29 to 36

by Mary Kleinsmith (Buc252@aol.com)

Classification: Missing Scene, Birthday Fic

Rating: Nothing worse than a PG

Distribution: Anywhere, just keep my name attached

Disclaimer: The characters and episodes belong to Fox, 10-13, and David and Gillian. This idea, however is all mine - but I'm not making any money on it, so please don't sue.

Summary: Scully's Birthdays, through the X-Files years. I just knew he didn't forget.

Author's Notes: Okay, this began as an idea for an After-the-Fact challenge and ended up meeting several of them. For the record, those episodes, in order, are:

Deep Throat,

Darkness Falls,

End Game,


Tempus Fugit (with a mention of previous-ep Kadish),

Kill Switch,

Arcadia (with a touch of the previous ep, Two Fathers, One Son), and

Signs & Wonders.

Please note that the timeline on this reflects the dates given in the episodes, not the time frame of the seasons as we know it. I also took a little liberty with the date of the pilot, pushing it back a month so her birthday falls after Deep Throat. So sue me.

29 to 36

by Mary Kleinsmith (Buc252@aol.com)

February 23, 1993

I should have known better than to expect anything to happen today. All my old work friends are back at Quantico, and I haven't been assigned to the X-Files long enough to have made any work friends here. And the only person I have gotten to know to any degree is an antisocial anachronism with nothing more on his mind than little green men and flying saucers.

I'm 29 years old today. My mother called, of course, and we made plans for the weekend. Socializing on a weeknight has never been big in the Scully household, but for once, I found myself wishing that she'd throw caution to the wind and invite me out for dinner. Or even a drink.

Mulder and I grabbed lunch at the corner deli in between expense reports, but he made no mention of the date. He probably didn't realize or even have had cause to know my birthday. We haven't been partners that long, and if anybody has a reason to be distracted, he does. It wasn't all that long ago that he had his memory wiped - if his theory is to believed - by the federal government of all people. The last thing he needs to worry about is my birthday.

I bid the Bureau goodnight a little after 5:00, headed home for an evening of Chinese takeout, Haagendaas, the movie I rented yesterday, and maybe a candle stuck in a Hostess cupcake if I'm feeling particularly self pitying. I know it's pathetic, but it's my life now.

My biggest birthday gift seems to be finding a parking space right in front of my building, and I slide into the spot before locking up the car and heading for my apartment.

My heart jumps into my throat when I see a small, narrow box leaning against my door. I unlock it and go in, carrying the package with me and dumping it, my briefcase, laptop, and purse on the dining room table. My trenchcoat gets hung on the coat rack where it always does, my briefcase moved to the desk where it always rests. Another boring evening in another boring week.

The number of the Chinese place a few blocks down is easily at hand, and I order Sesame Chicken and steamed rice, as I always do. Some day, I'm going to totally shock them and order something different, but not tonight. Tonight, I need security.

Even while I'm on the phone, my attention keeps going back to the mysterious box. Something I ordered on the net? No, there's no address or postage on it. Propaganda from some flounder? Maybe.

Hanging up the phone, I approach the table, feeling the light weight of the contents. There's no card or address to indicate its origin. But the top slides off easily.

Inside, six beautifully pale roses, their leaves intact, lie nestled among the tissue paper. Around them is wrapped an equally pale blue ribbon embossed with "Happy Birthday" in gold.

They're wonderful, and I smile despite myself, wondering who I have to thank for this precious gift. My mother? One of my two brothers? My sister Missy? No, this is too intimate for any of them. Ethan? We broke up nearly a year ago, but would he still remember something like my birthday?

Searching the box, there's no sign anywhere of even the florists name. I suppose I could contact every florist and grocery store that carries roses in the Virginia/Maryland/DC area, but I realize that I don't want to. I sit at my dining room table eating Chinese with chopsticks, admiring my roses, which I put in a vase in the center of the table, and somehow, I don't feel so alone anymore.

February 23, 1994

For awhile there, I was afraid I wouldn't get out of quarantine and be recovered in time for today. I've seen a lot of things in the last year or so, but those insect swarms were . . . . Well, hell, I don't know WHAT they were. My complexion may not be what it once was, and I may not yet have the energy I once did. I'm not sure if this last was from being fodder for all those microbugs or just the taxing factor of spending so many weeks alone with Mulder.

Don't get me wrong. This partnership thing has been working out really well. He's developing into not just a great partner, but a great friend. He's just got this energy level, even when he's sick or hurt, that's impossible to keep up with. He exhausts me just looking at or listening to him.

Mom's picking me up at the airport, and while I know I should offer him a ride home as well, I'm just not ready for more time together. I breath a sigh of relief as he tells me that he's already called a cab. We'd actually left a bureau fleet car in long term parking when we left on our little expedition, but somebody from the FBI came around and collected it when they found out we'd be gone a month. I can't argue with the logic, actually.

Mom is waiting at the baggage claim area, enveloping me in a hug after four weeks' separation. Trust her to always remember.

"Happy birthday, sweetheart! I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too, Mom. More than you'll know. Being in quarantine isn't all it's cracked up to be, believe me!" We laugh together as the siren goes off, alerting those waiting of incoming baggage.

Finally, my distinctive case comes into view. Mom insists on carrying it, even though I'm trying to convince her that I'm fine - fully healed.

"I got lucky and found a parking space pretty close to the terminal," she tells me as we head for the security checkpoint. I'm relieved, not because I'm still sick, but just because it's been a long trip and I'm ready to rest. The security guard asks to see my claim check and compares it to the ticket affixed to my suitcase, nodding with approval.

"Could I see some identification please?"

That's odd. I don't usually get asked that when I'm leaving the airport - only entering. Still, who's to say? I pull out my Bureau ID and give him a good look.

