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Jul. 17th, 2008

13.

It rained on Mulder’s birthday, crunchy leaves turning to mush on the street.

After work, before she picked up William, Scully stopped at a grocery store and bought a single cupcake from the bakery. Day-old yellow cake with blue frosting swirled on top. She was sure she had candles somewhere in her kitchen.



Someone, a friend of her mother’s, obviously, had gifted her with an elaborate, album-sized scrapbook. “OH, BABY!” it said in wooden blocks across the front. It was in a shopping bag under her bed, gathering dust with the ribbons still attached.

There was, instead, a battered shoebox, unlabeled, that Scully was filling with photographs of William. She was not in them. Apart from her necessary role as sole family photographer, she felt hypocritical asking William to smile if she herself was unwilling. He didn’t seem to mind, but still. She tried not to cry very much in front of him.

Next to that, another shoebox, also unlabeled. This held a peculiar collection of snapshots of Mulder, hastily assembled from their office corkboard, from boxes he’d dug out of his mother’s basement, from her own personal collection amassed over the years.

She showed William photographs of Mulder every day, the way some parents used flashcards, hoping to push their offspring into important schools with waiting lists. She didn’t want him to learn German verbs or identify famous composers, only to recognize his fugitive father at some point in the future.

William’s favorite was the pilfered ID badge, with Mulder’s stern, laminated “Special Agent Fox Mulder, Federal Bureau of Investigation” face staring out. 

“Dad,” she said to him. “Daddy.” She tapped the badge and William gurgled. On long car rides, she would clip it to his sleeper and he would alternate between gumming it and patting Mulder’s face. She entertained him by standing in front of a mirror with him in her arms, making him flash the ID. Saying in a deep voice, “Mulder. FBI.”



They sat at the table together, William in his highchair. The cupcake between them. She gave him the badge and he thwacked it happily against the tray.

She lit the candle and began to sing. William jerked his little frog legs, loving it. It suddenly struck her as absurd, singing “Happy Birthday” to a badge, and she started laughing. Hot tears were running down her cheeks. Singing to an FBI badge. Who was going to blow out the candle and make a wish? Who was going to eat the cupcake?

“Oh, Mulder,” she said out loud, blowing her nose with a napkin. William made a raspberry noise. “I agree,” she said to him.



She sleepwalked through her life, feeling rudderless. Without his eyes fixed on her, without his long fingers scraping her back. She told herself she should be used to it by now, but she never would be.

She felt like she was nine again, ticking off the interminable days of a forced stay at Girl Scout camp. Dull cases with duller partners stood in for the dozens of lanyards and potholders she’d woven to pass the time. She was utterly homesick for him.



He fell asleep with the ID tagged to his star-dotted onesie. Maybe she could deputize him, she thought, make him her temporary partner. He was certainly no less competent than a large number of agents already on government payroll. They could travel the country, William strapped to her chest. She would buy him a tiny water pistol and fill it up at rest stops. A better way to pass the time than making lanyards, better than pretending to be interested in cases that weren’t hers. Mulder was out there, somewhere. She and her new partner (green, but he’s got promise, I like the cut of his jib) would track him down.

She quietly took William’s picture, turning the flash off so as not to wake him, and then unclasped the badge, lightly pressing the crinkled fabric. She put the badge in the shoebox, then took it out again. She clipped it to the front pocket of her pajamas and went to bed, the plastic edges pressing against her heart.

Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
erries
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
Oh my God.

Someone, a friend of her mother’s, obviously,

Snap! I hate that stupid baby shower.

She tried not to cry very much in front of him.

This is so simply stated, but there's something about it that makes my chest hurt.

She entertained him by standing in front of a mirror with him in her arms, making him flash the ID. Saying in a deep voice, “Mulder. FBI.”

This is sweet and endearing and heartbreaking all at once.

She gave him the badge and he thwacked it happily against the tray.

I love that with all the squeaky plastic things and soft stuffed animals and blocks and whatever else is inevitably lying around the apartment (did I mention I hate that stupid baby shower?), THIS is his favorite toy.

They could travel the country, William strapped to her chest. She would buy him a tiny water pistol and fill it up at rest stops.

I love the detail in this.

Mulder was out there, somewhere. She and her new partner (green, but he’s got promise, I like the cut of his jib) would track him down.

Even though I've never heard the phrase "cut of his jib" before, I really like this language. It's so bittersweet how Scully can have a sense of humor like this in the face of what she's going through without Mulder.

Bravo.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you! You know, I like to get a good dig in at that horrible baby shower any time I can. So if this story's good for nothing other than that, I'm happy. (Did I mention I hate it, too? A LOT.)

outintherain
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
If there were some kind of symbol that stood for "thank you," I'd use it, but there isn't. So thank you, with words.
coast
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
!! You did it! And it's so sad! And so perfect! William's frog legs! The tears running down her face. Oh, man. Way to break my heart. Seriously, GIRLFRIEND-- it's beautiful.

I'm just sad Will's not wearing his adorable hat. Argh.

This is amazing. And now you and meatfight have been productive so that must mean I need to be productive, too.

Ahem.

Edited at 2008-07-17 05:41 pm (UTC)
meatfight
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
And now you and meatfight have been productive so that must mean I need to be productive, too.

That's right! Get your ass in gear!
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
But they're tears of crazy laughter/sadness! Not just tragedy! So...that makes it not as bad, right? Right?

