All Characters copyright of TenThirteen Productions and Chris Carter. Noinfringement intended on any part... go ahead, take me to court...I'm using the insanity defence... heh, heh, heh...

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Third season spoilers here... you've been warned... yah, right...

The Visitby Sheryl Martin

Dana Scully picked her way slowly through the graveyard; making sure to keepto the scraped paths in the snow. It had been a while since her last visit,too long. But as usual, her work had gotten in the way. Melissa would havelaughed; tossed her head back and lectured Dana on priorities and the valueof internal peace versus the material world. Yes, Missy would have saidsomething like that. Then they would have argued for hours over hot tea, andeventually agreed to disagree. She brushed a stray lock of hair from her faceas a bitter wind snapped at her trench coat.

Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks. Someone else was here; someone wasat the grave already. Not her mother, not her brothers. Mulder.

Fox shuffled his feet in the whiteness; staring at the stone for a minutebefore putting the flowers carefully on the ground. Tucking his hands deep inhis pockets, he let out a deep sigh as he stood in silence; his eyes closed.

A red-hot crest of pain shot up from Dana's soul, ripping at her heart. Whatwas he doing here? What did he want? Her mind screamed in protest. Were theydating before she died? Were they...? The thought brought a taste of bile toher mouth. No, not Missy...

She turned away, swallowing sharply as she struggled to take control ofherself again; to become Agent Scully of the FBI, the professional woman thatwas so strong and so secure in herself. A tear broke free as she stood still,her fists clenched at her sides. It wasn't fair, that he...

He what? The small voice came up from the darkness. He didn't belong to her.And if he had dated Melissa before her death, it wasn't anyone's business buthis own. The soft tone caressed her inner eye; stroking over the pain.

"Scully?" She turned suddenly, caught off guard by his voice. Mulder took astep towards her, hesitating as he saw the confusion and pain in her face."Scully... I..."

"Leave me alone, Mulder." Yanking her arm free from a phantom touch, shestomped off further into the graveyard, still keeping to the paths out ofrespect and logic.

"Scully..." He jogged up beside her, grabbing her arm and pulling her to astop. "Let me explain..."

"What? I don't need any explanation. You're here to visit my sister's grave.It's a public place. I don't need to ask you anything. I don't want to knowanything. I..." With a shock she realised that she was rambling, her mindspewing out random comments and thoughts. This wasn't right, this clash offeelings. It wasn't...

"Scully, listen to me..." Mulder took a deep breath, watching the cloud ofcold air disappear from his mouth. "I came to visit her because I feelresponsible for her death. It was my fault."

Twisting her head sharply to look at him, she blinked twice, feeling a teartrickle down one cheek. "Your fault? I don't remember her being shot in yourapartment, Mulder." Part of her recoiled at the venom in her voice, shockedat the words.

"Two points." He half smiled. "But it's as much my responsibility as yours."The tall man gestured towards a stone bench on the path. "Come on..."

She let him lead her to the seat, sitting down with the perfect posture theSisters had taught her back in church, back ramrod straight with her handscrossed in her lap. He tucked his hands back into his pockets, rocking backand forth as he stared out across the snow and stones.

"When they... they took you I felt bad. I knew that I had pushed it too far;tried too hard and now you were going to pay for it. Skinner... he talked tome about how you knew the risks, that you were an agent who knew the playingfield and how much danger you were in." Taking a deep breath, he avoidedlooking at her. "But Melissa... she wasn't an agent. She wasn't even aware ofwhat was going on; what Krychek was there for. What we were doing; where wewere, what we found... it wasn't her job to know. She was an innocent. And ifI hadn't pushed too much, again..." He turned away from her completely, notletting her see his face. "Maybe she might have lived."

Dana sat in silence. A few minutes passed, and no one moved. She licked herlips, trying to form the words.

"Mulder..." She closed her eyes, forcing the thought out. "Were you andMissy... you know..."

He jerked his head around so quickly she was afraid for a second, his eyesblazing. Then the fire died, and all she saw was the pain.

"Why do you need to know? Why do you have to ask me that?" Fox whispered.

Her heart sank. "I just..." She sputtered. "It's that when I saw..."

Reaching over, he put a bare hand on her knee. "I can't handle more than oneScully at a time. And you're the only one I want to work with." A sharptwinkle appeared in his eyes. "But I'm flattered that you thought..."

"Well, you and her had a lot in common." Dana said quickly in defence. "Imean, I thought that since you both believed in the same things..."

He chuckled, putting his hands back in his pockets. "Scully, sometimes I likehaving someone to disagree with. And I think your mother would have knockedme senseless for having anything to do with her."

Putting a hand to her face, Dana brushed away the last remains of the tears."Look, I'm just being oversensitive today. It's been a rough couple ofweeks..."

Fox nodded, chewing on his lower lip. "Yah. Me too." He got to his feet. "Ifyou want to meet me back at the car, I'll follow you back home and maybewe'll get some dinner." He looked up at her. "If that's okay..."

She smiled. "I think that sounds good to me. Just give me five, okay?"Stepping briskly along the path, she found herself back at the grave site,staring down at the flowers Mulder had so recently left.

"Missy..." She started, then stopped; seeing Mulder out of the corner of hereye as he walked towards the parking lot. "I'm sorry for being so stupid. Itwas just that..." In her mind's eye she could hear her sister laughing,teasing her for being jealous. But she couldn't be jealous, because shewasn't in love with her partner.

Right? The soft inner voice chuckled in response.

Quietly reciting a few prayers from memory, Dana smiled as she took a stepback from the flowers. Even now you manage to tease me, Missy...

Always. And forever.

Turning from the grave, she walked briskly towards the man leaning againstthe car in the parking lot. She had a lot of work to do. With her partner.

*******************"If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand thatfictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies andheartbeats."Richard Bach -- "Illusions"