We fell into an easy pattern for the rest of the week, Walter and I. He worked in his office; I worked at home. He worked the law; I worked my life. Or, more specifically, Dana Scully’s life, and my part in it.
Sometimes, Walter would bring work home with him, and we’d review the files together, giving me a healthy break from my more maudlin research. It felt good to just sit together shoulder to shoulder on the couch, looking over the papers he’d brought home. I don’t know that I was all that much help; even pre-brain-damage, I suspected that the law was more Walter’s forte than mine. But I loved listening to my partner, knowing he loved the law, loved what he was doing…I even found myself interrupting one of our work sessions by kissing him stupid when I “remembered” how by-the-book he could be at the office.
By unspoken agreement, neither of us mentioned my complete wacko breakdown in McCoy’s office, and that was just fine by me. I knew that particular issue was far from resolved, and there was even a part of me that was working on the problem. But I wasn’t ready to talk about it, and Skinner was willing to follow my lead with only the occasional worried glance when he thought I wasn’t looking.
It was Saturday when I finally decided what to do. I suspected my decision was swayed by the fact that instead of waking late to the smell of brewed coffee and a ‘Walter’s gone to work’ emptiness in the house, I woke early and found myself still wrapped around my lover. He had his arms around my shoulders and I had both legs wrapped around one of his. For a time I just let myself drift, enjoying the feel of his chest rising and falling under my cheek, his warm breath tickling my hair. I never fell back asleep, but had no urge to move. I felt content and warm and safe and couldn’t remember anything feeling better. Not that this was such a surprise, but even compared with my small but ever growing collection of new memories, this still felt special. I couldn’t get over the feeling; didn’t want to get over it. So I simply lay there, feeling secure and accepting of all that I was receiving there in my lover’s arms.
Too soon, though, I started to squirm with the need to relieve myself, and he stirred at my movements. He hugged me sharply and I saw a warm smile cross his lips even before he opened his eyes. I loved that trusting gesture and returned the warm embrace, even with my bladder complaining about the added pressure.
Walter was nothing if not a keen observer, and he didn’t say a word. Just a quick kiss on the nose and then he slid gently away from me, letting his eyes close again. It was the least rejecting rejection ever; the implication of those arms being ready for me anytime was strong and undeniable.
I made quick work of myself in the bathroom. I grinned through toothpaste when I remembered someone—Phil? Phyllis? Phoebe! telling me to hurry up, as she needed “the loo”. Then I struggled to at least tame if not tidy my hair, which insisted on forming it’s own special cowlicks and side parts no matter what I did. I debated getting it cut as I walked naked into the kitchen, realized I was in the kitchen naked, and made coffee anyway.
Barely waiting long enough to fill two cups, I raced back to the bedroom, suddenly sure that Skinner would be gone. It was insane, and I knew it, but that didn’t stop the panicky feelings one iota.
I came to a halt in the doorway, quieted my breathing and watched a vaguely Skinner-shaped mound of bedding rise and fall slowly, accompanied by soft snoring.
Had there ever been a sweeter sound?
I set Walter’s cup on the nightstand and then carefully slipped back into the bed, propping myself up on the pillows so I could drink my coffee, think about what I wanted to do today, and, best of all, watch my lover with impunity.
I couldn’t decide if it was the sleeping that dropped the years off of Walter’s face, or the lack of glasses. I just knew that, even with just that band of silver hair, he looked way younger, less troubled. As I watched, his nose twitched and he made a grumpy-four-year-old noise deep in his throat. One arm slipped out from the covers, pawed around aimlessly for a moment as he frowned in his sleep, and then settled easily on my blanketed thigh. There was nothing childlike or weak about the grip his hand had on my leg, even if he did settle into a more gentle sleeping pattern, making me feel a bit like a big, funny-looking teddy bear.
I finished my coffee and turned to set my cup on my own night table. He snuffled air through his nose, and then the hand on my leg flexed, tightened, released, and he opened his eyes.
“Hey,” I snuggled back down under the covers and turned so we were face to face.
“Hey,” he replied, the word sounding sleep raspy and sexy. With no concerns for morning breath, I shifted in close and took his mouth in a soft open kiss that left him just slightly more grinning and breathless than myself.
