that I was putting my papers in?” Her hand brushed aside the locks of hair that threatened to obscure her vision, though at the moment, it was almost preferable to Mulder’s invasive stare. His eyes had a piercing quality that gave the impression of seeing through solid mass. It was disturbing.
“Yeah, I remember.” How could he forget?
“Do you remember how—how we almost kissed in the hallway?” Her voice was lowered in tender, intimate tones.
“Yeah. I remember that. I'm sorry.” He said, without prompting. The apology gave her pause; she had not been expecting it but it suddenly sprang forth like a roadblock, and she metaphorically drove into it and got stuck. She considered his words, and started to come to the conclusion that he was apologizing because he had regret the incident and by extension, he regretted the entire moment. This conclusion turned over in her mind and stopped her from what she was going to say, and rendered her almost speechless.
“Scully?” His voice sounded distant and unclear, as though it were being spoke through the crackling static of a handheld radio, and she knew, without having to continue, that the conversation was over, and it hadn't even begun.
“Sorry,” She muttered quietly, and she stood up to excuse herself to the bathroom. Mulder said nothing, but his eyes followed her out of the room, past the other desks, and Scully could feel his intrusive stare, even through the walls.
She slipped into the restroom and closed the door behind her, regarding her reflection in the mirror. She looked okay, maybe a little peaky, but nothing that would cause alarm. The realization had caused a knot of unease that grew into the makings of a sick stomach, and then with a splash of water and some whispered prayers, she was okay again.
When she entered the office, Mulder was no longer sitting. He was standing by a filing cabinet, with a case file in hand, looking it over with a particular scrutiny. Not yet ready to face him, Scully instead chose to take refuge in her seat at her own desk, and eye the Rolodex on his desk that was open to a Cooper, Dale. There was an entry for Covarrubias, M. on the desk, near the phone, but she paid these no mind, as she mentally ran through a checklist of things she needed to do.
“Well, I guess that about wraps it up,” Mulder said suddenly, putting the file under his arm and scooping up the card for Covarrubias. He tapped it to his forehead twice before putting it in his pocket and walking for the door. Then he paused and turned to face Scully as though he had forgotten something and said,
“I have to meet with someone over in New York. Work related. But I need someone here because that Sullivan case is still in the autopsy bay and I can't keep ducking Spender forever. I've asked Agent Fowley to keep him busy but…” There was a shrug in his words that was not expressed, but otherwise conveyed in his general demeanor. There was something Scully could sense he was evading, but he did not give her the chance to inquire as he started to leave the office.
“Mulder, wait, are you coming back?” Her voice followed him out of the office, over the heads of the other agents who worked there, and he popped his head back into the doorway, ignoring the stares that they were receiving from their conversation.
“Uh, no. I'll see you Monday.”