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[personal profile] rachg82
Title: Lift Your Head Up in the Wind
Fandom: The X-Files
Author: rachg82
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Mulder/Scully
Word Count: roughly 2,649
Spoilers: I'd planned this fic before the revival happened, and it was my take on the spoilers I'd heard at the time. Then the new season came & went, and my writer's block stuck around. I decided in the end to leave my version of events unchanged by the episodes which aired, so I suppose in a way this could be construed as AU.
Summary: Finally, this is that sequel I promised way back in November for Shouting Into a Hurricane, though you could easily get away with reading it all by itself. It's basically a story of grief & love expressed in five acts.

Note: As with my previous stories, this ficlet's format is largely free-verse. Not to be obnoxiously ~different~, but because it's simply what comes most naturally for me. The cadence of how my words "sound" in the reader's mind is very important to me as a writer.

Warning: This piece does deal with a major character death (but not Mulder or Scully! Don't worry), and I'd like to dedicate it to the memory of my mother. The 4-year anniversary of her death just passed on Easter, and writing these words was a form of catharsis for me.



As always, I also have a song to share first to set the mood. Enjoy:



("Rocks and Water," Deb Talan)

---

I.

Scully was sure
she had been in the middle
of saying something important,
but she couldn't quite put her finger on what
it possibly could have entailed.

See, the thing was
Mulder was kissing the life back into her --
a tingling spiral of dizzy desire
starting at the top of her head
and landing at the soles of her feet;
his right thumb gently stroking her cheek
slowly back & forth,
his left palm confidently cupping her curved hipbone,
pinning her firmly
and eagerly in place atop her brand new desk.

It was highly inappropriate workplace behavior,
but she found that she couldn't have cared less
if she'd tried.

Both of her legs were wrapped tightly around him,
holding his taut body against her own --
not a spare inch of space between them.

She didn't want to ever let go again.
They'd already lost so much time.

It was what she had needed,
to be fair,
but she mourned for it all the same.

(Sometimes there are no easy answers.)

Yet here they were now,
flying past the barriers of three lonely,
silent years,
determined to start fresh
if it was the last thing they did.

She could feel them both trembling
against the undertow of their own raw emotions --
a tender layer of bright pink skin
exposed anew to familiar, roaming hands.
She still remembered so clearly
how it had been just like this
the first night they'd slept together so long ago.

Maybe this really could be the new beginning
for which they'd subconsciously been begging
all along.

Distracted by these thoughts
and by the trail of chills
sliding up & down her spine,
Scully almost didn't notice her phone
loudly vibrating in the pocket of her simple,
but stylish jacket.

"Ignore it," Mulder murmured, his lips blindly chasing hers
as she pulled away.

"It could be important," she replied,
offering a quick apology with her eyes.

After all,
her mother was in the hospital,
seemingly recovering well, but
certainly not out of the woods.

Just in case,
she had prepared herself for a variety of possible complications,
all fixable --
her mother having suffered a serious head injury only a week before.

Perhaps the doctor wanted to run something by her.
Perhaps they were finally looking to release her.

Whatever the case,
she was going to be fine.
She had to be.

There was no other option.

They wouldn't even be here
if it hadn't been for her.

She never thought to brace herself
for the incomprehensible news
she was receiving now on the other end --
delivered with the transparently practiced air
of scripted sympathy
& an all-too-familiar touch of clinical detachment.

Somewhere between
"I'm sorry to inform you…
maybe if we'd caught the blood clot sooner…"

and "Would you like to come down & see her?",
Scully's ears stopped working,
her phone dropping forgotten to the floor --
one hand still raised as if she were already reaching
desperately for the sky, grasping at the echoing,
vacant space
her mother had just left behind.

This wasn't supposed to happen.
This was their new beginning.

Without a hint of warning,
their shiny new world
had up & turned to rust.

Just like that
in an apocalyptic instant.

It felt as if time itself had been ripped apart,
her gaze passing distantly
as through a periscope
just to meet Mulder's concerned, questioning eyes.

She was already descending
somewhere deep within herself.

If it weren't for him standing there,
she wouldn't have anything at all to hold onto,
her two heels dangling precariously
above a black hole of nothingness
stretching out forever in all directions.

It took all her effort
just to make her mouth form four simple,
muffled,
foreign-sounding words.

"We have to go."

She didn't recognize her own voice.

She only knew one thing:
It was a new beginning, all right.

(Her life would never be the same.)

---

II.

Scully was more than used to seeing dead bodies.

It had been an integral part of her career
for so long.

It had honestly taken her forever
to adjust to treating living beings --
patients who could actually talk back to her
and tell her their stories.

She'd once written that death
had a beginning, a middle, and an end.

What she hadn't said
was that, for the bereaved,
that pattern started all over again
with their loved one's final breath.

