June 2000

She buys two tickets even though she's there alone, earning her a funny look from the girl at the kiosk. Inside she orders extra large popcorn because that's what they always do, she even asks for butter even though she hates it. It's always been a bone of contention on these trips and so they agreed to take turns - with/without. He's not here but it's still his turn. Eating the first piece she realises that she has no idea if popcorn is ok for the baby and instantly feels guilty for not checking. Just another thing to add to the list. She hands her ticket to the clerk who smiles at her.

"Screen three, just down the corridor." She smiles back out of habit and courtesy but it doesn't reach her eyes and when she reaches the screen door she has to look up at the sign to remember what film she bought tickets for; 11:21am: "X-Men". She's not even sure why she's here except this is what they always do when something bad has happened and she can't imagine not coming.

Inside she takes her usual seat and lays her coat across the one he always occupies. As she does she imagines a flutter low in her belly like a butterfly's wings beating. She ignores the sensation. She thinks it's too early on for her to feel the baby move, she thinks that she must have imagined it. Instead she stares at the vacant seat and tries not to break down.

"Is this seat taken?" a man's voice asks from the behind her. She prepares to lie and answer yes until she turns and her eyes meet Frohike's. She knows he can see the wetness in her eyes and she can see the worry in his. Her eyes drift across the room until they land on the other two, sitting further forward with another vacant seat beside them. A coincidence they're here? Do they know about this ritual? Has Mulder shared it with them? She finds that she doesn't care and instead lifts her coat to clear the seat.

"No," she tells him, "it's all yours." He smiles but it doesn't reach his eyes either as he sits down beside her and rests his hand on the armrest between them, open in a gesture of friendship and compassion. She's not sure she can accept it but she appreciates the offer. The lights go down and the commercials begin.

"Popcorn?" she offers.

"Thank you," Frohike says, dipping his hand in the tub.

"No, thank you," she replies.