FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder reached for the phone that had rung through to his private office.
"Yes, Mildred?" he asked his secretary. Mildred reminded him a lot of Maggie, his mother-in-law. The two women were about the same age and they both had an almost-identical compulsion to mother him. Not that he really minded too much. Although his own mother had only been dead a couple of years, any pampering he'd ever had from her -- not that there had been much to begin with -- had ended abruptly on the night his sister had disappeared.
"Agent Mulder, I hate to bother you, but there's an elderly gentleman on the phone who is most insistent on speaking directly to you. However, I'm not sure that he's completely, er, sane, sir."
"Did he give a name?"
"He claims to be a former agent by the name of Arthur Dales."
"Arthur Dales? Put him through!"
"Arthur? Is it really you?
"That you, Agent Mulder?"
"Yes. Which Arthur Dales are you?"
"The one who worked for the bureau, but my brother -- the one who was a deputy in New Mexico -- is with me, too. He came to visit for Thanksgiving and has decided to stay on through Christmas and the New Year. We need you and your pretty partner down here. Something odd is going on."
"Don't either of you read the Christmas cards we send you every year? Scully's not my pretty partner any more, now she's my pretty wife; and we have a beautiful little girl, too."
"Yes, I know. Her name's, er, Melinda, right?"
"Melissa," Mulder corrected.
"Yes, well, something strange is going on down here."
"I don't work the X-Files any more, Arthur. I'm now head of the serial killers task force."
"You working on an on-going case?"
"Not right at the moment, but,"
"Then get yourself down here. Agent Scully, too. Hell, bring Melinda if you have to, although I wouldn't really recommend it."
"Arthur, I can't just. . ."
"Tell them I died and you have to attend my funeral. Tell them I cracked and killed my brother. Tell them you suspect *me* of being a serial killer. I don't care what you tell and who you tell it to! We need you and Agent Scully down here as soon as possible!"
"Okay, Arthur, okay. What's going on?"
"I'll just wait 'til you and Little Miss Skeptical get here to explain it. Be easier to only go over it once and besides maybe between the three of us we can convince her. Call when you get in." With that, Arthur hung up.
Special Agent Dana Scully was wading through a stack of exam papers on her desk. While she enjoyed teaching classes at Quantico, the grading was a pain. Still, she was almost finished and then she could get out of there. Maybe soon enough to do a little Christmas shopping before picking up her daughter at her mother's house. Then her cell phone rang.
"Hey, Scully, how'd you like to go away for a few days? We could ask your mother to watch Melissa overnight for the rest of the week. I hear Florida's really nice this time of year. How does that sound?"
"It sounds like you're trying to convince me to investigate an X-File in the middle of nowhere, Mulder, and that I'm going to live to regret agreeing to go with you."
"Is that a 'yes', Scully?"
"Mulder, I've learned the hard way over the years that if I don't go with you on the original trip, it just means I'm going to have to show up a few days later to bail you out of jail or break you out of a mental hospital. Might as well go along for the ride from the start."
"Scully, if you really don't want to go. . .I mean, I promised you that I wouldn't take on any X-File cases without consulting you and I won't. I didn't. But Arthur Dales called me and,"
"The one who worked for the bureau, but his brother is down there, too."
"How about the sister?"
"She wasn't mentioned."
"Is the fish there?"
"Scully, I presume the fish is long since deceased. Are you coming with me?"
"Don't I always? Just let me call my mother and make sure watching Melissa round the clock for the next couple of days isn't going to be a problem for her."
Late that evening, Mulder and Scully were on a redeye flight heading down to Florida.
"Your Mom's reaction was funny," Mulder commented.
"Yeah, it never occurred to me that she'd actually be *anxious* for a chance to have Melissa stay overnight with her; I'd think watching her nine hours a day, three days a week would have been more than enough grandmothering, but she pointed out that the last couple of times we've gone out-of-town, we took Melissa with us."
"I'm sure Melissa will have a good time."
Early the next morning, they headed out for the Dales' trailer, with Mulder at the wheel of their rented car.
"All this sunshine seems weird just a few weeks before Christmas," he said.
"Speak for yourself, Yankee boy. Some of us went to high school in the sunshine state and feel that this is perfectly appropriate."
"You went to high school in California, Scully."
"I *graduated* from high school in California," she corrected gently. "But I was only there for my junior and senior years and then for my freshman year in college; although we'd lived on another Naval base in a different part of the state several years earlier. I went to a Florida high school for my freshman and sophomore years."
"Just that, after all these years, I'm still finding out more about you.
I knew you'd lived in California during early adolescence and that you'd
graduated high school there, so I 'd just assumed you'd lived there continuously
from the age of 11 until 19; it never occurred to me that you'd left and then
come back. Did you like living in Florida?"
