The theater was not crowded, not that he expected it to be. He did not think many people were interested in this movie, it not being a blockbuster or an overly popular subject. Despite that, he had been looking forward to seeing it. So much so, he was quite early, and for the moment was one of only five people in the theater.
That was not a problem for him, as he was there alone and not waiting for anyone to join him. In fact, if it was only him in the theater, he would call it a win. The less people the better, as he was not exactly overly outgoing.
Grabbing a huge handful of popcorn, he chewed it thoughtfully, wondering how the plot of the movie would match to the book he had read and enjoyed for so long. A long pull from his drink cleared the popcorn from his mouth and quenched his thirst. As he was taking one more drink, he saw someone come into the theater who made him choke on his soda.
He blinked his eyes as he wiped his mouth, sure that his eyes were deceiving him. But as she got closer, he was sure it was truly her. The woman who had captured his attention more than any other and appeared in his dreams, both day and night.
Agent Dana Scully.
He kept staring at her, frozen in indecision as to what to say or do. She had not seen him yet and he was both hoping she would and praying she would not. Just as he became resolute in his decision to say nothing, she looked his way and did a double take. She froze and then smiled, changing direction and seat decision, heading toward him instead.
"Shit," he muttered, his heart pounding as he stood up. She smiled as she walked up to him, her hand outstretched.
"Agent Pendrell, what a pleasure to see you," she said, grasping his hand and covering it with her other one. "Not much of a crowd for this one, huh?" Letting go of his hand, she put her hands in her coat pockets, looking around the theater.
God, she smelled so good, his mind screamed at him. Not wanting to seem creepy, but also unable to stop himself, he looked her up and down, the image of her in casual clothes an overload to his senses.
Jeans, she was wearing dark jeans.
Nowhere in his images of her, had he thought of her wearing jeans, the idea seeming far too common for Dana Scully. But damn if she did not look amazing. A button up olive green sweater under her coat was so unlike the business suits she wore, he had to drag his eyes away, so as not to appear to be staring at her breasts.
He would never reduce her to those thoughts, at least not willingly. She was so much more than a beautiful face, although it was undeniable to anyone who was lucky enough to look at her.
She chuckled and took off her coat, laying it over her arm. He forced his eyes to stay on her face, as much as he wanted to look at the porcelain skin just revealed to him. She shook her head back, running her fingers through her hair.
"I asked if you were here with anyone, or if you would like some company?" she smiled and looked at him.
"No, you're not here with someone or no you would not like some company?" she asked, pursing her lips, and smiling in a way he had never seen before. He saw a dimple in her cheek and his heart stopped beating in his chest, then worked double time to catch up.
"I'm no, not. I'm not here with anyone, no," he stuttered out, feeling like a complete doof. "I would like the company, yes." She nodded and smiled, laying her coat over the seat in front of them and sat down.
"Agent Pendrell? Are you going to sit?" she asked and he heard the teasing in her voice. Looking down, he found her looking at him as she pulled up the sleeves of her sweater slightly.
"Yeah," he said, sitting down quickly, his head spinning at the dramatic turn of events the last five minutes held. He had been alone, completely fine with it, and now he was sitting next to Agent Scully.
Jesus Christ, don't act like an idiot, he admonished himself, aware of every move she made, sounds he heard, and the scent of her perfume, which was intoxicating. It was light and airy, not heavy like the one Agent Cowell wore sometimes that nearly choked him.
"So, did you read the book, or are you just interested in the movie?" she asked, crossing her legs and arms, turning her head to look at him.
God, her eyes are so blue.
"Read the book, yeah," he stumbled. "A few times actually, it's one of my favorites."
"Me too," she smiled and he smiled back, when suddenly something occurred to him, and he stopped smiling.
"Is … is Agent Mulder … getting popcorn?" he asked, knowing it was too good to be true that he would have her undivided attention.
"Mulder?" she laughed. "No, he's not here. He's out doing … I don't know, Mulder stuff. We have no cases and I've been looking forward to seeing this, regardless of the popularity of it. So today I decided to do it and now I've run into you." She smiled and he grinned, knowing he would be spending the next couple of hours with her and her alone.
"I hope they don't butcher the book. Nothing worse than seeing the little movie you've created as you've read, turned to shit on screen," she said, and his eyes widened at her swearing before he grinned again.
"I feel the same," he agreed and looked at her. "Did you not get anything to drink or eat?"
She sighed and then nodded, looking a little sheepish. "I usually scope out the theater first and then get something. I'll go get it now before the show starts. Would you mind keeping an eye on my coat?" He nodded enthusiastically and she stood up with a smile. "Thanks. Be right back." He watched her walk away, the sway of her hips nearly hypnotizing.
