table setting

Title: Defector of a Kind
Author: Rory D.
Written: 11/29/96
Rating: PG-13; angst, only a relationship if you perceive it as such.
Category: SA
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Mulder and Scully, nor do I claim Bruce Cunningham (Juliettt) or Jackie St George and Marty Nantus (Sheryl Martin); I'm just borrowing them for my own misdeeds, with permission of course, for my own twisted universe (evil laughter ensues). Mulder and Scully and The X-files characters used herein are owned by Ten-Thirteen Productions, FOX Broadcasting, Chris Carter and the whole shebang. No copyright infringement is intended, and this is not for profit. Feel free to archive with my permission, just keep my name attached to it. The Internet is a wonderful tool, please do not misuse it. This was posted to M
S first, with a few changes thanks to some helpful eyes.

Personal Ramblings: Feel free to ignore.

This story takes place around Thanksgiving time, 1995. I honestly don't remember if they (Mulder and Scully) were on a case at the time, but this really has nothing to do with a case anyway. Third Season spoilers, mostly from "The Blessing Way" and "Paperclip". This story has been rattling through my head for the last couple of hours, and I really need to get rid of it before I explode.

Please write me and tell me what you think, but flames will be politely ignored. I'm in that sort of mood. Chock full of Scully angst, just so you know. If you want to know where this story may lie in conjunction with some of my other stories, this is after "Cardinal Sins" and long before "Harbor", though they all tend to deal with the same themes.... gee, I think I'm in a rut.


I'm harboring a fugitive
defector of a kind
and she lives in my soul
and drinks of my wine
and i'd give my last breath to keep us alive
are they coming for us
with cameras or guns
we don't know which
but we gotta run
and you say this is not what i bargained for
so hide yourself from me... all for me
"fugitive" indigo girls, swamp ophelia, 1994

November 21, 1995 (Tuesday)
Quantico, VA
6:38 pm

Shaking her head, Dana Scully tried to concentrate on what she was supposed to be doing, only to realize that she had no idea what she was doing in the first place. Groaning audibly, she looked around the desktop, at the computer screen, the folder in front of her. Her reading glasses were perched precariously on the end of her nose, which made sense if she was rubbing the bridge of her nose, which she was doing and clearly remembered starting to do some odd minutes ago. So she was reading something, that much was evident. If the pounding behind her eyes and the pain near the small of her back were any indication, she had been reading or using the computer for quite some time.

"Wake up!" she growled, pushing her glasses up and re-reading the paragraph on the screen. Autopsy report. Transcribing her written notes for the file. Modern day Salem witch trials, killer still at large.

Ritualistic killings of men and women, methods similar to the means of execution common during the famed witch hunts. All victims were members of groups that practiced white magic or some form thereof, not that she believed in any of it. Hocus pocus mumbo jumbo. The killer was just some sicko with a deluded visionary quest. She didn't need to be a profiler to know that. Why Mulder insisted that she do the autopsies was beyond her; there was nothing unusual about the deaths, none of his supernatural elements. She had other things to do, more pressing matters that needed attending, and wasting her time doing something someone else was more than capable of doing was just fueling her anger.

Maybe she was just over-reacting, too tired to think clearly. Wouldn't be the first time. Certainly would not be the last. With Thanksgiving coming up, and two days off other than the weekend, maybe she could finally get some rest, get rid of the compelling need to choke the living daylights out of the very next person who walked through the door asking her for a favor.

There was a tapping at the lab door. She ignored it. Anyone who had a need to get in had a key, and everyone else was someone she did not want to bother with right now. Sure enough, the key rattled in the lock and the door swung open. She didn't bother to look up from her screen, her theory being ignore it and it will go away.

It didn't go away. She recognized Bruce Cunningham's footsteps, the pattern of shoe falls, the slight shuffle of the left foot against the linoleum. Earlier in the day, during a more lucid moment, she had warned him that she was having one of her psychotic days, and he did what he could to keep everyone away from the autopsy bay she claimed as her own. For the most part, he had been successful. Ever the consummate professional, whenever a class stopped by to view the facilities as part of their training, she put up her professional front, and he had commented the success of her charade when they left for lunch.

She had been grateful that he had not asked her to elaborate on the cause of her psychotic mood. She liked to blame it on the lack of sleep she'd had, though it was linked to the real reason. It was Thanksgiving, the family would be at Mom's, everyone would be cheerful and happy, life went on, and Melissa would not be there to remind her of that fact. But thinking about it only made her more anxious, and she really did not want to lose her cool with Bruce if he asked. He didn't deserve to catch the brunt of her anger. In fact, he had been single-handedly responsible for her near civility of late, for which she was eternally thankful. He handled the phone calls, he ran interference, he politely and efficiently waylaid Mulder when he came trouncing by to see if she had found anything new with the latest victim.

"You're working too hard," Bruce said nonchalantly, organizing the files related to the case in the large, accordianed fil-o-fax folder. "I can hear the wheels grinding in your head." The comment was returned with a guttural grunt. "Are we still in our psychotic mood?"

"Yes." Short, simple, to the point. Silent curses soon followed, a wrong keystroke deleting the paragraph that had taken her preoccupied mind more than an hour to write. The glasses came off and were hurled across the desk.

"I'll leave you to your demons." Picking up the fil-o-fax, Bruce dropped the xerox she had requested on her desk. Skirting around behind her chair, he leaned over her shoulder, grabbed the mouse before she could fling it across the room with the mouse pad that had already found a home against the wall, and quickly replaced the missing paragraph by reverting to an earlier, automatically-saved document.

"Thank you," Scully muttered into her palm, having set her chin resting in her right hand when Bruce took the mouse away from her. It always amazed her how he calmly picked up on her thoughts before she could even act on them. "I knew there was a reason you insisted we install that particular option."

"Just call me psychic," Bruce replied.

The guffaw was muffled by her hand. "No, because then Mulder will want to investigate you."

"Can't have that, now can we?"

There was a knock at the door, and Scully's head dropped to her chest with a tired whine. No one could see her desk from the door, so if she choose to hide, no one would be the wiser, unless she left her coat in plane view, a habit she was sure to change in the coming weeks if her mood didn't improve. The one thing she hated more than a bad mood was people purposefully trying to pull her out of a bad mood.

"You could hang a `do not disturb' sign outside, and no one would be the wiser," Bruce suggested.

"Do you want to take a guess as to how many people would believe that sign did not apply to them?" Scully replied. The knocking resumed. "Let's pretend we're not here."

"I'll get it," Bruce said, winding his way around the desk and towards the door. From the evil sounding laugh emanating from his throat, she knew answering the door did not bode well for her. "It's the Tick."

If Bruce meant it as a joke to get her to laugh, he had succeeded. Agent Pendrell had picked up several nicknames, known only to a few who sympathized with her predicament: Tick, Shadow-boy, Death Star. Not necessarily meant in a mean fashion, but there weren't many ways to describe a guy with unrequited love in his facial expression but didn't catch the subtle, and not so subtle, hints that you were not interested in the first place. She felt sorry for him, in a way. He wasn't the first `tick' she had attracted.

"Bruce--" Scully admonished, professional face firmly in place.

Bruce opened the door, and a tentative Agent Pendrell slipped through the door and around the corner. Lab coat caught behind his back, file folder in hand, Pendrell looked like he was about to faint from hyperventilation.

"You, ah, -- when you didn't stop by to pick up the lab results, I thought I would, ah, drop them off... here."

Scully mentally berated herself for forgetting to pick up the results of the lab tests she ordered. She was forgetting more and more of the little things everyday, too preoccupied to remember the simple tasks that she had meant to finish off.

Her mask must have slipped because Bruce was looking at her funny, eyebrows knit together so tightly she would have thought he could easily impersonate Bert the muppet. She quickly shook her head and looked at Pendrell. "Thanks. What did you find?" she asked, accepting the file folder from him.

"Well, there was an accelerant used to start the fire, but it didn't burn hot enough to destroy all the fuel. I've run an analysis to get the make of the accelerant. It's a type of fuel commonly used in model rockets."

Scully flipped through the report, the easy script and carefully organized information. "That should narrow our focus a bit. Thanks, this should help a lot."

Cheeks turning a deep crimson, Pendrell shuffle-footed towards the door, smiling nervously. "Glad I could be of asset... assextance... glad I could help."

He fumbled with the door, pulling instead of pushing, and finally managed to get out of the lab without losing too much face.

Bracing the door open with his foot, Bruce took a quarter out of his pocket and threw it on the desk. "Twenty-five cents, he pulls Homer Simpson." Sure enough, the minute Pendrell was out of earshot, he pounded his forehead with the palm of his hand several times, and a nearly inaudible `doh' could be heard. Arms raised in victory, Bruce reached for his coat. "You owe me a quarter."

The inescapable tug pulled at her smile and a neutral non-expression played across her face. She started to read and proofread her report once again. Before he left the lab, he paused and said, "Don't work too late. Go home and rest. It looks like you could use it."

She waved good-bye, more of a dismissive gesture than anything else. She didn't hear the door click shut, or voices in the hallway that carried through the crack. Least of all, she did not hear footsteps approaching the door or someone sitting in the chair across from her desk.

Jackie St. George didn't exactly make her approach a quiet one, but it did surprise her that Scully had not looked up at all from the computer screen. It wasn't until she propped her combat boot-clad feet heavily on the corner of the desk that Scully was roused from her trance.

"Gee, Dana, I thought you'd have gone home by now."

So immersed in her work, Dana Scully jumped slightly at the sound of her voice. Eyes burning with fatigue, she pulled off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose, watching the spots before her eyes dance across the page she was proofreading. Concentration broken, eyes refusing to focus on the words she was supposedly reading, Scully looked up, eyes focusing slowly.

"You look tired," Jackie replied. Scully simply shrugged. "How much longer do you have here? Want to grab some dinner?"

Scully looked at her watch, astonished at the time. "How did you get in here?"

"`Get out of jail free' card, and I'm taking you with me," Jackie replied, waving her visitor's pass. Leaning back in the chair, she pointed noncommittally towards the hallway. "I saw a very dejected Hound-dog sulking by as I walked in. I take it Shadow-boy dropped by for a visit."

Before Scully could comment, Jackie sprang forward in the chair, slapping her hands on the desktop, a wicked grin on her face. "Wait, this reminds me, have I told you the Energizer Bunny joke? What happens when you put the Energizer Bunny's batteries in backwards? He keeps coming and coming and coming..."

Barely acknowledging the joke with a nod and a snuff, Scully leaned back in her chair, reveling in the groan and creek of old springs. "Cute."