It felt so unbelievably wrong.

Out there,
bees continued their buzzing;
birds continued their chirping;
men & women continued to get up each morning,
embracing the dawn --
didn't they know
that the world had stopped turning?

Didn't they care?

Carpe diem,
they all seemed to say.

Frankly, it was almost offensive.

Her mother had always been there,
omnipresent in a way that allowed her
to take her unconditional love for granted.

Of course she'd known that her mom was getting older.
She wasn't blind.

But to conceive of a world without her
had always been tomorrow's responsibility.
Surely not today's.

She at least expected to have some inkling
of its impending arrival.

Some timely warning
and assuredly a proper chance
to say goodbye.

In the end,
she received neither.

It was like a conversation
they'd been having for decades
abruptly halted mid-sentence,
a lifetime of wasted words
and unanswered questions
hanging uselessly from her tongue.

Too little,
too late.

She'd thought her father's passing
would've prepared her for such an event,
but this was different.

She'd adored her dad,
placed him upon a gilded pedestal all her life,
but her mother had carried her for nine months
in her womb,
and she'd been there to comfort her
during Mulder's disappearance
and the loss of her only son.

Without a doubt,
Margaret Scully was both her rock
and her soft place to fall --
a trusty home base in the chaotic game of life.

Now, she felt helpless & lost
as if wandering aimlessly in some dark maze,
Mulder's reassuring presence
quietly holding up a light to guide the way.

(He'd been there once, himself. She didn't need to ask.)

All her surroundings had become warped
& unreal --
fun-house mirrors of grief
reflecting the world back at her disproportionately,
her own stunned reflection staring back at her
removed somehow,
as if her soul had actually fled her body
to keep vigil over her heart from a safe vantage point.

Her mother's hands,
which had once fed her, bathed her,
rocked her to sleep,
were cold & unresponsive.

Irrationally,
she wanted to shake her,
to scream out loud like a child,
demanding that she return.

Instead,
she remained silent, her stony face cracked
& collapsing,
tears dripping steadily down her cheeks
despite her best efforts to contain them,
fist clenched--white-knuckled--around the necklace
the nurses had kindly set aside for her.

She could feel Mulder's eyes on her
from across the room,
waiting for silent permission to hold her
& tell her
that it was okay to let go.

She knew she'd get through this,
all of it.

She knew that.

But it wasn't okay.
Nothing was.

She wasn't sure when it would be again.

---

III.

They say time heals all wounds,
but in mourning
a new wound appears every day,
a thousand times over.

(There is no way to prepare)

Every time one forgets for just that moment
and reaches casually for the phone
only to remember,
"Oh, that's right. There's no one there now."

Every time one breaches the surface
and catches but a glimpse
of a life-affirming sunset
and has to realize yet again
that their loved one's eyes will remain forever closed.

For them,
there are no more sunsets --
no more moons,
no more secret wishes made
upon a star.

She had to believe
that, somewhere,
her mom was at peace;
that she was proud
of her youngest daughter's choices,
regardless of the burning trail of ash
those decisions had left behind.

But, either way,
that somewhere wasn't here,
was it?

It wasn't there.

It wasn't anywhere
that she could find
no matter how far or wide
she searched.

It was like a sad game of Wack-a-Mole;
whenever one stinging cut scabbed shut,
another would open up some place else.

In some ways,
things were getting better,
at least easier to bear;
in others,
they were getting worse,
at times impossibly difficult.

She could never predict which it would be.
Each day contained its own hidden cliffs
and crevasses,
its very own valleys & vistas.

But she was beginning to understand
that this was how life was going to be for now --
a constant balancing act,
not altogether new.

Once again,
she had to consciously shift her spirit
to make room for all the conflicting worlds
she inhabited.

For paralyzing attacks of howling despair;
the dull, grey filter distorting everything in sight,
a mighty shadow cast over the Earth.

For the blooming bursts of color
that still erupted in her black & white heart
whenever her husband appeared;
this, alongside the ever-present rock
stuck at the bottom of her shoe --
just another repetitive pang
to which she would have to grow accustomed.

For pitiful negotiations with God & all his saints;
and for fleeting, peaceful moments
of acceptance
and grateful, bittersweet
recollections.

Essentially, for both pain and pleasure --
all that was lost and had been gained.

It helped of course that,
in some ways,
she too had been here before.

She'd already grieved
far too many deaths in her life,
both literally and figuratively.

She'd learned the hard way
how to walk through this world
with a broken heart --
wrapped up stiffly & tucked away
inside a hard, white cast,
signed in permanent marker
by her father,
her sister,
her daughter,
her son,
and, finally, even her mother.

And one more yet
for all the lives they could've shared --
for the tattered tomorrows
which could now arrive
only in her dreams.

She couldn't bear to witness
their legacies fading away in vain.

She needed her suffering to count
for something.

