Title: Excuses, Excuses
Author: shabby chic
Written: April 1998
Rating: R Class: Story, romance
Spoilers: None
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance

Summary: Mulder and Scully stop over at an old hotel that is rumored to be haunted by aphrodisiac spirits.

Disclaimer: The X-Files and characters Mulder and Scully were created by Chris "The Man" Carter and belong to him, Ten Thir- teen Productions, Fox etc etc etc, not me.

This is my second attempt at fanfic (number one still in the works). I wrote it between Season 4 and 5 before I knew about Scully's past liking of the song Hotel California (cool coincid- ence, huh?), but it isn't set in any particular time. I'd appre- ciate any and all comments. Thanks. <romanesc@hotmail.com>

Mulder turned off the engine and popped the trunk as Scully got out of the airport rental car. With a tired heave, he pushed against the seat and stood on the asphalt, his muscles aching from immobility. He tensed them, relaxed them, then stretched them. The he shut his door and checked that the car was secure.

"Hey, Scully, how is it that after a flight as long as this one I look like I just swam through sand and you're able to look like. . . to look like you do?" He had to be careful about what he said to her. He might've said something really flattering like. . . Well, he would've said whatever came into his head and he knew it could've sounded like he was coming onto her. To look like she does was pretty flattering anyway, he thought. Even if she didn't realize it herself.

"I /feel/ like I just swam through sand," she replied, a note of weariness on her voice. Scully pulled her bag and elec- tronic notebook out of the trunk as Mulder reached in for his bags.

"By the way, I'm sorry about this place. I called around, but this one had the only vacancies in this area," Mulder said as he untwisted the strap of his bag on his shoulder and clicked the trunk shut.

"Why?" Scully eyed him suspiciously. "What's wrong with it?"

Mulder shrugged. "They say it's haunted," he answered nonchalantly. The receptionist at the Motel Lancia had referred him to the haunted hotel over the phone when he had rung in- quiring for vacanies and warned him in a joking manner that the place was haunted. "Oh, by the way," she had said. "That place is haunted. Again, I'm sorry we don't have any rooms for you. Motel Lancia wishes you a good day." Beep. Beep. Beep. Ah, Mulder smiled, the courtesy of West Coasters!

Scully raised her eyebrows at Mulder in mock interest and glanced over her shoulder at the buzzing neon lights that ad- vertised the hotel. "'The Californian Hotel'," she read. Then looking at Mulder, "Welcome to the Hotel California."

He smiled at her reference to The Eagles song and, as they made their way towards Reception, returned with, "Check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."

The hotel was a modest building, no more than ten or twelve years old. Parts of it looked younger, though, as if some major and pending renovations were taking place. It was better than some of the places they had retired into before. Mulder chose the worst places sometimes. Scully wondered if he did it on purpose, to feel more at home in a messy dump. She preferred neatness and order, and that wasn't too much of an ask.

Mulder held the door open for her and they stepped inside. She looked around the lobby and a strange warm sensation flooded her that made her flinch. There was something peculiar about the hotel. Like there was some kind of a. . .

"Scully, are you feeling okay?" Mulder asked after walk- ing towards the desk and turning around to see that Scully wasn't following him.

She blinked and furrowed her brow. "Yeah. . . I'm just tired, that's all." That's it, she thought. I'm just tired.

Mulder nodded understandingly and guided her to the desk with a hand on her back. It was difficult not to touch her. It was easier than telling her how much he appreciated her company and fairness in judging the credibility of their work, of him. How the hell was a guy meant to tell a woman how he feels if it's not an extreme like hate or love? By touching her and smiling at her and joking with her, she seemed to know what he meant when he did those things. Body language was so much easier to do it was hard not to do it.

He realized how it had become increasingly difficult not to touch her. Every chance he had, he touched her. Little touches that might not seem significant individually; a light hand at the small of her back, a lingering tap on the shoulder, an arm around her to whisper something in the corridor. . .

"Dana Scully and Fox Mulder," Scully told the receptionist.

"Under 'Scully' or 'Mulder'?" the receptionist asked politely. Scully was confused for a moment and looked towards Mulder.

"Uh, both. Separate rooms," Mulder told the woman with- out receiving Scully's gaze. Then he looked at Scully for her reaction and saw that she was reading a flyer displayed on the counter. He wasn't sure if she was distracting herself to avoid answering his glance or if she was genuinely reading the flyer because it interested her.

