PEPPERMINT TEA

When she opened the door and saw her daughter standing at her doorstep with a duffel bag in hand, Margaret Scully instantly knew what had happened.

"Come in, honey," she said softly, taking the bag from her and putting it down in the hallway.

She maneuvered her into the living room, made her sit on the couch and looked at her. She was a picture of misery. Her eyes were empty and sad, her mascara smeared from crying. Her shoulders were slouched and her hands rested powerlessly in her lap.

"Tea?" Margaret asked and received a slight, almost invisible nod from her daughter.

She went into the kitchen, filled the kettle with water and put it on the stove, her heart heavy in her chest. How much more did her baby have to go through? How much more could she take until she finally broke? She blinked away the tears welling up in her eyes and shook her head. 'Margaret Scully, pull yourself together,' she told herself. 'Dana needs you to be her rock right now, so don't you dare to fall apart in front of her!'

She was grateful when her contemplations were eventually interrupted by the whistling of the tea kettle. She took two mugs out of the cabinet, put a tea bag in each one, filled them with boiling water and returned to the living room where her daughter hadn't moved an inch.

"Here you go, Dana sweetheart. It's peppermint. I always made you peppermint tea when you were troubled as a kid, remember?"

"Thank you, mom," Dana replied in a powerless voice.

Margaret watched her daughter closely. She'd caused her a lot of sleepless nights and many, many hours of worry. Ever since she'd decided to leave the straight career path of a medical doctor to join the FBI. Since then, she'd given her mother multiple reasons to be anxious or even scared for her. Her abduction, her cancer, her barrenness, her fatally ill daughter, her lost son, her being wanted for aiding and abetting a convicted murderer; and the list wasn't even complete. Not to mention the constant danger she'd put herself in being out in the field chasing psychopaths, killers, and all kinds of monsters. Margaret knew how to deal with that kind of omnipresent, subliminal fear most of the time though, having been a Navy wife for most of her life. But still, the many hospital bedside visits she'd paid her daughter over the years had taken their toll on her, and every time she'd received a phone call from one Fox Mulder she'd braced herself for the worst.

She'd never questioned Dana's decision, though. Unlike her husband, with whom she'd had countless arguments about it, always defending their daughter. 'She's old enough to make her own decisions, Ahab,' she'd told him, or 'When has Dana ever been unreasonable or inconsiderate?' She'd been inconsolable that her husband had died before he'd been able to acknowledge to himself how proud he'd actually been of his younger daughter, his Starbuck.

She'd also defended Dana in front of her oldest son Bill, who never quit blaming his sister for blindly following a man who'd dedicated his life to chasing 'little green men' as he always called it. Margaret knew better. She knew Dana wasn't blind but loyal, and in love. She loved not only the man but also his work which had become hers as well. She admired their passion and the solidity of their partnership. Together they'd sailed through the worst storms. Storms so horrendous, any other couple would've perished in them. But Fox and Dana, or Mulder and Scully as they called each other, had survived what life had been throwing them in their faces. Always. Together.

Until now.

Margaret didn't have to ask her daughter why she was here. She knew but wanted her to tell her anyway, "what happened, sweetheart?" She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear like she'd done when she was little.

Tears started welling up in Dana's eyes, rolling down her cheeks when she closed them. She threw her head back and inhaled deeply. With her eyes still closed, she whispered, "I left him, mom." Her eyes fluttered open hearing what she'd just said. She put her hands on her mouth, stifling a hiccup. It seemed that hearing herself say it made the scope of the moment sink in eventually. "I really left him," she said once more almost unbelieving, her voice uninflected and barren of any vigor whatsoever.

"Oh, Dana, I'm so sorry!"

Maggie Scully put her tea mug down and placed herself next to her daughter. She engaged her in a tight, motherly embrace. She rocked her like a little girl and stroked her hair, and it didn't take long until Dana couldn't keep up her composure any longer. She broke down and cried in her mother's arms, violently and bitterly. Now that the dam had broken, the release of the accumulated tension caused her body to shake with every sob that escaped her chest.

"My poor baby," Maggie tried to soothe her, "Shhh, everything's gonna be fine. You're gonna be fine. You'll see." She knew she sounded like an escapist teller of fairy tales, but mothers were supposed to make their children believe that everything, even the worst situation could be straightened out.

