TITLE: Trivia Pursuits (1/1)|
ARCHIVE: SF Improv archive, Gossamer, Spookys--others are
fine, just let me know
SPOILERS: Mild for Detour. Takes place before the events of
Sein Un Zeit.
CLASSIFICATION: S, H
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully friendship
SUMMARY: A stakeout, two bored agents, and a little Mulder
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013
Productions. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story was written for a Scullyfic
improv. Elements and additional author's notes appear at the
FEEDBACK: I'd love to hear from you.
"Touch that radio and you're doing the expense reports for Ohio."
Mulder froze, arm extended, covertly studying her face from the corner of one eye. Scully could see the wheels turning: the Yankees or a potential go-around with the boys in accounting? She quashed a smirk, not surprised when his hand retreated to the steering wheel--he'd lost another cell phone during the Cleveland trip.
Mulder's fingers drummed a staccato beat on plastic, long legs shifting in a vain attempt to stretch. He blew a short breath through his nose and turned his head to stare out the window. Traffic had slowed to a sporadic trickle, and no one had entered or exited the tavern for nearly 30 minutes.
"He's not going to show."
She kept her eyes trained on the front door, poking her tongue into her cheek to keep the sharp retort from her lips as Mulder continued to whine.
"Skinner knew this was a complete waste of time. He never expected Lansing to show up tonight. He stuck us out here because he knows how much I hate stakeouts. This is punishment."
"Scully, do I detect a note of sarcasm?"
"Mulder, maybe--just maybe--you should consider filing a 302 BEFORE beginning an investigation. It might spare us both the aggravation of future assignments like this one."
"You know, this isn't exactly a picnic for me, either. I'm hot, I'm tired, and..." She grasped the lapel of her jacket and sniffed, grimacing, "...I smell like vinyl, curried chicken, and sweat." When he leaned in, the smirk already forming on his lips, she quickly added, "Shut up, Mulder."
"I didn't say anything."
"You didn't have to."
Mulder slumped back in his seat, arms folded and gaze fixed on the tavern. His furrowed brow and the slightly glazed cast to his eyes indicated that he was engaged in brooding, not surveillance. Scully sighed inwardly and forced her teeth to unclench.
"We've got an hour to go, Mulder. Are you going to do that the entire time?"
"Do what? I'm just sitting here; I haven't made a sound."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"How many stakeouts have we endured together? The only time you're ever that quiet is when you're pissed."
"I'm not pissed; I'm pensive."
"That's a new word for it."
"You want conversation? Let me turn on the game. I'm sure it will spark a discussion."
"Mulder, listening to you deliver play-by-play commentary is hardly what I'd call an inspiring dialogue starter."
He shifted his focus to her face. "Fine. What do you suggest we talk about?"
Scully lifted one shoulder, a bit unnerved by the almost predatory gleam in his eyes. "I don't have an agenda. I just..."
"In that case, how about a little game?"
"A game? Aren't you a little old for I Spy?"
"A trivia game. I'll ask you a question. If you answer it completely and honestly, then it's your turn to ask me a question."
She scrutinized his face, which was far too open and guileless to be credible. "If I answer honestly? What kind of trivia are we talking about? What are the categories?"
"Just two. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, complete and unabridged."
Her eyes narrowed. "You're not talking about trivia. You want to play Truth or Dare."
"Minus the dare. C'mon, Scully, it'll be fun. You're always complaining that we never talk about anything except work. Here's your chance to change all that."
She hesitated only a moment before nodding. "All right. At this point I'd agree to anything if it would make the time pass more quickly."
"Anything? Scully, forget the game and..."
"Ask your question, Mulder."
He looked at her silently for a long moment, amusement lingering at the corners of his mouth. "What's the strangest dream you've ever had?"
The dream had to be at least two years old now, yet it popped into her head with stunning clarity. Scully struggled to adopt a blank expression while frantically searching for a convincing substitute. Unfortunately, since she rarely recalled her dreams upon awakening, the list of alternatives was short and completely unsatisfactory.
The poker face evidently was not working. Mulder leaned forward like a bloodhound on the scent.
"Scully, I sense fear. Is it that good?"
Bastard. How had he talked her into this stupid game anyway?
"Maybe I was being unreasonable about the radio, Mulder. You could probably still catch the last inning."
Mulder simply fished a sunflower seed from his pocket and cracked it between his teeth, softly humming the theme from "Jeopardy."
