Title: Where I’m Going, Where I’ve Been
Author: Jaime Lyn
Classification: V, R, A, MSR (A bunch of letters, basically)
Rating: PG (Scully curses a few times)
Spoilers: Season 9 fic, minus Reyes and Doggett. Why? Well, let’s just not go there…
Disclaimer: Dana Scully belongs to Gillian Anderson. Fox Mulder belongs to David Duchovny. Margaret Scully belongs to Sheila Larken. Kersh belongs to that dude whose name I can’t remember. All of them belong to Chris Carter. I don’t own Chris Carter. Maybe FOX does, and his wife does, but I don’t.
Summary: She was losing track of the time—hours, seconds, minutes, years. Words, concepts, inconsequential ideas; they flitted through her like water through a sieve. Half of her knew what day it was and the other half of her expected Mulder to walk through that front door any second, hang a wreath, stamp a big red bow on top of his head and spread his arms wide, all the while exclaiming, “Merry Christmas Scully! I send you greetings from The Far Reaches of Nowhere....”
* Yes, it’s that time. Holiday fic time again—my favorite time of year. I wasn’t going to do it this year because… well, my vacation got cancelled, and then I lost my job, and then my best friend got very-expensively married (lost 3 days of sleep for that,) and another friend got engaged, and my cat got sick… It was Murphy's Law amplified. Anyway, I retreated to my parent’s house to nurse my wounds. But then I realized I could probably turn my misery into a fanfic and feel a lot better. And I do feel better. :-)
WARNING: This fic is based upon seasons 8 and 9 Scully--manic depressive Scully, as I've come to call her. I’ve found that she is somewhat removed from seasons 1-6 Scully, and even season 7 Scully. This fic also deals with dreams, the blurring of reality into dreams, and alcohol. Yes alcohol. I'm sure we've all had dealings with THAT from time to time. So if you’re confused by now—well, I don’t blame you. I’m confused as well. But wait. It gets better. Ha.
This one is for Julie. Hang in there, kiddo.
"I want to live again. I want to live again. Oh God, I want to live again."
---It's A Wonderful Life
Where I’m Going, Where I’ve Been
By Jaime Lyn
“Dana,” Margaret Scully said, her voice mumbled through a staticky phone connection, “You really need to stop by the house. Bring the baby tomorrow and stay for Christmas dinner. Everyone’s going to be here. Bill, Tara, Matthew, even Charles, who says he tricked his superiors into allowing him shore leave. Do you know how long it’s been since you’ve seen your brother?”
Dana Scully sighed and nodded, her fingernails tapping out a mindless four-four rhythm on the lacquer counter-top. She held the portable phone between her shoulder and chin and leaned against the wooden cabinets, right foot crossed over left. After listening quietly for another minute or so, she trekked slowly from the kitchen to the living room, slumping down onto the couch, half-listening to her mother and half-repeating some multiplication tables in her head.
“And besides, Dana, Charles says that he is just so ecstatic about seeing the new baby. He wants to know if he should bring a Santa suit to give out presents. Can you imagine? Charlie as Santa Claus. Oh, I would die. Anyway, I told him that it was unnecessary to go to such lengths for the children, especially since both of them are so young and might be frightened by Santa Claus—“
Scully rubbed her left eye with the heel of her hand, nodding at nobody and leaning back into the cushions. On the glass table in front of her, a nearly empty bottle of Ruth’s Vineyard Champagne sat in a ring of condensation. The cork, chipped and wet, lulled back and forth in a drippy, amber puddle, and skipped off the side of the coffee table. Years ago, Mulder had left that bottle at her apartment after an FBI- grab-bag-holiday party. And Scully, being the responsible person that she was, had placed the bottle on top of her refrigerator and never even had so much as a sip—
Until tonight, that is.
The formality of a glass had, of course, been skipped.
“Dana, sweetie, are you even listening?”
Scully closed her eyes and took a deep breath, seeing in her mind’s eye a swirling expanse of glossy black evening sky, a scattering of stars peeking above silvery cloud-tops. Oh, how she wished that she was laying out on the grass under that sky, her bare feet wet and dripping with dew, her arms wrapped around—
“I’m listening, Mom.” Scully shook her head. “No Santa Claus. I agree.”
There was a crackling pause on the other end. Scully stared at the ceiling, stared past the ceiling, stared at absolutely nothing. Her mind went blank.
“Sweetheart,” her mother said, the connection grainy and fading, “While you may believe that I know nothing about the complexities of your life… I think you forget that I gave birth to you. I know you. I was your mother long before you were someone else’s mother, long before you were an FBI agent. I know you’ve been out of sorts lately, and for the life of me, I don’t understand why you can’t tell me what’s going on—”
“And Dana… I don’t know what’s happened to Fox, and I’m sorry if something did, but if I’m right, and this behavior is his doing…well, maybe you’re better off.”
Scully sighed and said nothing, simply watched the blinking lights of her Christmas tree chase frenetically up and down a green wired strand. The blues chased the greens and the greens chased the reds and the reds chased the yellows and… what was that? The oranges weren’t working. That was a shame, Scully supposed. She shook her head and dipped into the shade of a blue-green, flashing shadow. She felt nauseous.
Getting a new tree had been her mother’s groundbreaking idea. Back in November, Margaret Scully--who was considerably more excited about the upcoming holidays than her daughter--had made a long list of important “holiday must haves” for Dana and little William. The list ran on and on, and included things like perfectly shaped Christmas tree branches, the scent of real pine needles, bright, multicolored lights, garland, tinsel, Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments…. Just reading the list had given Scully a migraine.
“I’m fine, Mom,” said Scully, not knowing what else to say. Her index fingers ground circles in the center of her forehead, her eyes closing mercifully with the pressure. Scully swallowed back the taste of grape flavored alcohol, her contracting stomach muscles signaling that tonight, sleep would not be peaceful.
Margaret Scully sighed. “You do realize that it’s Christmas Eve, Dana. And you have a sound job, a nice apartment, and a beautiful baby boy. So much to be thankful for, especially considering years past. Maybe you just need some holiday hubbub. Why don’t you hop in the car and come over early?”
“No.” Scully’s left ear was ringing. “That’s okay, Mom. Really. I’m fine.”
