----------- 8 --------------
Back to the present,
He tells the story,
It’s funny how you remember certain things in your life---how you can walk into a situation and never forget the sensations of how the wind felt at your back, or how your clothes made your skin itch. It’s amazing how you can forget the first day of kindergarten, the first time you saw a sunrise, or the first time you watched your parents cry----and yet you can recall a song you heard ten years ago---and sing all the lyrics.
I’m one of those people who can’t remember her first day of kindergarten. My mother died when I was five, and I can’t even remember what she felt like, smelled like, let alone what she looked like the first time she cried. Sometimes, I’m lucky that I can remember what I did yesterday----let alone what I did ten years ago, twenty years ago, or longer.
And yet, for some reason, I remember the first time I met her. I remember with striking clarity the first time I saw Fox’s little girl------the first time she and I crossed paths, and I have no idea why it stuck in my head the way it has.
In retrospect, I think that maybe it was because she was so…so piercing and striking… so startlingly out of place in any situation---especially so, in the oversized, wobbly monstrosity Fox passed off as a desk chair. She was just so strangely phantom like---so small and meek looking, so beautiful and tiny, that to walk into the room and spot her was to do a double take to make sure you were really seeing what you thought you were seeing.
So it was just strange, I guess.
I had been gathering files for a meeting the next day, balancing a hundred things on my two small arms, and when I had walked into our office, there she was; this miniature little lady, with golden red ringlets cascading around her small shoulders, and lightly freckled ivory skin. She had been wearing denim overalls and a blue and red striped shirt at the time, tiny red ribbons her grandmother must have tied for her hanging in her hair, and a golden cross that hung like a sparkling halo around her slender neck. Her eyes were cast downward, her russet lashes lightly dusting her chipmunk cheeks, and her fingers toiled with utmost concentration---crayola crayons spread about my partner’s desk like a five year old’s rainbow. She was soft looking and quiet, but she sung to herself as she worked, a gentle, melancholy tune, and I think that maybe it was her voice that did it. Maybe it was the sound of her singing that struck a chord in my brain. For it was the voice of a child carrying a void within her—a burden and an ache that no child should ever have to bear.
Softly, she sang, “Oh cap-tain Ahab got nuffing on me…” then, “swallow me, don’ follow me… I’m trav-leeng alone…la la la… I skip like a stone…”
She hummed a few lines to herself again, then sung the chorus in a strangely clear and haunting tone for a four and a half year old, “Pease call my fam-ly… tell em’ not to cry. My goodbyes wore wh-itten, by the moon in-dah sky…” Her fingers etched more lines in the paper, then her voice trailed off, “… shiver me timbers, I’m sai-ling away…”
She looked up then, as if sensing me standing there watching her, and I was thus greeted with the most striking crystal blue eyes I’d ever seen in my life. They shone like sapphires glowing against the fire of a lantern, and they seemed to stare straight through me, as if she knew me or understood who I was. A stranger sensation to feel with a child, there never was.
“Hi,” I had managed then, startled. “Are you waiting for daddy?”
She had not answered, merely stared at me with those breathtaking eyes as if she were searching my brain and picking out the important information.
“Um…” I had swallowed then, uncomfortable, and stuttered, “my ah… my name’s… Kate. I work with your daddy. What’s ah, what’s your name?”
She still didn’t respond, just looked at me with delicate innocence painted on her round, heart-shaped face, until I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I had to look away.
And that was as close as I had ever gotten to meeting her, for as soon as Fox walked into the room and saw me standing there, he scowled and whisked her away, mumbling his goodbyes through the muffled cotton of his coat and the shield of his child. And after that, he had made sure to never bring her to work with him again, perhaps fearing that I was one of them---that I would see her and try to steal from him the last pieces of what made him whole. That I would grab her hand and take her away from him.
I stare at him now, watching the worry lines play across his forehead, and I think about that first meeting with his daughter. I think about her eyes, and how they hold the same sadness as his.
It hurts me so much to know that I cannot fix that tear—that I can’t bridge the wide, tender gap that plagues them both… Sometimes, I think I’d give my left arm to at least try---to at least sew up a stitch or two. but… but at least I feel as if I am doing SOMETHING by just sitting here. By listening and believing in him, I am at least beginning to cross that threshold. The Canyon still lies ahead of me, wide and treacherous, but if I cannot mend it, I will at least cross it.
The room is precariously silent again, the atmosphere thick with memories and pain, and I do not speak as I watch his eyes cloud over. He is remembering her in his own way, recalling the way he had felt about her wash over him, again and again, and I can tell that now is not the time to intrude upon his thoughts.