"Dana Scully," he says, not questioning. "Everything here seems in order. Have a nice day." We're barely past when he speaks again. "Oh, and Agent Scully?"

"Yes?" I ask.

"Somebody left this for you."

It's a flower box, wrapped in a ribbon that also ensnares a colorful balloon. I wonder briefly where he had it stashed. It hadn't been floating around in clear view, but that thought is quickly dismissed as Mom helps me open the box to the most beautiful roses. Deep pink, almost fuscia, blossoms are supported on six long, clean stems. They're lovely, I think, as my mother makes the same pronouncement out loud.

"My Lord, Dana. Who sent these?"

I search the box, over, around, and above the blooms, then the cover and the remainder of the trappings. "No card. Just a balloon that says happy birthday."

"You know, sweetheart, this is just the type of thing your father always does to surprise me." Suddenly, Mom looks sad. "I mean, did."

There is little else I can think to do except envelop her in my arms, and I do just that. I've missed my father every day of the two months since he's been gone, but I know it's been so much worse for her. But Mom is nothing less than a strong woman, and she shivers just a little before pulling away and wiping at her eyes.

"Let's get you home, and get these flowers in some water before they shrivel up on us," she says, sliding her arm around my waist. It occurs to me how frightened she must have been when she found out we'd been hurt and would have quite a long recovery.

"After that," I suggest, "how about you take an old maid to dinner on her birthday?" We both laugh - I'm hardly old, despite how I feel from time to time. And I'd rather not discuss the "maid" part of that, at least not with my mom. It hasn't been that long since the incident with Jack Willis, and while it scared the crap out of me at the time, now, it just reminds me of the other men I've had in my life. I guess that's why I haven't fawned so much over the flowers. I have this unnerving fear that some man from my past is going to come back and use them to make a claim on me. I'd rather just enjoy them and not think too much about it. After all, how many birthday presents do I get?


February 23, 1995

If you had asked me three days ago if I was planning to have a happy birthday, I'd have looked at you like you were crazy. Here I am, in the wilds of Alaska, stuck here for two weeks now, surrounded by people I don't know and watching over a man who has become both my best friend and the bane of my existence. The man has no sense of self-preservation whatsoever, and this time, it almost cost him his life.

When I arrived at the base all those days ago, it was full of people that, while trying to cure Mulder, were decidedly antagonistic to a stranger butting her head into their business. I know I could and should have been a little more . . . diplomatic . . . in those first hours, but I have this tunnel vision when it comes to Mulder's safety. And you didn't have to be a doctor to see that he was circling the drain.

However, I can say with exhausted relief that he is awake and on his way to what I now can say is a full recovery. He's still weak as a kitten, and I have to feed him meals from a spoon like a nine-month old, which he hates. But then he'll try to lift his hand for more than a few minutes, or heft a normally-light object, and he realizes that, for this once, he has to allow me to help him.

At least, this year, he has every reason in the world for having forgotten my birthday. I don't mind, though. I have him back, and the people here have grown to be very kind after all. They always make sure they bring me a regular meal while I'm with Mulder. We sit together, and I take turns giving myself a bite and giving one to him.

"I hate this," Mulder says weakly as he swallows a mouthful of soft food. The doctors don't want his energy expended on something as trivial as chewing, but I know my partner, and he's dying for a cheeseburger or a taco.

"I'm sorry, I know you'd rather have something more solid. Maybe tomorrow we can talk the doctor into it."

"How much longer do I have to be here?"

"It's only been two weeks, Mulder. Need I remind you just how close you came to dying?" I can't believe he's pushing this. He's not ready, and I'm not sure that I'm ready either. "You really need more time to regain your strength," I say, dropping my voice. It's my "serious voice," and he knows it.

"Okay . . . but see what you can do about the food, will you? I assure you, it won't impair my recovery a bit if I have to chew my food."

I have to chuckle at this. Put that way, it does sound kind of silly. "I'll do whatever I can," I smile, just as a soft knock comes on the door a moment before it is opened.

"Excuse me, am I interrupting?" the young nurses' aid asks. She's so young. The kid must've signed up with the military right out of high school.

"Believe me," Mulder mutters. "Interrupting dinner is no great loss."

"I just thought Agent Scully shouldn't have to wait for these." From behind the door, she brings a white box encircled by a yellow ribbon.

I can't help smiling. "Thank you, Ann!"

"You're welcome. And happy birthday from me, too, Dana." She sets the box in my hands and beats a hasty retreat.

"I never expected . . ." Taking off the ribbon and card, I open the box to reveal perfect yellow blossoms - roses, just like the last two years. "They're beautiful." I can't resist sharing their beauty, and tip the box so that Mulder can see the flowers. "Each year, I get roses on my birthday. It's gotta be Mom or one of my brothers, I'm sure."

Mulder's smile matches my own. "I'm sure," he says simply but weakly. Dinner and our talking have worn him out, and I know I should let him sleep. Still, I don't want to go.

"How much do you remember from the other day, Mulder?"

"How far back are we talkin' here, Scully? More than a few days and I'm afraid I'm not gonna be much of a conversationalist."

"I mean when you woke up. The first time. What did you mean when you said you found the faith to keep looking? I didn't realize that you'd lost it."

"I did," he says quietly, and I'm not sure if it's the subject or his level of exhaustion. "I lost Sam. My parents hated me for trying to save both Samantha and you - and then didn't believe me when I told them that it hadn't even really been her. And I finally pushed you too far. There was nothing left for me but to complete one last act. But I found a hint of the truth out there on the ice, Scully. I've seen - even spoken with - a real alien."

"You saw a Reticulin?"

"No, he was a shape shifter." I'm sure he's noticing my eyes rolling. They do that even when I try to stop them. "I'm serious, Scully."

"I know you are. I just want you to promise me something. Call it a birthday present if you want."

