A life remembered
SPOILERS: Season 9
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to FOX, CC, etc.
Notes: This part is something of an interlude, but it was a perspective I felt shouldn't be overlooked. And just in time for Mother's Day.
Thanks to Mims for the beta. Any remaining errors are my own.
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To a mother's eye, the face of a child seems ageless. Even the lines and graying of adulthood melt away into a cherubic glow. This maternal prejudice suffused Maggie as she lovingly stroked the photograph. Her fingertips tickled the glass barrier, following the line of her daughter's hair. That Scully red.
In Dana's childhood photos, faded with time, the red seemed to bleed into the background, coloring everything a muted pink. But this picture was more recent, a studio portrait in honor of her graduation from medical school. The red was vibrant and dancing with life, the eyes clear blue, highlighted by the indigo of her dress. Yet Maggie saw more than just the colors. There was an innocence in her gaze, a twinkle of hope in her eyes, a confidence in her smile. This was Dana before she had become burdened by the cares of life.
In the glass, Maggie caught the reflection of her own sad smile and pulled out of her thoughts to place the frame carefully on the tissue paper. She reached up to remove the nail from the wall, grateful when it slid free easily, and dropped it into the small container with its mates. She glanced down the wall. Three more photographs to go. It would be a tight squeeze, but they should all fit securely into this box.
A firm rapping gently rattled the front door. Maggie took a deep breath to steel herself. While she was expecting this visitor, she still felt unprepared to receive him. The memories of the last time he darkened her door were all too fresh.
"Mr. Skinner. Thank you for stopping by." She stepped aside in invitation for him to enter. He offered her a polite smile and hesitated just a moment before walking across the threshold. He was professionally attired as always, even though it was a Saturday.
After closing the door, Maggie turned to find him glancing over her boxes scattered around the living room. "Are you moving?" he asked as she came up alongside him.
"Yes, to California. Both of my sons are stationed on the West Coast now, and I'd like to be closer to my grandchildren. Besides, there's not much left for me here." She watched him respond with a slow and sad nod. Part of her regretted burdening him with her sorrow, but another part wanted to lash out in bitterness and place the blame on him. Her better half won out. "You'll have to forgive me for my behavior the last time you were here. The news was a bit of a shock. I'm afraid I didn't react very well."
"There's nothing to forgive. I'm the one who should apologize." He paused, seeming at a loss for the proper words, before adding, "It's never easy to inform the family when an agent has been lost."
She nodded and bit back her retort. Her apology wouldn't be worth much if she laid into him again. Enduring decades of military red tape and doublespeak had been bad enough, but dealing with FBI secrecy and evasion seemed even worse. Then again, she had never lost a family member to the Navy.
She decided not to prolong this visit any more than necessary. "There's something I wanted to give you--something of Dana's. That's why I called. Just let me go get it."
Maggie made a quick escape down the hall. The trinket she sought was waiting on top of the bureau in the guest room, where Dana had usually stayed. It took only a moment to retrieve it.
When she returned to the living room, Maggie found her guest standing by the box she had been packing. He was holding back the tissue paper, gazing down at the portrait of a young Dana with a wistful smile. At the memorial service, Maggie had heard the gossip about the two of them, but she hadn't believed it. She thought she had known her daughter's heart, and to the last, Dana remained staunchly in love with Fox. Now, however, Maggie wondered if there wasn't some truth to the rumors.
"Mr. Skinner." He quickly pulled his hand back and stepped away from the box, looking a little guilty. Maggie was amused by his boyish blush, but not enough to smile. She extended her hand, and he reached out to take what she offered. "This was Dana's pin from the Academy, for placing first in her class. She was so proud of that achievement. She always fought so hard to prove herself."
"I can't accept this, Mrs. Scully. You should keep it." He attempted to give the lapel pin back to her, but she stepped near only to clasp her hands over his and close it within his grasp.
"I think it best belongs with someone who can appreciate its meaning." She let go of his hands and moved away. "I've always tried to support my children in their decisions, even when I didn't really agree with them. I know how much the FBI meant to Dana, and that she was proud of her work. But I also know how much heartache it brought her, and I'm afraid...I have rather mixed feelings about it all."
She did her best to repress those mixed feelings and not let them color her words. But the fact remained, she was still angry. She had lost both her daughters, a grandson, and a potential son-in-law to the FBI and its intrigues. There was little consolation she could claim in return. She knew this man before her wasn't solely responsible--if anything, he was one of the few truly honest men in the organization--but as he stood here dressed like a stereotypical agent, he represented everything that she wanted to lash out at with her grief.
She watched him turn the small memento over in his hand and examine it closely. Finally, he looked up and said, "Thank you. I'll take good care of this. I know Dana worked hard for this, and she deserved it. She's one of the best agents--one of the best people--I've ever known."
Some of the animosity drained from Maggie at his words. She knew, at the least, Dana had considered him a friend. That alone merited her courtesy, even if she couldn't muster more cordial sentiments.
There was one more motive behind the gift, but she was hesitant to voice it. At last, she set aside her reservations and forged ahead. "Mr. Skinner, I was also hoping that...maybe, someday, if you should see William again...I would like him to have something of his mother's."
Although she watched carefully, Maggie could detect no hint of admission in the agent's stony expression. She suspected he knew where her grandson was, but she was sure he would never acknowledge as much. More FBI secrecy. He simply nodded, keeping his eyes lowered to the object preoccupying his suddenly fidgety hands.
The silence extended between them until it turned awkward.
In a casual but transparent move, he looked at his watch. "Uh, I should probably get going."
"I'll show you out."
Maggie led the way to the foyer. As she waited by the open doorway, Skinner paused before exiting and reached into his pocket to extract a pen and a small white card. After scribbling something down, he handed it to her.
"This is my card. My home number is on the back. Please, keep in touch. Let me know how you're doing. And if you need *anything*, do not hesitate to call me."
She accepted the card and nodded noncommittally. At her lack of further response, he turned to leave.
Skinner was halfway across the porch before she blurted out, "Is it worth it?" He turned to her, his brows raised in question. Committed now, she continued, "All the sacrifices--are they worth it, in the end?"
"I hope so." The uncertainty on his face transformed into something more determined. "I'll do my best to make sure that they are. I promise you that."
The way he said it, he made her believe that he would.
With a nod goodbye, reminding her of a tip of the hat as men used to do in her youth, this enigmatic man descended the steps and walked away. She closed the door behind him and clung to his card, just as she clung to the hope he offered.
Maggie returned to the living room and the open box she had abandoned. She picked up the framed photograph and wondered what it was he had seen when he looked at this face. Perhaps it was not so different from what she saw. Maggie shifted her gaze to the card still clutched in her hand. After a moment's consideration, she turned the photo over and tucked the piece of paper into a corner of the frame.
With great care, she lay the portrait back in the box. She reached for the edge of the tissue to pack the picture away, and hesitated. She hated the finality of covering Dana's face. But it was only temporary, she reminded herself. This wasn't good-bye.
Somewhere on golden streets, Dana and Missy were playing hopscotch. They were young and happy. And the Captain stood watch while they giggled and hugged. It wouldn't be so long before she would see them again.
Maggie smiled at the thought and let a sigh ease her sorrow. With a kiss to her fingers and one last touch to the glass, she gently tucked the photograph away.
"Good night, my baby girl."
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