She stood there, physically unable to move. She couldn’t force herself to turn away. If she left this place they would lower the coffin into the ground and he would be dead. Maybe no more dead than he was now, but inaccessible, final. The men hired by the cemetery here in Raleigh were probably getting impatient. It had been such a small graveside service, so few mourners. The numbers wouldn’t have mattered to him, the feelings, the depth of the sorrow, of those here would have overwhelmed him.
Was this the way concubines of old had felt? When their king or master or whatever had died, they had been killed to accompany him on his journey. She had always thought that a barbaric practice until now. Now she wanted to join him, be beside him forever. But the child made that impossible.
She wasn’t aware of Skinner returning to her side, or the conversation he’d had with her mother, but she wasn’t startled when he put his hand on her arm. “Dana, we should go now.”
She looked up at him, dry eyed for a change, and he felt his grief grow, encompassing this woman and her unborn child. He would be there for her, but it wasn’t what she wanted, what she needed.
She didn’t protest, so he turned her away from the gravesite and placed his arm around her to support her on the downhill slope to the cars. No one had left; they couldn’t bring themselves to leave before her. They all stood like statues watching her approach.
She walked with her head up, but they knew she didn’t see them. Frohike wiped his eyes again, unembarrassed.
For some reason Skinner tightened his grip on her. Later he was to wonder at his action, but within the next two steps, her knees buckled. He scooped her into his arms even as the others reacted. Her mother vaulted from the limo, but he shook his head and she stopped, allowing him to carry her daughter to the car. He lay her gently in the back seat.
“Dana, can you hear me?”
She nodded her head wearily, but didn’t bother to open her eyes.
“Walter?” Maggie was pulling on his arm now, wanting to check on her daughter herself.
“She didn’t faint, Mrs. Scully. She just, she just collapsed. Let her rest for a minute.” He moved aside then and let her mother scramble in beside her.
When he emerged from the car the others descended on him. “She’s okay. It was just too much for her. Listen, I’m not going to let her fly back today. We’ll get some rooms and head back tomorrow or the next day.
The men around him nodded. “Do you need any of us to stay?” That from Doggett.
“No, her mother’s here and I’ll stay. Thanks. There’s nothing that can be done. Not really.” They nodded at that. It was true, unbearable, but true.
“Do you want me to leave the car for you?” Again Doggett asking, obviously not ready to leave yet himself.
Skinner shook his head. “I need to stay with them. I’ll talk to you when I get back to DC.” Byers and Langly nodded and after a moment Doggett did as well.
“Look after her.” Frohike growled at him.
“I will.” Skinner looked him straight in the eye, not offended. Frohike turned then and got in their car. The others trailed behind him.
Skinner let himself into the limo on the opposite side from Maggie. Scully was sitting up. Maggie shot him a worried glance.
“We need to get to the airport.” Scully spoke flatly, no emotion.
“No. Dana, you’re in no condition to travel right now. I’ll get us a couple of rooms and if you’re feeling stronger tomorrow - “
“Walter - “
“Don’t argue with me Dana. You know it’s the best thing.”
She looked away from him then, her gaze turned inward. He glanced over at Maggie who nodded with relief.
He checked them into the Ramada Inn at the Raleigh/Durham airport. Three rooms rather than two at Scully’s insistence. If Maggie was hurt, she kept it to herself.
They went to dinner in the motel’s restaurant, but she didn’t eat despite his and her mother’s gentle prodding.
They returned to their rooms shortly, Scully’s between the two of theirs. Skinner tried to convince himself that she wouldn’t harm herself, not now. Not pregnant. The baby was all she had left of him.
He turned on the TV in his room, but nothing caught his attention. Finally he flipped it off in disgust and got ready for bed using the hotels’ supplies. He hadn’t packed to spend the night, but there was no way he could have put her on a plane today.
He stripped down to t-shirt and briefs and lay down on the bed, staring into the dark. He had no idea how long he lay there, but the light suddenly coming from her room roused him. He quickly drew on his slacks and went to check on her.
He could hear her moving around in there, but it took a couple of minutes for her to answer the door. She had thrown her coat over her slip and let him in.
“Can’t sleep?” He looked at the circles under her eyes. She shook her head, not bothering to speak. “You really need to try.”
He gave her a sad smile then, “Yeah, but it’s more important for you right now.”
She looked away, not arguing the point.
“Come on, stretch out. At least try to rest.” She allowed him to lead her back to the bed and after a slight hesitation, draped the coat over the foot of the bed and crawled under the sheets. “If you need anything - “
“Could you stay, just for a little while?”
The question caught him off guard, but the answer came easily to his lips. “Of course. I’ll be here until you fall asleep. Close your eyes, Dana.”
him, curling to her side as he drew the chair a little closer to her bed.
