text file (23k)
"This is what it was like to have a father."
Dandelions and Roses
SPOILERS: Season 5 (takes place sometime after Emily but before Diana, in 1998)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to CC, FOX, etc.
Notes: Thanks to Mims for the beta, and to xangel for the helpful feedback. Any remaining glitches are my own.
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It was a dismal day for early summer. School was over a week ago, and of course it had been teasingly warm and sunny throughout finals. This morning, the clouds were back with a vengeance, although the rain that turned the potholes out front into small lakes had abated for the time being.
Ginny sat at the living room window, watching as the occasional car would go by and chase the two little puddle-jumpers in yellow slickers back into their yard. When a blue Ford Taurus slowed in front of her house, she recognized it immediately. She got up and grabbed her sweater and purse as the vehicle turned into the driveway.
"He's here. I'm going now," Ginny called toward the kitchen, not waiting for a response.
The driver's door was already open, but she hurried onto the porch before Mulder could make it that far. He stopped at the end of the walkway when he saw her coming. There was a question in his eyes, which he verbalized as soon as she came near. "Shouldn't I go in and say something to your grandparents?"
"No, that's okay." She knew he didn't really want to talk to them, and they were equally wary of him. No one had been completely open with her about the relationship between the three of them back when Fox was dating her mom, but she could feel the tension from each of them at the mere mention of one another's names. It was a miracle that her grandparents thought his badge was reason enough to trust him with her safety; she didn't feel like risking that freedom by letting them all sit down together and pick a fight.
Ginny made a beeline for the car, hoping he would accept her statement without protest and follow along. When she stepped beyond him, she saw that the front seat was already occupied, by his partner. Scully's eyes met Ginny's through the glass, and the door opened.
"You can have the front seat," Scully said, one foot already on the pavement.
"Don't worry about it." Ginny didn't want to waste any time getting in. She was about to reach for the rear door behind Scully but saw a large bouquet of flowers on the seat, so she went around to the other side. To her relief, Mulder was only a step behind her. He reached to open the door for her before she could get to it. But when she looked up to thank him, she found his gaze fixed on the house.
Ginny's grandfather stood on the threshold, not quite outside, but not quite in. His arms were crossed over his chest, and she worried for a minute he might come out and stop her. She looked back to Mulder, wondering what he would do. He simply nodded toward her grandfather, slowly and respectfully. Apparently that was good enough, because her grandfather nodded back.
Sighing in relief, Ginny got into the car as quickly as possible. They soon pulled away from the house, without incident, but she did notice her grandfather standing in the doorway until the car was out of sight.
"Ginny, I hope you don't mind that I came along."
Ginny turned from watching out the back window to see Scully pivoted toward her.
"No, I don't mind. Fox told me you might join us."
Ginny didn't miss her slight wince at Fox's name, the same as Scully had done previously. But really, Ginny wasn't sure what else she was supposed to call him. "Dad" was just too...weird, and "Mulder" was too formal. Besides, "Fox" is how her mom had referred to him in the letter she'd left, and her grandparents used his first name too, although they usually said "Fox Mulder," or tried to avoid his name altogether.
When no more passed between them, Scully shifted away to look out the front. Ginny noted the tailored black suit, a matching set with the one Fox was wearing, even though it was a Saturday. It reminded her too much of the funeral. But, it was the same way the two were dressed the last time she had seen them, so maybe they had come straight from work. She preferred to believe that explanation; the other resurrected feelings she was trying to avoid.
It had been almost six months since her mother died, and she had only been back to the grave once since the funeral, with her grandparents on Mother's Day. Did that make her a bad daughter, not visiting more often? She just had a hard time feeling like her mother was really there. Physically, maybe; but what was left of her mother's presence was scattered around their house, in pictures and plants and hand-me-down clothing. In the ground was no more than an empty shell. But Fox had wanted to visit, and so she figured she should go along.
Ginny looked over at the flowers on the seat next to her. He had brought roses. She couldn't remember the last time her mother had received roses from a man. Actually, until her mom got sick, Ginny couldn't remember the last time she had received flowers at all. But after, there were flowers all the time. They were supposed to be bright and cheery, but now Ginny associated them with sickness and hospitals. Tests. Surgeries. Relapses.
Then, finally, the hospital room moved into their home, and along with it came the flowers. And they were always cut. Separated from the source of life so they were doomed to wither and die. Just once, she wished, someone would've brought a potted plant. But she might have come to hate that too, because it wouldn't be fair for the plant to survive when her mother couldn't.