"It was okay. Honestly, all Naval bases are pretty much the same."
"Did it bother you, moving around so much when you were a kid?"
"Not really. It was what I was used to. And virtually all my friends
were from Naval families, so we all moved around a lot. Having a sister so close
in age was a big help, too. Even when I didn't have anyone else to play with or
hang out with, I always had Missy."
"Well, here we are. Let's go see what Messieurs Arthur Dales and Arthur
Dales are up to nowadays."
The door was opened by the man Mulder and Scully had dubbed "the original" Arthur Dales as soon as they started up the stairs. His brother -- "the other" Arthur Dales to Mulder and Scully -- was sitting on the sofa, smoking.
Mulder looked confused for a minute, then nodded to the man on the sofa. "Why are you smoking? I thought that was your brother's habit?"
The original Arthur Dales chuckled. "See, Arthur. I told you he'd pick right up on it."
"Right up on what?" Scully asked.
"My brother and I have switched vices," explained the man on the sofa. "I've never smoked, which was almost unheard of for a man of my generation. When I was coming of age in the 1940s, virtually all men and even most women smoked cigarettes, but I never did.."
"I've smoked two packs a day for over fifty years," explained the man who'd answered the door, as he ushered them in and gestured for them to sit down. "I tried to quit several times during the 1970s, but finally gave up on it. A week ago, I quit cold turkey. The craving for nicotine is completely gone from my system."
"Well, that's remarkable," Scully said.
"You said the two of you have switched vices," Mulder said. "What are you now doing that used to be your brother's bad habit?"
"Perhaps 'vices' is too strong a word," the original Arthur
conceded. "But I now find myself eating, drinking and sleeping baseball.
I've spent the past week watching taped broadcasts of the world series for the
past five years, reading baseball magazines and logging onto the internet to
check the trades being made in the off season."
"You never liked baseball before?" Mulder inquired.
The original Arthur shrugged. "I had a passing interest in it, I suppose. My brother and I both played sandlot ball when we were kids, listened to it on the radio, attended an occasional game. This was back in the 1930s and 40s, you understand, when we didn't have 200 cable channels, video games or the internet to amuse us. But I was never obsessed with it. As I grew older, I pretty much stopped caring, although I still tried to keep up with the major sporting news, just so I'd have something to talk about if I wanted to ease into an interview with a suspect or make small talk with my co-workers at the bureau."
"Sometimes, when two people live with each other for a long time, they become more and more alike," Mulder offered as a tentative hypothesis.
"Yes, yes," original Arthur said, waving his head to indicate he was in partial agreement with Mulder. "I was a behavior profiler for the bureau, too, young man; beginning way back before you were born. It might be natural that, with only Arthur to talk to and the only thing he ever wants to talk *about* being baseball, that I'd become as obsessed with the subject as he is. But I've never heard of an obsessive interest in sports breaking a 50-year-old nicotine addiction."
"It is odd," Scully agreed.
"Do I get to take part in this conversation?" asked the other Arthur.
"Of course, Mr. Dales," Scully said.
"Do you have a medical opinion about my sudden craving for nicotine?"
"Not really," Scully said. "As a medical doctor, I certainly can't endorse or encourage smoking, but in all honesty I have to say that if you didn't take up the habit until you were in your 70s, I don't see how it could possibly have time to cause you health problems Smoking-related illnesses take 10 or more years to develop, in all but extremely rare cases."
"I'll have you know our mother lived to be 92, young lady!" snapped other Arthur.
"If it were only the two of us who were effected, I wouldn't have called you," original Arthur said. "Although I am enjoying seeing you both again. But it's effected other members of the trailer park as well."
"Other siblings?" Scully asked.
"Not siblings, but all instances of two family members living together.
One couple is a husband and wife, the other an elderly widow and her middle-aged
"And they each swapped smoking for an interest in sports?" Mulder inquired.
"Of course not!" snapped other Arthur.
"They each traded a pair of vices though," original Arthur explained. "In the case of the married couple, the husband was a lush."
"Arthur!" said his brother.
"Well, it's true. I know alcoholic is the politically correct term, but I think you have to go to meetings to call yourself an alcoholic. Mr. Beardsley drinks; or rather, he did. He's been completely sober for the past week. Meanwhile his wife, who never drank anything stronger than a Coke, is now going through a fifth of bourbon a day."
"And what did his wife used to do that he now does?" Scully asked.
"Watches those dang-blasted soap operas all day long," both Arthurs said in chorus.
"You mentioned a mother and daughter who've been affected?" Mulder prompted.
"Yeah, Ethel Klein and Nancy Johnson. Ethel used to knit all the time."
"I don't think knitting quite comes under the same category as smoking and drinking," Scully protested.