In the spirit of family, Scully had allowed her mother to buy all the holiday decorations she wanted. And, true to her word, Margaret Scully had swooped into the apartment like the north wind and attacked the living room with enough holiday cheer to choke a Santa Claus. Dana Scully had simply watched from the hallway, a sleepy baby on her hip, her blue eyes emotionless, as her mother placed ornament after ornament on the tree. Besides any pangs of distance or indifference Scully felt about the holiday season, the sentiment of decorating, although well-intentioned on Margaret’s part, seemed silly to Scully, especially since the probability of William remembering his first Christmas was unlikely, if not completely implausible. Moreover, the sight of multicolored lights on her brand new, six foot tall Christmas tree made Scully think of the past, of Mulder-- the man who had been her partner, the father of her baby, and her… well, her lost opportunity, so to speak.
Fox Mulder would have certainly gotten a kick out of her mother’s decorating, as he usually got a kick out of anything ornate that raised Scully’s eyebrows. Mismatched ornaments, strings of rainbow lights, Santa Clauses with fishing rods and rubber boots… Mulder would have hung stockings from the bedposts if he thought the action would get a rise out of Scully. And every time she thought about what the holidays should be like—could be like—she imagined his smile, his touch, his voice.
“...A lot a lot of suitcases...Hey. At the very least, I’m sure my landlord’s ecstatic. You’d be surprised how random shootings and a gross number of casualties can really lower the property value...Scully, come on. I'm not leaving you. I may not be here, but I'm with you...”
Scully sighed, resignation seeping through every limb. Mulder was gone. He was just…gone.
“I think I’m going to get some sleep, Mom.”
Scully felt... nothing. Literally. Reality faded in and out, her dreams mixing with her recollections until her thought processes condensed into a thick, dark cloud. She tried to block out the swirl of dizziness that wracked her, but her eyes couldn’t close fast enough. “Tomorrow…is fine…I really am…tired…Mom…”
Behind closed eyelids, Scully saw Deputy Director Kersh standing inside a long, black tunnel. The tunnel stretched into an exploding sunset, the sky blinking reds, greens, yellows, and blues, on and off like a police flasher. In Kersh’s sweaty, black palm, an ornately carved hourglass dripped single grains of sand, bit by bit, from one glass catcher into the other. Each drop of sand pounded like thick, hard water droplets beating against cold metal. Kersh’s deep, raspy tenor boomed in surround sound, attacking her ears from every corner.
“There is a reason your child was not killed, Agent Scully. Genetics is the key. Your baby is the answer. Fox Mulder will be taken, dead or alive, and if he is deemed useless, he will be discarded and your child will be next. You can discount my words and ignore my warning, but remember this: They hear you. They see you. Your happiness will be short lived. Fox Mulder will die if They know that he is alive.”
When Dana Scully jolted awake, her shoulders shuddering violently, her left leg screaming in spasm, her head slammed into something thick and hard—definitely not her headboard. Not the floor. Must have been the armrest. Ah, yes, the couch—yet again.
“Ow,” Scully muttered, touching the back of her head with two fingers. “Motherfucker…”
“Mulder, you need to go. You need to leave. Before I change my mind. Please. We both know there isn’t any other way…”
With a stuttered groan, Scully grabbed the back of her neck and sighed deeply, twisting her head from right to left. Her skull felt heavy, her thoughts and ideas jumbled like a mess of old boxes collecting dust and mildew in the recesses of her subconscious. There was just no mental organization. No order to anything. Her dreams blended into her waking hours, which blended into her conscious self, which blended into--
“I promise that this isn’t the end, Scully. I’m coming back.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Mulder.”
Scully pressed her index fingers to the bridge of her nose, applied pressure until the skin turned red. “This…is why I don’t drink,” she managed.
Most of Scully’s haphazardly placed cerebral boxes, were, of course, labeled ‘Fox Mulder.’ The space he took up in her mind was simply ridiculous; the feel of him, the sound of him, the taste of his mouth when he turned her face and kissed her without warning—every single nuance was a different box and each box was strewn about her brain like scattered confetti. Trying to sort through the clutter, to make sense of the madness of her situation, was exhausting. And frankly, Scully was sick and tired of thinking altogether. All of her life she’d been a student of rational thought, and now…
Well, to be honest, she wished she was nineteen again, smoking weed in her dorm room while trying to remember exactly how many fingers she had on her left hand.
“Ow…” Scully groaned, “—couch…in my way.” She swallowed and flexed her fingers.
“Scully, have you ever thought that maybe none of this is real? That the idea of humanity truly is a lie because reality is nothing more than a pre-fabricated existence, a Christmas snow globe that encapsulates the Earth as we know it because the truth—the real truth-- is that we are mere playthings for a higher form of intelligence, another life form that controls our destinies with little more than a swish of the plastic snow?”
Scully cleared her throat and tried blinking Mulder's voice away. No use. Nothing was of any help. Advil. She needed Advil. How long had it been since her last sip of wine?
“I can’t remember,” Scully muttered out loud, and she pushed herself into a seated position. A thick, woolen blanket, displaced by the absence of her torso, slid down the swell of her hips and crumpled to the floor. A shadow of multicolored lights lit the dark folds in a symphony of reds, blues, greens, and yellows. If Scully squinted a certain way, she could swear the blanket was breathing inside the flashing glow. What the hell was that glow, anyway?
Scully frowned, confused for the barest of moments. Then she took a slow, deep breath. And another. And another. She remembered--
The sound of her own voice startled her, and her palm flew over her mouth in surprise. Scully’s eyes darted back and forth above the hand covering her jaw, and she giggled uproariously. While she knew the idea of chaser lights wasn’t altogether funny, she couldn’t seem to remember what the correct emotional reaction was. Was she supposed to smile? Was she supposed to cry? She had forgotten to pull the plug before she fell asleep—she knew that much.
And speaking of forgetting… had she even remembered to say goodbye to her mother?
Scully swallowed back a rancid taste in her mouth, felt saliva running quickly down the back of her throat as she counted back the minutes of her nap. Her cordless phone lay slack on the floor, the antenna hidden beneath the couch. She just couldn’t remember anymore. Couldn’t fucking remember anything.
