Title: Winter Beach
Summary: Just take it as it comes. Set during Mulder's absence in season 9 and immediately after the aborted wedding in Buffy.
Thanks to iwonder and MaybeAmanda for the beta...and for just being so darned groovy.
Scarborough Beach, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Winter beach. Winter blues. Mulder wanted to kick the sand as he walked but knew the March wind would only cast it back in his face. Another insult to injury, and one he didn't need. He was already pissed that he couldn't sulk in private. There were others on the beach this frigid afternoon-- a smattering of people, but just enough to make him grumpy and watchful. So far, no sign of Billy Miles. The son of a bitch had been dogging him for weeks as Mulder skipped like stone on water across the nation.
Goddamned Billy. Or goddamned whatever-Billy-was-now. In his head he saw the real Billy tethered to a crucifixion chair, deadish and mutilated, as the Bountyhunters gripped Mulder's upper arms like steel claws. He was next in line for a chair, next to be manhandled toward martyrdom....
As the memory pervaded and prevailed, Mulder drifted off his straight course until a wave crashed close enough to send a rush of water over the toes of his boots. The sand was wet muck. He could kick it now, but why fucking bother? Ennui had won the toss.
Mulder walked on, moving back upbeach, away from the surf. There was a woman sitting on a blanket up by the edge of the dunes. She wore a lilac parka trimmed with white fur and sat indian-style with her hands tucked under her armpits. She stared out to sea with a glassy-eyed, miserable resolve that made Mulder confident she was fully human.
She was also beautiful as an fallen angel. That became increasingly apparent the closer he came to her. Wisps of straw blonde hair escaped from beneath the hood of her parka, her eyes were tired, sad blue, and her white skin was pinkened by the cold wind at the highpoints on her cheekbones and nose.
Gorgeous woman. And really in need of a compliment. Something to bring a smile, a spark. Something to ignite that beauty, to push it toward perfection, for his lonely benefit, if not her own. "Excuse me," Mulder said. "I'm not trying to pick you up, but I-- I just wanted to tell you how lovely you are."
The woman looked at him and blinked. "Thank you," she said. "Now go away."
"I-- I really wasn't--"
"I'm mourning. Please go away." She spoke like a child, like a fantastically beautiful three-year-old. Mulder knew his smile to be both dopey and enchanted.
"Well," he said slowly, "I can respect that. I'm mourning, myself. So.... Well.... Bye."
He started to walk, but she stopped him. "Wait! I'm *supposed* to say 'go away,' although I really don't want you to. And you're supposed to come back now." He turned around. She was leaning toward him with her hands on the blanket and arms braced to support her. "Why are you mourning, mysterious tall dark stranger?"
"Um-- my family. I've lost my family."
"Oh," she said simply. Then added, "I was supposed to get married."
"No. Are your family all dead?"
Mulder had looked back toward the water, but his head swiveled at her bluntness. "No. No, they aren't, but I-- I can't see them. I can't be with my son and my partner for reasons that are...very weird."
She took a deep breath and drew herself up, tucked escaping strands of hair behind her ear. "Sit." She firmly and patted the empty place on the tartan wool next to her. "We can commiserate together. Humans do that. So we have to."
Mulder stopped breathing for a moment.
"You're human, aren't you?" she asked, head cocked to side.
"Mostly," he replied. "I think."
"Good. Sit down."
Oh Mulder, you've pushed the button and now curiosity is suddenly killing your cat. Mixed metaphors aside, Mulder liked her pluck but didn't think she'd snap his neck like a toothpick. God, he thought, I wish I could think more originally when confronted by loveliness and by mortal fear....
He settled himself next her and turned up his coat collar against the sideways assault of the wind. It was blowing from the southeast, muscling along dark fat clouds. It would rain soon. The woman next to him extended her hand. "I'm Anya."
"Mulder," he returned, his hand briefly gripping her own before returning to the shelter of his pocket.
"I was supposed to get married but this guy I cursed about a hundred years ago scared off my fiancÚ." When Mulder raised an eyebrow she smiled and added. "Sorry. Need to explain: former vengeance demon."
"Former law enforcement turned alien abductee," he told her as the dopey smile spread across his face again. "Now I'm daddy to the newborn Messiah.... I think."
"Hmmmm." She bobbed her head as if-- well, as if what he'd said and what she'd said before that wasn't raging mad.
"I really wasn't trying to pick you up," he felt compelled to repeat.
"It would be okay if you were," Anya answered supportively. "I'm supposed to be on the rebound. We could go to a cheap, tawdry motel and I'd be your sex poodle."
"Do you like spankings? Xander did. Xander was my fiancÚ."
"I-- I see."
"I'm very skilled at spankings. First I strip you, and then I put over my knee--"
"That's-- that's okay, Anya. Why don't we just sit here awhile instead?"
"Oh. Okay....Well, so why can't you see your wife and Savior baby?"
He both smiled and laughed a little crookedly as he fumbled to respond. "I guess-- I guess it's a prophesy thing."
"Oh, like where the vampire father has to eat his own son for the Apocalypse to come, or the one where the alien-human hybrids can't have the father and son alive at the same time or the Apocalypse won't come? Hey, you know, that second one sounds--"
Mulder swallowed entirely wrong and bent over coughing, a fist pressed to his mouth. She patted his back sympathetically.
"I left," Anya told him when he was breathing correctly. "I just packed up my car and left Sunnydale. I've been driving ever since and making daystops to mourn. You?"
"I just packed up my car and left, too. And I've been driving ever since."
"Mostly to use the showers at truck plazas."
Anya shook her head. "That's not good. You should be doing more mourning. You need to mourn or else you'll never get over your heartbreak and be able to go on," she counseled. "I've read that it's okay for personal hygiene to suffer while you mourn."
He bit his lower lip and regarded her for a long moment. "Did I tell you I'm not trying to pick you up?"
"The answer is yes."
"I'll come with you on the road. I passed a dealership in Cape Elizabeth. We'll trade in both our cars for a minivan."
He wanted to tell her that was waaay not the answer to the question he had waaay not asked, but found he just couldn't. Didn't want to. He was lonely and she was not a normal woman, anymore than he was a normal man. "Okay. But...Anya?"
She was already standing and trying to pull the blanket out from under him. "Yes?"
"No sex poodle stuff, okay? I'm a one-woman man. But I could really use a good friend."
Anya smiled. "How sweet. What's your wife's name so I can pretend otherwise, but actually foment my jealousy and disdain?"
"Her name is Scully."
"Scully." She reached out her hand.
"Right." He let her help pull him to his feet. "And no fomenting, Anya."
"I'm supposed to."
"Break with tradition on this one."
She was leading him by the arm along the path that cut through the dunes, "Oh come on! This is going to make mourning so much more enjoyable! We'll stop for dinner at this little diner I saw on the way here-- after we trade in the cars, of course, and then we'll find a bed and breakfast. We'll get separate rooms, but I'll come in the middle of the night and just need you to hold me. Tomorrow we'll drive aimlessly toward Michigan--"
"Michigan? Why there?"
"--and we'll find someplace spontaneous to mourn at along the way. Eventually, after months of traveling together and many adventures, I will realize that although you are handsome and special, Xander is my life's love and Scully is yours and we'll part as devoted friends who share an unbreakable bond. Won't it be fun?"
Mulder couldn't stop grinning. It just felt so good. "Yes, Anya. I think it will."
Like I said, just good, clean giggles.