8:12pm

Mulder didn't show up for work today. Not that I had really expected him to come in after the harrowing experience with Modell yesterday. I did expect him to call and tell me he wouldn't be here. Instead, I had to make due with a memo from Dr. Koseff's office.

I tried calling his cell phone, but he must have turned it off. Not that I really needed to talk to him. I just miss his voice if I don't hear it every so often. Hello, my name is Dana and I'm addicted to my partner's voice.

I left work a few hours ago, stopped at the grocery to get a few things, and found myself standing in front of the flowers display case.

Sometimes they have a good buy on spider plants. But not on Valentine's Day. Oh no. Today the case was full of roses in every conceivable color. Pinks, reds, orange starbursts. I notice there are no other flowers. No carnations or daisies. Daisies. The Jungian in Mulder would have a field day with that. I shouldn't even bother with flowers. We're not romantically involved; we're professional law enforcement officers. But the look of surprise on his face last year when I handed him that rose. After all, it is Valentine's Day. I find the darkest ones in the bunch and put them in my cart.

I feel pretty foolish, parked in front of Mulder's building, the grocery store roses wrapped in cellophane on the passenger's seat mocking me with their tight buds and shiny foliage.

Another glance up at his apartment window tells me he's in the living room. I have no idea if he's asleep or awake, but I'll take my chances and my keys and get out of the car.

My knees shake as I stand outside his apartment door, staring at the brass numbers. I knock twice but there's no answer. It was a dumb idea anyway, using his health as an excuse to see him. I could leave the flowers on his doorstep and run. He'll never know I was here. The deadbolt clicks on the other side of the door. Too late. I can't run now.

Then he opens the door, bleary eyes giving me the once over. That is unnerving, but I roll with it.

"Hey, Scully, come on in. What's up?"

He sounds good. He looks good too, walking ahead of me back into the living room and plopping back down on the couch. He scoots over to make room for me. My nerves are already on edge, so I opt to stand. If I have to make a quick getaway, I'm halfway to the door.

"I just stopped by to see how you were feeling. I hadn't heard from you since we wrapped the case." I cringe as soon as the words are out of my mouth. He doesn't need me to nag him about proper telephone etiquette or how out of courtesy he should have kept his partner informed.

But he's not paying much attention to me anyway, too engrossed in a docudrama about the Hindenburg. On the television, old newsreel footage showed the Hindenburg flying over lower Manhattan. Then suddenly George C. Scott is a Nazi SS sergeant, running around the dirigible with Anne Bancroft. Mulder is mesmerized by the images on the screen. I wait patiently for a reply.

"I'm fine, Scully."

I know what I mean when I say I'm fine, but what does he mean?

"Really?"

"Yeah, really. Clean bill of health. No residual side effects, I don't even get glassy-eyed when I hear the word 'trigger'. There's no one in here," he tapped the side of his head with his fingers, "but me." He leans over and picks up a bag of sunflower seeds, and shakes a few into his palm. He offers me the bag. I decline.

My feet are anxious to get out of here. It's beginning to take tremendous willpower to keep my knees from bouncing with nervous energy. Stupid, stupid idea. He's obviously fine -- so why did I come here? I watch him watch the movie. "Can I get you anything, Mulder?"

"No. I'm good to go. Are you hungry? If you are, there's some left over Kung Po Chicken in the fridge. I can heat it up if you'd like." For the first time since I entered his apartment, he makes eye contact with me. Then he notices the flowers in my hand.

I can see the gears in his mind spinning. I would have been fine, could have escaped his lair without making an ass of myself, if it weren't for the look he gives the flowers.

"Roses, Scully?" he says and reaches out to take them from me. The smile on his face isn't really a smile. It's almost a smirk, a look of disdain or superciliousness.

"Yes, roses, Mulder."

I say it a little too harshly, if the way he recoils his hand is any indication. "Today is Valentine's Day, and --" And I freeze. My heart screams for me to tell him how I feel about him, about us, while my conscience stomps its feet and begs me to keep my mouth shut. I stand up a little straighter and finish my sentence. "- And I thought, what better way to celebrate three years of partnership than by giving you three of something. It just so happens I chose roses." I exhale, all too aware of how lame I sound, and move to leave.

He just sits there staring at the roses. Their deep, velvety burgundy petals have begun to open in the warm apartment. I watch him bite the inside of his cheek, a strange expression flitting across his features. I have to get out of here.

"So, I'm going to head home now," I say, maybe to quickly, and turn back toward the door, pulling my gloves out of my coat pocket and pulling them on. Just walk to the door and go, Dana, get out of the situation before it gets any more humiliating. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mulder."

Before I get the door open, he is right behind me.

"Scully --"

"Yes?"

"Why don't you stay for a little? We could - uh, well, we could -" He's biting his lip, his hands shoved into the front pockets of his jeans, his shoulders hunched up around his ears.

I put my hand up, silently calling a cease-fire to our foolishness. "No, I'll just go. I need to get home..."

My feet, ready to run earlier, aren't getting the signals from my brain to move. I'm rooted in place. I can't bring myself to look him in the eye. My, what nice hardwood floors he has.

"Oh, okay then, and by the way - thanks." I hear the sincerity in his voice.

I grab at the doorknob and look back at him. Our eyes meet. He's bending down just as I stand up on my tiptoes when my forehead meets his chin.

"Ooh, I'm sorry," my eyes are closed tight as I rub my forehead. He's chuckling a little nervously but leans in again.

When I realize he's trying to hug me, I let go of the doorknob and move to put my arms around him. We both lean the same way and nearly knock heads again.

This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. His arms pull me close in a hug, and I slip my hands under his arms. No doubt, he gives nice hugs.

"Thank you again," he says against my ear. "And happy Valentine's Day."

I nod slightly and fix him with a tight-lipped smile. "See you tomorrow."

As I walk back down the corridor, I wonder why I was so nervous.

Snowflakes greet me when I step out of the building. The cold night air does little to cool my flushed cheeks, but that's okay. For the first time all evening, I'm fine.


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