Cloud Watching

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Rated: PG
Category: S
Archive: Yes, just please let me know where.
Spoilers: None. Set sometime during S4 cancer-arc.
Disclaimer: Characters within are property of CC, Fox, etc.

Summary: Mulder is upset by the prospect of losing Scully to her cancer.


It’s a beautiful day, Mulder thought to himself. Fluffy cumulous
clouds frothed the bright blue sky and the wind softly rippled
the vivid green leaves of the trees that surrounded them. He was
grateful the weather held up; that once, just once, the elements
were in his favor. It was never more important to him.

*It’s metastasized.*

The two most hateful words in the English language. The mere
thought of them, spoken in Scully’s evenly controlled, “I’m
dealing” voice set Mulder’s stomach churning, spiraling from a
sense of helplessness that made his head spin. She was going to
die and nothing could be done about it. *Nothing could be

“This looks like a good spot,” he declared and spread the large
blanket out on the park’s lawn. To the far left, a group of high
school-aged kids played touch football. A man and woman
walked their baby in a stroller, the man holding his wife’s hand
in one hand and pushing the stroller with the other. Kids to the
right played with bright pink bottles of bubbles while a harried-
looking mother packed up their picnic lunch.

Funny how life goes on in spite of your own personal tragedies,
he thought. Or maybe *to* spite them.

Sometimes it felt like Scully’s cancer was a big lie. A cruel joke,
maybe. It was all too surreal — there was no way it was the
truth. A bad dream, yes, fiction. It wasn’t *possible* that it was
reality. How ironic that the man who believes in everything just
couldn’t believe hard facts when they were laid out in
excruciating accuracy before him. Some twisted sort of poetic
justice, perhaps? Maybe a great wrong done in a past life made
right in this one?

But this isn’t about you, he reminded himself and glanced at the
redheaded woman beside him, looking far too pale and much
too thin, helping him flatten out the blanket.

It was about her.

Was she scared? He couldn’t bring himself to ask. Did she have
any expectations? He knew the only exception to her steadfast
skepticism was her religious beliefs. She once told him belief
wasn’t about seeing or any tangible thing; it was about faith.

He was far too jaded to think about these things in such a
flowery way. His beliefs had been shot down more times than
he cared to think about. His faith had been shattered mercilessly
and fed to the wolves in large, meaty chunks. None of her
beliefs were enough for him because deep down, in a guarded
place where no one entered, he knew there was nothing more
after this life. This is it, take it, do with it what you will and
pray to whatever deity you subscribe to that there is no sort of
consciousness after death to witness the suffocating void.

This way lies madness.

The picnic basket full of deli foods sat on one corner of the
blanket, untouched and dutifully holding it’s end down against
the breeze. Mulder laid back, hands propped under his head like
a pillow and stared up at the sky. “Hey,” he said, pulling her
attention from a group of kids playing tag. “Look at that cloud.
What does it remind you of?”

She looked up. “I don’t know, Mulder,” she sighed. “A tomato?”

“Tomato? No, look at it from this angle,” he pulled her arm
toward him and pointed at the cloud in question. “See it now?”

She cocked her head. “Still looks like a tomato to me.”

“Scully, are you kidding me? Here, come down here with me,”
he pulled her arm again and was surprised when she allowed
herself to be pulled down on her back on the blanket beside
him. He wasn’t sure if he should feel triumphant that he’d
gotten his way or upset that she couldn’t even be bothered to
protest. For now, he decided to just be content.

“It’s a clown. See?”

She squinted. He sighed a mock, put-upon sigh. “Look. There’s
the nose,” he pointed, “there’s the bow-tie — it’s a little wobbly,
but it’s there. And that’s the fluffy hair.”

She was silent a moment, then she grinned madly, facing him.
“Still looks like a tomato, Mulder.”

He found himself grinning back, and all the tension residing in
his muscles melted into oblivion in that instant. Scully was
back, if only for a while, and he was relieved beyond reason to
see her.

Lunch forgotten, they kept a silent catalogue of the passing
clouds, breaking the tranquility only to point out the interesting

“Check out the hippo.”

“Mulder, I think you need to start wearing your glasses again.
That’s clearly an alligator.”

Before they knew it, it was late afternoon. Scully’s cheeks felt
tender from the sun and Mulder had grass stuck to the backs of
his knees, but neither made a move to leave.

“Hey, Scully?”


“Tell me something about your childhood.”


