With a sigh and a shake of his head, Byers attempted, once again, to caution his friends. "We shouldn't be here. It's practically invasion of -"
"Puh-lease," Langley interrupted, punctuated by a derisive snort from Frohike.
"It is," Byers countered, his latest argument sounding weak even to his own ears. It would have been even weaker if they weren't parked across the street from Scully's apartment.
"Mulder's up to something," Langly said for fifth time, as he adjusted the telephoto lens of their video camera before securing it to the tripod.
"And if he hadn't been acting so wiggy since that vampire thing in Texas, this wouldn't be necessary," Frohike interjected with a sharp nod of his head.
"Yeah, what was up with that?" Langly added.
Byers exhaled another heartfelt sigh. "I don't think you've fully considered the ramifications of your actions. Do you realize what -"
"Get the mike higher!" Frohike yelped, nudging Langly. "We're picking up the old lady in the apartment downstairs!"
Byers sighed a third time. Clearly they weren't interested in listening to a voice of reason. But he would be damned if he'd help them in their latest escapade. He felt guilty enough for tailing Mulder. Spying on Scully - well, that went too far beyond the boundaries for his comfort.
"If Mulder or Scully ever found out that you have been hacking into their case reports, let alone videotaping -"
"Please tell me she's not doing Tae-Bo," Langly practically whimpered, pulling back his headphones.
"You know," Frohike reasoned, "if Mulder isn't wise enough to notice we've been tailing him, he's practically begging for this. And he'll thank me for saving those case reports one day."
"Hey! Wake up over there," Langly said as he brushed past Frohike and moved to the video monitor. "We've got Mulder on screen two."
"Hot damn!" Frohike shouted as he turned the monitor so all three could observe the grainy black and white screen.
Byers, regardless of his good intentions, couldn't help but look.
They watched Mulder enter the apartment, first peeking his head around the partially open door. Apparently satisfied, he slipped inside - one hand on the doorknob, the other behind his back.
"What did he do, pick the lock? It doesn't take anyone that long to use a key," Langly mumbled as he worked to adjust the microphone. The sounds from the apartment of Scully's seventy-year old neighbor still echoed through the metal walls of the Volkswagen van.
"What is that behind his back?" Byers asked.
Frohike shook his head. "Beat's me -"
"Beat yourself, you mean," Langly quipped, managing to catch his foot on a leg of the tripod.
However tempting it was to thwart his friends' latest foray into espionage, Byers leaned to his right and caught the camera before it crashed to the floor of the van. He knew he'd probably regret the rescue later. Frohike cursed, Langly flushed, and by the time they'd righted the camera, Mulder was nowhere to be seen.
"Shit!" Frohike yelled again.
"Where'd he go?"
"He's got to be in there somewhere," Langly reasoned as he continued to twist the knob on the microphone stand.
"Bathroom," Frohike replied.
Byers leapt from his seat and covered the camera's lens with his hand. "Oh no, don't even think about it."
Langly and Frohike shared a look, then rolled their eyes.
"No, I mean I have to go to the bathroom," Frohike said, glancing out the window to the tree just outside.
"Don't even think about it," Byers said again, dropping his hand from the lens.
The microphone picked up a faint humming in a definite female voice, growing louder as it went slightly flat in tone.
"What is that?" Byers asked, before he could stop himself.
Frohike answered, matter-of-factly, "Theme song from Shaft."
"Here's Scully," Langly said, drawing their attention to the woman on the screen. She was wearing a bathrobe, and had a towel wrapped around her head. The humming grew stronger.
"Now this is more like it," Frohike purred.
Byers closed his eyes and shook his head. "I have a bad feeling about this..."
Scully disappeared from the screen a moment, and the humming suddenly stopped. She entered the frame a few seconds later, holding something in her hand. It looked like the same thing Mulder had carried into the apartment with him.
Frohike blinked at the screen. "Son of a bitch -!"
"What?" Byers replied, looking up at the screen.
"He brought her flowers," Frohike said, turning to look at his friends over his shoulder. "The son of a bitch has been holding out on us."
Langly snorted. "Yeah, but it's a small bouquet, the cheapass."
Byers smiled anyway, warmed by the thoughtful gesture. "He must have had them in the car, because he wasn't carrying them when he left his apartment."
"So where the hell is he?" Frohike asked, craning his neck to get closer to the monitor.
On screen, Scully pulled the card off the bouquet and opened it, and all three men leaned forward, waiting for her reaction. Just then, loud THUMP rocked the van, the sound resounding in their ears as the door of the van flew open, and they found themselves face to face with none other than Agent Mulder himself.
"Show's over, boys," Mulder said. He reached out, deftly unscrewing the securing device, and plucked the camera off of the tripod. Then he pulled out the tape and stuck it in his pocket.
"Hey," Frohike exclaimed, "That's personal property."
"You want me to show this to Agent Scully?" Mulder replied.
The three voyeurs exchanged a nervous glance. "Uh, no..."
Then all four men froze as the sound of Scully's giggling bubbled out through the microphone. Mulder grinned, and looked at the monitor out of reflex, even though there was no longer an accompanying picture.
The others just stared at him.
"Son of a bitch," Frohike muttered again.
Scully's laughter died down, and Langly asked, point blank, "So what'd you write on the card?"
Mulder's expression went blank, and he tossed the camera to Byers, who fumbled, but recovered without dropping it.
"You're lucky I'm the one who caught you," Mulder said, tossing his head in the direction of Scully's apartment.
"No shit," Langly replied.
Mulder shook his head at them, then turned.
"Hey, Mulder," Frohike called after him. Mulder turned back and looked at him. "Happy Valentine's Day."
Mulder grinned, then turned and walked away, whistling the theme song from Shaft.