Scully tucked her chin to her chest, feeling the blush heat her cheeks. He was going to pay for this...
"Oddly enough, this dream was inspired by you, Mulder."
"Ooo, Scully. One of many, I hope."
She pointedly ignored him. "It was right after that case in Florida-- when you ditched Agents Kinsley and Stonecypher to chase mothmen."
"Ah, yes, the poster agents for team building. If it's any consolation, Scully, I've always regretted that we never constructed that tower of office furniture."
That's not all you missed out on, she thought, recalling a wasted spread of wine and cheese.
"Do you also remember the hour we spent in Skinner's office once the dust settled? I'll give you a hint: the words unprofessional, irresponsible, and pigheaded figured prominently in the conversation."
"Scully, is this a smokescreen to distract me from an erotic dream you obviously don't wish to share?"
"Context, Mulder. I had the dream about a week after Skinner's lecture."
"I'm with you. Now let's get to the good stuff."
"In the dream, we'd been summoned to the A.D.'s office for another reprimand--undoubtedly for something else you'd done, though I don't remember the details. Kim waved us right in, said that he was expecting us. Skinner was bent over some paperwork at his desk, so we walked over and sat down in our usual places. I looked up, and..."
"And? And what?"
"I'm not sure why I didn't see it when we entered the office, but then, neither did you. Which didn't make any sense, because it's not exactly the kind of thing that would go unnoticed. "
"Scully, you're killing me here. What did you see?"
She caught her lip between her teeth, searching for the right words. "Skinner was...that is, he wasn't...well... He didn't have a shirt on."
Mulder's eyebrows crawled up his forehead, but for a long moment he said nothing, just studied her face. Which was worse.
"Okay, let me recap for a minute. We're sitting in the hot seat, Skinner's at his desk, everything is status quo--with one tiny discrepancy. He's not wearing a shirt." A shorter pause. "Was he wearing a tie?"
"No, Mulder, he was not wearing a tie."
"Reading a file, I think."
A slow nod. "And how was I taking this?"
"You didn't seem to notice."
Scully shook her head. "Too busy sulking, I guess."
"Did you attempt to bring this...anomaly to my attention?"
"I intended to. You were staring straight ahead, so I kicked you. But at that same moment Skinner set aside the file and he, um, stood up."
"And?" Mulder prompted. When she didn't continue his smirk stretched to a grin. "Scully! Was the Assistant Director in the buff? Without apparel? Au natural?"
"Mostly? How can you be mostly naked? You either are or you aren't."
"All right, he was wearing something."
"Let me guess--a big smile?"
"So what was it? Boxers? Briefs? Tighty whities?"
Scully's response was muffled by the palms that cradled her face.
She dropped her hands and tipped her chin up to glare at him. "I said, he was wearing a jock strap. A DKNY thong jock strap, if you want to be precise."
Several minutes passed before the hooting and lewd comments died down. Mulder eventually pulled himself together, though little riffs of laughter sporadically broke through.
"Sorry, Scully, but you've got to admit there's a lot of mileage in that nightmare."
She folded her arms and leaned back, a Cheshire cat smile on her lips. "I said the dream was strange, Mulder. I never said it was a nightmare."
That took the wind out of his sails. His mouth snapped shut, and though he tried hard to appear indifferent, he was obviously working hard to achieve the effect.
"So...what happened after that?" The attempted leer was pitiful.
"He gave us the patented Skinner lecture on wasting Bureau resources, the same one we've heard many times. And you argued with him, just like you always do. Nobody but me seemed affected by the fact that he was grossly underdressed."
"Gross being the operative word."
She flashed him an enigmatic smile. "Your turn."
"Scully, I'm flattered, really, but a Speedo is more my style."
"The game, Mulder. I get to ask you a question now. Quid pro quo."
He spread his arms. "Fire away."
"What's your most embarrassing moment?"
"Going for complete humiliation, huh, Scully?"
"Look at it this way--I imagine a guy like you has plenty of stories to choose from. There was that haunted house that turned out to be a stunt to get on Jerry Springer, the possessed teenager who was a closet 'Exorcist' groupie, the glow-in-the-dark beach..."
"Hey, that beach really did glow in the dark!"
"Phosphorescent algae, Mulder. Not a landing strip for alien spaceships."
Mulder popped another seed into his mouth. "That stuff looked suspiciously like an alien lifeform to me."
She watched with fascination and a flash of heat as his nimble tongue worked a seed from its shell. If Mulder had any idea how often he figured in her dreams...
