Subject: Barbecue Series 4: A Quiet Thank You
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998
From:
STPteach@aol.com

Category: Vignette, MSR, Maggie/Sk friendship, mild MulderAngst

Rating: PG for some language

Spoilers: Through Redux II

Summary: Mulder is talked into spending a quiet Thanksgiving with Scully
and Maggie, along with some others in need of a place to give their thanks.

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: The names you recognize belong to 10/13 productions and Chris
Carter. I'm just borrowing them. I won't keep them. At the end of the story
you can have `em back, I swear, (unless you *want* to give `em to me.) All
other characters belong to me, and if Mr. Carter wants to borrow them, all
he needs to do is ask. <grin>

Introduction: Okay, I've given into the idea the three stories prior to this
one (Birthday Barbecue, Fourth of July, and Labor Day Weekend) comprise a
series; The Barbecue Series, which of course when abbreviated is The BS -
which very well may be what some of you think of it, but I'm counting on
hearing from you in any event.

It picks up in the Barbecue Series Universe, so it's first person which is a
style I'm trying hard to become comfortable with. Oh, and look who
*finally* makes an appearance in this series. Took me long enuf! <G>

As always, thank you Vickie Moseley for being my CyberMuse on this one too!

Barbecue Series 4: A Quiet Thank You
by Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

I'm not quite sure how she talked me into this one, but she did. I'm such
lousy company at this time of year, I usually hibernate in my apartment for
the entire weekend and pretend I'm the only person in the universe.

Not exactly a hard thing for me to pretend; there was a time when I thought
I was the only person in the universe.

But I let her talk me into this and I'm not sure why. Certainly it's not
because the holiday has held any real significance for me. It hasnít for a
long time; like some twenty-six years. We'd stopped celebrating it after
she was taken. Certainly didn't make any sense to me to celebrate it when I
moved out on my own.

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in England, of course, so it was easy for
me to ignore it there. When I'd come back to the states, I was always more
than happy to be the Agent on Duty over the holidays. Hell, it was great to make
some overtime, and since I didn't really have anyone to celebrate with,
well, it just made more sense to work.

Kept my mind off of things, ya know?

So, now I'm walking, well, make that limping slightly, up the Scully walkway.
I'm finally able to leave the cane at home, but the leg tends to let me know
what the weather conditions are going to be like. I'm almost tempted to
turn around and go home, but knowing Maggie and Scully, they're peeking out the
window shades to make sure I make it up to the door.

I hesitate for a moment; just one short millisecond. The door flies open.

"Fox, how wonderful to see you, dear!" calls out a jovial Mrs. Scully.

"Hi, Mrs. __," I begin, but upon receiving the glare to end all glares, I
correct myself and say, "Hi, Mom."

The woman smiles the smile of the Goddesses and I know for sure from whom
her daughter has inherited her own hundred watt smile. I have to smile in
response to her; it feels good to know such a simple thing as calling her
"Mom" can make her react like that.

I still can't imagine why she actually _wants_ me to call her 'Mom'. But
I'm learning not to question everything. Well, especially the good things.

I make it up to the door, and as I reach her, I feel Maggie extend her arms
and pull me toward her for a hug. I can't help but respond in kind; it
feels so damned good.

At this very moment I am delighted Scully has talked me into coming today.

"Mulder? Is that you?" calls out Scully.

"Yeah, it's me," I respond, thinking 'as if you didn't know'. But that's
okay, I don't really mind that Scully and her mom play 'pretend' like this.
It's kind of nice knowing you're actually welcomed somewhere.

Wanted somewhere.

I give a slight shudder at that last thought and Maggie asks me if I'm cold.

"A little," I respond, as a means to cover for my emotions. Maggie escorts
me into the living room of the house, in which I discover Scully in an apron
wiping her hands on a dishcloth.

"Well, look at you," I tease, "it's Betty Crocker."

"Very funny, Mulder." Scully gives me that patented raised eyebrow look of
hers, and then she giggles. God, how I love it when she giggles. She looks
like such a little girl when she does that.

Pure innocence. If there's one thing I can be thankful for it's Scully
still has moments of pure innocence. All of the horrible things that had happened
to her and her family are forgotten in those moments of pure innocence.

They don't occur often enough for my taste, but at least they happen once in
a while.

"So, 'Betty', when do we eat?" I tease some more.

And she giggles some more. I smile at that and then she tells me, "We have
to wait for the remaining refugees to arrive."