"Well, it's at least as bad as being obsessed with baseball and soap operas," other Arthur said. "At least if you do it compulsively, which this woman did. She never went anywhere without her knitting. Now all she does is eat chocolate all day."
"I presume chocolate was her daughter's addiction up until relatively recently?" Mulder inquired.
"Yeah," original Arthur answered, "Nancy's a nice woman, but she's roughly the size of a whale. Of course, if she keeps knitting as feverishly as she has been, she's going to have a blanket big enough to cover her bulk by the end of the week."
"Where are our manners?" original Arthur finally said. "Would you two like a cup of coffee?"
"That would be nice," Scully murmured.
Several hours later, after having spoken to most of the other residents who'd been effected -- Nancy, as virtually the only resident of the park who held a paying job had been unavailable -- Mulder and Scully drove to the beach to talk over the case. They were both dressed casually, in jeans and polo shirts, and stopped at a deli they passed along the way to pick up some lunch. They spread a blanket on the sand and settled down to eat and talk.
"So, what do you think?" Mulder asked.
"I'll leave it up to you to supply a theory, Mulder. Alien intervention? Psychic soul transference? Santa Claus? Your guess is as good as -- an probably more innovative than -- mine."
"I was actually thinking of something a little more closer to normal," Mulder replied. "Like hypnotism or a drugged water supply."
"Hypnotism. . .maybe. Drugs seem less likely."
"Aren't there drugs that are used in behavior modification treatments?"
"Certainly, Mulder. And if what had happened was that people had simply given up particular bad habits -- even ones they've held for years like smoking or compulsive TV watching -- I'd be inclined to suspect some sort of mind-altering drug as the most likely explanation. Conversely, there are drugs that could unleash particular tendencies that have long been held in check, like an intense desire for chocolate or alcohol. But I don't know of any drug that could do both at the same time; make people trade one bad habit for another."
"From a psychological point of view, there are people who tend to have what are called addictive personalities. Sometimes the only way to snap someone out of a truly life-threatening addiction, like to heroin, is to allow them to substitute another, more socially acceptable addiction. . .to something like exercise or religion."
"But in some cases it's been the other way around; from a medical perspective, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption -- or even extreme overeating -- are much more dangerous to a person's health than knitting or being obsessed by sports or soap operas."
"That's true, but from the point-of-view of the person who has live with the habits in another, I'm not sure that soap opera addiction wouldn't be every bit as annoying as overeating."
"I wonder. . ." Scully began.
"If it will effect us?"
"I hadn't consider that possibility. Let me know if you feel a sudden desire to watch porn movies or surf the internet for UFO-related sites."
"I thought you'd given that up!"
"If you mean the porn, yes. Who needs simulated sex when you've got the real thing? If you mean the UFO stuff. . .no. Although I certainly don't devote anywhere near the time to it that I once did, I occasionally still drop in on a few of the message boards. That's not a problem, is it?"
"No, of course not. As long as it remains a hobby and not an obsession, I don't mind."
"I'll tell you if I experience an overwhelming desire to go to
confession or perform an autopsy."
"Mulder, I don't do either of those things compulsively! I go to confession three or four times a year because I feel it helps me draw closer to God. I perform autopsies when I'm asked to because it's my job."
"Okay, let's try a little experiment. Want to make out?" Mulder leaned over and licked lightly at her ear as he whispered the suggestion.
"Uh, I think the whammy is working on us, Dana. Your response is supposed to be something along the lines of "We're on a case, Mulder'. Or you could just roll your eyes and give me your infamous look."
"Fox, haven't you been paying attention for the past three-and-half years? I only did that sort of stuff before we were married. Have I ever tried to put you off since then?"
"No, I don't suppose you have. But I was kind of joking, sweetheart. We're on a public beach."
"Well, I was assuming we weren't going to actually have intercourse. You said 'make out'. To me, that implies keeping our clothes on but just messing around a little; kissing or whatever. I'd like to do that. Of course, if you think we need to keep our mind on our jobs. . ."
Mulder didn't respond verbally. Instead, he cupped her face with his hands and drew her mouth to his for a long, leisurely kiss. Then he rearranged their bodies so they were lying, rather than sitting, on the blanket. He dropped a series of tiny, nibbling kisses along her face and neck while slipping his hand underneath her shirt to stroke the soft skin of her stomach.
"Oh, yeah! I like that," Scully murmured. "Want to know another reason why I wanted to make out on this beach?"
"I told you we lived not far from here when Missy and I were in high school. She used to go to the beach sometimes and make out with her boyfriends. She'd come back and tell me stories. I always wished I had a guy who was interested in doing that with me."
"You've got one now, Dana. I've been interested in doing this with you since the first day we met."