The car hit a bump, and Ginny was grateful to be jolted from her morose thoughts.
"Shit!" came from the front seat. Ginny turned to see Scully holding an open water bottle in one hand, with moisture dripping down the other, and her head bent to inspect the front of her suit.
"Sorry," Mulder said. "That pothole was the size of the Grand Canyon. I couldn't avoid it."
Scully shook the water drops from her empty hand and started brushing at her jacket. "Do you have any napkins or tissues in here?"
"I've got something," Ginny said. She dug in her purse for the handkerchief she'd been carrying around since her birthday. Thankful to finally have a use for it, she handed it up to Scully. "Here."
Scully reached to take it and looked back at her in surprise when she realized what it was. Ginny felt a little awkward and hastened to explain. "I know it's kind of old-fashioned, but my grandma embroidered it for me. So I just carry it around in my purse for, you know, whatever."
When Scully had finished wiping off the moisture, she folded the cloth over to inspect the delicately sewn design. "It's beautiful. My grandmother tried to teach me how to do this once, but I'm afraid I was more interested in catching frogs with my brothers. Needlework is becoming a lost art." She held the handkerchief closer and read the lettering. "VSM. Virginia S. Maloney. What does the S stand for?"
For anyone else, that would be a simple question. But not for Ginny. Nothing in her life seemed simple anymore. She looked toward Mulder and saw him watching her in the rearview mirror. His eyes flicked back to the traffic, and she followed his gaze to look out the front window. She could tell Scully was uncomfortable, realizing she'd stuck her foot in something.
Ginny finally answered, "Well, until a couple of months ago, I thought my middle name was Sue. At least, that's what I had always been told." Not really wanting to explain the rest of it, she reached for her purse again and pulled out a piece of paper folded into quarters. It was a photocopy of her birth certificate. Along with a letter from her mother, this had been in an envelope placed in the care of the estate lawyer, to be given to Ginny only upon her mother's death.
These two pieces of paper were the sole explanation her mother had offered for why Ginny had grown up without a father, and why her father had been left in the dark for nearly two decades. The letter--ripped apart, taped back together, and smudged with tears--now rested in Ginny's diary. The copied certificate had traveled with her, proof to offer her father once she met him. She didn't know why she still carried it around, except to remind herself who she was, which wasn't always so clear these days.
Ginny handed the page to Scully, who took it reluctantly and then slowly unfolded it. Once she had read it, she looked up at Mulder in surprise. "Samantha?"
Crossing her arms, Ginny slumped back in her seat. Let Fox explain it. Besides, she wasn't really sure that she could.
Mulder pulled to a stop at the red light and turned to his partner. "Deb had an older brother who died in a car accident, a few months after Sam was taken. She and I didn't know each other at the time, since we went to different middle schools, but that was something we always felt we had in common--the loss of a sibling. I think it was the defining moment in her life just as much as it was for me."
Scully was silent while she took this in. When the car had started moving again, she said, "I guess she wanted Ginny to have something of her father's."
Mulder quipped, "Good thing you weren't a boy, Ginny, or you might have ended up with Fox for a middle name," but Ginny was too upset to smile. So many lies. If her mom wanted her to have something of her father's, why not her father himself?
Ginny lamented that too much of her life had been consumed with anger. As a child, she was angry at her father for abandoning them. During the cancer, she watched the other patients with their spouses and was angry her mother had to die alone. Then, when her mother finally started telling the truth about her father, Ginny was angry that the stories she'd been told all her life, about her father leaving a long time ago, weren't true. In fact, he had never even been told she existed. When she met Fox, she expected him to be angry along with her. After all, he had every right to be. But he hadn't been angry, merely haunted and sad.
Now, Ginny's anger was directed toward her grandparents. After she'd read her mother's letter, she realized they carried the real blame. They were the ones who had insisted her father be left out of the picture. She could never really understand why her mother had always bent so easily to their will. Ginny remembered hearing the phrase "survivor's guilt" explained in psychology class, and she wondered if that was part of it. The ghost of her long-lost Uncle Richie was still very tangible in their family.
A motion drew Ginny's attention to the front seat, and she saw that Scully was reaching back to hand her the folded paper and damp handkerchief. An apology was written all over Scully's face, and Ginny's resentment deflated a little. She reached to take back the items and tried to smile in reassurance, although she wasn't sure her lips managed more than a slight twitch.