"Mulder sent it to me via email, as well as a few other choice puerile jokes that I will not subject you to at this time, at least not until I get a few beers into you. These jokes can only be fully appreciated on a full tank."

Shaking her head, Scully pointed at the computer screen. "Not tonight. I have work to do. There are a zillion reports that need to be finished before tomorrow night, and I don't plan on doing any work this weekend."

"Ooh ooh, hot date? Any one I know? Maybe a certain tall, dark, and obsessed FBI agent?"

"Most certainly not," Scully replied, a bit more vehemently than Jackie had ever heard from her before. Well, not quite, but never in relation to Mulder before, not that he didn't deserve it with some of the stunts he had pulled in the past.

Jackie picked up the Rubik's cube sitting next to the computer monitor and started tossing it in the air as if it were a softball. "Word on the floor is you are in a bad mood, and it looks like the rumor mill is running one for one today. Guess this means I can't play the queen bitch until your temperament changes. Marty and Mulder will think it's some woman thing if we're both acting psychotic. Could really damage our reputations as libbers."

Scully rolled her eyes, and went back to whatever she was working on. Jackie leaned forward, snatched the report that Scully was transcribing. "So, what's this you're working so diligently on, hmm?"

"Jackie, I really want to finish this tonight," Scully pleaded, readjusting her position in the chair. "I'm trying to be polite here. Please give it back."

Jackie recognized the small wince of pain crossing Dana's face, probably her back again. "If speaking in monosyllables is being polite, you need a couple of lessons from Ms. Manners."

"It's either that, or start swearing up a storm that would put my father to shame."

"Navy brats learn all the great colorful phrases earlier in life. It's just not fair. Care to discuss what ails thee, fine lady, or will I have to pry it out of you after a few drinks, and you know it will happen, so you might as well spill it now and save us both time, and me money on those good stiff drinks I know you need."

"No."

"Is it Mulder?" Scully growled as she typed.

"Work?" Another growl.

"The Patriots' disastrous showing last week? Taking the Mighty Ducks seriously? Michael Jordan back in the NBA? Come on, Dana, you gotta help me out."

Scully shot her a look that would have frozen the oceans, and Jackie held her hands up in surrender. If there was anyone more pig-headed than herself, it was Dana Scully, a fact Mulder frequently pointed out whenever he came head to head with the formidable stubborn streak. Time to pull out the big guns.

"Bruce said you didn't eat your lunch. Bad Dana. I think your mother would disapprove. Let's go grab something to eat so I don't feel the need to confess to your mother on Thursday. Why you Americans celebrate Thanksgiving so late in the year is beyond me."

"Jackie, I'm really not in the mood, I just want to go home and sleep."

"And think how much better you'll sleep after a nice hot, greasy meal and a couple of games of pool. I won't take no for an answer." Jackie sprung from her chair, grabbed Scully's coat from the rack. Bruce was right, something was definitely rotten in the mental state of Dana, and she had an inkling of what it was all about.

Sighing resignedly, Scully left her chair, groaning as she stood. Jackie threw the shorter woman her trench coat. "Let me just hit the ladies' room first."

"Yeah, no problem. Meet you outside in a few minutes," Jackie replied. Once Scully left the room, Jackie picked up the extension and dialed. It was answered on the first ring.

"It's me. Can you meet me at Brandy's in about, oh, two hours?... Yeah, yeah, I have an idea, just meet us there... Yeah, bye."


Brandy's Bar and Restaurant
8:04 pm The cue ball kissed off the four, and in what could only be described as the breath of god, the four just touched the nine ball, sending it into the corner pocket where it was precariously perched. The solid clink of porcelain on porcelain echoed in the quiet confines of the back corner of Brandy's Bar and Restaurant.

Brandy's was a favorite because of its limited regular clientele and secluded area. Accessed from a well lit alley outside of mainstream Georgetown, it was a five generation family run joint that served a steak and potato to die for, five dollar pitchers, and a mint condition pool table older than god. Leather-backed booths lined two walls, with a smathering of square tables and finely polished rounded chairs provided a cozy atmosphere for the regular customers and a welcome environment for those looking for a friendly face. No jukebox as far as the eye could see. Music was pumped in from hidden speakers in the ceiling, the selection more inclined towards whatever customers happened to be in the place at the time. A steady beat of soft jazz was playing this evening.

Mike was behind the bar, keeping close tabs on the two ladies at the pool table, not wanting a replay of a rather hilarious night of frivolity when a call to the Assistant Director and the FBI's most unwanted was required to get the two more than inebriated women home safely. But from the serious expression on the red-head's face, and the fact that they had been there for nearly two hours and had yet to put a dent in their first drinks, he figured that call would not be forthcoming.

They had quietly eaten dinner, the taller of the two carrying most of the conversation. This in and of itself was unusual, since he knew that once one got the two of them started, there was no stopping them. But it was a busy night, and the place was not lacking for background noise. No one else seemed to notice.

Mike thought he might finally find out what was going on when Red excused herself for the lavatory and the tall one headed for the bar. Rag over his shoulder, he wandered over to see if he could get her anything.

"Hiya, Jackie, what can I get for you?"

"A prefrontal lobotomy?"

"How about a free bottle of beer in front of you?"

"You'd go out of business that way, Mike."

"What's with Red?" Mike's head nodded towards the restrooms near the back of the room.

Jackie shrugged her shoulders, and leaned over to grab the cue sticks from behind the bar. Only Jackie could get away with that intrusion. But, if it would cheer up Dana, he was game. "Five dollars says she still cleans up."

"She cleans up and the next three pitchers are free."

"May have to take a raincheck on that tonight, but I'll hold you to it. Do me a favor. When the guys get here, keep them busy until I give the say so, okay?"

"Yeah, sure, Jack... no problem."

Scully leaned her pool cue against the wall, taking a sip of the beer she had been nursing all night. She hadn't wanted to go out, more inclined to brood in her living room with her newly acquired pet. Queequeg, she finally decided to name the little rodent, provided a fair amount of company and wasn't about to ask her what was wrong at every turn of a frown. Pets were great that way. Why couldn't anyone let her enjoy a good bad mood for a little while?

Jackie, meanwhile, was sulking at the third straight loss at nine-ball. Though by no means a light-weight in terms of alcohol consumption, she had yet to polish off more than a third of the pitcher Mike brought over for them. Racking once again, she took the initiative and broke.

Taking a seat on one of the high bar stools that surrounded the pool table, Scully watched as Jackie weighed her options. Billiards had been a hobby picked up during college. There was an old, beaten table in the rec room of the dormitory. Most of the striped balls were missing, so out of necessity, nine-ball became a frequent favorite. Though, Jackie was no slouch when it came to pool, either.

All fifteen balls were on the table this go `round. So, Jackie wanted to change the rules by choosing the game herself. Slipping off the stool, Scully collected her cue. Jackie went for the four in the left corner pocket, ricocheting the solid purple ball along the bumpers in the pocket rather than in the pocket itself. Using the missed opportunity, Scully cleaned up the four, the five and the two, before missing a combination shot that would have landed the one.

"Are you going to let me win at least one match?" Jackie asked. "This is rather pathetic." The nine ball fell, followed quietly and annoyingly by the cue ball. Jackie's head thumped lightly against the felted rail. "Go, take it. Here lie-th St. George, couldn't sink a pool ball to save her life."

Scully made quick work of the remaining solid balls on the table, called the eight ball into the side pocket and then sunk every other ball on the table.

Though getting her figurative head handed to her on a platter by a certain formidable FBI agent who wasn't much taller than the cue stick she was holding in her hands was a lot of fun, Jackie was more concerned over of the lack of conversation. She and Dana had never been at a loss for words, and even when there wasn't anything to talk about, there was always the ever popular male-ego-bashing, but even that was no fun without Mulder or Marty to be the butt of their jokes. Not that Dana had fallen for any obvious set-up lines.

"Were you a pool shark in a previous life? This is something that needs investigating," Jackie replied.

"Don't make me hurt you, Jackie."

"Ooh, okay, foul territory. No talking about work, no talking about Mulder, no talking about your uncanny ability to beat me silly at pool. But let me ask you this, can you be on my team the next time we play doubles? I think I can really cash in."

Sneering at her, Scully racked the balls again, broke, sinking the ten. Jackie was amazed at how very little could break the red head's concentration. Dana could be too serious for her own good at times, and Jackie saw it as one of her missions in life to get her to loosen up.

Jackie shook her head. Time for a less subtle approach. "So, want to talk about what's bothering you?"

"Not particularly." Down went the fourteen.

"Brothers coming on Thursday?"

Twelve banked off the side and into the opposite corner. "As far as I know."

"You haven't talked with them?"

"Too busy."

"What about your mom? She need any help Thursday morning?"

"Probably."

Backspin applied to the cue ball, it kissed off the eleven, sent it careening towards the pocket and brought the cue ball back to near its initial position.

"You haven't talked to her either? When was the last time you saw her?"

The nine rebounded madly between the bumpers, not going anywhere fast. Jackie's suspicions were slowly but surely being recognized. Well, might as throw in the clincher. She was well aware of the date, and its significance. It had been the same on every twenty-first since April.

"It's been 7 months to the day."

Scratch.

Bingo.

Jackie placed her cue against the wall. She heard the familiar ring of the chime sitting over the door, signifying the entrance of another bar patron. Mulder and Marty walked in, shedding their overcoats and speaking with Mike at the bar. Mike caught her eye, and she shook her head ever so slightly. Not yet.

Picking the cue ball out of the corner pocket, Scully placed it on the table and took angry, though accurate, shots at the remaining balls. Jackie watched as Mulder and Marty took seats at the bar, ordered their respective drinks, and turned their questioning eyes her way. Luckily, the way the bar was situated, they could see her and Scully, but she had to step around a partition to see them clearly.

"Are you going to your mother's on Thursday?" Jackie asked quietly.

"Of course I am," Scully replied, sounding appalled. "Why wouldn't I?"

Scully never made eye-contact with her. "But you don't want to be there."

Scratch.

This time Jackie fished the cue ball out of the pocket, placed it haphazardly on the table. "No one blames you, especially not your family."

"They don't have to blame me." The rest of the statement went unsaid. The cue ball nearly bounced off the table.

Jackie took the cue from Scully's hands before she could take out her anger on the unsuspecting pool table. She finished off the game, knowing how much decorum and normality meant to her friend. Scully randomly choose the eight ball and rolled it between her hands. At times she held it with near white-knuckle intensity. Time for a reprieve. Dana would come out of whatever personal hell she subjected herself to in her own time.

