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That's What Friends Are For

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"And I never thought I'd feel this way
And as far as I'm concerned
I'm glad I got the chance to say
That I do believe I love you…
Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for."

 

***Part 1***

"Charlie, what am I going to do?"

Charles Scully watched his sister pace back and forth in her living room. He was in town on temporary assignment and had dropped in to stay with his sister, only to find her in the middle of a major life crisis.

"Dana, you may be worrying about nothing."

"Nothing? You didn't see the way he looked." She was referring to her partner, Fox Mulder. That afternoon, on a Thursday in the middle of an ordinary work week, Mulder had stood beside her desk, fists jammed into his pockets, and said the words she had dreaded hearing:

"Scully, I need to talk to you about something important. Something that could affect our partnership."

She had swallowed hard. Surely it was about crop circles or alien autopsies or something normal like that. "Certainly, Mulder."

"Not here. Look, can I take you out to dinner tonight? We can talk about this then."

And, cornered, she had agreed.

"I know what this is about. Mulder's going to tell me that he loves me, that he wants us to take our partnership another step. And I don't want that! I like just being partners. I like Mulder, but I'd be crazy to get involved with that man on a permanent basis. I'd end up putting another bullet in him." At the puzzled look on her brother's face, Scully added quickly, "Long story. I'll tell you another time."

"So just tell him that you want to be friends. Women do that all the time. I should know."

"You don't know him, Charlie. He'll get all pouty and teary-eyed and I'll feel sorry for him and - oh God! Maybe I can come down with a 24-hour flu bug."

An hour later, despite frequent checking with her thermometer, she was still healthy and waiting for Mulder to arrive to take her out. And he showed up on time, a minor miracle of itself. Mulder and Charlie exchanged polite greetings before he all but dragged her out of the apartment. And when she saw the restaurant that he was taking her to, her heart sank even further - it was elegant and understated and just the sort of place to make romantic declarations.

Dinner was a silent affair as each of them toyed with their food and tried not to look at the other one while trying to come up with something to say. Finally, after the waiter had removed their barely touched plates, Mulder drew a deep breath.

"Scully, there's something important that I need to tell you - "

"Mulder, really, there's no need - "

"Yes there is. We've been partners for five years and this is going to affect our partnership in ways that we may not even realize yet."

"It doesn't have to - "

"Scully, you don't even know what I'm going to say."

"Yes I do," Scully said desperately, trying to keep him from saying the words. "I know what you're going to say, Mulder. I've been expecting this."

Mulder looked stunned. "You have? For how long?"

"I guess I've known from the start. But I didn't say anything because I think that we should keep things the way they are between us now. We work well together - I don't think we should change that in any way."

Mulder looked relieved. "You really feel that way? You think that we can do that - it won't be a problem for you?"

"Of course not, Mulder. You're my best friend. You drive me crazy sometimes, but I value your friendship."

Mulder drew a deep breath and let it out, then grinned over at Scully. "You don't know how glad I am to hear this, Scully. I wasn't sure how you felt about relationships like this, given your religious background. I should have known that you would stay my friend."

"After all we've been through, how could you even doubt that?" Scully was starting to feel a little giddy with relief, thankful that Mulder had taken her rejection so well, that he seemed content to keep things the way they were between them.

"So, Scully, you want to help me move this weekend?"

"Move? Are you moving somewhere?" Scully asked, a little confused. She must have missed something, she thought, in her relief.

Mulder nodded. "Now that we're sure, he wants me to move in with him. After all, his place is a lot bigger than mine - and less prone to break-ins and murders in the building." He grinned at her. "I told him he's nuts - he'll go crazy with me underfoot - but you know that once he makes up his mind - "

"He?" Scully asked, totally bewildered. "Mulder, what on earth are you talking about?"

Mulder looked at Scully and, at the bewildered look on her face, his grin faded. "Shit. You didn't know. I thought - when you said - oh, hell, I've made a mess of this."

"Mulder - "

Mulder threw down some money for the bill. "Let's take a walk."