"Pull yourself together, you moron," he said under his breath, shaking his head. His heart pounded, awaiting her return, both nervous and excited.
Within minutes, she was back with a small popcorn, a drink, and a box of licorice. "Hope you like red. I don't do black licorice," she said, opening the box and offering it to him. He gladly took one, willing to eat anything she offered, no matter if he did not like it. She smiled and took one too, eating it as the lights went down.
For two hours, the movie transported them into the book they both loved. They made comments to one another, sighing loudly with disappointment when it strayed from the original story, and smiling when it stayed on point.
As much as he enjoyed it, he would need to see it again, as his attention was not entirely on the movie. He was hyper aware of her arm brushing his, his fingers touching hers as he took another piece of licorice, and her breath smelling of popcorn and sweet candy as she leaned in close to speak to him. No chance would he remember everything about the movie, not while she sat beside him.
"Well," she said, as the lights came back on and people began to leave the theater. "It wasn't as terrible as I thought it might be, but there were things I wish they had added and also things I wish they had spent less time focusing on. But all in all, it was good. What did you think?" She asked as she stood up and put on her coat and gathered up her trash.
"Um, I'd say I agree. It was good, but definitely had some hits and misses," he agreed, putting on his own coat and picking up his trash. "I liked the part in the library."
"Oh, that was always my favorite part in the book, I'm so glad they left it pretty much exactly the same. It's so romantic and also … for a library scene, it's quite steamy," she said looking at him and winking, before she turned and walked out of the aisle.
Steamy and romantic. Jesus, she was going to kill him, he thought, his heart racing.
He followed her out and down the few steps, where they dumped their trash as they passed the trash can. She put her hands in her pockets and kept walking as he fell in beside her. As they made it to the lobby, he saw it was already dark out, the winter hours still upon them, and the threat of rain hanging in the air.
"I was disappointed with the end, I wish it would have been happier. I always felt the book was bittersweet, but it felt more happy than sad. To me anyway," she shrugged as she opened the door. The wind whipped around them as they stepped outside and she brushed her hair from her face.
"It wasn't just to you, I felt that as well. Happy is always better. But at the same time, sadness leads to happiness. If not, what's the point of feeling that pain?" he said, with a shrug of his own. She stared at him and smiled slowly.
"You're right. I just like to see the happiness in it all. Life is not always happy, I do know that, but … having hope is always better than not," she said softly and he nodded. Her eyes had taken on a far off look and he wondered where she had gone. Taking a breath, she shook her head slightly, and smiled again.
"Looks like we're going to get that rain they've been talking about all day," she said, looking up at the sky. He kept his eyes on her and hummed his agreement. "Do you have plans right now?" His surprise must have shown because she laughed when she looked at him.
"N-n-n-no. No … no plans," he said, tripping over his words.
"Would you like to get something to eat? A drink?" He nodded and she smiled. "How about that place over there? Tio Juana's? I like that place and the name makes me laugh." Nodding again, he followed her over.
They sat and talked, sharing nachos and a large margarita each between them. He loosened up as the alcohol helped his nervous tongue. She told him about a case they worked on and he felt his eyebrows raising throughout the whole thing. She and Agent Mulder had seen a lot of amazing things.
As she spoke, he watched her. He saw how she smiled when she mentioned Agent Mulder, heard how many times she said his name, and how she lit up differently when the subject was him and the work they did. He knew he had no chance with her, not when there was a man like Agent Mulder around.
He would hate Agent Mulder if he was not such a nice guy and obviously oblivious to her feelings toward him. Most likely of his own as well, judging by the way he had seen him watching her, gazing actually, though not that he blamed him.
"Ugh, I'm stuffed," she said, drinking the last bit of her margarita. "Oh, look, it's starting to rain. We should get going before it gets too bad." She signaled the waiter and he nodded, bringing over their bill. Before Pendrell could make a move, she handed over her credit card, the waiter taking it and walking away.
"I could have gotten it," he said, not wanting her to think he assumed she would pay. Waving him away, she ate one last chip.
"You can get the next one. Buy me a birthday drink and we'll be even." Her face showed the same shock his did and she closed her eyes.
"It's your birthday soon?" he asked, already thinking of how he could celebrate it. She sighed and nodded.
"Next Sunday," she said quietly, opening her eyes and looking at him. "Not sure we'll be in town, but if we are, maybe we could grab a drink. And you're buying." He smiled and nodded, as the waiter came up and brought back her card. She signed the bill and stood up, stretching as she did.
They walked out, staring at the rain, neither of them carrying an umbrella. She smiled at him and then stood close and kissed his cheek. Stunned was not a good enough word, but it was how he felt. Stunned and frozen.