Just as it has been for months, he will drift away and when he returns, he will continue telling me this story. He will open up to me in his own time—in his own way. And just as it has been for months, I will sit here and wait, patiently.
Casually, my eyes find the photograph lying on the mantle---the one of the two of them at the ballpark, and I wonder what it is he’s thinking of… right now, in this moment…
Five and a about quarter years earlier,
Mulder and Scully’s apartment
The middle of the night
Mulder sighed and leaned further into the couch cushions, his body playing out a last ditch effort to try and find some semblance of comfort at 3 o clock in the morning. His torso twisted to the left, then he groaned at the effort till he was again facing the right. His long, gangly legs wavered and struggled to fit themselves onto the too-short lounging space, but they were ultimately—like always---too long. So in frustration, he flung them over the opposite arm, his feet hanging off the edge. His hands burrowed beneath his pillow, and his head shifted position as he switched channels impatiently. Most of his nights, although occasionally dream filled, were spent this way. Awake and filled with restlessness. If not in his bedroom, where he could never seem to feel all that much at home, then on the couch, where his body didn’t seem to fit physically. Some rare nights were spent in Scully’s bed---on those slight occasions that she would have a nightmare--- or he would--- and they both would somehow gravitate towards a need to sleep close together---like they had in those weeks they had fled from the world, underground.
Those were usually the nights that he slept deeply… peacefully ---when he was with her. When their fingers curled together and they closed their eyes in slumber, he floated away. When she woke him up in the morning with a finger caressing his morning stubble and a gentle press of her lips to his cheek, he felt as if he were home. Sometimes, he wondered whether or not sleeping next to her was an aphrodisiac, the act of wrapping his arms around her forming a catalyst for sweet dreams. It was something akin to discovering the fountain of life, in his universe--anyway, and one of these days, he was going to figure it out for sure.
But not tonight, he mused, noncomittally flipping to an informercial on the Abroller. He made a face and flipped again---finding the Juice Man infomercial. When he flipped again, there was a loud sound---as if someone was dispensing a dish in the sink--- and he craned his neck up and above the back of the couch.
“Hey Scully?” he called into the half-darkness. “That you?”
He heard nothing but footsteps for a moment, then, “Mulder, whoever taught you how to wash a plate off?”
He chuckled softly at that, then turned back over on the couch to gaze at the TV. He did not answer her, could not come up with a good enough excuse to give, and when he heard the water running, he knew he was in for yet another lecture on “household cleanliness” tomorrow. He rolled his eyes.
Soon the water kicked back off, and when he recognized the sound of stocking feet heading towards him, sure enough, when he lifted his head, Scully was staring down at him. She was tastefully decked out in one of her many two piece pyjama ensembles---a light colored one, he guessed, though it was too dark to tell---and on her feet were a pair of mismatched socks. One white, one dark. Funny, he thought wryly, eyeing her as she looked down at him.
“What’re you doing up at this hour?” he asked, furrowing a brow. “You feeling ok?”
Her eyes glanced briefly at the TV and she nodded, the artificial light playing bluish gray flashes on her smooth, carefully sculptued face. “Fine,” she murmured, bending at the waist-- then dropping to her knees to kneel beside him. “I’m just… restless…”
He glanced at her and nodded, understanding the feeling. Her eyes looked sad and far away---distant and worried. His hand raised slightly to mute the set across from him and he shifted so that he could face her more fully. She looked slightly ill at ease—as if maybe she’d had another of her dreams---and he took a breath, venturing, "nightmare?”
She sighed and shook her head, almost distracted. “No,” she answered, softly. “Just… thinking, I guess.”
Mulder nodded. He blinked a few times in order to widen his pupils and see her more fully, then asked, “anything open for discussion, or you just wanted some company?”
At that she smiled, softly. “Neither…both…” she replied, lightly.
Mulder grinned back and patted the sofa in front of him---shifting the position of his overtly tall frame to accommodate her smaller one—rolling back slightly, should she decide to take him up on the offer. Ever since the horrific plague that had thrown them from the city, they had begun to find comfort from absorbing themselves in each other----from reassuring small touches---his hand on her cheek---or her fingers on his arm. Occasionally, she would sneak into his room late at night and just crawl into bed with him, like a child, and neither would say anything. He would just welcome her---shifting his body and then wrapping an arm around her shoulders until she’d fall into them. Quietly, they’d sit watching TV until sleep came. It would never be any more or any less than that. Sometimes, it was her in his bed---or it was him in hers. There was never any discussion on exactly how or why they did it, and neither of them ever broached the subject the next day. They just did it, and it was easily accepted.