Why is it that when I write something sad, it rolls off my back, but when I read something sad, it shivs me in the gut? It's really a mystery to me, how much easier it is to be brutal to characters when you're the one writing.

And you can imagine he was wearing the hat when she picked him up.
aidy
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. God.
Seriously. You're gonna make me cry here. That was beautiful.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much.
macaire
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
*sniff*

I'm actually crying at my desk at work. This is brilliant.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:45 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you. Sorry about the work time sniffling.
luciddreamer326
Jul. 17th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
My heart feels all mushy.

Loves it.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
yendrie
Jul. 17th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
That was unbelievably sad and beautiful at the same time. There are so many lines I liked :) Oh, I seriously love all your work ♥
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it.
meatfight
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
She entertained him by standing in front of a mirror with him in her arms, making him flash the ID. Saying in a deep voice, “Mulder. FBI.”
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.

“Oh, Mulder,” she said out loud, blowing her nose with a napkin. William made a raspberry noise. “I agree,” she said to him.
I also love this. It's sad but perfect.

Dull cases with duller partners
Nooooo kidding.

Aw, the whole thing is sweet and sad. It's great.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
Dull cases with duller partners
I knew you'd like that! And the part about William being no less competent than other agents is inspired by a certain someone as well. A certain someone who may or may not have had critical lobes of her brain removed.
tendre_posion
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
*cries*

that was beautifully heartbreaking
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks!
lsugaralmond
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
Ow. My heart, it hurts.

This line in particular caused me actual physical pain:

She sleepwalked through her life, feeling rudderless. Without his eyes fixed on her, without his long fingers scraping her back.

You my friend? Are good.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much!
enigmaticblues
Jul. 17th, 2008 09:12 pm (UTC)
Now I want to cry. This line nearly sent me over the edge, although it was one among many:

Apart from her necessary role as sole family photographer, she felt hypocritical asking William to smile if she herself was unwilling. He didn’t seem to mind, but still. She tried not to cry very much in front of him.

So sad, and so beautiful.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

But I know, poor Scully. Her life got so terrible, and she just soldiered on.
aloysiavirgata
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
“Dad,” she said to him. “Daddy.” She tapped the badge and William gurgled. On long car rides, she would clip it to his sleeper and he would alternate between gumming it and patting Mulder’s face. She entertained him by standing in front of a mirror with him in her arms, making him flash the ID. Saying in a deep voice, “Mulder. FBI.”

I loved this part so much that I cannot even do it justice. These stories are just the loveliest little gems.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
dashakay
Jul. 17th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
She lit the candle and began to sing. William jerked his little frog legs, loving it. It suddenly struck her as absurd, singing “Happy Birthday” to a badge, and she started laughing. Hot tears were running down her cheeks. Singing to an FBI badge. Who was going to blow out the candle and make a wish? Who was going to eat the cupcake?

Broke my little heart, you did. I hope you're happy.

No, seriously, that was lovely and so true.
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:53 pm (UTC)
I am happy! Ha ha! Take that, heart!

No, no, thank you so much! And maybe one of these days I'll finish that fluff, you know? So we can all be happy once more.
mangomandie
Jul. 18th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Another brillant story! So sad, but so well written. I especially loved the last line: She put the badge in the shoebox, then took it out again. She clipped it to the front pocket of her pajamas and went to bed, the plastic edges pressing against her heart.

My heart HURTS SO BAD for Scully!

~Mango
onpaperfirst
Jul. 22nd, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!

I know, I know. Poor Scully. You just want to give her some tea and tell her everything's going to be all right, but...it isn't.
alittlesting
Aug. 6th, 2008 06:40 am (UTC)
She entertained him by standing in front of a mirror with him in her arms, making him flash the ID. Saying in a deep voice, “Mulder. FBI.”

Oh. I love this. It's like, insight into the side of Scully we so rarely get to see: the one who smiles and laughs and sings lullabies to her baby, the one that doesn't always keep it all inside because her heart is already too full of secrets and longing and sorrow.

This whole story is just heartbreaking and wonderfully written.

Also: hi! I randomly stumbled across this community aaaand I'm addicted. So, thank you.

Edited at 2008-08-06 06:42 am (UTC)
onpaperfirst
Aug. 16th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
Thank you! I like to imagine that whenever we didn't see her in S9, she was acting how she did in "William." You know, like she actually liked her kid!

Hi! We're more than happy to feed your addiction.
charvill
Aug. 23rd, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
gave me chills it was so well told....so in-character and believable
onpaperfirst
Feb. 22nd, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, I just saw this comment! From August. I'm a jerk!

Anyway, thank you, extraordinarily belatedly! I'm glad you liked it.
charvill
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
No worries!!! It was an awesome story!
beautyndisaster
Feb. 22nd, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
I could simply not put into words how much I love this
and HOW MUCH I HATE THAT STUPID BABY SHOWER -.-

I love the idea of William having Mulder's badge and it being his favorite thing.
onpaperfirst
Feb. 22nd, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

I may hate the baby shower more than anything else in S8 and S9, and believe me, I hate a lot of things in those two seasons. So kudos, baby shower, for being awful enough to get that distinction!
lady_goblin
Mar. 10th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
It is heartbreaking and adorable at the same time!
onpaperfirst
Mar. 16th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks! Truth be told, I'm kind of fond of that combination.
( 38 comments — Leave a comment )