Title: Mulder's Creek: 05. Faded Photograph
Summary: A picture Mulder was told of was of a cousin isn't, and it leads him and Scully on an adventure to find the truth.
Mulder and Scully are intent on painting Christmas ornaments while “Frosty the Snowman” plays on the TV. Scully carefully and neatly paints, but Mulder is surrounded by a litter of paint-stained paper towels and drippy glasses of tinted water. Surprisingly, his ornaments themselves are just as neatly and intricately detailed as Scully's.
"I can't believe what a mess you're making," Scully says.
"It's my room, and I'm the one who has to clean it, so I can make as big a mess as I want."
"Come to think of it, your room is pretty neat most of the time..."
"Do you know why?" Mulder asks.
"You're cribbing from Skinner?" Scully asks mischievously.
Mulder rolls his eyes."You wish."
"Do not! He's a nice guy, but...we have too similar tastes in posters."
"Ha. The reason is that when I was 10 or so I had a very messy room-"
"I know. Weird science experiments germinated all over," Scully interrupts.
"Anyway, one day I came home from school and my room was spotless-"
"Christmas elves?" Scully guesses.
"No, I didn't leave out any leather. It was spotless because Mom took all of my stuff and locked it up in the basement. It took two solid weeks of begging to get my toys back.," says Mulder.
The tv special breaks out into the Frosty The Snowman song, so they both turn to watch that part of the show.
"Why don't we play in the snow like we used to?" Mulder asks.
"Because we're old enough to find being cold and wet distasteful," Scully suggests.
"It's just wrong. We need to recapture that part of our past. Do you remember when we were seven-"
"Stop interrupting me!" Mulder exclaims, and ignores Scully's sticking her tongue out at him."As I was saying, do you remember when we tried to make an igloo?"
"Of course. Our brilliant idea to add water to harden it made it melt."
"Yeah, but...It was fun. Why can't we have fun like that any more?"
"Who says we can't?" Scully asks, earning a winsome smile. Until she paints the tip of his nose, at which point he lunges at her, laughing.
Monday 7:15am at the high school-
“Are we researching something?" Spender asks.
"I'm not, but you should be," Krycek says.
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I think you know. Think hard about what you were promised would be avoided if you 'disappeared' for a while. That promise wasn't kept."
"You're lying!" Spender says hotly.
"Am I? I'm not the one who can prove or deny that. I just know what I know. You know who you have to ask if I'm right or not. Later." Krycek abruptly walks away, leaving an anxious looking Spender there.
3:30 pm, Leary Home-
Mulder has the house to himself for a change, and ruefully wonders what fun he's missing by not being a latchkey kid. His mother has almost always been home by the time he's gotten home from school; she did the noon news instead of the six o'clock expressly for that purpose. The house seems quiet with no one home, and for a second Mulder gets a chill.
Mulder runs up to his room, thinking that he may as well take advantage of his solitude and wrap some Christmas presents in the living room, where he has more room to spread out. It takes him two trips to bring everything down from his room, and he's about to begin wrapping when he discovers the fatal flaw to his plan- he doesn't have any scissors.
A look through the everything drawer in the kitchen leaves him still empty handed, so he decides to look in his mother's sewing kit. He feels guilty about going into his parents room so close to Christmas, because he's a repentant peeker. Until he was ten or eleven, he used to sneak into their room to look for his presents, but eventually he grew to realize that it was more fun to be completely surprised on Christmas morning; Before he opens their door he takes a deep breath and hopes that his mom has gotten her wrapping done early.
To his relief there are no unwrapped presents scattered around. He concludes that the presents are either in the closet, or his parents went way overboard on the last minute Internet ordering mentality. Either way, he doesn't have to feel guilty anymore. Or, not guilty about being in their room, the fact that he still has some shopping of his own left to do righteously nags at him.
As he rummages through the sewing kit, he turns up an old photograph that he's seen a few times before. The subject of the picture is a small brown-haired girl, who is staring very seriously at the camera. I wonder if I'll ever meet my cousin, Mulder thinks. Arden is two years older than Mulder, but they've never seen each other because her family lives in California. Mulder remembers having seen the photo for the first time about seven years earlier, and he wonders how it found its way into the sewing kit.