"Rooms 23 and 25," the receptionist told them as she handed him the keys.

"Thank you," Mulder smiled briefly and caught up to Scully on her way to the elevator, giving her the key to her room.

"Oh, the elevator's under repair at the moment," the receptionist called after them. "If you want, I could get some- one to help you up the stairs with your bags."

Mulder didn't know what Scully was thinking, but he knew he wasn't keen on carrying his bag up a few levels. He looked at her for confirmation and she nodded.

A young man barely into his twenties appeared and took Scully's bag without a word. He took Mulder's suit bag as well and asked as he headed towards the stairwell, "Which floor?"

Mulder, who had expected his heavier bag to be carried for him, stared at the young man's back, then looked at Scully. Then using his least offending brusque tone, Mulder told the man, "Top."

The man stopped and looked back at Mulder. "Top floor?"

Scully smiled at Mulder's good-natured animosity and turning to the hotel employee, correctly informed, "Second."

Halfway there, Mulder felt the shoulder strap burning into him. He transferred the weight to his other shoulder. "I can't wait to have a nice long hot shower," he thought aloud to no one in particular.

"Me too. I don't think I'll get up until noon tomorrow morning," Scully agreed. "We don't have to be anywhere before lunch, do we?"

"No. We have all of tonight and tomorrow morning for ourselves."


When they scaled the second flight of stairs, the young man handed Scully her bag with a polite smile and gave Mulder his suit bag. "I hope you have an enjoyable stay here," he told them before passing something like a matchbook to Mulder. Mulder looked at it and flipped it open. He stole a glance at Scully who was curious about the matchbook, then quickly whispered to the man, "Uh, we're not. . ."

He looked at Mulder and shrugged, "Doesn't matter." Then he disappeared back down the stairwell, leaving Mulder feeling a little awkward and Scully, even more curious beside him. She looked at him quizzically, then pulled his hand towards her by the wrist so she could see what it was. Inside the matchbook style envelope printed with the hotel's insignia was a small foil pack that undoubtedly contained a condom.

Mulder looked at her with some uncertainty as to what to say but she surprised him by offering an explanation instead of being embarrassed. "While we were in the lobby, I read a flyer about this place. Apparently, it used to be the site of an aphrodisiac inn."

Mulder raised his eyebrows.

"Nearly fifteen years ago, it was abandoned because popular belief was that it was haunted. Word got around and eventually the constant stream of tourists and honeymooners diminished."

Scully started walking slowly in the direction of her room. Mulder followed her after quickly tucking the condom into his pocket, thankful for a conversation.

"With a reputation like that," Scully continued, "the owners couldn't sell it and so, abandoned it. A couple of years ago, everyone forgot about it and new investors took the place at a bargain price."

"And they're reminding everyone about its past hauntings with colorful flyers at reception?"

Scully shrugged. "It's a novelty now. It sells."

Mulder nodded. "So, did the flyer tell you anything about what haunted this place over fifteen years ago?"

"Just your conventional spirits, apparently; gh˜¢ts and poltergeists. They say that they're still here, but they're not your standard spooks anymore."

"They say the place is haunted by cupids and aphrodisiac entities, now?"

Scully nodded and teased him with a smile, "I hope you don't believe that."

"No," he assured her, grinning back. "If it were true, there wouldn't be any vacancies, would there?"

Scully smiled at his joke, knowing he didn't mind if it were true. He would've preferred it to be true. She found her room and slid the key into the lock as Mulder passed her to the door neighboring hers.

"I'll leave my door unlocked," he whispered from behind, over her shoulder. "So if you're in the mood for anything strenuous. . . It's my birthday tomorrow, you know."

Scully shook her head, laughing quietly. "Good night, Mulder," she said, rolling her eyes and stepping into the room.

"Good night."

Mulder made his way to his room and heard Scully's door click behind him. He unlocked his door and went inside, still smiling at their fun little exchange. He tossed his bag onto the wide expanse of the bed as he rolled his aching shoulders then hung his suit bag on a convenient little hook on the back of the door. He unzipped the larger of the bags and pulled out a clean pair of boxer shorts and a shirt and lay them on the bed. The he went into the bathroom and turned on the shower so that steam rose to the ceiling.

