First Star To The Right
The tickets had been a complete surprise to her when she’d opened the box Mulder had given her on Valentine’s Day. Expecting some sort of suggestive lingerie in the carefully wrapped box from Victoria Secret she’d found instead and elegant negligee and two tickets to this weekend’s performance of Eugene Onegin at the New York Met. He wouldn’t tell her any of the details, only that she needed to dress for a “very expensive” evening on the town and to bring an overnight bag that preferably contained said negligee.
“You ready?” Mulder asked as he stepped into the office and grabbed his coat.
“You’re sure we have everything done?”
“We were supposed to be out of here by noon if you remember correctly. I just handed off the last of the year-end reports to the man upstairs and got his blessing,” he informed her, lifting her coat from its hook and beckoning her into it by holding it open for her. “Let’s get out of here before the phone rings.”
“What time is our flight?” Scully asked shortly after they left the parking garage. Though he had never said she assumed they were catching the shuttle up to New York, there certainly wasn’t time to drive up.
“Whatever time the limo gets us there.”
The comment from him was so nonchalant that his response didn’t sink in at first. It wasn’t until she watched a white stretch limo pull away from the curb in front of them that the word “limo” registered.
“Yeah,” he replied, turning to catch her eye with a quirk of his lip. “I just need to call them after I’ve had a chance to make myself beautiful. But in answer to your question, we need to be in the air no later than four. Our dinner reservations are at six.”
“OK.” She glanced down at her watch; they’d be home in a few minutes. That would give her a good hour or more to primp herself. “Do I get time in the bathroom to make myself beautiful too?”
“How much time do you need? You’re already beautiful.”
She knew he was teasing her. Mulder wasn’t known for comments like that. Most of their relationship was based on assumption. They both knew how the other felt. It didn’t mean she didn’t appreciate a compliment from time to time and it made her smile.
“I hope I’m not going to need hip boots or a towel this evening Mulder…”
“Why whatever do you mean, Ms. Scully?”
“I’m just wondering how thick you intend to spread it on tonight.”
He eased the car down the alley and pulled into the open spot behind their town house slipping it into park. “Let’s just say you need to forget who you are tonight,” he told her, his voice slipping into that soft baritone that made her shiver. “Forget the guns and the conspiracies and the shady informants and pretend you’re a lovely maiden and that I’m your handsome albeit slightly damaged knight in shining armor, sans armor of course, who has come to whisk you off to a land far, far away in his obscenely expensive chartered Lear carriage and — go with it.”
Lear carriage? “Mulder?” She reached across the front seat to take his right hand from the steering wheel. “What have you done?”
“Tonight, Scully,” he told her turning her hand over in his own and meeting her eyes. “We are not who we are.”
She watched as he leaned down and kissed the back of her hand ever so softly.
When she came out of the bathroom Mulder was standing in front of her dresser wrestling with his tie. “Have I ever told you how much I hate these things?” he asked when he noticed her observing his frustration. While his attention was drawn to the tie she took a moment to observe him in a different way. He had on a white on white striped shirt and black slacks that on closer inspection of the fabric had a fine gray pin stripe in them. The tie that he finally seemed to be satisfied with was a dark silver gray on gray print. Despite his abundance of t-shirts and jeans, the man or his tailor, she amended noticing the Armani label in the jacket he had carelessly tossed on the bed, had good fashion sense.
“Ta Da!” he exclaimed, turning around to face her with his arms spread out. “What do you think?”
“I think you clean up real well, Sherlock,” she commented with a smile fingering the fabric as she sat down on the bed next to his jacket. “New suit?”
“And one I promise not to wear while diving in sewers, investigating manure factories or being shot at,” he told her reaching to pick up the jacket from the bed.
“I’ll keep you to that promise you know.”
“Good. I’m gonna call and have them pick us up at three-fifteen,” he told her, glancing at the watch she’d given him just a few days ago before picking up his black leather overnight bag. “See you downstairs.”
She sat on the bed for several minutes after he’d disappeared down the stairs wondering if there was something else behind this sudden venture into the extravagant besides a Valentine gift. The disturbing thought that there was something he wasn’t telling her played in her mind but he’d promised a long time ago not to keep things from her. He wanted her to be the fair maiden tonight and the thought made her smile. It was time to become his lady in waiting.
The click of her heals on the aged wood floor of their foyer made him look up. He’d been standing in front of the living room window with both hands in his pockets, his suit jacket falling back against his forearms, one foot slightly in front of the other, a perfect pose for GQ magazine she imagined. His lip curled ever so slightly as he watched her set her own bag down next to his. Suddenly self-conscious she could feel his eyes on her as she crossed the floor to where he was standing. “New dress?” he asked.
