a musical episode of the x files where Scully sings everything in monotone with no facial expression, Mulder carries a banjo and starts every single song with a “Mmm, Scully you’re never gonna believe this,” Skinner is a belter and a show-stopper with heavy musical theatre references, Monica Reyes comes back only to make whale song, and John Doggett does all of his lines in spoken word
drabble; pg-13 (nsff- not safe for feels); heavy angst; msr; the truth AU; all the fish that have died under Scully’s care.
AN: I… am so sorry. I hurt my own feelings.
AN: not happy. cw character death.
All of Them
Every single last one, eventually. But that’s just how fish are. She likes to think she tried her best.
The Bloodfin Tetra
There are pets that just won’t die. Melissa had a Chinese dwarf hamster for three straight years that showed no sign of kicking it anytime soon until it met the teeth of Nautilus, the clumsy Labrador.
The bloodfin tetra is a lot like that. Scully’s known this fish as long as she has known Mulder – they are peaceful, and they are gentle. They cling to their brothers and sisters in clusters and schools and lifelong pacts, but Mulder’s only ever had the one.
They never die.
When it does die (because of course they die), Scully has to convince herself it’s not her fault. Ten years. Ten years, that is a good run for a little fish, certainly more than it ever wanted. It’s horrible of her. Unhygienic. Bad form for a pet owner. But she lets it float at the top of the tank for a few days before scooping it out. It’s the work and the grading and the nonstop autopsies and the continuous denial of her requests to transfer back into field. It’s Skinner’s hard eyes with the soft spot in the middle and Doggett’s hesitance to say a damn thing. Monica who looks at her like she’s still a person. It’s the physical exertion of ignoring your own mother and your friends and the needs of your body and soul.
She’s lightheaded when she pulls the fish out with her bare hands and lets the water spill out on the carpet. The carcass is slimy and clever between her fingers, and she strokes her thumb over it without thinking, over silver-red scales over a long body over two dead eyes.
When he came back to a dead molly he sounded miserable. What would he think now? It’s eyes bore a hole in her head. He had looked into her eyes, too, begged her silently not to look away as she pressed her face and body to the glass. As she looked she had to convince herself it wasn’t his fault. And as the little body of the fish goes in circles goes in circles goes in circles, she remains unconvinced.
Black Molly #2
It’s a fish made for troubled waters – make it brackish salt or fresh and you’ve made it a home. It never takes the first strike. Scully likes it more than the others with its black scales and Mohawk fins.
He replaces it the day after he touches her for the first time after his vacation six-feet-under: his hesitant caress to her swollen belly an apology to her, the brand new molly his promise to sit down stay awhile this time.
She goes too quickly. Just bad luck. Just a bad breeder. This is not the death of hope, Scully tells herself and the little body floating in a solo cup. Doggett, Reyes and Skinner have just left her apartment after telling her there might be another way, this might not be the end. There might still be a chance. Maybe we can break him out.
This is not the death of hope.
Gorgeous orange the color she wants people to believe is her true red and bug-eyed and prone to spawning. Fox Mulder’s absolute favorite. Every one he’s ever owned had been named Lucy.
This one doesn’t die before it’s time. The swordtail is a hardy fish whose only purpose is to get busy make love and multiply.
The babies take her by surprise. Mulder hadn’t told her any were pregnant when he got the tank set up their second (final) night with William. I’m probably going to be here more often, he told her instead. Now that I’m unemployed you have to make me a kept man. When Deputy Director Kersh came baring lifeless congratulations and world-ending news, Mulder sat in front of the tank with the baby in his lap and no expression on his face and told her, tonelessly, the names of each fish and a random factoid and instructions on taking care of them.
So when she passes the tank one morning, their son mouthing at her hair from his spot on her hip, a cup of coffee steaming in her free hand, the starburst of white and orange floating all throughout the tank gives her pause. She coos – look, William, look at the babies, and he taps the glass with an oafish fist. Look at all the babies.
She returns from work and only the adults remain. They swim cautious circles around each other, brushing past trembling weed.
Black Molly #1
It’s not really her fault, because if everyone just left it alone and stayed out of his things and let her do what she needed to do everything would be alright. That’s the story of her life.
Really, there should be only one person feeding the damn fish. Or two. One person to drop by while the other chases a lead or visits his mother’s grave or gets loaned out for profiling while unapologetically eating up her cell phone battery. But it’s just her right now until he comes back, because he will, and John Doggett needs to back off and Skinner needs to stop hovering.
“You don’t need to do this all by yourself,” Agent Doggett tells her. He says it like he knows he probably shouldn’t, poising the shaker over the aquarium. Because she does. The black molly is so plump it hovers instead of floats because you can’t trust three damn agents of the FBI to keep a goldfish alive.
Both Doggett and Skinner watch her when she flushes it down the toilet. She pays all the utilities, too. They watch her and they don’t come back to feed the fish.
The Khuni Loach
The khuni loach is a bottom feeder, sleek and striped and eel-like, and it cleans the tank so Fox Mulder doesn’t have to. In her opinion.
His aquarium confuses her, but he is an illustrious puzzle of a man, so the confusion itself isn’t confounding. She feeds the fish and threatens any intruders with her gun.
Where does he find the time? Who normally feeds the fish when they’re out on some old forgotten road, arguing about ghost orbs and picking out the gross stuff in each other’s sandwiches as the other one drives? Does he have a girlfriend? She snoops. Marty? Really, Mulder? No girlfriend then. One of his long-coated daddy-figure informants?
Well this time it’s her feeding the fish, and she forgets to call for relief when she’s fleeing armored cars in Puerto Rico. It just doesn’t seem so important.
He tells her about the ill-fated khuni loach on a park bench, as they overlook an empty fountain and he methodically feeds her sunflower seeds from the pocket of his trench coat.
“My khuni loach died,” he mentions casually. He says it with less emotion than his complaints about backstabbing call girls and a ‘disgustingly rich motherfucker’ yelling at his personal doctor about a severe hemorrhoidal condition. In fact she’s never seen him get so heated over something as wiretapping duty.
She tilts her head in curiosity, and he amends: “The eel thing.”
She feels at once very guilty and very defensive. You can’t save a man’s life and feed his fish at the same time. But they must really mean something if he goes through all the trouble to have them…
“I’m sorry,” she offers kindly, reaching over to clasp his shoulder. “I know how much you care for them.”
Mulder looks down at his shoulder with an inscrutable little smile and shakes her off of him.
“It’s nothing,” he says. He grabs her fallen hand and pours more seeds into the palm. “I’ll get another one.”
It’s hard to meet John’s eyes while he holds our son. Mulder is attempting to look casual on the couch but I can see he feels it too, the ghost of Luke Doggett. We feel guilty for William’s chubby legs and pink mouth. We feel guilty that he is alive. I remember all the parents I hated, holding hands with their laughing daughters.
“Nothing like it, is there?” John remarks. His smile is real and he is better than I am.
“The diapers are still giving me hell,” Mulder says, throwing him a softball.
John chuckles, cupping William’s rounded feet in his hands. “We had a bunch go right up the back. I can break down an M14 with my eyes closed and I couldn’t put on a damn diaper! You learn, though. You learn.” His eyes cloud and he lifts William upright, rests the downy little head against his neck.