Title: Mulder's Creek: 21. When We Are Seven
Summary: Has Grams' friend bought a fountain of youth? Fowley and Mulder try to find out.
Mulder and Scully sit on the roof of the porch, and stare at the crescent moon. There's just enough room there for them to stretch out their legs as they sit side by side. One cloud slowly passing the moon, veiling parts of it, but other than that the sky is completely clear. Hundreds of stars shine bright pinpoints in the night sky.
"The stars like this sort of remind me of the light-brite I used to have when I was little." Mulder reminisces sounding wistful.
"Maybe I'll get you one for Christmas." Scully teases him.
" There are stranger gifts." Mulder trails off and looks at the stars again." Do you know what the best part of summer is?"
"No, Mulder, what?" Scully asks, her fingers seeking his in the dark.
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"If I knew, I wouldn't have asked, would I?"
"You probably would, just to irritate me," Scully complains.
"You sound irritated now, so I suppose I wouldn't have needed to, were my goal to annoy you," Mulder says with a sage nod that Scully can barely see.
"Mulder, promise me one thing."
"Anything," he replies promptly.
"Promise me you won't go into law. That wouldn't be fair to anyone."
"That's a little insulting...hey, I thought you thought I ought to be in the FBI," he reminds her.
"God help us all." She laughs while Mulder gives her a puzzled look.
Sunday 8:30am, Potter home-
Alex wanders into Scully's room wearing Monsters Inc. PJs, which Scully has always found ironically amusing, and scrambles onto her bed. He bunches up her blanket while watching her get her shoes on and do her hair.
"What's up, Alexander?" Scully asks when she's gotten bored of waiting for him to say something.
"Mommy went to the Ice House already. She said to bug you for breakfast." He says, and Scully is impressed by how well spoken he's become in such a short time. She supposes she shouldn't be surprised, because one of her mother's favorite topics was how well she and Bessie spoke as little children.
Scully is suddenly seized by a perverse desire to tease her nephew. "So...you want bugs for breakfast. Gotcha. Do want lady bugs or dragon flies?"
"Well, maybe we could get a few ants or grasshoppers, but no bees or anything else that stings. They could sting us while we eat them."
Alex stares at her, and the expression on his face seems to indicate that he thinks she's lost her mind. "I want cereal and toast!"
Scully reaches down and pats his curly head. "Why didn't you tell me that to begin with? I thought you wanted bugs."
Alex follows her to the kitchen, still giving her suspicious looks. He relaxes once she pours his cereal into a bowl for him. Scully pours some for herself, and thinks about how she and Bessie are still barely speaking. Though she assured Mulder that she and her sister would soon put things to rights between them, it's taking longer than she thought it would. Bessie seems to be waiting for her to admit that she doesn't hate their father, and Scully feels she can't admit something that's not true. At least she has to talk to me at work, she thinks as she butters their toast.
Monday afternoon, Lindley home-
Fowley mopes around the house, trying to fight off the urge to pick up the phone and call either Spender or Reyes. She doesn't want to call Spender, because she's half-afraid that if she speaks to him, she'll find herself taking him back without thinking things through.
And she doesn't want to call Reyes, because she's not ready to forgive her. She knows that it's unfair to blame the other girl for the problems in her relationship, since Spender is the one who caused them, but she suffers from blame the messenger syndrome. She can't help but think that if she didn't know that Spender was unbalanced, he wouldn't be, and she could continue believing that there was nothing wrong between them. Which is why she feels so resentful of Reyes for forcing her to accept things she would have rather not have.
She tells herself that it does no good to keep thinking about her former boyfriend and her estranged friend, but she can't stop wondering what they're doing. Maybe there are other people in Capeside she should think about instead...
Tuesday morning, Leary home-
"Mulder, you have a guest!" his mother's voice floats up the stairs. He figures that it's Scully, so he takes the time to save his game before leaving his room. When he gets downstairs he surprised to see Fowley standing in his kitchen.
"Sorry I took so long, I thought it was Scully," Mulder says sheepishly.
