SPOILERS: Demons, Season 5
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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"Caution: the moving walkway is ending. Caution: the moving walkway is ending."
The automated female voice prattled on, repeating her never-ending warning as the passengers jostled along on the conveyer belt. Every once in a while, there would be a lull, or other announcements would drown out the endless pattern, but then the voice would start up again, burrowing a little further under Mulder's skin each time.
"Caution: the moving walkway is ending."
He looked down at his slumbering partner seated next to him in the stiff plastic chairs, leaning peacefully against his shoulder. How she could sleep through this, he had no idea. Somehow, the hubbub and blare circling them like a hurricane didn't faze her.
Mulder wondered if years of flying had numbed Scully to the chaos of airports. They'd spent their share of time in most of the major hubs around the country. The level of airport activity came in many different flavors. There was the dead quiet of the late night arrivals (except in Las Vegas, where the slot machines keep up their cacophony 24-7). The caffeine-driven buzz of the early morning business flyers. The blissfully monotonous, running-like-clockwork days. And then, there were holidays--and if you were really lucky, holidays with major weather problems.
This is the particular Hell that Mulder found himself in, masquerading as Chicago Midway. It was the afternoon before the Fourth of July, and every flight on the board read "DELAYED" or "CANCELLED." Babies were wailing, flight announcements overlapped on the PA, and every seat, pole, and wall space was filled with people. Cranky, tired, tardy people.
And then there was Scully. Gazing into his partner's relaxed face, Mulder once again shoved away the urge to wrap his arm around her and pull her close. In private, maybe she'd allow it. But in public--he valued particular body parts too much to test that theory. She was the eye in this particular cyclone, and he desperately wanted to hold on and let her sense of peace seep into his being.
The tension of raised voices seized Mulder's attention, and he looked down the row where a teenage girl was all but yelling into her mother's face. He could only hear snatches of what she said, as her tone occasionally wafted above the general drone around them.
"...why can't I...she always gets to...like everybody else..."
The mother's response wasn't loud enough to be heard, but she was obviously trying to reason with the girl. It was readily apparent how well that worked.
"You're so unfair!" The teen pivoted on her heel and came storming down the aisle. The mother looked after her forlornly; then the woman's eyes met Mulder's, and he realized he'd been caught staring. He offered her a sympathetic smile, which she weakly reciprocated and then turned away.
Mulder returned his focus to the teenager just in time to realize she was about to blow past him, completely disregarding whatever was in her way. He pulled his feet back a split-second before she stepped in that very spot, which only served to put Scully's outstretched legs directly in the girl's path. She caught her foot on Scully's shoe but swiftly regained her stride, never pausing to look back. Mulder quickly glanced down at his partner to see what damage had been done, wishing he'd had enough foresight to prevent the hit-and-run.
As he expected, Scully was blinking in confusion. Her boots were too thick for her to have felt much from the collision, but the jolt was certainly enough to wake her up. When her eyes met his, he shrugged apologetically and said, "Teenage temper tantrum." She frowned, clearly not realizing what hit her. He explained what he'd just witnessed between the girl and her mother.
Scully sat up straight and stretched. "Not easy being the parent of a teenager, huh?" She shot him a sideways glance and a teasing smile.
"Tell me about it." Mulder wasn't sure if all the years leading up to the teens helped to prepare a parent for that phase, but he'd never had the chance to find out. Not that he really felt like much of a parent. He was more like Ginny's surrogate big brother, and only when it suited her.
Scully slumped back into her seat, crossing her arms and leaning his way--but not quite against him. "You know, that could've been me."
Curious, he tilted closer to peer into her face. "Rebellious streak? And here, I thought you were always the good little girl."
She chuffed amusedly. "Hardly. At least, not when I was that age." She shifted a little, inching closer to his shoulder again. Her gaze wandered absently over the crowd. "I remember one Easter, just after I turned thirteen, we had this big family gathering, and I was indignant that I still had to sit at the kids' table. I was so convinced I was finally grown up, and that I should be treated like an adult. It wasn't until years later, when I was home from college for Thanksgiving and saw my younger cousin do the exact same thing, that I realized how ridiculous I must've seemed."