They were kissing again, and both their thoughts were running along the lines of going back to their hotel room for a bit of afternoon delight before continuing their investigation, when Scully's cell phone beeped.
"Damn! Off, Mulder. I need to see who that is."
"Try to make it snappy."
"Scully," she said tersely.
"Melissa! Hi, sweetheart," she said, her voice much softer.
"She wanted to phone you," Maggie's voice said, obviously speaking over Melissa's shoulder. "Has something she wants to tell you."
"I taw Tanta Caws," Melissa announced triumphantly.
"You saw Santa Claus?" Scully said. "At the Mall?"
"Yes. Tanta Caws. Talk Daddy?"
"Yes, you can talk to Daddy. Here he is," she replied, handing the phone to Mulder.
"Hi, Melissa. How's my girl?"
After a few minutes of passing the phone back and forth and talking alternately with Maggie and Melissa, Mulder and Scully finally said goodbye.
Mulder chuckled and said, "Do kids have radar or what? Even when she's several states away, Melissa seems to know when we're about to get busy and interrupt us!"
"I think it's just a coincidence, Mulder. Did you want to. . .?"
"In all honesty, Scully, I think the mood has passed for the moment. But I'm sure we can recapture it later tonight, especially if we have a nice dinner with candlelight and wine. For now, let's get back to work."
As they were driving back toward the trailer park, Scully held out her hand. "Give me some of those sunflower seeds you're munching on, Mulder".
"You want some of my seeds?" he asked, surprised. Usually the only time she shared his favorite snack food was when they were in the middle of nowhere and there was absolutely nothing else in the car to eat.
"I've got a craving for something salty," she replied with a shrug.
Mulder nodded and poured a handful of seeds into her open palm.
Several hours later, Scully returned to their hotel room. She'd used the intervening time to take samples of both the trailer park's water supply and the Dales brothers' blood to a lab and analyze it for unusual chemicals. Although an absolutely thorough tox screen would take weeks, and would have to be done at Quantico, her preliminary examination had shown nothing out of the ordinary.
Mulder had spent the intervening time at the motel, surfing the web and talking to the Lone Gunmen, trying to find instances of other circumstances that were even vaguely similar. He'd also talked to Nancy, the one. . . victim, for lack of a better word. . .they hadn't been able to interview earlier. He'd hoped that Nancy, being the only person effected who was under the age of 60, might be able to give him a more coherent account of when the changes had begun than the elderly residents, but she hadn't been able to supply any more information than her mother, the Beardsleys and the Dales brothers had given him.
When Scully entered their hotel room, she caught a hint of an aromatic, soapy smell. "Mulder?" she called out.
"In here, Dana. Come join me," came his reply, from the half-open door of the bathroom. Scully was slightly puzzled. She couldn't hear water running, which meant it was unlikely he was showering or shaving. And if he was using the bathroom's other facility, it was doubtful he would have invited her in. Even for a couple as close as they were, some things were better done in private.
As Scully stepped into the steamy bathroom, she caught sight of her husband. He was relaxing in a tub full of bubbles.
"Fox? What are you doing?"
"I'm taking a bath, Dana. What does it look like?"
"Okay, I can see that. But. . .why?"
"I was kind of grubby after going out to the trailer park again and we'd talked about dining out at a nice restaurant tonight. Figured you'd appreciate it if I cleaned up a bit. Want to join me?"
"Yeah, in a minute. But Mulder, don't you see? It's happened to us, too!"
"What's happened to us, too, Scully? And, whatever it is, can you take
off your clothes get in here with me while you're explaining it?"
"Mulder, I'll get naked in a minute! It's not like you haven't seen my body a thousand times before. *This* is what's happening to us, too. Look what I stopped and picked up on my way back here from the lab." She held out a crumpled package of sunflower seeds.
"You bought me some more seeds? Thanks, sweetheart. That was considerate of you, but I don't really want them right now."
"I didn't buy the seeds for you, Mulder. The package is empty. I bought
them for myself, because I had a sudden, inexplicable craving for sunflower
seeds. Munching on sunflower seeds is a habit -- one so strong it might even be
called an addiction -- of yours; just as taking bubble baths is a favorite
indulgence of mine."
"I think you're leaping to conclusions."
"Isn't that supposed to be my line?"
"So I'm taking a bath instead of a shower. That's slightly unusual for me, I'll admit, but hardly unheard of. I've joined you in the tub on numerous occasions."
"That's my point exactly, Fox. If I'm already in the bathtub, or if I suggest we take a bubble bath together, sure; you'll join me. In much the same way that if you're watching a football game on TV, I'll sometimes sit down and watch it with you. But I never walk through the living room and think 'Hey, there's probably a football game on' and grab the remote to turn on the TV so I can watch it. And this is the first time in our entire marriage that you've ever lowered your lanky frame into a tub full of bubbles that didn't also contain my naked body!"
