One Last Happy Birthday

by Avalon

TITLE: One Last Happy Birthday (1/1)
AUTHOR: Avalon (avalon@fuse.net)
CATEGORY: Story, minor character POV, a little

angst, minor character death RATING: R for language
DISCLAIMER: Are you kidding me? Am I making

            money from this?  I wish.  No, none 
            of them are mine.  Geesh.

KEYWORDS: Um, Pendrell
SPOILERS: Tempus Fugit, Max
FEEDBACK: Feedback ho, here. Please don't make

me beg.
ARCHIVES: NO to Ephemeral. Just let me know where. SUMMARY: Sean Pendrell waits to wish Dana

Scully a happy birthday.
AUTHOR'S
NOTES: This was written to fulfill an

            element challenge, and to celebrate
          IWTB's birthday.  Happy birthdays 
            seem to be a theme, here.  Elements
            are listed at the end.

One Last Happy Birthday (1/1) by Avalon

I hate this fucking bar.

It's way too crowded and way too noisy, which has to explain why I'm way too wasted on a work night. I know I'll be sorry when six a.m. rolls around in another few hours and I have to drag my hung-over ass into the shower. I guess I shouldn't complain, though. Becky Hereford, A.D. Ricker's assistant, wanted everyone to go to the karaoke bar over on Smith Street. Listening to O'Reilly from the VCS blather on about how newbie Maggie Turner allegedly gave him a blow-job is preferable to hearing him belt "You Shook Me All Night Long" at the top of his lungs. I should know. I've been witness to that slaughter before. And the five beers I've already had have taken the edge off his bullshit posturing quite nicely. Man, I guess I'm lucky that I'm in the lab all day and not working some case with this asshole. Being a techie does have its perks.

But so far tonight, the real object of my interest has failed to appear, and I am beginning to think I should just order a Coke and a cab.

She was here last night. I watched from a dark corner while she and Mulder sat with their heads close together over a scarred round table. He ordered extra spicy chicken wings and a soft drink, and she sipped a glass of water with lemon while he scarfed them down. Then, the patrons erupted into a tuneless version of "Happy Birthday" for Scully, one instigated by Mulder and his whispered aside to the wait staff. I joined in half-heartedly, wishing it was me sitting at that table with her, that it was me she regarded with a look of endearing embarrassment and grateful pleasure.

I tap the inside pocket of my jacket to make sure her gift is still there while Bennie, the bartender, tops off another dirty martini. He's a good guy, Bennie, but he reminds me of my older brother Mick. Taller and heavier, yes, and without the trademark Pendrell red hair, but there's something about his eyes that take me back to high school fifteen years ago.

Mick the Prick. God, what great memories haunt me tonight.

If Mick were here, he'd tell me what a loser I am. He'd assure me in that singsong tone of his how Scully couldn't give a rat's ass about me. He'd remind me of all the rumors that run rampant through the entire Hoover building, the ones that describe in graphic detail the things Mulder does to his pretty, petite partner in their off hours. He'd insist that she's way too sexy, way too smart, to ever consider going out with the likes of me. And he'd top it off by goading me into asking her, anyway.

That was how Mick always embarrassed me the most. He'd rile me up like that, taking jab after ferocious jab at my manhood, and then he'd dare me to prove him wrong. I'd take the bait, as usual, and just like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football from Lucy's hold, I'd end up flat on my back, with my ego bruised worse than anything else.

Kimberly Winters runs through my head. I rub at my eyes, trying to scrub the image away, the memory of her in that salmon-colored taffeta prom dress that made her look as beautiful as Cinderella, but I can't shake it.

Fucking Mick. It's bad enough I've got Scully on my mind. Now my high-school wet dream is invading, too.

She was his girlfriend. Kim Winters dated my brother all through their senior year, when I was a lowly, gangly freshman. And every time she came to our house, I came in the bathroom after excusing myself from the dinner table. She was five feet five inches of blonde, blueeyed bombshell...so when my brother told me a week after he took her to prom that they had broken up, I was completely dumbfounded.

"Why?" I squeaked. I distinctly remember my voice changing that spring, and it most definitely cracked on that question.

Mick shrugged. We were outside, polishing the fenders of his Nova. He had saved for two summers to buy that car second-hand, and it was his baby. I secretly hoped that when he went away to college in the fall, he'd leave it behind for me.

"She wants to get married. There's no fricking way I'm doing that."

The motion of my hand stopped; I was too stunned to continue. Kim Winters wanted to marry my asshole brother, and he broke up with her? What the hell kind of idiot was he?

