Just another day in the life of Fox Mulder, F-B-I.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; the X-Files belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: Thanks to Obfusc8er for the helpful feedback.
* * * * *
The pulsating rotors of black helicopters kicked up dust into Mulder's eyes and drowned out his cries.
"Scully! Damn it, where are you!"
If she answered him, he couldn't hear it over the noise. A beam of light skirted the row, and he quickly ducked amidst the cornstalks. Once it had safely passed, he stood and bolted toward the way they had entered, hoping to meet his partner on the other side.
As the copter closest to him turned and began another sweep in the opposite direction, the noise lessened slightly, and he stopped to call out once more.
Her voice was distant, as though filtered through cotton in his ears, and he wondered momentarily if the loud noise had affected his hearing. But he didn't have time to think about that. Right now, he had to find Scully and get out of here.
"Mulder!" This time the voice was much closer, and the noise of the helicopters had faded away. When he turned to look around for her, something soft hit him in the forehead. He looked down at a pair of rolled-up socks that had ricocheted and dropped at his feet.
"That's the third time this week you've called me by my maiden name. What is it with you and last names, anyway? I swear sometimes you'll only respond to me when I call you 'Mulder.' I guess you've just gotten used to hearing your last name so much at work."
He looked around him and realized that he wasn't in a cornfield but standing in their living room. Blinking his way back to reality, he took a seat on the couch and sat there quietly, watching his wife fold laundry.
Noticing his silence, she looked up. "You didn't hear what I asked you, did you?"
"No, dear, I'm sorry. I guess I was daydreaming."
"Yeah," she huffed. "You seem to do that a lot. What I asked was what time you think we should fire up the barbecue. Jake's friends should start arriving around one, and I know that it always takes a while for the briquettes to heat up. I mean, we could wait until they get here before we start it, but I'm not sure how long we want to wait to eat. Having several eight-year-old boys running loose in our yard could be quite unruly if we don't feed them, even with their parents around."
"Oh. I guess I'll start it at about 12:30, then maybe the first round of burgers will be ready by the time everyone arrives. I'll go out there now and make sure everything's set up."
Dana paused from her work and watched her absent-minded husband head for the back door. She loved the man dearly, but some days she wondered if he even inhabited the same plane of existence as the rest of them. He always had his head in the clouds, but he never divulged what he spent all of his time thinking about.
Mulder watched from the bridge as the train slowly gained speed beneath him. The voice in his ear was telling him to let it go, but the answers here were too important. He had to make a split second decision; if he let this chance escape, he might never know the truth. Throwing caution to the wind, he decided to jump.
Landing with a hard thud against the cold metal, he held on for dear life. From the roof of the train car, the vehicle felt a lot faster than it had looked from his stationary perch. But the adrenaline rush was beginning to fade, and he felt like he was in the clear.
And then his hand began to slip. Mulder groaned in frustration as his lifeline flew from his fingers and skittered out of sight.
There went another cell phone.
"Harry!" The voice was a harsh whisper in his ear.
"Honey, you dropped the spatula."
"Oh." He watched Dana quickly clean it with a paper towel and then press it firmly back into his hand. But he didn't understand her hushed tones until he noticed the couple standing next to her.
"Harry," she said louder, turning to the pair trying to ignore the exchange they had just witnessed, "this is Mike and Sarah Winters. They're Sean's parents."
Harry Mulder extended his hand to each of them in greeting. "Oh yeah, Jake's buddy from Little League. I'm glad you guys could make it."
"So, Dana," Sarah jumped in, "I hear you're a vet. Would you mind if I asked for some advice about our dog?"
"No, not at all." She turned to her husband. "Honey, why don't you get Mike something to drink?"
"Sure." Harry gestured Mike toward the cooler while the women wandered off across the deck. "We've got beer, soda, and water. Take your pick."
Mike reached in for a brew, then twisted off the cap and took a swig. Harry took a step back toward the grill to check the burgers, and after a moment Mike followed.
"So, Harry, you work at Jake's school?"
"Yeah, I'm a math teacher." He flipped over a patty and then covered the grill. "Not very glamorous, I know, but somebody's got to do it."
Mike shared a smile at his joke and took another swig. "Have you two lived here long?"
"Well, I was born and raised just a few miles away from here, but Dana's from New York. We met in college, and somehow I talked her into moving back here with me. But we've only been in this house since a year after our daughter was born." He scanned the yard and then pointed at a little girl chasing a butterfly, unruffled by the roughhousing of the boys around her. "That's Jake's little sister, Kim, over there."
"This looks like a nice neighborhood. It seems pretty quiet."
Harry's gaze grew unfocused, his thoughts beginning to drift again. "Yeah, it's pretty quiet. Nothing much happens around here."
The silence stretched between them, but Harry was oblivious. He didn't even notice when Mike excused himself and wandered away, mumbling that he should go find his wife.
"Dana, you guys really went all out for Jake's birthday. The boys are having a blast."
Dana squinted up at Stacy in the midday sun and gestured for her friend to take the empty lawn chair next to her.
"Well, there's no point in having a yard this size unless you can make use of it. Otherwise it's a lot of mowing for nothing."
"So what's with Harry today? Isn't he feeling well?"
Dana turned her head and looked over at her husband, standing next to the grill holding an empty water bottle and staring off into space again. She sighed and purposely looked away.
