Title: The Freedom Squad Birthday
Author: Kel and msk
Email: ckelll@hotmail.com msk1024@yahoo.com
Rating: PG-13 Archive: Just ask.
Spoilers: Breaks with canon after Existence. Also assumes Mulder was reinstated to the FBI after Vienen.
Disclaimer: Not ours. Sigh.

Summary: Mulder and Scully as happy, average people? It's not only that we can't picture it, but we don't really see the point. Why take all that history and turn it into "Leave It To Mulder?" Here's how msk and Kel picture William's fifth birthday.

Note: Written for The Nursery Files May Challenge: William's fifth birthday.


May 20, 2006

The alarm clock buzzed and he flung out an arm to slam down the snooze button.

"John?"

"Ten minutes," he muttered into his pillow.

"Wake up, John."

"Ten more minutes."

"What day is it, John?"

He scrubbed his gritty eyes with the heels of his hands and squinted at her.

"It's. . . Saturday." He chuckled, now fully awake. "Mm, nothing like a little breakfast in bed." He reached over, grabbing a fistful of her shirt.

She squealed and rolled away from him.

"Is that all you ever think about?" she asked, climbing out of the bed.

"Yeah, basically."

"Then it's time for your to stretch your mind. What were you doing five years ago today?"

"Hell, Monica, I don't remember what we had for dinner last night."

"Think, John, think."

"Five years ago. May 20, 2001. Oh, crap. I was runnin' around the FBI building lookin' for guys with spikes in their necks, and you were drivin' down to Georgia with Dana."

"Exactly. So guess who's having a birthday today?"

"Oh, hell. And it's my job to get Mulder to the party on time."

"Dana's going to shoot him if he screws this up."

"I'll shoot him myself, that son-of-a-bitch." He swung his legs to the floor and sat on the edge of the bed.

"So you'll get him to the party?"

"I'll get him there, even if I have to lash him to the fender to do it." He stood, stretched, and scratched the side of his neck.

"I'm going to Dana's early, to help her get ready."

"You sure we don't have time for a little *breakfast* first?"

She gave him a kiss, then a sympathetic smile.

"I'll see you in the kitchen," she said.

A cup of coffee, a whole-grain toaster-pastry, another kiss, and he was out the door. He climbed into the pick-up, but before he could turn the key, his phone began to vibrate.

"Hello?"

"I need your help."

"Mulder, do you have any idea what day it is?"

"That's why I need you. Meet me at the office."

That guy took the prize. It was his son's birthday, it was Saturday, and he was at work. The only good thing was he'd given Doggett a call, instead of just disappearing without a word.

The garage was empty, and Doggett found a space right by the elevator. Gone were the days when their office was tucked away in the basement. Now it was hidden in plain sight. The sign on the door said "Anomaly Resolution," but everybody still called it the X-Files.

Doggett found Mulder leaning over his desk, polishing something with an oily rag.

"Like it?" Mulder asked, holding up his handiwork. A baseball mitt--first base, now that he got a better look. Leather. Nice.

"It's a little small for you," Doggett said.

"Now that's why our homeland is secure. Guys like you who don't miss a thing."

"You got it for Billy. Good for you, Mulder." As in, good for you, numbnuts, you remembered.

"He called me last night. By himself." Mulder sounded proud, like he was the one who taught the kid how to use a phone. "He's all excited."

"Sure. Birthdays are a big deal when you're a kid."

"He wants a Freedom Squad Battle Fortress."

"I'm sure he'll like that mitt just fine."

Mulder was grinding the ball into the glove, forming the pocket. Which really wasn't necessary, but still, that's what a guy does with a new glove.

"I went to World O' Toys and Big Box Toys in Alexandria. I called a couple of stores in Arlington. I didn't get very far."

"He didn't give you much notice," Doggett said. As in, maybe if you talked to him more than once a month, you would have known earlier.

"After the stores closed, I looked around on line. Back-order, everywhere."

"What you do, Mulder, is you go to one of the stores and fill out a card, and they'll call you when it comes in. Meanwhile you give him a gift certificate. And the mitt."

"There's a couple on Ebay."

"There ya go."

Mulder punched the glove absently. Thunk, thunk, thunk.

"What are you getting him?" he asked.

"Uh, 'The Wind in the Willows.' See, I was gonna get him the Turbothunder Figure-Eight Speedway, but Monica thought it had too many small parts."

"That's a great book," Mulder said, and it took a minute before Doggett realized he wasn't being sarcastic.

"He'll get loads of toys today. And when you get him that battle thing, whenever it is, it'll be like having an extra birthday," Doggett said.