Because he hasn't turned on a light in his parents' room, he brings the picture to the window to get a better look at it. She looks much as she does in the graduation picture that her parents sent over the summer; with her dark hair and hazel eyes, you can see a definite family resemblance between her and Mulder. The thing that strikes Mulder the strangest is that she's so small in the picture, since his mother says it's her first grade photo, and she looks two years younger than she should.
Mulder shrugs and thinks suddenly of how small Scully was when he first met her. He's about to put the picture away when a detail in it he has never noticed before catches his eye. There's a calendar in the far left of the photograph. Intrigued, he picks up the scissors, shuts the sewing case, and brings the picture to his own room. He lays it on his desk and pulls out a magnifying glass to examine the calendar more closely. The magnifying glass drops from his suddenly nerveless fingers when he reads the year on the calendar- 1993. Mulder swallows hard and shoves the picture in between the pages of a book before going back downstairs to wrap his presents.
Wednesday afternoon, McPhee home-
Skinner and Reyes sit at the kitchen table, finishing their homework. Reyes snaps her books shut, and puts her chin on her fists, looking at Skinner.
"We need to do something for dad."
"What do you have in mind?"
"I think we need to tell him that we want him to bring us to see Mom over break."
"Why? I don't object to visiting Mom, but why do you think it'd be something Dad would want?"
Reyes sighs."It's obvious that he wants to spend time with her, why else would he have wanted her home for Christmas? He won't go to see her without us over break, though, so...you get it now?"
"Yes. When do we tell him?"
"Oh, whenever he's in a good mood."
"What do we do if that doesn't happen
before Christmas?" Skinner asks, laughing. Reyes rolls her eyes at him,
but laughs too.
Capeside Family Practice-
Fowley wiggles her pale foot, frowning slightly.
"My foot seems to have lost all its color," she says to the doctor.
"That's normal for when a cast comes off. You'll just have to spend a lot of time on the beach next summer. How does it feel otherwise?"
"Not too bad, considering."
"Well good. If you have any pain, make an appointment and I'll take a look at it."
"Ok, great. Thanks a lot."
"No problem. Just bring a better flashlight the next time you're going to be in the woods after dark."
The doctor then leaves the room. Fowley wiggles her foot a bit more, and decides to brave putting on a sock, then her shoe. When she stands up she immediately feels a little strange, it's been so long since she's stood normally on two feet. After a moment or two she feels almost as steady as usual.
She's waiting for the receptionist to give her a receipt to give to Grams when Mrs. Leary walks in, apparently there for an appointment of her own. As soon as she sees her, she's overwhelmed by the urge to run out of the office, receipt or no. Knowing it's irrational, she compromises with herself, and doesn't acknowledge the older woman's presence to avoid being drawn into a conversation. Mrs. Leary notices the girl leaving, and smiles to herself.
Scully sits at Mulder's desk as he paces around the room.
"What is your problem?" she asks, finally reaching the limit of tolerance for watching pacing.
"I have something to show you," Mulder says, going to his bookcase.
"A book? I don't think I've ever seen you touch a book outside of school. Are you feeling ok?"
"Very funny. It's something in the book," he says, pulling the photograph out of the book and handing it to her."Look at this."
"It's a little girl. Is there something remarkable about this picture that I'm not getting?" Scully asks.
"My parents tell me that it's a picture of my cousin Arden, when she was in first grade."
"And you don't think it is?"
"No, I don't. Arden's eighteen."
"See the calendar in the left hand corner? I looked at it through a magnifying glass."
"And?" Scully asks, nearly exasperated.
"And it says 1993. Arden was ten that year. Even if mom was wrong and it isn't her first grade picture...” Mulder trails off.
"There's no way the girl in this picture is ten," Scully finishes.
"Right. I know you're going to think I'm crazy, but-"
"You think this is your sister." Scully states.
"Who else could it be?"
"Well, she does look a lot like you," Scully says, glancing between him and the photograph.
"You don't think I'm crazy, then?"
"No more than usual."
"Hey!" Mulder yelps.
"I thought about it, and the background looked somewhat familiar, so I checked some other photos in the family photo albums. I found out where it is from reading the back of another picture."
"A cabin my parents rented from Dad's boss one summer. I want to go there."
"Mulder, she's probably not there now."
"I don't care. I just want to find that place. And I want you to go with me. We have Monday off because of the teachers' workshop day. Please?"
He doesn't believe for a second that I'll say no, Scully thinks. “What's in it for me?" she asks.
