Title: The Oxford Files: Coming Home (1/2)

Authors: Susan Proto and Vickie Moseley
Who can be found at: STPteach@aol.com and vmoseley@fgi.net

Spoilers: A couple for sixth season, nothing in here about seventh season
stuff.

Category: X, MSR, MT, SHIPPER WARNING IN EFFECT

Rating: mostly PG-13, one section borders on R for adult themes

Disclaimer: See, Chris, it's like this. Susan and I just never got enough
time to beat the crap out of our Ken dolls so that our Dr. Barbie dolls
could kiss it and make it all better. So we borrow your creations, which
have taken on a life of their own, in case you haven't noticed, and use
them to further our own evil purposes. But it's all playtime. And
besides, Mattel never got bent out of shape about it, why should you?
Mulder, Scully and Phoebe Greene belong to the master and his disciples.
Mrs. Mac, Mr. Laing, Freddie, Tom, Drew, Caroline, Ann, Gavin and just
about anybody else who got a real name, they belong to us, Susan and I. If
you ask real nice, we might let you take them for an afternoon playdate.

Archives: Yes, please. Just keep our names attached

Vickie's Notes: We did it again! And no, that wasn't a signed confession.
But it is a warning. Don't ever change computers in the middle of editing
a long collaboration. The writing was great fun, as always! The editing,
we won't talk about. And all time delays are my fault, and I'm not being
Mulder when I say that. Susan has been patient beyond her years! I only
hope she let's me do this to her, er, with her again in the future. A word
about the story: this is not a series, and is not part of Susan's Life
Cycles. It's a stand alone. It's set in England, and we don't live there!
We do read a lot, however. Even so, since neither of us has set foot on
the hallowed soil of Oxford or any of it's colleges, this was mostly a
labor of research and love. If you got your degree in Psychology from any
of the colleges there and can't remember a St. Elban's . . . you're right!
We made it up! And if we are vague in our references to Scotland Yard and
it's where you hang out on any given Monday . . . mea culpa! And if your
Uncle Seigfred sounds exactly like our Mr. Laing, well, that's just an X
File in itself. Enjoy and let us know. We don't bite and we do write
back. Sometimes, effusively ;)

Susan's Notes: So that's the problem! I never even had a Ken doll. Only a
Barbie and a Midge (the redhead, of course!) I had to wait to get to a
friend's house to share! And well, let's just say I'm glad for that
experience, because it makes it that much easier to share in the experience
of writing with this talented writer (who had me ROTFLMAO just reading her
author's notes! What can I say? I'm a good audience!) We also want to thank
Sally and Michelle for beta-ing and offering their kind words of support, as
well as their much welcomed divergent opinions on where things seemed to be
headed. It gave us pause to think, and I am grateful to them for their
belief in their willingness ''to agree to disagree.'' This was a labor of
love; anytime a person gets to work with someone she admires and likes is an
occasion to celebrate. Of course, no one ever told us this labor was going
to take longer than the ones we went through with all of our children
together, but whose counting anyway? But we love the new laptop anyway,
right Vickie? And ditto on the invitation to share your thoughts with us on
our little ditty. We'd love to hear from you!

Because of the size of this endeavor, we'll post the disclaimer (that's what you're reading now ;) and the first 8 parts today, the rest tomorrow. Promise!

Oxford Files: Going Home
By Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)
and
Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)

Fox Mulder logged off his e-mail and stared at the newly printed sheet in his printer's tray. He should have expected this, he chided himself. Maybe, in the deep, dark recesses of his mind, he was actually hoping this would happen. He picked up the paper gingerly and read it once again. And sighed.

Still holding the page, he moved his lanky frame from the desk chair to his couch. With the grace of a bull moose on a frozen pond, he flopped onto the smooth, cool leather and stared at the blank screen of the television, determined not to look at the paper in his hand.

He's really stepped in it this time.

It had seemed like such a simple plan. Diversion. The most tried and true method of breaking any habit. The reason pharmaceutical companies figured out to put nicotine in chewing gum, thus breaking the chemical dependency of the smoker while diverting the craving for oral stimulation. Hell, why couldn't he have written a paper on that?

Because that had never interested him, he admitted woefully. He tossed the paper toward the coffee table, watching it as it drifted lazily in the direction of it's intended target, only to be caught by a draft from the window and veer off to land near the collection of videos on the floor. A small cloud of dust, almost imperceptible, ballooned off the videos.

Such a simple plan. But then, when had anything he'd ever attempted been simple? Not his lot in life, that was certain. But now he'd gone beyond slightly complicated into downright confusing. He felt the old inner conflict, the old pull. Academia hadn't been such an easy lover to forget. Sometimes, in the late of night, she would slip into his dreams and pull at his arms, begging for another dance.

But he had other considerations now. The possibilities of the future were too vast and mysterious to let the past come back to claim him. Then again, the old 'hallowed halls' had been incredibly romantic, or so he'd been assured by more than one classmate.

Maybe this little complication was just the diversion he needed. Maybe it would all work. Maybe this had been his plan all along.

All he had to do was convince his partner to go along with the plan.

Hoover Building, Washington, DC
Monday October 22, 1999
8:25 am

Dana Scully struggled with her briefcase, a small bakery bag and a good foot and a half tall stack of mail of various sizes. When she reached the door to the office, she almost screamed in frustration upon finding it closed, but decided to take another approach.

She kicked at the door and in an instant, it opened.

"Morning, sunshine," came the overly enthusiastic greeting.

Scully narrowed her eyes and kept her gaze steady on her partner as she moved to her computer table/desk on the far side of the room. She deposited the mail, the bakery bag and her briefcase, then calmly shed her coat and draped it over her chair.

"I am _not_ going to Texas again, Mulder. I told you. I don't care if George W. himself calls to tell us that he has Big Foot and ET locked in the hall closet of the Executive Mansion, you are not getting me down there!" To emphasize her point, she picked up her coat and purposely hung it on the coat tree by the door.

"Here, I got you a muffin." She tossed the bakery bag at him and sat down in her chair.

Mulder took her tirade in stoic silence and opened the bag with a blank expression. He withdrew the muffin and regarded it closely. "Scully, this one must be for you. It's oat bran," he said, placing it gingerly on her desk just inches from the mail. "On second thought, one might not be sufficient."

"Meaning?" she growled with one eyebrow cocked.

"Hey, you're the one making the accusations. All I said was 'Good morning'," Mulder said defensively and sat down at his own desk.

"It's not what you said, Mulder. It was how you said it," Scully retorted. "It wasn't your usual 'I played four games of basketball and now I'm so sore I can't move but I'm not going to tell Scully because she'll rag at me' Monday morning greeting. It was your 'I spent the weekend scanning the pages of the National Inquirer and Scully will never be able to deny me this one case' look that I've come to know and dread. So out with it, Mulder. If it's not Texas, then it's probably some place worse. Somewhere I've told you we are never to journey to again. The list has grown to include the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State, Miami during hurricane season, the forest outside Atlantic City, anywhere in Arizona or Alaska . . ."

"Scully, you wound me!" Mulder whined, genuine despair crossing his features. "I didn't see you all weekend. I was just happy to see you. No ulterior motive, no hidden agenda. Just pure, unadulterated joy at seeing your face."

Scully sat for a moment, dumbfounded. She chewed on her lip and looked incredibly confused. Finally, with a sheepish, downcast expression on her face, she picked up the muffin and brought it over to his desk, placing it carefully in the middle of his desk blotter.

"I brought you a muffin," she said, hoping it sounded enough like an apology to end the discussion right there.

"It's not blueberry," he said with a mock pout.

She chewed on her lip to keep the smile at bay. "They were out of blueberry."

"You ate the last one, didn't you?" he accused.

She reached for the muffin, staring at him. "If you don't want the muffin, Mulder . . ."

He grabbed her hand before she could remove the muffin, and the electric shock from their connecting skin caused them both to break contact. His eyes widened at the implication, she shook her hand slightly as she moved back to her seat.

"We need a humidifier in this office," Scully said firmly, but Mulder could detect the tremor underneath.

"Sure, Scully. I'm sure they have a dozen of them in the supply room," Mulder said, hiding his glee. Their shock may have flustered his partner, but it only served to encourage Mulder. He mentally calculated how to bring up the subject.

"So, we finished the quarterly budget report on Friday," he said straightening his desk blotter and attacking the muffin with enthusiasm.

"Uh huh," she replied, sorting the mail into two unequal piles. "When did you start getting the Chadwick's of Boston catalog?" she asked as she placed the slick magazine on the top of one pile.

Mulder blushed. "I got my mom something out of there last Mother's day. A sweater," he said hastily and scooped up his pile of mail.

"And I finished the expense report for September. It's all ready to send up to Skinner," he continued as if never interrupted.

"When?" she looked up.

"Friday night. Cable was out."

She nodded in acceptance and went back to opening her mail.

"So, basically, we're all caught up," he announced to no one in particular.

"Guess so. Hence my conviction that you're fishing for a good time to tell me that we're heading to Ellen's Air Base in Idaho again," she said dryly as she ripped the brown paper covering off a medical journal and started flipping through the pages.

"Scully, you're becoming increasingly paranoid," Mulder said with a shake of his head. "Actually, I was thinking of taking a little time off. A couple of days or R and R."

She stopped her perusal of her journal to stare at him. "Philadelphia is the top of that list I just mentioned, Mulder," she said in a low growl.

"Scully, will you cut 'the list' crap?" he said, his voice rose in frustration. "I'm not fishing around for another case. I'm serious. We are all caught up and I thought it might be nice to take a little time off. Recharge, so to speak."

She blinked. "Oh." Then she dropped her eyes to the pages of the journal again. "Going to visit your mom?" she asked hesitantly.

"No, I have another destination. I, uh, I got an invitation."

That caught her attention.

"St. Elban's is hosting a psychology symposium and one of my old tutors has invited me to present a paper." He purposely didn't look in her direction.

"Who is St. Elban?" she asked, suddenly intrigued.

He chuckled silently. "My college, Scully. At Oxford. I attended St. Elban's College."

She still looked confused.

"Oxford isn't set up like U of Maryland, Scully. It's a collection of small colleges. Between 400 and 600 students per. You attend the college, but the University is responsible for testing and granting your degree."

"Oh. Interesting." She returned to her journal.

"I was thinking that you could join me."

Scully looked up again, confusion once more darkening her features.

"Scully, I really think you'll like this symposium. My paper is on the psychology of patients who claim alien abduction. I draw heavily on Cassandra's experiences and some others we've worked with over time. And before you jump down my back, I used fictitious names and it's a scholarly work in psychology, Scully. It's not a personal soapbox." He waited for a reaction, and when none was forthcoming, he started up again. "It won't be like the last time, Scully. I promise. No recantations on a stage, no embarrassment for you or me. Just an academic paper. I used to get Distinctions on a fairly regular basis, you know," he ended defensively.

"How much will it cost?" she said shyly.

He grinned. He had her, and it hadn't taken half his ammunition! "Nothing. I get all expenses paid for me and a guest." At her raised eyebrow he hastened to add, "I asked my mom, but she said she didn't feel up to a transatlantic flight. So you'd be doing me a favor by going."

Scully sighed and stared down at her desktop, not even bothering with the subterfuge of the journal any longer. "I don't know, Mulder. You know I'm not that fond of long plane flights . . ."

"We're on the Concorde, Scully. It's not that long."

"My mom was expecting me for dinner on Sunday . . ."

"We can bring her back something from London. Something really pretty. We fly into and out of Heathrow and they have some terrific duty-free shops."

"I don't know, Mulder. I mean . . . all the way to England . . ."

"Scully, we once traveled all the way back from Antarctica together," he admonished gently. "And this time, I promise it will be a whole lot more fun than that trip."

end of part one


The Oxford File: Going Home (02)
By Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)
& Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Dulles International Airport
Gate 134 - Waiting Area

Since it was an international flight, Scully and Mulder were advised to arrive at the airport gate at least an hour to hour and a half before their scheduled departure. It was obvious, however, that the wait was driving Mulder up the wall. The nervous energy that emanated from him was almost enough to make Scully take flight herself, from the airport.

However, the more she watched her partner, the whirling dervish in action, the more she couldn't help thinking he reminded her of something from her childhood. That's when she had trouble stifling the giggles that became increasingly louder until she heard Mulder cry out in exasperation, "What?"

"You remind me of Bernie," she replied in between chuckles.

"Bernie?"

"Bernie. He was my neighbor's St. Bernard puppy. All gangly and awkward and never quite knowing where to put himself so he didn't get in anyone's way," she explained with a bright twinkle in her eyes.

"Since we'd moved around so much," Scully continued, "Mom and Ahab never wanted the responsibility of a pet, but we always managed to move next door to someone who had one. We became honorary owners, especially in the wintertime. We'd actually volunteer to walk the animals. The owners never turned us down." Scully smiled with a sigh at the remembrance.