“Please? I’d really like to hear it.”

She thought for a minute. “We had one of those old Frigidaires
in the base housing we were living in a while back. When Bill
was about ten, he decided he just had to find out if the light goes
out when you shut the door.” She paused and smiled. “So one
day, he pressed his face against the edge and slowly closed door
— until he accidentally shut his lips inside.” She started cracking
up along with Mulder, her next words stuttered with gasping
laughter. “And he was just *hollering* for Mom. ‘Mmm! Mmm!'”

Mulder had a good laugh over that one, picturing big, bad Bill
Scully with his lips stuck in the door of a refrigerator. Somehow,
the man seemed less intimidating now than he’d like to put on.
Mulder wiped his eyes. “Thanks, Scully. I needed that one.”

“I thought you’d appreciate that story. Bill never does,
especially since it seems to come up at every major family

“I guess not,” he shook his head with a grin that wouldn’t leave.
“Now, how ’bout a story about you?”


“Yeah, you. That’s what I was asking for to begin with — not
that I didn’t love your Bill story.”

“I don’t know. I was such a boring child.”

Mulder took hold of a sun-warmed strand of Scully’s hair and
shook it playfully. “Somehow I doubt that. Come on, Scully.
Just one story?”

She thought for a minute. “Okay, I’ve got one. But when you’re
bored to tears, don’t come whining to me because I warned


She raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Don’t tempt me.”

“I used to lust after Scott Baio and wanted Valerie Bertinelli’s

Mulder pulled a face. “The words ‘lust’ and Scott Baio do not
belong in the same sentence. Besides, that wasn’t what I was
asking for.”

She looked affronted. “I happen to think Scott Baio is attractive,
thank you very much. And just what is it you *are* asking for?”

“Anecdotes. Cute little stories involving some classic Dana
Scully misbehavior. C’mon, Scully, I know you’ve got at least
one in you.”

She looked down and smiled, then blushed and let out a small
laugh. “Okay, there was this — *one* thing.”

Mulder grinned. “Now we’re talking.”

She narrowed her eyes at him and went on. “You’d better not
laugh, or it’s your ass, Mulder.”

“Such language!”

“I’m serious. Laugh and it’ll be the last thing you do.” She
sighed, thinking maybe telling him this particular story wasn’t
such a wonderful idea. “I should start out by telling you that
back in my — younger years — I was deeply in love with David
Cassidy.” She glared as Mulder bit back laughter. “Anyway,
like any pre-teenaged girl in the seventies I had pinups from my
Tiger Beat magazines all over my bedroom walls. Missy hated
it; we shared and she was more into The Eagles. But even she
had to admit David Cassidy was adorable.

“We were living in San Francisco during the time The Partridge
Family had its run. Missy had a friend whose cousin worked as
a grip on American Bandstand and he’d gotten wind that David
was going to be on the show next week. Naturally, I was excited
about this.”


“Keep it up, Mister. So that night, Missy and I stayed up until
two a.m. formulating a plan to get to L.A. without getting
caught. Her friend Olivia could get us tickets from her cousin,
as long as she could come along, too.” She paused and looked
off at space with a small smile on her face. “You know, I think
that was the first time Missy thought about bringing me
anywhere over one of her friends. Olivia was included as sort of
an afterthought.”

She shook herself slightly and continued. “We pulled the old
‘sleepover switch’ on our parents. Missy and I were staying at
Olivia’s and Olivia was staying with us. That’s what we told
them. Then we scraped up what we had out of our piggy banks
for food and gas and hopped into Todd’s car.”


“Missy’s boyfriend at the time. He was driving us in his old
Impala beater. I thought we’d never make it in one piece; either
he was going to drive us off the road or the car was going to
rattle into shards beneath us.”

Mulder laughed.

“We had a couple hours to spare before the taping, so Todd
insisted on taking us to one of his friend’s houses.”

“Uh oh. Sounds like that wasn’t a good thing.”

She snorted. “You don’t know the half of it. First of all, if you
could see through the marijuana haze you were instantly aware
of the filth surrounding you. And I don’t mean the kind I gripe
about when I’m at your apartment, Mulder. I mean true filth,
like vomit caked into the carpet from one too many benders no
one bothered to clean up after and droppings left from their pit-
bull. I’m talking about beer cans littering every available space.
It was like a dumpster threw up all over the place. Disgusting. It
was two guys living there. Jack and Dillon.