"Do it and I'll be your best friend," Mulder says, giving her puppy dog eyes.
"You already are!" Scully says.
"Oh. I'll think of something."
"Really," Scully says sounding intrigued."All right, I'll go with you."
"Thank you!" Mulder says, throwing his
arms around her. That's a start, Scully thinks.
8pm, Lindley home-
Grams is thrilled that Spender is over, having told Fowley a number of times he's a “nice young man," and goes into the kitchen to quickly bake some cookies. When Fowley protests that she needn't, Grams says the batter is done anyway. So she leaves Fowley and Spender sitting on the couch alone.
"You never said why you're here," Fowely says sounding curious.
Spender listens for the sound of Grams in the kitchen. When he hears her humming Joy To The World, he finally speaks."Did anything strange happen while I was gone?"
Spender hesitates, trying to think how to frame it."What I mean is, did anyone try to make you do something you didn't want to?"
"No, why?" Fowley asks, puzzled.
"It's nothing then. Someone implied that you were being bothered while I was in Canada, is all."
"As if he knows anything about me."
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Spender says. "Smells like the cookies are almost done."
"Good. I hope they're chocolate chip. I have a chocolate craving," Fowely says. Spender just gives her an unreadable look and wanders into the kitchen.
Friday 7pm, Cumberland County Civic Center-
After a three-hour car ride up to Portland Maine, they are thrilled to be standing in a mosh pit, because no one could take another second of sitting. The opening act, a band called Bad Ronald isn't very good, but before long they're mercifully off the stage, and the band Scully and Reyes really wanted to see, Jeremiah Freed, takes the stage, and the girls are in 7th heaven when their favorite song of all, Again, plays. Scully closes her eyes and sings along to the song- she knows every word by heart. Mulder smiles when he notices, he thinks it's rare indeed to see her unselfconsciously get caught up in the moment. It's not even his favorite single off the album that she's played him many times, but he realizes that there's something about the song that strikes a cord with her.
Later, as the band Default plays, Mulder finds his eyes drifting towards Fowley. Mulder was surprised that she was still planning on going, because her lack of time for everyone except Spender had made him think that she was going to bail on them. He thinks it is strange how long ago that his asking her to go to the concert seems; years might well have occurred in the span of a few short weeks- it feels forever ago that he harbored the naive hope that she returned his affections. He knows Spender's return somehow was the final nail in the metaphorical coffin, even if Spender had nothing to do with anything between he and Fowley. Mulder tells himself that he is over it, and to just enjoy the concert, but the unseen look he gives Fowley when the band plays Wasting my Time is more than a little resentful.
For Reyes, The best part of the concert is when Saliva and Nickleback plays. It isn't necessarily that they are her favorite bands, because they aren't, but she likes how she fells during the last two acts. The feel of the music is fantastic. Only when a band plays live does she feel that she's part of it- the vibrations sent through the floor, through her, connect her to it, as if it's a living part of everyone there. On a different level, though, one she's more readily able to put into words, she feels safe. She's not sure if Doggett, Mulder or Skinner realize it, but as soon as the crowd got more rambunctious, they hovered more closely, protectively, to the girls. Reyes doesn't consider herself much of a girly-girl, and never a shirking violet, but it's admittedly satisfying to have three of the guys she cares for the most keeping them from harm without even being conscious of it.
It's incredibly cold when they walk out to their car, and the wind
rips through them. Laughing, they run as quickly as they can to the
parking garage. They know they'll have quite a long wait to finally get
out of the garage, but at least in the car they're warmer. As they drive
away at last, Scully looks back at the venue, and then at the people in
the car. She wonders for a moment how many more times they'll all be
together before time and different destinies rift them apart. The thought
is so fleeting she doesn't have time to be sad before being drawn into
conversation about the concert.
Monday, 10am, Mystic Cabins, Mystic Connecticut -
Scully yawns and looks at Mulder. They have been sitting in the parked car for ten minutes, while Mulder tries to get up the nerve to approach the cabin.
The cabin is set back from the road, and the yard is sprinkled with the requisite number of pine trees needed to give it a woodsy feel. There are a dozen other cabins, five other on its side of the street, half a dozen across the street, and one at the dead end of the road. The logs that make them all are silvered with age and rain. A small lake winds it way behind the cabin of interest and the others that are on the same side of the road.