"You know, Dana, you keep talking about getting naked, but I've noticed that your clothes keep staying on."
"Oh, for heaven's sake! I suppose it's nice to know that *some* things haven't changed," she said. Stripping quickly out her clothes she stepped into the tub and settled down on her husband's nap.
"Scully, if you're going to be mad at me, it kind of defeats the purpose of us being naked together."
"I'm not *mad* at you, Mulder. I'm just a little frustrated."
"Now you know how I felt for all those years, when I'd come up with a perfectly brilliant -- insane, maybe, but brilliant nonetheless -- theory and you'd shoot it down. Hey, you don't suppose that we've switched that aspect of your personalities, too, do you?"
"The way we always were when we worked the X-Files. Me coming up with crackpot theories and you writing them off as coincidences. Because that's what I think this is: a coincidence. You happened to have a craving for sunflower seeds. Not your usual choice of snack food, because you generally prefer sweet snacks like chocolate or ice cream, but if you happened to be needing some salt, you're more likely to choose sunflowers than peanuts or potato chips because you're used to me eating them."
"And this explains why you suddenly wanted to take a bubble bath how?"
"I have some very happy memories associated with bubble baths, Dana. It was all a ploy to lure you into the tub. Worked, too, you'll notice. Apparently we haven't switched our sexual appetites."
"Exactly how could we tell if we had, lover? Are you implying that I'm not normally as. . .eager. . .as you are?"
"Mmm! No --aah! -- you're always very enthusiastic. But, while there have been some exceptions, I tend to initiate things. Which is what I've just done."
After a few minutes of kissing and splashing in the tub, Scully murmured, "So, are we going to get busy right here in the tub or move to the bed for the main event?"
"Actually, there was something else I wanted to try. But I'm worried that you'll think it's a little. . .far out. If you're not comfortable with it, that'll be okay."
"Did you notice the floor-to-ceiling length mirrors on the closet doors? I'd like to take the blankets off the bed and put them on the floor in front of the mirrors."
"That's fine, lover. But why did you think it might not be? We've made
love in front of mirrors before. Once on that case out in California a couple of
years ago and once just this past summer at the beach house in Rhode
"I know, but it's the specific activity I want to do in front of the mirror that I think you might object to."
"I think it would be easier if I just showed you. Come on, let's get out of the tub.
"Okay," Scully said, slightly confused. Unless Mulder had suddenly developed an interest in getting kinky with their handcuffs -- she wondered if increased adventurousness might be a side effect of whatever it was they were currently experiencing -- she couldn't imagine not wanting to engage in any of their customary lovemaking in front of a mirror.
Once they were dried off and Mulder has spread a blanket on the floor in front of the mirrored doors, he sat down with his legs spread slightly and tugged lightly on Scully's hand for her to join him. She sat down on his lap, facing him.
"No, the other way. So we're both facing the mirror," he said.
Scully turned in his arms and then met his eyes in the mirror and smiled. "Exactly what is it you want us to do, Mulder?"
"I want to bring you to climax manually, while we watch ourselves in the mirror."
"From the tone of that 'oh!' I'm guessing you're not comfortable with this idea, Dana. We don't have to. Do you want to move to the bed?"
"I said, 'oh' not 'no', Fox. I am a *little* bit uncomfortable with it, the way I have been with a lot of things you've suggested we do -- both personally and professionally -- over the years. But, generally speaking, I've always ended up being glad I followed your lead. And I know I've asked you to do some things you haven't been completely comfortable with over the years, too."
"You've never made a sexual suggestion that I was uncomfortable with, Dana."
"I don't mean sexually, or even professionally, I mean more stuff like. . .well, being nice to my brother, for instance. That's something you've learned to do over the years -- tolerate Bill Junior, at least, even if you don't exactly like him -- and I appreciate it. So, in return, I need to try the things you want me to do; that's what marriage is all about."
"I want this to be an erotic experience for you, too, sweetheart. I'd never want our lovemaking to be something you just do in order to please me."
"Let's get started. If I'm really not enjoying it, it will be pretty obvious and then we can move to the bed or switch to another means of stimulation. What do you want me to do?"
"Scoot down a little; put your feet on top of mine."
Scully did as he'd suggested. The position spread her legs fairly widely; also, since she was sitting on Mulder's lap, her bottom was slightly elevated. The mirror reflected her genital area and she noticed with amusement that she was showing all the clinical signs of arousal. Apparently her body was less bothered by this idea than her mind was.
"Did you get this idea from those videos you used to watch?"