Looking down at the embroidery, Ginny traced a finger over the fine lettering and complex designs. Her grandmother had taken great care to make this, despite the arthritis in her hands. Ginny's grandparents had suffered such loss, and they had sacrificed so much for her and her mother. She really couldn't blame them for wanting to hold on tightly to what they had left.
Ginny drew a deep breath and exhaled some of her rage. She was so tired of being angry, and of being sad. Sometimes she wished she didn't have to feel anymore.
At Mulder's voice, she looked up to see they had pulled into the cemetery. "Left or right?" he asked.
"Right." She was glad he had known how to get this far, since she couldn't have provided directions, but now that they were inside the park, he was depending on her to navigate.
"Park by that tree, up there on the right," Ginny said. The three parking spaces in the little wayside lot were empty. It was much quieter today than her last visit. The only people to be seen were off in the distance, farther down the road that looped the grid of headstones.
Willing away her emotions, Ginny steeled herself and opened her door. As Mulder stepped out of the car, she reached for the flowers, figuring it would be easiest if she handed them to him. It wasn't until she turned to get out that she realized Scully's door was still shut.
Apparently Mulder had realized it about the same time. He leaned into the car and said, "Scully?" The question was casual and his face composed, but Ginny could read the anxiety in his eyes. The seatbelt release and door handle clicked almost simultaneously, and Scully was already halfway out the door before Ginny could turn back to see her reaction.
Ginny climbed out and handed the bouquet to Mulder; she didn't wait for them as she set off for the grave. Third row from the tree, five spaces down. The headstone was set into the ground, so it was impossible to find without memorizing the location. At her mother's burial, she had been at the end of the row, but one of the empty spaces had since been filled. Ginny knew that the two plots in between were reserved for her grandparents. She tried not to contemplate the imaginary rectangles in the grass as she moved past.
Ginny's feet stopped next to the marker, just short of the space below which her mother was buried, as though a force field prevented her from standing directly on top of the grave. Her eyes perused the familiar headstone:
"Deborah Ann Maloney. Beloved Daughter and Mother. July 5, 1961 - December 19, 1997."
The grass surrounding the stone was neatly trimmed, except for a lone dandelion growing by the corner. Ginny automatically crouched down to pluck it, knowing her grandmother would want the grave well-kept, but then she hesitated. Should she be so hasty to kill something that was thriving, here in this place of death? Two sets of dark shoes came into her peripheral vision, and she was reminded of the fragrant roses awaiting her mother. Ginny quickly picked the yellow flower and stood up.
Mulder had stopped next to her, with Scully on his other side. He gently touched Ginny's shoulder before leaning over and solemnly placing the bouquet on the grave. Straightening, he muttered, "She was too young."
Ginny stared at the roses, an artful mixture of whites and pinks, topped with a hint of baby's breath. What was it her grandfather had said at the funeral? Something about Deborah being like a delicate rose, harvested in the height of her beauty, how she was a flower that now would never fade.
Ginny looked down at the yellow weed being twirled absently by her fingers. In a day, or a week, the dandelion would grow back, while the roses would be withered and dried up. She didn't want her mother to be a rose; she wanted her to be a dandelion.
A drop of water splashed onto Ginny's hand, freezing her movements. For a moment, she thought it was raining again, until she realized the drop had come from her. She squeezed her eyes shut, but that only served to force out another tear. She had promised herself she wouldn't cry.
Ginny reached for her purse, pulling out the still damp handkerchief. After a brief consideration, she placed the dandelion inside the purse, propped up against the zipper. Her hands now freed, she wiped at the moist trails on her cheeks, grateful for the second time today that she had this cloth with her. And then it occurred to her: maybe this is why her grandmother had given her the handkerchief. It was a token of wisdom passed down from someone who was intimately acquainted with grief.
The tears started to flow again, and Ginny sniffled, trying to hold them back. She felt a large hand settle on her left shoulder, and Mulder's body moving closer on her right. Involuntarily, she stiffened at the contact, and the pressure of his hand lifted slightly. She wasn't used to being touched so much. Her family was loving, but more sparing in their hugs. Fox, she had noticed, was much more physical--not in a bad way; it would simply take some time for her to get comfortable with it.
The warmth at her side began to pull away, and unconsciously she leaned into it, eagerly seeking the comfort. Mulder responded, no longer retreating but wrapping his arm more securely around her shoulders and drawing her close. She gladly leaned her weight against his solid strength, letting him support her, and more than just physically.
