----------- 10 -------------
 

***
Back to the present,
Mulder’s apartment,
He tells the story,
May 12th

***

In the back of my mind somewhere, always there-----especially when we go out into the field----is the lingering thought that my partner has a serious death wish.  It just always occurs to me---with blinding ferocity and usually more anger than sadness----that he would rather see himself lying on the floor of an abandoned warehouse somewhere, than he’d trust me. It also occurs to me---with no uncertain tearing of my heart----that he would rather sell his soul to the devil than believe she is really gone for good. No matter how many times everyone tells him, no matter how many of those dandelions he puts by her stone, he will always refuse to believe she is really gone.  For, in his mind---like the mind of that ten year old who watched his sister be yanked from him all those years ago----there is always hope she’ll return. From the dead, from that abyss that stands between the living and the heaven he doesn’t believe in.

He looks squarely at me and says, “things had changed so subtly between Scully and I.  They had just happened so slowly and quietly that they snuck up on us, I think.  One day when we weren’t looking…”

I nod and try to understand the feeling. It’s hard though, considering the last thing I ever had that came close to a meaningful relationship was a lazy date after a round of flirting with some random guy on the beach.  We’d had some good conversations that night, I remember, which was a shame when his wife showed up and demanded to know what he was doing with a woman half his age.

The sad lives we lead, sometimes…

“She went into labor about two and a half months after that,” Fox explains, softly, then his voice trails…“Two and a half months of tip toeing around each other… avoiding anything other than work and hello…” His voice cracks and he manages, “If I had… known…”

My lower lip trembles for him and I watch, sympathetically, as he starts to explain the most painful experience of his life.  No doubt, I have already been transformed by this story. I am certainly not the same woman who walked in the door tonight---expecting the same old thing I had heard from everyone else.  And certainly, he is not the same man who scowled at me and grudgingly told me what I needed to know…

Things have changed.

He clears his throat and stiffens his voice, telling me, “Scully went into labor on January 9th, never screaming once but nearly breaking a few of my fingers when I stupidly asked her if she wanted to hold my hand…”  He pauses, allowing for a smile, then, “Our baby was born kicking and screaming, a normal, healthy baby girl---if not unmistakably Scully, with blue eyes and red stubble on her head.  Scully just looked at her and smiled.  She told me that if hope were something tangible, our baby would have been it…” I smile at that and he shrugs, continuing, “the name just stuck, I guess.  Made sense…”

***
January 11th
Five years ago
Clayton County Hospital

***

The hospital corridors were dark and dreary this time of night, quiet except for the occasional ping of the nurse call monitor, and Mulder softly made his way to room 114, hoping he wasn’t about to wake anybody.  From what Nurse what’s her face had told him, babies often got fussy in the middle of the night, and Scully had adamantly insisted on taking care of Hope immediately---should the need arise.   Apparently, Scully had been quite insistent on not letting anybody but herself take care of the child he knew she was hell bent on protecting. He understood it fully. Needless to say, they were both more worried and paranoid now than joyously happy, but what else were they to do?  All they could do was watch over her, try their best to keep her safe, and hope that inside her tiny body, health coarsed through her veins.  The rest they would just have to… play by ear…. Such as it was.

When he got to room 114, finally, teddy bear in hand, he noticed that the door was already slightly ajar and he peeked his head in, curious but not wanting to disturb---should Scully be asleep.  His hands clasped around the door frame, his head poked slightly through, and his ears strained to her soft voice…

When he heard it, it signaled that not only was Scully awake, apparently very much so, she was also… singing?

He blinked a few times to let that thought sink in.  Scully was singing… Well… now there was not something you heard everyday—or ANY day, for that matter.

His ears perked up and he strained harder-----listening for the quiet, beautiful voice that emanated from the bed. It was strange—though it WAS Scully—no doubt---but it was certainly NOT the same woman who had sung to him in a dark forest one dreary night.  This Scully’s voice was gentler, more melodic, with just a hint of wavering at the end of each bar she sang…. He found himself standing there, listening, hypnotized by it…

“My tears are salt water, the moon’s full and high…. Be proud of me….Many before me been called by the sea….”

