I saw old autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like silence, listening
To silence. – Thomas Hood
You woke up early one grey October morning and wondered where the years had gone. It seemed like only days ago you had met him for the first time, suspicious and unrelenting in that grey basement office, and now… now his hands lie curled on the duvet next to yours, arthritic and old.
Feeble light curled around the edges of the dark curtains and you could taste the coming winter in the cool air. You shivered but rose anyway, swollen limbs painful and slow, and crossed the room to the window, wanting – needing – to see the new day beginning.
How many times had you risen on mornings like this in some far flung part of the continent, chasing another of his monsters? How many times had you wished for five, ten more minutes curled in the warmth of your blankets while his breath stirred the silent morning, willing you to wake, and had risen anyway to join him in the cold? More, many more times than you could count. But you still remembered each one.
Early morning sunlight turned your hair the colour of autumn leaves as you half opened the curtains to gaze outside. The yard was the same as it had been for as long as you had lived here, the clapboard fence needing painting (so many times you had reminded him), the trees curling in on themselves; a barrier you hadn’t needed in so long.
A sudden urge came upon you, seeing the grass turn yellow and gold, to take off, the two of you on some disjointed road trip across the states, retracing paths taken all those years ago. How far to New Jersey, to Idaho, to West Virginia? Sunflower seeds and interminable motel rooms where this time you could take one room instead of two and… And you sighed and smiled, and turned to see his lined face resting softly on the pillows. You were too old for these things now.
You remembered his refusal to let the darkness follow you, thirty (or was it forty?) years ago, his mask of bravery slipping just so slightly so you could see the fear in those hazel eyes as he mouthed the words, ‘let it try’. How you loved him in that moment, loved him more than you thought possible, even after all you’d been through. But the darkness had found you – of course it had – and had lived with the two of you for endless months in the clapboard house with peeling painted fences while the two of you struggled on and somehow survived. Each other’s constants, and touchstones.
The gold of the morning pulled your head back to the world outside your window and you settled uncomfortably against the ledge. The air had tasted like it did today when you buried Walter Skinner and the grief had pulled at your heart until you thought it would break (again, and again into a hundred frail pieces which you carried with you like pebbles tossed at sea).
The priest’s voice droned across the clear cemetery and the twelve gun salute echoed in the bleak air, and you thought you saw, from the corner of your eye, a flash of grey among the russet trees, thought you felt, on the small of your back, a gentle hand. And when you turned to Mulder and knew that he had felt and seen it too, you allowed yourself to say goodbye.
It seemed that you lost too much, too soon in those years. The game of cat and mouse with the Bureau ended with the loss of Father Joe and you focused on your medicine, on pushing the thought of 2012 and all it would bring to the back of your mind. You were frightened, you knew now, of the possibility that you would fail. That the secrets you had uncovered, the lies you had exposed, would amount to nothing and that they would still win.
That fear rose when December passed with no threat. The morning of the 22nd gave way to the afternoon, and then the evening, and then the night, where you tumbled into bed with him, clothes discarded on the walk from living room to bedroom, along with the truth that all you had fought for and all you had lost had been in vain.
The following months remained quiet too. You tiptoed through the halls and corridors of house and hospital like you were waiting for the world to end. You were. But it ended in a way you would never have imagined, when March brought its own sorrow and your peaceful morning was shattered.
You had been relaxing in bed, content with the morning’s soft rain against the window and the promise of a week’s unbroken vacation from the hospital. The phone rang in Mulder’s office and you burrowed further under the duvet, content to let him field off the cold callers. Dimly you head the tone of his voice change, the cadences rising and falling in the manner which, you knew, he got when he was angry. Bill, you thought to yourself, half annoyed and half amused at the effect he and Mulder still had on each other. Determined not to speak to your brother or calm down your agitated partner on your day off, you curled up into a ball, pulling the pillows over your head as Mulder’s heavy tread rose up the creaking stairs.
“Scully.” His voice was soft as he sat on the edge of the bed.
“You’re a big boy, Mulder, I’m not sticking up for you,” was your muffled response.
“Scully.” He was insistent and for the first time you heard the tremor in his voice. Lifting your head from beneath the blankets you saw the tears glisten in his eyes and reached out to grasp his hand, feeling as though you were falling, tumbling into a heady black hole (that darkness, that damned darkness).
