How Mulder Forgot the Most Romantic Day of the Year
(and lived to tell the tale)
He couldn’t believe he’d done it. It was arguably the worst crime he’d ever committed in their 14-year partnership. Even when he was up to his neck in heartfelt guilt over the myriad of agonies she’d had inflicted on her by the consortium, he still had a clear conscience that at least he hadn’t directly been involved. This time, though, the consortium — old Smokey, Charlie, even that goose-stepping Strughold — were nowhere in sight. It had been him, all him and nothing but him.
He’d forgotten Valentine’s Day.
On a good day, a day when he could calmly look back — say twenty or thirty years in the future — he could convince himself that it wasn’t really his fault he forgot. VCS had gone to Skinner, there was a kidnapping in the Midwest that looked like similar kidnappings in recent months. Six and seven year old girls had been taken. So far no bodies had turned up but it was in the back of everyone’s mind that it would just be a matter of time before the body count started. Surprisingly, that had not been the case. So, while Scully waited back in DC for the call to do some particularly gruesome slicing and dicing, he had flown out with a cadre of agents to assist the Kansas City Regional Office in their investigation and hunt for the missing girls.
The fourteenth of February had dawned just one more day in a seemingly endless case. But luck had been on their side and the farmhouse twenty miles outside KC had been raided, all three girls had been found — miracle of miracles, unharmed. The press conference was set up within hours of arresting the perpetrator — a grade school janitor who had been fired months before — and getting the girls to the hospital and the reunions with their families. All agents were required to attend — the Bureau needed all the brownie points it could get with the press in the days of Senate and House investigations. Mulder had showered, still going on only two short catnaps in a little over 48 hours, and put on a fabulous display for the media types. Wolf Blitzer had even joked that the country’s hearts where with the good guys and it still didn’t register with him why hearts would matter so much.
When the press conference broke, he’d found his way back to the hotel. The message light was blinking on the phone on the nightstand, but in his sleep-deprived state he’d ignored it as he collapsed face first on to the bed. He awoke as one of the agents was pounding on his door, telling him they were going to be late for the airport if he didn’t get a move on.
They’d taken the red-eye back to DC. He arrived at Dulles at the unholy hour of 1:25 am. Rather than wake Scully, he’d grabbed a cab — paying through the nose for the ride to Georgetown. He climbed the steps to their townhouse and wearily entered. As he stood at the bottom of the stairs leading to their bedroom all the energy seeped from his body. He turned right, dropped his briefcase on an armchair and with his coat still on, laid down on the sofa and was fast asleep before his head fully rested on the couch pillow.
When he woke up from the light streaming in their front window, he found his shoes off his feet, a blanket thrown over him and the smell of coffee in the kitchen. He wandered toward the wondrous elixir, shedding his overcoat and suit coat and tie as he went. There was a note on the fridge from Scully. She’d been called to Quantico to sub for a pathology teacher out with the flu. She promised to be home on time for dinner. Not a word about the preceding holiday, nothing to clue him in at all.
He showered, thought about calling in ‘asleep’, but opted to go to the office. Before he even got to the elevator, his cell phone had gone off — Skinner’s assistant Kim was calling him up to a meeting to discuss the recently completed case. He pushed the up button on the elevator and rode in silence with the rest of the occupants.
Once in Skinner’s outer office, he noticed a distinct floral aroma and saw a bouquet of roses gracing Kim’s usually tidy but bland desk. “Nice flowers,” he’d commented as she winked and ushered him into the inner sanctum, where he was soon required to report in detail on the actions of the previous four days. All thought of the flowers and their potential meaning were completely wiped from his mind.
The meeting lasted so long that Skinner had Kim send out for sandwiches. They broke once and Mulder high tailed it to the men’s room. Not paying attention to anything but his business, he couldn’t help but overhear a few of the other agents complaining about how long the wait had been at a specific upscale restaurant the night before and how the wait staff seemed to clear the table in a hurry, almost rushing diners out the door. That was the first time it occurred to him that something was amiss. It sounded like the place was overbooked. That usually happened only on the weekends. The night before had been a weeknight, he was sure of it. He even checked his watch and saw that yes, it was Thursday the fifteenth, just as he’d thought. Something about that date tickled against the back of his mind, but he shook his head and promptly busied himself with washing his hands before returning to his meeting.
The rest of the meeting was mind numbing in its attention to detail. Every action, every scrap of data, every lead was agonized over in an attempt to quantify the rare success where everyone was alive. The case against the perpetrator had to be airtight before it was handed over to the Kansas City US District Attorney’s office for prosecution. It was nearly eight o’clock when Skinner finally agreed that they had done enough for one day and everyone was free to go home for the night.
Mulder dragged his body up out of the chair at Skinner’s conference table and headed for the elevators. He thought briefly about making a quick stop at their basement office, but decided against it. Scully had promised she would be home for dinner, he only prayed that meant she was planning on preparing said dinner for the two of them. So, with a mind fogged with repeated facts about a case he would just as soon file away in the drawer and a body still suffering serious sleep depravation, not to mention hunger pangs, Fox Mulder finally found himself on the way home.