Befuddled, Scully shook her head and stared into the nearly empty bottle of Ruth’s Vineyard. She was still able to think, still able to feel. Thus, she was not drunk enough. She needed…just one more sip. Or maybe two. The complete absence of all physical sense and mental reason was, for the time being, insanely appealing. Her mind thrummed, bubbled over with flashes of--
“When are you going to open your eyes, Scully? See things the way they really are? You’re so blinded by the rules of science that you can’t even entertain the notion, not even for one second, that a theory founded on human instinct could ever have merit. Just… think like me. For a moment. I know that you know I’m right about this.”
Scully set the dark green bottle back on the table, her eyes half opened, the echo of Mulder’s voice in her mind a bruising reminder. In front of her, the silent symphony of Christmas lights persisted like a bruising cacophony: a loud invader painting the shadows on her walls in obnoxious hues of primary colors. More than light, more than shadow—the jolly sight of holiday cheer was painful.
Damn her mother. Damn her new Christmas tree. Damn Mulder. Damn the way things used to be.
“Mulder, I don’t care if you think this is a case of Wilbur and Mr. Ed. The fact of the matter is that humans and animals don’t communicate on the same vocal frequencies. And I’m not even going to discuss the possibility of telepathy with you because I think we both know where I stand on that matter. Now, we can go over the physical evidence…”
Scully sighed and groaned, her head spinning like a Tilt-A-Whirl. “Be quiet,” she ordered, pressing her hands to the sides of her head. The past was so goddamned loud. She couldn’t think with all the noise. “Stop…talking…all at once. I can’t…think like this…”
Her eyes closed to block out the racket, Scully tried focusing on the sound of her breathing, on the sound of the radiator whirring, on the sound of her baby’s quiet breathing from the Fisher Price baby monitor. She needed to focus. She needed to sober up. She needed to stop living in the past. The X Files. Mulder, her partner, her friend, her…
What was Mulder, again? Oh, yes. Gone. That was it. Mulder was gone. Just… gone.
"Just say the word, Scully. Ask me to stay and I’ll stay. Or else you and the baby can come with me. Anything. You know that…”
“God…I can’t do that. I—I can’t…Don’t make me ask you to stay. It’s too dangerous.”
Scully blinked slowly. The cloud of dizziness stretching over her head threatened to burst and make her nauseous, among other not so attractive things. Her leg still ached from the dull spasm that had earlier jolted her from sleep, and her neck was strained from one too many nights spent on the couch, falling asleep over yesterday’s un-graded papers. Nowadays, there were always papers to grade. Nonstop papers and students and blackboards and “have you ever killed a vampire, Dr. Scully?” and “did you ever shoot a monster when you were active in the FBI, Dr. Scully?” and “Whatever happened to Agent Mulder, Dr. Scully? Was he the one that killed a vampire?”
“Two steps forward and three steps back,” Scully whispered, trying desperately to remember something…something about a rose petal. And Mulder. And a desk. But no vampires. Or were there? She had no idea. Brushing the thought aside, Scully touched her index fingers together in front of her face, her eyes widening and crossing. “Two steps forward and three steps…. Three steps…shit…”
She was losing track of the time—hours, seconds, minutes, years. Words, concepts, inconsequential ideas; they flitted through her like water through a sieve. Half of her knew what day it was and the other half of her expected Mulder to walk through that front door any second, hang a wreath, stamp a big red bow on top of his head and spread his arms wide, all the while exclaiming, “Merry Christmas Scully! I send you greetings from The Far Reaches of Nowhere....”
Scully frowned and shook her head in concentration. “Three steps…towards…three steps…Three steps…away from…damn it.” She couldn’t remember what she wanted to say.
Six months, three weeks, and two days since she had insisted that Mulder go into hiding. Six months, three weeks, and two days since he had said yes. Six months, three weeks, and two days since she had last pressed her lips against his lips and cupped her fingers around his forearms. Six months, three weeks, and two days. Christ, that was how many hours? How many seconds? If she were to break up the time into groups of two, that would be thirteen pairs of weeks and one week left over, with two extra days on the side…
Her head throbbed just thinking about it.
“Maybe we can think of this as a romantic passing, Scully. A necessary evil. Hey, Bergman and Bogart did it. You know, when he got on the plane, and… Okay, so it’s a bad analogy.”
Scully’s eyes glazed and watered. A warm, sudden tear burned down her cheek, tracked a path past her nose, down her jaw, and flicked off the bottom of her chin. Scully blinked away the remaining suspended tears, smudging her eyelids with her knuckles.
“I…am…fine,” she bit out, even though there was nobody to argue with her. “This whole night is a dream, nothing but a dream, a bad dream.” And in the spirit of self-delusion, Scully banged her bare heels together three times—as if that would bring her back to Kansas.
“Hey, Mulder. It’s me. Everything’s fine. I just wanted to thank you for the ah… the Christmas gift you so conspicuously left on my doorstep. Next time, knock. I might just let you in. Stranger things have happened…But I’m relatively sure you know that. No need for a call back. I’ll see you on Monday--”
She suddenly thought of Christmas trees. Big ones, small ones, lopsided ones, bare ones, full ones. A strand of yellow lights and red ornament balls. Back when she was idealistic and innocent and under thirty years old—when was that again? Ah yes. Back when the FBI was still new to her, when Mulder was still new and fascinating. When she was still new and fascinating to him.
The images were fresh and powerful.
The airplane ride back to D.C after their third case. Turbulence rocked the first half of the journey—Mulder held her hand for the first time. Then a lighthearted conversation over ginger ale and peanuts. Scully mentioned that with all the hubbub of her new assignment, she’d forgotten to buy a Christmas tree. Mulder, in his nonchalant way, had mentioned back that it was never too late to buy anything in the spirit of holiday cheer and commercialism. The plane landed and they went their separate ways. Two days later, a wiry little tree was left on her doorstep. ‘From Santa Mulder. It’s never too late,’ said the card, and the sentiment had made her smile.
Every year since then, on the day after she returned from the ‘Scully family Thanksgiving Day Feast,’ Dana Scully took out Mulder’s miniature Christmas tree and set it on the living room’s most prominent end table. She strung white lights carefully from top to bottom, suspended her red ornament balls from the thin plastic branches, and set a gold, wooden star on top. She'd keep the tree up for as long as she could—for the entire month of January and sometimes into mid-February. Sure a sparse, two foot tall, Minnesota Pine wasn’t much to look at—especially after six years of use—but it was still her favorite Christmas centerpiece.
