Welcome To The Harem
When I Fall in Love by Plausible Deniability
Summary: A one night stand has life-altering repercussions for young CSM.
This is part of a series which began with "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." You probably need to read at least "It's All in the Game" to get the most out of this story. Pre-XF, young CSM/Mrs. Mulder - R (language, sexual situations)
Title: "When I Fall in Love" (1/1)
Author: Plausible Deniability
Category: S R A
Rating: R (language, sexual situations)
Spoilers: Concerns pre-XF events hinted at throughout the mytharc.
Keywords: Pre-XF, young CSM/Mrs. Mulder
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the television program "The X Files" are the creations and property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting, and Ten-Thirteen Productions, and have been used without permission. "When I Fall in Love" was written by Victor Young and Edward Heyman, and "Chapel of Love" was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: A one night stand has life-altering repercussions for young CSM.
This is part of a series which began with "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." You probably need to read at least "It's All in the Game" to get the most out of this story; you can find it on my website at http://www.Geocities.com/Area51/Dreamworld/2528. To put the story in context, it's the early 1960s, the characters here are still young, and CSM is involved in a clandestine affair with Teena Mulder, the wife of his best friend.
THANKS to Becky and to Dasha, who have wisdom and tact in abundance, and to Vehemently, who even understands about the drums.
Afterwards, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries.
These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in.
Spoons of our fingers, lips
admit their ownership.
The bedding yawns, a door
blows aimlessly ajar
and overhead, a plane
singsongs coming down.
Nothing is changed, except
there was a moment when
the wolf, the mongering wolf
who stands outside the self
lay lightly down, and slept.
-- Maxine Kumin, "After Love"
I'm dreaming, dreaming of the sound of the surf on the shore. The sky overhead is clear, and the sand underfoot is warm. I'm walking on the beach, my hands in my pockets, and my heart is light in a way that it hasn't been since the day I first heard the word Roswell. There's something I've just found out, something important, the answer that's going to solve all of my problems --
"Wake up," Teena says beside me.
I drag my eyelids open -- they're heavy, and I don't want to wake up, but Teena's voice is irresistible. "I wasn't sleeping," I mumble.
She laughs. "Yes you were. You were starting to drool."
I smile at her sleepily. "I always drool when I'm near you."
"Now there's an attractive image," she says. "Come on, you can't sleep now. Bill will be back any minute."
"I'm up, I'm up," I say, sitting forward groggily and reaching for my clothes. I'm tired but it's a good kind of tired, the drowsy loose-limbed relaxation that comes from ending nine long weeks of abstinence in an exhausting bout of lovemaking. I still have Teena's smell on my skin and her taste in my mouth. I pull on my shirt and my pants, and then find the pack of Morleys in my breast pocket.
I shake out a cigarette, and stop to watch Teena as she dresses. It's only the calm that comes with recent sex that lets me observe her with detachment, taking in the details without the usual accompanying rush of passion. If it weren't for Bill Mulder, I think, I could spend every day looking at her. I could take all the time I liked to memorize the curve of her waist, the tilt of her head, the arresting flash of her smile.
I wonder what makes her so different. Other women have beautiful faces; other women have beautiful bodies. No one else really interests me the way she does. I've been with other women but it's never been the same. I think of the last girl I was with, two months ago on an empty New Year's Eve, and the thought makes me wince.
Teena pauses in buttoning her dress. "You have an odd look on your face," she says.
I exhale a cloud of smoke. "Do you ever think about telling Bill?"
"No, I'm serious. Have you ever been tempted? Ever come close to confessing, just because it was hard sometimes to look him in the eye?"
"No," she says, and turns her back to me to roll on her stockings. "Even if my conscience bothered me, I don't think I'd be doing him any favors by telling him about us. Would you really want to know it if someone had cheated on you?"
"Of course not. Ignorance is bliss."
"Okay," I say, puffing on my cigarette. "I was just wondering."
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEADQUARTERS
C Street NW, Washington, D.C.
"Is it true?" Bill asks in a low, urgent tone. "All one hundred of them?"
"I'm taking care of it."
"How?" Bill asks. "How are you going to take care of it?"
"Jesus, Bill, calm down. I'm handling it."
Bill paces off a few steps, then turns back to me. His face is white. "God, this is bad."
