Title: Old Growth Forest chapter 20 – An Old Growth Forest Thanksgiving.
Rating: This chapter is PG, but the story is rated M
Disclaimer: This work was created as an homage. No infringement is intended.
Thanks to Dan and Mendy for beta reading. Thanks to Tanya for advice and support.
Notes: Mushy stuff ahead. You've been warned!
While I was doing the breakfast dishes on Saturday morning, Mulder disappeared outside. As I began to peel potatoes, I heard him rummaging around in the lean-to. Then the sawing and hammering started. I had to cook a meal for seven people, using a fireplace and he decided it was a good time to build something. I seethed as I peeled.
Half an hour later he walked into the cabin and held up a small table. I'd moved on to the stuffing.
"Ta da!" he said with enough enthusiasm to irritate me further.
I looked over my shoulder at his masterwork and frowned. "Did you really need to do that now?" I turned back to the table to continue to tear apart the partial loaf of bread that was left from the previous day. It was a very cathartic act. "I've got vegetables to prepare. I have to stuff the bird and get it skewered before our first helper shows up. I need to set the table, make the bed, bring in the bench from outside, keep the fire stoked and make sure everything is clean before our guests arrive," I ranted at him with my back turned.
"Do you need some help?"
I said nothing. Instead I turned to glare at him over my shoulder.
"I'll help you, Scully. I promise. But I've gotta get rid of this beard. It's driving me crazy." He gave me his best pitiful look.
It didn't work.
"Fine, whatever," I said with a wave of my hand and then went back to the bread. "But you're not doing that in here. I have enough to clean up as it is."
I was about to step over to the mantle to grab the salt and pepper when he slipped his arms around my waist. "It won't take me long," he told me softly. "Then I'll come back and be your kitchen slave. Okay?"
I only grunted in response, since I was still annoyed, but less so.
"Don't be grumpy on Thanksgiving," he said, breathing into my ear. My resolve began to dwindle when I felt his lips on my neck, but I didn't let on.
"Mulder, I have a lot to do," I complained with a sigh.
"I'm not going anywhere until you cheer up," he informed me as he slid his hands up to cup my breasts.
I turned in his arms. "Mulder!"
"What?" His hands dropped to my rear-end and he pulled me against him.
Even through my skirt and petticoat I could feel his erection. The weirdest things turned him on, but that shouldn't have been a surprise to me. When I tilted my head up, intending to tell him to get a move on, he covered my mouth with his.
My frustration drained away as his tongue delved into my mouth. One of his hands left my bottom and soon he was squeezing my breast. My moan of pleasure into his mouth was his signal to break our kiss.
"There," he said with a grin. "Now you're in a better mood. I won't be long." With that, he turned, picked up his table and took it out to the porch.
Damn him and his ability to get around me so easily. It was a good thing we hadn't pursued a relationship when we were working together. We would've done everything Mulder's way after playing a little grab-ass in the office first. I could only shake my head at the thought.
It took a few trips, and of course he got in my way while he got some hot water and then had to ask where the scissors were. After he promised to clean them when he was finished, I was on my own again.
After adding a diced onion, some sage and melted lard to my bread, I stirred up the mixture. Then I peered into the bowl in concern. The amount in the bowl looked meagre compared to my usual stuffing, although in all honesty, it was my mother's recipe. Every recipe I knew by heart had come from one of three woman; my mother, Wanik and Rosaline. My mother's recipe had celery and sausage in it, but I had neither of those. I did have raisins, apples, walnuts and chestnuts. I'd heard of people using them in stuffing, but I never had.
Before winging it, I decided to see if Mulder had any particular preferences or aversions. Stuffing wasn't a subject we'd ever discussed. When I opened the front door, I found that he'd hung the mirror off a nail he tacked into the wall. Staring intently at his reflection, with his mouth open to draw his skin taut, he deftly used the straight razor to shave the left side of his jaw. In Madison it had taken a couple of weeks to become accustomed to using it. Looking at him now, you'd think he'd shaved this way his entire life.
Leaning against the doorframe, I watched his toilette as I explained my stuffing predicament. His nose wrinkled briefly at the mention of raisins and apples.