It took quite a while until the crying stopped and Dana recomposed herself. Maggie handed her a box of tissues and looked at her as she pulled one tissue out after another to wipe her swollen nose and dab her puffy eyes. She lifted Dana's chin with her index finger and looked at her.

"Better?"

Dana nodded. "Uh huh." She blew her nose - one time, two times, three times - then threw her mother an embarrassed look. "I can't believe I'm sitting here crying like a baby in my mother's arms. As if I were a teenager who's lovesick for the first time. I'm not being very mature."

"Heartbreak always hurts like hell, Dana, no matter how old you are. I'm your mother, if not in my arms, in whose would you want to cry instead?"

"Oh, mom, I know I've been a disappointment, and I'm so sorry I caused you so much pain. I'm almost fifty, and I'm still worrying you. All I ever wanted was to make dad and you proud of me."

"What makes you think you haven't made us proud, sweetheart?"

Dana chuckled bitterly. "Ahab didn't approve my career choice. He wanted me to go down the path Daniel offered me. If I had stayed with him, had continued working with him, I might've been the chief physician of the cardiology ward of a well-known hospital by now."

"Daniel wasn't the right man for you, Dana. He took advantage of you. Of your youth, and your enthusiasm. He loved being admired by you and was pleased with his role as your mentor. Leaving him and wanting to stand on your own two feet was the right thing to do. He needed you more than you needed him, and he knew it."

"I destroyed his marriage."

"No, he did that himself. Don't you dare take the responsibility for him cheating on his wife."

"Can you honestly say you're proud of me, mom?"

"I am very proud of you."

"What about? What have I accomplished? Tell me!"

Dana's trembling voice and agitated gestures showed Maggie how much this was bothering her. And she'd just started her self-flagellation.

"Nothing! Not in my career, nor in my private life! I was once dishonorably discharged from the FBI, returned to the medical field as an assistant physician at a local hospital, doing my residency at an age others are chief physicians. And when it comes to marriage and family…nothing either. I lived with a man sans God's blessing, had an out-of-wedlock child, gave it up, and wasn't able to save the relationship with the love of my life. I'd call that a complete failure in every part of my life!"

"Stop it, Dana, right now!" Maggie was angry about her daughter being so hard on herself, so unrelenting and rigid. "You're being ridiculous underestimating yourself like that! Do you really believe you are a failure to me?"

"Then tell me what I have succeeded in, mom! Just one thing!"

"Honey, there are so many things! You can be proud of yourself for how you've been fighting your way through every spoke life threw in your wheel. About how you put your life on the line in your constant effort to make the world a safer place. About how you stood by a man disregarding your own well-being. You work until you collapse to cure these poor children, taking double shifts and emergency on-call services more often than any other doctor at your hospital. I couldn't be any prouder of you than I actually am. You're a lovely, kind person I'm very proud of!"

"Do you really think Ahab would share your opinion? Bill sure doesn't. He's always thought that I made a mistake following Mulder."

"Bill has only been scared for you, Dana. He's your older brother, the male head of the family after we lost your father. He felt it was his job to keep his protecting hand over you as your father would've done had he still been around. He couldn't cope with seeing his baby sister in a hospital bed in a coma, barely breathing after having been kidnapped and only shortly thereafter in another hospital bed dying of cancer. He needed someone to blame, and since Mulder blamed himself already, he became his perfect scapegoat. It was easier for Bill to say that it was all Mulder's fault than to acknowledge the fact that his little sister had made choices he had to accept and live with."

"My choices have cost you a daughter, mom, and a grandson," Dana whispered, her voice breaking in the end.

"Dana Katherine, look at me!" Maggie rarely used her daughter's middle name, only when she wanted to have her full attention. She cupped her face with her soft, warm hands and stroked the tears off Dana's cheeks with her thumbs. "I lost Melissa and I lost William, that's true, but it wasn't your fault. None of this was your fault, and I never blamed you for any of it. I don't know why fate has been so cruel to us, but nothing happens without a reason. Maybe our family has to take all this for a greater cause, maybe this is part of a divine plan, I don't know, but I want you to stop thinking it was you who put things in motion."

"But if I hadn't stuck with Mulder, if I had quit at some point…He told me to quit several times, mom. He knew this wouldn't end well. He'd surrendered to his fate but he wanted me to escape it. God, I was so stubborn. I didn't want him to tell me what to do, I wanted to be that self-assured woman who made the choices herself."