It is bad, of course, but this is no time to go to pieces. We knew there were going to be...adverse outcomes, now and then, in a project like the one we've undertaken. At least all of the bodies are over 2000 miles from here, in the sparsely populated desert of New Mexico. Besides, in a way the extent of the failure works in our favor. As Adolf Eichmann so astutely put it, one death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
I just wish Bill weren't so unstrung. Judging by the way he's pacing around my office, he hasn't yet accepted the inevitability of losses, even for the sake of the greater good.
"You don't need to worry about it," I tell him, stubbing out my cigarette in the ashtray behind me and reaching for another. "Just keep doing what you've been doing. We have to keep our eyes on the big picture."
He drags a hand over his face. "The big picture. I know."
"Go back to your office and forget that we ever had this conversation," I say. "I'm flying out there in a couple of hours and I've got the situation under control. This doesn't really change anything."
"But people are going to find out," he says. "I mean, they are, aren't they?"
"No. I'll handle it. That's my job, Bill."
"I can't understand this. A hundred people. What's the difference if they kill them or if we kill them? They're just as dead."
"Don't think about that," I tell him.
But I'm thinking about it myself, thinking about what a room full of one hundred withered bodies must look like, even as I shepherd him out of my office. I'll find out soon enough what they look like, I suppose. I've never seen a vaccine test failure before but I always knew it was just a matter of time before something like this happened. I take a long drag on my cigarette and go back to my desk to finish the arrangements that have to be made for my trip.
On my way out of the building a short while later, I'm still weighing options in my head. I stride toward the street to look for the cab that should be waiting for me. In my preoccupation I collide with a small woman bundled in a long blue coat. "Sorry -- " I begin, and then I recognize her. She's the girl from New Year's Eve, General Francis's secretary.
"It's you," she says, looking up at me, her eyes growing wide.
For an awful moment I can't even remember her name. "Yes. Sorry, I wasn't watching -- "
"I was on my way to see you," she says. "I have to talk to you."
Cassandra. Cassandra is her name, I remember. "This isn't a good time," I tell her. "I have to catch a flight. I should be back next week if you can come back then. Or I could call you."
Her face falls. "I was counting on talking to you now."
"It can wait, can't it?"
"No," she says. "It's important. I don't think it can."
There's something so troubled in her expression that I feel a stab of fear. She knows about Dealy Plaza, I think. She's found out that General Francis was in on it and she's put two and two together.
"Come with me, then," I say. "I've got to get to the airport. We can talk in the cab on the way, and I'll pay your fare home."
She bites her lip and nods, and then stands there shivering in the March cold as we wait for the taxi. It rolls up to the curb only a minute later and I open the door for her, then get in the back seat beside her.
The cab takes off into the D.C. traffic. I look over at her questioningly.
She swallows, and looks down at her lap. "You never called me," she says in a small voice.
Oh, my God. Is that what this is about? I want to throttle her. I don't have time for some trivial dating crisis.
"Look," I say, hardly glancing at her, "I'm sorry. I had a nice time on New Year's Eve but -- "
I am about to finish 'I've met someone else' -- it seems less cruel that way, and besides, it's not far from the truth -- when she shuts her eyes and whispers, "I'm pregnant."
I can't have heard her right. "What?"
"I'm pregnant," she says, her voice still barely audible. "It's yours."
I stare at her in disbelief. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure, yes. Ten weeks."
I can't think of anything to say. How did this happen? And then I realize that that is the most foolish of foolish questions, because it happened the same way it always happens, the way it's been happening since the beginning of time. Of all the stupid mistakes I've ever made, this must be the most stupid...
"You're not happy about it," she whispers.
I shake my head in denial. "I'm just in shock."
"I know," she says. "I felt the same way."
Things like this don't happen to me, I think dully. I barely know this woman. I'm cautious, I'm a planner. I'm not the kind of man who sits in the back of a beat-up cab and learns this kind of news.
"You didn't say anything," I protest finally. "That night, you didn't say that this might happen. Why didn't you -- "
"I thought it was a safe time."
Oh, God, I think. I know it's not her fault, and that I am as much to blame as she is, but still -- still, how could this happen?
"What should I do?" she asks beside me. Her voice is small and plaintive. I look over at her. She's sitting with her shoulders slumped, huddled miserably in her oversized coat.
Ahead of me lies the airport, the long trip to New Mexico, jet lag and a hundred dry husks that once were human beings. The Project is not going well. And in Chilmark...
What should I do?, I wonder, echoing her words. I don't love her. I barely know her. I slept with her once, for God's sake.