"I've never been fond of fruit in my stuffing, but chestnuts might be interesting." His eyes flicked over at me, but he didn't turn his head.
Looking past him, I discovered a fire burning brightly in the fire pit. "Okay, I'll give it a whirl," I said with a smile. "And thanks for starting the fire out here."
He lifted the razor from his face to grin at me. "I'm just trying to do my part and I hafta make sure it's good and hot for the turkey. Right?"
"Right," I said as I walked over to him. "C'mere," I crooked my finger at him. When he leaned closer, I kissed his lips, trying to avoid the skin he hadn't shaved yet. "And thank you."
Fifteen minutes later Mulder started bringing everything back into the house. I'd just finished roasting the chestnuts and was letting them cool. Opening the door to retrieve what was left of his shaving accoutrements; Mulder stepped onto the porch and almost bowled over our first helper, Soyala's middle daughter Rayen.
The eight year olds soft brown eyes widened at the sight of Mulder about to trample her and she ducked out of his way and into the house nimbly and quickly.
"Kwe kwe, Rayen," I welcomed her with a smile.
She returned my smile as she hung her wrap beside my coat. "Kwe kwe, Day-na."
"Bekaa," I said and patted the bench. "I still have a few things to do."
Sitting where I suggested, Rayen watched as I pulled off the chestnut shells. Then she popped up and said something I didn't understand and held her hands out. I furrowed my brow at her. Taking the knife and chestnut from me, she repeated what she'd said and took over shelling the nuts.
"Oh, miigwech, Rayen," I said, patting her shoulder. After giving me a little smile, she focused on her task.
With my helper shelling the chestnuts, I was freed up to start with the turkey. Abequa had done an amazing job plucking the bird and I was happy the head and feet had been removed. Mulder had also cleaned it before he brought it home. I wouldn't have minded doing it myself, but it definitely saved me some time.
I was standing with the turkey under one arm and the skewer in the opposite hand when Mulder finished setting up the pitcher and bowl on his new table.
"Are you ready to run that sucker through?" he asked with a smirk.
"Yup. Could you hold it for me? I'll try not to run you through at the same time," I told him with a straight face.
"You don't want to stuff it first?"
"I was planning to stuff around the skewer," I said with a shrug.
"Apine, Day-na," Rayen turned around to tell me she was done.
"I know you've got a good eye with a gun, but I've never seen you with a bayonet, so how about you finish the stuffing and I'll wield that weapon myself," he said as he reached for the skewer.
"Don't you trust me?" I blinked innocently at him.
"With my life, Scully," he said as he took the bird. "Just not with my balls after you were pissed at me," he added wryly.
"I value your balls as much as I value your life, Mulder," I lowered my voice to inform him and then turned toward the table.
"Damn," he said softly and with what sounded like reverence.
After quartering the chestnut and throwing it into the bowl, Rayen repeated what she'd said earlier and held out her hand. I presumed she was saying 'I can do that', so I let her take over. Even with the nuts, I was still worried that I wouldn't have enough stuffing, but then I had an idea.
After dashing to the lean-to, I returned with a crock. Mulder looked confused, but just watched with interest.
"Ready?" he asked, holding the skewered bird in front of him.
"Yeah, but could you just hold it over the table? That way I won't have to wash the table when I'm done."
"Sure," he said with a shrug.
So while he held the bird, I took handfuls from the bowl and stuffed them into the bird.
"You do that with a lot of gusto," Mulder said wryly when I was half done.
"Hmm?" I looked up at him.
"You seem very much at home, wrist deep in the turkey," he clarified.
"I always ended up stuffing the bird. It always made Missy queasy, even before she went vegetarian," I said offhandedly.
"But not little Dana," he chuckled. "She had to prove she could handle anything."
"I was a middle kid, Mulder. I wasn't the oldest. I wasn't the youngest, so I became the toughest. And the smartest," I said with a grin as I continued to stuff the bird.
He grinned unabashedly at me. "And the most beautiful."
I shook my head. "Oh, I dunno about that. It was Missy that had all the boys chasing her."
"Only because you intimidated the crap outta them," he chuckled. "I bet that changed in college."
