invida_fic: (cheers)
[personal profile] invida_fic
Title: In a Graveyard
Author: Circe Invidiosa
Rating: PG-13 for the swears
Spoilers: post IWTB
Disclaimer: I know the law, and the law would win.

Acknowledgements: thanks to [livejournal.com profile] hquilley for the beta and to [livejournal.com profile] maybe_amanda for her motivation techniques.



He hated snow, he decided. Considering the week he'd had, Mulder didn't know why he hadn't come to this conclusion before now. He watched the flakes begin to fall in bigger clumps, sticking to the casket in splotches.

The snow muffled the minister's drone, making him sound like he was rooms away. Like when Mulder would hide in the linen closet when his parents had company over and they thought he was asleep, back before Samantha was born. He'd hoped to hear something he wasn't supposed to hear. Why else would they send him to bed? But it always turned out to be boring adult talk. They didn't even talk about him.

Mulder shook off the memory and the snow that had collected in his hair and tried to concentrate on what the minister was saying. But it was obvious the officiant knew Dakota Whitney about as well as he did. The trite platitudes, the words about faith and God's will, seemed even more pointless to Mulder than usual.

He couldn't give Scully an answer to why he was going to Dakota Whitney's funeral. He didn't know what he'd hoped for -- meaning, absolution? None of that was here.

He'd stayed back, far enough away that he could scan the faces of the crowd. He'd recognized a few faces, older now, just as he was. No one would meet his eye except Drummy, who glared openly at him. Mulder wished he had a reason to glare back.

It was during this absurd staring contest that someone approached and stood next to Mulder. Walter Skinner didn't even acknowledge when Mulder turned to see him, hands shoved into his overcoat pockets staring forward. But Mulder felt bolstered enough by his presence that he could forget about Drummy and his censure.

Mulder leaned toward Skinner. "Arlington, huh? How'd she score this kind of real estate?"

Skinner motioned his head toward the older uniformed man who held the folded flag. "General Whitney."

That explained a lot.

Mulder realized that he hadn't really considered anything about this girl -- woman. Christ, she was older than Scully had been when they'd first met. Obviously -- far too obviously -- Dakota Whitney had been interested in Mulder and had considered everything about him. He began to feel embarrassed for her, and for himself, remembering their final conversation, when she'd made a play for him.

Uncomfortable again, Mulder turned to Skinner to make his apologies and leave when Skinner said, "There was snow at your funeral, too."

Well, fuck. Mulder knew that he hadn't said it out of maliciousness, but maybe Skinner was making a point -- he'd been to enough funerals and didn't want to go to another of Mulder's. Whatever Skinner's reasons, it rooted Mulder to his spot.

Mulder changed the subject as fast as he could. "Did you know her?" He nodded toward the casket.

"Sorta. She came to me, before this case, wanting to know about you, about the X-Files. Pestered me every day for a month. Kept telling me it was all 'off-the-record'."

"What did you tell her?"

Skinner snorted. "I'm still an AD because I know there's no such thing as 'off-the-record'. And because I know when to leave something damn well alone. Last time she talked to me was last week. Came into my office and triumphantly told me she'd gotten approval to get you for consulting on some hot case, and thanks for nothing."

Mulder smirked, remembering her tenacity. "I noticed she didn't take no for an answer."

"She didn't get to be an ASAC by backing down."

Mulder sighed. "Well, it got her killed. Bringing me back got her killed."

Skinner shook his head. "You're unbelievable. Isolation has actually made you more egotistical. You must've been a joy to live with these last six years."

One thing Mulder knew was that regardless of how many times Skinner threw everything aside to help him, there was only one reason he did it: for Scully. And this was Mulder's cue.

"Thanks for the chat and for the cuddle the other night, Walter. Drop by any time now that I'm not wanted." Mulder started to back away.

Skinner rolled his eyes and walked past him, back down to the path. "Get over yourself, Mulder. There's something here you need to see."

Mulder took one last look at the snow-freckled coffin before he followed. They walked away to a gun salute.

----------

Skinner led the way. After a few minutes, he veered off the path and stopped in front of an unremarkable headstone. Unremarkable until Mulder read the name aloud: "Frohike." Sure enough, Langly and Byers flanked him.

"Shit," Mulder muttered. Scully had told him all about The Gunmen's heroic deaths, but it never seemed real. Especially not with the spectral visits the boys occasionally had paid him.

Skinner pointed to the fresh flowers left at all three graves. "Jimmy, that kid who started following them around that last year, he visits every couple of weeks. Makes sure it looks like someone's been here. That someone remembers what they meant."

"I met him once. He was --" How could he put it delicately.

Skinner read his mind. "What he lacks in sense, he makes up for in eagerness. I thought their deaths would kill him. But he's still putting out the paper. He still believes."

Lucky kid.

Skinner bowed his head momentarily, paying his respects, before he cleared his throat. "I'll give you some time alone here. I've gotta go make an appearance at the wake and do Assistant Director stuff. You can make it outta here okay?"

Mulder nodded. "I'll just follow the breadcrumb trail I left."

