Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999

TITLE: One on One
ARCHIVE: MTA, Xemplary, Gossamer -- others are fine, just let me know
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully friendship/UST
SUMMARY: Scully learns the origins of Mulder's love of basketball.
DISCLAIMER: They aren't mine. I can't be held responsible for playing
with them if Chris Carter is just going to let them sit there for six
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I know, I know, the title has been used (a lot!) but
nothing else fit as well. I just needed a little break from writing
Blood Ties V, and this popped into my head - a slightly different take
on Bill Mulder than my usual. Thanks as always to my fabulous beta
readers, Laurie and Donna.
FEEDBACK: Love it!

One on One
By Dawn

11:53 p.m.

"Put those feet on my coffee table and you're a dead man, Mulder."

Mulder froze like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights of an
oncoming car, his Nikes a scant half inch from the glass surface.
Lowering both feet to the floor, he glanced guiltily around the
room, but despite the uncanny timing of her warning, his partner was
nowhere in sight. He released a gusty sigh, wincing at the persistent
heavy metal band holding a concert in his skull. Shifting a little, he
began to toe off one shoe as Madame Scully, clairvoyant extraordinaire,
struck again.

"And take off those disgusting shoes before you lay down on the couch."

"Your concern is touching," Mulder growled at the disembodied voice,
grimacing again. "I knew I should've gone back to *my* place," he
muttered under his breath.

Scully materialized in the doorway to the kitchen, a mug in one hand and
a line of exasperation creasing her pale brow. "You heard the doctor,
Mulder. He let you go home tonight with the stipulation that *I*
keep an eye on you." She then provided evidence of bionic hearing as
well as clairvoyance by adding, "And if I have to play babysitter, I
should at least be able to do so in the comfort of my own apartment."

Mulder saw the potential for at least two suggestive remarks lurking in
that statement, but he felt too miserable to excavate them. Instead he
flopped down on the cushions and firmly informed his stomach that
he was no longer accepting refunds. He didn't realize that his eyes had
slid shut, or that he'd begun to drift until Scully's sharp reprimand
shocked him out of the light doze.

"MULDER! Wake up!"

Unfortunately, he reflexively bolted upright at the alarm in her tone,
provoking a white-hot shaft of pain that threatened to split his head in
two. The moan that escaped his lips was just as instinctual, an
unavoidable reaction, but Scully flinched and her glare of irritation
turned quickly to remorse.

"Sorry," she murmured. "You're supposed to stay awake for another hour
or so -- remember?"

Mulder dry washed his face with his hands, scooting backward to prop
himself in the corner between the arm and back of the couch. "I know, I
know. I didn't mean to."

Scully's small, cool hand slipped into his, tugging it away from his
face, and a moment later he felt the warm curve of a ceramic mug pressed
into his palm.

"Thought some chamomile tea might settle your stomach," she explained
when he cocked an eyebrow.


Scully watched him slowly sip the hot liquid, taking in the pain lines
around his eyes and the wariness in each movement. Half of her wanted to
pamper and take care of him, the other half to slap him for
getting injured in such a frivolous way.

"Explain it to me again -- *how* did you manage to sustain a concussion
while playing basketball?" she asked.

Mulder shrugged, unrepentant. "It was just an accident, Scully --
could've happened to anyone. I went in for a lay-up and the guy that
was guarding me got a little rough."

"A *little* rough? Mulder, you have a bump the size of an egg on the
back of your head!"

Mulder tried to roll his eyes, but only succeeded in turning an
interesting shade of green. "His team was losing and he got a little
crazy! He didn't mean to shove me so hard, and if my feet hadn't gotten
tangled with his I'd never have wound up on my back like that. He did
apologize, after all."

Males. She'd grown up with two brothers and at times she still didn't
understand them. Mulder viewed her pursed lips with a blank look of
incomprehension, obviously baffled by her animosity toward his
basketball buddy.

They drank their tea in silence until Scully observed Mulder's eyelids
beginning to droop. She was scouring her brain for some topic to spark
his interest -- UFO sightings, wolf babies, or other tabloid fodder --
when he opened his eyes wide and attempted to scramble to his

"My basketball! Scully, I left my ball at the court, I've got to go and
get it!"

Somehow he did manage to haul himself upright, but turned a
frightening shade of white and swayed precariously. Scully forced him back
down with a well-placed push to his chest and held him there with
reassuring words.

"Mulder, stop! I have it! Do you hear me? *I've* got your ball," she
repeated as he tried to stand again.

Her words sank in and he slumped back against the pillows, panting and
grimacing as the adrenaline wore off and his body registered the pain.
Scully bent over to brush the hair from his eyes, her hand
lingering on his cheek for a moment as she scrutinized the pupils.
Satisfied, she sat down beside him.

"I saw the ball when your friends were helping you over to my car," she
explained. "I recognized that it was yours so I put it into my
trunk. It's still there."

Mulder nodded, but avoided her eyes. "Thanks, Scully."

She studied his profile, noted the rigid set to his shoulders and the
way his hands restlessly twisted a corner of the ragged Knicks tee
shirt. "It's just a basketball, Mulder. And just a game. Isn't it?"

He blinked and slowly turned to look at her, his face very still. "Maybe
*now*, Scully."

