TITLE: Fox Mulder and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Day AUTHOR: EMAIL/FEEDBACK: Feed me, Seymour!
WEBSITE: SPOILERS: Takes place somewhere around Terms of Endearment/Rain King. RATING: PG-13, for lots of naughty words. KEYWORDS: MT, UST ARCHIVE: I brought enough to share with the class. DATE: May 7, 2004
DISCLAIMER: I say, if he pukes on me, he's mine. So there. CC can keep the rest of them.
SUMMARY: "Mulder was desperately in need of a stronger set of swear words, and it wasn't even 10:30 yet." NOTES: Written for the May '04 contest at Mulder's Refuge; Theme: Wrong Place at the Wrong Time. Beta'd wonderfully by old ?l. And the DC metro system rocks my socks, as does the Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool. The crowd of protesters, however, shall remain anonymous.
Mulder started to wake up when the second wave of nausea deposited the rest of last night's dinner - week-old Chinese takeout - into his toilet. The smell was enough to keep him going, but finally, finally, he calmed himself with long, deep breaths and his retches stopped. He leaned his clammy forehead against the cool porcelain and tried to piece together what was happening.
He hadn't been drinking, he knew that. He distinctly remembered coming home from the gym exhausted, watching television, falling into bed - so why did he feel like he'd spent the night on a sailboat in the middle of a thunderstorm?
... Oh. Mulder groaned. Apparently waterbeds *did* make him seasick, after all.
With another long groan, he pulled himself off the floor and flushed the toilet. He rinsed his mouth out and splashed water on his face, rubbing his eyes tiredly. Fox Mulder the insomniac, married to his work - all he wanted to do was crawl back into bed - back into his *couch* - and never have to see the inside of the Hoover building ever again. What were they *thinking*, assigning him to background checks? That was fresh-out-of-the-academy, office-temp work. If they wanted to make him quit, they were doing a damn good job of it.
Mulder scowled at himself in the mirror. He seriously considered calling Scully for Dramamine and a doctor's note - but thought better of it when he remembered she was pissed at him. She was *always* pissed at him, for some reason, since they'd lost the X-Files, and he'd given up trying to figure out why, but it was damn annoying, not to mention it hurt.
He scowled some more and reached for the shaving cream. As he went to lather it on his face the hair trigger on the god-damn poorly designed bottle went off, catching him square in the eye. *Fuck!* He frantically poured cold water over his face, blinking rapidly, taking shallow, gasping breaths to combat the pain. He looked at himself in the mirror - his right eyelid was starting to swell. Fuck! Fine. No shaving, then. Government-employed telemarketers don't have a reason to look good, anyway.
Blearily, he ran a hand through his sleep- mussed hair, and decided it was good enough when a comb and water failed to make his forelock lay flat, as usual. He stumbled out of the bathroom and, carefully avoiding the bed, pulled on a fresh shirt with the same jacket, pants, and tie he'd worn yesterday. He'd be early to work, but there wasn't really any point in knocking around his apartment for the next three hours, feeling sorry for himself; he could do that just as easily at work, and get paid for it, too.
He opened his apartment door, and sighed.
The 2 had fallen off again.
Of course, Mulder thought with exasperation. The one day he was voluntarily reporting early for background checking duty, the subway *would* be late. And this after half an hour of struggling with his junk heap of a car, finally giving up on it when the engine started smoking.
The crowd on the platform was pressing in on him from all sides. The Braddock Road metro station was usually pretty empty - Alexandria catered mostly to well-paid government employees, who drove their expensive cars into the city every day, or took the metro at a more reasonable hour. But today it seemed like half the population of northern Virginia was dead- set on using that particular station. Of course, it didn't help that the train was over an hour late.
Mulder gritted his teeth and stood his ground against the sea of jostling bodies, telling himself that today would *not* be the day he'd be shoved onto the subway rails and electrocuted. Someday, maybe, it might be fun to try that, especially if he had to ask too many more kindly old ladies if their sweet neighbor boy had ever smoked pot; but not today.
At virtually the same instant, the lights at the edge of the platform began to blink, indicating the train was almost to the station; the crowd cheered; and two shots rang out from the upper platform near the turnstiles. It sounded a lot louder than a normal gunshot in the reverberating underground acoustics.
There was a moment of utter silence, a man's voice yelling something, and then complete pandemonium.
Mulder fought his way to the escalator and rode it impatiently to the upper level, wedged between a large woman in a bright flowered dress who was weeping hysterically and fanning herself, and a dark-skinned man in a sweatsuit who seemed to be all elbows. Once at the top, he breathed a sigh of relief and moved out of the way quickly to avoid being shoved.