I know I'm wearing my puzzled expression, and since my Scully can read me
like an open book, she explains, "Mom always invites people to the house who, for
one reason or another, don't have anyone to celebrate Thanksgiving with.
She told me to set the table for six this year. It must be a slow year," she
adds wistfully.

"Six? You don't know who else is coming?" I ask.

"Nope. Mom usually surprises me. Some years I don't know anyone, while
others I only knew the people in passing. It's a rare occasion that I know
anyone really well, so you, my dear man, are a big treat for me this year!"

"Oh yeah? Does that make me dessert?" I ask with a slight leer in my voice.

"Uh-uh," she says shaking her head. When she sees my disappointment, she
smiles and says in her best Mae West imitation, "No, Big Boy; you're the
apéritif!"

She tosses the dish towel onto the table and comes right up to me to give me
a hug. I lean into her and lower my face to meet hers. My lips find hers and
we hold ourselves in our little liplock position for a few moments.

I have to admit; Scully is one helluva kisser. Of course, I'm not so bad
myself, but put us together, and there are times when I feel as though I'll
never catch my breath again. God, she feels so good.

Maggie comes up from behind us and lets us know she's there by making that
silly little clearing the throat noise. We both jump away from one another,
though why is beyond me, since Maggie knew even before us that we had
special feelings for one another.

Well, anyway, she clears her throat some more and says, ''I just wanted to
let you know we'll be having Mr. and Mrs. Goldman join us this year, dear."

"Mr. and Mrs. Goldman ?" Scully asks.

"You know, sweetheart. They're the darling, elderly couple I met when I
visited Mrs. Harrison at the nursing home, Lord rest her soul."

I must look confused again, (something I notice I am a lot at the Scully
residence, I realize ruefully) and Scully explains Mrs. Harrison was a
neighbor of Mom's for many, many years before she had to go into a nursing
home. Mom had made it her business to visit and take her out for
Thanksgiving until poor Mrs. Harrison became too feeble, and then passed away.

"But Mom,'' Scully continues, "adopted a new couple, the Goldmans. They're
very, very sweet, and have really adopted Mom as one of their own. I, on the
other hand, have never met them."

"I'm sure they're very nice," I respond, not quite knowing what else there
was to say. I feel a little more leery about the situation. It's hard enough
for me to be around people I know and care about during this particular weekend.
I'm not sure how I'll do around a couple of strangers. Then I realize
Scully had said she'd set six places. The Goldmans only made five.

"Who's the sixth person?" I ask with a little trepidation. All I can do is
pray it's not Billy Scully. My luck, he got shore leave and is joining us
for Thanksgiving dinner. Oh God, I hope not. I cannot think of anyone I would
rather not spend Thanksgiving dinner with."

"Mr. Skinner," Maggie replies.

On second thought, yes I can.

My eyes must have gone as wide as saucers at that very moment. I stole a
glance at Scully in hopes of catching her reaction, and I see she has begun
to sputter a bit as well.

"Mom? You invited the AD to our house for dinner?" Scully asks
incredulously.

"Yes, dear. Why? Do you have a problem with it?"

YES! I want to scream at her. Yes, she has a problem with it. _I_ have
a problem with it. SHIT! I have a huge problem with it.

He doesn't know.

I look at Scully and realize she's thinking about the very same concern I am.
Our eyes look at one another with an expression of helplessness, and ask,
*What are we going to do?*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know Maggie doesn't have a clue as to why Scully and I are feeling so
distressed. Finally, she asks, "Did I do something wrong?"

"Mom, it's not that you did anything wrong, it's just, well__." She stops
and hesitates little, and then looks helplessly at me and I continue her
thought in as honest a fashion as possible.

"Well, Mrs. __, I mean, Mom, the thing is, when you invited AD Skinner over,
it kind of puts Scully__, I mean, Dana, and me in an awkward position," I
stammer.

"I don't understand," replies Maggie.

"Mom, the AD doesn't know Mulder and I have developed another aspect of our
relationship," Scully says with some hesitation.

"Why not?" asks Maggie innocently.

"Well, it might look bad," I say. I'm not sure if that even makes sense. I
look at Maggie and realize to her, it doesn't.

"Is there some rule that says you can't have a relationship outside the
office?" asks Maggie.

"Well," Scully stammers, "well, I think so."

"You think so?" echoes Maggie in an astonished tone.

"Well, it's not like I've ever seen it written down anywhere, but I think
it's one of those unwritten rules," Scully explains.

