Title: The Package
Author: Elsie
Feedback: elsiel@telusplanet.net
Rating: G
Category: V, MSR
Keywords: Anywhere
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. No infringement is intended.
Spoilers: Nothing Important Happened Today

Summary: Scully receives a package.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to my beta readers RealB and Georgia for all their help.

She tries to avoid looking at it, but finds her eyes glancing in the direction of the small parcel yet again. It sits on the kitchen table, almost untouched, except for the crooked fold on its right corner revealing the truth. It came yesterday afternoon, courtesy of a friendly FedEx deliveryman.

She'd signed for it, innocently believing that it was a Christmas gift that hadn't quite made the deadline.

She hadn't known.

She'd left it on the coffee table in the living room in answer to William's cries, and hadn't remembered it until hours later when she'd sat down on the couch with her chrysanthemum tea hoping to indulge in something as mindless as television. Looking for the coaster she'd left on the table the previous night, she spied the unopened bubble envelope in the familiar white, blue, and red, out of the corner of her eye.

She sat her mug down, foregoing the coaster, and picked up the envelope casually.

She hadn't known.

The return address was a post office box number in Helena, Montana, and she tried to remember whether her cousin Janet still had a ranch up there. She had trouble opening the envelope, and ended up using a butter knife; the first thing she'd seen out in the open as she wandered out of the living room and into the kitchen.

Mangling the outer packaging, she was surprised to find another package inside the envelope; a small box wrapped in plain brown parcel paper.

She smiled, thinking of pacifiers and engraved Baby's First Christmas ornaments.

She hadn't known. She unwrapped the little box eagerly but carefully, unfastening the seams where the paper had been taped so it wouldn't rip messily.

The paper folded back neatly to reveal a gold-painted, cardboard box.

She opened it to find layers of white, fluffy cotton.

Three layers down, she came upon it.

A simple diamond solitaire, the kind of ring she'd buy for herself if she'd wanted one.

She dropped the box, ring and all, into her lap as her hands covered her mouth. "Oh my God," she said when she recovered.

She picked up the envelope the package had come in making sure it was addressed to her. She couldn't believe it.

She didn't know what to do or how to feel.

Could it be?

Was this really happening?

She'd picked up the box with shaking hands to replace it on the sturdier table, when she noticed the small piece of paper sticking out of it like a miniature white flag.

There appeared to be some writing on it in blue ink.

It reminded her of the fortune in a fortune cookie.

She grasped the edge of the paper, and pulled it out slowly, wondering what her destiny would be with both curiosity and fear battling for supremacy inside of her. "When I'm back," the slip of paper said simply in the familiar handwriting.

She suddenly forgot how to breathe.

She felt the air around her, but it couldn't get inside her lungs.

She scrambled off her sofa for the safety of the kitchen, away from the tiny parcel and what it meant. She hyperventilated in her kitchen for fifteen minutes before letting herself feel.

He was okay.

He hadn't forgotten them. Relief slowly surpassed disbelief. She hadn't known.

But how could she have known?

Such an expensive item in such plain wrapping--was he crazy?

What if someone had stolen it?

And such a big box for something so small...

She caught herself before she could ruminate on it any more.

What was she supposed to do? In the end, she calmly walked back into the living room, tucking the slip of paper back into the box underneath the ring, replacing the lid on the box, and re-wrapping the entire thing. She finally felt fine when she placed the package on the kitchen table on her way to throw the envelope into the trash.

She went to bed with a clear mind, after checking on her son. But things are different this morning.

She's been trying to distance herself from the ugly, brown package since dawn. Acknowledging it would mean daring to hope, and she doesn't want to face the disappointment when she's pinched awake.

She'd even taken the envelope it came in out of the trash, sealing it in a large Ziploc freezer bag, just in case she felt the need to dust for fingerprints later. She realizes that she is sitting at the table with the package in front of her.

She doesn't remember sitting down.

She wants to look at the ring again, see it in the light of day, feel its weight, know that she didn't imagine it last night.

But she can't.

She's scared of knowing. What does it mean?

Is it a Christmas gift--a very luxurious and expensive gift at that, but what else would he get the mother of his child that he'd deem worthy? Is he proposing?