She’d found it in Saks on an after Christmas shopping expedition with Tara. It was Tara who had talked her into it when she complained she would never have anywhere to wear it. It suddenly seemed like a conspiracy and she chuckled inside herself. The dress, an interesting version of “the little black dress” had a V neck and three quarter length sleeves but it had been the handkerchief tea length skirt that had caught her eye. The black fabric had a slight shimmer to it making it elegant despite its simple style.
“Tara talked me into it,” she told him when he put his arm around her and drew her to his side.
“Remind me to thank Tara.”
“You haven’t told me where we’re staying in New York,” she questioned, a gentle smile pulling at her lips with his compliment.
“I didn’t tell you we were staying in New York did I?”
Just like him…to evade the question she thought.
“Come here,” he beckoned, taking her hand and leading her to the mirror in front in the foyer. “One more thing before the limo gets here. Close your eyes.”
She heard the rustle of his suit jacket and then he was draping something around her neck, the metal falling against her skin just above the V of her dress. “Mulder, what is this?” she asked trying to reach up and touch it but he grabbed her hand, clutching it in his own.
“A very late Valentine or very early birthday present,” he told her. “Ok, open your eyes.”
Twinkling against her skin was a gold circular pendant lined with tiny diamonds.
“It’s the ring you won’t let me buy you for your finger,” he told her softly when the reflection of his eyes met hers in the mirror. She studied him for a moment trying to determine if there was any hurt or regret in that statement. “You know,” he finally continued. “It will be kind of like high school.”
She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry until she saw the mirth in his expression and they both laughed.
“So this means we’re going steady?”
He didn’t get a chance to answer when the doorbell rang announcing their limo had arrived.
The limo had brought them to a private hangar away from the bustle of the larger terminal. On the tarmac in front of them Mulder’s Lear carriage was warming up. He hadn’t been kidding when he’d told her about the charter earlier in the car. While their driver was pulling their bags from the car a pristinely uniformed gentlemen helped her from the warmth of the vehicle. “Welcome to Sky Charters Ms. Scully,” he offered as Mulder climbed out behind her. “I’m Jess Humphrey, your co-captain on this flight. We’ll be ready in just about ten minutes, Mr. Mulder,” he said after making sure Scully was safely out of the limo.
“Thank you,” he told the young man turning to look at Scully who seemed to be hesitant to climb aboard the shiny craft. Even after years of crossing the country and half the world enumerable times she still hated to fly. “Just think happy thoughts, Scully,” he told her reaching out to grab her hand. She smiled at the twinkle in his eye. He was having too much fun with this for her not to play along.
Climbing inside the fuselage of the plane was like stepping into a well-equipped motor home. To the left of the door was a small crew quarters. “Welcome aboard, my name’s Katlin,” Scully turned to the young woman who was standing just past the galley to her right. “Can I take your coat?”
Mulder helped her shrug out of the coat and handed it off to Katlin before peeling off his own. Scully took the opportunity to survey the interior of the plane. Two cream-colored leather couches sat on either side of a nice coffee table. There were also two recliner type chairs of the same cream leather and a large flat screen television built into a bar at the back of the compartment.
It surprised her when Jess appeared from behind a door panel just to the left of the television. “I put your bags in the back for you. Everything you requested is on board Mr. Mulder. I’ll go check with Captain Reese; we should be just about ready to taxi out.”
That was two ‘Mr. Mulder’s’ in the past few minutes with no correction from Mulder to ‘just Mulder’. It occurred to her that he was enjoying the royal treatment as much as she was.
“There’s a bedroom and bath in the back if you need to freshen up,” Jess motioned through the door where he had just come before continuing past them heading for the cockpit. “We just ask that you remain seated during take off and landing unless the Captain has the seatbelt sign on,” he advised turning to Mulder with a knowing look.
Scully wandered to the back of the plane. There was indeed a nicely appointed bathroom and in the bedroom, a bed that took up most of the rear compartment.
“Well, what do you think?” Mulder asked, his hands coming to rest on her shoulders.
“I think you have more than the opera up your sleeve.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.” His voice was soft in her ear just before he place a gentle kiss on the side of her neck.
