Title: Monet is Melting
Summary: If life is art, then Mulder's Chagall dances merrily through kaleidoscopes of emotion, while Scully's Monet struggles to retain passion.
In sunlight the trees were crystal and glitter, as if they'd sprouted from a fairy tale. Now, in the moonlight, the branches were painted a luminescent blue. Laurel Springs would have been the most beautiful place she'd ever seen, if not for all the dead people.
They strolled the private grounds as casually as if they were alive. Men in suits from varying generations of style mingled together in small cliques on the lawn, talking quietly amongst themselves. Women in gowns -ball gowns and night gowns and even one wedding gown -spilled out of the front door, filling benches and swings, whispering into each others' ears.
There were children, too. Some were playing jump rope by the light of the moon; others were tossing coins into the fountain and playing tag among the trees. One child in spotless Nikes slung a yo-yo up and down and stared at her with darkened eyes.
She took an involuntary step backward, but she was being led as if she were blind; the gentle pull on her elbow was insistent.
"It's gorgeous," he murmured, walking toward Laurel Springs, the house of turrets and gables and lost souls.
"Mulder," she hissed. "They're dead."
"What?" He turned to look at her and walked right through a long-haired beatnik who had just been standing there, smoking weed and looking dazed.
She whirled around and stared. The hippie still stood his ground, stroking his chin, indifferent to Mulder's trampling feet as if nothing had happened. But he caught her gaze.
She found herself blinking rapidly and breathing short breaths. There was no mistaking it. These people were not alive; they were monochrome against the lush green grass, silvery in the light of the full moon. Ghosts.
Mulder's hand found the small of her back and attempted to turn her toward the house. She jerked away from him and shuddered. The smoking ghost was looking at her. He was grinning.
She pulled her gun.
"What? Did you see something?" Mulder appeared to stare past the hippie, squinting against the shadows.
Mulder didn't see him. He didn't see any of them.
And the hippie was doing something now, turning his head to meet the gazes of others on the lawn. Her eyes followed his; she turned a half circle with her weapon raised. One by one, all of the dead stopped their chatting, mingling and playing to stare at her.
"What are you doing, Scully?" Mulder whispered. He drew his own weapon and frantically scanned the area. "What is it?"
The young boy who had been the first to spot her smiled and waved. He began walking in her direction, spinning the yo-yo incessantly, but his eyes never left her face.
"Let's get out of here," she murmured, pulling on Mulder's sleeve.
"But we haven't even-"
"I know. We need to leave." She looked at him directly for the first time that evening, allowing the fear to travel from her eyes to his.
He nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, Scully."
They headed to the car in silence. "We'll come back in the morning." He looked hopefully at the house.
She threw a furtive glance over her shoulder.
They were all following her now. They knew.
"What did you see back there?" He stood by the car, staring at the house but seeing only beautiful architecture.
"Get in the car, Mulder. Now."
If her raised weapon didn't frighten him, the sound of her voice apparently did. He opened his car door quickly and fell inside. Only after he was in the car did she follow suit. He placed his gun on the seat next to her and turned the ignition with trembling fingers.
She poised her gun just behind his head, aiming at the shoeless ball player who was attempting to open the rear car door. "Go!" she yelled.
He backed out of the driveway wildly. Tires squealed and the car lurched, but she did not lose her aim.
Three miles out, she put the gun away.
"What was that about, Scully? Who did you see?" His voice broke against the chattering of his teeth. Mulder set the thermostat on high and clenched and unclenched his hands.
When she remained silent, he began pacing the motel room.
Nausea overwhelmed her and she clamped her jaw down, squeezing her teeth tight against the rising bile. She went to the bathroom expecting to vomit, but washed her face instead.
He peeked into the bathroom door. "You okay?"
She nodded mutely.
"I'm going to get some coffee from the vending machine."
She nodded once again and dried her face. When he was gone, she looked at herself in the mirror. Her only thought was that line from a movie she'd heard about. "I see dead people," she whispered, trying to cheer herself. The splotchy reflection grimaced. She held tightly to the sink until the shuddering subsided.
