AUTHOR: winter baby
CHARACTERS: Mulder/Scully
SUMMARY: Birthdays and regrets.

WEBSITE: http://www.livejournal.com/users/winter_baby
FEEDBACK: winter_baby@popullus.net
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Somewhere in season 7. Scully channeling my own anger towards DD for leaving the show. Petty, aren't I?

+  Age  +

[ 02.23.00
  7:18 a.m.

She stares at herself long and hard in the mirror, searching for something but she is met only by her somber reflection. The wrinkles on her face seem deeper, and she notices that more have appeared since yesterday. The crow's feet by the edges of her eyes, the worry lines at her forehead all from age and weary years. She sighs as she puts her brush back down on the sink and drags herself out of the bathroom, away from the harsh and scrutinizing light hanging over the mirror. She stumbles into her bedroom in a tired daze, the room dark and cold because she has drawn the curtains against the early morning light. She is buttoning her blouse when the phone rings.

She stops dressing to stare at it with blank eyes and decides against picking it up. It takes her a moment to realize who it will be on the other end of the line. She doesn't want to talk to her, not today of all days. The phone rings a few more times until the machine clicks on and plays out her hollow recording. A pause and a beep later, her mother's voice fills the empty room.

Dana? I guess you've already left for work. I just called to say happy birthday. Maybe we can have dinner tonight. Call me back when you get this.

When her mother finally hangs up the phone, she erases the message with a press of a button and digs through her closet for a matching skirt. She finishes dressing and grabs her keys and suitcase in a hurry, grateful to leave her home. Her age is etched onto the walls, and the long years spent in this lonely apartment only remind her again what day it is.

At least at work she is certain that no one will wish her a happy birthday. Mulder always forgets and this year she is thankful for his inconsideration. One less person to remind her that she's getting old and has done nothing really valuable with her life.

As she reaches her car in the parking garage, she remembers that when she was younger, her dream was to be a doctor, a loving wife, a perfect mother. She doesn't know how to tell her inner child she is none of that. It's funny how things turned out. Not really funny, but that's the only word she can think of.

She drives faster than usual, occasionally glancing at the climbing speedometer needle. A police car would undoubtedly pull her over but all she has to do is flash her badge and lie about an emergency. They would let her go; they always do. Driving over the speed limit gives her a cheap thrill, a fleeting high that subsides quickly because she knows that no matter how fast she goes, she will always get away with it. For some reason, she conveniently forgets the reality that she could crash and seriously injure herself, or worse.

Time has taken away her youth and apparently her logic too. The two things she values most about herself and they are gone just because today is today.

Today, she is thirty-six. A sigh escapes her lips.

She never used to be this old.

[ 7:38 a.m. ]

The airport is full of people, despite the early hour. She spots a couple walking towards their gate, hand in hand, totally oblivious to the world around them. They're probably headed for Bermuda or some other romantic island, looking forward to sun and sex and the beach. When was the last time she was on a trip like that? She can't remember, or refuses to at least.

Mulder is waiting at the gate already, leaning against a telephone booth. His one carry-on bag is resting by his feet.

I was just about to call you, Scully, he says quickly and she can tell he's lying. He hands her a white envelope, her name scrawled on the front, and the pen is still in his hand. He wasn't going to call her; he was just using the telephone booth to write on. She opens the envelope and pulls out a card, staring at the cheap flower design on the front before reading the inside.

Never thought we'd make it this far. Happy 37th.

She doesn't want this and hardly anticipated it, but it's in her hand and Mulder's staring at her expectantly. She looks down at it again, avoiding his eyes. He wrote thirty-seven but she doesn't bother to correct him. Instead, she gives him a smile, not a genuine one but he seems to buy it, and she chokes out a small whisper of a Thank you.

Come on, Scully, we're going to be late, he tells her as he picks up his bag.

He places his hand on the small of her back, like so many times before that she barely even feels his touch there anymore, and he leads her to the gate. She slips the card into her bag and sighs as she passes the gift shop. Mulder's card is the first one on display. It costs ninety cents with tax.

Today, she is thirty-six. And not even worth a buck.

[ 8:43 a.m. ]

She forgot how much she loves the window seat.

Flight attendants are serving breakfast but she doesn't want either the omelet or the French toast. Mulder asks for the eggs, eating quietly next to her as she stares out the window.

It was snowing when they lifted off, but it was a light flurry and just beginning, so no real danger. She watched as the flakes drifted past the plastic glass while they were taking off, and now she watches the snow fall away beneath her as the plane rises above the clouds. The righteous blue sky stretches on forever, the snow floats beneath her without ever touching her, and she's flying.

Mulder reaches his arm in front of her face and pulls the shade down abruptly. She loses her sky outside, and she glares at him.

I can't sleep with that sun in my eyes, he explains and pulls the itchy blanket up to his chin. It takes him a moment, but soon he's snoring softly. She sighs and reaches into her bag. After digging and rummaging and opening different pockets, she finally pulls out the birthday card.

On the back of the card she writes, I'm thirty-six, jackass, and I'm worth more than a dollar.

She slips it into Mulder's carry-on bag, which is shoved under the seat in front of him. He'll find it when he's unpacking and get angry or upset but she doesn't care. She pushes the window shade back up and stares out at the falling snow beneath her, at the impossibly blue sky that never ends.

And she's soaring.

[ 11:26 a.m. ]

Iowa is just flat land in all directions. She absently follows Mulder across the field as he interrogates the dimwitted farmer. Cows who mysteriously died in the middle of the night and their eyes gouged out. She told Mulder it was a bunch of bored teenagers who started a cult, devil worship. As usual he didn't listen and she was tired of repeating herself. So she didn't. Instead she remained silent as she stared out into the wet fields and stormy sky.

What do you think, Scully? Mulder tears her away from the landscape and she meets his dark gaze.

What? she answers confused. She hears him sigh.

The cows, Scully. And their missing eyes?

He sounds frustrated. She just shrugs her shoulder and watches the farmer as he disappears into the barn.

You know, he starts to say, you didn't have to come if you didn't want to. I could have taken care of this X-file

Mulder, she cuts him off, this isn't an X-file. I hardly call a bunch of dead blind cows an X-file. It's completely explainable, and if you had been listening to me before you would have known that.

He doesn't give an answer and she doesn't bother to probe him for one. He's done this too many times, dismissing her, frustrating her, nagging her. She's tired, and every time he drags her to another useless town on another useless case she feels a piece of her slip away. She has no more energy left to argue, so she turns around and heads towards the car.

Scully, he calls after her but she ignores him. Her name falls to the ground, unanswered. It means nothing to her anymore because she knows this scene all too well. He yells her name one more time but she keeps walking, leaving him behind.

The air is wet and cold, the mists clinging to her overcoat. Mulder disappears into the fog behind her and all that's left, all that matters, is the dark land that surrounds her.

[ 12:14 p.m. ]

Her motel door is heavy; she wonders what it's supposed to protect her from. She pulls it open and Mulder is standing there, angry maybe but she can't really tell. He looks down at her, and sighs.

So you were right, Scully, he says. Three teenagers just confessed. The occult and stuff.

Yeah, she answers him, I know. The sheriff called me before. I already booked our flight back to Washington.

Oh, he simply says. He shifts his weight awkwardly, and when she doesn't say anything else, he heads back towards his room. She slams the door behind him.

[ 4:10 p.m. ]

The plane is quiet. People have their headphones on and are watching the in-flight movie. Scully doesn't bother.

She doesn't have the window seat this time; Mulder does. She would ask to trade if they were talking to each other, but they haven't said two words since they left Iowa. She thinks maybe she should have been nicer to him, less harsh but what difference does it make? She just wants to go home.

Mulder's eyes begin to droop, slowly until finally they're closed and his headphones slip off his ears. She reaches into his carry-on bag and pulls out the birthday card. He never had a chance to unpack, so it's still where she left it.

It's stupid, she thinks, to confront Mulder about this. It wouldn't solve anything, and it definitely wouldn't help at this point. She rips the card into even pieces, and dumps it into the empty cup on her tray. The flight attendant passes by and throws it out for her.

[ 9:47 p.m. ]

She's just about to go to bed when the doorbell rings. Her apartment is dark, but she doesn't bother to turn on any of the lights. She knows who it is, and hes a lot more comfortable in the dark. So is she, maybe.

Mulder's standing there, holding a case of beer. She's almost self-conscious about her pajamas but then she shrugs it off. It's only Mulder, anyway. Who cares if he sees her in flannel?

Thought we should have a proper celebration, he says holding up the beer, for your birthday.

She nods, and lets him into her apartment. Mulder plops down onto the couch and grabs the remote. When he turns the TV on, AMC is playing Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart, in all his black and white glory, is kissing Ingrid Bergman. It would be romantic if this were any other night, if Mulder were any other man.

She sits down next to him and draws her feet onto the couch. Mulder passes her a beer from the case; it's warm but she thinks cold beer would be too much to ask for, from him at least.

She doesn't enjoy the movie as much as she thinks she should. Ingrid Bergman is beginning to frustrate her. Why doesn't the girl just take the visa and hop the next boat out of there? The stupid bitch is staying behind for her husband or for Bogart. None of them are worth it.

The beer is beginning to make her sleepy, or maybe it's because she hasn't slept very well the past few days. Late night movies can't be helping. She feels Mulder's eyes on her, and that would be okay if she could just ignore him. But Mulder isn't the type of man to be ignored.

What? she whispers without looking at him. If she looks at him then she'd have to have a real conversation instead of the monosyllabic phrases they've been occasionally saying to each other, and only when necessary.

Feel old? he asks. She thinks that's supposed to be a rude question, but somehow Mulder makes it sounds like he's just asking for more beer.

She nods a little, clutching the neck of her bottle.

Yeah, he says with a sigh, me too.

She figures this is the part where he gives her a little pep talk about the benefits of aging, about being young at heart or some other bullshit like that. But he doesn't, and maybe she expected as much.

They don't say anything more. The movie drags on but finally it ends, and she gets up without a word. The empty beer bottles are left on the coffee table and Mulder watches her as she disappears into the bedroom. The door shuts, and she leaves him on the couch by himself.

He can stay or he can go.

Really, she doesn't care either way.

[ end ]

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