Ginny was hit with a revelation: this is what it was like to have a father. *Oh, Mom,* she thought, heartbroken, *it could've been like this all along.*
There was no holding back the tears anymore, and Ginny stopped trying. She didn't have the energy to suppress the emotions. She wept, the steady streams soon petering out into hiccupping sobs. Mulder turned her more fully into his embrace, bringing his other hand up to stroke her hair. She barely registered the soothing words he was whispering into her ear: "It's okay. It's gonna be okay. Just let it out."
It felt like forever before her stuttering breaths calmed and her tears dried up. She felt Mulder's grip loosen, but she couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze. The handkerchief was still clutched in her hand, and she quickly moved to clean up her face. She paused when Mulder's fingers brushed her cheek, tenderly pushing away damp strands of hair.
Knowing he was watching her, Ginny suddenly felt very self-conscious. She took half a step back, still unable to meet his eyes. "I want to go back to the car."
"I left it unlocked," he answered. "We'll be there in a minute." His arms dropped away from her shoulders, and Ginny hurried off toward the parking area.
By the time she settled in the back seat, Ginny was feeling much more composed--composed and exhausted. As soon as she got home, she would take a nice long nap and probably sleep like the-- No, not like the dead. It was only the damn graveyard that had brought the metaphor to her mind. She would make a point of trying never to use it again.
Longing to clear her thoughts, Ginny looked around for something to preoccupy her. She hadn't dared to glance back toward the gravesite during her retreat, not wanting to know if they were watching her. But now, from where she sat, she had a clear view of the pair clad in black. Observing them would allow a welcome reprieve from her self-absorption.
The partners' backs were mostly turned to her, since they stood facing the grave, but Ginny could see enough of their profiles to notice they were talking. Mulder's head was bent, his focus toward the headstone, but Scully's eyes were fixed solely on his face. Ginny had never been much of a lip reader, so she had no idea what they were saying, but even from this distance she could see the compassion on Scully's face.
The conversation shortly died out. After a moment of stillness, Scully stepped closer and rested a hand on his upper arm, rubbing a little with her thumb. Mulder looked down at her briefly, a sad smile on his face. Her hand soon drifted down and away, but before it dropped completely, Mulder reached out with the arm she had been touching and took hold of her hand. With only a glance at each other, both turned their focus back to the grave, standing close, silent.
Not for the first time, Ginny wondered what exactly the relationship was between these two. Fox had referred to Scully as his partner and his friend, but whatever else she was to him, she was clearly his significant other.
Throughout her childhood, Ginny had often imagined what it would be like if she ever met her father. She harbored the occasional fantasy that he would come home to her and her mother, and the three of them would finally be a family. She had long since given that up, but even now, her mind would wander to ask "what if"--what if he had known he had a child? Would they have stayed together? Would he have been by her mother's side even in the end?
But there were other times she wanted something different, hoping that somewhere out there she had brothers and sisters, a father who was married and could provide a ready-made family for her to slip into. All such delusions had been shattered when she finally met Fox Mulder, a man who had never married or tried to have kids. But maybe there was still hope--Ginny looked at the partners' hands clutching each other tight, fingers entwined.
Now, watching these two together, Ginny realized things never could've worked out with her mother. There was no room in Fox's life for any woman besides Dana Scully. But Ginny wasn't bitter about that, not like she thought she might be. Really, she was just glad at least one of her parents didn't have to be alone. If Fox ever ended up in a hospital bed, like her mother had, Ginny knew exactly who would be by his side.
The couple turned then, as one, and made their way back to the car. Their hands remained locked for the first few steps, but then the grip loosened and the two slowly drifted apart. By the time they reached the car, Mulder was a full pace ahead, and Scully had wrapped her arms around her torso, as though fending off a cold breeze. But the newly green leaves above her head hung lifeless, unstirred.
When Scully glanced toward the back seat, Ginny looked away, afraid to be caught staring, and turned her attention to the clouds framed by the side window. The slate gray sky from earlier that morning had broken apart and yielded to puffs of white. A beam of light cut through from the still hidden sun, illuminating a lone patch of grass across the field.
Ginny felt the weight of the car shift, and two doors slammed shut. The engine started; the car backed up and turned. She pivoted in her seat. Until the car pulled out of the cemetery, her focus remained glued to that patch of bright green.
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