“I need a favor,” I told him.
“Anything for you,” he replied, so serious it made me shiver.
“Are you ready for this?” Skinner asked.
“No,” I replied immediately. “But that doesn’t matter.” I undid my seatbelt and reached for the door handle. Skinner stopped me before the door could open, took both my hands in his and said,
“We can go home right now. You don’t have to do this.”
It would be easy to agree, I thought. Forget this. Forget pain and survivor guilt. Just turn the car around, drive straight home and let Skinner fuck me silly for the next week or so. And never mind the screaming night terrors that at their best had been knocking me out of the bed, while at their worst they left me crying and shaking like some giant baby. Toss in the super insomnia garnered by same, so I could be an asshole during the day too. Oh, sure, I thought, let’s get out of here. I don’t need to do this.
“Kinda really do,” I said, gently extricating my hands from Skinner’s strong grip. I tried for the door handle again and this time he let me, exiting out of his own side of the vehicle quickly enough to be taking my arm when I emerged from the passenger side. I gave him a weak smile, and then reached back into the car for the flowers on the seat.
“Maybe I should have picked something different,” I said, giving the generic bouquet a critical eye.
“Like what?” Skinner wanted to know.
I tried to remember ever buying flowers for anyone before and at first there was nothing. Then, two very different, somehow disturbing flashes:
Scully knocking a bouquet of what looked like mostly baby’s breath off of what could only be a child’s coffin and pulling fistfuls of sand from inside the box.
Weirder still: Skinner setting a bouquet even more generic than this one was on a small table beside yellow roses. Suddenly the smell of antiseptic was in my nose, and my cheek throbbed like I’d just been punched in the face. Low in my ear I could hear Scully’s voice: “Close our eyes, Mulder and say to yourself, ‘There’s no place like home.’”
“Mulder?” Skinner was frowning worriedly, and part of me was damned sick and tired of putting that expression on his face.
“Let’s go.” I tugged on his hand and he moved with me, letting me set a pace through the neat rows of stones, and then pulling slightly ahead to guide me, as he knew the location of our destination.
He slowed about half way through the cemetery, and I felt the familiar déjà vu as I gazed at the stones in front of us. The last time I had been here there had just been the one stone, and my mind, which couldn’t conjure up a single romantic dinner with my lover happily supplied me with the name of the girl I had helped get killed.
Scully had called her sister Missy.
I sighed and Skinner hugged me.
“Give me a minute?” I said quietly. It wasn’t really a question, and Skinner knew it. His lips barely grazed my temple and he gave my shoulders another warm squeeze.
“I can wait in the car if you’re sure you can find your way back,” he told me.
“That’d be good.” I nodded.
The first step after he released me was a tottering old man’s step, but it got easier as Skinner started walking back to the car. Despite the cool breeze, a by-product of yesterday’s rain, I suspected, I was sweating a little. I switched the bouquet from my right hand to my left and wiped my damp palm on my jeans.
I stopped and stared at Melissa Scully’s headstone, reading the dates, and then turned and watched Skinner for a moment. Like he could feel my gaze, he stopped and looked back at me. He waved. I waved back and then made a shoo-ing gesture and turned myself back to the purpose of my visit.
Dana Katherine Scully
Then the dates, and, etched smaller at the bottom, a bible passage I didn’t know.
I stepped up to her grave and saw flowers in a permanent vase. The rain had stripped them of most of their petals, so I pulled them out of the vase and replaced them with the bouquet that I had brought with me. Tossing the naked stems aside, I crouched down and blinked away the tears blurring my vision.
“Hello, Scully,” I said. I paused a moment to collect my thoughts and swipe at my leaky eyes, and then started talking:
“I guess I need to start with thank you, Scully. Apparently you saved my life…again…I don’t remember much, but there was a guy down there in New Mexico to C.S.I. the scene for me, and it looks like I owe ya…big time…again…So, uh, thank you.