At last Mulder takes a deep breath and opens his door, climbing out. Scully scrambles to follow him; she wasn't sure he was going to get out so she didn't bother to take of her seatbelt until now. She's only half way up the walk by the time Mulder is tentatively knocking on the door.
No one answers. There are no lights on, nor are there any other signs of life. Mulder struggles with his emotions for a minute when it finally becomes clear to him that no one is in the building, and no one has probably been in quite a while. Even though he has been telling himself since figuring out where the photograph was taken that this is a long shot, his disappointment is profound. He swallows hard, surprised by the bile that wells up at the back of his throat; never before did he realize that the dashing of one's hope could have a physical effect on a person.
Before Scully can think of any way to comfort him, he bolts. She blinks, and for one scary second is treated to a vision of him throwing himself in the lake, trying to drown himself as well as his melancholy. Fear propels her feet, and she runs after him. To her vast relief, if puzzlement, she sees him scurrying from one thing in the yard to another, stopping only for seconds before choosing a new thing to examine.
"Mulder, what are you doing?" she calls to him, exasperated.
"Looking for proof," he calls back, not looking up from his hasty examination of a tree stump.
"Proof of what, exactly?"
"Proof that my sister was here, obviously," Mulder says, beginning to sound agitated.
"Mulder...it may have been years since she was here," Scully says gently."How could you hope to find something after all this time?"
"There's something here." Mulder insists stubbornly. “I know there is, and I'm going to find it."
Scully shrugs, and perches herself on the tree stump while he continues his search. Watching him makes her tired, and eventually her thoughts start to drift. It's warmer here than at home, and the utter lack of snow is shocking. It never occurred to her that driving less than 100 miles south could illustrate such a contrast in weather. Just as she's wondering if the weather forecaster's are right about the potentiality for a Christmas eve snow storm, she hears Mulder shout,"I found it!"
Scully looks up and sees him looking at the trunk of a tree. When she is standing by his side, he points to a waist high portion of the bark. Deeply scaring the bark are two primitive looking letters side by side."S.L." She stares at them, and tries for Mulder's sake to believe. "She knows her name," he says softly. As improbable as the possibility seems, she can't come up with a more logical reason for the existence of two small letters carved into a tree at a child's height.
Monday 5pm, McPhee home-
Reyes and Skinner make a quick sweep of the house, making sure it's in perfect order. They had decided that it was a good day to approach their father about possibly visiting their mom, and having the house look good would probably put him in a good mood.
Mr. McPhee certainly looks happy as he come into the house, so Skinner and Reyes trade grins. He hangs up his coat before asking," What came over you two?"
"Oh, you know, we had the day off and couldn't find anything more productive to do." Skinner jokes.
"That's both sad and nice." Mr. McPhee quips back."I have a feeling I'm being set up for something, though."
"Well, Dad...We weren't planning on pouncing on you as soon as you walked through the door." Reyes says.
"Out with it." Mr. McPhee says, still smiling.
"Dad, we miss Mom. I know you wanted her to be home for the holidays, and we did too. Do you think you could bring us to see her, though? It wouldn't be the same as having her here, but it'd be something." Skinner says.
"Please Dad?" Reyes asks.
Mr. McPhee looks at them both."If you're sure you're up to it, of course I will."
"Thanks Dad!" they both exclaim.
"I'm glad you two want to do this, because...I had that thought too, but I didn't know if you'd want to see her."
"We do. I'm so glad we're going," Reyes says. "We made dinner, too, let's eat." Mr. McPhee mugs a scared look, then laughs when Reyes and Skinner respond by pretending to look hurt.
5:30 pm Mystic Pizza-
Scully toys with the crust to her pizza and looks around the pizza parlor. "This is eerily like the movie." She notes.
"Of course it is. We couldn't go to Mystic without going to the aquarium and here. They're our cover story," he says, looking happier than he has in hours.
"Had you been to the aquarium before?" she asks, thinking of how haunting the beluga whales sounded. She hadn't expected whales.
"Sure. My parents used to bring me there when I was a little boy. I've always loved the dolphin statue out front."
Scully finishes her pizza and says. "Are we going to talk about it?"
"About what." Mulder asks.
"You're not very good at playing dumb. You know I'm talking about this morning. You haven't said a word about it since we left the cabin, and I know you're thinking about it."
