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The Long Journey Home

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Virginia | Fall & Winter 2008

There was a certain passivity to life one feels when the love of their life was dead. Waking up early? Laundry? Rote, cyclical patterns of days and weeks passing in a blink? Sure. Why not. It wasn’t like breaking up, returning to a single life, living with only memory. Scully would’ve preferred that.

Now, there was nothing else to do but work and survive.

It wasn’t a feeling of being adrift, per se. Dana Scully would know. She’d felt that before, completely lost, unanchored, searching. This time there was nothing to search for. Mulder was dead. Really, very dead this time. No conspiracy. No mysterious disappearance. No heroic fake death or long absence. It happened right in front of her, and it was pedestrian, earthly, simple.

After over a decade of knowing one another, fifteen years of being by her side, Mulder dropped dead from a heart attack at the age of forty-seven. Of almost forty-seven. It was only August, after all.

It should’ve been an anomaly. He was so young. But as the autopsy had shown, the years of horrible things that were done to him weakened his heart muscle. It was too thin, too worn out. It failed him. It almost killed her.

It was the hardest winter Scully had ever faced in her life. She took bereavement time at work, then more when it wasn’t enough. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years passed in a blur while she was alone in their unremarkable home – remarkable now in its emptiness. No longer a home in any sense of comfort and belonging. It was quiet, cold, drafty – just a house where she tried to sleep, tried to live on. A primal, desperate part of Scully wished he’d come back from the dead and haunt her, crawl his way out of his grave and maim her, drag her in with him, but she knew he would haunt her heart forever. There was a place in her, a carved out home, just for him. Forever. His life would live on with her.

Scully tried to comfort herself with the fact that he had died happy. The happiest he’d been in years, in a lifetime. That he died with his most desperate questions answered. That he didn’t die alone, he was in her arms the whole time, on a beautiful day in August. That he’d died with a smile on his face, fighting through the pain, trying to comfort Scully.

He was with Samantha now, at peace in starlight.

Scully had never felt more alone.

-

She tries her best to cope. She takes her time with mourning, knowing how it felt to rush through the absence of a loved one. After her father died she went straight back to work, distracting herself from feeling the emotions. After her sister was murdered in her own home, she did the same. Cracks appeared in her walls and she just built them higher and stronger.

Then Emily. And then Mulder. And then her son, their son, not dead but gone. Gone for good. And then Mulder was back but, God, at what cost? They thrived, through it all, despite it all. They got their answers, they did some good in the world. They made a place for themselves, a home in which to love and be loved.

And then Mulder died, too young. Happy for only a fraction of his time on Earth.

So, this time, Scully mourns. She mourns because she knows that this time, it’s for real. She takes the time to process and heal that she never took before. She can’t throw herself into her work, because even at the hospital she’s reminded of Mulder. She’s reminded of him everywhere, all the time. She carries him actively in her heart.

She takes a leave of absence, a sabbatical from working at the hospital. She shuts herself off from the world, for a while, then starts to attend church again. It helps, a little, but not enough to keep going each week. She goes to a therapist.

She wallows. She has good days. Great days. And horrible ones. She goes a week without sleeping, and the next week she can’t get out of bed. Months after, she meets Skinner for coffee. They spend most of their meeting in silence, and then in fond memories.

It’s good, she thinks. To remember without hurting so much.

-

D.C. Area, Early 2009

Months passed, winter more harsh against her numb skin than ever before, and she decided that she couldn’t live in their house any longer, not alone. She busied herself with cleaning, organizing, selling. It felt… not good good, but good to be doing something. To make decisions again.

Her sabbatical at work ended quickly, but she couldn’t go back – not to helping living people, she wasn’t ready – so she quit. She’d never been so alone, so independent with her choices. No job. No family. No connections or commitments. Plenty of money. Mulder made sure she would be well taken care of and then some. Scully thinks about getting a dog.

Their things went as she cleaned, one by one. She kept what is most important to her. Pictures. Mementos. Mulder’s favorite shirt, his favorite movies, his mug and his jacket and, God, anything she couldn’t bear to part with. She cried when someone took his couch away.

The house sold in the summer to a family with young children. New life, to fill the emptiness that had plagued the home in his absence. Scully found a small apartment in the city, somewhere to rest as she took on a job as a pathologist for the district that she was easily overqualified for. She consults sometimes on cases, and it’s almost like old times.

Once, she was tempted to go back to the bureau permanently, but it felt too much like trying to move back into your childhood home. She’d outgrown it, it would be like she was haunting her own past.

But she helps with murder cases, she uncovers the truth, she throws herself into the pursuit of justice fully.

Sometimes, when it’s too late to go home, she sleeps in her office and dreams of Mulder. He comforts her, tells her to eat more than plain salad and coffee, reminds her to get some sunlight and call her mother. He tells her that he loves her, and he just wants her to be happy.

Scully always wakes up crying, and she doesn’t remember why.