Dana's dismissive tone of voice when talking about herself hit Maggie to the core. "You stayed because you felt responsible, because you knew your work was important. And because you loved him. You loved him more than you loved yourself."

"But now I'm sitting here empty-handed. I'm a lonely woman without her child. That's where my choices have gotten me. If I had stayed with Daniel, or Ethan, or Jack, I could be living a normal life now, with a husband, children, a house."

"Oh, come on, Dana, you know that what you're doing is fruitless. What-if questions never get you anywhere. And seriously, none of the three men you just named were your perfect other. Daniel bathed himself in your admiration, Ethan cared more for his career than for you, and Jack was unreliable and reckless, certainly not the responsible family man type."

"Mulder is reckless too, and unreliable. He darted off following hot leads without telling me, let alone talking them through with me so often I could write an encyclopedia about it."

"But he never took advantage of you, never put his own interests ahead of yours. Ever."

Maggie knew she was right. Mulder would've given his life for Dana, he still would. Like Dana would for Mulder. Their relationship was based on unconditional devotion and infinite selflessness. None of her daughter's previous relationships had been anywhere near what she had with her child's father.

"Have some tea, dear. I put lots of honey in," Maggie said, handing her the mug which sat on the coffee table still untouched. When her daughter had been little, the sweeter the tea, the more it had soothed her. Dana also seemed to remember, because a short, small smile flashed over her face.

"Thank you, mom." Dana took a few sips and one could see that the sweet, warm liquid running down her throat into her stomach calmed her a little. "Can I stay for a couple of days? Until I find a place of my own?"

"I hope that's a rhetorical question because if it wasn't, I'd be angry with you. Of course, you can stay! You can stay as long as you want to. As long as you need to. I am here for you, sweetheart."

Dana stared at her mother, her usually bright blue eyes two dark pools now, brimming over with tears. She wasn't saying anything further, she didn't have to. Mother and daughter embraced each other fiercely, and Maggie thanked the Lord silently that he'd led Dana to her doorstep on this day in her search for comfort. Her daughter had a tendency to fight her demons alone in her reluctance to ask others for help.

"I'm so glad you came, Dana," Maggie breathed into her red hair. "I'm your mother, and I love you. No matter where you are on your life path, no matter whether you're happy or sad, successful or broke, healthy or sick, I'm here for you. Don't you ever forget that."

Dana didn't answer her mother but with a heartbreaking hiccup.


After Dana had settled into her old room, she took a long shower and reappeared in the kitchen in comfortable clothes, some sweat pants and a sweater which unmistakably was one of Mulder's. The hem reached down to her upper thighs and she had to roll the sleeves up. She looked like a little girl in that huge sweater.

"That bad?" Maggie asked when their eyes met.

"I took it out of the hamper when I left. It smells like him," Dana said and inhaled deeply. "Call me crazy, but it soothes me."

"I'm not calling you anything, I know how difficult this is for you. Care to tell me what happened? We haven't really spoken much in the past few months. I noticed that something was not right between Fox and you but I didn't want to inquire. I just hoped you'd confide in me one day and let me help you. But now I have the feeling there isn't so much I can do anymore."

"It's over, mom. I tried. I tried so hard, but he…" Dana trailed off. She turned away from her mother and Maggie could literally see the wall building itself up. Stone after stone adding to a soon insurmountable barrier between them. She had to intervene quickly before Dana retreated completely into her ivory tower again.

"Look at me, Dana! He what? Tell me!"

Dana froze at her mother's commanding tone of voice, she didn't turn around to look at her though, neither did she give any indication she'd be answering her.

"Don't you dare close off from me, Dana! I want you to talk to me!" the older woman urged. "Get if off your chest, sweetheart. I know you're not someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, but goddammit, Dana, you're not losing face, and certainly not to me, admitting you can't handle a situation alone. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness."

Dana had gasped at her mother's cuss. Being the deeply religious woman she was, the name of the Lord never came across her lips in a blaspheming remark, at least not that Dana had ever heard. "He wouldn't let me save him," she finally whispered, her back still turned toward her mother.

Maggie inhaled deeply in relief and let the air flow out of her chest silently. She'd managed to reach out to her daughter, to stop that wall from shutting her out. Dana had taken a first tentative step, and Maggie was determined to make her walk all the way. She closed the physical gap between them and folded her arms around her daughter's shoulders from behind. She felt the tension inside the tiny trembling body. She couldn't see the tears welling up in Dana's eyes, but she noticed how she fiercely brushed them away with the back of her hand.

