Quantico - 1992
Mulder first sees her in the corridor, walking slowly with her nose buried in a thick textbook. He’s going too fast to see what she’s reading, but he remembers the top of her head, red and studious, trailing half a corridor behind a group of taller, glossier trainees. That group had noticed him, a couple of the women had smiled that promising kind of smile that he’d grown so used to in the VCU, and then forgotten again after transferring to the basement.
Mostly he doesn’t care what his fellow agents think of him. Mostly he doesn’t hear it. A major perk of spending your life buried under fusty stacks of ageing paper or interviewing small town characters in two room police stations, is the distance it puts between you and office gossip.There are still echoes, but not like this. Of all places, Quantico is the hotbed of Bureau gossip, nicknames and urban legends handed down to the next generation along with combat skills and interrogation techniques. Mulder has no doubt that by the end of his first day’s teaching, news of his “spookiness” will turn the tide of interest in the hallways from vague flirtation to unsubtle ridicule.
Blevins had made it incredibly clear that this assignment was not optional. That the lecturer they’d had planned to ground the latest batch of Academy trainees in the basics of profiling was unavailable, and that he was their next best option. There was no room for debate, a plane ticket waiting to ferry Mulder back from Salem, MA and a taxi from there to the room at the Academy that would be his home for the next week. Not for the first time, Mulder regrets subletting his apartment. In theory it was much more convenient to crash in the office, in the car or at a motel, and he hadn’t been spending any time there, but at times like these he really misses the freedom to shut the world out and stare at his fish tank. Or his pay per view…
As a gale of laughter and male bravado washes through the thin walls from the outside corridor Mulder sighs and closes the X-File he’d been reading. Rock-Man sightings would have to wait - he has a lecture to plan.
Scully hadn’t thought twice before thrusting her hand into the air. The visiting lecturer had concluded his analysis of a recent killer’s profile, one whose anonymous notes to the police claim that a visitor from the future told him to kill his victims, by asking if anyone would disagree with the assessment that the man was delusional. The second her hand found clear air and Agent Mulder’s eyes met hers she realised the question had been both rhetorical and a joke. Damn it Dana! But even as a flush rose up her neck to the tips of her still outstretched fingers she found herself unable to back down in the face of the challenge in his eyes.
‘You have an alternate theory?’ His voice barely shifts from its easy monotone.
‘Yes sir.’ She says firmly. ‘For the purposes of academics anyway. The man is almost certainly delusional. But for the sake of argument, quantum physics doesn’t actually rule out time travel. Given the profile posits the suspect to be a man of exceptional intelligence, it’s not outside the realms of extreme possibility that he has either experimented with the theory surrounding time travel and achieved some sort of breakthrough… or that he at least believes he has…’ she trails off. Sniggers have broken out at the back of the room among the muscle club of the cohort and are spreading through the lecture hall.
‘Interesting.’ is Agent Mulder’s only assessment before he holds up his hand for silence. ‘While your classmate’s theory still points to a man suffering from a delusion, she raises an important point. That of nuance. A good profile deals in specificity, in finding those points of individuality that point at a single person rather than an entire demographic. Insight like the time travel factoid may seem ridiculous, but the fact that we may be looking for a physicist, or someone with an interest in the field of quantum physics is certainly worth considering.’
This time when he meets her eyes there is something different in them.
Curiosity. Or maybe even respect.
She’d spent the rest of his lecture huddled over her notes and writing furiously, as if with enough diligence she could somehow rewrite her fascinating interruption into non-existence. Mulder had hoped she might come and speak to him after the lecture, acknowledge their moment of intellectual connection, but when the bell goes she’s gone in a flash of red before he’s even powered down the projector. By the time he’s packed up, exchanged politeness with the candidates for lecturers pet and and gently refused an invitation to post-training drinks from two lash-fluttering brunettes, she is long gone.
Mulder had planned to spend his free afternoon trawling the archives for newspaper reports that might shed some light on his rock-man but when he’s settled in the computer suite he instead finds himself scrolling through the candidate files on the current batch of trainees. A sea of faces; future paper pushers and profilers and preservers of the peace. But just one Dana Katherine Scully, her list of academic achievements far outstripping the 5'2 height measured in last week’s physical.
There’s something about her expression in the ID photo that transfixes Mulder, some solemnity, a sense of purpose that stands out from all the others. Usually these photographs are little better than mugshots, candidates aiming either to intimidate the camera or make the stiff portrait friendlier. Both inevitably fail. But not hers.
The sound of the door opening jolts Mulder out of his trance and he shuts down the window, shaking off Dana Scully’s gaze and tries to focus on his case.
