Title: A Traditional Mulder Thanksgiving
Summary: When Scully is at loose ends on Thanksgiving, Mulder treats her to a look at his past.
Author's notes: First and foremost, a HUGE thank you to Laura and Sally for the betas. They always keep me honest. I apologize for the lateness of this. I'd actually finished it at Thanksgiving, but then I was called out of town on business for two weeks, smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, and things got away from me quickly after that. It wasn't until just before New years that I realized I'd finished it! Anyway, it's here now, and I hope you can enjoy it.
Fox Mulder glanced across the room to where his partner was on the phone. It was not proving to be a fruitful conversation.
"No, Mom. I'm sure I'll be fine." She twirled her hair, something she never did and a sure sign she was struggling. "Mom, I understand that you want us all to be together for Thanksgiving, but I just can't pick up and go to California for six weeks like you can."
She looked up and made a drinking motion, as if she were holding a mug. He didn't have to have worked with Scully this long to tell what that meant. He walked across the room to get her some coffee.
"No, Mom! I'm not faulting you for going there. I'd do it, too, if I could. But I have a job, and they get a bit upset if I don't come to work at least a few times a week."
Apparently, this new tactic--genteel humor-- was working. Scully's face relaxed, and she even managed a smile.
"Yes, Mom. Yes, I'll call on the day, and I'll see you for Christmas." She chuckled to herself, obviously feeling better. "Yes, I promise. I won't be alone on Thanksgiving. I'm sure I can find somebody."
Was he imagining things, or did she just wink at him?
"Okay, Mom. Take care, and I'll talk to you soon. Love you. Bye."
She hung up the phone gently, noting that Mulder was at least pretending to give her some privacy, but she knew him too well. He surely heard every word.
"So, Mulder. You gonna make a liar out of me?"
"What do you mean, Scully?" Mulder asked, playing dumb. And he was just too damn smart to do it well. But calling him on it would just result in a debate.
"Have Thanksgiving dinner with me? Please?" She begged him with her eyes, daring him to say no.
"No," he said simply, and she could feel her face fall. She couldn't believe he'd do this to her. So distracted was she that she almost didn't hear him when he continued in a soft voice. "Scully, you hate to cook! I couldn't inflict an entire Thanksgiving dinner on you."
"We could have pizza, then. I really don't care what we eat. That's not the point," she argued.
"Scully, I'm not going to let you eat pizza for Thanksgiving either." Scully opened her mouth to speak, but he interrupted before she could get a word in edgewise. "Tell you what. You come with me for Thanksgiving weekend, and I promise, you'll have a great time."
"Yeah, Scully. Wednesday afternoon at five until Sunday evening at eight. Plenty of time to get ready to come back to work the next day."
"And you'll make all the arrangements?"
"I'll make all the arrangements. All you have to do is show up Wednesday morning with a packed bag and trust me."
"You know there's nobody else I'd trust. But where are we going?"
He ran his forefinger and thumb across his lips. "My lips are zipped--it's a surprise."
"But I have to know what to pack!" Despite her frustrated tone, her eyes sparkled. She was going to enjoy this, she knew. Betting they were going to end up in New England, she asked, "should I pack sweaters and jeans?"
"Yes, some. But pack something nice, too. And," his eyes gleamed back at her, "I don't want to see a single business suit."
Scully laughed aloud, finally putting herself into his hands. "Okay, Mulder. You win! I'll trust you to make the arrangements." She raised a finely-manicured fingernail. "But don't make me regret it."
"Oh, you won't, Scully. You won't."
Mulder tried to hail a taxi outside of the Hoover building, Scully beside him and luggage tightly gripped in their hands.
"Excited, Scully?" he asked with a grin.
"Nervous is more like it, Mulder. I really wish you'd tell me where you're taking me."
"Spoil sport," he said with a smile. "C'mon, Scully. Just trust me and go with it."
Shrugging but not responding, she shifted her smaller carry-on bag so it rested more comfortably on her shoulder. Just then, a cab pulled up in response to Mulder's wave.
Getting out, the cab driver reached for Scully's bags. "Why don't you get inside, ma'am. I'm sure we can handle this."
For once, she accepted the gallantry and climbed into the heated car. It hadn't been this cold in November in years.