Mulder looked at his partner with tenderness. It wasn't very often she shared her childhood memories, so whenever she did he received each one as if he were given a very precious present. He wished she shared these thoughts more often, but he wasn't about
to look this gift horse in the mouth.

"A St. Bernard, Scully?" he replied with a teasing smile. "Not even a Retriever or a Shepherd, but a St. Bernard?"

Scully nodded vehemently, and then said, "Mulder, sit down already. You're starting to make me wish I'd never agreed to this trip."

Mulder sat down immediately upon hearing that. "Oh, don't feel that way, Scully. I'm sorry; I'll try to sit quietly. I'm just a little, a little__?"

"__Nervous?" Scully filled in for him.

"Well, yes, nervous, but it's more than that," he answered and then took a breath. He noted that Scully waited patiently for him to continue, and so, taking another breath, he stated, "I guess I'm also a little excited." He paused and waited for her reaction to what seemed to him as a totally foreign emotion.

"Well, why shouldn't you be excited?" Scully responded as if she'd read his mind. "Mulder, you've been asked by a very prestigious facility, your alma mater I might add, to present a paper based on sound, scientific research precepts, about a subject which I dare say you are most assuredly one of the leading experts of today, and you're surprised that you're a little excited?"

She finally took a breath.

He took one along with her.

"I guess I'm just not used to being invited to speak at something so, so mainstream, so, so__."

"__So legitimate?" Scully concluded for him. All he could do was nod slightly in agreement. "Mulder, let's get one thing straight. I may not always agree with your theories or with your general view on the world in general. However, I have never, ever doubted your intelligence or your ability to be reasonable when the facts are presented to you. Mulder, as often as I shoot down your theories, you have always backed me up when the science prevailed."

"I try to keep myself open to extreme possibilities, Scully," he replied in a self-deprecating tone.

"Mulder, your invitation was warranted. It was legitimate, and don't you dare doubt that for a second," she admonished.

"Ya think, Scully? I mean, to be honest, I've worked my ass off on this presentation. I mean, I can't remember working this hard on something before, and I just couldn't stand the thought of it being some horrible April Fool's Day joke that someone decided to play on me," he asked in search of reassurance.

"Mulder, knowing you, you checked it out thoroughly before you proceeded, right?" He nodded in the affirmative. "Calm down. Sit. And," Scully hesitated momentarily, and then continued, "since you know how much I hate flying, no matter how long or how short the flight is, I thought perhaps I'd take a look at the presentation; that is if it's okay with you."

"Oh, would you?" he jumped up in reaction and began pacing frenetically once again. "I mean, if it needs some doctoring up, umm, no pun intended, Scully, but I mean if it needs some touch ups or clarification or if you think it just sucks, then we can just go visit Big Ben and call it a day, ya know?" he said without taking a breath.

"Yes, Mulder. Now do all of us a favor and sit down and read a magazine. Hell, I'll even buy you a Playboy if it gets you to sit still for five minutes," Scully teased.

Mulder sat down with his head lowered in a vain attempt to cover up the creeping blush that threatened to overtake his face. He wondered if Scully knew just how close to home she'd stepped.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Concorde Flight # 754
On Route to Heathrow Airport
Standard Altitude

He squirmed. He got up. He sat down. He squirmed some more, until Scully finally screeched loudly enough so the entire business class section of the flight turned to take a look at the very, obviously, uncouth Americans who were causing a ruckus.

"Mulder, would you please sit down and knock it off! You're driving me crazy," she said through gritted teeth.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled just loudly enough for her to hear him.

She took pity on him and assured him she was almost finished with the paper and to try and be patient. He nodded his head and picked up the airline magazine for what amounted to be the eight times, since he'd never quieted himself long enough to read it the first seven times.

Finally, after another twenty minutes passed, Scully closed the binder containing Mulder's presentation. She folded her hands on top of it and closed her eyes as if she were deep in thought. Mulder sat beside her, totally still, as if he feared moving even a single muscle would negatively sway Scully's opinion of his work.

As much as he didn't want to admit it, Mulder knew that no matter what he'd thought of his own presentation, if Scully thought it was sub par, he would trash it in an instant. He valued his partner's opinion that highly. So, it was with those feelings in mind that he said a silent prayer to whatever deity was available to listen to a mostly agnostic soon to be middle aged man who was still seeking approval from family, friends, and professional peers.

As the time passed and Scully's silence continued, Mulder couldn't help but think she was trying to come up with a plan to let him down easy. Oh, why didn't he have her read it before they got on the plane? It certainly would have saved them both a lot of time and him some more embarrassment.

At least if they were on the ground, he could have escaped to his car and driven off somewhere. Instead, he was stuck on the Concorde with no place to hide when Scully tells him the inevitable.

He couldn't stand it any more. He had to know. "Jeez, Scully, if it sucks that bad, would you just tell me and get it over with already!" he practically hissed.

Scully pursed her lips together as she attempted to keep the smile from forming on her lips. She wondered how long he was going to hold out. Actually, he lasted a good ten minutes longer than she'd thought even possible.

"Mulder, do you mind?" she responded in what Mulder could only think of as a very deep, almost husky, but definitely very sexy, tone of voice.

"Mind?" His voice, on the other hand, definitely squeaked of adolescence.

"Yes, mind." She paused and decided to try and prolong his agony, only because she knew the high he would soon feel would be worth it.

A few minutes passed and Mulder whispered, "Scully? Are you okay?" He reached out to touch her folded hands, but rather than actually touch her, his hand merely hovered above.

"Yes," she replied assuredly, consciously avoiding their telltale signal response when things weren't necessarily 'fine'.

"Please, Scully, you're killing me here," he pleaded. "Why don't you say something?"

She decided she'd put him through enough agony. She finally opened her eyes and turned towards him with one her patented Scully smiles plastered on her face.

"Mulder, I hadn't said anything yet because I was savoring it." She unclasped her own hands and reached up to grasp Mulder's that had remained within reach. "Partner, this presentation is absolutely brilliant."

He didn't know what to say, so he simply reacted. On reflection he realized it wasn't perhaps the most appropriate reaction he could have had, given the fact this was Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully, M.D. and his professional partner, but when also given the circumstances, he knew it was the only way he could respond.

He kissed her smack dab on the lips.

And he did it with feeling.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heathrow Airport
London, England

They'd gathered their bags and Scully asked a baggage clerk for directions to the Rental Car desk.

"Umm, Scully," Mulder hesitated.

"Mulder? Is there a problem?"

"No, no problem. I'm pretty sure someone from the college is supposed to come and pick us up. All we have to do is call. There's not much call for having a car on the campus," he explained.

"Oh. I guess I thought we'd take some time to do a little sight seeing outside of the University campus, that's all," she replied.

"Oh, well, right, of course. That makes perfectly good sense, I guess." He stood there. There was obviously something bothering him, but he wasn't sure how to express it to his partner.

"Mulder, out with it already. What's got your boxers up in knots?"

Mulder sighed and felt himself blushing for the second time that day. He had to admit to yet another fault, inconsequential as it were, still Mulder considered it a bit of a failing. "I've never felt very comfortable driving here." When Scully's expression obviously sought more of an explanation, Mulder continued.

"I had only just gotten my driver's license in the States before I came to Oxford. Well, when I tried to drive on the opposite side of the road, I kind of got into a little mishap, and it kind of turned me off to driving on the wrong side of the road," he explained.

"A mishap?"

"Yeah." He paused, took a breath, and then made his confession to his Scully Superior. "I nearly took out a Bobby."

"What?" Scully cried out in horrific delight.

"I'd gotten so damned confused with right and left and which lane to stay in, that when we got to the traffic circle, well, I nearly killed the poor cop. Thank God, I just knocked the wind out of him a little, and he had a sister-in-law who was a 'Yank' so he took pity on me. To be honest, I think I was more upset by the incident than he was."

"How long had you been here before that little misfortune took place?" Scully asked curiously.

"Umm, about three ___," he hedged.

"Three days?" Scully interjected with a smile.

Mulder smiled right back. "No, G-Woman, as if you didn't realize, but it was three hours. Three lousy hours and my welcome to England was nearly killing a poor traffic cop!"

"Okay, Mulder," Scully responded laughing, ''your point is well taken. Perhaps we'd best register a car under my name. Oh, and if you don't mind, we'll let my little feet touch the accelerator at all times on this trip, okay?"

end of part 2

The Oxford Files: Going Home 03
Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)
and Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)

Best laid plans aside; they were on their way to find the rental cars when Mulder heard his name over the public address system. At the information counter, a pretty blonde woman gave him an ingratiating smile and handed him an envelope. It contained two train tickets and a message saying that someone would pick them up at the train station in Oxford to take them to their hotel.

Mulder smiled, reading the letter. "Well, Scully. Ready to 'go up'?"

"Is that some secret code, Mulder? Because this airport doesn't have a balcony." She gave him that look, the one that always made his blood run cold and south all at the same time.

But this time, he chuckled at her. "C'mon, Scully. I'm playin' nice here. That's what you call it. You go 'up' to Oxford, even though technically we're traveling east. And if you screw up and get your ass kicked out, you 'go down'."

"But you never 'went down'?" Scully asked, tilting her head in such a way that the sunlight from the airport windows sparkled off her hair.

"None of my girlfriends were into it," he said, turning quickly to avoid the fist that almost connected with his left bicep.

"Mulder," she said, her voice a low warning. He didn't reply, but knew it was her signal. He was on his best behavior or she would make him regret any and all indiscretions. Probably not immediately. But in time, and in great detail. There were times he wished she'd stuck to physics and never went to medical school.

The train was unlike the Amtrak they were used to. For one thing, the armrest didn't stick to their clothing. For another, there were doors in each compartment, which opened out. They sat with two students, 'going up' from a week in London. It was between semesters and Mulder remembered well that meant cutting loose and getting away from the books for a while.

Scully spent the time gazing at the English countryside. Many of the towns they passed could have been in any East Coast city, but then she'd see a glimpse of a row of houses that had been built well before Columbus decided to ask Isabella for a loan. She shook her head in amazement.

"The history overwhelms you at times," Mulder said softly, not wanting to intrude on the interplay of the boy and girl sitting across from them. "I remember thinking how nothing at home seemed this old. How it all seemed so insubstantial in comparison."

"Our mountains are old. Our shoreline is as old," Scully said wistfully.

"But no European had seen it until such a short time ago, comparatively speaking," he countered.

"Speak for yourself," Scully challenged with an engaging smile. "I have it on good authority that St. Brendan discovered the North American continent a good 700 years before Leif Erickson."

"Good authority?" It was Mulder's turn to raise an eyebrow.

"My sainted Irish grandmother," Scully said defiantly.

Mulder broke out into a smile. "Brendan. Wasn't he a defensive back for Notre Dame?"

It was fun to relax for a while. As the train chewed up the miles between London and Oxford, Mulder felt his earlier tension slip from is body. Absently, he felt his hand seeking his partner's hand and without turning her eyes from the window, she grasped his hand in hers. They didn't speak for the rest of the one hour ride, but they didn't need to.

A car was waiting at the train station. Mulder helped Scully into the back seat and slid in beside her. The driver turned and gave them both a wide smile. "I've been told you drop you at the Royal Arms. You're expected at Mr. Laing's flat at half past for tea. I'll be round to fetch you at quarter past four."

"Mr. Laing?" Scully asked, trying to hide the sudden butterflies that had taken up residence in her stomach. She was in Mulder's turf, now. And they weren't on a case. Their kiss on the plane, although admittedly chaste enough, still burned on her lips. She swallowed and found her mouth distinctly void of moisture.

"One of my tutors. Actually, he was my 'advisor', if you want to call it that. He was helping me with the research for my doctoral thesis when the FBI called."

"And the rest, as they say, is history," Scully supplied with a tilt to her head.

"Yeah, I guess," Mulder said, but rather than joining in the joke, he let it drop and shifted his eyes out the side window.

It was obvious at first glance that Mulder had nothing to do with choosing the accommodations. The Royal Arms was exceptionally well appointed, with a valet, concierge and bellboys all waiting to serve them in any manner they desired.

"You did say this was 'all expenses paid', didn't you, Mulder?" Scully asked, as her bags were swept from her hand onto a lorry by the efficient and extremely nice looking young bellhop.

"You wound me, Scully," Mulder replied with a hand to his chest. "Besides, I got over my English cockroach fetish years ago."

He had his hand to her back all the way to the desk. "Mulder," he said. "Fox Mulder. I have reservations."

The desk clerk, this time a pretty brunette, smiled brightly. "Of course, Mr. Mulder. Right here. One room suite, on the third floor, over looking the gardens . . ." She appeared to be about to launch into a full description when Mulder held up his hand.