Her voice dropped to a hum, her finger tipped gently under Hope’s chin. Then she picked up another verse, lulling, softly, “ the fall’s lifting, the sand’s shifting, I’m drifting alone…  Oh, captain Ahab’s got nothing on me...  So swallow me, don’t follow me.  I’m travelling alone. The water’s my daughter.  I skip like a stone…”

Mulder swallowed a hard lump in his throat and he listened to Scully hum softly, her face gazing fondly at her daughter as she sung on, in a soft, haunting voice, “Won’t you please call my family, tell em not to cry. My goodbyes were written by the moon in the sky….  Here nobody knows me… Got no reason to stay…. Oh, shiver me timbers… I’m sailing away…”

Her voice trailed off then, her alto fading into a soft giggle as Hope smiled innocently at her, grasping onto an index finger.  She brushed a tender hand gently over her baby’s cheek, then smiled, calling, “Mulder, are you going to stand in the doorway all night or are you going to come in here?”

He grinned. How she knew he’d been standing there listening was beyond him, but somehow she knew, and the thought made him feel warm and content.  There was his life before him, and all he had to do was cross the threshold to get to them.

So he crossed the room and set the bear on the nighttable, settling into the hard plastic chair that occupied the space next to Scully’s bed.

“My father used to sing that to me,” she murmured, peacefully. “He said it was the song of the sea, and if I listened close enough, I could feel the waves lapping at my feet…” She smiled down at Hope then looked up at Mulder with a soft sadness underlying the happiness in her eyes.  “I was the only one he’d sing it to…” she sighed, gently.

Mulder nodded. “Well, it was…” he shifted and tried to hide his admiration.  “Beautiful,” he finally finished, thoughtfully.  “It was beautiful, Scully…”

She looked away and blushed.

His face softened and he touched a finger to the side of his baby’s head, marveling at how soft and tiny she was.   It was as if she were fragile---made of glass.  He hadn’t wanted to admit it to Scully, but he was terrified of shattering her.

“She’s no small,” Scully whispered then, voicing his thoughts. She licked her lips nervously and let her eyes drift to Mulder’s.  Her voice came out anxious and wavering.  “She could break so easily, Mulder… It wouldn’t take much for someone to---“

He touched a gentle finger to her cheek, watching her eyes and the rise and fall of her chest with rapt attention.  “No,” he whispered, softly.  “I won’t let that happen…I promise you…. Just believe----“

“I want to,” she replied, hoarsely. “God, I want to, Mulder----“

He leaned in closer and ran his fingers along her hairline, the slope of her jaw, her cheekbone and the line of her slender neck beneath her angled chin.  She sucked in a breath and shifted her arms, resting the baby on her opposite side, giving Mulder room to hover closer, his head dipping lower.

“Then believe,” he whispered, eyes half closed.  She swallowed nervously and watched him, her eyes bright and open as he got closer and closer.  “Believe,” he whispered, as his nose grazed across hers, slanting to brush the edge of her cheek. “Believe,” he whispered, as his lips parted slightly, his heart racing and thudding heavily in his chest.

“I believe,” she finally whispered back, and her eyes closed, her lips parted.  Her pulse raced out of control and his mouth finally fell upon hers for the first time----in the slightest of lingering touches.  Then her face shifted slightly, ever so slightly, and their lips pressed harder, more fevered---his mouth catching and wrapping into hers, her lips tugging and pulling---the whispering of a promise from one soul to another.

‘I want to believe’ was their hearts’ desperate plea.

And so they kissed. Again, and again, and again…

***
Back to the present,
Mulder’s apartment,
He tells the story,
May 12th

***
 
This time when my eyes meet his, there are salty, angry tears burning behind the hazel depths.  It’s amazing how I can look at him and somehow understand his pain----that I can know his longing and his lonliness.  I can recall with clarity how I felt---how my mind fought a war with my heart when my mother died---when she abandoned me against her will. I remember how angry I was, how undauntingly, unflinchingly miserable I felt when she went---when she left me to a father who didn’t know how to survive without her. A grandmother who drank and chain-smoked till her wrinkled hands shook with abuse. I was angry at her---angry at him---angry at the world for choosing a fate so cruel, so horrible, it was as if my destiny had been selected like a seedling on the wind.

My faith in life---in God-- had been shattered that day---that day she took my hand and begged me to be good----to eat all my peas and mind my elders, before slipping into that great limbo beyond anything I could imagine as a five year old. I cried and I cried and I refused to believe.  I ripped the petals off the flowers my father had handed me to lay upon her coffin, and instead threw them into the breeze.  No, I had thought.  She’s coming back. Mommy wouldn’t leave me.

I needed to believe then, that she would return, because I hated my father for immortalizing her---just as Fox has done with Scully. I hated my father for missing her and shunning me, as if a world did not exist without her.  I hated him and I cannot help but feel a resentfulness towards Fox---knowing that his life seemed to end without Scully.

It terrifies me to think that little Hope Mulder may one day end up like me.  Like him.  Jaded and shattered.

