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Ever wonder why Mulder hates the Ice Capades so much?

RATING: fun for all ages
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; the X-Files belong to CC, FOX, etc. Nor do I own any of the other characters mentioned here.

Notes: This is a gift for my birthday twin, Mimsy, and a thank you to everyone else who joined in our birthday fun.

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"I don't care who this is for, Scully. There's no way in hell I'm going to wear that."

"Mulder, Skinner is close friends with the governor, and he promised that he'd take personal responsibility for the security of his daughter tonight. You should think of this as an honor."

"I don't want to be honored. Why can't somebody else do this?"

"Because you have more athletic ability in your little finger than most other agents put together. Not just anybody can ice skate, you know."

"This is what I get for playing hockey as a kid." Mulder wandered over to the large costume and absently toyed with one of the yellow feathers. "Did I ever tell you why I hate the Ice Capades so much?"

Scully stepped closer and leaned against a counter next to the costume rack. "No, I don't believe you have."

He sighed and picked up the large, feathered head, stared down its beak into the cartoonish eyes, and then started tossing it back and forth between his hands like a basketball. "I was nine. This Ice Capades troupe came through town looking for local kids to join their summer tour. I was pretty good on the ice, so my hockey coach mentioned my name. It sounded like fun, and it meant getting to travel without my parents--and I was too young to know better--so I said yes."

Mulder gently drop-kicked the large, yellow head, which landed with a thud next to the bright orange, three-toed feet that were designed to fit over a pair of skates. "All the performances were in other towns, so I didn't think any of the kids from school would ever see me. What I didn't know is that my school had purchased a block of tickets for our show in Boston for some charity drive."

Scully chagrined, already suspecting the unhappy ending.

"I was dressed as an elf, and half my school was there to see it. You have no idea how much I suffered that fall, getting teased for wearing tights. All because of the Ice Capades."

Scully crossed to him and placed a reassuring hand on his arm. "I'm sorry, Mulder." She looked over at the tall costume again, sans head and legs. She decided that now would not be the best time to mention the striped tights that completed the outfit. "But they can't find anyone else on such short notice. Besides,"--she nudged the feathered head with her toe--"nobody will know it's you."

Mulder grimaced as he watched the movement of her foot. He had a bad feeling about this.

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"Sector three, report."

Mulder readjusted his earpiece, silently cursing its presence. He tried to ignore the chatter between Skinner and the other agents, knowing that it could easily blow his cover. He was supposed to be just another skater in costume, not a federal agent.

Ambling over to the curtain as best as he could in a bulky costume and on covered skates, he peeked out to see if everyone was in place. In the third row, at the center of the rink, sat the governor and his young daughter, flanked on either side by Skinner and Scully. As if by some sixth sense, Scully looked over in his direction at that moment, a gentle smile gracing her lips. He didn't think that she could see him, but he knew that smile was meant for him. He just hoped it was a show of support, not mockery.

Mulder took a deep breath and stepped back from the curtain, going over the routine in his head. He had spent the day receiving a private lesson from the choreographer, topped off by a dress rehearsal with the entire cast less than an hour before curtain. They had simplified the routine for his sake, but he hoped he didn't blow it. If that wasn't complicated enough, he also had to keep watch for anything suspicious, since any of the skaters or backstage workers could be their suspect.

They just didn't pay him enough for this job.

A man with a clipboard and a headset hurried by, urging everyone to get in their places for the opening number. Mulder removed the covers from his skates and took his position in line. As he took one more look around him, trying to detect anything out of the ordinary, he heard the music start up and a voice boom over the speakers: "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Sesame Street on Ice!"

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After the fact, it was hard for Scully to describe just what had occurred since it all happened so quickly. Ernie had just finished a rousing rendition of "Rubber Ducky," and as the music changed, the other characters emerged from the curtain, one by one, for the final number. Her focus, of course, had been on Big Bird, hoping for his sake that the show could end without incident. But as she watched him glide gracefully along behind Elmo in the long line of figures circling the ice, suddenly he broke formation and made a beeline for Oscar. With a dive at the garbage can, he and the Grouch slid toward the center of the rink, in a mangled pile of feathers and fur.

The roving spotlights froze on the pair, and the rest of the cast ground to a halt, while the music played on, serenading the macabre scene. Men in suits started to flow onto the ice from every side, the first two landing flat on their asses, and the rest catching on and gingerly sliding their way toward the center. Scully did her best to shield her young charge with her body, all the while watching her partner extract himself from the heap, emerging with a gun in one hand and Oscar's arm firmly gripped in the other.

As soon as the details were sorted out, Mulder had disappeared; he was already long gone by the time she made it to the dressing room to look for him. She knew he was humiliated by the whole thing, despite the fact that he was being hailed a hero. She just hoped he hadn't seen this morning's paper yet.

Scully was now seated at her desk, glancing once again at the picture beneath the headline, "Big Bird Saves the Day." There was Oscar, at center ice, with Big Bird sprawled on top of him--only, the feathered figure had lost his head. So much for no one being able to recognize him.

At the sound of the door opening, Scully moved quickly to stash the newspaper out of sight, but apparently not quickly enough.

"Don't bother. I've already seen it. So has everyone else within a 50-mile radius."

She came over to perch on the edge of Mulder's desk as he took a seat. "It can't be that bad. Besides, you saved the day. You're a hero."

"I'm a joke." He tossed her a wadded up piece of paper and then folded his arms on the desk and buried his face between them.

Scully smoothed out the page. It was a poor quality photocopy of the front page photo, surrounded by bold letters: "Need entertainment for your kid's birthday party? Call Big Bird. (Appearances by Elmo on request.)" She could only guess that there were more copies of this posted all over the building.

Scully knew this was nothing more than gentle ribbing, but it had hit a sore spot. Looking down at Mulder, with his face still hidden, she stroked his head in a show of sympathy.

His response was muffled but discernible. "God, I hate the Ice Capades."

"It's okay," she soothed, continuing to stroke his hair. "I'm sure it'll all blow over soon."

He lifted his head to look at her. She seemed far too unruffled by this. "You do realize that Elmo comment was directed at you."

Her mouth opened and closed in disbelief while she regarded the flyer once again. He knew she had accepted the truth when she crumpled up the paper again and threw it rather forcefully into the garbage can.

Crossing her arms and dropping back against the desk, she huffed out: "God, I hate the Ice Capades."

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Final notes: This was in response to our birthday challenge, because I just couldn't resist joining in the fun. The elements were pretty simple, but the only one that I adhered to strictly was the basic idea: Mulder or Scully in an undercover situation where you'd least expect to find them.

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