"The Innocent Spring II: The Midsummer Burning" - part 1 of 1by Pellinor
SUMMARY: Dana Scully had been confident they could face the future, together, but the past will not let Fox Mulder go. It reaches out to him, enticing him, destroying him. She is his only hope...
KEYWORDS: "Alternate Universe" (sort of), Mulder-Scully romance (fairly implicit)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine but Fox's. No profit made from their use.
LITTLE NOTES: This is a sequel to "The Innocent Spring." I would recommend that you read that first in order to understand this, though you may just about get by without reading it. It's a hard story to summarise as a lot happened in such a short space, but, briefly, in this universe, Fox was taken instead of Samantha, and has now returned, having no memory of the intervening years. His family have found his return difficult to deal with, but Samantha's partner, Dana Scully, finds herself drawn to him. Fox and Dana are now together, but the past won't let them go.
FEEDBACK: Yes please.
It started with a spark, and the spark would feed a flame, afterwards.
It is strange, when looking back with the half-closed lids of memory, how a single lost moment can suddenly click into place, stand clear and vibrant and immediate, speaking to us through the expanse of the long forgotten years. Like a star through the clouds, it holds us, close as a touch, single and defining. It comes in a flash, unannounced, unexpected. The smell of an apple, a flash of red, four notes whistled.... Such tiny, tiny triggers, but they can encapsulate such fears, such grief, or, to some, such warmth, such laughter. It is as if we have never been away.
For Dana Scully, it was a cry, but the memory the cry awakened was of a moth.
"Why did it happen? Why did it _do_ that? Why did it die?"
Tears coursed down her face, not now but in the revisited memory.
"It liked the light, Dana." Orange light had warmed her mother's face, and rich dark shadows. "It needed the light. It just got too close. It was an accident."
"But it came back." Shutting her eyes, she could still see it, could still smell it over the expanse of twenty-seven years. "It burnt, but it came back. It kept coming back. Hurt and fluttering. Again and again. And then it died."
It had been her first grief, though not her last. A snake had died once, and that was a grief still, though it was a grief of the smoky autumn, a memory of blood on a carpet of brown leaves. There had been no fire, then.
But for the moth it had started with a spark, and the spark had become a flame, and in the flame had been death.
"No!" She opened her eyes, blinked, fighting the memory that transfixed her. "Not this time. Not him."
The past was like a candle flame to Fox Mulder.
Night after night, dream after dream, pain after pain, Dana would hold him, praying she could keep him safe from the tongues of fire that would consume him. But it _drew_ him too, the slightest spark.
"We were arguing. I wanted to watch 'The Magician.' She stood up and screamed, and then.... Nothing." Broken words, choked with tears. "That's all. It's gone. I can't re-mem-ber."
Her hands are in his hair, on his face. He relives it so often it is forever in the present for her. The words are ripped out of him every night, still half in the grip of nightmare.
"We were arguing. Nixon was on the television. She stood up and screamed, and then.... Nothing." An intake of breath, scared. "Why did she scream?"
But in the morning - every morning - it is gone.
"What did I say?" Still the eagerness every time, after a year of disappointments. His tenacity brings tears to her eyes, always. "Did I remember? Was there anything new?" The rising voice betrays his desperation, and the feel of his fingers on her arms. "Anything, Dana? Anything?"
She has no words. The moisture in her eyes speaks her denial. Flames flicker round her vision, and his cry brings again the smell of the burnt wings.
"I have to know, Dana. I _have_ to."
His fingers brush her face like soft wings, tentative even now.
Not the fire, Fox. Leave the past. Fly to me. Fly to the future. Let me keep you safe. Please, Fox. Let it go.
"I know, Fox." It costs her so much to say it, but how can she say anything else? "I'll help you, stay with you. You know that, don't you? Whatever happens."
He looked away only once - only the first time. _That_ was hope, and something she changed.
And so he nods, slowly, almost shyly. "Yes, I know."
But before the flame had been the spring, months past now - a lifetime.
She clung to that memory now, needing the hope it gave, needing the proof that some things, at least, could get better.
"I'll help you, stay with you. You know that, don't you? Whatever happens."
He'd looked away. It had been the smallest of sounds, but she'd heard it, hadn't let it go. She'd only had to ask, then. He'd never learnt to be an adult and to conceal.
"I will, Fox." She'd reached for him, one hand on one cheek, one on the other. "Listen to me. _Listen_ to me." He'd blinked, but held her gaze. "Never think that. I love you. I'll stay with you, and that means the bad times as well as the good."