Scully almost had to run to keep up with Mulder as they left the restaurant and crossed the street to the park. "Mulder, are you telling me that you're moving in with someone? You're getting a roommate?"

Mulder sighed. "Not exactly. We've been - well, we've been seeing each other for six months."

"Seeing each other - as in dating? For six months! And you never said a word to me?"

"Well, we had to be discreet. You know, with the Consortium watching me and all."

Scully stopped in her tracks as his earlier words registered. "You said 'he'. Mulder, are you telling me that you're gay? That you've been dating another man?"

"For God's sake, Scully, keep your voice down," Mulder hissed at her. I don't think the Consortium in Japan heard you that time."

"You're gay."

"I thought you'd guessed - "

"God, Mulder, why would you think that?"

"Scully, we've been partners for five years, we've been in hundreds of motels across the country, you're a beautiful woman, and I've never once propositioned you? Why on earth didn't you think I was gay?"

"I - I don't know. I thought it was because we are partners. You don't look gay."

Mulder looked amused. "Not all gays are flaming queens, hairdressers, or interior decorators."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Mulder shrugged. "'Don't ask, don't tell'? What did you expect me to say - what do you think about this crop circle and, by the way, I'm gay?"

Scully punched him in the arm, starting to get angry. "I thought we were friends. I thought you trusted me."

"I do, Scully, I do. This is - personal. It doesn't affect our work."

"It affects our friendship. God dammit, Mulder! I'm hurt - I'm angry - " She drew a deep breath and let it out, unclenching her teeth. "Okay, okay, I'm calm now. You're gay, and you're moving in with a man. I can handle this. Who's the lucky man?"

Mulder told her.


 

***Part 2***

 

"WALTER SKINNER!!!"

Mulder clapped a hand over her mouth, looking nervously around. Scully kicked him in the shin. Mulder let go of her, hopping on one foot.

"Damn it, Scully! What was that for?"

"Are you CRAZY? Are you COMPLETELY out of your mind? And you've been screwing each other for SIX MONTHS and you never said a WORD?"

"I was afraid you'd get mad - "

"It's official! I'm mad!"

" - and tell OPR."

Scully glared at him. "Do I look like a stool pigeon to you? So now - after six months, when he asks you to move in - you feel it's okay to tell me? And if he hadn't asked you to move in, would you have waited another six months? A year? Would you ever have told me?"

"Umm…" At the look on Scully's face, he backed up before she could kick him again. "Scully, I'm sorry. I wasn't sure if it would last - I don't have the best track record on these things, you know. And he was our boss, and I knew you had some...issues with him in the past. I just thought it was for the best - " Scully gave him a withering look and the words died on his lips. "Please, Scully - you've got to talk to me about this. I've got to know what you're feeling."

"I'm in shock, damn it, Mulder! Shut up and let me think for a minute!"

Mulder closed his mouth and stood staring at his feet while scuffling his shoe and Scully tried to process all the shocks she had received that night. They stood there for a long time, both silent, until Scully sighed and looked back at her partner. He looked like a little boy, scuffling his toe in the dirt like that, and her heart melted the way it always did. A feeling drifted through her and, to her surprise, she identified it as regret. Somewhere inside she had relished the thought of Mulder being in love with her and, now that the threat of having to commit to such a relationship had passed, she was surprised to find that she was reluctant to let go of that thought.

"Mulder?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you sure that you're gay?"

Mulder looked at her, amused. "Yes, Scully. I don't think I could mistake the fact that guys turn me on."

"Were you always - I mean, when did you know - who - "

Mulder blinked and the mask came down over his face. "I think we're getting into the personal category here, Scully. And you really don't want to know any more."

"Mulder, we're friends. This is important for me to understand - "

"Why? Why do you get to probe into all my scars but I'm slapped down when I ask a simple question like 'how are you feeling'?" Mulder stood up abruptly. "I've got to go - Walter's waiting up for me. I'll be out of the office the rest of the week. I'm taking some personal time to get packed." He tossed his keys to her. "Take my car - I'll catch a cab." He stormed off.

