In the Bleak Midwinter

by ML

January 4, 2004
Title: In the Bleak Midwinter
Author: ML
Email: msnsc21@aol.com
Feedback: Makes a great present.
Distribution: just let me know where.
Spoilers: S8 generally
Rating: PG
Classification: Vignette
Keywords: Angst
Summary: Scully finds some unexpected support when she needs it most.

Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. They mostly belong to the actors who portrayed them, but Chris Carter created them, and Ten Thirteen and FOX own the rights. I mean no infringement, and I'm not making any profit from them.

Thanks to Char, Tess, and Carol for quick beta and encouragement!

Written for the E-Muse Secret Santa Challenge. More notes at the end.


In the Bleak Midwinter
by ML

Christmas 2000
The Carolina Seacoast

No room at the inn, Dana Scully thought sardonically as she surveyed her temporary quarters.

"I'm really sorry, Dana," Tara was saying. "The larger house wasn't available."

<'...and we didn't think you'd be coming,'> Scully supplied the implied end of the sentence silently.

"It's fine, Tara," she said for the third time. Bill was just in the other room but he was wisely leaving Tara to do the dirty work.

"Dana, you could have my room," Margaret Scully chimed in.

Since they were the only two without significant others, it would make sense if she and her mother shared a room. There was only one bed in Maggie's room, but it was a large one, plenty of room for two small women. Even if one was pregnant.

Scully wasn't sure, however, that she wanted to share. It wasn't bad, sharing a room with her mother, but she craved her privacy. The truth was, though, that she didn't just crave, but needed solitude, having lived a solitary life for so long. She loved her mother, loved her family, but needed to be able to get away from them, too.

Especially this year. She already felt somewhat isolated from her family by virtue of what she did for a living. It was difficult to talk about her work as an FBI pathologist regardless, but the work she has been involved in for the past eight years was even harder to explain.

And if she thought things were hard to explain before, they were impossible now. Not that she felt a particular need to explain, but her separation from her family had never seemed so pronounced.

"No, Mom, really," she said. "Don't worry about me." Scully warned her mother with a look. "The couch folds out, right?"

"That's what they told us," Tara said. It looked comfortable enough, a deep and soft green leather situated directly in front of the large TV.

Scully swallowed a sob and turned away quickly. Another, narrower, sofa occupied a cozy corner of the room near the fireplace. For all the sleep she'd be getting, that one would probably suit her.

"Charlie and Sandie won't be here until tomorrow, so you could use that bedroom tonight," Poor Tara was still trying.

Scully put her hand on Tara's arm. "Really, Tara, don't worry about it."

She had tried to get out of this family gathering weeks before, but her mother had pre-empted her. "How often do you get to see Charlie? Dana, I'd really like to have all my children together for Christmas." Maggie Scully didn't say anything more, but she didn't often ask for anything either. Scully felt she owed it to her mother to make the best of it. What was one more difficult thing in the large number of difficulties she shouldered every day?

Still, maybe she'd find an excuse to leave early -- a pressing case, something. Except that there wouldn't be anyone to call her and pull her away. John Doggett was visiting family in Georgia, and her real partner wouldn't be calling her any more, ever.

Had it only been a few scant weeks since she'd witnessed Mulder's funeral, standing stoically by as they lowered his casket into the ground? It still seemed completely unreal to her. The trip to Montana was a terrible nightmare which had continued back in Washington and then in Raleigh. Her mother had stood by her, calm and unflinching, even when Scully finally told her about the baby. And then she'd played the mom card, getting her to agree to spend Christmas with the family.

At one time, she had been looking forward to the gathering, the first since her father had passed away. Of course, she hadn't anticipated that she'd be mourning Mulder. In her wildest fantasies, she'd envisioned an even larger family picture a year ago. If things had gone as originally planned, she might already have had a child. If she stretched the fantasy to its limits, Mulder might even be with her, making bad Bill jokes but making the best of things. He'd look at the sofa and wiggle his eyebrows at her.