After she'd steadied her voice, Dana resumed talking. "I saved him hundreds of times from the most perilous situations. I found him in the most hidden places. Every time he followed a lead on his own, he relied on me to track him down and save him. This time, he doesn't want to be saved. He retreated to a place he knows I can't follow him."

"How long has this been going on?" Maggie asked, turning her daughter around and cupping her face tenderly with both hands.

"It started when we were on the run. The unhealthy mix of our daily fear of being detected, his feeling of guilt for having made me run with him, the lack of social interaction, and," Dana paused and swallowed, "the loss of William." She disentangled herself from her mother, walked over to the couch and placed herself on the same spot where she'd been sitting earlier. The tea mugs were still on the coffee table and Dana stared at them.

"Can I have some more tea, mom?"

"Sure, dear."

Maggie knew Dana needed time. She had time. More than enough to wait for her daughter to confide in her with everything that made her heart heavy. So she went into the kitchen, placed the kettle on the stove again, pulled another two peppermint tea bags out of the box, and put a teaspoon of honey in each mug. While the water was heating up, her thoughts went back to the moment Dana had told her about her pregnancy. Mulder was missing and Dana was so stricken with worry for him that most of the time she wasn't able to enjoy her condition.

Maggie had been hard on the Lord in her inner dialogues with him, asking him why he begrudged her baby even the littlest of joys, how he could be so cruel as to fulfill her biggest wish and take away the person most important to her at the same time. Maggie was so angry at him that she'd skipped Sunday mass for several months. Margaret Scully, who'd never missed Sunday mass without a solid reason, had stayed at home because she'd been afraid she might break down in church because of the injustice of it all. She'd only begun to forgive him when Dana had placed her beautiful newborn son in her arms with a smile so bright it made everyone forget the agony of the past. Mulder had still been there, beaming with pride at his son and with love at Dana. None of them had known at the time that those few days would be the only ones they would be truly happy.

Just a few blissful days together with her son and the man she loved, that was all life had offered her daughter. And now she was sitting in her living room once again desperately unhappy. What had that poor woman done wrong that some force in this universe thought she deserved this? Maggie gritted her teeth and almost didn't hear the kettle whistling. She poured the water into the waiting mugs, put them on a little tray together with some oatmeal cookies Dana had liked as a kid and joined her daughter on the couch again.

"Here's your tea. Careful, it's still hot," Maggie said handing Dana a mug of the steaming liquid. The scent of peppermint wafted through the room when both mother and daughter blew on their tea to cool them down.

"Cookie?" Maggie asked. "You always liked them with your tea when you were little. They made you feel better."

Dana shook her head no. "They might have helped me to deal with a bad grade or a bruise, mom, but my problems are much bigger now than the ones I had as a little girl, a cookie won't make them go away."

"Probably not, but it will make you feel better for a moment, and that's something. Here." Maggie held the plate with the cookies out to Dana and looked at her until she sighed and finally took one. She nibbled a tiny bit off of it, then put it back on the table next to the tea mug.

"William's absence was slowly eating him up," Dana eventually resumed their conversation and Maggie prepared herself to hear a sad story. "At first, we were enough for each other. I mean, we'd both yearned to be together so badly for so long and finally, we had each other for good. It was so soothing to know the other would still be there the next day, and the day after, and thereafter. We lived like a married couple, it didn't matter to me that we had to change our names and looks every other month or that we weren't able to stay at the same place for more than a few days. I was so happy to have him near. He was all I had after…"

'After William was lost,' Maggie finished the sentence silently. Dana had never spoken of the time they'd been fugitives. It had been a very difficult time for Maggie as well, being left in the dark about where they were, whether they were well or how they coped with their situation. Knowing they were together had calmed her a bit, but she'd missed her daughter terribly. She'd already lost one daughter, losing another seemed too much for her to deal with.

"And then?" Maggie said to keep the conversation from coming to a standstill.

"And then…" Dana sighed. "My hopes were high that when we were taken off the wanted list and moved into our house we could have a normal life. I hoped that being freed from the pressure to hide would enable him to fight his depressive tendencies. They were still mild at the time. It was treatable, would have been curable. But I underestimated his stubbornness and his will power to punish himself."