“No.” The word escaped your lips involuntarily. You raised your hand to your mouth, as if by that small act you could take the word back, refute the incomprehensible enormity of what Mulder had come to tell you.
“No. No!” The tears rose in your eyes as he grabbed your hands and pulled you to his chest in a rough, clenching hug. Softly he rocked you back and forth as you clutched the rough fabric of his grey t-shirt, breathed in his smooth, rich scent between lurching breaths, and cried for your mother.
The morning of the funeral rose bleak and damp, the trees outside your window (golden in this morning’s sun) were obscured by shifting shards of fog. The birds were silent, the woods still. You and Mulder, sombre shapes in heavy black, the only movement in the dead air as you headed towards the waiting car – a solitary funeral procession.
The graveside was full; your mother loved by all who had known her, but their consolations fell on deaf ears as you stumbled, Mulder at your side, to take your place beside Bill and Charlie. Any animosity between your partner and your brother was gone, or at least held in check, while the priest spoke of your mother’s life, your family’s loss and you thought of the time you’d last seen her.
The kitchen was filled with the smells of Christmas; turkeys basting in the oven and Tara’s cranberry and ginger sauce bubbling gently on the stove. You and Mulder had been shooed out of the room (his ability to ‘cook’ macaroni cheese deemed unsuitable for the festive occasion) and you hadn’t complained as he pulled you to one side and pointed out a sprig of green hanging from the ceiling.
“Mistletoe, Scully.” He smiled at you and planted a kiss on the tip of your nose. Laughing, you stood on tiptoe to kiss him back but a disapproving cough (disapproval tempered with love and affection, you thought) turned your head.
“Fox, if you’re finished with my daughter I need her in the kitchen,” your mother said, and laughed at the disappointment in his eyes.
That year you felt more at home than ever, Mulder constantly at your side to help you field the disapproving comments from your brother, your mother an ally in keeping the peace. The time to leave came round too quickly and, Mulder and presents safely stored in the idling car, you wrapped your arm around your mother’s waist.
“I’m finally happy,” you told her, and she nodded, needing no words.
“I wish you would visit more, you and Fox,” she said, facing the wintry street. “I miss you, Dana.”
“I will, Mom, I promise,” you replied, and you meant it. “I miss you too.”
But the wind whistled through the trees as the mourners dropped earth on the smooth coffin, and even with Mulder at your side you felt completely alone.
With only the family left at the wake, thoughts turned to memories of happier times.
“Remember,” said Charlie, “remember when…” and stories of your mother and your brothers, your father and your sister, and you and Mulder cocooned safely in the middle, floated through the slumbering night.
The sun had risen above the tips of the trees as you had stood in quiet recollection; the coils of grey mist which had blanketed the ground were rising and dispersing with the breeze. The day would be a cool one, the chills of the first autumn frost in the air, and you were grateful for the open fire downstairs, the heaps of logs stockpiled for winter.
Suddenly chilled by the cool air you turned from the window, the curtains still half open to the glimmer of the day’s sun. Feeling old and foolish (standing in the cold at your age) you made your way back to the bed, gnarled fingers touching the back of a chair, a bedside table (as if to prove that they – that you – were still here) on your way. You settled between the bedclothes as Mulder’s familiar weight graced the bed beside you and you slipped your fingers into his, grateful to have him beside you now, to have had him beside you for so long.
Squeezing your hand (how long had he been awake?) he raised your fingers to his lips and kissed them a good morning.
“I’ve been at the window, Mulder,” you whispered. “I’ve been thinking, remembering.”
“What have you remembered?”
“That the truth of a person’s life can be measured by what they leave behind. That we fight, we continue fighting, for what we believe. That I’ll leave behind you, and what you believe, and what you will fight for.”
He clasped your hand again, a silent confirmation of the things you both had lost and you lay in silence for a while, watching the slow sun trail its path across the room.
“The darkness has gone, Mulder,” you spoke at last. “It tried, but it’s gone. And we remained.”
You thought, for a long moment, that he hadn’t heard you but then (“It left us a long time ago, Scully,” so quiet that you barely heard) he turned to you and you closed your eyes, and he kissed your red hair for the last time.