“Missy wanted to leave as soon as we got there, but Todd got
upset with her. Said if he could drive her and her bratty baby
sister all the way up to Los Angeles, she could get off his back
and hang out with his friends for an hour or two.

“Sounds like a real winner.”

“You don’t know the half of it. Jack, Dillon, Todd and Olivia
decided to toke up — although, I don’t see that Jack and Dillon
had been doing much else besides that all day anyway. Missy
was furious. She took me outside while they smoked and paced
back and forth, occasionally trying to peek around the
aluminum foil that covered the windows.

“I was scared, of course. I never bargained for any of this. All I
wanted was to go to American Bandstand; I even wore my best
dress and borrowed Missy’s shoes for the occasion. David
Cassidy was going to notice me.” She shook her head and
smiled. “Silly kid stuff.”

Mulder reached for her hand and gave it a little squeeze. “Not
silly at all.”

She sighed. “Anyway, when Missy finally had enough of
waiting it out, she stormed back inside. What we saw was —
well, she went ballistic. Olivia’s skirt was pulled up around her
hips and her blouse was unbuttoned to the waistband. Todd was
similarly undressed. Two guesses what they were doing in that
state on the couch.”

“Ouch. Your sister’s man.”

“Yeah. They were putting on quite a show for the other two,
who were watching, of course. She went berserk on Olivia and I
think she even managed to dislocate her shoulder. Never was
too sure about that. Todd just sat back and lit his joint up again,
watching the whole time. He never even bothered to pull his
pants back up, just put a pillow over his lap.

“We left after that. Just walked and walked until we found a cab
and spent the rest of our money getting to the studio. We knew
we were in trouble already anyway; how would we get home
without calling our parents now? Might as well do what we
came to do. But by the time we got to the studio and picked up
our tickets, neither of us wanted to go see the show anymore.
The day had just been too much — started out fun, driving away
from home with the radio blasting and the wind blowing
through our hair — but it ended so badly. So we sold our three
tickets outside the studio gates and caught another cab to the
bus station. We made quite a little bit off of them, actually.”

Mulder digested the story, appalled thinking about what Scully
had seen at such a tender age. Rather than voice his somewhat
hypocritical opinions, he clamped onto one thought. “Did you
get by with leaving?”

Scully sighed. “Well, yes and no. We got home all right, but
Olivia never came back. It seemed she was having an ongoing
affair with Todd right under Missy’s nose and decided to stay in
L.A. with him that day. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had their
suitcases in the trunk all along. Her absence had to be
explained, and since both sets of parents thought the other had
their kids, it wasn’t easy. The best we could come up with was
that we helped her go to the bus station. Everyone knew she
wanted to be an actress, so it was easy to convince her parents
she was in L.A. hoping to break into the business. Ahab,
however, wasn’t persuaded. We were both grounded for a
month ‘for helping that girl run away’. We got off light and we
knew it.

“From then on, Missy and I were closer than ever. It was like
we’d survived something. I suppose we did in a way. But I
knew she felt responsible for the whole thing and she was
always trying to make up for it.”

The pair were silent.

Suddenly, Scully giggled.

“What?” Mulder asked.

“Nothing. I was just remembering something else that happened
later that year.”

He looked at her expectantly, but when it was clear she wasn’t
going to elaborate he nudged her. “Go on.”

“I can’t, Mulder. It’s too silly.”


“No. It’s ridiculous.”

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

She thought about this a second. “Okay.” She rolled her eyes.
“All my friends seemed to be budding all around me. Especially
Trisha, who was already a C-cup. Of course this didn’t escape
the attention of the male student body and it wasn’t long before
I was the only one in our little group without a boyfriend.”

“A C-cup?”

“Mulder, try to focus. Anyway, I was tired of being the ‘single’
one, the one without some boy’s name written all over my
folders with hearts and arrows and all that nonsense. What’s
worse was that my friends were beginning to take pity on me.
So I decided to take action.

“Love letters began to pop up everywhere: in my locker, under
my lunch tray, in my gym bag — everywhere. All from this
mysterious ‘secret admirer’.” She started laughing. “They were
*awful*! I got some of the prose from this book of nineteenth
century poetry my grandma gave Mom, but the rest of it was my

“Wait a minute; are you saying that you wrote your own love

She laughed again. “Pathetic, isn’t it? But effective. My friends
thought it was so romantic — they were actually *jealous*. They
had even worse literary taste than I did.”

