Title: Road Fools
Author: Barbara D.
Written: November 2005
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers and D.C. Comics. No copyright infringement intended. No, really.
Timeline: Takes place after "Aubrey," but not a post-ep.
Rating: All ages.

Summary: A dark haired boy, all gangly arms and legs, was standing by their car. He snatched his hand back from the scratched fender and shot Mulder a scared, almost guilty, look.

Note: It's a crossover. You'll figure it out.

Thanks to haphazardmethod for phone!beta and sarah segretti for holiday!beta. More notes and disclaimer at the end.


Somewhere in Kansas October 31, 1993

Pancake, Mulder thought.

The straight, black road ahead snaked through a landscape so featureless the car seemed to have made no progress at all, despite the fact that they had crossed the border into Kansas an hour before. He looked over at Scully, who was absorbed in proofreading their report on the serial murders that had plagued the small town of Aubrey, Missouri for, literally, generations.

"Pancake," he said.

She looked up and peered out the windshield. "Board."

"With an 'a' or an 'e-d?'"

The arched eyebrow she turned in his direction was accompanied by a small smile. In Scully eyebrow language, this one meant, 'You're not nearly as clever as you think you are, Mulder, though occasionally you do manage to amuse.' At least, he was pretty sure that was what the eyebrow was saying. He was still learning to parse eyebrow.

The cornfields on either side were a blur of gold and dusty green. There was something ominous about the way they crowded the road, clearly conspiring to funnel the unwary into a never-ending tour of the heartland.

"Maze." He glanced over at her again.

Another small smile, this one directed at the report. "With an 'a-i' or just an 'a?'

Before he could answer, another sort of blur, this one colorless and moving at least twice the speed of the car, blew past them. Mulder veered right, jammed on the brakes and made an instinctive grab for Scully as they bounced in slow motion across the shallow ditch that separated the road from the field. A small avalanche of dust and broken cornhusks rattled down on the windshield as they came to a halt.

"Are you okay?"

She nodded and shifted slightly in the seat, which was when he realized his arm was still stretched across her chest, hand clutching her right arm. They'd been going so slowly when they stopped the air bags hadn't deployed, which meant his protective arm wasn't necessary. He left it where it was. "I'm okay," she said and relaxed back into the seat with deep breath. She reached up and pulled his hand off, but didn't let go. "I'm okay, Mulder." She turned to look at him, still holding tight to his hand. "Did you hit your head? What was that?"

He shook his head and let go of her. Moving slowly, he put the car into reverse and hit the gas. The wheels spun uselessly, spitting yellow-gray dust. He sighed and cut the ignition. His door was easy to open. Scully gave up trying to open hers, which was jammed up against a barricade of corn.

"Pants," she muttered, as she boosted herself over the gearbox and wriggled under the wheel. She gave him a challenging look as she pulled at her skirt and swung her legs out of the car.

He offered his hand again and practiced some eyebrow language of his own. She accepted the hand but didn't seem to recognize the compliment. He needed to work on that.

"What do you think it was?" she asked as she pulled her coat closed against the crisp air and looked back down the deserted road. "Could it have been a small tornado?"

He gestured at the brilliant, Indian summer sky. "Maybe it was Road Runner."

"Are you sure you didn't hit your head?"

He started to pull his phone from his pocket when a flash of color caught his eye. Scully followed him as he walked into the road and stared down at a red sneaker, standing on end, toe buried into the asphalt at least an inch deep. "Beep, beep," he said, under his breath.

"It must be lodged in a crack in the road."

He crouched down and peered at the seamless surface surrounding the shoe. "If there was a crack here, it self-repaired pretty efficiently." He gave the shoe an experimental wiggle. It stuck firm. "Look at how empty it is out here, Scully. Maybe the road eats things. Like a giant, flat Venus flytrap with a taste for Adidas."

"Mulder, what else-- Oh." She straightened. "Hello."

A dark haired boy, all gangly arms and legs, was standing by their car. He snatched his hand back from the scratched fender and shot Mulder a scared, almost guilty, look.

"Do you live around here?" Scully said. "Can you help us?" She held up her hand as the boy tensed, seeming about to take flight. "It's okay, we're FBI agents. My name is Dana and this is my partner, Mulder. What's your name?"

"FBI agents?" The boy's green eyes widened. "For real?"

"Yes for real," Scully smiled at him, holding up her badge. "We were on our way to the airport in Grandville."

"How close is the nearest town?" Mulder asked. "Where we could get a tow truck?"

During this exchange, the boy's nervous expression eased into cautious friendliness. "I bet my Dad could pull you out."

