Author's note: Written in response to Celli's tax season challenge. This is exactly 1,040 words and includes 'withholding'. Set towards the end of season 8.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Chris Carter does. No profit or infringement intended.
The aroma of tomato sauce hangs heavy in the air and it doesn't help that I can hear Scully in the bedroom. She's humming, under her breath, the only song she knows all the words to: 'Joy to the World'. I stare at my computer screen, tap my pencil on the desk, and then twist in the chair. Two options: go and check on the tomato sauce on the stove and the garlic bread in the oven, or go into the bedroom and see what Scully is up to. Both options satisfy a hunger, but in different ways.
I bite my lip and stare at the computer screen. The words in black, Arial font -- size 12, I suspect -- seems to run all together. Twenty-something years of doing my own taxes and the 1040 still makes no damn sense to me. I push my chair back. The kitchen it is.
As I'm stirring the sauce, Scully comes up behind me.
"How's it going?" she asks, resting her hand gently on the small of my back. In the last few days, her face seems to have rounded out even more, the sharp angles of her body softening in this last month of her pregnancy. There's still information she's withholding, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the answers. 'Why', 'how', 'when' -- scratch that last one, I know *when* -- it's more of the 'why' that worries me. The 'how' doesn't give me much comfort either.
I lift the wooden spoon to her lips. She smiles. "I'm impressed," she says. "You make a very good housewife, Mulder."
I make a face. "Maybe I should gotten fired from the FBI earlier? It would have made my taxes a lot easier. No income to report."
Scully laughs. I love the way she laughs, the way her eyes crinkle at the corners, her cheeks puff out, and her lips part, revealing quite a bit of tooth. She seems to laugh a lot more these days, more than I remember. But then again, there are a lot of things I notice about Scully these days –- the way she dunks her tea bag three times, the way she licks her lips after every bite, the way she seems to always be in motion, even when she's on the phone; Scully, it seems, in this last month of pregnancy, has decided to attack dust bunnies with a maternal violence that even cows me. When it comes to Junior's well-being, the Syndicate doesn't stand a chance against the force that is Scully.
"The longer you procrastinate, the longer it'll take," Scully says sagely.
"How long did *you* spend on your taxes?" I ask, even though I already know the answer to my question; she probably sat down at the computer, armed with her W-2s, 1099s, and a copy of TurboTax, and got it done in no time flat.
Scully crinkles her brow. "Hmmm, maybe an hour? Two max."
She bestows another smile on me, the smile I call her 'pregnancy' smile -- radiant and glowing. "Just finish, okay? It's a gorgeous day out and I thought we could go for a walk after lunch." She squeezes my arm. "I'll take care of the rest of this--" she nods at the assortment of pans on the stove "-- while you deal with Uncle Sam."
"You're too good to me, Scully."
"Don't I know it." She points. "Go."
I sit back down at the computer. For a few minutes, I run through the 'interview' questions, and occasionally, consult my copy of the 1040 booklet. Do I qualify for the Earned Income Credit? What's the difference between qualified and ordinary dividends? I rap my pencil impatiently on the desk as I shift through my forms and come up with the 1099. Okay, found the taxable interest, and now, about those capital gains--
"Mulder?" Scully rests her hand gently on my shoulder. "Looks like you've made some progress."
"I think I'm almost done." I check the box for standard deduction. "I've discovered a loophole in the tax code."
She frowns. "You have?"
"There's no provision for death, or rather, for dying and then coming back to life. I'd be in a totally different tax bracket if I hadn't died."
"You weren't dead, Mulder. At least, not in the conventional sense."
"In the interests of full disclosure, I should inform the IRS--"
"Mulder." There's a pained note underlying her tone. I know she hates being reminded of when I was 'gone', referring to that time only obliquely. Sometimes she says, "When you weren't here…" but mostly, she doesn't mention my disappearance at all. Part of it is my fault; I wasn't exactly warm or even grateful when I was resurrected. I was confused and jealous of the strength of the relationship she'd developed with John Doggett in such a short period. I thought I'd been replaced -- not only by the FBI -- but also in Scully's heart. Now, in retrospect, I accept she had to live a life she never expected to include me in again. I have so much to make up to Scully, not just for when I was dead, but for everything else she's lost in life because of me.
"You're right," I tell her, "I should keep my mouth shut and take the tax break. There may be others who might benefit from my silence." I leer at her.
Scully raises her eyebrow, obviously unhappy at the idea of zombies filing taxes. "It's not a loophole I'd recommend. Besides, the IRS *will* catch up to you and to anyone else who, um, 'dies', to avoid paying taxes. Their auditors are just as stubborn as the Syndicate."
"That's one thing you can always count on. The IRS and taxes." And then, as an afterthought, I add, "And death."
"That's more than one thing, Mulder," Scully says. She leans down, brushes her lips against my forehead. I put my arm around her, pulling her close. Her fingers are gentle, but certain, as they run through my hair. "You've survived death. You'll survive taxes too. Just remember, this is a one-time break."
I rest my hand on her abdomen. "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere."
~ the end
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