"And she doesn't mind waiting?" Fowley asks innocently.
"Oh, she minds, she's just reigned to it," Mulder says with a grin. "What brings you over here? I haven't seen much of you came back."
"Yeah, and that's my fault. I need to spend more time with friends...anyway, the reason that I'm here is that I could use some help."
"Sure, what do you need help with?" Mulder asks.
"Apparently Grams' church had an auction last week, and now I've been roped into, I mean asked to, deliver some of the items people won. However, some of the things are way to heavy for just one person..."
"I'd be glad to help. I'm surprised that Reyes and Skinner didn't volunteer to help, though, since their dad is big into the 'community service' thing. Which is how we all ended up volunteering with the kids, right? "
"They're busy," Fowely says quickly. She doesn't actually know their plans for the day, since she didn't ask them. She opts for a fib instead of explaining everything to Mulder.
"I'd suggest we ask Scully, but...she'd kill me if she heard me say it, but I think she's too little to be much help. Just you and me then, ready to go?"
"Sure. We have to go to the church first to pick things up."
Fowley and Mulder have sweat on their brows by the time they are struggling with the last piece from the auction. It is a large ornate fountain made of black marble, and it is all they can do to carry the heavy thing. Fowley tries to catch her breath enough to speak as they near the porch. "We're supposed to leave it on the porch. Mrs. Smith won't be home until tomorrow."
"The Mrs. Smith?" Mulder asks, thinking of the tale Reyes and Skinner told him.
"Yes, the Mrs. Smith with the possessed turkey."
"I thought it turned out to be mechanical." Mulder pants.
"It was. Hey, watch my foot!" she exclaims as the base of the fountain comes perilously close to her toes when they set it down.
"I couldn't even see your foot," Scully complains. "All done?" He gives her a hopeful look.
"Let's go for ice cream, then. It's hot!"
"I noticed," she says, giggling and pointing to the line of sweat soaking into his shirt. Mulder just sticks his tongue out at her.
Tuesday Afternoon, the Ice House-
Since she's on break, Scully has taken off her shoes and socks and is soaking her feet in the water by the patio. Reyes is doing the same.
"It's not as good as wading..." she starts.
"...but it does cool you off," Scully finishes with a grin. "This is one huge perk to having a restaurant so close to the docks, not to mention that so many boaters stop by." Scully wiggles her toes in the water." So, why are you here? It's not that I mind having company on my break, but..."
Reyes stares out at the sailboats. "Well...I'm sure you know that Fowley is back in town. I've hung out with her a few times since she got back, but I think I might have dealt our friendship a moral blow a couple of days ago."
"What did you do that was so terrible?" Scully asks, immediately thinking of Bessie and her father.
"I don't want to go into specifics, since it's as much her private business as mine, but Spender told me a bunch of terrible things about her, none of which were at all true, and I had to tell her. I mean, I had to, because she seemed to think that things were peachy between them, and they're not. So of course she's furious with me for wreaking the illusion," Reyes says, sighing morosely.
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, my sister is currently not speaking to me, except to give me instructions at work, because I hate my father and don't feel badly that we had to turn him into the police last week." Scully says, putting her socks and shoes on.
"Of course it doesn't make me feel better," Reyes complains.
"What I'm getting at is eventually they'll get over it. They have to." Scully says with a conviction that belies the look of doubt in her eyes.
mid-morning Wednesday, Grams' Church-
Fowley doesn't attend services with Grams, not the weekday ones Grams favors nor Sunday ones, much to her grandmother's disappointment, but they do have a ritual: Fowley meets her at the church and they walk home together. When Fowley arrives at the church she sees Grams talking to another woman.
The woman looks to be in her mid-fifties, and for a moment Fowley wonders who she could be. Finally it dawns on her why she looks vaguely familiar. Grams smiles and waves her over. "Gladace, I think you've met my grand-daughter Fowley before?"