Scully sank down onto a bench and sat for a long while, trying to organize her scattered thoughts. And deep inside, she was certain that she had done everything she could have done to ruin a very special friendship.


 

***Part 3***

Charlie looked up from the game he was watching as she quietly entered the apartment.

"So, Dana, how did dinner go?" Charlie asked

"Fine." Scully set down her purse and went into the bedroom, feeling weary throughout her body. She slowly undressed and, too tired to shower, put on her nightclothes and went back into the kitchen. She fixed them each a cup of tea and carried it into the living room, sitting down in the chair and staring in her cup.

Charlie looked over at her and shut off the television. "Okay, Sis, what's up? And don't give me that 'fine' crap - I know where you're ticklish."

Scully hesitated, then decided that she had to get this off her chest. "Okay, you were right about dinner. Mulder doesn't want to date me or sleep with me. He's gay. And he's moving in with his - um - lover."

"And you didn't know he was gay?"

"Come on, Charlie - I told you earlier that I was sure he was going to want us to start dating! I certainly wouldn't have thought that if I'd known that he was gay!"

"Does it bother you?"

"No, of course not - " She stopped, then sighed. "Yes. I guess it does. I mean - he's got enough problems at work. If anyone found out that he was - well, you know - it would be a hundred times worse."

"That's work, Dana. How do you personally feel about it?"

Backed into a corner, she retorted, "Well, how would youfeel about it?"

"I have friends who are gay," he said with a shrug, picking up his cup of tea. "Totally in the closet, of course, with the current policies. We were friends before I knew that they were gay and we're still friends. They didn't change - only my perception of them. Mulder's still your friend, Dana. No matter who he sleeps with." He studied her face. "Is that the problem? You know the other guy and don't like him?"

Scully set down her mug. "The other guy is our boss."

Charlie let out a whistle. "Well, that does complicate things, doesn't it? Do you think he's taking advantage of your partner - coercing him into having sex?"

Scully looked at her brother, shocked. "Of course not! Walter Skinner is an honest, good person."

"Even if he is gay."

"Yes. No. Dammit, Charlie, this isn't about him being gay!"

"Isn't it?" She was quiet, looking down at her tea. "It makes that much of a difference to you? Do you disapprove of that lifestyle? Do you think it's a sin?"

Scully sighed. "I don't know what I think anymore, Charlie. Mentally, I know that Mulder is the same person he was earlier today. But emotionally - " She stood up and walked to the window, rubbing her arms with her hands, not looking at her brother as she talked. "It's hard for me to accept my own feelings on this, Charlie. I thought I was a rational person. I'm a scientist; I've had medical training. I know that everyone has the potential to be bisexual, and I accept the fact that attraction between two people may be based on factors and compulsions that seem incomprehensible to the people outside the relationship but which make perfect sense to those involved. I know that I should be happy that my best friend has found someone to make him happy."

"Jealous, Dana?"

Scully leaned her forehead against the window. "Yes," she admitted. "I guess I'm used to being the only person in Mulder's life and now I find out that I'm not. And, not only that, he's got this whole aspect of himself that I was totally unaware of - or that I refused to see. I feel like such an idiot for not seeing - for thinking that he was in love with me. And I'm ashamed at being so petty."

Charlie came up behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders. "Give yourself a break - it's only natural, Sis. It's hard to be left behind when your friends start making a new life for themselves. But just because he's in love with someone else doesn't mean that you can't still be friends. Hell, friendship is pretty damn important and you shouldn't blow it over something like this."

"If it isn't too late already," Scully said quietly, then raised her chin resolutely. "No. I don't give up that easy."

"That's the old Scully spirit," Charlie said with a grin. "Go get 'em, Red."


 

***Part 4***

Scully knocked on the door of Mulder's apartment and waited. She could hear footsteps approach and, as the door opened, heard a voice from a distance call out, "If that's the Salvation Army people, the waterbed's ready to go."