"Look, I'm going to freshen this up," Jackie said, draining her glass. "Want another?"

Scully shook her head. "No."

"I'll be right back." Jackie handed the pool cue back to her, placed a supportive hand on her shoulder. "Knock yourself out... and don't take me literally."

Mulder met her half way. "Melissa?" Jackie nodded. "And I've been an ass."

"You said it, not me, but neither did she, if you were wondering."

"How much have you two had to drink?"

"Not nearly enough. Look, she doesn't want to talk to me, maybe she'll talk to you. She's on a guilt trip that rivals Hamlet's, and she's headed for a fall. Just be there to catch her, if she'll let you."

Mulder patted her on the back, and headed for the pool table. "Thanks."

Scully felt rather than heard his presence. So, Jackie was going to play dirty by bringing Mulder into this. Fine. Continuing to ignore him, she set the table up for a game of nine-ball. There was still a tightness in her lower back, which she ignored. Blot out the pain like everything else. Always easier that way.

"I found the perfect dog tag for that new pooch of yours. It has this inscription on the back; `Born 2 P'." Mulder dangled a brassy dog-bone shaped charm between his fingers.

"You really know how to charm a girl." Down went the seven on the break.

"I aim to please, unlike your dog. He aims for your expensive pumps."

She realized that he was trying to diffuse a tense situation, and humor was his way out. She couldn't blame him, no matter how much she wanted to. Still, she didn't want to be pulled from her funk. There was something to be said of messing with people's perceptions of your behavior. After the holiday. She'd make an effort to be more cheerful after some rest and time away from work, from stress, from everything.

One, two, three, four, combo with the five and sink the nine.

"Say, Minnesota Fats, so this is what your physics degree went towards."

"That's Newtonian physics. My thesis was in theoretical physics."

"Okay, so the pool balls are planets and they are traveling faster than the speed of light. Never pegged you as a pool shark."

"Well, there's a lot about me you don't know. My father taught me when I was younger." She gathered the balls together for another round. Mulder had picked up three of the discarded stripped balls and started to juggle them in an easy cascade pattern.

"Is there anything he didn't teach you?"

Scully watched the pattern he had developed, leaning her cue against the side of the table. Keeping track of the eleven ball, she snatched it at the apex of the toss. "He didn't teach me to juggle. My mother taught me that."

"I'll have to bring that up at dinner on Thursday."

"Just don't juggle the dinner rolls. Mom gets awfully pissy when you play with your food." The break made a starting shot at the one nearly impossible. She studied the table.

"So you will be joining us."

"Well, thanks to a certain month long quarantine after that episode with the Descent team in the Cascades, I missed Thanksgiving last year."

"You almost missed Thanksgiving all together last year."

Shrugging her shoulders, Scully took aim and missed the one ball entirely. There were some things she'd rather not contemplate. Her own mortality was one of those subjects.

Mulder must have noticed a change in her disposition because he moved to stand behind her. The end of the cue stick provided an effective barrier, and she harbored no concerns about `accidentally' hitting him if he managed to get in the way of her shot.

"You've been through a lot this year, we both have. We've got a lot to be thankful for."

"Doesn't feel that way to me." Another miss. Damn, she hated it when her brain got in the way of a decent game of pool.

She stood, and her back promptly reminded her that it was not happy. Groaning, she straightened as much as painlessly possible and attempted to stretch the strained and over-stressed muscles of her lower back. Mulder stepped up behind her, wrapped his arms over her shoulders. She was too tired to avoid the embrace.

Mulder leaned over, taking the cue stick from her hands. He whispered in her ear, "Dana, this one will be the hardest. It will get easier, believe me." She fought the shudder of pent-up emotion, not wanting to lose face. Mulder, thankfully, did not make anything of it.

"You look like you need some sleep. Let me take you home."

"Yeah." Scully pulled away, walked towards their booth to collect her coat. "Where's Jackie?"

"I think this was a set-up. She left with Marty and few minutes ago."

"Remind me to add her to my hit list."

Mulder helped her with her coat, waved good-bye to Mike, and held the door open for her. "This wouldn't be that list of five people you can seek your revenge upon after your death would it? I remembered your birthday this year, didn't I, Scully?"

Mulder's car was just around the corner. The air was crisp and cold. "Stay home and rest tomorrow, Scully," Mulder offered. "I'll see you at your mother's on Thursday." He held the passenger door open for her. "It'll be okay."

As soon as she sat down, she closed her eyes against the bright glare of the street lamps and the escape of a single tear down her cheek. "Home, Jeeves."

"As you wish."

The End


"Who was that woman? The one from the other night."



"Why, are you interested? I"ll cut my rates in half,


a one time, special offer, just for you."



"What was she doing here?"



"She was looking for a job."



"She threatened to kill you."



"I declined her application. She lacker the proper


social skills."




"The Second Beast" RDC

Title: Teach Me To Sing
Sequel to Defector of a Kind
Author: Rory D. Rating: PG-13; angst, only a relationship if you perceive it as such.
Category: SA
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Mulder and Scully, nor do I claim Jackie St George (Sheryl Martin); I'm just borrowing them for my own misdeeds, with permission of course from Sheryl, in my own twisted universe (evil laughter ensues). Mulder and Scully and The X-files characters used herein are owned by Ten-Thirteen Productions, FOX Broadcasting, Chris Carter and the whole shebang. No copyright infringement is intended, and this is not for profit. Feel free to archive with my permission, just keep my name attached to it. The Internet is a wonderful tool, please do not misuse it.

I thought of a poem a friend of mine recited at graduation. I've carried a copy of it with me ever since. And I think it deserves to be a part of the annals of fanfic. So... here goes nothing.

You can love me, but I must make me happy.


You can promote me, but I must succeed.


You can teach me, but I must be provide the understanding.


You can coach me, but I must win the game.


You can pity me, but I must bear my sorrow.


For the gift of love is not a food that feeds me,


It is the sunlight that nourishes


What I must finally harvest for myself.


If you love me, don't just sing me your song;


Teach me to sing--


For when I am alone, it is then that I will need the melody.


Unknown author

Novemeber 23, 1995
Enroute to Margaret Scully's house
10:38 AM

Fox Mulder looked over at his near-dozing partner and wondered if this was a good idea after all. When he had showed at her apartment that morning, he was greeted by a sleepy-eyed red head shuffling to the door... until she realized what time it was, and then she was running around like a mouse on acid. He patiently sat on the couch with the furball she called a pet, watching as Dana Scully rushed to get ready, despite his protests that her mother would not mind if they were a little late, it was Thanksgiving, so what if she slept through her alarm, it wasn't like she needed to be at work, it was only dinner and half a dozen people snoozing within hours, she was just getting a head start on the game. She didn't buy it, told him to shut up in not so many words, and so he held a stimulating conversation with the pooch about the merits of Milkbone dog biscuits with that special breath-freshening formula.

And even the pooch was sound asleep, curled in Scully's lap looking very much like one of those red muffler/poofy things from Dr. Zhivago. He had held back his kidding protests about letting the furball in his car, knowing that his humor would not be well received. Scully had said she was dropping the dog off at her mother's for the weekend so she could rest (the little hairy beast was about as high maintainence as a nuclear submarine), and he couldn't argue with her there. He was even going to suggest she should stay at her mother's as well, spend some well deserved time with her brothers and nephews, sort out the Christmas decorations, regular family traditions that he himself envied his partner for having still now in her life.

But he had a feeling that even a well meaning gesture of good will would be met with a steely glare. He had known she was in a bad mood for the past week or so, had hoped that maybe running a few autopsies on a case he was interested in pursuing might `brighten' her spirits, as morbid as that particular scenario sounded. The autopsy bay was her element; she and she alone ruled her tiny little universe of gun-metal gray and steel, where just one little clue could make or break a case. The witch murders had caught his eye a few months back, when a tabloid article graced his private email service. He had been following the case ever since, and as a favor to a friend, had picked it up on the sly, and believed as he always had, that Scully would go right along with him.

Well, that theory was blown out of the water. He should have realized that there was only so far that she would follow him when he asked. It was a strange sort of dichotomy that she always found a way to follow when he didn't want her to; maybe it was because he felt he needed to protect her, certainly not from the danger of his predictament, but from the criticism and ostracism of being connected to his often-times impossible quest for the truth.

It was no secret that he felt guilty about Melissa Scully's death. He did not regret obtaining the digital tape; it was the holy grail about all the little secrets the government had felt necessary to hide from the people. He did regret not realizing that the water in his apartment was tainted, he did regret belting Skinner for no apparent reason, he did regret having Scully think that he was dead and the consequences she suffered because of his diligence to that damn tape. He did regret not giving Scully the chance to go to her sister, instead dragging her off to see Kempler. He had taken away the one thing that he had always wished for his own sister -- to spend more time with her before the end.

He was resigned to the fact that Samantha, HIS Samantha, was gone. Not necessarily dead, but the little girl he remembered was forever missing except in his memory. It was entirely possible, and he fervently hoped it was the case, that Samantha was alive and well, with no memory of who she was before the age of eight, living a good life in a world away from corruption and government conspiracy. He wondered if he would be happy with finally knowing the truth about her diappearance; always in his mind was his search for her.

But Scully no longer had that hope or that wonder; her sister was dead by the bullet of an assassin meant to kill his partner. They had accepted the dangers when they signed with the Bureau, not realizing at the time that the dangers within were as volatile as the dangers without. Inncoents and innocence were lost, with no hope of return. Well, there was always a hope, a small light under a bushell basket.

He wondered if he was the cause, inadvertant or otherwise, of the dimming of Scully's lamp.

Making the final turn onto the road that Mrs. Scully lived on, careful with the bend on the lightly fallen snow, he poked at the pooch, hoping that his waking would wake Scully up. It was working, to a certain extent. It wasn't until Scully glanced at her watch that she fully sat up in the passanger seat, gently tossing the dog into the back seat so she could stretch.

Mrs. Scully's house was unmistakable on the block, so distinctly Scully-like in the pristine whiteness of the house paint and the orderliness of the yard. There wasn't much to the front yard; an old maple near the street, a chip-rock cement drive-way that wound around the house to a two car garage in the back. The backyard, he knew, was huge by his standards. Rose bushes lined the entire house, now covered in burlap sacks and tied back so that the infrequent winter storms would not damage them.

By the looks of things, Scully's brothers were already at the house. The caravan had to be Bill Jr.'s, and the rugrats running around the house had to be his two sons. There was also a Saturn sedan with a NAVY sticker displayed prominently on the back bumper. That had to be Charles, home from the Navy for once, and with his wife no doubt. Word was, Maureen was expecting, as was Bill Jr's wife Kathy, and thankfully not at the same time, or Scully had said so when she was in a more talkative mood three weeks ago.