"But my.... Samantha. Mom and Dad. They don't...." He always cried so easily, never having learnt not to. "My friends.... They're _old_. My.... They let my dog die, just after I.... I went. He was mine. They never liked him. Everyone's...."
"But _I_ won't." She'd whispered the assurance, every syllable fierce and separate. "I'm not them. I've chosen you, now, and I don't change my mind." She'd smiled, blinking tears. "Dad always said I was stubborn."
She'd pulled him towards her, touching her lips on his forehead, then froze, holding still until his tremors subsided.
"It's you I see, Fox." She'd brushed his cheek with her lips, whispering in his ear. He'd flinched even at that, then. "They see the pain of twenty-four years, and the memory of what you were, and it confuses them. But I have no memories, no expectations." A soft finger across his lips, lingering, gentle. "I just see you, and I chose you."
He'd shivered, his eyes desperate, yet somehow pleading.
"Never think that again, Fox. You're never alone, not now."
As she'd pulled him forward to meet her lips, she could feel his tears dripping down her cheeks. Months after he'd returned, months after she'd loved him, and it had been his first kiss, ever, and so hard for him.
His every tear had watered her hatred, made it grow.
And the spark became a flame, later....
"I didn't.... I don't.... I'm sorry."
She thought she'd heard him in pain before, but this was nothing.
"You'll get the house. You'll get it all." The amber liquid shook in the gaunt hand. "Is that what you want? Is that why you came here?"
"No, Dad." He knelt beside the bed, eyes spilling with love and need. "I came to.... to see you.... and Mom. To.... to talk?" His voice rose with a terrible desperate hope.
"What about?" Bill Mulder's eyes were the eyes of a drowning man, focused on the family picture on the wall. Three people only. Had this been the point that she'd realised, and cried with the realisation?
"Nothing." Fox shrugged. That he could still hope, against everything. "Things. Things we used to talk about, when I was.... Before."
"That's over. I don't think of that. I've moved on." The voice was almost mechanical. "Twenty-five years. It's over."
A trickle of drink shook free from the glass, running down his chin. He half moved a hand to catch it, then let it fall again, sighing with exhaustion.
"Dad? Are you okay, Dad?" Fox's voice was gentle as he reached for the cloth, raised it tentatively to his father's face. "Let me help."
"No! Don't _touch_ me!" He had the strength for _that_ - had the strength to swipe his son's hand away with an audible crack. "Haven't you done enough?"
His hand fell. He drew in a breath, held it. She didn't see him exhale. Her hands trembled with the desire to hold him.
"I'm sorry." So meek. Why didn't he _fight_ it? Why couldn't he hate? "I shouldn't have...."
"Come back? No." It was the faintest whisper, but she heard it - _he_ heard it.
She could almost smell the burning.
"They hate him, Mom."
Away from him she could cry. Like him - like everyone - she was a child sometimes, craving the comforting arms of childhood.
"It's hard for them, Dana. They've had twenty-five years to heal the wound - to learn to live with it. It would have faded to just a distant ache, scarcely there at all. His return has reopened the wound - brought back the pain. They'll get used to it in time."
"But it's been a year, already, and there's so little time left. They don't even try. It's.... it hurts him so such, Mom. That a father could do that. Ahab...."
She sought the embrace, needing it. She loved him more - missed him more - with every cruel word that showed her how he _could_ have been.
"There's guilt there, Mom." She wiped her eyes, speaking when she could. "There's _something_.... Whenever they look at him they remember something they want to forget. I don't.... Why would they want to forget him? I.... I _hate_ them."
Her mother stoked her hair. "Never hate, Dana. It does no good. Don't make him choose."
She was silent, shaking her head slowly. She remembered Samantha, but turned away from the memory. "I just want them to love him. He can give them so much, if they would let him. They've left him with nothing."
"He has you, Dana."
"But what if I can't....?".
Tears choked her words, but it was not enough to save him.
The flame became a fire, and her tears couldn't quench it.
"Fox. Dana." Slow and cautious, her eyes guarded. There were no tears in her eyes. It had not been unexpected.
"Samantha." Dana couldn't smile, but she inched forward, cautiously. They had been friends once, and the crystal shards of their shattered friendship still pained her.
Mrs Mulder pressed her fist to her mouth, watching. Her eyes didn't leave her daughter. Had she ever looked at her son, once?
"Samantha." Fox smiled, voice rising with hope. "I've missed you. I want...."