"Yeah and by then I wasn't interested. I was trying to get into med school and spent all of my free time at the library. They tried to entice me with keggers," I recalled with a roll of my eyes.
"I would've made out with you in the stacks," he said; his grin becoming mischievous.
"I'm sure you would have." I shook my head as I scraped out the last of the stuffing.
"Still would," he said, waggling his eyebrows. "Even if you are knocked up."
"You're the one that knocked me up!"
"Be that as it may, I'd still make out with you in the stacks."
To my surprise, I almost had enough stuffing to fill the bird. To ensure it stayed put, I cut two thin slices of salt pork and used them to hold the stuffing in. Then I got some twine from the lean-to and trussed the legs onto the skewer. Once I was done, Mulder carried it outside. Rayen and I followed him and I showed her how slowly I wanted her to turn the skewer.
"Haaw," she said with a nod and took the handle from me.
As I turned to head inside I said to Mulder, "Could you give her some candy as soon as you wash your hands. She's been so helpful."
"As opposed to me?" he said, sounding slightly offended.
"That's not what I meant. And I do prefer you without the beard," I admitted with a grin.
"Thought so," he said and grabbed hold of me.
I gasped in surprise as he pulled me against him and rubbed his cheek against mine. "Smooth as a baby's bottom now, huh?"
"Yes, you're lovely," I said, laughing.
"Mmm, almost as pretty as you," he lowered his voice to say before he kissed me.
Rayen giggled at us from her position by the fire.
"And bring her a chair too, please," I said when he released me. "She's gonna fall over from boredom in a while."
When Mulder came back into the cabin, he kept his promise and did everything I asked of him. He fetched water, fed the fires, made the bed, pulled the table away from the wall and brought in the bench from outside. I'd halved two squash, put them in bread tins and was putting them in the bread oven when I heard Rayen's voice behind me.
"Who's turning the turkey?" I asked in alarm.
"Kimi," she said, followed by some words I didn't understand.
Looking up at the clock, I discovered it was already ten after eleven. I panicked for a second, but when I took a quick mental stock of what I had to do, I realized everything was under control. The potatoes were ready to go on the fire; the squash was in. The bread and pie, I'd made ahead of time. The only two things I was missing were gravy and cranberry sauce.
Rayen said something else I didn't understand as Mulder returned from stoking the fire outside.
"I won't be able to make turkey gravy," I told him apologetically. "The fat is just dripping into the fire."
"Oh well," he said, shrugging.
"I could make some with lard or the grease from the salt pork," I offered.
From the way he wrinkled his nose I gathered he didn't like the sound of that.
"Homemade gravy is made from fat, Mulder. I'm just not sure how gravy made from lard would taste with the turkey."
"It'll be fine. We don't need gravy," he assured me and then turned to Rayen. "Here," he said as he pulled a bag out of his pocket. "Take this out to Kimi. You can have another piece too, if you want."
"Day-na?" Rayen looked at me and then gestured to the table and the fire.
"Oh, sweetie." I walked over and gave her a hug. "I don't need any more help," I said, kissed the top of her head and turned her toward the door. As soon as she opened it, she said something excitedly to Kimi.
Turning back to Mulder, I said, "Do you think we have enough food?"
"What is it with you and food? Did your parents grow up during the depression like mine and feel the need to obsessively hoard food?"
"Well, yeah. But I'd hate to invite people to our home for dinner and not have enough food for them," I said worriedly.
"I like the sound of that," Mulder said as a grin spread across his face.
"What?" I asked in amazement. "You like the sound of not having enough to feed people?"
"No, our home," he said softly. "C'mere." He sat on the bench and patted his knee. "Tell me what we've got."
As soon as I settled into his lap, he wrapped his arms around my waist. That action alone calmed me down.
"Well, we have the turkey and stuffing, potatoes, squash, bread and pie. See, it's not much and we don't have butter or gravy for the potatoes or bread. Should I cook some carrots?"
"It may not be a huge variety of food, Scully, but there'll be plenty of everything. Considering the circumstances, I think what you've made is pretty incredible," he said reassuringly.
"But without gravy the bread will be so boring," I said, starting to fret again.
"How much fat do you need for the gravy?"
"Um, a couple of tablespoons; a quarter cup at most. Why? Do you have an idea?"
