Maggie Scully set the photo back on the side table, and dabbed at her eyes with a white handkerchief for the hundredth time in the last few days. Her baby girl was dead. No, both her little girls were dead. A mother should not have to live through the death of one of her children, let alone two. After Dana took her last breath in the hospital, and Maggie had collected herself enough to speak, she'd demanded Father McQue tell her why God's plan stole two of her babies way before their time.
He hadn't known what to say to her. No one knew what to say to her. And, Bill wasn't saying much. He was just angry, he couldn't see or feel anything else. He didn't understand the decision she'd come to, and he wouldn't until he stopped refusing to see his little sister for who she really was.
A knock at the door drew her attention away from the frame she'd been fingering, the last photo she had of Melissa, which sat beside her last photo of Dana. She folded her handkerchief and stored it in her pocket, then took a deep breath, steeling herself, and headed to the door. Her visitor had white hair, and very soft, tired eyes. Teena Mulder looked as weighted down with grief as Maggie felt.
"You must be Teena." Maggie forced a bit of a smile. "Please come in."
"Thank you," she answered, walking into the room Maggie had just left. She gave a brief cursory look, not really caring what her hostess's house looked like, and sat when Maggie did the same. Her eyes drifted to the pictures on the side table, and the one of a woman she recognized. "I'm so sorry to hear about Dana, I had no idea she was sick."
"That doesn't surprise me, Dana and Fox didn't really confide in anyone except each other. She took his death very hard, and I--he was a good man." Maggie couldn't admit how angry she'd been when she'd found out he'd taken his own life.
When they'd needed each other the most, they'd fought, and he'd taken his own life. They died guilt-stricken over each other's deaths, and that was not how it should have been.
"Thank you." Teena looked down at her lap, lost in thoughts of her son; her son who she barely knew, but still loved in her own way.
The two mourning mothers fell into an awkward silence, unsure of what to say to one another, how to approach the conversation. Their common ground consisted of surviving their children's deaths, and that wasn't something either wanted to dwell on. Though that was what Maggie had invited her over to discuss. Dana and Fox.
"I saw Dana and Fox less than two weeks ago, and she looked healthy. How long was she sick for?" Teena broke the silence.
"We found out early this year, but she was probably sick longer." Maggie glanced away, thoughts of her daughter's frail, failing body still haunting her mind. "She told Fox first, they were so close."
Teena nodded. "Did you know my son well?"
Maggie sighed. She'd thought she'd known him, but she'd only known what he showed her; she hadn't realized how tortured he really was. "When Dana disappeared a few years ago, he was a great source of comfort."
"She disappeared?" Teena's heart caught in her throat. Like her baby had disappeared?
"Yes, for three months. Fox searched for her relentlessly. I don't believe he slept much then. He'd come and visit me, apologize that he had no news, and promise he wouldn't stop looking for her. Dana was gone, but I knew if she could be found, Fox would find her. Though, when she was found, it wasn't by him. They dropped her off at a hospital, barely alive. He was devastated, and so angry. When Dana woke up, it was like, like the darkness receded back to whatever part of him it had come from."
"I'm glad it turned out well."
"I'm sorry it didn't turn out as well for you."
Teena was startled by that. "Fox told you about, about his sister?"
"No, Dana told me about her. I can't imagine--not knowing..." Maggie trailed off, shaking her head.
"I didn't know Dana very well," she switched the subject. "But, she was always very kind when I spoke to her, usually a phone call from a hospital."
"Oh yes, I received my share of those."
The two women fell back into silence, while Maggie momentarily considered her decision. It was the right one, she knew that, but took an extra minute to reassure herself that this was what had to happen. Anything else wouldn't feel right to her.
"Teena, I wanted to talk to you, because well, I'd like to bury the kids together, in adjoining plots."
The other woman's mouth opened, and her head shifted back in surprise. "I don't understand--why? They weren't married, they weren't even dating."
Maggie frowned. "No, but--did Fox ever talk about Dana?"
Dana spoke of Fox often, at least to Maggie she did. Often just in the context of a case, but still tending to give away how she really felt about him. He might have driven her crazy at times, or scared her half to death running off like he did, but Dana still loved him. And, she knew that Fox had felt the same about Dana. She could tell it from the way he sounded when he had to call from a hospital--like he was still trying to catch his breath.
