text file (19k)
"Did teenagers come with owner's manuals?"
She Drives Me Crazy
SPOILERS: Season 5 (takes place sometime after Emily but before Diana, in 1998)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: Thanks to Mims for the beta. Any remaining glitches are my own.
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"Are you done with the rice?" Mulder asked, scraping the last sticky grains from the sides of the take-out container.
Scully answered with a distracted, "Yeah," not looking up from the expense report in her hands.
Mulder dumped the rice into the remains of his cashew chicken. He folded the lid on the empty container and tossed it beyond the circle of papers and folders covering the coffee table and floor. Scully glanced up as the box bounced and rolled to a stop but didn't say anything.
Stuffing a forkful of chicken into his mouth, Mulder looked around at the mess. The two of them went through the same mayhem every year when it was time for the annual review. For all their experience, they still hadn't learned how to streamline the process. Although, whenever they had their "organizational meeting" (or, as he preferred to call it, their "futile attempt to defy entropy") at Scully's, the pages always managed to stay in neater piles.
"Damn it." Scully's rare expletive drew Mulder's attention. "I put this hotel charge on the wrong report. I don't want to retype the whole thing. Do you have any White Out?"
"There should be some on the desk." He gestured vaguely with his fork and then went back to reading the field notes in the folder lying open in his lap.
Scully rose from the couch and started to dig through the chaos on the desk, rustling the papers more forcefully than seemed necessary. "I don't know how I'm supposed to find anything in this mess. I don't see--"
At her sudden silence, he looked up. "Find it?"
She turned toward him, holding a round, plastic container of shiny pink lip gloss. "I didn't know this was your color."
"It's not. I'm more into Blow Job Red."
She didn't even crack a smile, so he dropped the teasing. "That's Ginny's. She must've left it here the last time she was over."
Scully turned back to the desk and continued her search. In a voice that sounded a little too casual, she said, "Oh? I didn't realize she'd been by lately."
Swallowing the last bite of chicken, Mulder tossed his fork into the empty box and set it in a vacant spot next to the couch. He regarded Scully with care as he responded. "She came over last weekend. We went into the city to check out the monuments and the museums--you know, all those touristy things you never think of doing when you live here."
Scully simply nodded, her back still to him, while she rifled aimlessly through the drawers.
Trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, he added, "You know, we were talking about going to the Freer Gallery sometime. You should join us."
"Oh, here it is. It was in the drawer." She turned around, brandishing the small, white bottle in her hand, but failed to meet his eyes. He knew she'd heard his comment but didn't press her about it.
Returning to her seat, she asked, "Are you done with that pen?"
It took him a moment to realize she was referring to the Bic he had slid from her fingers a while ago, now abandoned on the coffee table. He handed it to her, and she took it from his loose grasp without looking up.
He watched her while she blew on the white spot she'd painted on the page and then carefully wrote over it. Scully had been so supportive since he first told her about his long-lost daughter, but there was still an awkwardness whenever Ginny's name came up, and he wasn't sure what to do about it. Asking his partner point-blank what was bothering her would be a start, but he knew that would more likely elicit further deflection than a straight answer. She probably needed some time to adjust; he certainly did.
Shifting his attention back to the file, Mulder plowed ahead with the task at hand. All their paperwork had to be in order before the meeting on Monday morning, so they had less than 36 hours to turn this paper blizzard into something presentable.
When he finished with his own field report, he turned the page to read Scully's; a line immediately caught his eye. "I cannot believe you used the phrase 'flying squirrel' in your case report."
She looked up at him, her brow creased in confusion, but it smoothed as realization dawned. Dropping her eyes and sitting up straighter, she said primly, "I was merely trying to illustrate that your judgment was slightly impaired by the chloral hydrate."
"Fine, then I'm going to add how your judgment was impaired by"--he tucked his bottom lip under his upper teeth and put on his best Southern accent--"Sheriff Hartwell."
She didn't say anything, but he could read the challenge in her glare: You wouldn't.
He raised his eyebrows--Wouldn't I?--and snatched the pen from her hand. But by the time he got the pen to the page, she had caught up with him and lunged for the report. He managed to grab it before she did and held it at arm's length, making her practically climb over him as she tried to reach it.
"Hey, watch the knee there, partner," he said, continuing to twang.
"Mulder," she laughed, "give me that!" But try as hard as she could to wrestle him for it, his arms were still longer and stronger, and he was able to keep the papers extended beyond her reach while pinning her to his lap with the other arm.
A knock echoed from the door, and they both went still. Mulder shared a puzzled look with her before glancing at the clock--it was after midnight.
Only then did Scully seem to realize where she was, basically straddling his lap. She quickly got up and straightened her clothing. But her tone was still teasing when she said, "Chinese wasn't enough? You ordered pizza too?"
He tossed the report onto the coffee table and shrugged as he got up. "Wouldn't surprise me if those kids down the hall did it as a practical joke."
His hand was on the doorknob when he heard her call out behind him, "Well, if the delivery boy has fangs, check to see if they're fake before you do anything drastic."