"What do you want me to promise?"

"That the next time you feel so low that you think you've lost your faith, you'll come to me rather than go running off like this. I don't ever want anything to happen to you, Mulder."

I've been staring at the wall - I admit, I don't want to meet his eyes, although I can't explain exactly why. Still, I have to look at him when I hear his voice, even softer.

"I promise." His lids are sagging heavily now, and I think it's time to go. "Think I'm going to sleep now . . ."

As he fades off, I realize that, despite his being stuck in a hospital bed yet again, there's nowhere I'd rather be on my birthday. Next year, I promise myself, we'll celebrate in style - even if I have to remind him of the day.

February 23, 1996

Okay, I admit it. I know I swore that we were going to celebrate my birthday this year - "we" being Mulder and I. But right now, I can't imagine celebrating anything. I'm still reeling from our most recent case.

"Scully!" he says from his chair across the office, and I realize that it's not the first time he's beckoned me.

"What?" I respond quickly.

His eyes grow gentle. "Where were you?"

"What do you mean?" I say, feigning ignorance. But I know exactly what he means.

"You looked like you were a hundred thousand miles away."

"I was just marveling," I comment, and now I'm being honest. "I can't believe that we actually found a person with the ability to force his will on others. To make them act against their wishes."

"Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Psychologically speaking, it is the most invasive form of rape. To take not just your body, but your very mind." He shivers, and it doesn't go unnoticed. Before I can say anything, though, he rises. "I'll be right back - just something I need to take care of."

I know where he's going, and don't intrude. Most people would say that Mulder wears his heart on his sleeve, and in many cases, that's true, but he hides his weaknesses close to the vest. He's been hurt, and won't let just anybody inside. I wish for a moment that he'd let me in - share what he's feeling with me - but I know better than to force it.

While he's gone, my mind wanders. I almost lost him this time. It was a terrifying experience to see him put the pistol's muzzle to his head and pull the trigger, as if it were nothing. As if he were combing his hair or brushing his teeth or any one of the many other things he does each and every day.

I'm drawn from my musings by a knock on the door. I don't recognize the man who stands on our threshold, but there are so many new faces around, I'm not taken aback. He has Bureau ID, and that's enough for me. Maybe it shouldn't be. "May I help you?"

"Delivery for you, Agent Scully." He hands over a long rectangular box with a ribbon wrapped around it. I take it from him warily, but he smiles. "Happy Birthday."

It is my birthday - or will be tomorrow, anyway. I blush, thinking about howI'll hear about it all day. I don't dislike my birthday, don't regret the prospect of growing older, but I've never been one to like undue attention. Still, I wouldn't mind a little attention from particular people. Or a particular person.

The flowers are beautiful, and again, there's no card. This is the fourth year in a row my secret admirer has anonymously remembered my birthday. I'm betting it's Charlie, but I have yet to get him to cop to it. This year, they're a mixture of colors - red and white. I laugh silently, wondering why he didn't just pick pink, but I'm not complaining.

Mulder returns, shyly and silently retrieving the vase we keep on a high shelf. He knows it's out of my reach. "Nice flowers," he comments as I put them in water. I don't think I should tell him the occasion. I don't want to embarrass him that he's forgotten. But is letting him think they're from another man so much better? Maybe I want him to think that. Just once, I wish he'd be jealous. Angry at another man's attention toward me. He gets sad, but never jealous.

"Isn't there supposed to be a little packet of something you put in with them?" he asks, and I realize that he's right - I've forgotten the food. I retrieve the packet from the bottom of the box and dump it into the vase.

I realize I'm being presumptuous. "Do you mind if I keep these here?"

"No, it's fine," he says, smiling. "They make the office smell better. Covers up the scent of sunflower seeds," he chuckles, touching my arm. He's been a lot more touchy-feely since Modell. I don't insult both of us by denying I know what it is. Mulder's always had an overactive guilt complex, and here is a situation where, even thought it was out of his control, I was almost killed at his hands. He's feeling responsible, and I know that nothing I can say will assuage his self-recrimination. All I can do is show him that I don't hold it against him and be here, the same as always. He's my best friend - even if he does forget my birthday.

February 23, 1997

"Hey, Scully. Would you have dinner with me tonight?" It's the last thing I expect to hear from Mulder, and it catches me totally off guard.

"Umm . . ."

"Of course, if you have plans . . ." he interrupts before I can answer.

"No, not at all! You just surprised me." Suddenly, I'm suspicious. It hasn't been that long since he was hurt by the Golem. "What's wrong, Mulder?"

"Nothing's wrong. Is there something wrong with a guy taking out his partner on her birthday?"

He remembered! Shouts joyously in my mind. It's wonderful! "No, of course there's nothing wrong with it. You just took me by surprise. Where do you want to go?"

"It's going to be a surprise - just trust me," he says with a wink.

Finally, the chance to spend my birthday the way I've always wanted.

"Can I at least go home and change? I wear a suit all day long - I'd rather not in the evening."

"Sure, why don't you go now? It's almost quitting time anyway - I'll cover for you."

"Thanks," I say, having no intention of giving up the rare opportunity. I grab my coat from the rack. "Are we meeting or are you picking me up?"

"I'll pick you up. Six o'clock sharp, okay?"

"Sounds perfect. I'll see you then."

Before I know it, I'm at my apartment. I'm shocking myself at just how thrilled I am at being able to spend a nice evening with my best friend. I hope he doesn't do anything to embarrass me, though. The possibilities are too numerous to consider, so instead, I head for the refrigerator and a bottle of water. I barely twist the top off before I'm met with tapping on my door.

"Who's there?" I entreat, heading for the door. I don't expect it to be anybody dangerous. We're not even on a case right now.