It seemed that Mulder was there even when he wasn't. He was the elephant in the room, the unacknowledged guest. She wished with all her heart that he could be there.

Tara left the room, murmuring something about hot cider on the stove, leaving Scully alone with her mother. In the other room, she heard Bill ask Tara a question, and Tara's soft reply.

"Thank you," Scully said.

"For what?" her mother said. "For not stating the obvious? Do you think Tara hasn't already figured it out? And if she has, you can bet that Bill has, too. You should just tell them."

"Mom --"

"They want to be supportive of you, if you'd just give them a chance," Maggie said. "This is a time when you need your family. I wish I could convince you of that."

"I'm not keeping it from them," Scully protested. "I assumed you'd already told them."

"It's not my news to tell, Dana," her mother said. "They know about Fox, of course. Bill was as shocked and saddened as anyone could be, Dana. You need to give him a chance to say so. Don't cut us out of your life. You're going to need support --"

"I haven't decided what to do yet," Scully interrupted her.

Maggie stared at her in shocked silence. "You mean, about the baby?"

Scully nodded, willing herself not to cry.

Maggie swallowed hard, and Scully could see the flush rising in her mother's cheeks and tears in her eyes as she asked, "You're having it, though, aren't you?"

"Of course, Mom," Scully said. "But I don't know if I'll be able to keep it." She couldn't possibly explain more than that. The nightmares, the questions, the fears that she harbored went so much further than her mother could understand. She wanted to believe so badly that everything about this pregnancy was normal, but she couldn't pretend that it was.

Before her mother could say anything more, Scully said, "I'm going for a walk," and left the house.

The house was situated on a low bluff with a path down to the beach. Winter here was colder than normal -- there'd even been some snow a couple of times. The grasses along the path were gray and brittle. The wind laid them flat and they dragged at her pants legs as she walked the narrow footpath down to the shore.

It was three days before Christmas. She'd told her mother that she would have to go back the day after Christmas, rather than staying until New Year's with the rest of the family. With the exception of her mother, she thought everyone would be relieved to see her go. She'd go now if she could. She counted the hours until she could go home and--and what? Sit by herself and weep?

She hadn't requested secrecy when she'd told her mother. Perhaps she'd hoped that Mom would tell them, and that way it would be unnecessary for her to say anything at all. She'd more than half-expected Bill to light into her right away, but he'd done no more than hug her and say in a somewhat awkward way how sorry he was about Mulder. Then he left the room, presumably so he wouldn't start saying things that were unacceptable.

When they were growing up, Melissa could always predict how Bill would behave in a given situation. "Predict-a-Bill," Missy had called it. It used to piss Bill off, but Missy was right, more often than not, which pissed him off even more. Bill's silence was more unnerving to her. She'd almost wished he had said something, so she could fight back.

The sharp wind drew more tears from her eyes. She turned back from the ocean, trudging up the path to the house. Dusk was gathering; the large windows facing the beach showcased the inside of the house. It made a cozy tableau: in one window, she could see Tara at the kitchen counter with Mom, starting to fix dinner. In the other, Bill poked at the fireplace while Matthew stood a careful distance away, fingers in his mouth as he watched his dad.

She couldn't see a place for herself in that tableau. She drew a deep, shuddering breath, and let herself in the back door.

x-x-x-x

She woke in the morning to see Matthew staring at her. He was still wearing his footie pajamas and held the toy of the moment in his hands, a stuffed bear she'd sent last year. She remembered holding it in her hands in the store. She'd almost bought two.

"Aunt Dana, why you here?" Matthew asked.

It took her aback for a moment, then she realized he meant on the sofa instead of in a bed. "'Cause this is where I fell asleep," she said with a smile, tousling his hair.

"Daddy always picks me up when I fall asleep," Matthew said. "No Daddy?" he asked. "G'ma doesn't have a Daddy, either," he explained.

Scully hugged him close. "No, honey," she said. "No Daddy."

