A Birthday Challenge

© Starfleetofficer1, October 2007

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully celebrate Mulder's birthday in an awkward way. NOTE: Takes place in VS universe, but doesn't necessarily follow what's happened during VS 10-15 (because I haven't read it yet).

TYPE: Angst, MSR

RATING: PG-13

DISCLAIMER: I don't own X-files. I don't own the characters. I don't own anything but the story idea. Please don't steal it—it's all I own.

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ALLEGHENY HOSPITAL

PITTSBURGH, PA

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13th, 2007

0600

"Hey, sleepy head," Scully said gently. Mulder opened his eyes and grunted as he tried to sit up. "No, no, not yet. Do you know where you are?"

He nodded, and said, "Hospital…Pittsburgh?"

"Yep," Scully said, and stroked his forehead. "You took quite a fall, Mulder."

"What's wrong with me?" he asked. So far, nothing hurt.

She had a sort of sad smile that scared the shit out of him. "Mulder…do you remember what happened?"

Mulder shook his head. "Nothing after…Oh my God, Scully—Joey!"

"Joey's fine," Scully assured him. "You saved him. His mother's so grateful she's scared to come up here and tell you. They're in the hospital, waiting for me to come and tell them the news on you."

"Tell me, Scully," he said, as if he were steeling himself for a hit. "What happened?"

"Joey got away from Draper. He was able to run out of the cabin and straight to the river. You were right behind him, after I secured Draper—do you remember any of this now?"

Before she even asked, in fact just when she said Draper's name, it all came back. The serial killer, Mulder's realization of where the latest victim was, his run into the thick of the Pennsylvania woods to find the six-year-old…and then the cliff. The cliff where the little boy had managed to trip, and was hanging by a branch six feet from the ledge, and eighty feet from the river below. He nodded slowly. "I went down," he said.

"You rescued Joey, but the branch wasn't strong enough for both of you, Mulder."

Mulder continued nodding, and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. "No broken bones?"

Scully looked down, a gesture that made the hair on the back of Mulder's neck stand straight up. She couldn't look him in the eye…that could only mean one of a few things. "You landed on your back…thankfully in some pretty deep water, but on your back nonetheless from an eighty-feet fall. The doctors are looking into surgical options right now, so it isn't permanent, we don't think, but…"

"You don't have to say it," Mulder interrupted her. "I can't feel my legs."

"Mulder, it's going to be okay. You have to believe me—we're doing everything we can to reverse this."

"How…reversible…is it?"

"With modern technology, possibly completely."

"Possibly," he said, letting his head fall back on the pillow. He closed his eyes, so they wouldn't betray his fear.

Scully took his hand in both of hers, and said, "I'm gonna be here the whole time."

He nodded slightly, still not opening his eyes.

"You're going to need some information on spinal cord injuries, and the doctor will come in here and give you an official briefing on surgical options, rehabilitation…the whole nine yards." She felt a subject change was in order. Mulder was trying his hardest to ignore her at the moment. "In the mean time…do you know what day it is?"

Mulder opened his eyes. "Still Thursday, right? How long was I out?"

"Ten hours. It's Friday, Mulder. Happy Birthday."

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ALLEGHENY HOSPITAL

PITTSBURGH, PA

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13th, 2007

0630

Mulder was silent for the longest time. Scully was concerned, but didn't say anything. It was important he took his time with this. But the silence was definitely getting to her.

Then, as if a dam had broken, Mulder said quietly, "What if…Scully…what if it doesn't…"

Scully instantly took his hand, and sat on the edge of the bed. "Don't think like that, Mulder. Don't say that—you're gonna get through this. We're gonna get through this together."

"But what if I can't ever walk again?" he asked her, looking up into her eyes. His face was ashen, his eyes teary, his hold on her hand like a vice grip.

"Mulder, that won't happen. And…even if it does, even if the remote possibility happens…" she leaned in, forcing him to meet her eyes, "I'll always be here. I'll always be right here with you."

He nodded slowly, before the tears began to flow freely down his cheeks. Scully pulled his head close to her, and held him like that for an indeterminate amount of time. When he finally let go, he was exhausted, and he went right to sleep.

ALLEGHENY HOSPITAL

PITTSBURGH, PA

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13th, 2007

0900

Mulder had been watching television for the past half hour, trying to forget what the doctor had told him, and not succeeding. Scully had gone to find Joey and his mother, leaving him alone with Jerry Springer reruns. He felt he was about ready to explode.

Under the covers, hoping no one could see his efforts, he tried to wiggle his toes, his feet, move his legs, anything. But nothing happened. He was so scared, but he couldn't admit it. Not to Scully—she was scared, too. So it was up to him to comfort her. His previous outburst was excused, he reasoned, because it wouldn't happen again.

There was a knock at his door, and then it opened. A little six-year-old boy with spiky, blonde hair and a big smile ran over to his bed. His mother entered the room shortly afterward, and Scully followed.

"Hey, there, Joey," Mulder said. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm okay. Agent Mulder, I'm 'apposed ta give you this," he said, and pulled a folded card out of his little jeans pocket. He handed it to Mulder, who unfolded the construction-paper card.

'Thank you, Agent Mulder', it read on the front. It had a large stick figure with brown hair and a small stick figure with blonde hair, both with very large smiles. Mulder opened the card, and inside was a picture of a sun, and lots of trees. 'For saving me,' it said. 'Love Joey.'

