Achingly, bitingly, pervasively alone... she was, and had been, and would be... and at the present moment, darkness just beginning to paint the windowpanes a translucent purple, "would be" felt like forever, and she believed it.
It's your own damned fault, you know.
Dana Scully let the curtain fall against the coming springtime dusk... shedding the light jacket, letting it drop over a chair, then stopping in place, in the middle of her living room. April in DC... just now cherry blossom time. She'd avoided the office, claiming this one Saturday for herself, despite the fact that she knew Mulder would be pushing paperwork around his basement den... the Fox gone to ground, as he always did after a case that had unsettled him. She'd been glad of that. Not that Mulder ever imposed on her personal time... they saw very little of each other, in fact, outside of the office... but something in her had wanted the day for herself.
She'd walked the Mall, past the Smithsonians with their imposing stone faces, past the open grass, as yet still muddy with the last snow-melt, the trees just beginning to bud and leaf. The sky, swirled with high white cirrus clouds over a blue canvas, was warm on her back... and she'd stopped to watch children play on the life-sized Triceratops statue, clambering over the huge, still creature's nose and horns, sitting behind the bony crest like a mahout of old India astride his pachyderm mount, kicking their heels and squealing while mothers looked on, indulgent, enjoying the spring air with maternal calm.
The case echoed back to her... if Mulder had been unsettled by the ghost of Samantha he saw in every small girl's face, children as a collective tugged at her insides, more and more frequently now. What a pair they were, she'd thought... like two starving people standing outside the glass-fronted restaurant. At times like this she felt in her core that Mulder would never find his sister... that he would remain incomplete, a part of him forever missing. And herself...
He promised he'd be there when I needed to talk. Well, that was the truth, but even now, with the emptiness inside her amplified by the looming cancerous shadows, she was not prepared to broach that subject with her partner. Mulder would listen... and he'd offer what solace he could... but his words still came back to her, soft, sincere, wondering.
"I never saw you as a mother, Scully..."
Of course he hadn't. And he couldn't, even now. Even after... she shook her head.
It's not about that, and you know it.
She hadn't turned on the lights in her apartment... so often, the dusk of springtime was soothing, calling back to her older times, softer evenings, evenings when being by herself didn't mean being alone. It hadn't been so very long ago, either. Shades of past twilights crept into the room along with the deepending shadows... echoes of voices long past.
Melissa... her sister, Missy... reading the poem "The Children's Hour" aloud. Claiming that hour for them, for brothers and sisters together, and as long as there was light in the sky, Mom wouldn't call them in from the back yard, from the rude fort they'd constructed out of leaveaway timber and discarded domestic scraps.
Laughter in the streets of the Navy Housing complex... there were always children there, always playmates. Being a Navy family wasn't so bad... what one lacked in continuance, in lasting friendships, was made up for in the constant stream of new friendships a-bourning. Chinaberry fights in the Georgia ports. Romping through the woods in Newport. Discovering the malls in California, and realizing that it was good to be young, and in the company of other young people...
And always, always, having home to return to. In the dusky twilight, from whatever activity she'd found herself embroiled in, there was always the songlike call of her mother at the kitchen door... and leaving the cool dampness of gathering shadows to scurry, scamper, skip towards the welcoming light of the kitchen, and dinner on the table...
She wanted that for herself, now.
Dropping into a chair, the creamy manilla folder, her own casenotes, caught her eye... she'd wanted that, been thinking of that, as soon as the file first crossed her desk. The vanished children. Then going to the small town... a suburb of Hartford, really, but with the feel of a small town. Seeing the faces of parents, searching for answers in the calm, detached faces of two FBI agents. Watching the wider eyes of small siblings, gazing up at the new grownups... assured in the power of adults to restore what was missing to their families.
Mulder had buried himself in the paranormal, clinging to his extreme possibilities as though they could draw him through scenarios all-too-familiar, too close to his inner self. She'd seen him close off, studying the scenes, questioning witnesses, picking up the scent and trailing like a hound... the odd music. The strange man. The rats... a children's story come to life, it seemed, and she had no place in that. She, belonging to the everyday world, found herself once more trailing along behind... Mulder's sidekick, Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote. And she resented him for that.
Didn't he think the case had affected her, as well? For all his perceptions, for all his ability to sense the slightest shift in stance and facial posturing, her partner could be remarkably dense sometimes. In that town were families with one empty chair at the dinner table... one bedroom ever empty. In her heart was a small house in the suburbs... a family home... but no man shared the large bed with her. No children came running to her calls. The bedrooms she had planned for them... baby's rooms, little children's rooms, rooms of growing teens... were empty and lifeless in the ghost-home of her mind.
Empty... and as lifeless as her own apartment, in the blues and dusky grays of past twilight, and she could only just make out the silhouettes of the sofa, the couches.
At least when she'd had Queequeg, there had been a small body about the place... someone to greet after work, and the sound of small feet in the hallway. The faces of the children, playing on and around the dinosaur, were fresh in her mind.
