Subject: New! The Barbecue Series 7: Can't Stand the Heat

Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999

Category: Vignette, MSR, Maggie/Sk relationship, MulderTorture, MulderAngst

Rating: PG-13 for some language, but my muse says I should put an NC-17 for some horrific Graphic Descriptions of serial murder abuse, etc. - my muse also suggests reading it before you actually eat…so better to be safe, than sorry.

Spoilers: "Fire" and let's just say through season 5, to be safe.

Summary: Mulder is invited to spend Valentine's Day with Scully and Maggie, and the boss at the AD's favorite restaurant. Mulder's first mistake? Saying yes. Second mistake? Saying even more….

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: The names you recognize belong to 10/13 productions and Chris Carter. I'm just borrowing them. I won't keep them. At the end of the story you can have `em back, I swear, (unless you *want* to give `em to me.) All other characters belong to me, and if Mr. Carter wants to borrow them, all he needs to do is ask. <grin>

Introduction: It picks up in the Barbecue Series Universe, so it's first person…..Oh, and look who's back…<veg>

As always, thank you Vickie Moseley for being my CyberMuse on this one too!

The Barbecue Series 7: Can't Stand the Heat by Susan Proto

Part 1/2

I'm still not sure if this is a good idea, but since Scully seems to be willing, I'm not about to argue. I mean, it's Valentine's Day, and I figure I should be a little indulgent. But this is not going to be easy. Nope, not by any stretch of the imagination.

We're double dating with Mom and Skinner.

God. What a nightmare this is.

When Scully tells me Skinner wants to take us all out to dinner, I'm kind of taken aback. I mean, why the hell does he want to take _us_ out to dinner, on Valentine's Day, of all days. Then Scully tells me he's taking her mother out too, and I think I'm gonna be sick.

Scully looks at me and asks me what's wrong. I tell her nothing. She asks me why do I look so green under the gills. I tell her I don't.

She says I do.

I say I don't.

Then she starts laughing her head off.

"Your jealous," she says to me.

"Scully, you're nuts," I reply indignantly.

"Mulder, you are! You're jealous of Skinner! This is rich, Mulder. This is just too rich," she taunts.

I choose to ignore her at this point. I figure, the old adage, 'thou protests too much,' might come into play here, and I don't want to give Scully a reason to make more of this than she already has.

Besides, I think she's right.

I am jealous.

I guess I never did learn how to play nice in the sandbox. At least not when it comes to maternal figures who declare their unconditional love for me for the first time in my thirty-eight years of life. I'm selfish. I admit it. Maggie Scully has pretty much adopted me as one of her own, and I'm not ready to share her just yet.

It's bad enough I have to share her with Billy. I don't mind sharing her with Charlie, 'cause Charlie plays fair. But Billy? Shit. The man doesn't know the meaning of the word 'fair.'

But Skinner? This is definitely a whole new different ball game, and I'm not sure if I'll know how to play fair. So, yeah, I guess Scully's right. I'm jealous. Shit.

"Where's he taking us?" I ask.

"I'm not sure. All I know is Mom said he wants to take us to his favorite restaurant. Look, I think it's sweet that he's chosen to include us at all. Give the guy a break. I mean, he's trying to impress my mother by extending himself to us as well," she says.

"Scully, this is the Assistant Director of the fucking FBI!" I practically shout in exasperation. "He's our God damned boss, for crying out loud!"

"So, you want to call him and give him our regrets?" she asks.

Snagged. Big time.

"What time?" I ask dejectedly.

"The reservations are for eight o'clock. He's picking Mom up in Maryland, and then he'll swing back for us at my place. The restaurant is apparently in Georgetown," Scully explains.

"Figures," I retort.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"


Scully looks at me, and I can tell she's debating with herself if it's worth getting into an argument about 'what I meant.'

"Why don't you change into something a little more formal," she says.

I guess she decides not to pursue my comment. It's a good thing too, 'cause Scully's become very territorial about her new apartment in Georgetown, and she'll defend it to the death if she has to; she thinks my notion it's too 'Yuppie-ish' is nonsense.