What would her mother have wanted for her?
Certainly not this.

She couldn't help but remember
Maggie's parting words to her
during one of their recent visits:

"Life is a long road to walk alone, Dana.
Don't get tripped up staring backwards;
you need to see where you are going."


Maybe their new beginning wasn't finished,
their fragile dreams dashed against the rocks
of a violent shore.

Maybe it was up to them
to decide to start again.

To try.

She was still alive.
Mulder was still alive.

She may have felt half-dead at times,
but she continued to breathe.

Maybe that's
what her mother would want her to know.

Maybe
there was hope.

(She wanted to believe)

She didn't have to go through this alone.

---

IV.

"I think we should renew our vows."

She'd expected surprise, certainly --
wary hesitation, perhaps,
but Mulder's face remained still
for several calm seconds before his eyebrows
rose & fell,
his pursed lips releasing a long, pensive breath.

"Okay. When?"

Now it was her turn to be surprised.
She lifted her face from its position on his chest
to look him in the eyes --
his focus already centered solely on her,
and his gaze alight
with faithful devotion
like rows of flickering candles
lined up in a church.

All his prayers began
and ended
with her.

"Just like that? You agree?
You don't want to hear my reasons
or wait for me to move back in for a while first?"

He smiled slightly, shaking his head.
He never grew tired of watching the inner workings
of her mind & heart -- precise gears turning
& shadow figures dancing
across the backdrop of her lovely face.

Uneasy with the ease of his agreement,
Scully continued,
"You don't have any reservations after...?"

She couldn't help but run up against a wall
of dense, thorny words then;
their separation was still a sore point
for both of them.

Verbal communication
had rarely been their strong suit.

They spoke instead
in gestures and glances --
protective hands staking a claim
at the small of one's back,
lingering kisses left on the forehead.

Squeezing their emotions into nouns & adjectives
had always been more like zipping up an over-stuffed
suitcase or trapping a tornado
with a butterfly net
than anything one might find in the predictable pages
of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

"Twenty-three years, Scully.
I don't need any more time
to know that you're it for me."

Well.

When he put it like that...

One of his hands instinctively came up
to brush a few stray hairs behind her ear,
his fingers hovering against the side of her neck.

(One of his favorite spots.
He had them all mapped out,
but kept discovering new ground.)

"I think it's a good idea --
wipe the slate clean for both of us.
Give an old man like me a chance
to see you in a fancy dress again."

She smirked.
"Does that mean I get to see you in a tux this time around?"

He rolled her beneath him, catching her off-guard with a laugh.
"It means you get to see me in a bustier if that's what you want."

Mulder paused then, his expression growing serious for a moment.
"I'll do whatever it takes to fix this, to fix us.
I'm tired of the Dana Scully-shaped hole in my house."

She hummed her understanding. He wasn't alone.
"Just in your house?"

Her teasing was clear,
but it was also laced with an undeniable hint
of vulnerability.

So much time had passed for them both,
so many untended hurts --
weary lines running down their faces
& drawing up
a no-man's land between them.

She wasn't exactly easy to live with either.

He leaned down for a kiss & breathed her in.
His reply was short & honest.
There was no need to further embellish
an already-existing work of art.

"In my everything."

And that was that.

She'd never been alone at all.

---

V.

Unpredictably, Mulder insisted
that, this time,
the ceremony should take place in a church.

Not for him, of course,
but for her,
and for Maggie.

Their original wedding had been knocked out
efficiently and rapidly
inside the marble walls of City Hall.

Her mother had smiled widely
and sincerely
when she later saw the pictures,
but Scully hadn't been able to ignore
the way she'd also kept worrying
her bottom lip with her teeth.

"If you'd invited me, I could've brought a priest,"
she'd said.

It wasn't her intention to incite guilt;
she merely wanted what she thought was best
for her child.

It was all she'd ever wanted.

It's also what Dana knew she'd want for her now.

It was the closest she could get
to saving her a seat.

And so she & Mulder quietly decided together
on a small, warm cathedral,
bathed in multi-colored light
by the stained glass windows all around them.

In some ways,
this was very much the end of their rainbow.
The pot of gold they'd been searching for
without daring to admit it
as they'd driven down so many dark, dusty roads together
day after day,
year after year.

In others,
it was merely one more beginning.

It still hurt right down to the bones
to welcome any beginning
while her mother's soft, weathered face rested
six feet beneath the ground,
but as she looked out from the altar,
she thought for a split second
that she might've seen Maggie's
blue eyes beaming at her from the front row.

Hi, Mom.

Once upon a time,
she would've immediately denied the image;
now, she merely accepted it
for what it was.

Whether it was her spirit,
her mind,
or her heart,
it didn't really matter.

This wasn't about goodbye.

This was,
simply put,
about love.

Fin

---
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