table setting

Title: Empty Place Settings
Author: salliejohns and Shoshana
Written: November 2002
Distribution Statement: Gossamer and by request.
Spoiler Warning: After 'The Truth'
Rating: PG-13
Classification: VA
Keywords: Bill Scully POV, MSR

Summary: Thanksgiving at the Scully house.

This story is part of a series of vignettes following the episode 'The Truth.' Previous vignettes are located on this page: Thanks to Pacquin for wonderful beta reading!

"The pictures are nice, sis, but..."

Dana stares at me sympathetically, reluctant to finish my sentence. Once upon a time she'd be delighted to get the last word in; tonight is nothing like those bygone days when we were kids. She stays silent, waiting patiently for me to complete my thought.

"'s not the same. Not the same as having her here, having Matthew crawl all over her, then eating her special pecan pie with a big glass of milk. I know how much William means to her, but we miss her so much."

My eyes brim with unshed tears. I don't cry easily, but Mom's absence has been getting to me lately. Tara tried to make the best of this Thanksgiving, cooking some of her family's recipes, decorating the house with cheerful paper cut-outs Matthew made at school. We weren't sure Dana and Mulder would be here, but they told us it was possible they would sneak into the house during the wee hours of the morning. Please don't set the alarm they had asked, but make sure you sweep for bugs Wednesday night.

I was happy to do anything they asked. I wanted and needed to see my sister. She's the closest thing to Mom I have right now, and I miss Mom desperately. I miss her phone calls and her visits and her advice on child rearing. I miss her care packages and long letters. I miss everything about her, even her curt responses to my snide remarks about Mulder.

Of course, I'm not angry at Mulder anymore. Just at the FBI. The military, too, I guess. They were in cahoots against him, permitting some hastily organized kangaroo court to sentence him to death. Thank God he had an ally on the inside, or Dana would have lost him for sure. I don't think she could have survived that, not after losing William, too.

It's a fucking miracle the adoptive couple allowed Mom to take him back. It's been four months now, four months of smuggled photos and letters, glowing with happiness. I'm glad William's with Mom, but it's hard to tell Matthew that Grandma won't be seeing him anytime soon.

We haven't been able to show Matty the pics because he's too young to stay mum about his baby cousin. It's been frustrating to him, especially on a holiday like today. We've always had Grandma around on holidays and he's perceptive enough to know that. "Bill, I know how hard this is for you. Mom was a constant presence on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. I haven't forgotten how when we were kids, and Ahab was out to sea, Mom always made the day special. This first one without her affects all of us, even Charlie." Charlie. My phantom brother. How many holidays has Charlie missed spending with the family? More than he's spent with us, probably. The funny thing is, this year he was all set to come. The guy finally gets to the place in his life where there's no job conflict, and no question of being too far away to get here easily, and he goes and breaks his leg getting out of the shower. What the fuck, Charlie isn't used to spending Thanksgiving with the family anyway. It might bother him to know that Mom isn't with us, but I'm sure it's nothing like the crushing sense of loss that I feel.

"It's not the same for Charlie, Dana. You know it isn't." "You're right, I do know that, and I know that it's not the same for Mulder and me either. Mom is the closest thing to a mother that Mulder has, but she's not his mother. And certainly I've spent Thanksgivings apart from you all..." She's right. Year after year, Thanksgiving has always meant Mom celebrating with Tara and Matthew and me. Sometimes Dana joined us, sometimes Charlie and his family showed up. Even Mulder sat down with us once or twice, but Mom was always a sure thing. "I miss her terribly too, Bill, but I take such comfort in the fact that she and William are together. That makes it easier for me to accept, and I can't expect you to feel the same. It's not just about Mom, though. Mulder and I are separated from our son and the only thing we have to hold on to is the knowledge that he's safe and well, and with someone who loves him almost as much as we do." Dana was never one to give in to tears. Even when we were kids, no matter how badly she was hurt, or how angry she got, I almost never saw her cry. Melissa--she would cry over the smallest cut or bruise, or just because she didn't get her own way. Not Dana; she was one tough kid, and now she's one tough woman.

If it was me sitting here, without my beloved son, I'd be unable to speak for the pain. Just the thought of having to give Matty to a stranger causes my gut to clench, and I feel myself blinking back sudden tears. I'm not sure I could do it, even if I knew that Mom was going to reclaim him and raise him herself. Whatever I may have felt about Mulder--and he certainly wouldn't have been my choice for the father of Dana's child, miracle or no--I have to hand it to him. He helps Dana survive this inconceivable tragedy, and somehow, together, they manage to go on with their lives. Fucking FBI!

"Sorry to interrupt you two."

"No problem, Tara. What's up?" Dana looks almost relieved.

You, my wonderful wife, must have sensed how painful this conversation was becoming for me. Thank you for halting that worrisome train of thought.

"Anything wrong, hon?" I ask.

"Nothing wrong. There's just something I thought you both should see."

Dana was up first, following Tara into the house through the back door. My knees aren't what they used to be, and by the time I'm up and moving, the women have headed down the hall to the family room. Tara holds up her hand to stop us at the doorway. By the look on Dana's face, Tara was right about this being something we shouldn't miss. My sister is standing there, gazing into the room, transfixed, her lips drawn into one thin, tense line.

Uh, oh. This can't be good. I'm almost afraid to see what's beyond the door, when Dana's mouth curves into a wistful smile. Okay, that's better. Let's see what all the mystery is...oh. Now I get it. Mulder and Matty have been watching the game. The half-time show is on, and apparently it wasn't as exciting as the sponsors promised.

Mulder is crumpled against our plaid couch, head bent forward, chin touching his chest. He's asleep; so is my young son. Matty is snuggled up next to Mulder, as close as possible, head drooping onto the large man's chest. Mulder's arm rests protectively around Matty's shoulders, and from where we're standing, you can't really see my little boy's face. It could be any little boy. It could be William. No wonder Dana was taken aback. That has to have hurt, had to have dug into her soul. Yet, she's smiling, eyes radiating love for that man, that little boy. I see them clearly now, though tears still cloud my eyes.


Author's Note: On this day of Thanksgiving, sallie would like to mention the people she is grateful for: my dear friend Shoshana, for inspiring me to become a beta, and challenging me to become a writer; my husband and kids, for loving me no matter how obsessed I get; and Pacquin, for bringing joy to my life on a daily basis.

The End

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