"That would be great," Mulder said. "Is he nearby?" The boy, though tall for his age, was actually quite young. He wasn't very good with guessing kids' ages, but this one was probably no more than eight or nine. "Are you out here by yourself?"

The boy's face reddened slightly. "Not, um. No. Or, yes, but my Dad was checking the fence line and I wanted to-- I'm not really supposed to be out here." He swallowed hard. "Are you going to report me?" He shot Scully a pleading look.

No, but I might look into reporting your Dad, Mulder thought, as Scully smiled reassuringly.

"We just want to get our car fixed," she said. "And maybe get you back to your Dad. And your Mom?" she added.

"She's making cookies for the Halloween party. She's really busy."

"I always used to hang around to try to lick the bowl when my Mom was making cookies."

"She caught me this time." The boy and Scully exchanged grins and Mulder blinked as if the sun had dipped in the sky and was shining into his eyes. "I'm getting faster, though." A tentative hand reached out to touch the car again. "Maybe I could--"


The monotonous stretch of corn had disguised what must be a dirt access road, Mulder realized. A battered, red truck with a blond man leaning out the driver's side window suddenly appeared at the edge of the field. "Clark!" the driver called again. "Are you out here?"

The boy stiffened, bare toes digging into the soft dust as if to anchor himself.

Mulder turned, together with Scully taking up protective positions on either side of the boy. And 'corn fed' takes on a whole new meaning, Mulder thought as the man jumped out of the truck and approached them. He topped Mulder by several inches and looked like he could hogtie a couple FBI agents without breaking a sweat.

"Clark, get over here." To Mulder's surprise, the man's enormous hands were gentle as they pulled the boy forward. "Are you okay, son?"

Clark nodded and leaned into his father's side, then turned his head back to cast a shy smile at Scully. "They crashed their car." He tugged at his father's overalls and added, in a stage whisper, "They're FBI agents."

The man shot a hard look at Mulder.

"Mulder, FBI."


The badges didn't seem to impress the father they way they had the son. "Jonathon Kent," the man said shortly. "And you're on my property."

"Not voluntarily." Mulder gestured back to the rather pitiful looking car.

"What are you doing out here?"

"What we're doing is trying to get out of here. Do you think you could give us a tow back onto the road?"

As if Mulder had spoken some magic words, Kent visibly relaxed. "I think I can manage that." He looked down at his son. "Clark, we are going to have a serious discussion about what you were doing out-- Where are your shoes, young man?"

Clark reddened again and looked down at his shuffling, bare feet. "I dunno."

"Clark, money doesn't grow on trees and those shoes weren't cheap. Where did you leave them?"

"Is that one of them?" Mulder gestured to the sneaker sticking up out of the road like a bright, red buoy in an asphalt ocean. "We were investigating it when your boy showed up."

Kent's eyes locked on the shoe. "No, that's not his," he said flatly. "And I didn't realize littering was a Federal crime."

"It is if it's a Federal highway."

"This is State Route 395, Agent."

Score one for the Farmer in the Dell.

"Does this happen a lot around here? Shoes randomly getting stuck in the middle of the road?" Scully asked with a disarming-- well, not a smile and the farmer was now the one getting a lesson in eyebrow. Good luck to him.

The man had the sense to look uncomfortable. "In the heat the asphalt melts," he shrugged. "Kids lose their shoes when they're riding in the back of trucks..."

"That's plausible," she agreed. "Though I don't think it's more than 65 degrees out right now."

The man just looked at her, impassive, unblinking. I should try that sometime, Mulder thought with admiration.

"Clark go back to the house and help your mother. I think she was saving a cookie for you." The man's strong hand gently cupped the boy's head, ruffling the curly black hair. "I'm going to tow these folks out and send them on their way. And then we are going to talk."

"Dad, I could help with the car! I could--"


The boy looked up at his father with one more pleading look, then sighed. "Bye," he mumbled. His shoulders drooped as he trudged across the road. At the verge, he turned and flashed another shy smile at Mulder and Scully, waved, then disappeared into the corn.

"Let's get you out of here, shall we?" Kent made short work of getting the car back on the road. A cursory examination showed that it was battered, but drivable.

"If you keep going straight ahead, you'll get to Smallville in about 30 minutes," Kent said as he untied the rope connecting the car to his truck. "You should be able to call--"

Mulder had been wondering what option they had other than 'straight ahead,' when the rest of the sentence pinged his memory. "Smallville?" he interrupted. "Smallville is around here?" He turned to his partner and erstwhile navigator. "Why didn't you say something, Scully?"


