Note: Hi Everyone. I wrote a Thing. Many thanks to @mulder-fight-him and @kateyes224 for encouraging me to write it and for making it not suck. As this is the first Thing I’ve written in over a year, I’d appreciate any feedback. Except the feedback of “You suck, this sucks, never write again.” My brain tells me that every time I write a Thing, I don’t need you telling me that too. :-)
She is a coffee connoisseur. Dripped from a contraband coffeemaker in a dorm room during an all-nighter to try to understand biochemistry. Gulped without tasting, still scalding hot, as she ran between patients. Sipped from a mug that warmed her hands as her eyes twinkled at her lover in his parents’ cabin after an unsuccessful ice fishing expedition.
And then…Styrofoam cups in police stations, ranging from barely palatable to resembling raw sewage. Fuel just to keep up with her brilliant partner and his spooky leaps of logic. Picked up from gas stations and drive thrus, as they ran from case to case. Chipped mugs in diners with free refills, as they tried to find enough motivation to chase down endless dead ends on the search for the one lead that would answer the question, slay the monster, save the day. Pots made in a dingy basement office and then ignored as their arguments about the merits of the case energized them more fully than any caffeine could, where winning meant they would stay in the musty dark room but losing meant traipsing through fields in the rain and chasing Bigfoot. She’d never admit it, but she there were times when she preferred it when she lost, because losing meant a new chance to share a secret world with this man, one no outsider would ever understand.
She had opinions on the quality of coffee around the country. She could tell whether she’d have heartburn from it with just a sniff of the air as she walked into the convenience store – often before the bell on the door had stopped chiming. She knew which chains refilled their carafes regularly and would request stops there.
One convenience store in Utah had no coffee, the Mormon cashier saying that caffeine was against his religion, but could he interest her in a coke instead? Mulder had laughed as she had ranted about ignorance, the comparative levels of caffeine in cola versus coffee, her First Amendment rights, and the heartburn caused by the carbonation for the next 50 miles.
But she didn’t remember the taste of the most important cups of coffee in her life.
The mug she left half finished at her mother’s kitchen table after scattering her father’s ashes, claiming a work emergency so she could make a quick escape because she couldn’t handle expecting her father to join them any second, complaining that they hadn’t saved him any, stealing sips from her mother’s cup as they talked and he waited for a refill to brew.
The disposable cup Mulder had pressed into her fist in a Minneapolis field office, giving a statement as she tried to regain her professionalism after losing her composure in front of 20 agents.
The pots she made in her mother’s kitchen, drifting on autopilot after they had buried her sister. That day, she tried a bag of “Tranquil Moments” herbal tea Melissa had left in the cupboard and had once tried to make her drink because it “isn’t healthy for you to be running around nonstop, Dana, you need a chance to breathe too.”
The cup a week after her first round of chemo, which tasted like metal covered in dirt. She had spat it back into the mug and thrown up in the kitchen sink. For months afterwards, she’d silently accepted every cup Mulder offered her, but threw it out as soon as his back was turned.
The coffee breaks she’d shared with Mulder while they were stuck on Kersh’s fertilizer duty, walking down the street to the hipster coffee shop with the twenty year old whose facial hair changed weekly. After one particularly awful session in the AD’s office, Mulder had asked for an application, and the barista laughed, assuming he was joking. She was only half sure he wasn’t.
A thermos full of Irish coffee as they propped themselves against the chain link backstop of an abandoned baseball diamond, talking about everything and nothing, still feeling the heat of his body pressed against her back and wondering if she should have turned around and kissed him when she had the chance.
The slow brews she’d shared with Mulder on lazy Sunday mornings, the taste chased from her tongue by Mulder’s slow kisses.
The ones she’d refused while pregnant and nursing, the lack of sleep and caffeine adding a dream-like state to the months, so that when she looked back at that time, it took on an otherworldly sheen. (It didn’t help that any explanation of those two years sounded absurdist to any outside observer – “My partner was abducted by aliens, returned dead, buried for three months and then exhumed because he wasn’t dead, just in stasis.” “Even though I had no ova due to experiments conducted on me against my will by a shadow government, I had a baby who was considered the greatest single threat to an alien invasion and consequently was in constant danger until I gave him up for adoption.”)
The cup that sat on her mother’s table as she tried desperately to explain herself, (“I don’t think I’ll ever understand,” her mother had responded tearfully), her own tears blurring her vision as her mother kissed her grandson goodbye for the last time.
The rushed caffeine fixes on the run, cups she picked up at 5AM in truck stops, wearing a hoodie that covered hair dyed blond, brown, black, and even for a little while back to red, while Mulder hid in a run-down motel room. She couldn’t remember the taste of anything during those months, fear chasing all the flavor away.
And then, once again, gulping scalding servings down between patients, children this time, as she saved other people’s babies because she was unable to care for her own.
Impromptu coffee dates with Mulder, him sipping his morning coffee with bleary eyes and bed head, her drinking a cup of decaf before bed, smelling of antiseptic soap and latex, fighting sleep because she hadn’t seen him in three days and she missed him.
The cup she made all alone in his kitchen (no longer hers, all her belongings packed up and in the back of her car), leaving the pot mostly full so he’d have something to drink when he ambled out of his lair, washing the mug so it wouldn’t sit in the sink for days before walking out the door.
Then one day, the coffee pot ignored once again in the basement as they discussed cases, tentatively at first as they tried to regain their footing, then found themselves and each other again. One morning, as she dropped her briefcase off in her area, looking at his desk in his office, she wondered if she hadn’t found herself back in the same endless circle. Then Mulder had shaken her out of her musings with a hand on her shoulder and a discolored mug as an offering. Their fingers touched and she realized that they aren’t circling back to the start but traveling onwards together.
The coffee Mulder made as she tried to arrange her mother’s funeral, untouched in the carafe as she thought about her reuniting with Ahab and Missy, and jealously wishing that she’d be with them soon (but only for a moment before pushing the forbidden thought out of her mind).
And then, one night, the specialty coffees Mulder brought to her apartment, sitting untouched on her kitchen counter as they fell into bed together again. She made a fresh pot for him the next morning.