"Oh, yes, I met her at Thanksgiving, didn't I, dear?" Fowley nods silently, still finding it hard to believe it's the same woman. "That nice boy you brought over helped me figure out what was wrong with my turkey."
"Skinner's handy that way," Fowely says.
"I'm sure he'll make some girl a wonderful husband some day." Gladace Smith says benignly. Fowley bites her lower lip to keep from blurting out her opinion how unlikely that is.
Gladace leaves them a couple of minutes later, smiling as she goes. As Fowley walks with Grams she finally asks," Does she look...different to you?"
"Yes, dear, but I wouldn't feel right criticizing someone's appearance." Grams says.
"Oh, I don't mean she looks bad. She just looks a lot younger than she did the last time I saw her is all."
"Maybe she discovered the fountain of youth." Grams quips, not noticing the startled look on Fowley's face.
Mulder picked up the phone on the first ring. "Yellow."
"Um...blue. Hey Mulder, I need to talk to you about that fountain." Fowley tells him.
"The fountain we delivered to Mrs. Smith?"
"No, some other big-@ss fountain."
"What is with people lately? Everyone is so snippy." Mulder moans.
"Sorry. Anyway, that fountain. Do you....think it's possible it's the fountain of youth?"
"You're messing with me, aren't you. I say it's remotely possible, then you laugh at me, right?" Mulder asks, his voice colored with suspicion.
"No. I'm actually serious."
"You're really serious?"
"As a heart attack." Fowley tells him.
"Freaky, I'm the skeptic for a change. So what makes you think that it's the fountain of youth?"
"Well, I ran into Mrs. Smith today, and you'd swear she was fifty-five if you saw her."
"So she's in her late 60's!"
"Oh. That is odd."
"Yeah, especially since she looked every one of her years the last time I saw her," Fowely replies.
"So how would we prove it?" Mulder says, glad to for once be on the asking end of that question.
"I have an idea..."
Wednesday afternoon, Potter home-
Bessie is at the stove, as usual, making dinner for herself, Scully and Alexander before going over to the Ice House to supervise the dinner rush. Scully is entertaining Alexander at the table by teaching him "where is thumbkin," but she keeps glancing at her sister with expectant looks.
Bessie puts down the pot-holder and turns to her, her hand on her hip. "I sense that you have something to say," she comments dryly. Then she turns to her son. "Alex, go wash your hands for dinner."
"Aww, Mom!" He groans, but jumps out of his chair and heads towards the bathroom.
"Now that we're alone, you may as well come out with it," Bessie tells her.
"I...I just don't like that we haven't been speaking lately," Scully says, berating herself because she thought it sounded lame.
"We do talk," Bessie says, not suppressing her sigh. "I'm talking to you right now. And we talk at work, we talk about chores..."
"But that's not what I mean, and you know it. I mean we don't talk about real things lately."
"Why do suppose that is?"
"Because you're mad at me, of course. Look, I know you feel guilty about having had to turn Dad in, but I don't. You and I, we had completely different childhoods," Scully says, a plaintive note creeping into her voice. "You were grown up when everything went to hell."
"You tell me again in a handful of years how grown up you feel." Bessie says, eyes flashing dangerously.
Scully holds her hands out in placating gesture. "Ok, ok. I know you were still young, but at least you were older than I am now. I think I'd be a different person if we hadn't lost our parents when I was so young, but I don't know if it'd be better or worse, but I'd be different. I do know that how things actually turned out have everything to do with how I feel about Dad. It was bad enough that Mom died, but then he abandoned our family too. Maybe when I'm older I'll be able to forgive him. Now, though, I know for sure that I'm not ready to let him back into my heart. I'm sorry, and I wish this hadn't come between us. " Scully doesn't realize that each of her cheeks has a fat tear decorating it.
Bessie looks at her for a few seconds, then hugs her. "If that's the way you feel, I guess that's the way you feel," Bessie says, wiping away Scully's tears. "What do you say to me renting some silly movie after work tonight, then staying up all night watching it?"
"That sounds really good," Scully tells her, nearly crying all over again, this time from relief. "I'll have the popcorn waiting."
