She woke up in a cold bed and knew immediately that she was somewhere she didn't belong.
"Dana? Breakfast is ready."
She rubbed her eyes and tried to think. That was her mother's voice. She reached out with both hands and determined she was in a twin bed, and there was no one with her. She had to pee and the sun was winking at her through the window, blinding her a little and muddling
her thoughts further.
Was she a child or an adult? What year was this? She ran her hands down her front and confirmed she was the grown-up version of Dana Katherine Scully.
The last vestiges of sleep fled as it all came back to her. She was at her mother's house in Baltimore; she'd arrived last evening. Mulder wasn't with her, he'd elected to stay in
Washington and he hadn't called her last night.
She felt for her cell phone on the nightstand, wondering if maybe she had just slept so hard that she never heard it ring. But there were no missed calls, and she made up her mind not to think about it. They needed to take some time to adjust, to think. She'd said so herself. He was just taking what she'd said to heart.
"Dana?" Her mother was at the door now, with a cup of coffee in her hand.
Mulder finally did call, and her first instinct was to give him hell for not calling the moment Marita had left him last night.
But she didn't, and they talked it through. Falling into a pattern she'd thought they'd left behind with their old lives.
He wanted her to come with him to meet Kersh, but she happened to catch her mother's eye, and she planned to say no if he asked. He didn't, but that was probably because their old telepathy was at work, and not because he was ditching her again.
They hung up and she finished breakfast, eggs and hash browns and toast with strawberry jam. When she'd arrived the day before, Maggie had spent the first hour crying and gushing and demanding information, and the second hour at the store buying all of her daughter's favorite things. Favorite things from childhood, anyway - Scully couldn't recall the last time she'd eaten toast with jam that wasn't some special high-fiber brand bread and organic fruit, and it was probably back while she was pregnant....
She swallowed the last bite of toast and forced the thought of pregnancy from her head.
Her mother scraped the last bit jam up from her plate with the last bit of toast, and looked her daughter over carefully. Scully squirmed a little under the scrutiny, waiting for the question she couldn't answer.
"So, what are you going to do, Dana?"
The first thing she did was drive to the pier where they had spread her father's ashes all those years ago. She and Mulder hadn't been east of Pennsylvania in three years, and she had dreamt of Ahab in recent months.
The wind whipped her hair, which was longer than it had ever been before. She liked it this way, liked having a long curtain to hide behind or let trail behind her as desired. She hadn't been in an autopsy bay since they went into hiding, so there was no real need to keep it short. She thought maybe she would give up cutting altogether now, since it was no longer necessary to hide her appearance.
Besides, Mulder liked it this way.
She breathed deeply, taking in the salty air like a rebellious mermaid surfacing for a peek at the sky. She had missed this, how the sea and the sky would blend, indistinguishable in the haze. She felt like Ahab were here beside her, his hand on her shoulder as he gave her advice.
Except that she couldn't hear his voice.
Tears welled up and she refused to let them fall. The world wasn't ending! She should be celebrating!
But her cell phone had been silent since breakfast, and even when they'd shut down the X-files and Mulder had a new partner, he'd managed to call more than this.
They weren't even together then.
Were they together now?
She went home and if the tears fell, she managed to mistake them for sea spray.
When her phone did ring it was Jeffrey Spender on the line.
"We still need you, Dana."
"The world isn't ending, but it's still in danger from time to time from preternatural and inexplicable phenomemons."
"Mulder has agreed to return."
She went for a drive several weeks later, after a brief meet-up with Mulder. He'd confirmed everything, he was going back to the FBI and he was getting the X-files back. "I could use you on this, Scully."
Except, she couldn't. His eyes were accusatory, but she stood firm. The old life wasn't the way.
She wasn't too surprised to find that they had so little to talk about now, but she was disappointed.
She dared not believe she was crushed.
Her drive took her everywhere, and nowhere. She came to a stop at a church and laughed at her own predictability.
She said her Hail Marys and left, feeling no better or worse than before, except from a slight incense-induced headache.
Emily's grave was incredibly small, and Scully couldn't believe it hadn't somehow grown over time. Like Emily would have.
Like William was, somewhere.
But she didn't think about William if she didn't have to, and since she'd given him up she'd rarely had to. Her defense mechanisms were nothing if not well-oiled and oft-practiced.