He ignored the eyebrow that was working overtime and hurried to pull his camera from the back of the car.

Kent squinted at Mulder as he began taking shots of the shoe. "Mister, just what sort of FBI agent are you?" Realizing he wasn't going to get an answer, he began coiling the rope while muttering, "My tax dollars at work."

"Thanks for your help," Scully said, as Kent climbed back into the truck.

"If the other shoe drops, we'll let you know," Mulder added to the cloud of dust that was the last vestige of Jonathon Kent.

"Mulder." Scully tried to catch his eye as he brushed past her and headed to the back of the car.

"Smallville, Scully. Meteor strike. Documented anomalies started happening almost immediately. Any of that ring a bell?"

"Of course, though I'd remind you that 'documentation' is a bit grandiose a term for the fright sheet Frohike calls a newspaper. And if you think you're going to make us late for the plane just to satisfy your curiosity over a town that's been on the X-Files 302 list for four years without ever getting approved, you are very mistaken. That's not why we're here."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that." He popped the trunk.

"Mulder, it's a shoe! It's a kid's shoe. Maybe that's what they do for fun around here, like the kids back home throw their shoes over telephone wires. They somehow... stick--" She made a post-hole digging gesture with both hands, "their shoes in the road. It's a joke. A bored kid's joke."

"Bored, farm kids, Scully? Planting shoes instead of corn? Is that your theory?" He hummed in satisfaction as he found the Geiger counter at the bottom of his carry-all bag.

"Have you got a better one?"

"Invisible, bored, shoe-planting farm kids?"

"You don't think that blur had anything to do with it, do you? The shoe was already in the road when we got here."

"What blew by us, Scully?"

"It's the Midwest, Mulder. The wind comes sweeping down the plain. It's been doing it the whole time we've been standing out here."

"And the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, but it wasn't an invisible elephant that nearly ran into us going a hundred miles an hour. Maybe faster. Maybe fast enough to melt asphalt and leave a shoe--" He came to a stop in the middle of the road, then turned full circle. "Where is it?"

Scully threw him a puzzled look, then joined him. They paced ten yards up one way and back down the other. The road was smooth, flat and entirely shoeless.

"It was right here." Mulder stared down at the spot he knew the shoe had occupied, then flipped on the Geiger counter. It gave him nothing but a disinterested background crackle.

"Mr. Kent must have pulled it out when we weren't looking. He wouldn't want it there anyway. It was a hazard."

"It was fused to the road, Scully. He couldn't have got it out without the kind of effort we would have noticed."

"Well, it's gone now and we have a plane to catch. Besides, you have pictures. You can... file them."

He tried doing the impassive, staring thing that Kent had pulled off so well, but she simply turned her back on him and walked toward the car. He exchanged the survey meter for the camera and took a few defiant pictures before following her. This was not over. They were definitely going to stop in Smallville and ask questions. His stomach growled. And maybe have lunch.

When he got back into the car, Scully was sitting motionless in the passenger seat, staring down at her lap.


She looked up at him with a bemused expression. "Mulder, did you buy any... No, that's impossible."

"What is?"

She held up a small paper plate full of cookies in the shape of orange pumpkins and chocolate cats. "They're still warm."

He reached out to pick up a pumpkin-shaped cookie. Its embossed face laughed back at him. "We are going to come back here, Scully. We're going to go back to D.C. and file another 302 and bump it up as hard as we can."

Her reply was non-verbal, as she was busy demolishing one of the black cats. That eyebrow he knew. 'You're on,' it said.

He slid into the driver's seat and contemplated the cookie. "Happy Hallowe'en, Scully."

"With a trick, Mulder? Or a treat?"

"I'd say--" He took a bite and mumbled around a mouthful of sugary heaven, "Both."


Notes: Astonished and grateful thanks to cofax whose simple prompt, 'a single red shoe balanced on its toe in the middle of a country road,' unblocked the long unused part of my brain that likes to tell stories. Also thanks to punkmaneuverability, whose delicious story The Milk and Cookies War (http://home.teleport.com/~punkm/milkwar.html) has become quite possibly my favorite in any fandom. It's opened my eyes to many things, not least, the power of cookies.

This is for JET, Hap and sarah. For JET, partly because she's JET, but also because I'm pretty sure there's an XF fic rule that all Hallowe'en stories lead back to her. Happy holiday, sweetie. For Hap and sarah, because even 2 years of the driest dry spell haven't stopped them from encouraging me. And also because Hap has a sekrit fondness for Farmer Kent. Well. It used to be a sekrit. Heh.


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