"It's the super," a voice responds. I open the door and he explains how he accepted a package for me earlier, since I wasn't home. "If it's okay, I'll send up Scotty with it in a few minutes. I just wanted to be sure you were home. It's unusual for you to be coming in this time of the day, if you don't mind my saying so."

"I know. I got off a little bit early, though. I'll be here for an hour or so if you want to send him up."

He leaves quietly with a nod, and I realize that I've been lucky in the landlord department. He and his little family have been helpful and understanding No matter what has happened, he helped as much as he could and never once stood in judgment.

I shut the door, but don't bother to lock it. I'm expecting a very young gentleman caller, I think with a grin. And then, later, an older gentleman caller. I can't help but let my grin grow into a full-fledged smile.

Shucking my trench coat and hanging it on its hook, I start to think about what I'll wear tonight. I'm sure I don't want to wear one of these suits - I'm honestly sick of them at this point. I shed the jacket next, but don't get to hanging it up before another knock comes. Scotty must've just about run up here.

I open the door to a true darling, and one of the few men in my life who are worth their weight in salt. If he can only hang onto his most endearing qualities for fifteen or twenty years, he'll make some woman very, very happy.

"Hi, Miss Scully," he says with a grin that's missing a few front teeth. "My Dad asked me to bring this up to you." He shoves towards me a vase filled with lovely light pink blossoms. Roses, of course, as has become the tradition for my birthday. "They came in a box, but my Mom was worried they'd croak so she took 'em out and put 'em in some water. That's okay, isn't it?"

"Of course, it's okay. Tell your Mom I appreciate her thoughtfulness." I take the vase from him carefully, noticing that he has something else in his hands after I do.

"This is the ribbon that was on the box - Mom thought you might want to keep it. Is it your birthday?"

"Yes, it is."

"How old're you?" he asks with the innocent guilelessness typical of a child.

"How old do you think I am?" I ask with a grin. Okay, I admit - I'm curious what he'll say.

"Well . . . you're pretty old. But not ask old as my teacher, and I think she's about twenty, so I'd guess eighteen!" He smiles proudly at himself. "Am I right?"

I can't fight a laugh. "I'm a bit older than that, but thank you for the compliment. Why don't you come in while I put the flowers in a vase of my own, then you can take your Mom's back to her. I might even have some pie if you're hungry."

"Thanks anyway, Miss Scully. Mom says you can return the vase after the flowers are dead, and if I eat anything now, she's gonna kill me. She says it'll spoil my supper." He heaves a huge, put-upon sigh and I fight with every nerve in my body not to break out laughing. He's such an endearing child. "So, anyway, I'd better get going. Pokemon comes on in a few minutes!" He shoves the ribbon into my hand.

"Thanks for bring up my flowers," I tell him with a pat to his shoulder. I'd love to kiss him on the cheek, but I had brothers, and know little boys' views on such public displays. Instead, I just say goodnight and he leaves with a grin.

The flowers find a home in the center of my dining room table, and I drape the ribbon over one of the chairs. I've kept every single one. Some day, I'll show them all to Charlie and confront him on his anonymous surprises. I don't go far before my phone rings.

It's Mom, naturally, and before I know it, we've chatted up all my preparation time. I love my mother dearly, but damn it, now I'm going to have to go out tonight in this stupid suit. Well, Mulder is notoriously late - maybe if I start changing right away . . .

A knock on my door is quickly followed by an "it's me" in Mulder's distinctive voice. Nope, not enough time. I do a quick flip of my hair, try to make it look like I freshened up, and go to answer the door. An evening with Mulder, with no mutants, aliens, or X-Files, should be an interesting experience.


February 23, 1998

"Mulder, when was the last time you changed your bandages? Those are looking a little . . . worn." It's only been a few days since I pulled him out of that mobile home, where he was methodically being shocked to death by what he claims was an artificial life form. I'm only willing to give him that it was an artificial intelligence; whether it was conscious or not, I'm still undecided.

"For your information, Dr. Scully, I changed them just last night, using the burn salve the doctor gave me and sterile gauze directly from the drug store."

"So how did they degrade so quickly? Mulder, you didn't go running or play basketball did you? You know the doctor said you should take it easy."

"Scully, I can't stand all this sitting around. Here at work, then at home. I need to be DOING something!"

"It's only for a few more days," I try to mollify him. He's never been good at letting himself heal, and this time has been worse than most. "Your system took a tremendous amount of abuse, Mulder. You're lucky you're not dead, for God's sake! And not only are you alive, but you're sane - or as sane as you ever were," I grin.

"Well, thanks for that stipulation, Scully," Mulder grins back, but he has that self-deprecating tone he gets when he is about to say something derogatory about himself. I've learned to listen for this tone - I don't like it. "I think the AI just gave up. It realized that it couldn't make me any crazier than I already am."

"Yeah, but it also tried to electrocute you. Do you realize how long it took us to stabilize you heartbeat, Mulder? Your system wasn't designed to take that kind of abuse." His eyes drop to his desktop, leaving mine. It's what he does when he concedes a point to me and doesn't want to say it out loud, and I've come to accept it as such with grace.

"At least being on desk duty gives us the opportunity to get caught up on our paperwork." His eyes meet mine, and I see a message in them which he does not want to speak. A message that says how very small our backlog actually is. There was only so much he could do to occupy his time while I was recovering from my cancer, so when he wasn't hovering over me or catering to my or my mother's every need, he set his mind to the work.

Okay, logically, that would mean that it's my turn. I want to take care of him, but he just won't allow it. Never has, unless he's held in place by restraints or an IV and a half dozen pieces of medical equipment - and the doctor says those things aren't needed any more. Five days in the hospital was more than sufficient.

