Mixed Signals

Scully sat in the parking lot of a gas station, waiting for Mulder. They'd been having a good day. Mulder hadn't been overly obnoxious; she hadn't been overly sensitive; they were almost to their destination, and -- most importantly -- she was driving.

Which meant she was in charge of all the car's controls. She only wished those controls included air-conditioning. They must have had the only car without air-conditioning in all of Mobile, Alabama. Her blouse was sticking to her back. She unbuttoned it a little further.

Bored, Scully grabbed the knob of the radio and whizzed up and down the dial, getting nothing but static and louder static. She was just grateful there were no all-Elvis radio stations.

ALL Elvis -- ALL the time!!!

She found something down at the end of the dial.

"I want to--" a vaguely strangled noise issued forth from the radio followed by "like an animal."

Scully humored herself with a tiny "Baaaaahhh."

"Scully?" Mulder said, poking his head in the driver's side window. "What are you listening to?"

"I have no idea, Mulder," she said.

"I want to feel you from the inside," said the radio angrily.

"It's the only station I could get, and it's AM," she said apologetically.

"Sounds like Nine Inch Nails," Mulder offered.

"You listen to this, Mulder?"

"You can have my isolation. You can have the hate that it brings," the voice wailed.

"Er--" he hedged.

"Help me, it's your sex, I can smell," Trent Resnor screamed lustily.

"Never mind," Scully said.

Mulder handed her bottled water to her through the window and then went around the car to get in the passenger's seat. Finding the door locked, Mulder used his elbow to knock on the window, his hands filled with various and overpriced snack foods.

Scully leaned over to unlock the door, unknowingly giving Mulder a clear shot down her loose blouse.

A true professional, Mulder knew you had to take advantage of a clear shot when one presented itself because you may not get another one any time soon. He stared thoughtfully as Scully pushed the door open for him.

Climbing in, he asked, "Where'd they dig up this fossil, Scully? No automatic door locks, no automatic windows, no automatic seat adjustment, only an AM radio...."

Mulder put his 48 oz. "Thirst-Quenchenator" between his legs and tried to roll his window down. It stuck halfway...sort of like the driver's side -- Scully actually had to drive because the seat would only adjust forward, and there was no way Mulder could cram himself behind the wheel without his forehead running into the windshield.

"It was either that or--" Scully cut herself off when she realized what was coming from the radio.

"I want to--" This time the radio sounded strangled because Scully grabbed the knob and took to twisting up and down the dial again. Give me that all-Elvis station, she prayed. At least Elvis was predictable.

"Or what?" Mulder asked, smiling at her discomfort.

"Or?" Scully repeated, turning off the radio. "Oh, it was either this Skylark or a fifteen passenger van."

"Did it have air-conditioning?"

"I didn't ask. What could we possibly do with a van, Mulder?"

"You'd be surprised, Scully," he said, giving her a carefully lecherous grin.

"No, Mulder," Scully said good-naturedly, pulling out of the parking lot, "I think you'd be the one surprised."

"Mulder, I can't believe you did that! Undermining my authority in front of the local law enforcement and publicly humiliating me!"

Scully tore out of the police station's parking lot, drove over the sidewalk, and peeled out onto the street. Mulder's head hit the ceiling when the car's right rear tire fell off the curb and into the gutter.

"Scully!" he argued, "You had basically told them that they were wasting their time pursuing that avenue of investigation! You had no right to do that."

"I'm working this case too."

"You're working it wrong."

"Mulder, you're such a pig. Maybe if you let me in on your theories once and a while instead of making me guess where you're headed with things then I could back you up!"

Scully barely turned on her blinker half-way around a corner. An old lady walking her dog stepped back up onto the sidewalk.

"But, noo-oooh," Scully drawled, not noticing her near miss with vehicular homicide, "instead you traipse around keeping things to yourself, and I'm forced to look like an IDIOT when you pull your sacred theory out of your ass, and once again, I get to be the fool for ever having disagreed with you."

She slammed on the brakes when confronted with a red light.

"Scully--" Mulder began, but his seat belt gave him a quick squeeze across his chest, and he lost his breath.

Scully turned on the radio with the volume all the way up so she wouldn't have to hear his loop-holed logic and lousy excuses.

"Closer, let me whisper in your ear," the voice on the radio suggested.

Mulder tried to yell over the noise, but the Beatles won out: "Say the words you long to hear: I'm in love with you."