"I had a fun time with you tonight, Agent Pendrell. Thank you." She smiled and he nodded. Turning away, she headed out into the rain and walked quickly to her car.
"Sean," he whispered, as he stared after her. "It's Sean."
A week had gone by and he had his gift for Agent Scully ready, but kept debating on whether or not he would give it to her. It was in his desk drawer, taunting him as it lay there. He knew she was in town, having seen her with Agent Mulder earlier in the hall. She had not seen him but he smiled as he remembered their dinner.
Looking in his desk drawer, he decided he would take it with him when he headed to the bar close to the bureau, the one where many agents went after work. He had seen Agent Mulder there alone, and also joined by Agent Scully many times.
When Agent Mulder was alone, women were constantly coming up to chat with him, but he kindly sent them on their way, never leaving with any of them. When Agent Scully was with him, they usually sat at a table in the middle of the bar, within sight of everyone, as though to prove a point. So many people assumed they were sleeping together, but he knew they could not be, not with the way he stared at her as she walked away.
He knew longing when he saw it.
The Headless Woman's Pub was crowded, as usual. He took a seat at the bar, and saw them sitting close by in their usual spot. Not wanting to walk over with Agent Mulder around, he bided his time until he saw a chance to speak to her alone.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you …" Looking up, he saw waiters approaching their table, some kind of candles or sparklers on a cake. He could not see her face very well, the crowds of people getting in his way.
Finally having a clear view of them, he saw Agent Mulder holding out a box to her and her smile as she took it from him. More people got in the way and he missed what was in the box. A woman was now speaking to them, the conversation looking serious, and then they suddenly left, going who knows where. His shoulders slumped and he ordered a drink. Then another. And another.
Then a taxi, to be sure he made it home safely.
He knew she and Agent Mulder were helping with the downed plane case, but still he came to the bar every night in hopes she would come in and he could speak to her. For three nights he came in, spending too much money and getting far too drunk. This was the best place to catch her, he knew it. Work was not the place he wanted to give her the gift he had brought with him every night.
Sitting on the barstool, his third beer in front of him, he looked up and saw a flash of red hair and knew it was her. He reached out quickly, needing to stop her.
"Hey! Birthday girl!" he heard himself shouting, too late to stop, but knowing he should.
"Agent Pendrell, how are you doing?" she answered with a strained smile.
The GIFT! "I, I have something for you. Where have you been?" he asked, feeling around for the box, realizing he had forgotten to take it from his desk drawer.
"I've been, uh, gone," she replied.
"Oh. Can I buy you a drink?" he asked, seriously, trying to not sound so loud and drunk.
"No, you know what? That's okay, I'm with somebody." She smiled and looked over to her usual spot.
"Oh," he said, disappointed. Looking over and expecting to see Agent Mulder, he saw some guy he had never seen before.
Of course, he thought with a drunken chuckle. "Let me buy him a drink too," he said, throwing up his hands.
"No, you know what? It's okay," she said and he was not about to let his missed opportunity remain missed.
"No, no, no, I insist, I insist. Bartender, bartender!" he called out, rising to his feet.
"Yeah," the bartender said as he walked over.
"Set me up with, uh, a couple of, uh, birthday girl drinks here," he said, the room spinning slightly. "Can I have a couple of your finest beers, skip the glasses, and another one of these …"
"Sure thing," the bartender said and walked away to grab them.
"So, I must have left your … oh," he said, turning as he sat to wait and not finding Agent Scully. Looking behind him, he saw she had sat down with her new friend, and he sighed.
"No chance at all," he said as he shook his head.
"Here you go, man," the bartender said.
"Thank you, kind sir," he said, standing to take the drinks. Picking up bottles of beer and a couple of glasses, he took them over to the table, maneuvering through the crowd of people. Almost to the table, he heard and saw Agent Scully, but was not registering what she was saying.
Turning to his right, he saw a man with a gun and then felt pain like he had never felt as he fell to the ground. Hot and searing, he realized he had been shot. He gagged, choking on blood, and he was certain he was going to die.
Then she was there.
"You're going to keep breathing, Pendrell. Do you hear me?" she said forcefully and he panted, gagging as he tried to nod. She ripped open his shirt, he knew it was bad by the look on her face.
And then was gone, but quickly back again, pressing something into his chest, hard and exceedingly painful.
"We've got paramedics on the way," she said and he nodded, panting out his breaths. "You're going to the hospital. You're going to be okay. Look, we still haven't celebrated my birthday, Pendrell. I'm not going to let you off the hook like this."