"Looks like the boys are back in town," he said with a smile. "Do you know when Jackie and Marty are getting here?"

Scully shook her head, not speaking, but there was a touch of a smile in her eyes as she watched her nephews playing in the yard. He had seen her interact with children on those rare occassions when children were involved with their cases and at one time even wondered why she had not yet setttled down and had a niece or nephew for her brothers. It was only a brief thought, knowing that successfully maintaining a relationship while working for the Bureau, especially in their line of work, was probably more difficult than withstanding an IRS audit with patience and temper in tact.

He pulled in behind Charles' car. The crunch of gravel under the tires was enough to alert the boys that they had arrived. She had barely opened the car door when she was besieged by two over-energetic pre-teens not much smaller than her. To her credit, she had managed to get the both of them in a head lock and still stay on her feet. Mulder was duly impressed.

The commotion must have alerted everyone inside of their arrival as well, since the front door opened and out walked a couple, the man with dark hair like his mother and the woman, large with life and looked about ready to burst. Bill and Kathy he surmised. Bill was off the porch in a single bound, wrestled his sons off of Scully and then wrapped her in a bear hug of his own. She in turn seemed to melt in his arms. With the exception of the hair color, Bill Jr was the spitting image of his father.

"Oh, Dana, it is so good to see you," he said, just barely above a whisper. "I thought you might have been called away again when we didn't hear from you."

Mulder stood a discrete distance away, but he could still hear their conversation.

"I'm sorry I didn't call," Scully said into his chest.

"I know," Bill said, stroking her head like he might a child. "I know." Bill spotted Mulder, and without letting go of Scully, held out his hand. "You must be Mulder. Bill Scully. Glad you could join us."

"I'm glad I was invited," Mulder replied, a little envious. He never got the chance to baby his little sister like Bill had.

Squeals of laughter erupted in the chilled air, the boys had discovered the yelping dog in the back seat of Mulder's car, a dog that had quickly realized that the front door was still open and escape was eminant.

"You brought the dog!" the elder one yelled as the mutt made a dash for freedom.

"What's his name?" the other asked.

"Queequeg," Scully replied.

"That figures," another voice said over the din.

Mulder looked up to see yet another man take the staircase with one leap, sandy orange hair closely cropped in a military fashion that looked highly out of place with civilian wardrobe. He gave his sister a quick peck on the cheek, and then helped the boys chase down the wayward animal.

"You always did like that depressing book," Charles replied, catching the leash and reeling in the dog.

"Charles, you leave your sister alone."

Margaret Scully walked down the stairs, though Mulder believed in her hey-day she could have leapt down the stairs with all the ease her sons had. She had the widest smile he had ever seen on her face at that moment, watching her children. Bill had yet to let go of Scully, and that had not gone unnoticed by Margaret.

"Fox, good of you to come."

"Like I was telling Bill, I'm just happy to be invited."

"You will always be invited to our house, Fox. Jaclyn called about an hour ago; she said she was going to be a little late. Something about Martin being called away on an emergency, and she needed to drop him off at the airport. Now, it is cold out here, and I'd rather heat the house than the outside."

Charles handed the dog off to the kids and grabbed Mulder's arm. "I'm Charles, by the way. C'mon, I'll introduce you to everyone else."

The kids grabbed Scully's arms and pulled her towards the back yard. "Aunt Dana! Play with us for a little while, please." Like Scully had a choice. Mulder watched with amusement as she was led off to who knows where.

Margaret was still smiling as her daughter was pulled by both arms towards the back yard. Bill siddled up next to his mother, linking arms as they slowly walked towards the front porch.

"She doesn't look good, Mom," Bill said under his breath. "Not good at all. Why hasn't anyone done anything about this?"

Sighing, Margaret leaned on her son's shoulder, squeezing his hand in reassurance, more so for herself than for him in a way. "You know your sister. She won't stop until she literally falls on her face."

"This isn't healthy, Mom. She should know that. She went to medical school, for god's sake." After a slight slap on the forearm, he amended his last statement. "Pete's sake."

"Both Mulder and Jaclyn have expressed their concerns. I asked Jaclyn to bring Dana's overnight bag, just in case. I may insist she stay anyway." What went unsaid, but both were thinking, they did not want her left alone. She was going to crash hard, and in typical Scully fashion when dealing with sickness, would just hermit herself away until it passed. Sometimes, that little character trait backfired, dehydration the least of their worries.

"Think I should call the boys off?"

It had started to snow, big flakes falling like leaves from the now barren trees. "No, let them play. Maybe they will tire her out." Margaret laughed, thinking how it was once her children that did the tiring out on family holidays. "If it comes down to it, can I put you and Kathy with the boys? We can bring the futon from the family room up there. Kathy might even be more comfortable on that anyway instead of the twin bed in Dana's old room. I'd put you in your father's den, but it's so drafty in there."

"Sure, Mom."




6:26 pm

The snow had been steadily falling all afternoon, and as the wind picked up, a nice drift had made its way across the backyard to rest against the rolled garden fence in the middle of the yard. There had to be at least 8 inches on the ground now, drifting to almost two feet against the piled chicken wire fencing. When they were younger, Scully remembered the many snowball wars waged across that natural barrier. The fence was only there to keep the animals out of the garden during the summer, but their mother had always rolled it up during the late fall when all the plants were harvested and the garden dead, preferring to let the dogs they had had while growing up roam freely during the winter. She watched the snow swirl and build around the backyard from the kitchen window, mug of perfunctory hot chocolate in her hands, and if her mother had had her way, she would have had the quilt from the back of the couch wrapped around her shoulders. It wasn't that cold, and she wasn't an invalid, despite her mother's pretensions.

Her brother Bill had not left her side the entire afternoon, and always within an arm's length was either Mulder or Jackie. Billy had always been overly protective of her, not so much that he kept her on a pedestal, because she would have surely knocked him over the head with it. But he always let her tag along, to the baseball games in the corner lot or fishing in the pond. They were five years apart in age. There were stories, the embarrassing ones that she never wanted told in mixed company, that ran rampant around the holidays, and they would eventually find their way to Mulder or Jackie's ears this evening, she was waiting for the howls of laughter from either once her mother got started. But no one ever heard the whole story behind some of their antics.

Her favorite though, and the one that probably described her relationship with Billy to a tee, was one where she wasn't more than two years old. Always a rather independent child, she never clung to her mother's shoulders, which would have been hard then anyways since she was 8 months pregnant with Charlie. Billy was at school, Missy had yet to start kindergarten. She had been following Missy around like a puppy on a leash, exploring the house and backyard in her sister's wake. Missy, not really interested in having a tag-along, led her into one of the bedrooms, sat her down on the bed, then left, closing the door behind her. Being only two, Scully could not reach the doorknob by herself.

That was usually where the story ended, short jokes abundant and red faces flaring. But there was more to the story, there always was, and no one else beside her brother Bill seemed to remember how the story really ended.

Billy had come home on the bus, and their mother had sent him to find her, knowing young Dana tended to go off in her own little world with the blocks and toys and bowls about the house. Calling out her name, he was surprised to find her pulling open the closed door. A small stool, one high enough for her to stand on and reach the doorknob, was near the entrance, and she was still standing on it. Curious, Billy brought her back into the room, took away the stool, and asked her to open the door again. Sure enough, she pushed the stool to the door, used the wall to help balance herself, turned the knob and pulled. All afternoon, he had led her into every room in the house, and waited for her to figure out her escape. Mom was impressed.

He had tried to trick her and led her to the big hallway closet, the one where the door opened the opposite way than any of the bedroom doors in the house. However, he didn't think about how dark the closet would be, and had inadvertantly scared the beejezus out of her, his little sister who insisted on sleeping with a nite-light for as long as he had known her. He picked her up, brought her back into the living room, and refused to let go of her until she had stopped crying and then some. She had fallen asleep in his lap, and he refused to let their mother take her so he could get dinner. Later, when she was feeling better, he had made them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, read her a bedtime story, and camped out near the foot of her bed with his sleeping bag. When Mom had come to wake him for school the next day, she found both of them on the floor in the sleeping bag.

Two weeks later, she had shut herself in the closet and found her way out, just as he walked in the door from school.

Billy had taught her how to climb trees, how to play baseball, how to jump from the top bunk in the boys' room, how to fire a bee-bee gun. He had been the one to carry her home when she slid into third base hard and broke her ankle when she was ten. He was the first person she told about joining the FBI. He stood up to Dad with her when she told them of her decision. Billy always took care of her.

But now, she just needed to get out from under his and everyone else's protective mantle. She wanted just a few minutes away from the pack. Billy figured that out first, and waylaid their mother and Mulder from following her into the kitchen.

She had to admit, it was good to be home. She had been apprehensive about coming, wasn't sure if she really wanted to be there. But Mulder, Jackie and Marty had been invited to dinner, and she did not want them to feel obliged to not go if she stayed home. They were as much a part of the extended family as blood relatives. And she really did want to see her nephews, and Bill and Charles, and their wives. Kathy looked about ready to give birth right there in the living room. She would have a niece in a matter of days. Both Bill and Kathy had asked her to be the godmother. Charles had made a fuss and said that he wanted her to be HIS child's godmother, and started a food fight before dinner had even begun.

Dinner had gone well; she only hoped her mother's culinary abilities were passed down as some recessive trait that would make itself present a little later down the road. They watched the customary football games and afternoon holiday movies. The boys were still running around the house with the dog hot on their heels; apparently there had not been enough of that sleepy stuff in the turkey this year. Billy, Charlie, Kathy, Maureen, Mulder and Jackie had pulled out the well worn Trivia Pursuit Genus Edition, and Charlie was giving Mulder a run for his money. The other four had just decided to gang up on them when she left for the kitchen for a breath of fresh air.

"I have some Advil in the cupboard, dear."

Scully jumped at the sound of her mother's voice. She hadn't even realized her mother had entered the room. In her hands she carried three empty mugs and a bowl of left-over popcorn kernels. The kitchen was mostly dark, just the small light over the sink on. Her mother refrained from hitting the overhead switch.

"What was that, Mom?"

"Advil. I noticed you were favoring your back this afternoon. Why don't you take something for it." Margaret reached into the medicine cabinet and pulled down a small plastic bottle. She opened it, and reached for a recently washed dinner glass for some water from the tap.

"Thanks, Mom." Scully quickly popped the pills and chased them with the water her mother offered.