We work for awhile in silence, and it doesn't go unnoticed that he moves in a way to avoid any direct contact with his wrists. They're still sore, I can tell, but he'd never say anything about it. A few times, I glance up to check on him to find him trying to hide that he's been looking at me. We do this a lot lately. I do it because I'm trying to reassure myself that he's here and he's safe - this man who means so very much to me. Even if I never tell him. Why he's watching me, only he can say.

Looking at my watch, I figure it's late enough that I can get away with this. "I think I'm going to cut out a little early," I say, and he smiles at me. "I'm meeting Mom for dinner at my favorite restaurant."

"Still Boticelli's?" he asks, even though he knows darn right well.

"Of course. Their stuffed shells alone are to die for," I laugh, and he smiles at me. It's enough of a birthday gift.

"Go on - I'll cover for you. Tell your Mom I said hi, and enjoy your dinner. God knows you deserve at least that."

"Thanks, Mulder. I'll see you tomorrow." I leave the office, without a word being said about my birthday. After last year, I was sort of hoping we were starting a new tradition, but I guess that just wasn't to be. I know, intellectually, that men don't remember anniversaries and birthdays the way women do. I just wish Mulder was different, even if he is still a man. All man.

Enough of this. I'm going to spend a wonderful evening with my mother, celebrating my birthday and listening to her tell me that I'm not getting any younger. Like I don't know that already, today of all days. She only wants me to be happy, I know, but I just can't talk about it right now.

The restaurant is fairly crowded for a Monday night, but I locate her quickly through the crowd. She's smiling at me, her joy coming off her in waves. This is a special birthday for both of us - it's the birthday I almost didn't live to see.

"Hi, Sweetheart," she says, greeting me with a kiss before we take our seats. "You could have brought Fox with you, you know, Dear. He's always welcome."

"I know, Mom. But I think he forgot, and I really didn't want to make him feel bad by bringing it up. He's had a rough week." I go on to tell her about our latest case. Not all the unbelievable stuff: living artificial intelligence, strongholds in the woods, that kind of thing. But about Mulder being held against his will. About his injuries, his electrocution, even his VR induced hallucinations. As usual, her heart goes out to him and she makes me promise to bring him around to the house this weekend for dinner. She's grown very fond of Mulder over the years. She needs to see that he's okay. And a little maternal TLC has never done Mulder any harm, so I have no complaints.

Leaving work and Mulder behind for awhile, we talk about other things. Bill, Charlie, Tara and Matthew. What she's doing for her church group. How the elderly lady next door is fairing. The waitress comes and takes our order, retrieving our menus and leaving us to continue our chat. Before we can reinvest ourselves in the conversation, the maitre d' approaches our table. "Excuse me, which one of you ladies is Dana Scully?"

"I am," I admit. His knowing our last name is not big deal - the reservation was in the name Scully after all. But how did he know my first name?

He motions towards a cadre of waiters, and one comes to the table bearing an oh-so-familiar box. I should have known.

"Oh, Dana!" Mom exclaims when I've opened the box. "They're lovely. Who are they from?"

"Charlie," I say with confidence. "I get them every year. Remember the ones at the airport?"

"What does the card say?"

"He never sends a card. Just roses. Every year on my birthday."

My mother adopts a questioning expression. "Why are you so sure they come from Charlie, then? Did you talk to him about it?"

"I didn't have to. This is typical Charlie, Mom. Long-stemmed roses each year, never the same color twice." I grin. "I can't wait to see what he does when he's used up all the colors."

"Dana, I didn't tell Charlie where we were having dinner tonight. Did you?"

"No, but he managed to find out just the same. This IS my favorite."

She nods her acceptance of my theory, but I have the distinct feeling she'll be on the phone with Charlie the minute she gets home tonight.

I'm thinking that his having the flowers delivered to the restaurant is a sweet gesture until we finish our meals . . . when I'm serenaded with Happy Birthday by every waiter, waitress, and most patrons in the place. This is SO embarrassing, and I'm sure my face is as red as a beat.

"Thank you, everybody," I say as the crowd finally begins to disburse, but not until I've blown out all the candles on my cake. It's surprisingly large for just another restaurant patron, and Mom must share this impression.

"We'll have to see if they can cut a big piece for you to take to Fox," she says. Sometimes, I swear she likes him more than I do. And believe me, that isn't easy. I've grown very fond of that big lug.

"The last thing he needs is more junk in his diet," I tell her, remembering how I'd seen him down two Big Macs and a large order of fries just a week ago. We'd grabbed dinner - if you can call it that - on the way home from work, just before he got me out of bed in the middle of the night to look into the death of Donald Gelmann, software pioneer. "He must have a cast-iron stomach."

"Then a piece of cake won't do him any more harm," she counters, as if she read my mind. I find I cannot object.


February 23, 1999

I've had it with him! Up to my eyebrows and then some. As if it isn't enough to deal with his throwing that brunette bitch in my face every two minutes, he doesn't even have the decency to remember my birthday. This is my seventh birthday as partners with him - it's not as if he hasn't had the time to memorize the damn date.

Well, I may have to work with him, and I do believe in the work, but I'll be damned if I'll sit around waiting for his majesty to grant me an audience. I have friends, I tell myself, and family to spend the day with. I don't need him.

Damn it. . . I know that's not true. I need him in my life. I want him in it, too, but I just can't stand to have him treat me like this. I deserve better.

It's not like I haven't been wracking my brain trying to figure out what's happened between us. Ever since Diana Fowley returned to town, he's turned into a complete ass. She's a bad influence on him.

Well, I don't care. I'm going to go out tonight, have a wonderful time, and not give him another thought. Bill and Charlie are in town, and Mom is preparing my favorite dinner, then we have tickets for a show. I'm still imagining my evening when the phone on the desk rings.

"Scully," I answer.

I'm at my desk, in my area, rather than sequestering myself in Mulder's office. It's the best way to avoid a major conflict. I don't think it would be in either of our best interests, nor that of the Bureau, if I were to rip him a new one over what I know are purely personal, emotional issues.

