TITLE: A Reasonable Proposal (1/1)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Anywhere
SPOILER WARNING: Sixth season
RATING: PG
CONTENT STATEMENT: MSR
CLASSIFICATION: VRA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully romance
SUMMARY: Scully and Mulder return to work after her convalescence.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.
NOTE: Sequel to "A Counter Proposal."
  
Many thanks to Char, Diadem, and Meggo, my beta readers, who were so
generous with their time and helpful in their comments.

A Reasonable Proposal
By Shoshana

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A Monday morning, summer 1999
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was our first day back to work. It had been a momentous time in
my life and my mind couldn't help but wander as I scrolled through
all the E-Mail that had accumulated on my hard drive this past month.
My convalescence was spent completely divorced from our work here.
By necessity and by choice.

Aside from the need to heal comfortably at home, or at least in
relatively stressless locations, like the local park or shopping
mall; I was faced with several weeks of radiation treatments and a
dose of chemotherapy to boot.

Although Mulder found the concentration and time to wade through his
correspondence, paper and otherwise, I ignored my laptop, opting for
lighter fare. Or sometimes I just would put on the headphones and
listen to a book, especially on days when I just wanted to fade away
on my couch. There's never anything fun about cancer treatment, even
when you welcome the preventive effects it will provide.

So my mind wandered, back to last weekend, lying in a hotel bed,
windows thrown open, sea smell in the air, muted sounds of sunseekers
down by the pool. We went to Virginia Beach at the height of the
season, spending the majority of the time in our hotel room. Can't
blame us for that. We had a taste of each other almost four weeks
ago and we'd been reserving ourselves, holding back, till I was fit
for duty once more.

And what a fine obligation for both of us. Taking responsibility
for our mutual gratification has never been so rewarding. Or taxing.
Though I must say I was up to the task by then. Four weeks
convalescence will drive you batty, four weeks without Mulder's
caresses were driving me insane.

And when we finally closed the door to our room behind us and began
undressing one another, he was so considerate of me, so cautious, it
left me thoroughly elated, more in love with him than ever before.
This man didn't care one bit about scars or changes in my feminine
profile. He only cared about putting my mind at ease, making me feel
desirable, essential to him.

Any niggling fears I may have harbored at all were erased by his
soft touch, his honeyed voice, murmuring to me, reminding me, that I
was his once, and future love. We survived on sex and room service
for the next twenty-four hours, only venturing out when we ran of
good excuses for not doing so. After all, we could spend all day in
bed in my apartment next weekend. Might as well justify our trip,
explore the not so extreme possibilities outside our cozy hideaway.

The moon was full that evening, illuminating the creamy sands of the
beach, casting long shadows around us. There were others out for
midnight strolls, mostly couples, sometimes teenagers, flocking
together like a gaggle of geese. I was so happy to be alive that
night, so relieved that my illness could fall by the wayside; not
forgotten, not denied, but banished from everyday life.

My incision had healed. I wouldn't give it more than a passing
thought when dressing in the morning, not even that if I didn't have
the time to leisurely scrutinize its rosy, puckering scar. I just
wanted to go back to work, to my usual workaday life with Mulder, the
one we had been sharing for years. The bonus was that we were
sharing it as lovers now.

I hesitated to call him my boyfriend. I'm thirty-five, not
thirteen. Best friend sounds good to me, but I can't see introducing
him to anyone that way, either. Best lover? No Dana, I don't think
so. I'm just going to stick with 'my guy.' a simple enough term that
everyone can comprehend.

We're not thinking of keeping this a secret. He's told Skinner, who
could care less, as long as it doesn't affect our work. If anyone
else in the bureaucracy of the F.B.I. cares that much, we'll deal
with it when that day comes. We've survived much more severe rebukes
from the powers that be, and expect that we will ignored in this
respect.

I have to tell the rest of my family. Naturally, Bill will be
upset, but I think he's mellowed some since the birth of Matthew.
Being a Dad has given him a new perspective, a new appreciation of
family ties. I've spoken to him this year with more affection and
good will than I ever thought I'd see. He's even asked how my crazy
partner was a couple of times. I forgave him the epithet and savored
the friendly overture his query represented.

"Hey, Scully. You gonna look at that one message all day or is it
the key to unlock all the secrets of the universe?"

Mulder has stepped behind me and is gently massaging my shoulder
muscles as I clutch at the curves of my mouse. Depend on Mulder to
make my dissociative reverie into a joke, pulling me back into the
real world. He doesn't seem too concerned, he's smiling down at me,
amusement in his eyes.