Which it probably is, but I'm not about to admit that to her at this point. Maybe after I officially move in.

I say officially, because I'm unofficially living here. I mean, I'm here more than I'm not, though I still have the old place. But we moved my fish here. They may actually have a chance of living for a week and half. I've also moved most of my clothes here too.

And I have my own toothbrush and comb and brush in the bathroom. And my terry cloth robe hangs on the second hook. But my name's not on the mailbox yet, so I do not officially live here. Yet.


I put on the black turtle neck and black khakis. I have a forest green corduroy sports jacket that Mom had bought for Bill, but she'd decided it suited me better. To be honest, I never saw myself wearing corduroy before, but if Maggie Scully thinks it suits me, I'm not about to argue with her. Besides, it would have never have fit Billy in a million years. He's way bigger than me.

I wonder why she'd bought it for him in this size. You don't think__? Nah. She wouldn't have __. But maybe, just maybe.

I'll do anything for that woman. She's stood up for me when no one else would (well, other than Scully, of course.) So, I wear a corduroy sports jacket and will go out to dinner with my boss. And I'll do my damnedest to pretend to have a good time.


The door bell rings and it's Mom. She says 'Walter' is waiting for us in the car outside, as he didn't want to have to bother looking for a space. Admittedly, it's next to impossible to find a parking space in this neighborhood, but still, you'd think 'Walter' wouldn't have made Mom schlep all the way up here by herself.

Okay. I'm being picayune. I'm shallow. I'm still jealous. God! I feel like a complete dork here!

Mom admires the jacket on me. "It's a perfect fit, Fox! You look very handsome," she says. And I lap it up. See 'Walter'? Mom bought _me_ a jacket and likes how it looks on _me_!

Am a being just a tad possessive here? If my psych tutors from Oxford were in this room with me at this very moment, they'd probably be rolling on the floor, guffawing their heads off. Thirty-eight years old, and I'm having an Oedipal Complex episode over a woman who's not even my natural mother.

On the other hand, she's as real a mother to me as I'll probably ever have. Okay. I'm gonna be good. Really. So I look at her, and I say, "Thank you, Mom. I really like how it looks and feels too." I lean over, kiss her gently on her cheek, and say, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mom." I think she's actually blushing.

"Come, Children. Let's get ourselves downstairs. Fox, put on your warm overcoat. You've just gotten over being ill, and it's quite chilly outside. Dana, Sweetheart, that goes for you too," Mom says.


I've never seen Walter Skinner dressed in anything other than a dark suit with a white linen dress shirt and conservative, if not usually, elegant silk tie. Tonight is different. He's even more casual than when he first came to Mom's for Thanksgiving Dinner.

White turtleneck and Camel hair blazer. And since Maggie has graciously allowed me to stretch my somewhat longer legs out in the front seat, I get to see Walter S. Skinner, the Assistant Director of the FBI, is wearing penny loafers. Penny loafers?

And for some reason, I don't know how, he carries it off. I look quickly at my Scully who, by the way, looks gorgeous in her valentine red sweater and black slacks. She'd deftly tied a scarf with some reds and blues around her neck, which of course has just the right blue to set off her eyes.

God, I think I can drown in Scully's eyes. I love this woman so much. I smile at her and she returns it with interest. I think I can survive this night; hell, I can survive any night with Dana Scully at my side. Anytime, anyplace.

And then I see which restaurant Skinner has chosen for us to dine at this evening, and I suspect all bets are now off. I may be sick.

No one notices my pallor turns slightly greenish. As I follow Skinner, Mom, and Scully into the steak house, I can't help but notice the open grill pit and the small sides of beef hanging around it. I suspect they're really good replicas, because otherwise the carcasses would have cooked by now, but they're extremely realistic replicas.

Apparently everyone, including Scully, has forgotten I do everything in my power to avoid being in the same room as red meat, much less at the same table. Those carcass replicas are really, really realistic, unless__.