"I told him he'd get it today," Mulder said.

"That was dumb."

"Your powers of observation continue to amaze me."

"Glad I could help."

"As a matter of fact, you can help. Here's what we're gonna do."

"I don't believe this," Doggett said.

Mulder tossed a manila folder across the desk and flipped on the slide projector.

"The toy stores are circled in blue. Department stores are red. Asterisks are for Wal-marts."

"I thought you hate Wal-mart."

"Desperate times call for desperate measures. I got Frohike covering the metro area, and Langly's doing Maryland."

"This is crazy."

"Do you want Delaware or Virginia?"

"Mulder, the party's in five hours."

"Like I said, Doggett, you don't miss a thing. Study those pictures--I want you to recognize the box from any side, any angle. Don't forget your map."

"You're crazy."

"Let's get moving. Toys-R-Us opens in forty minutes."


"Dana, why don't you let me help you with that?"

Monica stood in the doorway of Scully's apartment, bags of juice boxes and potato chips in her hands. Scully perched on a step ladder, hanging crepe paper streamers in the dining room.

"I've got it. But you can hand me some more tape."

Monica set her bags down and tore off some adhesive tape for Scully. Dana climbed down from the ladder, blew a strand of hair out of her eyes and surveyed her handiwork.

A string of metallic letters that proclaiming "Happy Birthday" stretched across the top of doorjamb, evidence of Scully's decorating efforts.

"I see you went with the *Freedom Squad* theme," Monica said, eying the brightly colored plates and napkins stacked on the table.

"It was what William wanted. I suggested a circus theme but he wouldn't budge. The child has a stubborn streak."

"Like father like son?" Monica asked, smiling. Dana's response was a sour look.

If she lived for a hundred years, Monica would never understand the relationship between Dana and Mulder. Intensely private, each of them clammed up at the hint of prying. Monica knew she was probably Dana's closest friend, but Dana almost never spoke of personal matters.

When she'd first been assigned to the X-Files, Monica had taken a briefcase of files home each weekend. Over a period of months, she'd read them all--years and years of case reports, personal notes, medical records.

The files had painted a picture of growing trust and fierce attachment. Sometimes what wasn't said was more illuminating than what was actually on the page. Monica came away with a greater understanding of why Mulder and Dana were inextricably bound together.

What Monica had not learned was why they were forever at odds. Mulder had never lived in the apartment with Dana and Billy. He wandered in and out of their lives like a nomad. Sometimes Monica wondered if something had happened to him during his abduction that had robbed him of his ability to connect to others. For all the time he spent with Monica and John at the office, there was always a gulf between them.

Early one morning, when Billy was one or two, Monica had stopped by Dana's on the way to work. She'd wondered why Dana was jumpy as she answered the door. It all became clear when Mulder entered the room, barefoot, hair wet. When he saw Monica, he shrugged his shoulders and poured himself a glass of orange juice, which he downed in one long gulp. When he'd left, Monica leveled a look at an embarrassed Dana.

"And just what was that?" Monica had asked with a hint of a smile.

"A mistake," had been Dana's answer. Neither of them ever brought it up again, and Monica never again popped in without calling.

In their own way, both Mulder and Dana were working to keep Billy safe, though their methods were completely divergent. It was sad and ironic that their disagreement over method had created a gulf between them. Dana wanted Mulder to be consistent, hated that he was willing to sacrifice anything for his goal--his time with Billy, his own life if need be.

For his part, Monica suspected Mulder viewed Dana's teaching job at Quantico as a defection of sorts. He never came out and said it, but Monica could hear the frustration in his voice when Dana couldn't drop everything and run to a crime scene or examine evidence on a moment's notice.

Dana tore open the paper tablecloth and the two women unfurled it over the dining room table.

"John will make sure Mulder is here on time?" Dana asked, a little edge in her voice.

"Said he'd have him here if he had to lash him to the pickup," Monica laughed. Instantly, she wished she'd kept her joke to herself, when a flash of pain crossed Dana's face. "Joke, Dana. It was a joke."

"I don't understand him, sometimes," Dana said, shaking her head. "John shouldn't have to strong arm him over to his own son's birthday party."

"Mulder loves Billy," Monica said. "You know that."

"I do. Mulder loves William as much as he possibly can. But all it takes is a mysterious phone call from an unknown informant and it's 'Sorry, Billy, I'll make it up to you soon.' And I'm left to pick up the pieces."

"Dana, you know he's searching for answers: to what happened to you, to what happened to him. He's trying to keep you and Billy safe."