"Scully, Skinner wants to see us in his office. He says there's a new case." Mulder's voice is all innocence and light, like he has no idea what he's done. Maybe it's me - maybe he doesn't - but that doesn't make me any less angry with him.

"I'll meet you up there," I say succinctly before hanging up the phone. I can be businesslike. I can do this.

"Hi, Kim," I say upon my arrival at my boss's office.

"Hi, Agent Scully." Kim is always so nice. "Hey, happy birthday!"

Okay, that I didn't expect. My boss's secretary remembers my birthday, but my partner doesn't? My life sucks. Still, no reason not to be polite.

"Thanks. Getting older isn't any fun, but it's nice when people remember." I take a seat, and within a couple of minutes, Mulder arrives and heads for the chair beside mine. He doesn't get a chance to sit down, though, before Skinner opens his door.

"Scully, Mulder, please come in."

We all take seats, Skinner simultaneously opening a file folder that sits in front of him. "I have a new case for you, Agents. Arcadia Falls in California is what they call a 'planned community,' In this supposed "paradise," people have been coming up missing over the last few months. A minimum of three couples have disappeared without a trace."

"Were there any indications of alien abduction, Sir?" Mulder asks. Of course he would.

"That'll be for you to decide, Agent Mulder. I can tell you that there were no reported sightings in the area, no objects in the sky and that sort of thing. But indications have been that the activities in the neighborhood at large have been suspicious - a little too normal. Nobody is above suspicion in these disappearances, which is why I'm sending the two of you in under cover. You'll pose as a married couple, taking over one of the houses from which people recently went missing. It'll be your responsibility to not only he disappearances, but to bring the perpetrators to justice."

"When do we leave, Sir?" I ask grimly. Great. Time alone in a house with Mulder. Please don't let him say we have to go immediately.

"Setting up a household is going to take some time, and you'll have to establish cover identities for yourselves. You've got ten days to do so. Check with stores and requisition what equipment, furniture, and the like you'll need, rent a truck, minivan, and whatever else you'll need to establish your credability. Your backup by the local office will be limited, but they will be at your disposal should the need arise. Don't hesitate to call for backup. Here is the file."

He hands the paperwork to Mulder, much to my consternation for just a moment. His actions are explained, though, when he turns and smiles at me ever so slightly. "Agent Mulder, you may review the file beginning immediately. Agent Scully, you are dismissed for the day. Please plan to begin your preliminary work on this case first thing in the morning." Then he surprises me and adds, "and have a happy birthday."

"Thank you, Sir," I say, standing. I don't have to see Mulder to know he's following me, yet we don't speak until we're in the hallway.

"You have big plans tonight?" he asks conversationally.

"You might say that," I answer noncommittally. In his presence, my anger isn't quite so venomous. I have a hard time staying mad with him, what can I say? "You headed back to your office?"

"Yeah, I'll take a look at the file, and we can talk about how we're going to go about this in the morning."

"Sounds good. I've just got to pick up my coat and laptop and I'll be headed home. Have a good afternoon, Mulder."

"Enjoy your evening, Scully," he says gently. "Happy birthday."

"Thanks," I answer, and we each go our own separate way.

I have to walk through the bullpen in order to get to my desk, which is sort of a pseudo-office made up of cubicle walls. As I do so now, I notice some snickering going on from fellow agents. What has Mulder done this time that's getting us ridiculed?"

Moments later, I realize that its not anything that he's done at all. On my desk is a flower box with the traditional "Happy Birthday!" ribbon wrapped around it. Before I know it, the men and women in the bullpen are singing Happy Birthday, even adding some more colorful lyrics here and there. I laugh and thank them as I unwrap my flowers - coral and orange blossoms this time. I'll have to remember to thank Charlie for them when I see him tonight.

We have a wonderful time on our night out. I love both Bill and Charlie's wives dearly, but there's just something . . . comfortable, I guess . . . about it being just the four of us. I know that Melissa and Dad are here in spirit, as well. They tease me, and I tease them right back, especially when I mention the roses to Charlie. He vehemently denies that they came from him. With all the kidding going on, I'm not sure if he's being up front with me, but I'm not going to worry about it. Whoever sent them will show his or her face eventually.


February 23, 2000

I'm 36 years old today. I'm an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and a medical doctor certified and specialized in pathology. I have an undergraduate degree in physics . . . and I am a fool.

I've been complaining for years that Mulder never tells me what he wants or thinks of our relationship. Not how he feels - that's been crystal clear - but where we're going. Now, after coming so very close to losing him, I realize he's been telling me wordlessly all along.

My eyes were opened a short time ago. It all began when we were investigating a case in Tennessee. Mulder suffered several very serious rattlesnake bites during the case, resulting in his spending four days in Intensive Care before he was stable enough to be transferred to a hospital back home. His condition was still serious, and he slept a lot, so I figured I'd go and pick up some things from his apartment he'd probably want. They couldn't tell us for sure when he'd be released - he was progressing, but slowly.

Mom wanted to come visit him, and rather than having her drive the whole way herself, I stopped at her place out in Baltimore before going to Arlington. On my way, I called Mulder from my cell.

"I'm sorry, did I wake you?"

"Sort of. But it was only a four on a sleep scale of one to ten, so it's no great loss." I could practically hear his weak smile over the phone.

"I'm headed for your place. Anything in particular you want me to bring?"

"Umm . . . yeah, bring my overnight bag from the closet, and stick in the book that's on the coffee table. It may be only one page at a time, given the way I've been sleeping, but I'm going to finish it eventually. Oh, and bring my checkbook from my upper right desk drawer and the stack of bills that are underneath so I can pay them, okay?"

"Sure, no problem. Your mail's been piling up, Mulder. Should I bring that, too?"