10 pm Gladace Smith's house-
Mulder crouches in the dark beside Fowley. Her arms are cradling an ancient cat, and Mulder has a small bowl in his hands. They creep up to the porch, and look at the fountain which is now full of water.
"All you have to do is scoop some water into the bowl, then I'll get Marigold to drink it," Fowley whispers.
"Where did you get that thing?" Mulder asks, looking at the cat.
"She belongs to one of the neighbors. They're out for the night, so hopefully they won't even notice she's missing."
Mulder puts on a pair of gloves and scoops up some of the water, then carries the bowl away from the house while Fowley follows with the cat. Once they're in the shadows he puts the bowl on the ground. The cat begins to lap up the water. " Now what?"
"Now we bring her home and I keep an eye on her to see if the water makes her younger. It shouldn't take long because Gladace has only had the fountain for two days... Mulder, what's with the gloves?"
"If it is the fountain of youth, I'm not taking any chances. It's taken me seventeen years to get this old, and I don't want to suffer any backsliding in my age. "
"You're being silly." Fowley chides.
"I'm being silly? I'm being silly?? I'm not the one who abducted the neighbor's cat to get it to drink water from the fountain, am I?" Mulder sputters.
"All right, we've both being silly. Thanks for helping me out with this, I'll let you know how it works out with the cat," Fowely says as she scoops the decrepit yellow cat up into her arms.
Thursday afternoon, McPhee home-
Reyes is sitting in an armchair, but only technically. Instead of sitting in a typical fashion, she's got her legs draped over one arm of the chair, and she's waving one foot in the air as she reads a novel from her personal summer reading list, since the school didn't assign one.
She feels a tap on her shoulder, and looks up to see her brother towering over her. "What are you reading?"
"The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver," she tells him.
" Is it any good?" he asks as he throws himself on the couch.
"Sure. I feel bad for the kids and keep hoping their father will die, though," she replies with a wry grin.
"You? Wishing someone's death? Why I never!" Skinner says, adopting a shocked expression.
"Well, it's not as though he's a real person, now, is it? So...what's up?"
"Actually, I wanted to ask you what happened with that friend of yours that you told me about. Call it an insatiable curiosity about whether or not you took my advice. It's been, what, a week? And you haven't said another peep about it." He answers in a slightly disapproving tone.
"As a matter of fact, I did take your advice."
"And? " Skinner persists.
"And she's not talking to me. And she broke up with the creep."
"Ouch," he says, cringing. "Guess that was a win-lose result."
"Definitely," Reyes says with a sigh. "Maybe she'll talk to me again before the end of the summer."
"Oh, I'm sure she will," Skinner says, standing up to give her a companionable pat on the shoulder. "You're not the type of person people can stay mad at for long."
"That was a really sweet thing to say, Skinner," she says, then looks worried. "You didn't find out I'm dying or anything did you?"
"Why I oughta..," he says, shaking his fist at her, but laughing.
Friday morning, Lindley home-
Fowley crouches down by stone wall that separates Grams' yard from the next, and calls softly for Marigold. She puts down a bowl of gourmet cat food down to tempt the animal. Eventually she sees the cat coming slowly towards her from the direction of its owner's porch.
She's disappointed, because the cat looks as old as it always has, and moves as slowly as ever. Still, she reaches out to pet it while it sniffs at the food. Her mind wanders while the cat eats its breakfast. Spending time with Mulder has reminded her why she wasn't interested in him in the fall. Scully may be attracted to tall, dark, moody and strange, but she's sure now that she isn't. For a second she feels a pang of longing for Spender, then shakes her head to clear it. She pets the cat again and thinks, I'm better off al-
"What are you doing?" A voice says behind her, and she looks back to see her grandmother standing behind her.
"Making friends with Marigold."
"Oh, that's nice. You might want to ask her owners if it's ok to feed her in the future, some old cats need special diets."
