Title: Pieta
Author: Kirsten Kerkhof *
Classification: MSR, AU
Keywords: S R A
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Post-colonization, AU
Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement intended. Katherine, Julia, and Joshua were created by me.
Archiving: Sure. I'll do Gossamer myself, all others: you're welcome when you tell me where it's going, okay?

Summary: After they've lost another child, Scully has to draw Mulder back from what he always feared would happen.

Note: It will really help if you've read 'Apocalyptic Eden' to know who the auxiliary characters in this story are, but I suppose this story can also be read as a stand-alone.

I'm watching him through tear-filled eyes, unable to speak, unable at the same time to keep a sense of tenderness from blossoming in my aching heart.

Our eldest girl is dead. She was only 17, a gorgeous young woman with what we thought was a long future ahead of her. If the Lord's ways were ever inscrutable, this is the darkest one of all. We've lost a child. Again.

He holds her as she's lying in his arms, her face cradled against his chest. He's rocking her ever so slightly, comforting her still although she no longer feels it. This is how she died. I don't think she could have been in a better place, even when my own arms were aching to hold her. But I will. Soon.

He isn't crying as such, but I see the pain. I think he's beyond tears for now, this pain is so intense it's blocking any outward manifestations of his grief. But I do hope he will cry eventually, because I'm afraid he's unreachable now. And I've seen what can happen when even I cannot reach him.

Our younger daughter leans into me and I wrap my arms around her, drawing her in closer. We were all here when Katherine died and I'm so glad we were, because I have no doubt it will make dealing with this just a little bit easier, if that is the word. I don't know.

The room is silent. The neighbors left for the living room as soon as we knew she was dead, and I know we'll have to go to them soon, but for now our family needs to be together. Just the four of us. After all, in only a little while there will never be the four of us in a room anymore, even when I know we will forever feel her close.

He looks up and our eyes meet in silent conversation. He stands up and gently lies her on the bed, arranging her body and her clothes. Then I watch him leave the room, a slight slump in his shoulders betraying his grief. I don't think I've ever seen that in him. The door closes behind him with the familiar soft click and Julia and I are left behind.

"Go to him, mom," she says very softly, her voice slightly hoarse from her crying.

"I think he wants to be alone," I reply.

She nods. "He probably does, but I don't think that's the best place for him to be in."

I feel the slightest smile appear. I nod too, biting my lips. I place my hand on her arm. "Yes, you're right." I get to my feet and walk over to where Katherine is lying. I sit down on the side of the bed and stroke her cheek, feeling tears on my face. I bend over and kiss her soft cold skin. "I'll be right back, sweetheart," I whisper, "but your father needs me now."

I'm so incredibly close to grabbing her, pulling her into my arms against my breast and just never letting her go ...

I stand up, seeing Julia cry unashamedly and it gives me permission to do the same, as it were. She walks up to me and we hold each other, consoling one another.

"I think Joshua wants to see her," she then whispers and I nod, wiping away my tears.

"I'll go and tell them," I say, kissing her on her cheek. "Thank you, sweetheart."

She smiles a bit. "Go save dad," she says. "He needs you more than we do."

I look at her, then nod.

I spot him sitting under the old oak tree by the wheat field, his legs drawn up, his gaze far away and thoroughly lost. The tree is the first place I thought of to look for him and I'm not disappointed. All the important things in our lives here have happened under this tree. It's where we have had the happiest times of our lives. In this very darkest moment it's the only place we can go to now.

He spots me as I approach him and a flicker of annoyance crossing his face, but he doesn't say anything. I meanwhile pretend I didn't see it. I walk up to him, then sit down next to him. I reach out and take his hand, cradling it in mine.

"Where is Julia?" he asks, his voice hoarse.

"She went to get Joshua and the rest of the family," I reply.

"Didn't you want to stay with her?"

I nod. "Of course I did. But it wasn't where I needed to be."

"They need you. Julia needs you," he whispers.

I shake my head. "Not as badly as you need me."

"I'm fine," he says, almost making me laugh. What irony that he should choose that exact line now.

I lean into him. "We're not going to be 'fine' for a long time to come."

He opens his legs slightly and I move over to sit down sideways between them so I can rest against his chest. I feel his arms come around me and his head on mine. Tears have started to flow down my face once more, but I make no effort to stop them.

"Thank you for helping her," I whisper. "I'm sure your love made it a little easier for her to pass over ..."

I'm startled by the momentary tightening of his arms around me and the way his breathing starts to hitch almost out of control.

"No ..." he says, shaking his head.

I sit back a bit and look at him. "What's wrong?" I ask.

He keeps shaking his head, his eyes closed, and an unfamiliar expression on his face. He almost looks disgusted, but by what?

"What is it?"

He gently removes my arms and gets up, then quickly walks away from me. What the hell? I get to my feet as well and follow him.