"Looks like quite the storm out there," her mother said, standing beside her near the window. "Why don't you, Fox and Jaclyn stay here the night. I'm sure we can find the room."

Scully smiled mirthly; her mother had been hinting at her staying all afternoon. Not overtly, mind you, just a subtle hint here and there. She was very much tempted by the offer, but she couldn't stay. The house was already full, with her brothers and nephews. There simply would not be enough beds and/or couches to go around, and she would not let her mother give up her own bed.

"The plows came through about ten minutes ago. The roads are clear enough," Scully replied. She took a sip of hot cocoa. The wind was whipping the snow off the roof, creating temporary white out conditions in the backyard. Cold air seeped in the cracks and crevices around the door, the ones that the door sock did not stop. Goose flesh puckered the skin of her forearms and neck.

"Well at least wait until the snow fall dies down. I don't want you getting in an accident."

"Yes, Mo-om."

"Come into the living room, dear. It's cold in here."

"In a minute."

"Aunt Dana! The dog is scratching at the front door!" Tommy yelled.

Before she knew what was happening, her mother fished the mug out of her hands and was grabbing a plastic baggie for any messes off the property. Margaret was well aware of the dog's finickiness with regard to bathroom facilities. She'd seen turtles move faster.

"Aunt Dana! The dog is spinning in circles now. I think he's going to explode!" Patrick added.

"He is not, doofus!" Tommy replied.

Scully walked into the front hallway, searching for the dog leash and her coat. The leash was in Tommy's hand, her coat was in Patrick's hand, as well as his own. She had a feeling what was coming next.

"Can we come with you?" the boys chorused. They had been itching to go outside since the snow started falling.

A nod from Billy, a frown from her mother, a look of exhausted indiffernce from Kathy, doe eyes from the boys. They had to use the doe eyes; she knew where they learned that from.

"C'mon, guys. Hats and mittens, let's go. The dog-of-small-bladder calls."

The boys were in their coats and boots with lightning speed, before she had even gotten her arms through the coat sleaves.

"Aunt Dana, what's a bladder?" Patrick asked.

"It's what you pee from, twerp," Tommy said, hitting his younger brother up-side the head.

"Hey," Dana warned, "none of that, or you're on dog-poo duty."

"Can I hold the leash?" Patrick asked, already grabbing the handle from Tommy's hand.

Bill called from the living room, "And no biology lessons, Dana. I don't want them knowing more than me."

"You take all the fun out of having nephews, Bill," she replied, opening the door to the front porch.

Mulder stood in front of the picture window in the living room, the trivia game finished and Charles victorious. Useless trivia facts must run in the Scully gene pool, since he knew Scully to come up with a few zingers herself. It didn't help that Bill, Maureen, Kathy and Jackie had all decided to join together to fill their pie wedge, giving him a run for his money. Four against one against one was a rather interesting challenge.

He watched as Scully and her nephews played briefly with the dog. Queequeg was jumping and disappearing in the drifts, Patrick was chasing after him, Tommy was throwing pot-shot snowballs at his younger brother, and Scully was defending Patrick with her own slew of snowballs. A thought began snowballing in his mind, an evil twitch of a smile growing into an equalling evil grin.

"Mulder," Jackie said, watching over his shoulder to the scene in the front yard, "you have that look on your face again. You thinking evil thoughts."

"Oh, not so evil as you think, though it could be a lot of fun. How would you like to be a part of an exorcism of sorts?"

Jackie crossed her arms over her chest, face skewered in a `how much trouble am I going to get into with Dana if I take part in this, but could be fun' sort of grimace. "What do you have in mind?"

Margaret was just walking back into the living room when she noticed Jackie and Mulder pulling on their jackets. She recognized the look in their eyes; she had seen the `sneak attack' spark in her children's eyes often enough, but she wasn't sure if she approved of such a manuever considering the circumstances. Though, an impromptu snowball war might just be what was in order. Her boys always had ways to vent their frustrations, no matter what the season. Her daughter, however, needed a lot of provocation before allowing even anger to vent itself.

Mulder caught her eye, and almost cringed. He paused, looking quite manniquin-like with his foot elevated as he tugged on his left boot. Jackie tumbled into him, was about to go start into a river of derrogatory statements until she caught the look on Mulder's face, turned, and smiled cat-like as she hid behind her co-conspirator.

Margaret stared them down in only a way a mother can. Watching children squirm under a scrutinious eye was so much fun, and though she would never admit, she liked to mess with her children's minds just to keep them on their toes.

"Just don't run over my rose bushes," Margaret said. "And watch your language around the boys."

Mulder smiled impishly. "Mrs. Scully, where are the deepest drifts?"


In retrospect, Scully should have realized something was about to happen when the boys stood stock still for almost a full minute, trying their darned-est to keep from laughing. Then Tommy offered to take the dog from her. They were up to something, but she couldn't quite figure out what. Really, how cunning could a 7 and a 9 year old be?

It was when she was lifted high in the air and over the shoulder of a 6 foot 1 FBI agent that she realized that those two had help. And though she was travelling backwards and could only see where they had been, she knew exactly where he was headed, and she didn't like it one bit.

"Mulder! Put me down! Don't even think of throwing me in that drift! I know things, Mulder! Secret doctor things, Mulder! I will make it so you won't be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, Mulder! Put me down!"

She could feel Mulder shake his head near her hip. "Not a chance. This is going to be fun."

"Fun?!? No way, Mulder. Getting thrown in the snow is not my idea of fun."

"It is if you start fighting back. Time to pay the piper, and I'm an open target. C'mon, you know you want to. You've been dying for some pay-back, whether you know or not, and it's about high time you exact some revenge."

Scully pleaded to the only other person of sound mind out there in the frozen tundra that was the backyard. "Jackie, please, help me."

"No can do, Dana. I've been dying for a snowball fight all day. All this white stuff can't go to waste."

"MUL--"

Two things ran through Scully's mind as she went flying through the air for those brief seconds: above all else, Mulder was a dead man, and secondly, Jackie was going to be joining him.

Though the snow was a nice buffer between the hard frozen ground and her body, it was awfully cold and really wet. Her khaki's were soaked through before she had a chance to unbury herself from the snow. Even under the blanket of white, she could see the high wattage flood lights from the back porch come on. So her mother was a party to this little ambush as well. Two could play at this game.

It might have been a cruel form of retaliation, but playing off Mulder's sense of over-protection was the best revenge in this case. Playing possum, she waited in the drift just a few more seconds than was needed, let him think she had been hurt. Mind manipulation at its cruelest where Mulder was concerned, but highly effective to draw him into her trap.

Come join me in my parlor, said the spider to the fly.

And like clockwork, Mulder was at her side when she didn't resurface from the drift. She waited, hands ready to shovel snow in his face as he bent over.

"Scully?" Mulder sounded really worried. Oh, this was going to be good.

She waited until he touched her shoulder. Two quick shovels of snow in the face, and Scully was off and running. Mulder's expression was priceless. Jackie was practically rolling on the ground with laughter. Time to make a running pass at the Canadian as well. So much for loyalty.

Now that they were as covered in snow as she, Scully felt much better. The boys were howling in appreciation, already building an arsenal of snowballs near one of the cherry trees, waving her over to their side.

"Hey, no fair. Three against two!" Mulder screamed, wiping snow from his face before it could find its way down his collar.

"It's also shortest versus the tallest, Mulder! Deal with it!" Scully yelled back, lobbing the perfect snow ball grenade at him. It landed dead on the center of his back.

Jackie couldn't stop laughing. "We're in trouble, Mulder. She's a better shot than we are, and she's got the pee-wee's providing ammunition."

"Playing right field for six years must be good for something," Mulder replied, stockpiling snowballs as quickly as possible. However, his pile was continually disrupted by the constant barrage of precisely thrown snowballs at him and his ammunition.

Margaret watched the ensuing war from the kitchen window, hoping they would all show a little sense and stop when they were cold. Her grandsons were already showing signs of wear, choosing to side with the dog rather join the grown-ups. Billy had stood on the porch, ready to assist Dana if need be, but by her standards, Margaret thought Dana was doing okay by herself. The boys left the battlefield when the three supposed adults started their kamakazee attacks, chasing each other like a bunch of playground houlagens. By the time they collapsed with exhaustion, there was more snow on them than on the ground.

Billy joined her at the kitchen window. "I'm tired, and all I did was watch them."

Margaret smiled in agreement. She didn't know where they found the energy, though she had a feeling Dana would be sleeping well tonight, and maybe well into the next day. Dana drove herself hard in whatever she did. Though there was a smile on her face, she was driven by a blind fury that she needed to get out of her system. She had certainly lasted longer than Mulder and Jackie.

"The boys have changed, sitting near the fire now. I put their wet clothes in the bathtub."

"Are they all tuckered out?"

"Breakfast says they'll be asleep within the hour."

"And if they're not, you are making waffles for everyone."

"And who would everyone be?" Billy taunted.

Margaret smiled, her son very much reminding her of her late husband in the way he hinted at what he already knew to be true. She had seen Billy talk with Kathy about rooming arrangements, and she suspected he knew that she had already talked with Mulder and Jackie about staying the night. They had both agreed, even to the cramped accomodations, which really weren't so cramped when one thought about it. Jackie offered to take the den, even with the draft. Mulder was going to camp in the family room on the futon, with the television of course. Charlie and Maureen were going to take what used to be the guest/sick-kid room. The boys were in her sons' old room, where the bunkbeds were still set up.

She planned on giving Billy and Kathy her bed, despite their obvious objections. She remembered what it was like to be nine months pregnant and about ready to pop like an over cooked turkey; comfort came before pride. Besides, she had other plans for that night. There was still the Captain's easy chair, which she had had moved into the girls' old room when Jackie called her two nights before. That chair had seen her through 4 cases of chicken pox, 3 measels, 2 deployments of the Pacific fleet to potential hot spots, and her baby girl with colic.

It would have been quite a feat to hold her baby girl in her lap now, but she still intended to see her through the night. All of her children were wary to admit ill health, a trait that their father passed down to them, either genetically or by example. Only the tell-tale signs of fever and exhaustion gave them away when they were younger. Dana had even tried to hide a broken ankle when she was ten.

Billy pointed out the window and nudged her in the side to get her attention. "Mom, they're at it again."

"Who started it this time?"

"I think Dana fired the first volley."

"Good."

Mulder shook his head free of snow, realizing with twenty-twenty hindsight that he should have never engaged his partner in a war of the snow. Not only had he misjudged her energy state, he had naively hoped that her incredible accuracy on the firing range would not translate into her pitching arm. Wrong on both counts.