He gave her his "Very funny" expression and opened the door. His bemusement swiftly changed to surprise. "Ginny! What are you doing here so late? Is everything okay?"
He watched her for any signs of distress as she stepped inside. She looked a little tired, but not like she had been crying. There was a backpack draped over her shoulder in place of the purse she usually carried around.
"I need a place to crash." She stopped suddenly, and he turned from closing the door to see that she had spotted Scully. "Oh, I didn't realize I was interrupting something."
"We were just going over some reports," Mulder said. At her hesitation, he placed a hand on her shoulder and guided her toward the living room.
Scully shared a quick "Hi" with Ginny and then stood and started cleaning up their empty plates and containers. She was off to the kitchen by the time he and Ginny reached the couch. Ginny removed her backpack and tossed it onto the cushions, dropping heavily down beside it.
When she wasn't forthcoming, Mulder ventured, "Do your grandparents know where you are?"
She folded her arms over her chest. "They don't deserve to know."
"They won't let me get my driver's license."
He could understand her frustration but didn't think it was that serious of an offense.
Ginny apparently read the skepticism on his face; sitting up straight, she launched in: "Mom promised I could take the test as soon as I turned 17, but I can't take it without the 'consent of a parent or guardian,' and my grandparents won't do it." She dug around in her backpack and pulled out a sheet of paper. "Here"--she thrust the paper into his hands--"all I need is your signature."
Mulder felt blindsided. He took the form and let his eyes run over it while his brain tried to catch up.
Ginny kept talking. "I mean, it's ridiculous. I can get a prescription for birth control on my own, but I can't get a driver's license without 'permission.' How is that fair?"
Mulder was still stuck on "birth control." Did that mean that she--? He didn't want to know. Abruptly, he handed the form back before she could travel down any other dangerous paths.
"I don't care what the fight was about. Your grandparents are going to be worried sick if they don't know where you are." He stood and retrieved the cordless phone from the desk. But when he turned to hand her the receiver, he found her hunkered down into the cushions. Her hands were tucked under her arms, quite pointedly unavailable.
He sighed and pulled back the phone. "Fine, I'll call them."
Ginny opened her mouth to start in again, but he held up a finger and looked at her sternly. She wisely kept any further comments to herself.
Despite the late hour, the phone was answered within two rings.
A male voice answered with a hint of urgency. "Hello?"
"Mr. Maloney? This is Fox Mulder--"
"Have you heard from Ginny?"
"Yeah, she's right here. She's fine."
Her grandfather huffed a relieved sigh. "Oh, thank God." His voice grew muffled as he said, "It's okay, Edith, she's safe." He turned back to Mulder. "Will you put Ginny on the phone, please?"
"Uh..." Mulder looked over at the couch. Scully had returned to the room and was momentarily distracting Ginny, asking if she wanted anything to drink. Ginny was being polite, but the petulant scowl remained on her face. "If I handed her the phone right now, I'm pretty sure she'd hang up on you. She's kind of in a mood."
"Yes, we had quite an argument. Tell her we're not angry, we simply want her to come home."
"I'll make sure she gets home safely. But, it might be better to let her cool off a little. I can bring her back in the morning."
"Well, whatever you think is best. As long as you understand, Mr. Mulder, this decision about her license is between us and Ginny. I know you're her biological father--"
"I have no intention of getting involved with this, *John.* You've done an excellent job caring for her, and I don't want to interfere with that." Mulder wasn't sure how to interpret the pause that followed. He couldn't tell whether his gamble to personalize the conversation by moving it to a first name basis had paid off.
"Well, then, tell Ginny we love her and that we're willing to reconsider our position, as long as she comes home." The tone was courteous and contrite, but the words were apparently final, since the next thing Mulder heard was a dial tone. He looked at the receiver for a moment before ending the call and setting the phone aside.
Mulder turned back around to find Scully tidying up the room, and Ginny watching him from the couch. She still looked pissed, if not more so.
"You're going to side with them, aren't you?" she accused.
She stood and started pacing. "God, you're just like my mother! She always did what they said, even when they were being completely unreasonable."
"This isn't about being reasonable. They're your legal guardians. I can't just go against what they say. Besides, they love you, and they're only trying to do what's best for you, even if that means being a little overprotective sometimes." He hoped that sounded like fatherly wisdom, not merely platitudes he'd learned from watching too much TV.
She stopped pacing and stared him down. "I can't believe you're defending them. Why aren't you angry at them? After everything they did to keep you from knowing the truth!"
Her words hit home, more than he wanted to admit. But he avoided the bait and answered carefully, "Because I think that maybe, in the end, they did the right thing."
Ginny blinked at him in shock. "How can you say that? You didn't even know I existed! Don't you want me in your life?"
Frustrated, Mulder ran a hand through his hair. "I do, Ginny, but it's not that simple. I'm not sure that being a part of my life is such a good thing. There could be...consequences."
"There's more to my family than you realize--there were reasons why your grandparents didn't want me around. Getting too close to me..." Mulder placed his hands on his hips and glanced away. His eyes landed on his partner, still in the room but staying out of the way.