"Well, Rayen is looking for something to do. Maybe she could catch some drippings for you. Do you have a long-handled spoon?" he asked as he gave me a squeeze.
"You don't think she'll burn herself?"
"Scully, these girls know their way around a fire far better than you or I do," he said as he stood me up.
"True," I agreed with a sigh.
"Will that make you fell better, to have some gravy too?"
"Yeah, and you're right. There isn't a huge selection, but there will be plenty of what we have."
After getting Mulder a spoon and a cup to keep the drippings in, I went outside with him and watched as he squatted by the fire. Both girls watched as he moved the spoon under the turkey to catch the fat and then transferred it to the cup. All he had to do was glance at Rayen and she nodded happily.
Feeling more at ease, I went inside and set the table. There were going to be seven of us and luckily I'd brought eight place settings with me from Madison. They weren't heavy to carry and I'd thought a great deal about the amount of work Mulder would have to do after I had the baby. I figured that if he only had to wash dishes once a day, it would make his life easier. That forethought meant no one had to eat off pie plates or out of bowls. I'd even have one plate leftover to act as my turkey platter, such as it was. With the table done, I went to the lean-to and emptied out one of my baskets to put the bread in. I heard the ring of Mulder's axe as he chopped more wood for the fires.
When I walked back into the cabin my stomach grumbled loudly. Outside a third young voice had joined the chatter. As I was pondering whether or not I should eat something, the door burst open and Mulder came in with an armload of wood.
"Good timing. I need to add more in here." I nodded at the hearth. "Are you hungry?"
"A little," he said with a shrug." But I don't want to spoil my Thanksgiving dinner."
"I'll make something small. And I'm sure the girls must be hungry. How's it going with the drippings?" I asked as he fed the fire.
"We have at least half a cup," he said as he stood up. "I'll go get it."
He was gone longer than I expected. When he got back, I was already cooking some bannock that I'd mixed up. I'd also sliced several thin pieces of cheese. After I flipped the bannock in the pan, I set the cheese on top. Mulder looked on with interest as he set the cup of drippings on the mantle.
"And on Thanksgiving Day in 1838, Dana Scully invented the grilled cheese sandwich," he said in a commentator voice.
"Well, an open-face grilled cheese sandwich," I corrected him with a smile. After sliding my creation onto my spare plate/platter, I handed it to him. "Try it."
Turning back to the fire, I started a second piece of bannock by creating a ball of dough and then pressing into the pan. When I looked at Mulder again, half of the piece I'd given him was gone.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "Good?"
"No, terrible," he said through a mouthful of cheesy bannock.
"Uh huh," I said with a shake of my head and went back to work.
Mulder took the bread out to the girls as I finished them. He told me they were switching off turning the turkey as they ate. After I finished mine, I washed the few dishes I'd dirtied and swung the potatoes over the fire. When Mulder reappeared I asked him if he could get me some more water and he started to laugh.
I furrowed my brow at him in confusion. "What? I need water."
"So, I gathered," he said, still chuckling. "Good thing that's one of the phrases I know in Mesquakie."
My eyes widened in surprise. "Did I really?"
"Yeah," he said as he stooped to grab the bucket. "But I guess that's to be expected. They say immersion is the best way to learn a language."
As soon as he returned with the water, he turned to head outside again.
"Don't go too far. I'll need your arm to mash these potatoes when they're done," I called after him.
"Okay," he answered with a chuckle before he closed the door.
Moving to the window, I looked outside to see Kimi taking a spoonful of drippings and drizzling it over the turkey. When she was done Aiyana stopped rotating the skewer. Mulder then wiggled one of its legs and shook his head. Aiyana started to turn the bird slowly again. Checking the clock, I discovered it was twelve-thirty. I hoped the bird would be done in an hour.
Twenty minutes later I called Mulder back in to mash the potatoes. Before he drained them, I took a couple of cups of the water to use for the gravy. Then as he mashed, I made a roué, let it get dark to give the gravy some color and then added salt, pepper and a little sage. Then, to make sure it didn't get lumpy, I slowly added the water, whisking furiously as I did.