Scully doesn’t look up when the door to the laundry room opens, she barely even acknowledges the sound. She’s been staring at the same page of her pathology text ever since the dryer cycle started and trying not to dwell on this morning’s humiliation. Her analytical mind has already stripped any idea of respect from Agent Mulder’s assessing gaze and has replaced it with disbelief at her audacity, or maybe it was amusement at her ridiculous, childish interruption. Melissa always tells her that one of these days her know-it-all ways will get her into trouble. Maybe today is that day. Scully had wanted to distinguish herself within the cohort but not by being the one to throw a bizarre, rambling theory at a handsome lecturer. She sighs and turns the page, letting the medical jargon lull her into a numb sort of calm where Agent Mulder’s hazel gaze can’t invade her every thought.
Just every third thought or so.
Mulder has been trying not to stare and failing ever since he unbent from stuffing two weeks worth of laundry into the washer and saw her. If he’d seen her when he first came in he might have just run away. But pulling all his clothes back out just to avoid having to behave like a normal human around the trainee who has occupied more of his thoughts this evening than he cares to admit, seems preposterous even for him. Instead he blindly scoops detergent on top of his clothes and watches her out of the corner of his eye, red head bent over another weighty tome, legs crossed up on one of the high counters with just a flash of creamy skin peeking out between her Acadamy sweatshirt and the waistband of her jeans. He has never seen anyone read so intently. Shutting the washer he feeds in his quarters, debating whether to scurry back to his room or stay and go over his case-file as he had intended.
A low sound from across the room makes up his mind. She is humming, flat and quiet but it’s unmistakably Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, though he can’t remember if it’s the beginning of spring or autumn. He’d put her down for autumn, for the russet bounty of her hair and he laughs softly at the cheesily poetic train of his thoughts. She stirs at the noise and catches him staring.
‘Oh.’ Is her only response and Mulder thinks it’s the best monosyllable he’s ever heard. Not so much for the genius of the word but for the tone and expression with which she delivers it. There’s a quirk to her eyebrow that’s a question and a challenge, a pinch to her lips that’s not quite a smile but a suggestion that it could develop into one. Her voice is low, soft and laden with the potential for evenings spent debating Einstein and philosophy that spiral into nights tangled together, disagreeing even until that final ‘Oh!’ brings them together. Mulder feels his breath shorten and fights for something, anything, to say that will give her half as much back as she just gave him.
'I’m Fox Mulder.’ Is all he manages and now she does smile, teeth flashing as she rolls her first name about her mouth and then returns it to him on a giggle.
'Fox? Like the woodland creature?’ He usually hates people laughing at his name but he can’t be mad at her pronouncement, the “O” as plump and perfect as her lips and her tone one of genuine delight.
'I always prefer of “Fantastic Mr Fox” fame… but the result is basically the same. Clearly I disappointed my mother even before I was born… so I go by Mulder.’ He doesn’t know why he’s sharing his twisted relationship with his mother with her already but when he sees understanding replace humour in the ever-changing blue of her eyes he’s glad he did.
'At least you were a consistent disappointment. I think they take it harder when you’re a late bloomer in the “throwing your life away” department!“ Scully tries to keep the hurt out of her voice but there’s something in the air that’s stripping away their defences and making her feel like somehow she can trust this almost stranger with her secrets. He’s closer now, eyes darker this evening than they looked across the lecture hall.
'Your parents disapprove of your joining the Bureau? Leaving medicine?’ And Mulder knows from the slump of her shoulders, the bowing of her head that he’s right on target. But then her eyes snap back up to meet his with an accusation,
'You read my file!’ And he’s discovered. Mulder is ready to lie, to say he read all of the trainee’s files when he realises that somehow she will know he is lying, that a lie will ruin this twilight zone moment of unguardedness they are sharing. He also realises that he doesn’t want to lie to her, that he’d rather be rejected and ridiculed than minimise the impact she’s had on him. And so he tells her.
'Dana Katherine Scully. 26. Medical doctor. Below average height. Above average intelligence. Likes to heckle in lectures… I was curious about you.’
Scully is blushing again but this time there's not fifty feet and as many trainees between them and Mulder watches entranced as the flush spreads from her cheeks right up to the roots of her hair, engulfing her freckles as it goes. He can’t remember the last time he saw a woman blush like that. He wants to trace the same path as her blood did with his lips, starting high on her cheekbone and covering her whole, questioning face with the certainty of his interest, but she’s talking so he makes himself listen.
'That seems unfair, Trainees don’t have access to that sort of information,’ and though Scully’s arms fold defensively he can hear genuine interest quavering on the edges of her rebuke.
Stepping in front of her Mulder holds out his right hand in greeting, swallowing the thrill of the idea that she is about to touch him for the very first time.
'Fox William Mulder. Often referred to as “Spooky” Mulder by my less generous colleagues. Psych major, former profiler and currently disappointing both my parents and the FBI by chasing ghosts, monsters and extraterrestrials on the so-called “X-Files”. Slightly above average height. Academic intelligence fars outweighs social intelligence. Very much enjoys being heckled in lectures by interesting redheads.’