When Mulder returned, she was seated on the end of her bed, contemplating words. She wanted to tell him about what she'd seen, how the ghosts had waved to her and smiled. How they had beckoned.
He handed her a Styrofoam cup of coffee and slid a chair across the room. He sat in it, facing her, and waited.
The coffee burned her throat. "Mulder, I..." Her words stuttered out of her mouth. She had no simple language for ghosts, so she did what she was good at doing. She cloaked the words in a masquerade of philosophy. As direct a person as she was, Dana Scully was surprisingly good at evasion. "Do you ever wonder if you're alive?"
He pondered her for a silent moment. "Not since high school, when it was ascertained by numerous cheerleaders that I am not."
Her body shivered. "I don't know when I began feeling dead inside. I used to see the world in colors." She paused. "Not long ago, I thought that my world was as bold as a Van Gogh painting. Or as subtle and breathtaking as a Renoir."
"And then you grew up."
"Is that what happened?"
"'Grew up' is not what I should have said. Matured."
"But still..." She sipped at the coffee and searched for better words. "My view of the world changed when you and I began working together. Colors faded. By the time my father died, my world had become black and white." She rubbed her forehead. "My mother has a Monet print in her bedroom. It's a charcoal sketch. And although it's just a black drawing on white paper, it's passionate. Vital."
"That's how it was for me. Working with you. Seeing the things we saw. Life was pared down to the simplest of colors and emotions. It was passion without sentiment that I felt for our work and that I grew to feel about all aspects of my life. It was a charcoal sketch."
She dipped her head in assent. "It changed, Mulder. When Emily came and went from my life, I felt things very strongly, but I didn't feel them at my core. I didn't react to her death as passionately as I would have seven or eight years ago. It's as if even the charcoal has faded now. Like Monet is melting and soon there will be nothing but an empty canvas. Like I am a ghost of my former self, a shell." She stared at him hopefully. "I want to feel alive again."
He took their coffee cups and set them on the floor, then grasped her hands and squeezed.
"I don't care if it's a charcoal sketch or watercolors; I just want to feel alive again, Mulder."
His arms wrapped around her like a blanket; his kiss to her forehead was like a prayer. His lips moved against her skin. "Come with me."
He led her to his own room a few doors down. "Have a seat." He gathered a plastic bag that was on the table and took it to the small alcove next to his bathroom.
She sat on the edge of his bed and watched. Mulder's room didn't have a soft bed, but it did have a microwave.
He brought out a box of graham crackers from the bag and began opening it. "I don't know that I've ever felt what you feel, Scully. I've always experienced extreme emotion and passion. When I got my degree, I had myself tested several times for bipolar disorder." He tossed her a bag of marshmallows.
"Manic-depressive? You?" She smiled a little.
"I know it's hard to believe," he said dryly. "But go with me here." He broke a couple of the crackers in half and placed them on a paper towel. "I think because my emotions are often quite severe that I've never felt dead inside. Even at my lowest point, there was too much pain for me to ever feel numb. I wanted to, sometimes. Feel numb." He snapped off a corner of a cracker and put it near her lips.
She took it from his hands with her mouth, a move that caused her heart to beat a fraction faster and caused him to suck his breath in.
He took the bag of marshmallows from her, opened it, and tried the same trick again. She shook her head.
He went back to the alcove and worked with the microwave. "Things are not always colorful for me, sometimes they are black and white like that Monet sketch of your mother's." He turned the microwave on finally. "I used to think that my world was rich and meaningful before we started working together." He glanced at her. "I was wrong." He opened the microwave then closed it again, resetting the buttons. "It's like a Chagall now. With you; with our work. It's like a circus of colors."
She smiled. Marc Chagall. She'd expected him to throw a punch line at her with a Salvador Dali or even poker-playing dogs.
"Before it was like," he shrugged his shoulders, "a velvet Elvis or something."
