In the end she always ends up back in
the car. William, his face hot and red, his voice hoarse, lets himself be
strapped into his car seat without fuss. This, she thinks bitterly and with a pocket
full of guilt, is all he wanted in the first place. She takes off his hat,
smoothes down the soft tuft of hair. It’s been getting darker lately; it’s more
auburn than red now. Here in the car, in the middle of the night, it looks even
darker. As dark as his father’s hair. She checks that his seatbelt is
fastened and then she closes the door.
Scully gets in the driver’s seat and
her trembling hand inserts the key into the ignition. She rubs her eyes, sighs.
In the backseat, William starts babbling; he wants her to start the car, start
driving. His impatience is nothing new, but her nerves are bared raw and he’s
playing them like a string instrument. She turns on the radio and the car is
filled with quiet Christmas music. As soon as the engine comes on, William
rejoices. It should make her happy, shouldn’t it? He’s squealing and giggling,
kicking his tiny feet and gesticulating with his hands. But Scully feels numb.
Her hands on the wheel are cold, grip too tightly. Her eyes burn in
She can’t do this. It’s been six months
and she doesn’t know how to do this; be a mother, an agent and a woman. Scully
glances in the rearview mirror. William is relaxed, his eyes concentrated on
the passing lights outside. He is like you, Scully thinks. Just like you,
Mulder. Lately she’s been doing this; talking to him in her head as if he could
hear her wherever he is. Sometimes, when she’s been driving for a while, she
thinks she can hear him, too. If he were here, he’d be driving. He’d be telling
William a story, making strange noises, trying to make him a believer. Scully’d
be here, too, in the passenger seat, listening with a small smile on her face.
Like William she’d lean her head against the window, let Mulder’s voice and the
gentle rhythm of the car lull her to sleep. It’s a nice dream, but that’s all
it is. It bursts before her eyes and she stares straight ahead into the thick
darkness, her eyes filling with tears that she blinks away. She can’t do this,
it’s as simple as that. Another glance in the rearview mirror; William’s mouth
is open, his eyes are closed. It works every time. Logically, Scully knows that
it’s just the rocking motion of the car. But it feels like so much more. She’s
spent a lifetime in cars; a lifetime on wheels with Mulder. It’s felt like a
home sometimes, then a prison. When Monica drove her to Georgia to deliver
William, a safe place. Once, years ago, she wanted Mulder to get out of the
car. Just to get out, have a life. She realized later, almost too late, that it
was a life; their life.
When she speaks to Mulder in her mind,
she tells him everything about William. The way he scrunches his nose when he
is thinking hard about something. How her mother had professional pictures made
and one sent out to Bill. Her brother, calling her that night, had commented on
the boy’s red hair with pride. Then, after a pause, through gritted teeth, told
her how the baby looked exactly like Mulder. But she tells him all of it, this
imagined, absent Mulder. How she hasn’t been sleeping. How William, sleepless
and restless, keeps her awake at night. She tells him about the way she misses
him in her life as if she were missing a vital part of herself. She can’t
sleep, she can’t think. And now… she is not sure she can go on.
I need you, Mulder. The thought presses
forward, hammers against her temple like a migraine. I cannot do this without
you. She hits her palm against the wheel. Does it again, and again, and again.
The car swerves and she barely notices.
“You left us.” She whispers
into the darkness, giving her feelings a voice for once. She checks on William
and he is fast asleep, breathing deeply. Scully’s eyes burn, exhausting
mingling with angry tears, and she presses her knuckles against them until she
“It’s Christmas, Mulder.” She
says to the emptiness. “You said you’d be back before Christmas.”
There is no answer, only William’s soft snoring and the overenthusiastic
Christmas tunes on the radio. She is quiet, holds her breath and waits. For
what? She thinks to herself, the taste of it bitter. Mulder can’t hear her,
can’t answer her.
They’re almost home
when Scully stops a red light. Her eyes are heavy;
keeping them open is getting more difficult. They move around dizzily until
they land on an angel. Not a real angel, no. Christmas decoration, Scully
reminds her tired mind. But she can’t take her eyes off the white and blue glowing
figure. She is so mesmerized by it that she doesn’t notice the light flickering
at first. She stares at it long and hard, her mind counting absent-mindedly.
Morse code, she thinks, but it can’t be. Just a flickering light. Just some
malfunction and yet… she lets her eyes listen, her desperate mind reach out.
Miss you, she reads. Love you, she chokes. Home soon, she cries before the
light dies; there is no message, nothing. Just an angel made out of plastic and
light, false hope in an endlessly dark night. In the back, William sighs
happily. At least I have you, baby boy. She glances at the angel again, waits
five long seconds, but the traffic light is faster and jumps to green. Scully
drives home, her mind quiet, her heart heavy. She is not sure she can do this,
can go on like this. But damn it if she won’t try again tomorrow.
This one time when we were children, he transformed himself into a snake, and he knows I love snakes. So I went to pick up the snake to admire it, and he transformed back into himself and was like, “YARGH, IT’S ME!!!” and he stabbed me. We were eight at the time.