KEYWORDS: MSM, Will-fic
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: I like to think of this as a companion piece to "Arms Wide Open," but this vignette can be read independently. I'm not going to set up the story other than to say that this occurs in the happily-ever-after universe. (Additional notes below.)
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Leaves in hues of brown and gold eddied in the crisp breeze and skittered across the front porch of 1107 Huckleberry Lane. Two jack o'lanterns adorned the railing on either side of the front steps, one carved with precision, the other with a blend of whimsy and the unpracticed touch of a child. The tiny flames flickering jubilantly within each contorted the images and made the spooky masks dance to life.
In contrast to the chill of the evening, the interior of the home was warm and cozy. In the brightly lit living room, the patriarch sat with remote in hand, a sports channel currently dominating the large television screen. His wife was down the hall with their child, preparing him for the annual ritual of playing the sugar-deprived beggar and going door-to-door in strange garb to threaten tricks in exchange for treats.
But the scores and highlights that flashed across the screen only peripherally held Mulder's attention. His thoughts were elsewhere for the moment as the atmosphere of the holiday rekindled memories of his own childhood.
The gentle squeak of hinges down the hallway brought him back to the present, and he hit the power button on the remote just as a miniature caped crusader came trotting into the room with Scully close behind him. As the two approached, Mulder stood to greet them and swiftly put on an attitude of enthusiasm. "You all ready to go trick-or-treating, little man?"
Will stood opposite his father, mirroring his casual pose of hands resting on hips. In his current getup, all decked out as Batman complete with child-sized mask and cape, the stance made him look like he was modeling for the cover of a comic book.
"Where's your costume, Daddy?"
Mulder looked down at his jeans and t-shirt and then ruefully back at his son. "Sorry, Will, this is it."
With a frown, the boy turned back to Scully, who was standing directly behind him. "Mommy, I don't want to be Batman anymore."
Her arms folded over her chest. "Will, we don't have another costume. You wanted to be Batman, so you'll have to stick with that."
Will now stood with his own arms folded. "I wanna go change."
Her response was an exasperated sigh. She knew how determined their son could be once he made up his mind about something--not unlike his father--and consequently she had learned to pick her battles. "Fine, Will. You go find something you want to wear, and then you show me."
Mulder had resumed his seat, and she walked over and collapsed next to him on the sofa in a gesture of defeat. Relaxing against his sturdy form, she let her head fall limply onto his shoulder.
"He keeps changing his mind. First he wanted to be Batman, and then it was Superman, and then some cartoon character that I've never even heard of, and then when we went to the store last week he was back to Batman."
Wrapping one arm around her in sympathy, Mulder leaned his head down close to hers. "So, if he's Batman, does that mean you're going to dress up as Catwoman?"
Scully laughed and lifted her head to look at him. "I wouldn't be caught dead in that outfit." But her actions belied her words as she rubbed her cheek against his shoulder and, looking up playfully through her lashes, added in a seductive voice, "But I bet you could make me purr."
Mulder laughed softly and squeezed her gently but didn't pursue it any further. It was unlike him to pass up such an opening, and she noted that the melancholy which she had observed earlier still lingered around him like a thick fog.
Pulling back a little to better look at his face, Scully gently ran a hand over the light stubble that had emerged on his cheek. "Hey, what's up? You've been awfully quiet today."
He placed his hand over her own and then pulled it away to look contemplatively into her palm. "I guess I was just thinking about Halloween when I was his age."
As he continued to gaze into her palm, seeing there not her future but the apparitions of his own past, she waited quietly for him to continue.
"One year when I was about five or six, my father had promised to take me trick-or-treating. I was so excited because he had never gone with us before, and it was all I could think about all day long. But when I came home from school, he was rushing out the door to some meeting, making a quick apology as he left." He let Scully's hand drop into his lap as he ran his freed digits through his hair and released a heavy sigh. "Mom made excuses for him, like she always did back then, saying that he was an important man and that when duty called he had to answer. But at that age, I had no concept of what that meant. All I knew was that I was devastated. I threw a tantrum and sat down on the stairs crying, saying that I didn't ever want to be an important man."
But the bitterness dropped from his tone as his memories turned fonder, and the ghost of a smile began to play at his lips. His thumb found Scully's palm where it now rested on his leg, and he absent-mindedly stroked her skin in hypnotic patterns as he continued to relive the past.
"Mom came over and sat down next to me, and I'll never forget what she told me. She said that I didn't have to be important, I just had to be happy. That it was okay to lead a simple life and work an honest job in a factory or as a mailman and then come home to your family every night. That all she really wanted for me was to find love and joy in the life I chose." He looked up at Scully with a sad smile. "I didn't exactly follow her advice with my line of work, but I guess some of it stuck with me over the years and that's why I never was interested in climbing a career ladder. I didn't want to be a great man if it meant becoming like my father. All I ever wanted was to put my Humpty Dumpty family back together again."
The moment was interrupted as Will emerged from his room and rejoined them. It was Mulder who first noticed him, and Scully followed his gaze. Their son was now wearing jeans, a Yankees shirt, a ballcap, and his baseball mitt--the way he usually dressed when his father took him to the park to play catch.
"Okay, I'm ready," he informed them.
Scully was puzzled by the transformation since no ballplayer had appeared on the previous list of costume candidates. "Will, who are you supposed to be?"
He raised his finger to point next to her and explained with the grave simplicity of a child: "Daddy."
Mulder looked down at his clothes again and realized that he was dressed just about the same as Will now was. After the surprise wore off, he released a chuckle, but Scully could see the tears glistening in his eyes. She leaned into him and said quietly, "You are a great man, Mulder. You're his superhero. And mine, too."
He turned and smiled at her and then gave her a quick but intense kiss before rising from his seat. Clearing his throat, he suppressed the emotions that threatened to clog his speech. "Okay, kiddo, let's hit the road before all the good candy is gone."
Scully rose and followed them to the foyer. She watched as her two men put on their matching leather jackets to shield them from the brisk autumn air. As Mulder opened the door, she put a hand on his shoulder and leaned up to his ear to whisper, "When you come back, we'll banish him to the batcave, and then we'll see about bringing Catwoman out to play."
Mulder beamed back at her with a knowing smile as their son grabbed him by the hand and dragged him out the front door. With the jack o'lanterns standing sentry, father and son descended the creaky wooden steps. Their feet hit the pavement to the crunch and rustle of leaves, while the wind pricking their ears held promise of magic and mayhem.
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Author's Notes: After writing "Arms Wide Open," I heard another rock song on the radio that inspired me to write about Mulder as a father. The lyrics (below) are actually from a mother to her son, but I like to think of this as advice that Mulder would pass along to his own son. Along with that sprang to mind the image of Will imitating his father, which fit well with Halloween; hence, this story.
by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.
Take your time... Don't live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you'll find love,
And don't forget son,
There is someone up above.
And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won't you do this for me son,
If you can?
Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.
Boy, don't you worry... you'll find yourself.
Follow your heart and nothing else.
And you can do this if you try.
All I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.