"Yeah," he admitted in a rough whisper. "Some of them had zoom-ins -- pussy shots, they were called -- of men doing this to women while the women moaned in ecstasy. I used to watch them and think what it would be like if it were your pussy and my fingers up on the screen."
"So am I supposed to moan in ecstasy?"
"You don't have to moan or do anything fakey. If I'm doing it right, you'll make that breathy little whimpering sound that you always make when you get excited; that's my favorite sound effect nowadays."
Scully nodded and watched as Mulder used the tip of one finger to lightly trace her outer lips. She reflexively brought her legs closer together when he slid his finger inside her but her whispered, "No, keep your legs spread. I want to watch you getting all wet from what I'm doing to you." She opened her thighs again.
Mulder wasn't concentrating solely on that one area of her body. He peppered her shoulders and neck with kisses, then leaned over her shoulder to capture her mouth in a deep, open-mouthed kiss. His other hand gently stroked her breasts and tweaked her nipples, then he wrapped his arm snuggly around her waist.
Scully found that if she actually looked at the reflection of Mulder's fingers in her body, she tended to become more clinically observant about what they were doing. However, if she confined herself to looking at his face -- either by leaning back and glancing up over her shoulder or by keeping her gaze in the mirror focused above chest level -- that she could enjoy it. After all, looking into her husband's eyes while he stimulated her was hardly an unusual experience.
Eventually, Scully began to do just what Mulder had hoped for. She started to whimper and thrust herself more quickly against his hand. He tightened his arm around her waist and also hooked his ankles over hers to keep her legs legs spread. Then it happened, in glorious Technicolor: her vagina throbbed, her breasts peaked, she flushed from her face down to her belly button and she actually *did* let out a sound suspiciously like a moan.
When she was done, Mulder let her down slowly, extracting his fingers one at a time and keeping her legs spread.
"You don't need to look so smug, Mulder," she murmured.
"Oh, hell, maybe you deserve to look smug. That was incredible, Fox!"
"I'm glad you enjoyed it, Dana. Thank you for. . .letting me watch like that."
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Um. . .we seem to have some unfinished business to attend to."
"That's not business, Scully, that's pleasure."
"Do you want me to do the same thing to you that you did to me?"
"I'd rather actually do you, sweetheart, if that's okay."
"Whatever you want, Mulder. This is your fantasy. How do you want me?"
"On your hands and knees."
Scully nodded and scrambled into the position he'd suggested. By turning their heads slightly, they could watch themselves in the mirror. After a few minutes, Mulder gave a loud groan and gushed wildly into his wife.
"Would you mind if we moved into the bed for some afterglow cuddling?" Scully asked, her voice sleepy.
Mulder smiled gently as he picked her up and moved them into the bed. It was a private joke between them that she was the one who tended to fall asleep after lovemaking, while he was the one who preferred to indulge in conversation and cuddling. Well, she got what she wanted and he got half of what he wanted; he could cuddle with her even while she slept.
An hour or so later, Scully swam back to consciousness. She smiled at Mulder and kissed him lightly on the lips.
"I believe I promised you dinner at a nice restaurant, Sleeping Beauty. Want to get dressed while I call around and see if I can find us one that's still taking reservations?"
"Would you mind if we just stayed here instead and ordered room service?"
"Not at all, sweetheart, but I'm trying to be a gentleman. We don't get to go out to dinner all that often any more; at least not in restaurants that don't provide high chairs."
"I'm just too relaxed to want to take another bath and get dressed up right at the moment. Besides, the whole point of going out to dinner was supposed to be to help us recapture the mood that Melissa phoned in an interruption to on the beach this morning. I think we accomplished that *without* the aid of candlelight and wine."
"Scully, all I've ever needed to get me in the mood was to be in the same room with you."
"That's sweet, Mulder. I'm going to put on a robe. You order us something yummy and decadent with a gooey chocolatey dessert."
The next morning, Scully woke up with a desire for another bubble bath while Mulder was out for a jog. A second bubble bath in barely 12 hours seemed extravagantly indulgent, but she was lucky if she could get one in a week while she was at home, so she went ahead and filled the tub. When her husband came in, she asked if wanted to join her.
"Tempting though the offer is, sweetheart, I think I'd better pass. We promised the Dales we'd come back out to their place first thing this morning and I'd want to do an instant replay of last night if I hopped back in the tub with you. Why don't you get out and start getting dressed and I'll just take a quick shower?" He punctuated his works with a crunching sound.
"Mulder, what are you eating?"
"Sunflower seeds. Do you want some?"
"For breakfast? Of course not!"
They stared at each other for a moment, then Scully said, "It's worn off. I no longer want to eat sunflower seeds and you no longer want to take bubble baths. We're back to normal."