God, she wishes she knew what that note meant. Does he expect her to marry him when he's back?

She's not sure what she wants it to mean.

No, she knows.

She just doesn't want to know what his intentions are, just in case they don't match hers. Their relationship has never been very conventional, so she can see how he'd find a proposal-by-mail perfectly okay.

She tentatively reaches out a hand to touch the top of the parcel. What was he thinking?

Didn't he know her well enough to realize that this would be a source of stress on top of overwhelming joy? She's gotten used to being alone.

She'd prepared herself for it.

His gift is the destruction of the tight control she'd regained over her life.

Now, when she's no longer adjusting, but fitted to this life, he's jumping back in.

He's going to ruin her facade. She wonders if he feels obligated because of William, but realizes that he would've done this much earlier if that were the case.

She would've said yes if he'd asked then, in a heartbeat.

But he didn't, and she got over it.

She wants to ask him, "Why now?"

Did it take her longest absence from him yet for him to realize how he felt?

She imagines that he's lonely, and hopes it's not the only reason for this surprise gift. She spends a few minutes churning up unpleasant memories in her mind, memories of other times of uncertainty.

She is broken from her thoughts by the sound of William's gurgling coming from the baby monitor.

She is shocked to discover that she's been caressing the top of the package with her fingertips.

She stands up abruptly and heads for her son. William smiles at his mother as she picks him up from his crib. "Hi Sweetie, did you have a good sleep?" she asks, rubbing his stomach.

He babbles nonsense at her; she imagines that he's answering her question.

She checks his diaper, then carries him to the kitchen, settling him in her lap as she reseats herself at the table. William immediately reaches for the small package on the table, but his arms are too short.

He looks up at his mother, gesturing with his arms.

"No, Willie, that's..." she stops mid- sentence. It's more than a present to her; it's his gift to both of them. He wants them to be a family.

He's promising to return to them. She stifles a sob as she realizes how foolish she has been. They've never fallen out of love, so why not?

And he'd sent her more than a little reminder.

He hadn't forgotten how much they mean to each other.

Why shouldn't she marry the man she loves? She is ripping away the ugly brown parcel paper from the little gold box before she can think about what she's doing.

She moves the paper away from William before his little hands make a grab for it.

She tears the lid off the box and gives that to William to play with instead. The ring sits near the bottom of the box, an unthreatening little piece of jewelry nestled in cotton.

She wonders what she was so afraid of last night.

Maybe the shock has finally worn off.

Yes, that's probably what it was.

Not having heard from him in months, she definitely did not expect that the first message he'd send would be an engagement ring.

She laughs out loud and William, who has been busy chewing on the corner of the box lid, glances up at her with a confused look. She takes out the slip of paper underneath the ring, and traces her index finger over the message scrawled on it.

"When he's back," she whispers to herself.

She replaces the paper in the box, then picks up the ring and shows her son.

"Isn't it beautiful?" The shiny object entrances William.

He watches her silently, the cardboard toy forgotten, as she examines the ring, wondering if it will fit.

She hasn't worn jewelry on her fingers in a long time, and doesn't know what her ring size is anymore. She begins to put the ring on her fourth finger, and gasps as the ring slips down her finger without her assistance.

She looks down at William, and he just smiles up at her.

She tells herself that it's a magnetic force, a strong wind, maybe even just the pull of gravity.

William's special enough as he is; she doesn't need to imagine him having magic powers as well. The ring is a perfect fit.

She's surprised it doesn't feel strange on her finger.

She thought the extra weight would be a burden, but it only makes her feel happy.

She knows that she won't wear it until he's back; it may not be safe.

But until then, she can take the little box out of her lingerie drawer, and admire the ring every so often. She tugs the ring off after a minute and replaces it in its golden box.

"When he's back," she tells their son, and William babbles his agreement.

He's tugging on her shirt pocket, and she extricates the fabric from his strong grasp, placing his little hand over her heart for a moment before letting it go. She pulls the slip of paper out from underneath the ring, and steals one last look at the gift before closing the lid.

Her fingers caress the message one more time, then she tucks the slip of paper into her pocket and promises him, "When you're back..."

The End

I'd love to hear what you think.

Comments are welcome at elsiel@telusplanet.net

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