She'd come to California on a whim, after another dinner with Mulder ended in hard feelings and bitter tears. His life was going somewhere, even if it was backwards. Her life? Was stuck in neutral.
Emily's grave provided no answers, but it gave her a chance to reflect. She tried calling Kresge and was surprised to find him still there.
"Scully FBI. It's been ages."
They had dinner, and Scully let her hair down. He commented on it, being the first person to appreciate it since Mulder (her mother thought it unmanageable). She rewarded him with a smile and they split a bottle of wine.
She didn't go to bed with him, but she thought about it. That was enough freedom for this trip.
When she got home, she made up her mind. Time to put her degrees to practical use.
Her resume went out to several hospitals and one university the next day.
It didn't take long to get a job, and when she told Mulder, he made snide comments that he looked like he regretted, but that she didn't let slide.
Her mother was secretly relieved and outwardly cheerleading.
Maggie Scully hadn't been well for years, and she'd never told her daughter or her sons. Bill would have worried her to death, Charlie didn't need the added stress in the middle of a war, and Dana wasn't there to tell. If she whispered it to Melissa's ghost, no one would
When Dana returned, it didn't seem right to spoil the occasion.
So the illness took over, eating away at her, and it wasn't very long before Dana asked about the dizzy spells and headaches and long afternoon naps.
Maggie was ready, though. She'd been thinking of her Bill for so long, and details were coming back to her. The way he liked to kiss her neck, how he'd spin her around when the kids weren't watching. How he'd gotten her pickles and peanut butter that one time while she was pregnant with Bill, Jr., and how he'd known Melissa would be a girl when Maggie was only seven weeks pregnant.
She wanted to be with him, but she'd waited for Dana.
Her mother's funeral was on a Thursday morning. The sky was cloudy but it didn't rain, and there was no wind. It was a quiet, gray day.
How many gravesides had she stood next to back then? Too many to count, though she could and she would, later when she wasn't surrounded by people who wanted to make sure she didn't faint. People who couldn't help but make sly, behind-the-hand comments about the prodigal daughter.
Bill wasn't speaking with her, even after all this time. Tara squeezed her arm and gave a half-smile of apology. Her husband was a stubborn man and she often had to cover up for him, make it better. Scully was fine with it, though, she was used to Bill. Charlie had made it in and stood between them, which helped. He'd been gone longer than anyone cared to say, and if Bill was going to hold grudges it should be against their little brother, but she'd always been Bill's nemesis and Charlie, their neutral playmate.
Charlie and Scully found themselves on the porch at their mother's house, where Scully was still living. He handed her a cigarette and she only held it to her lips after making sure it wasn't a Morley.
They made small talk, eventually moving to what Charlie did now (he was in naval intelligence) and where he was (he couldn't tell her specifics, just the Middle East). He hadn't been to the States in nearly eight years, not counting the occasional training mission. He'd written to their mother, long rambling letters full of news that wasn't really news, and she'd written back, long rambling letters full of too much news.
"She wrote the last one about a month ago. She was worried about you, Dana, said you hadn't even talked to him in over a year."
She put out the cigarette on the porch railing. It had actually been about eight months, counting that time she ran into him at the airport.
"I've done okay without him, Charlie. Things change, we changed."
He only nodded and offered her another cigarette.
She broke her wrist skydiving, tried driving her car at unimaginable speeds on sharp curves. She just tried to feel something.
She put flowers on her mother's grave weekly. She put the house up for sale, and changed her mind after a week, settling for a new paint job inside and some landscaping outside. She kept up her routine of not thinking about William, or even Emily all that much, though she was fooling no one and cried more often than she would admit.
She tried one date, a dinner that started badly and ended dismally. She kept long hours at work and in the evenings she worked on papers. She was published twice in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Bill was sent to the Mediterrenean, and Tara moved closer to Baltimore so she wouldn't feel so out of touch (and to have her sister-in-law as a more frequent babysitter). Scully had to look in the mirror frequently to be sure she wasn't really turning into her mother.
Life went on, and the world didn't end.
One day her cell phone rang, and she didn't recognize the number. It was a D.C. area code, but no name on the caller ID.
She didn't check her messages for days, not realizing she even had one until the phone angrily beeped at her.
"Scully, it's, uh, Mulder. Listen, I know it's been a long time, but I want to see you. Meet for lunch, maybe. Call me back. Oh, wait, you don't have this number, it's...."
When she called him back, it was like going home.