by Amal Nahurriyeh
Summary: She wondered if it was her fault, if maybe she even did it a little bit on purpose: if she made her daughter into Mulder.
Rating: PG (sadness)
Angst Level: High
Timeline/Spoilers: Spoilers for Machines of Freedom; set post-12/21/2012, in the Mulderless universe.
Author's Notes: Written for underthere12 for her donation to my continuation of the help_haiti auction.
Posted as a part of 14valentines for today's theme, reproductive rights/motherhood. Now, there is lots of other fic that could be written in the XF universe about reproductive rights and motherhood; oh, hey, I've done that before, huh? But I do think figuring out how to keep going after the loss of a co-parent is a valid thing to think about in this context. Um, plus, I had this written.
Scully references two pieces of children's pop culture in this. Your Personal Penguin is a book by Sandra Boynton; it's been turned into a song, so you can hear the words here. Nine Bowls of Soup is a song by They Might Be Giants; you can see the video here.
Scully didn't admit it to herself until Sadie was nine.
She came home from a grocery store run and found Sadie's backpack on the dining room table and her soccer cleats at the foot of the stairs, but no sign of her. "Sadie? Are you here?"
"Um. Hi, Mama," came her voice from up the stairs.
The um was generally a sign of trouble. She put the groceries down on the table and climbed the stairs. "Where are you?"
"In here," said a quiet voice from the bathroom.
Scully pushed the door the rest of the way open and stopped dead in her tracks. Sadie was standing on the desk chair from her room in front of the mirror, a pair of scissors in her hands. On the sink and the floor around her lay hunks of her hair. She'd cut it all the way to her chin, and she appeared to be keeping going.
Sadie watched her in the mirror. "I wanted short hair," she said, slightly embarrassed.
She had been telling herself that she kept Sadie's hair long because it looked like Samantha's hair in all of Mulder's photos of her--the slight wave, the heavy weight. She had been telling herself she was doing it because he would have liked to see his long lost sister again in the face of their child. But standing in the doorframe, she had to admit it. It might be Samantha's hair, but it was Mulder's face watching her from the mirror. His cheekbones, his jaw, the shape of his eyes if not the color. She'd kept Sadie's hair long because she couldn't stand to see his face every day.
"Oh, Sadie," she said.
"Sorry." She sighed. "Sweep up the hair, and then go get changed out of your uniform."
"I'm going to call my salon and see if they can fit you in. They'll at least cut it even."
"Okay," Sadie said, grinning. "I'll get the broom." She ran past her and down the stairs, trailing ends of hair behind her.
The next morning, after waving to Sadie as she drove away in her carpool, she went back to bed and stayed there.
Sadie kept her hair short until she was twenty-three. Scully still wasn't used to it.
It was bad. There was no other word for it. This was the second time she'd buried Mulder, but it was like he wouldn't stay buried; he was with her everywhere. The first time--she couldn't believe how fucked up her life was that she could construct this sentence--being pregnant was bad enough. All she'd had to do was take her vitamins and remember to eat occasionally, and she was fine. But this time, there was Sadie. Sadie who was a person. Sadie who needed things. Sadie who wanted to know, every night for a month, where Daddy had gone.
She couldn't say where. She didn't have the answer to a lot of questions these days. Where were all the Sandra Boynton books? She'd thrown them out because she couldn't stand to see them, because all she could hear was Mulder's voice reciting Your Personal Penguin to her in bed one night. "Look at these wings, so perfect to hold you," he'd said, flinging his arms wide across the bed, and she'd laughed so hard she'd gotten the hiccups. Why did she have to pull the car over on the highway and cry? Because Nine Bowls of Soup came on the CD player, and all she could remember was Mulder's excited theorizing about what role soup could play in averting the apocalypse. Why did she put Sadie to sleep in her bed every night, when she'd been staunchly opposed to it before? Because she couldn't stand to sleep alone with his echo there at every turn; because she would wake up in the middle of the night panicked that they'd taken Sadie now, they'd taken everyone, that she'd lost everything. Because of how close it was to being true.
It took her three months to decide, definitively, not to kill herself; the final sticking point was that she couldn't settle on anyone to be Sadie's guardian, and that was probably a sign in favor of continued living. So she did her best. She loved her daughter. She quit her job. She took Sadie to her dance lesson. She kept it together. She lay in bed most nights, watching Sadie sleep on Mulder's pillow, and tried not to miss him like oxygen. She tried to stay in the moment.
She wondered, as Sadie grew, if it was her fault, if maybe she even did it a little bit on purpose: if she made her daughter into Mulder. If she needed there to be a Mulder in the house, if that was the only space Sadie could fit herself into. (Literally, of course, it was her fault: when she went to register Sadie for kindergarten, she wrote Cassandra Mulder on the form without even thinking about it. The hyphenation had been a long-fought compromise. She'd always wanted her children to have his name.)