"Oh hogwash!" admonishes Maggie. "If your relationship is not interfering
with your ability to do your work, than why should anyone give a damn if
you're making out after hours!"

"Mom!" Scully cries out. We're both a little surprised with the vehemence
(and crude manner, well for Maggie Scully, it's crude,) Maggie proclaims her
views with. "Mom, it's just that with AD Skinner coming today, well, it's __.
Mom, whatever possessed you to invite the AD today anyway?"

If Scully hadn't asked the question, I know it would have come out of my
mouth next. I really am curious about this too.

I look at Maggie Scully and realize with amazement the woman is blushing
like a school girl. "Mom?" I nudge her a little. "Why did you invite Walter
Skinner today?"

"Well, if you must know, I ran into him last week in town. I was doing some
early Christmas shopping; you know I need to get Charlie's and Bill's gifts
out to them as early as possible in order for them to get them by
Christmas," she begins.

"Yes, Mom, we know you like to get your shopping done early. Now, about the
AD?" Scully presses.

"I was coming to that," she retorts. "As I was saying, I ran into him in
town, and well, he was kind enough to invite me for a cup of coffee, and
well, we chatted for a while, and well, that's when I asked him where he was going
for Thanksgiving. He told me he wasn't traveling anywhere this year, so I
invited him here.

"Is that such a crime?" Maggie asks as her face turns an even darker shade
of crimson.

Scully must be feeling generous because she pretty much lets her mother off
the hook on this one. "No, Mom," she says, "it's not a crime. It was very
nice of you."

"Does he know I'm invited too?" I ask softly. I don't know why, but somehow
I have the feeling if Mrs. Scully didn't mention my presence, AD Skinner would
feel like he'd been duped.

"I honestly don't know, Fox. I don't remember if I'd mentioned you were going
to be here or not. I don't even remember if I'd mentioned Dana was going to
be here today."

Suddenly, I feel really uncomfortable. I knew there was a reason I prefer to
hide out on this holiday; too many explanations. 'Don't want to have to
'splain myself, Lucy.' I feel like I'm caught between that rock and
proverbial hard place.

Trapped. I feel so trapped.

Scully recognizes my anxiety immediately. Did I mention I really love this
woman? Well, I do. She reads me so well, it takes my breath away.
"Mulder,'' she begins, "don't even think about going anywhere now."

"What?" asks Maggie who now, poor thing, looks really perplexed. She has no
idea of the entire conversation Scully and I just had with our eyes.

"Mulder's getting ready to bolt, Mom," Scully informs.

"For heaven sake, why?"

"I just don't think it's a good idea for me and the AD to be in the same
room on this holiday. Come to think of it, I don't think it's a good idea for me
to be in the same room with _anybody_ on this holiday.

"Look," I continue, "I want you both to have a nice meal with the Goldmans
and the AD. Mom, you deserve to have a nice, quiet Thanksgiving. Your last
few holidays haven't exactly been peaceful," I remind.

"What are you talking about, Fox? Halloween was the quietest it's been in
ages. I hardly had anyone ring the doorbell this year, I was so
disappointed!"

"Mom, it was peaceful because I was out of town on a case with your
daughter. If you recall the last three major holidays had been anything but tranquil."
I look at both Scully and Maggie and feel absolutely determined to get the hell
out of there before the AD shows up.

I know Scully wants nothing better than to knock me down and handcuff me to
the table, but it's not going to happen. I lean over and give Maggie a kiss
and then move toward Scully to kiss her goodbye as well.

DING DONG DING

Damn it. Scully looks at me and simply smiles a Cheshire Cat grin. If I'm
lucky it's the Goldmans, and I'll be able to just sneak out. Please, let me
be lucky for once in my life.

Sure. Fine. Whatever.

"Hello, Sir. Mrs. Scully just told me you were going to be joining her for
Thanksgiving dinner," I say stiffly.

He's simply standing there with his mouth gaping slightly. I don't know
what's going on in his mind right now, but I suspect it might be something
like, 'I can't even escape him on Thanksgiving.'

God, I really would love to have one of those escape hatches right now, but
it doesn't look like either one of us is going to escape one another. Well, at
least the Goldmans will be here to act as a buffer between us.

RRRIIINNNGGG RRRIIINNNGGG

I have a very, very bad feeling about this. Why? Because bad things tend
to happen to me, that's why. There's no escaping it. I watch Maggie as she
answers the phone, and then my gaze drifts back to the AD.

He's just standing there, looking a little lost himself. I realize he's no
more comfortable with this situation than I am. He looks at Scully and
says, "Will your brothers be joining us?"