"Scully!" Mulder screamed when he finally regained his breath.

"Listen. Do you want to know a secret?" the Fab Four pestered.

"God damn it, Scully, listen to me!"

Scully tried to turn the radio up but it was already at its loudest so she started singing along. "Whoa oh, oh." Scully cleared her throat in order to reach maximum volume.

"Scully, this is unprofessional," Mulder informed her.

Scully gave him a look that showed just what she thought of him and his so-called professionalism. One adept at reading Scully's facial expressions could also tell where she thought his blessed professionalism would best be shoved. This was not lost on her partner.

"Closer, let me whisper in your ear," she yelled, screaming the words in a manner to which they were not accustomed.

John Lennon was scratching at the lid of his coffin. Paul McCartney's lawyer was going to contact her with an irate letter from his client.

"Scully, I had every right--"

Scully revved the engine, drowning him out.

"Say the words you want to hear--" the Beatles trilled.

Mulder leaned into her and half-yelled into her ear so that she could hear him over the music. "Scully, you were wrong. I feel certain that if we pursue this lead, we will find another victim. It's wrong to ignore this just because of its paranormal nature. People are getting hurt here, and we need to stop it."

Scully gave him a shove back into his seat and took her foot off the brake. The car hurtled across the intersection.

He was right. He was always right. She hated that he was always right.

"I'm in love with you," the Beatles shared lovingly.

And she hated this radio station.

Scully laid on her hotel bed, her legs bent at the knee and hanging off the edge. She was still angry at Mulder. It was a day later, and he had already found two promising leads and a witness.

During this same time, she had discovered that her suit jacket had an extra pocket in it. This didn't do much to advance their investigation; however, Mulder's leads were forming a strong case against the suspect.

So she was wrong again. You think she'd get used to it.

In all fairness, she really had no reason to be mad at Mulder. The jerk hadn't even said "I told you so." She swung her feet restlessly and stared at the ceiling.

The white plaster was textured and rough. She had just found something that looked like a chicken foot when there was a knock on her door. She sprang up to answer it.

Mulder stood there, poster boy for deja vu. He had a backwards baseball cap on his head and was wearing blue knit shorts, running shoes and a white T-shirt that displayed the logo for David's Sunflower Seeds.

He caught her staring at his shirt. "Free with twenty proofs of purchase," he explained, jogging in place.

"They probably regret that now," Scully said, trying to hate him.

"I've got three more at home." He dipped his head from side to side. "I'm wired. Wanna go for a run?"

Scully found that she did. "Sure," she said, giving up on the impossible task of hating him.

Mulder actually looked surprised.

"Just wait while I change, okay?" She closed the door in his face and was careful to lock it. She squeezed into her sports bra and put on a T-shirt, shorts and socks.

Pulling her hair back into a tight ponytail, she opened the door and then settled herself on the bed to tie her running shoes. She sat with her leg tucked against her chest and her foot on the mattress.

Mulder wandered in on his own weird schedule.

"Are you bringing your gun?" Scully said. She rested her chin on her bent knee and looked up at him.

In answer, Mulder pulled up his T-shirt to show her his waist.

No gun.

Scully found herself staring at his skin. She forced herself to go back to tying her shoes.

Mulder waited until she was done staring to let go of his T-shirt.

"So, if we get attacked, I suppose I'm going to have to defend you," she said with mock weariness in her voice.

"As usual," he said. "I'd expect nothing less. Anyway, you really can't run while wearing a holster, Scully. It's just uncomfortable to have that thing slapping against your hip..." Mulder trailed off, not really listening to anything he was saying. Instead he was gazing at the smooth white underside of Scully's thigh.

Scully changed legs to tie her other shoe then looked up again to find Mulder standing in front of her with his arms crossed over his chest. He looked very serious all of a sudden.

"Something wrong, Mulder?"

"No," he said cheerily. "Get your key. We can leave it at the front desk."

"Mulder, wait up!"

Scully had started out the run with plenty of energy. She had stayed by Mulder's side for a good twenty minutes. Then she started getting tired. Mulder noticed and showed off by jogging circles around her. She got pissed and sprinted past him. He caught up with her in a few easy strides and took to running backwards in front of her.

Scully hoped that he would trip and fall on his ass. He didn't. She wasn't surprised. She never got what she wished for. Mulder finally turned around and jogged off again.

They were in a residential area off of the highway where their hotel was located. TVs glowed in family room windows and cats slinked under half-closed garage doors.