"I don't need all that garbage here. Just bring what looks important, and the bills that've come in. Open 'em if you're not sure." He was sounding groggy.

"Okay, we'll be there in a bit. You just rest."

"Scully, who is 'we?'"

"I have a surprise visitor for you, and that's all I'll say," I said and then hung up before he could pursue it further. My mother and Mulder have had a mutual admiration society going on for a few years now, so I knew he wouldn't be upset when he saw the visitor was she.

As usual, Mom wanted to make herself useful and came up to his apartment with me. "Mom, why don't you grab his overnight bag from the closet by the bedroom and see if you can find this book he says he's reading that's supposed to be on the coffee table. Oh, the bedroom is that way," I said as an afterthought and pointed in the necessary direction.

She went silently, only to return with it a second later as I was retrieving his checkbook and papers from the desk. "Doesn't Fox ever sleep in that room?" she asked incredulously. "It's immaculate!"

"He usually sleeps on the couch," I responded, shrugging. Luckily, a passing glance at Mulder's room didn't reveal any of the things of which I know she wouldn't approve.

Shaking her head, she went to work locating the book, having to think twice when not one but two novels were on the table in question. Only one had a bookmark in it, and since he said he was "reading" the book, we guessed it to be that one. I then sorted through the large pile of mail, taking out anything that looked like it might be a bill.

Scooping up everything, we returned to the car and headed for the hospital. I was truly oblivious to what was going to manifest itself in just a short time.

"Hey, Mulder," I announced, entering his room. "Guess who's here to see . . ." But he was asleep, so my surprise would have to wait. He looked so innocent lying there. The bruises and bite marks were still painfully visible on his face, arms, and legs, but at least they had faded some.

Mom peeked in the door at that moment. "Dana?"

"He's sound asleep, Mom. Guess your big entrance is going to have to wait. C'mon in, though, and we can sit together until he wakes up."

As we chatted in whispers from the two guest chairs in the room, I went through the bills. On occasions when he'd been hurt before, I'd sometimes paid his bills for him, so I figured it would help him if I did it again. Taking out his checkbook, I began writing and recording checks, leaving the signature blank for Mulder to take care of. Electric, gas, telephone, credit card, cable . . . One by one, the check were completed and set aside for him to sign. I also thought to review the check register for his rent and determined that there wasn't one due for a few weeks. There was one last envelope that appeared to be a bill, but I didn't know for sure because it was in the batch of unopened mail, and I didn't recognize the name in the return address.

Well, he'd given me permission to open anything that looked important, so I sliced open the envelope. Inside the envelope was, in fact, a statement of amount due. Also included was a hand-written letter which, upon reflection, I probably shouldn't have read, but did.

Dear Mr. Mulder,

Thank you for your continued patronage. As per your request, I've included a record of the specific past purchases you specified and some of the literature in question to assist you in making your next selection.

If you have already contacted me with your choice by the time you get this, be assured that we will continue to provide the service as you have specified in the past. We appreciate your business.


Judith Parsens

The list attached was simple, but it shook me to my very core.

02/93 1/2doz Roses - pale w/leaves

02/94 1/2doz Roses - deep pink

02/95 1doz Roses - yellow

02/96 1doz Roses - white & red

02/97 1doz Roses - light pink w/leaves

02/98 1doz Roses - deep burgundy

02/99 1doz Roses - coral & orange

I just stared at the list, stunned.

I became aware that my mother was speaking to me, and had been for some time. "Huh?" I asked numbly.

"Honey, I asked what was wrong! Where did you go?"

"It's . . . it's this . . ." I handed her the sheet and distractedly tossed aside the other paperwork that had been included in the envelope. Now I was beginning to feel stupid and a bit embarrassed that I hadn't realized it sooner.

She took it from me, scanning it quickly as her smile grew. "Are those the colors you got for your anonymous birthday gifts each of those years? I only saw two of them."

"I . . . I think so. I didn't give the colors much thought." Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. "Mom, could you stay with him for awhile. Take care of him if he wakes up before I get back."

"Sure, honey. Where are you going?"

"I have a little investigative work of my own to do," I answered with a grin. Taking the letter, the statement, and the list, I rushed out the door.

The address was easy to find, a humble little shop that I never would have noticed if I hadn't been looking for it. When I entered, a young girl was watering plants, while an elderly lady, still spry despite her years, stood behind the counter. I knew who would have my answers.

"Excuse me," I said, and she turned a gentle smile on me. "I wondered if you could tell me something about this?" I laid the three items on the counter, and she had only to glance at them before she returned her gaze to me.

"This paperwork was prepared for one of my customers. How did you come to be in possession of it?" She looked suspicious, just the type of person whose business Mulder would patronize.

"Fox Mulder is my partner, and he's hospitalized. I was taking care of his bills for him and wanted clarification."

"The hospital? Oh, my. I'm sorry. He will be okay?" she asked, concerned.

"He's going to make a full recovery, thank you for asking."

Her look suddenly eased a bit. "And your name, my dear?"

"Special Agent Dana Scully, ma'am."

Suddenly, her face was filled with glee. Oh, so you're Dana? How wonderful to finally meet you! Fox speaks of you very fondly."

"I'll be very direct, ma'am - I want to get back to him. Do you know my name because these flowers were delivered to me?"

"Why yes, of curse, my dear. Fox was very careful to choose just the right flowers each year, and I helped him. Didn't you get them?"

"Oh, yes. I received them every year, and they were beautiful. I just never knew that they were from my partner." I blushed. Okay, I know I should have known.

"Fox never told you? Oh, how sad! Well, at least you know now."

"I'm just curious, Mrs . . ."

"Parsens. That's my name on the letter."

"Oh, yes, thank you. I'm just curious, Mrs. Parsens. Do you know why Mulder . . . I mean Fox . . . picked a different color every year?"

