Title: A Day To Give Thanks
Summary: Mulder sits alone on Thanksgiving, pondering the effects of the Ephesian case on his life.
Author's Notes: In this story, I am answering two challenges: This is my take on the TFWID/soulmates issue but with a Thanksgiving twist. So, enjoy - have a nice helping of Mulderangst with your holiday meal.
Many thanks to Charli and KL for their continued support and advice. And much thanks to Mara, Sam, Mary and Bob for their football expertise.
And now, for your reading enjoyment...
"Every person, all the events
"...half-time, with the Detroit Lions leading the Kansas City Chiefs 21 to 7. Right now, we're heading back to the Sports Center for more updates with...."
Fox Mulder switched off the portable television set, knocking two file folders to the floor in the process. He swung his long legs, which had been propped up on his desk, to the floor and bent over to gather the papers that had scattered. After putting the pages back into their rightful homes, he threw the folders on his disheveled desk and rose from his chair. He stretched his arms up toward the ceiling and yawned lazily.
"Well, Mulder, you sure know how to throw a killer Thanksgiving bash," he quipped aloud. He looked over to his partner's desk, his mind flooded with images of Thanksgiving dinner at the Scully house. Scully had invited him again this year to join her at Margaret Scully's home, but he politely declined, telling her he had other plans. Scully knew that he was lying, but she respected his wishes and didn't pry. That was one of the things that Mulder cherished most about their relationship: The ability to know when the other needs to talk, and when they need to be left alone in their thoughts.
Walking across the dimly-lit office, he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, reveling in the silence. No photocopy machine whirling, no filing cabinet doors being slammed shut, no mail cart squeaking incessantly while being maneuvered down the corridor. Nothing but peace and quiet.
Mulder ran his hand through his thick mop of hair and trudged up the stairs to the men's bathroom. Flipping the light switch, the room was flooded with a fluorescent glow. He turned on the faucet and let the water run through his long fingers. Cupping his hands, he caught a pool of water and raised it to his face, shuddering slightly as the cool wetness splayed across his sensitive skin. He repeated the motion twice, then grabbed blindly for a paper towel and lightly ran it over his face. He listened to the faint scraping sounds as the towel ran across his stubbled cheeks, then tossed it in the nearby trash bin.
Turning his eyes upward, he looked at the face staring back at him in the mirror, bloodshot eyes gazing into bloodshot eyes. He hadn't slept much in the past three weeks, not that he ever allowed himself the luxury of a good night's sleep. He let his gaze travel over his reflection, noticing the dark circles under his eyes, the fine age lines around his mouth. The face staring back at him was the face of a man who had seen too many tragedies, lived too much pain for one lifetime.
He laughed bitterly. *_One_ lifetime? Lucky me, I've lived at least two other versions of Hell.* He tore his gaze away from the mirror and headed for the door.
Once back inside the confines of his office, Mulder retrieved the microcassette player from his middle desk drawer and placed it in the middle of the clutter on his desk. He sat at the desk, his elbows on the edge, his hands cupping his face, his eyes staring at the recorder. He raised a hand to the controls and pressed the 'play' button, filling the room with the pained tones of the voice that was his own:
"...souls come back together...different, but always together, again and again..."
He pushed the 'stop' button, letting those words seep into his head. He didn't need to hear the tape again; every word of his hypno-regression session in Tennessee was forever engraved on his brain. He didn't know why he had continued to play the tape over and over again, day after day, for the past three weeks. Maybe if he heard those words one more time, just maybe the answers he needed would reveal themselves to him. He pressed the 'play' button again:
"...evil returns as evil, but love...love...souls mate...eternal..."
*But how could that be?* he silently asked himself. *Melissa...Sarah... said that my soul and hers are destined to be together for all eternity. How can we be soulmates if we never lived or loved together in this life?*
Mulder slammed his hand down on the recorder, forcing it to stop spewing forth the words that had been taunting him since the Ephesian case. He grabbed the cassette player and heaved it across the room, watching as it flew through the air and headed toward his partner's desk. He cringed when he saw the machine land in Scully's coffee cup, sending both items careening off the edge of the desk and hitting the floor with an echoing shatter.
*Oh, she's gonna kill me,* he thought grimly as he walked around his desk and eyed the shards of ceramic and plastic casing. Not only did he just destroy her favorite coffee mug, he had also made short order of her cassette recorder.
Mulder grabbed a few tissues off of his partner's desk, then bent down to gather the casualties of his fit of anger. Using the tissues, he carefully plucked pieces of ceramic from the floor and placed them in the trash can next to the desk.
He eyed the recorder, finding the casing completely shattered and the front cassette cover missing, as well as the cassette itself. He found the cover, seeing that it had skittered across the floor and under Scully's chair.