Mulder's eyes drift over towards the kids playing a video game. They look like middle school kids, and they sound happy. "There's something I haven't told you," he says quietly, when he looks back to Scully.
"Really," she says evenly, but in truth she's surprised. It's not like Mulder to keep secrets.
"Remember when we were about to leave for the mall last weekend, and I ran back into the house because I forgot my list?"
"Yes, it was a little over a week ago. Of course I remember," Scully says, a bit sarcastically.
"You think you're a funny girl, don't you. Anyway, when I was getting the list I overheard my parents talking."
"That's the thing, I'm not sure what they were talking about, not for sure. I'm almost positive they were talking about the baby, though...and Sam." Mulder's voice cracks a bit. "It sounded like...like that they were supposed to have another baby. Not that they necessarily wanted one, but they were supposed to have it."
"Who would force your parents to have another baby?" Scully asks, confused.
"I don't know. But from the scared way my mother was talking, I'm pretty sure that who ever it was had to do with Sam's disappearance, too. My dad told her that nothing bad would happen this time, and they kept their word last time, so they needed to believe them."
"Why would your parents be involved with people who stole their baby, though? It doesn't make any sense."
"I know it doesn't. It has to have something to do with my Dad's work though, why else would they have had Sam at the cabin my dad said his boss owned?"
"I wish I knew," Scully says sadly.
"So do I. There's more. Dad said that when this baby was born that they'd have everything they ever wanted. Does that mean two kids, or are they going to trade the baby for something? They couldn't...couldn't have done that with Sam, could they? They didn't trade my sister for something, they couldn't have."
"I'm sure they didn't have anything to do with it, Mulder. Your parents are good people. They wouldn't have done that to her, or you."
"I have to believe that too, or how could I keep myself from hating them? "
"I'm going to find out what happened, and what's happening now, no matter what it costs me."
I just hope the cost isn't too high, Scully thinks.
Tuesday, lunch-time Capeside High-
Besides the addition of Spender, the normal make-up of the lunch table is the same. That, and Mulder is now sitting as far away from Fowley and Spender as he possibly can. Scully and Doggett are insulting each other's choice of lunch food when Reyes interrupts them.
"Mrs Sweeny told the class today that's she's pregnant. I bet the school is glad that it's going to be a summer baby so they don't have to hire a long term sub for her."
"Oh." Doggett says, sounding disappointed. “Long term subs are the most fun to torture. Remember the one that had his car taken apart by the high schoolers when we were in 6th grade? Gretchen never has confirmed or denied her involvement in that event."
"Your sister?" Mulder asks, incredulously. "You I can easily picture being part of such a foul caper, but not your sainted sister."
"If you lived with her, you'd know she's far from a saint," Doggett says firmly.
Skinner waits for a lull in conversation. "You know, Mrs. Jamerson said that she's having a baby too. That's sort of weird, isn't it? Two teachers pregnant at the same time."
"Must be something in the water. "Reyes jokes. " Good thing we bring bottled water, Scully." Scully laughs.
weird..." Mulder says absently.
3:30pm Leary Home-
Mrs Leary is sitting on the couch looking at Baby magazine. She's stops flipping through it when she notices Mulder drop his book bag in the hall.
"Oh, honey, I didn't realize you were home." She gestures towards the magazine. “There's a lot about babies and pregnancy you forget in sixteen years, so I've been doing a little cramming."
Twelve years, Mulder mentally corrects her. "You're saying I wasn't a memorable baby?" he teases.
"Of course you were! But...parents tend to remember the high light reels best, not the monotonous day to day stuff."
"Sure, you're just trying to make me feel better. You know what's strange though, Reyes and Skinner were telling me that Mrs. Sweeny and Mrs. Jamerson are pregnant too."
"I know, that's great isn't it?"
"You know?" Mulder asks.
"Yes. They're part of my book group. They told everyone at last week's meeting."
"I guess that is good news," Mulder says with forced enthusiasm.
"It is. This is one of those things that it's nice to have other people around who are going through it at the same time."
"I suppose that would make it easier. I need to do some homework, call me for dinner."
"Ok, Sweetie," Mrs. Leary says, smiling as Mulder walks out of the room.
< Voice Over>
This episode of Mulder's Creek featured music from:
Jeremiah Freed ("Again”)
Default ("Wasting my time”)
Verve Pipe (“Photograph”)
for scenes from the next Mulder's Creek
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