No Place like Home
for @txf-fic-chicks post-episode/missing scene fic challenge … cranked out after feeding the dog and cat and before leaving for church … proofed while my kid watched, at high volume, Shawn Mendes sing ‘Mercy’ … any and all errors are her fault :)
She needed to eat.
He needed to eat.
That’s not to say they wanted to eat but need took precedence over desire to curl up and die while the Peacock brothers headed to points unknown with their mother in the trunk and a straight family tree laid out in front of them, uncurving, unbranched and unthinkable.
Scully saw that he was guiding her towards the diner across the street and thinking about shaking his steadying hand from her elbow, she felt him lean in, “we need food before we drink liquor or else we’ll be drunk as soon as we open the magic bottle and passed out by the third sip.”
She couldn’t argue the sound logic and relented, her feet shuffling her across clean roadway and up unchipped curb to a diner that looked like it fell out of Maybury, much, she cringed, like Andy Taylor had. About to slip further into her depression from the last four days, she perked up at the smell of homemade food and ‘Chantily Lace’ playing passively through the speakers. Leading her to a corner booth, complete with red, shiny vinyl seats and chrome table edges, he gestured in a gentlemanly fashion, “ladies choice. Left or right?”
Choosing left so her back was to the wall, she slid in, involuntary smile floating up at the memory of 5-year old Dana and her family eating out on the rare occasion her father deemed them rich enough to afford a restaurant dinner for his family of six.
Mulder caught the memory skirting across her face and tapped her hand, “hey, dime for the thought behind the smile.”
Settling into the cool backrest, the material creaking slightly under her movement, “once in a blue moon, dad would be home and he’d look at the family checkbook and doing all kinds of math in his head and dramatically scribbling for effect on the corners of several old newspapers, he would decide that the bank account could handle taking six people out to the local diner in town for dinner. Now, today I understand that he would have taken us regardless but all his showy dramatics back then made us appreciate our night out more than probably most kids did. We didn’t see him as much as most families so a night out was special enough but then when we’d see just how special it was and we thought it was costing him a small fortune, we made sure not to fight, we were extra polite, we talked and tried to one up dad with stories of how tragically exciting our elementary school lives really were in comparison to his boring existence on a Navy carrier.” Thanking the waitress for the water she’d just set down, Scully pulled the glass towards her, spinning the ice with her straw before looking back at him, “there was a diner like this in town, blue and green instead of red but I swear to you, that waitress over there is the same and I desperately want to ask if she lived in San Diego in the 70’s.”
Mulder, glancing over his shoulder, returned to her gaze a moment later, smiling as well, “I double dog dare you.”
Scully felt some of the angst of the case draining away, “no, I’m good for now with the wondering and the suspecting, proving isn’t necessary to existence at the moment.”
“Fine. Take away my fun.” Opening the menu, “what are we eating? Want to share a shake? Pretend we’re 13 and on our first date?”
With an eye-roll, she poked his leg under the table with the rounded toe of her boot, “I don’t share ice cream well, Mulder. I’m greedy and terrible and need to selfishly have it all to myself. I will, however, give you the cherry from the top in compensation for the denied double-dog dare.”
Tapping the side of her calf back in response, “fair enough.”
Burger and meatloaf consumed, shakes slurped and cherry surrendered, Mulder sat back, “what’s next, G-woman. We don’t leave until tomorrow morning.”
“Well, you’d mentioned gallons of liquor and I’m still pretty okay with that idea.”
Figuring there had to be some kind of liquor store around the town that time forgot, he signaled the bill, stood to leave and held out his hand, “come on. Inebriation awaits.” Dropping a sizeable tip, he then charged the meal to the Bureau and led her out with his now standard hand on her back, guiding her forward simply because it always felt like the natural thing to do.
He chose to turn left randomly and before reaching three storefronts down, Mulder pulled her to a stop by the back of her shirt, halting their beeline to liquor and forgetting. Looking over her shoulder, “what?”
Mulder, eagle-eye that he could be, was pointing to a flyer in the window of the Post Office, “we should go see that.”
Following his finger, she read the sign, “you want to go to Home Elementary School’s production of,” squinting slightly to make sure she was reading it properly, “Wizard of OZ?”