Now on his hands and knees, he crawled around on the floor, looking for the cassette. Dipping his head toward the floor, he glanced under Scully's desk and smiled. He saw two small objects, one looking suspiciously like a cassette. Reaching under the desk, Mulder pulled both items out. One was the cassette. The other was a miniature book.
Mulder placed the cassette in his pocket, his mind completely enraptured by the tiny book in his hand. It resembled other small pamphlet-style books one might see at the check-out counter, exclaiming 'Lose 5 Inches In 10 Days' or 'Your Astrological Forecast'.
But the title of this one threw him. The cover was a faded blue with a white seagull, its wings spread across the entire page. Dark blue letters across the top told Mulder the title: 'The Writings of Richard Bach'.
*Richard Bach?* What was Scully doing with a book of quotes from an author known for his spiritual and life-journey writings? Mulder had read 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' as well as 'Illusions' and knew that these books definitely did _not_ match Dana Scully's scientific and skeptical tastes.
Mulder turned the book over in his hands, running his long fingers over the tattered and frayed back cover. *Maybe this book had belonged Scully's sister,* he thought. He knew that Scully had held on to some of her sister's things, feeling that somehow keeping these momentos could bring her closer to Melissa and would help lessen the immense guilt that hung over her like a dark cloud.
He was about to put the book on her desk when he saw that one page had been dog-eared. Putting his thumb on the folder corner, he opened the book to reveal a section labeled 'Soulmates: The Journeys We Share'. A breath caught in his throat as he silently read the text:
A soulmate is someone who has the locks
Each of us unveils the best part of one
The passage hit him like hurricane, words whirling around his head in random order, then slowly coming together to help him see the truth. It made perfect sense now. A soulmate is someone who travels through each life with you, the two of you searching, learning, living, loving. A soulmate is the one person to whom you can reveal your true self, the one person you can trust with your life....
Mulder jumped when the telephone on his desk screamed at him, the obnoxious ring echoing off the walls. He made it to his desk in three giant steps, and snatched the receiver up.
"Yeah. Mulder," he barked.
Mulder couldn't believe her timing. "Scully? What are you.... Hey, wait a minute. How did you know to call here? I told you that I had plans for Thanksgiving."
Scully laughed. "You're a terrible liar, Mulder. Besides, I had a feeling you weren't up to dealing with the entire Scully brood all at once."
"Yeah, dealing with _one_ of you is enough..." Mulder said playfully.
"Oh, well, such a nice thing to say to someone who was calling to invite you over for leftovers," Scully said, her voice smiling.
Mulder's ears perked up, but his voice feigned indifference. "Leftovers? I don't know, Scully. I'm kinda busy and I really don't think I'd be much company right now."
"What? Do my ears deceive me? Fox Mulder is turning down free food? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce..._homemade_ pumpkin pie...." She paused, waiting for a response, but was met with nothing but static. "Come on, Mulder. You have to help me out here. My mom sent me home with enough leftovers to feed an army and I don't want it to go to waste. I thought we could catch the Cowboys/Redskins game and you could help me dispose of some of this food," Scully said.
Mulder pondered this. He really wasn't in the mood for company, but he was starving, and after hearing the description of the food Scully had brought home, he could barely keep from drooling on his desk.
But more importantly, his curiosity about the book of was getting the better of him. Was she just as curious as he was about the possibility that they were soulmates? Did she really believe Bach's writings? Did he?
"OK Scully, you're on. I never walk away from a challenge. Anything you want me to bring?"
"Nope. Just you and your sunny smile," she said lightly.
He snickered. "Would you settle for me and a sarcastic sneer?"
"I always do, Mulder."
They both laughed, then fell into their familiar comfortable silence. He knew that she was in her kitchen, his ears picking up sounds of plastic bags crinkling, the refrigerator door opening and closing, the tearing of aluminum foil.
"Well, it's 3:30 now, Mulder. If you hurry, you can be here before kickoff," Scully said, breaking the silence.
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes," Mulder said. He was just about to hang up the phone with a thought hit him. "Scully, are you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm still here."
"I...uh...just wanted...to say thanks."
"Thanks? For what?"
"For...well, for being there for me. Thanks for knowing...for understanding me, for sticking around."
Scully sighed, obviously taken aback by Mulder's statement. "You don't need to thank me, Mulder. That's what friends do. They stand by each other, no matter what. I know that what we've been through together I wouldn't wish on our worst enemies, but I will never give up on our friendship," she said sincerely. "I will _always_ be here for you, Mulder, you know that."
Mulder's face lit up, a smile stretching wide across his lips. "Yeah, I know, Scully," he whispered as he slipped the book into his pocket. "I know."