Scully indicated her confusion with a small shake of her head and an
eyebrow that crept up until it hid beneath a sweep of auburn hair. "Tell
me. I'd like to understand."

Mulder's gaze softened and he slipped an arm around her shoulders,
tucking her more securely into his side. The unexpected action caused
her to stiffen at first, but then she relaxed and rested her head
against his shoulder. Whatever he was about to tell her, he
obviously wanted to avoid eye contact.

"I think I told you that Samantha's abduction destroyed our
family. That wasn't an exaggeration. Believe it or
not, before that night we were frighteningly normal. My mother was warm
and very affectionate -- willing to help Sam and I in whatever crazy
schemes we cooked up, and right there to pick up the pieces when they
went awry. When Sam disappeared, she went crazy with worry
and grief. By the time I got out of the hospital, she'd shut herself off
from the world -- Dad and I included. For a long time she just...existed
in a Valium-induced haze, but the remoteness didn't go away with the
drugs. Maybe losing Sam killed something inside of her, or maybe she just
decided that she couldn't risk another heartbreak. Whatever the reason,
I lost my mother in that blaze of light as well as my sister."

Mulder paused and she laced her fingers with his, giving them an
encouraging squeeze.

"My dad was never one to physically express his affection, but when he
wasn't working he'd spend a lot of time with Sam and I -- swimming,
hiking on the beach, playing baseball. Even though he didn't hug us all
the time the way Mom did, and didn't say the words, I saw how much
he enjoyed being with us, and I never doubted that he loved us."

"If grief transformed my mother after Sam was taken, then anger did the
same to my father. Suddenly the man who rushed home to shed his work
clothes and take me swimming couldn't even bear to be in the same room
with me, let alone look at me. In retrospect, knowing what I do now, I
recognize that the anger camouflaged his own guilt. But at the
time, when I looked into his eyes I saw only accusation and blame."

"I can't imagine what that must have been like for you," Scully

"I drifted for a long time -- well over a year, I guess. I kept pretty
much to myself and my friends didn't try to breach the gap. Most of them
just didn't know what to say or how to act, but a few believed the
rumors that I was responsible for Sam's disappearance."

"People fear what they can't explain. Your neighbors
must have been stunned by what happened."

"A safe bet. Anyway, Mom, Dad, and I became like
three strangers occupying the same house. They barely spoke to each
other, or me, unless they were having one of the knock down, drag out
fights that grew more and more frequent. The worst ones happened when my dad
had been drinking -- which also happened more and more often. It got so I was
desperate to find reasons not to come home, anything to avoid Mom's
thinly veiled lack of interest and Dad's open resentment.

"I'd always been athletic, and trying out for the basketball team seemed
like a good way to fill up my after school hours. I meant it to be a
simple diversion, a means to an end. I never expected the thrill it gave
me, or the sense that I finally belonged somewhere again. Suddenly,
instead of being Fox Mulder, the kid whose sister disappeared under
mysterious circumstances, I was Fox Mulder, the kid who could sink a
three-pointer under pressure. I might be invisible at home, but on the
court they cheered and called my name. My whole life revolved
around those games.

"I'm not sure how Dad finally found out -- most likely a neighbor made
an off-hand remark, assuming that he'd be proud of his son's
accomplishments. All I know is that one Friday night when I ran
onto the court at the beginning of the game, my father was sitting in
the bleachers. A front row seat. I must have looked as shocked as I
felt -- I'm sure I was gaping at him like he had two heads. He just
nodded and smiled. And I swear to God, Scully, it was the first time
he'd even acknowledged me, let alone *smiled*, since we'd lost Sam.

"Once I pulled myself together, I played the game of my life
I scored twenty-seven points, and we beat the other team 95
to 83. Dad was waiting for me when I came out of the locker room after
the game, with that smile still plastered on his face -- showing teeth,
no less! He took me out for ice cream, and he gave me that basketball.
And for just a little while, I could pretend that Samantha wasn't gone
and things were the way they used to be."

Scully swallowed against the constriction in her throat. "Things
improved at home?"

Mulder chuckled, the sound like rocks grating together. "Yeah, they got
a divorce." He blew out a long puff of air. "Dad and I didn't become
best buddies, if that's what you mean. And there were still times when
he looked at me with a disappointment so tangible that I think I could have
held it in my hands. But sometimes when I spent the weekends with him, I
could coax him into shooting baskets. And if he was in town, he never
missed my games."

Mulder fell silent. After several minutes, Scully tilted her head so
that she could see his face. His eyes looked somewhere far beyond her
living room, his lip caught between his teeth. Feeling her gaze, he
shook off his contemplation and returned to her, the corners of his
mouth curving in a slight smile.

"It's not just a ball, or a game. She pressed a swift kiss to
his stubbled cheek. "Thank you for showing me."

Scully collected his mug and her own and reluctantly stood, stretching
like a cat to soothe the tight muscles in her lower back. Mulder yawned
hugely, his eyes regaining the glassy, unfocused look that warned sleep
was immanent.

"Hey, Scully. How 'bout I give you a basketball lesson sometime? We
could play a little one on one."

Scully grinned openly at his pitiful attempt to leer, the affect spoiled
by another jaw-breaking yawn.

"Teach me to play one on one, Mulder? I thought that's what we've been
doing for the last six years."

This time when his eyes slipped shut she covered him with the afghan and
turned out the light.