Scully was too tired to have a relaxing shower. She slipped out of her shoes and coats and threw herself onto the bed. She lay on her side with her head nestled snugly on the cool pillows. In no time, she found herself drifting out of consciousness and into the delicious silence of sleep.

Stepping out of the shower fully refreshed and in the mood for a well-deserved rest, Mulder grabbed a towel from the rack and dried himself off. He walked into the bedroom naked and grabbed the shirt and shorts from the bed. He slipped into the clothes and sat on the edge of the bed, sitting there for a few seconds before finally lying down. Stretching until he touched the headboard of the bed with his fingertips, Mulder pointed his toes, tensing his stiff muscles and feeling the dull and pleasant pain of them, then completely relaxed with a rugged sigh, his head tilting to one side.

He was near sleep when he heard a soft thud from Scully's room. His eyes flicked open, but he didn't move. He wondered what it could've been and if she need his help. He decided to wait for another thump before breaking down her door. Scully's safety ranked right up there with government conspiracies in Mulder's list of paranoid fears. He listened carefully, but there was only silence.

For a long time, he continued listening and found himself starting to fall asleep again. He didn't fight it. Nothing was the matter next door. Mulder heard his breath slow down and deepen. He listened to it, feeling sleep come over him more quickly. For a second, he thought he could hear the sound of absolute silence, but the rare experience was broken by more noises from Scully's room.

Mulder listened, cautiously getting out of bed and reach- ing for the gun he always put within easy reach. Bumps sounded irregularly through the wall so softly he wasn't entirely sure he heard them. He briskly walked into the hallway and over to Scully's door.

Tapping lightly on the door, Mulder called, "Scully?" He tried the doorknob, but it was locked. "Scully?" He heard locks unlocking on the other side of the door and let his guard down. Slowly, the door opened and Scully stood before him in the dimly lit room.

Her face was tired, even sickly. She looked at Mulder wearily, "What is it, Mulder?"

Suddenly, he felt regretful. He had disturbed her. "I'm sorry, Scully. I thought something was wrong. I heard sounds coming from your room. . ." She didn't seem to be listening. Her head was bowed and her fingers pinched the bridge of her nose between her tightly shut eyes.


He was answered with a questioning hum.

Mulder put his hand on her arm and bent down to look at her face. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. . ."

He prompted the truth with a soft scolding, "Scully. . ."

She laughed inwardly at her typical response to the question. Forcing a small smile, she looked at him weakly. "No, actually. I haven't been feeling well since we came her," she admitted.

Before she knew it, Mulder's arm was around her and steering her back inside towards the bed. He sat down beside her, supporting her swaying body with a firm arm. "What were the noises I heard?" he asked.

"I, uh, I got up to go to the bathroom for a drink." She indicated a glass of water on the bedside table and chuckled almost drunkenly. "Actually, I got up to /stumble/ to the bath- room."

Mulder smiled, then asked. "What about that big thump I heard before?" "What big thump?"

"The big thump before the little stumbling thumps."

Scully cocked her head and looked at him thoughtfully. After a few seconds, she closed her eyes and smiled to herself, remembering what had happened. "Oh, that was when I fell off the bed."

"You fell off the bed?"

"I tried to get out but lost my balance," she whimpered.

There was a pause before they both burst into controlled laughter. Mulder squeezed her with the arm that was still around her and pressed her close to him as their laughter subsided. He felt her head on his cheek and pulled away to touch her neck with his free hand. She was a little feverish. That explained her drowsiness and unusually frequent giggles.

"You'd better get some rest," he told her, standing up to help her lie down. He pulled a thin sheet over her. "Get some sleep. I'll be sitting here." He walked towards an armchair leaning against the wall not too far away.

"Mulder?" Scully called. He turned around. "Thanks." Her voice was solemn and sincere. It surprised him, but he didn't say anything or react to it. He knew she wasn't waiting for a reply. Sitting on the chair, Mulder watched her get com- fortable in the warmth of the bed and close her eyes before drifting off himself.

Half of the night went by without much incident. Mulder woke up twice in the first three hours to check on Scully. She seemed to be sleeping deeply both times. Another hour later, his light sleep was disturbed when he heard Scully mumble, then sigh more audibly.

The lamp beside her bed let a soft luminance fall on her face and Mulder saw that she seemed to still be asleep. "Scully?" he called softly across the room.