Until this year.
Of course, Margaret Scully had repeatedly told Dana that she was sorry, that she had no idea a Christmas tree was in that old, wrinkled box in the closet. “I would never have thrown that box out if I had known,” Margaret said. “Never. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She repeated her apologies right up until the moment she handed Dana a list of important Christmas items. On the top of the list was a new Christmas tree. Dana Scully shuddered at the thought, but agreed to the new tree without the slightest hesitation.
Later that evening, she cried.
Scully paused in her thoughts and squinted. “I wonder what Muller would think…” She frowned. “Muller would be…Mull—Muller. Molar. Mul. Mold. Fuck.” Scully furrowed her brow and grunted in frustration. “Mull…Mullar,” she tried again. “Mul…Mul-dar. Mul-dar. Huh.” Distracted, she turned her palm up, turned her palm down. She examined every notch and crevice in the lines of her skin. Rainbow colored lights from her mother’s giant Christmas tree twinkled over the plane of her knuckles.
“Silly,” Scully muttered to herself. “Muller isn’t even here…” Her neck lowered like a blade of grass fighting the wind. The dizzying swirl of blinking lights slowly faded to black as she yawned and…
Nothing. Just nothing.
“This how the Scully family celebrates Christmas?” Mulder asked, his index finger tracing the circumference of a glass bulb. “I thought you’d at least use the colored lights. Or some tinsel. But white lights? Bor-ring.” He lounged against the end table in a black jacket, black sweatshirt, and jeans. His hazel eyes smiled even if his lips did not. Mulder hadn’t decorated—not even a little bit.
“Only this Scully,” Dana Scully answered him, and she picked up her overnight bag from the carpet, signaling without words that she was ready to go. Another case, another flight, another state; the frequency of their trips across the United States was mind-boggling. But at least she was with him. Mulder. Her new partner. He was cute in an offbeat way…and sweet.
Scully considered pulling the plug on the white lights, reconsidered letting them glow for the day that she would be gone, then reconsidered again and pulled the plug from its socket. The left side of Mulder’s face slipped quietly into darkness. Scully took a breath and listened to her heartbeat. Nothing was said for a good thirty seconds, and she stood by the front door, bag and keys in hand, her Christmas tree bare and sad in the absence of light.
Mulder cleared his throat. “Whatddya want, Scully?” He pushed himself away from the Christmas tree table and ambled towards her. “You want the moon? I’ll throw a lasso around it and give it to you.” He scooped the keys out of her hand on his way to the door and placed his palm to her thickly jacketed back. She smiled up at him as he turned.
“You do a terrible Jimmy Stewart, Mulder,” Scully said, and she allowed him to steer her through the front door.
“Huh,” Mulder said, and he frowned as if considering this. “My cawr,” he added, rolling the ‘R’ and waggling his eyebrows. “Where’s mah cawr—you know, mah cawr, mah cawr? …”
Scully shook her head.
And the front door slammed shut behind them.
A noise—clicking, dropping, slamming.
Something was out of order in the apartment. She’d heard a bizarre disorder, had felt a displacement. But what? A vase falling from the dresser? No—wait. Not a crash. Not really. It wasn’t glass shattering. It was more like—
A thud. A bump. A slam.
Scully’s head jerked up, her eyelids fluttering rapidly in terror, her arms twitching, legs frozen in place, body suspended but ready to spring. She was certain she’d heard something. A window slamming closed? A frame knocked over? A toy stepped on? Someone entering or leaving? What if They were already in the house? What if Kersh’s nameless men gotten to Mulder and now They were here for her? They would take… Oh God, no—the baby.
Oh Christ, the baby, the baby! Nameless men. Shadowed evil. So many things without names to fear. They’d already taken Mulder from her. What would be next? No, not anything else, not if Scully had anything to do with it. She had to get up. She had to find her gun. Nobody would take her son away. Nobody.
Scully glanced at the floor to gain her footing, her heart fluttering a hundred times faster than she could move—
Her heel hit something jagged.
“Ow, god damn it…”
Scully frowned and squinted at the carpet.
There on the floor laid the noisy culprit: Maggie Scully’s shiny, porcelain Santa Claus, once perched aristocratically on the end table where her arm had dropped in sleep, now broken in three pieces beneath her foot.
“Oh, God…” Scully slumped back into the couch cushions, her arms falling slack against her sides. Her foot was sore, probably bleeding. She didn’t care.
The porcelain Santa smiled up at her with typical Christmas glee, his white beard running jagged across his broken chest. The shine in his glazed overcoat picked up the glare from her Christmas lights, and each zigzagged piece glittered like a headlight. Scully covered her eyes with her palms and groaned, trying to rub out her disorientation. “This… is completely irresponsible,” she mumbled. “Even Mul—Muller—Mul-der… would laugh at this.”
Scully peeked through the cracks of her fingers and caught Santa’s porcelain eye, his cheeks shining a warm, scarlet color. When was the last time her cheeks had flushed that way? When was the last time she had really smiled? Had Mulder honestly taken her smile with him?
Scully swallowed and tried to regain her bearings. She wanted to hurl the Santa across the room and break him even further. She wanted to stomp him into little bits and shove him under the couch. But, more than anything, she wanted to believe in him again. If Santa was real, he could bring her Mulder. The Santa Claus of her six year old, Miracle on 34th Street fantasies could give her son a father. He could—
No. Fucking ridiculous. Santa Claus? Who the hell was she kidding?
Scully yawned and glared at the wall. She pictured Mulder standing on the other side, glaring back.
Reality, of course, was cruel.
Mulder wasn’t there.
She was always staring at nothing.
Nothing, nothing, nothing---
“That’s a lot of suitcases,” Scully managed, the forced smile never quite reaching her eyes.
“A lot a lot of suitcases,” Mulder answered, his eyes cast at the floor.
Silence gave way to the whirring of the dishwasher. In truth, only one suitcase was left.
