Many thanks to Lauren, who continues to be a wonderful, helpful human being. In layman's terms, she's bitchin'.
It was insane, but she imagined herself packing lunch into a brown paper bag (40 recycled at least; she would have been environmentally conscious.) Never, never the sandwich; she could never see what sort of sandwich it was. Not bologna, not ham. Perhaps peanut butter and jelly, that was traditional.
To date, if all had gone picture-perfect for her (for them really, for them; she felt so selfish), she estimated she would have made and sent off one-hundred and ninety three perfectly-constructed nutritional lunches, give or take.
In a lunchbox; one-hundred and ninety-three perfectly constructed nutritional lunches tucked lovingly away in a lunchbox.
This was one of the thoughts that meandered to the front of her mind when trying desperately to sleep; it plagued her, the abrasive, constant reminder of the love she had to give up. In the shadow of the evening, Scully's eyelids would slip down and images of her child would play full-force in the cinema of her psyche.
Beneath the heavy covers and his arm, she would struggle to free herself of the painful memories-no use of course. A very real part of her had come to terms with the past, done what she could with the present she had left. She loved when she needed to love, cried when she needed to cry and tried not to remember the memories.
Tried to remember to forget the evening he first held his son; their son.
"I'm here," came his urgent whisper, the sort of thing he would only speak in the darkest of night, "I'm here." Words of this nature passed between them when it was too intense to look into one another's eyes.
There were choices, at the beginning of the end. Too many, really; a new life dictated that one had certain provisions set up for oneself. Where to go, what to do, who to become.
It wasn't as simple as sliding silently into the darkness.
Two days into creating a semi-elaborate new life, humoring him more than anything with his grand ideas for renting cars and changing identities, her cell phone rang, indicating her mother calling and thereby shattering what reserve she had left.
Trembling hands flipped open the cellular device and with shaky breaths she assured Margaret that she was alright, that yes, Fox was… she couldn't talk over unsecured lines (was there ever a line that was secured?).
She had become he and he had become her and jesus, she just missed her mother. And her brothers, and her son and her partner.
The ruse they had cleverly constructed dissolved then and there; with the help of Skinner, they had located a property seventy-five miles from the city. Weather-beaten and off, off, off the beaten path. It was infested with that stale, moth ball smell, cobwebs and mice, but there was a place for her grandmother's credenza and that fish tank she had planned to purchase as a housewarming gift for him.
There were boxes, few of them, and suitcases (mostly hers) that they loaded into the back of a nondescript van and carted off like it was nothing. It was everything, the rest of her life, their lives, in shabby boxes picked up on sale at Home Depot.
Some things had been easy to box away-the first letter he had sent her, after she had been diagnosed, her first bible, a set of crystals Melissa had kept in a wood and velvet box, a Mojave woodcutting. Others weren't so simple, pieces that carried sentimental value, but the sort of things that she couldn't speak of as to why. Her teakettle, the throw on her sofa, her bedspread.
There were too many things that she could find to hate, dates on the calendar, especially. Days that she couldn't erase from her mind. Marks made in this state or that, hours and minutes that characterized firsts, lasts and all the in between.
So she didn't keep a calendar anymore and let the days blend into weeks into months and forgot the birthdays (she didn't forget her son's, couldn't) and the anniversaries and the particularities that she used to think were special.
Songs set her off sometimes, Tom Petty or Natalie Merchant sliding through the speakers in her car and it would trigger immediately. She'd be thrown back years and years-sitting in a car next to him, battling to read the journal she brought along without getting carsick. Battling to keep up with him as he barreled towards the next unseen.
No radios and no calendars.
No radios, no calendars, no pictures kept of the past. No pictures... None of these, packed away with cardboard and tape.
But he had a total tonnage of boxes, of things he didn't need, of things he would forget he ever had if she chose to somehow get rid of it. But as the only person he had she was… betrothed. To tend to his baggage, to live with his baggage, to make his baggage her own while she left hers behind.
It all required unpacking, both mental and physical, though the physical seemed most easy to tackle. Books on shelves, clothing in drawers, clippings on the walls of one room-she wasn't living like that anymore-food in the cabinets and two people in a bed, sleeping at night in a home.
A fifth day on a fifth day in a new home and unpacking she came across a thick leather book. Though knowing what was waiting for her within, she pulled the cover and was met with the sleeping face of her son. A touching inscription by her mother on the opposite page, written before, before.