"Tell Scully I'll be in touch," Skinner said before he walked away.

Mulder knelt down by Frohike's headstone. He didn't have to wait long and was not startled when a voice spoke.

"I thought he'd never leave." Langly appeared from behind a nearby tree.

"'Bout time you showed up," Frohike said as he stood up from behind his tombstone.

Mulder rolled his eyes and stood upright. "You might recall that up until very recently, I was wanted by the FBI for killing a marine. You even warned me to go on the run and not look back. So it would be a pretty stupid idea to just waltz into the largest armed forces cemetery. But thanks for understanding."

Byers appeared from behind Mulder. "Don't mind him, Mulder. The afterlife isn't what he expected."

Mulder chuckled. "What, all the great conspiracies didn't just reveal themselves to you when the pearly gates opened?"

Langly was leaning on his own headstone. "Nah. He's just got his panties in a twist because it turns out he's just as bad at getting dead tail as he was at getting live tail."

"At least I'm looking for girls! You're just interested in other long haired dudes!" Frohike said.

Langly's fist came down. "Joey Ramone is a GOD, not a dude!"

Frohike snorted. "Still pretty gay."

Mulder was getting fed up. "Guys! I'm here now. Not that you couldn't have come to see me any time, you know, what with having shuffled off your mortal coils and all."

Byers shrugged. "Mulder, even you think we're figments of your impressive imagination. If you haven't seen us lately, maybe you should ask yourself why."

Mulder rubbed his forehead. "If you really are figments of my imagination, why haven't you gotten any better looking?"

"Speak for yourself, Not-so-Grizzly-Adams," Frohike said. "Did you shave just for us?"

"All right," Byers intervened, his hands raised like a referee. "Mulder, we know why you came here today. We're sorry about the girl, Agent Whitney. You and she seemed to work well with one another."

"Too well," Frohike interjected.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Mulder replied a little too defensively.

Langly sighed. "Don't get him started."

Frohike waved him off. "Too late!" He turned to Mulder. "Running off with this young chickie, Mulder, just because she's all into the paranormal? When you've got the luscious Dana Scully waiting at home? What are you thinking?"

Mulder turned away. "It wasn't like that --"

"It never is," Byers said, to Mulder's surprise. "And that wasn't our point, Mulder. It's not your feelings for Agent -- Doctor Scully -- that are the problem. It's where your relationship stands now that you're free."

Mulder replied. "Look, Scully knows where we stand --"

"Does she?" Frohike asked.

Mulder threw his arms up. "Of course she does. How could she not?"

"Have you actually told her, Mulder?" Byers asked.

"Yeah, that really seems to be a bit of a foreign concept for you two," Langly said.

"Think about how ready was she to give up on you when you went into crazy investigator mode." Frohike said. Don't give up. Maybe it was Mulder that Father Joe had been referring to all along when he said that to Scully. Frohike added, "Does that seem like a person who knows where they stand?"

But I can tell you that I won't be coming home. Mulder had just chalked it up to Scully having a passive aggressive tantrum for not getting her way. He hadn't understood a single thing she said that night. He still didn't.

"She doesn't need to worry. We've been together for years now."

"Only because you didn't have a choice. You were in hiding. You had to rely on her," Byers said.

"Maybe she thinks she's a placeholder. Just good enough for now until you were able to get back to what you love doing," Langly added.

Frohike shook his head. "Lemme tell you something. I ever had a woman half as smart, sophisticated, and hot as Dana Scully, she'd never have to guess what she meant to me."

Langly laughed. "Like that would ever be a possibility. She'd have to be half as tall, too." Frohike made a hand gesture at Langly.

Byers interrupted, bringing them back to the matter at hand. "The point is, Mulder, whatever you end up doing now that you're a free man, you have to let Dr. Scully know where she stands."

"Ditchin' her ain't an option any more, man," Langly said, adding, "Even if you are pissed at her."

Frohike rubbed his hands together. "All she'd have to do is open up that top button and I wouldn't be mad at her any more."

Mulder pointed at Frohike in warning. "That's far enough, Melvin. You're talking about the mother of my son there."

Byers said, "You know, that's another thing we should probably talk about."

Mulder stooped and picked up a bouquet of flowers from Frohike's grave. "Not today, boys."

Frohike stepped forward. "Hey! Jimmy just gave me those!"

Mulder shrugged. "It's for a good cause, Melvin. 'Sides, you really wanna go around yelling that a dude left you these?"

Frohike grimaced. "Touché. Tell her we said hi?"

"Not on your life," Mulder said.

Langly walked up to stand beside Frohike. "Considering we don't have lives, that means absolutely nothing."

"Yeah, yeah. I'll be back. I'll bring you something nice."

"Scully would be nice," Frohike said.

"You can't win, Frohike," Mulder said. "You don't even have a body."

"Don't rub it in, Mulder," Byers said, now standing on the other side of Frohike. "You don't have to spend eternity with him."

"No, I don't," Mulder said, walking back down to the path, "I have to make sure I'm spending it with someone else. Thanks guys."

When Mulder turned back to wave, they were gone.
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