"I'm not sure 'normal' is a word that can ever be used to describe me, Dana. And I *did* say I was tempted to join you in the bubbles."
"The operative phrase there being 'join you', Mulder. If I wasn't in the tub, would you still want to soak in it?"
"No," he admitted. "Left to my own devices, without the incentive of being naked with you, I'd prefer a shower."
As they drove out to visit the Dales brothers, Scully said, "Okay, now we know that the effects wear off pretty quickly after leaving the trailer park. The change overcame us yesterday afternoon and by the time we woke up this morning we were back to normal."
"That might make sense in the cases of the Dales and the Beardsleys," Mulder replied, "but what about Nancy Johnson? She's got a full-time job; leaves the park before eight in the morning five days a week, doesn't return 'til around six in the evening."
"Maybe ten hours aren't quite long enough," Scully suggested. "It was around four yesterday afternoon that I had my strongest craving for sunflower seeds and seven when I woke up this morning wanting a bubble bath. Or maybe you have to actually spend the night away from the park to reverse the spell. We could get three more rooms at the hotel -- they didn't seem to be more than half full -- and have the three pairs we know are effected spend the night there, then see if they're back to normal in the morning."
"What if it's not spending the night away from the trailer park that reverses the spell, Scully? What if it's making love?"
"Mulder, be serious."
"I am, Scully. Honestly. Look at it from a medical perspective. Aren't there certain hormone levels that rise, certain chemicals that are released into the blood, when a person experiences sexual arousal and orgasm?"
"Of course, Mulder."
"Aren't those chemicals, in some ways, akin to the chemicals that produce the 'high' people get from alcohol or nicotine or chocolate?"
"To a certain extent, perhaps, but they're not identical. And, anyway, the Beardsleys are a married couple and they've been suffering the vice reversal for two solid weeks."
"They're a married couple, yes, but they're both about 80 and the husband apparently had a long-term alcohol problem. Under those circumstance, do you honestly believe they're still sexually active?"
"Probably not," Scully conceded.
"Well, so you'll admit it's at least theoretically possible that our making love last night *might* have had something to do with the spell being broken for us?"
"All right, I'll admit it's a possibility. And, compared to some of the theories you've advanced over the years we've been together, it's not even all that far out. But if you're right, we're no closer to solving the problem than we were when we arrived here. Sexual intercourse could maybe be a feasible suggestion for the Beardsleys, especially since he's quit drinking, but it's not going to help the Dales or Ethel and her daughter."
"Nancy's in her 50s; I don't think it's totally beyond the limits of belief that she might still be sexually active. Hell, Scully, she's only about a dozen years older than I am! I don't intend to begin living a life of celibacy once I turn 55; I had enough years of celibacy while we working the X-Files together before we were married."
"Granted, she's only in her 50s, Mulder, but she's a divorced, obese woman who lives with her mother. I really doubt that she's been sexually active any time in the last several years. Even if she had the inclination to change that, I don't know that she'd be able to find a willing partner. And, as unlikely as it might be for Nancy to resume sexual activity after. . .well, however many years it's been since she divorced. . .it's probably much more unlikely that her mother or the Dales brothers could begin an intimate relationship at this point in their lives."
"Well, let's go see what the Dales brothers have to say. Maybe the spell just mysteriously wore off for everybody last night."
"Okay, Mulder, but you're not going to share your theory with them, are you? I don't think we need to tell them the intimate details of our private life."
"If you're uncomfortable with it, of course I won't mention it, Scully. We'll advance your theory: that maybe spending the night away from the trailer park broke the spell. I am kind of in agreement with you that it would be difficult to picture Arthur and Arthur seeking sex by cruising the senior citizens singles scene, so that information probably wouldn't do them much good anyway."
After a long, frustrating morning spent interviewing the effected residents of the trailer park -- all of whom were still suffering from the reversal, but none of whom would agree to spend the night at a hotel, rather than their own homes -- Mulder and Scully decided to once again spend an hour or so strolling along the beach.
"This is nice," Scully said, snuggling close to Mulder as a brisk breeze blew in off the water.
"Yeah, I always love taking my little beach bunny to the seashore. And, as much as I love Melissa, too, it's nice to be at the beach without her, so we can concentrate on each other."
They walked a little further in silence, then Mulder stopped and turned Scully to face him. He leaned down and kissed her, their mouths leisurely exploring each other's lips and tongues. Because she was so much shorter than he was, he'd put his hands on her ass to pull her up on tiptoes while, at the same time, he was slightly hunched over.
"Wow, what was that for?" Scully murmured with a smile when the kiss finally ended.
"Just because I love you."
"I love you, too, Mulder."
Scully suddenly went silent, getting a strange glint in her eye.
"What is it, Scully?"
"I don't think it's sex, Mulder, I think it's love."