"Thank you, that's fine," he said quickly, hoping Scully wasn't listening too closely. He'd been putting off telling her about the 'one room'. It had been entirely impulse, since his room was paid for, but the best logic seemed to dim in the harsh light of day. He was about to turn around and confess his sin when his eyes caught sight of something that made him cringe and slouch to hide all at once.

"Oh my Gawd! It's can't be! But it must! Fox, Fox Mulder! Fancy meeting up with you here of all places!"

Scully looked up in time to see Mulder turn several shades of red and slowly shake his head.

A ruddy face, belonging to a man about the same height as her partner suddenly came very close to Scully. She reared back with a start.

"Oh, my, Fox, you are doing well for yourself, aren't you? She's quite fetching!"

"Freddie. Imagine my delight," Mulder said, his voice completely devoid of any emotion. Scully had to struggle to keep from laughing out loud.

Freddie took no offense and happily pounded Mulder on the back. "Just like old times, eh, 'old chum'? So what brings you back to the haunts? Tired of the rat race in the States? Still working for the Secret Police over across the pond?"

"The FBI is not . . ." But before he could really work up a head of steam, Scully stepped forward and offered Freddie her hand.

"Hello. I'm Dana Scully. And you are . . .?"

"Fredrick Nelson Blumford, the third, right, Freddie?" Mulder said before Freddie had a chance. "And I'm here to present a paper at the Psychology Symposium."

"Good show, old chum," Freddie said with obvious good cheer. "Say, I'm attending the symposium myself. Not presenting, of course. I did that a few years back. Dana," he said, switching gears at light speed. "What a positively lovely name. Scully, did you say? Are you visiting the old sod after the conference?"

Scully proceeded to enlighten dear Freddie that she was only staying for the conference, ignoring Mulder's growing discomfort as he collected the room key from the desk clerk. She gave him her full attention when he turned back to her, red faced.

"About Freddie, Scully, . . ." he said in an apologetically whisper next to her ear.

"Mulder, it's fine," she assured him. She pasted on a smile and looked back at Freddie, still all ears and grin.

"Well, it was certainly nice running into one of Mulder's old friends from his college days," Scully said with as much sincerity as she could muster.

"Oh, well then, you have to join us tonight. A few of the Elban's crowd are getting together at the Electric Eel. You remember the place, Fox. Or were you too stoned out of your head to . . ."

"I remember," Mulder said abruptly.

"About 9ish," Freddie said, gleefully. "Dana, it was a pleasure." He took her hand and brought it to his lips in a faint kiss. Scully resisted the urge to wipe her hand on her suit jacket, and just smiled and nodded.

"What a monumental ass," Scully sighed when Freddie was out of earshot. "Were all your friends like that?" She hadn't really meant to, but she was already seeing mental images of Phoebe and Freddie carrying Mulder home after a night of pub-crawling.

"Freddie was studying to be a boor. Family business. His father was a boor, his grandfather was a boor. I think the whole lot was boorish right back to the Norman invasion," Mulder said with a twinkle in his eyes. "He hung around us because he thought intelligence was contagious. I forgot what a shit he was. Sorry 'bout that, Scully. I had no idea he'd be here. And we don't have to go to the pub tonight."

"No, Mulder. Now I'm intrigued. Who else do you think is here, of the 'old Elban's crowd'?" She hated the fact that her voice had taken on that 'catty' quality, as her mother often called it. What really burned her was that Mulder picked up on it.

"Gee, it's funny to watch your eyes turn green, Scully," he said with a teasing grin. "Phoebe didn't go to St. Elban's."

Scully looked confused. "Then how . . ."

"A guy in my staircase, um, that's like a cross between a dorm and an apartment complex, was dating a girl in her staircase. There was a party, we met, . . . you can use that line again any time now, Scully."

"No, I prefer not to think of that particular portion of history, thank you," she said airily and hurried onto the elevator with the bellhop struggle to keep up.

As it worked out, Scully was the first to enter the room. Her squeal of joy caused Mulder to reach for his absent weapon. He managed to push his way around the bellhop and lorry and found his usually reserved partner sitting on the edge of a four poster bed, bouncing up and down with an enormous smile on her face.

"Mulder, it's like a castle!" she exclaimed as she hopped off the bed and went to explore the rest of the room. "There's a balcony!" she called. "And two sinks in the bathroom!" She finally came back into the room, flushed with excitement only to stop short and catch her lower lip between her teeth staring intently at the four poster bed.

"It's the only room we have, Scully," Mulder said guiltily as he joined her in staring at the now offensive piece of furniture. "And I was under the impression it would have two beds. I'm sorry."

Scully's heart cracked at his sincere apology. But she knew as well as he did that it was a topic they'd been putting off for too long. How many months would she have to ponder a kiss on an airplane the same way she'd pondered a kiss in a hallway. Maybe it was time to stop pondering and start acting on their feelings. She looked up and realized Mulder was still standing there, waiting for her answer. She smiled brightly at him and he sighed in relief.

The bellhop was still standing there, calmly inspecting the ceiling for any cracks. Mulder dug into his pocket and pulled out a bill without looking at it, then shoved it into the bellhop's hand. "Thanks, I think we can handle it from here."

"But sir, I was just going to show you the amenities," the bellhop protested as Mulder firmly pushed him out the door. He turned back to his partner to find the earlier excitement had disappeared a look of hesitation had taken up residence on her face.

"Mulder, I want you to understand something," Scully said with that quiet firmness that he knew meant trouble.

His heart sank. He'd preferred the 'other' Scully, the one bouncing on the bed like a kid. This Scully he'd seen too often. It was the 'oh brother' Scully that had shattered his heart in a million pieces in a hospital room over a year before.

He straightened up, not realizing that he'd slumped down so much and met her gaze with a faint smile. "Scully, are you suggesting that I can't be a gentleman?"

The slight frown was quickly replaced with a flush of embarrassment. "Mulder, no! Of course not. That's not what I meant, I mean I don't want to rush into . . ." She stopped and narrowed her eyes when she realized he was enjoying her little display far more than she was.

"OK, Mulder. I get the game. Fine, we share the big bed. But if I wake up and you have all the covers, this time when I take aim, it will be _much_ lower." She grabbed her bag and headed for the bathroom. "I get first shower," she called and wished she could have stayed to see the look on his face.

end of part three


The Oxford Files: Going Home 04
By Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)
&Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)

The room phone rang and Scully picked it up. "Hello?" she answered tentatively as she wondered who would be calling. "Yes, he's here. Hold on one moment, please."

Scully placed her hand over the mouthpiece as she offered it to her partner. "It's a Mrs. MacFarley," she said softly.

"Mrs. Mac?" Mulder replied incredulously and eagerly took the phone from Scully's hands. "Hello? Mrs. Mac, is that you?" Scully watched Mulder smile from ear to ear. She hadn't seen him look so delighted, well, since he'd kissed her on the concord.

"Yes, of course, we'd be delighted to attend. Thank you, Mrs. Mac, and please thank the professor for thinking of me." Scully chuckled to herself as she watched him nod in silent response, and wondered for whose benefit did her partner think he was nodding in
agreement.

When he hung up the phone, he had an extremely self-satisfied grin on his face and boldly stated the obvious, "That was Mrs. Mac." When Scully's reaction didn't quite meet up with his expectations, he continued, "She's the professor's housekeeper. Though, in reality, I think she has a thing for the old man. She's not exactly a youngster herself, but not nearly as elderly as he is. "

"You sound a little fond of her yourself," Scully said gently.

"Yeah, I guess I am. Mrs. Mac, well, she was one of the first people to make me feel at home here. I don't know if you're aware of it or not, Scully, but as an American I had to prove myself worthy of being at Oxford," he admitted.

"Yanks weren't to be trusted?" Scully concluded.

"I wouldn't say it was quite as negative as that, but I certainly had to demonstrate my loyalty to St. Elban's and the rest of my mates for a bit longer than most before I was truly accepted," he
explained.

Scully had to smile at the way Mulder fell back into using the English slang so comfortably. She realized that Mulder somehow seemed more relaxed since they'd stepped onto British soil than she'd ever seen him back home. She was unsure as to how she felt about that.

"So," he continued, "I guess the fact that Mrs. Mac was more than willing to play 'Mother Hen' was a real comfort to me, especially when I first arrived.

"What is it with you and women wanting to mother you, Mulder?" Scully retorted with a chuckle. "I think if my mother could officially adopt you, she would, and now you tell me Mrs. MacFarley was a surrogate mother to you as well."

"Yeah, I guess," Mulder replied with a small laugh, though Scully failed to see the irony in its tone. Mulder couldn't help but think to himself what a twist of fate it truly was that while other women
were more than willing to lend him love and support, his own mother found it much more difficult to do so.

He cleared his throat to help wipe away uncomfortable thoughts and continued, "Anyway, she's informed me that the professor would like us to join him for Tea."

"What a lovely gesture, Mulder. When?" Scully replied.

"Well, given that we'd just arrived, the professor is delaying Tea until six o'clock."

Scully looked down at her watch and when she realized she hadn't set it ahead the necessary six hours, she quickly looked about the room until her eye caught a digital clock.

Five twenty-two.

Oh boy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scully was ravenous but didn't say anything to Mulder. She didn't want him to feel badly, since she knew he was so looking forward to seeing his former teacher, or rather tutor. Scully figured she'd just have to make do with the cups of tea, little finger sandwiches, and, if she were lucky, a biscuit or two. She figured she and Mulder would stop off for a real meal after their visit.

So, when Mulder and Scully entered the Laing home, Scully silently warned her stomach to 'keep the gurgling to a dull roar.' Imagine her surprise when upon entering the dining room, she saw platter upon platter of food laid out on the table before her.

"Oh, Fox, t'is wonderful to see you again, my boy. Now turn around and let me get a look at you," cried out Mrs. MacFarley, alternately hugging the unabashedly happy agent and turning him around to 'get a good look.'

"Oh, you've gone and gotten yourself way too thin again me boy. What am I going to do with you? We'll have to see which of my dear departed mother's recipes will work in a pinch, now won't we?" She hugged him one more time, and then turned towards
Scully.

"And who is this lovely, wee lass?" she asked tenderly.

"This is my partner, and my best friend, Mrs. Mac. This is Sc__, umm, Dana. Dana Scully," he corrected himself quickly.

"Scully? Now that would be an old Irish name, wouldn't it dear?" Mrs. Mac asked rhetorically. Upon seeing Scully's slight nod in the affirmative, she said, "I thought so. Well, I'm of course a Scots woman myself, and our dear Mr. Laing is from the highland as well, but Ireland is a lovely place, too, my dear Dana. T'isn't Scotland of course, but you're a lovely wee thing, and I'm sure your Irish ancestors must be very proud of you.

"Now, we're expecting a couple of more guests for dinner, but don't let that stop you from helping yourself to a bit of a taste," she encouraged. "I'm going to let our Mr. Laing know you're here. He's going to be so delighted."

Mulder smiled at that and offered his thanks. When Mrs. Mac left the room, Scully looked at Mulder and pronounced, "I can't believe this," as she surveyed the trays of food. "Mulder, I thought we were coming for 'Tea', not a meal."

"Why? Aren't you hungry, Scully?"

"I'm famished! It's just that I'm surprised, however pleasantly. I thought having tea meant a cucumber sandwich and a cup of Earl Gray," she responded.

"Oh!" Mulder chuckled, finally comprehending the misunderstanding. "The professor isn't English, Scully. He's Scottish, and when Scots say 'Tea' they mean dinner, as in a meal. I'm sorry. I knew that but didn't think to explain it. Umm, surprise!" he teased smiling.

"Thanks, a lot, Mulder." She looked at him thoughtfully and once again marveled at how happy he appeared. He seemed to fit in this room with its old, Victorian style furniture and its beautiful Lenox pieces displayed so carefully, yet without pretentiousness.

Several minutes passed and the doorbell rang. When Mulder noted that Mrs. Mac was nowhere to be seen, he took it upon himself to go answer the door, while Scully remained in the dining room.

"MULDER! My goodness, I can't believe it's really you! Mulder, old man, how are you!" Scully heard from the other room. Next she heard Mulder cry out, "Holbrook, you sot, I'm doing great! Look at you! You haven't changed a bit!"

The conversation continued as Mulder and a man and woman joined Scully in the dining room. Scully saw a man slightly shorter, though most definitely wider, than Mulder enter the room along with a woman who followed mutely behind them. The two men continued to chatter on, while Scully and the other woman stood
and waited patiently, to a point.

"Ahem," interrupted Scully. When she received no reaction from the two men, she looked quickly over at the other female guest who promptly gave her an understanding smile. The two of them then cleared their throats simultaneously in the hopes of gaining their escorts' attention. This time it worked.

"Oh, my goodness," called out Holbrook, where are my manners? Of course we haven't a clue where yours are, mate, now do we? Must have left them over on the other side of the pond, wouldn't you say?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Holbrook, but we all know you and Emily Post were never exactly on a first name basis either," Mulder replied teasingly. "Anyway, Scully, I want to introduce you to one of my mates from good ol' St. Elban's, Andrew Holbrook."

