The door to the apartment swung open to reveal a tired, frustrated, and heavily-laden Dana Scully. A small but stuffed duffel bag was slung over her shoulder; a giant roller suitcase stood beside her in the hallway. She groped for the light switch to the left of the door, then struggled to fit both herself and her belongings through the entrance. She pushed her suitcase in front of her television cabinet, then heaved the duffel bag off her shoulder and over her head. It landed on the floor with a thud. A well-aimed mule kick shut the door behind her.
Next item off was her coat. This she deposited unceremoniously on the side table next to the sofa, not caring that it knocked over a photo frame and crushed her ivy plant. She walked over to the sofa and sank into it with a long exasperated sigh. Her black leather pumps were kicked off with the same lack of concern as her coat. Her head fell back to rest on the cushions. She closed her eyes.
Bad weather had delayed, and ultimately canceled, her flight from DC to San Diego. Her entire family - even Charlie, who was stationed in Japan - was gathering at Bill and Tara’s house for Thanksgiving. It was the first time everyone was to be together since her father passed away five years ago. Not anymore.
She had waited at the airport for over eight hours, watching the flight status screens as the departing flights succumbed one by one to their seemingly inevitable demise: from “on-time,” to “delayed,” to “canceled.” The ensuing chaos had reminded her of a scene from ‘Planes, Trains, & Automobiles,’ in which Steve Martin’s character - after several failed (and increasingly desperate) attempts to make it home for Thanksgiving - finally lost it at a clueless rental car agent.
Unlike Steve Martin, however, she was a seasoned enough traveler to know when to call it quits. The ice storm bearing down on the DC region was forecast to last through Black Friday. Even Baltimore, the next closest airport, was shuttered. Any further waiting could be done in the comfort of her own home. With a heavy heart, she had joined the throng of crestfallen travelers boarding the Metro heading back into DC.
The disappointment in her mother’s voice when she broke the bad news was almost enough to make her turn around and demand - again, like Steve Martin - that she be given special accommodation. But no amount of complaining would change Mother Nature’s mind. She’d be spending Thanksgiving alone and away from her family this year.
A knock at the door startled her out of her melancholy thoughts. Perhaps it was her building super, come to tell her to expect power outages due to the storm. She padded over to the door in stockinged feet and opened it. She was surprised to see Mulder standing there. He held two paper grocery bags, each full to bursting.
“Gobble, gobble, Scully,” he said by way greeting, sidestepping his way into her apartment.
“Mulder, how -”
“TV said all flights out of Reagan and BWI were cancelled,” he answered, pre-empting her question. He was already in the kitchen and was starting to unload the groceries. “I figured you’d come back here instead of fight against the madding crowd of desperate travelers.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be up in Massachusetts with your mother?” she asked, closing the door and joining him the kitchen.
He paused, not looking up from the pile of food on the counter. “I, uh, got tied up at work yesterday, and got a late start,” he said, rather sheepishly. “By the time I got on the road, they’d closed I-95 in both directions.”
She knew exactly what had happened: he’d gotten himself engrossed in a casefile and lost all track of time. She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d fallen asleep at his desk and ended up spending the night at the office. Wouldn’t be the first time, she thought. But why is he here? She wanted to ask him, but caution, coupled with exhaustion, checked that impulse; she was glad for his company, whatever his reasons might be.
Mulder pulled out several plastic takeout containers from one of the bags. Their contents were still warm. Scully could see the condensation on the inside of the containers. They smelled heavenly. She heard her stomach growl. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and it was nearly five o’clock.
“I wish I could say that I spent hours slaving over a hot oven to bring you this, but trust me when I say that Boston Market’s rotisserie chicken is far superior to turkey à la Mulder. They even threw in some extra corn muffins, in the spirit of the season.”
“Makes you wonder why people even bother to cook,” she quipped.
Mulder grinned in response. He reached into the other grocery bag and produced a bottle of red wine.
“It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without booze,” he said, wagging his eyebrows suggestively.
“God knows I could use a drink, after today.”
His smile faded. “I’m sorry you won’t be spending Thanksgiving with your family,” he said, genuinely sympathetic.