Mulder and the cab driver loaded the luggage into the trunk, and Mulder joined her in the back seat. The driver rubbed his hands together to warm them. "Jeez, it's cold out there." He fastened his seatbelt and turned on the meter. "Where to, folks?"
"Hudson Field, please," Mulder said stonily.
"Hudson Field is a private airfield! Why are we going there?"
"Two words, Scully: Charter flight."
"We're taking a private airplane?"
"I don't know that I'd call it private. More 'for hire.' And it was cheaper than a last- minute flight, believe it or not."
Scully didn't know what to say, so she just said nothing.
The cab took them to a small airport, barely large enough to be officially recognized. She only knew of it because they'd helped arrest some would-be terrorists who were flying in and out of there a few years back when the X- Files had been closed down. Three companies now shared the buildings and landing strip, and she was surprised to see that one of them housed a respectable-sized personal jet.
"There's our ride, Scully," he said, pointing to the plane. "Not exactly Santa's sleigh, but then, this is his busy season."
Mulder directed the cabbie to pull up beside the aircraft, where she could see as they circled around a man in a pilot's uniform was waiting. Her partner never ceased to amaze her, she thought. How had he managed all this?
"Hey, Jim," Mulder said as they climbed from the cab, reaching out to shake the man's hand. "Thanks again for the favor."
"Anything for an old friend," the pilot smiled, a handsome silver-haired man of about 40 years. "And who might this be?"
In another life or time, Scully would have been enticed by the man's friendliness, but he was a friend of Mulder's, and in this life, he was her partner, best friend, and maybe more.
"Jim, this is my partner, Dana Scully. Scully, this is the best skyjock around, Jim Holland." She shook his hand and noted the long, graceful fingers. "Nice to meet you, Captain Holland." She wondered how far she could push him. "I don't suppose you'll tell me where we're going."
"I'd really love to, Miss Scully, but Mulder here would kill me if I did that." He stepped aside, motioning to the stairway. "Now, if you'd like to board, we'll be on our way."
She climbed into the fuselage, feeling Mulder's presence close behind her. The interior was, to say the least, nice. Nine plush first-class-style seats filled the passenger compartment, four rows of two and one extra at the rear of the plane across from what appeared to be the lavatory. Further towards the tail from there looked to be a small kitchenette with a microwave, a sink, and what may have been a refrigerator.
"Make yourself at home," Jim said as he moved toward the cockpit. "No others on this flight, so the place is all yours. There's food and beverages back there once we've leveled off, but we'll only be in the air an hour or so. Stow your bags under the seats and get buckled in. We'll be taking off as soon as my copilot arrives."
Before long, they were ascending into the wild blue yonder, and shortly thereafter, Captain Holland informed them that they could get up if they wanted.
"Hey, you hungry?" Mulder asked.
Scully thought about it for a few seconds before nodding her head. "I could go for a little snack. Nothing bigger than a sandwich, though."
"I'll check it out," he said, unbuckling his seatbelt and rising.
"While you're doing that, I'm going to use the restroom. Be back in a minute."
By the time she'd finished up in the tiny bathroom and washed her hands, he had a paper plate full of crackers, cheese, and fresh grapes on the table between their seats.
"Your snack, m'lady," he said as she sat. "And to drink," he produced two cans from behind his back, "iced tea or root beer. Sorry, there was only one of each."
"You know root beer's my favorite," she said, taking the matching can. "And I also know iced tea is yours."
"Chalk one up to being predictable," Mulder said with a chuckle. They ate and chatted, but no matter how hard she tried, she wasn't able to get him to tip his hand. No, their destination was a guarded secret and was apparently going to stay that way. Her partner stood, discarded the remainder of their snack, and reached into his jacket pocket.
The red, satiny object he extracted was revealed to be a blindfold--the kind you buy at Spencer's Gifts as a joke in the "adult" section. "When the pilot announces our descent, this goes on," Mulder said. "And it stays on until I say so. Okay?"
Scully smiled, enjoying the game. "You do realize that I could probably just look out the window and figure out where we are."
"Yeah, but I also know you don't like flying enough to do that." She shook her head but didn't deny it. "If this is going to be a surprise, it has to be revealed at just the right moment. So do you let me put the blindfold on you, or do I tell the pilot to turn around and take us home?"
