TITLE: As Darker Grows the Night
AUTHOR: Leslie Sholly
DISTRIBUTION: If you like it, it's yours. Just leave my name and address attached. And please let me know, if possible.
SPOILER WARNING: Requiem, Emily, Christmas Carol
KEYWORDS: MSR, ScullyAngst
DISCLAIMER: Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox own these characters. I mean no infringement or disrespect.
FEEDBACK: Cherished and always answered.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: So it's a little late. Just think of it as keeping Christmas in our hearts all the year round.
SUMMARY: Christmas Eve in San Diego
As Darker Grows the Night
by Leslie Sholly
I came to San Diego because of my mother.
My mother's not the martyr type. She never would have intentionally made me feel bad if she missed the trip to San Diego, but she made it clear that she would not go there and leave me pregnant and alone in D.C. for Christmas. And since I was without the usual excuse of one of Mulder's monster chases, I felt I had no choice but to give in and gracefully accept Bill and Tara's invitation.
It's been three years since I visited my brother and his family on the Christmas I will always think of as Emily's. With that sorrow on my heart I hadn't wanted to return. Knowing that now I'm really going to be a mother has alleviated that pain somewhat. And with Matthew and a new nephew whom I hadn't yet met to add to the enjoyment of the holiday, there was plenty to look forward to on this trip.
Of course, it wasn't the children I was worried about. It was the adults--or, more specifically, one adult--my big brother. Typically, instead of offering congratulations on my impending motherhood when Mom called to give him the news, he'd been derogatory about my unmarried state and disgusted by the identity of my baby's father. All the good wishes and the Christmas invitation had come from Tara, who was genuinely happy for me.
My mom had assured me that Bill had adjusted to my news. Tara had told me he promised to be on his best behavior and not to mention Mulder.
But I know Bill. If he manages to resist the temptation to judge me or to offer condemnation or heavy-handed advice, it will be the first time.
I've always felt myself equal to dealing with Bill in the past. There have been times when I've enjoyed telling him off. If Mulder were here, it would have given me great pleasure to announce that I was pregnant and by whom.
But now . . . I'm trying to be gentle with myself these days, to realize that it's reasonable for me to emotionally fragile right now. My body is awash with pregnancy hormones; I'm facing the stress of single motherhood; I have a demanding job; and the man I love has been abducted by aliens. What's not to cry about? Although I manage to keep it all together during the workday, I spend a fair amount of my off hours with my box of Puffs, weeping while I contemplate the irony that has turned what should be the happiest time in my life to the saddest. Yet I cannot bear the thought of bursting into tears in front of Bill.
Bill's always been a bully. And when we were kids he never had any difficulty reducing Missy to tears. He could do it to Charlie with one mean look. But not me. I was the tough one. The only time I remember crying in front of Bill was when I shot the snake, and his scornful response cemented my resolve to keep all future emotional outbreaks out of sight.
Bill was polite, even gentlemanly, when he greeted us at the airport, although he has been somewhat distant since. He hasn't even mentioned the baby. What conversation there has been has revolved around Matthew and Liam. I have to admit it's been fun to see Matthew, all three-year-old excitement, and sweet to watch the gentle way he touches his new brother. I've spent a lot of time holding baby Liam, trying to realize that it won't be long before I will be holding a baby of my own in my arms.
Tara's taller than I am and we don't really have the same taste, but I couldn't refuse when she offered to lend me her maternity clothes. So far, since I'm trying to keep my condition quiet within the Bureau, my only concession to my pregnancy has been to buy some larger blouses and jackets. I look dowdy, but not pregnant.
But Tara has a green velvet maternity dress that's perfect for the Christmas Eve party they traditionally hold before Midnight Mass. It's a little long on me, but elegant, and my black velvet pumps go well with it even though in deference to my condition I've had to go down to two-inch heels.
I'm seated in a comfortable corner for the party, a little out of the way. I have a good view of the guests and the tree, and I'm enjoying the Christmas CDs and cuddling the baby for Tara so that she can play hostess.
I don't know what they've told their guests to explain my pregnancy and my solitude, but judging from the gentle way everyone has treated me and the absence of prying questions, I'm guessing they painted me the victim of some tragedy. Which I suppose, in a way, I am.