But the baby's mine. Do I want to be a father? I suppose I'm going to be one, whether I want to be or not. And if I'm going to be a father, I don't think I can just turn my back on Cassandra. Maybe it's pure hubris, but that's my baby she's carrying. A child with my blood and my name means something to me.
"Don't worry," I say, the words like ashes in my mouth. "We'll get married."
She dissolves into tears beside me. Soon relieved sobs wrack her thin body, until even the impervious cabbie turns his head to see what's going on.
For an awkward moment I wonder whether I should put my arm around her. In the end I just stare out the cab window, and try not to think about how unattractive she looks when she cries.
When I walk into Bill's office, the look that crosses his face is one of poorly-concealed shock. I can only imagine how I must look to him. I've lost weight, and except for the nap I caught on the flight here, I haven't slept in days. I feel like I've aged ten years in the three weeks I've been gone.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in," Bill says. "It's good to have you back."
"Thanks," I say, dropping down into the chair across from him. "It's good to be back."
He leans back in his seat. "I heard you ran into some extra complications out there."
"Yes, persistent ones. One of Klemper's people was obviously talking too much. I had to figure out who it was."
"And did you figure it out?"
"And what happened after that?"
I meet his gaze. "You don't really want to know that, Bill," I say coolly.
He looks down at his desk. "No, I guess I don't."
An uncomfortable silence descends on the office.
"Anyway," I say finally, "it's taken care of. The failures are out of the way and there are new protocols now for handling the Merchandise."
"Unfortunately the records are getting a little unwieldy in their present location. I talked to Strughold and he suggested a new site that ought to better suit our needs. It's a private location so security shouldn't be a problem." I fill him in on the details, and on the saga of my actions in New Mexico.
Bill nods through it all, listening attentively. I make sure to be thorough, even though my voice is ragged with fatigue. I don't like having to repeat sensitive information. Finally, I've covered all the loose ends and Bill knows the things he needs to know.
I get to my feet. "Oh, and one more thing," I add, conversationally. "I'm getting married."
Bill blinks at me in disbelief. "Married? Are you pulling my leg?"
"No, I'm serious."
A delighted grin breaks out on Bills face. "Well, aren't you the secretive one. Who'd you catch?"
"You met her once, at the Christmas party last December. Her name's Cassandra."
"Ah, the girl with the legs. I thought there was more going on there than you let on. Congratulations."
"She was a real looker. Though I must admit, I never really thought blondes were your type."
"Do me a favor, would you?" I say as lightly as I can. "Tell Teena for me."
What a coward I've become. The whole time I was gone, I agonized about giving Teena the news. Again and again I thought about picking up the phone, about getting on a plane and showing up unexpectedly at her door in Chilmark. I rehearsed a thousand speeches in my head. None of them made any sense. How do you defend your actions when you know you've made the most stupid mistake of your life? I wasn't even sure where we stood before Cassandra entered the picture. Now I lie awake at night and worry that everything is going to pieces.
Bill laughs. "Well, of course I'll tell Teena. You're inviting us to the wedding, aren't you?"
"I'm not sure it's going to be a big wedding. I mean, Cassandra and I haven't really talked about that yet."
"A whirlwind kind of thing, huh?"
I shrug. "I asked her just before I had to leave for New Mexico."
"Oh, really?" His eyebrows go up. "You certainly can keep a secret. I didn't even know you were still seeing her."
"There's a lot of things about me you don't know, Bill."
Bill laughs. To him, it is a wonderfully funny joke.
Manor Country Club
God it's been a long day, already one of the longest I can remember, and the crickets haven't even begun to sing yet on this unseasonably hot May evening. I'm sitting at a table on the country club lawn as the sun takes forever to sink behind the garden party tent, and I'm trying to finish a piece of wedding cake, washing down each forkful with a large swallow from my highball. The strains of "When I Fall in Love" float across the air, played by a five-piece band.
Teena is sitting on the other side of the table, laughing. They're all laughing, everyone at my table -- Teena and Bill, Ronald and the sleek greyhound of a girl he's brought along to act the part of his date, twitchy Alvin Kurtzweil and his platinum blonde wife, even poor badly out-classed Cassandra. I don't know what they're all laughing at, what witticism set them off. All I can think about is Teena, about the ice blue of her cocktail dress and the heat of her skin underneath it. More than likely, I suspect, she is laughing at me.
I'm a married man.
A married man. I look over at Cassandra -- my wife. What an odd thought, that my name is her name, that when this party is over we'll leave together, Cassandra and I both, two people now yoked together. She's a stranger, and she's my wife. Another one of those difficult realities I'm just going to have to learn to accept.