She'd somehow made it through dinner the night before, then excused herself to take a shower. She'd stayed in the shower until the water was barely lukewarm, watching the water cascade down her fuller breasts, over her slightly rounded belly. There was so much water already she could pretend her tears weren't a part of it, except for the tightness in her throat and the hot itchiness in her eyes. She was usually stronger, seldom even allowing herself to break down when alone at home. Something about being around her family however, had lowered her resistance.

She'd fallen asleep on the sofa afterward. No one disturbed her during the evening, though someone had put a blanket over her sometime in the night. Maybe they were relieved, too. It took the burden of making conversation with her off them, and they could talk about her to their hearts' content. She didn't care if they did talk about her, as long as she didn't have to hear it.

Charlie and Sandie arrived around noon, loaded with gifts and good cheer. Scully found herself pulled into the cheerful atmosphere, grateful to have the attention directed at the newcomers. She knew at some point Charlie would seek her out for "family gossip" as he always did, but for now all was well.

The clouds lifted and the sun made the living room almost uncomfortably warm in the afternoon. Someone suggested a walk down to the beach. The logistics took a while -- it was amazing how long it took to get everyone gathered. Matthew hopped from one foot to the other, wondering loudly why they weren't going yet, and how soon would they be going, and why couldn't he take Bear, or wear his swimsuit, since they were going to the beach? At last everyone was ready to go.

They had to walk single-file down the path, everyone laughing and chattering. Scully brought up the rear, watching Charlie and Sandie hold hands and make eyes at each other. Tara and Bill were less demonstrative, having been married much longer, and also having the distraction of keeping Matthew in sight. Maggie held Matthew's hand, helping on the steeper parts of the path, and Scully watched as Bill put his arm around Tara to help her, keeping his arm there as they reached the flat of the beach. Unconsciously she rubbed her stomach, feeling the fluttering there.

Matthew ran headlong toward the waves, shouting with glee. Bill ran after him, keeping one pace behind but ready to scoop him up if he got too close to the surf. There weren't many others on the beach. Scully sat in the shelter of the bluff, her arms wrapped around her knees, watching.

It surprised her that Charlie hadn't taken the earliest opportunity to talk to her, but she could understand. The last time she'd seen him, he wasn't even engaged. They still exchanged regular emails, but in the last year she hadn't been as good at keeping up.

Charlie had always been the one to take her side in any argument when they were kids, and he'd always been the most supportive of her even when they'd reached adulthood. But Sandie, meeting the family en mass for the first time since the wedding, appeared to be a little overwhelmed. It was understandable that Charlie's first concern would be for her.

At dinner that night, it became even clearer. Charlie winked at Scully across the table, and held Sandie's hand close to his heart. "We, um, we're pregnant," he blurted into a lull in the conversation.

It was like the ball dropping at midnight New Year's Eve. Everyone started talking at once. Scully smiled and laughed and added her congratulations to the general cacophony.

She volunteered to do the dishes as everyone else carted Sandie and Charlie off to the living room to talk more about the newest anticipated member of the Scully clan.

She was glad for Charlie, she really was. Not to mention that it took more pressure off her, she mused as she scraped the dishes. She'd hugged him close before the others took him away, and he'd whispered in her ear, "We'll talk later, Sissy."

Sissy had been his nickname for her. Because Melissa was Missy, she was Sissy. Charlie found it easier to say than Dana for some reason.

There were those damn tears again. They dropped into the sink, making little holes in the suds.

"Hey Sissy," came a voice from behind her, though not the one she expected to hear.

Bill stood diffidently in the doorway. "You need some help?"

"I'm okay," she said. "Go on back and join everyone in the living room."

"I think Mom and Tara have that covered," he said with a halfsmile. "I wanted to talk to you."

Oh God here it comes, Scully thought.

"I just wanted to make sure you're okay. I know you've been through a lot lately."

There's an understatement, she thought. She couldn't look at him, worried that he was winding up for the pitch. Then he said something completely unexpected.