Baby eating, baby playing, crying, sleeping, bathing. Baby clasping his tiny hand around his mother's finger.
He'd never seen this piece of nostalgia; she hoped he never would. Because then he might begin dreaming of egg salad sandwiches and thermoses filled with milk; tuna fish and Hi-C boxes, lunch line tickets and quarters for snack time.
"I'm here," and he squeezed her hard, seemed to squeeze the tears out.
Two days and she went to work and administered boosters and sent for MRIs and reminded herself that things happened for a reason. Two days and he read and slept and ate and remembered a little but forgot the most. Two days of searching through the boxes for his shoebox full of ball cards. Forty-three hours of search before he came upon the box hidden in her closet.
Two hours of perusing the various infant-positions before she came home to find him, cross-legged on the floor, gazing at them.
Margaret had given this particular gift with love, of course, though it had caused her daughter nothing but pain. Photos taken during several babysitting stints and moments alone in her son's room; the album had been a surprise, comprised of dozens of photos, discharge papers from the hospital, a tiny birth announcement had both managed to slip into the paper and snip out. An artsy looking print of child in mother's arms, child in grandmother's, uncles' aunts', relatives' arms.
Baby shower prints, a log of gifts, copy of the birth certificate. A veritable treasure trove of the months he had missed.
And standing in the doorway, keys dangling form her hand, she relived all of those moments in her mind in a fraction of a second, grief overwhelming her. Cradling the scrapbook in his lap, Mulder glanced up at her, "I think he, he definitely looks much more like you than me."
He swallowed; she blinked. "That… this was nice of your mother." His hands slammed the scrapbook shut and she jumped, her skin sizzling from the violence of his action.
Voice barely a whisper, barely registering the layers of emotion that were welling within, "Yeah."
As he stood, she slipped her keys into her purse, her purse to the floor and moved towards him. Arms out, not knowing whether to hold him, to take the album away, to offer up apologies. "What do I do with this now?" His words came fast, laced with the slightest of malice, with sorrow, with reservation. "Do I hide it back in there, do I put him back in the box?"
Mouth open, with no words, Scully didn't know. She didn't. She didn't want to think about him; she didn't want to stop thinking about him. She didn't want to want William back. "I…" a sigh, a quick, quiet sigh, "Don't know."
The first time they had made love, she had cried, at the very-real, very tacit perfection. The first time they had made love was the day she had received the news that her last chance, her hail mary pass hadn't worked. The first time they had made love they had conceived their son, created a real miracle.
The first time they had made love… their son was a piece of his father, a m an she never thought she would have back. And now his father was a piece of the son she would never have back.
Turning his back on her, he smoothed a lean hand over the slick cover, traced the child's name out with his fingers. "If it's going back in there, you'll have to be the one to…"
Outside, the sun began to fall behind the mountains, casting the room a red that seemed almost unnatural, a red that seemed to encompass the moment. It hurt to look at him, to consider what he was proposing; a constant reminder on glossy paper, sitting on their dining room table, their bookshelf, their nightstand.
With a gentle hand, Scully reached out and touched the slick surface of the book. Cool against her fingertips, she took a breath and moved to stand in front of him. "I think… he looks more like you," a sad smile tilted her lips. "I think I like it better that way."
He chuckled, quietly. It was almost too simple, to take the photos away from him, to slip the book onto the desk at their side. Scully thought that he gave it up almost too willingly.
As the room waned from red to indigo, she thought of the other boxes packed away, of what was in them. More things she couldn't bear to part with. Things that he deserved to see, to touch, to understand; things that they could discover and rediscover together. "There are some other things I'd like for you to see."
More cardboard made its way into the light, tape sliced through, packing paper peeled away. Blue cotton blankies and booties surfaced, along with a small teddy bear, a rattle. On his knees, Mulder touched every one with care, reverent, face spent with awe.
Each was surveyed as a piece of delicate evidence, each committed to memory. And she didn't think of bagged lunches, or all the things she had missed out on; she thought of her son's father and his pain as he packet all of the boy's things back into boxes. Retaped them, rehid them.
When they made love that night, she tried to pretend that it didn't feel exactly like that evening when they created a miracle. That night, she pretended not to hope for another.