“The Captain asks that you both take your seats.” Katlin’s voice came from behind Mulder. They both turned around a little sheepishly and followed her back through the hall. “I’ll be in the front cabin. If you need anything after we take off just hit intercom 3. Intercom 1 will get you the captain,” Katlin instructed pointing out the buttons on the arms of the chairs and couches. There was a heavy whoosh sound as Jess secured the cabin door and both he and Katlin disappeared into the front cockpit.
It was a short taxi out to the runway and the plane turned into position for takeoff. “Are you happy?” Mulder asked her, reaching over to take her hand.
“I’m having the time of my life, Mulder,” she answered, her eyes meeting his.
“Good, so am I.”
The plane was airborne before either of them suspected, banking gently to the right as the felt the landing gear doors shut below them.
“Good evening Ms. Scully, Mr. Mulder, this is Dale Reese, your captain,” the disembodied voice came from the speakers that lined the bottom of the overhead storage compartments along both sides of the plane’s cabin. “Airtime to New York should be just under forty minutes. That makes our arrival time five-twelve p. m. The limo will be there to take you into the city.”
“Thank you — Captain,” Mulder replied with a wink in Scully’s direction. She could tell by the way he hesitated that he had been about to say ‘Dale’.
“We’re expecting a smooth flight so please feel free to move about the cabin.”
She heard Mulder unclick his seatbelt just before his hand came to rest on her arm. She’d been watching the earth slip away from them from her window. “Should I raid the mini bar?” he asked.
Forty-five minutes later Jess was helping her down the steps onto LaGuardia’s tarmac. Mulder followed behind her, taking her arm and escorting her to the waiting limousine. The trip through the city to the theater district took them another forty minutes.
The Lincoln Center had become a landmark of the theater district since it’s completion in 1966. The Metropolitan Opera with its arched facade sat at the back of the plaza. As their limo turned off Broadway and into the drop off area Scully watched the beautiful building come into view. Their driver pulled the vehicle to the curb at the center of the plaza and stepped around to open the door for them. Mulder climbed out first and turned to elegantly offer her his hand. She smiled up at him, his eyes danced with the enjoyment of the moment. After receiving directions from the driver on how to contact him after the performance she slipped her hand under Mulder’s arm as they walked across the plaza. It was a chilly but thankfully dry New York evening and Mulder slowed his pace so she could take in the scene around her.
Once inside the building they opted to climb the sweeping staircase rather than take the elevator up to the restaurant. The Grand Tier Restaurant had the same contemporary elegant feel as the rest of the building. Mulder checked their coats and they were escorted into the restaurant. She wasn’t sure if the heads that turned as they walked across the room were for herself or her partner — all she knew was that together they made a striking couple. The Matre-de showed them to a table with a window view of the plaza. Someone had taken a lot of time preparing for this evening.
“How long have you been planning this?” she asked him after they had been seated.
“I still have connections you know,” he mocked back at her.
“Their names wouldn’t be Larry, Curly and Moe would they? Seriously, Mulder,” she reached across the table and touched his sleeve. “This is absolutely wonderful, I don’t know why I deserve this but right now I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.”
“You deserve more than this for putting up with me Scully,” he told her, placing his hand on top of hers. “Consider this a make-up for all the Valentine’s and birthdays and any other time I’ve neglected to tell you what you mean to me.”
She was about to reply with much the same comment when the waiter appeared with a bottle of wine and two crystal glasses. “This is compliments of Magic Bullet Publications, Sir,” he told Mulder as he presented him the bottle of wine. “Shall I open it for you?”
“By all means, yes, please,” he replied struggling to keep the smirk from his face.
She knew Mulder was no wine connoisseur but she enjoyed watching him swirl the light burgundy liquid in the glass and take a sip.
“Shall I pour some for the lady?” the waiter asked.
“Please,” he said, tilting his glass towards her.
Dinner had been wonderful. She’d declined a second glass of wine. It would have been her third for the evening if she included the one Mulder had poured her on the plane. He however, didn’t hesitate at the offer before their waiter offered to re-cork the bottle so that they could come back during intermission and enjoy the rest with dessert. Not knowing much about wine she figured it was probably a fairly expensive bottle and even the waiter didn’t want to see it go to waste.
Their seats were in on the same level as the restaurant. The usher showed them to the third box to the left of the stage. As she sat down Mulder handed her the binoculars he’d rented and a copy of the program.
Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was a well-known example of lyric opera; the libretto retaining much of the poetry of Aleksandr Pushkin’s original novel. The story concerned a selfish hero, Onegin who lived to regret his rejection of a young woman’s love, Tatyana, and his careless incitement of a fatal duel with his best friend. It was a very romantic piece.
