Once, In Dog Years

Feedback: XSandPiper78[at]aol.com
Rating: PG
Keywords: MSR, Post-ep
Category: V, R
Archive: Gossamer and Ephemeral – no. I will submit directly. Anyone else is welcome to it! Please let me know where.

Spoilers: Closure, Paper Hearts, Tempus Fugit, and Max.

Disclaimer: Characters within were created by Chris Carter. No infringement intended.

Summary: Post-Closure, Mulder thinks back on past guilt and considers when to tell Scully his ultimate truth.

Author’s Notes: Eternal thanks to Sallie, for the lightning-fast beta. And to Carol, for the discussion that inspired this story.

Once, In Dog Years

For the first time, I’m not sure what to do.

I’ve always been a man with a clear goal in sight. Excel in college. Focus on Academy training. Find Samantha – find the truth.

Starlight… how differently things have turned out, far different from what I’d expected.

It’s not that I never considered the possibility that she might be dead. I’ll never forget the conflicting feelings I had during the Roche case. I’m not sure which prospect was more terrifying
– to find that the dead child was Samantha, or to find that it wasn’t.

There’s something I’ve never told you, Scully; something I’ve held in my heart, my burden to bear alone. A guilt that has festered and only found release recently. After I returned from the Arctic – after the first Samantha clone – I had a hard time dealing with what had happened. One night, after we parted ways for the evening, I couldn’t bear the thought of going to that empty apartment alone. So I went to a bar where a man can drink himself into oblivion without being bothered.

I sat there, thinking I’d never find Sam. That she was very likely dead and I was just a fool to believe the lies I was being spoon-fed; the lie that she was still alive, waiting for me to expose
the men responsible and bring her back home.

When I left, I was in no shape to drive. I walked for what felt like an eternity. Then I saw a bright neon sign lighting up the night:

* Fortunes Read! *
* Futures Revealed! *

I stumbled through the door, completely unaware of the late hour. It didn’t seem to matter – the woman inside was more than happy to take my credit card. I sat down at the table, the hokey decorations surrounding me barely registering. Every cliché, from the Bohemian prints to the obligatory crystal ball was represented.

I felt like a traitor of the worst kind when I asked her to summon up the spirit of my dead sister. And God help me, I was relieved when I walked out of there, after she’d successfully contacted her.

Over the course of the next day, I realized the woman had only gleaned information from me to validate her guesses and soothing words of closure, an easy thing to do in my drunken state. I still had no answers. Nothing at all but the gut-twisting guilt that held on relentlessly for the years to come.

But now I have my peace. The freedom is wonderful, but unfamiliar to me.

See this key chain? I’ve carried it around for years, unknown to you. It’s a match to the Apollo 11 key chain I gave you for your birthday. It’s been a comfort to me when things seemed hopeless or impossible to bear.

I never told you the story behind it, did I? Of course I didn’t. That night outside Max Fenig’s trailer left me shame-faced, with nothing more than a smart-assed quip to defend myself.

The truth is, despite your beautiful interpretation of the meaning behind the gift, it was nothing more than a whim. I’d been to a space shuttle exhibit at the museum, and wandered into the gift shop. It was behind a glass case, with the rest of the more valuable inventory. I liked it, thought about your birthday coming up, and decided to get it for you.

I thought it would be perfect – small and impersonal. Unobtrusive. Just right for our relationship, as it stood at that point. Didn’t want to rock the boat just as things were looking up for us. Didn’t want to make a grand gesture for fear you’d misinterpret it as a pity gift in the face of your cancer. And Scully, it kills me to this day to think I almost lost you.

Then that night, under the clear starry sky, I looked at you and saw something completely new. And the words you spoke – I remember them, verbatim.

“You must dare to dream, but that there’s no substitution for perseverance and hard work, and teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And that, while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.”

I went back to the museum the next day and bought the same key chain for myself.

I think you can understand why I never told you. The psychologist in me recognizes the connotations and subconscious meaning behind this. The man in me is terrified to acknowledge it.

For the first time though, I feel free to tell you the truth I’ve been harboring for too long. The truth I’ve been bound by duty and fear to hide. But how? How can I even begin to explain what you mean to me? Words seem inadequate.

Years have fueled this fear, but it only took one night – one wondrous night — to find the truth within me.

I’ve run out of excuses, Scully, run out of reasons to hold back. When will I have the courage to tell you?

~ The End ~