Intermittent street lights dotted the dusk. The air was muggy and stole the breath right from her lips. She felt like she was running through a sauna.

Mulder was way ahead of her, his white T-shirt a bright splotch in the humid evening. His black baseball hat had a yellow P on it.

There was a rock in front of her on the uneven road. Scully gave it a viscous kick. It skipped along the asphalt and then hit a rusty bicycle that had been dumped on the sidewalk.

He was doing this to her on purpose. She trudged by a brightly lit house. There was the splashing of a pool and the friendly sounds of a party.

They had their music on too loud, which probably wasn't making the neighbors too happy. But then again, maybe all the neighbors were at the party.

Scully sighed. She didn't even know what her neighbors looked like. And when was the last time she had been invited to a party?

All she needed was a rest. Maybe some water. She gave another half-hearted "Mulder, slow down," even though she knew he was out of hearing range, with the party's music drowning her out further.

"Watching, I keep waiting, still anticipating love. Never hesitating to become the fated ones. Turning and returning to some secret place to hide."

Staring, amazed, as her feet continued to move one in front of the other, Scully turned the corner, mumbling, "Mulder, you b--" and ran into his back. She could tell it was him because she recognized his running shoes. She sort of stood there with her forehead pressed against his back.

The music found them even there. "Watching in slow motion as you turn to me and say--"

"Scully, you wimp."

There was a huge splash and laughter and then a group of off-key voices singing, "Take my breath away."

"Mulder--" Scully whined.

"I'm just joking, Scully. Want to sit here and rest for a moment?" he asked, gesturing to the curb.

Scully eyed him, certain this was a joke.

He sat down. "Come'ere."

Scully sat down next to him, resting her elbows on her knees and holding her head in her hands.

"Through the hourglass I saw you. In time you slipped away. When the mirror crashed, I called you, and turned to hear you say, if only for today I am unafraid."

Scully pulled the hem of her shirt up to wipe the sweat off of her face. The air felt nice on her hot stomach. She leaned back onto the sidewalk, leaving her T-shirt hiked up to just under her breasts.

"Take my breath away...take my breath away," the song slowly instructed.

Next to her, Mulder copied her posture on the sidewalk. "Have you ever seen Top Gun, Scully?"

"No," she said too quickly.

"Yes, you have," Mulder said incredulously. "Everybody's seen Top Gun."

"So what if I have?" Scully challenged.

"Why'd you lie to me, Scully?"

"I wasn't lying."

"Yes you were."

"It's just a movie."

"Let me for a moment just ignore the fact that you lied to me -- why are you acting so squirrelly?"

"Because I know what you're going to ask."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I know you, Mulder."

"Uh oh, guess it's time to move on," Mulder said dryly.

"So, Scully," Scully said, nonchalantly, "do you remember what was happening when this song was playing?"

Mulder sat up, glanced around him guiltily and made as if to take off.

Scully reached out and pulled him back down to the concrete, "You said we could rest."

"Scully, when did you learn to read minds?"

"I can only read the transparent ones."

"What am I thinking now?"

Scully turned her head toward him. He was watching her with a faint grin on his face.

"Whatever it is, I don't like it," she said.

"I figured you wouldn't," he said sadly.

And as they laid there, resting, they could hear the last words of the song: "Watching in slow motion as you turn to me and say -- Take my breath away, my love, take my breath away."

And then some drunken and happy fool screaming, "Take me to bed or lose me forever!" A huge splash as someone was pushed into the pool.

"I don't tell you what I'm thinking, do I?" Mulder asked suddenly, playing with the hem of his T-shirt.

Scully frowned up at the sky, knowing exactly what he meant -- his theories. "No, you don't."

"I just figure you know," he said, turning his head to look at her.

"Sometimes I do," she admitted. "You get that look in your eyes, and I know. But--" She looked at him.

"But you'd still like me to tell you," he finished.

She looked back up to the sky. "Yes," she said softly. She pulled her shirt back down over her stomach. She felt vulnerable asking him for something -- even if it was something she deserved.

"I'm sorry, Scully. I forget sometimes. Sometimes I'm afraid you'll laugh."

He had her there. She offered him everything she had. "We're partners," she said.

There was a pause. It sat between them.

"It's going to be okay, isn't it, Scully?" Mulder finally asked.

"Yeah, I think we're going to be just fine, Mulder," Scully replied, hearing something only slightly different.