She walks into the kitchen pulls her traveler mug from the dishwasher and fills it with coffee. He is sitting at the table, up to his elbows in pumpkin guts, watching a video on his laptop.
“Mulder, what are you doing?”
“You Tube. I’m learning how to carve a pumpkin.”
“You know how to carve a pumpkin. Want to know how I know this?”
“Um, I’m guessing the four jack-o’-lanterns on our front porch tipped you off?”
She touched her nose. “Got it in one.”
“Scully, you should see some of these pumpkins. The detail. They’re works of art—“
“I know. They had a guy carving some of the Today show hosts earlier this week. The one of Al was uncanny.”
“I bet the one of Matt looked like a piece of sh—“
She cut him off. “Mulder, I’ve got to go. I don’t have time to listen to one of your diatribes about Matt Lauer.”
She kissed him.
“I just hate that guy so much,” he muttered.
She ran a hand through his hair. “I know you do.”
“What time do you think you’ll be home?” He asked.
“Probably around 6:30.”
“What do you want for dinner?”
“Surprise me.” She said.
“Are you sure you want me to do that? You didn’t love that butternut squash thing I whipped up last week.”
“It wasn’t that I didn’t like it," she said. "It was that it made me break out in hives. I’m allergic to sage.”
“I know. I know. I forgot. I can never remember if it’s thyme or sage. Sage. It’s sage. Now I know.”
“I’ll see you tonight.”
She took a bite of her English muffin and sat down across from him. He was engrossed in the sports section. She stared at him.
He looked up. “What?”
“You want to tell me what’s going on?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Mulder, your arms have taken on an orangeish hue from cleaning out so many pumpkins. When I took the garbage out last night there were, I don’t know, 12 mangled ones in the can.”
“They’re studies, Scully. We artists call the work done in preparation for a finished piece, a study.”
She rolled her eyes. “I see. And I suppose you need to do several jack-o’-lantern studies to plan the light, color, form, perspective and composition of your finished piece?”
“Ohhh-kay. But can you please clean up all the bits and guts and seeds a little better? I’m finding pumpkin seeds on the soles of my shoes, in my car, stuck to my pants. I found one in my hair yesterday—“
“It’s okay. I anxiously await this pumpkin masterpiece you’re working on. What are the chances it might be done before Halloween?”
“Ha. Ha. Go to work.”
She sighed as she turned into the drive. It had been a very long day. All she wanted was a long bath, a glass of wine and to sleep for a week. The porch was bathed in an orange glow. As she approached, she gasped. There had to be a hundred pumpkins covering every inch of the porch, railing and stairs. Four pumpkins sat prominently at the top of the stars. Each carved with a single word.
Will. You. Marry. Me?
She stepped to get out of the car, it started to roll. She cursed, took a calming breath, put the car in park and removed her keys. Outside, she stood transfixed by the sea of pumpkins flickering before her. A shadow moved on the porch.
“You’re awfully quiet, Doc. Is that a good sign or a bad sign?”
“Mulder,” she breathed. “They’re so beautiful. I can’t believe you did all this.”
“Come inside,” he motioned. “I’ve got dinner.”
She climbed the steps, running her fingers over the smooth, orange squashes surrounding her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and led her inside. The house was dark. It smelled of garlic and olive oil, of cinnamon and baked pumpkin. Two taper candles flickered from the set table. They ate in silence. The clinking of silverware on china and soft sipping of wine were the only sounds.
“You owe me an answer,” he said, reaching across the table for her hand.
“You owe me some jewelry,” she countered.
He grinned. “I thought you might say that.”
He cleared their dishes, walked into the kitchen and carried out a pumpkin that weighed easily 25 pounds. He dropped with a thud onto the table in front of her.
“What’s this?” She questioned.
“A treasure hunt.”
She looked at the pumpkin. A lid had been cut out of the top. She looked up at him. “You can’t be serious.”
He grinned. She pulled off the lid, and stared down into the orange goo.
“I added extra innards, just for you.”
“Gee, thanks,” she said sarcastically. “Can I at least have some gloves?”
He shook his head.
“You’re enjoying this entirely too much.” She frowned.
“Only the best for my best girl.” She stuck her tongue out at him and dug in with both hands.
He brought her a mixing bowl to put the goop in. She went through the pile. Then through it again. Then again, even more carefully. Her brow wrinkled in frustration.
He knelt in front of her, holding a beautiful platinum band with two-carat stone between his thumb and forefinger. “Dana Scully, my partner, my friend, my love, will you marry me?”
She gasped. “The ring—it was never in there?”
He shook his head.
“What the hell was all that?”
He shrugged. “I just wanted to see how long you’d look. You’re nothing if not tenacious.”
“I hate you.”
“Is that your answer?”
“I don’t know. Do I really want to put up with this kind of crap—forever?”
He gave her a wide smile.
She returned his grin. “Yes, Mulder. Yes.”
He tugged her onto her feet and into the kitchen so she could wash her hands. She set down the dishtowel and held out her left hand. He slid the ring on her finger and kissed her.
“There’s pie,” he murmured against her lips.
“See, I knew there was a reason I keep you around.”