He laughed, wanting to believe her, needing to believe her, but the pain was overwhelming. Shallow breathing was all he could muster, unable to think of anything besides getting enough oxygen.
"This man has a puncture wound to his right lung. He needs to be intubated immediately," he heard her say and he found it hard to focus.
"He's an F.B.I. agent ... and he's not going to die," was the last thing he heard her say before they took him away.
It was cold outside, and then too hot in the ambulance. Words were said, too many words, things he did not understand. The sirens hurt his ears and the tube down his throat was painful. Everything was painful and he just wanted to sleep.
Closing his eyes, he thought of the blue of her eyes, the sweet smell of her perfume, the calming green of her sweater, and the sound of her laughter. He smiled as they stopped and he was shuttled into the hospital.
Lights, more words, and then nothing.
Only peace. No more pain.
One week later
Scully turned as she heard her name called and saw a woman walking toward her with a sad smile on her face, a small box in her hands. "Agent Cowell. Hello," Scully said, knowing who she was now and she sighed.
"I'm sorry … could we?" She gestured with her head to a large supply closet and Scully frowned. "Please."
Nodding, she followed her inside. Once the door was closed, Agent Cowell, turned to her and gave her the same sad smile, setting the box on a shelf.
"I worked with Agent Pendrell, I knew him pretty well. I still can't believe he's gone," she shook her head and closed her eyes briefly. "He was funny and goofy, but damn he was smart. He could work out problems and figure things out faster than anyone I'd ever seen. He never boasted of it, didn't draw attention to himself, but he was amazing. He …" She stopped and covered her mouth.
Scully swallowed hard at the lump in her throat, remembering his blood on her hands, figuratively and literally. If they had gone somewhere else … if she had …
Instead of those thoughts, she remembered him drinking and laughing as they ate nachos. She thought of the look on his face when she kissed him goodnight.
"He always spoke highly of you. I think you knew he was quite taken with you," Agent Cowell smiled, wiping her tears, and Scully stared at her.
"Taken with me? No, I didn't … I didn't know that," she said quietly, looking down, replaying their interactions. He had always been professional with her. Kind, sweet, and yes, a bit of a goof, he had helped her any time she asked. Sometimes dropping everything he was doing to … oh. Oh. "I didn't realize." She whispered and her eyes filled with tears.
"Yes, like I said, he thought highly of you," she sighed, reaching over and taking the lid off the box. "I was going through his desk, and I found something for you."
"Me?" Scully asked, looking up quickly.
"Yes." She handed Scully a wrapped gift and smiled at her. Closing the box, she picked it up and nodded at Scully, walking out of the supply closet.
Holding the gift in her hands, Scully let her tears fall, shaking her head. Her name was written on a card, in handwriting she recognized as Agent Pendrell's. Running her fingers over the letters, she shook her head again and wiped at her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, leaving the supply closet and heading for home.
Mulder would understand.
Walking into her apartment, she dropped her keys on the dining room table, along with Agent Pendrell's gift. Staring at it, she shook her head, and went to open a bottle of wine. No chance she could face this without a little liquid courage.
One glass in, she sat and took the card off the box. Opening it, she pulled out a small card with a drawing of a cake, but with the candles unlit. Frowning, she opened it to find a few simple lines written inside.
Because you should be the only thing shining brightly. Happy birthday.
"Sean," she whispered, knowing his first name at last. Sighing, she set it aside and opened the wrapping paper, careful not to rip or tear it.
Setting that aside as well, she opened the box and peeled back the green tissue paper. Tears filled her eyes as she found it was the book of the movie they had seen. Taking it out, she opened it to the first page and found it had been signed by the author.
Thanks for reading
It was a book from his own personal library. Dog eared pages, stains from it being set down places, the spine worn in. It was a treasure, something he had loved very much. Shaking her head, tears falling unchecked, she thumbed through the pages, seeing which spots were his favorites.
Turning to the end of the book, she found the ticket for the day of the movie being used as a placeholder. On the last page, the last few lines were underlined and then a note had been added, in the neat scrawl of Agent Pendrell.
*You said you liked to believe the ending was more hopeful than sad. When I got home, I reread the last few pages and though painful, it definitely holds the feeling of hope.
Pain hurts and bogs us down. But, the beauty it creates is worth it. Always.
She ran her fingers over his words again, the pain of his death hurting, the beauty it would possibly create, far off and nowhere in sight. Putting the movie ticket back, she closed the book and put it back in the box with the card on top.
Pouring a small amount of wine, she lifted her glass and drank a toast to him, for the day they shared, the beauty buried in the aching pain, and for birthday drinks that were never shared.
"To Sean," she whispered, tears shining in her eyes.