Mulder was contemplative on the drive home, worrying his bottom lip between his thumb and forefinger as he gazed out the window. The Sirius talk show Scully had tuned into as soon as they got into the car droned on and on putting him in an almost meditative state. He was glad Scully was driving because he felt like he was lacking in focus. He didn’t even realize Scully was talking to him until she reached over and squeezed his knee.
“Huh?” he said.
“Where are you?”
“Thinking about that game.”
“Next time I won’t get in the driverless car and you be sure to tip your waiter, robot or human.”
“No no, nothing like that.” He leaned back in his seat and turned his head towards her. “You’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, haven’t you?”
“Mulder, I lived with you for fifteen years. I’ve seen 2001, Planet of the Apes, that episode of The Twilight Zone where the guy wishes for peace and quiet to read and everyone dies in a nuclear war except for him, but he breaks his glasses just as he sits down with his book-”
“Time Enough at Last. Burgess Meredith. A classic.”
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” she continued. “The Time Machine, Close Encounters of the Third Kind-”
“Spielberg is great, but factually way off base.”
“Barbarella, which I’m still not sure if I’ve forgiven you for.”
Mulder grinned and shrugged his shoulders.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” she said. “Soylent Green, Forbidden Planet, and Plan 9 From Outer Space more times than what I would consider to be normal or necessary.”
“You made me watch The Notebook that one time.”
“And yet, I’m not the one who bought it on DVD later and hides it in a copy of Animal House.”
“It was a good movie!”
Scully raised her brow and gave Mulder a quick glance. He crossed his arms and pouted a little at her. She smiled and took one hand off the steering wheel to squeeze his knee.
“2001,” she said. “What about it?”
“HAL 9000 was born of the ego of man, like any A.I. would be, subject to the same limitations and fallibility of man because intelligence can’t be created where it doesn’t exist. If we put the existentialism and evolutionary themes aside, that was one of clear messages of the movie.”
“What about the other range of human emotions?”
“Mulder, it’s a movie.”
“I know, but it just seems to me that there’s this collective assumption that an A.I. has an endless capacity for evil, but never love. I mean, didn’t you notice in that game that the only thing it responded to was aggression?”
“That was the point.”
“It was literally called Robot Attack. What did you expect to happen?”
“All I’m saying is, if it could learn from anger, it could also learn from love. But, we never see that.”
“What about Wall-E?”
Mulder groaned a little. “Okay, one exception. And I still can’t believe you didn’t cry in that movie.”
“You were crying enough for the both of us.”
“It was touching.”
“And it’s an example of a robot that’s capable of love and compassion.”
“We need more Wall-Es in the world.”
“Start a petition for Pixar to be in charge of all the A.I.s in development. You know, it never fails to amaze me what a hopeless romantic you’ve remained despite...everything.” She chuckled and then squeezed his knee again. “Mulder, you are Wall-E.”
The turnout for the dirt road to the house was just up ahead. Scully slowed to make the turn and the car bumped along towards the gate. Mulder unbuckled his seatbelt when she stopped, but he didn’t get out, instead he turned towards her and put his hand on her cheek. Startled, she looked to him with question marks in her eyes.
“Marry me,” he said.
“It isn’t hopeless romanticism, it’s twenty-five years of good times and bad times, sickness and health, and you’re still here and I’m still here.”
“You want to get married because I’m still here?”
“No, I want to get married because I love you. If the A.I. in that game were as smart as it should’ve been, it should’ve been swooning in under five minutes because the whole time in that sushi restaurant, all I kept thinking about was how much I love you. Yeah, I wanted to kick the robot chef’s ass for sending out some creature from the black lagoon, but every time I looked at you, I just thought about how much I loved you. When you went off in that car, it killed me to see you go. I want to get married because I want twenty-five more years with you. Hell, I want a thousand and twenty-five more years with you, but even I know certain things are impossible.”
Scully opened her mouth, took a breath, closed her mouth, and swallowed. She blinked several times in rapid succession and opened her mouth again, but said nothing.
“If you’re worried about having to endure more years of b-movies, I’ll put it into my vows,” he said. “I promise to love, honor, and cherish, and never watch another sci-fi classic in your presence, because let’s face it, you may have a point with Barbarella, but when Charlton Heston realizes he was on Earth all along in Planet of the Apes, that just kicks you in the face. Filmmaking at its finest.”
“I never said it wasn’t a good movie, just that I’ve seen it an abnormal amount of times.”
“Normal is overrated.” He shrugged and brushed his thumb over the apple of her cheek. “Marry me, Scully. Be the Eve to my Wall-E.”
Her laugh sounded like a cough and she reached up to cover Mulder’s hand on her face. He decided not to wait for an answer, but the question hang in the air for another time. He gave her a brief peck on the lips and then slipped away and out of the car to open the gate. When he turned around to wait for her to drive in, he met her gaze through the windshield. They stared at each other, she in the car, he at the gate, until she smiled just a little and bobbed her chin in a brief nod. His heart swelled and his eyes watered. Maybe he was a hopeless romantic after all.