"Scully?" he echoed curiously. "Odd little name for a rather lovely woman, don't you think, Caroline?" Holbrook stated to the woman who'd accompanied him that evening.

"Dana," interjected Scully. "My name is Dana Scully; unfortunately Mulder and I are so used to calling each other by our surnames in work related situations, we tend to continue the habit even with civilians."

"Civilians?" asked the as yet to be introduced woman. "I'm sorry, allow me to introduce myself as my delightful, but etiquette-challenged husband has failed to do so. I'm Caroline Holbrook."

Both Mulder and Scully murmured their hellos and then Scully responded to the real question Caroline had inferred. "We're both FBI agents, Caroline. We tend to use our surnames so there's little chance of confusing us with the bad guys when we're out in the field."

"Confusing?" roared Holbrook. "How many bad guys do you know named 'Fox?'"

"Drew, don't start," Mulder chimed in quickly.

"Fox?" Caroline echoed. "Tell me your name isn't really Fox!"

Scully unconsciously braced herself for what she was sure was going to be an ugly scene. She'd seen it happen all too often before, when someone discovered Mulder's first name and teased him unmercifully. He tensed up, and though he'd always held his anger in check, he remained annoyed and silent. She feared all of the joy he'd been feeling earlier was going to disappear for the rest of the evening.

Yet, when Mulder did speak, his words were thoroughly unexpected.

"Yes, Caroline," he confirmed with a huge grin, "I am truly a Fox. Just ask my mother," he added with only a hint of a leer.

While Caroline started laughing, delighted with the promise of an enjoyable evening, Scully stood and watched the scene take place before her with her mouth slightly agape. She found it difficult to believe that this man, the same Fox Mulder who'd informed her oh so many years ago that his own parents didn't call him by his first name, was now making jokes about it. This was definitely a side of her partner she'd never seen before.

She wasn't sure where the ambiguous feelings about it were coming from.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shortly after the Holbrooks arrived, Thomas Evans and Ann Hilton arrived together. Both were also former classmates of Mulder's and Holbrook's, and though they'd been friends for years, the two had only become romantically involved with one another within the last six months.

As the introductions among the peers were completed, Mrs. Mac entered the room and informed the group that Mr. Laing would be joining them later on for a bit o' tea. "The years seem to have taken what little appetite our dear Mr. Laing had," she explained, "so he'll rest up a bit while you young people get a chance to catch up with one another. He'll join you soon."

Which is just what the 'young' people did. They helped themselves to the feast Mrs. MacFarley had prepared in anticipation of their visit and heaped food upon their plates. Mulder called out to the loving older woman and said, "Mrs. Mac, you've done it again. If you cooked for me all the time, I daresay I'd be in the heavyweight class right now!"

That was met by a multitude of mumbled and garbled agreements as they'd all attempted to eat and speak at the same time. Mrs. Mac poked her head back into the room, waved them off with a bit of a blush to her cheeks, and went back to tend to dear Mr. Laing.

"Mulder, there is something I'm wondering about," Scully said. "What's that?"

"Well, I've heard you refer to our host as 'the professor', yet Mrs. Mac calls him 'Mr.' Laing and not 'Professor' Laing. What is his correct title?" she asked curiously.

"Oh," Mulder began, nodding his understanding over his partner's confusion. "The title of professor is really very uncommon here at Oxford. In fact, Mr. Laing's correct title is 'Fellow' at St. Elban's College, but that's a formal title to describe his position at the college and not really a title we use to address him.

"The 'professor' moniker is actually one I use for him, and my mates kind of picked up on it. I think it's one of the few American euphemisms they actually mimicked of mine," Mulder said to the acknowledged agreement of the others.

"When we address the professor, we would say 'Mr.' Laing, Scully," Mulder clarified.

Scully thanked everyone for the clarification and then went back to the more important task at hand, avoiding the Haggis at all costs, and relishing the Scottish pies, Stovies, and beautiful fresh Scottish Salmon. She noticed, much to her surprise, Mulder try what appeared to be some kind of a vegetable dish.

"Do my eyes deceive me, Mulder, or are you eating something that resembles a vegetable?" she razzed. When he smirked at her remark, she lightened up and said, "Seriously, it looks interesting. What is it?"

"It was one of the few ways Mrs. Mac got a vegetable in me," he said and then calling out to the kitchen area he called, "Wasn't it Mrs. Mac?"

The older woman poked her head into the room to acknowledge Mulder's comment and said, "Now, there isn't a man, woman, or child alive that doesn't enjoy my Colcannon, and don't you forget it, Fox Mulder!" She slipped back into the kitchen as quickly as she'd appeared. Everyone, but especially Mulder, chuckled out loud.

"It's a peasant dish, I suppose, Scully. It's made up of boiled cabbage, carrots, and potatoes," he explained.

"Don't forget the turnips, Fox Mulder!" called out the eavesdropping elder Scots woman from the kitchen.

"And there's turnips," Mulder conceded with a grin. "Mrs. Mac just cooks it up in a pan with some butter, salt and pepper, and I make it disappear. Of course the first time Mrs. MacFarley served it to me, I think I nearly fainted. I couldn't remember the last time a vegetable passed through these lips, much less something that had a turnip in it."

"But you ate it," said Mrs. Mac from her perch in the doorway, "and if my memory recalls, you had not only seconds, but thirds as well." Back into the kitchen she went, while Mulder could do nothing more than smile and nod in agreement.

Some time passed and the conversation ranged from catching up on other former classmates to the standings of the St. Elban's rowing teams, particularly the 'First Eight.' Scully quickly learned that Mulder was a member of the prestigious 'First Eight' rowing team and was apparently a huge asset in the team's award of a 'Blue.' Not wanting to appear totally ignorant, she assumed that was some kind of a trophy or award for winning competitions.

Next they spoke of their never ending political debates in the "King's Arms" pub. Mulder was apparently a bit of a radical in those days, and wore his hair rather long for Oxford's standards. He was actually a popular client of the "King's Arms" and Drew in particular reminisced fondly of the long, drawn out discussions of the pros and cons of socialized medicine and government's role in it. It surprised Scully to learn it was Drew who was opposed to it, while Mulder was apparently very much in favor of socialized medicine and the need for government intervention.

"I still do think that to a degree," was all Mulder would say.

All Scully could think was the man continued to unfold like a flower.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The stomachs of the six young people were full, and the conversation became quieter and less animated. Mrs. MacFarley began to clear the dishes and everyone quickly jumped up to assist.

"Oh, dear me! Don't be hopping up and down like little jack rabbits on my account," she admonished. "I can manage."

"We always helped you clean up before Mrs. Mac, and we're not about to stop now," declared Mulder smiling. "C'mon mates, lets get this mess into the kitchen p/d/q!"

"Mulder, forgive me, but I have never seen you move so fast to clean up after dinner before as I have this evening," gibed Scully.

"Ah, Dana, you've also never seen our laddy, Fox, here inhale a piece of my famous Black Bun for dessert!" retorted Mrs. MacFarley.

"You did? You made a Black Bun?" cried out Mulder.

The man was practically squealing in glee. Scully couldn't help but giggle out loud at the sight of seeing her thirty-eight year old partner be reduced to that of an overgrown toddler at the mere mention of some kind of dessert.

"Scully, wait until you taste this! It's incredible! It's a fruitcake, but not like any fruitcake you've ever had before. I mean, this tastes good!" he said exuberantly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The dishes were cleared and everyone sat down in the comfortable den to have their tea and Black Bun while they waited Mr. Laing to join them. They sat quietly, sipping their tea and taking small bites of the very rich, slightly ginger-spiced, fruitcake. It was, Scully discovered, quite edible and in fact delicious.

Not too long after, an elderly, white haired man appeared in the doorway. He walked with a cane in hand, yet he didn't appear to place too much weight on it. His posture was upright and he gave the appearance of being taller than he really was. When Scully stood up to participate in the greetings, she discovered he wasn't nearly as tall as Mulder and not that much taller than herself.

The Holbrooks extended their hands in greeting and Drew introduced his wife, Caroline. Next, Thomas and Ann offered their hands for a shake and heard their former teacher declare it was about time the two of them had gotten together. This of course astonished the couple, not so much that Mr. Laing would make the comment, but that evidently it was something he'd given some consideration to in the past and that it would occupy his thoughts.

At this point, Mr. Laing did a slight double take and asked Mrs. MacFarley, "Where is our young man, Mr. Blumford? Weren't you able to ring up Fredrick?"

"Oh, my, Mr. Laing, I dinna call Mr. Blumford. I'd gotten so involved in the cooking preparations that I simply forgot to get hold of him! I don't know where my mind goes sometimes," the small Scots woman apologized.

"Well, that certainly explains his absence. We both know had you remembered, Freddie would have been the first one here this evening, ever the ready to eat us out of house and home," Laing responded with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. "All is forgiven, Mrs. MacFarley.

"Thank you, Mr. Laing. I'll go get the tea ready now," she said as she walked out of the door. Before she left, however, she gave Mulder and Scully a quick look, and if they weren't mistaken, it was a small wink of the eye. Scully smiled outright; Mrs. MacFarley had apparently forgotten to call Fredrick Nelson Blumford, III quite on purpose.

Personally, she was quite grateful for the older woman's memory lapse.

Finally, it was Mulder's turn and he too reached out to take the hand of the older man standing before him. It was to Mulder's astonishment then, that after grasping his hand, Mr. Laing then pulled the younger man toward him into a surprisingly strong bear hug.

Mulder was stunned. He was suddenly overcome with emotion he didn't realize he'd been harboring, and for the first time in a long time was rendered speechless.

"Well, now I know I've truly accomplished something. I've stunned Mr. Mulder into silence," said the elder Scotsman in a delightful Scottish brogue.

"C'mon, Lad, find your voice so you can introduce me to your lovely lady here."

Scully's Irish coloring betrayed her immediately, but she quickly extended her hand and introduced herself, as she didn't think Mulder could speak at that point. "I'm Dana Scully, Sir. I'm Mulder's partner with the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

"Aye, such a wee lass you are, so you must be a might clever one to be able to watch over this one," he said.

Scully couldn't help but laugh at the astonishingly accurate portrayal Mr. Laing made of her partnership with Fox Mulder, and before Mulder could say anything to dispute it, she confirmed his assessment by quickly saying, "It's apparent you are a very wise man, Mr. Laing."

Everyone, including Mulder, had a good chuckle over that, and they all seated themselves, having saved the oversized, comfortable leather armchair for 'the professor.'

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The conversation was mainly a repetition of the earlier discussions as a means of bringing Mr. Laing up to date on the lives of his former students. Occasionally, someone would remember some humorous crisis that one or all of them had to go through and they would all have a good laugh over it.

Caroline and Scully had to endure most of it without really knowing what they were talking about. Though Caroline was British, much of the Oxford culture was alien to her. She had lived in the states for a number of years and had also attended college in the states.

Caroline wondered aloud if Oxford's traditions seemed a bit archaic and perhaps they needed to look a bit more forward and perhaps use American Universities as a model.

Mr. Laing smiled. "That reminds me of a wee story," he began. "There was a Scottish farmer working hard in his field, digging up his tatties. An American farmer looked over the fence and said, 'In Texas we grow potatoes five times larger than that!' The Scotsman replied, 'Ah, but we just grow them for our own mouths, son!" Caroline was a bit taken aback at the inference, but realized she was, if nothing else, outnumbered and decided to take her lumps graciously. "Well, I'll just grow some smaller potatoes from now on," she said with a smile, and everyone laughed in relief with her.

The evening was fast turning into night, and as Mr. Laing tired more easily, everyone felt it was soon time to take their leave. Mulder and Scully in particular were beginning to feel the effects of jet lag, so they were none too upset to say their good-byes. Ann and Thomas were the first to bade good night and then the Holbrooks quickly followed.

Finally, Mulder and Scully found it was their turn. Mr. Laing grasped Mulder's hand tightly and said, "It's good to see you again, Fox. When you'd left all those years ago, before you finished your research, I dinna know if I would see you again. I'm a happy man tonight, Fox Mulder. I'm a happy man, indeed." He then pulled him into a hug again, which left the younger man once again speechless.

"My, my, I dinna know that was possible!" joked the tutor. He then turned to Scully and drew her into his strong arms. "You take care of him, Lassie. He's a good man, who dinna always get the right opportunities at the right times. Watch out for him. Help him be happy."

And with that he released her and wished them both a good night.

end of part 04

The Oxford Files: Going Home 05
by Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)
and Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Scully let her head fall to the back of the seat and closed her eyes. It would have been so easy to fall asleep right there in the cab on the way back to the hotel. But a certain conversation in the lobby nagged at her brain. Without opening her eyes, she nudged her partner.