All of Mulder’s other suitcases had been lifted out of the apartment by Byers, Langly, and Frohike, who had pretended they were moving out an old lady’s belongings from 4-C. The fabricated story was that the old lady--- allegedly quite ill from Altzheimers complications---had died two days earlier, and Dana Scully, the only known acquaintance, had been appointed executor of the old lady’s will. The movers—Langly, Byers, and Frohike-- had been ordered by Scully to bring the old lady’s collection of junk to Maryland State Auction.
Frohike had even rented a moving truck for the occasion, and all three boys wore shirts with names like “Chris” and “Marty” and “Joe” embroidered on the right hand pocket. Mulder had uncomfortably joked that Frohike, with his glasses, short stature, and beer- gut, would never be able to pull off “Joe,” but Frohike didn’t laugh. Nobody had laughed all afternoon. Scully wasn’t sure what bothered her more: the lack of false enthusiasm, or the easy way in which she and Mulder perpetuated a lie.
“Hey—“ Mulder grinned at Scully and shrugged. “At the very least, I’m sure my landlord’s ecstatic. You’d be surprised how random shootings and a gross number of casualties can really lower the property value.”
Scully forced a second smile and let out a breath through her nose. “Yeah,” she managed. “Your landlord should talk to my landlord.”
William, dressed in his yellow footed pajamas, squirmed in Scully’s lap, blowing bubbles out of his saliva stained mouth. Scully closed her eyes and pressed a kiss to the top of his pale, downy head, breathing in the smell of baby powder and Johnson’s baby oil. Mulder had earlier joked that William looked like a balder, quieter version of Scully. Scully, in turn, had joked that William looked like a toothless version of his father. Mulder had, of course, scrunched his nose at that comment, and had asked Scully if she was commentating on his growing age and his receding hairline. The playful argument that ensued had sparked one of their longest, most erotic kisses to date—not that there had been many other mind-blowing kisses to compare this latest kiss to.
But still, the kiss was good. Miserably, painfully, good.
Scully met Mulder’s eyes, the taste of his lips still fresh and sweet in her mouth. Mulder cocked his head to one side and gazed at her and at William with something incomprehensible written in his expression. The skin below his eyes was purple and deeply etched. His shirt was wrinkled. He looked exhausted beyond words. Scully, with her short auburn hair slipping free from a badly placed banana clip, and her usual business attire exchanged for a pair of gray sweats, couldn’t even remember what ‘rested’ looked like.
“How is he?” Mulder asked, motioning towards the baby.
“Okay,” said Scully. “He ate, but I should burp him soon.”
Scully licked her lips, her expression neutral. “What about you?”
“Well…” Mulder shrugged. “I’ve eaten too, but I won’t ask you to burp me. Not right now, anyway. Maybe before I leave. It’s your call.” He winked and shoved his hands into his pockets.
Scully shook her head. There was just no laughter left inside her.
She had awakened that morning with Mulder still in bed with her, his arms wrapped tightly around her midsection, she in her blue nightclothes and Mulder still in his t-shirt and jeans. The night before had been long, uncomfortably intimate, and filled with arguments and heated whispers about their uncertain future. The decision for Mulder to leave was made with unease, and neither of them knew how to unravel their conflicted emotions. Mulder fell silent sometime around four a.m., alternately squeezing and un-squeezing Scully’s hands until dawn. Scully’s tears dried sometime around five a.m., the tracks of salt crusting and pulling at her eyelashes. She showered around seven, but could not erase the ghost of saline still throbbing against her jaw.
Now there was but one suitcase left. Just one.
“Hey, Mulder—“ John Byers wiped a palm across his pale, sweaty brow, his blue work-shirt a drastic change from his usual charcoal colored suits and ties. He glanced at Mulder nervously, as if he’d just stepped on a snake and was waiting for the inevitable strike. “I think we got the last of it. You want us to wait outside?”
Mulder took a deep breath and nodded expressionlessly at Byers. Byers pursed his lips in understanding and forced a genteel smile at Scully. Scully smiled back, but after a moment found that she couldn’t even look at Byers without embarrassment wearing a thin line through her composure. She felt worn, angry, unhappy, and very transparent.
“Ten minutes,” said Byers, who turned back to Mulder. “We really need to book.”
Mulder stared at Scully. “Right,” he said, his hands fidgeting at his sides. “Ten. Got it.”
Scully uncomfortably sat with the baby on her lap, her eyes darting quickly from Mulder, to the door, to Byers, to the baby. She didn’t know what to think. She didn’t know what to say. There was the front door, right in front of her, and Mulder would be walking through it. He’d walked through that door a countless number of times during their partnership, but now he wasn’t coming back. Jesus. The father of her child was leaving and not coming back. How had her life come to this?
Because you let it, a voice in her head hissed. You let the time slip away. Scully sighed and shook her head. She had, hadn’t she?
Thirty six years of her life had somehow slipped by when she wasn’t paying attention; eight of those thirty six years belonged to him. And now, at this, the indisputable climax of her adult existence, Scully felt completely devoid of words, of thoughts. Nothing seemed logical. Nothing seemed right. It was if, when the decision had been made that Mulder would have to leave, the world had stopped and ordered Dana Scully to get the hell off.
“I’ll just, ah…” Byers grabbed the last suitcase and crept towards the door. “I’ll see you in the van.” The door clicked shut behind him.
Mulder, his expression bewildered, stared at the door, shook his head, and finally came to sit beside Scully. The baby, blissful only that both of his caregivers were within arms length, gripped Mulder’s index finger and waved the digits at his opposing hand. Mulder grinned at the baby, touched his knuckles to one tiny, rosy cheek, and lowered his head to Scully’s shoulder.
“I promise that this isn’t the end, Scully.” Mulder’s chin bobbed up and down as he spoke, his lips resting in the soft curve of Scully’s neck. “I’m coming back.”
Scully’s throat hurt with Herculean effort, as if each tear had a jagged edge. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Mulder.”
Mulder leaned in closer and pressed his lips to Scully’s jaw. Scully closed her eyes and tried desperately to remain calm. She catalogued the sensation of his mouth in her mind, but memorizing wasn’t enough. She needed to wrap herself inside him, burn him onto her skin and her mouth and her mind until all of her senses shut down altogether.