"Children need consistency in their lives. It's how they know they're loved."

"Dana..."

"Could you hand me that package of plates?"


The Freedom Squad toys were everywhere, but the Freedom Squad Battle Fortress was nowhere to be found.

Doggett phoned Mulder:

Maybe Billy would like the Combat Copter? The Armored Assault Vehicle? The Rescue Rover, which folded out into a field hospital?

Or maybe some of the Freedom Squad Heroes themselves. Sharpshot, or Bones, or Boomer, or Tex.

Nope. Had to be the Battle Fortress.

At the fourth store the manager informed Doggett of a shipment on the loading dock, as yet unpacked.

"Only I don't know what's in there. They send whatever they send."

"Could you check?"

"Come back this afternoon."

"I can't. I need it now."

The manager looked him up and down, then pointed to the tattoo on his arm.

"You a marine?" he asked. "My son's in the corps."

He let Doggett follow him into the back.

"How old is your boy?" he asked, slashing open a large cardboard carton.

"He's five."

"Enjoy him while you can. They're gone before you know it."

The manager looked over the top layer, then made a slit through the side and peeled it back a bit.

"Any luck?" Doggett asked.

"Yup. It's your lucky day."

"Thanks. This will mean a lot to him."

The manager pulled out the toy and gave it to Doggett. The box was huge, but weighed surprisingly little.

"I'll ring you out up front."

Doggett thanked the man again as he paid for his purchase.

"Glad I could do help," the manager said. "What's your son's name?"

"My son?" Doggett asked too sharply. "Oh, my son. His name is Luke."


"Mom! Mom! Is it time for my party?"

William flew through the kitchen with his grandmother trailing behind. Monica looked up from her work slathering blue frosting on cupcakes.

"Where's my baby?" Dana asked, turning from the sink and drying her hands on a dishtowel, mock puzzlement on her face.

"I'm William!" he shouted as he threw himself against his mother.

"But you can't be," Dana said, laughing, as she scooped him up. "My baby is little. You're a big boy."

"I'm five," Billy announced proudly.

"I'm sorry, Dana," Margaret Scully said. "I tried to keep him busy, but he just couldn't wait to come home."

"It's okay, Mom. I couldn't wait either." Dana hefted Billy onto the counter. "Hey, Birthday Boy, would you like to decorate your Freedom Squad cupcakes?"

Monica was amazed at the change in Dana when her son was there. With Billy, Dana was playful, loving, even occasionally silly, stark contrast to the serious, restrained woman that worked at the FBI.

"I wish I could stay and help," Margaret said. "Your cousin Sharon *had* to get married on Billy's birthday."

"Well, it looks like she's got a lovely day," Dana said, looking out the window at the bright spring sunshine.

"I'd better get moving," Margaret said, as she glanced at the time display on the microwave. "It's a long drive out to Fredricksburg and I still have to get dressed."

"Have a good time, Mom."

"I will," Margaret said to Dana. "Now, let me give the birthday boy a kiss."

When Margaret had left, Dana set William at the kitchen table with a tray of candies and jimmies. Kneeling on a chair, he seemed to eat as many decorations as he put on the frosted cupcakes.

"Will Daddy be here soon?" he asked, hopefully.

"Soon, sweetie," Dana replied. Her voice sounded firm and confident, but Monica noticed her glancing at the clock.

"Is he with Uncle John?" Billy's voice was reedy with hope.

"John went over to your dad's this morning, Billy," Monica said.

Billy looked thoughtful and nodded to himself. "Good," he said. "Uncle John'll make him hurry."

Billy went back to his work, his face a mask of concentration.

"Do you think he got me the Freedom Squad Battle Fortress? He said he was gonna get it. He promised."

"Battle Fortress?" Dana asked, puzzled. "Is that what you asked Daddy to give you, honey?"

"Yeah, it's got missile launchers and fighter jets and stuff. And the Freedom Squad barracks and everything. I hope he brings it soon."

"I didn't know you wanted that, sweetheart," Dana said. Monica was pretty sure Dana would have tried to talk him out of the toy, which was undeniably over-priced, over-hyped, and flimsy. Billy was a smart kid. He needed a former little boy to bring him his heart's desire. Monica hoped Mulder was up to the task.

"Honey, I'm sure your father will do his best," Monica said. "You have to remember that toy is hard to find."

"But Daddy said he's gonna get it for me."

"And I'm sure he'll try," Monica offered. "Say, Billy, did I ever tell you how your Daddy investigated a town that was having a cockroach invasion?"