"So, are we headed to the 'Electric Eel'?"

Mulder chucked and slid an arm behind her, pulling her head on to his shoulder. "The Eel's not very conducive to sleep, Scully. And if you did fall asleep, someone would mistake you for an overdose
and you'd wake up in the ER."

She cracked one eye to look up at him. "Really, Mulder, all I need is to splash some water on my face, and I'm good to go. I mean, if you really do want to go . . ."

"Scully, it's a nice gesture, but I'm dead on my feet. I think we can pass. We'll see all the same people tomorrow at the symposium. I don't think I could face standing in a crowded bar listening to music that I turn off when I come to it on the radio."

At her raised eyebrow he smiled at her. "Face it, Scully. I've become an old fogey, music-wise."

She closed her eyes and shook her head. "That must make me _dead_, music-wise," she muttered.

She felt his silent laughter and wondered again at it. In the last 18 hours, she'd heard, or felt, her partner laugh more than possibly in their entire time together. Laughter came so easily to him here. So unlike the office or even when they were on a case. She wondered for a moment how different a man he might have been had he stayed in England and continued his studies, then returned to the US and found a nice professorship somewhere.

"Scully, wake up. We're almost there," he said soft and low in her ear. His breath stirred her hair and sent a chill down her back. Suddenly, the image of that four-poster bed flashed through her mind and she swallowed hard.

'Don't you think I can be a gentleman?' Mulder had accused her. What he didn't realize is that she had no doubt he could be a gentleman, he had been nothing but for 7 years time. The real problem was, she was sick and tired of being a 'lady'. At the same time, though, she was terrified to initiate the next logical step. And since her partner had made it abundantly clear that he expected her to lead the way, they were pretty much at an impasse. It was starting to drive her crazy.

'When the apple is ripe, it'll fall.' She had no idea why that particular bit of wisdom from her Grandmother Scully suddenly came to her, but it seemed to ring true. It would happen, all in good time. The most important thing for her to remember was to quit worrying about the 'when' and concentrate on the 'now'.

She felt the car pull to a full stop and heard Mulder pay the cabbie. He leaned over her again, and this time, placed a kiss on the crown of her head. She opened her eyes to his. "I'm awake," she said in a whisper.

"Good. I'm too tired to carry you upstairs," he returned lightly.

He took her hand and helped her out of the cab. She took a step and his hand fell to it's customary position on the small of her back. She smiled to herself. All in good time. But not now. All she could think of was how wonderful that overstuffed mattress would feel on her aching body.

They made their way to the elevator, and this time, it was Mulder who looked like he would fall asleep standing up. She grinned at him, held up only by the handrail and the polished mahogany paneling. His hair was slightly mussed, and falling in his eyes again, his tie was askew, one tail of his shirt was threatening to escape the tight confines of his belt. He looked like he'd already been to the pub and back. She just hoped he could make it all the way to the room.

The chime sounded and the elevator doors slid open with a faint metallic squeal. Both of them sighed in unison and then grinned at each other. They'd been there before, too tired to move their feet, but needing the support of a bed more than the next breath. One look into each other's eyes was all it took and they launched themselves out of the cab of the elevator and into the hallway. Mulder dug in his pocket for the key to the room and when he opened the door, almost fell over the threshold.

"I think they could put our pictures next to the words 'jet lag' in the dictionary," Scully moaned as she kicked off her shoes by the door and curled her toes on the plush carpet.

"Wake me in the next millennium," Mulder groaned as he pulled off his tie and slipped off his jacket.

He reached for his belt buckle and all activity stopped. Mulder looked over at his partner, and blinked. One bed was one thing, stripping in the same room was another. Scully tactfully flipped open her suitcase, grabbed her pjs and her travel bag and headed for the bathroom. "Don't mind if I snag the bathroom first, do you?" she tossed over her shoulder.

"Don't mind at all," she heard followed by an audible sigh of relief. "Take your time."

She scrubbed her face, brushed her teeth, eased into her pjs and almost fell asleep standing in front of the mirror. When she figured he'd had enough time, she switched off the light and was pleased to note that a small golden night light glowed just bright enough to light her way back into the main room.

In the shadows, she could see him, lying curled on his side facing the middle of the bed. She noted wryly that he had naturally fallen asleep on the left side. She usually preferred the right anyway. She padded around the bed and lifted the comforter and sheets. The smell of fresh linen wafted up to her, mixed with a faint scent of her partner's aftershave. She smiled to herself and crawled into bed, sighing heavily as her bones settled. Bliss.

After a moment, she turned on her side and was just a bit surprised to feel a warm body snuggle up to her back. An arm, not overly heavy, but comforting, slid around her middle and fell limp. As she felt sleep overtake her, she realized that they were breathing in tandem. That thought carried her in to a deep and dreamless sleep.

The snick of the door closing snapped her out of slumber. On instinct, she shot up and grabbed for her weapon, which would have been lying on the nightstand. Her eyes shot open at the same instant her hand hit cold wood, but no metal.

Mulder laughed and her head whipped around to view him, standing in the center of the room with hands raised in surrender. He was in his running shorts and cut off sweat shirt and was dripping with sweat.

"The most heinous crime I'm guilty of is body odor, Scully, but I admit, it might be a capital offense."

She flopped down on the bed and flung his own pillow at him. "Jeez, Mulder, you gave me a heart attack," she growled. "What time is it?"

The pillow boomeranged back at her, landed square on her nose and she shoved it off her face. "It's 5 after 7. I get first shower."

She scrubbed at her eyes and sought the nightstand for the alarm clock. "What time do we have to be there?" she asked, confused and more than a little disgruntled at her rude awakening. She'd been hoping to wake up in her partner's arms, but that was obvious not in the cards for that morning.

His garbled message came through the door of the bathroom and over the sound of running water. She shook her head in disgust and crawled over the tangled bedclothes to hop over to the bathroom door. "I said, what time . . ."

The door flew open and a cloud of steam enveloped them both. Mulder, with half a face full of shaving cream and nothing but a towel secured firmly around his waist, waved a safety razor toward the desk at the far side of the room. "The schedule is in the front pocket of my briefcase," he said and closed the door again.

She rolled her eyes. The man was trying to be infuriating and it wasn't even 7:30 in the morning! She plodded over to the identified briefcase and clawed through the front pocket. When she came to the proper day and opening time, she saw red.

"Mulder! We don't have to be there until 10 o'clock! What the hell are you thinking?" she demanded. She tossed the sheets of paper back on the desk and stomped over to the bed, where she threw herself down on the mattress with enough forced to knock the posters against the wall, then buried herself in the blankets, trying to reclaim sleep. All the while, she muttered to herself about lunatic partners and insomnia being the scourge of the modern world.

He came out just as she started to drift off. She heard him shuffle through his suit bag, and retreat into the bathroom again. When he came out the second time, her curiosity got the better of her and she cracked open her eyes. Her eyes almost popped out of her head.

"What the hell are you wearing?" she demanded, and was slightly irritated when her voice squeaked.

He looked down at himself and gave her an impish grin. "Sub-fusc," he replied.

"Don't curse at me, Mulder, I asked a reasonable question. What are you dressed for . . . graduation?"

He sat down on the edge of the bed and smiled affectionately at her. "I'm not dressed for graduation, Scully. Well, I guess I am, but I
didn't wear this to graduation. I wore this to my exams. It's academic attire. Required of all formal occasions."

"You don't have to wear . . ." she waved her hand toward her head and cringed.

"A mortarboard? God, no! Besides, I never could keep the damned things on my head straight. No, just the gown." He stood up and motioned to it. "It still fits! Wish I could say that about my rugby jersey," he grinned.

"What did you call it just now?" she asked, suddenly intrigued.

"Sub-fusc," he repeated slowly. "And don't ask me what it means, because no one ever bothered to tell me. It's medieval, Scully. I'm just happy it doesn't come with chain mail," he added, then at her questioning look, he shook his head again. "All American history, weren't you?" he clucked in mild disdain.

She narrowed her eyes again and he grinned at her teasingly. "So, are you going like that? Not that I'm complaining, mind you." He raked his eyes over her blue satin pajama top.

"Mulder," she whined. "We don't have to be there for hours! Why did you wake me up so early?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wished them back. His face fell and he stared at the floor.

"Sorry, Scully. I should have let you sleep. I know how tired you were last night," he apologized and got up to nervously fiddle with the papers on the desk. "I just woke up and read over my paper, then I got antsy and went for a run. I really didn't even know what time . . ."

She walked over and silenced him by placing a finger to his lips. "Mulder, it's all right. It's perfectly natural that you would be a bit . . . antsy, this morning. I'm sorry." She gave him her own sly smile. "You know I'm a shrew 'til that first cup of coffee," she added.

He locked eyes with her and what she saw there made her catch her breath. "Never a shrew, Scully. Never that," he whispered. Then, just as on the plane, he leaned over toward her, but this time in slow motion. Time stopped and it was only Mulder, moving toward her, reaching her lips, pressing his mouth against hers and sending a message straight through to her soul.

And there was a loud pounding on the door.

But for once in their lives, they didn't let anything stop them. Mulder raised his hand to encircle her back and drew her closer. Scully reached up and tangled her fingers in the hair at the back of his head. The kiss deepened and they were both lost in the sensation.

This time, the pounding threatened to splinter the wooden frame and was accompanied by a loud "Room Service!"

It was enough to break the most enduring kiss. "That's the coffee," they said in unison and Scully giggled as Mulder hurried to the door and accepted the cart with a gleaming silver coffee service and a basket of fresh rolls and muffins.

Scully wiped her mouth and chewed lightly on her bottom lip. A few more kisses like that one and there wouldn't be any apples left on the tree, she mused. Her partner handed her a cup of coffee and smiled at her. Most assuredly, them apples were due to be picked but there were other things to attend to that day.

The auditorium was still fairly deserted when they arrived an hour later. Mulder had hurried her through her shower, nagged at her through the closed door as she dried her hair and applied her make up. Never before had the man shown her his true colors and they were all glorious shades of testosterone. She did quicken her pace, if only to ensure that her partner didn't have a stroke before his presentation. Now that they had arrived, he was more wound up than ever.

"If you don't settle down, Mr. Mulder, you'll wear a groove in the flooring of the stage. I dare say the administration would have something to say about that," came a voice from the far end of the auditorium. Mulder shielded his eyes with his hands, and his jaw dropped open in shock.

"Sir, uh, I didn't think I'd see you here today," he said, hopping off the stage and hurrying up the aisle. Scully, who had been sitting in the front row, turned to squint into the darkened back of the large room to get a glimpse of the commotion. Before long, an elderly man, leaning heavily on a cane, made his way out of the shadows.

"Mr. Laing," Scully gasped and hurried to help Mulder, who was already assisting his former tutor down the carpeted aisle. She met them in time to help him into a seat next to her.

"I don't know why you look so surprised, Mr. Mulder. You don't think I'd miss an opportunity to give you one more grade, did you?" the older gentleman said with a twinkle in his eyes.

"It was a lot easier when it was just you in the audience, sir," Mulder said self-consciously.

Laing leaned forward and grasped Mulder by the arm. "You have it in you, Fox. It's been a long time, but I don't think anything could dampen that spirit you have, or that mind. I've been waiting for you to come back to us. I'm happy I was still alive to see the day."

Silently, Scully watched the exchange. Her chest constricted and her stomach turned over. Although the old man's words were meant to be reassuring and comforting, to her ears, they held more than a little to be afraid of. Was Mulder coming home? Was this the one place on earth that could allow him to find peace and finally walk away from his quest? But where did that leave her?

"I just hope you're still glad _after_ you hear the presentation, sir," Mulder said good naturedly.

In the blink of an eye, the hour and a half presentation was over and Mulder was greeted with a standing ovation from his former peers. Scully could see the blush on his face start at his collar and proceed up his cheeks, as she clapped loud and long beside his former tutor. When the thunder receded, Mulder sheepishly stepped down from the stage, only to be swarmed by well-wishers, pushing Scully off
to the side. A hand on her shoulder caused her to jump and she spun around to find Fredrick Blumford grinning like a jackal.

"I really didn't know the old boy had it in him," Freddie said conspiratorially. "Guess he'll be kissing the FBI goodbye soon enough."

Scully's face froze into a placid mask. "Oh, I don't know about that. Mulder has a good position with the Bureau. I don't think one presentation is likely to change his life that dramatically."

Freddie laughed, but it sounded more like a leer. "Oh, my dear Ms. Scully, old Laing over there has been working on your friend for some time. And the administration as well. Someone of Mulder's stature, an FBI profiler, teaching abnormal and deviant psychology at Elban's, it would be quite a coup for the old school. And they are prepared, after this morning, to make that offer, . . . how do you yanks say it? Too good to refuse?"