He once again opened the microwave door. This time he took the contents out and turned to her. "I don't think that you are apathetic, Scully. I think you've just experienced so much that you are shutting yourself down for a while to process everything that's already happened." He placed something small and warm in her hands. "I don't know how to make you feel alive again. But I can offer you this."
"S'mores." She smiled just saying the word. Immediately she bit into one, burning the roof of her mouth. But these were s'mores, and these were Mulder's s'mores, so she didn't mind.
He sat next to her and shared his bottle of water. She saw him watching her, saw that he was waiting until she finished eating to broach another subject. A more immediate one. "What made you begin thinking of life and death in artistic terms?" He finally asked. "What did you see tonight that frightened you so much that I was shaking in my shoes?"
She pushed her hand through her hair and then clutched both hands together, but she couldn't rationalize what she was thinking, so she remained quiet.
"You saw a ghost, didn't you?"
She was both grateful and alarmed by his words. "I didn't see a ghost, Mulder." She struggled to say it. "I saw dozens of them."
He nodded slowly, but appeared to be frightened by this disclosure. He covered it well. "It doesn't surprise me, Scully. That house, Laurel Springs, has been the location of many sightings. It's why I wanted for us to go there." He leaned back on his elbows. "I wanted something interesting to pass time, I suppose. I knew you'd appreciate the beauty of the place even if we didn't see anything. I had read an article on the legend of the house, how every year, on this day, ghosts are supposedly seen wandering the grounds. They apparently come out to celebrate the birthday of the woman the house was built for. There was a picture of her in the article." He sat up again. "She was a plantation owner's wife, a knock-out." He bit his lip. "She reminded me of you."
Scully gave him a hard look.
He shrugged his shoulders. "The resemblance was uncanny." He became thoughtful. "You know," he said. "There are some people who believe that the dying can see ghosts. Like Harold Spuller."
Her voice, when she was able to speak, sounded as frozen as she felt. "He died, Mulder. I was dying, too, when I saw that - that girl."
"But you didn't die. And you know what I think?"
She shook her head.
He sat behind her on the bed, wrapping his arms around her in comfort as he had earlier. This time his arms felt stronger and more protective; this time his arms pulled her down. He pulled her to him until her back rested against his chest. "I think," he murmured into her ear. "That ghosts can be seen only by those people who are so acutely attuned to life that they are sensitive to all of its stages."
Her voice was shaky. "And what if you're wrong?" she whispered. "What if only people who are dying can see them?"
He held her hands in his own. His heart beat rhythmically against her backbone. "Then I'll do whatever it takes, Scully, to make sure you and I are both able to see the ghosts."
His words were more than enough-brave, loving, honest. It could have ended then, with them spooned together on the bed. She could have fallen asleep feeling safe and cherished. Instead, machismo kicked in and Mulder tousled her hair. "And when I see them, I'm gonna kick their asses."
She shook her head and pulled away from him. "They weren't trying to harm me, Mulder."
He sat up and leaned against the headboard. "Then what were they after? Introductions? A date?"
She stared at the Bible next to the bed. "I think they wanted to welcome me."
"Welcome you where?" His voice had suddenly gone hoarse.
She saw him flinch against the word. "Maybe they thought you were that woman, the owner's wife-"
She shook her head. "No, they knew me. They spoke to me when we were over there this morning. I kept hearing these hushed voices, bits and pieces of conversations. Then finally this evening I realized. I could only hear them during the day and could only see them in the evening."
"Strange communication they've got going there."
"I don't think that's it, Mulder." She swallowed. "Auditory signals are easier to process than visual signals. Maybe my brain is just taking time to acclimate. If I go back there tomorrow, maybe I'll be completely aware of them. Maybe I'll be able to see them and hear them at the same time." She pressed her lips together. "And what would that mean? That I am closer to death?"
"I don't know, Scully." He shook his head. "Do you even want to find out?"
She thought about this for a moment. She thought about her world turning into monochrome and the colors that she mourned. She thought about charcoal sketches fading from clarity. She thought about Monet, melting, and the choice was made for her.
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