Because Sadie was a Mulder. She was smart, driven, preternaturally focused. She was good with a crowd, joked with strangers, and always just a little bit lonely. She was physical, easily excited by the prospect of an adventure, desperately searching for new ideas everywhere she went. She was a hit with the ladies, liked being on the outskirts, didn't bother trying to fit in. She was so beautiful.
She was haunted. Scully knew that part was her fault.
So she both wasn't surprised, and she was, every time it happened. When she went to see one of Casey's rugby games, and her jersey read Mulder #13, and the other girls called out to her, "Mulder, I'm open, pass it here." When she snuck in to see her give a paper at a conference in DC, and the bespecled young woman in the gray pinstripe suit was introduced as Ms. Cassandra Mulder. When she sat in her father's old office, conducting follow-up phone interviews in the middle of the night because it was daytime in Sri Lanka, and opening each one by saying hello, this is Casey Mulder.
She half expected her to start calling her Scully, not Mom. She wasn't sure if she would have been pleased or disappointed.
She stood outside of the Taft with a briefcase in one gloved hand. It had snowed earlier in the day, but the sidewalks had been shoveled and were now just wet and glistening. She probably should have called ahead.
Casey rounded the corner with another young woman, who was laughing at something she was saying. As Casey threw her cigarette butt into the gutter, she saw her and stopped. "Mom. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." She glanced over at the other young woman.
"Oh. Um, Stacy, this is my mother, Dana Scully. Mom, is something wrong?"
"Can we talk inside?"
"Oh, yeah, absolutely. Um, I was just going to give Stacy a book..."
"That's fine," she said,
Casey looked a little relieved. "Okay, yeah, come on up."
Casey tapped her foot nervously the entire elevator ride. They hadn't spoken since the day Casey had broken the glasses. Since the day they'd fought about Mulder's death. She should have called first. Maybe.
When they got to the apartment, Scully sat at the table while Casey rifled through her bookshelves. "Here it is. I think some of the examples in chapter three would be really great for demonstrating next week's lecture. Maybe we should make copies for the students, I don't know. Anyway, drop me a line once you read it, and we can work out a plan." She was utterly unsubtle in ushering Stacy out. Scully took off her jacket and gloves.
After she locked the door, Casey turned to her, seemingly at a loss for words. "Yeah. We're TA-ing the intro class this semester. She hasn't taught before."
"Sit down." She unlocked the briefcase.
"I'm sorry." Casey hung up her coat on the rack by the door and crossed to the table. "For throwing a fit."
"Sit down." She pulled out the first envelope.
Casey's curiosity took over. "What's that?" she asked.
The folder was labeled Scully-Docs in Mulder's handwriting. She opened it up and dumped the pile of passports and driver's licenses out on the table, and began sorting through them. "Too blond. Hair's too short. Too red. Here, this one." She held up the passport's photo next to Casey's face to compare. "It's not great, but it will do. You're lucky we're the same height. Patricia Meyer." She rummaged through the licenses until she found its mate. "I think there's a credit card that goes with it. You'll only be able to use it five or six times before it gets flagged, but you can rent a car or get a plane ticket, at least. You'll want to get your own papers as soon as you arrive, because you can't get into the compound using one of my known aliases. But this will buy you some time, at least. And I'll give you the addresses of a few people who do good work."
"Um," Casey said.
"I'll give you the combination to one of our storage lockers we never went to. There will be cash there, and some more disposable credit cards. And then I'll give you referral codes to get into the compound. Monica Reyes is your best contact, she ran international communications. I'm assuming you'll try to get in as a translator."
"Um, yeah. That was the plan."
"We never had anyone who spoke South Asian languages. You'll be a good sell." She glanced up. Casey was staring at the pile of documents, mouth just slightly agape. "Casey?"
Casey looked up at her. "You know, Mom, you really should have told me earlier you used to be a superspy."
"I used to be a federal fugitive. Slightly less cool."
"More cool, actually." She looked at the passport, gently touched the photo. Scully can't believe she was ever that young. "Mom," she said quietly. "You know why, don't you? You get why I have to do it?"
"I do." She understood. Hand Mulder a time machine any time after 1973, he would have taken it. He wouldn't have looked back. Hell, hand her one at a few strategic points, and neither would she. "But you have to be prepared. We have to come up with a plan. I'm not letting you run off half cocked."
Casey smiled. "If you insist."
At least this Mulder listened to her, she thought, and reached into her briefcase for the box of bullets.