It had been a very long time since he had seen his partner so... uninhibited. Now that he thought about it, there was hardly a time when he had seen anything other than her all-business side. Even when they were out on their too-infrequent dinner dates with Jackie, or perhaps just a drink at Brandy's, there was always a sense of decorum to her behavior. Scully just didn't let loose, it wasn't in her genetic make-up, to coin a phrase that seemed to permeate the office every once in a while.

He was witness to Bill's hovering, and how Scully reacted in kind. She would never let him hover like that, not even when she played the target in the John Barnett case and was shot at point-blank range. He knew she was hurting; hell, the bruises that wound their way to the base of her neck had stayed for nearly a week after the incident. She wouldn't even let him help with a bandaid for a papercut.

Bill, however, was a regular mother hen. At one point during the afternoon, Kathy had waddled over next to him as he watched Bill and his partner sitting on the living room couch. More to the point, Scully was practically sitting in his lap. He hated to admit it, but he was a touch jealous.

"I've been a part of this family for the better part of twelve years now," Kathy said, handing him a fresh beer. "And I know for a fact that you can't separate those two, so don't try. Mom says its been this way since they were kids. They are completely different people when they are with each other."

"Oh, I can tell," he replied.

"Most of our on-line bill is for the e-mail they send to each other."

"That I can believe, too." Once, while they were waiting for Chinese delivery at her apartment before heading for the airport, Scully had asked him to log on her private on-line service, the one she kept separate from work, while she packed. Luckily her password was already saved into program, or he would have had a devil of a time guessing it. Waiting in the message queue were five messages, four of which were from Bill.

"I was never that close with my siblings," Kathy had remarked.

Mulder thought. He was glad Scully had that sort of relationship to fall back on, and wondered why she never seemed to take advantage of it. Surely Bill would come at the drop of a hat, and from his brief conversation with Kathy, his wife would let him. But then again, it was all part of that Scully stubborn streak he was so accustomed to.

And there she was, his partner, half soaked and smiling manicly, a gaze in her eye that told him he had better watch out. By that time, Jackie had even turned against him. No more kamakazee runs, they were all too tired for that. They stood in a triangle of sorts, lobbing snow balls with reckless abandon. Where these two women were considered, he wasn't about to pull punches: he could get clobbered for that one. There was something to be said of a quiet night, out with friends, not needing to talk but occassionally duck.

The snow was starting to fall heavy with the night. It had gotten so bad that he could no longer see Jackie or Scully, only fifteen feet away the last he remembered. He heard the back door open again, as he had when Bill came out to collect his kids. Only this time it wasn't such a deep voice that called into the night air.

"All right, that's enough! Get in here before you catch your death of cold!"

It was an automatic response, he knew, and Margaret adored them for it as they all called, "Ahhhh, Mo-om!"

He waited for Scully and Jackie to join him before tredging back up the slope towards the back door. He had a snowball in each hand for them, though he must have been telegraphing his thoughts because before he knew it, his arms were pinned and two quick blurs of snow were headed directly for his face.

"No fair!"

"Them's the breaks, Mulder," Jackie said, using her very snowy glove to wipe his face. "Ah, but I do feel so much better now. I may even forgive Marty for ditching me."

"He didn't ditch you. Marty was called away on an emergency, which he informed you of rather than leave you in the dust with a message waiting on your answering machine," Scully replied, playfully twisting that ever-present knife just a little more. Mulder cringed, that was still a sore spot in their partnership, him taking off for the Arctic and leaving her behind to pick up the pieces.

"Or leave a message on my internet service. Okay, alright, Marty didn't ditch me. But, boy was this fun. Think we could set up Skinner as a target next time?"

Scully slipped momentarily on the stair; Mulder caught her elbow. A definate sign that his partner was tired, though she would protest it to the very end when she dropped with exhaustion. He didn't think he would have a hard time convincing her to stay the night.

Mrs. Scully had already approached him about staying the night, telling him a united front might keep Scully there. Above all else, everyone agreed she should stay. He hated conspiring against her, but it was for her own good her mother said. And apparently not exactly an uncommon occurrence in Scully's childhood, Margaret alluded to during their conversation. Margaret intended to shoulder all the blame; her daughter could rant and rave all she wanted, but she would listen to her mother.

The back porch was enclosed, though not heated. Margaret was standing near the entrance to the kitchen with a broom in one hand and a reproachful expression on her face. "Okay, out of those snowy clothes. Leave your jackets out here to dry. Shoes too. You three are soaked through. Do you have any sense between you? I will not be held responsible if any of you catch a cold. Now get over here, I will not have any of you tracking snow through my house."

Mulder watched Scully go through the drill of having excess snow swept off her legs and pants, with a towel appearing from nowhere for her wet hair. Mrs. Scully motioned for the next victim, and Mulder pushed Jackie towards the broom, using the delay to slap away as much of the snow from his pants as he could.

Once the wayward travelors were inside, Margaret left the broom out on the porch, and stared down each of them. Well, no wonder Scully had a healthy respect for authority; gettng the evil eye from her mother instilled fear in him even now.

"Alright, go and change. Fox, Jaclyn, your overnight bags are in the foyer. Dana, yours is in your room."

Mulder watched for Scully's expression, and wasn't disappointed. She turned on her mother, hands in mid-hair swipe with the towel. "What overnight bag?"

"The one I had Jaclyn bring. Why do you think she was late getting here?" Margaret replied matter-of-factly. Boy, was she good. She wasn't even giving Scully the chance to counter. "Now, go get changed. I'll have some tea waiting for you when you're done."

Scully's head must have been whirling. Jackie was smiling serenely, he just avoided her eyes all together. "I thought Jaclyn was late because she was dropping off Marty at the airport. You said he was called away on an emergency."

"Oh, he was called away, and I did drop him off -- yesterday afternoon. If you had been answering your phone yesterday, you might have known that."

Scully looked at her mother, a slight flush rising in her cheeks. He had known she had slept the entire day, and now so did her mother. Oh well. He wasn't going to say anything to Margaret about it, and now he didn't have to.

"I want my key back, Jackie," Scully grumbled as she headed for the staircase to the second floor.

"You play nice now, dear. She was acting under orders."

"That defense didn't work at the Nuremberg trials, Mom."

When she was out of earshot, Mulder leaned in close to Margaret's ear. "That didn't go so badly."

"Dana knows when she's whipped, most of the time. It just takes a little time to realize it. Now, I have your `beds' ready. Linens are set out, and I've placed a few extra blankets in your room, Jaclyn, and I've had the space heater going in there for the last hour or so."

"Mrs. Scully, we can easily head for home. We know you're pressed for space," Mulder tried, but Margaret was already shaking her head at that.

"Nonsense. There's plenty of space when you're creative, and I will not have either of you driving in this weather. Now, there's water on the stove for tea, or instant coffee if you must. There's even some hot cocoa around here somewhere. I just ask one favor; try and keep my grandson's awake for the next hour or so. I have a bet with my son that they will be up to see the end of . If he loses, he will make waffles tomorrow morning, and you have not lived till you've tasted my son's waffles."

"Sounds good to me, Mrs. Scully," Mulder replied.

Margaret waited the perfunctory half hour before checking on her daughter. It was a time honored tradition of sorts; it wasn't technically checking up if there was at least half an hour time lapse in between the time one of her children was `sent' to their room to rest and she headed up there. Depending on the child, she expected to find him or her reading, sleeping or moping.

She knocked on the door, and was a little disappointed to hear an answer. Opening the door, she found her daughter laying out her wet clothes over one of the chairs. Dana, thankfully, had changed into `sick' clothes, whether or not she realized she had done it. Margaret knew Jackie had packed the blue pajamas, Dana's favorite, but she had chosen to wear the sweats instead.

"I brought you some warm milk, dear."

Dana smiled knowingly. "Let me guess, there's nutmeg in there too. Trying to put me to sleep, Mom?"

"Only for your own good, dear." Margaret gathered up the wet clothes her daughter had just laid out, well aware of her daughter's glare at the back of her head for picking up after her.


"Why do I get the feeling that everyone is out to get me."

"Don't be silly, dear. As I hear tell, Mulder has the monopoly on paranoia. Now, your brother has barracaded the front door, and I have yor nephews on foot patrol--"

Dana gave her a look that she could have only inherited from her grandmother. She never was good at taking a joke. "I'm kidding, dear. Lighten up."

Dana smiled, walking over to the bookshelf and fingering the spines of old tomes, yearbooks, texts she had left behind. Margaret watched her wander the room as if reacquainting herself with something lost and forgotten, a warm memory washing her face with sentiment.

"Mom, why is the chair in here?"

"Oh, I needed room in the den, thought I would put it in here for the time being," Margaret replied. Not exactly a lie, just the type of answer you give a child when they ask about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. From the indifferent expression on her daughter's face, the simple explanation was enough.

"I'll take these down to the dryer for you, dear," Margaret said, swiping the alarm clock from the bedside table on her way out, subtlety not a concern. She made sure Dana saw her take the clock, smiled, and closed the door behind her. She would stop in again later, make sure Dana was alseep, find a good book and curl up in the old chair like she used to whenever the kids were sick.

"I'll be down in a sec," Dana called after her.

Nearly everyone was asleep, or in their respective rooms. Her grandsons did Margaret proud, and stayed up until nearly 10:30, but by then most everyone was exhausted with the long day. Charles and Billy carried the boys up to their room. Maureen helped Kathy up to the master bedroom after a short but heated argument over Margaret giving up her bed and Mulder and Jackie's offers of their `beds', which she flatly turned down before they could get the words out of their mouths. Billy didn't even bother to argue.

Dana never did make an appearance downstairs.

Mulder was the last to settle, still intent on giving up the futon for her. He was more than ready to take the floor.

"It's somewhat of a secret tradition in the family, Fox," she told him while he helped her clean up the remaining dishes from the evening. "My husband was never one to let the children sleep with us if they had a bad dream or nightmare. We learned that lesson the hard way with Billy, who was all elbows and knees the one and only time we let him. Though we wouldn't let them stay with us, that didn't stop us from staying with them."

"Mrs. Scully, you shouldn't have to give up your bed--"

"Fox, I am sure you are well aware, a mattress does not a bed make. I moved the old and very comfortable recliner into Dana's room a few days ago."

Mulder shyly smiled, as if let in on one of the biggest secrets he had ever heard. "You've been planning this little ambush for a while, haven't you?"

"A mother's perogative to be prepared."

And so that was that. Mulder moved into the family room that everyone had just vacated, she checked in on everyone to make sure they had enough blankets and pillows, and then slipped into Dana's room.