"Good." It was Skinner at the door. "What on earth were you thinking about, buying a waterbed with mirrors on the ceiling?" Skinner stared at Scully in surprise. "Agent Scully."

"Hello, sir. May I come in?"

Skinner stepped back from the doorway, motioning for her to enter. His eyes were blank and unreadable behind his glasses but there was something about the tightness around his mouth that made her flush in embarrassment. Mulder must have told him how she had taken the news.

"I told you, big guy - I didn't buy it. It just showed up - " Mulder came out of the bedroom carrying a box and nearly dropped it. "Scully!"

"Hi, Mulder." She held up two large sacks. "I thought you guys would be hungry by now so I picked up some Chinese take-out."

"Um - thanks." Mulder looked sideways at Skinner and set the box he was carrying on top of a stack along the wall. "I haven't packed the kitchen yet - "

"I'll get some plates," Skinner said, leaving the room. The partners faced each other across the living room, neither knowing what to say.

Scully set the bags down on the coffee table and cleared her throat. "Mulder - about the other night. I didn't mean to blow up like that."

Mulder blew out a relieved breath. "It must have been a hell of a shock, coming out like that. I meant to ease into it but I got off on the wrong foot - "

"No, that was my fault. I interrupted you when you were trying to tell me - I was so sure that I knew what you were going to say."

Mulder cocked his head as if just recalling that conversation. "Yeah. When you said that you knew what I was going to say - that you'd known since the beginning. Obviously you weren't talking about Walter and me, so what were you talking about?"

Scully flushed. "I thought that you were going to tell me that you loved me, that you wanted us to be more than partners and friends. And I didn't want to hurt your feelings by telling you that I wanted to stay the way we were."

A soft light filled Mulder's eyes and he crossed the room to gently stroke her hair. "Scully, I do love you."

She nodded. "I know. I love you, too. Only I'm not in love with you. And you're in love with Walter Skinner." He nodded. "And he loves you, too."

"Either that or he's certifiable." Looking around at the devastation in his apartment, his mouth twisted into a rueful smile. "Right now, I'd bet on the latter."

Scully glanced around the familiar room, and her throat felt a little tight at the thought that they wouldn't spend future evenings sharing take-out here while going over a case file. He would be at Skinner's and, even if she was there, it wouldn't be the same. It wouldn't be just the two of them against the world anymore. Her eyes caught on the shelf, now bare of its items and showing a layer of dust.

"God, Mulder, don't you ever dust?" she asked without thinking.

Mulder grinned and opened the take-out bags, removing their contents. "Waste of effort - the dust just keeps coming back."

She shook her head, grinning back at him. "Does Skinner know what a mess you are or does he tread in ignorant bliss towards his doom?"

Mulder laughed. "Shh, don't tell him, Scully - he'll have me out on my ass before I even get in the door."

Skinner snorted as he came back in with plates and silverware. "That's hardly likely, considering how hard it was to convince you to move in to begin with," he growled good-naturedly, obviously relieved that the two were talking. "I had to catch you in a vulnerable moment."

Scully started loading her plate, nodding sagely. "I always thought that Mulder would be the kind who'd agree to anything after sex."

Mulder nearly dropped the carton of fried rice he was holding and turned scarlet. "Um - beer - kitchen - be right back." He disappeared into the other room at something resembling a dead-run.

Skinner looked over at Scully in amused appreciation. "I'm impressed. Not everyone can embarrass Mulder."

"Years of practice, sir."

"You'll have to give me pointers."

Scully was amazed to find herself staring at a Skinner that she couldn't recall ever seeing before: relaxed, at ease with himself, and amused at the situation. A Skinner who was very attractive and downright sexy in his Henley shirt and jeans, and she suddenly understood the attraction her partner felt towards this man. And she felt a warm contentment filling her, an acceptance that this was what her partner needed in his life, and gratitude towards Skinner for being exactly the kind of person that Mulder needed in his life.

"Anytime," she said tranquilly. "That's what friends are for."

The End