Fowley started to feel guilty, but the cat turns its nose at the food, so she figures that there is no harm done. "You know Grams, I got this silly idea that you were right about Mrs. Smith discovering the fountain of youth...so I got Mulder to help me give some of the water from her fountain to Marigold." Fowley confesses.
She expects Grams to be cross with her for having done that to the cat, but the woman laughs instead, which puzzles her. "Oh, Fowley, she got a face lift while she was staying with her daughter. That's where she was when you and Mulder dropped off the fountain."
"Gee, now I feel really dumb," Fowely says, her cheeks becoming red.
"Don't. Everyone wants to believe that there's a way to keep us from getting older, so you shouldn't feel ashamed in indulging in that sort of belief yourself."
"I guess," Fowely says, thinking of how she's going to have to tell Mulder that she was wrong.
"You know, though, Dear, I think there's a way you and Mulder could sort of experience a fountain of youth yourselves," Grams says, then begins to lay out a plan that makes Fowley smile.
To be continues
8:30 pm, Lindley home-
Mulder and Doggett throw more logs onto the fire, which is already burning high. Grams sweet-talked the fire marshal into allowing the bonfire, which took some persuading since the summer has started off so dry. Fortunately the man is Mr. Brooks' best friend, so he was finally convinced that if she supervised, there would be no problems with it getting out of hand. She smiles to herself as the boys follow her instructions about creating a safe fire. She turns to look at her granddaughter who is across the yard.
"I'm glad you came." Fowley tells Reyes while they open bags of marshmallows.
Reyes gives her a tentative smile. "I was sort of surprised you asked me, to tell you the truth."
"Friends some times fight and get angry at one another. It's not the end of the world, right?"
"Right. So tell me more about the boy over there with your brother." Fowley says, motioning to Reed with her thumb.
"Oh, he's a nice guy...who has a serious crush on Skinner."
Fowley rolls her eyes. "It really figures."
"Hey, I think that Krycek broke up with his air-head girlfriend, Sandy..." Reyes says, then ducks when Fowley threatens to swat her.
Grams looks at them as they all sit around the fire, and nods to herself. " We are gathered here tonight to search for the fountain of youth. My granddaughter and Mr. Leary thought they found it a few days ago, but were mistaken, because they looked in the wrong place. It's actually here, in this bag," she says, holding up a black velvet bag. "Who would like find out how much of our youth can be recaptured?"
Everyone looks at each other, and finally Doggett stands up. "I'd love to have the honors, Mrs. Lindley."
"Reach into the bag and remove one item." She instructs him. He puts his hand in and takes it out, something small grasped in his fingers. He uncurls them revealing a polished stone with the number seven carved into it. "Ah, so we're seven," she tells them. "Each one of us will explain what life is like when we are seven." Everyone smiles, finally understanding the game. "Doggett, why don't you tell us about something that's happening in your life?"
Doggett smiles and looks at everyone around the fire. "I'm seven years old, and I'm excited because I'm finally going to start the first grade in a couple of months. I still sort of resent the fact that Mom and Dad signed me up for an experimental school program called 'readiness.' Sure, I'm hyper, but my brother and sisters all went to first grade when they were six, so it makes me mad. But Mulder and Scully were in my class- he day dreamed too much and she was too shy- so it was better than I thought it was going to be. Today I went to the beach with my brother, which is weird, since he never does anything with me. He's a teenager, so he's too cool to play with my anymore. Today we had fun, even if I got tired on the walk back. He gave me a piggyback ride, even."
"Doggett, how about you pick who goes next?" Grams suggests. "We'll keep it going that way."
"In that case, I'd like Skinner to go next," Doggett says.
Skinner scowls at him. "I'm seven years old, and tonight Tim and I caught fireflies. Tim is nine, almost ten, so he's an experienced firefly catcher. I haven't done it before because they're weren't any last summer, and before that I was too little to go with him. He always did things first, because he's the oldest. Sometimes I think it's not fair, and other times I'm glad there's someone who isn't scared to do the things I'm doing for the first time. I think Dad calls it 'the benefit of voice of experience.' Tonight, though, I was out there, catching fireflies in a jar. Your turn, Reyes."