I light another cigarette.
There was a time in my life when I would have been impressed with this country club, even awed by its golf course and its stag room and its strong, well-mixed drinks in the hands of powerful, well-dressed people. I'm getting used to this place, though. It's easier to take it in stride when you're more or less numb.
"Hey, sport, I like the band," Bill says, grinning at me. "Where'd you find them?"
"Cassandra handled everything."
For some reason this draws another laugh from the table. I'm not sure why but I think it has something to do with my reputation as the decision-maker when disaster strikes. Or maybe not. Maybe the disastrous nature of this situation isn't as apparent to everyone else as it is to me.
It's apparent to Teena, though. She looks from Cassandra to me, and smiles strangely.
I didn't want this wedding. Not only because I didn't want the marriage, though of course that's a big part of it. I would have preferred to do this at the courthouse, to say a few quick words and sign my name and then get back to the business of my life. It was Cassandra who wanted the dress and the flowers and the fancy cake. Unfortunately no amount of white can negate the fact that she's five months pregnant and she's starting to show.
No one's said anything about it, of course, not Bill or Ronald or any of the other people whom I call my friends. Not good form, apparently, to notice when your colleague has knocked up a pretty girl. It's not good form to do the knocking up, either, I'm sure, but then they've probably just written down my faux pas to an unfortunate lack of breeding.
I want to know what they're laughing at but I can't think straight. The band is playing and everyone is talking too loudly and the scotch and soda I've been downing ever since we got here is making my head buzz. It doesn't help that I haven't eaten any solid food all day except the cake, and even that has been almost impossible to get down. I can't believe how surreal this is, sitting in my wedding clothes next to Cassandra while Teena looks mockingly on.
Finally I get to my feet. "Excuse me," I say stiffly, and head toward the clubhouse, careful to walk steadily even though my head is spinning.
I find the men's room and, while standing at the urinal, briefly consider throwing up too. It's cooler in the clubhouse, though, and after a little while the urge passes. On the way out I catch sight of myself in the mirror. My eyes are glassy and my face is pale.
The heat hits me again as soon as I get to the patio door. Looking out over the lawn, I can hear the band. "Chapel of Love," they're playing, and I decide I don't want to go back to my table. Instead I turn in the other direction. Further down there's a little sheltered doorway where the clubhouse opens onto the deserted swimming pool, and I stand in the shade there and smoke a cigarette.
"I wondered where you'd gotten to."
I startle at Teena's voice, husky and slightly amused. "I needed a little peace and quiet," I say, tossing my cigarette butt down on the patio tiles.
She smiles, her arms crossed in front of her, and steps closer. She is so beautiful, cooler and fresher than the water sparkling in the swimming pool behind her. "Do you love her?" she asks.
I look her directly in the eye. "No."
"Then why are you marrying her?"
"Why do you think?" I say. "She's pregnant."
"And that's supposed to make me feel better about this whole thing?" she asks evenly. "It's all fine, because you were sleeping with her..."
"You mean as opposed to your sleeping with Bill? We've never exactly established faithfulness as a ground rule."
"You could have had the decency to tell me to my face."
She's so beautiful, so cool and wellbred. I'm disheveled and sick and, looking at her, I feel like I need a hot bath.
"I see," I say. "I was supposed to run up to Chilmark to tell you that I'd fucked another woman and she was having my baby. You're right, that would have been much more decent of me." I see something flare in her eyes, and I add quickly, "This doesn't change anything, Teena, you know it doesn't."
"Doesn't it? If I wanted to sleep with a married man, I would have stuck with Bill."
I really am going to be sick. "It's not like I meant for this to happen," I say. "We'd been drinking. She was lonely. What was I supposed to do?"
"So she's pregnant. You didn't have to marry her. You could have sent her somewhere, gotten rid of it."
"Don't you understand? That 'it' you're talking about is my child."
"God, sometimes you can be so laughably provincial. People do it every day."
"You and Bill didn't do it."
She stares at me, and her eyes glitter.
"Why shouldn't I have a son of my own?" I say. "Why shouldn't I be allowed to have what you and Bill already have?"
She doesn't answer.
And then suddenly something changes behind her eyes, and in a tiny shift that's barely noticeable the hostility fades from her posture, and she takes on a more receptive stance.
"That's why you're marrying her?" she asks, her hand coming up to toy with the string of pearls at her neck.
I watch her, watch the languid line of her body. "That's why."
"Let's not fight, then," she says. "You already look like hell."