Scully laughed. It sounded like he was a father disciplining an unruly child. What would it hurt to indulge him?
"Okay, we'll do it your way," she agreed with a dramatic, put-upon sigh. "I don't know why I let you talk me into these things."
So she wore the blindfold, wondering if she was being stared at when he led her from the plane and for a considerable amount of time while they moved from there to a building and then to a cab. "Mulder, the last time I rode in a car conscious and blindfolded, I was twelve, and it had a very unfortunate result. If I start to feel nauseous . . ."
"Don't worry, Scully. You give me a sign and we'll be sure nothing embarrassing happens." He sounded like he was smiling, which she was glad to hear he was. He had too little cause to smile in his life, so if she could do that, what was a little nausea?
"Just for the record," she said as she felt the cab pulling into traffic, "how much longer do I have to wear this thing?"
"As soon as we get out of the cab, I'll take it off. You're going to be so surprised!"
"At this point, anything would be a surprise," she responded.
As their chariot took them further and further from the place where their plane had landed, the sounds around them increased as well. Car engines, footsteps, more and more voices speaking in varying languages and honking horns told her nothing except that they were in a city, and when she reached up to the window, it was bone-chilling cold to the touch. The city in which they were was in the beginning stages of a frigid winter.
Finally, she heard Mulder tell the driver, "pull over here, please." The cabbie responded immediately, pulling the vehicle to an abrupt stop and cutting the engine.
"Stay right here," he said from his place on the left rear seat, and moments later, she heard his door open, and then close again. Suddenly, hands were extricating her from the back seat. "Watch your step," Mulder's voice said in her ear, and then she was standing erect, listening to the car pulling away.
"Mulder, please?" she asked, totally aware that he would know what she was asking.
"Okay, Scully. It's time."
"Thank God," she sighed, feeling the soft cloth slide against her skin as he pulled it from her face. It took several blinks before she could bring her vision into focus.
They were in a city, that much was certain, but she wasn't immediately certain which city. Until, that is, her eyes skimmed the Broadway and West 42nd Street signs and she saw the giant beacon two blocks south from where they stood.
"Mulder, are we in New York?" She turned to him, her eyes wide.
"Yes, but there's more. C'mon." He took her arm and led her to the corner building, nodding to a uniformed man as he opened the door for them.
It was obvious that Mulder wasn't going to tell his story until they were at their final destination. They went up to the tenth floor of the building, making their way down nicely decorated hallways to a rich wooden door with a shiny silver lock, into which Mulder inserted a key.
The apartment was beautiful, yet not ostentatious. The furniture was overstuffed and comfortable, Asian rugs covering rich wooden floors in the living room and a formal dining room with a table and matching chairs.
Speaking for the first time, Scully spun in a circle, taking it all in. "Mulder, it's beautiful. Who lives here?"
"Well, my dear Agent Scully," he said, drawing her over to the far wall where a pair of sliding glass doors opened out onto a balcony overlooking the street below. "This is where I tell you my story."
He gazed out the doors to the hustle and the bustle of the city below, his eyes losing focus. "When I was young, my parents had a friend named Larry. I don't think I knew his last name until a couple decades later, but when he'd come to visit my parents, he was just "Larry." Larry didn't have a wife or a girlfriend any time we saw him, but I remember Mom and Dad just said that he liked to 'play the field,' although I had no idea what that meant when I was six. When I was older, I came to understand that he was something of a playboy, definitely not the marrying kind.
"Anyway, he had family on the West coast, and used to spend the holidays with them, although my parents invited him to spend it with us if he ever decided he couldn't make it cross country. He never took us up on it, but when I was about five, he invited us to spend Thanksgiving at his apartment in New York. Mom never was much of a cook," he chuckled sardonically, "but there were plenty of restaurants in the area that would cater a family dinner for four. Samantha was too young that first year to have any turkey, but she had her first taste of turkey gravy in this very room. But first . . ."
"Yes?" she asked, enraptured by his tale.
"But first, I got the biggest treat a boy could have."
"And what's that?"
"This balcony, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that passes right by here. After that, we came here every Thanksgiving, and I got to see the parade and the balloons close up. And if I reached out, reached out with all my strength and wished hard enough, sometimes," and Mulder now reached out his hand, brushing the window, "sometimes I'd get lucky and a breeze would come up, and I'd get to just barely touch Snoopy, or Bullwinkle, or Popeye.