Slowly, her eyes followed his hand and stayed there, as if contemplating what she wanted to do. At long last, her gaze sought and found Mulder’s again, and she nodded to herself as she slowly moved to lie down next to him----molding her body into his like she had so many nights before. Her back to his front, she softly settled in front of him, spooning him, as his arm came to drape casually over her side. They both stared at the muted television for a few moments before Scully finally spoke.
“You ever think about DC, Mulder? About the way things were before… about the life we left behind?”
She didn’t have to be facing him to feel him frowning.
‘We didn’t LEAVE it behind, Scully,” he replied, as if his entire body had stiffened at the mere mentioning of the ordeal. “It was either leave or die. You know that. Frankly, we had no choice. I wasn’t about to---“
“That’s not what I meant, Mulder.”
Mulder sighed into her hair. “Oh….” He managed, trying to sound aloof enough to brush the subject under the rug. “Well, I… I just meant---“
“I know what you meant.”
He knew that tone. That was Scully’s ‘ angry/apologetic’ tone, mixed with a touch of sadness and a hint of resentment. Hearing it at 3 am was odd----at least from his standpoint----especially considering that they worked very hard to KEEP from talking about DC. And also since she rarely ever used that tone with him--considering she rarely ever thought herself to be wrong, it was strange sounding to his ears. He let his hand trail a pattern down her arm and he wondered at the placement of it in this conversation.
He frowned and started, “Scully----“
“How can I do this, Mulder?”
At her strange interruption, Mulder’s frown changed into a full blown look of confusion, and he leaned his head atop her shoulder, questioning, “how can you do what?”
Scully closed her eyes and swallowed, hard. Her throat felt like sandpaper, her head was not all that thrilled, and her heart was heavy. Fleetingly, the thought that at least she didn’t feel sick seemed almost ironic. In her heart, she felt like throwing up, but for once, at least her stomach had settled matters more slightly. She was beginning to feel sick and tired of feeling sick and tired—and she was only three and a half months along…
She cleared her throat, then breathed, “you think I don’t remember all that much, I know you don’t…” she paused, gathering her thoughts, then went on, “but I remember Mulder. I remember running… I remember screaming…” her voice started to waver slightly, hovering just a hint above stable, and Mulder leaned closer into her hair, closing his eyes against his own recollections. Just when he thought he’d been able to forget, to move on, there they were again---back in DC—running for their lives… the memory would forever haunt him in vivid technicolor.
She breathed raggedly, then, “I remember the fire and… and you… I remember resenting you for saving my life, I---“
He shook his head, wearily. “Scully, that---“
“No,” she interrupted. “No, I need to get this out…please…” When she added that last word, she waited to feel him nod against the crook of her shoulder before she continued. When he finally did, she breathed in and whispered, “It wasn’t you I resented, Mulder… it was never really you, I don’t think…It was…” She sighed, lowly, then, “I resented living with the memory of watching so many innocent people die, when there was nothing I could have done and there was so much I wanted to. I resented living in their place. I resented living in a world where this could happen and I could, in good conscience, just walk away from it out of necessity or a desire for survival. And though…the human being in me understands, Mulder… why I left… why you saved me… inside… in a place where this baby grows, I hear it over and over… I hear the screams and I feel the blinding… fear…”
He didn’t interrupt her, merely stroked his fingers up and down her soft, smooth, silk pyjama arm as she expelled her heart to him finally, after all this time they had avoided it.
“I think of…” she swallowed, then managed, “the cruelty of it. The dehumanization of something that should have been sacred… life….what should have been just another day at the office… I think about how it all just randomly occurred. How one day---- it was as if an apple was falling from the sky one minute, and then the sky itself was falling in on us the next. And then I look at my hands, Mulder, and I swear… it’s as if blood has been spilled on them---over them…. Then I look down at my stomach and I just…” her breathing hitched, her brain searching desperately for the right words she needed to convey. Finally, she sucked in oxygen as if trying to keep from breaking down, and finished, “I ask myself how I could be selfish enough to bring a child into a life like this. How I can, with good intention, start a new life when I know with certainty it could be snubbed out at the whim of a madman, or at the pull of a switch…”
Her downy sunset head leaned slowly into his, their cheeks and ears touching, and she closed her eyes, letting a tear scroll down her chin. “Tell me I’m crazy,” she whispered, shakily. “Please just tell me I’ve lost it….”
He leaned over slightly and kissed the tip of her earlobe with his lower lip. “You’re not crazy, Scully,” he answered, breathing in the fresh scent of her hair. For whatever reason, it smelled of vanilla against a sunset. He picked up the scent almost immediately and latched onto it.