Scully explains to him both Billy and Charlie are at sea and won't have
shore leave until Christmas. Skinner merely nods his head at this information.

Next, he looks at me and asks, "Are going to be visiting any family this
weekend?"

It's an innocent question, and yet, for some reason, I feel like I've been
hit in the chest with a cannon ball. Obviously, the man has not checked out my
personal file in some time.

I mean, my sister is still, for all intense purposes, missing. Sure she
came back, but then she disappeared again by choice.

My mother, for the most part, wants little to do with me, and Dad was murdered
by that rat bastard, Krycek, years ago. So, the concept of family is a bit
foreign to me. Except for the Scullys, I don't really have a family to
visit.

"No," I manage to choke out.

Scully looks like she wants to haul off and knock the AD's head off for his
ignorance. Poor guy's getting the evil eye from my fiery redhead, and he
doesn't have a clue as to why.

Just then, Maggie returns with a frown. "That was the nursing home. Abe
Goldman has come down with a nasty case of the flu, and of course Esther
doesn't want to leave his side. It looks like it's just the four of us this
year," she announces.

So much for having a buffer. Great. We're on a double date and none of the
other players even realize it. I don't know how the hell Scully and I are
going to get through this one.

"Well, I guess we'll just have that much more for Thanksgiving Care Packages,"
Maggie says brightly. The woman amazes me with her ability to always see
the cup half full. "Well, dinner's not quite ready. I need to go check the
barbecue to make sure the charcoal is hot."

"Maggie?" interjects Skinner, "it's forty-eight degrees outside. Don't you
think it's a little chilly for a barbecue?"

Well, now obviously, our beloved AD is not aware of the Scully family
tradition to keep the old barbey in working order throughout the entire four
seasons.

"Oh, Walter, I have it going on the driveway near the garage. All I'm doing
is saving myself a little cooking space in the kitchen by doing the corn and
potatoes on the barbecue, that's all," Maggie replies, oh so logically.

"Of course," he replies. Obviously our AD has learns quickly; you don't
argue with Maggie Scully. I should know. I've given up arguing with the woman
and her daughter months ago. Hell, years ago.

"Okay, c'mon people. Dinner may not be ready, but I do have some little
nibbles in the family room. Come, let's go sit down and be comfortable."

Comfortable. Now that's a word I never thought I'd live to hear said in the
same sentence with the AD's name and mine. Okay. I can do this. I'm a big
boy, and Scully's a big girl, and if we're lucky, Maggie will be discreet. Right?

Maggie brings out some wine and offers us all a glass. I grasp mine like a
lifeline, which I know strikes Scully as odd, since I don't drink much at
all. I decide to make today an exception.

I keep trying to think of something with which to make small talk about that
won't lead us into uncomfortable territory. I don't want to open any doors
that would lead the AD to learning about our possible little indiscretion.

"Walter," begins Maggie, "did you know Dana and Fox are dating?"

The 'thud' that is now heard is either my jaw dropping to the ground, my
heart exploding, or both. So much for discreet.

I don't know if I even dare to look at Maggie or the AD. Or Scully. God,
how can I bare to look at Scully now. I can barely raise my eyes off of my
shoes. Shit.

Shit, shit, shit. Now what?

"No, I didn't," he replies almost too calmly.

"Yes, they are, and they're very, very happy," Maggie elaborates.

Shit, shit, shit. My eyes remain glued to my shoes. I have no idea as to
where Scully's eyes are at the moment.

"Walter, the kids seem to be under the impression there's a written FBI rule
against partners seeing one another socially."

Kids? Did Maggie just refer to us as 'the kids'? Why do I feel as though
I'm in some kind of time warp; like I'm in that movie "Pleasantville" or a bad
episode of "Father Knows Best."

Holy shit! Somehow, I manage to get up the nerve to make eye contact with
Scully. She's as beet red as I probably am at the moment.

"Well, as a matter of fact, I don't believe there is any kind of written
rule in the Code of Ethics which prohibits fraternization between partners. I
don't really know where people have gotten the idea it's prohibited,"
Skinner says, but then adds ominously, "though I wonder if it's such a bad idea."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I ask angrily now. I'm feeling a
little defensive at the moment. Here the man has just given us a reason to
feel as though we should be able to catch our breath, and then he has to
throw in that little dig.

"I mean, Agent Mulder," says the AD, all formal like, "it simply seems to be
common sense for partners to maintain a professional relationship in order
to ensure there's never any doubt about how they might react in any given,
stressful situation."