In any case, I'm allowed to sit quietly in my chair and be unsociable, and no one comments on it. Tara stops by to make sure I'm not tired of holding the baby--could anyone get tired of holding a sleeping newborn, I wonder--and Mom brings me drink refills and takes the baby when I need to make one of my frequent trips to the bathroom. Bill, meanwhile, schmoozes with his guests.
It's close to 11 when the last one leaves, and Mom and I are going to have to hurry if we're going to get a seat at Midnight Mass, an occasion when all lapsed Catholics seem to come out of the woodwork. I sigh. I'm tired--not so tired as I was in the first trimester, but the strain of being even minimally sociable has worn me out. I look down at little Liam, peacefully slumbering in my arms. Matthew is clearly Tara's son, with his mop of blonde curls that always need cutting, but Liam is a Scully, with a light fuzz of red already visible on his round little head.
Looking at Bill's son, I wonder about my own baby, whether it will be son or daughter, whether it will be a blue-eyed Scully like Liam, or whether Mulder's beautiful changeable eyes will look back at me from his child's face. I wonder if Mulder will ever see his child and suddenly my vision blurs and the tears I've kept back successfully for days begin to fall, even as I bow my head to hide them.
The loveseat creaks as someone sits beside me, and an arm, warm and comforting, is placed around my shoulders. It's Bill, not my mom as I expected, and suddenly I am furious at myself for losing control and at him for witnessing my breakdown.
I tense as I brace myself. If he's going to try for kindness the gentlest thing I can imagine him saying it that it's better this way, that I don't need Mulder, that the family will take care of me and the baby.
But Bill has a few surprises left in him.
"Want me to take him?"
I shake my head. I need the comfort of the warm little body in my arms.
He's silent for a moment. Me in tears is a new experience for him, after all. As for me, I am experiencing what I feared--now that my control has broken, I can't immediately regain it, and although they fall silently, my tears continue to flow. I turn my face away from Bill and wipe my eyes with my free hand.
"It's O.K., Dana," Bill says finally. "You don't have to hide your tears from me. I know you're feeling sad."
I raise my eyes to my brother's, astonished at this un-Bill-like speech. I'm even more surprised to see tears of sympathy rising in his eyes.
"You really miss him, don't you?" He squeezes my shoulders.
"Missing him . . . I could take that," I manage. "The worst is not knowing if I'll ever see him again."
"You'll see him again, Dana," Bill says encouragingly. "If there's one thing I know about Mulder, it's that he's persistent. You know he's doing everything he can to get back to you. And we'll keep the prayers going on this end."
My amazement must be showing on my face, because Bill grins sheepishly and colors a bit. "Jeez, Dana, did you think I'd be hoping he'd never show up again? Look, he may not have been my first choice for you, but what's done is done. Whatever his faults, he clearly loves you and you need him now. When he comes back--well, I don't know if we'll ever be friends, but you can count on my courtesy from here on out. I promise to respect him as the father of my sister's child."
Bill rises. "Here, let me take Liam to Tara. We need to hurry if we're going to get a seat at Mass tonight."
Midnight Mass has always been a Scully family tradition, even when we were so small that Mom brought us in our pajamas. Tara doesn't like to have Matthew out so late, though, and as a convert the service doesn't hold childhood memories for her. The last time I visited, she and Bill went to the 10 a.m. Mass. "I thought you were going with Tara in the morning."
"I was--I still will. But I want to go with you and Mom tonight. It's been a long time since all three of us have been to Mass together. And I want to be with you."
As I hand his son to Bill, my own baby kicks inside me and I touch my stomach reflexively. Bill bends to kiss the forehead of his sleeping child. "Being a father," he says, "It's an amazing thing. It'll be a good thing for Mulder, I think. Don't worry, Dana. God knows the baby needs his father and that you do, too."
The lights on the tree are like the stars, and on the Eve of the day on which redemption entered the world 2000 years ago, I allow my heart to fill with hope. Hand in hand, Bill and I leave to offer prayers that my hope may be fulfilled.
"Hope, like the gleaming taper's light,
Adorns and cheers our way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
Emits a brighter ray."
- Oliver Goldsmith
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