And her hand in his is everything and nothing. A simple touch, gentle pressure, but he catches his breath because between the firm grip of her small fingers and the sparking blue of her eyes something inside him shifts to a new position. After months of caring only about his work, about the minutiae of his files, Mulder is suddenly, overwhelmingly interested in Dana Scully and finding out how far off the beaten path of accepted knowledge her curiosity strays. He thinks she feels it to, especially when she catches her breath and leans in but as his eyes flutter closed he realises she has bypassed his waiting lips and is looking behind him, her hand squeezing his shoulder to make him turn.
The washer containing his clothes is gurgling as bubbles rise past the lid and begin to cascade to the floor.
'Shit!’ he rushes over to try and find the power but it’s ducted to the wall and as he begins to prise the casing open to access the cable he feels Scully again at his shoulder.
'Mulder stop! There’s an override switch on the other side!’ He locates it and after a second the gurgling stops even if the bubbles don’t, pouring down on to the already sopping tile floor. So far Mulder’s sneakers have stopped his feet from getting wet but as he surveys the damage he notices Scully staring glumly at her soaking, sock-clad feet and the wave of bubbles inching inexorably towards the hem of her jeans.
Without thinking he’s swept her up and sat her neatly atop the closest dryer. Her eyes are wide with surprise, her body too close to his as he tries to force himself to let go of her waist, to step back from between her legs. But then she’s pulling him in and there are too many sensations to think of anything else. Her lips whisper across his as her fingers dance a giddy waltz up into his hair. His hands clench at her sides, bundling the soft grey marl of her sweater until his knuckles graze skin, softer still and she gasps with her whole body. Scully stops, shocked at her boldness and the air between them is thin and soap scented.
Mulder is sure there is some very good reason why he should answer the question in her eyes with a ‘no.’ but he can’t remember it. Instead pulls her closer, shivering as the inside seam of her jeans runs scrapes his thighs through his slacks and he stutters her name.
‘Scully - I -’
This time he can’t stop at her lips and moans when they open, her mouth coffee sharp and her tongue as bold against his as it was in his lecture this morning. She makes a tiny sound in the back of her throat and he swallows it greedily, hands roaming up to lose themselves in her hair and then down to drag her closer still to him. She is an unknown, an enigma and she is intoxicating.
Scully’s not sure exactly of the FBI’s protocol on student/teacher interactions but she’s pretty sure that Agent Mulder’s hands on her ass, pressing her ever more firmly to his hardness is not on the list of approved activities. She’s equally sure that she doesn’t care. She had seriously considered her roommate’s invitation to go for drinks, tempted by the idea of abandoning her studious reputation and drowning this morning’s embarrassment at the bottom of a glass of wine. But as reckless as she’d felt, some stubborn part of her still needed to be the best, to prove her parents wrong. Instead of cutting loose she'd buckled down on her resolve, loaded her laundry and the advanced pathology reading into her hamper and prepared for an evening of study.
It seems though that today she was destined for a rebellion and this one far is superior to a few weeknight drinks. This one is heady and human and making her forget all her promises to focus on her career, to avoid tortured intellectuals and authority figures. This temptation tastes of desire and, forgetting her reservations, forgetting that there is no lock on the laundry room door Scully finds her hands making quick work of her instructor's belt buckle.
Mulder groans into her neck, teeth scraping across the swoop of her tendon and sending a wash of heat through her belly. His hands are inside her sweater fumbling the clasp of her bra and hers are worrying his fly past his erection when the dryer beneath them gives an almighty clunk and starts smoking.
Scully jumps down, splashing in the gathering puddle and starts to laugh.
'First the washer, then the dryer Mulder?! You know maybe you are a little spooky!’ He just shakes his head at his terrible luck and is about to reach for her, fire hazard be damned when the door opens and two other trainees walk in only to stop short at the mess.
‘What the hell happened in here?’ one of them asks the back of Mulder’s head as he tries to subtly refasten his pants and belt. He looks to Scully for help but she’s still chuckling and pulling her dry laundry into a basket.
‘I - I think I might need to call maintenance,’ is all he can manage and as the trainees agree with him Scully is finished packing and rushes out, a tiny quirk of her kiss swollen lips the only goodnight she offers.
The other trainees follow her out, not even waiting for the door to shut before they start discussing what "that psychology guy's" problem was. Mulder wonders as he looks around for a number for maintenance what conclusion they’ll arrive at. Because as he sees it, he has three problems of varying severity. Firstly he has no clean clothes and secondly he’s about to get laid into by the maintenance guy. But by far his biggest problem, and one he couldn’t even have imagined at the start of the day, is that somewhere in this building, Dana Scully is roaming the corridors with her bra undone under her sweater. And if his inability to stop thinking of that in this moment is any indicator, this week is going to be a lot more interesting than he expected.