He did his best to alleviate the ensuing awkward silence by rummaging around in a drawer until he found a bottle opener. He uncorked the wine and poured it into two glasses. He handed her the fuller of the two.
“Take a load off, Scully. I’ll bring dinner over.” He gestured to the sofa.
For once, she didn’t argue. The tedious waiting and ultimate disappointment of the day had finally caught up to her. She made her way over to the sofa and sank down into it. She took a deep sip of her wine. It was luscious; full-bodied and fruity.
She glanced over at Mulder, still wondering at his reasons for being here. He moved around her kitchen with an ease that surprised her, given his infrequent visits. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised, she thought. They’d been spending more time together outside of work the past year. First, it was the impromptu gift exchange early on Christmas morning. Then came an unexpected (on her part, at least) baseball lesson one summer evening. The intimacy of these encounters both thrilled and terrified her. Like a switch has been flicked, she mused, recalling her conversation in a high school bathroom in Kansas.
Now, as she watched him making himself at home in her apartment, she silently acknowledged the truth of the words Phillip Padgett had spoken to both of them a few months before: “Agent Scully is already in love.”
She reached for the remote in an attempt to distract herself from further embarrassing thoughts. She flipped through several channels until she caught sight of a young Harrison Ford dressed in suspenders and a straw hat.
“Ah. ‘Witness.’ A classic.” Mulder joined her on the couch. He handed her a plate piled high with chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans - all covered in gravy. She noticed he’d given her an extra helping of potatoes; he knew her too well.
Mulder raised his wine glass. “To family, both near and far,” he said, clinking his glass with hers.
“To family,” she echoed.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Scully.”
“Happy Thanksgiving, Mulder.”
They ate in comfortable silence with their plates in their laps, watching Harrison Ford as he tried to keep a low profile in the alien world of the Amish and fight his growing attraction to Kelly McGillis.
Eventually, Mulder got up to get seconds. She set her empty plate on the coffee table, too stuffed to eat any more. Mulder returned with a full plate and the rest of the wine. He refilled both of their glasses. They continued to watch .
Harrison Ford was in the barn, fixing his broken car and listening to the radio. Kelly McGillis showed up, and Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’ came on the radio. Then Harrison Ford swept Kelly McGillis into an impromptu dance by lantern light.
“Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be.”
She sensed Mulder looking at her. Slowly, she turned her head and met his gaze. He was smiling at her. He then stood up, faced her, and extended his hand. Another surprise. She took it and allowed herself to be pulled up off of the sofa.
She felt Mulder’s right hand as it came to rest gently but firmly on her waist, his left hand engulfing hers. They began to sway gently back and forth together in a rhythm that seemed as right and as natural as breathing.
Sam Cooke continued his crooning:
“But I do know one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be.”
Memories of a crowded nightclub, Cher, and her biggest (mutant) fan came flooding back as Mulder spun her outward, then drew her back to him, closer this time. Her stockinged toes bumped up against his larger socked feet. She laughed out loud. It must be the wine finally taking effect, she thought. Or maybe it was simply that she was happy.
Mulder laughed with her, the same laugh as when they were swinging baseball bats together. She could feel his grip tighten as he pulled her even closer to him. They were almost embracing now. She hesitated, then gently rested her head on his chest. She could feel his heart beating through his soft cotton t-shirt, against her cheek. She relaxed and leaned into him. He put his head on top of hers.
They continued to sway. The music ended. They stayed locked together.
Her phone rang. She suddenly remembered her mother saying earlier she would call so that she could converse with the Scully clan in San Diego. Slowly, reluctantly, she released herself from her partner's embrace.
“Sorry. Family phone call.”
“Go and fulfill your daughterly obligations. I’ll clean up.” He gave her hands a final squeeze before bending down to grab the empty plates and silverware from the coffee table.
She picked up the phone. “Hi, Mom.”
She only half-listened as her mother brought her up to speed on the doings of the Scully family. Bill got a promotion. Charlie was deploying in January. The grandkids were getting a puppy for Christmas.
From the kitchen came the sound of running water; Mulder was rinsing the dishes. She was close enough to hear him singing softly to himself as he scrubbed.
“Don’t know much about history…”
She smiled. Thank God for ice storms, Boston Market, and Harrison Ford.