Just in time, someone else called Freddie's name and he winked at Scully before fading into the crowd. More than ever, she wanted to get through the admirers and see her partner. Touch his hand. Make any kind of connection she possibly could. But a hand on her sleeve stopped her again.

"Why Dr. Scully! I suspected you'd be about."

Scully didn't have to turn around to recognize that voice. It haunted her dreams for months after her initial meeting.

"Inspector Greene," Scully said, forcing her facial armor into a more pleasing smile. "I knew we'd run into each other."

Phoebe smiled predatorily. "He was smashing today, wasn't he? A far cry from the pariah of the FBI, don't you think?"

"Our work is very important," Scully said evenly and felt her fašade crack just a bit.

"Oh, I'm sure you've convinced yourself it is, my dear," Phoebe said with a wink. "All that running around . . . chasing this, that and whatever."

"You seemed to think it was important enough to fly all the way to America for a 'consult'," Scully sneered.

"Indeed. I never said he wasn't brilliant. He just needs a . . . better handler, should we say? Oh, excuse me, I forgot. Are you two still teamed up together? But of course, there wouldn't be any other reason you'd be here with him, would there. Work related only, isn't that the way it is?"

Without giving Scully the time to blacken her eye, Phoebe pushed through the crowd to Mulder. He greeted her warmly, then turned to another in the crowd. Scully faded further to the back and found a seat.

That was where he found her, some twenty minutes later. The crowd had left, only Mr. Laing sat talking to Mulder. Suddenly, he looked around and found his partner sitting six rows up and on the far side of the auditorium. He took his leave of his former tutor and made his way over to her slowly, gauging her mood as he walked.

"Remind me to wear boxing gloves if I ever attempt this again," he said, dropping down beside her with a tired sigh.

She swallowed all the rejection she'd been feeling and forced a truly happy smile on her face. "I told you it was fabulous, Mulder. But, like always, you couldn't believe me," she teased.

"They were being kind," he said, brushing off the reaction he'd received.

"Kind? Mulder, 'kind' is when they politely clap for a couple of seconds and a few people walk up and say 'thank you'. That was _adoration_ a few minutes ago. You really knocked their socks off!"

"Did you like it, Scully? I mean, did it come off all right?"

She was floored by the earnestness in his eyes. It warmed her tremendously when she realized how desperately he was seeking her approval. "It was wonderful, Mulder. You did a fantastic job. Truly fantastic."

He leaned over again, and kissed her, with all the passion he'd displayed in the hotel earlier that morning. When he pulled away to let her catch her breath, he drew her head down to his shoulder and kissed her hair. "Where were you? I kept looking for you and you never showed."

Her heart ached a little at the accusation. She swallowed and took his hand in hers. "I couldn't get through the crowd."

He chuckled. "Now, who was being polite? Remember Scully, I've seen you take down guys three times the size of anyone here today."

She punched him lightly in the shoulder. "Mulder, I wasn't going to 'take down' a bunch of psychology professors just so I could shake your hand. I figured I could give you my 'best wishes' any time."

He ran his fingers through her hair and looked deep into her eyes. "Still, next time, I want you standing beside me." A gleam formed in his eyes. "I had no one to watch my back and had to hug Phoebe," he chided with a grin.

"I had already frisked her. She wasn't armed," Scully shot back in perfect 'Mulder' deadpan.

"You don't know Phoebe," Mulder said with a rueful expression. "Her wit is the sharpest dagger known to man."

"Mulder, Freddie said something. Something about Mr. Laing and the administration . . ."

Mulder sighed and shook his head. "Freddie has a big mouth. And it's nothing, really. Laing wants me to finish my doctorate. I'm so close, well over half the research is finish. But I'd be required to spend another year in residence. He said I could get a teaching position, but that's a pipe dream, Scully. I don't belong here anymore."

Before she could answer, he looked at his watch. "Oh, damn it. We're late for lunch. C'mon, one of the perks of these things is the spread they lay out. We gotta hurry or all the good salmon will be gone!" He grabbed her hand and pulled her up, then ushered her out of the hall.

The luncheon almost put the previous night's dinner to shame. The dining hall, which was opulent beyond Scully's wildest imaginings, was filled to capacity, and the heavy banquet tables held an array of food down the length of each.

"Mulder, I don't think I'm going to make the weight limit on the return flight," Scully joked as she seated herself next to him at the table. She was slightly pleased to see that they were not at the head table, but noticed that Mr. Laing and a number of older men were there.

"So, who are they?" she asked, nodding in the direction of the head table.

"Faculty and administration. A couple of members of the House of Lords. Oh, I think at least one member of the royals." At Scully's stunned expression, he laughed. "Don't worry, Scully. We're not talking about any one you would recognize."

"Well, looking at this table, I know why Fergie is a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers," Scully muttered and was rewarded with another chuckle from her partner. She looked up at the table again and noticed Mr. Laing in deep conversation with none other than Freddie Blumford.

"So where does Freddie work?" Scully asked innocently as the platters of food were passed around the table.

"Freddie doesn't work, at least not that I know of. I suspect he's trying to get on the faculty here. His father wouldn't let him in the family business, which is shipping and export if memory serves me right. Freddie would have the family fortune gone in a New York minute. But I'm sure his father made some demand that he have some productive endeavor. Academics is a real haven for the Freddies of the world."

Scully watched the conversation for a while, since Mulder became engaged in a rather hostile debate over the merits of Jung over Skinner (B.F., not A.D., she noted). At the head table, Mr. Laing seemed increasingly irritated and Freddie seemed increasingly annoyed. Finally, the gray haired gentleman seated next to Mr. Laing intervened and Freddie left the banquet hall in a huff. Scully shook her head and went back to enjoying her meal.

The afternoon seemed to drag. Scully found very little of interest in the rest of the papers presented. Not that she was prejudiced, but her partner's research at least held her attention. The relative merits of one psychotherapist's work over another had never been a big draw for her. But Mulder seemed to be caught up in the presentations, raptly attentive. She fought hard not to yawn and nod off.

After the last seminar, there was another tea. This was considerably more formal than the dinner at Mr. Laing's and was more in line with Scully's idea of what an English tea would be. Several members of the faculty, many of who were meeting Mulder for the first time, made their way up to him to congratulate him on his work and inquire as to where he intended to publish his paper. Scully stood off to the side again, watching her partner as he graciously accepted the praise being showered on him. It made her ache a little, but he seemed so happy. In his element. She
wondered if she'd ever seen him that happy before.

The faculty tea ended by 5:30 and the two agents made their way back to the hotel. Mulder collapsed on the bed and kicked off his shoes with a loud sigh.

"I am _exhausted_!" he declared, but the glow had yet to leave his eyes.

Scully sat on the desk chair and nodded in sympathy. "It was a long day and you started it pretty early. Why don't you take a nap?"

He lifted his head and looked over to her. "On one condition. You join me," he said, patting the bedspread beside him.

Scully wanted to look away, but Mulder held her gaze fast. She swallowed, wondering how the air had gotten so dry in the room.

"A nap, Scully. I promise. Just a nap."

Voices were warring inside her. One voice, sounding decidedly like the fourth grade teacher, Sr. Mary Matthews, was invoking all sorts of dire warnings. The other voice, sounding more like her sister Melissa, was chiding her for taking so long to get to the bed. But it was Scully's own voice that won out.

"Scoot over, Mulder," she said confidently and with a big smile. She hopped on the bed, making sure to give it a bounce or two. Mulder's arms reached out and encircled her waist, snuggling her up close to him.

"Ummm, this feels good," he said, but the last word was lost in a huge yawn.

"Very good," Scully agreed, wiggling a little to find a comfortable position with her head in the crook of his shoulder. "You know, Mulder, you really did a great job today. I mean, I know you were nervous this morning, but you had no reason to be. I was very impressed." She stopped, expecting him to say something, but realized the only sound he was making was a quiet snore. She smiled affectionately and reached up to kiss him lightly on the lips.

In his sleep, Mulder smiled. In moments, Scully joined him.

In her dreams, she was in his arms. They were lying on a beach, the surf pounding just a mere couple of yards from their blanket. His body covered hers, pressing her into the soft sand underneath the blanket. He murmured her name as he rained kisses on her face.

And she returned the kisses. Starting with his eyes, then his cheeks and his nose, she showered tiny kisses over his face. Finally, she found his mouth. It opened easily for her and her tongue darted inside, searching, seeking, finding what it was looking for. Soon, his own tongue took up the challenge and for a few seconds they dueled playfully with one another. He sighed when he broke the kiss.

"I love you, Scully," he said almost woefully. "I just wish you'd believe it."

She frowned and reached up to brush his hair from his forehead. "I know you love me, Mulder. I love you, too. You know that, don't you?"

His eyes told her that he hadn't known that, that it was a new revelation. He kissed her again, hungrily this time.

The passion was contagious. Scully felt too confined, couldn't reach where she wanted to reach. With one deft move, she pushed on his shoulder and flipped him on his back and under her. She straddled him, leaning over predatorily and licking her lips. He grinned at her, unafraid. She descended and caught his lower lip between her teeth.

His moan brought her fully awake.

It had been a dream, but somewhere, the dream worked its way into reality. They weren't on the beach, they were in the hotel, on their bed. Scully still had him pinned to the mattress, had been nipping at his lip just as in her dream. From the look of his mouth, they'd been going at it for some time. And now Mulder was awake as well.

Before either had a chance to consider what had happened or was about to happen, the phone rang.

They both scrambled for it, Mulder winning by a mere breath. He fumbled with the receiver while Scully tried to regain her bearings.

"Oh, god, Drew, yeah," he was saying while he wiped sleep from his eyes and kisses from the side of his mouth. "Geez, is it that late? No, uh, I must have fallen asleep. Yeah, it was a long day. Sure, go ahead. We'll catch up in a few minutes." He hung up the phone and regarded his partner.

"Um, that was Drew. The guys are all getting together at the Eel. It's almost 9." He stopped and chewed on his lip. "Of course, we could be . . . a little late. I mean, they might get a couple of pints on us, but . . ."

Scully couldn't stop the grin that broke out on her face. She shook her head. "Mulder, I have no intention of meeting a schedule," she told him firmly. "We'll go and see your friends for a while. You don't get to England that often and lord knows the nice friends you have haven't made it to the States. Then we'll come back and see what happens later."

"I knew there was a reason I love you," he said giddily as he kissed her once more and jumped up off the bed to clean up in the bathroom. Scully lay there a moment longer, savoring the smile and the warm feel of his mouth on hers.

end of part 05

The Oxford Files: Going Home 06
By Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)
& Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)

As they entered, Scully felt overwhelmed by the amount of noise and movement in the somewhat darkened room. As music blared from the six foot high speakers scattered about the large room, she watched people mill back and forth between the large bar area and the tables. She noted that people were carrying their own glasses of beverage in varying degrees of emptiness and fullness.

She then noted others were walking back and forth from a second area where there was apparently food offered on a menu that was posted on a chalkboard. The customers here as well carried their orders back to their tables.

Then Scully saw the small gathering in the rear corner of the pub and realized that a group of people was playing what appeared to be pool. In the other corner, a man was throwing darts while a companion was keeping score.

The cacophony of sound felt a bit overwhelming to Scully who wasn't quite used to the lilting accents of the British people. Of course, there were a fair share of Irish and Scotsmen and women scattered among the bunch, not to mention hints of upper crust and lower class Englishmen and women.

Scully felt as if she were in the middle of the play Pygmalion and that any minute someone was going to burst into song, singing "Get me to the Church on Time."

Then she caught a glance of Mulder and let out a small gasp. Why it surprised her that her partner felt so totally comfortable and in his element in this foreign place, she didn't know. But he appeared completely at home here. Though he'd protested earlier that The Electric Eel was never his favorite choice of hangouts, the calm, happy expression he now wore proved him wrong. It was with a true sense of wonder that she watched him slip into his role of the Academic as if it were a second skin.

They looked about and found Caroline and Drew, as well as Ann and Thomas, sitting at a large round wooden table. Each was already halfway through their brews, so they'd obviously began the party without them.

"Well if it isn't the great orator, himself! Bloody good presentation! Simply exquisite! So, has the old man hit on you for a position at good old St. Elban's? I know he's been looking to handpick his successor, and I daresay I do believe he's got his sights on you, my dear Fox!" cried out Drew. When he saw Mulder's nonplused expression though, he quickly changed the subject and exclaimed, "But now you do need to hurry up, mate! You and Dana have some catching up to do!"

"So I can see," he responded more calmly with the change of subject. "I suppose I'm buying the next round, eh mates?"

"Ah, but it's good to know the Yank doesn't forget his manners, now isn't it?" exclaimed Thomas. "Of course you are!"

Mulder took everyone's order and then he and Scully walked up to the bar. "I'll need three pints of bitters, a white wine and a club soda." He then turned to his partner and asked, "What are you having, partner?"

"A Guinness?"