"Why would Fox want to punish himself?"

"In his eyes, he failed all the people dear to him. He failed his sister. He failed his son. And I know he never stopped thinking he failed me. His quest remained incomplete. He dedicated so much of his life to searching for the truth, but never found it. At least, not the kind of truth he'd hoped to find."

"Poor man," Maggie said.

"If we had been able to keep William, if he'd been allowed to be his father, he might've…"

"He might've what?"

"He might've deemed it worthy to fight. For his son. For his family. He doesn't deem it worthy to fight just for us. For…me."

"Nonsense! You know that Fox loves you from the bottom of his heart, Dana."

"Maybe he does, but there's also this feeling of alienation at the bottom of his heart for the woman who gave up his son. I know he doesn't want to blame me, and he has never uttered the words, but I've read it in his eyes."

"I can't quite believe this, Dana. Fox knows how much you loved William, that you would've given your right arm if it had let you keep him."

"Well, mom, let's be honest for a moment, okay?^ The day I returned from the adoption agency, you also hated me for having taken your grandson from you, didn't you?"

"Are you out of your mind? I never hated you, Dana, my heart was breaking for you!"

"But when I came to you to tell you that I was going to give him up, you said it would be the mistake of my life," Dana hiccuped.

Maggie remembered the day as if it had been yesterday. Dana had stood in front of her door just like today, with puffy eyes and a red from being continually wiped nose. She'd come to get support and solace from her, wanting her mother to tell her she was doing the one and only right thing to protect William. And maybe the adoption had indeed been the right thing to do, but Maggie with her first-hand experience had known that a mother never recovers from the loss of a child. She even conjectured that living with the consequences of lacerating the maternal bond through one's own decision could be somehow even more difficult than having your daughter taken away from you by a murderer with a gun.

"I asked you to come with me to the agency, to help me hand him over, and you said that you couldn't be a part of this, that you wouldn't help me give my son away. You said a child belonged to their mother no matter what and that I was wrong to believe someone else could protect him better than I could. I had come for support, all you gave me was dissuasion."

"I know, and I regret that now."

Dana had been furious with her, the angry words she'd spat out were ringing in Maggie's ears up to this very day. Her daughter had shouted, "aren't mothers supposed to console their daughters? To back them up in any kind of crisis?" She'd never forget how Dana's eyes had been overflowing with tears of sadness but also of anger and disappointment as she'd continued yelling, "alright, mom, if you're not willing to help me, I'm gonna find someone else! Reyes or Doggett, maybe even Skinner! Or someone from the street!' She'd grabbed her jacket and yelled, "I don't need you!" as she'd stormed out of the house. I don't need you, the words that sent a dagger through a mother's heart. Having her precious daughter fling them in her face had shattered her.

When she'd heard that door slam, tears had begun to roll down Maggie's cheeks, she'd almost broken down. She'd cried for her grandson, who'd be growing up with people other than his wonderful birth parents. For Fox, who'd be coming home one day to find his son gone. And, most of all, for Dana, who'd be crumbling under the guilt of what she'd done. Of that Maggie had been sure. Her daughter was strong and a fighter, but this would break her.

Time had proven her her correct; and she hated that. Dana had never been the same; and Fox's and Dana's love for each other hadn't survived the loss of their child.

At least so it seemed.

All Maggie could do in the present was make amends, "I apologize, Dana. I should've gone with you instead of letting a stranger do it. I'm still inconsolable, sweetheart, that I left you in the lurch."

It had taken Dana a long time until she'd been able to understand her mother's reaction for what it had been, an expression of her fear for her and her own pain over losing her grandson.

"You didn't, mom. It might've seemed that way to me when I ran away that day, but deep down I knew you only wanted to save me from the consequences of my actions. That wasn't what I wanted to hear, though. What I needed to hear was that I had his best interests at heart and that I was doing the right thing. And honestly, all that's kept me from losing my mind completely over it, is the fact that the adoption offered him the chance for a life away from the darkness Mulder and I live in. I need to believe that he is a happy teenager, that he faces problems like how to ask his first crush out to the prom, how to tell his parents about a bad mark in school, or how to treat his pimples. I simply didn't want him to deal with being chased by Super Soldiers or drawn into a governmental conspiracy."

Maggie's stomach churned. She preferred to be left in the dark about the specific dangers Fox and Dana had found themselves in while working for the FBI.