"You're kidding me, right? You must be kidding."

He scowled at me. "No, Seanshine, I'm not kidding. There's nothing funny about marriage, as far as I'm concerned."

I ignored the sarcastic way he intoned Ma's endearment for me. "She's the prettiest girl in school. You must be crazy."

He snorted. "I suppose you've got the hots for her. Why don't you ask her out?"

I straightened up and turned my back to him, reaching for the Turtle Wax to hide the flush that I felt fire up my cheeks. God, it was terrible being a redhead.

Behind me, Mick laughed. "You wouldn't ask her out anyway. You're too much of a coward. Besides, she'd never go out with you."

I spun on my heel, the heat in my face starting to ignite my brain. Redheads have a temper, too, right? "Why wouldn't she go out with me? What's wrong with me? She went out with you, for Christ's sake!"

"Hoo boy!" Mick screeched in delight. "Listen to Little Miss Seanshine swear! You better not let Ma hear you say that. She'll be forcing you on your knees by your bed tonight, praying the rosary for all you're worth."

I took a step toward him. "I could ask her out. I'm not afraid to do it."

He waved his polishing cloth in front of his face, still laughing. "Sure, sure, little brother. Whatever you say. Can I listen in on the other line so I can hear her laugh at you?"

I felt my hands curl into fists. "Give me her phone number. I'll call her right now."

Mick's chuckle trailed off as he watched my face. I didn't flinch. "You're serious! You really think Kim Winters, a senior, is going to go out with you?"

"What's her number?" I threw my rag down on the blacktopped driveway, like a gauntlet in an old-fashioned movie. I don't know what possessed me. He hadn't even teased that much, hadn't even double-dog-dared me the way he used to do when we were in grade school. But my brain had latched onto the fight the way it never had before...and I was determined to talk to Kim Winters and make her see the error of her ways. She had obviously been dating the wrong Pendrell.

I should've known better. We had gone inside, and I had dialed her up, my heart hammering away at my chest like some demented carpenter on speed. When her mother called her to the phone, I had cleared my throat and prayed for the adult voice of Sean Pendrell to speak, the one that wouldn't break. I got through my whole introduction OK, but then she stopped me cold.

"Are you calling for Mick?"

I blinked, not sure I had heard her correctly. "What?"

"Are you calling for Mick? You know, to try to get us back together or something?"

I swallowed. "Um, no. I was calling for...for myself, actually. I wanted to see...well, if you would...if you would like to go out with...with me, sometime."

There was a pause, a moment so quiet I could hear the light static of the open line. And then there was a sound I didn't recognize, one that reminded me of tinkling glass. I had heard a similar sound once, at my cousin's wedding, when the best man had called for everyone's attention to toast the couple by tapping on his champagne flute with his butter knife.

It was the sound of Kim Winters laughing. I think my heart shattered then and made the same chiming sound as that laugh.

I press my fingers into my eyes again and squint over the bar. After all these memories, it's definitely time to go home and dream of better things. Maybe if I'm lucky, Scully will make a guest appearance, preferably wearing that leather thong I spotted in the last issue of the Fredericks of Hollywood catalogue I peeked at when I visited my sister last Tuesday.

I am about to ask Bennie for that Coke when I catch a flash of auburn hair out of the corner of my eye. I put out my hand without even thinking twice and snare Scully by the sleeve. She smiles at me, and I realize selfconsciously
that I am blathering on almost as
stupidly as O'Reilly. I stumble forward anyway, offering to buy her a drink, hoping that she'll sit down with me so that I can give her the present I bought for her today at lunchtime.

"No, you know, it's OK. I'm with somebody."

I blink and follow her gaze to the same table where she sat with Mulder. A tall jarhead dressed in military fatigues sits there, his watchful eyes on both of us. Shit. How many fricking boyfriends does she have? I wonder aimlessly if Mulder knows about this guy, but then I realize someone is talking. It's me, prattling again, offering to buy them both drinks. Scully declines once more, but I insist, and I yell over to Bennie to set us up. When I turn back around, she is gone, walking on those stacked heels of hers to the soldier waiting at the table.

I watch her as I wait for our drinks, fingering the box in my pocket. Last night, Mulder gave her a key chain. I was too far away; all I really saw was the flash of metal and the chain suspending the charm when she held it up. And I couldn't help thinking, all he got his girlfriend for her birthday was a key chain? What kind of lousy gift was that?

But even from where I stood then, I could still see her shining, happy eyes when she looked at him. I'd have to be blind not to notice the smile on her face, the hint of a blush, the flirty way she titled her head and the careful, almost respectful touch of her fingers as she turned the gift over in her hands. It was crystal clear that Mulder had pleased her immensely, even with such a piss-poor offering. Maybe she does love him.

