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Scully had lied, deliberately without hesitation or the slightest reservation. Scully had lied to Mulder and she would do it again given the same circumstances.

She knew him well enough to have an idea of what he was thinking. Not just his cryptic ‘invitation’, but the underlying challenge it contained which was not so subtly disguised, that had brought her out to this park and floodlit field on her birthday.

Inside the protective batter’s cage Mulder was at the plate, powerfully spanking balls shied at him at speed from a pitching machine, which was fed by a small boy who looked like he’d come straight out of an ‘Our Gang’ movie. Mulder himself was dressed in a club shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Grays’ across his chest. The back sported the number 20 and was monikered with the name ‘Gibson’. None of this meant anything to Scully.

What she did know was that the urgent message she received from her answering service had told her that Mulder was still in the same playful mood he had been that morning. Fox Mantle, indeed.

The presumption, when it came along with the dare, was surprising. To think the Mulder would have thought she’d never hit a baseball was surprising. Sure, there was a stage where she had more important things to do with her time than slap a piece of horsehide with a stick. But as a kid, with two brothers and a father who loved the game, there had been plenty of opportunity to swing at a pitch or two, to catch the fly balls, and to run bases. Scully had grown up a tomboy; Mulder knew that. Who was he kidding?

Okay. Sure, fine, whatever. He wasn’t the only one in a playful mood. So she told him a little white lie, and now he thought she was completely a novice when he held out the bat and dared her to come to the plate. For the sake of the argument she had become one. It was her job in this partnership, wasn’t it, to take the counterview? For Mulder it was a case of "let’s see what you’ve got" but for Scully she decided it was a case of "let’s see what you can do."

After all, Scully was usually the teacher, the formal instructor, her days as a student past. Just how good a coach was he? She wanted to find out, so she became the blank slate that Mulder could impress upon.

Still, even after all this rationalisation, she sauntered to the plate in two minds - willing to accept what Mulder was offering, yet keen to prove to him she was just as capable of hitting a line drive as anyone. The idea was more than tempting but for now she would put it aside. Hell, maybe she just wanted to keep a little mystery about herself.

Scully took her place at the plate. She automatically grasped the bat the way her father had taught her all those years ago. She caressed the wood with her hands, curling her fingers, testing the strength of the handle. Ash was ideal for the purpose, it was tough, straight grained and almost elastic. Her grip was solid but not too tight. Then she realised that Mulder had eased in against her back. He stood directly behind her, leaned over and into her, bringing his arms around and completely enveloping her in his studious embrace to demonstrate and instruct. He also grabbed the bat and spaced his hands wide on the hilt so that he trapped her hands between his.

Acting out her part Scully fumbled and purposely strangled his so called "Mr Bat" a little, and Mulder cheekily suggested that she should simply shake hands with it. She couldn’t help but smile at his ribald implication, but gave him one of her characteristic looks of disapproval nevertheless. Unperturbed, Mulder proceeded to show her the correct grip and stance. Scully let him take control. After all, she had told him she had never done this before. Anyway, she was enjoying it. His instructional technique was intimate, exciting, funny.

So much taller than her, Mulder needed to lean low, to show her how to swing the bat and the correct method of follow through. She liked his hand gently on her hip, the feel of him firmly against her spine, the flexing and easing of his biceps against her arms and especially his teasing and light hearted banter. They were both in a playful mood.

The whirr and ping of the machine heralded the pitch - first one, then two and three, in quick succession.

They swung at each and Mulder didn’t hold back or modify his follow throughs, lifting Scully practically off her feet and twirling her vigorously, deliberately, she suspected. She didn’t mind a bit. For the first time in a long time they were having fun. Mulder had read her mind. They needed this, and as a birthday present she couldn’t have asked for better.

The truth was Scully had lied to Mulder. She didn’t regret if for one minute. Because of it they had this moment. They were a team of two, and together their combined strength drove the ball high into the outfield, they hit it sweetly, powerfully, perfectly. Home run. Once, twice, a third time. With each ball they soared far above and beyond… until the here and now intruded.

Mulder’s quite unintentional comment about her biological clock caused her to draw back from the moment. He hadn’t meant anything by the remark, she was sure. They had a close relationship and it was a flippant aside a man might say to a woman. But it had also been a reminder.

She told him to shut up, that she was playing baseball, so she tried to focus on the old times in numerous backyards of Navy base housing with her father and her brothers and she felt warm again, for a while. However whatever they did, harsh reality was always present. Could they ever actually escape it as he suggested? She hadn’t fail to notice his mention of global conspiracies. She wondered whether Mulder actually acquainted baseball to his own quest and the search for the truth. It was not just a game to him, more a gladiatorial event. As with everything else, even his distractions were absorbed.

Scully herself didn’t need such a high-profile visual reference to be reminded of the contest. Every day the fast balls seemed faster, the curved balls more curved, and there were more and more outfielders by the fence.

Scully knew only too well that they had been at bat an impossibly long time in this inning and were well behind in the score despite several base hits. However this only made them more resolute. They would not fold and let the opposition run right over them, but she also knew they were barely holding on in the game, and they were still only in the top of the first.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1999