Teena looked at the floor almost sadly, before responding. "Fox and I didn't talk much."
Maggie pressed her lips together, resisting the desire to demand why. He was her son, didn't she love him? But, from Dana, she knew that Fox had a difficult at best relationship with with parents. She cleared her throat. "If you'd have asked him if he and Dana were involved, he would have denied it, as she would have, and while I don't believe they were intimate, they loved each other, very much."
"I don't know, I'd planned to bury Fox in the family plot." She frowned. "Would you bury them on your own family's plot?"
"No, my family is in a Catholic cemetery, and Fox...um, it's a mortal sin."
"You don't want Dana in the family plot?"
"No, of course I do, but I feel this is more important for her. And him."
"I don't think I understand that." She didn't, not even a little. A Catholic woman willing to put her daughter in unconsecrated ground, just so she could be with her friend?
Maggie watched the other woman shift uncomfortably, her forehead wrinkled as she tried to puzzle the situation out. She pursed her lips together, and leaned forward. "Let me try to explain this then. After Dana called me to tell me what," she faltered, but forced herself to say the words, "to tell me Fox had killed himself, I knew then that she wouldn't beat the cancer."
Teena's frowned deepened, impatience making her eyes seem harder.
"It wasn't that I believed my daughter wouldn't fight, I don't think Dana knew how not to fight. I--I just knew that it wouldn't be as strong a fight, because she didn't need to win it anymore. It didn't matter." She looked for recognition in the other woman's face, but found none. "Dana came to my home that morning, after identifying his body, and just about collapsed. He was gone, and she blamed herself for his death and she was afraid. She was dying, and with him, she'd been strong enough to face it; after he was gone, she was truly afraid. That evening, I received a call from the hospital telling me that my daughter was at death's door. It was as if his death queued hers."
"Why did she blame herself for what Fox did?"
"He blamed himself for her illness, and she'd just told him that she did too."
"But, she had cancer, how did...?"
"She didn't really blame him. They argued, people tend to say things they don't mean in arguments." Dana had been inconsolable, and then she'd had to run off to a Bureau inquiry without the proper time to grieve.
"You're saying my son killed himself out of guilt?"
"Partly. Dana never argued that Fox wouldn't hurt himself, and I know that he wasn't very happy. I believe the guilt was the catalyst, and..." Maggie looked at her hands, her finger nails worrying cuticles.
"And, I think in a way, he was trying to beat her to the grave."
Teena shifted back in surprise. "But, according to you, they weren't even lovers."
"Fox knew Dana was dying. When she was missing that nearly destroyed him. They depended a lot on each other."
Teena leaned back, a weak sigh shuddering it's way down her throat. She really didn't know her son at all. Was the pretty young redhead that important to him?
"Dana hung on for a few days in the hospital, but she was barely aware of what was going on. She was so weak toward the end, and with all the painkillers they had her on, she couldn't remember that he was dead. She'd wake-up, and ask for him; I had to keep telling her that he wasn't coming because he'd killed himself. And then, whatever energy she'd woken-up with, she'd use up crying."
Maggie would never forget the image of her beautiful little girl, so pale in the hospital bed. Her red hair limp and tangled, her blue eyes glassy and muted, and her lips cracked, beginning to bleed. Her voice had been pitifully weak that last day and night--his name a strained high-pitched whisper. She'd assumed it was him beside her. Maggie haven't even been sure that she knew it was the cancer, and not some case-related injury that had her in the hospital.
She offered a shaky sigh, and looked up at her companion. "Do you understand, Teena? I'd like to give my daughter the last thing she ever asked me for."
Teena nodded slowly. "I didn't know my son very well."
Maggie chose not to comment, she had her own opinion on that, but now wasn't the time to share it. Instead she finally admitted the thought that had been running around her head, since she'd made the phone call to Teena. "We should be planning a wedding, not funerals."
The other woman looked a little less tired as she offered a little laugh. "I didn't think Fox would ever get married."
"They probably wouldn't have. They're relationship was so complicated, but I know my daughter wouldn't have been with anyone else, even if she couldn't admit that."
"Where did you want to bury them?"
Maggie breathed then, and felt the tension drain from her body. She'd be able to give Dana what she'd asked for so desperately while she wasted away in a drug-induced haze. It pained her a not to bury her daughter with the rest of the family, and not in consecrated ground, but this was far more important.