Scully indeed had dinner on the table. It was beef stew, canned. She had added some celery and some Worcestershire sauce, but it wasn’t exactly what he had hoped to find. Still, the grumbling in his stomach was loud enough that he finished his plate in no time flat. If Scully had made dinner table talk, he would have been able to pass a polygraph that he hadn’t been present in the room, he was that tired. With a kiss to the crown of her head, he mumbled something resembling ‘thanks’ and headed up to their bedroom where he just barely managed to shuck his clothes before crawling under the covers and falling into a deep and dreamless sleep at just barely nine o’clock p.m.
So it was that Mulder didn’t even come to find out about his most serious of omissions until Friday, the sixteenth of February. Again, Scully was called to fill in at Quantico. Since it would take her a full hour (due to rush hour traffic around the Capitol City) to get to her eight o’clock class, she left while Mulder was still sawing logs. He awoke to the alarm, showered, gulped down a cup of coffee that Scully had left warming in the kitchen and hurried off to work, blissful in his ignorance.
He always hated coming to their office when Scully was off somewhere else, even if he knew exactly where she was. The office seemed darker, colder without her. He looked up through their ‘window’ high on the basement wall — it was gray outside, more than likely a harbinger of snow. He put his coat on the hook, picked up the mail from in front of the door and was sorting through it as he walked around to sit down at his desk. When he sat on something — something that crinkled under his dress pants, he quickly got up and stared down at his chair.
A plain white envelope, not business sized but the kind cards came in, lay slightly wrinkled on the seat of his chair.
Putting down the mail in his hands, he gingerly picked up the envelope. There was no writing on the outside, but holding it up to his nose he detected Scully’s signature perfume — one he’d given her for Christmas. A love note? At the office? They weren’t above such little endearments around the house, but at the office where anyone could walk in and see it?
As if feeling the eyes of some intruder upon him, he glanced fearfully at the door. No one in sight. Still, he walked over and shut the door solidly before daring to open the envelope.
What he found caused his blood to freeze and his heart to stop beating. It was a card. A Valentine, to be exact. And to make matters much worse, it wasn’t a card that she found going through the selection at the local card shop. No, she had made this one, using their computer and color printer at home.
The card was simple. Two heart outlines, interlocked in the corner. A simple red border. No frills. No doves and rainbows. Classic. Even the font for the words was pure, direct. No curlie-ques and lace. Just words that went straight to his soul.
“To My Partner
On the inside it continued: “Mulder, you are the joy of my heart, the love of my life, the man of my dreams, the center of my world.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Love forever and always,
Valentine’s Day? Oh, shit on a shingle — VALENTINE’S DAY! He’d freakin’ completely forgot about Valentine’s Day! And what was worse, Scully had remembered. When they’d first become intimate, when they took that gigantic step and admitted their feelings to themselves and each other, he’d made a vow to himself. He would never become his father. He remembered running home on Valentine’s Day as a child so that he could present his mother with his own hand drawn creation. He also remembered that his card and his alone was the only way she could mark the occasion. Even before Samantha was taken, his father was never one for public displays of affection. No roses, no cards, no candlelit dinners for two at some quiet little seafood place on the Vineyard. Never for his mother. But he vowed that he would do better by his Scully.
He was torn between rage at himself and grief for what he had done to Scully when there was a loud knock on his door. “Agent Mulder, are you in there?” boomed Skinner’s voice.
Mulder opened the door, card still clutched in his hand. Skinner stood there a moment, regarding him coolly. “Mulder, is something wrong? You look — did someone die? Not Mrs. Scully . . .”
“No, no sir, nothing like that,” Mulder said brokenly. “C’mon in.” He went around to his chair once more and sat down despondently.
“If no one died — Mulder, what did you do?” Skinner asked tersely, his arms crossed.
Mulder handed over the card without a word. Skinner scanned the card, looked his agent over once again and slowly shook his head. “Don’t tell me — you forgot Valentine’s Day?”
Mulder’s answer was to prop his elbows on his desk and cover his face with his hands.
Skinner propped his hip on the edge of the desk, laying the card down on the blotter. “Valentine’s Day was Wednesday, Mulder. You’ve been home for a full day since then.”
“I know,” Mulder whimpered through his fingers.
“It’s the same day every year. I mean it’s not like they hide the date or any-thing,” Skinner rambled on.
“I know, I know, I know. There were clues, I just didn’t pick up on any of them. Kim’s flowers, the guys in the toilet talking about the wait at Michel Richard Citronelle on a Wednesday night, the fact that Scully got home early enough to make dinner and all I got was canned beef stew — ” He raised his face from his hands, his expression one of total dismay. “Walter, I really effed it up good this time.”
Skinner nodded his head in total agreement. “Mulder, you have to do some-thing. If Scully is pissed at you — ”
“My life is in the toilet,” he said, rubbing his face briskly and leaning back in his chair. “I’m fielding all suggestions at this point.”
“Flowers,” Skinner said firmly.
“Total cliche. I refuse to be the guy who has to bring her flowers because he for-got the anniversary.”
He glared at his boss, who quickly relented.