"I don't know, Stace. He just seems so distant lately. I'm afraid it has something to do with me, and I'm just not sure what to do about it."
"You think he's having a mid-life crisis?"
"God, I hope not. He's too young for that. I don't know, he's just so withdrawn. It seems like he never wants to do anything with me and the kids anymore. It's like he's lost his sense of adventure."
* * *
He could hear the whip cracking behind him as the rider tried to rein him in like a wild colt. But Mulder wouldn't give up that easily. The adrenaline rushed through his veins, collaborating with gravity to carry him down the hillside faster than he'd ever run before. But was it enough to outrun the horses? He could only hope.
The next crack of the whip was closer to his ear. Too close. They were gaining on him. The Russian mud beneath his feet was too soft for him to gain a secure enough footing, the earth giving way and conspiring against him with each step. Still, he pressed on.
But with the next lash of the whip, there was no crack. Instead, it coiled around him like a snake. He had been lassoed. His stolen momentum only served to pull him tighter into the snare. There was no more point in fighting against his bonds. This round may have been lost, but the fight was far from over.
He looked up in defiance at his Russian captor, who now opened his mouth to address his prey.
"Dad, I asked if you want to play ball with us. It's the dads versus the kids."
Harry looked over his son's head and saw the rest of the males organizing into teams.
"Oh, yeah, sure. Give me a minute."
Jogging away in anticipation, Jake called out to his friends: "We're gonna whip you guys so bad!"
Dana finally gave up on her attempt to read, realizing that she had too much on her mind to allow her to concentrate on anything else. She settled the bookmark into place and let the book fall closed in her lap. The television across the room was still rhythmically pulsing from one channel to the next. She followed the effect back to the cause and watched Harry sitting next to her in the bed with a blank stare on his face while his hand continued to tap the remote.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Dana sighed and removed the remote from her husband's lap. Hitting the power button, she dropped the remote and her book on the table next to her and then turned to face him.
"Harry, are you bored with our marriage?"
"You're never here. I mean, not mentally. It's like you're always off somewhere else, in your own little world. I'm beginning to wonder if it has something to do with me, if maybe you're bored with our relationship, and you have to spend your time imagining yourself with some other woman just to get through the day."
"No, sweetheart. God, no. That's not it at all."
"Then what is it? Where is it that you go all the time, in your mind?"
Harry averted his gaze and began to play with the edge of the bedspread. "You know how you're always reading novels, and Jake can't get enough Star Trek? These are escapes you both have. Well, for me, it's my imagination. I've kind of created this little world in my mind, and when I daydream, it's like tuning in for another episode, or reading another chapter. It's this place where I live through other characters and do things that I would never dare to do in reality."
Dana settled on her side, propping her head on her hand. "Tell me about it."
Her husband still wouldn't look at her, so Dana placed her free hand on top of his to stop his fidgeting. "Why would I think it's silly? This is a part of you that I don't know, and I want to know all of you. I don't want you to feel like you have to hide yourself from me. Please, tell me about it."
Harry sighed and scooted down in the bed so he was lying on his back looking up at his wife. "You know when Jake was a baby, and we'd take turns rocking him back to sleep at night? Well, I guess it all started then. When I was sitting there late at night in the rocking chair, waiting for him to quiet down, I would let my mind wander to keep myself awake, and I came up with these stories. You see, I'm this FBI agent, and you're my partner, and we work all kinds of weird cases. Sometimes I'd develop these stories about cases that you and I would investigate, and then I'd turn them into bedtime stories for the kids, but without the FBI part. Or, sometimes I'd get ideas from one of the books I was reading to them, and then I'd turn it into this whole adventure that we'd have."
Dana was smiling down at him, happy to hear that his daydreams were not an escape from her, but that she was actually a part of them. "So, I'm your partner?"
He looked up at her, his face full of wonder. "Yeah, except Special Agent Dana Scully is a pathologist, not a vet. And we call each other by our last names all the time."
By now, she had slid further down in bed and was fully reclined on her side. "Ah, so that's why you keep calling me 'Scully.'"
"Yeah, I guess it kind of slipped out."
"You know, dear, I appreciate the fact that you want an escape--we all do sometimes--but this has become an epidemic with you. Somehow you have to find a balance between fiction and reality."
"I know," he sighed.
After a moment, Dana closed the gap between them and laid her head on her husband's chest. "So, tell me a bedtime story."
He lifted his head to look at her. "Really? You want to hear one?"
She looked earnestly up into his eyes. "Yeah. I do."
Harry settled his wife snugly into his arms and began his story.
"Once upon a time, there were two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully."
"'Fox'!?!? You named yourself 'Fox'?"
"Well, it just sounded sexier than 'Harold.' Are you going to keep interrupting my story, or what?"
"No, go on...Fox."
"So, once upon a time there were two FBI agents...."
Author's Notes: This story is obviously a shameless rip-off of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber, but I want to emphasize one important difference between the stories: the motivation. Mitty daydreams to escape a nagging wife, but I by no means intended to portray Dana in such a light. Rather, this version is a self-critique of my fanfic obsession, my own Walter Mitty existence, so Harry's motivation is closer to my own. But I also thought it was a fun "what if" to consider Mulder and Scully not as real people but as the fictional (delusional?) creation of an average, middle-class suburbanite.
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