Mulder sank further into his chair, bringing his head closer to hers. Better to hear her over the din, or so he told himself. "So, you're saying that eventually they grow out of it and come to their senses?"
The edge of her mouth crept up. "Well, the girls do--I don't know if boys ever really grow up." She ventured a glance up at him, making his glare more effective, and lost the battle to contain her smile.
He bumped shoulders with her to emphasize his affront but didn't pursue the teasing. "Maybe the problem is, I'm the one who acted like Ginny was an adult, when really she's still a kid."
Scully sat up a little, bringing her face level with his. "In many ways, she is grown up. But she's also, in part, a little girl looking for a father's love. In that respect, maybe girls never do grow up."
Mulder looked over at her, and their eyes met briefly, before Scully shifted hers away. He sensed that statement was laden with personal testimony, but she offered no further introspection.
Stretching her arm out, Scully exposed her watch from under her jacket and checked the time. "Any idea when we're going to get out of here?"
"Sometime before winter is my best guess."
She turned and craned her neck to examine the placard for the gate where they were supposed to be boarding. Apparently learning nothing of value, she settled back into her seat. "I hope we make it home tonight. Mom's hosting a barbeque tomorrow, and I told her I'd be there to help."
"No, just some people from church. If I'm really lucky, there will be some 'nice young man' there she'll try to set me up with." She smiled sarcastically.
"Well, in that case, I should just book us a flight out tomorrow."
She smiled more genuinely, but didn't look at him. For a moment, they both watched the crowds swirling around them in a slow, hypnotic dance.
"You doing anything for the Fourth?" Scully asked casually.
Mulder hesitated, uncertain whether she was simply making conversation or this was a prelude to an invitation. "Not really," he answered. "I think the guys have something patriotic planned--like hacking into the Department of Defense."
"Oh. I thought maybe you'd have some plans with family."
"You mean, with Ginny?"
"Yeah, or..." She crossed her legs and picked some lint off her pants that wasn't really there to begin with. "I thought your mother might be eager to meet her. Holidays always seem like a good excuse to get together."
Clearing his throat, Mulder sat up straight. He didn't really want to have this conversation. He turned and watched a plane taxi up to a gate.
"Mulder? Your mother does know about Ginny, doesn't she?"
Either Scully had developed that telepathy she swore she didn't believe in, or she'd learned to read him too easily after all these years. He flashed her a tight smile but didn't make eye contact. "Not exactly."
"Mulder, this may be her only grandchild. She has a right to know."
He sighed. "I know, it's just...we haven't been on the best of terms lately."
"Have you seen her since...?"
She didn't complete the question, but he knew what she meant. After all, Scully had been with him the last time he'd seen his mother: when he accused her of cheating on his father, and then stormed out and ditched his partner. All because of that hole in his head.
"No," he finally admitted.
"But, you weren't yourself. You'd been given powerful drugs. I'm sure you can explain--"
He smiled at her attempt to defend him. "I was drugged? That excuse only works so many times." His smile twisted into a grimace as he faced reality. "I guess I just need to bite the bullet and tell her, don't I?"
"You could try sending flowers first. That might soften her up."
"How do you say, 'You have a grand-love child,' in the language of flowers? Or, I could send a singing telegram. They might come up with some good lyrics."
"You're right," Scully deadpanned. "You should probably stick with a phone call."
That would be about as much fun as drilling another hole in his head, Mulder mused. But Scully was right: he couldn't keep something like this from his mother.
"Well, Mom was always rather fond of Deb. Maybe that will make it easier. I think she once hoped this was the girl I would marry and settle down with." He briefly glanced over at Scully, but she was watching the crowds again.
After a long pause, she asked, "Now that you know about Ginny, do you ever wish... Do you ever wish that would have taken the other path? That you would've stayed with Deb and been a family?"
