Fox Mulder, Closet Romantic Ch. 6: The Slowest Cooker
Previous Chapter - AO3 - MSR, rated E
It’s Friday, April 17th, and they’re eating lunch in the Hoover building’s cafeteria. They eat lunch together almost every day now, Mulder realizes. They’re practically joined at the hip.
Except in the fun way.
Today is different, though. Because today she invites him over for dinner.
Scully’s devouring a caesar salad, and Mulder’s heart is warmed by the evidence of her returning appetite. Five months ago, she was dying of cancer, and now she’s here stealing the occasional potato chip from the bag he got from the vending machine. He doesn’t mind; she could take his entire sandwich from him right now, and he’d happily watch her eat it.
“Do you want to come over for dinner tomorrow?” she asks, covering her mouth with her hand as she chews. “My mother got me a crockpot for my birthday and I’m thinking of giving it a test drive.”
His heart leaps, and he wants to shout yes, but instead he asks “What about Mark?”
She gives him one of her patented Scully looks. “I’m allowed to have friends, Mulder. And I still owe you for going to the bar with me that one time, remember?” She takes another bite of salad. “Also, he’s working.”
“Ah,” Mulder says knowingly. “Sure; what’s on the menu?”
“Pork roast,” she replies. “My mom’s recipe. The leftovers make great pulled-pork sandwiches.”
“Anything you’d like me to bring?”
Scully shrugs. “Red wine would go nicely, but I’ll be testing you at the door to make sure you’re not Eddie Van Blundht,” she says dryly.
“You gonna check me for evidence of a tail, Scully?” he says in a low tone, leaning in so they’re not overheard.
“Keep that up and I’m rescinding my invite and keeping all the leftovers to myself,” she replies, picking a wilted bit of romaine out of her salad.
It’s not a date, he reminds himself. Just friends sharing dinner.
Regardless, he takes a shower and puts on one of his nicer sweaters before heading to her place.
He knocks on her door at 6:30 sharp, a bottle of Pinot Noir in hand. His palm is a little sweaty, and he grips the wine tightly to avoid dropping it.
“It’s open,” he hears her call out.
He opens the door and is hit by the savory aroma of meat and herbs. His mouth waters instantly. When he turns and sees her in the kitchen, it waters for a different reason entirely.
Scully’s reaching into the cupboard above the sink, her soft green sweater riding up to expose a ribbon of creamy skin. He wants to wrap his arms around her waist, kiss her neck, tell her to forget dinner because he’s got something else on his mind.
Instead he just says “Hey”.
“Hi,” she greets him, bringing down two salad plates and setting them on the table. “Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad?”
Mulder blinks. “Uh,” he says brilliantly. That goddamn little sweater-
“The good news is that I’ve had the crockpot running for about six hours, and nothing’s caught fire,” she says, leaning against the countertop.
He nods. “And the bad news is…”
“I started the roast at almost half noon,” Scully admits. “I had to go to the grocery store first and that took longer than expected. So the meat won’t be done until eight-thirty.”
“That’s fine,” Mulder says, hoping his stomach doesn’t rumble loudly enough for her to hear. “Oh, and I brought Pinot Noir,” he says, reading the label.
They eat the salad she prepared; it’s spinach and apple with vinaigrette, and Mulder has to admit it’s pretty tasty.
“You’re a good hostess, Scully,” Mulder says as she pours him a glass of Prosecco. “Maggie should be proud.”
“Please note the size of crockpot she gifted me,” Scully replies, gesturing to the slow-cooker on the counter. “She fully intends for me to feed a crowd, not just you. I have a long way to go.” She sits across from him and takes a sip of her wine. “But this is a start.”
“Can I make a confession?” he asks.
“I… I don’t drink much wine. So I have no idea if the one I brought is any good. I told the store clerk I was having pork for dinner and he recommended that one,” Mulder says, cocking his head toward the bottle on the counter.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Scully assures him. “I’m not a wine snob by any means. I’m kind of surprised you’re not one, actually, considering your background.”
Mulder shrugs. “I don’t drink much, aside from the occasional beer. But this is good,” he says, lifting his glass.
The Prosecco is… very good.
“How long until the meat’s done?” Mulder asks, resting his head on his hand.
“Half hour,” Scully replies, downing the last sip of her wine. “I’m sorry, Mulder. Do you want some cheese and crackers to tide you over?”
“M’good,” he says lazily, stifling a burp. He’s feeling warm and soft inside, and the wine’s put him in a charitable mood. “How are things with Mark?”
“Things are good… things are fine,” Scully says, then sighs. “He’s… god, he’s so nice.”
