It’s 9.16 am and Mulder is
not yet at the office. Despite the fact that Mulder has a habit of ditching
her, or following any lead right away without another though, he tends to be at
work on time. If not early. How often has she strolled in and Mulder was
already in the midst of something important?
Today, Scully made sure
she’d be there before him. To prepare her surprise for his birthday. She
examines her work now from all angles. Small, colorful candles flicker their
light at her and in between them sits a slice of carrot cake. With extra frosting
and, instead of a candy carrot on top, a small alien head. In gray, of course. A
few weeks ago on a stakeout, Mulder told her that he didn’t like celebrating his
birthday. Too much fuss, he explained spewing out sunflower seeds like an
alien-hunting James Dean character. The only thing he liked, still indulged in
even now, he admitted to her, was a slice of carrot cake. That’s when Scully
knew what she’d do for his birthday.
And now he’s late. She
picks up the phone and dials his cell phone number. Three dial tones later and
Mulder himself steps into the office.
"There you are,”
she hangs up the phone and gets up to greet him; he stands there like a
question mark, his eyes searching hers in the dim, intimate light, “happy
birthday!” Scully exclaims and engulfs him in her arms. If she didn’t know
better she’d think he’d forgotten his own birthday. He groans into her hair
when she squeezes his sides but hugs her back.
“You did this for
me?" His voice tangles in her hair and Scully smiles against his
"I did. I know you
said you don’t like your birthday, but everyone deserves to feel a little
special every once in a while.”
“Thank you, Scully.
Thank you.” His arms tighten around her and Scully wishes they could stay
like this for the rest of the day. She gently pushes at him. There are tears
swimming in his eyes but he smiles at her.
“Come on, blow out
your candles.” He makes his way over to his desk, his steps deliberate and
slow. Something is wrong, Scully thinks, but is distracted when Mulder stares
at the plate in front of him. He chuckles, shakes his head in disbelief. Her
Mulder, for once unable to belief in something. His head comes up so he can
look at her. He doesn’t say a word, purses his lips and starts blowing out the
candles. Scully only got him a dozen; who wants to be reminded of their age
anyway? Mulder is halfway through when he sits down in his chair.
“Mulder, are you all
right?" Scully turns on the desk lamp, the bright light breaking the
"I’m just old.”
Mulder jokes. Now in the light, Scully sees Mulder’s pale complexion. Strands
of hair are plastered to his forehead.
“Mulder, look at
me.” Scully orders and he does. Dilated pupils, she notes. She leans over
and touches his cheek. They feel warm, feverish.
“I haven’t been
feeling well. My stomach feels funny.” He touches his side and Scully
swallows hard. She puts two and two together, takes his hand and helps him up.
“We’re going to the
hospital right now. I think you have appendicitis."
"Happy birthday to
me.” He mumbles as he lets himself be led away.
They confirm Scully’s
diagnosis in the ER. Mulder is admitted and prepped for surgery right away, the
inflammation too far gone to wait any longer. The fact that he doesn’t complain
once tells Scully that he’s in more pain than he’s letting on.
“Are you going to
operate?” He asks her, his voice slightly slurred.
“No, I’m not. These
people here know what they’re doing.” That’s her hope anyway. Scully knows
this is a routine operation. Mulder will be fine. They’ll release him in a few
days, he’ll take it easy - she’ll make sure of that - and soon, he’ll have
forgotten it ever happened.
“Then why are you
crushing my hand?” As if it were on fire, Scully lets go of his hand. It
falls away him like a wet rag.
“I’m sorry, Mulder.
I’m just… you scared me, you know? You should have told me you weren’t
“I forgot when I saw
you,” her eyebrows shoot up, “and what you did for my birthday. I
only wish I could have tried the carrot cake. See what that alien tastes
like.” They both chuckle.
“I promise I’ll get
you a new one once they’ll let you eat solid food again.” Mulder groans
just as three nurses walk in. Time to go.
“I’ll be here when you
wake up, Mulder.” Scully squeezes his hand and finds herself unwilling to
let go. Mulder’s panic face makes an appearance and she puts her other hand on
his cheek. “It’ll be fine. It’s a routine operation. And you know you have
something to look forward to: your carrot cake.” He squeezes her hand as
his eyelids droop. Another moment and he’ll be gone. Scully listens to the
familiar click and clack of the hospital bed as they start wheeling Mulder out.
She’s still holding his hand knowing she’ll have to let go any second now.
“Scully… I… love
you.” Her hand lets go, they take him away, and she stands there. Did
he just say what she thinks he just said?
Two hours later, Scully is informed
that there were no complications. Mulder is in his room, still out of it, and
she is allowed to be with him. A nurse brings her a blanket, apologizes that
the plastic chairs are so uncomfortable. Scully keeps drifting off, her hand
holding Mulder’s like a lifeline. When it twitches, finally, she sits up
straight, waits for his eyes to open.
"Hi. Am I dead?”
“No, you’re not. How
are you feeling?”
“It’s the anesthetic.
It’ll take a while before it wears off. Any pain?”
Feel… pretty good. Best birthday ever.” His eyes are closed, he’ll be
asleep again in no time, but at least he’s smiling. As she stares at his
peaceful face, she wants to ask him. Ask him if he really said I love you
earlier. Scully knows it’s no use and yet she leans forward to whisper to him.
you remember anything from before, Mulder? Before the operation?"
You… carrot cake… I love… love… love carrot cake.” Scully, amused, shakes
her head. Of course. Carrot cake. He loves carrot cake. That’s all. Scully
takes his hand back in hers and leans back in her chair. Maybe she’ll ask him
again later. Maybe.