The bedside lamp was still on, and Margaret was puzzled when she did not find her daughter in the bed. However, the momentary sense of panic was for naught. In an act that was not really all that unusual, she found her daughter curled in the old recliner, an afghan thrown over her legs and shoulder, head pillowed on the arm rest. One arm was draped over an open book, though Margaret did wonder how she could read at such a strange angle and in such poor light. The dog had somehow managed to find his way in to the room, and was sleeping percariously perched on Dana's side and exposed back. It was no wonder Dana's back had been bothering her if the dog was pulling these sorts of stunts during the night.

The book was one of the old family albums, every picture meticulously labeled and cataloged by her husband long ago. It had probably been sitting in the chair when she moved it in earlier in the week and she had forgotten about it.

Dana once remarked that the chair reminded her of her father. The leather smelled of his aftershave and a scent that was uniquely her husband's, a dry mixture of salt, sea and soap. It was why she loved the chair so much herself. Though Dana would probably pay for it later with a stiff neck and a sore back, Margaret decided against waking her to get her to move to the bed. If she awoke during the night, she might suggest it, but for now, she was content to cover her daughter with another blanket and lean back against the head board of the bed. With the latest soft-cover of her favorite mystery writer, she settled in for the night, content only to sleep if her daughter appeared to be resting peacefully.

She was nearly half way through the book when she heard Dana stir. The dog, in danger of losing his sleeping pad, leapt for greener pastures on the bed. Dana turned, tried to find more blanket, more space, more comfort, more dark. It was kind of cute, watching her burrow further into the recliner, drawing the afghan above her head. Margaret knew her daughter, and knew that this would be the best time to get her to bed.

"Dana, come on, to bed with you."

"I'mnt trd," Dana groaned, tucking her head under her arm.

"I'm too old to carry you, now, dear. C'mon, into bed, let's go. You can bring the blanket with you." Dana had stopped carrying a security blanket after she started school, but the same lines of reassurance always did the trick. Her daughter slid out of the chair and practically fell towards the bed.

After she climbed in, Margaret pulled the comforters up, tucked her in. The dog instantly wound his way towards her head, settling on the pillows just behind Dana's neck.


Morning brought with it the scent of home baked goods and the clean crispness of new snowfall . Mulder looked at his watch, gawked at the time. It was strange how he always seemed to sleep late whenever he stayed at Margaret Scully's house. Not that 7:15 was all that late, really, but it was considerably later than he was used to getting out of the proverbially bed. Margaret was an early riser, probably was her entire life. Scully was too, to a certain extent. Early to bed, early to rise. Though, there were those rare times when he would call on a late Saturday morning and had caught her just waking from sleep.

He could hear motion from the kitchen, quiet banging of pots and pans, clanging of silverware against ceramic plates. Coffee was beckoning him to come investigate. In the kitchen, he found Margaret, already dressed for the day, was standing over a gridle with a bowl of waffle batter in one hand and a 1-cup measuring scoop in the other. Her grandsons were at the table, mouths covered in maple syrup, wolfing down waffles like it was their last meal. Both were dressed in Power Rangers pj's, blue on Tommy, red on Patrick. The dog was snipping at their heals, waiting for a bit of bacon or sausage dropped from sloppy fingers.

"I think I'm in heaven," he said, swiping a slice of bacon from a grease-dabbed napkin.

"Fox. Please, sit down. There are waffles sitting in the warmer on the table, maple syrup and jams on the counter, coffee on the burner. Help yourself."

"I thought Bill was making breakfast this morning."

Margaret smiled, prying another waffle off the gridle. "The boys got up early, and I didn't have the heart to wake Billy and Kathy. Besides, they won't get much sleep in a few weeks, and the only way to keep these two quiet," she said, waving her fork at the boys at the table, "is to keep their mouths full."

"How about the others?"

"Well, Charles never was a morning person, or a night person for that matter. Jackie got up early and went for a walk. She should be getting back any time now. And Dana is going to sleep all day if I have anything to say about it. So I need you two boys to keep the dog happy, okay?"

"Yes, Grandma," was heard around mouthfuls of waffle and sausage.

Mulder suddenly felt like a fifth wheel in all of this. "Mrs. Scully, Jackie and I don't want to be a burden. We'll be leaving for the city after breakfast. I don't want Scully to feel she had to entertain us, and like you said, it's important she gets her rest."

The resigned expression on Margaret's face clued him to the fact that she must have had a very similar conversation with Jackie already that morning. She grabbed a semi-clean dish towel, wiped her hands and walked him towards the living room. This was obviously a conversation she did not want her grandsons to overhear.

"Fox, you and Jaclyn are as much a part of this family as any of my children. I want you to believe that. But this hasn't only been a bad year for Dana. You've got a lot of healing to do yourself. Have you talked with your mother lately?"

When Margaret was in mother-mode, she went full out. He sputtered, he stammered, he tried to avoid her gaze to no avail. He leaned back against the pillows. He hadn't talked with his mother in a while, to put it lightly. She had not taken his father's death well, even though they had been separated for more than 20 years. The resurgence of old demons had been too much for her when he had disappeared, presumed dead, and then suddenly back again with a secret that she had hoped had been buried with her husband. All the anger she had harbored while he was growing up bubbled to the surface and she needed to deal with it in her own way. That meant doing it alone. He understood, to a certain degree, since he behaved in much the same way. He hadn't called her since he asked about the choice.

It was funny, in a sad sort of way. He did not feel the need to grieve for his father. They had never been close. His father's murder had been wrong, perpetrated because his father was going to reveal secrets that someone felt important remained buried in the past. Krychek killed his father, he wanted revenge, but only because Krycheck pulled the trigger, not because he loved his father. He made his peace with his father during the Blessing Way ceremony; he had nothing left to grieve.

For everything he had been through in that year, it paled in comparison to what Scully went through, in his opnion. He did not believe it selfless of him. Scully covered for him, Scully put her career on the line to try and save him. She lost her sister and found an implant in her neck. If anything, she showed more strength than he could ever hope to have.

"It's been a while," he admitted.

"It's important to be with family, Fox. You don't have to be there physically. Call your mother, if only to say hello. From what little Dana has told me, your family was not very close. Don't let the stories you've heard hear over the years fool you; we were not the Cleavers or the Nelsons by any reach of the imagination, and my children were not angels. There were times when even Dana would not speak to me for weeks over some spat we had. But I made sure every one of my children knew that they could always talk to me. Just call, say hello, let her hear your voice.

"I'm happy that you are concerned for my daughter, but look after yourself as well."

"I promise to, Mrs. Scully."

"It's not going to be easy. The minute Dana feels crowded, she's going to let you know."

"So I've noticed."

"If I've learned anything in my life, it's that everything will work out in the end. The way may be rocky, but it will resolve itself. Trust me on this."

"Always, Mrs. Scully."


Note: okay, this is my answer to what the end of Never Again should have been like, had it happened a year earlier


Monday, Novembner 27, 1995
Quantico
12:38 PM

THWACK. THWACK. THWACK. THWACK. THWACK.

Pencil drumming against the legal pad in a rhythmic fashion, Scully barely registered the shifting screen on her computer monitor. Tiny marbles fell from the top of the screen, collecting along and between solid gray obstacles. The blue background of the word processing program had disappeared once again, for the third time in thirty minutes.

She closed her eyes, instinctively removing her glasses to pinch the bridge of her nose. Another headache was building behind her eyes, and the Excedrine she had taken were not helping any. So much for those damn commercials.

She came to Quantico to get some work done, and in order to accomplish that there were certain parties she needed to avoid. Bruce was under strict orders not to let anyone know where she was. All of her calls were being forwarded to his extension. There literally was a `do not disturb' sign outside the lab door. It was not the only thing the sign said; there was a little something about a minor spill in the room, but no one needed to know the truth behind that. It was a slow day at the Hoover building anyway. It wasn't like she needed to be there.

LIAR.

Shut up.

* That's not how I taught you, Starbuck. *

Scully looked up, pencil still beating on the legal pad, leaving dashes and marks like a spill of lead filings. The expression didn't change on her face at the `appearance' of her father. It really didn't mater how much she loved and missed her dear father; there had been a bit of bad blood between them before he died. They were never truly comfortable around each other after her decision to join the FBI, not like they had been when she was younger. Oh, they would share the pleasantries on the holidays, talk briefly on the phone when she had called the house. Not like they used to, though, when she would crawl up into his lap and tell him her darkest fears and lay out all of her sorrows for him to fix. It hadn't been that way for a long time.

Appropriately enough, he was dressed in his Navy whites, hat tucked under his left arm, the non-smile on his face. That was how she always remembered him, stiff and stern. He always seemed out of place in what he called his civilian clothes, the jeans and flannels he favored when on leave. But even then he never really escaped the NAVY uniform. He always wore the ballcap designating whatever ship he was on at the time. Those very same hats were stacked inside a plastic bag, sitting on her shelf in her bedroom closet.

It was somewhat fitting that he would pop up now, when she was in one of those moods to argue with anyone and anything. The curse of a methodical nature, she plotted out exactly what she wanted to say, how it should be said, and knowing that she would never find the courage to say any of it aloud.

"Dad."

* I didn't teach you to be a quitter, Starbuck. *

"I never said anything about quitting, Dad." Not that I would give you the satisfaction of saying `I told you so', she didn't say.

* No, but you were thinking about it. And don't lie to me, because I know when you're lying. You never were a good liar. *

"Good little soldiers don't lie, Dad. That's what you taught us." She couldn't keep the sarcasm from her voice even if she tried. When she was younger, such a tone would earn a swat on the backside and a weekend grounding if she didn't mind her tongue afterwards.

* Rules to live by, Dana. That's what I tried to teach you. *

"Well, maybe I don't want to live by those rules anymore. Rules were meant to be broken."

* Rules are made for a reason. Rules allow order. Things go wrong when you don't follow the rules. *

"Things go wrong when you do follow them."

Hell, her life for the last three years had been an excercise in broken rules and smashed belief systems. She had always held science as sacred. There were protocols, procedures, methodology she had based everything she believed in that had been thrown back in her face with impunity. There had been structure, foundation to everything in her life. As a child there was a set schedule for everything. School, church, chores at home. In college she started keeping a daily calendar and tried to stick to her rigorous schedule of classes, labs, and study times.

Then came the X-files. Never before had she been called out of bed by NSA agents to account for the actions of her partner, or called to view the remains of a dug-up grave at 3 o'clock in the morning. She had trusted the government at one time. She believed and trusted her superiors and fellow agents to do what was right and just. Not anymore. She didn't know what to believe anymore.