"When Samantha was old enough, she'd reach out until he'd nearly fall off, but she could never reach a balloon, and I wished I could give that to her. It would have made her so happy," he said wistfully. "It became an annual trip we looked forward to all through the years. Until . . ." He grew silent, and she stepped even closer.
"Until what?" she whispered, afraid to disturb the silence.
He continued, almost as if he hadn't heard her speak. "I remember that year so clearly. Smokey the Bear and Mickey Mouse were two of the new balloons in the parade. And Sam swore she'd gotten to touch Dino the Dinosaur's tail when he went by, but I teased her that she was dreaming. We were looking forward to the entire Christmas season; I was excited because there was supposed to be a new version of Miracle on 34th Street, and Sam was jumping around waiting for the new Charlie Brown cartoon to be on TV that night. It was the first year for the Thanksgiving special.
"A week later, she was gone. And we never came back here again. I didn't see the parade live again until after I graduated and was able to make my own way back to New York, but even then, something just wasn't the same. I couldn't convince my mother to come with me, and I didn't have a girlfriend at the time. Looking back, I know what I was missing was someone to share it with."
Finally, he turned to her, his eyes focusing once more. "You're the first person I've ever felt I could, or wanted to, share this with."
Scully didn't know what to say in response to his words. She knew they were close. Hell, he was her best friend. But they'd always had their walls, more figurative than literal. Places they didn't go, things they didn't talk about, and things they most definitely didn't do together. The man standing before her surely didn't look like he had any walls up now, and she loved how that made her feel.
"Thank you," she said simply, stepping into him and surrounding him with her arms. She rested her cheek against his chest, hugging him tightly. She stayed there until eyes she hadn't realized were moist dried, then stepped back.
"Besides," Mulder said with a smile, obviously pulling away from the moment. "Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to go to a Broadway show alone? Especially if you're a guy? Having you on my arm will keep away the vultures."
Scully was surprised. "Are we seeing a show, Mulder? When? Which one?" She'd quickly moved from surprised to excited. It made her partner laugh.
"When is 'Friday night', and which one is 'it's a surprise.' But first, you have to decide for tonight. Do you want to eat a late dinner here, or go out?"
"Are you kidding?" she laughed. "We're in the City that Never Sleeps! Let's go out."
"Go put on something nice, and I'll make a reservation," he said. "It always takes you longer anyway."
"I don't get to pick restaurants?"
"Not this time. Maybe Friday."
As she disappeared into what she assumed was the bedroom with her suitcase, she called behind her. "Wear the charcoal Armani, Mulder. I might feel like going dancing afterwards."
And Mulder found that he couldn't possibly object.
The joy in Scully's face--rarely so expressive--was all the reward Mulder needed as they stood on the balcony and watched the parade pass by. His partner, the mature, adult Dana Scully, looked like a little girl.
"Mulder, I can't believe how colorful it all is. It never looks like this on television."
"Scully, I do believe you're glowing."
She swatted at him warmly. "I've been watching this parade every single year, all three hours, all my life. I've never missed one, for as long as I can remember. Some years, I had to battle Missy or my brothers over which parades to watch, but I never missed it. But seeing it in person . . . Mulder, it's amazing!"
"You look like you're five again," he laughed.
"You think this is silly, don't you?" she said, her adult mask slipping back into place.
"What can I say? You've been quiet while you watched me yell and scream at the television during the basketball finals. I'm just glad you're enjoying it."
"It's like nothing I've ever experienced," she said, turning back to the parade. "Hey, look! I think I see Santa!"
Mulder found all he could do was chuckle and shake his head. And wonder how she'd react if he took her and sat her on the jolly man's lap.
The parade drew to a close all too soon for either of their preferences, and they returned to the warmth of the apartment, where they made soup and sandwiches from groceries that they'd bought at a corner market earlier that morning. They purposefully ate a small meal, since Mulder had assured her that dinner was going to be a feast.
He knew she was presuming they would go out for their Thanksgiving dinner, and he let her believe it, staying silent on the subject of their evening meal and instead suggesting they watch a movie on the apartment's newly- acquired large-screen television. Instead, Scully suggested they play a game.