“Oh, yeah, last year’s near tragic bon-bon poisoning. Forgot about that one. OK, diamond jewelry!”
“Walt, I forgot Valentine’s Day — I didn’t sleep with a Hill staffer! Besides, I have to have something to give her for her birthday in a week.”
Skinner put his hand on Mulder’s shoulder. “Look, you just completed a very im-portant and very stressful investigation. You’re owed some flex time. Take it. Get out of here right now — that gives you most of the day. And don’t show your face until you make this up to her — preferably by Monday at 8 am. Got that?”
Mulder looked up gratefully at his superior. “I’ll consider that an order, sir,” he said with a wistful expression.
On his way home, he panicked. This was more than just a casual ‘oh, yeah, it is February 14, isn’t it?’ This was a screw up that could potentially lead to disaster. Today, Valentine’s Day, tomorrow would he forget to kiss her goodbye or would they tumble into bed and not even touch hands before falling to sleep? It wasn’t the big things that drove wedges between people, it was often an accumulation of little things that built up over time, much like the Grand Canyon started as a little trickle of water. Well, their trickle was going to stop, if he had anything to do with it!
He knew that Scully wasn’t the hearts and flowers kind of girl that a lot of women were. She was no nonsense in her outlook on romance. Lacy black teddies and satin sheets never made an appearance in their sex life. Even so, in Mulder’s humble opinion, she _deserved_ hearts and flowers and rose petals covering the bed and scented baths with candles surrounding —
An idea was starting to form in the back of his mind. He’d have to make a few stops first, but he was sure he could pull it off in the time allotted. But he would definitely need to call for back up.
Mulder and Scully’s residence
Scully pulled the car into the parking space off the alley and sighed. She’d com-pletely forgotten how tiring teaching could be. She’d been on her feet all day long, and when she’d taken half an hour for a lunch break, one of the recruits had tracked her down in the cafeteria for an impromptu tutoring session on blood splatter patterns. All she wanted to do was crawl into a nice hot tub and stay there until Monday.
She noticed Mulder had beaten her home. Poor guy — he’d been exhausted since his return from the case out in Kansas City. Both of them were going to sleep in on Saturday, if she had anything to say in the matter! She grabbed her briefcase and wondered if Mulder would have had the presence of mind to call for a pizza. No, probably not. She debated dialing as she walked, but decided she wouldn’t be able to juggle the cell phone, her briefcase and the back door all at once. The pizza could wait till she got to the phone in the kitchen.
She was fumbling for the right key when she saw the post it note stuck to the glass of the storm door. “Use the front entrance,” it read in Mulder’s distinctive scrawl. Oh dear. What had he done to the kitchen? It must have been bad if he was shooing her away from the scene of the crime. She sighed and headed around to the front of the duplex by the little sidewalk that bordered the house.
There was another note on the front door. It read “shed your coat and briefcase and follow the hearts — clothing optional” and had a large arrow complete with ‘feathers’ pointing up the stairs. Scully smiled to herself and hung up her coat, placing the briefcase on the little table by the door. Slipping off her shoes, she crept up the stairs, avoiding the step that squeaked. Along the way she took note of several red construction paper hearts with paper lace doilies. They looked like the work of the average 10 year old, but she sensed her partner’s artistic talents in the endeavor. She started to head to their bedroom when she heard the water lapping in the bathroom and saw the very large heart taped to the door. There were several aromas coming from behind the closed door, not the least of which appeared to be roses.
She opened the door and was immediately entranced by the glimmering sight before her. Several dozen votive candles sparkled in tiny glass cups on every flat surface of the room. Rose petals were scattered all over the floor, a vase with at least a dozen blood red roses graced the vanity. There was a champagne bucket with a wine bottle chilling next to the tub. And in the tub sat her partner up to his chest in water, sipping from a wine flute and nibbling a piece of shrimp.
“Scully, lose the clothes. You’re chillin’ the mood here,” he chided. “Hurry, be-fore the water gets cool!”
She didn’t need to be told twice. In just a few seconds she’d escaped the confines of her business suit and had returned to lower herself into the fragrant water of the tub. “Mulder, there are rose petals,” she whispered in awe as her hands skimmed the delicate pink and red blossoms floating atop the water.
He busied himself with her champagne flute. “There’s more food in the bed-room. Some brie, some fruit, nothing heavy. Oh, and for after our bath.” He fished around in the water and pulled up a tube of massage oil, warming in the water.
“You finally remembered Valentine’s Day,” she said with a loving smile.
“The most romantic day of the year? How could I forget? I’m partnered with the most beautiful woman in the world. A guy would have to be a total cad to forget Valentine’s Day when he gets to spend it with you, Scully. Admittedly it’s a couple of days off the calendar — but here, tonight, it’s Valentine’s Day.”
She leaned against him, her back to his chest and sipped her wine. “OK, Mulder. You’re forgiven. This time.”
“I sense a ‘but’ coming . . .” he countered.
“No, I’m just wondering how in the world you’re going to top this — for my birth-day next week.”
She wasn’t sure if the groan was from the kiss she bestowed on him but she de-cided to give him the benefit of the doubt.