__Oh God. They're not replicas. They're real. Jeeze, I wonder if the Board of Health is aware of this. There's got to be something illegal about this place; some health code violation. Maybe it'll be raided and we can go to that nice yuppie vegetarian salad bar restaurant a few blocks from here.

We're being led to a table, and Skinner tells us he's requested his favorite table right next to the pit.

"It's like a show here," he explains, "every bit as good as the one they give at Benni-Hanna's."

But Benni-Hanna's is a Japanese restaurant. They don't have carcasses of red meat hanging out in the open. I can't help but wonder again if this isn't some code violation, but then I realize this is one very popular restaurant. They seem to go through meat like it's water.

Please, please don't make me face the damn pit.

"C'mon Mulder, you've got to see this," Skinner says as he points to the chair directly facing the pit.

The lighting is typical of most steak houses; it's a little dark, so the others really can't tell I'm feeling sick to my stomach. But as much as I want to tell him 'no,' I sit down in the seat he graciously offers. I know he thinks he's doing a good thing, and that's one of the reasons I'm leery of saying anything

I don't want to make the man feel badly, nor do I want my Scully women to feel badly either. Of course, the fact that I feel badly doesn't count, but that's par for the course for me.

Why do I do this to myself? I mean, it's not like Skinner intimidates me. Well, not totally, at least. Well, not as much as he used to, at any rate.

Oh hell, I feel like I can do no right in this man's eyes, and the mere idea he's dating my Scully's mom; well, I don't want anything I do to reflect badly on Mom and Scully. So, I keep quiet.

Now if only my mind would simmer down, I might be able to get through this evening. Unfortunately, the memories of the Diamond case keep flashing back into my mind; the major reason for my not so recently discovered feelings of disdain for meat.

Scully abstained from eating meat for a little while, but she managed to get back into the swing of things at her Mom's birthday barbecue last Memorial Day weekend. I still haven't managed to get over it.

Those kids were hanging, skinned with their blood dripping, just like the carcasses hanging above the pit. God, I can still see the children's bodies in my mind so clearly. Getting that bastard was one of the high points of my career as a profiler, but it was also one of the lowest because we didn't save the last victim.

Scully and I had come to know the parents of the child; Erica was the child's name. We'd gotten close; almost too close for our own good. Scully over identified with Carol, the mother, and I pretty much fell into the same trap by over identifying with Ira, the father. So when her body was discovered, it was hard for us.

Her body hadn't been skinned yet, and she wasn't hanging from a hook like the other victims. Erica hadn't been prepared yet. She'd still appeared to be whole, though the autopsy had revealed she'd already been sexually assaulted. Which, of course meant she'd have been skinned and hung in a matter of hours.

Diamond sexually abused his young victims, and then, because they were no longer _clean_ (his words, not mine) he felt it was his obligation to cleanse them of their sins. That was done by skinning their bodies and hanging them on the meat hooks to rid their souls of any physical evidence of sin.

I'm not sure what was worse. Seeing all of those small bodies hanging on the hooks, resembling something surreal and non-human, or seeing Erica as a whole child and realizing the other carcasses were once whole like Erica. I was able to detach myself from the other victims while we searched for Erica.

But since I'd gotten to know her parents, and then seeing her as the beautiful seven year old she once was, well, it made it all too real for me with regards to the other victims. And I'd almost lost it if I hadn't realized that Scully was having a tough time too.

But she learned to push it to the back of her memory bank, and God bless her, she's been able to move on. For some strange reason, this one stays with me. I don't know why. Maybe it's the child's age, or maybe it was getting close to the parents. Maybe it's because I'm getting too damned old to be doing this kind of profiling. I don't know.

All I do know is I don't want to be here, but I haven't a clue as to how to let people know this and still allow everyone to save face. I don't think there is a way to do that, so I sit still and try to memorize the details of the silverware, the dishes, the floor pattern. Anything to avoid looking at the carcasses hanging above the open barbecue pit.