“Um…apology next, I suppose. Although between the files I’ve read and Walter’s stories, I don’t know where to start. I guess, just, you know, sorry you got dragged into all of it. Walter says you wouldn’t have been there if you didn’t want to be, and what memories of you I do have lead me to agree. But I’m still sorry. More than you’ll ever know. For you and your family. Walter said he called your mom when he found me—uh—us. She took the Cliff notes version of events, bought this headstone and told Walter not to phone her again. Maybe she thinks I’ll put the whammy on her sons next…”
I choked on that and had to compose myself a little.
“Sorry ‘bout that. Anyway, I’m sorry for your mom and brothers and I can only hope they find some small measure of peace knowing you died as heroically as you lived…”
Another long pause and I had to stand. Joints in my knees and back popped and I groaned.
“And…I guess…” I touched the headstone tentatively. “I love you, Scully. You were my best friend, and I just hope you knew that. Walter told me about a few times that he saw us together, and he says it was pretty obvious what we meant to each other. Well, Scully, I just hope it was obvious to you…
“It scares me, Scully, this not knowing. It is getting better, though. I’m going to get back all of my memories of you; of Walter; of everything.
“I wonder, you know…about you and him. Mostly what you thought of him. He’s been so great through all of this, Scully. Great? Try amazing. From all those nasty comments in the margins of all my reports you would never guess what a patient man he can be.
“Or maybe you can…or would…I don’t remember if you knew I was with him, Scully. I wish I did. I imagine the two of us lunching together on our day off, comparing boyfriends. Did you have a boyfriend, Scully?
“I think you did know. And I think you were happy for me. A friend who’ll push you from a burning car is surely a friend who would support you, no matter who you date, right?”
My eyes were tearing up again. “I’m sorry,” I said again, brushing my hand over the stone almost compulsively. “I know in my heart that I loved you, Scully, and I am just so damned sorry…”
I turned around and turned my ankle and started running back towards the car, practically blinded with remorse. For whatever reason, my mind, which had closed shop over my shrink’s innocuous questions now decided it would have a big fat Scully sale and when I tripped over an uneven cobblestone on the footpath and fell with a grunt as the air was forced out of me, I could hear Scully’s voice:
“Mulder, where are you going?”
And I saw her face looking worn and devoid of makeup, and then superimposing over that, like a bad film developing, a Scully appeared with dark lips and perfectly styled hair. I heard myself whisper, “I love you,” and heard her say back, “Skinner’s dirty; he’s not your friend.”
“No,” I said, surprised to find myself speaking aloud. “Not Skinner.”
Whatever mini-hysterics had possessed me fell away as I got to my feet and brushed dirt from my palms where I had tried to catch myself. I looked back towards Scully’s grave, half-expecting to see her ghost, or spirit or something hovering over the markers, and I felt a sense of sneaking relief when the area remained specter-free.
“So we’re good then?” I asked, feeling foolish for talking out loud again, but unable to stop myself. “No more visits? At least, no more of the nightmare variety, right?” Again, I half-expected an answer. “Okay. Good. I’ll—I’ll come visit again…soon.” And still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of her eyes on me as I purposefully turned away from the grave and made my way back to Skinner and the car.
He was standing next to the car, hands in his pockets, whistling tunelessly and looking up at the sky, where dark clouds were gathering, hinting that the storms weren’t over yet. I looked at him and he looked at me then and simply asked, “Okay?”
“We’re good,” I agreed. “Better once we’re home.”
Without waiting for him, I climbed into the passenger side of the car. He sat down next to me, set the key into the lock, and then turned to me before turning over the engine.
“Did you want to drive?”
It was the first time he’d offered, and it took me all of about ten seconds to respond. A flash of red in my mind, a tickle of smoke in my throat, and whether it was just my over active imagination or Scully’s clever haunting, either way, it was a guarantee that I was going to remain a passenger for a while yet.
“Nah, you go ahead. I’ll just watch.” I gave him a grin, hoping it didn’t look as sickly as it felt. “And enjoy the view.”
He smiled at that, and gave my leg a friendly squeeze, then started up the car. I felt that dirty relief again as we left the cemetery, decided this ongoing survivor guilt would be the next topic for Dr. McCoy, and left it at that.
To be continued….