He felt her shake her head against him and then lean back, almost on autopilot. She swallowed back another bout of tears. She hadn’t wanted to turn this into a sob fest, he realized, and he could feel her tightly lidded bottle every time she breathed in deeper—trying just that much harder to suppress gut wrenching emotions.
“No… you’re wrong…” she said. “I mean… here I am—about to give my body over to a baby I have no right carrying in the first place---a child who was engineered by a government that would just as soon destroy it by default. It’s… it’s crazy… What am I doing here, Mulder? What are WE doing? Who do we think we are, that we’re so confident we can play god with science and---“
Mulder’s finger came up to interrupt her-----his index finger resting across her lip like a teacher might do for a particularly unruly student. “Don’t you say that,” he ordered, adamantly. “Don’t you ever say that, Scully.”
She closed her eyes again. “I just don’t want…” She sighed. “I don’t want to live my life in fear, Mulder… I don’t want to always have to keep one eye over my shoulder---always at the ready to take off at a moments notice---to run. I don’t want to live the rest of my life hearing the screams of those people echoing behind me----the cries for help…” She paused to shiver, remembering the past with a clarity she wished she could erase, then concluded, “but I don’t know how to protect this child, Mulder. How can we bring this life into the world knowing what this world is—what it’s capable of?”
Mulder traced his fingers over and over the crease in her pyjamas, pausing at her sleeve cuffs, then roaming up towards her shoulders. If there was something he wished for more than anything, it was to be able to give her the truth. ---to have the capacity to take her in his arms and shield her there---her and the baby---until the sun stopped setting and the moon stopped rising. But of course, that was impossible, and what else was there to say to the woman you didn’t know how to save anymore?
“Maybe it’s like the ark,” Mulder blurted out suddenly, not knowing what else to say, and Scully shifted so that she could turn her head and grace him with an arched eyebrow. Their faces locked inches apart.
‘The… what?” she asked dully, eyebrow raised in place.
“The story…Noah’s Ark,” Mulder answered, watching fascinated at the way her eyelids fluttered, the way her lips opened and closed only ever so slightly--- every five or so seconds. Her eyes crashed into his and he swallowed, trying to regain his train of thought. “They um, they all thought he was crazy too, you know,” Mulder continued, quite aware that he was about to jump off into tangent land any second. “In the story---that is…. Everyone said he was nuts, but he…he built the ark and fought for his survival-----he lived through the end of the world when all hope was lost, but from that end came a better place, didn’t it, Scully?”
She closed her eyes and just shook her head at him, smiling as if she couldn’t believe the derailment their train of conversation had just taken. A slight chuckle emanated from her rose colored, slightly chapped lips, and she leaned back into him, still shaking her head. He thought for sure she was going to insult his enigmatic response with a quick rebuttal, but she surprised him by murmuring back, “And so he gathered the animals, two by two, and hoisted them up upon the ark, waiting for the rains to fall…”
Mulder closed his eyes and let his head fall back against her shoulder, the scent of her hair and her skin nearly intoxicating. His arm draped lazily over her side, and her own arm shifted to rest behind her head.
“And when the world fell into the sea,” she continued, softly, “the ark was tossed and turned, thrust upon an ocean of struggle. The animals congregated and prayed for their deliverance, prayed for absolution, comforted each other and brought each other peace…” she yawned and closed her eyes, heavily. “And when the ark finally found the land they so desperately sought, they entered upon the earth anew, fresh with hope and grateful for the chance to begin their lives again…”
Mulder chuckled into her hair, amused and suddenly exhausted. “Bible?” he asked, drowsily.
“No,” Scully answered, sleep beginning to slur her words, blurring the edges. “Drunken Aunt Olive… father’s side…”
Mulder smiled and burrowed his head further into the hollow of her neck, pushing away her copper down hair so that he could breathe more easily. “So maybe we should just name the kid Noah,” he joked, his voice heavy and tired.
Scully snorted lightly. “And what would his middle name be?” she asked, distastefully, yawning again. “Ark?”
Mulder shook his head, fighting to keep his eyes open as he answered a negative, “uh uh,” cracking at the end, “I was thinking more along the lines of something else, actually. Maybe the name ‘way’…”
To that, Scully’s eyes opened slightly and she frowned, pondering his nonsense response.
“Huh?” she asked, her voice laden with overdue sleep. “I don’t get it----Noah Way-----“ Then she finally got it, stopped and rolled her eyes, mumbling, “Oh shut up and get some sleep, Mulder…”
He couldn’t help but laugh at that, and he kissed the nape of her neck, feeling her shiver as he snuggled in more comfortably.
“Night,” he whispered back, pausing for a moment, then adding, “both of you…” as he drifted off.