"So? What do you all think? I think the aroma of char broiled steaks has got to be akin to nirvana," says Skinner emphatically.

"It does smell heavenly in here, Walter," says Mom. God, I swear her eyelashes are fluttering! Damn, if this woman isn't flirting outrageously with my boss, I'll __, I'll give Frohicke the last of my hidden stash of tapes. "I can't remember the last time I've had a really good steak," she continues.

Dana looks at Mom, and quietly reminds her, "Oh, Mom, we've had steak plenty of times. You cooked some up a few weeks ago on the barbecue in the garage, remember?"

"Yes, but if I recall, you had chicken," Mom rebutted.

"That's only because I'm trying to eat more healthily," she responded. "I eat steak on occasion, unlike my __." Dana stops short and looks at me with wide opened eyes.

I watch my partner come to the realization that bringing me to this particular restaurant amounts to torturing me. I know she's about to say something, and I cut her off quickly.

"__So, Scully, this looks like a pretty nice place, doesn't it?" I know she thinks I've lost whatever little mind I have left, but I pursue this line of thought so she'll understand why I'm doing this. You see I've learned, it's really not always about me. A very wise woman told me that once.

"I can't believe you've lived here in Georgetown for like the last four, five months, and you haven't been here yet. I mean, imagine it taking the Assistant Director of the FBI to introduce us to this place," I say. I worry that I'm laying it on too thick, but when I look over at the AD and then at Mom, I realize they're only tuned into one another.

I'm still jealous, but I'm also a little grateful. They're so busy trying to anticipate each other's needs, they don't have a clue that I feel like I'm coming apart at the seams in this place. I don't want to ruin this Valentine's Day for either my boss or my surrogate mother.

Or Scully, though I suspect that's gonna be kind of difficult now. She's now allowed herself to be alerted to the minutia details that make me, well, me. I know my eyes look glassy to her, and I feel my breathing is a little more uneven; a little more difficult to accomplish with deep full breaths. And yes, I know I probably look as 'green' as I feel.

So, where do we go from here? I could excuse myself, use the men's room and pretend I received a cell phone call with a tip. I think Skinner and Mom would buy it. Scully wouldn't or she'd insist upon coming with me. That might not be such a bad idea. I consider it. In fact, I'm just about to excuse myself when I suddenly hear loud shouts.

"Look out! Move out of the way!" I hear deep voices screaming out.

I finally make myself look to the area I'd averted my eyes from all this time, when I see the faces by the barbecue pit look around in horror. I look beyond those people and see the object of their fears.

Fire. A huge wall of fire.

Well, at least I have something to take my mind off of the meat carcasses.

Shit. How the hell do I keep getting myself into these situations. I'm trying to think rationally here, and I succeed for about thirty seconds, but just as quickly as my mind processes these rational thoughts, the fire wall is starting to edge closer to the area we're sitting at.

I hear Skinner yell to Mom, "Maggie, get up. Leave it, just move!" I watch as he practically lifts her out of her seat. That's good. He's watching over her; he's protecting her.

I see a flash of red movement, and I realize Scully has stood up and she is moving along with Skinner and Mom. This is good, too. Scully is moving to where it's safe.

Now, I know I should move. But I don't.

I can't.

I'm petrified.

And the fire wall is edging closer and closer and before I realize it, the wall is nipping at my arm. I feel the heat kiss my fingers and my forearm. The hairs on my arm are now singed. The heat is numbing my arm almost as much as my fear. I know I must move, or the fire wall will engulf me.

Yet, as the many rational thoughts declare the sensible thing to do, I find these notions negated by long lost cries from long ago. Those cries tie me to my chair, when all of a sudden, another cry of alarm breaks through the cacophony of thoughts in my mind.

"Mulder, get up! I can't lift you, please!"

Oh God, it's Scully. She's come back to get me. I have to get her out of here, but damn it, I can't move. I can't break through this wall of fire; this wall of fear. Scully, I'm sorry. Save yourself. I'm sorry.