"Your wish is my command, G-Woman," he said. "You know," he began tentatively, "I wasn't all that sure I wanted to come here tonight, Scully. I mean, like I'd said, this place was never really my favorite, but __, well, let's just say I'm very glad you're here to share the experience with me."

He handed a couple of the drinks to Scully who then insisted she could manage one more, so he placed the bottle of Guinness carefully in her hands. Next he paid the bartender the exact amount and began to walk away.

"Mulder, didn't you forget something?" Scully whispered hurriedly.

"Forget? What did I forget?"

"The tip, Mulder. You didn't tip the bartender," she reminded.

"Oh," Mulder responded and then chuckled. "No, I didn't forget. It's not customary here to tip the bartender, Scully. At some point we'll offer to buy the bloke a drink, but that's all the 'tip' he expects."

"You're kidding?" Scully responded incredulously. When Mulder shook his head, she murmured quietly, "My, my, my, how civilized."

They returned to their table and passed around the drinks. When the duo finally managed to take a seat, Thomas was heard to say, "So, Mulder old chap, how does it feel to be back in the old haunt? It certainly feels almost like old times to me!"

Mulder didn't say anything at first; his face did manage to turn a slight shade of amber. "It feels fine, Thom, though I can say the only thing I missed about it was beating the hell out of you at Darts," Mulder finally responded, smiling.

"Oh, I daresay that sounds like a challenge if there ever was one, now doesn't it?" Thomas replied laughing good-naturedly. "Just as soon as I finish my brew here, we'll have a go of it."

"Now it definitely feels like old times, listening to the two of you try to one up one another," chimed in Ann, "though of course we do need Phoebe and Freddie here to round out the old gang, now don't we?"

"Say, speaking of Darts, where's our number one target?" asked Drew.

"Are you speaking of Freddie?" asked Scully who then added rather sardonically, "or Phoebe?"

"My word, the woman is definitely a quick study! You'd better do whatever you can to snag this woman for keeps!" responded Drew.

"Funny, I thought he already had," teased Thomas.

"C'mon guys, stop razzing us and drink your beers 'cause I know someone besides me gets the next round!" retorted a smiling Mulder.

Scully watched in amazement at how relaxed her partner seemed. If they were in the States and a peer had made that kind of a remark, she knew Mulder would have become totally defensive and withdrawn. Yet here, he accepted the jibe as it was intended and threw it right back at his friends.

His friends.

Scully realized how rare it was she thought of that phrase in context with her partner. Of course there were the Gunmen, but they were in a class by themselves. She'd almost considered them colleagues, as they'd saved both of their asses so many times she'd begun to consider them as a necessary part of their lives. But in terms of just ordinary, sit and shoot the breeze type of friends, she'd never considered whether Mulder even had any.

He had many acquaintances; he played pick-up basketball games all the time and hung out on the courts with the other neighborhood players or Bureau players, but she didn't think Mulder considered them his friends.

She realized something rather startling. She and the Gunmen were Mulder's only true friends in the States, and that wasn't saying much considering how little time they all spent actually just socializing. Scully suddenly felt a little sad for her friend and then for herself as well. She realized that over the years she'd isolated herself too, however unintentionally, from her own close friends.

The job kept her so off kilter in terms of a schedule, she'd given up making dates for lunches or dinners with those she was once close with. Scully realized she'd have to do something about that when she returned home. She knew she'd have to make a concerted effort to get a life, and she knew she'd have to convince Mulder to do the same.

Having a real life looked good on him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some time had passed and Freddie still hadn't showed up. Though everyone considered him a monumental bore, everyone also knew he was perfectly harmless and was considered a part of the group, if for no other reason to be the brunt of everyone's wisecracks about society's upper crust.

Freddie, himself, was perfectly accepting of that, and readily joined in the jibing. Often, his target was Phoebe, for whom none of the gang felt any love lost. Thomas tried ringing Freddie's home earlier, but there was no answer. The former classmates were actually becoming a bit concerned as they worked their way through the fourth and fifth rounds of drinks.

Scully was becoming quite amused at the change in Mulder's demeanor.

He was actually becoming quite the life of the party.

"C'mon, Thomas, let's have one more go at Darts. I've had three more pints, and I'll still be able to kick your English butt!" Mulder crowed. The two men quickly jumped up to go tangle with the Dartboard, with Scully and Ann following close behind. Neither woman trusted either man with a sharp weapon in his hand, so both women felt compelled to stay close by.

The two men continued to dare one another and raised the stakes of their bets each round by offering another pint as a reward for the winner. The amazing thing was, each man seemed to get better with their scores the more they drank. Perhaps it was their relaxed attitude (or rather their drunken demeanor) that caused them to handle the darts in the correct position that best allows for consistent, high scores.

They bantered back and forth in a lighthearted manner until Mulder finally proved victorious by a mere three points.

"I told you I still got it, Thomas!" Mulder cried in utter glee.

"So you did, old Chap, so you did! Good show! I've missed the competition, Mulder," Thomas declared as they moved their way back to the round table, "Drew here never could keep up your level of competitiveness."

"Oh for crying out loud, Thom, _no one_ could keep up with the two of you and your competitiveness! You drove us crazy! The only other person who could keep up with you was her royal highness, Phoebe!"

"I say!" called out the all too familiar voice, "You're not taking my name in vain, now, are you darling?"

"Why Phoebe, dear girl, what in heaven's name brings you here?" asked Drew warily, as he looked a Phoebe, then Mulder, and finally Scully. He knew Phoebe's arrival was not going to bode well for any of them. Whenever Phoebe came in their presence, someone suffered. He could only imagine whom it would be this time.

Little did he know it was the last person in the world he'd expected it to be.

"I'm afraid this isn't a social call, though to be honest, darlings I'm a tad miffed I wasn't invited to join in celebrating Fox's triumphant return to the University. Your presentation at the symposium was captivating, darling, truly captivating. But, as I said, I'm afraid my task here tonight is on a professional level," informed Phoebe.

"Professional level? Whatever might that be?" asked Scully all the while muttering under her breath, 'You sure are a damned professional, though not the kind that works out of Scotland Yard.'

"Well, I'm here in the role of Inspector Greene, Agent Scully, and I've come with some rather sad news," Phoebe said. "I'm afraid dear, boorish old Freddie, has bitten the proverbial radish."

"What?" asked Scully in confusion.

"Freddie, my dear Agent Scully, is dead."

Mulder, Scully, and the remaining quartet of friends all looked rather shell shocked at the news of Freddie's death. Several moments passed before any one of them could speak. Mulder was the first to break the stunned silence.

"It's good of you to come and let us know, Phoebe," he said quietly.

"Oh, Fox, I'm not here so much out of the kindness of my heart, as I am here to investigate a murder," she retorted.

"I don't understand," Mulder said slowly.

"Fox, the last place dear Frederick was seen in public was at the symposium luncheon. I dare say, there were enough witnesses there to help us determine if there was any indication of our poor, deceased comrade having a problem!" Phoebe explained.

"Phoebe, what are you blustering about?" asked Drew impatiently.

"Dear, dear Andrew, it's so lovely to see you again," Phoebe said with the sarcasm practically dripping from her. "I am talking about the ugly little incident between Freddie and your Mr. Laing. A number of witnesses shared with Scotland Yard investigators earlier the fact that there were apparently words passed between the two of them. I was hoping you could enlighten me and tell me what it was all about."

"Words?" asked Mulder incredulously. "You're saying Freddie and Mr. Laing had a disagreement that led to Freddie's death?" He paused momentarily to try and sort out everything Phoebe laid out on the table, when it suddenly dawned on him what his former girlfriend was implying.

"Oh God," he gasped. "Phoebe, you can't possibly think that Mr. Laing had anything to do with Freddie's death?" When he received no reply, he blustered, "Phoebe that's insane!"

"Oh, come now, Fox. Surely you've seen stranger possibilities when investigating your X-Files," the Brit countered.

"One thing has nothing to do with the other," Mulder answered with obvious irritation.

"Actually, you're right about that, Fox, so if you don't mind, I'd like to do my job without further interruption. I must conduct interviews with you all, and if you're agreeable, we can do them right now," she said patronizingly, but then added with much more force, "Unless of course, you'd rather I take you to Scotland Yard to make a formal statement. You could visit your Mr. Laing while you're to make your statements."

Scully looked at Phoebe Greene with total disdain. She couldn't believe the inspector was trying to intimidate the very people whom at one time called her friend. Scully tried to figure out why she was using that tactic, but for the life of her she couldn't understand it.

"You can't possibly tell us that you're holding Mr. Laing on suspicion of murder?" Scully asked incredulously while Mulder and the others looked stunned.

"Of course he's been detained at Scotland Yard, Agent Scully. The man is our prime suspect at the moment," Phoebe replied.

"The man is close to seventy years old, Phoebe. Why is he being detained in jail?" asked Mulder in quiet ire.

"Where else does one hold suspected criminals, Fox? He might try to flee," Phoebe retorted without the least bit of conviction.

"You're harassing him, Phoebe," accused Mulder in an angry whisper. Phoebe merely stared him down.

Thomas, who had been quiet throughout the discussion, finally spoke up. "Please, let's just get this over with, Inspector Greene," with a particularly loud hiss as he emphasized the word, 'inspector.' "Though heaven knows what you think we'll be able to tell you."

"Well, let's begin with you then Thom. What was Freddie doing the last time you saw him?" she asked.

"Having a drink, of course. My God, the man always had a bloody drink in his hand, Phoebe, you know that!" declared Thom.

"Was he drinking alone?" she asked.

"I don't recall seeing anyone nearby," he responded.

"Phoebe, we were too busy giving Mulder here our kudos for a job well-done; we were too involved to take note of what Freddie was doing or not doing for that matter!" interjected Drew.

"He was angry," threw out a small, tentative voice.

"Who? Freddie?" asked Mulder, Scully and Phoebe all at the same time, instinctually.

"Thank you, Agents," she said tersely, "but since this is _my_ jurisdiction, I do believe I shall take the lead in this interview, if you _both_ don't mind." Phoebe glared at both Scully and Mulder.

"Be my guest," replied Mulder quickly, albeit a tad red-faced, as was Scully. Both stepped back from the circle of friends to give themselves a physical reminder to not interfere with Phoebe's interviews. Old habits obviously died hard.

They did, however, continue to listen with interrogators' ears, and both carefully scrutinized the words that next came out of Caroline's mouth. "I saw Freddie. He looked very angry, very angry, indeed."

"With whom was he speaking?" Phoebe asked.

"Why, it was Mr. Laing," she replied. "Mr. Laing was obviously explaining something to Freddie; the good doctor appeared almost as exasperated as Freddie. I think Freddie bloody well wanted to punch the old man out, though!"

"Caroline, what are you talking about?" asked Drew in exasperation. "Do you have any idea as to what you're implying? This is Mr. Laing, for God's sake. The man is like a father to us, and you're standing here and practically accusing the man of murder!"

"Oh, don't be a bloody fool, Andrew! I'm doing no such thing!" exclaimed Caroline. "Damn it, Drew, I hate it when you get all melodramatic! I'm simply saying what I saw. Both men were angry, and that's the plain fact."

"Thank you, Caroline, for your cooperation," said Phoebe who then added, "Does anyone have anything else to add?" When nothing else was forthcoming, Phoebe informed everyone they would probably be contacted again in the next forty-eight hours and to 'please make yourselves available.'

"We've got a flight back to the states on Monday, Inspector Greene," informed Scully formally.

"Well, I dare say you may well have to postpone that flight, Agent Scully." And with that, Phoebe Greene turned and left as quickly as she'd arrived, while Scully stared with disbelief at having been the brunt of such terse treatment.

"Caroline," growled a very agitated Andrew, "what the hell were you thinking."

"I thought I was aiding the police in solving the murder of someone; a friend of yours as a matter of fact!" exclaimed Caroline.

"Not at the expense of Mr. Laing," he replied through gritted teeth.

"Andrew, if the man is innocent, then there's no need to be concerned," she argued.

"You didn't need to single handedly cast the last unmitigated piece of doubt," Andrew began, until Mulder sought to calm everyone down.

"All right, time-out. Let's calm down and try to let cooler heads prevail. Fighting among ourselves will not help Mr. Laing one iota."

"Mulder's right," agreed Scully. "We need to determine what it was that caused Mr. Laing to become so upset with Freddie, though having met the man already, I don't see how there could be any question that all Freddie needed do to irritate someone was breathe."

There was a slight chuckle at the gallows humor, then a nod, and finally agreement. "So what do we do?" asked Thom. "Shall we go talk to Mr. Laing?"

"I don't know that we should all go; I suspect that may unnerve him," Mulder said.

"Right you are, old man," agreed Drew immediately. "A representative makes more sense, then, don't you agree?"

"Yes, I do," nodded Mulder.

"Fine. Call us then and let us know how Mr. Laing explains the situation, all right, Fox?" suggested Caroline hastily.

