Disclaimer: I hope this doesn’t come off like I’m making light of people’s phobias. I just based this on a similar experience of mine, which I now find pretty funny.
Scully likes to think she is a rational woman. She knows that ghosts don’t exist and that monsters are myths, that the strange rattling at the window in the middle of the night is just the wind, that she has never stepped on a crack and worried about her mother’s spine.
Scully is a woman of science and she has no time for superstition, but when her partner invites eleven people to dinner on his birthday, she is slightly apprehensive.
“Mulder this is the worst plan you have ever had, and I mean worse than the time you jumped on a moving fucking train,”
Mulder stares at her like she’d just suggested the moon landing wasn’t faked. “This was your idea, Scully, just try to have a good time,”
She had been on edge all day, but anxiety twists in her gut like a knife as he leads her to the table and offers her a chair. Scully had kindly offered her dining room when Mulder had told her he hadn’t made any plans for his thirtieth. He had never made a big deal out of his birthday, but she’d insisted that thirty was a milestone worth celebrating.
That was until she realised it was Friday the 13th and more than just the Gunmen had appeared at her door. Scully takes a deep breath and sits. As conversations flow around them, she turns to her partner and wills her voice not to shake. “My idea was to have a quiet dinner with a few work friends, but you decided to invite half your Rolodex,”
“Look, I didn’t know Gunmen were going to bring dates, I didn’t even know they knew any other women,”
They could have actually designed them themselves, as each woman had an eerie resemblance to their corresponding conspiracy theorist; the six of them congregated at the end of the table with a portable computer, pot roasts pushed to the side.
“I just… I think it’s bad luck. You know, the first to stand…”
Realisation dawns on Mulder, his face lights up like a sunrise. “You know what that’s called, don’t you, Scully?”
Scully wishes she’d just kept quiet. “Mulder, it’s not…”
“Triskaidekaphobia,” he croons in a sing-song voice. He’s lucky it’s his birthday. You can’t shoot a man on his birthday.
“I’m not afraid of the number thirteen, Mulder,” she says through gritted teeth.
“Oh, no?” Mulder smirks, pouring them some Pinot Noir.
“I just think it’s too high a number for a dinner party. I mean, what on earth is Annette from accounting doing here?”
“She was crying in the break room and I felt bad for her, she just broke up with her fiancé,”
Annette blows her nose noisily on a paper napkin across the table. Skinner pats her shoulder gingerly, looking like he’s re-evaluating some life choices.
“Well, what about my brother? He doesn’t even live in the country,”
“Maggie didn’t tell you he was he was coming down from Ottawa?”
“How frequently do you speak with my mother, Mulder?”
“We have tea every Thursday. You know you should really call her more often, Scully,”
“Hey, Mulder!” Comes Charlie’s loud and timely interjection, his fair face flushed with alcohol, “When are you going to make an honest woman out of my sister?”
Mulder chokes on his wine, Scully’s face burns red to match it. Why did her whole family assume she was sleeping with her partner?
“Mind your own business,” she snarls. Her brother winks and whispers something to his wife, Lucy, a pretty petite blonde, who bless her heart, seems confounded by the company she finds herself in.
Scully picks nervously at her food and silently curses her hand for trembling. Mulder frowns, realising her distress is genuine, “Look, Scully, I’m sorry, I really didn’t know. How about I go call my mother…”
“No! Mulder, don’t stand up!” she says too loudly, and the room stalls.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry, I’d completely forgotten…” Maggie starts.
“Oh my god,” Charlie laughs gleefully, “Dana, you’re still afraid of the number thirteen?”
“Charlie, shut up,” she hisses, asking herself for the millionth time why the hell her pain in the ass little brother was here.
“She’s been terrified of that number since we learned about the last supper in Sunday School, we threw her a surprise party on her thirteenth birthday and she passed out,”
Scully shuts her eyes and wishes she could disappear.
“if it makes you feel any better, Dana,” Lucy adds quietly, “technically we’re fourteen,”
Twelve sets of eyes flicker to Charlie’s wife, then to her stomach.
“Surprise,” Mulder says feebly.
Maggie starts to cry; Annette offers her a Kleenex.
“I’m going to be an aunt?”
Lucy nods demurely, Scully hesitates for a long moment, before she stands. She circles the table to wrap her arms tightly around her sister-in-law then quickly leaves the room.
Mulder finds her on the floor in the hall, head cradled in her hands, with no regard for her expensive new skirt. He flops down beside her and rubs a hand up and down and up her spine.
“You knew about the baby,” she accuses. “Yeah,” he admits, “Charlie told me,”
Why the hell was Mulder more of a Scully than she was? She dabs her eyes quickly, hoping he won’t notice, but he’s not a detective for nothing so of course, he does.
“Hey,” he murmurs, tapping her softly on the chin. “I’m sorry,”
“No, don’t be, It’s silly. I’m a grown woman…”
“And I’m a grown man who believes in aliens,” Mulder nudges her shoulder gently with his own, “I promise I’ll protect you from the big, bad numbers,”
She tries to look annoyed, but can’t help cracking a smile. Mulder throws an arm around her waist and she settles her head against his chest.
“I’m sorry for ruining your birthday party, Mulder,”
“Are you kidding me, Scully? You’ve given me the best present I could have ever asked for,”
Her eyebrows knit together, “But I didn’t…”
“Fuck you, Mulder,” she sighs.
He’s lucky it’s his birthday.