"Oh, alright. So I took a little head trip there." I looked up at
him fondly. "I was just back on the beach, just walking along the
beach last Saturday night, stopping for daiquiris at some little
dive, dancing with someone tall, dark and handsome till it was
closing time..."

"Agent Scully, how unprofessional of you to mention this during
office hours!" he said, with mock solemnity. "I think we'll have to
report you to the OPR immediately!"

I laughed, grateful for the levity. He leaned down, kissed my
forehead lightly, and went back to his desk to resume whatever he'd
been doing minutes ago. He'd probably been curious, maybe even a
little concerned about my trancelike state. But he hadn't wanted it
to look like he was checking up on me, hovering around me. He could
get away with that when I lying in my hospital bed, but he knew I'd
resent too much attention at work. It was something he'd found out
the hard way, my stony glare silencing him on more than one occasion
in the past.

The phone rang and it was for me. BSU needed a consult on a
difficult autopsy, would I mind? Not at all, I mused. I wasn't
getting much done in the office and our meeting with Skinner wasn't
till that afternoon. I reminded Mulder that I'd pick him up for
lunch at noon and head over to Quantico, forty miles outside
Washington.

Mulder didn't seem too pleased. Maybe to lose my company, maybe
because I didn't elaborate on the case I was consulting on. As
always, he had to be more tolerant of my need to control my own
schedule. We're not joined at the hip and sometimes his presumptuous
attitude gets on my nerves.

He'll pencil me in for autopsies or other important laboratory work
without asking me if it's convenient to other pending investigation.
He's pretty dense sometimes, even with constant retraining by me, his
long suffering partner. I can forgive him these lapses in
consideration for one reason only; the penitent look on his face when
he realizes how heavy-handed he's been. Maybe not immediately, maybe
not within minutes or hours, but later in the day. He'll apologize
the only way he knows how, softening his voice and showing concern
for the way *I* feel about his transgression.

The Behavioral Science Unit is in an old nuclear bunker sixty feet
beneath the indoor firing range at the FBI Academy. Mulder worked in
that section for three years before persuading the powers that be to
open an X-Files Division.

I was not helping with or observing any autopsies that day. I was
to review a slew of cases, look for forensic similarities that may
have been overlooked by the profilers' trained eyes. I knew a few of
the agents, having taught at Quantico after graduating from the
Academy in 1990, and my brief assignment there in 1994, when the X-
Files were shut down.

They all know who Mulder is of course, legendary profiler that he
was. And I wasn't surprised that the agents there that day knew who
I was, even though most had never met me before. What shocked me was
that the four men and one woman in the office that day all either
asked me how I was feeling or told me I was looking well that day.

So this was what a fishbowl felt like. Was it common knowledge at
the F.B.I. that Dana Scully had been in the hospital for yet another
cancer operation? I couldn't fathom how these people knew, but I had
a pretty good guess that Human Resources had let the cat out of the
bag.

I tried not to let this revelation affect my work all morning,
responding politely to the profilers' concerns. I couldn't help but
ponder that if Mulder and I ever did reveal our relationship, it
would be the hottest topic around the BSU water cooler.

The consult took a lot longer than I thought it would and I left
Quantico at 11:15, thinking I could still make it back to the office
in time. I got stuck in heavy lunch hour traffic and decide to ring
Mulder and tell him I would be late. Naturally, my cell phone was
inoperable. I hadn't noticed that the battery was low and I had been
so distracted all day, I hadn't missed the squealing of the little
bastard.

Around 12:30 p.m., I arrived back at our office, tired and hungry,
not prepared for Mulder's anger. He was on the phone when I walked
in, probably asking BSU where the hell I was. He hung up the phone
and stood at me from the other side of the room, more irate than I'd
seen him in months.

"Where have you been?! Your cell number doesn't work, they said you
left at 11:15. Couldn't you even stop and tell me if you were going
to be delayed?!"

He was genuinely angry, uncharacteristically so, as it's not the
first time I'd been delayed coming back from Quantico. Well, I guess
the honeymoon was over, before any marriage has even taken place.

"Mulder, I can only account by the way you are speaking to me that
you have had a complete and utter lapse of judgment. If you're going
to lose it every time I'm late and you can't get hold of me, we're
never going to make this partnership work. My cell phone is dead, I
was stuck in traffic, end of story."

I was getting pissed off; he was acting irrationally, even for
Mulder. I wanted to be sympathetic, but a half hour late was nothing
to get this irate about.