Mulder rifled through the closet. "This is where he always used to keep the board games. Let me see what's in here." His hand closed around a box, and he drew it out to read the lid. "How about Monopoly?"
"I'm not that into real estate," she commented. "What else has he got?"
He quickly added Yahtzee, Parcheesi, and Life to the reject pile before he found one he knew she'd like. "How about Scrabble?"
Scully merely smiled.
"Triple letter score!" Mulder called quite some time later, writing on the score pad. "And extra points for getting rid of all my tiles. Which means that . . ." He smiled deviously at Scully.
"Meaning that you win," she said, finishing his sentence. "Would it have killed you to let me win even one?"
"Would you really have wanted me to throw a game? I think I know you better than that."
"Well, maybe not. But still. I wasn't the one who went to Oxford. Next time, you're giving me a handicap."
"You're on," he said, collecting all the tiles into the bag and shaking them. "Go again?"
Just then, the doorbell rang, and Mulder's eyes raced to the grandfather clock along the wall. "Oh! Be right back!" And he was up and out of the living room before she could ask him what was happening.
She could hear him speaking in low whispers to whoever was at the door, and some shuffling noises, but they were obviously trying to be as silent as possible. Shortly, Mulder returned to the room and went back to the game as if nothing had happened. But shuffling in the other room told her the visitors were still there.
"Mulder, what's going on?"
"Nothing, Scully. Now how many points do you want me to spot you?"
She knew the look on his face, and knew he wasn't about to tell her anything about their mysterious visitor. That meant she could do one of two things: she could get up and go see what was going on, thereby spoiling yet another of her partner's surprises, or she could play the game and pretend that nothing was going on until he was ready to reveal himself to her.
One thing she knew about herself, she'd never be able to concentrate with the sounds seeping into the living room. "How about fifty points, and you put some Christmas music on the player?"
"You got a deal," he said, jumping up and picking out a Andy Williams CD. Soon, the strains of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" were accompanying their latest competition.
As much as Mulder wanted to hide what was happening, the jig was up some time later when the smells began to permeate the room. Somebody was bringing food into the apartment, but why was it taking so long?
Before she could ask the question, there was the sound of sleigh bells and then the quiet click of the door. Mulder jumped up with the energy and dexterity of a man half his age.
He pulled her to her feet, but kept hold of her hand. "Close your eyes," he instructed, and this time, she was more than happy to oblige. He drew her to a halt where the smells were stronger, and asked, "ready?"
"As I'll ever be," she answered.
"Okay, open 'em."
She opened her eyes and couldn't believe the beauty of what she saw. The dining room table had been covered in an antique tablecloth, and two places were set on the table where bowls and plates of food shared space with nearly a dozen lit candles. Crystal water goblets held ice water and expensive-looking china cups awaited filling with coffee. With the lights turned low, it was breathtaking.
"Mulder," she sighed. "It's beautiful."
"Let's hope it's as delicious, right?" he chuckled, sounding a bit self-conscious.
"I can tell you it is, just from the smell," she said, taking a long sniff. "But how could you do this? Or, more so, why?"
"Because I'm grateful for you, Scully." At this point, he actually blushed. "When I sit down and try to think of all the things in my life I have to be thankful for, you're the biggest one. And I just wanted to . . ."
"Wanted to what?"
"Wanted to say 'thank you.' Thanks, Scully." He led her to the table, pulling out her chair for her.
"Thank you, Mulder." She waited until he came around so she could look into his eyes again. "I know you think that I have so much in my life, and it's true that I've been blessed, but you should know that I consider having you as my partner and my friend is one of the biggest blessings I've got."
"But . . ."
"But nothing. I know you, and I know you think that you're not somebody who people care for, but I do. And while I may not be the only one," she said as she watched him look away and laid a hand on his cheek to bring his gaze back to hers, "and while I may not be the only one, I'm definitely the biggest one. So thank you, Mulder. And thank you for this wonderful dinner."
He was still blushing and silent. He wasn't good at the sentimental things, and she knew it.
"So now that the serious part of this dinner is completed, what do you say we dig in?" she asked, smiling at him warmly. "Everything smells great!"
"Yeah, it does," he said, coming back to himself again. Once more he was the sardonic man she'd come to love.
He stood at his place, picking up a carving knife. "So what would you like, white meat or dark?"