Another mumble.

Mulder got up and quietly padded to the bedside. "Scully?" There was no answer. Her eyes were closed and Mulder decided she was definitely asleep. He walked back to the chair and shifted in it until he was comfortable.

He looked over to her before closing his eyes and saw what he thought was her hand disappearing under the sheet. Then there was a rhythmic motion down there as he heard a drawn-out moan from her. He swallowed. It didn't take a genius to figure out what she was doing. She was very definitely asleep. There was no way she would share something so intimate with him.

He felt himself become aroused. He couldn't stop looking at the body moving under the sheet. It was hypnotic and absol- utely erotic watching her in her guilty indulgence. What else was he going to do? He couldn't wake her up, and he couldn't ignore it either. He was hard underneath his boxers and he squirmed uncomfortably in the chair. He hesitated reaching into his shorts for some kind of control and grabbed the chair's arms instead.

He shut his eyes and took deep breaths, willing his urges down, but only felt the deliciously unsatisfied throbbing jutting out from between his legs. He opened his eyes to see Scully still maintaining the rhythm. It was clear that she was never going to climax. She's going to touch herself for God knows how long, Mulder thought. He knew he couldn't watch her for long without losing himself.

Scully mumbled in her sleep. She sighed and moaned. "Mulder. . ."

His control slipped. It was too much. Too much for him to take just sitting there watching, not doing anything. He knew what he had to do in order not to blow his mind.

Quietly, Mulder locked himself in the bathroom and sat on the edge of the sink. He closed his eyes as a hand traveled down his stomach and under the garter to encircle his painfully stiff erection. Slowly, he pushed his boxers down in front and began his ascension into climax.

He thought of what Scully was doing; exactly what /he/ was, finding satisfaction in imagining unimaginable thoughts about the other and spurring on the idea by autoerotica. The image excited him even more. Mulder saw Scully in that bed, her delicate fingers sliding over her moist self in expert explor- ation, dreaming he was touching her then. How often did she do that? he asked himself. Probably not as often as he did thinking about her, he decided.

His hand's movement increased its pace to fill a more urgent need.

He imagined being with her in that bed, being the one who touched her and making her writhe in impatient desire. Moving against her, with her, in her, faster and faster, coming closer to breaking with every intense thrust. She would push her hips against his to meet his plunges and scream his name when they reached the end together.

By now, Mulder's hand was uncontrollably jerking up and down the hard length of him. He gritted his teeth, knowing he was on the border of coming to orgasm. Then, a few more furious jerks later, he exploded in a sensational rush of warmth and relief.

He sat there, feeling the hot stickiness in his hand, waiting for his heart to slow down and his breathing to regain a calm rhythm. After a few silent minutes, he decided he'd better clean himself up.

In the morning, Mulder woke up on the floor by the bed. He looked straight up at the ceiling, wondering what he was doing there. It took a moment for him to remember he had moved to the floor after finding the armchair less than a comfort to sleep in for long periods of time. Mulder squeezed his eyes shut and sighed heavily. When he opened his eyes, he noticed a face look- ing at him from the bed and knew Scully had been watching him since before he woke.

"Good morning," she greeted him with a coarse whisper.

He rolled onto his side to face her and propped himself on an elbow. "Are you feeling better?" he asked, his voice creaky from sleep.

"Yes. Thanks for staying. You didn't have to, you know. I slept pretty soundly."

"Yeah, I know. I watched you all night." It slipped out.

More than a hint of horror found its way onto Scully's face. She knew what she did in her sleep some nights. "/All/ night?"

"No. Just for the first two hours. I slept pretty well after that," he lied.

"Oh." Scully slowly pushed herself up to sit on the bed with her feet almost touching the floor where Mulder got up to sit cross-legged directly in front of her. Their positions made her feel awkward and she stood up abruptly, gesturing towards the door of the bathroom, "I'm going to freshen up."

"Okay. I'll see you down the street in the cafe for breakfast," Mulder told her as he got up as well. "In about a half hour?"

Scully nodded as she backed to the bathroom. "Okay."

Mulder nodded as he let himself out. "Okay."

Mulder sat outside the small coffee shop at a table for two on the sidewalk. It was already way past breakfast and not quite time for lunch, so there weren't many people dining there. There were exactly five other people, actually. Three of them looked like business men on a coffee break. They each wore ties and owned briefcases. Two of the business men were middle aged with facial hair and the other was young and clean cut. Young Urban Professional, Mulder thought. Y.U.P. Yuppie. The other two were a couple in their late teens or early twenties. Other than the occasional sound of dishes and coffee cups being washed in the kitchen in the back, they made the only conversation.

A figure came into Mulder's view. It was Scully. She recognized Mulder easily and made her way through the small maze of tables and chairs to reach him. She looked better than she had the night before. Her illness had come suddenly and left the same way.

"You look much better this morning," Mulder said as she pulled up a seat across the table from him.

"I feel just as good. Have you ordered?" she asked.

"Yeah, I have."

Scully started to get up to order at the counter for her- self but Mulder leaned over the table and touched her arm. "I ordered for you as well. Coffee with cream, no sugar, right? I also got you a grilled cheese sandwich."

She looked at him in surprise, then nodded, impressed. "I'm the one who usually gets our coffees. How do you know what I take in mine?"

Mulder shrugged and played with the little jug of cream at the center of the table. Over the years when she ordered their coffees, he had watched and listened to her ask the counter attendant for the beverages. He loved watching her in her simple candid moments. Of course, as soon as she turned around, his eyes would be somewhere else; on the report in front of him, or out the window looking at traffic. Sometimes he wondered if she knew he was watching her.

"What time is it?" she asked.

Mulder looked at his wrist. "Uh, looks like. . . about a hair past a freckle," he told her. "I forgot my watch," he said apologetically, raising his left arm. "I took it off when I had a shower last night." He looked inside the open set coffee shop and found a small analog clock for her on one of the walls and pointed to it. It was nearly eleven o'clock.

A counter attendant approached their table with a round stainless steel tray, balancing two black coffees, an apple cinn- amon muffin and a slice of tomato centered on a grilled cheese sandwich. The delicious smell of coffee and the freshly baked muffins made Scully's stomach rumble silently. She hadn't had anything to eat since the quick snack at the airport.

The counter attendant left them to enjoy their order too quickly for Mulder to ask her which coffee was which. He looked to Scully for help, but she was already taking a sip out of the cup in front of her.

She made a face. "Mmm. I think this one's yours. It's too sweet." She put the cup down and pushed it across the table to Mulder.

Mulder took a sip out of the other cup and also made a face. "It's bitter." Then he put the cup beside Scully's sandwich.

"Why did you try it when I already figured out whose is whose?" Scully smiled curiously, taking the cream jug in one hand.

"I wasn't going to let you steal a mouthful of my coffee without taking it back from yours," he told her.

Scully shook her head, smiling, and poured the cream into the black coffee. "What time do we meet Mr. Shane Hawkes?"

"One thirty," Mulder answered, breaking off a bit of his muffin and popping it into his mouth. Scully nodded and took a bite out of her sandwich. She looked at Mulder's steaming fresh apple cinnamon muffin; it looked more appetizing than her sand- wich. She wondered if he'd mind if she asked for it. Scully hesitated a bit, but since the mood was casual and joking, she asked, "Can I. . ." She pointed at the muffin. "It looks deli- cious."

Mulder smiled, knowing she was waiting for him to offer her the muffin. "Yeah, it is." Scully paused, staring at him. He just smiled back. When she realized he wasn't going to volunteer the muffin, she sank back into her chair, pressing her lips together, and picked up her coffee. She took a few sips before Mulder said, "For yours."

"What?" Scully asked. She had already forgotten about what she had wanted, thinking he wasn't going to sacrifice it.

"This for that," Mulder indicated the two different foods.

Scully smiled and traded the plates of food. "Done and done!" she said with finality.

They talked more during the length of their meal, mostly about the current case and what they thought about it. When the last of the coffee had been swallowed, Mulder stood up and took his wallet out of his pocket.

"No, I'll pay," Scully waved him down, taking some notes out and heading towards the counter. "Consider it my birthday present to you."

"I thought you forgot," Mulder called into the shop.

"I tried to, but trying to purposely forget something just makes you remember it even more." Scully came back to their table after paying for the meal and they started heading back to the hotel.

"You /tried/ to forget?" Mulder asked.

"Mulder, you remembered my birthday once in /four/ years and gave me a key ring for it," she reminded him.

"I didn't just do that. . ." Mulder started. He thought of the trouble he had gone through some time ago, telling the waiters of the restaurant about Scully's birthday before-hand. Scully remembered the little twinkie and sparkler floating towards her as the whole bar restaurant sang 'Happy Birthday'. It had been typical for Mulder to embarrass her in public like he had that night, but she was genuinely surprised and touched by the gesture.

"No, you didn't. Sorry. . . That was really sweet sur- prising me like that. I never expected it," Scully told him quietly.

The rest of the short walk to the hotel was quiet. Mulder thought about the birthdays of Scully's he had missed. He hadn't given her much, or thanked her for what she gave him or what she gave up for him since the start of their partnership nearly four years ago. He had always assumed she wanted what he wanted; his goals were her goals, but it wasn't true. She wouldn't have wanted to be part of the X-Files if she had the choice. He was selfish, inconsiderate and unappreciative.

When the hotel came into view, Scully asked, "What are you going to do for the next hour and a bit?"

Mulder shrugged. "Dunno. Guess I'll watch a bit of television or something. What are you going to do?" They entered the lobby.

"Start my report on this case, I suppose. The first paragraph, anyway."

Scully continued walking towards the stairs but Mulder stopped. "Actually, I think I'll just wander up and down the street," he said, starting to walk backwards towards the exit. Scully turned around and nodded, then went back to her original route.

Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, Scully tapped at the electronic notebook keyboard. She had made a little nest of papers and files around her that she'd pick up, briefly scan, then return, typing a bit more of her report. After about half an hour doing this, a knocking sounded at her door. Without looking up, she said loudly, "Yeah, who is it?"


"It's open," she called as she took off her glasses and got up. Mulder opened the door and stepped inside. "I was won- dering when you were getting back," Scully said, rummaging through her bag on a small table against a wall. "I have some- thing for you. . ." She pulled out a flat wrapped box and gave it to Mulder. "Happy birthday."

Surprised that Scully had actually taken the time to get him something, Mulder took it and asked, "Thanks. . . what is it?"

"Something you need," Scully answered as she watched him slowly unwrapping it. He tore the paper, exposing a cardboard box with a clear plastic cover. Inside, a stylish silk neck tie lay. It was black, with a simple but elegant design on it; like a silver-gray ribbon outlining a silhouette profile of a face.

"It's a tie with taste," Scully told him.

Mulder smiled as he pulled at the neck tie he was wear- ing. "What is it that you're implying, Scully?"

Scully saw him take his tie off and open the box. "You don't have to wear it now."

Mulder put the new tie around his upturned collar and began tying it. "Too late." He made it to a half Windsor knot and undid it. "I hate doing this without a mirror."

"Here, let me." Scully eased his hands away from the unsuccessful attempt and started tying it for him. Mulder stood up straight and raised his chin to allow her ease. "You're too tall. My arms are starting to hurt," Scully complained good- naturedly as she continued working on the tie.

Mulder tried to look at the knot but couldn't. Instead, he watched Scully as she worked. It was another time she was her most honest. "Thank you, Scully," Mulder said softly.

"I haven't finished yet," Scully said, referring to the Windsor knot.

"No, I mean thank you for everything you've done for me." Scully glanced at him for a second then returned to the tie. "And not just for the present or tying it for me," he con- tinued. "I mean thank you for sticking around and for tolerat- ing my selfishness, my. . ."

"Your constant ditching me, dragging me across the coun- try to investigate weird cases about lake monsters among other things. . ." Scully added as she tightened the tie. She didn't seem to be aware of how close they were, otherwise she was com- pletely mindful and tried to distance herself with little eye contact.

"You made a list?"

Scully folded down his collar, grinning at his tie, "I'm not done yet. Actually, I haven't even begun. Don't forget about the countless parasites and diseases. . ." She raised her eyebrows on the last sentence to suggest nonchalance, as if the dangerous infections were part of everyday X-File life. She stopped and looked at him in honesty. She knew he was actually apologizing to her. "But seriously, Mulder, I don't mind. Some- times I wish you would realize how much you do it, but really. . ."

Her assurance made him smile in relief and in apprecia- tion of her unconditioned acceptance of him. Abruptly, he reached into the inside pocket of his coat and said, "I, uh, got you something from down the road." When his hand came out, a shiny silver Parker pen came with it. "It's. . . It's just a pen, but. . ." he started, speaking almost timidly.