Sometimes, I think if he keeps this up---if he continues to live in this fantasy that she’s going to one day reappear, out of the blue----he is going to reap the repercussions upon his daughter.  She is going to grow up, he is going to miss it, and twenty years from now he’ll wonder---come father’s day---why she doesn’t call.  And come her birthday, she’ll look discreetly for the card that won’t come.

And Scully will still be gone.

“I um… I got a phone call that night,” he says, waving a hand around to try and regain his self control.  “I wasn’t um, I mean… I hadn’t wanted to leave, but Mrs.  Scully told me in no uncertain terms that I looked horrible, and I should go home and change, shower, and maybe try to get some sleep. I wanted to stay. But she insisted…”  He breathes in so deeply that I feel it and he manages, “I should have stayed… God, Kate, I should have stayed with her…”

My forehead scrunches and I stare at him, wishing myself not to cry as he tells me this—knowing that the sight of my tears is not what he needs.  “So how did it happen?” I whisper, leaning forward on my knees.  Why I feel this insanely morbid desire---this need to understand and hear the details, to have him tell me this, to listen in stark horror how he found out her life had been stolen, is beyond me. I’m not usually melancholy like this, but God, I really need to know.  I don’t know why, I just do.

His mouth finally releases something akin to a painful whimper, and he answers, “I was watching TV… getting ready to take that shower, you know?  The news was on, and I caught the end of a broadcast. A report had come into PBC 5 that said an arrest had been made----the cops had found the so called terrorists that destroyed DC, Chicago, LA, New York…” He stops to laugh bitterly, “Course, by then, Scully and I already knew there had never been any terrorists.  We knew who had bombed the cities, and we also understood that it would happen again----that it was really more a question of ‘when’ than ‘why,’ a question of ‘what’ than ‘who.’  Scully hadn’t wanted to believe that, but when no other options had presented themselves…”

I lick my lips and close my eyes, trying to picture this.  Him. Here. In this place---his eyes on the TV, the cordless phone ringing---his life changing in the span of little more than the time it took him to blink or breathe.  The images are harsh, coarse, but I can see it just as clearly as I can see my little five year old hands ripping daisies and lilacs to shreds, crying over an empty hole in the ground….

“I remember…” He sighs and my eyes are still closed. I can’t see him, but I can hear him breathing.  He manages, “I remember laughing at the TV, thinking, ‘if they only knew…’  It was so ironic, how they covered it up… it made me sick…So I um… I went to turn it off then, getting ready to hop in the shower, when Mrs.  Scully called me.  I answered the phone, and I remember hearing nothing but sobs at first…”

I hear him swallow and gasp, trying to shove back the pain tearing at his flesh. “She said…” He pauses, trying to collect himself, then somehow gasps out, “She said, ‘Dana stopped breathing, Fox.’  Just like that.  She said Scully had hemmoraged somehow, that the trauma she had sustained while giving birth had somehow ruptured something the doctors hadn’t caught in time… It just… it made no sense.  None at all.  Mrs. Scully said that one minute, Scully was fine---sleeping, recovering from the birth. Then she had only stepped out for a few minutes—to get coffee, and when she came back, Scully had been tossing and turning and burning up with fever…Out of the blue…No fucking sense to it…”

I open my eyes and watch his expression, understanding where this is going but not wanting him to continue. “Oh…Fox,” I start, sympathetically, but he cuts me off.

“I listened to Mrs. Scully while she cried, numbed… unable to think…” He stops and forces back a swallow, then “She said that right before Scully had lost consciousness, in those last moments, she had asked for me. That in her frenzied state, Scully had whispered, ‘I have to save Mulder, save Mulder and my baby’ over and over like she was delirious---like that night I had dragged her from the city.  Mrs.  Scully was distressed and couldn’t understand what she had meant by that, and I had no answers for her. I was so confused and angry… It was just unreal… The heart monitor just stopped.  Her body flatlined.  And then the doctors had come---whisking her away, wheeling her out of the room, and that was the last any of us saw of her.”

My face scrunches at this—at this painfully real description of her death---and a wayward tear scampers down my cheek.  I brush it impatiently away and gasp, “I… I don’t… God, Fox, I never----“

“We still don’t know what happened,” he says dully.  “I wasn’t there.  All I know is that she was taken away, before anyone could see her or say anything, and all requests I made to see her body were denied. I tried everything---going over the heads of the hospital supervisors, even getting a search warrant. Everything.  Something just didn’t sit right with me.  It felt wrong, somehow.  It was…” He stops to stare straight into my eyes, then springs on  me, “She wasn’t dead, I could feel it. I don’t know how, but all I know is that when she cried, when she laughed, I knew it, I FELT it, and I SWEAR to you Kate, I would have known if she had died.  It would have suffocated me.”