"No," he answered without hesitation. She looked over at him, and he steadily held her gaze. *Because I never would've met you,* he thought. *And I wouldn't give that up for anything.* He couldn't say the words aloud, but he hoped she read them in his eyes.
Something softened in her gaze before she turned away. A middle-aged couple dragging wheeled luggage behind them maneuvered their way down the row, and he and Scully had to pull their feet back to let the pair pass. Mulder's eyes followed them as they continued to navigate their way through the packed seats.
"You know, I can't imagine Ginny calling my mother 'Grandma,'" Mulder said. "Somehow it just doesn't fit."
"I still have dreams about that sometimes," Scully said absently, so softly he wasn't sure if he'd heard her correctly. He didn't think she was referring to Ginny.
Mulder wasn't sure whether to push the subject, but Scully so seldom opened up that he didn't want to miss an opportunity. "About Emily?" he prompted.
She nodded but didn't respond right away. Eventually she said, "I know my family tried, but they just didn't know what to do with her. How could I explain how this child existed when I didn't even understand it myself?"
"They would've come to accept it. They would've loved her as one of their own."
"I suppose. But I think they were relieved that they didn't have to--especially Bill." She uncrossed her arms and pushed herself up in her seat. "That's not fair, really. I know they would've been kind to Emily, and loving. But I'm afraid there always would've been this distance. I guess that distance is already there with me, to some extent."
"You know your mother loves you, no matter what."
"I know. But that doesn't mean she'll ever stop wanting something different for my life, something a little more...domestic."
"Isn't that the nature of all parents?" he asked lightheartedly.
"Yeah." She smirked at him. "You're not going to chase after any of Ginny's boyfriends with a shotgun, are you?"
He winced at the very thought. "I hope I never have to. Actually, I'm just trying to avoid the subject altogether. I'm not ready to compete with another man in her life."
Scully nodded at him and then shifted away again. He followed her gaze to the moving walkway. A young couple glided slowly by, trying to placate a screaming, wriggling toddler in the man's arms.
After a moment, Scully gently tapped the back of her finger against Mulder's thigh, drawing his attention. Looking him in the eye, she said earnestly, "I know Ginny may be difficult sometimes, but...never take the time that you have with her for granted."
He'd learned that lesson the hard way, with Samantha, with Scully. Even with his father. "I won't."
He laid his hand on top of Scully's and was grateful when she turned her palm over to clasp his. He expected her to pull away, but when she didn't, he took a chance and wove their fingers together. Neither of them spoke.
The PA system blared overhead. A baby screamed somewhere behind them. The teenage girl's mother attentively watched the terminal, but her daughter was nowhere within Mulder's sight.
Scully leaned against Mulder's shoulder again. "Wake me if they ever call our flight."
She nestled against him--well, snuggled, really, but he would never dare to describe it that way to her, knowing she would fully deny it. But their hands remained clasped. He softly stroked her hand with his thumb. Beneath the buzz of the crowd, he could've sworn he heard her contentedly hum.
After a few minutes, the teenage girl came stomping back down the aisle. Mulder saw her coming in time to tuck his feet out of the way. Thankfully, Scully's were already out of the line of fire. The girl plopped down into the chair next to her mother and dramatically crossed her arms, without ever making eye contact with the woman.
"Your attention in the terminal. Flight 612 to Dulles has been further delayed, due to inclement weather..."
Mulder tuned out the rest of the announcement. It didn't matter. He tipped his head and rested it against his partner's soft crown. There was nowhere else he'd rather be.
"Caution: the moving walkway is ending."
Well, except a couple of gates farther down the terminal.
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Notes: The good news: I finally updated this series. The bad news: you may have to wait a while for another update. Everything I've written up to this point is kind of an extended prequel to a much longer story I want to write. Which means I need time to write it. So, maybe I'll post it this summer? I'll aim for that, but I can make no guarantees.
Oh, and if you've never had the joy of long delays at Midway, the walkway announcement is very real. I did a Google search to verify the wording, and I couldn't believe how many blogs
clips I found where people voiced their annoyance about listening to this at Midway. Good thing you have to go through security first to be relieved of your weapons.
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