Without warning, I feel a steel grip under my arms, lifting me upward out of my chair. "Get out of here! Don't do this! You'll get yourself killed!" a voice cries out. I'm not sure whose voice it is. I don't think it's Scully's or Mom's. It's too high to be Skinner's.

Oh Jeeze, it's mine. I'm screaming at Skinner. He's the one with the vice grip under my arms and lifting me out of my seat. And I know I should be doing everything possible to help him get me, or rather get _us_ the hell out of there, but I can't. All I can do is scream at him, "Get out of here! Don't do this! You'll get yourself killed!"

Why? Why do those words sound so familiar to me; words I've said before this day. Why?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ End of Part 1/2 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Barbecue Series 7: Can't Stand the Heat by Susan Proto (

Disclaimers in Part 1

Part 2/2

I'm laying on the gurney, and I feel a pressure on my arm, but no pain. I guess that comes later. I realize the pressure is one of those pressure bandages made especially for burn victims. I guess of which I am one.


I've traveled this road once before, but for the life of me, I can't remember the details. This is the second incident in my life in which my eidetic memory has failed me. I don't understand why I fail to remember the experience that eludes my memories.

The only time I remember being around fire was when Cecil L'Ively was in town. But I was an adult then, and I remember feeling just as anxious then as I did in the restaurant. So what is it that I don't want to remember?

My friend's house had burnt down. We were told we had to watch it. Big deal. I mean, I remember hating the stench of the aftermath. I remember hating seeing all of my friend's possessions either burnt to a crisp, or so saturated with water, they'd never be usable again.

But I don't remember using those words while watching Danny's house. We just hung around and waited till the sun rose so we could go play. But I also remember hating having to watch that house. I remember it gave me the creeps, big time, to have to stay out all night and wonder if we were going to be attacked by wild dogs and such.

But I don't understand why I couldn't move then nor now. What is the secret my mind refuses to open the door to?

"Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me?" asks Scully anxiously.

I didn't mean to worry her. I'm always worrying my Scully. "I'm sorry, Scully."


"I'm sorry," I apologize again.

"Mulder, what are you apologizing for?" she asks incredulously.

"I don't know why these things keep happening to me," I say honestly. "I don't know why I always get into trouble."

"Oh, Mulder, this wasn't your fault. There was a faulty gas line, and it caused the burst of flame. Sweetheart, this wasn't your fault," she tries to convince me.

"You could have been hurt," I say. "I couldn't move. I'm sorry."

"Mulder, why couldn't you move?" she asks gently.

"I dunno."

''Are you sure, Mulder? Are you sure you don't understand?"" she asks softly, almost in a whisper.

"What happened in there, Son?" the deep voice asked with a gentle firmness.

I suddenly feel myself shaking. I don't know why, but in a matter of moments, I feel a helplessness, a fear, that I haven't felt in so many years. Oh God! I can feel _his_ presence, as if it's happening all over again. His eyes pierce right through me. Accuse me.

He's so angry, but he keeps his voice low, so as not to call attention to us. He tells me I could have gotten my sister killed. I know he's right, and I tell him I'm sorry. It's my fault. I start muttering aloud, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I could have gotten us killed. I'm sorry," I start rambling, and I don't even realize what I'm saying at this point.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it too happen. I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to almost get me and Sam killed. I'll be more careful. I promise."

I hear the words scream at me; I hear the epitaphs of rages against my own stupidity for putting Sam in that kind of danger. We were only trying to start a fire in the fireplace. It was cold in the house at night, and the heat hadn't been turned on yet for the unexpected cool late August temperatures.

So Danny and I decided to make a fire in the fireplace. It made perfect sense. We checked the flue and everything. We did everything right. We know we did.

Except we didn't know there was a dead bat stuck up in the chimney. We didn't know, the smoke would build up and, in our attempts to stop the house from filling up with smoke, we inadvertently fanned the flames and caused sparks to fly about the room.