"Watch the children." And she was back in the small town again, with the old woman's eyes glinting on her. She hadn't wanted to go see "the neighborhood witch," but Mulder had been insistant. So had the children who remained. And so there they were, in the shadows of another dusk... watching out another window, and the old woman seemed pleased. "Look thou to the children. Yes. Children know the darkness... know to fear it when it comes. But..." And here she waggled a gnarled finger, gap-toothed smile parting weathered lips. "Children, the children... they always know the way home. Children know where to go when the darkness comes... and as the shadows come creeping, and the light fades between the tree branches, you may watch as they turn, unerringly, to the place in their heart where they know... they know... they will be safe."
Mulder had listened with the respect of one attending a mage, or holy person... Scully had found herself utterly nonplussed. A lonely old woman... revelling in the attention of company her own family ought to provide her. But then, eyes that were gray with age, but bright as sun-touched ice, turned to her, as though catching that very thought, and the old woman stepped close.
"The children know..." she intoned, beckoning the younger woman close. "Do you?"
She hadn't known what to say... had wanted to poke Mulder, standing behind the "witch's" shoulder, fighting his own smirk drawn by the skeptic, now caught in her own skepticism. The old woman had not noticed.
"Dana." Why was it that strangers felt compelled to call her by her first name, when her own partner refused that intimacy? "Dana, child. Look to the children in *you.* You've let them wander, and they are afraid of the dark. What will they do, when the shadows come walking? Where will they go, to seek shelter from the night? Follow your children, child. Who do you turn to, Dana Katherine Scully, when darkness comes?"
Mulder had, sensibly, left that subject untouched as they'd left the house, not furthered in their case... though he had turned up at her hotel room door just before bed... with a night light.
"For the kids." he'd smirked... and closed the door.
Now, in the darkness, the words returned... and the quiet, peaceful time she'd grown to appreciate as an adult shifted... and she was aware, achingly aware, of her own solitude.
Look to the children in you. Children unborn. Children who might never be born. She had cancer... she hadn't spoken to Mulder about what that meant. They'd spoken of possibilities, so long ago... and a promise had been made in a rental car, leaving Home, Pennsylvania. Mulder would help her, if she asked him... she was as sure of that now as she was sure of anything.
She could not ask him, though. Not now.
She would leave this world as she'd entered it... alone. It would be cruel, ultimately cruel, to bring a child into the world knowing, in her soul, that she would leave it alone... motherless.
Mulder would take care of the baby. So would Mom, if you asked her.
But you don't want other people raising your child, Dana... you want that for yourself.
The nameless, faceless, unborn infants cried in the void. You've let your children wander, the old woman had said... and they're afraid of the dark.
Well, who in their right mind wouldn't be? It's damned scary... being alone, lost, in the dark...
An old saying came to mind, her father's intonation... "It's not the dark itself I fear, but what I fear may be lurking in the dark."
Did she fear the dark coming upon her, closer with each sunset? She did not fear death itself... she knew that there was more to life than it cessation. But... still, the coldness took her insides when she thought of it, of that leaving, of the eternal closing of the eyes. Is this why children fear the dark? Because they fear to die? Because each night, to a child, is a little death? Not that they could see it that abstractly... children were afraid of the dark for itself. But she, now facing the darkness, could see that... and it was true. Each day died with the setting of the sun. Each day's memories faded that much more as night took the sleeper. Each nightfall was a premonition of the eternal night.
Who wouldn't be frightened, then? It would be sensible.
And suddenly, Dana Katherine Scully was very, very cold.
It's your own damned fault. If you'd been a doctor... none of this would have happened. You wouldn't have cancer. You wouldn't be alone. You'd be engaged, or married, to a handsome fellow from medical school... settled in that house in the suburbs. Mom would be on her way to becoming a grandmother. If you never have any of that... it's your own fault, Dana, and you know it.
FBI agents don't marry often... or easily. When they do... you've heard the office gossip. Seems someone else gets divorced every day. A woman in the Bureau can't date casually among the men most readily availible... date above your rank, and you're sleeping your way to the top. Date below your rank, and they say you can't get laid any other way. Date one of your colleagues, God help you, and you're the office slut before you've gotten the popcorn away from the concession stand.
So where does that leave you? Alone. She closed her eyes, then opened them, realizing that the action made little difference, visibly. Alone in the dark.
The street-sounds filtered into the shadows of her interior, the glow of the streetlamps flickering on, lighting her curtains from outside, casting a small, filtered parallelogram of orange light onto her carpeted floor. She was grateful for it... as she'd been grateful for the nightlight, in her motel room, that night.
And then the streetlamp flickered, and went out.
Again, the voice of the old woman... a voice not unkind, in a sudden, blinding darkness that was.
"Who do you turn to, Dana Katherine Scully, when darkness comes?"
With a small, strangled cry, Dana Scully drew up her knees to her chest, hugging them close, and wept, as a child lost in the night.