As soon as Mulder finished with the potatoes, he went outside to monitor the bird. Without milk or butter the potatoes weren't very fluffy, but at least we'd have gravy for them. After I finished the gravy, I scooped the squash out into a bowl and topped it with a little brown sugar and cinnamon. Just as I put everything close to the fire to stay warm I heard clumping on the stairs.
Aiyana was first through the door, followed closely by Mulder. Kimi and Rayen trailed in after him.
He smiled proudly at me. "It's done. Where should I put it?"
"Damn. I don't have a cutting board. Let me grab my stone."
After retrieving the stone from the lean-to, I cleared a place for it on the table and set it down. Once Mulder put the bird down, he slowly pulled out the skewer. When he handed it to me I tested the section that had been inside the bird gingerly. I pulled my fingers away quickly.
"It's really hot," I said, smiling. "That's a good sign."
"I know you're worried about how much food we have, but how do you feel about giving the girls the legs and wings for their efforts?" Mulder suggested as he pulled the first leg off with ease; another good sign.
"It's big. I'm sure we'll have plenty," I agreed with a nod.
As soon as Mulder handed Aiyana the leg, all three girls grinned. They began pulling pieces of meat off immediately. When he offered them the second leg, their eyes grew wide and they thanked us in awe. Their eyes practically bugged out of their heads when he handed them the wings.
After I thanked them all individually, they dashed out the door and I heard the voices fade as they hurried back to the village."
"I think they preferred the turkey over the candy," Mulder said with a chuckle. "Are we ready to carve?"
"Shouldn't we let it rest?" I asked as he picked up the knife. "My mother always did."
"Nah, it'll be fine."
"Well, let me take out the stuffing first."
As soon as the stuffing was out Mulder went to work. I inspected the meat carefully as he went and to my relief I didn't see any hint of pink. Just as we'd agreed that he didn't need to carve any more, the door opened and Jack walked in. Behind him came Wanik carrying a basket and then her mother holding a pot. Trailing them was Wanik's father, Wematin. Omiga was bringing up the rear, also carrying a pot, but his was steaming. I immediately wondered what concoction he'd brought. Wematin carried the drinking bowls.
"You didn't have to bring anything," I said in dismay.
"Of course we did, Dana," Jack said heartily. "It's a feast."
Mulder smiled and winked at me.
"Did you know?' I mouthed at him.
He shook his head slightly and his smile broadened.
Wanik had made two batches of cornbread and Olathe had prepared a dish from wild rice and dried corn. Omiga put a bowl beside every plate, leaving almost no room for the food. Mulder saw me looking at the table with concern and quickly retrieved his new little table.
"Mulder, could you please slice the bread?" I asked as I began to move the food.
Then as I scurried around moving everything to the two tables, Omiga began to fill up the drinking bowls.
I stopped and sniffed the air. "What's that? It smells like cranberries."
Jack said something to Omiga and when he answered Jack began to chuckle. "He says it hot cranberry drink."
"I didn't know cranberries grew here. I could've made cranberry sauce. Maybe for Christmas," I said happily.
But Jack shook his head. "It's too late to pick them. Maybe next year. The bog is only about a three hour walk from here."
When the food was on the table, Omiga rumbled something else and everyone but Mulder and me reached for their bowls. We quickly followed suit. Everyone held their bowls in front of them while Omiga spoke. When he lifted the bowl to take a sip, so did our friends. Once again we mimicked our guests.
The cranberry drink was sweet and tangy. Mulder winced slightly and puckered his lips, making everyone laugh.
"What did Omiga say?" I asked Jack in between drinks.
"He thanked the Great Mother for her gifts. He thanked the Great Spirit for our health and our families. He thanked our ancestors for the knowledge they've given us and asked for their continued guidance," he translated for me and then drained his bowl.
As each person finished they took their seats.
"Go ahead. Dig in," I said as I sat down.
Mulder was the last to finish.
After all the plates were full, I was relieved to see there was still plenty of food in the bowls. Jack spoke in Mesquakie as he poured gravy over his turkey and potatoes, passed it to Olathe and then turned to me.
"Could I have some lard please, Dana?"
"Lard?" I repeated in shock. "What for?"
"For the bread," he said as if it was obvious.