"I'm sure he is happy. I just hope that he'll get to meet his birth parents some day."

"That's not gonna happen, mom. The adoption papers are sealed. He's never gonna find out who we are, even if he wanted to."

"Can't you find him?"

"No, we don't have any legal rights to obtain any information about his whereabouts."

"Dana, come on, you worked for the FBI. If you wanted, you could ask someone for information about him, couldn't you?"

"Skinner knows."

"What?"

"Skinner knows. Our former boss knows where he lives. He promised us to keep an eye on him but also to never tell us where he is."

"That means that it is possible you reunite with your son, Dana. One day."

"No."

Maggie's heart, which had just jumped a little picturing mother and son re-bonding, instantly became heavy again at how resolutely Dana ruled out even the mere possibility. "Why not?"

"It might put him at risk. I'm protecting him by staying away and I am not going to jeopardize his safety after all these years just because I'm not dealing with it very well."

"But you're admitting that you're not dealing with it well. I've never heard you actually say it out loud."

"Of course, I'm not, mom, but don't make me get into this now, please. Coping with what happened today is difficult enough, I can't think about any other of the woes of my life right now."

"Sure, sweetheart. I won't make you do anything you don't want to. I'm here to comfort you."

"Thank you," Dana said, leaning in and resting her head on her mother's shoulder.

Maggie put her arm around Dana, pulled her closer and kissed her hair. She stroked gently up and down her daughter's arm a few times and contemplated. Funny how small the problems were when the kids were little and how they grew with them. As their mother, she would never not worry about her children, no matter how old and mature they were. As their mother, she would always suffer vicariously with them, would share their pain, emotional and physical, wishing she could take some of their sorrow off of them.

Since early childhood, Dana had always been the one eager not to worry her mother, keeping bad news from her as much as possible. As a girl, she would glue together a vase one of her brothers had broken or dress her scratched elbow herself and hide the wound under a long-sleeved shirt. This had gone so far as to keep her cancer a secret from her mother for weeks just so she wouldn't upset her. It was most certainly also the reason for not telling her in detail about what her work for the FBI consisted of, not to mention hiding all the circumstances of William's adoption. Dana had always wanted to be her parents' 'good kid', the one they didn't have to be concerned about in order to be able to care for Bill, the bully boy; Melissa, the innocent dreamer; and Charlie, the everlasting baby of the family. That she'd come to her today in her search for motherly solace, willing to share at least some of her distress, filled Maggie with relief and gratitude. She would help her daughter through this crisis, and if she knew Dana, she would master this like she'd mastered all the other crises in her life.

They sat on the sofa without talking for some time. Dana had closed her eyes and had snuggled even closer into her mother's embrace. Maggie softly hummed a melody that had always soothed little Dana back to sleep when she'd woken up from a bad dream. The scent of peppermint tea coming from the mugs on the coffee table, wafting through the entire room beamed Dana back to a time when her world had still seemed to be in order, when problems had been small and easily solvable.

Suddenly, an unexpected knock at the door pulled mother and daughter out of their comfortable silence.

"Who might that be at this ungodly hour?" Maggie asked and got up from the sofa to sneak out of the window. "A cab."

Guessing who it was, Dana only said, "I can't see him now. Please, mom."

Maggie nodded, stroked her daughter's head gently, then left her to answer the door. When she opened it, her heart broke for the second time this day. In front of her stood a shadow of the Fox Mulder she knew. He seemed to have shrunk a few inches, his formerly broad shoulders were gone, his cheeks were sunken, his whole demeanor powerless. He looked at her with hollow, tormented eyes.

"Hello, Fox," Maggie greeted him with a warm smile.

"Hello, Maggie," he answered, not returning the smile. She could see how hard this was for him, that by simply showing up at her doorstep he was using up the last bit of energy still in him. "Is she here?"

"Yes, she is, but…" Maggie trailed off.

"She doesn't want to see me, I know. I wouldn't have expected it any other way. I'm here because she forgot her practitioner's case, and I know she needs it tomorrow morning." He handed Maggie the leather bag he'd once given Dana for Christmas, full of gratitude then that she was finally walking down the career path he'd always wanted her to return to.

"Thank you, Fox, I'll give it to her."

"Uhm…how is she?"

"Not good. Neither are you, as much as I can tell."