Her even breathing finally told him that she had indeed fallen asleep and
he started to rise. Almost as though she felt him leaving,
her sleep turned restless. He sank back into the chair and
watched the grief she tried to hide during the day. He
watched a tear trickle down into her hair and felt his heart break for her.
He was grieving as well. He hadn’t realized how close he had grown to this strange man over the past couple of years. For so long he had thought of Mulder as his officially assigned thorn in the side. They had even come to blows on a couple of occasions. But he realized he had grown fond of the man, as a kind of younger brother or something recently. He did feel as though he had lost a member of his family. He’d experienced nothing like this since Sharon had died, and he was unprepared for the depth of his emotions.
He settled back more comfortably in the chair. He wasn’t leaving yet. She needed someone to be here.
He jerked awake to find her watching him. “Dana, I’m sorry. I, was I snoring?”
She shook her head. “Did you sleep here all night?”
“There wasn’t that much night left.”
She glanced down, remembering suddenly that she had asked him to stay.
“Did you get any rest?”
“Yes, a little. Thank you.”
He shrugged. “I guess I should go get ready. Do you need anything?”
She shook her head.
“I’ll get your mother when you’re ready and we’ll go get some breakfast. Don’t make a face at me Dana. You have to eat.”
Her only comment was a sigh. He stood from the chair and stretched, trying to work the kinks from his back. Then without thought, held out his hand to help her from the bed. They both seemed surprised when she took it and he brought her to her feet.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll see you in a few minutes.” He moved toward the door as she turned to the bathroom. He turned back to look at her as she disappeared into the room, wearing only her slip. This could have been damn awkward, but it hadn’t been. They were two friends, helping each other through a horrible time.
He let himself out and returned to his own room to shower and dress for the day.
When he returned and tapped on her door she had been waiting for him. He held the door for her and she stepped out into the hall. He pulled the door closed behind her and heard her gasp. He turned toward her immediately and almost knocked into her, she had stopped so abruptly.
She was staring intently at the end of the hall, not even breathing. “Dana?”
“Don’t you see . . . don’t you see him?”
Skinner looked up again, nothing. He took her arm, “Dana? Are you okay?”
She shook her head as though to dislodge a dream. “Dana?”
“I thought, like the other night, I thought I saw - “ She went dead still then and her hand came up to her stomach.
“Dana?” His grip on her tightened. “Say something.”
“It moved.” She turned then to face him, “the baby moved.”
His eyes automatically scanned her body, then met her eyes again. “Are you okay?”
“I’m losing my mind, aren’t I? I mean, I keep seeing a . . . a ghost. He’s dead, but I keep seeing him, standing in front of me. Once in the room, just before you came to get me when you found his body and, and now.”
“You are not losing your mind Dana. If anyone could contact us after . . . it would be him. And he would want to be here for you, to be with you when we found his body and, and when you felt his child moved inside of you for the first time.”
She looked up at him with such hope in her eyes. He fell silent; this was outside of his field, way the hell outside. Neither heard Maggie join them, but she saw the grip Skinner had on her daughter.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing Mom. I thought I saw something, but . . . “
“Why don’t we go get something to eat, ladies?” He loosened his hold on Scully’s arm and lightly touched Maggie’s back. He led them to the restaurant and made sure that Scully ate a little, threatening not to let her on the plane again unless she did.
He had Maggie take the window seat and he took the aisle with her between them. They were quiet, she wasn’t up for conversation and he wouldn’t push her.
He had taken the time to check out the will Mulder had on file with the FBI. At least she wouldn’t have financial problems. She was Mulder’s sole beneficiary. It had surprised Skinner a little to see that she had been in his will for over five years. And he had updated the will immediately upon his mother’s death, leaving everything to her. If he had been dying . . . He hadn’t told her any of this, she was in no shape to hear it, but she and the child would be protected. Hell, they would have been protected anyway; he would have seen to that. He owed Mulder that and a hell of a lot more.
The feel of her head softly coming to rest on his shoulder caused him to look down at her. She’d fallen asleep against him. Good, she needed the rest.
He glanced up at Maggie who nodded sadly, then turned to look out the window. Skinner looked back down at Scully. She stirred slightly but didn’t wake. Her hand came up to touch her stomach and he saw a tear trail down from her eye.
Watching her, while she was unaware, felt less strange this time. Of course, he had just spent several hours watching her sleep. She was such a strong woman; it was hard for her now, having to accept help from others, no matter how willingly given. She snuggled in deeper into his shoulder and he smiled down at her.
Then it hit him, like a brick between the eyes, he was falling in love with this woman. How utterly stupid could he be? This woman had just lost the one great love of her life. He was insane to even imagine he could ever fill that place in her life. No, that was completely out of the question, but he could be there for her. He would be and they could grieve together.