He doesn't respond and he's already reached the fence when I finally catch up with him.

"Talk to me. Please!"

He turns to look at me and the agonized expression is unlike any I've ever seen. "Please, go home, Scully," he whispers, shaking his head. He's grabbed the fence almost as if he needs it simply to keep from collapsing.

There is no way I'm leaving him now. "No. You're hurting deeper than I thought possible and I'm not leaving you until I know why. We need to talk."

"Don't worry about me."

I almost laugh. "Well, I do," I say, earning me another annoyed glance. Dammit, Mulder, do you really think you can get rid of me this easily? When I see you this tortured?

I take his face in my hands, stroking my thumbs over his cheeks. "Sweetheart, we need to keep talking. We've just experienced the worst thing parents can possibly go through. Our baby girl has been taken from us and I feel like my heart has been ripped right out of me. And you're hurting just as badly, I know it and I can see it. This has the potential to destroy us. Don't push me away, please ..."

"I'm destroying myself," he says, his voice raw and pained, and his tears are dripping down onto my thumbs. "I can't drag you along with me."

"I need to be where you are," I answer, pulling him closer. "Please tell me what you're feeling."

"No, I can't. You'll hate me and I will lose ... everything. I've already lost her, I ..."

"You know I won't hate you."

"Yes, you will. You can never understand, because *I* can't understand and they're my own thoughts and they're killing me! I don't want to feel them and they're there and I'm telling you it's killing me inside!"

His legs give way under him and I catch him till we're both in a sitting position. I pull his head down to cradle it against me. I feel him tear up, pulling me closer as he cries.

"Please, sweetheart, talk to me, confide in me. Whatever it is that's hurting you, I can't promise you I won't be shocked, but I *can* promise you I won't hold it against you," I whisper.

He has buried his face in his hands and I feel the sobs racking his body as I'm clutching him to me. Oh my God, whatever it is that's tormenting him, it is going deep ...

"I- "

I'm stroking his hair, feeling my own tears flow, pouring the love I feel for him into my embrace. This loss has the potential to tear us apart and I'm determined not to let that happen. I've already lost two daughters and a son -- Jesus ..," - and I'll be damned if I let anyone or anything take him away from me.

"I wanted -- " he starts, and pulls away slightly. "When Katherine was dead -- I ..." Our eyes meet. Then I see his expression change, and all life seems to be draining from his face and his eyes. "I wanted it to be Julia. I wanted whatever took Katherine to bring her back and take Julia instead," he says, his voice as lifeless as his eyes.

I draw in a sharp breath, I can't help it.

The sound brings life back to his eyes, but it's a desperate life. "Do you understand? Do you now understand why you must hate me? I wanted to trade in one of my daughters to save another! And it's making me sick!" His voice is raised. "I'm like my father! I was going to sacrifice a child of mine! I'm no better than my father, ready to do that one thing I always resented him for! And I can't stand it! I cannot let that happen!" I hear his voice crack at the end of that last sentence and watch his face crumple as he collapses against me once more. I draw him in and feel his arms come round me, holding me frantically. "Please don't hate me, please don't hate me, I'm so sorry ..."

"Shhh ... You weren't sacrificing your child," I whisper. "Our baby was taken away from us and you were suffering, you still are, we all are. And I don't hate you."

"You must," he sobs. "My father sacrificed his daughter to save his son -- I wanted to sacrifice Julia to save Katherine. I feel like I'm even worse than him."

"You're not, really you're not," I say. "I told you I wouldn't hold this against you, and I won't. I'm not going to lie, this was not what I expected and I am a bit shocked. But I don't hate you, I can't."

I lift his face so I can look him in the eyes. "You're hurting badly, you lost your daughter, your own flesh and blood. Nobody is asking you to be sensible and level-headed now."

"You're not angry. Why aren't you furious with me?"

He sounds so lost. I shake my head. "Listen to me. There is one fundamental difference between you and your father: he made a conscious choice to sacrifice your sister in order to save you. And I'm not saying it didn't mess with his mind and his life afterwards, but it was a choice made with a clear mind. You didn't do that. You didn't choose to save Katherine over Julia. And you certainly weren't cool and collected at the time." I press a kiss onto his forehead. "And if anything, you didn't do it. Ultimately that's what matters. You didn't sacrifice your child. You are not your father."

He gathers me to him in a frantic embrace. "Don't tell Julia. Ever. Please. She would never forgive me."

I shake my head. "This will be between you and me. Nobody else will ever know."

"You sure you don't hate me?"

I feel one corner of my mouth turn up involuntarily and I nod. "I'm sure." Then the half-smile disappears. "Let's go home to our children."

He nods and we look at each other, fresh tears in our eyes. We stand up and, with our arms around one another for support, both physical and metal, we slowly walk home. It will be a long time yet before we come close to healing again.

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