the first day of spring (a christmas story)
by Kessica

scully hadn't been to her mother's house since the day before the move to california. she had always expected to go into hiding, to grow her hair long and dye it blonde, to change her name and always wear dark sunglasses but really, she quit her job and moved across the country because she could and she hand wanted to. she wanted away from d.c., away from the cold and the humid east coast, away from the x-files and the f.b.i.

maggie scully had come out once, about a year after the move, to visit for a week, it had been march twenty first, the first day of spring when she'd picked her mother up from lax and shown her around the small condo she'd bought for herself. the sun was shining and her mother was still dressed for the winter she'd left when summer had arrived in southern california two weeks ago.

"how are bill and tara? the kids? how is charlie?" she asked her mother.

"oh, very good, all very happy. they ask about you. they miss you." her mother said in a way that was a request for her to move back home. scully didn't talk to her brothers anymore.

the condo had a tiny guest room with a twin bed, a nightstand, and no room for much else. maggie put on a t-shirt instead of a sweater and brushed her hair. her daughter handed her a glass of water when she came into the small kitchen and they drank in silence.

"you look just the same." her mother commented, reaching out to touch the red bob but scully flinched and so she put her hand down.

"are you hungry? we could go out. i could make you something, if you're tired." scully said into the silence. the week passed. they didn't talk about fox or william.

now, scully felt a sort of sickening déjà vu as she drove a rental car into the driveway of the old house. she hadn't been here in four years but it hadn't changed. maggie had begged her to come home for christmas, cried over the phone and having no real reason to say no, scully relented.

she could see charlie's old honda accord down the block and assumed the minivan in the driveway next to her was bill's. it was christmas eve and the ground was clear though it was cold enough to snow and it would probably start by the time the sun set. scully couldn't get warm. it had been seventy degrees when she'd left l.a.

tara, pregnant again and again, opened the door and squealed loudly enough so that suddenly her whole family appeared and enveloped her in a crushing hug.

"dana! you are such a bitch not keeping in touch!" charlie sand and she couldn't help but laugh even though she saw real hurt on his face, on all of their faces. she swallowed down the lump guilt in her throat and said softly,

"hello." at the table with turkey and ham and all the traditional fanfare of the scully's and most of america, the interrogation began.

"well, i work one day a week at the los angeles crime lab. the rest of the week i work at the coroner's office in huntington beach." she said.

"i'm so happy you're out of the f.b.i. and away from danger." bill said. "i was against that job from the start." scully chose not to comment and said instead,

"working in the crime lab is perfect for me. i get to use my medical training as well as my f.b.i. experience. i love working at the huntington morgue, too, it's small and predictable." she said.

"any men in the picture?" tara asked.

"no. i've dated some, but it seems i'm not destined to have a family of my own, doesn't it?" she didn't mean to sound bitter. the family had gotten quiet and the children at the small table at the side could be heard chatting merrily. her mother stared down into her plate.

"what?" she asked.

"who wants pie?" tara said too brightly, lifting her heavy form out of the chair.

"mom? what?" scully asked.

"we weren't going to tell you but i think it's unfair for you not to know." charlie said. "agent mulder has spent christmas with us ever since you moved away." her mother glared at him and shrugged at her daughter's shocked stare.

"dana, you were the only family he had and you left so suddenly." she said apologetically.

"well... is he coming tomorrow?" she asked, finally. even the children had gotten quiet.

"no." bill said. bill had never liked mulder. "when he heard you were coming, he declined our invitation."

"good." she said, standing with her plate and taking it into the kitchen. she set it in the sink and leaned unsteadily into the counter. she thought about him everyday, she did but she had dealt with him. she had turned the mulder page in her life and was ready to move on. the pain of it all, the pain of losing william was still so fresh and she had thought, four years ago, that it would be easier to heal if mulder wasn't around. she had told him that when she'd left and he'd promised to respect her wishes. now, with the opportunity so available, her head swam. she had so many questions. was he seeing someone? was he still with the f.b.i.? did he miss her? did he smell the same? these days she couldn't stand the sight of baby boys in old navy caps. she couldn't stand the feel of a baby's head or the smell of formula.

"dana, please. he just wants to see you." maggie said from the doorway.

"is this why i came out here? not to see you but for mulder? jesus, mom, not everything is about mulder and yet it is, and continues to be and probably will be forever." as she said this, she could see herself sitting at his desk, freshly tattooed, saying, 'not everything is about you, mulder'.

"no, you came out here because i asked you to." she said. "but you used to love him and he loved you and i don't see why it has to be the way it is!"

"it was my choice for it to be like this. my choice to start over and i don't regret it." she said, firmly.

"if this is about william-"

"don't talk about william. ever. you don't know about that." scully snapped.

"okay. i'm sorry, i just thought you might want to see him but obviously you don't so let's just get the pies and not ruin christmas with bickering, okay?"

the thing was, scully did want to see him, if only that. just to see him walk down the street and have it be really him. to see him running in a suit and trench coat or jogging in an old gray tee-shirt again. to see him laying in her bed with nothing at all on.

she was furious with her self and the day after christmas she packed her bag and left for the airport early. she had plans to have a cup of coffee with walter skinner before her plain, the only person she still talked to from what she thought of as her 'old life'. at the starbuck's closest to the federal building, he was there, still bald and sitting ramrod straight. they talked about her flight and different, new departments he was in charge of being a full director. then suddenly, he was looking up, staring over her shoulder and she knew that mulder had walked in.

"you knew he would be coming in at this time, to this store, didn't you? did he ask you to do this?" she whispered fiercely but skinner shook his head no and stood up, leaning down to kiss her cheek, and walked out. she would never forgive him. mulder didn't know she was there and she shamefully thought about hiding in the restroom until he left, trying to hide behind the large rack of half-priced christmas mugs while he got his latte but she couldn't do it. he saw her first anyway and his incredulous "scully?" nearly did her in. saw him in a crowd at starbuck's at least once a week and she could only assume he did the same.

"mulder, you have a beard." she said, dumbly. he left his place in line and walked over to her. he looked like he wanted to hug her but thought she might disappear and his arms would close in on themselves.

"yeah, i decided i hate to shave. what... what are you doing here?"

"christmas with the family, but then you knew that, didn't you?" she said.

"i meant in this starbuck's. i wasn't planning on seeing you. ever again, really." he said.

"i had a coffee date before my flight. i leave in about two hours, so i have to get to the airport." she said and his face almost fell.

"let me take you." she almost said no, but then gave a single nod.

he drove her rental car and her chest felt tighter with each breath. he smelled exactly the same. neither spoke but it wasn't like it used to be; the silence wasn't comfortable. he wasn't allowed to walk her to her gate anymore. before she got out of the car, he said, "don't be a stranger." with a pathetic little smile surrounded by a fuzzy beard that grew out red and suited him.

"thanks for the ride, you'll return the car?" she said, and pulled her suitcase out of the backseat.

"yes, of course." he said. she turned to walk away, willing herself to be strong. "scully!" he yelled.

"what?" she turned, and he was hanging out of the car with a line of cars behind him, waiting for his space in the drop-off zone.

"stay. stay here, and i know people, and we could find william. we could get him back and you could stay." he said, his voice cracking on his son's name. her eyes got hot and wet, her skin flushed. she imagined how it could be with her little boy and mulder in her bed again, feeling safe and warm and content. then she imagined taking william from the only home and parent's he knew and bringing back into potential danger and she squared her shoulders.

"goodbye, mulder." she said and got onto her plane without looking back.


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