Mulder laughed with her and it struck him that this was the
most either of them had done so in a very long time. It felt

“Your turn,” she said.

He groaned.

“You promised, remember?”

He made an inarticulate sound and shifted on the blanket. “Me
and my big mouth. All right. I was in love with this cheerleader
when I was in high school.”

Scully snorted and mumbled something that sounded like, “It
figures.” Mulder shot her an irritated glance. “Not finished. And
I’ll thank you to keep your opinions on my taste in women to
yourself,” he added in a mock-indignant tone.

“So we were winding down the basketball season, and I finally
got the guts to ask her out. Everything went great; we went to
dinner, then a movie, where I put my best moves on her.” Here,
he waggled his eyebrows at Scully. She rolled her eyes, but
grinned at him. “Everything was going as I planned — and
believe me, I’d been planning it for months before I actually
asked her. She was laughing in all the right places, and she
seemed to really be into me.”

“I sense it didn’t end so well.”

His ears turned pink. “No, it didn’t. We went to the shore for a
walk and one thing led to another… Scully? Have you ever had
sex on the beach?”

She grinned, enjoying his discomfort. “The drink?”

“Wise ass.”

“No, Mulder. Getting arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior
was never on my to-do list.”

“Then you can’t fully appreciate the less romantic aspects of it,
like sand getting into places no man has gone before. Literally.
Add that to the fact that I was — uh, inexperienced. But I
thought everything was okay, until the next Monday at school.”

“Oh no!” All amusement from thinking about Mulder walking
bow-legged from having sand in a very uncomfortable place
drained from her face as she surmised what happened next.

“Yeah. It started with giggles from her friends. And she
wouldn’t even talk to me for more than a minute before
something urgent suddenly came up. It was a full two days
before the news that I was the worst lay in three counties got
back to me. Pretty slow for high school.”

She scooted over to lay her head on his shoulder. He stiffened in
surprise, then relaxed against her. “We’re not all like that, you
know. I don’t think I could ever do that to someone.”

He laughed. “Well I guess it’s a shame you didn’t go to high
school with me. Could’ve saved me some grief when I went to
Oxford.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he wished he
could take them back. What was he *saying*?

But she snuggled to get more comfortable against his shoulder.
“I’m sure I could have.”


She sighed. “No, Mulder. We missed our chance.”

He didn’t pretend not to understand. “I refuse to accept that.”

“You have to. It was decided for us two years ago. We missed
the boat, Mulder.” She said it with certainty, as someone who’d
thought on it long and hard. The worst part was, Mulder knew
she was right.

There seemed nothing left to say after that.

“It’ll be getting dark soon,” he commented after a while.


A sick feeling coiled in the pit of his stomach. Scully — the
*real* Scully, the Scully of childhood pranks and first dates and
embarrassing college experiences — would never be known to
him. Her stories would be taken with her. It rendered a
tremendous sense of loss in him that he never expected. His
mouth went dry at the thought.

Rolling over on his side, he asked, “Hey, do you want to come
over to my apartment after we leave here? I’ve got a six pack in
the fridge and the number of a pretty tasty Italian place that
delivers.” He waggled his eyebrows, ignoring the weakness in
the attempt at flippancy he heard in his voice.

She gave him a closed smile that didn’t reach her eyes. She was
ignoring it, too. “Sure, Mulder. That would be nice. And


She grabbed his hand and smiled, this time a genuine smile that
lit up her whole face.

“Thank you.”

He looked away quickly, but squeezed the tiny hand pressed
into his. “You’re welcome.”

The world didn’t know what an untarnished treasure it was

~ The End ~

A/N: This one is pretty personal to me. I lost someone very
important and dear to me to cancer a few months ago, just
before I started writing this — my Grandma. The first part was
my way of dealing at the time; the rest was my attempt to show
that everyone has a story. Loss is painful enough, but realizing
that the little anecdotes that make up our lives go with our loved
ones makes the loss even more acute. I treasure these ‘little
stories,’ and I regret that I didn’t ask for more of them. I
recognize their importance now. They’re what we are.

On a lighter note, the Frigidaire incident really did happen to
my uncle Billy. But we don’t wait for family reunions to tease
him about it. 😉

And on a more pathetic note, I really did write love letters to
myself in the fifth grade. All my friends had “boyfriends” and I
didn’t. All I had was a well-developed chest. LOL! It was all at
the top of my head, though — no poetry. I cringe as I admit this.

Thank you for reading!

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