"You know," Bill said slowly, "Raleigh's not that far from here. You could go over there if you wanted."

"I know," she said. "But that's not what I want."

"I know, Sissy," he said gently. "But you don't want to be here, either, do you?"

The repetition of the childish nickname just about undid her. "I want to want to be here," she said. "Can you understand that? But not this way."

"Not without him?"

She nodded, biting her lip and looking away.

"Oh Dana," he said, and held his arms open. She huddled against him, letting him wrap his arms around her and hold her close.

"I'm sorry this happened to you," Bill said. "You have to believe that I never wished him harm."

"I know you didn't," she whispered. She was so tired.

"I think he was an okay guy. Maybe it would have been good to get to know him better."

She nodded against his shoulder. "I wish you could have," she said.

He just held her for a few minutes. He wore the same aftershave as Ahab, and she found it immensely comforting.

"We know about the baby," he said after a minute.

Scully stiffened and pushed away from him, and he let her, keeping his hands loosely on her arms.

"It's okay," Bill said. "Mom didn't tell me. Tara figured it out. She knows the signs. She's been dying to talk to you about it."

"I can't." Scully turned away from him.

"Why, Dana? What's wrong?"

"I didn't even get to tell Mulder," she said, her voice breaking.

"Have you talked to anyone about it?" Bill asked. "Even Mom?"

She shook her head. "I can't. I can't explain it. I just can't."

Bill patted her shoulder awkwardly and she put her arms around his waist and closed her eyes. She was tired of crying, so tired of holding her head up and going it alone.

It was so quiet in the kitchen that Scully could hear the suds in the sink popping. She couldn't even hear voices from the living room, the only other sound the distant waves breaking on the beach. Or maybe it was roaring in her head. Everything was turned around.

Bill let her go and stood looking at her. "Look, Dana, I'm not here to judge you, believe it or not. But you need to rely on someone, especially now. I know how stubborn you are. If I knew Mulder's trick for getting you to do something, I'd use it."

"He couldn't make me do anything, either," Scully smiled just a little.

"Yeah, right," Bill said with an answering half-smile. "Won't you come be with everyone, just for a while? I won't let anyone ask you anything you don't want to answer."

"That's the protective big brother I know and love," Scully said.

"I'm still the same guy," Bill said. "The one who pisses you off regularly. But maybe I have untapped depths."

Scully snorted. "Yeah, right."

"One more thing, Sissy," Bill said with a very serious expression. "I bet you Mulder knows. You have to know he knows," his own voice broke a little. "And you know he'd want you to be protected, too."

Tough-guy Bill. Maybe she'd underestimated him a bit. Or maybe it was just the season. Maybe he was the only one she could hear this from right now. It was something to ponder, when she was alone again.

She allowed herself to be led into the living room. Most of the lights were off. Matthew lay sprawled over Tara's lap, his head cradled by Maggie. Charlie and Sandie were in the biggest chair by the fireplace, entwined, half asleep. Tara and Maggie scooted over to make room for Bill and Scully on the couch. Bill sat next to Tara, and Scully fitted in between Maggie and Tara, Matthew now lying across everyone's lap. Someone had tuned the radio to a station playing Christmas music.

:::all is calm, all is bright:::

Scully laid her head on her mother's shoulder and felt Maggie's hand stroke her hair, softly, tentatively. She closed her eyes and sent a prayer heavenward for her whole family. Not just for those present, but also for those who weren't.

God rest you, she thought. And God rest me, too.

She slept.

end.

Author's notes: I actually started writing this during S8, before the events of TINH and DeadAlive. Those eps changed everything! <g> I set the events in this story at Christmas of that year, and decided that TINH happened before Christmas, and DeadAlive after. Scully is therefore maybe three to four months along when Mulder is found dead, and is about seven months along when he is disinterred in DeadAlive. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

Hope you enjoyed the story. Not the usual Christmas fare, I realize.

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