The platform was empty in a wide circle around the gunman and the crumpled female body at the base of one of the turnstiles. Passengers walked carefully around the edges, warily eyeing the scene as they made their way quickly back to the surface, in marked contrast to the chaos that still reigned downstairs. The man was breathing heavily, pointing his weapon at the two security guards who stood with their hands above their heads just outside the entrance to the information booth.
The police hadn't arrived yet, and no one was watching Mulder. He charged forward and tackled the gunman to the floor, forcing him to release his weapon, which went skittering across the tiles. The man fought back like a demon, kicking, punching, spitting, and shouting that he "hadn't done anything!" But Mulder's attack gave the security guards the chance they needed, and by the time the cops showed up, they had the gunman in handcuffs, the victim in as much first aid as they could manage without a hospital, and a large bag of ice pressed into Mulder's left cheek, which would probably be free advertisement for Nike for the next month.
Even with a detour to the precinct to give a statement, Mulder was only an hour late for work; but at least he got a free ride in a cop car.
Mulder made it to the bullpen - finally - and sat down hard in the chair behind the desk that would never, no matter what, feel like it belonged to him.
The chair broke, and he banged his head on Scully's desk on the way down.
"Ow! Dammit!" Mulder disentangled himself and stood up, rubbing his head. He aimed a kick at the remains of the chair, stubbing his toe but inflicting no discernable damage to the furniture. "Shit," he muttered, gingerly rubbing at his still-swollen eyelid and cheek. He felt like crap, and it was only ten AM. And it didn't help that Agents Jones and Bronson were looking at him and snickering. He glared at them. I don't remember requesting a transfer back to fifth grade, he thought bitterly.
And where the hell was Scully? She wasn't at her desk.
Mulder deposited the remainders of his chair unceremoniously into the hallway, maneuvered Scully's fancy ergonomic executive wheeled desk chair around to his own space (she never used a chair this nice downstairs, he groused), and called her home phone. No answer.
"Hey, Scully, it's me." He pondered what else to say. "Um, I'm just wondering where you are. Call me when you get a chance."
He tried her cell. Out of service.
Fine. He didn't care what Scully was doing anyway. She didn't have to keep him apprised of her every motion. She could damn well do whatever she pleased. It wasn't as though they were -
It wasn't as though they were - anything. Anymore. Ever.
He rubbed at his eyes, and hissed when he remembered he wasn't supposed to do that. So why did it hurt so much when he couldn't reach her?
He sighed heavily and pulled the list of the day's background checks out of his inbox.
He really hated the fact that he had an inbox.
He fished his reading glasses out of his pocket and slipped them on.
One of the lenses was missing. Dammit! It must have popped out during the fight at the subway. Fuck! Now he'd have to go back to the optometrist. He hated people poking at his eyes.
He hated people poking at any of him, really, but Scully wasn't qualified to do the eye doctor part. Not that she would want to, anyway.
Fuck. He threw the useless glasses across the room, and they landed next to the trash can by the doorway.
Oh, right. He should keep the frames.
Mulder planted his elbows on the desk and rubbed at his temples. His entire head ached. Coffee. He needed coffee.
He pushed himself up and wandered to the counter at the back of the room, avoiding the curious glances of the other agents and scooping up his glasses on the way. He picked a blue ceramic mug with 'FBI' in bright yellow letters from the shelf, filled it with fresh black coffee, and walked back to his desk. The cuff of his suit jacket caught on the clip attached to the side of his monitor as he swung around to sit down. His arm jerked and he dropped the mug, which splintered all over the floor, splashing scalding hot coffee all over his hand. "Aah -" he cried out, and bit his tongue, shaking his hand wildly in a vain effort to cool it.
Suddenly he was standing at the sink, head bowed, with cold water running over his hand. He didn't remember how he'd gotten there, but *damn* it hurt. Fucking -
Mulder was desperately in need of a stronger set of swear words, and it wasn't even 10:30 yet.
"Hey, Agent Mulder, you ok?" It was - hell, he didn't remember his name. New young agent, he sat at the next desk up. In any case, he looked more concerned than amused when Mulder turned to see him filling his own cup at the coffeepot, which was refreshing.
Mulder turned the water off and carefully dried his hand with a folded paper towel. "Yeah." He grimaced. "It's just a first-degree. I've had worse."
"You don't look so good. Maybe you should have someone check that out?" He was talking about the burn, but Mulder was sure the other agent was looking at the shoe imprint on his cheek. Or, hell, his puffy eye. Any of the large inventory of injuries he was rapidly accumulating today.