"It's both, of course, Dana. I love you and I like expressing that love sexually."
"But I think that's what broke the spell, Mulder. It wasn't sex, per se. It happened to be sex for us because as a relatively young couple who's only been married for a relatively short time, that's one of the main ways we express our love for each other. But for the Dales or the Beardsleys or Ethel Klein and her daughter, it's likely to be something different."
"What are you saying, Scully?"
"That we need to suggest they each do some special activity that they feel brings them closer together. We'll suggest it to Arthur and Arthur first and, if it works for them, to the Beardsleys and Ethel and Nancy."
"You do realize this sounds more like one of my theories than one of yours, don't you, Dana?"
"Deal with it, Fox."
He chuckled and pulled her closer again, as they turned and walked back toward where they'd parked.
"Express our *love* for each other?" the other Arthur asked after Mulder and Scully had explained their theory. "We're from a different generation, son. Men our age don't go around expressing love to other men."
"Not even your own brother?" Scully inquired.
"Not under normal circumstances," the original Arthur said.
"Look, you don't have to *say* anything or hug or anything," Mulder explained. "Just. . .do something you both enjoy. . .some sort of. . .bonding experience."
"You mean like play checkers?" other Arthur suggested. "We always used to love getting in a game or two with each other between homework and bedtime when were kids."
"Yes, like that," Scully agreed.
"Well, I suppose we could give it a try," original Arthur said. "I've got a board and the pieces around here somewhere." He proceeded to open and close various cabinets around the trailer, obviously looking for the game.
"Hey, what did you two do to express your love for each other and break the spell?" other Arthur asked.
Original Arthur had now found the checker board and whacked his brother on the head with it. "Don't embarrass the lady, Arthur. If you can't figure it out, I'll explain things to you later."
"We'll see you in a bit," Mulder said, shepherding Scully out the door.
Their next stop was at Ethel Klein's home. It took a while for them to explain their theory to her -- Ethel was nearly ninety; compared to her, the Dales brothers and the Beardsleys were spring chickens -- but once they got it across she began to beam. "Of course! We'll bake cookies together. We always used to do that when Nancy was a little girl and it was a special time for both of us."'
"Personally, I have trouble believing Nancy was ever a *little* girl," Mulder murmured, sotto voice.
Scully elbowed him in the ribs and said, "That sounds like a nice idea".
The next stop was the Beardsleys. Although it was not yet noon, Mrs. Beardsley invited Mulder and Scully to come in for a cocktail. They politely declined, but explained their theory to her. . .and to her husband during commercials, as he was riveted to the soap operas on TV.
"We might try dancing," Mrs. Beardsley suggested. "They got an
old-fashioned swing band that plays nights at the hotel. We won several dance
contests together back when we were courting."
Her husband nodded in acknowledgement, but then said, "We don't drive at night any more, though. How are we going to get there?"
"We'll come out and pick you up," Mulder offered. "Heck, we'll even see if the Dales and Mrs. Klein and her daughter want to come, too."
"Mulder, we rented a sedan, not an SUV!" Scully protested.
"I didn't say we were going to drive everybody," Mulder explained. "The Beardsleys can come with us. One of the Arthurs can drive their car and bring Mrs. Klien and her daughter. We'll pick you up about eight."
After they'd left and were walking to their car, Scully said, "Mulder, you do realize you've just committed us to an evening of ballroom dancing with half a trailer park full of senior citizens, don't you?"
"We'll probably have a blast, Scully."
While Scully thought that "a blast" might be stating the matter a bit too strongly, she had to admit that she was having a pleasant enough time. She and Mulder were the only two people in the entire ballroom under the age of 50, but the elderly couples dancing around them were surprisingly graceful.
More importantly than their enjoyment, though, was that the solution Scully had suggested seemed to be working. The Dales, after several games of checkers, now had their original vices back. Ethel and Nancy had brought small bags of cookies to hand out -- sort of like party favors -- to everyone but it was Nancy, not Ethel, who kept nibbling at the box of bonbons in the center of the table.
When the band leader said, "One last song, before we go," Mulder stood up and held his out to Scully.
Scully snuggled close to her husband as they danced. "You're a good dancer, Mulder. We should do this more often."
"Dancing is like making love, Dana. There's no such thing as *a* good dancer; there are only partnerships that seem to be made in heaven. I love you."
"I love you, too, Fox."
"Thank you for coming down here with me. I felt like we owed it to Arthur."
"The one who founded the X-Files."
"I guess if it hadn't been for him, we'd never have met."
"I don't believe that, Scully. You're my destiny. If the X-Files had never existed, we'd have met in some other manner."
"You're right, Mulder."
"Wow, I don't hear that too often."
"Mulder, shut up."
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