"You don't think Scully and I are capable of covering each other's backs
because we're dating one another?" I ask incredulously.

"I think it would be more difficult to concentrate on the essential matters
at hand, Agent Mulder," he replies, still way too formal like for the
circumstances.

"Sir," Scully intervenes, as I think she's able to sense I'm going to bite
the man's head off if he doesn't get over that hard assed attitude of his. "Do
you by any chance know what our solve rate has been since Agent Mulder's
been back from medical leave?"

"When did you get back from medical leave, Mulder?" he asks calmly.

"End of September, Sir. I've been back on the job for approximately two
months," I respond just as formally. I decide to hold my tongue and let
Scully take the lead on this one.

"Sir, do you know what our solve rate has been since he's returned two
months ago?" she repeats.

"Not off hand, Agent Scully, no."

"Well, Sir, we've had approximately eleven cases directed our way, two of
which were murder case VCS couldn't get a handle on. We solved the first of
the VCS cases in a week. The second one took a little longer. That one
took nine days. Eight other cases were solved after that, within the two months
Agent Mulder returned to work.

"We have only one outstanding case, Sir, and since it was only brought to
our attention two days ago, I think we should be allowed a little bit more of a
grace period. So, that's ten out of eleven cases that we have put to bed in
the last two months.

"With all due respect, Sir, do the math."

Scully stands up and comes to sit by my side. She grasps my hand and entwines
her fingers around mine. She looks at me, smiles that hundred watter she
reserves just for me, and then returns her gaze to the AD's.

"Ninety-one."

"Sir?" I look a tad confused for a moment.

AD Skinner looks at me and then again at Scully before he repeats, "Ninety-
one. Per cent. That's your solve rate for the last two months."

Well, I'm impressed. I can remember numbers and figures and words and ideas
that I've seen on paper, but to be able to figure out percents in my head;
well, I'm the reason calculators were invented, ya know?

I catch Scully smiling a little now, but then she looks straight at the AD and
asks, "Sir, as long as we keep our solve rate within reason, I don't see any
reason for concern regarding any kind of a personal relationship between
Agent Mulder and me. Do you?"

The AD looks down a bit ruefully and then shakes his head slightly. He
hesitates another moment before he looks up and speaks.

"No, Agent Scully. I don't," he responds. "Therefore, I have a question
for you both."

"Yes, Sir?" we reply in stereo.

"May we please drop the formal titles and just be Maggie, Dana, Fox, and
Walter today?" he asks with a small chuckle.

Walter Skinner chuckles? Well, there's a sight I never in a million years
expected to see. When the hell did the man develop a sense of humor? God,
he looks so different when he smiles. Almost like a real person.

I mean __, not that he's not a real person. I mean he's my boss, and I do
respect him, but when he smiles, he looks almost like someone I could be
friends with. Someone I want to be friends with.

Except for one, small, minor detail. "Umm, Sir? I don't mind calling you
Walter, but could we forget Fox, and stick with Mulder?"

"What does Maggie call you?" he asks with a wry smile.

"Well, umm__," I stutter. "Fox. She calls me Fox."

"Well, then," Walter says with a smile, "I guess that settles it, Fox."

I can't believe he's going to do this to me. But even stranger is, I can't
believe I don't really mind.

What a day. What an incredibly strange day.

And, even more incredible, there were no major catastrophes today. I'm
still in one piece. I didn't get hurt. It finally happened.

A quiet holiday for the Scully family.

For me.

"Okay, everyone, we've got a turkey ready to be carved. Who's going to do
the honors?" asks Maggie.

Well, just as Walter, (he did say to call him Walter, didn't he?) and I begin
to do our Alpha Male dance to jockey for who gets the carving knife, this
cute little red head pipes up and deflates both of our egos real quick.

"Umm, not for anything, gentlemen, but do I really need to point out which
one among us has the most skill with a carving knife?"

We defer to the expertise of my partner. Besides, she had the knife in her
hand already and if she's anything with a knife like she is with a gun, I
know it's best not to mess with her.

Instead, we go outside in the forty-eight degree temperature and get the now
thoroughly cooked corn on the cobs and potatoes.

Besides, it's Thanksgiving. A nice, quiet, albeit chilly, day to give
thanks.

End of 1/1
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Have a very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving everyone. And when you get your
fill of turkey and stuffing, I would really appreciate some feedback on this oneÖ.
Thanks in advance!!
STPteach@aol.com

Graphic courtsey of: