Title: When the Bough Broke
Author: Marguerite
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Christmas Carol/Emily

Summary: Continuation of Emily

I am powerless to help her. She cannot be touched now or she will break, so I stand at her side, looking like the Colossus of Rhodes and feeling utterly useless. She steps toward the altar and I follow. Oh, Scully, don't do it.

She takes the bouquet from the lid of the coffin and prepares to lift the lid. I want to scream; I want to stop her. There's nothing there, Scully--you know that. You know what happens when the constructs die. I am powerless to help her.

All I can do is turn away and give her some privacy.

I stare into the sun-drenched image of the Madonna holding the baby Jesus in her arms. The colors had illuminated Scully's pale face as she sat in the chapel. That's why I had to leave. Forgive me, Scully. But I'm back now.

There is a sudden intake of breath. I turn and see her holding the little cross. It, too, sparkles in the dappled jewel colors from the window. Scully's eyes slide shut in pain and defeat. Mine are open and I can feel the anger rising in me. If there's a divine plan in all of this, I cannot fathom it. What can it mean to take this gentle soul and torture it beyond endurance? Is she supposed to be learning something? Is this a punishment for some knot in her karmic string? If eternal justice is to be meted out today, it should be at my expense, not hers.

Enough, I tell myself. I take a long stride and touch her elbow. She pulls away from me, still staring at the sackcloth and ashes that had been her little girl. My hand trembles as I reach for the lid and close it slowly. Her eyes turn to me at last. They are aquamarine today, deep as the sea and so lonely that my heart breaks for her. Surely she can hear the audible crack in my chest. "It's time," I tell her softly.

She nods. She takes the arm I offer her and I lead her from the chapel. The borrowed suit hangs from her frail body. She came here to rest and visit her family, not to bury her last hope at having a family of her own. How unjust to ruin not only this Christmas but also the ones that will follow.

I am worried about what waits for her at Bill's house. Baby Matthew was brought to the service today in what I thought was the ultimate gesture of insensitivity--and I should know. God, did he have to have red hair and a perfect little mouth? Scully fussed over him, of course, and the sight may well have driven the last nail into the coffin of my insanity. How could they?

Scully won't go to the car. Instead, she inclines her head toward the little park next to the church. It's too cold for her to be outside, but today Scully will have whatever she wants. Her brisk stride is not hard for me to overtake, and she looks up at me in gratitude as I take off my overcoat and put it around her shoulders. Such a little gesture, Scully, when I'd gladly skin myself alive and wrap you in it to keep you warm.

The tender little bouquet is still clutched in her hand. Scully walks up to a statue of the Virgin and places the flowers there, an offering to another childless mother. She takes out a sprig of baby's breath and puts it into her own hair, just behind her ear. It looks like snow against a sunset. With her thumbnail she snips off one of the carnations and turns to me. Her lips tremble a bit as she reaches for the lapel of my jacket and puts the carnation into the buttonhole. A single tear trickles down her cheek. I lean over her, still silent, and she gives me a wan smile when I blot the tear with my finger. Her eyes plead for my understanding. Once more she stands before the statue, her lips moving in a silent prayer. After she crosses herself she reaches blindly behind her.

I am there. Of course I am there, and Scully knows, as she knows so many things. I take her hand and walk with her to the car. Her movements are those of a sleepwalker; I have to fasten the seat belt for her when I get in. We drive to Bill's house in silence. Scully's mute grief claws at me.

The house is dark downstairs. I fumble for the light switch just as Mrs. Scully finds us. Her face is worried, and she glances from Scully's dead eyes up to my eyes, which are stinging with tears. I give Scully's hand to her mother, but Mrs. Scully puts it back in mine. "Help her, Fox," she whispers brokenly. Suddenly her arms are around us and she kisses my cheek, then the top of Scully's head, and she goes back to the new life upstairs.

Scully does not want to go up those stairs. The path to new life is not hers to travel. I can feel her resistance as I try to lead her, so we wander instead into the living room and I put her on the sofa. I want to ask her if she needs anything, but nothing will come out of my mouth except a stifled sob. It brings her back to the world and her eyes soften; she pats the place at her side. I sit beside her.

I'm afraid.

From the second story we hear the crying of baby Matthew. Scully listens for a moment, then takes my hand and places it on her abdomen. It is as empty as Emily's coffin. Still clutching my fingers, she looks up at me and I see the anguish in her eyes at this ultimate desolation. I have only seen this look twice: once when she was rescued from Donnie Pfaster and again in the hospital when the priest came to give her the last rites. Both events were because of me. So is this one.

My eyes and throat burn. "I'm so sorry," I whisper. "It's all my fault."

She astonishes me by pulling up on her knees to bring her face level with mine, her smooth cheek brushing against me. "I forgive you, Mulder," she murmurs, her breath warm in my ear.

It is enough for her to say that and she curls up in my arms with her head tucked under my chin. Somehow, miraculously, she falls asleep. But then, her very life is a miracle. I am glad to see her rest, but yet I selfishly want the opportunity to weep for her at last. My brave, valiant Scully. 'Sweet dreams," I tell her and her fingers squeeze mine in response.

Hours later, I startle awake. Bill is standing between us and the embers of last night's fire. Scully has not stirred; I still keep her within the circle of my arms. Her brother's face is unreadable. I make a helpless gesture with my hand, but he stops me and points to my face. It's still wet with tears. Bill's finger moves to Scully, who wears a gentle smile in her untroubled sleep.

For the first time, I see something in Bill's eyes other than cold contempt. There is a light of understanding there. His thin lips curl up into as much of a smile as I've ever seen on him and he pads to the linen closet, pulling out an afghan. He does not hand it to me, but instead tucks Scully and me within its warm folds. Tenderly he strokes his sister's hair, leaning over to kiss her temple. As he turns to leave he puts a hand on my shoulder. Comrades. He understands now.

I kiss Scully's cool forehead before settling down once more to sleep. Her soft breathing is my lullaby, the only one she will ever sing.


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