"I'm sorry." Tears fell from Samantha's eyes, mingling with the rain that soaked the dark earth of the cemetery. Her hand flailed out, pushing him away. "I can't.... Not now. Dad's dead, and...."
"He feels it too, Samantha." Dana stepped forward, touching her on the arm, voice low with urgency. "He was his father too. Share it with him. Please."
"Leave me alone!" The words were of anger, but the voice.... The voice was of such pain, such despair. "He didn't know him like I did. He wasn't there for us. He left. _That's_ what drove Dad to drink, that killed him. Not knowing and then.... Why come back after twenty-four years? Why reopen the wound just as it's healing? Why now? He can't even tell us! _That's_ what killed Dad."
The rain pounded on the words, but the fires still raged, consuming him. His face was ravaged. And the smoke..... The smoke was real this time. A wisp of smoke from the cigarette of a man a lifetime away, watching from their mother's side, smiling ruefully.
"Do you hear that, Fox?" Samantha's face was streaming wet. "You killed him! Why did you leave us? Why did you come back just as we were coping? Why?"
His lips moved slowly - silent words. "I don't know. I don't know. I don't...."
"You don't believe that, Samantha." Dana held her shoulders, her voice quick, fierce, but her mind was reaching out for him, feeling him slip away. "You don't believe that. I know you don't."
Silence. Nothing but the rain.
"You don't, Samantha. Do you?" She held her gaze, her voice intense and demanding.
"No." It was tiny sound, a barely perceptible shake of the head.
"Louder. Say it so _he_ can hear."
"I don't.... But we were happy before he came back."
"Were you?" She remembered the troubled eyes that had been her partner's that night on their first case. Not happy.
"We were dealing with it." She was quick and defensive, flashing a glance at her mother, a figure of stone, unmoving at the graveside. "Then he reopened....."
"That's _not_ his fault."
"But it's so difficult, Dana." But she looked away, hiding things, defensive. "He's not what he was in my memory. He's not what I was waiting for for twenty-four years. I can't..."
"It's hardest for him." It was so hard to keep from shouting, from hitting, from shaking. "For you, he's the one who's out of time - who's not what you remembered. But for him, it's the whole world. _Everything's_ moved on without him. Everything."
"But not you."
And there was jealousy there still.
She turned away, disgusted, but he was gone.
The fire consumed, but still it drew him.
The white wings of a bird cut into the grey sea like a knife, then rose again. She followed it, mesmerised, caught by how a tiny detail of the scene could jump out, could hold her above all else. The image would stay with her, and, ever afterwards, she would feel the choking hand of despair clutch at her throat when she heard the screech of a sea bird in a summer storm. Another defining moment, and once more one of grief.
"He's dead, Dana. It's too late."
His words made her start. He'd sunk so deep into himself, beyond words, for.... how long? She had held him, supported him, now knowing if it helped, but not daring to believe that it didn't.
"I'm sorry, Fox." What else could she say? She couldn't argue, tell him he was wrong.
"Did he ever love me, Dana?" There was still hope in his voice, terrible to hear. So many rejections, and still he tried. Was it strength or desperation? "He forgot my birthday once. They both did. Samantha's was a month later, and she.... She got everything twice over. They allowed me to share, but it.... it wasn't the same."
"It's a long time ago." The words were inadequate and she knew it.
"Not for me, Dana. To me it's last year. I know that to them I'm just someone from long in their past - someone they've nearly forgotten. But to me...." He tried to hide a sob - the first time he'd done so. "To me they're still.... It's still so close to me, Dana."
"I know." A squall of wind swept the bird away, a white flash in the grey. "I know, Fox."
"They took everything from me, Dana. _Everything_"
"They?" She raised hand to him, tentatively now. He hadn't pushed her away before, not after those first tremulous nervous touches.
"They. Him. Them. Whoever.... It doesn't matter." He was shouting, angry at her. Another first. "They took.... I need to know. Whatever the cost, I _will_ find out. They.... they took everything."
"Not everything, Fox." Her voice was scarcely louder than the wind. She touched the hair that dripped into his eyes, taking the drop of water onto her finger. "They gave you something. They gave _me_ something. They led you to me, and I won't leave you."
He leant into her embrace but the tension was still there, and his voice.... A tone she hadn't heard. He had grown up in a day, learnt to hide his feelings and conceal, scared of weakness. It was to be his father's cruellest legacy.
"I saw a man..... My mother....."
"What, love?" She reached for his face, tried to pull him close so she could read him. "What did you see? Something you remember?"
"No." His muscles were so tense under her hands. "Nothing. It was nothing."