“Just say the word, Scully. Ask me to stay and I’ll stay. Or else you and the baby can come with me. Anything. You know that…”
Scully, her teeth chattering despite the lack of air-conditioning in the room, pushed back a sob that threatened to rip her in half. “God…I can’t do that. I—I can’t…Don’t make me ask you to stay. It’s too dangerous.”
“I know…” Mulder sighed. “But I suppose it was worth a try.”
Scully nodded, staring not at Mulder, but at the floor.
“Hey… Scully, come on—“ Mulder’s palm suddenly cupped the flushed apple of her right cheek. He smelled like after-shave, familiar and wonderful. Scully exhaled slowly, her chest rattling as if her insides were being torn apart by jagged pieces of glass. Her esophagus stung, her eyes felt hot. The Earth was being turned upside down—spinning in the wrong direction. Time was going sideways.
“I’m not leaving you,” Mulder whispered. “I may not be here, but I’m with you. I got your back.” Scully squeezed her eyes shut and felt her lashes brush tears against her skin. She shook her head, feeling an overwhelming desire to let go of everything, to slip like mercury into the cracks of the couch. “It’s okay,” Mulder went on, and he tipped her face to his. “It’ll be okay… eventually.”
“Eventually,” Scully echoed, unable to believe.
Mulder’s finger flitted over her lips; a whisper of a promise. Then his mouth captured her upper lip, and together they breathed.
Someone was tapping Scully’s arm, jostling her shoulders. Her dream dissipated like steam from a boiling tea kettle. Behind closed eyelids, Scully could make out the remnants of chaser lights flashing, blinking on and off, on and off. The couch was coming back to her, stiff and settled beneath her curled body. The whirring of the radiator, the clanking of her sneakers in the dryer—reality was rushing back, flying full force at her. And why? Tonight was Christmas Eve. She wasn’t supposed to be at work. She wasn’t supposed to be anywhere. The baby was asleep. Who could be bothering her at this hour?
“Come on, Scully. Wake up.”
Reality was still shaking her shoulders. Reality was, in fact, shaking her shoulders so hard that she thought her brains were going to start banging against her eardrums. With a groan, Scully shifted and threw her arms over her eyes. She turned her face in towards the armrest.
“Scully, can you hear me?”
Well, then. That was fine. Just fine. If her mother had decided to come over and bother her, Scully would just have to show her to the door. The traditional, ‘let’s chastise Dana because she has chosen the wrong path for her life’ wasn’t slated to start for another few hours. Now was the time for sleep. For dreams. “Mmmppphh,” said Scully, and she curled up even tighter. “I told you, Mom…tomorrow…”
“Scully…Please…Jesus, are you drunk?”
The voice was lower, deeper, and had a distinct male inflection. Definitely not her mother. Oh shit. It was definitely, definitely not her mother. Scully’s eyes flew open, her cheeks buried in the stiff, cotton couch cushions. What now? She wondered. Oh God. She was trapped, defenseless, cornered like an animal. She didn’t even have her gun with her. Like an idiot, she had left it on top of the dresser in the bedroom. And, what was worse, she didn’t even think the clip was loaded, even if she did have her weapon with her. Her breath stopped in her chest, froze her in place. An intruder was in her house and he knew her name. What the hell was she going to do? What the—
“Scully…Calm down. It’s me.”
A pair of soft, cold, and slightly chapped lips pressed against the skin below her ear. A hand followed the lips, brushing back strands of auburn tangles from her face. Scully felt suddenly hot, flushed, as if her entire body had begun to float away from her. She knew that touch. And that voice. Oh… Oh, she knew—
Her mouth went dry. Somehow, through the thick haze of aftersleep, she managed, “Mulder?”
Her brain couldn’t seem to keep up with the impulses shooting through her veins. She had to see him. She had to touch him. He just couldn’t be real, could he?
Once Scully’s face had turned in his direction, everything went blissfully blank. The chaser lights disappeared, the Christmas tree evaporated into the pine scented air. Everything was gone—everything, except for him.
“Hey,” said Mulder, and he was smiling. His brown hair had curled into his hazel eyes, his black t-shirt wrinkled, his jeans stained with something that appeared to be paint. He looked like a bum, like street urchin, but dear God, he was beautiful. He was the most incredible sight she’d ever seen.
“What---what—“ Scully’s brow furrowed and she tried to wrap herself around this new information. Her mind was a cloudy jumble. “How--“
“Chicken truck,” said Mulder, and he shook his head. He sighed and bent closer to the couch, settling his palm on her cheek to wipe away the rest of her sweaty, unruly hair.
Scully’s eyes widened, her chin quivering. “You’re here. I don’t know how—it’s too dangerous. Mulder, you have to get out of here before—“
“No, it’s okay. Holiday break,” said Mulder, and he leaned forward to kiss the corner of her mouth. Scully closed her eyes and tried to swallow back her relief at his presence. She didn’t know whether to thank God, the gunmen, Santa Claus, or—
“A chicken truck?” Scully asked. Her eyebrow raised in question. Mulder let out a half-hearted laugh through his nose and touched an index finger to Scully’s lips. He pressed another kiss to her chin, and another to the side of her neck, and another to her jaw. Each kiss was like the spark of a life wire. Scully’s lips parted and she let her head fall back into the couch. Her dizziness was returning.
“So,” whispered Mulder, “do you want to hear a really long story about Langly’s cousin and the intricacies of a chicken farm, or do you want to unwrap me and have your way with me right here, under the tree?”
Scully lifted her head and smiled for the first time in days. “My present or yours?” she asked, and pushed herself up onto her elbows—and nearly fainted. The air in front of her swam, and for a second, Scully was sure she was seeing stars. One Mulder divided into two Mulders, and then the two Mulders converged into one. Her elbows gave out quickly. “Oh…Oh no,” she managed, and Mulder grabbed her arm before she could fall and bang her head against the arm rest. Again.
“Oh my God,” Mulder managed, amusement stark on his face, “You’re completely wasted.”
Scully frowned. “I am not…not—“
“Yes.” Scully’s brow furrowed. “I mean no. No, I’m not.”