"Already taken care of, thanks." Mulder ventured a wry smile at the young agent as he pulled a swath of paper towels out of the dispenser. "Welcome to my life." And it wasn't so bad. After all, time spent mopping up spilled coffee was time not spent on background checks.
When Mulder got back to his desk he realized there was a bigger mess than he'd noticed, in his rush to get his hand under water. The entire surface of the desk was soaked in coffee, and several of the items he'd had sitting on his desk were sharing the floor with the shards of the coffee mug. His chattering teeth wind-up toy, a bag of sunflower seeds, his (thankfully mostly empty) pencil holder, and -
He hunkered down into a crouch and turned the picture frame over with his good hand. Sure enough, the glass was cracked, and the photo of Samantha inside was badly stained with coffee. The colors were starting to run. She still smiled encouragingly up at him from the jungle gym, but she wouldn't for much longer.
He sat back onto the floor, not caring about the now-cold coffee that soaked through the seat of his pants, and stared into Samantha's runny eyes. Somehow this was just the last straw. He couldn't work with her in that state. He just couldn't. Especially when Scully was God-knew-where.
He picked up as much of the broken pottery as he could manage, and swabbed most of the coffee off the floor with his handful of paper towels. He'd have to find another photo, that was all there was to it. And there was only one place to find that inside the Hoover building.
Samantha's file in his office downstairs. Fine, he thought bitterly. /The X-Files/ office downstairs. He'd just go down there, and ask Spender very *sweetly* for the file. It was personal business, he couldn't refuse. Mulder would just borrow the file, make a color photocopy, and return it. No harm done.
Sure. It'd be easy. And if he didn't go he wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it.
He laid Samantha's photo face down on the desk and headed for the door. As he turned the knob, he said to anyone who happened to be listening, "If anybody asks - I'm looking for a mop."
He knocked again. Still no answer.
It galled him no *end* to see another man's name on that door. With Diana's, no less.
Why hadn't he ever added Scully's name?
Mulder tried the knob. It turned. He poked his head inside. "Spender? You here? Diana?"
He left the door open - so they wouldn't be able to claim he was sneaking around, he told himself - and walked to the file cabinets. One of the few pieces of furniture that had escaped Agent Spender's manic redecoration, they still stood in the corner under the tiny window. Skylight, actually, was how Mulder preferred to think of it.
It was so - antiseptic in there now. It felt like a lawyer's office.
Wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible, Mulder opened a drawer and pulled out a file from memory, without even looking at the label. He reached inside to pull out Samantha's photo -
This wasn't Samantha's file. In fact, he wasn't even in the M's. This was his file on the Jersey Devil case.
God damnit, did Spender have to fuck up everything he laid eyes on? Mulder cursed aloud and began rummaging through the files haphazardly. There had to be some kind of order, but it didn't seem alphabetical anymore, and he couldn't find her.
He felt tears stinging his eyes. He couldn't find *her*, and now he couldn't even find her *file*!
He opened every door in turn, pulling files out randomly, discarding them onto the floor when they weren't what he was looking for. He could barely see through his tears and his breath was coming in sobs as he rooted through the drawers, frantically searching. They'd taken her file. It wasn't there. First they'd taken her and now they'd taken her file. They were trying to make her disappear, as if she'd never been. He wouldn't let that happen. He couldn't. She *had* to be here somewhere.
"Fuck!" he slammed the last drawer closed - right on his burnt pinky finger. "Oww!! *Damnit*!"
"Mulder, what are you doing here?"
He whipped around. Shit. Spender was at the doorway.
"What did you *do* with her, you son of a *bitch*?" he panted, shaking his finger out and trying to get control of himself.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Agent Mulder, but I think you'd better leave. Right now." Agent Spender was *not* pleased with the mess Mulder had made of his office.
"You bastard," Mulder breathed, eyes narrowed. "You're in it with them. You've known all along."
"Agent Mulder, you need to - "
Mulder decked him before he had a chance to finish the sentence. He was on top of him in seconds, one fist clenched in the front of Spender's shirt, the other pressing against his throat. "You tell me where she is! Tell me where she is *right* *now*, Spender, or so help me I'll - "
This time it was Skinner at the doorway.
"My office. Now."
One week unpaid disciplinary leave. For entering the X-Files office uninvited for the second time in a week - yeah. He'd forgotten about that. And for assaulting Spender, even if the man did have it coming.
He left his badge and gun on Skinner's desk and stalked out.
It could have been worse; it could have been another week of background checks, or dung patrol.
He passed Diana coming in as he left the building. Maybe she'd understand? Maybe, just maybe, after all these years, she wasn't against him, and could dredge up some honest, heartfelt sympathy?