Ohmigod. Danny and I started the fire that burned down his house. And Sam was in the house. I have to save Sam.

I do save Sam.

Once, I do save my sister.

But my father blames me for putting her in danger. I'm irresponsible. I'm a loser. I'm an idiot.

He tells me it's my fault the house burnt down, so it's my responsibility to help Danny watch it for the rest of the night to keep away any looters.

As he berates me, I don't know which causes me more pain. I'd saved my sister, but I'd burnt myself in the process. I'm afraid to tell him. It's one more thing he'll hold against me, so I hold my arm behind my back so as not to show him.

Of course I pay the price for my silence in the morning. I develop a raging fever as my arm becomes badly infected. When he finds out, he says nothing to me. He says nothing to me for a very long time.

That's the start of all the hospital stays. I have to have so many skin grafts. At first Dad doesn't want to be bothered. He says I deserve to be a cripple and be reminded of how stupid I am.

But Mom won’t stand for it. Good ol' Mom. She makes Dad sign the insurance forms, so I can have the plastic surgery to fix my arm. Besides, she can't handle the thought of having a deformed child. Yep. Good ol' Mom.

Oh, Jeeze, now it hurts. I think I call out her name. "Sam?" I call out.

"It's me, Mulder. It's Scully."

I hear the voice, but what she says is not registering. All I can think of is I want to go home. I don't want to be blamed for this anymore, and I'm afraid Dad's gonna yell again. I feel myself unable to suppress a moan.

"He's hurting. Please, can't you give him something?" I hear her ask.

Bless you, whoever the hell you are, because I now feel no pain. Dad can yell his head off, and I don't think I'd give a good God damn! So, God bless you, whoever you are. Go ahead, Dad, yell. I can take you on now. I think at this point I blissfully pass out.


I wake up and wonder what the hell happened. I know I'm in the hospital, but I haven't a clue as to why. All I know is I'm the really good stuff. I feel like I'm practically floating out of my body. Oh yeah, this is the really, really good stuff.

"Hi," she says.

"Scully?" I say in recognition of the beautiful redhead standing next to my bed.

"Yes, it's me."

"What happened? Why am I laying in a hospital bed, Scully?"

"What's the last thing you remember, Mulder?"

I find I really have to concentrate and think back to the last thing I actually remember. The drugs are making it extremely difficult to remember anything that occurred longer than a minute and a half ago.

"Dinner. We went to dinner to this place. This place where they hang dead babies," I say breathlessly. I think I hear a gasp from somewhere in the room, but I can't seem to focus on anyone other than Scully at the moment.

"Not dead babies, Mulder," Scully corrects indulgently.

"No? I murmur. "On the hooks, he hung them on the hooks."

I see Scully turn around, but I don't know what she's looking at. I don't ask her at this point, but she responds to me and says, "No Mulder, that was just steak. We were in a steak house. Remember?"

"Steak house," I echoed. Then I murmur, "'member."

"Mulder, what happened in the steak house? Do you remember what happened?" she asks in a tone that is almost soothing. That's good, because I suddenly feel like I need to be soothed, and I'm not sure why.

"Scully?" I call out softly. I don't want to sound like one of Bo Peep's lost sheep, but that's how I feel, and damned if I don't sound like I'm about ready to bleat. "Scully, don't want to 'member."

Now I feel Scully's cool, but reassuring hand caress my face. Oh, Scully, now I couldn't remember even if I _did_ want to. But she doesn't give up trying.

Finally, I lash out, and practically scream at her. "Don't want to; Go away!"

"Fox Mulder!" he admonishes, "you have no right to speak to her that way."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Oh God. I feel myself cringe. I feel myself want to roll up into a little ball, and never unfurl myself again. I gasp out, "I'm sorry. Please don't be mad anymore. I'm sorry, Dad. Please, don't be mad."