Mulder took a deep breath and slipped an arm beneath her back, steadying Scully to a bearable seated position. “Well…” He shook his head and grinned. “As rewarding as it is for me to see you inebriated, Scully—and trust me, it IS rewarding---this does put a slight damper on my plans. I mean, I certainly can’t ravish you like this. You must realize that.”
Scully sighed. “I don’t care—“ Her hand came up to his cheek, her fingers tracing the lines in his skin, in his lips, opened now beneath the pad of her index finger. “I missed you, Mulder,” she whispered, her eyes nakedly honest. “Tonight was… it was Christmas Eve… and I saw the wine on the refrigerator and I thought about the tree you gave me…Do you remember that tree? And I don’t even know why I started drinking anything in the first place but it was good, you know, and I was thirsty…”
Tears pricked suddenly and unexplainably at her eyes. Mulder’s knuckles tickled her eyelashes as he brushed each droplet away. “And, and-- my mother got me this new tree—“ She waved a lazy hand at the six-foot tall, blinking pine. “But I didn’t want a new tree. I didn’t want…any of this…For months I forced back the unhappiness, the regret. I refused to even consider what might have been. But loneliness is hard, you know, and how many New Years are going to go by without you and I’m going have to explain to William where…where his father is—Oh Jesus, Mulder. What kind of life have I carved for myself?”
Mulder gazed down at Scully and nodded at her, his face close—very close. A mess of clear droplets formed on the ends of his eyelashes, and one wayward droplet broke away to trip down the side of his nose. The whites of his eyes pinkened, and his forehead creased with worry. He was silent. Scully breathed slowly as she searched his face.
Mulder was sobbing. God. He was sobbing.
“Hey,” he finally said, his thumb brushing her cheek. “I promised you I would come back, didn’t I?” He swallowed and searched her face. “And I’m still promising you. This won’t be forever, Scully. I swear that to you. I can’t live like this forever. And you…” Mulder managed a lopsided smile. “Good grief. I don’t think you’ve ever…Did you really get this hammered because you missed me?”
Scully blinked at that, one eyebrow raised high. “No,” she said, indignation creeping into her voice. “And first of all, I’m not…not—“
Scully shot him a withering look. “Yes—“ She frowned. “I mean, no! I’m not.”
Mulder grinned a smile that lightened his entire face. A small, forgotten tear dripped down his chin, and Scully wiped it away with her index finger. “And second of all,” she went on, letting her hand rest on his cheek, “I drank because…well, the wine was there. You left it there, remember? What did you think I would do with it? Erect a shrine? You know when the last time I drank was? I can tell you exactly when. 1996, when we were investigating that---“
“Scully.” Mulder glanced at his watch. “I hate to interrupt this stunningly drunken rationalization, but, well, I don’t have a lot of time. And I always like to get the most out of my Christmas presents. Tanked or not.”
Scully scrunched her nose. “Are you making fun of me, Mulder? Because I can still kick your sorry—“
He silenced her with a kiss, his mouth capturing hers mid-sentence, moving warm and slowly across her lips. Scully’s eyelids fluttered shut, her arms going slack against her sides. Her head went back and she nearly fell over into a backbend. The room was suddenly gone and she was drifting away from herself. Pangs of heat sizzled up and down her spine, invisible sparks shooting out from all her pores. Mulder’s hands wound around her back, one hand reaching into her hair. His fingers tingled against her scalp. Scully’s hands reached for him as if she was waking from a coma, and suddenly she was clutching him, her fingers shaking, her knees twitching. They held each other up for several long seconds, gasping, pressing, touching, existing.
When they finally broke away, Mulder bent his head to Scully’s shoulder, his nose pressing against her neck. “Now that’s what I came for,” he said. “Although…Not drunk my ass.” And he laughed into her collar bone. “You’re trashed, Dorothy. You’ll never find the yellow brick road, now.”
“Oh…shut up,” Scully whispered, and she ran her hands up and down his chest, feeling his heart beating loud and strong beneath her fingertips. “Just shut up.” When she closed her eyes again, Mulder was somehow beneath her, his arms tight and warm around her midsection. He kissed her forehead once, then twice, then again and again, as if he was afraid she would vanish.
A minute passed in silence.
“So,” Mulder murmured, his tone conversational. “You finally decked the halls?”
Scully’s eyelids drooped and she yawned. “No. Not exactly…This is my mother’s handiwork.”
“I see. That makes more sense. But you know…” Mulder waved his index finger around in a circle. “I would have strung those multicolored lights around the entire room.”
Scully raised one eybrow, shot Mulder a wary glance.
“And then I would have hung some glow-in-the-dark stockings from the bedposts. Did you know they sell those things at The Stop-N-Go for eighty nine cents?”
Scully snorted. “Right. When anvils drop out of the sky, Mulder.”
The both of them laughed quiet, breathy laughs at that. Then the room was silent for an inordinate amount of time. A drippy faucet in the kitchen suddenly dripped louder than the radiator. The living room couch cushions groaned and shifted beneath their combined weight. Scully’s lashes fluttered shut. Her feet went numb at the inactivity.
“I love you” was murmured after a short while, and Scully couldn’t tell if the voice was hers or Mulder’s. Her head swam from trying to figure it out.
“Let’s get some sleep, Scully. I think you need it.” Mulder’s mouth brushed across her forehead, a soft ‘shushing’ noise rumbling from his chest. And then she was fast asleep, her face buried in the crook of Mulder’s neck.
And then nothing.
Daylight was bright and intrusive, the soft rays of morning poking through the blinds, and through the darkness of Scully’s closed eyelids. She groaned in protest and pressed her palms against her cheeks, trying to rub the brightness out from her skin. She didn’t have a clock in the living room, but she could tell that it was early yet. Way too early.
Scully turned on her side towards the high back of the couch, but the movement was useless. The sun was up. It was Christmas morning—most definitely Christmas morning. And the sky was sunny to boot, as if the idea of a new day wasn’t bad enough. There would be no going back to sleep. Not now, anyway.
Scully’s head pounded, her limbs stiff and aching, as if she’d spent the entire night crumpled inside a garbage can and not curled up on the couch with—
“Oh…” Scully gasped, remembering. “Oh God.“ Her head shot up, her brain rattling with the effort. Vertigo grasped her, spun her, and released her to the sting of sunshine. Her right hand grasped the armrest of the couch for dear life while her left hand automatically went to her forehead, squeezing, pressing, and massaging. “Oh,” Scully managed, her voice crackled, her mouth dry. The veins in her forehead were going to burst any minute now. Meanwhile, the muscles in her stomach felt wrung out, as if she’d just come back from a NASA science experiment.