Reyes remembers the night he told them about. "I'm seven years old, and I feel left out. My brothers went out to catch fireflies, but wouldn't let me come because I'm a girl," she says, glancing at Skinner, who has a guilty look on his face. "Mom noticed that I was sad, so she told me that we should do something special together, just her and me. So we made cookies. At first I wanted the cookies only her and I, but I asked me if being left out felt bad, and I said yes. So we shared." Reyes finished with a smile. "Reed?"
Reed's nervous blush can be seen even by firelight. "Um...I'm seven years old, and my uncle craig is taking me to a Phish concert. I don't know the music, so I'm not caring much about that, but it's my first concert ever, and it's so exciting. I can't believe how many people are crammed into the venue, but it's outside, so it's ok, like a big party. Every time I see Uncle Craig after that he asks me if I remember it, and looks so happy that it had a lasting impression on me." Reed finishes with a smile. "Scully's turn."
"Ok, I'm seven years old, and like Reyes, I'm spending special time with a parent. It's just me, Dad, and Fenway park. On the ride there Dad tells me how excited he is that I want to see a game with him. Bessie was never interested in sports at all, so he's thrilled that I am. So I don't tell him that I don't like baseball either, I just like spending time with him. It doesn't seem like a big fib to let him believe, since he's happy. When we get there we root for the Red Sox, buy Fenway franks, and sing 'Take me out to the ball game.' " Scully finishes, for a moment remembering what it was like to spend time with her father. "Ok, Mulder's next."
"Ok, I'm seven years old, and I'm buying a birthday card. I only get a dollar a week, so it's taken me two weeks to save up for the card- I don't successfully lobby for an allowance increase until Christmas. Anyway, I slipped away from Grandma in the mall and run to the card shop. I didn't want her to come with me, because she'd ask questions. I buy a card that has a little girl on a rocking horse on it, and the words 'So you're three!' written in big enough letters that I can read it without help. After I pay for it, I cram it into my back pocket, with part of it sticking up under my t-shirt, and wander to the toy store. Grandma finds me there and figures I was there the whole time. When we finally get home I bring it to my room and write 'Happy birthday Sam' in my messy scrawl, then hide it under my mattress," Mulder says, staring into the fire so he doesn't have to see the pitying looks. "Grams turn."
"Oh, let me see... it's been a long time since I was seven," she says with a chuckle. "I'm seven years old, and we're in the middle of a war. They're calling it world war two, which scares me, because I think that it means the whole world will literally be at world. One afternoon the thought overwhelms me, so I crawl onto my Papa's lap, and ask him if I have to be a solider too. He laughs and tells me no, most people don't have to be soldiers. Then he carefully explains to me why they call it a world war, and why we're fighting it. And for some reason it made me feel better and worse, all at the same time." Grams tells them. "Fowley, it looks like you're last."
Fowley shrugs a bit and nearly confesses that she hasn't thought of anything that doesn't make her bitter. Then she has a sudden inspiration. "I'm seven years old, and there's a turtle in the garden pond. I don't tell my mother, because I brought them up once and she dismissed all reptiles as 'dirty animals,' which I don't think is fair since this turtle seems clean. He spends most of his day in the clean clear water. I like to go out there and lie on my belly, watching him as he swims back and forth, back and forth. It reminds me of summer, and I wish it was summer always." Fowley smiles at her grandmother. "Thanks Grams, this was a really fun idea."
"I'm glad you think so," Grams says fondly. "I thought it was a lot of fun too. And it's nice to know that no one is going to be doing any cat-napping on my watch," she adds pointedly, which confuses everyone but Mulder and Fowley." Does anyone want to make S'mores?"
"Yes!" they all cry, getting up to help her make them while she laughs.
Produced by CC, KW and Neoxphile
This episode of Mulder's Creek featured music from:
Green Wheel ("Breathe")
Nickleback ("Worthy to say")
Stay tuned for scenes from the next episode of Mulder's Creek
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