At this, my tears subside and I frown, watching him with confusion. Where could he possibly be going with this, I wonder.  What could he possibly mean by ‘she wasn’t dead.’  Of course she was dead, hadn’t he just said so himself?  I stammer for a moment, then sputter, “That… that doesn’t make any sense, Fox. You just said----“

“I said she stopped breathing,” he replies, trying to keep his voice straight and even. “She flatlined.  It doesn’t mean she died. I still don’t know what the hell happened.  One second she was there, and the next, doctors we didn’t know had yanked her out of the room.”

I breathe deeply, considering that, then venture, “So what happened to her…” I stammer, not wanting to seem rude but knowing no other way to put it, “I mean…her ah, body?”

Fox stiffens.  “About four days later,” he explains, “right when I obtained the search warrant, we---Mrs. Scully and I--- were contacted by the county morgue, the entire staff apologizing for a terrible mistake they had made.” He pauses, then goes on, “Apparently… a mix up had occurred, and Scully had been accidentally… cremated…”

He winces at that last word, as if it is a detriment to her memory, and I gasp, exclaiming, “cremated?  Then you never---“

“ID’ed her?” he asks, bitterly. His gaze turns icy cold.  “No, I didn’t.”

Suddenly, my stomach lurches and I begin to realize just what his heart has been put through, all these years. These five years he has lived in a sort of in between land---knowing that he should move on, that she was probably gone, but never knowing for certain if it was really true.  Wishing in every situation he’d encounter, in every crowd and every sea of people, that he might spot her. That maybe it had all been a mistake and she was out there somewhere---her heart just as shattered as his.

No wonder he’s never stopped searching, I think, horrified. No wonder he sees her everywhere, walks like a fog is wrapped around his head.

No wonder he never lets anyone near his daughter—shielding her from what he perceives to be the harsh truth about the cruel world that took his Scully and thrust her into the wind.

“Is that why you ran off to that hospital?” I ask softly, curious about the latest ditch he had afforded me.  “Was it a lead you thought might bring you to her?”

He looks away, as if he’s almost ashamed of his rash behavior, and sighs.  He doesn’t answer me, not in any certain terms, but I can see the guilt behind that solemn gaze.

“Six months after it happened,” he continues, broken sounding, “Mrs.  Scully bought a headstone to put her daughter to rest. She begged me to let go, to accept the truth, but I couldn’t.  I just couldn’t. She gave Hope a cross to wear like Scully’s only last year, for her birthday, and she told her that her mommy was in heaven.  I just stood back and watched because I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t understand and I couldn’t… I still don’t.”

His jaw squares, his features set in a determined line, and I watch him worriedly as a shiver crosses through my spine, settling in the pit of my stomach.  I am starting to feel sick all over again, and no doubt I won’t ever forget the look on his face right now.

“How long?” I ask, softly, almost afraid.  My eyes stare straight at his, searching desperately for the man behind my partner. I swallow and finish, “how long do you plan to look for someone who may not…” I pause and bite my lip.  “For someone who may not be there?”

He glares at me momentarily, his eyes softening as I watch them, and his gaze shifts to regard the photo resting on the mantle behind my shoulder.  “As long as it takes,” he answers, fevered.  “As long as it takes…”

An uncomfortable silence reigns between us, penetrating our pores and the depths of our beings, and I finally find the courage to say what I should have said when this all started.  I should have said it first and foremost---letting him know before he started weaving this tale of horror and deception at every turn.  But now I have the chance to say it—in this lull---this calm before the storm---and I am not going to squander the opportunity.

“I don’t know what to say to all this,” I admit honestly, and he nods, apparently understanding my apprehension and confusion.  “But I am NOT against you Fox, and I am NOT one of them.  I want to be your partner… to help you….” I stammer slightly and watch his eyes, looking for the affirmation I need right now.  “But you have to let me…”

He just looks at me and sighs with that constant anguish in his eyes----that sadness amplified by 100 times, and nods heavily. “I know…” is all he says, closing his eyes.

Five minutes later I leave, touching his shoulder in a supportive gesture as I step into the hallway----and he smiles, almost as if he wants to believe.  God, how I wish it were true.

Then the door closes behind me, snapping shut with a sound that makes me jump, and I back up against the wall by the door, opening my mouth in disbelief and confusion.  The first of many confused and angered sobs wrack and convulse my badly exhausted body, and I raise a weary hand to my forehead, letting myself slump to the floor.

My head hurts. My heart aches.

He finally told me.

And I am terrified.
*************