He tried to smile as she walked up to him. "Diana, I - "
She just smiled in her lopsided, superior way, said "Fox, hi! Did you know you have a stain on your tie?", winked at him, and walked away.
Right. That's why he hadn't hung this tie on the rack last night. Ketchup stains from yesterday's burger.
He went to the Lincoln Memorial to think, and sat on a bench beside the long, bright reflecting pool. He kept a steady stream of sunflower seeds into his mouth: crack, spit, chew, swallow, repeat. The routine was natural and comforting.
The winter sun bounced off the water and into his eyes, dazzling him and giving him a headache. He'd come there at night with Scully, a few times, early in their partnership, under the pretense of meeting clandestinely. He wondered what it would be like to meet there now, under a starry sky, with the moon reflecting off the pool beside the lights from the Washington Monument, filtering through her hair like a golden halo .. Mulder lost himself in daydreams.
Suddenly Mulder realized he wasn't alone. He was in the middle of a crowd, in fact, for the second time that day. A large, angry crowd, in fact. They carried signs, so they must be protesting *something*, he reasoned. What, he didn't know, because they definitely weren't shouting in any language he recognized.
He stood up, too quickly, and grabbed the back of the bench to keep from falling over. He felt terrible.
"You move, mister! We need." A heavily accented, impatient voice broke into his reverie, and a wizened old woman with seven children in tow settled herself on the bench. He shook his head and massaged his temples, and she glared at him some more. "Sure," he muttered, and moved off, hugging himself.
He headed toward the Lincoln Memorial, and the road, with the vague idea of hailing a taxi and going home. Or Scully's. Or anywhere but there, really.
The crowd started to move. Really *fast*. Towards the Washington Monument - opposite Mulder's motion. It made him even dizzier, and he stumbled a few steps backward to get out of the way. Suddenly there was no more solid ground under his feet, he heard his ankle *crack* as he landed on it wrong, and landed on his ass in the reflecting pool.
Luckily, the pool was less than a foot deep. He decided to just stay put and enjoy it until the crowd passed by.
Which took a lot longer than he expected it to.
And that water was *cold.*
Finally, an hour or so later, shivering, wet, bedraggled, and in pain, Mulder struggled out of the reflecting pool and limped on his good ankle up the stairs to the road. The first thing he tried was his cell phone: when water cascaded out of it in waves, he gave up on that idea. He could barely manage to hail a cab, he was shivering so hard; but for once, luck was on his side, and the first taxi to pass by pulled over for him. He collapsed into the back seat, dripping buckets all over the upholstery. "Alexandria," he muttered, and closed his eyes, giving in to the darkness and the pain.
The driver grunted. Mulder dragged himself awake, ready to go home and sleep for a couple of weeks. On his sofa. After a long, hot shower.
His ankle twinged.
Ok, maybe a bath.
He opened the door. "Hey, wait a minute, this isn't - "
Two thugs reached into the car and pulled him out by the tails of his trench coat. The driver shut down the engine and came around. Mulder had time to notice that they were in an alley of some sort before someone knocked him on the head with the butt of a gun, and then he didn't notice much besides the stars in front of his eyes, and the kicks and punches that he was on the wrong end of yet again as they shouted expletives and accused him of "puttin' they brutha' in the can."
Somehow, he registered that these must be friends of the gunman he'd tackled at the metro this morning, a lifetime ago; and he fervently wished he'd never even thought of punching Spender out.
He did notice, however, when one of them found his ID, and said "Fuck, man, he's FBI," and they all left in the taxicab.
It took awhile, but eventually Mulder worked up the nerve to sit up. He winced every time he moved, and his chest ached deep inside. After all these years, Mulder knew a broken rib when he met one. Aside from that, several new, painful bruises, and the little dwarf smelting iron inside his head, he seemed to be in the same condition he was before his ill-fated taxi ride. Which wasn't great; but it was something.
Slowly, using the wall for a crutch, he eased himself to his feet, wincing and hissing with each inch he gained, finally almost fainting again when he chanced to put weight on the ankle he'd twisted at the pool. He gritted his teeth and staggered as quickly as he dared to the end of the alley, and wonder of wonders, a pay phone stood right at the entrance. With his luck, it would be out of order.
He called Scully first. Still not home. He managed to talk to Frohike before he hit the ground.
He woke up to Scully's hand in his, and her voice in his ear. The second thing he noticed was the warmth.
"Hey," she said softly, smiling.
"Hey," he answered back.
"Having a bad day, Mulder?" she asked. One eyebrow was up, but she was still smiling, and Mulder felt better than he had in ages. She didn't look mad.