"Answer the question."
"All right. Fine. I once got into an altercation with a teddy bear."
"You heard me."
"I want to hear you say it again."
"Winnie the Pooh kicked my ass. Happy now?"
"My first year with the Bureau I spent a few weeks working with the DEA on a task force targeting several drug trafficking groups in the area. During that time, an undercover operation yielded the name of a major supplier to dealers at most of the local high schools. The guy had quite a business going, with connections across several state lines.
"Turned out he worked part time at a mall in Georgetown. His job was to walk around dressed in a bear costume, charming the kids and handing out store coupons to their parents. His employers had no idea he frequently carried kilos of cocaine under all that fur. He was dealing right under their noses, and they were paying him minimum wage to do it. I was one of several agents sent to take the guy into custody.
"We were waiting for him when he came on shift, and at first it seemed he'd go quietly. But when I pulled out the cuffs, he resisted. Violently."
Mulder ran a hand down his face; chuckled softly. "He tackled me. Knocked me flat on my back and was working me over with both paws before I knew what hit me. It took three other agents to pull him off, and by then I had two black eyes, a spit lip, and he'd nearly broken my nose."
Scully smothered a smile with the back of one hand. "That must have been very...traumatic."
"He was a nutcase, Scully. Not only did he outweigh me by fifty pounds, the suit must have added at least another twenty, and he...he was using his roly-poly belly to pin me to the ground." He sighed. "Of course, the physical beating he gave me was nothing compared to the verbal one I took back at Quantico. 'Don't feel bad, Mulder. Pooh's a lot tougher than he looks.' 'Could've been worse, Mulder. I hear Piglet's got a nasty right hook.' It went on for weeks."
"I can't believe I've never heard this story. It definitely qualifies for the 'spooky' hall of fame."
"Most of the other agents involved have either transferred or retired. Anyway, there's so many others to choose from."
"I can't argue with that."
"Scully, it's been one of my deepest fantasies to hear those words from your lips."
"Mulder, that's quite possibly the most pathetic thing I've ever heard."
"My turn to ask a question."
She waited, willing herself not to fidget in a silence broken only by the soughing of their breath and the crack of shells between his teeth.
"What's the worst lie you ever told?"
Ouch. Trust Mulder to zero in on a time in her life that still shamed her.
"When I was in medical school..." She paused, then plunged ahead, "I had a...relationship with one of my professors. He was married." She waited for the inevitable wisecrack; arched an eyebrow when it never came. "Speechless, Mulder? If I'd only realized this was all it took..."
"Give me minute to adjust. I thought you were going to tell me you cheated on an exam or bought a term paper."
"What's to adjust? Have I rocked your Dana Scully world view?"
"Let's just say you keep unfolding like a flower."
It broke the tension--she couldn't help smiling a little at the memory. Mulder tossed a shell out the window and rummaged in his pocket for more seeds, extending a small handful. She accepted a few of the salty nuggets, rolling them back and forth between her fingertips.
"He was mature, intelligent, a brilliant doctor, and... He believed in me, in my abilities, yet consistently challenged me to test their limits. No one had ever invested that level of support and encouragement in me, in my future. Somewhere along the way the boundaries between mentor and student blurred, and I became so caught up in the possibilities, that..." She gave a harsh little chuckle. "I told a lot of lies back then. Where I was going, who I was with--anything to keep the secret.
"It didn't last long. I'll spare us both the more sordid details. Suffice it to say, I eventually came to my senses. The damage, however, was done."
Scully lifted her gaze from the seeds to Mulder's face. "But the worst lie wasn't any of the ones I told my family and friends. It was the one I told myself. That it didn't matter he was married, had a family. That we weren't hurting anyone. That our feelings for each other justified our actions--even ennobled them."
Mulder's reply was soft, lacking even the hint of disapproval or judgement. "We all lie to ourselves, Scully. Sometimes it's the only way to cope when the truth is too painful." He chuffed, but a shadow darkened his eyes and deepened the lines around his mouth. "For someone who values the truth above all else, I've practiced more than my share of self-deception."
"Maybe you've just had more than your share of painful truths."
The silence was heavier now, nearly oppressive, but she quelled the urge to fill it, nibbling a seed and waiting him out.
"Did you ever drink hot chocolate after playing out in the snow, Scully?"
Not what she'd expected, but then, Mulder excelled at throwing curve balls. Scully spat a shell discreetly into her palm and nodded.