Scully looked at him in surprise. His thoughtfulness moved her. She took the pen and weighed it in her hand. It was heavy and she found it balanced beautifully as she took a writer's grip. "It's magnificent to hold," she told him, awe tracing her tone.

On the sleek steel barrel, she could see some kind of pattern or etching. Scully held it closer to study the marks and saw that they were letters finely engraved in an impressive call- igraphic font: Dana Scully.

" 'Dana Scully'," she read under a soft breath.

"You always seem to be losing your pens."

She looked at him and he shrugged modestly. Scully couldn't believe he noticed something like that; losing her pens and before, what she has in her coffee. What else does he take notice of? she wondered. "I'm surprised it doesn't just say 'Scully'," she smiled.

"I wanted to have 'Dana' on it to say that it's a gift from a friend to a friend, not from FBI partner to FBI partner, but you're always 'Scully' to me, so. . ." Mulder explained, pointing at the etched names. He was looking at the pen she held, as if he was the one now, avoiding looking at her then, embarrassed about the sentimentality of it all.

With her free hand, Scully took Mulder's pointing hand and squeezed it, winning eye contact from him. She was about to thank him, but the words wouldn't come out. Instead, on a mutual impulse, they found their heads gravitating towards each other.

The kiss was a lingering friendly kiss on the lips. It could've stood alone but after it was broken, it was replaced by another soon after. This second kiss was much longer and had a sweetness that slowly turning into a craving. Mulder started lowering to sit onto the bed, holding Scully against him. He pulled her down onto his lap as he sat on the edge of the matt- ress, one hand moving up into her hair and the other staying around her waist.

Mulder's tongue gently probed deeper past her lips and met hers. They teased each other, tasting and exploring, thrust- ing in and pulling out. His hand untucked the blouse from her slacks and lightly slid over her smooth bare back. He felt her response in his mouth; a moan and an increase in passion.

Slowly, Mulder leant back, pulling Scully on top of him. She straddled his hips, feeling the tautness in his pants under her. She heard his groan. Then a loud crinkle. And another.

Scully murmured something quick in Mulder's mouth then pulled away, breaking the kiss suddenly. "The files!" She rolled off the disappointed Mulder and pulled him up off the bed. Then she gathered the creased papers and roughly put them back into their bent folders. "I wonder what I'm going to say when Skinner asks me what happened to these files," she laughed.

"The truth; you left them on the bed and forgot they were there, then started making out on top of them with your partner. . ." Instead of laughing at his sarcastic joke, their faces became serious as they realized who they were and what they had done; FBI partners becoming romantically and almost sexually involved. Taboo. Scully slumped onto the bed. "You know, we can't do this," she finally said.

"I know," Mulder conceded, looking at the floor with his hands on his hips. "But. . ."

"But what?" Scully prompted, smiling. "But can we just do it anyway?" Seeing Mulder shrug a 'Well, can we?', Scully said, "There's definitely something going on in this hotel."

"What? With the ghosts? What makes you say that all of a sudden?" Mulder asked, unsure where the comment rose from.

"Maybe not ghosts," Scully replied. "But something. I mean, look at us! Two normally staid FBI agents who usually keep at arm's length throwing themselves at each other!"

Mulder smiled back and sat beside her. She was trying to deny that her actions were her own. "So what's your theory, Agent Scully?"

"I'm not sure, yet," she told him thoughtfully. "Maybe it's from the fumes in the building. It's obvious that it's been undergoing renovation for some months now. That could explain why I was so ill last night. /That/, along with the suggestion of romance and sex we were given byt he flyer and the condom, we probably. . ."

"Isn't it more conceivable that you got a twenty-four hour bug, got over it and threw yourself at me because you're physically attracted to me?" Mulder teased.

Scully scoffed. "I wasn't just the one throwing myself."


"That's what /you/ want to believe," Scully smiled.

"Then what do you believe? I know you're not entirely sure about the theory you just gave me," Mulder said. Scully looked at him. He was smug, knowing he was right, expecting her to admit that she was very attracted to him. Scully didn't want to give him the pleasure of winning. "Tell me, Scully," he pressed. "What do you believe?"

"I don't know," she told him, then smiling confidently, "but I guess if I have to believe in /something/ in this in- stance, I'd better start believing in ghosts."




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