“Nice is good, right?” Mulder asks, toying with his empty wine glass. “People like nice.”
Scully narrows her eyes at him. “Are you feeling okay, Mulder?”
“We’re not talking about me,” he says, slumping in his chair and stretching his long legs out under the table. “We’re talking about Mark. Mark Eidolanterns.”
“Einolander,” Scully corrects him. “And yes, nice is good, generally,” she continues. “But sometimes I wish he weren’t so nice. I don’t know,” she says, exhaling. “I need more wine if I’m going to talk about this,” she says with a huff of laughter.
“Hey, we got it,” Mulder says. “Dinner’s almost ready anyway. Let’s try the mystery Pinot I brought.”
The pot roast is done cooking and they’re definitely a little drunk.
“Whew… I’m feeling this,” Mulder says, holding the bottle up too close to his face as he attempts to read the label. “It’s been so long, I forgot that wine does this to me.”
“Higher alcohol content,” Scully says. “And you’re a lightweight.”
“That your medical opinion, Dr. Scully?” he asks.
“Yes,” she mumbles, slicing a piece off of the roast and dumping it unceremoniously onto his plate. “Tada,” she says, pushing it across the table to him. “Meat.”
“I can see that,” he remarks. He takes another sip of wine. “Wine’s good,” he assures her, even though she’s already on her second glass of the red.
“Can’t say the same for the roast,” she admits, chewing. “I skimped on the salt and in hindsight that was a bad idea.”
Mulder shovels a piece into his mouth. “Tastes good to me,” he assures her. “But I’ve only had wine and salad since lunchtime so at this point I’d eat anything. I’d eat you,” he adds, pointing his fork in her direction.
“Pass that idea along to Mark,” she sighs, then covers her mouth. “I didn’t say that,” she says, face red.
“You did,” Mulder crows, too tipsy to feel jealous. “You did and I heard you.” He takes another draw from his glass. “The store guy was right, this is good with pork.”
“You’re going to have an incredible hangover tomorrow,” Scully says, chewing meditatively. “Wine’s a bitch.”
“You should swear more,” Mulder says. “It’s endearing.”
Scully shakes her head. “I can’t believe how drunk you are,” she says, almost fondly.
“I’m not that drunk,” he insists. Just in love with you.
Scully smiles. “No sober man has ever said that.”
“There’s no spark,” she blurts out.
They’d taken the rest of of the wine to the couch and are slumped on opposite ends, goblets in hand.
“No spark?” Mulder echoes. It was an admission he wasn’t expecting. He angles his body towards hers, careful not to spill his glass.
“With Mark. I like him, I really do. He’s kind, intelligent, a devoted father, and quite attractive; and yet…” She gestures loosely to her body with the hand not holding her wine. “Nothing.” She takes another sip. “I can’t shake the idea that I should be feeling more. And the fact that he hasn’t kissed me yet... I understand wanting to move slowly and let things grow with time, but not even a single kiss?”
“Th-that did strike me as odd,” Mulder stumbles. “You have nice lips.”
“I do,” Scully agrees, seemingly unfazed by the comment. “I should be kissed.” She drains her glass and holds it out to him.
Mulder pours out the last of the bottle into her glass. “Maybe if… maybe if you kissed, you’d find the spark.”
Scully shakes her head. “No. No, it does’t work that way. At least not for me. I don’t want to force chemistry that’s not there,” she explains. “It should come naturally, feel like it does with-”
Mulder waits expectantly for her to finish her sentence. “With?” he prompts.
Her face is flushed with wine, and she licks her lips. “Mulder, tell me honestly; do you think I’m settling?”
The room suddenly feels too warm, and he takes a nervous gulp of wine that does nothing to calm his body. “Scully, I- I’m the wrong person to ask.”
“You’re my closest friend,” she says softly, eyes cast downward. “Who else would I ask?”
She has a point. “Your mother-” he begins.
“She set me up with him in the first place,” Scully reminds him. “Clearly she’d be no help.”
“What do you want, Scully? If you’re honest with yourself.” He raises his glass. “In vino veritas, or whatever,” he says, taking another drink.
“I don’t know,” she says. “I always do this. I find a man I want to impress or gain the approval of, then resent the authority I let them have over me. This cycle of… of compliance and defiance is exhausting.”
He can tell she’s tipsy, and yet at the same time she’s strangely lucid. He’s never gotten to experience this particular kind of vulnerability with her before, and it gives him a thrill. He can feel the warmth of her body permeating him from across the sofa, her bright hair like a wood stove fire on a winter night. He wants to wrap her entire body around him like a blanket and have a long sleep.
“Yup, I’m drunk,” he declares, and throws back the last of his glass.
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