Jesus, how could I possibly compete with that? I don't know what possessed me at lunch, what masochistic impulse stopped me at the jewelry counter at Hastings and compelled me to fork over my credit card to the smiling sales associate.

"She'll just love these!" she exclaimed as she wrapped them in tissue paper and tucked them into a box. "This must be one special lady."

Perhaps those words from that stranger are what compelled me to do it. There's no sign of Mick here, goading me into it. One way or another, I am determined to give them to her, to show her just how special I think she is. And it's going to be tonight, jarhead escort or no. Maybe if I present them to her while he's watching, he'll take the hint and leave. It's worth a shot, anyway. I'll worry about Mulder later.

So I collect their beers and my soft drink and push past O'Reilly and the others. My mind is focused, I think, considering the alcohol in my system. I form the words in my head, over and over, as I walk toward the table.

"Happy birthday, Dana. I hope you like them. I wanted you to know how special you are to me."

And in my mind, I can see her eyes shining just as brightly for me as they did last night with Mulder. I imagine the soldier slipping away from the table, embarrassed to be a part of this intimate moment that is obviously meant for just the two of us. And I can feel her soft hand reaching out and stroking my cheek in an affectionate gesture, a wordless thank you and a promise of something more.

I am at the table, and I look toward her, a smile on my face. Something isn't right. She is standing already, her brow furrowed, her gaze trained on someone across the room. She fumbles behind her, into the depths of her long, dark coat, and her hand reappears. I frown, recognizing her weapon. What the hell is she doing?

Everything around me seems to slow down, and I shake my head a little, trying to clear it. The beer must be affecting me more than I think. I could swear Scully just drew her gun, pointing it at someone or something behind me. I turn, my body feeling heavy and sluggish, and her voice shatters the creeping quiet, squealing like tires on asphalt:

"Get down!"

And I do fall. Somehow I land on my back, my head knocking hard against the stained floor of the pub. The blow sets my mind reeling again, and my chest fills up with fire, choking the breath out of my lungs. The sound kicks in again, but now it's warped, voices and shattering glass and my own hitching breath mingling together into a distorted cacophony. I flutter my eyes and gasp as my brain tries to process the situation...but I think my brain has shut down.

Scully's face appears above me, and I feel her tugging at my necktie. She is talking, I know...I can see her lips moving, but I can't hear what she's saying. The burning in my chest scorches my senses, and it lights a trail all the way up into my brain, finally igniting some understanding.

I've been shot. I'm bleeding all over from a chest wound. And I'm probably going to die.

I close my eyes again, trying to stifle the tide of fear that rises in me along with the sensation of pain. This is certainly not the way I expected to go, sprawled out on the floor of a bar at closing time, with my life draining out of me and spreading crimson below my body. Hell, I never even expected to die in the line of duty. That just never happens to us research geeks, F.B.I badge or not. I realize suddenly that this incident is connected somehow to Scully...and believe it or not, that makes it OK.

She is back again, pressing against my chest, mumbling another sentence I can't make out. I take as deep a breath as I can and try to speak. I have to tell her about her present, the one tucked into the jacket that is now soaked with my blood. I have to wish her happy birthday one last time...I have to...

Her fingers stroke the skin of my cheek, just like I imagined. She whispers near my ear, something about celebrating her birthday, not letting me off the hook... Her touch leaves a mark, a burning nearly as consuming as the one in my chest.

As she leans back, I spot them. Pearl earrings. Little studs that wink from the lobes of her perfect ears. They're identical to the ones in the box in my pocket. They're beautiful, just like her.

Leave it to me to buy her a gift she already has. Mick was right all along. I am a loser. I try to smile at her, still determined to speak, to let her know...

But when I open my eyes, she is gone, drowned in a blinding streak of white light. Being the good Catholic boy I am, I realize where I am, and I start to pray.

If there really are angels, I bet they look like Dana Scully. Pearl earrings and all. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

End

ELEMENTS:

A karaoke bar
A dirty martini
A leather thong
A double dog dare
Hot wings
Salmon (stretch for it!)
A pearl

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Yeah, babies! I did it!

Special thanks to my lovely Kimmmeee, who makes a special appearance here as Sean's high school wet dream, and to the fantastic sallie, who is always willing to beta, and who came up with the fabulous title! Big kisses to you ladies.

Happy Birthday, IWTB! You are still the place where all the coolest kids hang out. I love you!


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Avalon