He turned back to Ginny. "Scully knows; she's already had to pay the price. Look, Ginny, you've had a good life. I think you may be better off without me."
Ginny appeared to contemplate this. She asked Scully, "Is that what you think too?"
Scully glanced at Mulder then back at Ginny. "I don't think anyone is better off without him. But he's right about the consequences. It was a risk I was willing to accept because it was part of my job, but it wouldn't be fair for us to put you in harm's way, certainly not without giving you a choice in the matter."
Ginny looked warily from one to the other. "You two are only trying to scare me. So what if you work for the FBI? I'm sure lots of agents have families that they worry about."
"Ginny, I'm not worried about my family because I'm in the FBI," Mulder said. "I'm in the FBI because of my family."
She frowned at him. Taking a deep breath, Mulder realized it was time to come clean about his past. After all, it was Ginny's past too, and she had a right to know. He gestured toward the couch, and she hesitantly took a seat.
Mulder tried to gather his thoughts as he joined her. He looked over at Scully, now perched on the armchair across the room. In her eyes he found support and sympathy. Even if Ginny thought he was a nut, Scully would still be there for him.
"Ginny..." he began. But it wasn't so easy to find the right words. "You know about my sister, right?"
"Samantha. She was kidnapped when you were kids."
"She wasn't kidnapped--she was abducted." From her blank expression, it was clear Ginny didn't see where he was going with this. "By aliens," he finished.
She started to laugh, but quickly realized that he was dead serious. "Like, in a spaceship?"
"There may have been some involvement by the government," Scully offered. Ginny glanced at Scully, then back at Mulder, appearing even more puzzled by that last statement.
He tried to explain. "My father--Bill Mulder--used to work for the State Department. He was involved in some...top secret projects, and I believe that whatever happened to my sister was a consequence of his work. Regardless of what happened to Samantha, or who was involved, the point is that what happened to her wasn't a random attack. She was targeted because she was a Mulder."
"So, what, you think I'm going to be abducted by little green men?" Ginny asked incredulously.
"Not necessarily, but there are any number of--"
"Did you know that like 1 in 10 people die in car accidents?"
Of all the reactions he was prepared for, that wasn't one of them. He shook his head, still processing her non sequitur.
Ginny stood and stomped away. "You're just like them. It's the same reason why Grandpa won't let me get my driver's license: fear."
Understanding her logic now, Mulder said gently, "Sometimes our fears are well-founded."
She spun around to face him. "It's just an excuse. I know when I'm not wanted. I'll find somewhere else to stay." Ginny swiftly returned to the couch and reached for her backpack.
"It's too late for you take the train all the way back to Baltimore."
"I'm not going home. They're the last people I want to see tonight." She hefted the bag over her shoulder and headed toward the door.
Mulder stood and followed her. "Then where are you going?"
"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself."
"Ginny, stop." She did as he asked, a few steps short of the door, but didn't turn around.
Mulder scanned the mess that was his living room. It was slightly tidier now that Scully had cleaned up a little, but certainly couldn't accommodate the two of them for the night. Besides, he wasn't entirely comfortable having a teenage girl spend the night at his apartment, even if she was his daughter. "I'll get you a hotel room."
Scully spoke up. "You can't send her to a hotel by herself--she's not 18 yet."
Mulder gestured around him. "Well, I don't exactly have a guest room."
When Ginny started to move toward the door again, Scully said, "You can stay at my place."
Ginny turned and asked uncertainly, "Are you sure?"
"*I* have a guest room." Scully leveled her gaze at Mulder. "You get the couch."
Well, of course, he was going to sleep on the couch, he mused; it's not like he had a bed. Unless she meant... "*Your* couch?" She raised her eyebrows at him, as though the answer should be obvious. "Why do you need me?"
"Because I'm not the one who promised her grandparents I'd look out for her. Besides--" she waved her hand at the mess.
He looked around and then back at her. "And your point is?"
She rolled her eyes and headed for the coat rack, snatching up a stack of files on her way.
"Let me grab a few things," he called after her. "I'll meet you down at the car."
Scully gave him a noncommittal nod, and ushered Ginny out the door. As it clicked shut behind them, Mulder dropped to the couch for a minute.
Had he made the right decision tonight? He was totally inexperienced at this parenthood thing. His own father wasn't exactly the best role model, nor did he have any other real father figures in his life--and Cancer Man didn't count.
It was hard enough adapting to the new relationship with Ginny, but even more challenging to figure out what that relationship was supposed to be. Should he treat her like an adult, or a child? He obviously wasn't much of an authority figure, since he had no real jurisdiction in her life. But it didn't feel right to act like her friend, either--her equal. Just when he'd thought they were settling into their roles, she threw him this curveball.
Did teenagers come with owner's manuals? He'd have to check that out.
Mulder sighed and forced himself up from the couch. There were two beautiful women downstairs, neither of them happy with him, and they would only get unhappier if he kept them waiting. He looked around longingly at the piles of papers and folders. It was the first time in memory that he'd actually rather be doing paperwork.
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