Now I hear a multitude of gasps in the room, and I wonder what the hell did I say this time? I figure I'd better do something about getting myself out of this hole. "I'm sorry I was rude to Mom. I'm sorry I almost hurt Sam. But she's okay, isn't she?"

When I don't hear an answer, I start to panic a little. I knew I got Sammy out of that house, but now it's like they're acting as if she's hurt. Why won't they tell me she's okay?

"Isn't Sammy okay, Dad? Didn't I get her out of the house?" I ask again anxiously. Several moments of silence pass, when I finally hear him speak.

"Yes. She's fine," he says.

I murmur something to the effect of 'good' and then allow the drugs to do their job. I fall sound asleep.


The next time I wake up I realize with some sense of lucidity I'm in a hospital with a pretty badly burned forearm, though it certainly won't require the extensive surgeries and physical therapy my other arm required when I was a kid.

It takes me a little bit to realize what happened, and when I do, I feel incredibly embarrassed. I kind of lost it in the restaurant, and I nearly got Scully hurt because of it. I feel so badly about that.

And then I look over and see my girl sitting in the chair staring at me. Her eyes examine every movement I make; she looks wary.

"Hi," I say. "Did I suddenly develop a another head, Scully?"

"Hi yourself," she replies, "and no, one Mulder head is quite adequate, thank you. But __.''

She cuts herself off, and I realize what's bugging her. "Scully, I haired out in the restaurant. I'm sorry."

"Yes, but Mulder, it wasn't just in the restaurant. It was here, in the hospital, too."

"I know. I remembered the murder case, but then__, then I remembered Danny's house burning down. It was my__, no, it was our fault, Scully. Danny and I both screwed up, and we nearly got ourselves and Samantha killed.

"But I got her out, Scully. I saved her that time," I say triumphantly.

"Then you did good," she says quietly in response.

"My dad didn't think so."

"I gathered as much given your reactions to Skinner's admonitions," Scully replied. "You kind of put him in your father's role."

Ohmigod. I feel myself turning a lovely shade of solid beet red. Borsht has nothing over my cheeks at the moment.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know," I murmur.

"Mulder, it's no big deal. Skinner felt horrible though. He never meant to cause you any more stress than you're capable of dealing with."

"God," I respond, "it was hard enough worrying whether I'd insult him 'cause I couldn't eat the food at his favorite restaurant; now I'm embarrassed as hell 'cause I hallucinated he was my God Damned father."

I close my eyes for a moment in an effort to collect myself. I take a deep breath, open my eyes again, and look deep into those beautiful blue eyes.

"Scully?" I ask in all sincerity, "How the hell do I get myself into these messes? I mean, most normal people go out for Valentine's Day, have a nice dinner, drink a glass of wine, and simply declare the love they have for their significant other. How come things like that don't happen to me?"

"Well, to be honest, Mulder, I don't know. Maybe you're a trouble magnet. Or maybe there's just too many variables out there and there's something in your life force that creates a certain amount of chaos out of those variables.

"Or, maybe it's just dumb, shitty luck, Mulder," Scully concludes.

"Maybe," I agree, with a wry smile. It feels good to smile again. My Scully makes me feel like smiling a lot.

"Now, back up one moment, 'kay?" she asks. When she sees me nod, she says with a bit of a glean in her eye, "What's this little bit about most normal people going out for a little dinner, wine and declarations of love for their significant others?

"Mulder, I'm feeling a little normal at the moment. How about you?" she asks with a bit of a Cheshire grin.

"Yeah. I'm feeling a little normal too, Scully. Come here, G-Woman, so I can make some declarations." Scully moves closer, careful to avoid the injured arm, and lowers her lips to mine.

"I declare that I love you, Fox Mulder."

"I second that declaration, Dana Scully. Happy Valentine's Day. I love you, so much, G-Woman," I reply, and let out a very, very contented sigh.

Normal is relative. But for the moment, Scully and I try to prove to each other just how normal we are.

And, boy, do we have a whole lot of fun trying.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ End of Part 2/2

Happy Valentine's Day in advance!

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