Title: The Road to Fresno
Author: Christine Leigh
Web site: http://cleigh6.tripod.com
Spoilers: Minor reference to "Conduit."
Summary: Season one - Mulder's first birthday after he and Scully became partners.
Archiving: If you would like to archive anywhere, I'd appreciate a quick note first.
Disclaimer: All characters are the products of Chris Carter. They also belong to Ten-Thirteen Productions and the Fox Network. No copyright infringement intended.
The Road to Fresno
By Christine Leigh
October 13, 1992
"Scully, have you ever just wanted to go in the complete opposite direction for no reason at all?"
They were about two hours out of Sacramento on one of the most notoriously boring lengths of freeway in California and she was tempted to answer him 'yes,' and even went on to envision a magical alternate route appearing ahead of them on the horizon; a sort of yellow brick road that would accommodate a car, but she stuck to her course and stayed serious.
"Do you mean while driving, Mulder?"
"Driving, walking, anything. Living. The whole ball of wax." He glanced at her. She was looking at him with that look. The one that in the few months that they had worked together he'd come to relish getting from her, but that could also, on occasion, irritate. Right now, he was relishing it.
He waited, with purpose. He was in an odd mood, even by his standards. This morning he'd been awake for an hour before remembering that today was his birthday. He knew that there was probably a card at home from his mother, but aside from that remembrance there would be nothing. There hasn't been in years, and the memories of when he did celebrate the day are now so long ago that it doesn't matter anymore to him that he's become solitary on the occasion. It matches the rest of his life, and that's fine by him most of the time. Today, however, is different. He has an itch to, if not celebrate, share it with his partner.
"Well, I once was dared to go to a party where there were no adult chaperones when I was fourteen, and I considered doing it for all of five minutes, but then decided I'd rather see something besides the walls of my bedroom for the duration of summer, which is how long I'd have been grounded if I'd been found out."
"Indeed. Why the inquiry, Mulder?"
"Just wondering. Sometimes I think I'll get up one day and quit all this." His eyes made a peripheral sweep of the dry, brown terrain that seemed to go on forever outside the car window.
"Seriously?" She couldn't keep a note of astonishment out of her voice at hearing this. Her immediate thought was of his sister, Samantha. After watching him go through the torture of the events at Lake Okobogee, Scully couldn't imagine that he'd ever quit without first discovering something of what had happened to her.
"Yes." He could feel the surprise of her reaction to that. He glanced quickly at her and saw her staring, a steady blue beam that was focused like a laser on the road ahead. He'd never seen eyes so big and blue as Scully's. In the dark they were like a Siamese cat's and in the light they were like the clearest pair of blue marbles.
Scully was sure of two things in regard to her partner, which were that he was the smartest, most intelligent man she'd ever known, and that she would never be bored by him. Beyond that lay many mysteries. One thing, though, that was not a mystery to her was that she knew that today was his birthday. She'd done her homework on him as well, soon after crossing the basement threshold back in March, and while she hadn't made a conscious decision to remember the date, it had stayed in her brain for some reason. She hadn't said anything to him, however, not knowing how he felt about birthdays, and not wanting to touch on anything that would possibly rub more salt in the wound that was Samantha. And in all honesty, because it wasn't her custom to go around wishing happy birthday to people she didn't know very well. She broke from her stare and turned to look at him. He seemed far away, and not exactly the worse for it. How many birthdays had he spent alone, she wondered? And where were these thoughts of hers leading? She mentally slapped back that second question and spoke.
"Mulder, I think you're asking the wrong person if you're hoping for a dramatic answer. I've always had plans for my life that I've managed to follow for the most part. Joining the Bureau is the only major deviation to date, but that was a very well considered choice."
"Even with the glamor duty you've been assigned?" That got a smile out of her.
"I thank my lucky stars, every night."
"Are you hungry yet, Scully?"
"It's only eleven-fifteen, and where would we stop? There is literally nothing here."
"I have a Snickers bar, a fresh package of seeds, and we have water. I think I saw a truck stop sign a few miles back."
"Mulder, if you're tired of driving, just say so."
"I've just got a case of the munchies. The driving has never been better."
She wondered if he'd had parties with balloons and games, cake and ice cream, and presents before Samantha was taken. She hoped so. She could see a little boy tearing around a yard full of other little boys and girls, and an even littler brown-haired girl looking on from the sidelines. She turned to him.
"Do you have the Snickers handy?"
He reached into his pocket and gave it to her. She tore open the wrapper and pulled a chunk off and handed it to him. Then she pulled a piece off for herself. It was delicious. They each got another piece and she then handed him the last one.
"You take it, Scully."
"No, it's yours. I've had what I wanted."
He mused upon that remark, and for the millionth time felt amazed that she was still here working with him. That was no small thing in his world. And today it was a very big thing. He smiled at her and took the last piece of candy.
"Me too, Scully, but thanks."
Then something shifted. It was nothing that couldn't shift back, and probably would, but it was nearly palpable and suddenly Scully felt so good to be driving down this road with Mulder. She felt like a child and yet also much wiser at the same time than she'd ever been. She looked at him and saw the most beautiful man. Where had he come from? She turned her head away and smiled. It wouldn't last, she knew, but what a sensation.
"Mulder, I want to wish you a happy birthday."
He grinned all the way to Fresno.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Christine Leigh
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