* You have to have faith in the system. *

She laughed, one of those self-defeated chuckles she reserved for bombed tests and bad meetings with the AD. "Everything is so messed up now, I don't know which end is up."

* Dana, you work too hard. *

The face was her father, but the voice belonged to her mother. Slowly the image morphed, smaller and shorter, red brush cut replaced by her mother's long brown hair. It used to be that during one of these internalized slam sessions, the argument would start over at any point, same players, same intonations, maybe a change in emphasis, a change in approach. Should she lose her temper, even talk in the first place? Morphing characters were a new phenomenon, chalked up to her adventures with the mighty morphin' bounty hunter that disguised itself as Mulder. Nowadays, different characters popped up, whoever she was afraid to confront, a cast that had grown quite large lately.

* It isn't healthy, you know. *

"I know, Mom" she replied, sounding like a broken record. So now she was dredging up past virtual-fights. Great, just great. Knock yourself out while you're down already, Dana, perfect.

* Something has to give. You've always put your work ahead of everything else. Don't you think it's time you thought of yourself first for a change? *

It was no secret she was devoted to what she was doing at any given time, sacrificing time her siblings and friends always spent with family to just be that one step ahead of everyone else. Summers during college were spent on campus to get the GEN ED classes out of the way so she could concentrate on her physics and biology courses during the fall and spring semesters. By the end of her fourth year as an undergrad, she had had enough credit to graduate with 2 majors and a handful of minors, though she only declared the physics degree. During med-school, she worked as an intern at one of the local clinics serviced by Johns Hopkins Medical Center to help pay the bills, refusing to take money from her parents.

Weekends were spent in the autopsy bays at Hopkins or the library researching and reading all the latest pathology papers. She graduated a semester ahead of the rest of her class as a result of her dilegence, and was quickly picked up by the scouts from Quantico. She put in a year of accelarated residency before accepting their offer.

Billy tried to understand, even went to bat for her when she faced her father with the offer from the FBI. Charlie had already been in the navy a year after graduating from Anapolis, and was not around when the spit hit the fan. Melissa had been living in California and called her very late one night, ignoring the time difference between California and Maryland, and chewed her out for wanting to be surrounded by death and negative energy. Her father, most of all, did not try or want to understand any of it, whereas her mother tried unsuccessfully to play family mediator.

There was really no point to continuing this fake-conversation with her mother, so her mind-self shut up and deliberately ignored her mind-mother's incessant gaze. This weekend she had placated her mother's nesting whims, letting both her and Billy dote on her like they had when she was much younger. In a way, she enjoyed the attention, it was nice to be pampered, and her nephews were more than happy to take the dog off her hands for the weekend. Overall, she was thankful for the sleep it afforded her. She had slept most of Friday and Saturday, awake only to eat a small dinner Friday night and a light lunch on Saturday. She saw Charles and Maureen off and Billy had dropped her off at her apartment Sunday morning after mass at their mother's parish. They said their goodbyes, she promised to keep in contact more often, and wanted to know immediately when the baby was born.

* Dana, you really need to learn how to let out your aggressions. *

Scully closed her eyes, not really wanting or ready to go head to head with the person behind the voice, and knowing that she could not simply ignore it as she had her mother.

"Jackie, I don't want to do this right now."

* Oh, come on, Dana, this is me you're talking to. I know you better than you know yourself. You're angry and upset, yet you refuse to do anything about it. *

"What about it?!? Maybe I don't want to talk! Maybe there's nothing to talk about!"

* I'm not the enemy here, and you know it. *

"I just wish everyone would leave me alone."

* No you don't, or else you wouldn't be creating these little confrontations in your mind. *

"What are you talking about?"

* I saw the wheels turning while we were sitting in the booth at Brandy's, I've seen that expression to know a little about what's running through your mind and how you hate it when you can't figure out how to handle a situation. You always need to be in control. You always need to have the upper hand, and if not that at least an equal hand in whatever is happening around you. Only this time, you're battling with yourself, and neither side is willing to compromise. You want to be strong. You want to cave in, just a little, release some of the pent-up rage inside. You can't be both in your mind. *

She was ready to yell back, even start throwing things just to prove that she could find effective, if destructive, ways to let out her aggression. There were even a number of low blows she could have delivered, but that was not her style, not even in her mind arguments.

* You could always ask for a transfer. *

"What!?! Is it tattooed across my forehead or something!?! I never said I wanted to leave the X-files!"

* If I had been through half of what you've been through in the last year, I would have quit long ago. *

"No, you wouldn't, and don't presume to think for me. This is my life."

* But, it's my life, too. * Mulder.

There wasn't even a transition. Mulder was sitting in the chair across from her desk, upper body leaning over his knees, elbows propped on his thighs, hands held in front of him. If she didn't know better, she would have thought he was really sitting there, waiting for her to react.

* Everything that happens to you affects me as well, or haven't you figured that out yet? I am your friend. I want to help when you're feeling down, when you want to reach out and throttle the world. Talk to me, Scully. You can't keep this bottled up inside. *

"Like you're one to talk!" She could feel the hackles rising, it would be so easy just to lay into him for all of his past transgressions in their partnership. "You want to talk about opening up? How about that time you ran off to Townsend, Wisconsin, to find a crashed UFO only to have McGrath ream your ass out for not filing a 302. We were watched like a couple of fresh out of the Academy recruits for months after that little stunt. We couldn't even rent a car without providing proof that it was required for the investigation after that.

"And what about your self-imposed exile after we were shut-down? You wouldn't even acknowledge my presence let alone talk to me. And whenever you decided to leave your wire-tap detail, guess who they called before a board of inquiry? That's right, me. We weren't even partners, yet I still got called in to tell the higher-up's where the hell you went, not that I knew most of the time.

"Then there's the Arctic adventure you took.. Let me tell you, I don't ever want to go to a place where it's dark twenty-four hours a day for six months of the year. No one knew where you were, at least no one who would willingly give up that information. You could have died out there on that ice, and you would have died in that army trauma center if I didn't show up at the right moment. Smart move there Mulder; leave behind the only person with any knowledge of the retro-virus and then go head to head with the Mighty Morphin' bouny hunter, the source of the retro-virus. Grant me some respect, Mulder. I'm not the one that has spent nearly two months total in the hospital this past year.

"Now, which one of us are we talking about again, `cause the lines sure got a hell of a lot more blurry."

* So, now what, you want me to apologize because I don't give you enough respect?!? Just tell me, Scully, `cause I'll do it. *

"Just leave me the fuck alone, Mulder! I don't want to talk about it!"

* Talk about what? Come on, you've been dropping subtle hints that you want out of the X-files. *

"I have not! Where is everybody getting this idea that I want out?!? I don't want to leave. This work means everything to me."

* Then why are you so hesitant to believe? *

"Believe what? Your kockamanny theories about alien abduction and psychic connections? That someone up there sends subliminal messages over cel phones and tv screens that convince people to kill everyone around them? That the government is part of a mass cover-up to hide their dirty little secrets, or happen to be part of some cloning operation, which isn't even scientifically feasible with humans now anyway?"

* After everything you've seen, everything you've witnessed, you are still going to stick to your laurels and your all-sacred science. *

"Don't pull this sanctimonious crap with me, Mulder. I listen to your theories, I try to keep you on an even keel, and you still go off the deep-end. Do you even see the others laughing at you when you propose that aliens are the cause for ... whatever?"

* I don't let it bother me. *

"Well, it bothers me. I am your partner. The crap you pull reflects on me, what our superiors think of me. Have you ever taken that into consideration, oh high and mighty Mulder who proclaims that he is only looking out for me when he ditches me by the road side?"

* Then why don't you just quit? *

She laughed, shook her head, rubbed her chin for nothing better to do. "Just quit. Do you want to know how many times I have thought about chucking it all this past year? Five. Twice in the last month alone. I don't need this aggravation. Why should I put up with this? And do you want to know how long this feeling lasts? About five minutes. For five agonizing minutes, I write out my letter of resignation to Skinner, stating my reasons for leaving and maybe just for a transfer out of this hell-hole.

"And I picture Skinner granting my request at the drop of a pen. You know, he's offered me transfers before, he's asked why I stay over and over. And do you want to know why I stay? It's a real pisser, I think you may enjoy the irony.

"I stay because of you. You would be completely lost without me, and I'm not being egotistical about this at all. Everyone agrees. No one could cover your ass as effectively and efficiently as I can and do. You run off half-cocked into danger. Hell, I think lemmings show more restraint than you do at times. I know your filing system better than you do. The X-files would be closed down faster than you could turn around without me.

"I stay because I know how much the X-files mean to you. And I'm not going to destroy your life. You just stay the hell out of mine. I don't want to be another statistic, just another name on the report. I need some room to think, and I don't want you hovering over me like some vengeful guardian angel. I never asked for it, and I don't want it now. Just leave me alone."

Mulder disappeared, and she was mentally and physically spent. She hated these bouts with her conscious; they left a vile taste in the back of her throat that she could even think these things up. Blowing the bangs away from her face, she leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes, shoulders shaking, from laughter or sobs she wasn't sure.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, a gentle squeeze of reassurance.

* You've been terribly hard on yourself, Day. *

She didn't turn around, knowing her sister's voice like it was her own. This time she knew it was a sob that wracked her shoulders.

"I'm so sorry, Missy."

* There's nothing to feel sorry about. I'm not. *

"I should have stayed."

* And then we both might be dead. I only missed you by a few minutes, Day. There was nothing you could do. *

"I should have done something."

* Like what? Died in my place? You were never one to take my advice, but just this once think about it. Do not blame yourself. No one else does. *

"I can't face them right now."

* Maybe not now, but eventually it will be easier. *

"I miss you."

* I know. I know. It's okay, it's okay. *

"No it's not. I don't want to do this anymore."

* Then don't. *

Like that, it ended. No more visions, no more arguments. The computer screen was nearly full of marbles now, bouncing less now that there was less space to manuever. The yellow of the legal pad was barely recognizable as such with all the lead markings on it. She looked at the time, noting that in the four hours she had been there, she had gotten exactly squat done. Frustrated, she threw the pencil across the room.

She hadn't seen the door open, or whoever it was that yelped as he ducked from the projectile. She knew that sign wouldn't work. She had just won her quarter back from Bruce.

"If I had known the warning would be enforced with armed guards, I would have left well enough alone," Mulder said, standing near the door. "Came to see if you wanted to grab some lunch."

Scully leaned heavily on the armrest, head propped in her right hand. "Mulder, do me a favor?"

"Anything, Scully."

"Leave me alone."

The End


And there ain't no way I'm writing a sequel to this. :)


The End

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