"Beg pardon?" Mulder looked a bit taken aback at Caroline's presumptuousness. He was downright pissed off about her cavalier use of his first name.

"Well, it just seems to make the most sense that the person or, in this case, persons, with the most experience in dealing with these kind of matters would be the ones to talk with Mr. Laing," declared Caroline. "Doesn't seem so hard to understand," she added in a whiny mutter.

"Mulder, you know she's right," said Scully.

Up until Scully spoke, Mulder had his doubts. He wasn't absolutely sure prior to Scully's voicing her opinion; in fact, he'd been of the mind to abandon all thoughts of investigative work for a short period of time so he could think things over. He wanted to make a rational and reasonable decision.

He wanted to find out if there was a reason he was brought to England. He wanted to know if he'd actually sought it out in order to have the chance to reverse the choice that was made for him so long ago.

He hadn't realized just how much he wanted that chance until Scully, unwittingly and without malice, snatched it away from him yet again, possibly out of reach forever.

end of part 06


The Oxford Files: Going Home
By Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)
& Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Mulder didn't say a word during the entire ride over to the Yard; Scully tried to get him to talk about it, but she wasn't successful. He was having a difficult time facing the fact he was going to his former mentor to question him about his possible role in a murder case.

Since she had none of the emotional investment Mulder had in the relationship with Mr. Laing, Scully was able to view the situation with detachment. It wasn't that Scully was unfeeling; she was simply better able to fall into her professional role. Under the circumstances it was to both agents' benefits.

Because it was killing Mulder.

And Scully was none the wiser, which only added to his heartache, yet neither one realized it. For Mulder did what he did best; he kept his worries to himself so as not to alarm either his former advisor or his partner. The only problem with not confiding in someone was that it allowed Mulder's self-doubts to become fruitful and multiply.

He couldn't help but wonder why it seemed everyone whose life he touched somehow managed to have trouble touch them. He wondered if he'd stayed home and had not returned to England, whether Freddie would still be alive and his mentor safe?

Mulder realized those thoughts were almost self-indulgent, but given his track record, he didn't think anyone would have blamed him for feeling slightly paranoid.

They finally arrived at Scotland Yard. Scully moved to open the door when she suddenly felt a tight grip on her wrist, which prevented her hand from moving.

"Mulder, what the hell__?"

"Wait. Please, just wait a minute." Mulder stood still clenching and then unclenching his fists. He stood in place, but Scully could feel the nervous energy emitting from him like pulsating electrons flying all around him. He began to role his head around in circles in order to iron out the thousands of tiny kinks that had developed between the hotel and Laing's house.

"Mulder, let's just get this over with, all right?" Scully said softly but with a hint of impatience. She understood that Mulder didn't want to see his friend unjustly accused, but Scully had never seen Mulder back off from an attempt to find the truth.

Until now.

"I don't know how wise this is, Scully."

"I don't understand what you're talking about," she replied, though in reality she did.

"We're FBI agents, Scully, from the United States in the middle of friggin' England. I'd say we're slightly out of our jurisdiction, wouldn't you?" he asked emotionally.

"Mulder, we're not here as FBI agents; we're here as friends of the family."

"Bullshit, and you know it, Scully!" he cried out in anger, though he realized immediately he was directing his ire at the wrong person. "Jeeze, I'm sorry," he apologized quickly. "I don't mean to be angry, but it's just so damned frustrating."

"I know. I know this must be very, very hard for you," she assured.

"Scully, at times he was more like a father to me than my own father," he lamented.

"Mulder, the truth will come out," she said aloud, but the unspoken 'no matter what it is' sang loudly in the silence. "Come on. I'm sure Mr. Laing could use your support, to say nothing of poor Mrs. MacFarley. The woman must be beside herself."

Mulder nodded at this and allowed Scully to open the door. He held it behind her and followed her into the dark hallway. They introduced themselves as friends of Mr. Laing and asked to be allowed to see him. There was some hesitation at first; perhaps it was the American accents.

Finally, the Station Reception Officer informed them that the Custody Sergeant would escort them to the Custody Suite. Sergeant Thompson would remain in the viewing room while they met with the accused.

Mulder jumped slightly, ready to object to that, but then one look at Scully's determined face, and he decided it was best not to chance antagonizing the locals. He already knew Phoebe was going to place up roadblocks every chance she could get; why give the police here any more of a reason to resent him. He smiled gratefully at Scully; she knew exactly what he was thinking and why it was ill advised at that point.

"Thank you for your assistance, Sergeant Thompson," Mulder replied politely. Then he and his partner followed the middle-aged Sergeant to the 'Nick' as he called it. Mulder remembered the expression from his Oxford days, when he'd been hitting the bottle a little too heavily, they'd say if he weren't careful he'd be 'nicked' by the police for disorderly conduct.

They were led into a room void of furniture with the exception of a table and chairs. Mulder and Scully were directed to take a seat and wait patiently. The perpetrator was being brought to the room.

When Laing finally entered, Mulder gasped. His former mentor looked as though he'd aged ten years. "Mr. Laing? Are you all right?"

"Fox? Oh, it's good of you to come here. Yes, yes, I'm fine I suppose, though I do want to leave this dreadful place and go home."

"I'm sure you do, Sir," began Scully in her patented comforting, but no nonsense manner, "however, we need to hear what you know about Freddie Blumford. What happened today, Sir?"

"I'm not quite sure, to be honest," he began shakily. "The lad had come over to me and remarked at how well Fox did on his presentation. I quickly agreed with him, and I said you showed some fine promise."

"What did he say to that?" asked Mulder with a slight blush.

"Oh, it t'wasn't anything important, Lad," he responded quickly.

"Please, Mr. Laing," Mulder pleaded, "anything and everything is important now."

Laing saw the seriousness in Mulder's expression and the gravity in his tone. He nodded and spoke. "He was a tad disturbed with my remark on your potential, Fox."

"How did he show he felt disturbed, Sir?" asked Scully quietly. Mulder looked at her, but didn't say anything about her taking control of the interview.

In fact, he felt somewhat relieved.

"He began to raise his voice to me," Laing described. "The poor boy has been looking for an academic appointment for quite some time now. I've never had the heart to simply out and out refuse him; I suppose that was a mistake. I fear I'd led the poor lad to think he'd had a chance at attaining an appointment, when in reality he never had.

Scully nodded encouragingly, while Mulder sat quietly feeling a bit numb. He understood what had happened. Blumford felt totally slighted; Laing was going to offer Mulder a position with St. Elban's. It didn't' matter whether Mulder would take it; the fact that Blumford would be passed over for a Yank was probably almost too much for him to accept.

"He asked me outright if I was going to offer Fox an appointment. I didn't' want to lie to the man; I didn't think I had to lie. But when Freddie heard me reply in the affirmative, he became so very angry. He was almost incoherent, Miss Scully! He blustered and ranted about how he was more deserving than any 'Yank' could ever be, and how dare I consider giving Fox the position _he_ deserved!

"Then the poor man went on and on about how he'd earned that appointment; why he'd done no such thing! I couldn't understand what would have ever possessed him to think such a thing, much less say it out loud. I told him as much, I fear, and that's when he__." Laing stopped suddenly.

"That's when he, _what_?" asked Scully.

"That's when he threatened me, Miss Scully. Dear god, I hadn't given his ramblings a second thought, but I fear I should have taken him much more seriously, shouldn't I have?" Laing said, obviously distraught.

"Mr. Laing," Mulder pressed quietly, "had Freddie threatened you?"

"Yes," was his whispered reply. When Mulder asked him to recall exactly how Freddie had threatened him, the older man said tiredly, "He told me he would destroy me. He would destroy me by destroying everything and everyone I held dear."

Laing sighed and then said, "Can you imagine Freddie saying such a thing to me, Fox? He wasn't a brilliant young man like you; he never showed the promise that you had shown. But Freddie was still a good lad. I can't imagine what kind of pressure he'd felt to make such awful threats on my life and those I care about."

"I don't know, Sir," answered Mulder.

"We'll find out though, Sir," interjected Scully. When both men looked up at her with surprised expressions, she elaborated, "Perhaps if we find out why he felt that pressure, as well as who was putting that pressure on him, it might erase any doubts about your innocence, Mr. Laing."

Suddenly the door sprang open and in walked the Custody Sergeant and Inspector Greene. "Well, well, well! Look who's here? A Connecticut Yankee in our dear Mr. Laing's court," Greene said sardonically.

"To what do we owe the pleasure, Phoebe?" asked Mulder tersely.

"Temper, temper, Fox, dear. I bring good news for our academic here. You're being released for now, Sir, but do not plan on leaving the jurisdiction any time soon. We need you close by for further questioning."

"Admit it, Phoebe," Fox said with his jaw locked, "You have absolutely no evidence to hold him. Damn it, Phoebe, you had no right to arrest him in the first place!"

"He was brought in for routine questioning, and we had every right! Now, if you'll follow us, Mr. Laing, we'll get your personal items and take you home."

"Scully and I will accompany Mr. Laing home, Phoebe. I think you have done more than enough," Mulder interjected quickly. Upon seeing her curt nod of acknowledgment, he asked Scully to accompany Mr. Laing while he called for a cab. He also wanted to let Mrs. MacFarley know her boss was coming home shortly.

Then, and only then, he'd allow himself the time to think about how he was going to help his former mentor. Mulder knew from past history that Phoebe wasn't letting go totally. If at any time she was thrown some kind of clue; if she were given any bone that she could sink her teeth into, the good inspector would have Mr. Laing back in custody immediately.

He had a terrible feeling in his gut something exactly like that was going to happen. He didn't know why, he just did.

Spooky Mulder has entered the building.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They'd arrived back at the hotel after having dropped Mr. Laing off at his house. Mrs. MacFarley was hovering over the old man like a mother duck who had lost one of her ducklings. She thanked Scully and Mulder over and over for accompanying him home, but she was going to see to it that dear Dr. Laing was 'going to lay down for a spell.'

That's exactly what Mulder and Scully felt like doing. The evening had turned into night and the night had turned into early morning. The partners were barely able to shed their outer clothes before they collapsed into the bed.

Mulder was quiet. Too quiet, according to Scully's thoughts. He usually expounded upon theory after theory in cases such as these, but tonight he was quiet. She wasn't sure as to exactly why, but she knew she was way too exhausted to hear an explanation. She also knew Mulder was way too tired to give one, at least coherently.

"Mulder, I have to sleep. You should too," she mumbled. She felt him nod against her back, so she drifted off to sleep in mere minutes.

Mulder, on the other hand, laid with his arms around Scully and his faced pressed into the crook of her neck. His eyes remained wide opened.

And he wondered if he could have ever fit into this world of academia. This was supposed to be a quiet, long weekend devoted to higher education and renewed friendships. It might have even been a weekend in which Fox Mulder might have considered new directions in his life.

But now, he wondered if there was a reason that he'd never given university life a second chance. He wondered if his lack of choices was because of outside influences or of his own doing.

Mulder wondered if he was the reason that bad things happened to good people. It sure started to seem that way to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The phone rang and rang and Mulder tried but he simply could not figure out where it was. The fact that he refused to open his eyes might have added to his difficulty in locating it, but that was why he counted on his partner to cover his back.

So when Scully finally reached over and found the phone, she muttered unintelligibly, "Scuy." She listened a bit more and then passed the phone up, over, and behind her to Mulder. "For you," she uttered.

"Mulder," he answered hoarsely. "What? Wait, please," he said and as he attempted to extricate himself from Scully's grip for he was now wide awake, but he wasn't absolutely sure as to what he was hearing.

"Please, slow down. I don't understand," he pleaded, and then waited patiently as the caller took several deep breaths in just such an attempt.

"Fox, dear boy," the nervous voice began, "You must go to the Police Station. They've arrested him again."

"Mrs. MacFarley?" When he heard a small 'yes,' he asked, "When did they come for him?"

"Not ten minutes ago, Fox. I promised I'd call you."

"Mrs. Mac, why did they arrest him again?" Mulder asked. At this point Scully was wide-awake as well, and she too was sitting up in the bed, listening intently.

"They found another body, Fox."

"Another one?" Mulder looked quickly at Scully, who looked as surprised as her partner. "Who, Mrs. Mac? Whose body?"

"Caroline Holbrook, Andrew's wife," she answered with tears.

"Caroline?" Mulder looked at Scully who mouthed a question to him. He nodded and then asked, "Why would they arrest Mr. Laing again. They had no evidence for Freddie."

"Oh, but Fox, they did find something this time. They found a hankie. It was stuffed in the poor lassie's mouth," she wept.

"A handkerchief?" replied Mulder incredulously.

"It was his, Fox. It was one of his monogrammed hankies. It was his," she cried out. "Oh, Fox, what are we to do? What are we to do?"

Fox sat and wondered the same exact thing.

end of part 7