"Sometimes. I inevitably burned my tongue--too impatient to wait for it to cool properly."
"It was a tradition in the Mulder household. We'd come in, our coats and boots caked with snow, our faces and feet numb, and my mother would immediately order us up to our rooms to change into dry clothes. I always made it back to the kitchen first, and there, waiting on the table, would be two big mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows and a plate of cookies. I remember the feel of the steam on my cheeks as I drank, and the way the warmth spread all the way down to my fingers and toes. Samantha and I would sit around the table until we'd finished every drop, telling jokes and fighting over the last cookie."
"Sounds like a good memory."
"The first winter after Samantha was taken... I was like a sleepwalker, just going through the motions with school, friends, family. If I didn't think too deeply about my life, about all the holes Samantha had left, it didn't hurt as badly. But the first time I came down the stairs and saw one mug on the table..." He let out an explosive puff of air.
"You want to hear pathetic? I got out the other mug, filled it up, and put it at her place. My mother thought I'd lost my mind. She started out trying to reason with me, but quickly became hysterical. She was still locked in her bedroom, crying, when my father came home from work. Needless to say, he was furious with me. Next day I went off to school sporting a split lip that hurt like hell if I opened my mouth."
"He never should have punished you. You were just struggling to deal with your own grief."
Mulder shrugged. "As were my parents."
"But you were a child. A child who desperately wanted things to return to normal."
"It was more than that. From the moment Samantha was taken, I told myself that if I didn't give up, if I had sufficient faith, believed hard enough, I could bring her back. When I put that mug on the table, part of me actually thought she might come bouncing down the stairs."
He turned his face away to gaze out the window but she could still see the shimmer in his eyes. "Lies, Scully. We all tell them to ourselves. Sometimes I'm afraid the X-Files are just another cup of hot chocolate set out on the table."
She swallowed against the tightness in her throat. "Mulder, if there's one thing of which I'm absolutely certain, it's that the X- Files are a path to the truth. And that one day we will find out what happened to your sister."
He didn't answer, but the rigid set of his shoulders eased and he tipped his chin toward her hand, the ghost of a smile on his lips. "Are you going to hold onto those until you get home?"
Scully uncurled her fingers, bits of shell sticking to her palm. "I'd prefer a napkin."
"In the glove box."
She opened the compartment and reached inside, surprised when her fingers brushed metal. Frowning, she pulled the object out and held it in the glow from the streetlight. "What is...? Mulder! This is my corkscrew!"
"You know? Mulder, this has been missing for two years. It's the best one I've ever had; I turned my apartment upside down looking for it. The one I replaced it with cost twice as much and works half as well."
"Sorry, Scully. I intended to give it back, but I kept forgetting."
"What were you doing with it in the first place?"
"Remember when I broke my arm falling from that fire escape?"
"How could I forget? You acted like that cast was a straight jacket. Thank God you only had to wear it four weeks."
"Well, it itched. Way down inside where I couldn't reach. I tried everything--a pen, a ruler, a coat hanger. Nothing worked. One night we were drinking wine and doing paperwork at your apartment, and..."
"You used my corkscrew for that?"
"As the old proverb says, 'Necessity is the mother of invention.' I was desperate, Scully."
"I've got a proverb for you, Mulder. Borrow without asking, and you may not live to regret it'--Dana's law."
"I grew up with three siblings. If you didn't draw a line, nothing was sacred."
"Point taken. It won't happen again." He checked his watch, then the dormant tavern. "It's past midnight, Scully. They've closed up shop, and I suggest we do the same. What do you think?"
"I think that's the best idea you've had all night. Maybe all week."
He started the engine, pausing with his hand on the gearshift. "How about pizza at my place? I'll even pick off the green peppers."
"I don't know, Mulder. It's late, and I'm exhausted."
"Scully, you've got to eat something. That curried chicken was six...seven hours ago. Anyway, I still owe you a question."
Now there was an invitation impossible to resist.
Her lips curved. "Got any wine to go with that pizza?"
"I think I can dig some up."
"That's good. Because I just happen to have a dynamite corkscrew."
He shifted to drive and pulled away from the curb. "Now that's what I call an X-File."
This was my first attempt at an improv. It's a lot more challenging than it looks! The five required elements are listed below--I hope you enjoyed the end result. Many thanks to Michelle, Deb, and Sally for swift and insightful beta.
A DKNY jock strap (from Jean)