Title: A Normal Life
Author: Polly - email@example.com
Feedback: Welcome and appreciated
Classification: MSR, Challenge
Spoilers: Takes place in Season 7, between "En Ami" and "Chimera." Little references to lots of episodes.
Disclaimer: Not mine; all XF characters belong to 1013 Productions.
Archive: If you want it, it's yours; just let me know.
Notes: Written for the Haven April Challenge; elements at the end.
Thanks: Thanks to Sybil who continues to challenge me with her challenges; and to Peg's Girl for being a beta extraordinaire!
Summary: Normal is what you make it.
* * *  * * *
SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2000
Scully was greeted by a string of expletives as she stepped out of Mulder's bedroom, rolling up the sleeves of her cotton pullover. After a cold snap in the middle of the week, today was unusually warm; and Scully was glad to finally be out of her Sunday-go-to-mass navy blue suit. Springtime in Washington was always a sartorial challenge.
"I don't think hitting it is going to help," she said, smiling appreciatively at the firm blue-jean-covered posterior presented for her viewing pleasure. Mulder was kneeling under the desk, fiddling with something at the back of the console, his bottom wiggling seductively as he blindly tried to find whatever it was he was trying to reach.
"Maybe not, but it'll make me feel better," he muttered, backing out from under the desk and tapping a few keys on the keyboard while still on his knees.
"What do you think the problem is, Mr. Goodwrench?" Scully asked, hands on her hips as she watched the spiky brown hair disappear under the desk again. She doubted he had run anything through his hair except his fingers after emerging from the shower, and yet the slightly tousled 'do' made him look incredibly sexy. Men had all the luck.
"I think it's the modem," he replied. "I can't get an - OUCH! Dammit!" Bang!
Scully chuckled to herself. Mr. Fix-It Mulder was not. She was about to scold him for hitting the defenseless computer again when a whiff of something made her sniff the air.
"Mulder, it smells like something's burning," she crouched down to look at him under the desk. "Is that the modem?"
"No." He jerked a thumb toward the kitchen. "I tried to toast one of those bagels you brought while you were gone, but the toaster button got stuck and it burned. There was a little smoke, but no flames. Dammit!"
Scully shook her head and followed the smell to its source. She must have been so focused on changing her clothes when she first arrived at his apartment that she didn't notice the pungent odor. The toaster sat forlornly on the counter, having apparently been put out of its misery by a knife sticking out of one of its slots. She peeked inside to see a half a bagel burned beyond recognition. How long had it been burning before he even noticed it, she wondered. And had he remembered to unplug it before inserting the knife? Mr. Fix-It, indeed.
She jiggled the knife slightly and the spring released, popping blackened bagel crumbs all over the counter. She reluctantly declared toaster and bagel a total loss, tossed them in the trash can, and prepared to warm her own bagel in the microwave.
When she returned to the living room, bagel in one hand, coffee in the other, Mulder was back in the desk chair, furiously clacking computer keys and cursing quietly under his breath. She sat her breakfast on the coffee table, took a seat on the sofa, and picked up the newspaper to scan the headlines. It was still in pristine condition, untouched by MulderHands, conclusive evidence provided by the fact that the Sports section was still in its proper place. He'd obviously been immersed in the computer since right after she'd left for church, with only a short break for bagel burning.
"Dammit!" he shouted again, slapped the monitor once for good measure, and jumped up from the computer chair. "I'm gonna call the guys and see if they can come over and take a look." He picked up the portable phone from the coffee table and began to punch in the familiar Lone Gunmen number.
"Don't bother, they're gone to Florida, remember?" Scully blew on her coffee before taking a sip.
Mulder's finger hovered just above the phone's keypad. "What?"
"Mulder, do you ever listen to anything people tell you?" Scully asked, placing her mug on the coffee table. "The guys called the office two days ago, remember? Told you they were going to Florida for some kind of UFO convention? Though personally I think that was just an excuse to be in the Sunshine State with a bunch of inebriated college girls likely to remove their bikini tops during spring break."
Mulder just stared at her.
"They promised they would bring you back some new UFO data? Mulder, does any of this ring a bell?"
He tossed the phone onto the couch cushions. "Maybe if I take the back off the console ..." and he plopped back in the desk chair again.
Scully dropped the newspaper on the coffee table and walked over to stand beside him. She cherished these fleeting moments when she could tower over him.
"Mulder, have you even looked out the window today?"
He pulled a screwdriver out of the desk drawer and looked up at her. "No. Why?"
"Mulder, it is a *beautiful* spring day in our Nation's Capitol. The sky is blue, the air is clear, the birds are singing. Let's get out of here and enjoy it!"
"But I have work to do, Scully," he said, "if I could just get this stupid thing to operate."
"Mulder, it's Sunday," she implored. "A day of rest. And we're not really on a case now that I know of. What is so important?"
He looked down, nervously turning the screwdriver over and over in his hands.
"Mullllderrrr," she said. "What aren't you telling me? What are you up to?"
"I was doing some research on Jason McPeck and Marjorie Butters," he replied, still not meeting her gaze. "You know, those two folks who were touched by a cigarette-smoking-angel. And I've been reading those communications between 'Cobra' and the person posing as you more carefully. Looking for answers."
He had been furious with her for taking the ill-advised trip with C.G.B. Spender, but after a few days his facade had crumbled and they had been extremely close ever since. She thought he was so glad that she had come to no harm that he'd dropped the subject completely. But obviously she was wrong.
And now he was sitting here, not able to look her in the eye, chewing on his bottom lip like a naughty little boy waiting to be admonished for the exact same offense he had accused her of - keeping secrets. Ordinarily, she would let him have it. But not today.
"Well, the computer's broken, so you can't do any more work today anyway," she said. He looked up at her with a huge smile, obviously glad for his reprieve. "Come on. Let's forget everything else and live a normal life, just for today. Let's go outside and *do* something."
Mulder shut down the computer and swiveled the chair to face her. He circled his arms around her, cupping her beautiful ass, and buried his face against her stomach. "I can think of a lot of things we can do *inside* too," he said, kissing the fabric of her shirt just above her belly button.
Scully ran her fingers through his hair. "I believe that can be arranged," she whispered, and he squeezed her tighter. "But *later*." She wiggled out of his grasp and pulled him to his feet. "Come on, Mulder, it's too nice a day to be cooped up inside. I promise you an evening of special indoor activities if you'll just indulge me in some outdoor activities today."
"Okay," he agreed with a slight whine. "What did you have in mind?"
Scully thought for a minute. "Well, you know we live in one of the most historically significant cities in the world and we never take advantage of it. We never go to the museums or the memorials. When was the last time you went to the top of the Washington Monument?"
"Um ... eighth grade, I think."
"See?" Scully said. "Today, let's just be normal Washingtonians living a normal life enjoying a normal Sunday in the city."
"Scully, don't you know that people who live here never go the museums or monuments unless they have friends or relatives visiting from out of town?" he asked. "If we do it, it'll be abnormal." She smacked him playfully on the arm. "Ouch! Besides, I didn't think you went in for looking at historic symbols."
"What would make you think that?" Scully asked.
"Well, I distinctly remember asking you to accompany me to see the Liberty Bell once and you flatly refused."
She smacked his arm again. "Come on, Mulder. No more delaying tactics. It is a beautiful day. Let's do the tourist thing and go down to East Potomac Park to see the cherry blossoms. They're at their peak this weekend."
"Scully, if the day is as beautiful as you say, there will be a million people looking at the cherry blossoms."
"A million and two," she said. "Come on. Let's go."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He couldn't deny that Scully had been right. The day *was* gorgeous and despite the crowds he was having a wonderful time. As they strolled around the Tidal Basin, she slipped her hand in his, and it did feel like they were a normal couple, enjoying the weather, the sites, and each other.
They visited the Lincoln Memorial and Scully applauded his ability to recite the entire Gettysburg Address from memory. They walked past the Vietnam Veterans memorial, looking at the items that had been left by loved ones at the Wall's base. He shuddered slightly when he remembered how Scully had picked up a stray rose petal here during a late night visit to meet an informant - and how their relationship had almost unraveled beyond repair. She squeezed his hand and put her head on his shoulder as if to remind him that she was by his side. Perhaps she'd been thinking about the same thing.
They stood in line for their turn to visit the Washington Monument, making small talk as they waited. It was pleasant and comfortable, neither one mentioning work at all. When their group finally gained admittance, Mulder delighted in embarrassing her with non-stop commentary during the elevator's 70-second ride to the top.
He was standing close behind her in the crowded elevator, holding on to the back of her jeans, trying to see how far his fingers could delve before she turned around and slapped him. He spoke softly but loud enough to be heard by everyone on board.
"Ah, the Washington Monument - the national phallic symbol. You know, Scully, no building in D.C. is allowed to be taller than the Washington Monument. How Freudian. Not only is it a giant erection on the landscape, but it's guaranteed to be the biggest one around."
Scully was sure she turned three shades of red, and it didn't help that there was a well-known bulge pressing against her backside. She kept her face pointed toward the elevator doors, but was relieved when a few quick glances assured her there were no children on board.
"Scully, did you know that the Washington Monument was started in the early 1800s, but was left unfinished for nearly 25 years because of lack of funding and a little thing called the Civil War? I guess you'd call that 'constructus interruptus,' huh?"
She crossed her arms in front of her, willing the elevator to complete the 550-foot trip just a little faster, but Mulder was undaunted. He was on a roll, and based on the smirks on the faces of the other passengers, he knew he had an appreciative audience. Even the Park Ranger had ceased his usual patter and was grinning from ear to ear.
"In 1876, President Grant finally approved an act that provided for the completion of the erection. I guess he didn't want the father of our country to get the shaft, huh?"
To Scully's immense relief the elevator doors opened and the group began to file out. As he was about to exit, the man standing in front of her turned to Mulder and winked. "Thanks for the history lesson," he said. "Best one I've heard all day."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Despite Mulder's performance at the Monument, she couldn't stay mad. After they enjoyed the panoramic view of the city below, they strolled to the Smithsonian and walked through a special exhibit on science fiction in the movies.
From there, Mulder surprised her by suggesting that they take a ride on the Smithsonian Carousel. She smiled as she placed her hands on his shoulders, and he lifted her onto one of the beautifully carved horses. He stood beside her as the ride started, steadying her as she sat sidesaddle on her trusty steed.
"What, no sexual innuendo about merry-go-rounds?" she asked then smiled and leaned down to kiss him. The up and down movement of the horse, combined with the round-and-round motion of the carousel, provided an unusual - and very pleasant - sensation.
When she released his lower lip, he swallowed hard. "I'm trying not to think about it," he answered. "I'd hate to have something embarrassing happen before we stop."
"Promise me that we'll have more days like this," she said, looking deep into his eyes. "Promise me that on the Fourth of July we'll watch the fireworks from the National Mall. And promise me at Christmas we'll come down to the ellipse to see the National Christmas tree lighting. Promise me, Mulder."
"I could never refuse you anything, don't you know that?" he asked. He captured her lips with his and didn't stop until the ride started to grind to a halt. "I promise."
After the stimulating ride, Mulder left Scully on a park bench in front of the Smithsonian castle while he went in search of ice cream cones. As she waited, she watched the people pass by - couples and families, all of them enjoying the day. For once, she didn't feel like an outsider. She felt like one of them.
"Excuse me." A voice interrupted her reverie, and she looked up, shading her eyes to see a woman standing in front of her.
"Excuse me," the woman said. "I'm sorry to bother you, but would you mind taking a picture of my husband and I in front of the Castle?"
"Sure, I'd be glad to," Scully replied, taking the digital camera that was handed to her. "Just show me which button to push."
"It's right ... Dana? Dana Scully?"
Scully looked up from the camera in her hands to stare closely at the woman for the first time. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"
"Dana! It's Paula! Paula Scoggins! Herbert Hoover High, 10th grade homeroom?"
"Oh my God!" Scully exclaimed. "Paula! I don't believe it." She smiled as the other woman embraced her. "My God, it's been 20 years! How on earth did you recognize me?"
"Don't be modest, Dana, you haven't changed all that much," Paula said. "Your hair is shorter. But that voice - you sound exactly the same. Fred! Fred, honey, come here!" She motioned to a man standing nearby and turned back to Scully. "I want you to meet my husband."
Scully smiled as the man came closer. He was reasonably handsome, blonde and blue-eyed, a bit shorter than Mulder, looked to be slightly older than she and Paula. "Fred, honey," Paula said as he ambled up beside her and put his arm around her waist. "It's unbelievable, but I ran into an old friend from high school. Dana Scully, this is my husband, Fred."
Scully was about to speak when she saw Mulder approaching out of the corner of her eye. He had an ice cream cone in each hand, a big smile plastered on his face.
"Just a second and we can make introductions all around," she said as she waited for him to join the group. When he stopped beside her, she continued. "I ran into someone I haven't seen in years," she said to him. "I'd like to introduce you to Paula Scoggins ..."
"Actually, it's Carruthers now," Paula said.
"I'm sorry," Scully corrected herself. "This is my old friend from high school, Paula Carruthers, and her husband Fred. Paula used to sit next to me in 10th grade homeroom. Paula and Fred, this is my ..."
She wasn't exactly sure why she paused, but this had caught her off guard. How should she introduce him? 'This is my Mulder'? She was about to speak again, but Mulder beat her to it.
"Hi, I'm Dana's husband, Fox," he said. "Fox Mulder." He extended a hand to Fred, but found it still full of ice cream.
"Sorry," he said. "Here, honey, hold this." He handed one cone off to Scully and then gave Fred's hand a hearty shake. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"You too, Fox," Paula said, taking her turn to shake his hand. "Fox. That's quite an unusual name."
"Well, I'd like to say my mother held out great hopes for me, but actually it's a family name," he said.
Scully knew she was staring, but she hoped her mouth wasn't hanging open. 'Who are you, you silver-tongued devil,' she thought, 'and what have you done with Mulder?' She shook her head as she realized the conversation was continuing without her.
"So, you folks live here or just visiting?" Mulder asked, taking a lick of his chocolate ice cream cone.
"We live in Omaha," Fred said. "Actually, we were here for an insurance convention this week and decided to stay over for a few days to do some sightseeing. Hard to tell when, or if, we'll ever get here again."
"Insurance salesman, huh?" Mulder licked his ice cream cone once more. "That must be pretty interesting."
"Fred's the number one salesman in the midwest district," Paula said proudly. Fred began to protest but she continued. "Now, honey, don't be modest. He got an award at the convention. That's why we made a special effort to get here this year."
"Wow, that's great. Isn't that great, sweetheart?" Scully suddenly realized he was talking to her. And when had he put his arm around her shoulder?
"Um, yeah, that's great," she said. "Terrific." She glared up at Mulder but he was continuing to engage Paula and Fred in conversation. The ice cream dripping down her hand reminded her that she'd better take a few licks to get the melting cone under control. As she lapped at the ice cream, she thought about how much she'd like to shove Mulder's cone right in his mouth - to shut him up.
"What about you two?" Fred asked. "You live here?"
"Guilty as charged," Mulder smiled. "We're just out and about enjoying this gorgeous spring day."
"Must be great living in our nation's capital," Fred said. "What kind of work do you do, Fox?"
"I'm an FBI Agent," Mulder replied between licks. "In fact, we both are."
"Really!" Paula exclaimed. "Gosh, that must be exciting!" Scully just smiled and nodded, wiping away the ice cream dripping down her chin.
"Oh, not really," Mulder said. "Dana here is just a desk jockey, hardly ever gets out of the office. She does all that mundane stuff like background checks, permit checks - things like that. And me? I'm in Accounting. I just crunch numbers all day, trying to save a dollar to make a nickel. I mostly review our agents' expense vouchers, trying to keep them from wasting the taxpayers' money. You give them an inch, they'll take a mile."
Scully nearly choked on her ice cream and couldn't fight off a coughing fit. Mulder patted her on the back, "Hey, you okay there, honey?"
She coughed again and nodded. "Yes, *dear*, it just went down the wrong pipe. I'll be fine."
Paula waited for Scully to finish coughing. "Say, would you two like to grab some dinner? We'll have to insist on an early evening, I'm afraid, because our plane leaves first thing in the morning, but we've got a couple of hours. We could talk over old times and I'd love to hear what you're doing now."
Scully opened her mouth to speak, but it was Mulder's voice that she heard. "Gee, no, I'm afraid we can't. We've gotta get home. We left the kids with Grandma today, and as much as she loves having them, well, we don't want to take advantage. Don't want little David and Maggie to wear out their welcome."
"You have two kids?" Paula asked. "We have three - Brittany is 12, Brian is 8, and Bradley is 4."
"Well, we're about to catch up with you," Mulder said, patting Scully's abdomen. "Don't want to forget little Michael or Molly in there. We want to be surprised this time."
"Oh, Dana, you're expecting!" Paula squealed. "That's wonderful. When are you due?"
Mulder smirked a bit as Scully looked like a deer caught in headlights. "Um ... in the fall," she said. "October." She glared at Mulder again. "The thirteenth is my due date. A little gift for *Fox* on his birthday."
"Oh, that's sweet," Paula said. "Well, I guess we'd better let you get going then. It was just terrific to see you."
"And great to meet you," Fred chimed in. "If you're ever in Omaha, look us up. We're in the book."
"Same here," Mulder said, shaking Fred's hand again as Scully and Paula exchanged a brief hug. "If you're ever back in Washington, don't hesitate to call."
Paula and Fred waved goodbye and headed off toward the Smithsonian Castle when Scully finally remembered the camera that was still in her hand. "Wait!" she called after them. "I forgot to take your picture!" She shoved the rest of her ice cream cone into Mulder's hand. "Here," she said through clenched teeth. "Hold this, *honey*. I'll be right back."
Mulder chuckled and popped the bottom of his cone into his mouth. He watched patiently as Scully lined up the perfect shot of the happy couple, snapped the picture, and then exchanged another hug with Paula before handing the camera back. She waved goodbye as they turned to go, and Mulder watched as she took long angry strides back toward him. He could almost see the steam coming out of her ears. When she got within 20 feet or so, he turned and started walking leisurely toward the Metro station, a big grin plastered on his face.
"Mulder!" he heard her call behind him. "Mulder!" But he kept walking, and he knew by now her short legs were probably fairly flying to catch up with him.
She was breathing hard when she blew by him and planted herself directly in his path. He stopped quickly and continued to grin at her while she folded her arms and twisted her foot into the grass, working up to a whole new level of furious as she tried to catch her breath.
"Here's the rest of your ice cream," he said, handing it out to her as a peace offering.
"I ... don't ... want it," she gasped, and he shrugged and finished it in two bites.
"Mulder ..." She finally took one deep breath and was able to continue. "Mulder, why did you do that? Why did you lie to those people? I mean, she was my friend once and ..."
"Oh, come on, Scully, you haven't seen her since high school, and you're never gonna see them again. Besides, I didn't lie," he replied. "I willfully participated ..."
"... in a campaign of misinformation. Yes, I've heard that before." She shook her head. "Lies, Mulder. A pack of lies. A pack of bald-faced lies. Why did you do that?"
"It was a gift, Scully," he said, sidestepping her to continue the walk toward the Metro.
"A *gift*?" Once she realized he was no longer standing in front of her, she trotted after him and caught his arm from behind. "Mulder, don't walk away from me. What do you mean a gift?"
"It was my gift to you, Scully," he said, putting his hands on her shoulders and smiling down at her. "A normal life for one afternoon. A chance to tell someone you know that you have a happy home; a *handsome* and attentive husband; a regular job just like regular people; the requisite 2.3 children; and ... oh darn, I forgot to tell them about Spooky."
"Our normal Labrador retriever." He was pleased that she couldn't hide a trace of a smile. "I'm sorry, Scully. I wasn't trying to tease you or embarrass you or make you uncomfortable." He put his arms around her and rested his chin on top of her head. "You gave up a chance to have a normal life because of me, Scully. I guess I just wanted to pretend for a few minutes that you never had to do that."
He kissed her lightly and looked into her eyes. "I don't know if I can ever give you that normal life for real, Scully. But I know that I'd like to try. I promise you that I *will* try. I promise you fireworks and Christmas trees and my best attempt at a normal life. If you'll have me, that is."
She kissed him back and smiled. "I love you, Mulder."
"Good," he said, "because I seem to recall that *you* made a promise to me this morning, and I'm warning you right now that I intend to collect on that promise just as soon as we get home".
"Well, then what are we waiting for?" she replied, and started off at a brisk clip.
"Hey, wait for me!" he yelled. As soon as he caught up to her, she laced her fingers with his, and they walked hand in hand toward the Metro stop, their laughter hanging in the evening air. Maybe hers wasn't a *normal* life in the widely understood definition of the term, Scully thought, but in the years she shared with Mulder, he had given her things that no normal life could. And after seven years, she still wouldn't change a day.
* * *  * * * *
An everyday nothing special day
A long lost someone getting in touch for the first time in years
Something that is unfinished