"Not anymore," he answered honestly, looking deep into her eyes. Oh, wait, shit, he wasn't supposed to - "I mean, yes! Very bad - very bad day ... " he trailed off as she started to chuckle.
"Mulder, you really are a piece of work." Scully shook her head. "I talked to Skinner, he's turned your disciplinary suspension into a medical leave. And they found the men who attacked you. It wasn't hard; they'd pulled the cab into a McDonald's two blocks down the road, and were having milkshakes." She sighed and smoothed back his hair. "Honestly, Mulder, I go out of town for one day - /one day!/ - and look at you!"
"I - I'm sorry, Scully." He turned his head away, but couldn't bring himself pull his hand from hers. He sighed heavily. "Scully, why does this universe always have to shit on me?"
"Mulder, look at me." She reached across his body to grab his other hand, through its layers of aloe and gauze. "So you had a bad day. Everyone does. Tomorrow'll be a good one."
He chuckled, but looked back to her. "Scully, I have more bad days than lions have stripes."
There were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling as she leaned forward to ruffle his hair. "Mulder, lions don't have stripes. You mean tigers. Or zebras."
"See what I mean?" He grinned, but she shook her head in bemusement as she stroked his cheek.
"Mulder, didn't anything good happen to you today at all?"
He leaned into her hand, belatedly remembering that not only hadn't he shaved that morning, but he still had a couple of nasty bruises. He didn't care, though; she felt too good. "Until I woke up and saw you here? No." Her forehead crinkled, and he backed up before she could parse the come-on he hadn't meant to voice. "I can tell you something bad you didn't know about, though."
She snorted. "The shaving cream in your eye? Mulder, you should have called the doctor immediately. It says so right on the package. Luckily you landed in the hospital *anyway* - " she peered at him - "and I have some eyedrops that should fix you up within a week or so."
"Nope!" He grinned like he was about to tell her he'd won first place at the national spelling bee. "I puked this morning!"
"Mulder .. !" she shook her head in exasperation. "Why? Did you have food poisoning?"
"No, I was, um .. " Oh, right. She didn't know about the waterbed. " .... seasick."
"Seasick?!?" *That* earned him the eyebrow. "Mulder, how on Earth did you manage to be seasick in Alexandria?"
"Um .. " He avoided her eyes, but he knew he was trapped. " ... waterbed?" he mumbled.
"A *waterbed*?" She couldn't stop incredulous laughter. "I know I shouldn't be surprised, but Mulder, why do you have a waterbed if you know it makes you seasick?"
"I, um, I don't know, hey, Scully, where were you today, anyway? I was worried." Nice change of subject, he congratulated himself.
She looked at him askance - and raised that eyebrow again - but let him off the hook. On that count, anyway, for now. "I told you last week, Mulder. Bill's ship docked in Baltimore this morning; Mom and I spent the day at the Inner Harbor with him."
"Oh. ... You're right. I remember now. I'm sorry I pulled you away from that." He let his head fall back against the pillow and closed his eyes. "Scully, how do you always manage to be in the right place at the right time?"
"I don't, Mulder. Only where you're concerned." She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the forehead. He closed his eyes and willed the moment to last forever. "Ready to go?"
"Go?" Boy, that eternity was over quick. He jerked back and bunched the covers around his chest. "Do I have to?"
She burst out laughing. "What is this, *my* Mulder doesn't want to leave the hospital?"
He grinned back. "I just think I'll be safer and happier if I don't leave this bed for the rest of my life." He tested the restraints. "*Not* a waterbed, rails to keep me from falling, automatic headrest, bland food, free cable .. this is the life, Scully."
"I don't think they get the Playboy channel, Mulder."
"Oh. In that case, when do we leave?" He sat up and slung his legs over the side of the bed.
"Whoa, Mulder, not so fast!" She grabbed his shoulders to steady him and he wrapped a hand around her arm. "You still have a sprained ankle, a broken rib and a mild concussion. They're only letting you go because I'm a doctor, and," she glanced wryly at the room, "they need the bed space."
Mulder couldn't look away; her eyes were so close. "Did you really mean it, Scully?" he whispered.
"Mean what?" she asked, perplexed.
"That I'm your Mulder." He held his breath.
She laughed again. "Of course you are, Mulder. What would you do without me?" She heaved him to his feet and supported him from one side while handing him the crutches. He clutched her tight against himself. She molded perfectly into him, and put her free hand on his chest. His spirit was soaring.
"Come on, Mulder, let's go home."
"Wait, Scully. What time is it?"
"It's about 8 PM, why?"
Perfect! "Can we go to the Lincoln Memorial first? I have a few bad memories I'd like to overwrite."