She and Teena talked for a while longer, discussing the burial plans for their children. They came to a decision, and when Teena left, the women had a better understanding of their children, and each other. Maggie felt drained as she closed the door, and headed back into her living room. She'd birthed four beautiful, happy babies. All four grew into adults, and for that she was grateful. But only two, her beloved sons, would grow old and see their own children and grandchildren grow.
"Did she go for it?" Bill was in the doorway, body tense and back soldier-straight, his face stiff with anger.
"You make it sound as if I was enlisting her in a con, Billy."
"Mom." Clearly, he was not in the mood for humor.
"Fox and Dana will be buried together."
He huffed and shook his head. "Dana should be buried with Dad and Missy."
She looked sadly at the floor. "I hope you understand this one day, Billy."
"They weren't even married," he insisted through clenched teeth.
"Maybe not, but they were as committed to each other as you and Tara." Small tremors moved through her fingers as she ran them over the silver photo frames, and her back to her son, her eyes misted.
"How can you make that comparison?"
"How can you not see it?" She whipped around to face him.
Bill backed up at the look in his mother's eyes, a look he hadn't seen since he was a teen, and caught setting cherry bombs in a movie theatre bathroom. There was much more disappointment than anger, and that was saying something, because that was no small amount of anger.
"If he'd been alive while she was dying and asking for him, would you have denied her the comfort of his presence?"
"Well no, but--but, two days ago you were furious with him." He was confused, he'd thought she was finally seeing things as he did, but then, this had come up.
"Yes, I was. But, not because I blamed him for Dana's death, or Melissa's. I was angry because he was too weak and miserable to let her die first. I was angry because I had to watch my baby's heart break, before her body failed and she wasted away. I was angry because he wasn't there when she called for him, he wasn't there to comfort her between the time the painkillers stopped working and when they upped her dose, or to hold her when her nose bled for ten straight minutes. I was furious because he left her when she needed him most."
"If she hadn't ever met him, she wouldn't have been dying."
"You don't know that, Billy. She was an FBI agent, she had a dangerous job--with or without Fox--she could have gotten cancer anyway, or anything else for that matter. You need to put your anger and hate aside, or you'll never see it. And, I want to believe I raised you better than that."
He scowled and shook his head, but didn't offer any further comment or argument.
"She'd want to be with him, Billy." Maggie felt the photo frame slide through her sweaty hands, and realized that she'd been clutching the photo of Dana. She let one hand trail across her daughter's smiling face, and carefully set the photo back on the table. She turned back to see Bill had disappeared again.
She hoped in time he would understand, as Teena had come to, why she needed to do this. The kids had died mourning each other, and that shouldn't have happened. They should have died secure in what they had together, secure that they would have it in the next life. She was hoping they'd be together in more than just proximity, that she could help them find each other. Maggie couldn't give Dana what she asked for as she was dying, but she'd give him to her now. Or at least try.
There was a small cemetery Maryland, just outside of Washington. It was old, and hadn't been used much in the last fifty years, with people choosing newer cemeteries closer to the city. It had a small stream running through it, and weeping willow trees. Maggie had seen it before, and been quite taken with it. More than anything, it was quiet and wonderfully peaceful. It seemed to her, the perfect place to lay two misfits, fighters, and lovers to rest.
She and Teena would meet tomorrow, and pick out a headstone.
To clear up any confusion, when I say lovers, it's the loved each other definition, not having sex definition. I can't remember what inspired this one, but I like the idea of Teena and Maggie meeting, and this seemed an appropriate context for it.
My great-grandparents weren't buried together because my great-grandmother was catholic, and her family insisted on burying her on consecrated ground, rather than with her protestant husband. I believe that love is stronger and more important than religious preferences, and I'd like to believe that if there's life after death, all the lines we draw between our religions disappear and we can be with whoever we love, even if they believe in Buddha while we believe in Jesus, or we believe in nothing while they believe in Allah. Even if they take their own life. And, on that note, I'll admit I wasn't thinking of any of the above when I wrote this story, and now I'll happily step off my soapbox.
I won't be adding anything to Across the Distance, but I am working on a story that's similar, and also a chaptered Christmas story (no promises, life's crazy, but I'm hoping).
Thanks very much for reading, and please review!