“This is in Russian; do you want to use the Met titles?”
“I asked,” he said with a soft grin as she pulled her eyes from the pages of the program and watched him tap the small screen in front of her. “Met titles…the English version of the story…you can read along.”
“The music tells the story, Mulder. I’d just prefer to listen.”
“Fair enough.” He turned away from her, settling into his seat as the curtain began to rise.
By the end of the first act Scully was thoroughly entranced with Onegin. He reminded her of Mulder. He was not a man who gave his heart easily either; he’d kept it well guarded from her for the better part of the first five years of their partnership. So when Onegin rejected Tatyana’s love she in some respect, understood.
But in the second act Onegin flirted with his best friend’s fiancée, Olga, Tatyana’s younger sister in an act of revenge over some idle gossip. Lensky, Onegin’s best friend and he became involved in an intense quarrel over Olga and Lensky’s challenged Onegin to a duel. Onegin shot Lensky dead. Tears filled her eyes as she had reached for Mulder’s hand. She knew Mulder could never be that cruel.
In the final act, Onegin attended a ball in St. Petersburg. Onegin was reflecting on how empty his life had been since that fateful day when the nobleman and his wife had entered the ballroom. His wife was none other than Tatyana, now a beautiful woman. Onegin was desperate to regain her love.
The final scene takes place in the reception room of the palace after Tatyana had received a letter from Onegin. Onegin entered begging her for her love and pity, adamant that his passion was true. Tatyana, moved to tears admitted that she still loved him and spoke of how happy they could have been. In the end, she told Onegin that she must be faithful to her husband and leaves him alone in his despair.
The curtain dropped to a standing ovation. “Did you like that?” Mulder asked, turning to her and using the pad of his thumb to gently wipe the moisture from her eyelids.
“Did you like it?” she asked him back. He’d shown remarkable restraint in keeping his usual rambling diatribe of comments to himself during the whole performance.
“Yeah, you’d be surprised what a bottle of wine can do for your appreciation of the arts.”
She gave him “the look” and gathered up her belongings. During intermission they’d gone back to the restaurant and while she had savored a remarkable chocolate dessert and a cup of coffee, Mulder had finished off the bottle of wine. She knew it had given him a comfortable buzz.
“I’m glad you let me love you, Mulder,” she told him as she accepted his arm and he escorted her from their box.
While they waited at the coat check Mulder called for their limo. A light snow had begun to fall during the opera and as they exited the building a frosty coating covered the entire plaza. In their dress shoes it was slippery under foot. “If we go down I want us to go down together,” he told her, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her close to him.
“As long as I land on top of you…” She knew the comment was a mistake the moment it left her lips. It didn’t take him long for the comeback.
“I was hoping we could wait til we’re someplace a little warmer for that.”
They made it to the limo and climbed into its warm interior. Mulder wasted no time in unbuttoning his collar and loosening his tie and in a few minutes they were well on their way back to the airport.
The plane was already warming up when they arrived. The wind was picking up and it played with her wet hair as they crossed the tarmac and climbed inside. Mulder helped her out of her damp coat and handed it and his own to Katlin while Jess secured the door. “We should be underway shortly,” she told them. “If you need anything…”
“Just buzz,” Mulder finished for her.
She and Jess smiled and left them alone in the cabin.
They were airborne in less than twenty minutes and when the seat belt sign went off Mulder got up from his seat and slipped off his shoes. Scully watched him peel off his suit jacket and then came the tie. As he pulled his shirttail from his pants she decided that she was beginning to like this subtle stripe tease that he was doing and began to applaud him. He stopped short of unbuttoning his shirt and turned around. “Ta Da!” he mimicked again, spreading his arms. She laughed at this playfulness but was a little disappointed when instead unbuttoning the shirt he unbuttoned the cuffs and began to roll his sleeves. Slipping off her own shoes she watched him pop open the small refrigerator and take out another bottle of wine.
“Flight time to D.C. should be just about thirty-five minutes Mr. Mulder,” Reese’s voice sounded through the speakers. “Unless you have other instructions…”
“What do you say, Scully,” Mulder began to ask. “Can I talk you into joining the ‘Mile High Club’ with me?”
Scully didn’t answer, getting up from her seat and stepping to the bar where she grabbed two glasses and the bottle from Mulder’s hand. As she stepped through the doorway of the bedroom she threw a provocative glance over her shoulder. Behind her in the main cabin, she heard the click of the intercom button and then Mulder’s voice, “First star to the right and straight on til morning.”
“Yes Sir!” came Reese’s reply.