“Yeah. We need some culture, Scully. We never do anything cultural, worldly, sophisticated.”
The eyebrow flew miles into the air, “elementary school plays are cultural, worldly and sophisticated?”
“We just lost, into the general population, an entire incestuous family who keep their mother in a trunk. We need this more than we need the entire contents of a liquor store, trust me.”
Realizing he was completely right, “let’s go.”
The folding chairs wiggling in haphazard rows across the cafeteria floor transported her back to an age where folding chairs were meant to wiggle in haphazard rows across the cafeteria floor. She grinned as she bought her $3 ticket and nearly giggled at the flying monkey who took it at the door, the small boy poking his friend and whispering, “go show them two seats and they’re tall so put them in the back.”
The friend whispered back, “shut up, Tim, I know what to do.”
In an 8-year old huff, the friend led them to two seats in the back row, handing them copy paper programs before walking away. Scully leaned up to Mulder, talking low into his shoulder, “they think I’m tall.”
“They’re delusional kids huffing glue. You’re the shortest thing in adult world and they’ll be bigger than you by sixth grade.” Dropping into a chair and patting the one beside it, “now, sit before they call the giant squad to come take you away.”
Smacking him hard on the upper arm, she settled in, “you are enjoying this too much already.”
“If I had popcorn, I’d be in heaven.”
While he lamented his missing snack, around them parents and kids, grandparents, friends, assorted other relatives filled the seats for the next 15 minutes, the room soon darkened and the play beginning.
An hour later, they had witnessed four stage-frightened kids, one tremendously loud and surprisingly on-key Dorothy, two fighting trees who threw their apples at each other instead of the main characters, several set mishaps including the curtain falling to reveal the wizard before the wizard was to be revealed, a crier, two trippers and a nervous nose-picking palace guard who then screamed when he realized his nose was bleeding from the aforementioned furious gold-digging.
Once Dorothy finally got back to Oz and all was set right with the world, the lights went down, another kid wailed at the sudden darkness, then, the stage lit up again, a straggling line of kids awaiting applause in the middle of the floor and visibly fearful it wouldn’t come.
They didn’t have to worry … because Mulder was there and he was so damn happy with what he’d just experienced that he jumped from his seat, clapping as loud as his cupped hands could achieve, his yelling praises and congratulations and hooting driving the rest of the hesitating audience up and standing, first looking at Mulder and each other to see if this was proper etiquette then realizing their kids needed hooting and yelling.
Scully buried four fingers in her mouth, letting out a wolf whistle that echoed throughout the cinderblock room. More whistled joined and it took nearly four minutes for the room to quiet again to a manageable level. Kids cheered, bowing and giggling, coming out to the audience to find their families while Mulder and Scully stood quietly alone, grinning at the best night they’d had in a very long time.
The ticket taking flying monkey turned from his parents in the row ahead of them, “hey, which kid do you belong to?”
Mulder gave him an appraising look, wondering fleetingly what it would be like to be owned by a kid, “none, actually. We were just passing through and decided to take in a show.”
The kid nodded, then looked up at Scully, “sorry I didn’t realize you were that short. I would’ve had Tim put you closer up.”
Scully smiled at him, “I saw the whole thing and it was wonderful. Thank you for doing such a good job.”
Something twinged in Mulder’s chest as he watched her speak to the younger boy. He wanted to see her with her kids, watch her raise them in Scully fashion, science quizzes at the dinner table and midnight slime concocting at the kitchen counter because she had to prove Mulder wrong about the consistency and use of Borax in solution.
He would revisit the fact that he was at these midnight sessions and dinner table tests another time but for now, he took her elbow as the kid turned back to his parents, “come on, shorty, time to go.”
Instead of moving, Scully put her hand on his shoulder and climbed onto the folding chair, making her taller than him by several inches. Standing in front of her now and grinning up like a love-struck fool, she grabbed his tie, fiddling with it for a moment, “not so short now, am I?”
“Nope. Not at all.”
Returning his grin, she wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly, crowds be damned, “thank you for the culture, Mulder.”
Arms around her waist, he held her steady and safe high up in the air, “thank you for the world, Scully.”