"Cock-a-roaches? Daddy doesn't like bugs," William said. Dana snorted as she dried a dish and put it away.

"No, he doesn't," Monica said. "But he was very brave and didn't let his fear keep him from doing his job."

"But there was no cockroach invasion in the first place," Dana said. "Just a lot of hysterical people behaving irrationally."

"But there were lots of roachs," Monica said.

"They were in an alternative fuel research facility, William," Scully added. "A scientist there was using animal waste to create methane gas and the cockroaches had been hidden in the dung."

"Dung?" William asked.

"Poop," Monica supplied.

"I 'member this story," William said, his voice shrill with excitement. "There were lots of bugs and the poop factory exploded--POW--all over Mommy and Daddy!"


"I'd kiss you, if you weren't so damn ugly," Mulder said. Doggett climbed into the passenger seat and shut the door. He could have driven the pick-up to Billy's party, but he was duty-bound to deliver Mulder on time. Not to mention the price of gas.

"You wanna show your gratitude?" Doggett asked. "Get off your ass and approve our vacation request."

"You'd make it a lot easier if the two of you didn't insist on taking the same weeks," Mulder said.

"Kiss my ass," Doggett said. Doing a favor for Mulder was about as rewarding as a visit to the DMV. He reminded himself that it wasn't for Mulder. It was for Billy.

"So that's the elusive Freedom Squad Battle Fortress," Mulder said, taking his eyes from the road for a look at the large box in Doggett's lap.

"Last one on the Atlantic Seaboard," Doggett replied.

"Damn, Doggett. You didn't get it wrapped."

It was the kind of comment that made you want to rearrange a guy's teeth, only Mulder sounded more panicked than arrogant.

"Billy will just be happy to get the toy," he said.

"Not Billy. Scully. She'll know I got it at the last minute."

It would take more than bright paper and ribbons to convince Dana that Mulder was a dependable, responsible father.

"She'll be glad you showed up at all," Doggett said.

For once Mulder's impassive face showed a sign of emotion. Pain, regret, maybe even embarrassment.

"We have to get it wrapped," he said quietly.

They bought gift wrap and tape at a 7-Eleven and wrapped the present on the hood of the car.

"Good enough," Mulder said.

Good enough for his family, Doggett thought. When it came to the X-Files, there was no effort too great, no price too high. But for Billy and Dana, "good enough" would do.

They weren't the first to arrive at the party, but they weren't the last either.

"I guess the mutants decided to take Saturday off," Dana said when she greeted them at the door.

"Mutants cherish their leisure time," Mulder said.

Doggett remembered something Monica had said, after she dragged him to "Brokeback Mountain" and then sniffled through most of it: "They're like Mulder and Dana. They just couldn't find a way to make it work."

Dana stood there, staring at Mulder like she couldn't decide what to do about him. Then Monica appeared behind her, her cheerful announcement breaking the spell.

"Hey, look who's here!" she called joyfully as they entered. Over in the living room, a dozen little boys were circled around a missile-shaped pinata, cheering as a kid in a blindfold whacked it with a bat. Billy emerged from the crowd and ran to his father.

"Daddy! You came! Thank you, Uncle John!"

"I heard you were having a birthday," Mulder said.

"Dude, I told you that yesterday!"

"Yeah, dude, you did. And here I am."

"Did you get it, Daddy? Did you get what I asked for?"

"Right here, Bill."

"I knew I could count on you," Billy said.

Doggett saw Monica bite her lip. Hell, he was biting his own.


"More coffee?" Dana asked.

"I'll get it," John said. "Monica?"

"Half a cup," she answered.

The three of them sat at the dining room table. Plates and juice boxes had been cleared away, but the bright paper tablecloth was generously smudged with cake and frosting.

William and Mulder sat on the floor, deeply involved in the task of assembling the Freedom Squad Battle Fortress.

"I had no idea it would be so educational," Dana observed.

Billy's reading ability was unequal to the task of deciphering the directions, but Mulder had put him to work finding the words "connect" and "fasten."

"It's tricky, because 'fasten' starts with an F, like freedom, and fortress. So you have to look carefully," Mulder had instructed him.

"Okay, Dad!"

"The pictures also show you how it goes together. See?"

"Yeah!"

John returned with the coffee and refilled their cups.

"A lot of guys find it easier to relate as the kid gets older," he said.

"I'm hoping," Dana answered.

Monica wished the scene could be frozen in time, all of them safe, all of them together. But the moment was fragile, and all that was needed to shatter the peace was the trill of Mulder's cell phone.

The End.

 

 

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