"Joey, this is great," Mulder told him. Joey held out his arms to give Mulder a hug, but Mulder found it difficult to lean that far. His mother walked over to the bed and lifted the boy up, and the agent and the six-year-old hugged.

"Agent Mulder, I can't thank you enough…and I'm so sorry to hear about—"

"Ms. Loughton, I just did my job."

"You did more than your job," she said. "And I don't think I can ever repay you."

Mulder didn't exactly know what to say. After an uncomfortable silence, Scully stepped in. "Joey's fine; he was checked out in the ER and there's not a scratch on him."

"That's right," his mother said. "And if Agent Mulder hadn't gotten there in time, that wouldn't…" she started tearing up. "Joey wouldn't be back here now."

Mulder didn't say anything still, and Scully realized she had to direct the conversation. "Thank you for coming here, Ms. Loughton. Agent Mulder really appreciates it. But he's tired now…and so I think you two deserve to go home. And maybe Joey can play some video games."

"Yeah!" Joey said excitedly.

Ms. Loughton nodded. "Alright, I didn't mean to tire you out, Agent Mulder. We'll leave. Thank you again."

"Bye!" Joey said, and took his mother's hand.

When they were gone, Mulder said, "Kid's awfully chipper for a boy that was kidnapped twenty-four hours ago."

"The hospital psychiatrist evaluated him. He doesn't talk about it. Doesn't acknowledge anything but what happened on the ledge. Doesn't even want to admit Draper's existence."

"It's not uncommon," Mulder stated. "With some therapy, he should come out of this alright."

"Just like you," Scully assured him. She smiled.

"I don't want to talk about that right now," Mulder said, a little more harshly than he had wanted. Scully didn't seem to mind, though.

"I have a confession to make, Mulder," she said. "I didn't just go out to find Ms. Loughton. I stopped by at Toys R' Us."

Mulder's eyebrows went up. "Toys R' Us? What'd you buy me, a teddy bear?"

"No…it's right at the nurse's station. I'll be right back."

Mulder waited in anticipation, and when she came back, she held a very large Toys R' Us bag.

"What's inside?" Mulder asked, sounding for all the world like a little kid at Christmas.

"I'll let you open it," she said, and handed him the rather large bag. Inside, was a box, Mulder knew before he opened it. But when he reached in and picked up the box, felt the weight of it and the handle on the top, he knew exactly what it was.

He pulled it out, and grinned. "A Playstation 3! Oh my God, Scully, how did you know I wanted one of these?"

"Oh, I don't know, the googly-eyed look that used to be reserved for those videos that weren't yours, every time we walked past a toy store or every time I caught you on a video game website?"

Mulder was still grinning. "Wow! This thing is amazing! Do we have any games for it?"

Scully turned the bag upside down, and three games popped out. MotorCross Racing, a flight game, and a first-person-shooter that Mulder had been begging for, even though he didn't have a Playstation 3.

"Scully! I love you!" Mulder exclaimed.

Scully laughed. "I love you, too, Mulder," she said, and kissed him on the cheek. "Come on, let's hook it up and start playing. You're gonna eat my dirt."

"Not on your life, G-woman. The video game universe is mine to occupy."

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ALLEGHENY HOSPITAL

PITTSBURGH, PA

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13th, 2007

1200

Mulder enjoyed his birthday present thoroughly, even when Scully kicked his ass on the flight game. He beat her on the first person shooter, and they tied consistently on the MotorCross Racing. "Ya can't beat the 'man' at Tom Clancy games, Scully," Mulder teased.

"Let's go again, then," Scully challenged. "I'll so kick your ass."

"All you can do is fly little planes around on a screen."

"A talent you're severely lacking."

"Maybe I'd rather shoot some bad guys than fly around."

"Maybe I'd rather drop some bombs on some bad guys than run through a complex shooting them all meticulously."

"Oooh, that hurt," Mulder said, clasping his hand over his heart and grinning at her.

"Well, then let's go. You ready for an ass-whomping?"

"Only in your dreams," he said, but they didn't have the chance to restart the first-person shooter. The doctor opened the door, and walked through. "Agent Mulder, Dr. Scully…I've got some news for you."

They put the controllers down instantly and listened intently. Scully took Mulder's hand, and he squeezed it tightly.

"We've done extensive tests, and we've evaluated your condition to the best of our ability," the doctor said. He held Mulder's chart, and flipped a page. "After discussing your situation with our lead surgeon, we believe surgery is an option, if we hurry. You'll be pre-opped this afternoon, and go in at 3 pm if that's alright with you."

Mulder couldn't hide the shock on his face. A happy sob escaped Scully, and he turned to her, a smile forming through his completely surprised features. She threw her arms around him, and he slowly followed the gesture, eventually hugging her with every ounce of strength he had.

"The operation is just as I described," the doctor said with a smile. "It should restore the use of your legs. It's experimental, so there are some forms you need to sign. And you'll be in physical therapy for three to four months, but you should be able to return to active duty after that."

Mulder nodded. "Thank you, Doctor."

"It's my pleasure," he said. "I'll leave you two alone."

"I can't believe it," Mulder said, still in shock.

Scully wiped at her eyes. "You've been so brave through all this, Mulder…"

"No, I haven't," he corrected, taking a deep breath. "I've been scared shitless since you told me, Scully."

She grasped his hand, and said, "You didn't let that fear take control of you. That's why you've been brave."

He didn't say anything.

"Happy Birthday, partner."

He smiled, pulled her close to him, and engaged in a long, passionate kiss.