"Sure," I said and went to the lean-to to get it.
He took the cup of lard I gave him, scooped some out with his knife and then showed our guests how to spread it on a slice of bread. Then he took a bite.
"Mmm," he said with a smile. "Next best thing to butter. Want some?" He offered the lard to Mulder.
"No thanks. I'll use my bread to soak up the gravy," Mulder said with a shake of his head. "This gravy is really good, Scully."
"You say that like you're surprised." Jack looked at Mulder with a puzzled look. "Dana is a good cook. Are you sure you don't want to put some lard on your bread? You don't know what you're missing."
"I'll take your word for it," Mulder said, forcing a smile. "And I know Dana's a good cook. I was complimenting her gravy because she went to a lot of trouble to make it. I wanted her to know I appreciate the effort." He was speaking to Jack, but looking at me.
I smiled at him. "Thank you, Mulder."
We all chatted as we enjoyed the meal. Despite having to translate, Jack was the first to reach for seconds. When he went for thirds, I cautioned him.
"Don't forget there's pie for dessert."
"Pie?" His hand stopped halfway to the turkey. He paused for a moment, but then grinned slyly at me. "I'll have room."
And he did.
By that point, no one was eating with as much fervor, but Jack still finished first.
"Eat up," he said and then said something in Mesquakie. "I have an announcement to make."
Everyone looked at him expectantly but I turned toward Wanik. When she saw me glance at her, she lowered her eyes and gave me a little smile. I prayed I was right about what that smile meant.
"What?" Mulder asked when he swallowed the pie in his mouth. "Just tell us."
"Nope. Eat up."
"I can't, Jack. I'm full." I looked at the small piece of pie on my plate. Even though it was barely more than a bite, it might as well have been an entire pie. There was no way I'd be able to eat it.
"I'll eat it," he said, grinning broadly.
"Was this just a ploy to get more pie?" Mulder asked accusingly.
"Maybe," Jack teased.
In the end, he not only finished mine, but Wanik's and her mother's too. The he leaned back against the wall, rubbed his belly and sighed.
"Jack!" I complained.
"Okay, okay." He straightened up. "I went to Namid to check with him, but he said he'd already made his decision. He agreed to have the blessing ceremony on the full moon, in five days," he spoke agonizingly slowly and then we had to wait while he translated what he'd said. Then he turned to us and smiled proudly. "Wanik has agreed to move into my wigwam."
"Wanik, I'm so happy for you!" I jumped up to hug her.
"Congratulations, old man," Mulder said as he stood to shake Jack's hand.
Everyone had stood up and we were all hugging. Omiga and Wematin slapped Jack's arm.
"How did you finally convince her?" I asked Jack when I finally got a chance to hug him.
"I have you to thank for that, Dana," he said and squeezed me a little tighter.
"Me?" I looked up at him.
"She said that if you could manage when Mulder went to Green Bay, so could she."
"I wouldn't say I managed," I said with a chuckle. "I was a mess."
"Yeah, but now you wouldn't be so worried if we weren't back exactly when we said we'd be. Wanik wanted to let you know not to worry, but she didn't know how to tell you," he explained as Wanik joined us. He said something to her, making her smile and murmur something to him. "She says she knew what you were thinking and yet you pulled yourself together and carried on. She says if you can be strong like that, so can she."
As he spoke, my eyes filled with tears and I pulled out of my embrace with Jack and threw my arms around her.
I was still sniffling when I heard Mulder's voice.
"More pregnancy tears?"
"Shut up, Mulder." I laughed through my tears as I pulled away from Wanik.
"I wish you every happiness," Mulder said softly and leaned in to kiss Wanik's cheek.
Smiling softly, with shining eyes, she said something to both of us and then put her hand on my belly.
"She says whenever we're all together she has almost every happiness and as soon as she's also carrying a child, she will have every possible happiness anyone could want."
"I know exactly what you mean, Wanik," I said as my eyes filled with tears again.
"Happy Thanksgiving," Mulder said, pulling me into his arms.
"It's the happiest Thanksgiving I've had since I was a kid." I smiled up at him. "Actually probably the happiest ever, because now I understand what it really means to be thankful."
End chapter 20