He looked at his feet. "Thank you for taking care of her, Maggie. It's good to know she has someone to look after her."

"Who's looking after you, Fox?" Maggie asked, her heart spilling over with sympathy for the man in front of her.

"I don't need anybody. I don't want to be looked after. Don't deserve it anyway."

"Nonsense," Maggie told the second person today how stupid they were to believe they weren't worth enough.

The way Fox avoided her eyes, the way he talked and especially what he was saying, gave Maggie an idea of what her daughter had been trying to explain earlier. It was so obvious that this man was heavily depressed, even to a medical layman. But she wasn't willing to give up on him. On this particular moment, she set her mind on doing her very best to help him. She would check on him in a few days. He didn't want to accept Dana's help, but maybe he would let her get near him. They were close enough for him to trust her. She knew he liked her dearly, that he felt closer to her than he had to his own mother; and the feeling was mutual. Margaret Scully would worry about two of her children for the upcoming months, Dana and Fox.

"I better get going," Fox mumbled into his unkempt five o'clock shadow, "the meter's running."

"Sure."

"Tell her…" he hesitated, finishing only after a deep, painful inhale. "Tell her, I'm sorry. Tell her, I didn't want it to end like this. Tell her, I still…uh…" He stifled a sigh.

"I don't have to tell her, Fox, she knows. And I'm sure she still loves you too," Maggie told him, and what she'd just said brought her a slight smile from him, albeit a sad one.

"Goodbye, Maggie."

"Goodbye, Fox. Promise me to take care of yourself."

He nodded shortly, then turned around and entered the waiting cab without another look back.

Maggie closed the door slowly and returned to the living room where Dana was still sitting in the same spot.

"Fox brought your practitioner's case."

"I heard. I told him a few days ago that I was scheduled for a complicated surgery tomorrow morning. Actually, I'm surprised he even listened." She met her mother's eyes. "What did he look like?"

"I fear for him, Dana. What if he loses hope completely?"

"I have to make sure he takes his meds. He'll get worse if he doesn't. I can't let him deal with this illness alone. He needs to see a therapist."

Dana's words warmed Maggie's heart. That was how she knew her daughter, always caring and responsible. That was what made her proud of her. She'd never cared about professional success when it came to her children. She simply wanted them to be decent, kind, and compassionate human beings. And if there was a person full of decency, kindness, and compassion, it was Dana.

"Would you mind if I drove by the house within the next few days and had a look at how he's doing?" Maggie asked.

"Not at all. He loves you, mom, maybe he'll let you get through to him. I wish^ I could be the person pulling him out of this, but I can't. Not anymore. I gave him all of me, there's nothing left for me to give. I had to leave that house where I felt like the only living person. William's absence and Mulder's retreat from everything around him, including me, made it almost impossible for me to breathe. I simply can't be in that house anymore, at least not right now."

"Not right now. Are you saying this is only a temporary break and not a permanent separation?"

"I don't know. The mere idea of a life he's not in scares the shit out of me. He's been the center of my universe for most of my adult life. He's guided me, he pointed the way and I followed him down. I can't imagine myself being with anyone else, mom. It's Mulder or no one. How can I ever be with someone else after what I had with him? Right now I seem to be at a point where I can't live with him but also don't know how to live without him."

"You still love him," Maggie noted the obvious, which somehow put the whole story into a nutshell.

"Always have and always will. But love alone isn't enough." Dana looked at her mother, her eyes so full of uncertainty and doubt, Maggie's heart ached. She'd never seen her capable daughter so lost and vulnerable.

This was no usual breakup of two people whose love and devotion for one another had died. This was an act of self-preservation on behalf of her daughter, nothing else. If Maggie was totally sure of one thing, it was that their love for one another was still strong enough. She'd never seen two people more devoted and dedicated to each other than Fox and Dana. They had both pulled through many situations others would deem hopeless, they would be able to pull through this as well. They were fighters, incredibly strong and persevering. This couldn't be their undoing. It simply couldn't.

And she, Margaret Scully, mother to Dana and motherly friend to Fox, would do anything in her power to make sure it wouldn't.


If you also like Maggie as much as I do, please send me a prompt as a private message and I'd be happy to explore her character a bit more than what the series gave us. It can be canon or AU, it can be set during the original run of the series or during the reboot.

My thanks go to the wonderful VioletStella who doesn't get tired explaining English grammar to a German fanfic writer.