She smiled warmly, and I swear she blushed. "There were other items in the envelope than these three sheets - I presume you didn't read them?"

"No, I was too surprised."

"Well, they would have explained. There is a language to roses, Dana. Each color or configuration means something distinctive and different. The color of the roses a person chooses sends a distinct message of what's in their hearts. Fox was very careful in making his choices."

"Can you tell me?" I asked, hoping she knew what I want to know and I wouldn't have to explain further.

"Certainly, dear," she said, taking the list of colors to a small desk behind the counter and going to work with a pen.

This is where I now wait, and realize that I'm truly seven kinds of a fool. Mulder didn't forget my birthday once in all the years he'd known me. But he wouldn't tell me that the flowers were from him. I can't wait to ask him why. Finally, the shopkeeper stands.

"Here you are, my dear. A translation of sorts."

02/93 Roses - pale w/leaves Hope for sociability and friendship

02/94 Roses - deep pink Appreciation and gratitude

02/95 Roses - yellow Friendship & promise of a new beginning

02/96 Roses - white & red Unity

02/97 Roses - light pink w/leaves Admiration, sympathy, and hope

02/98 Roses - deep burgundy Unconscious beauty

02/99 Roses - coral & orange Enthusiasm and desire

As I look over the words, my mind drifts back to what was going on in our lives at the time each birthday came around. Each choice was just perfect, and last year's especially reflected the new feelings I had been developing for him as well. Now, I really can't wait to get back to my partner. But before I can flee the shop, the woman speaks again.

"Oh, Dana. These were just about to go out for delivery - he chose them after I sent out the letter - but as long as you're here. . ."

She waves to the young girl, who brings forth another box with a birthday ribbon encircling it. Until this moment, I'd actually forgotten that it once again was my birthday.

"Thank you," I say, taking the box.

"You may want to open them here, my dear. Just in case you need another translation." Her eyes twinkle with glee and a bit of mischief, but are convincing nonetheless. I open the box.

Inside are the most beautiful, perfectly red roses I've ever seen.

"They're red," I say, dumfounded yet again.

"Yes, red, Dana. He knew right away this year - I didn't assist him at all. And red means . . ."

"I know what red means, Mrs. Parsens, thank you." I know my voice is dazed and far away, but Mulder's message has taken me completely unaware.

"Would you like anything else, my dear?"

Suddenly, the only thought in my mind is returning to Mulder. "No, thank you, ma'am. I have to . . . I need to get back to my partner. Thank you so much. For everything!"

I rush out the door and hardly remember the drive from the flower shop to the hospital. Screeching to a halt in the parking lot, I make sure I don't forget to grab the box before dashing into the building. The elevator takes too long, and I feel like I'm going to crawl out of my skin if I don't get up there soon.

I'm not sure how long it's been since I left, but when I crash into the room, Mom is still waiting, silent and patient, and Mulder still slumbers away. I know he needs his sleep, but I need to wake him. Now.

"Dana?" Mom asked, and there's a bit of fright in her voice. I go to her and hand her the newly-updated list, which she reads over carefully. A smile grows brilliantly.

"You didn't mention that today was my birthday, too," I say. "The florist had these for me." I open the box and show her the red blooms.

"Oh, Dana!" she says, and is on her feet in a second, enveloping me in her arms. I feel the comfort of them, but have other things to do.

Sensing my urgency, she releases me, taking the box as she does, and I approach the bed. How Mulder can still be sleeping after all that, I'll never know, but he is. I think for a second, an idea blooming.

Well, it worked for Sleeping Beauty. . .

I lean over, hitching myself up on the bed until I'm able to join my lips to his. Once there, I can't help but linger. They're soft, plush, and oh-so sensual, even unconscious. Finally, after I don't know how long, those lips move. I pull back, unable to contain my joy.

"Hi, Mulder."

"Hi," he says with obvious surprise. "Ummm . . . I usually don't rate such a nice wake-up call."

"You've never told me before what you told me today." He looks puzzled, and I wonder if he remembers. Given everything that's happened to him, I could certainly understand.

I decide to clarify. "I got your message, Mulder. Loud and clear."

He looks into my eyes, still slightly confused, and then they move away. I follow their path as they come to rest on Mom, standing behind me, holding up the roses. Suddenly, they widen in surprise.

I know I need to speak to him - we need to speak with each other - so I lay a hand on his cheek, drawing his gaze back to my own. "I'm sorry it took me so long to recognize your gifts. Every single year, you remembered. And every single year, I told myself that they weren't from you. Thank you for not giving up on me."

I barely notice as Mom leaves the room, instead listening as he says, "I could never give up on you, Scully. You're my life."

I take a deep breath. Time to climb out onto that limb with him. "I love you, Mulder. I'm in love with you. I have been for a long time, but didn't have the courage. I always knew you were the brave one in the partnership."

"I'd hardly say brave, Scully. I still couldn't manage to say it out loud." He's smiling at me warmly. Lovingly. "So let me say it now. I'm in love with you, Dana Scully. And nothing or no one has ever made me feel as good."

I lean in again, recapturing his lips with my own. This time, the kiss is long, and deep. After an eternity, we pull apart again. "You concentrate on getting better, my love. Then I'll show you just how good it can feel."

He pulls me down to lie beside him, and I suddenly realize that not only am I tired, but it's the only place I want to be. My eyelids droop, and just as I'm about to go under, I hear the door open again. I should pull away, get off the bed, but I really have no desire to. It's safe, though. I hear the door open and then close, and crack an eye enough to se her set down a bouquet of every color of roses in the rainbow. As I re-close my eyes, all I hear is Mom.

"These just arrived from Mrs. Parsens," she whispers, then adds, "Goodnight, kids." And I'm asleep before I hear he door close once again.

The End.