Summary: In the space of only seven years…
Key Words: ScullyAngst, UST, implied MSR
Spoilers: Season Eight onwards
Disclaimer: They ain’t mine.
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere. I don’t see why I’d refuse.
Notes: Thanks to Lib for her delightful, thoughtful beta 🙂
Last night, someone snapped the aerial on her rental car. Some kid probably, walking past in the wee hours of the morning, taking swigs from a bottle of Jack Daniels with his friends. And for some reason this kid felt the urge to reach over and break off the aerial, like it was nothing. Like it was a joke.
Scully isn’t laughing.
This is just typical, she thinks, as she flicks off the fuzzy radio with a sharp turn of her wrist. Just typical.
She’s spent the whole day elbow deep in decaying human flesh, she’s stuck in New York rush hour traffic, and she needs music. Any music would do. She would even listen to Mulder’s techno crap, if she had it. Hell, she would hum along to elevator music.
How can so many bad things happen to one person in one day? It must be destiny. Maybe it wasn’t a kid who broke the aerial–maybe God struck it off with a lightening bolt. Just for cosmic kicks.
“Damn it,” she mutters, slamming a hand against the steering wheel. At the moment, she feels like every adjective for ‘tired’ in the thesaurus. Every adjective for ‘angry’ too, now she thinks of it. Let’s see–wrathful, livid, furious, enraged…
Damn Mulder, she thinks. He’s probably stretched out on his sofa right now, scoffing Chinese takeout and watching the baseball. Damn him for being comfortable while she’s stuck in this sardine tin of a Ford, circa 1992, without any entertainment or food. Damn Mulder. He’s never cut into an exhumed body in his life, let alone weighed a human liver.
She shakes her head to clear her thoughts, running a hand through her hair. Rationally, she knows Mulder has nothing to do with this. It isn’t his fault she was assigned to do these
autopsies. It isn’t anyone’s fault–aside from the perp’s, of course.
How dare she indulge in self-pity when she’s investigating such a brutal case? How can she possibly be craving Kung Pao chicken when she’s spent the whole day with mutilated corpses? Here she is, alive and healthy–well, physically healthy–with a supportive family and a best friend waiting for her at home, and all she can do is bitch and moan about a broken aerial.
She needs to feel human again. She needs something to remind her of why she’s been doing these autopsies. Her eyes scour the city streets, searching for something to reignite her trust in the universe, like a blossoming tree or a thoughtful child. But there is nothing.
The cars packing her in are hulking, dark shapes beneath pale streetlights. Everything outside looks bleak. The only people are huddled under umbrellas, as they shuffle past shuttered storefronts. The sky above is choked with clouds and her tires slip over the icy road beneath. Sleet starts to cake on her windshield, and is thwarted when she flips on the wipers.
If Mulder was in the car right now, she would have more than enough to focus on. She sighs.
If only Mulder was in the car right now…
The traffic is moving again but for a second she doesn’t notice. By the time she does, her foot lowering to the pedal, there’s a crack like a gunshot and her neck whips forward.
Metal crunches and tears as her car slides forward on the ice, bumping into a black Mercedes. People start yelling, horns start honking, and Scully wonders if a fender bender is going to snap her last thread of sanity. If this tiny traffic accident will finally drive her over the edge.
“Come on, Dana,” she mutters, her vision blurring with tears. She’s faced worse than this. Much, much worse. So why is she suddenly on the verge of a crying jag? She never cries.
An angry New Yorker is pounding on Scully’s window, but she lets him wait as she straightens her hair and rubs her neck, and brings herself under control. When a dull ache starts throbbing behind her eyes, she grits her teeth and pretends she doesn’t feel it.
There won’t be any tears, she tells herself firmly. Not now, not ever.
She never cries.
Scully takes out her ID, gets out of the car…
…and closes the door, leaving the engine running.
“Mommy, stay here today,” says Will, tugging her hand.
Scully’s lips curve into a gentle smile, seemingly on their own volition. “Honey, I have to get to work. You know that.”
Will also knows exactly which buttons to push, and how. Right now he’s wide-eyed and pouting, his small fingers squeezing hers. She can’t resist squatting in front of him to enfold his tiny body in her arms. He sniffles against her cheek and she turns to kiss his smooth forehead.
“I know you have to work, mommy, but can’t you stay for just a little while? A teeny little while?” Will whispers this in her ear, his voice as soft as his silky hair. She can smell his Johnson & Johnson shampoo and his sparkly blue toothpaste, and his clean baby scent underneath. He’s still only a baby, she thinks, hugging him harder. Only a baby.
When tears start to prick at her eyes, she knows it’s time to leave. This is his fourth day of school and he needs a positive attitude from her, not a negative one. He’s five years old and he’s ready to take this step in life. She knows this, rationally, but she can’t help feeling guilty about leaving him here. It’s as though she’s abandoning him.
“I’ll be back at 3:30,” she tells him, also whispering. “Then we’ll go home and watch ‘Rugrats’ together. And when Mul…daddy gets home we can all go out to dinner. Sound like a plan?”
She pulls away slightly to see his eyes, worried this will go the way it has for the past three mornings, with a miserable Will slinking off into the school. Sweet relief sweeps through her when she finds him smiling.
“I love you, mommy,” he says, wrapping his arms around her neck and delivering a sloppy kiss on her cheekbone.
“I love you too, honey.”
Scully watches him walk through the crowds of kids to the front door. When he reaches it, he turns to give her a brief wave. For a moment, her pangs of sorrow are replaced with those of sheer joy.
But when she gets in the car and starts it up, all she can think about is the sound of Will’s sniffles. Her eyes cloud with tears again, the car stalling.
This isn’t anything like abandonment, she thinks, trying to reassure herself.
But she can’t help it–she starts crying anyway, just as she has for the past three mornings. Unlike most mothers, she knows how it feels to abandon her child. She knows exactly how it feels.
Her tears are cool and refreshing, a salty balm sliding down her cheeks, pooling in the crevice above her chin. Tears are a luxury item she can finally afford.
Oh, she does know she’s being irrational, sitting in a school parking lot at 9:00 in the morning, silently weeping. She knows it but she doesn’t care. The world is not going to explode if she takes two minutes to sort out her feelings. She knows this now–she knows she is no longer Atlas, bearing the weight of the world. Maybe she never was.
She lets the tears run their course before she wipes them away, then redoes her make-up in the rear-view mirror. It doesn’t take long–she wears less these days. Isn’t that strange? Less make-up in her forties than she wore in her thirties. But she finds she really doesn’t need as much false colour.
When Scully starts driving she winds down her window a little, letting in the mild autumn breeze. The old trees lining the streets are fiery at this time of year, with crimson leaves swirling from them in flurries. Leaf by leaf, the trees are shedding their old life, so that new greenery can unfurl in spring.
Scully breathes deeply, taking in the crisp air with its earthy scent of leaves banked on the sidewalk.
She loves fall. Yesterday she took a walk with her family at dusk, holding Mulder’s hand and watching Will crunch through drifts of dry leaves. Mulder pointed out the constellations as they formed in the darkening sky.
Scully smiles, remembering. She reaches for the radio, but then decides against it. Music would spoil her mood.