He collapsed back into his desk chair, seemingly exasperated with
much more than just my tardiness. He combed his hands through his
hair, then settled his forehead on top of them, elbows on the desk.

Without looking up he said, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Scully. I
guess this has been a lot harder on me than I've wanted to admit.
You've been so strong through this whole ordeal, all the treatment,
all the time off. I think I've been depending on you a little too
much, not worrying about you because of your optimism. I'm just all
out of emotional reserves... I was just so scared that I'd lost
you..."

I stood in shocked silence for about thirty seconds, until I
realized he was trying to disguise sobs, still cradling his head in
unsteady hands. Oh shit. I hadn't seen this coming. We are so tied
to each other now, emotionally, sexually, professionally, there were
bound to be some problems in our relationship. But I didn't expect
it our first day back. And I thought he'd been dealing with this
very well. Obviously not.

I crossed the room and took him in my arms, oblivious to the fact
that we were indeed in our office, and anyone could enter at will. I
forced him to look up at me and kissed his tears away, telling him
how much I loved him, that I would never leave him, that he just
needed a little more time to adjust. He finally got it together
enough to articulate words.

"Jeez, Scully. I'm so pathetic. I've tried to rely on you too
heavily. And you've had your own burden to bear. All the times that
I urged you to see a counselor in the past, and I've been too
stubborn to see one, to talk to someone about these fears. I should
have taken my own advice for once."

He looked up at me with liquid, imploring eyes. I wanted to soothe
his pain; it was always devastatingly unfair of him to take the blame
for every one of our individual or mutual misfortunes.

I hugged him tight to my chest and said, "Well, at least you
recognize that now. Mulder, don't worry. We'll both go. I've been
doing the same thing in a sense. I've relied on you and Mom a lot
more than I should. I think I had an advantage over you, being able
to understand this illness from a medical perspective. But still, I
avoided talking to anyone. Then I would have to discuss a lot of
other issues peripheral to just having cancer. And I wasn't ready to
do that."

"What kind of issues?"

"You. Me. The future. Some other things that go along with all
that."

"Scully, if you're thinking that I'd leave you for any reason in the
world... I'd marry you in a second if I knew it would make you feel
more secure..."

"I know, I know. I'm just... today everyone at Quantico knew I'd
been in the hospital. It was so odd to be the center of attention,
or at least I felt vulnerable that way."

"Scully, I'm so sorry. They knew at BSU because I ran into one of
my old friends from there last week. Did you think it was a rumor,
that your privacy was invaded?"

"Yeah, that's it... And I could only imagine what was next... I
guess I was a little taken aback by all the attention..."

"Hey, it's good attention. People care about you. Most of all, *I*
care about you. Why don't we just go ahead, why don't we just get
married, Scully? It will put that old rumor mill to rest. They
won't have anything more to speculate about. Well, other than when
I'll get reprimanded by Skinner next... " He grinned up at me
mischievously. "We can make this work. Just marry me, Scully."

His gentle eyes looked up at me as his recovered strength and
composure seemed to flow between us. I needed this man, more than
ever now. We needed stability in our lives, we had *been* stability
in each other's lives for years now.

I was thirty-five years old. I was being proposed to by Mulder, not
the perfect man I had dreamed about as a child or teenybopper. A
real man, with real faults and foibles, not so different than my own.
We had torn down a barrier between ourselves, become lovers, remained
close and true friends. We just needed a little more honesty, with
ourselves and each other, and I knew all would be right with the world.

He watched my face carefully, anxiously anticipating my reply. His
confidence was back, he was grinning now as I considered his
proposal. I knew he would wear down my resistance every day until I
capitulated. And we might as well get it over with, we had other
things to concentrate on. Much more important than our matrimonial
status; though that seemed to be the only question of the day.

"Can we get engaged first?" I looked down at him, eyes beseeching
understanding.

"Of course. God, yes. Any way you want to do it, Scully. I know
the last month hasn't been easy for either of us. And I think we can
fix that. I know my little performance here today didn't scream
stability, but you know how much I love you. You know I was just
frantic about you. And I'll find someone to talk to, to work this
out with. I promise."

"Well, then. I have no choice in the matter," I said, wry smile
evolving across my face.

I gave him a lingering kiss, before stepping out of his arms and
leaning back to get a good, solid look at him.

He took my hand in his and crooned softly, "No choice at all."

fin

Please send feedback to: shoshana1013@excite.com