“Holy crap,” Scully muttered to herself, her palm covering her face more in embarrassment than in pain. A hangover. She had a fucking hangover.
The phone rang at that moment, loud and impossibly shrill, like an air raid siren beating against her eardrums. She didn’t want to answer it. She didn’t even want to move.
“Mulder?” Scully tested, although she was afraid to even look. “Mulder, could you get—“
But when she peeked through the cracks of her fingers, Scully found that Mulder was not sitting with her on the couch. He was, in fact, not anywhere in sight. The apartment was completely and totally silent, save for the radiator that kept on whirring like constant background noise.
“Mulder?” Scully tried again, her voice breaking. A hard, painful breath hitched in her throat and she waited, silent, for an answer.
The echo of nothing floated back to her. Scully's mouth dropped open, her upper lip quivering in confusion.
Then the phone rang again. Scully stared blankly down at the cordless receiver as it blinked and beeped from the floor. A headless Santa lay next to the phone, his arms and legs detached and scattered about the carpet. The bottle of Ruth’s Vineyard was still perched on the glass coffee table, but now the bottle was completely empty, and the rings of water that had gathered around it were dried up and crusted looking.
And Mulder was gone. He was just…gone.
Scully pressed her hand over her mouth, closed her eyes, and gasped for air. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to cry or vomit. Maybe she wanted to do both. Her vision spun a million times a second and her whole body ached. She was wrong. Everything was wrong. How could she have been so out of sorts?
“He wasn’t here,” she whispered to herself, blinking in confusion. “I… I imagined him? Oh…Oh no. No, I couldn’t have…”
Her answering machine beeped loudly from the kitchen and whirred to life. The voice of a happier Dana Scully echoed into the living room. Then another beep, even louder than the first, and Scully had to cover her ears to drown out the noise.
“Dana,” the caller began. “Dana, sweetie, it’s Mom. Merry Christmas. If you’re there, pick up.” Scully opened her mouth, suppressed a sob, and bent her head towards the armrest, her back shuddering. She wasn’t going to cry—she refused to cry—but she wasn’t going to answer the phone, either. Not like this.
“Well,” her mother went on, “I hope you’re on the road right now. Or else you’re getting ready to leave. I was just calling to ask you when you planned on coming by. Everyone’s been asking about you and the baby—you’re a regular celebrity over here. Oh, and if it’s any incentive to get here sooner, I got a package this morning addressed to you. It’s… well, it’s a Christmas tree—one of those little ones.”
Scully picked up her head at this, her eyes wide. She swallowed back something that tasted like stomach acid, winced, and took a breath.
“I think that… the card is from Fox. It has the strangest inscription. It says, ‘I promised you. It’s never too late to believe. From Santa Mulder.’ Now, I don’t know what that means, Sweetie, but if that message gets you over here quicker—“
Scully snatched up the phone from the floor, her head swimming, her stomach flipping like little pancakes in her abdomen. She jabbed the talk button and took a deep breath. “Mom? Hi, it’s me. I’m… I’m coming over soon.” She stared towards the hallway, towards William’s bedroom, and closed her eyes. Mulder’s voice, his hands, his lips—it hadn’t been a dream, had it?
“Oh, Dana,” her mother answered, relief trickling into her tone. “I was hoping you’d pick up. It’s nearly ten a.m. Are you alright?”
A half chuckle escaped from Scully’s lips and she sighed. Was she alright? Well, her body felt like a burlap sack of cinder blocks, but other than that...
“I’m fine. Really.”
“Oh…” A pause. “Well, it’s still early. You come over when you’re ready. Is, um… is everything alright with Fox? I don’t know why in the world he would send a Christmas tree to my house. He knows where you live.”
To that, Scully smiled, her cheeks warm and red despite the throbbing ache in her skull. “You probably wouldn’t understand, Mom,” she said, leaning back into the couch.
“Try me,” Margaret replied.
Scully took a breath and gazed off at the chaser lights. She’d forgotten to pull the plug again and they had been blinking all night long. Actually, the colors weren’t as obnoxious as Scully had originally thought. They were kind of cute. Festive, even. Maybe a compromise was in order—although, no matter what, she was definitely never going to let him hang glow in the dark stockings from the bedposts.
“It’s…” She bit her lip. “It’s a promise.”
“A promise?” There was a pause. Then, “You’re right. I don’t understand. Is that some sort of code or something? What in the world is Fox promising you with a Christmas tree?”
“Everything,” said Scully, and she smiled a genuine smile.
“He’s promising me next year.”
--Since I don't have my Season 1 DVDs with me, I have no idea what Scully ACTUALLY decorated her little Christmas tree with. (Yes, I know--they showed it in "Beyond the Sea.") So, with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to make up my own story for the little tree. My apologies if the description doesn't fit the canon of the show.
--I was originally going to put all the dream sequences in italics (since all the dialogue flashbacks were in italics,) but then I thought that italics ARE so very irritating when overused, so I decided against it. I also didn't want to dictate whether Mulder's "visit" to Scully was a dream or whether that had actually happened. So I leave that one up to you, the readers, to decide. I don't think I've ever used flashback so much in a story (normally, I hate them) but since this is what came to me, this is what I wrote. Let me know.
--"It's A Wonderful Life" is a fabulous movie, which is why I mentioned it here."Miracle on 34th Street" is also mentioned, and is also wonderful. Doesn't the little girl remind you of a young Scully?
--I tried not to make this too angsty (since it's a holiday fic) but...well... the timeline is season 9, after all, and we all know Mulder isn't coming back this year. But we also know that Scully isn't coming back next year. This story is the compromise between angst and sap. Well, okay, maybe a little more sap.
Thank you to all my online friends, especially my fellow Haven-ites, who always seem to know what fic you're looking for, even if all you can remember about it is that Mulder fell asleep on the couch and Scully wore red shoes. That kind of skill takes talent, you know.
Happy Holidays, everyone! Be safe.