I laugh hollowly. "I feel like hell."
She smiles. "Poor baby." She steps closer and runs her hand up my arm in a caress.
My heart starts to beat faster. "I was hoping you'd understand," I say. I look behind us, to make sure there's no one else around.
"You haven't been eating lately, have you?"
"No," I say, taking her in my arms. "Not eating and not writing." God, I want her so badly.
"You know, I haven't given you your wedding present yet."
"No, you haven't." I kiss her neck, running my hand up her waist to curve around her breast.
"No..." Her hands are as busy as mine, reaching under my cummerbund, decisively tugging my shirttails free, finding the button on my fly. "No, but I will."
I reach down, bunching the fabric of her skirt in my fists, lifting the hem. Soon my fingers find the liquid recesses of her body.
She gasps as she unzips my pants.
And then I back her against the wall, and I'm lifting her, in her, against her, thrusting into her, grinding into her, pushing breathlessly against her. She breathes against my ear, and I wonder how that's possible when suddenly it seems that all the oxygen in the world has disappeared. Her perfume is sweet in the heat, almost cloying, and I'm so close and so hard and so frenzied with having her that it makes my head pound. Her hands slip under my tuxedo jacket and her nails dig into my shoulders through the starched white cotton of my shirt, but I hardly register them. "Ah" she cries softly and I know I am hurting her. I can't help it, though, not when this is all I have. For once I can't wait either. I feel the tightening behind my balls and, leaning my head against the wall behind her, I shoot into her, eyes screwed shut, groaning and hurting and ecstatic all at once.
A minute or so later I feel her hands steadying me, and I realize I've been leaning my weight on her, off-balance. I straighten up and take a step back and she starts rearranging her clothes again while I stand there, panting. My face is sweaty and my hair is damp and my shirt is sticking to my back.
I'm sorry, I almost say, but I don't. Maybe because I'm not sure myself how I mean it; sorry for the hectic, animal fuck, or sorry for ever getting involved with Cassandra?
"Fix your clothes before someone sees us," she says.
Dumbly, I stuff my shirttails back in my pants. "Was that -- " I pant, and choke breathlessly on the words, "was that my wedding present?"
She looks at me sharply, strangely. "No," she says, and shakes her head.
"Then what is?"
She takes a step closer, puts her lips to my ear, and whispers: "Fox is yours."
I hear the words, three separate words, but I can't put them together into any meaningful configuration. "What?"
She moves past me and starts walking back toward the lawn.
I stare after her. "What did you say?"
"You heard what I said." She turns and looks at me. "I would have thought you'd have figured it out before now."
I can't get the words out. "Your son -- He's -- "
"Yours too." She smiles at me brightly. "I guess you didn't need Cassandra after all, did you?"
And then she disappears back out onto the country club lawn, an ice blue dress lit brilliantly by the setting sun.
Cassandra smiles at me from the bed as I start undressing. She's wearing a white nightgown, something she must consider appropriately bridal and romantic for our wedding night. "You were gone for a while today after we cut the cake."
I loosen my tie and toe off my shoes. "Yes, I got cornered by quite a few well-wishers."
"That Teena Mulder was missing, too."
"She was one of the people I was talking to." I take off my jacket, and reach for the pack of Morleys lying on the hotel dresser.
This is like any other thing in life, I think as I light my cigarette. It's hard to accept at first but, gradually, time is going to erode the sharp corners, until one day it will be hard for me to remember a time when I wasn't married. Someday I'll look across the table at Cassandra and I won't feel anything. She'll just be a familiar thing, a piece of the furniture, a painting that's hung on the wall so long that I don't even see it any more. I got used to the idea that the Date was set, after all, and if I could get used to that, I can get used to anything.
Except I never really have accepted that the world is going to end, if I'm completely honest. There's a part of me, a part deep down that doesn't want to believe it. Just like there's a part of me right now that isn't really in this room. Somewhere in a buried corner of my heart, I'm with Teena, and we're together the way we're supposed to be, and there's no Cassandra and no Bill and I have a son who knows I'm his father. The human spirit is a stubborn thing. A stubborn, unrealistic, foolish thing...
"What were you talking about, you and Teena Mulder?" Cassandra asks. She seems intent on pretending that we are a happy couple on a typical honeymoon. Her question is all sweet, wifely concern.
"Oh, you know," I say, unbuttoning my pants. "What do people ever talk about? Same old same old."
And then I turn out the light and climb into bed with her, because after all, certain things are expected of a newly married man.